My apologies for the relatively late delay in getting this chapter up. I was on a skiing trip for the past couple of days and that in conjunction with the holidays gave me little time to update. I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Quick Note: Ignus Bellua roughly translates to "Fire Fiend" in Latin.
The two weeks since the raid on the Ministry had seen a great change on the street named Grimmauld Place. Although the cloaked figures had ceased to watch the area, but had used their powers in other ways. The surrounding apartments were now deserted as the Muggles had been forcibly persuaded to leave the area and those who had not had met an early end. Muggle newspapers were now speaking of a sudden epidemic that had hit the neighborhood to explain the mysterious deaths and migration away from the street. Similar epidemics had apparently hit the villages of Ottery St. Catchpole and Godric's Hollow, yet for all this trouble, the Death Eaters had not been able to discover the whereabouts of Harry Potter.
Unbeknownst to the watching figures, five people had just Apparated onto the top step of 12 Grimmauld Place. For the first time since the raid, they had cause for celebration.
"Did you see me get rid of the chimera flames?" asked Ron eagerly
"We all worked together on controlling the Fiendfyre, Ron," answered Bill rolling his eyes while Harry grinned.
"Yeah but this bunch came straight at me but I still was able to do the Banishing spell with all its power!"
"You did brilliantly Ron," soothed Hermione with an indulgent smile.
Bill sighed as the Trio walked up the stairs toward the sitting room, "Don't encourage him Hermione," but even he had a small grin as he watched his little brother describe his battle with the flames to Harry and Hermione, even though they had fought them as well.
"Well I zink they're cute when zere like that," said Fleur as she gave him a peck on his lips.
"Oh they are." Bill replied "I wish Ron took after me in the romance department. He and Hermione have been circling around each other for over two years from what Harry tells me and haven't got a move on."
"Took after you?" asked Fleur with a tinkling laugh. "What, you zink you were all suave and debonair and zat was how you earned my love?"
"Of course," answered her husband with a cheeky grin.
"Well you're right of course," she giggled, "but you're like your younger brother more than you know."
"Oh? How's that?"
"You like it when I indulge you just like Hermione with Ron," Fleur answered with a coy smile.
Bill frowned "When? I would have figured that out."
" 'Ow about when we were dating at first? All your Curse-Breaker stories from Egypt, and 'ow I would 'ang on to every word."
"I thought you like them!" Bill said with a fake pout.
"I do, but it's zo fun to see you being all excited when telling me about ze pyramids."
Bill sputtered, but was silenced with a deep kiss by his wife.
"You know honey, we really should get the Horcrux from Kreacher and destroy it quickly," Bill said in a low voice
"But you don't want to right now," smiled Fleur as she led him toward their room.
"Well… I think we can wait an hour."
The Horcrux hunters had spent the last two weeks attempting to master the only way they knew could destroy this container of Voldemort's soul. The Fiendfyre spell was known to Bill as he had seen his mentor Silas Carter employ it sporadically in Thebes and consequentially he knew the basic theory of the spell, although he had never cast it before. It wasn't that casting Fiendfyre was difficult, it only required the will to do so and Fleur had mastered it just two days after the raid. The problem was containing the cursed fire. Fiendfyre, by its nature was extremely difficult to control. It had been invented during the Middle Ages by a wizard with a particular bent for killing lords by burning down their castles and had wished to use a fire that could not be stopped and could chew through stone.
It had taken the five a long time to consistently contain the flames. It was extremely dangerous to use Grimmauld Place as a practice area, so they had decided to utilize the cliffs and beach near Shell Cottage. As it gave the Trio a chance to see the Weasleys, particularly Harry to see Ginny, it was the perfect place especially since the ocean provided enough water to drown the Fiendfyre should it rage completely out of control. They had to be absolutely precise when Apparating to and from Grimmauld Place as the Death Eaters and Ministry had intensified the watch outside the street, even resorting to killing Muggles.
They had noticed the peculiar effect the locket had on all of them. Bill and Fleur grew short with each other when one of them had to wear it, Hermione withdrew inside herself, Harry felt a constant sense of irritation and Ron snapped and sneered at everyone. The Weasley couple recognized the goal of the locket and over Hermione's objections had given the real locket to Kreacher, counting on elf magic to neutralize the negative effects of the Horcrux, which thankfully it had done.
