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With You by My Side

Chapter 47- Changing Guard

Albus Dumbledore sat in his office nursing a glass of fine wine from the French Alps. The few days that passed were nothing short of a shock to the aged wizard. With the new school year to start soon and the Triwizard tournament to be hosted, he would not be able to spend more time on the political front which was changing too fast for his comfort. All he could do was to take a step back and analyze whatever happened after the fateful night when Cornelius Fudge was murdered and threw the British wizarding world in a tizzy. May be there was no need for him to do much, he could still try and salvage the situation to his comfort.

With Dumbledore at the helm, the ICW was generally lackadaisical in being a proactive body. Though the powers it was constituted with, gave the ICW blanket authority to act whenever the peace and lives in the wizarding world were threatened, it chose to be a fact finding body rather than being an active enforcer. Dumbledore, even with his best intentions made the body into nothing more than a collection of vacationing witches and wizards. The body was indeed comprised of some of the finest minds even the non-magical world might have seen, but that was all it was reduced to. They were ecstatic to see the new dialogue into magical theory and the revival of ancient and near forgotten branches of magic by Harry Potter and Hermione Granger with help from three professors, but they would never debate the problem of letting death eaters go free without even a proper trial.

Now though, there was a change in the offing, and that was again because of the efforts of the two teens. The ICW was naturally forced to involve itself after the incident at the quidditch world cup. Not only was the British Minister of Magic murdered but the delegates from Bulgarian and Irish ministries were also in the line of fire. Harry and Hermione were right in the middle of the confrontation and so were the prime witnesses. Being the 'Boy-Who-Lived', Harry's words naturally carried a lot of weight and added to that, the fact that along with Hermione, he made a name for himself in the academic circles meant that he would be listened to. The two teens made full use of that popularity and pointed out the glaring mistakes the British Ministry of Magic made in not prosecuting the death eaters after the end of the last war.

That galvanized the ICW and they pulled no punches in shredding the reputation of the former head of DMLE, Bartemius Crouch Sr., the then Minister of Magic Bagnold, and Dumbledore himself. Not all of the ministry was under scrutiny, the current head of the DMLE Lady Amelia Black nee Bones came out with a stronger reputation than what she went in with.

Her prudent actions of putting in extra guards and that too under her direct authority was acknowledged to be a master stroke that in all evidence prevented mass causalities. Though the ICW frowned on the fact that a muggle family was tortured, they were relieved that there were no injuries, let alone deaths among the wizarding population. They were impressed by the security afforded to the visiting dignitaries.

In hind sight, Dumbledore had to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and the need for a more thorough research into the security needs. It seemed that only the Lady Black was up to the task; popular opinion which was already on her side after the revelations about neutralizing the financial threat posed by the death eaters, skyrocketed due to her actions in protecting the witches and wizards who came to witness the match. She even admitted that as the head of DMLE, she went against Fudge's orders and sanctioned private guards.

Instead of blaming her actions about going against authority, she was commended for her foresight and for her courage even at the risk of her career. What no one knew was that she was not alone in the planning, but had a set of people around her who were able to give her sound advice, chief among them were her husband the Lord Black and two teens Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. Nevertheless, it was her actions that saved a massacre on that fateful night and Dumbledore was thankful for that. If something bad happened, he was not sure that he would have come out of it as clean as Amelia did.

The shift in the ICW's stand meant that they forced their decision to keep Amelia in her current position as the head of DMLE. Undoubtedly, the auror force and the DMLE needed her guidance and her expertise and the ICW quickly recognized that. Dumbledore did not know it but her close family and friends were disappointed by that decision but still recognized the reason behind ICW's recommendation. The British ministry need not bend to the will of the ICW, but Amelia acquiesced and in a stroke of genius, nominated Augusta Longbottom to the top position.

