Father obviously disliked having to ask Harry´s godfather for help, but he swallowed his pride and followed the others through the floo to meet Sirius Black.
If Sirius resented not being part of the team, he didn´t show. He greeted them in a most friendly manner, ushered them to the kitchen and had Kreacher prepare tea and scones. The horcrux-hunters gladly accepted the proffered refreshments and Dumledore indulged Sirius eagerness to know about their hunt.
"The reason we´ve come here, Sirius," explained the old wizard at last, "is that we located one of the horcruxes in your very house. We need your permission to and help with searching the house."
"You have it!" cried Sirius. "You know that I will do anything to help Harry!"
The other wizards exchanged glances, but neither of them was ready to inform Black – or anybody else – about Harry being a horcrux himself.
"There´s not much you need to do really," said Father. "We need you to let Harry´s snake search the house. The horcrux is probably some little trinket or something, so if you can pinpoint a place where you think we might be successful in our search, it would be nice."
"Hm," said Sirius. "Mother kept all kinds of knick-knacks at the upper parlour. You may want to have a look at that room first."
The men finished their meal quickly before they all went upstairs. Harry knew the room Sirius was talking about. It held a tapestry with the Black family tree and several glass cabinets with dusty old stuff. During his stays at Grimmauld Place he had always avoided the place.
When they entered the room, Harry felt Shamira shudder. "So much Dark!" she whispered.
"Can you locate the soul among those things?" Harry asked.
"It would be easier if I hadn´t to," the snake pointed out.
Harry explained the problem to the others. Uncle Severus had the solution at hand. "Why doesn´t Harry sit somewhere nearby and we bring the items one by one?"
Sirius ushered them all into a small room which only contained a small table and some chairs. "My mother used to do her embroidery in here," he explained.
Harry allowed Shamira to settle down on the table and sat on the chair nearest to it. Father, Uncle Severus and Dumbledore followed Sirius back to the parlour. Uncle Severus returned a little later and laid a small silver dagger in front of Shamira. He sat on a chair beside Harry. "I´ll stay with you. Dumbledore was badly bitten by a snuff box. Lucius insists you are not left alone with these artefacts."
Harry nodded. "Shamira says the dagger is dark, but doesn´t hold a piece of soul."
Uncle Severus took the dagger off the table only to replace it with a small vial of a dark red liquid which Father handed him. While Shamira examined the vial, Uncle Severus conjured a box for the items they had already checked.
It took them all afternoon to identify the horcrux. It was a heavy silver locket with an ornate letter S on it.
"Does it mean what I think?" Father asked reverently.
Dumbledore nodded. "Slytherin´s locket was last mentioned about four hundred years ago. Then the line either died out or lost it´s influence. The only thing we know for sure is that the Slytherin name disappeared around that time. I assume that the line was continued via a daughter and the locket was handed down to her."
"Slytherin´s locket!" Father whispered. "What a crime to make it a horcrux!"
Harry and Uncle Severus, being Slytherins, agreed fulheartedly.
As it was late already, it was agreed that Dumbledore and Uncle Severus take the horcrux back to Hogwarts and Harry and Father return to the manor for the night. Sirius hugged Harry good-bye and wished them all luck for the rest of their hunt.
Mother and Draco were already waiting. As soon as Harry and Father stepped out of the fireplace, Mother ordered Dobby to serve dinner. It was good to be back home and enjoy decent meals again. The meat – lamb – was so soft, you could have eaten it without using a knife at all. The vegetables were young and fresh and thanks to Dobby´s abilities the spices aided their taste. In Harry´s opinion, even the potatoes were better than anything he had got during the past two years.
Mother smiled at the boy lovingly. "It´s good to see you haven´t lost your appetite." She added another slice of meat to Harry´s plate. "You have no idea how much I missed you!"
Harry beamed at the witch. It was good to feel loved and wanted. "I´m glad to be back, Mother."
While the boys indulged in dessert – mousse au chocolat – Father told Mother about their day. The witch asked some questions and she and Draco gasped in all the right places. They all had a good laugh at Father´s description of Dumbledore´s fight against the snuff box.
"The rest will be more difficult," Father sighed at the end of his tale. "There´s one at Diagon Alley and one in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea how to find a horcrux there."