And they had now proven to themselves that they were able to prevent the Fiendfyre from burning wildly. The five of them had stood in a circle around the flames and attempted to prevent them from reaching beyond their positions, and for the past three days they had succeeded. All that was left was retrieving the Horcrux from Grimmauld Place and returning to Shell Cottage for Fleur to destroy it. Harry had told all of them that since Fleur was the one to defeat Umbridge and steal the locket, she had to be the one to destroy it. "It's something I learned from Dumbledore, was his explanation, and the flames may not work as well if someone else casts them."
Shell Cottage rested near the edge of a small cliff which overlooked a small bay on the Cornwall coast. A wide beach lay at the bottom of a twisting path near the cliff, and it was where the surf met the beach where Harry, Ron, Hermione, Bill and Fleur took up their positions. Fleur placed the Horcrux just beyond the water's reach as the other four flanked her in a semi-circle.
No one said anything as Fleur brandished her wand and took aim at the locket. "Ignus Bellua!" She cried as she slashed her wand vertically
A wall of flame erupted from the end of her wand and raced towards the locket. The familiar sights of fiery chimeras, griffins, and serpents within the blaze came to their eyes as it surrounded the Horcrux and hid it from view.
The inferno continued on and on and it was apparent to all of them that something had gone wrong. In their experiments they had noted that when the flames had chewed through the target, they had continued to search for new objects to incinerate. However the firestorm stayed stationary and continued to surround the locket as if still trying to burn it.
Multiple cries of "Aguamenti Totalus!" and "Finite Incantantem!" rent the air as the Fiendfyre was brought to a sudden end. The locket still lay in the sand, glowing slightly from the heat but otherwise without a scratch.
Bill's heart plummeted. He had been so sure that this was the way to destroy the Horcruxes short of breaking into Hogwarts and collecting basilisk fangs from the Chamber of Secrets. Fleur had done the spell right as well, so how had Carter destroyed Ozymandias's soul?
Harry was wondering the same thing. He looked over at the eldest Weasley. "You said that your group had actually dealt with the pharaoh's soul before destroying it right?"
Bill nodded as the solution popped into his mind, but Hermione beat him to the punch.
"So we'll have to open the locket before using the spell again."
"But how?" asked Ron "We weren't able to do it two years ago and we tried every spell. Even Bill and Dad took a crack at it.
Fleur palmed the locket gingerly as she examined the glittering snake on the jewelry. "Perhaps zere is a 'inge underneath ze serpent?"
She quickly passed the locket to her husband, but as she did so Harry swore that the sudden movement had seemed to make the snake's ruby eyes move.
"Wait, Bill pass it back to Fleur and do it quickly."
Bill looked puzzled but did as the Chosen One asked. Harry looked closely again. The light from the sun flashing down on the ornament had made the ruby eyes light up and that made the snake seem real.
"Of course!" Harry shouted clapping his hand to his head. "I'm an idiot, we need to open it using Parseltongue! The snake looks real when the sun hits its eyes so I just have to tell it to open and you can use Fiendfyre on it again."
The four again took up their positions as Fleur raised the locket to catch the sun's rays. The ruby eyes glinted again in the light as Harry said "Open."
To everyone else's ears the voice came out in a strangled hiss, but their attention was immediately diverted as the locket doors opened, revealed two brilliant eyes in each window.
Fleur dropped the locket in shock and jumped backwards as a high cold voice issued from the fallen Horcrux.
"I have seen your heart Fleur Delacour, and it is mine."
"Don't' listen to it Fleur!" cried Harry, it's trying to save itself." But Fleur stared transfixed at the locket.
"You have always yearned for someone to understand you for your intelligence and soul," the Horcrux continued. "Yet men have only lusted over you, nothing more. Even your husband, who you thought was one of the view to truly love you for who you were, only pursued you for your looks and body. "In time your looks will fade, and your husband will look elsewhere for satisfaction as your personality will not suffice.
"Fleur, I truly love you! Don't listen to this poison!" shouted her husband. On the cliff above them, the rest of Weasley clan looked down at the scene, attracted by the shouts and noise.
