I know it's been a while but I'm back on track! Hopefully it won't ever take so long for me to update again... This chapter starts up with a time jump. I hope it doesn't cause too much confusion...


A Study in Friendship

Chapter Thirteen

"Sorry I'm late!" Harry announced, breathlessly skidding in to the Room of Requirement. Looking around he gulped, feeling uncomfortable.

True, Neville muttered straight away that it was alright, and Luna seemed perfectly content to be blowing colourful bubbles out of her wand and give them silly faces, but many members of the DA seemed quite disgruntled.

Unlike with any other student that came late, the session couldn't start until Harry arrived, and it seemed as if they had been waiting quite a while. "I lost track of time." he explained lamely, looking around at the scowling faces.

The truth was that he had stayed late on purpose; counting on the fact that Sherlock had the time-turner he had filched from the Department of Mysteries that Harry could use to get back to Hogwarts on time for the latest DA lesson.

It was quite unfortunate that he had only discovered minutes ago that Sherlock had accidentally broken the time-turner within a day of stealing it. When he asked Sherlock how the hell he had managed to do that, the other boy had only blushed and muttered something about physics and it being too complicated for Harry's tiny brain.

"Where've you been?" hollered Fred at him.

"Studying." lied Harry quickly.

"No way!" yelled George, "Not with the huge grin you had on your face coming in! What is it really? Been out snogging some fair lass, and letting us all wait while you satisfied your carnal urges?"

Hermione, Ginny and Cho all glared at George for his crassness.

"No I wasn't." protested Harry, truthfully this time.

If he had been excited entering the room that day, mused Harry as he began the lesson by demonstrating a successful explosion spell, it had been a result of an adrenaline rush rather than anything of a romantic nature.

Earlier that day, Yorry had transported Harry to London, and once there, he had snuck into Grimmauld Place and, during the half-hour gap in which the kitchen was empty, had planted a mirror in one of the cupboards. The mirror was one of a pair, and would transmit whatever occurred around it to the other mirror, which resided in Tom's house, and had a dictation quill standing by it at all times, recording whatever was said in the place where all the Order meetings always took place.

There had been some difficulty in transfiguring the mirror into a seemingly innocuous-looking plate that would not arouse Mad-Eye Moody's suspicions while still allowing it to retain its magical nature, but in the end the result had been successful.

Sherlock, who had been studying magical theory under Tom's tutelage, had figured out how to do it, while Harry completed the actual magic, succeeding on his second try.

In the beginning, Sherlock had displayed absolutely no desire to learn theoretical magics, explaining that there was no point in studying them if he could not put them into practice. It had taken some bribing from Tom, but in the end he had agreed to learn spell theory and Arithmancy in order to help Tom develop spells that might prove themselves useful.

Primarily, the purpose was to create a spell that would allow Tom to transfer his Horcrux from one vessel to another, since Tom's extensive search of the magical library had turned up nothing, but the skill had proven to be useful in other instances such as this one.

Despite Sherlock's refusal to learn anything he didn't deem useful or relevant, Harry knew that the main attraction that crime held for Sherlock was the challenge and satisfaction of solving a difficult puzzle, so it came as no surprised to him that Sherlock ended up enjoying the work immensely.

The idea for the project had actually begun when Tom and Sherlock had been studying together. Harry had been invited to join them, but had found himself drifting off within a few minutes. Spell theory held absolutely no interest for him. It had been Harry's desire to be doing something useful like Sherlock and Tom were that sparked his idea to infiltrate the Order's headquarters.

The first task he had set for himself, with Tom's permission, was showing the Death Eaters the entrance to the Order of the Phoenix's headquarters. Wearing a black cloak, white mask, and a spell that deepened his voice, Harry waited as Tom instructed the Death Eaters that they were about to be introduced to one of his spies that had infiltrated the Order.

During his trial at the Ministry three months prior, Arthur Weasley had begged Harry to come with him to a secret safe-house. Harry had refused, preferring to stay with Sherlock, and so Arthur had given him a piece of parchment with the location of the headquarters, explaining that it was under a Fidelius Charm.

