Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Ministry of Magic Employee Brutally Murdered

Rita Skeeter

Last night long-time employee of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Walden Macnair, was brutally tortured and murdered in his London home. Last night also marked the ten year anniversary of the death of He Who Must Not Be Named, though investigators are unsure if there is any connection between this murder and the former Dark Lord. aurors assigned to the case were unwilling to make any statements about the crime though a trusted source inside the DMLE mentioned that investigators are referring to the unknown killer as 'The King of Knives' after a playing card left on the body. Is Mr. Macnair's death just a simple case of murder or is it the beginning of something all together more sinister?

Harry sat his copy of the Daily Prophet on the table. 'Look Hermione, we made the front page. I wonder how long it will take them to figure out what is going on?' 'No idea, if the last war is any indication aurors aren't very good at their jobs. And it's not like we left many clues behind, at least not magical ones, and I highly doubt they have any real knowledge of forensics.' 'True enough, though I was referring to them figuring out why we chose Macnair, not who we are. I doubt they'll ever get close enough to pin anything on us.' 'True, so who's next, and when do we strike?' 'Avery would be a good next choice, he was a known Death Eater and bribed his way out of Azkaban. And since we killed Macnair on Halloween I think we should continue to use magically significant dates, so the winter solstice should be next. Also I think we should try to get to the ring and the locket over the Christmas holidays.' 'Okay, do you plan on staying in the castle for the holidays? Because I was planning on going home for Christmas originally, but if you're staying...' 'Hermione if you want to go home for Christmas you should. I probably won't stay at the castle anyways, I'd need to get out multiple times for indeterminate lengths of time, so I'll probably get a room at the Leaky Cauldron.' 'Harry you are not going to spend Christmas alone in an inn. I'll just write to my parents and tell them you're staying with us for the holidays.' Harry didn't respond immediately and Hermione could feel his apprehension at the thought of meeting her family 'Harry we'll have to tell them eventually, we might as well get it over with sooner rather than later.' 'I guess it'll be better than staying at the Cauldron.'

For the next week and a half the Daily Prophet raised questions about the ability of the auror force to do their jobs as they had yet to develop any real leads in the Macnair case. Every day there was more outcry for improvements in law enforcement which culminated in questions about why the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, had let the DMLE fall to pieces under his watch. That was the last time the Macnair case was mentioned in the Prophet.

November passed quickly for Harry and Hermione, they were the top of all of their classes and because they were turning in combined homework assignments they had plenty of free time. They spent most of their extra time doing research into various aspects of magic that they thought would be useful. In late November Harry finally decided to bring up the results of one of his research topics with Hermione.

"Hermione, you remember how Flitwick said that our scores on the Emrys Scale were above average?" Harry asked turning his desk chair to face Hermione, who was lying on their bed reading.

"Yes, he said something about being as powerful as the average adult wizard by the end of our third year." Hermione said marking her place in the book before closing it and turning her full attention to Harry.

"Well I've done some research on soul-bonds, magical cores and the Emrys Scale, and at the time, with the information Flitwick had it was an accurate, if somewhat conservative, estimation. However, the fact that your hair is already almost black as a result of our bond suggests that our cores are following one of the faster growth patterns."

"What exactly does that mean Harry?"

"Well, based on all of my research we'll definitely meet Flitwick's guess, but we may surpass it by as much as twenty points. If I'm right by the time we graduate we may already be above a 140 on the Emrys Scale. Now topping 140 easily puts us in the top twenty for power in the entire world, but when you have that much power there are a few problems that you encounter."

"Is there a specific problem you are thinking of?" Hermione asked a hint of worry in her voice.

"Well, a wand can only handle so much power, and if you try to use more power than a wand can handle it will burn out and become completely useless. Unfortunately because of the limitations imposed by materials and size no wand has ever been created that could handle full power from a wizard with more than a 142."

"So we won't be able to use wands eventually? That seems like it could be a major problem."

"Well yes and no. Unless you intentionally put more power behind the spell your wand will protect itself by limiting the power output to safe levels, but if you needed to make a spell as powerful as possible you would burn out your wand. As far as it being a problem, we can work around it easily enough. We just learn wandless magic, but wandless magic lacks the precision granted by using a focus."

