Content Harry Potter Crossovers
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"Dear Lord, Harry!" Dumbledore exclaimed, rising quickly to his feet. I was rather astonished at just how fast the old man could move when he had to. Something to ponder once I was sure I had the old man’s measure. "Minerva, quickly, could you attend to Severus? He will need medical assistance."

"No," McGonagall said stiffly.

Dumbledore blinked, his face a paragon of uncertainty. "I beg your pardon?"

McGonagall crossed her arms, and glared at the Headmaster. "Severus has been openly antagonistic, hostile and aggressive towards Mr. Potter here, from the instant he entered this office. Since it appears to have occurred so often that you have become blasé at the attempt of a Hogwarts Professor place a member of the public under an Unforgivable Curse, I’m afraid I have no sympathy for him. See to him yourself, Albus. I hereby refuse to have anything to do with the man beyond official school and house business."

Dumbledore’s expression of shock deepened. "Minerva?!" he breathed, aghast.

Keeping a smirk of triumph from my face, I dispassionately glanced down at my watch. "Wasting valuable CPR seconds," I offered.

Dumbledore’s attention shot between McGonagall and myself, before the old wizard rounded his desk and ran down the stairs.

Hermione’s wide-eyed expression of shock at McGonagall’s sudden lack of empathy was amusing to behold. "Professor?" she began. "I thought you respected Professor Snape?"

McGonagall ignored her, glaring straight at me. I matched her stare, knowing that she was about to test me, and I’d better have the right answers.

"Mr. Potter! Your own actions were hardly blameless. Would you care to explain?"

I nodded. "Of course, Professor," I replied politely. "Do you have any specific questions first?"

McGonagall’s eyes narrowed, her pointed hat trembling slightly. "Would you care to explain why you antagonized Severus?"

Hermione blurted out, "Professor! You just said that Professor Snape-" before I placed my hand on her arm. She looked at me with a frown.

I gave her a quick smile before turning back to McGonagall. "It was a simple test, Professor. The hatred between Professor Snape and I mostly runs one way. I would simply prefer to avoid the man and, if possible, to live and let live. Dumbledore however, has other ideas. He takes every opportunity to thrust us together, I assume, in the hope that we can discover a way to work together; one where he didn’t need to supervise."

"I am aware of that, Mr. Potter. I am still waiting for an explanation."

I nodded. "Yes, I have one, but first, I’d like to make an observation. I noticed the house-points jars on my way in this morning. They resemble the situation during my fifth year, with plenty of emeralds on display, while rubies, sapphires and topazes are rather rare. I took this to mean that Snape has been rather liberal with his deduction of points from other houses. Even more so than usual, that is."

McGonagall sighed deeply. "Yes, Mr. Potter. Your observations are correct."

I nodded again. "Dumbledore wasn’t trying to make Snape work with me because that would be the best for all concerned. Dumbledore was trying to make him work with me to try to get Snape over the grudge he holds for my father and I. While I was a student, he had power over me and could assign detention, or deduct points, or destroy my work, or whatever he wanted, just to make himself feel like he was better than I was. Since I have no longer been a student, that power has gone. He has confronted me a few times since then, in an effort to prove to himself that he is still better than I am. Each time, he has left the encounter either needing medical assistance, or has been humiliated.

"He still clings to his belief that I am an incompetent buffoon who uses a famous name to bluff my way through life. He cannot accept the fact that I have worked hard to be where I am, and that I am more powerful than he is. Since he is no longer obliged by oath to keep me safe, I sure as hell do not feel safe around him, not that I ever really did. My comment was simply a test, to see what his reaction was. Had he taken it calmly, dismissively, or even snorted at me, I would have allowed him to stay. Nevertheless, the man drew his wand. Proving my point, and destroying Dumbledore’s pathetically vain hope.

"I’m sorry, but I will not work with such a petty, vindictive little man."

I ended my rant by leaning back in my chair, and waited for McGonagall’s response. Many of the portraits around the room were mumbling, some with a tone of agreement, others with disapproval. McGonagall finally nodded. "Very well, Mr. Potter. While I cannot, and do not condone your attack on Severus, I will acknowledge that it was justified. I sincerely hope that circumstances do not call on you to carry out your threat. Homicide is not looked upon favorably in the Wizarding world, you know," she said, a small smile gracing the tips of her usually stern lips.

