"He's here master! He's here!" an unfamiliar voice exclaimed in excitement.
"So he is," a cold voice hissed. "I wonder, do you think our guest would like some refreshment, Regulus? I'm sure he had a very hard journey."
Regulus forced a chuckle while his master was consumed in maniacal laughter. When his shrill hissing faded he belted a single curse, "Crucio!"
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Harry screamed in utter pain. He twisted, and clawed at the floor. He couldn't break free.
"Master, why do you not just kill him now? Why delay your glory?"
"What? And deny myself the pleasure of watching him squirm and beg?"
"I was only thinking that—"
"That is your problem Regulus, you think." Voldemort lifted his wand and Harry relaxed. "You see you are only a pawn, a minion—if you will. You do as I say and do not question me. Understand?"
Regulus nodded timidly then shrank back into a corner.
"Crucio," Voldemort said lazily, this time pointing his wand at Regulus, who fell horribly to the floor and began cursing and yelling. Voldemort lifted his wand and Regulus began crawl into the corner. "You will not cross me again, will you Regulus?"
"No, master, never."
Harry took the opportunity he was given to look around, to see if he could place himself. There was a mirror in the corner, he squinted, he saw the reflection of himself, only, it wasn't him in the mirror, it was someone else, someone he was very close to. But before he could place the face he heard Voldemort's attention flow back to him.
"Now, back to our guest. Crucio!"
"Harry, wake up!" Ron exclaimed as he shook his friend. "Harry, Harry, HARRY!"
Harry sat up with a start; he was sweating, and shivering. He looked around to try and get his bearings. He was in a corridor, there was water dripping—very rapidly—from a stalactite, there was light—the majority of it coming from two wands: one was on the floor; the other was in the hand of a person, a rather tall lanky person, with red hair. "I know you," Harry whispered.
"I should hope so mate."
"What happened Ron?"
"Well," Ron began as he helped Harry to his feet. "You opened the rock, door thingy with blood, and then we came in here and you just kind of passed out. Then you started screaming."
Harry was confused, his body ached, he felt like he had been hit with the cruciatus curse, but it was a dream. "He was torturing someone."
Ron looked more confused than Harry felt. "He who?"
"Voldemort. Oh for crying out loud, haven't you gotten over that by now?"
"Sorry, I wasn't expecting you to bring him up."
"Well, why do you think he was torturing somebody?"
"Because I was there. I was here."
"What do you mean you were here? We just got here. And besides, isn't you-know-who keeping you out of his thoughts? How could you have seen him? And what he was doing?"
"Well, first of all, it was a memory, not something occurring now."
"How do you know that?" Ron asked smugly.
"Because Regulus Black was there—was here. Second of all, it wasn't from Voldemort's point of view. It was from the person he was torturing. I was that person."
"Well who was it?"
"I don't know. I mean, it's someone I know, I could tell that much, but I couldn't place the face." Harry began to pace idly. He walked from one end of the corridor to the other. No other visible door or opening was present. He was trying to think, trying to place the images he saw in this memory to the present day. He stopped in one corner, "The mirror was here." He walked to the center of the corridor, "I was here—well not me, but the person that was being tortured." He continued to the back wall, "And Voldemort was sitting here."
Ron shrugged, obviously not impressed. "So, what does that have to do with finding the horcrux?"
"Ron, haven't you figured out yet that where ever Voldemort had significant, oh I don't know, memories, that that's where he's hidden the horcruxes? He spent time here, he murdered people here, he created a horcrux here. From the man in the memory." Harry walked back to the corner where the mirror had been.
"Harry, are you sure you didn't bump your head when you fell? I mean this all sounds pretty fantastical."
"I know how it sounds Ron, but I also know what I saw. The mirror was right here." He stuck out his hand to point at the exact spot, but before he could do that he jammed his hand hard, on something, that wasn't there. "Bloody hell that hurt," he grumbled.
Ron walked over and stood next to Harry. "What'd you do mate?"
"I—I don't know," Harry stuttered. He slowly reached out with his hand to find the thing he hit. He finally found it. It was hard and cold. Harry took his wand and pointed it at the invisible object. "Denudare." A wisp of gold mist spat out of the end of his wand. He and Ron watched it swirl and shimmer around the object, finally revealing a mirror—the mirror.
Puzzled, Ron walked up to the mirror. "Well, why in the name of Merlin would anyone care to make a mirror invisible? I mean, what's a mirror got to do with anything?"
It's the key, Harry thought. He looked back to where Voldemort would have been sitting. He walked over to the spot; he pointed his wand, and once again, "Dunedare." Again the gold mist spat from his wand and swirled and shimmered until the chair was revealed.
Ron came over to Harry. "Now what?"
"One of us has to sit there and see what we can in the mirror. I have a feeling that the mirror was there to help him watch something. I mean there is no other explanation, is there?"
"Of course there is. He just liked looking at himself."
Harry allowed himself a brief chuckle before calculating his next move.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Are you gonna sit or not?"
"What if it's a trap?"
"You should have thought about that before waving your wand about like that."