"So we'll nee to use something other than a wand for a focus then. There are stories of wizards using scepters, which were basically giant wands, and some have suggested that certain characters from Greek mythology, like Orpheus, were using special musical instruments to focus their magic. Also there is the classic staff which is commonly associated with powerful Wizards like Merlin." Hermione was quickly catching on to what Harry was thinking "How much do we know about how to make a staff?"

"I'm glad we're on the same page here," Harry chuckled at how fast Hermione had come to the conclusion that had taken him a week to reach. "the references I've found suggest that making a staff isn't to different from making a wand, but no one uses a staff anymore because the only person who can use it is the person who crafts it. There may be an exception for us since magically we're almost the same person, but I don't know for certain. Either way we would each need one so we'll need to make two anyways."

"So what exactly do we need? Obviously we'll need wood, and a core, but what can we use as a core? Do we need to find cores that are compatible with us like our wands are? What about the wood? Do we use magic to shape everything, or are we going to need tools?"

"Alright, as far as material compatibility goes, it isn't an issue, the crafting attunes the materials to you. We'll need multiple core materials, seven looks like the right number to use, though some texts say that any number will work. Just about any material that is inherently magical can be used for the core and the wood will need to come from a tree which produces wand-quality wood. The wood needs to be shaped without magic to preserve the natural flow of energy through the wood, unfortunately we can't use any tools that have iron in them since iron also taints the flow of magic. Then we'll need to brew a special potion which becomes part of the core by combining all of the different core materials into a single unit."

"So we need a source of wand-quality wood, seven materials for our cores, the ingredients for that potion, and tools that don't have any iron in them. Where do we start?"

"I can write to Ollivander and ask him where we can find an appropriate tree, I'm thinking yew would be a good choice for wood it's one of the more powerful woods for wand making. The potion is easy enough to make so that won't really be an issue. The tools shouldn't be a problem, either use modern woodworking tools made from titanium or some other metal, or traditional dragon bone wand crafting tools. For the core materials we'll need to come up with a list of materials we want to use and find enough from apothecaries or other suppliers."

"So all we can do right now is come up with ideas for core materials? What criteria do we use?" Hermione took out a piece of parchment and a quill.

"Materials that have properties that enhance certain types of magic would be best, and if we have a material that is associated with each of the four elements it should increase the overall control and power for our magic."

"Okay so what can we use for the four elements? Dragon heart-string is used in wands, and should work for fire."

"True, but if we use dragon bone it would also increase the effectiveness of defensive magic."

"Okay then, dragon bone." Hermione wrote 1. dragon bone- fire, defensive magic "What about some kind of feather for air?"

"Sounds good, phoenix feathers are out since those would be fire instead of air, hippogriff feathers might work..."

"What about griffin feathers? Griffins are highly magical and extremely dangerous."

"Great idea," Harry smiled as Hermione wrote down 2. griffin feathers- air "For water we'll need something aquatic, so grindylows might work."

"Or kappas, merfolk, or selkies."

"What about kelpies, they live in bodies of water, plus they're shape-shifters so it'll improve transfiguration."

Their discussion continued for several minutes as they discussed the virtues of different materials for use in their staffs and eventually settled on using dragon bone, griffin feathers, kelpie hairs, devils snare clippings, for earth and nature magic, acromantula silk, for binding magic, shadow hound fur, for illusion magic, and ghost dust, for conjuration magic. Most of the materials would be easy to purchase from normal suppliers, only the acromantula silk and shadow hound fur couldn't be purchased, luckily Scruffy could provide the fur and Hagrid had raised an acromantula in the school back in the '40s and could likely provide them with unprocessed silk.

At the end of November Hermione's parents wrote back saying that Harry could spend Christmas with them. Harry wasn't sure whether it was a good thing or not that he would be spending the holidays at Hermione's home. On the one hand he would be spending Christmas with Hermione, but he had also been hoping to put off meeting Hermione's parents until the summer at least, if not longer. Harry was concerned about how her parents would feel about him, and how he would deal with them. Harry had no real experience dealing with people, other than Hermione, in a friendly manner. Before he had discovered magic he had been timid and subservient, afterward he had dealt harshly with anyone who crossed him. At Hogwarts he kept his head down around the faculty so he wouldn't draw attention to himself, the other students mostly left him alone, and those who didn't, like Weasley and Malfoy, were quickly and thoroughly convinced that they should go bother someone else. Harry couldn't intimidate the Grangers and he wouldn't force Hermione to abandon her family for him if it could be avoided, so he really had no idea how to handle them. Hermione was convinced that Harry was getting worked up over nothing.