I casually shrugged and let a large grin grow over my features. "A muggle author once wrote that there are four different kinds of homicide, Professor. Felonious, excusable, justifiable and praiseworthy. While it would make little difference to Snape himself, I’m quite sure three-quarters of Wizarding Lawyers schooled at Hogwarts in the past fourteen years would argue that the death of Professor Snape falls into the last classification."

Hermione snorted from the effort of hiding her laughter, and McGonagall’s lips were twitching faster than I’d ever seen. "Quite," the normally unflappable Transfiguration Professor finally managed.

"Now," I began, changing the subject. "Professor, do you know Mr. Croaker’s first name?"

"Christophe. His mother was French."

I nodded, rose, and walked over to Dumbledore’s fire. I took a pinch of powder from one of the velvet bags on the mantle and tossed it into the flames. "Mr. Christophe Croaker, Department of Mysteries," I said clearly.

It took nearly ten seconds before a face appeared in the flames, a wary expression easily discernable. "Hmm," the face said, silently scrutinizing me in detail for some time. "Mr. Potter, I presume," he said in a deep, grizzled voice.

I nodded. "Please forgive my intrusion, but I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time."

"Regarding?" came the rapid-fire response.

"Voldemort- and how the bastard keeps reincarnating himself."

"Why me?" he snapped.

I raised an eyebrow. "Because, after your presentation to the Wizengamot, I would have thought you would have wanted to know where the hell his body got to."

Croaker’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and he shook his head. "Dumbledore," he spat. "What has he told you?" the man demanded.

"Would you care to join me? We can discuss this here."

The man laughed nastily. "Do you think I’m an idiot? I don’t go anywhere where I’m not in control."

I shrugged. "I’m currently in the Headmaster’s office at Hogwarts. Should you change your mind, I shall be here for the next hour or so. If you wish to discuss things, but would prefer a location where you feel more comfortable, let me know and I shall do what I can to accommodate you."

I pulled back as the man shouted, "Wait!" and cancelled the conversation.

I turned back to the two witches. "Well, that was interesting."

Hermione frowned. "It certainly was. That man is nearly as paranoid as Professor Moody."

McGonagall nodded in agreement. "Christophe was always rather secretive. Even as a youngster, I just knew he was destined to be an Unspeakable."

I rubbed my chin. "No, not just that. The fact that I gave the impression I knew where Voldemort’s body was, but he just demanded to know what Dumbledore had told me."

McGonagall frowned. "Mr. Potter, I hope you are not accusing the Headmaster of keeping things from you."

I rolled my eyes. "Of course not. After all, he’s only done that my entire life. I’m sure there’s no reason for him to keep doing it now."

McGonagall’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and it took a conscious effort on my part to remember that I wasn’t twelve anymore. Just as she opened her mouth, Dumbledore stumbled back up the stairs, his face pale and his hands shaking.

"Minerva! It’s Severus! He’s, he’s dead!" the Headmaster blurted.

Ice crystallized in my gut, and I had a sudden urge to use the toilet. I needed to vomit.

The rest of the day past by in a blur.

Aurors were called. Statements were taken.

Throughout it all, Hermione sat ashen-faced, still and in shock. McGonagall was as stoic as ever, her account of events starkly evenhanded and accurate. Dumbledore looked as though he had lost something, constantly wringing his hands and reorganizing his desk when he was sitting. He patted his pockets and minutely shifted his many ornaments when he was walking aimlessly around.

At least four different people questioned me closely. Each one kept asking if I was sure I hadn’t used a wandless banishing charm. Rather than exploding with rage and giving the unimaginative idiots a physical example of exactly what I had done to Snape, I took the sarcastic route. With contempt dripping from every syllable, I eventually agreed with them, that yes, I had used a banishing charm without a wand. Though they finally had the answer they wanted, suddenly, they were not as sure as they had been moments before.

Still, that is what went into the report. The fact that Snape had the first syllable of one of the Unforgivables out meant that I wasn’t going to be arrested on the spot, much to the disgust of at least three of the Aurors. Having three witnesses is a wonderful thing. It makes dealing with policemen (who were far more interested in making a famous arrest than actually doing something like, say, investigating) so much simpler. I know that in the Wizarding world, guilt and innocence tend to be secondary considerations compared to expediency, but even so, with Rufus as the current Minister, I would not put it past them to cart me away just for defending myself.