Unfortunately, once Harry had read the note, Mr. Weasley incinerated it, so it was impossible for him to pass the note on to Tom. However he had managed to tell Tom that on a certain street in London, in between the numbers 11 and 13, a certain number twelve appeared to have very unusually vanished. Then, he was charged with leading the Death Eaters to the right place under cover of darkness.

It was great to feel so useful, and he had enjoyed the rush.

In the past, during the most important events in Harry's life, the times in which he had done something to be proud of, he was so scared out of his wits and confused that he gained no satisfaction or pride from his actions.

This was new, acting not under duress or panic because there was no other choice, but accomplishing something successfully and with full intention. It was the same feeling he got, he mused as he walked through the Room of Requirement, adjusting Neville's grip on his wand and dodging a stray spell, from teaching the DA- doing something important that he could be proud of.

"Great lesson, Harry!" said Neville quietly to him once the session was over and the crowd began to disperse, "It's so great to know that I'm capable of protecting myself. I doubt I'd be able to do anything against You-Know-Who, but just knowing I might be able to fend a Death Eater off until help comes is a great comfort."

Harry smiled at him weakly, feeling nervous. Neville's words had forced him to acknowledge what he had known all along but had avoided thinking about. The two things that gave him the most satisfaction and pride conflicted with each other in the worst way possible.

What good was he really doing if right after showing his friends how to defend themselves from a Death Eater attack, he showed the very same people the headquarters of the only group brave enough to fight against them? How long could he fight for both teams?

He frowned, then swatted the thought away like a bothersome fly, and joined Ron and Hermione in their walk to Gryffindor Tower, chatting and laughing with them the whole way.

Tom reclined in his chair, forehead pinched in concentration. Before him lay many different and obscure scrolls of parchment; many scrolls filled with his own scribbled calculations. He rubbed his temples, trying to stave off the oncoming headache he was developing.

A knock on the door startled him, and he called for the knocker to enter. Sherlock was standing at the door, and a second later, Yorry appeared with a pop holding Harry's hand. Tom glanced at the clock in surprise.

"Is it really such a surprise to see us?" questioned Harry, grinning, "We have been meeting up every Saturday at 8pm for the past two months."

Sherlock was eyeing the scrolls of parchment spread all over his desk. "Lost track of time, have you?"

Tom groaned. "It's the stupid Horcrux problem. Yesterday I hit a dead end. I seem to have proven that it is impossible to separate a Horcrux from one object and move it to another. I've been working all day to try and find a way around it."

"Here, let me have a look." said Sherlock. He quickly strode over to the desk, and Tom pointed him towards the right calculations.

He bent over the numerous scrolls and read through Tom's careful calculations frowning thoughtfully. After a few minutes he straightened up again and nodded, "Yes, I see your problem."

"What is it?" asked Harry curiously. He had participated in their lessons on occasion and had proven to be an intelligent student, but he tended to lose interest and wander off whenever the lessons reached a boring point. He certainly didn't know enough to understand Tom's calculations in any place, so Tom tried to put it in laymans terms for him as he explained.

"Since I could find no reference in any of the books or scrolls on Horcruxes about a spell to move a Horcrux from one vessel to another, I find myself forced to develop a new spell in order so. However, to know what instructions to relay into the new spell, I have to know what the original Horcrux spell does."

"What do you mean? The spell makes a Horcrux, doesn't it?"

"It's not as simple as that." replied Tom, "Take the levitation spell, for instance. You know the spell causes the object it's aimed at to levitate, but how? If the spell levitated a feather, for instance, what caused the feather to levitate? Did the spell cause a gust of wind from under the feather to propel it upwards? Create a vacuum above the feather that caused it to shoot up? Create a physical link between the wand and the feather that caused the feather to rise when you raised your wand in the last portion of the spell?"

"I don't know." answered Harry sheepishly.