"You´ll all do your best and in the end you will succeed," said Mother. "Anything else is not acceptable."
Father nodded. "Of course, dear." He pecked Mother on the cheek.
Dumbledore had been busy after the others had left. His desk was covered in parchment, maps and books.
"I think," the old wizard beamed, "I know where we have to look for another."
"Really?" Uncle Severus and Father stepped closer to the desk, Harry followed.
Dumbledore nodded and rummaged in the stack of parchment. "Here!" he cried triumphantly and fished one piece of parchment out of the whole mess on the desk. He ushered the group to the coffee table where a tray of tea and biscuits waited for them.
"The hint was that we got a sign near the graveyard Harry was taken two in the third task of the tournament. Tom Riddle senior´s grave was there. I investigated a little. It seems that the Riddle family originates from that little village and," Dumbledore shook the parchment he was still holding triumphantly, "there was only one wizarding family in the area in the past two hundred years. I think we should go and look at their old home."
"The family no longer lives there?" Father asked.
Dumbledore shook his head. "They disappeared about fifty years ago."
Uncle Severus put down the biscuit he was holding. "What are we waiting for? Let´s go!"
The others agreed and they all apparated – Harry side-along with Father – to the little village in question. Harry shuddered. There, a little down the road he could see the graveyard where the Dark Lord had attempted to torture him and Uncle Severus had risked his life rescuing him.
Dumbledore lead the way down a cobbled street lined with rows of bushes on either side. "I think it´s over there!" The old wizard looked left and right for muggles and when he spotted none pointed his wand at a bush. An entrance formed in the dense row. With an encouraging smile Dumbledore stepped through and the others followed.
Behind the bushes was a pasture with a big group of trees at its far end. Harry thought he spotted a hut or cottage between the trees. Dumbledore set out for the small wook with an air of determination.
"Be careful, Albus!" cried Uncle Severus. "If he hid one out in the open, it´s bound to be protected by some nasty curses!"
The headmaster didn´t reply, but slowed down so that the rest of the group could catch up with him.
What Harry had seen from afar turned out to be the ruin of a smallish house. Shamira hissed warningly as they approached it.
"Stay back, Harry," Father warned.
Harry knew better than try to argue. He waited a little way from the ruin while the three men went to have a closer look. The headmaster, being the oldest and most powerful of them, cast several spells. By the way the spell light flickered and changed colour Harry could tell that the old man was probing for and finding curses.
The three adults met to discuss matters after a little while. They parted with curt nods a little while later and went to stand on different sides of the ruin. Dumbledore cast the first spell. A tongue of fiery magic erupted from the ruin and hit the wizard square in the chest. Father and Uncle Severus didn´t hesitate and fired their own spells at the shield. Harry could see the shield flicker and then fail.
As soon as the Dark Lord´s spell had been ended, Uncle Severus went to help Dumbledore and Father entered the ruin. A little later the blond wizard motioned Harry closer. "It´s safe now. Ask your snake to look for the horcrux."
Harry translated Father´s request adding a ´please´. Shamira slithered away to go looking for the piece of soul. The headmaster had meanwhile recovered from the spell which had hit him, and he and Uncle Severus joined Father and Harry in the ruin.
Shamira returned only little later. "I found it, but it´s protected by more evil," she said. The small serpent led the way to what must have been a kitchen in the past. "It´s under the ashes, where the fire has been in the past." She curled in front of the fireplace. "There´s more evil to protect it."
Again Dumbledore stepped forward to try his luck with the curse protecting the horcrux. The three Slytherins didn´t argue. Sacrifice was a concept not very popular within Slytherin house.
The headmaster used several probing spells to determine what the protective curse was before he cast a spell to disarm the curse. There was a flash of light in the old fireplace. Dumbledore used some more probing spells before he declared it safe to remove the horcrux.
The curse hit as soon as the headmaster touched the horcrux. With a look of horror he watched his own hand starting to wither with considerable speed. Uncle Severus was the first to react. He cried a stasis spell.
"Thank you, Severus," sighed Dumbledore when the blackness on his hand didn´t continue to spread. He bent down to get the ring he had dropped when the curse had hit him. "Let´s return to Hogwarts."
Once they were back at the castle, the headmaster put the ring into the drawer he kept the other horcruxes in before he called for a the school nurse. Luckily Madame Pomfrey didn´t live far from Hogwarts.