Though I hadn’t really thought much about it, the Minister had been savaged in the press lately for the sins of the past. The three investigations into the death of Voldemort had each produced different findings, adding to his embarrassment. Personally, I thought the stuff they wrote about him was mild, at least compared to the shit the collective Wizarding media had put me through over the years. Old Scrim must just have thinner skin.

Operating on automatic, Hermione and I were finally granted permission to escape the circus and make our way home.

That is where the fireworks really started.

We arrived in a flash of green, both of us with identical expressions of shock and disbelief. I forced myself to think back to what my motivations were as we arrived at Hogwarts, an eternity ago. Somehow, the idea that I would be the one to kill Snape suddenly didn’t seem so much like a pleasant fantasy anymore. The fact that he broke his neck falling down Dumbledore’s moving staircase didn’t overcome the fact that I had pushed him down them in the first place.

I honestly hadn’t meant to kill him. Though I suppose I had honoured my rather hasty declaration on my parent’s grave, I did expect that Snape would at least be given the chance to hear my threat. But did that matter? The fact that he was about to cast an Unforgivable on me gave me just cause to defend myself, but--

"You killed him," Hermione said, interrupting my own internal dialogue.

I nodded mutely. It’s not like I could deny it or anything.

"You killed him," she repeated, more forcefully this time.

Again, I nodded. "Yeah," I agreed tonelessly.

"Harry, you killed him!" she all but shouted. "You went in there to goad him and kill him!"

The accusation hit me almost as hard as the realization that I had actually sent the man to his death. Well, pushed him to his death. I tried taking a breath to reply, but found my lungs wouldn’t fully cooperate.

My delay in answering seemed to be an answer of sorts for her. "You, you, you deliberately killed him! You murdered him, Harry!"

Despair flooded through me, as I realized that Hermione could think that I could actually kill someone in cold blood. The shock was even worse than the previous one. I could hardly breathe.

"You, you not only murdered him, you made me an accomplice!" she shrieked, her voice reaching all corners of the massive house. "I could go to Azkaban for this!"

I shook my head dumbly, trying to form a coherent argument, only to find my mind full of hot pink fluff.

Hermione had tears in her eyes, and her hands were shaking badly. Mumbling to herself hysterically, she babbled about being a criminal, that she was going to prison, that she wouldn’t be able to accomplish her life’s goals from Azkaban.

I shook my head and said the first thing that came to me. "But we got away with it!" I blurted, trying to convey that since I was acting in self-defense, that there would be no repercussions on her.

I didn’t even think about what I said, I only saw her face run clear of colour. I didn’t see her hand rise like the leviathan, striking my cheek as hard as I’d even been hit before.

The only thing that ran through my mind as Hermione turned and ran from the room was that she must have learned how to push too. That slap had hurt!

When Blaise arrived home from work, she found me at the door to Hermione’s room, looking in.

I’d been there for some interminable time, trying to come to terms with the fact that the room was empty. Only the bed, chair and desk remained. No books, not pictures, no clothes. Nothing with Hermione’s scent remained.

Blaise slipped an arm around my waist. "What happened? You and Hermione have an argument?" she asked, unable to keep the smirk from her voice.

Not that I picked up on it. "Snape is dead," I said simply.

She stiffened. "What?"

"Snape is dead," I replied, sounding like an automaton.

I found her hands on my cheeks, and she gently turned my head around to face her. "What happened?"

"I killed him."

Blaise sucked in a lungful of air in surprise, her dark eyes searching my own. "How?"

I blinked, and finally joined the conversation mentally. "I threw him down the stairs to Dumbledore’s office," I said challengingly, wondering if she was going to leave me too.

She blinked, but her eyes didn’t harden to chips of ice like Hermione’s had. "Why?"

I closed my eyes and looked down shamefully. "I goaded him. I threw him out the window first, but he charged back up the stairs and tried to curse me."

Blaise ducked her head to look up into my downward-facing gaze. "What curse did he try and use, Harry?" she asked kindly.

I shrugged. "He got the first part of the Cruciatus curse out," I mumbled.

Surprising me, she reached out and encircled my neck with her arms and held me close. "Then you have nothing to worry about. He got what was coming to him."

"Really?" I asked, my voice as timid as a child’s. I seriously needed reassuring at that moment.

"Really," she confirmed. "Besides, I won ten galleons today."

I blinked at the sudden change of topic. "Really?"

She laughed at my repetitiveness. "Yes, Harry. I won ten galleons today."