No one dared to, nor could they oppose her nomination. Madam Longbottom was a formidable woman and her reputation as a fair minded witch meant that there were no grounds for serious opposition. The traditional pure-bloods were already on the side of the 'Boy-Who-Lived' and they knew that Augusta was a close friend to Harry. Added to that she was as 'pureblood' as one could get. Those who supported or were supported by Lucius Malfoy dared not go against the current political climate, if they were to survive. They decided that silence was better part of valour in this case and went with the flow.

Dumbledore was at least happy that good and powerful people were at the helm of affairs in his beloved country. He may not have chosen either of the two women to lead the country, as he would have wanted someone who turned to him for advice, but he could not deny that either Amelia or Augusta would have been a good choice to lead them through the turmoil that was sure to raise its face.

What stuck in the old wizard's craw though was that his opinion was neither asked for nor was it listened to. Not that he was an unreasonable man, but he was the one with the experience in dealing with Lord Voldemort and with Grindelwald before that, he should have been consulted. Instead, he found that his grasp on the power within Britain was slipping. He survived the backlash after Fudge's assassination but did not get off scott free.

The ICW was taking a proactive role in Britain's affairs and it was evident that it was going to continue. Dumbledore was sure that Amelia and Augusta will both be willing to take their help. He was not removed from the position of Supreme Mugwump but was told in no uncertain terms that he could not expect to lead the body ever again after this term.

A Supreme Mugwump was never elected, he was given the honour due to his or her popularity and Dumbledore enjoyed that for the past ten years. The term was usually for four years and he was never opposed, even during his first term when he was new to the ICW as Britain's representative. Now he had only two more years before he may as well be removed from even representing his home. His only way to preserve the position was to regain his lost glory and he always knew how to do that, leading Harry Potter to win against the dark lord Voldemort.

Unfortunately, Dumbledore found out that he had no influence on the young man. He was very intelligent and surrounded himself with smart people and advisors with a keen sense of what was needed to be done to defeat Lord Voldemort. The headmaster was never able to understand how he lost total control on not only the young man but seemingly on the school too.

The aged wizard sighed for the hundredth time that night. His musings were interrupted by the tatty old hat which never bothered to open its mouth other than at the sorting feast, "Bee in your bonnet, headmaster?"

Dumbledore was irritated to be interrupted. He was not naïve though, he knew that the sorting hat acted as a conduit to the castle and was the way for a headmaster to interact with it. He read somewhere that the castle could talk directly to a witch or wizard deemed worthy, but he could never do that. He could feel that as the days went by, the castle was listening to his orders less and less and for some time felt that the control of the wards slipping from him. Maybe it was time for him to clarify some things and reassert his authority.

"I seem to have quite a few, Alistair," the headmaster replied.

The sorting hat sighed and Dumbledore was surprised to hear the hat admonishing him, "My name is not Alistair, headmaster."

"But I always thought that it was…" he trailed off confused.

The sorting hat interrupted him with a hint of anger in his tone, "That's the problem you have Dumbledore, you always assume that you know best. You never ask…"

The headmaster was taken aback and was a little angered too; of course he knew what was best, he was the only one who knew such secrets that would one day make or break the war against evil. The hat was not finished though, "… and the secrets you keep and the manipulations to keep them secret. You think that you are infallible, but you are not invulnerable headmaster. You are making mistakes that can cost our world if you are not careful."

Dumbledore was stunned, it was almost as if the castle was listening into his thoughts. He mentally slapped himself, of course the castle can listen; he was connected to the wards after all. Until now he was the master and the lord, now that his hold began to loosen, it would be a difficult thing to keep his thoughts to himself. He was determined to make an effort to reinforce his occlumency shields and try and keep his secrets just that.

"Some secrets are to be kept away from the general public …" the headmaster stopped himself perplexed, "… if it's not Alistair, what should I call you?"

The sorting hat chuckled and relished in the small victory, "I was named Goron by Godric."

"Thank you…" Dumbledore acknowledged, "… as I was saying, some secrets are better kept away from public knowledge Goron. Besides, I am not going to die so soon…" 'I still have more glory to attain…' he thought to himself.

