Where Does It Keep Its Brain?
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
"Okay," Arthur Weasley said slowly, forcing himself to remain calm. "That's it. Everyone has now had two opportunities to remember any lost luggage. I am not going back again." They had gotten up at the crack of dawn once again with the intention of getting done by nine, having a nice breakfast, and then arriving at Kings Cross Station early.
Once again, that just wasn't going to happen.
It had been easy to keep to the schedule when it was just Bill. Or when it was Bill and Charlie. And even when it was Bill, Charlie, and Percy. Then, the twins' were old enough to attend Hogwarts. Needless to say, this was the fourth year in a row they were going to arrive at the last second. Maybe next time he should entreat Molly to take Fred and George and he could deal with Percy, Ron, Ginny, and Harry (assuming he stayed over again). Shouldn't be too hard; he had an entire year to convince her. And nine of those months she wouldn't even see the twins during, so she'd inevitably forget just how chaotic they could be.
Case in point, they had already had to turn back twice before they were even ten minutes away from the Burrow. First George forget his box of Filibuster fireworks (and even though Molly disapproved of what she called his enabling of the twins pranking, he truly believed that they had a gift and if anyone could make pranking an occupation, it'd be them) and then Fred had forgotten his broomstick. How, exactly, he'd managed to do that or why he couldn't have noticed the first time they went back escaped him. Still, the twins had each gone back for something and had most likely rechecked their room for anything else they had left behind. Come to think of it, why hadn't George just grabbed Fred's broomstick?
Now they were rapidly approaching the highway. If he could just reach that, he could claim that they had gone too far and couldn't possibly return home! It was about a hundred yards away now. Fifty. Twenty. Te-
"MY DIARY!" Ginny screeched unexpectedly.
Startled, Arthur slammed on the brakes. He wasn't expecting Ginny to shriek for several reasons. First and foremost: Harry Potter was in the car and his star-struck daughter had not yet managed two words to him despite the fact that he'd been staying with them for a little less than a month and had completely failed to notice her hero worship. That was kind of worrying, actually; maybe he should to talk to her about that. Sooner or later even Harry was bound to notice and even if Ron's friend did seem like a decent sort of fellow, he didn't want to take any chances. Secondly, Ginny had been talking about going to Hogwarts ever since she could talk. So much so, in fact 'Hahwar' was her very first word. Then there was the fact that Arthur hadn't realized that Ginny even had a diary. Where could she have possibly gotten if from? Molly, maybe? And finally, why in the world hadn't she noticed her precious diary was missing the two times they had already doubled back?
He could, he suppose, go back for it. It was Ginny's very first time, after all, and her brothers probably wouldn't want to sit with her when they could sit with their friends instead and being able to write in her diary would probably make her feel better about the whole experience. On the other hand, they were running late as it was and Arthur didn't want them to miss the train. After all, if they did then he'd be responsible for getting them to Hogwarts and who knew what kind of trouble the twins could get in wandering around an empty castle or sneaking off to Hogsmeade.
He shuddered. He could just hear the Howlers Molly would send. He always asked her to wait until he was out of earshot – or better yet, out of the house – but she never seemed to remember in the face of her outrage at the twins' latest antics. Really, it was times like those that made Arthur remember just why he had fallen in love with Muggle technology in the first place: ear plugs. Unlike spells that served to completely block out sound and served to get him in trouble with his wife for ignoring her, ear plugs just dampened the yelling so he wouldn't be have a migraine for the next few hours after being in such close proximately to one of Molly's patented rants. She was so good at sending truly terrifying Howlers that their friends occasionally had Molly send some to their children.
No, he decided, it just wasn't worth it. Besides, the first ride to Hogwarts was a time for making friends with all of the other children before they were sorted and refused to talk to anyone outside their House that they didn't happen to be related to for until fourth or fifth year when they started dating.
"I'm sorry, Ginny," he told her gently. "But we just don't have time to go back for your diary. I promise, when I get home I'll mail it to you, okay?"
"But-but what about the train?" Ginny asked, panicked.
"I'm sure Ron and Harry will sit with you," Molly reassured her. "RIGHT, boys?"
"Of course," Harry agreed.
Ron looked like he'd rather fly a Hippogriff to school than sit with his little sister. Molly glared at him and he gulped. "I'd love to."
Ginny looked like she was about to protest, then shot a look at Harry and blushed. Clearly the prospect of an entire train ride with her celebrity crush was enough to make up for the fact that Errol probably wouldn't be able to get her diary to her for at least a week.
