Disclaimer: ...we've been over this, I swear.

AN: 1. Thank you, my riveting, rival-less, robustly real-life readers, for relishing and reveling in and reviewing in retrospect to reading my respectfully revealed writing.
2. Sooo...writing this chapter, Harry's language is starting to become only slightly cruder (as to be expected from a teenager), and now Sirius is joining the mix...and I always imagine him with a foul tongue, for some reason, so I'm beginning to wonder whether or not I'll have to hike up the rating to M eventually…hmm…thoughts?
3. And yes, I know the bit with Tom is weird. But writing those creepy dream-ish scenes is amusing and fun, so you'll just have to bear with me.


Chapter 34: Of Confusion and Criminality

Harry sighed deeply, rubbing his sore head as he listened to Aunt Walburga rant. After getting Sirius's emaciated form tucked in into the burgundy silk-sheeted bed in his childhood bedroom (though dusty and ill-cared for, courtesy of Kreacher, it indeed was), he felt that it would be prudent to address both Kreacher and Walburga concerning the newest additions to 12 Grimmauld Place. Needless to say, neither of them had been too happy about Sirius's presence – and in their ill-content, completely overlooked the more pleasing fact that he would be staying there as well. He felt so unloved, and Aunt Walburga's raving wasn't doing anything to remedy that.

"- and welcoming that blood traitorous scum into the house of my fathers –"

"A –"

"- who disgraced me and broke my heart without a second thought –"

"Aunt…"

"- how could you, and without my consent –"

"Aunt W-"

"Of all the thoughtless, irresponsible –"

Harry sighed again, closing his eyes. It was no use, really – the portrait was clearly lost in its own little world, and there was nothing he could possibly do about it, so he resolved right then and there to remain silent, and bide his time. Even if Walburga was only painting, she had to take a breather eventually, right?

Five minutes.

Fifteen minutes. A few mudblood comments.

Thirty. And the screeching started.

An hour. It was a whole hour before Walburga Black's grating, shrieking voice finally died down, replaced by a silent, deathly glare – Harry could only be relieved that the wildness in her eyes had waned, if only a little.

"Well? What do you have to say for yourself?" came her impatient demand for an explanation.

Harry would have snorted, had he not been so mentally worn down by the last hour of Walburga's raging. He opted for a quiet sigh instead, and, having had a whole hour to consider his strategy, started his defence diplomatically, "Sirius is my blood and my godfather, and I found him near death, having just escaped from Azkaban." He glanced up at the portrait, letting a small amount of forcefulness enter his eyes. "It would have been unthinkable to leave him there, and I had no where else to bring him."

Walburga said nothing to that, her face grim but still - though her eyes were glimmering with thoughtfulness. Harry took this as a good sign, and continued neutrally.

"I won't claim to know anything about what happened between Sirius and the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, but I believe that he loved my parents, and that he was loyal to the end – that he's suffered over a decade for his loyalty. He means something to me, and currently, I am the steward of this house. Moreover, I'm the one who's alive – I'm the one who has to act and live with the consequences. With all due respect, Aunt Walburga." Piss off and take a chill pill, he silently added. Normally, he would have just said it out loud at that point, damn the consequences, but he feared that if the portrait started up again, his brain might turn to jelly. Harry-flavoured marmalade, as it were.

Meanwhile, Walburga, carefully concealing any resemblance of pride, sympathy, or hope that was creeping onto her pale, sallow face, sniffed. "Very well, do what you will."

Harry stifled a sigh of relief. "Thanks." He glanced down at Kreacher, who had been watching the exchange with wide eyes, unmoved for the past hour. "I need to sleep. Let me know if Sirius wakes – and do your best to clean him up, will you?"

The elf nodded. "Yes Master Harry." And with that, he popped away.