His thoughts were brought up short by a sharp rebuke from Goron, "Glory is not something to be sought headmaster, it comes to those who are worthy. Your thoughts on that matter and that you should keep matters that are vital to the continued survival of an entire country, to yourself show how conceited you have become."

Again Dumbledore was stunned, 'Had he become that bad?' the answer it seemed was a resounding yes, at least according to Hogwarts castle. His thoughts immediately turned to what Goron said about keeping secrets, 'What if he did die before anyone else knew about the horcruxes Lord Voldemort made?' Granted he did not know exactly how many he made, but he was the only one that knew about them.

Dumbledore shuddered at the thought. As fixated as he was on cornering more glory before he took a well-deserved rest away from spotlight, the thought of Lord Voldemort ruling British wizarding world due to his mistake was a chilling thought. Then who was the one who he could trust the secret with?

"You know that Mr. Potter has to know about it headmaster, he is tied up with the prophecy after all," Goron reminded him.

Dumbledore immediately shook his head in the negative, "He is still a child, he should be allowed to enjoy his life and not be burdened with the ugly truth."

"The truth about him having a soul piece within him?" the sorting hat asked dangerously.

The aged headmaster was stunned, he wanted to ask how the hat knew about it but chastised himself immediately. The castle would of course detect the taint in the boy. He sighed heavily, "No the truth that he had to die for the threat of Lord Voldemort to be removed permanently."

The air in the office suddenly grew oppressive and even the wizard who was labelled as the most powerful wizard after Merlin felt the enormous magical power bearing down on him. For the first time after defeating Grindelwald, Dumbledore truly feared for his life at that moment. Just like that the oppressive force was removed and normalcy was returned.

Goron chuckled darkly, "Hogwarts does not appreciate your attitude towards its heir, headmaster."

Dumbledore nearly slapped his forehead again. How could he forget that tidbit of information? He was introspect again, was he really losing his faculties? He was not getting any younger and he was indeed fatigued with three different responsibilities. Was it really better for him to confide in others? Especially Harry?

"If it is of any consolation to you Albus," Goron softened his tone after hearing the headmaster's thoughts, "He and his family already know about the horcruxes, in fact he already has three of them in his possession."

The headmaster was so surprised at that information that he was gaping like a fish, "How…?"

"Nearly two years ago, one of the horcrux was brought into the castle by a student," Goron stopped in his narration to see the understanding dawning onto the headmaster and let him solve the problem himself.

"… and naturally being an heir, the castle helped him remove the threat," Dumbledore surmised.

In a way the headmaster was happy that the secret was no longer confined to him only. Yes, all his plans and preparations were in a way, a waste, but he realized that it was nothing to the idea that three of the horcruxes were found. Dumbledore always suspected that Tom Riddle made seven horcruxes including the one in Harry's scar and that meant that there were four to be destroyed. He regretted that the boy had to die but there was nothing else to be done.

Goron interrupted him again, "… and that's where you were wrong, headmaster. The horcrux in him has been removed with the help on Native American magic."

Dumbledore did not know what to feel knowing that. He of course felt happy that Harry Potter did not need to die; it was infinitely better for himself to be known as the one who defeated Gellert Grindelwald rather than as the one who killed Harry Potter. He did feel a little sad that he may not achieve any more recognition than he already had. In fact he was losing his popularity starting with the ICW. Maybe if he was careful, he could salvage whatever reputation he had to the point that he would be known as the one who helped Harry Potter defeat Lord Voldemort; he could be satisfied with that.

The sorting hat helped him make that decision taking a shot at the headmaster's pride, "Harry Potter and Hermione Granger are not only superior in intellect compared to you, they are natural born leaders. The collection of witches and wizards they have helping them are some of the best minds in the wizarding world, not just in Britain. His friends would go on to be the next leaders in all facets of our life, provided the world would survive the coming darkness."