They arrived at Kings Cross at 10:30, so they actually didn't need to rush for once. Percy went first through the barrier, followed by the twins, and then Molly and Ginny. Since they had time, Arthur stayed behind to have a word with Ron and Harry loyally waited with him.
"Listen, Ron," Arthur began, drawing him off to the side and out of Harry's hearing range. "I know that you're almost a teenager now and the last thing you want is to have your little sister tagging along everywhere you go. You have to remember that this is her first year and she really doesn't know everyone. After the first week or so, she'll start making her own friends and you won't have to worry about her invading your group. After all, she's only met Hermione once and doesn't ever speak in front of Harry. It's just a train ride, and maybe a few meals."
"I don't see why she has to bother me and my friends in the first place," Ron grumbled. "I didn't trail after the twins last year."
Arthur actually smiled at that. "I'm fairly certain that had more to do with your fear of the twins turning you into a canary for fun than because you were any less nervous about attending Hogwarts than your sister. You were lucky that you happened to stumble across Harry on the train and not someone like the Malfoy boy you're always complaining about."
Ron sighed, clearly still not happy with it. "Fine, fine. I'll make her feel welcome. But she better find some friends soon! I can only take so much of my sister fawning over my best friend, after all."
"That's all I'm asking," Arthur assured his youngest son. "Now let's get you boys on the train before all the seats are taken."
"Daaaaaaaaaad," Ron said, rolling his eyes. "That never happens."
"It didn't happen last year," Arthur corrected. "But I heard that there are twice as many first years this year as there were seventh years last year. Oomph!"
"What's wrong, Mr. Weasley?" Harry asked. "Why'd you stop?"
"It would appear that the barrier has sealed itself early," Arthur responded, reaching out a hand and placing it on the wall that served as the portal to Platform 9 and 3/4 only moments before. He sighed. "Well, nothing for it, I guess. Follow me."
Arthur led the way to the men's restroom. After checking to make sure that they were alone, he said, "Okay, boys, grab my hand and make sure that you have a hold of all of your luggage."
Once Arthur was certain that they did, he Apparated them directly to the Platform.
"They you are!" Molly exclaimed when she saw them. "This is cutting it a little close, don't you think? The train is about to leave."
Looking up at the huge clock on the wall behind him, Arthur saw that she was right; the train would be leaving in roughly five minutes.
"Off you go, boys," Arthur ushered them to the train. "Ron, remember what I said."
"Don't forget to write!" Molly called after them. "That goes for you, too, Harry dear."
"So," Arthur said casually as they headed back to the car – the barrier had mysteriously unsealed itself but he would still report it when he got to work the next day – after the train had left. "I'm thinking next year we take two cars so there's stress. I can take Percy, Ginny, Ron, and their assorted friends. You could take Fred and George."
Molly promptly burst out laughing.
Perhaps it was too soon; he'd ask again in a few months after she got the chance to miss them.
"Did you find Ginny's diary?" Molly asked as Arthur headed back downstairs.
"Took my twenty minutes, but yes, yes I did," Arthur said, quite pleased with himself for thinking to look under the floorboard under her dresser. Although why she couldn't just keep it somewhere that didn't take five minutes to get to like a normal person…Hm, that was probably just the results of having six incredibly nosy brothers to contend with. Fred and George were particularly unscrupulous in regards to snooping; he had to give Percy props for hiding the fact he was seeing Penelope Clearwater from the throughout the entire summer. That was the main reason Percy had never left his room: so the twins wouldn't have an opportunity to search it.
"I didn't mean to peek at it, but it's completely empty," Arthur told her, handing her the diary. "I think we should write a message for her before we send it off."
"That's a great idea!" Molly beamed. "That way she'll know we're thinking about her and she'll be able to see how much we love her whenever she's upset or lonely and confiding in her diary." She kissed him on the cheek. "You are so sweet sometimes."
"Only sometimes?" Arthur teased as he handed her a quill.
"Let's see. 'Dear Ginevra,'" Molly said, writing the words as she spoke. "'I want you to know that I'm not just saying that I'll be happy for you no matter what House you're in, I really mean it, so I'm writing this before you get sorted-' Arthur!" she broke off suddenly.
"What?" he replied, a little alarmed and very confused.
"It…it disappeared," Molly said, shakily.
"My message. It was there one second, then it just glowed and faded. Now there's a new message, one that I didn't write and it isn't even in my handwriting," Molly told him.