Harry nodded respectfully to the portrait, before turning away to trudge up the greyish, narrow stairwell, wincing at the sound of every agonizing creak. Once he reached the top, he immediately veered into the only room he knew would be clean, the one that once belonged to Regulus Black. He immediately collapsed onto his soft bed, which was ever well-kept by Kreacher. The few times Harry had visited the previous summer, he had noticed Kreacher up in Regulus's room, bustling about to keep it tidy, muttering happily to himself – Walburga had confided that her youngest son had been unusually fond of the elf, even going so far as to comfort him when Sirius was exceptionally mean. Harry would never admit it to anyone, but he thought it was sort of sweet.

As soon as Harry's head hit the Slytherin-green silk pillow, an excruciating longing for sleep overtook him, causing him to shudder and moan. Idly, he recalled the days long past when a similar feeling would overtake him, and he would sink into a peaceful slumber – but he was no longer afforded that luxury. He reached to his side, to his B3, pulling out a familiar wooden box, popping open the lid to reveal the rows of bottles, only a handful of which were still full. Apparently, he would have to brew some more soon…

He reached inside, pulling out the vial farthest to the right, one that was nearly full. He downed it in one go, toes curling at the comforting, silky texture sliding down his throat. He smiled as irresistible slumber took him, providing him the escape he so desperately sought.


"Harry?"

Who was calling him?

"Oh Harry?"

The voice was silky, smooth...dangerously fluid and familiar. So smug.

"Harry...you're so cute when you sleep. So peaceful, quiet, innocent – it's like you're begging me to rip your throat out, strip it down, fleshy, sensitive piece by piece whilst you scream, and drink in that sweet, succulent blood of yours..."

At that, Harry darted upwards, fury, unease, and a healthy amount of fear wracking through his form as he did. He spun about anxiously, finding himself nearly nose to nose with a smirking Tom Riddle.

"I knew that one would catch your attention," the older boy drawled bemusedly, leaning back on the emerald green four-poster bed, which was seemingly floating isolated in a sea of infinite blackness. "I've been perfecting the wording and inflections for ages. You ought to be flattered, really."

Harry scurried away from him, pressing himself against the opposite side of the bed. "What the hell!"

Tom just continued to smirk contentedly, looking quite pleased with himself. "I was wondering when you'd be about again. I was growing lonely. Not that your mind is boring, but the corner you've stuck me in is...well...you know, lacking."

"That's your soul you're talking about," Harry sneered at him angrily, belying the discomfort he felt.

"My future self's soul," Tom pointed out lazily, "And if I'm honest, I'd have to say I'm very displeased – it's all rape this, kill that, death and destruction, cruciatus, over and over again, la-dee-da-dee-da..."

Harry frowned bewilderingly. "What the bloody hell sort of dream is this?"

Tom quirked an eyebrow. "A dream? What's this now? Denial? At this point? You are an odd little boy..."

Harry glared viciously. "Oh shut up. This can't be real – I just drank nearly a whole bottle of Dreamless Sleep. I've heard of defects, strange hallucinations and dreams, but there's no way my consciousness is free enough to drift to the tiny little corner you occupy."

"Unless," Tom said smugly, "There's something pulling you here."

Harry's heart rate sped up for a moment, and he paled, before he shook his head angrily. "No, no, that's impossible."

"Weren't you the one who spun that cheesy 'impossibility and I don't get along' line? Rather hypocritical, don't you think?"

"Shut up!" Harry snapped, "You're just a dream, my mind's playing tricks on me – it's the stress. Perfectly reasonable. Just be quiet while I figure out how to get out of here…"

Tom shrugged knowingly. "Have it your way then. In the meantime, I'll simply amuse myself." He shifted to the side, leaning over the edge of the bed to reach underneath and pull up something that made Harry let loose a strangled, panicked cry.

Cradled in Tom's hands was something Harry could not mistake, an image that had been burned into his brain many times before – the pale, dead face of a twenty-one-year-old Lily Potter. Tom held her bloodied head in his hands, her face twisted with fear and anguish as he smiled fondly at her, cleaning the blood from her cheeks and smearing it over her bluish lips like lipstain.