Oh! Dumbledore knew that Harry would become a very powerful wizard at his magical maturity, surpassing even him in raw power, all he lacked was experience. Now it seemed that he need not have to wait for gaining that, there were others giving him sound advice. His decision was made.

"Is the horcrux in him truly gone?"

Hogwarts answered instead. The castle reassured him of that fact.

"… and you know that he has three of the horcruxes with him?"

Goron answered this time, "The diary of a sixteen year old Tom Riddle, the diadem of Rowena, and the locket of Salazar."

Yes, his decision was easy.

Minor Break

The start of the new school year and its accompanying bustle helped almost everyone forget about the incident at the quidditch world cup. It also helped that Amelia's presence at the helm of affairs at the DMLE gave the general populace a sense of security. Harry had to admit that the ICW was correct at least on that account and it also helped his peace of mind that Augusta was the one elected to lead the British Ministry of Magic. The old witch was not at all interested in the top position, but she knew that the circumstances demanded it and she could have all the help she might need from Harry and his family. She made a deal though, once Lord Voldemort was removed from existence, she was going to hand over the reins to Amelia or someone of their choosing.

Just a couple of weeks into the year and the headmaster sent in a message that he wanted to talk to Harry, and he was not pleased. He never had a healthy relationship with the old wizard. Yes, it was not confrontational but it was civil at best. Harry really did not have any grudge against the man, he did suspect that the headmaster was hiding a lot of things though, things that pertained directly to Harry and that was what he did not like.

Case in point was the Triwizard tournament that was to take place at Hogwarts this year. Harry did not want that tournament to take place at all. It had a very bad reputation of leaving the competitors far from healthy at the end, even dead. The wizangemot apparently decided that this year was a very good one to bring about international cooperation and so the tournament was revived.

Harry argued against it vehemently; he suspected that something very underhanded was going on as Lucius Malfoy was the one who actually brought up the idea of international cooperation and what was better than a competition between the three principal schools in Europe! When was the man ever interested in cooperation? The idea was lapped up and since there was already a tournament in existence, it was revived and Hogwarts was volunteered to be the host.

The enormous pressure brought by Harry was thankfully enough to force some changes. The main ones among them were to restrict the competition to overage witches or wizards and to make the tasks less dangerous. The other aspect was to make it more entertaining to the watchers without making it dangerous to those who compete. The one concession that Harry wanted but could not get was not to make it magically binding, the participants chosen by the 'Goblet of Fire' should be allowed to withdraw in case they did not want to go on to compete. The idea of using a magical artefact itself made it magically binding but to Harry's chagrin, no one could come up with a better idea of choosing the participants. Wizarding world never heard of league level tournaments to keep up with the potential of all the students in their schools.

So, despite his misgivings, the Triwizard tournament was to happen and he was still not in complete agreement with the headmaster. Dumbledore, neither in his position as the headmaster of Hogwarts nor as the Chief Warlock of the wizengamot, objected to the tournament. He more than anyone knew about the stirrings in the death eater ranks signifying that something major was going to happen, but did nothing to even try to mitigate the threat.

Harry hoped that the assassination of Cornelius Fudge would bring about a change but it seemed unfulfilled. There was no change in the stance of the headmaster; he was still keeping silent on most matters and even more so on the issue of reopening the trials of the death eaters who escaped unpunished the last time.

So, why was the headmaster intent on meeting him? Harry had to agree that the aged wizard never tried to manipulate him, but now that even Hermione was called to the meeting as her status of his betrothed, Harry was a little apprehensive.

As soon as he entered the headmaster's office with Hermione beside him on that Saturday morning after breakfast, Harry was even more surprised to see that all of those who comprised of his 'family' as he thought of them were there, Sirius, Amelia, Augusta and the three professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Snape.

Without any preamble and while still sipping his tea, Dumbledore spoke and speak did he from his heart, "I have been told, quite sternly if I may so say, that I have been presumptuous and acted without any regard to those who are directly involved in the conflict against Lord Voldemort and his minions."