Father took Harry home as they couldn´t continue their search before Dumbledore´s hand had been healed. Actually Harry was quite glad to return home early. That way he had time to spend with Draco.
The two boys went flying in the gardens. Harry enjoyed the races and games a lot. When they had been younger, flying had been one of their favourite pastimes and thanks to the Dark Lord, they hadn´t had a chance to indulge in it for years. Mother and Father sat under one of the trees for a while and watched their boys chase each other.
Late in the evening Uncle Severus firecalled to notify Father and Harry that the headmaster was too ill to continue their search the next day.
"I thought about it," said Father. "The last horcrux is in Diagon alley. A family on a shopping spree would be less suspicious that three men and Harry Potter. If you don´t object I will take Narcissa and the boys to Diagon Alley tomorrow. We can shop a bit and Harry´s snake can check some of the shops."
"That´s a good idea," admitted Uncle Severus. "But be careful! Albus was hit by a nasty curse. Hadn´t I be there to stop it from spreading, he would have died."
"If the horcrux was safe where it was for the past decades it can stay there a week longer. If we locate it, I won´t touch it with Narcissa and the boys being there. We´ll wait until you and Dumbledore can help."
"That´s wise," agreed Uncle Severus.
The next day dawned sunny and warm. The Malfoy family was up and about early because Mother had suggested that it would be easier to let Shamira search the shops with fewer people there.
Harry enjoyed the day immensely although they didn´t find the horcrux. He hadn´t been on a decent shopping spree for years. True, Sirius had been quite generous on occasion but nothing compared to what Mother and Father usually spent for their sons.
Mother took the boys to Madame Malkin´s and Gladrags first. She bought an entire new wardrobe for both, starting with underwear and only stopping with new cloaks and dress robes. They, of course, bought only the finest material. It felt great to have silk and cashmere on your skin again.
After several hours of clothes shopping, they went to the quidditch store, the magical menagerie and the apothecary´s. Instead of one big meal they had several small snacks in various bars and restaurants, but in every single one Shamira found no trace of the horcrux.
To Harry´s joy the family returned to the alley the next day to visit Olivander´s (Father claimed that the old man needed to check Harry´s wand after he had been away from home for such a long time) and the book store. Harry and Draco chose several spell books, an extra potions text and a quidditch book there, but again their horcrux search was to no success.
In the evening Uncle Severus came to the manor for dinner and to brief Father on Dumbledore´s condition. Madame Pomfrey insisted the old man rest for at least a week, but the headmaster wanted to continue the search rather earlier than later.
"We could come and tell what we did the past two days. That way Dumbledore would feel active without actually having to leave his bed," suggested Harry.
Uncle Severus and Father agreed to the plan and the two Malfoys returned to Hogwarts the next morning.
Dumbledore was awaiting them on the sofa in his office. A colourful blanket was wrapped around him and a steaming mug of herb infusion stood on a small side table by the sofa. Uncle Severus sat on an armchair on the other side of the side table, a map of Diagon Alley in front of him.
Father and Harry greeted the old wizard politely and then started a lengthy account of their recent activities. Uncle Severus crossed out the shops they had already searched.
The headmaster wanted to know everything. Whether Harry had taken Shamira to every last corner of every shop, whether they had checked the restrooms (Yes, they had. Mother had even carried Shamira into the ladies´ rooms although neither of them thought that the Dark Lord would choose a toilet to hide his soul.) and whether they had checked the store rooms. (Yes, Shamira had.)
At last the tale was finished and Uncle Severus had only little room on his map. Actually the only spots left were two restaurants in the Alley, the Leaky Cauldron and Gringott´s.
"I just hope it´s not in the bank!" sighed Father. "If it is, I have no idea how to find it, not to mention how to get it out of there."
"Let´s first find it," suggested Uncle Severus. "We can worry about bank robbery later."
"I suggest you take Harry out for meals to check the restaurants and the Cauldron first," suggested Dumbledore.
Father agreed. "You are aware that it will take three days to do that," he said. "I refuse to do something as common as going out for lunch if I don´t have to."
Dumbledore sighed. "I´d like it to be faster, but I´m hardly in a position to pressure you. Well, as I can´t change it, I´ll just have to wait."