"Neither do I." replied Tom, "I've never bothered unraveling the levitation spell. The point is, that it's possible to 'decode', if you will, the movements and incantation of a spell in order to understand how it works.

"That's what we've been doing with the Horcrux spell, only it's been taking quite some time. The Horcrux spell is so complicated it's more of a ritual than a spell. And, of course, its function is so much more complicated than blasting a feather into the air. Anyways, I've finally managed to finish unraveling it last night."

"So what's the problem?"

At this point, Sherlock piped in, "The whole concept of a Horcrux revolves around the object. The spell used to create a Horcrux basically uses the fact that the soul is tied to a physical object to work. Basically speaking, the Horcrux is an inversion of the human body. The soul is everlasting, and does not rely on the body to exist. The Horcrux, however, is created by twisting the laws of nature in order to cause the soul to stay in this realm.

"Therefore, while the body relies on the soul to survive, the soul in a Horcrux relies on its vessel to survive. Once the vessel is destroyed, the 'piece' of soul in it will die. Well, not exactly die, no piece of soul can move on while the other remains here, that's the point of a Horcrux, but it will lose whatever consciousness and function it possesses. It certainly seems as if it will lose the ability to connect to another object."

"So it's impossible to move a Horcrux from one vessel to another?" asked Harry.

"Not necessarily." said Tom thoughtfully, "I think that with enough time I could create a new spell for Horcruxes which wouldn't rely as much on being tied to one physical object. The problem is, that wouldn't change the fact that the spell I used to create my Horcruxes doesn't allow me to change vessels."

"So what are you going to do?"

Tom grimaced as he answered, "Technically, there is a way to reattach my Horcrux to the original soul and so reverse the process. I could theoretically just reabsorb all my Horcruxes before creating a new one."

"I'm sensing a 'but'." said Harry, making Tom aware of the rather pained expression on his face.

"It's extremely unpleasant and I don't want to do it." he replied simply.

"Doesn't look like you'll have a choice." said Sherlock, frowning as he leafed through a book entitled 'Secrets of the Darkest Art', "All the books seem to agree that it's the only way to reverse a Horcrux."

"What is it?" asked Harry curiously, approaching Sherlock so he could peer at the book from over his shoulder.

"Remorse." replied Tom glumly, and Sherlock elaborated: "In order to create a Horcrux you need to commit murder. In order to reverse it he's got to feel what he's done as if it was done to him, to utterly and completely regret the action that created the Horcrux. He needs to suffer."

Harry winced, and then frowned thoughtfully, "That doesn't sound very scientific. More like Dumbledore telling me the reason I survived the killing curse was love. Is there any logical basis for that?"

"Of course there is. The piece of soul in a Horcrux is connected quite strongly to the vessel it resides in, but it also bears a connection to the original soul, which is what allows the maker of the Horcrux to stay alive after his body is destroyed. If a person feels strong enough remorse for their actions, the soul will heal and the piece of soul residing in the Horcrux will form a stronger connection to the main soul than to its vessel, and separate from the vessel to join with the original body."

Harry didn't look convinced. "So- what? You're just planning on suddenly starting to feel remorse for what you've done?"

"Yes." said Tom simply. As unpleasant as the prospect was, it did seem to be his only option.

"That doesn't make sense!" protested Harry, "If you didn't feel sorry about any of it before hand, how are you suddenly going to start feeling remorse for it now?"

"It's not that I wasn't sorry for what I did beforehand," Tom frowned; the truth was quite to the contrary. Sometimes, when he regained his clarity of mind after a long and destructive period of insanity he felt such deep self-loathing and shame he could hardly bear it. But he would always ignore it, and try to forget, push it away to a deep dark corner of his mind where he wouldn't have to ever deal with it.

"I do feel bad about the things I've done," he explained to Harry, "but I haven't faced it. All it does is depress me, and it's no use worrying about it once it's already been done, so I try not to think about it too much."