That declaration caught everyone with surprise; the headmaster was known to keep his secrets just that, close to his chest and now he was opening up! That was unexpected indeed.

The well written surprise sent a pang of regret through the headmaster, he was now able to see how wrong it was of him. He might have asked for respect, glory even but it seemed that what he got was distrust instead. It was time to correct that, "I was always preaching for second chances and to turn people from the dark into the light. After seeing you at work, I realized that I was very wrong in my ways."

The headmaster sighed tiredly, running his hands across his eyes, he continued, "The way you removed Voldemort's finances from the equation with little to no trouble, I could not even think about doing that. Now that the money instead of being used to finance terror is being released into the economy, we were never this prosperous before."

Sirius was beginning to get impatient; he knew this tactic of Dumbledore where he would skirt the topic at hand and when the listeners began to get impatient, he would drop the proverbial bomb to get their attention. The Lord Black was not willing to play that game anymore, but before he could object, it was Professor McGonagall that spoke up, "I am sure you did not get us here to reminisce Albus, what is that you want?"

The headmaster chuckled at the forthright nature of his deputy, "I want to put my cards on the table Minerva."

While Harry and Hermione looked a little skeptical about what the headmaster could contribute, the adults looked on positively bewildered. Never before did the headmaster divulge his secrets or plans and now he was willing to?

"Why the sudden change, Albus?" Professor Flitwick spoke up. He was willing to give him a chance and he was not sure that the others were that naïve to think that they do not need the help. Yes, they may be angry and brush him off but then realize the intelligence of the man.

Dumbledore gave the part goblin a thankful nod, "I was reminded recently that I have many answers to the question of Lord Voldemort. It is knowledge that I gathered over the years and if I were to leave this world, the knowledge would die with me. The problem of Lord Voldemort is not something to be trifled with and I know that the secrets I have will turn the tide."

The silence that followed allowed him to gather his courage and forge on, "I know that you are already aware of the horcruxes that he made…" Dumbledore was surprised that everyone instantly turned to Amelia; he expected that either Sirius or Harry would be the one leading the group, but it seemed that the one who had not only combat experience but also the tactical acumen in leading a squad was chosen as the leader.

Amelia was willing to hear him out and so gave him to understand that they were actually able to destroy three of them and the one in Harry's scar.

The headmaster was impressed; this was a victory that could not be ignored, "So there could be three more out there," he mused.

"So you think he made seven horcruxes, headmaster?" Hermione inquired.

"That is the material point isn't it Miss Granger? Seven horcruxes or seven pieces of the soul in total, making it six horcruxes and the remaining part in the wraith," Dumbledore rejoined.

"Why seven though?" Augusta asked. Oh, they debated on that a lot and she knew that Arithmancy put a great value on the power of that number but she was curious about what the old man would say.

"In a nutshell, seven times is the maximum that one can split a soul," Dumbledore replied.

That was something that none of them knew. But in a way it was good news, it meant that they were a little closer to their goal. It was a definite plus that if the dark lord was somehow to know about the destruction of his horcruxes, he might safeguard the remaining ones, but would be in no position to make more. Over lunch and evening tea, they discussed about the man that was born as Tom Riddle but went on to become Lord Voldemort.

The history of the Gaunts and the Riddles was discussed. The connection to Salazar Slytherin and the use of the founder's locket as one of the horcrux was discussed in detail. What emerged was Tom Riddle's fascination with the founders' relics and that was strengthened by the use of Rowena's diadem also. The headmaster was thrilled that they were not destroyed in the purge and could not prevent the tears from his eyes after holding the pristine relics. Never in his life did he imagine that he would one day see the famous artefacts and now that he was able to hold them, he was determined to do everything in his power to assist Harry and his family.