Harry could barely manage to speak, his chest heaving up and down in cold, silent panic. It was her eyes, her green eyes, bright and filled with terror and unadulterated agony, that betrayed to Harry the gravity of his situation – for he was instantly convinced that that frozen image was nothing his mind cooked up in a fit of twisted masochism; it was a real, vivid memory, torn deliberately out of some dark, hidden, dreadful place in the most shadowy part of his psyche. "Fucking hell..." was all he managed to articulate in the hoarse breath that passed through his lips.

"Now now, Harry," Tom chided, daintily running his fingers through the fiery red hair now splayed over his legs. "Mind your language in front of your mother. We were having the most wonderful conversation earlier, her and I. I really can't believe I killed her – she's so, so, special. The darkness, it tingles just under her skin – and she smells of death! Like the pale, cold reality itself...so ancient, so beautiful..."

But he was never given a chance to continue his tirade, as he was shoved against the back of the bed, a strong, desperate grip enclosing around his neck.

"You sick bastard!" Harry cried out wretchedly, unbridled fury glimmering in his avada kedavra green orbs. It did not even occur to him to inquire about Tom's cryptic words - so desperate and agonising was his anger.

Tom only grinned at that, dropping the head and wheezing out a laugh as best as he could.

"What? Not so sure I'm a dream anymore, are you?"

Harry's grip tightened, and Tom's grin grew, and before either of them knew what was happening, they were falling, just tumbling through the blackness, no end in sight. Panic rose up in Harry's chest, as the sensation of being sucked into oblivion overtook him – when his grip loosened, everything faded into formless darkness.


Harry awoke drenched in a cold sweat, panting desperately as though the oxygen in the air was slipping away from him. It took him only a split second to collect his thoughts and recall the grotesque scene he had just bore witness to in his own head – and realizing that it all came back to him like a real memory, and not a dream, panic, despair, confusion, and anger overtook him, and he leapt out of bed.

Instantly, he ripped the bedding off, shaking out the covers, before turning to the book shelf, tossing all the books to the floor, knocking the various trinkets beside them over carelessly. It was after he had pillaged the third bookshelf that he vaguely registered the sound of Kreacher popping into the room.

"What is Master Harry doing!" the elf cried out, the slightest hint of outrage and fear in his voice.

"Shut up, Kreacher," Harry snarled back, though it came out as more of a breathless, guttural hiss, as he continued to rip at the furnishings. He'd gone through the night table, knocking it over; now he had moved on to the desk, frantically opening and slamming drawers shut, pulling out their contents and tossing them to the side – until one caught his eyes, and he froze just as his fingers enclosed about it...a locket.

Click, click, click. Puzzle pieces fell into place. The locket that went missing from Borgin and Burkes in the forties; Regulus Black's defection and subsequent death; the dark shadow he had seen flitting in the darkness of the upstairs corridor a year prior; the horcruxes acting up in his head. The tiny object he held in his hand, the locket, it was another one, another horcrux.

Harry noticed that his hand had gone pale, and had begun to shake – instantly, he dropped the locket, as though it was searing his flesh, back into the desk drawer before shoving it shut, holding it there as though he thought it was about to burst back open at any second.

"Kreacher," Harry whispered hoarsely, "That locket I was just holding…did Regulus ever talk about it?"

"Y-yes Master," the elf responded with unusual timidness.

Harry nodded slowly. "Do you know what it is, Kreacher?"

"It…it's Master Regulus's locket."

Harry turned to look at the house elf's nearly quivering form. "No. No, it's not. But you know that, don't you?" He knelt down before Kreacher, ignoring his flinch and looking at his pitiful, round eyes. "Regulus told you a lot, didn't he? About the locket, who it belongs to, why it's important."

Kreacher, looking very close to tears, nodded.

Harry shakily rose to his feet, at least somewhat satisfied. "We'll speak more of this later."

Kreacher nodded contritely.

Harry eyed him silently for a moment. "Is Sirius awake yet?"