"A very healthy approach." said Sherlock approvingly, "It's really quite too bad you won't be able to stick with it. I can't see anything here," he gestured at 'Secrets of the Darkest Arts', "that implies there is another option."

Harry scanned over the passage in the Sherlock had just indicated. Glancing down at at the paper he frowned nervously and turned to Tom, "It says here that the pain of it is so great it could destroy you. I don't think you should do it, Tom."

Tom shrugged dismissively, trying to appear more confident than he felt. "It doesn't mean that literally. It's just that many people when forced to face their actions and come to terms with the evil they've committed lose their sense of self worth and their will to live. Some commit suicide, others just waste away. I have many things to live for. It won't happen to me."

The truth was, that despite how unpleasant the prospect of having to face his misdeeds was, Tom was almost relieved about the necessity of doing it. This was a chance to deal with his past and make peace with it, and stop the moments of terror when he could feel himself loosing his grip on reality only to become aware days later and realize with horror what he had done.

Tom didn't say any of that though. He simply explained to Harry and Sherlock that the risk of him losing his sanity was much higher than the risk that came with restoring his soul. "Don't forget that the last time I died it was because of something idiotic I did while I was insane."

Sherlock seemed to see the logic in that statement, but he made a strange gulping gesture with his throat before promising to help Tom with his quest to reabsorb his Horcruxes.

Harry also seemed quite nervous, but ultimately agreed to help Tom too in any way that he could.

Tom didn't really see what the two could do to help, but nevertheless they promised to be present and help him through the rough experience of attempting to piece back his soul.

Sitting down around the table over a plate of sandwiches (courtesy of Yorry), Tom, Sherlock and Harry discussed the practicalities of the process.

"Technically, the Horcruxes don't need to be present for me to reconnect with the soul inside them," he explained, "but I want to have them with me when I do it. That way I can make sure it actually worked. And if they're not going to be Horcruxes anymore, it's not like it matters if they're going to be protected or not any longer, does it?"

"Of course it doesn't." answered Sherlock shortly, "How many do you have and how much time will it take you to retrieve them all?"

"I started out with six." Tom answered, absently wondering if making it to the magically powerful number of seven would have made a difference, "One was the diary, which Sherlock tells me has already been destroyed by you, Harry."

He stopped short at the sudden look of horror on Harry's face, "You didn't know?"

"How could I?" Harry looked helplessly shocked.

"He wasn't there, Tom." Sherlock reminded him, and then turned to Harry, "While you were out showing the Death Eaters the entrance to the Order's headquarters, Tom and I had begun discussing Horcruxes. It didn't take a detailed description of a Horcrux for me to realize what the diary from your 'Chamber of Secrets' adventure had been, a short talk with Lucius Malfoy confirmed it."

"I killed your Horcrux?" asked Harry, looking horrified by the idea.

Tom frowned deeply, "It was trying to kill you at the time, Harry. I think you are justified in your actions. I don't hold a grudge against you for it, if that's what you're wondering."

"I know that," replied Harry, "but now that I know you, I hate the thought that I, in a way, killed you." He looked sickened.

"We do have quite a bit of unpleasant history between us, Harry." reminded Tom gently, "I tried to kill you three times before."

"I don't like thinking about that. Anyways, Voldemort isn't really the same person as you. It was like a different person who did that."

Tom frowned. It would be very pleasant to think that, but it wasn't exactly true. "Even if you do consider Voldemort to be a different person than me, don't forget that it was my greed for immortality, a greed so great I was willing to kill for, that was the cause for my insanity- for the person you call Voldemort."

Harry winced, "So what? Are you trying to make me hate you?"

"No, I'm not. I'm trying to say that if the penalty for my sins is that a piece of my soul died, saving your life in the process, I am content with that punishment. Merlin knows I deserve that and more, and if my soul's death is the reason you're alive today- so much the better."

At that, Harry, hilariously, blushed.

"Anyways," Tom reminded him, "I still have plenty of Horcruxes left, that's the whole reason for this discussion.