Pulling out his pensieve and a memory, the headmaster showed them what the goblet that belonged to Helga Hufflepuff looked like. Going with the theme of the founder's relics, they debated on the point of the other horcruxes. There was nothing of Godric Gryffindor that was missing; one was his sword which could have been converted, Dumbledore thought, but that was immediately discarded when Harry flourished it in the office. The other one was Goron, the sorting hat, who was indignant when the topic was even raised.

"Are you certain that he would have made even six, headmaster? We can account for five only…" Harry was depressed. He was a little hopeful that the puzzle will be solved when Dumbledore raised the topic of horcruxes but though the discussion was helpful in at least identifying another one, it seemed that even the headmaster did not have the answers to their problem.

Dumbledore stroked his beard in thought, "Certain?" he echoed, "No, I am not. It only makes sense for him to aim for that number." Then he sighed, "The only one who could give us the answer on that is his former head of house…"

"Horace?" McGonagall could not hide her surprise.

Seeing the perplexed looks of Harry and Hermione, Sirius explained a little about the ex-professor of potions Horace Slughorn and his knack of 'collecting' bright and influential people around him. "I am sure Snape can try to contact him…" he suggested. Though their enmity was all but buried, Sirius could never show much more warmth towards their ex-classmate. They were no more at loggerheads and that was enough for the group.

"While it is not absolutely essential," Dumbledore argued, "… it might give us a hint as to the exact number of horcruxes or the number of soul pieces."

They all sat in silent contemplation regarding the revelations that evening and though not much was new to them, it was a chance for them to sort out all the details. The prophecy that marked Harry as the one that could, essentially, end the reign of Lord Voldemort was also discussed. Dumbledore was actually happy that they knew about the prophecy and was surprised to find that it was Severus who actually raised the point. He was initially afraid that either Harry or Sirius would take exception at the potions master's role in the prophecy hearing, but it seemed that everything was sorted out and Severus apparently forgiven.

"Albus…" Professor Snape interrupted their musings, "… in one of your memory of the dark lord, I seem to catch sight of a ring he was wearing…"

"Was it the one where he was talking to Hepzibah Smith?" the headmaster questioned while rooting around for that particular memory in the pensieve. It was too cluttered and so began taking out the irrelevant memories out.

Harry and Hermione exchanged a quick glance, "Can we have those sir?" Harry asked. They really wanted to have another look at the memories just to make sure that they did not miss anything out. It seemed that Professor Snape was probably onto a lead and it would not do them any good if they missed anymore.

Dumbledore was startled by that request but did not see any problem with that. They were his memories but it was for the explicit purpose of defeating Lord Voldemort and so with a genial smile handed over the labelled vials to the two teens, except for the one that had the memory of the event that professor Snape was talking about.

All of those in the office watched the memory again but this time they were not concentrating on the words that were being spoken. The words were already etched in their minds, if not they could always come back to it, no they were concentrating on what the potions master was pointing to.

"Can you see the ring on his finger?" Professor Snape exclaimed.

They all could see a ring on Tom Riddle's finger which usually signified the head of house status. It was nothing remarkable but it was important enough that he had it. After the memory ended, the professor retrieved one of his own memory, this one more recent, about the time that Snape joined the death eaters. But there was one significant difference between the two memories, in the newer memory, the ring that adorned a younger Tom Riddle was conspicuous in its absence.

Everyone in that office knew that a ring that signifies the status as a head of house cannot be removed from a living wizard, unless he was no longer the head of the house. The magic of the ring would make it nearly impossible for even the wearer to remove except in exceptional circumstances. So, it could only mean, "You think that the ring could be a horcrux, Professor?" Hermione voiced everyone's thoughts.

"There is a very high chance for that," Professor Flitwick answered. "If there is a soul piece attached it, the magic of the ring would be fooled to think that it's with the right owner."

There was a slim chance but still Augusta had to ask, "Don't you think that he would have made it invisible on his hand?"

Snape answered with a vehement shake of his head, "No, he is much too egoistical to hide it."