Arthur had a bad feeling about this. It was really a good thing they decided to write their daughter a message; otherwise she'd be left alone relatively unsupervised at Hogwarts for nine months with a talking diary that they weren't sure where it kept its brain. "What does it say?"
"'I am not Ginevra. My name is Tom Riddle,'" Molly responded, checking the inside cover of the diary. "It says this belonged to a 'T. M. Riddle, so I guess he enchanted it. Do you know who that is?"
"I'm not sure," Arthur admitted. "I think I heard Hagrid ranting about someone named Riddle when he was drunk one night. Alastor Moody was with us, I believe. He's an Auror, so I can take this in to him tomorrow. It's probably nothing, but, well, it's better not to take chances when it comes to our children's safety."
Molly nodded her agreement and they moved on to more domestic topics.
"I need to know exactly where you got this," Moody said, four days later, slamming the diary onto Arthur's desk.
"I told you, I found it in Ginny's room because she forgot to take it with her and we didn't have time to go back for it before the Hogwarts Express left," Arthur reminded him, wondering why the grizzled old Auror was so upset.
"But where did she get it?" Moody persisted.
"I don't know. I had thought Molly got it for her, but she said she didn't. If it's that important, why don't you just ask her?"
"Oh, I intend to," Moody said grimly. "Since she's a minor, she's entitled to have a parent or guardian present when questioned by an Auror. How does now work for you?"
"Questioned by an Auror?" Arthur repeated. "Is that really necessary. It's a talking book, it's probably dangerous, but she's only eleven, she couldn't possibly have done anything to it! Isn't it enough that you have it now?"
"I wish it was," Moody told him. "But this is some serious dark magic. In fact, I'm nearly positive that it's a Horcrux."
"A WHAT?" Arthur yelped.
"Keep your voice down, Weasley," Moody reprimanded. "Now are you coming to Hogwarts with me or not?"
"Oh, I'm coming all right," Arthur told him. "How in the world did Ginny get her hands on a bloody Horcrux of all things?"
"Dad?" Ginny asked, after being called up to the Headmaster's office. For some reason, Ron, Harry, and Hermione had seen fit to come with her. "What are you doing here?"
"That's a very good question," Dumbledore said pleasantly. "An equally good question is what the three of you are doing here?"
Harry at least had the grace to blush. "Ron got concerned when he heard that Ginny was being called up to talk to the Headmaster and so felt obligated to make sure everything was okay. Hermione thought that Ron was in more danger of Ginny hexing him for being too overprotective than anything else, so she insisted that we come along to protect him from protecting her."
"I see," Dumbledore's eyes started twinkling in that way that always made people think that there must be something wrong with his eyes.
"Miss Weasley, is this your diary?" Moody asked, holding up said diary.
"You found it!" Ginny cried, delighted. She paused, puzzled. "Why do you have it? And why did you have to call me up to the Headmaster's office? What's going on?"
"I need you to tell me how you came to be in possession of this item," Moody said sternly.
"I…how I got it?" Ginny frowned, thinking back. "I'm not sure, really. I found it in my transfiguration book when we got back from Diagon Alley last month."
"And you've been writing in it since then?" Moody prompted.
"Yeah, pretty much every day," Ginny nodded, looking suddenly worried. "Did I do something wrong? I mean, I just thought that someone had forgotten about it. I was a little concerned when it started writing back, but he was so nice! And it's just a diary, harm could it do?"
"This diary is a bit of very powerful, very malevolent magic," Dumbledore said gravely. "Who knows what kind of havoc it could have wreaked on Hogwarts this year?"
Harry's head shot up at that, but he looked unsure if he should say anything.
"Do you know anything about this, Harry?" Arthur asked kindly.
"I…I don't know," Harry confessed. "But this summer – my birthday, actually – a House Elf named Dobby came to my room and told me that I must not come back to Hogwarts this year because I'd be in mortal danger because there was some kind of plot. When I refused to agree to stay with the Dursleys, he levitated and then dropped a pudding and frightened off my relatives company, so I got a letter about being doing under-age magic, my relatives found out I couldn't use magic to defend myself, and locked me in my room and had bars installed so I was stuck there until Ron and the twins came to save me."
His relatives had WHAT? Arthur and Moody both shot a questioning look at Dumbledore, but he refused to meet their eyes. That definitely merited some investigation later. For now, they still had to solve the mystery of the diary.
"Dobby, eh?" Moody repeated, rubbing his chin.