The elf started, and then scowled. "Yes, Master. Called poor Kreacher cruel names, first thing, he did, tried to escape, he did. But Kreacher took care of the blood traitor, don't you worry, Master Harry."

Harry felt some of the tension inside him drain away. "Good job, Kreacher...I think. I'm going to speak to him, now. I suppose he'll be hungry." He glanced pointedly at the elf. "Make him something good and healthy. Not too heavy, perhaps something a little sweet – well, on second thought, he was rather rude to you, wasn't he? Let's just give him porridge, then." He smirked, and to his delight, the normally sombre elf smirked back.

"Yes master Harry." The elf was about to pop away, but then it paused, frowning at Harry and snapping its fingers, causing a slightly damp cloth to appear in his hands. "Perhaps Master Harry will be wanting to clean himself up first." And with that, he disappeared, leaving the cloth in Harry's hands.

Harry, suddenly becoming conscious of the throbbing pain in his forehead, immediately reached up to wipe his scar clean of the blood that had inevitably pooled around it, which he could now feel dripping down his face.

Once clean, he left the messy bedroom, closing the door behind him and heading a ways down the hall, stopping in front of the bedroom he knew belonged to Sirius. He could hear loud grunting and groaning from within, the sounds of struggling and frustration. Cautiously, he inched the door open, finding himself hard pressed not to burst out laughing at the sight of his godfather wearily struggling against the ropes binding him to his bed.

After watching for a good few minutes, Harry decided to intervene, speaking bemusedly. "They'll never break, you know. House elf enchantments are exceptionally strong on simple house hold items, especially those belonging to their masters. But seriously, in the state you're in, I doubt you could escape from a muggle child's knots."

Harry's soft voice got the man's attention, as slightly wild, grey eyes leapt over to meet his, widening in shock. "James?" The man's voice was gravelly and painfully hoarse from disuse.

Harry shook his head. "Do you know where you are?"

Sirius scowled. "That wretched devil of a house elf, Kreacher – he dropped me in this wretched hellhole, didn't he?" Judging from his angry tone, he wasn't too fond of his childhood home.

"Actually, that was my doing," Harry said blandly.

Sirius's eye sparked with frustration. "If this is your idea of a joke, James, then it's awfully cruel!"

Harry sighed, a pained expression on his face. "I told you, I'm not James Potter,"

A shadow of confused madness crept over the ex-convict's face. "Of course you are! Don't play games with me! Don't, don't you bloody dare play games with me or I'll fuck you up so bad that –"

"Sirius!" Harry exclaimed, "I'm not James Potter. James Potter is dead." In the past, Harry had always had success with shocking people into getting what he wanted – apparently, that method didn't work quite as well on half-deranged escaped prisoners.

Sirius let out a wretched wail. "No! No, no, NO! Not James, not James and Lily! Oh god, why wasn't I there to save them?" His face twisted into a furious rage. "And that rat, Peter! I'll kill him! I'll rip him to shreds. I swear, I –"

SMACK!

The man was left slightly dazed, as Harry hit him across the face as hard as he could. He looked over at Harry in woozy shock.

"Let's try this again," Harry said softly, irritation underlying his voice. "Your name is Sirius Black. And you just escaped from Azkaban. Ring a bell?"

The man blinked, and then nodded slowly.

"Now, do you have any idea what the date is?"

The man seemed to withdraw into himself slightly, his eyes hazy as if reliving a vivid memory. "It...it's 1993, isn't it? That...it...it's around...August, sometime...?"

Harry nodded slowly. Though weary, drugged, and no doubt a bit unstable, the man seemed at least partially coherent. "Good, and you know, then, why you were in Azkaban?"

The man's eyes glazed over with tears almost instantly. "Lily and James...they thought it was me, they thought I'd done it..."

"Yeah, and they still do. They're looking for you, the whole bloody wizarding world, and this is the only place I know of that's remotely safe. So you'll just have to suck it up, alright? Because if you cause a fuss, or run off, and you're caught, then we're both screwed."