Uncle Severus winked at Father.
Three days and dinners later it was clear. The horcrux had to be at Gringott´s.
"Do you think the snake can find the horcrux at Gringott´s?" asked Dumbledore. "They have lots of protective spells there to prevent theft. It´s not common magic as we use it. Like elf magic, goblin magic differs from what wizards do. Some of it may be considered dark." The old wizard smiled at Harry.
Harry conferred with Shamira. "She says she can´t tell without trying."
"I can take Harry and the snake to my vault," offered Father. "That way the snake can get a feel of the bank."
The entrance hall of the wizarding bank was covered in marble and gold. Dozens of goblins sat at the golden counters. Some of them wrote in old yellowish books, one used an abacus to sum up the wealth of an elderly wizard standing before it, others weighed heaps of huge gems. Father ignored them all. He walked straight to the central counter at the far end of the hall.
The goblin sitting there was ancient. He hinted a lopsided smile before he greeted Father. "Lord Malfoy."
"Gardshild," Father replied with equal earnest. "I wish to show my son, Mr. Harry Potter, one of the heirlooms in the family vault."
"Of course, Sir. Griphook!" the old goblin barked the order and a younger goblin stepped to the counter. At Father´s sight the younger goblin bowed and motioned them to follow him. He led the way through a marble door. Behind the noble entrance, the corridor was very different to the entrance hall. It was made of bare rock but for iron rails in the floor. A small cart waited for them and Father sat in it without waiting for the goblin´s invitation. Harry sat beside him and waited. He hadn´t been at the bank very often and he had never before been to the family vault.
The ride in the cart was exciting. It went so fast that Harry felt reminded of flying. Father seemed to enjoy himself, too. Once they had reached the vault, Griphook opened the door with a touch of his hand and a muttered spell. The goblin stepped back to let Father and Harry pass.
Harry couldn´t but gasp. The vault was full of golden galleons, heaps of diamonds, emeralds and rubies, precious paintings, strings of pearls and heavy trunks, which certainly contained more riches. Father took Harry to the back of the vault where the goblin couldn´t hear them. "And?" he asked.
Again Harry talked with Shamira and then translated. "The goblin magic feels very different from everything she knows. Shamira´s confident she can feel the soul if she´s near enough." Harry laughed. "She says it´s not in your vault nor in any of the ones nearby."
Father nodded mutely and then signalled young Griphook to take them back to the entrance hall.
"The snake says she can tell whether the horcurx is in a vault nearby. We need to get her around Gringott´s a bit." Father looked at Dumbledore and Uncle Severus challengingly. "I can take Harry to the Potter vault."
"I can take him to mine," said the headmaster, "and I´m sure Sirius will agree to take him to his. And now I think of it, we can ask Remus, too." The old man looked at Uncle Severus expectantly until the potions master nodded. Harry thought the man looked rather uncomfortable.
After Dumbledore´s (lots of ancient books and quite an amount of gold), Sirius´s (lots and lots of gold), Harry´s own (even more gold) and Mr. Lupin´s vault (nearly empty), they had only Uncle Severus´s left to check.
"I take it," sneered the goblin at the counter, "that you, too, wish to show Mr. Potter some heirlooms in your vault? Gringott´s is not a theme park. If you want to ride roller coaster I suggest you go to Disney Land."
Uncle Severus sneered back at the magical creature. "I was not aware that I´m not free to bring a guest to my vault. I must have misunderstood the contract. As far as I can tell I can throw a party down there should I feel like it."
"I have to apologize, Sir," growled the goblin. "For a moment I forgot my place. Let me take you down to your vault."
Uncle Severus´s vault held a surprisingly little amount of money. The potions master blushed at Harry´s gasp. "Teacher is not a very well paid job," he shrugged.
"You could make much more money with potions," Harry pointed out.
Uncle Severus nodded. "I was needed at Hogwarts."
Of course, the horcrux was not in Uncle Severus´s vault.
The horcrux hunters sat at the headmaster´s office and discussed their options over a cup of tea. Dumbledore suggested they asked their allies to take Harry to their respective vaults to search more of Gringott´s.
"I´m sure Minerva, Arthur and several others would gladly assist us." The old wizard smiled.