"Yes," Harry nodded. "He said that his owners didn't know that he was there and said he'd have to 'punish' himself for warning me."
"Wait, that was actually important?" Ron asked, stunned. "We just thought it was Draco Malfoy sending a House Elf to mess with Harry."
"House Elves have to be registered with the Ministry," Moody pointed out. "I suppose we can start with the Malfoys. Did any of them have an opportunity to place the book with Ginny?"
"At the bookstore!" Hermione spoke up for the first time.
"Pardon, Miss-?" Moody began.
"Granger. Hermione Granger," she introduced. "When we were at Flourish and Blotts, Mr. Malfoy got into a fight with Mr. Weasley and he was holding her Transfiguration book. He said something about how they couldn't afford anything better than second-hand and then he threw it back into her cauldron. He could have slipped the diary in then."
"That makes him a very likely suspect indeed," Moody agreed. "Does he have any reason why he would want to get your daughter into trouble?"
Arthur thought for a moment. It was true that he and Lucius had a somewhat hostile relationship, one that appeared to be mirrored by their sons (particularly Ron), but that was hardly a reason to risk handing out Horcruxes. In fact, given that Horcruxes were the relative key to immortality, Arthur couldn't think of any reason to go handing them out. Unless whoever entrusted him with it made more than one…? Now that was a scary thought. He didn't think for a moment that Lucius would ever hand over a piece of his own soul to an eleven-year-old, no matter how many of them he possessed.
"Well," Arthur said thoughtfully, considering the question carefully. "I am working to get a Muggle Protection Act passed and I'm pretty sure Lucius doesn't like that. I'm not sure that it's worth something like this, though. How much time in Azkaban does possession of a Horcrux give you anyway?"
"At least ten years," came Moody's reply. "Usually more. Unless you can prove that you had no idea, which is difficult to do because Horcruxes either give you a strong feeling that you should trust them or else clearly radiate evil."
"What's a Horcrux?" Hermione asked, reminding the adults that the four students were still there.
"Why don't you head back to lunch?" Professor Dumbledore suggested.
Looking incredibly reluctant, the four complied.
"This is very serious indeed," Dumbledore continued. "This isn't just any Horcrux. This is Voldemort's Horcrux."
Arthur flinched. "My daughter had You-Know-Who's Horcrux? I am going to kill that bastard."
"Calm down, Arthur," Moody said gruffly. "Can't have you getting sent to Azkaban over that piece of Death Eater scum."
"And it would seem that you found the diary before any damage could be done," Dumbledore added. "I'm not sure what it's purpose is, but the fact that Voldemort would have entrusted it to one of his servants, probably Lucius, would suggest that he has another one out there, probably more than that. After all, if Lucius had known that he was in possession to part of his Master's very soul, he would not be handing it out so carelessly to schoolchildren in order to kill some legislation he doesn't like."
"So he's not dead," Arthur whispered, the revelation shocking him to his core. "I mean, I've always suspected…but to see the proof of this…"
"I know. We must keep this to ourselves. If word of our discovery of Voldemort's Horcruxes reached his ears, so to speak, he would inevitably take steps to rehide them and then any research we do would be worthless."
"We?" Arthur asked, surprised.
Dumbledore looked at him. "But of course. Again, this must be kept secret, but since you already know, I must ask you to do your part in making Voldemort mortal once more."
"What about the children?" Moody asked. "They are far too young to be asked to do anything. How do we know they'll keep word of his Horcrux a secret, especially as they don't even know what Horcruxes are."
"We could always Obliviate them-" Dumbledore began slowly. Arthur fixed him with his best Molly Glare. "Or not."
"They'll keep it a secret," Arthur assured them. "They may not understand, but they could tell it was important."
"I suppose they never divulged what happened last year with Quirrell…" Dumbledore mused. "And Miss Weasley will probably be too disturbed by the knowledge she was writing in a Dark Artifact to go spreading that around…I'll need to do some more research into Riddle's past before we do anything to find any other possible Horcruxes. In the meantime, we need to take care of this."
"I'll confirm that Dobby belongs to the Malfoys and then see that Lucius is arrested," Moody announced.
"I'll keep pushing the Muggle Protection Act," Arthur vowed. "And I'll make sure to warn Molly and the kids of any suspicious packages they may receive or items they may find."
"I do wonder," Dumbledore said, tapping his chin thoughtfully, "what exactly this would have been used for. I guess we'll never know."
"Thank Merlin for that," Arthur agreed.