Dumbledore also agreed to that, "It is well known that the Gaunts were the direct descendants of Slytherin himself. Tom would not hesitate to gloat that fact if anyone would notice that ring on his finger. No, I will have to believe that the ring is a horcrux."

"So, we know that Hufflepuff's goblet and Gaunt's family ring are out there. What do we do now?" Augusta asked and that was what this meeting was for.

Harry rallied them all, "We keep looking for them. I agree that we were very lucky to get three of them but still there is hope and until Voldemort actually gets a body, we have time."

"… and if we know where he is holed up in the meantime, we will take him out," Hermione agreed.

Dumbledore objected to that, "That cannot be done Miss Granger, until all his anchors are destroyed he will be alive."

"We know that Albus," Amelia countered, "… what Hermione is saying and I agree, is that we aim to capture and restrain him. When we are sure that all his horcruxes are destroyed, it will be easy to dispatch him."

"I am afraid that it may not be a good idea, Amelia," it was difficult for Dumbledore to let go of his ideas that easily.

"On the contrary headmaster," Harry rose to her defense, "We will make sure that no one else would try and give him a body, and even if we do not get all the horcruxes, we will render him powerless. We, that is Hermione and I, know exactly how to bind his magic and to keep him immobile."

Privately everyone except the headmaster agreed to Harry and Hermione's idea. Moreover, the headmaster was unable to provide any explanation as to why they would have to wait for all the horcruxes to be destroyed before they could confront the dark lord Voldemort. They did not argue the matter, however, and agreed to disagree with him.

Scene Break

The news about the Riddle manor and Guant shack helped the team enormously. They now had a direction to focus their efforts on. If the search did not lead them to Lord Voldemort, Harry and his family was at least hopeful that the Riddle manor or the shack would net them a horcrux or two.

Their reasoning got a shot in the arm when Emma found a small police notice in a local newspaper about the disappearance of the caretaker of the manor house. The police did not suspect any foul play as the speculation was that the man was simply tired of watching over an abandoned house and left the place to warmer climates. Besides, he had one of his legs in the grave and so might have gone to visit his relations, though no one had an inclination about them.

Still, to Harry and Hermione, it was a clue. It might have had a very low probability of working out but they were not going to let the chance go. If there was nothing else, they might get to know how the descendants of Salazar Slytherin lived during their time.

Remus recruited a few werewolves that he knew were sincere about finding honest work and were desperately in need of someone to give them a job. They took turns to watch the manor house and the shack. Harry felt that the money paid out to the watchers was well worth as they hit pay dirt.

The report was that the manor house was housing Lucius Malfoy, Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe, and a small rudimentary magical core which may be that of Lord Voldemort. One good thing was that the small amount of magic concentrated in one place either did not move or only moved when one of the three wizards was near it. Harry hoped that it could mean either that Lord Voldemort was somehow bound, just like they planned to or it was a horcrux. Then again, it was difficult to imagine three grown up men guarding a horcrux, but moving it around occasionally, that was a near impossibility.

In the month they had the manor under surveillance, the weres that Remus hired did not see anyone other than the three wizards in and around the Riddle manor. They would occasionally go out into the neighbourhood for food and other necessities but other than that they kept to themselves. It did not look like they visited anyone or were they visited by anyone.

Those who were watching the house were not knowledgeable enough to check for protections, and so Remus, Dora, and Sirius took a trip. Surprisingly, they could find only a few basic wards for protection and damage mitigation, in addition to the wards meant to repel non-magicals around the Riddle manor. In contrast, the Guant shack was a fortress. It was under some lethal wards which would take serious work to break them down. It was too risky to even check the identity of the wards with Lord Voldemort only a few meters away and so that investigation was put on the back burner.

All the information they gathered led them to only one course of action and that was to attempt an assault on the Riddle manor. If they were lucky, they would either eliminate the threat of Lord Voldemort once and for all or gain a horcrux, bringing them that much closer to end the threat. If nothing else, they could capture three of the most wanted wizards in Britain.