Father shook his head. "I´d rather not bring more people in. The more know about our quest the greater the danger that the wrong people hear about it. If they beat us to that horcrux, we´re doomed."
"To sum it up," sighed Dumbledore, "we´re fairly sure the missing horcrux is at Gringott´s. We took Harry and his snake to every place in there we legally could. Unless any of you has an idea how to rob the bank and search every single vault in the course, I don´t see what we could do but ask others to help."
Uncle Severus smiled slyly. "Not every single vault, Albus. We can assume that the horcrux is not in a vault that belongs to an enemy of the Dark Lord."
"Nor is it in his own vault," Harry pointed out. "He needs one of his allies to have access to it in order to reraise him."
"Good point!" cried Uncle Severus. "I bet it´s in a vault which belongs to a death eater."
"And searching all the deatheaters´ vaults is less of a problem?" snorted Dumbledore.
"Well," mused Father, "several of the deatheaters are still in Azkaban. We could try to get the ministry´s permission to search them."
"Not even Fudge is that stupid," Uncle Severus pointed out.
They sat in silence for a while. There had been a spark of hope for just a few minutes, but it was gone as quickly as it had lit up.
Father broke the silence. "Maybe Narcissa can get access to her sister´s vault."
As neither of the others had a better plan, it was agreed that Father ask mother to try.
It was surprisingly easy to get permission for Mother to enter her sister´s vault. Bellatrix Lestrange was childless and had named her – as far as she was concerned – only legal nephew, Draco Malfoy, her heir the very day he was born.
Narcissa Malfoy claimed at the ministry that it was her duty as a mother to make sure Draco´s inheritance was safe and didn´t lose value due to year-long neglect.
As she had claimed to look into the vault in Draco´s name, Draco accompanied her and Harry to Gringott´s. The blond boy was excited to be a part of the horcrux hunt even if only for some minutes. The goblin who was taking them down to the Lestrange vault was very disgruntled. He muttered something under his breath when he stood back to let the three Malfoys climb into the cart, but Harry didn´t catch more than some words.
"You were saying?" he asked the goblin with all the arrogance Father had taught him to use with cheeky inferiors.
"I said," growled the goblin, "I wish you a pleasant trip."
"I see," sneered Harry. "That´s very kind of you."
The Lestrange vault was full of gold, gems and magical items.
"I had no idea Aunt Bellatrix was that rich," Draco pointed out while Harry let Shamira have a look at everything.
"She didn´t need any money for more than ten years," Mother pointed out. "The interest alone is immense."
Harry was glad the goblin was distracted by Mother and Draco for Shamira hissed out excitedly when she spotted the horcrux in the very vault they were in. Quietly he walked over to Mother. "It´s here," he whispered. "That cup over there, says Shamira."
Mother nodded. She pulled a silk handkerchief from her pocket and transfigured it to an ornate wodden box. Ignoring the watching goblin, she levitated the cup into the box. The magical creature hissed angrily.
"You cannot take from a vault that is not yours!" it cried and a magical shield blocked the door.
Harry and Draco looked at each other fearfully. If the goblin decided to leave, they were caught and Merlin knew how long it would take Father to free them. They could starve to death in the meantime.
Mother gave the goblin a look she normally reserved for peacock droppings on the hem of her robes after a walk in the gardens. "It is my right to enter this vault. Therefore it is my right to take from it. Remove that barrier this instant."
"The ministry warrant you presented said nothing about taking!" the goblin said strictly without removing the shield.
Mother didn´t look disquietened by that fact. "I was not aware that Gringott´s offered sightseeing tours to the vaults. If I had been I´d have started a business selling tickets for the Malfoy vaults. We could have made lots of money with combined tickets, roller coaster plus guided vault tours."
"Gringott´s is not a theme park!" snarled the goblin.
"Not?" Mother glared down at the small creature. "You made it sound like it was."
The goblin snarled angrily before he lowered the shield. Mother led the way to the cart, motioning the boys to hurry. Harry and Draco obeyed happily.
Father waited for them in front of the building. Without waiting for a report, he ushered the family to the Leaky Cauldron from where they flooed to Hogwarts.
Uncle Severus and Dumbledore were waiting for them.
"Did you find any information?" asked the older wizard when the four Malfoys stepped out of the fireplace. His tired expression gave away how low his hope for a positive reply was.