The man was listening to him with rapt attention, though he didn't seem to comprehend what Harry was saying all that well. "You...who are you...?" the man mumbled thoughtfully, before his eyes widened, becoming round with shock. "You...you couldn't be..."

"Harry Potter, pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Harry..." Sirius whispered with relish, "Harry...you're alive, and safe. Thank all that is holy..." He looked up at Harry with tears brimming in his eyes. "You...you look so much like James...and you have your mother's eyes." The man's face broke into a pitiful expression, one of despair, regret, anger, and weariness. "I'm so sorry, Harry...I'm so, so sorry..."

"Never mind that maudlin nonsense," Harry cut in sharply. "I need something from you, Sirius."

The man's eyes widened, a small amount of glee shimmering through them. "Oh, oh, anything, Harry."

Harry looked at him intently. "I need to know whether you committed the crimes you were convicted of. Were you a Death Eater? Did you betray my parents?"

Sirius's expression was immediately overtaken by outrage and frantic, vicious denial. "NO! Never, not James and Lily!" he spat angrily, shaking his head rapidly and thrashing about in his bindings, "It was that rat, Peter, Peter betrayed him, that son of a bitch – I'll kill him! He won't escape this time!"

Harry tried very hard not to be taken aback by the vehemence in his godfather's voice, but he was not entirely successful. When he managed to regain his composure a moment later, he nodded. "Alright then." And with that, he spun around to leave.

His godfather's cracking voice stopped him, though. "Harry? Harry? Don't leave! Please, don't leave me here."

Harry looked back at the poor, trembling man. "You need to rest, Sirius."

"No!" the man shouted, "No! We've got to go, go find Peter! Kill the fucking rat, now!"

Harry's eyes took on an icy quality, and he glared at Sirius for good measure. "You're very ill, Sirius – you're malnourished, weak, and bruised and cut all over. It will be months before you're fully recovered. We're not going after anyone."

"You can't stop me!"

"Yes, I can," Harry retorted, unable to keep a small amount of petulance out of his voice, "Right now, this is my house – so you're following my rules now." He paused. "I don't want to loose anymore family."

Without waiting for a response, he exited the room, closing the door behind him. Pensive and thoughtful, he paced down the hallway for a time, eventually coming to stop in front of the door of Regulus's bedroom again. To be perfectly honest, he was a little afraid – here he had another horcrux, one that wasn't trapped in the confines of his well protected mind. And he'd no idea how to destroy it. He couldn't very well try and absorb this one as well - no, that was just begging to have his mind destroyed, no matter how well protected it was. He sighed – he had consulted Magick Moste Evile, earlier in the summer, but the effort proved futile, as even such a comprehensive dark magic text was loth to do any more than mention them in passing.

"Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction..."

Nope, that wasn't ominous at all.

Harry knew quite well that he had a potential solution right at his fingertips – Jean, more likely than not, would be able to at the very least point him in the right direction. But anyone who had ever met Harry James Potter would be able to agree on one thing – he was proud. Months had passed, and he still strongly suspected the Jean had known about the horcruxes, and in the process of dropping several subtle hints, had been effectively playing with him. In all fairness, he never gave his distant cousin a chance to explain, and in his heart, he doubted Jean's intentions had been malicious...but still. Harry was pissed off. He glared at the door. What the hell. He was having a bad day, and nothing could change that, so why not make it worse?

"Kreacher!"

The elf popped into sight just in front of him. "Yes, master Harry?"

Harry sighed. "I need you to fetch something out of the trunk I left downstairs. A portrait. Leave it in the library, will you? And don't bother being gentle."

Kreacher nodded, and with a finger snap, he popped away.

Harry heaved another sigh, this one even weightier than the last. "Here goes nothing."

He slowly made his way to the library at the end of the hall, his legs suddenly feeling as though his shoes had lead soles. When he rounded the corner to the library, sure enough, he found a portrait lying in the middle of the floor. He didn't hesitate, lest he change his mind, and walked right up to it, picking it up and staring straight at it.