"Now, as I was saying: Six Horcruxes. One was destroyed by Harry. The second- the diadem, you already know I retrieved from Hogwarts. The third and fourth were hidden by me, and it will only take me a few hours to retrieve them. The fifth is Nagini, who is always with me, and that just leaves one. Unfortunately, I had to idea how to retrieve it." Tom stopped there, letting the suspense of the last sentence linger.

Sherlock was quick to break the silence. "And?" he demanded impatiently, "Where is it?"

"I gave it to one of my most loyal followers, Bellatrix Lestrange, to put in her Gringotts account- Gringotts is the wizard bank, Sherlock," he said, pausing to explain at the blank look on his friend's face, "It's considered the most secure bank in the world, no one's ever stolen anything from it. Putting it there was one of my better ideas. The only problem is, Bellatrix is in Azkaban now, and has no way of accessing her account and getting the Horcrux for me."

"So you need to break into the most secure bank in the world?" Sherlock's eyes were shinning with the excitement of such a challenge, "It would be hard, of course, but not impossible. The key is research. I need to know all the protections around the bank, how they detect intruders, and how they deal with them. It will require some spying."

"Actually, I think there might be a simpler way."

Tom glanced at Harry appreciatively. Sometimes genius was no match for sheer dumb luck, a creative imagination, and some serious experience. Harry was the master of the last three.

"When Sirius was on the run from Azkaban, he wanted to buy me a Firebolt for Christmas, so he sent in an order by owl."

"Seriously?" Tom was torn between feeling extremely depressed by the idiocy of the wizarding world and being happy that it worked in his advantage. "Do you know exactly how it works? I mean, does Bellatrix need to write a letter like that or can we forge one?"

Harry shrugged.

"Well, ask your godfather the first chance you get. Meanwhile, I'll retrieve the ring and locket, the other Horcruxes. What?" he added at the look of mirth on Harry's face.

"Oh, nothing." said Harry, "Nice Horcruxes. I didn't know you had an obsession with Jewelry."

"For your information, they are priceless historical artifacts. Anyways, who are you to talk? The physical object you're most closely attached to is a broomstick."

Harry opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Sherlock. "If I didn't find the thought of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort fighting like an old married couple so funny, I'd be really annoyed by your childish bickering. In any case, lay off each other for a moment, I'd planned on doing something fun today once we'd finished with the serious planning. Auror Scrimgeour contacted me today."

Tom felt a grin spread across his face that was reflected on the faces of his friends. Considering Sherlock's fascination with crime, and the fact that a smart wizard could use magic to cover up almost all evidence and clues making for extremely challenging cases, it was only a matter of time until Sherlock found a way to involve himself with the crime-solving aspect of the magical society.

It was still a mystery to Tom how Sherlock had managed to recognize Scrimgeour as an important Auror all those months ago, when he accompanied Harry to the Ministry, but the fact remained that a couple weeks ago, Sherlock strode into Tom's home looking extremely proud with himself and said that he had just gotten a reply from Scrimgeour.

Apparently, he had sent an owl to the Auror around a week before, with a list of deductions he had made about him based on a few quick glimpses in the courtroom where Harry was being judged, and an offer to volunteer his impressive deduction skills in order to help the Department of Magical Law Enforcement solve whichever cases baffled them.

According to the reply, Scrimgeour was impressed enough that he agreed to give Sherlock a chance by letting him work on some cold cases. Sherlock was pleased, because he got to solve difficult crimes and show off simultaneously and Tom was pleased because this solved the mystery of where his owl had disappeared to.

The last cold case they had solved (well, Sherlock had solved and they kept him company), had involved breaking into the victim's brother's house, infiltrating an underground elf-fighting ring, and temporarily transfiguring the murderer into a towel. Tom had been looking forward to the next case.

"Where to?" he asked, waving his wand and catching his cloak as it flew towards him through the air.