"Better," grinned Mother in an enthusiastic and very undignified way. "We found the horcrux!" She put the box on the table and opened it carefully.
The headmaster took the small cup out of its container. "It has Hufflepuff´s sign," he cried.
"It fits," shrugged Uncle Severus. "You said he was obsessed with the founders. Now that we have them all, I suggest we – or rather I – brew our basilisk potion, which will destroy the horcruxes."
The others agreed. Father insisted that Mother and Draco return to the safety of the Manor. Now that the hunt was nearly over, both would have loved to stay and watch, but Father was against it and nothing they said changed his mind. He even threatened to use his authority as Head of House to send them home.
The brewing of the anti-horcrux potion was quite quick. Uncle Severus used a base of water, milk of goat and lemon juice which he boiled for only two minutes before he added a tiny drop of basilisk venom. The brew turned scarlet and a cloud of acid green smoke rose from the cauldron. The potions master banished the smoke with a spell. "It´s nearly as poisonous as the potion," he explained.
Then it was time to add the horcruxes. Harry was granted the honour of adding the first one, the thread of wool. The moment it touched the brew, the room was filled with a sound like a wounded animal crying in agony. It lasted for about a minute before the office went silent again.
Dumbledore destroyed the ring, Uncle Severus the tiara and Father the cup. Harry added the locket to the cauldron.
"That´s it," Uncle Severus sighed happily. "He can´t come back."
"He can," Harry corrected him. "He can as long as I live."
"He can´t," insisted Uncle Severus. "As long as you are underage you will be well protected and once you´re fully trained you´ll be a very powerful wizard. Even if anybody found out about the horcrux, nobody could claim the piece of soul from you."
"What would happen if I drank the potion?" Harry eyed the cauldron curiously.
"You would drop dead on the spot!" cried Uncle Severus.
Father gasped. "Harry, I forbid you to even think such a thing! Severus, I want you to destroy this potion as soon as possible and lock that basilisk venom away."
"But there must be a way to destroy the horcrux in me!" Harry insisted stubbornly.
"My boy," sighed the headmaster, "I searched for a way to accomplish that ever since the curse forced me to be less active in the quest. Not out of fear that you won´t be able to protect the fragment of soul but to take the burden from you. There´s no way. The only way to destroy a life horcrux is to kill it. I´m very sorry, my dear boy."
"Then we´ll have to stick with Uncle Severus plan and protect me as well as we can." Harry smiled weakly. The others agreed and Father and Harry returned home. Everything seemed well, but Harry couldn´t stop thinking how Father, Mother, Draco, Uncle Severus and all those other people would never truly be free as long as he, Harry, lived.
The rest of the holidays passed blissfully. It was all games and play and party. Mother and Father were glad to have their boys back and safe and made good use of the opportunity to spoil them rotten. Mother took them on several shopping sprees, Father used every weekend for a luxury trip some place he thought every young wizard of breeding should have seen: the pyramids, the old wizarding school of Knossos, a hidden spa in the Norvegian mountains where only the richest of wizards were welcome.
The wizarding world in general was in a good mood. The Daily Prophet, normally out for scandal, had happy cover stories for 17 days in a row!
The best thing about defeating the Dark Lord was that Harry and Draco were going to be allowed back to Slytherin on September, 1st. Both boys were looking forward to joining their old friends again.
It was two days before school started that Harry and Draco were chasing each other on their broomsticks. They sped between bushes and trees, changing course only split seconds before one of them crashed into a trunk, they sped skywards and dove to the ground at top speed. Once the chaser had reached his goal, he became the chased without a break. The game moved to and fro and both boys´ faces were rosy with excitement.
Harry called the game off after a while.
"Admit that I´m better than you!" teased Draco. "You´re fleeing!"
Harry laughed. "I´ll show you who is better when I´m back from the bathroom." He leaned his broomstick against one of the stone benches Mother loved to sit on and watch them fly. Throwing his head back in laughter he waved at Draco and ran up to the house.
Harry was surprised to hear Uncle Severus´s voice when he entered the house. It was not like the potions master not to come and greet the boys when he visited.
"Everything is prepared," he heared Uncle Severus say. "Albus asked Kingsley Shacklebolt to teach Defence this year. He´s in the Order and Albus trusts him completely. Black and Lupin will help, too."