In anticipation of their horcrux retrievals over the holidays Harry ordered a pair of goblin made daggers and a small amount of basilisk venom. When the daggers were delivered Harry applied the basilisk venom, making both daggers capable of destroying horcruxes, along with making them extremely dangerous weapons.

During the first week of December Harry and Hermione took their finals together and easily completed all of them, before boarding the Express back to London. They spent the ride to London in a compartment that Harry had warded for privacy. They discussed their plans for the holidays, the solstice was in a couple of weeks and they would sneak out that night to pay a visit to the home of Alexander Avery to continue there campaign against Voldemort's inner circle. Before that though they would take two mornings to go to the hiding places of Voldemort's horcruxes that they could access with relative ease. When they pulled into the station Harry applied a quick glamor to Hermione's hair and eyes, they would remove it after they had explained the situation to Hermione's parents, until then it would only raise questions that would be difficult to explain quickly.

As soon as they stepped through the barrier back into King's Cross Hermione started dragging Harry along as she rushed towards where she could see her parents waiting for them. "Mum, dad" Hermione let go of Harry's hand and hugged her parents "This is Harry, and this is Harry's dog Scruffy." Hermione quickly introduced her parents Jean and Mathew Granger. They loaded their trunks into the Grangers' car and made the twenty minute drive to the Granger home talking about Hogwarts. When they reached the Granger home they unloaded the car and brought their trunks into the house. It was at this point that they realized that they couldn't put off telling Hermione's parents about their soul-bond.

"Hermione why don't you show Harry to the guest room, so he'll know where to put his trunk." Mrs. Granger suggested.

"Um, before I do that mum, there is something that Harry and I need to talk to you and dad about." Hermione said nervously.

"Hermione if this is about you and Harry being together, we already figured that out." Mrs. Granger said with a small smile on her face.

"Well, that's part of it, but there is more to it than that. You should probably sit down, it's a bit complicated." Hermione said pulling Harry toward a small couch while gesturing for her parents to sit in a pair of chairs that completed the living room furniture. Once everyone was seated Hermione described the first two weeks of September to her parents, with Harry occasionally adding clarifications.

"And then on the second Saturday of term we were both in the common room because we couldn't sleep, and I just felt like I needed to kiss him, and when I did we formed a soul-bond." Hermione finished.

"And what exactly is a soul-bond?" Mrs. Granger asked tentatively.

"Well, at its simplest a soul-bond is a magical bond between two people who are as close to perfect for each other as possible." Harry explained. "There are more theories than I can count about why soul-bonds happen, some people think they're fate, destiny, or god making a relationship for whatever reason, and others think they're just the result of statistics. Essentially since a person's magic is an extension of their personality and people with magic can sense other people's magic subconsciously in rare cases two people's magic will recognize exactly what they want in a relationship and will form a bond in order to avoid screwing things up."

"And this bond is permanent? Why would you do that Hermione?" Mr. Granger asked incredulously.

"It isn't a conscious decision dad, it just happened." Hermione said calmly.

"But can't you undo it." Mr. Granger was grasping at straws by this point.

"Even if we could, we wouldn't want to, that's why the bond formed. The reason why we brought this up now is because legally the bond is almost the same thing as a marriage, and since Hogwarts functions on even older laws it is treated as a marriage, so at school Harry and I share a room, and because of the bond we don't sleep as well if we sleep separately. So Harry will be in my room while he's here." Hermione explained in a voice that left no room for argument.

Mr. Granger looked like he was considering raising an objection until his wife shot him a look cutting him off, so he decided to get a clarification on something. "Why is there a difference between how the law views it and how your school views it?"

"The school was founded in 932, and the original bylaws specifically mention how to deal with soul-bonded students, at the time there were no laws about how old you had to be to get married, but in 1377 the Wizengamot passed a law that stated that the groom had to be fourteen, since soul-bonds can form at any age they can't automatically be a legal marriage. At least that was the rationalization, the real reason they said soul-bonds weren't marriages was so that they wouldn't interfere with politically arranged marriages. Hogwarts simply refused to change how it handled soul-bonds." Harry explained.