"First the building in which the murder occurred," replied Sherlock, "I have the address, it's in Bristol. After that, to the Ministry, where they have pictures of the crime scene. I can only hope the Aurors had enough sense to photograph the scene and body properly." He frowned.

Apparently, the art of investigating a crime scene was more developed in the muggle world, and the Ministry Aurors hadn't been living up to Sherlock's standards, much to his consternation.

"Don't worry," Tom said, trying to sound comforting and feeling painfully aware, as he awkwardly patted Sherlock's arm, that this was Harry's forte and not his, " you only need to prove yourself to Scrimgeour on two more cold cases, and then he'll start calling you to the real ones. Two more cases, and we can come and investigate the scene ourselves before anyone has a chance to bullocks it up for you."

"I know that!" snapped Sherlock rather nastily. Fortunately he did seem slightly mollified as he handed Tom a scrap of parchment with the address scribbled on it. He then took Tom's arm and allowed him to apparate the three of them away. Tom concluded that his awkward pep-talk was successful. Harry's smile and wink at him when Sherlock turned away confirmed that theory.

He was getting better at having friends, he concluded, smiling a tad sadistically at the sight of Harry and Sherlock both lying on the ground coughing and heaving, still not quite used to apparation. Yes, he was definitely improving.

Umbridge's painted pink lips were curled into a smile as she greeted the class with a sugary voice, and Harry settled down at the back of the classroom, resigning himself to another awful lesson.

"Please turn to page 264 and read chapters 14 and 15."

He stifled a yawn as he flipped through the despicable book by Wilbert Slinkhard, emitting a small chuckle upon noticing the alteration Ron had made to his book upon borrowing it the night before. The 'slink' had been crossed out, and the author's name now read 'Wilbert Blowhard'.

Apparently, Umbridge had heard his stifled snigger, because she glanced up at him with the horrible parody of a smile on her face, "Question, dear?"

Ever since the trick Harry, Tom and Sherlock had played on her, Umbridge had developed the habit of looking unbearably smug and gleeful every time she glanced in Harry's direction. Harry had reached the conclusion that the thought of all the pain and torture Voldemort had in store for him caused Umbridge so much joy that it counteracted even the terror and unpleasantness of the whole ordeal they had put her through.

Oh well, at least he didn't get detentions with her anymore. Just to make sure she wasn't getting off the hook too easy, Harry had taken to summoning all the dead rats in the immediate vicinity whenever he was near the forbidden forest. At first he had hidden the rats in her bedroom, but ever since the protective charms on her door had become too complicated for him, he had started using the rats to bribe whatever snakes he could find on the grounds to follow her around.

Harry concentrated on the happy memory in order to prevent himself from cursing the ugly smile off her mouth, and shook his head politely as he turned to the required chapter.

It was titled 'Steps to assessing whether an act of self-protection is indeed required'. Harry yawned.

A witch or wizard is required to confirm that they are indeed being attacked with malicious intent before they use any jinxes that are capable of causing harm. This is so stupid ...in order to be legally permitted to cast a spell in self-defense, one's opponent's spell must either be cast verbally, or hit it's target in order to confirm that the spell is indeed a malicious one. A full list of spells deemed harmful enough by the Ministry to warrant an act of self defense can be found Don't yawn now, Umbridge is watching …section 34 paragraph G. In the event of a confirmed harmful spell being directed at him or her, the witch or wizard must first shoot sparks out of their wand in warning. If, at this point, the attacker persists, the disarming spell may be used against the aggressor. This is the most useless thing I've ever read …One must be careful, while casting the spell…

Harry stifled another yawn, and looked down at his wristwatch. Only eighty three more min-

A sudden all-consuming pain hit Harry like a wave of bricks. His scar was on fire, as emotions that didn't belong to him invaded his mind. Fear, so much fear, and red hot anger.

Harry fell to the floor, clutching his scar and screaming.

End of chapter. Please tell me what you think, or ask any questions you might have. I promise you answer as long as you don't have PMs disabled!

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