"It´s a good thing you´re his head of house. That way you can keep an eye on Harry," replied Father, sounding worried.
"I still think it would be safer to home-school Harry," said Mother.
Father laughed, but it was not a happy laugh. "Do you really think Harry would like that? And Draco? I don´t think so."
"You´re right, of course, beloved." Mother sighed. "Nevertheless I wish we could keep him here."
"He will be well protected, Narcissa," said Uncle Severus.
"But you said he´s in danger!"
"Indeed, but not because he´s a horcrux. There are signs though that several deatheaters are out for revenge."
"Narcissa, dearest," Father said softly, "Harry will be safe. All those witches and wizards who are there to protect him are ready to die in his defence."
Harry had heard enough. He was not safe. Not really. And his family and friends weren´t either. As long as he, Harry, was around, nobody was safe.
Draco was sitting on the bench, waiting for Harry. "That was quick," he grinned.
Harry nodded. "Ready for another round?"
Both boys got on their brooms and kicked off. It was Harry´s turn to be chased. He spiralled up in the air, higher than ever before. When he thought he was high enough, he hesitated and looked down on Draco. For a moment he felt sad. Draco would be devastated, but he would recover and then be truly free.
It had to be done.
Harry forced his broom into a dive. Only this time he didn´t pull out of it. The last thing he heard was Draco´s scream of terror before the world went black.
When Harry came to, he was to his utter surprise at King´s Cross station. Then he realized that it could not really be the station, the place only looked like it. Other than King´s Cross though, it was empty and quiet but for Harry and a wailing, extremely ugly baby.
Harry looked around. Where was the child´s mother?
"I´ll go looking for your mummy," he said to the screaming infant and set out to do exactly that. He had only walked some steps, when he heard someone call out to him.
Harry turned and came face to face with a man with unruly black hair. It took him a moment to realise that the man looked like he would had he been to live long enough to reach adulthood.
The man smiled and nodded.
"What are you doing here?"
"I´ve come to show your soul the way." James Potter smiled sadly. "It was not your time to die. Why did you do that?"
"I´m Voldemort´s horcrux," Harry explained sadly. "As long as I live, he will not be truly dead. Nobody I love will be safe."
"I´m glad there are people you love. We were so scared for you!" James Potter wrapped an arm around Harry and led him back to wailing child. "Who is it you love? Sirius, I assume."
Harry swallowed hard. Of course his biological father expected him to have grown up at his godfather´s. "He´s one of them, but most of all my family. Mother, Father and my brother."
"If you didn´t stay with Sirius, who took you in?" James Potter asked worriedly.
Harry smiled. "The Malfoys." When he saw his father´s look of disgust, he added "They were the best parents I could wish for. I never wanted for anything."
"They treated you well?"
"They love me."
James Potter looked down at the crying baby thoughtfully. "Your mother would be thrilled to see you again," he said, "but I guess she´ll have to wait. I´m supposed to bring one soul back, but now I find two. – I´ll take this one and you can return to your family, if you want to."
Harry beamed at the man. "I´d love to! And if you take Voldemort´s soul with you, they´ll all be safe!" Following an impulse he fell on the man´s neck. James Potter wrapped his arms around his son and patted his back.
When Harry came to the next time, he was on a sofa at the Malfoy library.
"Thanks Merlin! He´s awake!" he heard Mother cry.
Harry blinked. Mother´s tearful face came into focus.
"Move aside," Uncle Severus´s cool voice ordered.
Mother´s face was replaced by the potions master´s. The man waved his wand and uttered first a series of diagnostic and then healing spells. A little later, a vial was held to Harry´s lips.
"You gave us quite a scare," said Uncle Severus as he helped Harry sit up. "You could have died!"
"I nearly did," Harry looked at Father, who was standing by the fireplace, paler than usual. "I saw my Dad."
Father, Mother, Draco and Uncle Severus listened to Harry´s tale without interrupting. Only when he had finished, Draco asked excitedly: "So he´s truly gone? The last horcrux is destroyed?"
Harry nodded happily. "Dad took the piece of soul with him. I´m no longer a horcrux. All we have to deal with now is deatheaters out for revenge, but we can cope with that, can´t we?"
"We can and we will," Father smiled happily.
Harry smiled back. They would.