Chapter 49-Destruction of a Horcrux
After dragging Ron unceremoniously from his bed in the boys' dormitory and disguising the boys under Harry's invisibility cape, I morphed into my eagle and we took off to Hogsmeade after hours so we could apparate over to Grimmauld place to check the locket.
Moody met us with his usual skepticism in the kitchen, Ron having apparated first found himself at wandpoint while Moody paced round him trying to determine if he was a deatheater.
"What is Dumbledore's sister's name?" Moody queried angrily, and Ron whimpered at the thought of what the volatile auror might do if he failed to answer correctly.
A rather loud crack announced Harry's arrival next to me, "Ariana." I said calmly, Moody gave a slight nod in my direction and looked at Harry, but not withdrawing his wand from Ron's neck.
"What is your aunt's first name?" Moody peered through his crazy eye warily at Harry.
"Petunia." Harry answered, "Is this really necessary?" he gestured to Ron, "I assure you that is Ronald Weasley."
"Nonsense!" roared Moody turning back to Ron who grimaced, "he has failed to answer his question, Miss Granger had to."
"B-But I didn't even know Dumbledore had a sister!" Ron protested, "Give me another question!"
"Fine." Moody spat, "What is your sister-in-law Fleur's corporeal patronus take the shape of?"
"A-A hen." Ron said.
Moody withdrew his wand. "Apparently you are a Weasley." He looked around at us in curiosity, "What are all three of you doing here tonight anyway? Shouldn't you be at Hogwarts?"
"We're here looking for something." Harry began, Moody looked surprised.
"You might be here for awhile. There's a good deal in this house, not to mention the storage cellar."
"We're looking for something that was a Black Family artifact. A piece of jewelry." I put forward hoping to narrow our search as I smoothed my cape and brushed the dust off it.
Ron was still rubbing his neck, "Why don't we just accio it?"
Moody looked at him incredulously, "This is the Black family house. They have likely cursed their more important possessions so that muggleborns, half-bloods and 'blood traitors' like yourself Mr. Weasley can't touch I without being hurt."
"You might try the family jewel-vault in the cellar though, young Mister Potter should have the keys, we believe that Kreacher the house elf secreted much of their smaller more portable treasures there before he died since it is one of the few places Harry did not touch."
"Erm, thanks." Said Harry and made to leave.
"CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" Moody roared behind us as the doors to the kitchen closed.
"Cheery one isn't he?" Ron muttered angrily
But Harry did not respond, being halfway up the winding staircase. We scrambled to keep up and finally Ron broke the silence panting, "I say, didn't Mad Eye say the vault was in the basement?"
"Yes, but my keys are in my study." Harry replied.
Minutes passed as we passed the first floor to the second. The steps were large and still imposing despite Harry's attempt at redecorating. Finally we arrived in Harry's wing, dark mahogany with deep burgundy carpets ran the length of the hall. Nothing covered the walls, which struck me as rather sad, though under close inspection one could see under the veneer of newly-stained wood to see fade marks left by previous portraits removed.
Harry mumbled the password to his study door, and was in and out of it faster than the blink of an eye, not allowing Ron or I even momentary glimpse of his tower-room, keys flashing in his hand.
The trek to the dungeon was much colder and less enjoyable due to Ron's fear of a spider popping out of every dark corner.
It was quite obvious which door lead to the vault though, a strong yet ornate iron grating which was rusting in more than a few places spelled out 'Black' in old letters with the crest of the family beneath it. This grating covered the entrance to a massive steel door with a combination lock.
Fumbling with the iron grating lock Harry finally found the right key, but that put us in front of the combination lock, which was not ticked off in numbers like most muggle combination locks, but in ancient runes.
Harry looked back at me in bewilderment, "Hermione, it's runes. Do you have any idea what the password might have been?"
Trying not to notice the dripping of some viscous liquid in the distance I grabbed the torch from Ron and peered at the runes through its rather feeble yellow light, "They're not quite runes." I paused. "This almost looks Greek." As I ransacked my brain for the puzzle pieces.
I gasped, "This is Dark Ages Gothic." I stroked the markings reverently.
"That's all well and good Herms. But unless you can read it I'd rather get out of here, this place is giving me the creeps." Ron shivered as a gust of wind howled down the corridor, odd considering we were underground.
I fiddled with the dial, spinning it looking at each figure in turn. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to the words applied to the dial. Until I realized it was the Gothic alphabet, and remembered that unlike English, each letter has a numeric value.
