Thank you for everyone who reviewed, I love you all. That doesn't mean I'm going to listen to your advice, but thank you for reviewing anyways.
Sorry for the long delay in posting. I had knee surgery and it takes ten times longer to do anything while on crutches. Just when I started having time to write again I dislocated my thumb, which is very important in typing. I hope to start posting regularly again.
A/N: This is the September after Harry turned 9.
It was less than a week after Snape's trip to Diagon Alley when he received an owl at breakfast. As Snape never received mail all and sundry, i.e. the busy bodies he worked with, were curious at to the sender and content.
"I didn't recognize the owl Severus?" was Dumbledore's opening salvo.
Snape didn't recognize the plain tawny barn owl either and as he hadn't actually opened the letter he didn't yet know who the owl belonged to and said just that. After the letter was removed from her talons she made herself comfortable on the back of his chair.
He cast a number of detection spells over the letter prior to opening it; he was a cautious man after all.
Let me start this letter with telling you how much I enjoyed speaking with you at the Leaking Cauldron last week. I find most wizards to be mealy-mouthed sheep. Rare is it to find an intelligent conversationalist among the masses. Let alone one with such a dry-wit. I understand you must be busy with the start of term, but I would be interested in meeting with you again, perhaps over dinner. I'll even eat this time.
Additionally, I am looking for a gift for my cousin who's nine. He recently mentioned an interest in potions. I thought being a potions master and professor you might know of a good introductory book that explains preparation and methods you could recommend.
The wards at my home are rather formidable. Mia will wait in the Hogwarts owlery for twenty-four hours for a response. If you choose to not send a response with in that time, you can tell her to leave now, or she will leave on her own tomorrow. Any response sent with an owl not keyed to our wards will be redirected and the post will be delayed getting to me.
Thank you for your time
"Who's Evan Jameson," asked the busy-body on his right, also known as the Headmaster. Severus surprised at the interruption quickly folded up the letter and put it in his pocket. "A new friend, Severus?"
"Severus has a friend? Do tell," asked the busy-body on his right, or Poppy as some called her.
"He is no one special, merely a man I met while in the Leaky Cauldron last week. It was crowded and we had to share a table. Beyond that, where I go and who I know is none of your business, any of you." He said the last part to his boss.
"By denying us the information it will make us think there is actually information to be hidden. If he really is no one, what does it matter if you tell us everything," McGonagal felt compelled to say.
"Who I share my correspondence with is my choice. I expect you to respect that," addressing the owl he said, "you may go, there will not be a response," before pushing away from the table and leaving the hall with his breakfast only half eaten.
As he crossed the threshold of the staff entrance he heard Poppy, "A little oversensitive isn't he?"
That evening after a day teaching insufferable brats and dunderheads all day he returned to his chambers to enjoy a glass of wine, a good book and a warm fire before retiring for the night. When he tossed his robe over the sofa he heard a crinkle of parchment. Ignoring what he knew to be the letter from Jameson he poured his glass of wine and settled in to the chair by the fire with his book.
After reading the same paragraph three times and still not remembering what it said. He signed and put his book down. Looking at his robe, he thought of the irritating Mr. Jameson. He should just ignore the letter, he knew if he made any indication he was willing to be friends Evan Jameson would never leave him alone. He knew the type; he worked with the Headmaster after all. But he did know of an exceptional book that he wished all of his students had read prior to coming in to his classroom. He could write a short, discouraging missive with the title that would surely mean one less dunderhead in his classroom in a few short years.
Conveniently forgetting that since Jameson had been homeschooled by a controlling guardian that his nephew would likely not be attending Hogwarts either, he resolved to write the brief missive.
Sitting at his writing desk he pulled out his parchment and quill.
I recommend Introduction to Potions Preparation by Vincent Taglio.
That should do it, Snape thought. He put the letter aside to mail in the morning after breakfast. Once he had put it aside he returned to the chair by the fire. As he picked up his book he realized if he waited until after breakfast the owl may have already left, it was only staying for a day. He put the book down, put on his robe and grabbed the letter from his desk. He really should mail it tonight otherwise who knows how long it would take to get to Jameson.
GP GP GP GP
Several days after Snape obsession over his correspondence found Harry Potter, wearing his Evan Jameson glamour approaching the shack where Tom Riddle's mother was raised.
While it had taken less than an hours research to find Tom Marvolo Riddle's connection to the Gaunts and the Riddle family in Little Hangleton the previous year when the Horcruxes were discovered it was decided there was no point in physically searching for more until the two they already had were disposed of. It had taken nearly six months for Mozzie, the goblin mage, to discover a way to destroy the soul shards without destroying the containers. It was only now the September of Harry's ninth year did they finally destroy them, allowing them to search out any additional shards.
Today they would be searching the Gaunt shack and Riddle Manor, and the surrounding area, including the cemetery where the last of the muggle Riddle's were buried. Harry was accompanied by three goblins, under glamours as muggles: Mozzie would be needed to confirm the presence of a soul shard; Giles, Gringott foremost curse breaker, and Xander his apprentice.