Over the next hour they talked about all the results of their soul-bond, Hermione eventually dropped the glamors to show her parents her new hair and eyes. Eventually they got to the final issue that the Grangers had noticed about the situation.

"Harry if you two have so much trouble being apart, what are you going to do over the summer?" Mrs. Granger asked.

"I don't really know. I'd take any excuse I can get to not go back to live with my aunt and uncle. We don't really get along to well." Harry said not really looking at anyone.

"Well then you can just stay here over the summer." Mrs. Granger said. If she had had any doubts about her daughter's relationship with Harry they were quickly dispelled by Hermione's reaction to her pronouncement. Over the last hour she had come to accept that Harry was going to be a part of Hermione's life, and even without some mystical connection she would have been willing to bet that they would have stayed together permanently, and if her husband had a problem with the situation she would simply have to make sure that he kept his concerns to himself.

Over the next couple of days Harry eased into the rhythm of the Granger household. Harry and Hermione would wake up early every morning and see Mr. and Mrs. Granger off to work. They would then spend the morning talking or reading or watching television until lunch, when Mr. and Mrs. Granger would return from work for lunch, before returning for their afternoon patients. On Wednesday morning as soon as Mr. and Mrs. Granger had driven away Harry apparated Hermione and Scruffy to a small shack on the outskirts of Little Hangleton, Voldemort's mother's childhood home. Harry lead the way to the front door followed closely by Hermione while Scruffy kept an eye out for threats.

Alright Tom, time to earn your keep, how do we get the ring without blowing ourselves up? I've already told you, it can't be done, the moment you cross the threshold the door will slam shut sealing the building. The anti-apparition wards were keyed only to my old body the moment you touch the box the ring is the foundation will begin to collapse, eventually burying you alive, while an anti-magic field goes up. Then we simply need to remove the door completely. If we levitate the box out of the house from here it should eliminate any danger of being trapped inside, and it will bypass the touch-activated wards. You won't be able to get to the box from outside of the house, the only way would be to use fiendfyre. Oh sure, after all, what's a little black magic between friends. I am not corrupting my soul just to send your worthless ass to whatever hell The Hunter traded you into. Hermione help me get the door off.

A couple of quick blasting hexes dealt with the flimsy old hinges and soon the door was laying in the grass. "Alright, I'll go inside and open the hidden compartment, if anything happens we'll need to think quickly, okay?" Harry said drawing his wand.

Hermione nodded determinedly while drawing her own wand. Harry stepped across the shack's threshold and immediately felt anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards snap into place. The door flipped over in the grass, but didn't do anything else, but just to be careful Harry picked up a stone and threw it through the open doorway. With a sigh of relief when the stone left the shack unimpeded Harry walked over to where a compartment was hidden behind an empty bookshelf. He pressed his finger against a hidden rune and a section of the wall slid away to reveal a intricately carved wooden box. Harry then backed out of the shack.

"Here gos nothing, Accio box." Harry said pointing his wand back at the shack and the box immediately flew through the open door and into his open hand. The moment he touched the box the ground began to rumble as the shack was swallowed by the earth. Wasting no time Harry opened the box and pulled out the ring that was nestled inside. Drawing his goblin dagger he gently placed the tip against the small black stone and applied enough pressure to break the surface. The stone immediately screamed and released a bit of green smoke. The ring flashed as the curses anchored to the horcrux collapsed.

"That's two down, we'll get the locket tomorrow and we can figure out how to get the cup and the diary over the summer." Harry told Hermione turning the ring over in his hand. As Harry looked at the ring Hermione gasped causing Harry to look up. For a moment Harry froze, there standing in front of him were a man and a woman, the man had messy black hair and expressive brown eyes hidden behind wire framed glasses, and the woman had dark red hair and her emerald eyes were identical to his own.

"Hello Harry."

A/N: Here we have chapter five, sorry it took so long life kept getting in the way and I couldn't decide which of my stories I wanted to update next, and then I got a week long case of writer's block. A quick response to some reviews, Dawlish was not a death eater (that we know of), he was involved in the attempted arrest of Dumbledore in OotP. Now that I have this chapter done I'm going to get back to Master of Time.