"Your husband's family still despises you, Fleur Delacour. You may have thought you had changed their minds, but they continue to scorn you behind your back. Your mother-in-law still believes you are not good enough for your eldest child, your sister-in-law wishes that the Metamorphagus Tonks was in your place and your brothers-in-law only lust after you. You are nothing more than that to them." The Weasleys gasped at this lie. Fred, George, Ron, and Percy had their own loves, Ginny had accepted Fleur and Molly Weasley was proud of her daughter-in-law.
"Enough!" cried the blonde woman. She sliced the air with her wand while yelling the curse. The power of the spell knocked her off her feet as the newly created conflagration descended upon the Horcrux. A shriek split the air as the Horcrux was chewed up by the manic flames.
But the fire continued to burn, it turned back towards the five on the beach and charged straight for them.
The spells failed to make much of an impact, the inferno raced on and the five began to run for the pathway firing spells over their shoulders.
Percy, Ginny, Fred, George and their parents fired their own spells at the flames, and mercifully the fire began to slow down under the combined weight of magic.
Bill twirled his wand, and a five foot high wave washed over the flames, the force of which sent the five of them tumbling into the ground.
They dusted themselves off as the other Weasleys ran down the twisting pathway toward the beach. Fleur rushed over to hug her husband and whisper in his ear.
"Let's not use Fiendfyre next time."
The five Horcrux hunters spent the next five hours at Shell Cottage, explaining the most minimal facts to the rest of the family and swearing them to secrecy even with the small information they had revealed. The other Weasleys knew that what they had witnessed was a way to make Voldemort mortal again, and that Harry was the one to destroy him once they had accomplished their goal, but they didn't name the Horcruxes or give any other clues.
The rest of the time was spent catching up with the rest of the family. Although Fleur did not truly believe the Horcrux's lies, she was still gratified when the rest of the Weasley family explained how much they respected her and had accepted her into the family. Percy had been mending his relationship with the others and he half-heartedly joked with his new sister-in-law that it was he who needed to hear this more than she. Ron and Bill were able to see the rest of their siblings and their parents and learned that Charlie was now in hiding in Romania and planning to rejoin them at the cottage while Harry and Ginny were able to steal away for a heart to heart talk.
The five returned back to Grimmauld Place late in the evening and immediately went to bed (over Mrs. Weasley's objections since she had wanted them to remain at the cottage). Fleur lay in her husband's arms in the downstairs bedroom, while Hermione slept in Regulus's room and Ron and Harry shared Sirius's.
The sleeping group were unaware of the two cloaked figures creeping around the front of the apartment building.
The raid upon the Ministry had shook the Death Eaters and their Ministry allies. Although Voldemort was out of the country for reasons he did not divulge to his followers, he had ordered Yaxley and Travers to be subjected to the Cruciatus Curse for hours on end, and followed it up by replacing them as Heads of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and Department of Magical Transportation respectively. To Severus Snape's delight Dolores Umbridge was now in her second week of being stuck to her own telescope in her own office, a condition made worse by the half-hearted attempts to free her from her prison.
Snape himself had been ordered to use any means to get inside 12 Grimmauld Place or find a way to break the Fidelius Charm placed upon him. He had known of a relatively simple way to do this; he had known for months ever since he had killed Dumbledore but did not feel the need to divulge this information to the Dark Lord or any other. However the new Headmaster did not expect it to be successful so soon, and it was to his surprise when a glowing white rat Patronus entered his quarters late one night in early October.
"I've done it S-Severus. I've gotten inside S-Sirius's old house," came a stammering voice from the Patronus.
Snape nodded at the message and quickly exited his quarters. Walking through the headmaster's office, he paused to take Phineas Nigellus's portrait with him and stuff it into his cloak. He inclined his head towards Dumbledore's portrait and continued on. Ten minutes later he was far enough beyond the borders of Hogwarts to Disapparate successfully and with a crack he found himself on a familiar street.
He could see 12 Grimmauld Place clearly. He had always been able to since Dumbledore had confided its location to him, but had lied to the Dark Lord and said he was no longer able to find the place. The reason he needed Wormtail was that he wasn't sure what traps Alastor Moody and others had set for him and wanted someone who could bypass and disable them.
Snape nodded at the hunched figure near the door. "Good work Wormtail. Are Potter and his friends inside?" He knew the rat would not have had the initiative to check.
"N-no I haven't checked"
"Very well Wormtail," replied Snape lazily. "I shall check with you, but I will need your help so that I can enter. If you can do this, I will make sure to mention you prominently to the Dark Lord."