The Council of Elders had decided that while the soul shards must be destroyed, the fact that they were destroyed needed to be hidden for as long as possible. Just as Helga's Cup had been replaced within the Lestrange vault, any additional horcruxes would be removed, destroyed and then replaced. Only a master curse breaker skilled in both goblin and wizard curses would be able to bend any protections on Riddle's horcruxes to allow them to be removed and then again in order for the item to be replaced. While it made the work significantly more difficult and life threatening. Should what was left of Riddle ever check his hidden caches all of the protections would be in place with his own magical signature.
Harry had been working on curse breaking with Xander for the last couple months, while he did not yet have the power necessary to actually break any of the curses they expected to find, he did know enough to not be a hindrance either. Plus he was needed in case there was any need for his parseltongue abilities.
Harry and Mozzie were left a hundred yards or so from the shack as Giles and Xander circled the property.
"Some of the spells here are right nasty," Giles says when he comes up to where Mozzie and Harry were waiting.
"We need to get in there," Mozzie responds. "I can feel the nasty little bugger from here, now that I know what to look for."
"I'll go first, then Stormbrow, and then Mozzie, Xander follow behind, make sure nothing pops-up from the back. Step only where I step, don't say or do anything unless I tell you to."
They walked in a serpentine pattern towards the door in single-file, reminding Harry of a game Georgina had taught him called Follow-the-Leader. Giles waved his hands over the door several times, concentrating on the door handle and knocker, before finally lowering them to his sides.
"Stormbrow, tell the door to open in parseltongue."
Stormbrow looked to the door over Giles's shoulder. Seeing the knocker was in the shape of a snakes head he nodded and started hissing. The snake's head seemed to come to live and started a conversation with the parselmouth.
"Make sure not to touch the door or the knocker as we pass through," Harry told his companions once the hissing stopped. "He said he would have to bite anyone who touched them. But he'll let us enter otherwise."
Just as he finished speaking the door swung open. Giles went back to waving his hand in complicated patterns before taking one hesitant step inside.
"The floor is clear, but do not touch the walls or furnishings," Giles ordered before walking further in to the shack, the others still following like baby ducks.
"What ever the container is, it's in that corner," Mozzie pointed towards the section behind the table."
Giles went behind the table and kneeled on the ground facing the wall that was about two feet in front of him, still waving his hands. " Circle around behind me," he said as the three moved to stand behind Giles. "Xander levitate this section of flooring."
Several boards lifted up, Harry could see a small wood box sitting in the dirt. "Stormbrow can you lift the lid with a levitation spell. Mozzie you'll need to confirm what is the soul shard."
There sitting in the box was a small crudely made gold ring with a large green stone.
"I need to put on the ring," Harry said as soon as it came in to their view. His body lurched as if he was trying to both move forward and move backward at the same time. But he did not reach for the ring, instead he held himself perfectly still.
"A compulsion charm," stated Mozzie. "Clearly one aimed only at humans based on Stormbrows reaction." He reached in to his satchel and pulled out a metal box covered in runes. "Put it in here."
Giles levitated the ring out from its hidie-hole and into the open box in Mozzie's hands. As soon as the lid was closed the tension holding Harry in place ended and he seemed to sag.
"You did well resisting the compulsion, Stormbrow. Now cancel your levitation charm," Giles instructed. "Now the floor. Good. Follow me out of the house and off this accursed piece of land. And don't touch anything."
Once they were far enough from the house to relax Stormbrow sat on the ground in a heap. "Was there a curse on the ring if I were to put it on?" he asked.
"Yes, a withering hex, one with no counter. A slow and painful way to die." Giles said as he looked at the boy dressed in a man's body.
"I don't understand, if the hex was a slow acting one, wouldn't that have given the person enough time to destroy the horcrux before he was incapacitated. What's the point? If someone was willing to sacrifice their life to end the shard, that hex doesn't actually do anything to protect the artifact."
"True," Mozzie answered. "Riddle seems to have had main flaws in his logic, including recognizing other's willingness to sacrifice. Just as your parents stood between you and Voldemort to protect you, sacrificing their own lives, there are people who would have come here and even put on that ring themselves if it meant others would be one step closer to ending the monster for good."
"Plus the fool is way overconfident," Xander piped in with a grin. "I don't think you noticed, but you were the only one affected by the compulsion. The great and mighty Lord Voldemort used a compulsion charm that only works on humans. Any none human, including house-elves, centaurs or goblin could have walked right up and taken the ring with no desire to put it on."
With a much lighter heart, Harry got up off the ground, dusted himself off and said, "Lets get back to work, we have a lot of ground to cover today."
Although they didn't find anymore horcruxes that day, it was still counted as a success. The ring horcrux was destroyed the next day and then returned to its hiding spot the day after. To be safe Mozzie insisted that Stormbrow was not allowed in the ritual room during its destruction and was to remain outside the door to the shack when it was replaced, no sense in asking for trouble.