I nodded, still coming to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going to leave me for killing her Head of House. "Great. Um, how?"

"Oh, just a bet I had with Daphne Greengrass."

I frowned, trying to get my mind up to speed. "A bet with Greengrass?" I asked, vaguely remembering a pudgy girl with mousey-brown hair who was always studying as hard as Hermione at the back of every class. "What about?"

Blaise smirked. "We both thought that you and Snape would eventually have it out with each other. We bet on who we thought would survive.

I frowned deeply. "You bet that I would kill your Head of House?"

Blaise waved my question away, as though it wasn’t important. "Don’t be such a Gryffindor."

"But you just said--"

She reached up and covered my mouth. "Oh, shut up. The bet was only if you two finally earled it out."

I blinked, trying to work out what she meant. "Duked it out, possibly?"

She rolled her eyes. "Whatever. The point is that we both thought that Professor Snape would go too far one day and that either you’d snap, or he would. Daph thought that since he is a, er, was a powerful wizard in his own right, he’d blast the Gryffindor Golden Boy into dust. I knew there was a fair bit more to you than the insults Professor Snape kept sending your way over the years, especially after you came back after the third task of the TriWizard tournament. Even Daph finally realized that, and tried to change the bet after you faced down What’s-His-Name after our OWLs." She smirked. "I didn’t let her, of course."

I smiled thankfully. "Of course." I looked into her eyes, and wondered why her reaction was so different from Hermione’s. "Um, you don’t seem upset."

Her concerned expression didn’t change. "It’s hard to care about the death of someone who you don’t respect. I saw how he treated Gryffindors in general and you specifically. Yes, he was my head of house, but the only thing I’m surprised about is that someone didn’t do him in earlier."

Her unwavering acceptance of my actions settled my rolling stomach somewhat. "Thank you, love."

Blaise nodded. "Now, what caused the princess to toss her toys out of the crib?"

I winced. "Must you insult her like that?"

She scowled at me. "I’m not sure. I’ll know after you explain."

I sighed deeply and related the day’s events. "We went to Hogwarts to meet with Dumbledore to discuss something else. Before we went in, I asked Hermione to just play along with whatever I said. I was going to give Dumbledore another bashing if he brought Snape along."

Blaise rolled her eyes. "Let me guess," she said rhetorically. "Professor Snape was there."

I nodded. "Snape and McGonagall were both there with Dumbledore. I asked what Snape was doing there, he spat something back, and Dumbledore said that he was there at his invitation."

Blaise shook her head. "Idiotic Gryffindors," she muttered.

I nearly grinned at her insult. "I told Dumbledore to throw him out, or I would. Snape drew his wand at me, so I threw him out the window."

Blaise blinked. "How?"

I did grin this time, but it was weak. "The same way I threw you across the room."

"Oh," she said, before her eyes lit up in understanding. "Oh!"

I nodded. "Anyway, Fawkes was sent to save him before he hit the ground."

"Dumbledore’s phoenix?"

I nodded. "I got yelled at for a while, but I just kept a blank face. I told Dumbledore to tell Snape that if he ever drew a wand on me again that one of us would die."

Blaise’s laugh filled the room with warmth. "You should have kept with Divination."

I gave her a mock scowl. "Sod that. Anyway, he charged into the room and tried to curse me. I pushed him down the stairs."

"With your little…" she said, with a little shooing hand gesture.

I nodded. "The aurors wouldn’t take pushing for an answer though, and I had to settle on wandless banishing. I suppose there isn’t a place on their forms for ‘Undocumented power’."

"And Hermione?"

I sucked in a shuddering breath. "She accused me of murdering Snape. That because I asked her to play along with what I said in the meeting, that I made her an accomplice."

Blaise looked at me for a long time. "Is that all?"

I shook my head. "She hit me."

Blaise reached out and took my hand. She looked at me intensely for a few moments before shaking her head with a low laugh. "So, do you ever have a boring, normal day?"

I glanced back sadly at Hermione’s empty room. "Once. It was a Tuesday, I think."

The next day, I got an owl from Dumbledore. Well, a phoenix, at any rate. The sight of a fire-bird appearing in the middle of the lounge room in a burst of crimson flame startled Dobby, who tried conjuring a bucket of water. Fawkes, who I assume had never in his Immortal life been greeted with a face-full of soapy water, gave a sort of wet, warbled trilling at this novel welcome, as though trying to say, "What was that for?" as he stood with his dripping wings spread.