"C-c-c-can I trust you to do that Severus?"
"Certainly. I am already the Dark Lord's most trusted follower after disposing of Dumbledore in June. I have achieved my heart's desire in replacing the old fool at Hogwarts, I have no further need for accolades. Now, how did you manage to get past the Secret Keeper charm?"
"I-I waited on the street in my Animagus form every evening for a week like you told me to be, looking for one of them to slip up. Tonight the Weasley boy slipped when Apparating in and his shoe fell off the step. I jumped on without anyone noticing it and they brought me inside the protection."
Snape nodded, "Good work. Now grab my hand and lead me onto the step." He wanted to make sure that Wormtail thought that he was leading the Headmaster past the Fidelius Charm, not knowing that Snape could already see the place."
After they had entered the protection, Snape turned to Pettigrew. "I will need you to get inside one of the cracks and take a look around. I know they will have put up traps against me, but they should not harm you. Report back to me what they use and I shall tell you how to disable them."
In a moment Wormtail had become the rat that he so closely resembled and disappeared into the front door. Snape waited two minutes until the rat scurried back out and turned back into that pitiful excuse for a man.
"M-m-my tongue rolled up when I first came in but it quickly unraveled. When I got to the e-e-end of the hallway, a g-g-g-g-ghost came toward me! I scurried into a wall and saw that it was D-d-d-dumbledore."
Snape stroked his chin. "Tongue-Tying Curse for sure. The other was not a ghost. I watched Dumbledore enough to know he would never become one. It must be some sort of way to make me feel guilt about killing him to drive me insane. Is there any other trap?"
"Good. Now listen to me carefully and follow my wand movements…"
A few minutes later, Snape crossed the threshold of 12 Grimmauld Place for the first time since June when he had quickly broken in to find the tokens of Lily's love. His tongue did not roll up but the dusty figure of Dumbledore rose up at the end of the hallway. Snape was ready for it and blasted it aside. He glared at the coward.
"S-s-s-sorry S-Severus I thought the counterspell had worked."
"Just for that Wormtail, I will be the one to summon the Dark Lord." Snape took out his wand and muttered "Hominum Revelio."
He was surprised when the spell revealed that there were five human presences sleeping in Grimmauld Place. He had known that it was likely Potter, Weasley and Granger were here but couldn't fathom who else might have followed him, unless it was Lupin and Tonks.
"Who else is here with them Pettigrew?"
"Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour. A-are you going to summon the Dark Lord here now?"
"In a moment. Assume your rat form and check upstairs." answered Snape. Pettigrew complied but before he could scamper up the stairs, Snape hit him with a Stunning Spell. The rat dropped motionless on the floor and the Headmaster followed up by casting Muffliato on the surrounding area to mask the sound of more spells.
Despite the temporary paralysis of the rat, it still flopped around as the pain cascaded over its body. Snape did not relent, hitting the twitching vermin with more and more Cruciatus curses. The Stunner had wore off, but the rat's desperate squeaks could not be heard over the Muffling spell. Eventually the squeaks subsided but the rat continued to roll in pain. When that began to slow down, Snape cut off his curse and peered over Wormtail.
He waved his wand over the rat's eyes but the pupils did not follow the wand's arc. Satisfied, he cast the Tongue-Tying curse upon Lily's betrayer and pulled out Nigellus's portrait.
"Where is your other portrait Phineas?"
"Do not use that name!"
"The Muggleborn girl then. She put it into her bag to stop you from spying on them."
Snape smiled "She always was intelligent and cunning. A pity she was not sorted into Slytherin or even Ravenclaw. But never fear Phineas. Once she and the others discover Wormtail they will think he snuck in and ran afoul of Moody's curses. They'll leave for greener pastures and will leave you behind on the wall, but before they go, you must find out their destination. I assume you can travel to portraits around the apartment?"
"As long as mine is on the wall I can."
"Good, find out their next hiding place by doing that. I could not contact them here while it was under Death Eater watch but I can hopefully do so in their next safe house."
Snape put the portrait back into his cloak and walked back through the hallway. Pausing only to nudge the glassy eyed rat into the center of the hall, he reached the doorstep and with a crack appeared back near the gates of Hogwarts.
I hope you enjoyed! Please read and review!