Harry tried every detection spell he knew to see if the chair was indeed a trap. After he exhausted his library of spells he relented to the fact that he would have to sit down and suffer any consequences that came of his actions. He took a deep breath, then swallowed hard, "Here goes nothing mate." Harry closed his eyes and turned around.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Ron asked after about thirty seconds.
Harry opened his eyes again, "Oh, yeah, right." He gingerly placed his bottom on the seat. Nothing happened. He let out the breath that he did not realize he was holding in. He scooted back into a more comfortable position and looked straight into the mirror.
"Well, what do you see?" Ron asked impatiently.
"Nothing," Harry replied. "I see only the dark wall of this cursed place. I mean I can feel the magic all around me, but I can't seem to feel it in any one place more than the other. Stupid thing. Dumbledore would have been able to figure this out in an instant. Why did Snape have to go and kill him for? I'm going to get him yet for that." Harry thrashed his wand about in a menacing way; he then directed a spell directly at the mirror, "Confractum."
Intending to destroy the mirror, Harry was caught completely off guard when the spell bounced off the mirror and hit the wall. A few shards of rock crashed to the ground as a small cloud of dust settled itself among the debris. In the reflection of the mirror, Harry could see a small dot of shining gold. He shot up out of the chair and ran over to the wall. Ron had already beaten him there. Together they inspected what Harry's spell had done. The first thing they saw was a gold colored lock. Upon further inspection they discovered that there was a door handle carved out of the rock, and that there was now an outline of a door, where there was just smooth rock before.
"I got this one, Harry." Ron gave his wand a quick swish, "Alohamora." He looked at Harry with a satisfied grin and grabbed the handle of the door; he gave it a mighty tug. Nothing happened. "That's funny." He swished his wand again, "Alohamora." Again he tried the door, it didn't open. "The bloody thing's broken."
"Ron, do you honestly think that Voldemort would make it that simple? I mean, come on, he doesn't want people to find his horcruxes. I think that this might have to be done the old fashioned way."
"You mean blow it up?"
"No. I mean that we need the key."
"Oh," Ron nodded, not really understanding what a key had to do with opening a door the 'old fashioned way'. "So, how we gonna get this key?"
"That my friend is an excellent question."
"Oh these books are hopeless," Hermione cried as she slammed yet another book closed. "We're never going to find what we need."
Ginny looked at her friend from across the table, "Well, maybe if you told me what a horcrux was, I might be able to help a little more."
Hermione shook her head, "Absolutely not, I promised Harry."
"Oh, come on. Just tell me, he'll never have to know."
Hermione sighed. "Fine, I'll tell you what a horcrux is." Ginny scooted to the edge of her seat, she looked like she was about to hear an especially juicy piece of gossip. "A horcrux is very dark wizardry."
Ginny's mouth fell open. "That's it? That's all you're going to tell me?"
Hermione nodded, not trusting herself to say anything more.
Ginny was obviously upset. She got up from the table and stormed off. A few minutes later she came back into the room. "Hermione, I should have never asked you to betray Harry, I'm sorry."
"It's okay Ginny. I can't even imagine what you're going through right now."
Ginny smiled. "Although I'm surprised that you've been looking through all of these books for you answers."
Hermione looked confused, "How do you mean?"
Ginny giggled, "Well think about it. The ministry basically banned the dark arts, so if this is a very dark magic, it wouldn't be in a ministry library would it?"
Hermione blushed, she actually never thought about that. "Ginny, I think I'm going to have to get in contact with an old friend."
This time Ginny was the one who was confused. "Who do you mean? Who do you know that knows about dark magic?"
Hermione was already scribbling a note. She didn't even look up to answer Ginny's question. "Oh, Viktor."
Ginny's mouth once again fell open. "You mean Viktor Krum? From Durmstrang? You're not serious are you? Ron would be livid. You know how jealous he is."
Hermione looked Ginny in the eye, "That's why we're not going to tell him. And besides, he's been married for a year and a half."
"And how do you know that?"
Hermione let out a sigh of agitation, "Don't you read Witch Weekly? It was in there the week after the wedding. Anyway, as I was saying, it's not like Ron's got anything to worry about. So, how does this sound?" She handed the parchment to Ginny.
How are you and Lividia? I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the wedding. Anyway, I'm working on something extremely important and I need your help. Since you're a teacher a Durmstrang now I was wondering if you could find a couple of books for me. I need something on how to destroy a horcrux. Don't ask me why, because I won't be able to tell you. It's just very important. Write back soon.
Ginny looked at Hermione as she passed the parchment back to her. "So why didn't you go to the wedding?"
Hermione took the parchment and rolled it, then sealed it magically. "What do you mean?"
"Well you just told me that you knew of the wedding because of an article in Witch Weekly, but in the letter you just finished writing, you wrote that you were sorry you didn't attend the wedding. So, why didn't you go?"
Hermione sighed. "I got the invitation about two months before the wedding. It actually invited all four of us. I showed it to Ron, and he said he would never go to the wedding because Viktor was being stupid for dropping out of quidditch to get married. He said he also found it ridiculous that anyone could be happy just teaching after playing professionally."
"Ron has dung bombs for brains sometimes."
Hermione nodded her head in agreement as she began to pack up her belongings. "Let's get this out right away, and not a word to Ron, or you're going to pay.