"Blast!" I hissed, "These Blacks were intelligent." I stood up looking at my companions. "I have no idea which number they would have chosen."
"But you said those were runes, not numbers!" Ron protested.
"They're both." I replied, "In honesty it could be a word just as much as it could be a number."
Harry ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, then pointed his wand at the safe door, "Alohamora!"
It did not budge, Ron placed a consoling hand on Harry's shoulder, "It was worth a try mate." I began to puzzle over the runes again.
"What about twelve, the house number?" Harry asked.
"That's far too obvious," Ron countered, "If I was a Black and obsessed with my lineage and purity the way those nutters were, I'd have chosen twenty-eight. The number of the remaining pure-blooded families in Britain today."
As he was speaking I was spinning the dial to 2 and then 8 in the pattern of most magical locks, the door creaked open with an ancient metallic ring. "Ron you're a genius!" I exclaimed embracing him and squeezing him tightly.
Ron turned a brilliant shade of red, and tried to pull me off, "I say Hermione, are you trying to choke me? I can barely breathe!"
I pulled away as if burned, and in the corner of my eye I saw Harry watching the whole scene with a grimace, "Sorry." I mumbled, and turned around not wanting to face Ron awkwardly.
"This place is probably booby-trapped." Harry commented, "Let me go first."
He set one foot down in the eerily lit green shaded vault and a horrible screeching ensued. "BLOOD TRAITORS! HALF-BLOOD SAVAGES! MUDBLOOD ATROCITIES! IN MY HOUSE! IN MY VAULT!" The source of the noise was Mrs. Black's portrait hanging on the opposite wall which Kreacher had obviously salvaged from the trash heap.
Harry ignored her and placed the second foot in the vault, instantly metal grating clanged down around him from above, effectually enclosing him on all sides. "PASSWORD." Tinned an old male voice.
"Get back!" Harry yelled, Ron tried to pull me away as I drew my wand to point it to Harry, "Finite Incantatem!" I screeched towards the cage.
"INCORRECT PASSWORD. PLEASE STAND BY FOR EXTERMINATION." Tinned the voice. Intruder alarms began chiming.
Ron was trying to pull me away, "Hermione you can't help him if it affects you too!" he shouted as a noxious looking purple gas erupted from the grating above Harry's head.
Harry was shouting every word he could think of relating to the Black family, "Grimmauld Place! Toujours pur! Bellatrix! Twenty-Eight! Phi-"
He didn't finish his last word as I enveloped him in the bubble-head charm just as Ron gave an extra-hard yank on my non-spell-casting arm and I stumbled to the ground at his feet.
The gas was spreading and thickening though, and I couldn't see Harry anymore, "Aerius Purus Cuncti!" I shouted above the din, encircling Ron and I with my incantation and a funny slippery membrane of a bubble encased my face and Ron's.
The gas began to surround us, and I noticed in horror that it was disintegrating my bubble, and Ron who had just pulled me to my feet noticed this too, and dragged me forcibly kicking down the corridor, throwing open the wide door leading to the upstairs and slamming it shut behind us. He collapsed against it heaving from hauling me and holding his breath.
"Ron!" I screeched, "Harry's going to die back there, if it killed our bubbles it will kill his too!"
There was a loud crack and Moody appeared right behind me, "DEATHEATERS!" He shouted waving his wand and looking around in paranoia, "Where are they?" He checked underneath the stairwell in the dark corner, only to discover it was merely empty.
Ron who recovered first spoke, as I sealed the door behind us against the gas. "No deatheaters, just a booby-trapped vault." He spat, kicking the door, "Stupid Blacks!"
"I take it Mister Potter is stuck?" Mad Eye asked, glaring at the both of us.
"Great purple gas everywhere" Ron exclaimed, waving his arms in the air, "Hermione tried to use the bubble-head charm, but it ate right through it."
"Probably Hemlock gas." Moody growled, "Good thing the Blacks weren't up to snuff on the muggle technology." He waved his wand and his inconspicuous brown leather bag appeared, from which he extracted three gas masks that looked to be WWI era. Handing one to each of us he said, "Luckily it takes about thirty seconds to knock the person unconscious, but about five minutes to fully kill them. Put these on, we'll bring and extra for Potter."
Once Moody was satisfied that our masks were securely placed on our faces he opened the door, breaking my air barrier as he did so. The hemlock gas had receded to the floor where it wrapped around our ankles like a purple cloud.