"Harry! You little brat! How long has it been? Months? How many? God, I was so worried about you – I thought you'd died or something, you stupid little bastard."

"Shut up!" Harry snarled angrily, the sincerity of his tone stopping Jean's tirade short. "We have things to talk about."

Jean eyed him warily as he set the portrait down on one of the tables, before he sat down in the fluffy velvet armchair across from it.

The two of them were silent for a good few minutes, engaged in an intense starting contest. Much to Harry's satisfaction, it was Jean who gave in first, sighing explosively.

"Damn it, kid, what the hell is wrong with you?"

Harry schooled his expression carefully. "The Chamber of Secrets was really opened, you know," he said flatly, coldly, "By Ginny Weasley, and then by Luna Lovegood."

"What?"

Harry nodded slowly, working hard to keep his expression neutral. "They'd been possessed. By the spirit of a former Hogwarts student named Tom Marvolo Riddle. A student who had somehow been clever enough to preserve his essence in a small, innocent looking object. Ring a bell?"

Even as a portrait, Jean could not help but pale dramatically.

Harry pressed on, a vindictive sneer on his face. "Imagine my surprise, finding out that Tom Marvolo Riddle was none other than the very halfblood Slytherin who became my parents' murderer."

"Harry..."

"Who would have thought? That a person could split their soul into pieces and hide them somewhere – in a diary, a locket, and perhaps even inside another person's soul."

Jean froze at that, his eyes narrowing.

Harry glared at him. "But you knew that already, didn't you?"

"Knew what?"

:Don't play games with me, you wretched, conniving dead fool!: Harry hissed furiously.

Jean was silent for a long moment. "I suspected," he finally amended, "I couldn't be sure. I barely had time to work out the details before I died – I didn't have much time to look into the matter."

In the corner, the little fire smouldering in the hearth flared up, as Harry's eyes flashed furiously. "You bastard!" he hissed, nearly slipping into parseltongue again, "How can you talk of this so casually! I've got that monster's soul in me, his soul – the dirty piece of shit that fueled the magic that killed my parents, inside of me! And Apollo only knows how much it's affected me! How could you...how could you even consider keeping that from me? Especially with everything – the dreams, the headaches...damn it, it was clear what was going on, and you didn't even say a word. What the hell kind of guardian are you?"

Jean assessed him coolly, with a regal, detached manner Harry had never seen on him. "You're right. I withheld my suspicions from you, twisted the truth, and even outright lied a few times. What are you going to do about it?"

Harry snarled. "I trusted you! I trusted you to teach me, to tell me the things I needed to know – to keep your promises!"

Jean's expression softened only slightly. "There are things you don't understand..."

"And whose fault is that!"

"It's not a matter of fault, Harry – not everything is a battle that has to be won. I'm not going to fight you on this, I'm not going to make excuses, and I'm not going to apologize. What's done is done."

"Yes, exactly, it's done. And I'll never forgive you for it."

Jean shook his head. "I don't ask you to."

Harry sneered at him.

"I don't care about your petty concerns, Harry – I want you kept alive. And I'll continue to ensure that in ways I see fit."

"Is that so important?" Harry whispered, his voice suddenly soft.

"It is."

"And why is that?" His voice grew harsher.

"You are blood. Blood looks after blood. And more than that – you're my heir, and you're family."

Harry stifled the faint smile that threatened his lips at those words and replaced it with a grim frown. "But that's not all there is to it, is it?"

"No, it isn't."

"You'll tell me what it is."

"Eventually."

Harry scowled. "You're a right nutter, you bloody stoner of a yank."

Jean smirked lopsidedly. "What can I say, I'm full of surprises. Even dead."

Harry closed his eyes, willing the remainder of his anger to melt away so that he could get the information he came for. "It was a horcrux – possessing students and instigating the attacks," he stated in a cold, business like tone.

Jean's eyebrows rose.

"I managed to use that sacrificial dagger I bought last year to puncture the vessel."

Jean paled. "Damn..."

"Yeah, and it was absorbed right into me."

Jean stared at him urgently. "Harry, with two horcruxes absorbed into –"

Harry nodded, cutting him off. "I know. I'm dealing, though – that's not the issue. The issue is the ones not inside me."

Jean's eyes widened. "There's more?"

Harry nodded curtly. "One in this house, actually."

Jean straightened. "Where are we?"

"Number 12 Grimmauld Place," Harry said, "The Black estate."

Jean groaned. "I'm not even going to ask..."

"Don't. Suffice it to say, I'm no longer welcome at Number 4 Privet Drive."

Jean's expression became pained.

"No matter, though," Harry said dismissively, "How do you get rid of a Horcrux? Tom seemed to be quite convinced of his own indestructibility."

"Tom?"

"Voldemort," Harry amended, "The bratty version."

Jean stared at him for a good long moment, skepticism evident on his face, followed by disbelief and then resignation. "His belief was justified. The soul is a hardy thing – and when a piece is magically infused in an object..."

Harry's face fell, and he strained to keep the desperation out of his eyes. "There must be a way. There...it can't be indestructible. Nothing's indestructible."

"Well if I was going to call something indestructible, I would choose horcruxes."

Harry grimaced.

"The soul is hard enough to destroy on its own – the creation of a horcrux is the only thing I know of that can truly fracture it completely. Besides that, the Killing Curse and the Dementor's Kiss come to mind..."

"But those only work on living things," Harry interjected frustratedly.

Jean nodded. "One would think that something that completely destroys the physical make up in its entirety might destroy a horcrux…"

"Like...Reducto?"

Jean snorted. "Yeah, right. Seriously?"

Harry scowled at him. "What! It was a guess..."

Jean shook his head bemusedly. "A bad one. The only spell I can think of that would have any promise at all would be fiendfyre..."

Harry paled. "F-fiendfyre."

Jean nodded.

"Jean, that's totally out of my league. That's not just dark arts. That...a spell like that requires mastery. It's right up there with the unforgivables, but harder to control!"

Jean quirked an eyebrow. "Well, I suppose you'll have to start practicing."

Harry frowned. "Jean...you do realize that that this isn't just a few dark-ish hexes and curses, right? It's fiendfyre."

Jean nodded. "I'm quite aware."

"I'd have to actually practice the dark arts – train to be a dark wizard."

"How badly do you want Voldemort dead?"

Harry sent him a withering glare. "You're my guardian. You're supposed to be deterring me from these sorts of things."

Jean shrugged. "It's a hell of a lot better than the alternative."

Harry sighed. "That doesn't make it any easier...how the hell am I supposed to practice the dark arts, let alone fiendfyre, at Hogwarts?"

Jean looked at him thoughtfully. "Well, not sure about Hogwarts, but you can get a start on it here."

"I'm only thirteen, Jean! I can't practice magic, especially not dark arts, outside of school! I'd be expelled in a heart beat."

Jean smirked. "You don't really think that the wards around the Black estates are that weak, do you?"

Harry blinked. "What?"

"The Blacks, of all people, would have placed heavy wards around all their ancestral homes, so that they could practice any magic they wanted within. Moreover, this library we're currently in should prove a treasure trove for dark arts books and the like."

Harry sat back in his chair, rubbing his scar wearily. "This is insane."

"C'est la vie."

Harry glared. "I hate you."

"You love me."

"Shut up before I make you."

Jean only chuckled.

Harry was about to respond with what would have been a very witty and scathing retort before a small 'pop' was heard, and immediately following, a small envelope was dropped on his lap.

Jean's eyebrows rose. "Who's that from?"

Harry grimaced. "The Ministry of Magic."


So, what do you think? Should it be an utterly pointless invitation from the Minister (following the trend of the book), or a little warning (defusing possibly amusing conflict)? It's really just choosing the lesser of two evils, I suppose. I'm undecided, and have yet to write that scene, so it's up to you lot, I suppose.