My first few breaths in the contaminated space were wary, I'll admit, but the gas mask worked. None of us passed out. Fear of how bad Harry had it quickened my steps until I broke out into a run down the hall. I might have heard Moody yelling at me dementedly through his mask, but it was difficult to make out his voice through the distortion and the noisy alarms still going off in the vault as I approached.
I turned the corner to enter the vault and nearly smacked into Harry who stood perfectly unaided and conscious amid the overcrowded vault smudged with charcoal, but holding the golden locket triumphantly.
"How?" I rasped through my mask, my voice sounding bizarre to my ears, "That was hemlock gas, you should be unconscious or dead."
"Apparently," Harry began, his green eyes dancing as Ron and Moody arrived panting behind me, "One of my abilities is I can breathe safe air, nomatter the contaminate."
Ron just whistled, and then all four of us broke out laughing.
Moody insisted on escorting us back to Hogsmeade and guarding our path as we disguised ourselves to sneak back into the castle. It was only my eagle eyesight that allowed me to see him slip off into the night back towards Hogsmeade.
Skirting our way through the hallways we darted into the Room of Requirement, and Ron slammed the door behind us, we were greeted by Winky who happened to be on guard that night.
Harry closed his eyes and concentrated, the horcrux, which I had been nervous to see against his bare skin since we entered the vault, was engulfed in a pink Himalayan crystal case just like all the rest.
"How did you find the necklace?" Ron asked as he stoked the fire.
"It was directly beneath Regulus Black's portrait where Kreacher had left it in a sort of shrine."
"Did his portrait say anything?" I jumped in eager for any clue he might have given.
Harry hung his head, "He asked where Sirius was, and I-I had to tell him." My raven-haired friend turned from our questioning gazes to stare into the crackling fireplace, "He told me to be careful, and told me that he'd died trying to get this horcrux."
"So a Slytherin died a hero after all." Ron said soflty in awe, and I reached my arm around Harry's shoulder.
Winky had been silently watching our exchange, and retreated to return with the Room's copy of Ginny and Draco's list.
She proffered it to Harry, "Will this help the Master?" she squeaked.
Harry recovered himself and thanked her taking the list.
Harry and I skimmed the list of ideas written in Draco's characteristic green ink and fancy loopy handwriting, it read:
Basilisk Fang-confirmed by Harry on The Diary due to its excessive destructive power
Avada Kedvra Curse- It stands to our theory of destructive power required, though none of us can cast it
A Founder's Artifact- They are all imbued with strong power, likely strong enough to combat a horcrux
A Sphinx Claw- Powerful and Ancient Magic
A Manticore Sting-Powerful, destructive Magic
Acromantula Venom- Powerful, Destructive Magic, likely only to last for a few hours after the spider's death
A quickly scrawled note at the bottom in Ginny's hand noted that many of the last ingredients might be available from Hagrid or Snape.
"I wish I hadn't left Godric's sword in my room!" Harry muttered, and just as he'd said it the silver whisps of light materialized Godric's sword into his hand.
He laughed, a welcome sound after all the darkness of late, "I'd forgotten which room we were in."
Putting down the list he turned to me, "I want you all to stand back, and Hermione, you might want to put up some sort of charm to protect yourselves." He paced over to the encased locket, "I'm going to stab this thing." He spoke with determination.
Winky was quicker than I was though, and used her house-elf magic to cast a containment spell around Harry and the box.
The three of us backed off anyway, and I watched as time seemed to slow, Harry drew the glittering sword from its sheath with a metallic ring, and drew it upward with both hands, he paused to look at me before plunging it into the crystalline box at his feet, "For Sirius!" He whispered as a tear escaped his eye, and the sword crashed down through the crystal shattering it, and pierced the center of the golden locket.
A horrible ear-rending screeching erupted from the locket as the purifying white light ripped through the dark artifact, sending black smoke into the air. I could see Harry struggling to maintain the sword's pressure in the locket and suddenly a flash of lightening zapped its way down the sword and into the locket, a bright white light flashed, blinding everyone in the room.
When the light receded and we could see again Harry stood there, a little winded, but with a huge grin on his face, and the untouched sword of Gryffindor slung over his shoulder, and a pile of ash and an indented stone stood at his feet.
My heart flopped, and I exhaled the breath I'd been holding in.
A/N: I apologize for the tardy update! There was a family emergency, but things are returning to normal now!
Thank you for all the reviews, I truly d appreciate all of them (even the flames it helps me improve my writing), and I'm a little short on time, but there will be review reactions next time!