The sight of a soaking phoenix is probably unique, and certainly one I’d never forget. Despite the fact that Fawkes still looked nervous at my presence, the soaking bird delivered his burden without haste.

I cast a drying charm at him, whose cautious gaze softened at my actions. I remembered the time Fawkes had flown down into the Chamber of Secrets to save me, and had been drawn to me by my loyalty to Dumbledore. Phoenixes must have an owl’s ability to track magical people, since I certainly wasn’t feeling terribly loyal to Dumbledore at the moment.

Kreacher decided to make an appearance at that point, never missing a chance to mumble at Dobby about how he was such a bad elf for making a mess of the noble Black house. The insane elf took one look at Fawkes and froze in absolute terror. For his part, Fawkes noticed the petrified elf and gave a disgusted screech of disjointed musical notes.

I blinked at the cacophony. Fawkes’ voice had been, up till now, soul-cleansing and beautiful. Obviously, phoenixes had the ability to make horrible-ish sounding noises too. Horrible being a relative term of course. The noise sounded like heavenly angels having an argument. To me, it was faintly uncomfortable, but Kreacher clutched his battered ears and screamed in pain before running from the room at high speed. I turned back to Fawkes, only to decide that the bird’s new expression could only be described as self-satisfied.

Again, marveling at my ability to decipher a magical turkey’s expression, I asked Dobby to fetch some food for our avian guest and opened Dumbledore’s letter.

Dear Mr. Potter,

It dismays me to have to put this in a letter, but I’m afraid that after yesterday’s events you would not, under any circumstances, agree to a meeting which I had organized. I cannot in all good conscience blame you.

Severus’ unfortunate death was instantaneous, according to Madam Pomfrey. He did not suffer after the instant his neck snapped. While I am fully aware that many of his current and former students have in the past wished harm upon the man, and perhaps even a painful end, I pray that this news sooths your conscience somewhat.

I will leave all the self-recriminations out of this missive. I know what responsibility I hold for his death, and it is certainly not inconsiderable. Again, I pray that someday you will forgive me for putting the pair of you in a situation where all the ill-feeling between you boiled over uncontrollably. I had been doing all that I could to get the man to renounce his dark tendencies. My optimism blinded me to the truth, which, under the mountain of owls I have received in the past day, is now glaringly obvious.

Moving on from the recent tragedy, I know that Miss Granger has been rather tight-lipped regarding our little adventure together. This was at my request. I know that you have requested that I keep nothing from you, but there were facts involved with our little jaunt that Miss Granger is not aware. I simply wanted you to be in a position where you could get all the information in one sitting, rather than on an ad-hoc basis. I never want you to be in a position again where you are compelled to act on incomplete data.

At this point, Dumbledore launched into an overly detailed tale of how he and Hermione had retrieved what had turned out to be a fake Horcrux. He described how Hermione had assisted in making him consume a potion, and had then dual-apparated them to Saint Mungos, where he had been admitted and held for several days while the potion he drank wore off. Their initial jubilation at having found another piece of Voldemort’s soul had quickly soured when it became terribly apparent that someone else had already beaten them to it. All that swimming, fighting with inferi and drinking a power-sapping potion was for nothing.

Blaise had been right, it was bollocks up from the start.

In any event, it would appear that a Death Eater, or at least a highly involved sympathizer, going by the initials R.A.B. had both discovered Voldemort’s secret, and had become disillusioned with his stance and/or policies. Remember, while many of the older, pure-blooded families in the wizarding world often silently agreed with Voldemort’s view of the inferiority of Muggles, Muggle-born and half-blooded folk, he had started targeting established, pure-blooded families of good character, history and social standing who disagreed with his views. It was at this point that much of his silent, sympathetic support became fearful support, and many of his devoted followers began having doubts. Severus fell into this group. So, it would appear, did Sirius’ brother.

It was those doubts and fear that enabled so many of the Death Eaters to re-enter society after you and your mother defeated Voldemort the first time.

But I digress. Initially, it appeared that Slytherin’s locket had been taken from its hiding place before Miss Granger and I arrived, perhaps by a couple of years, perhaps by over a decade. On examination and analysis of the facts, I have come to believe the latter. My reasoning follows. Firstly, his followers during his second, much briefer reign, were all rabidly bigoted not only against Muggles and Muggle-born folk, but also against the pure-blooded families who they viewed as blood traitors. Voldemort’s support was rising as he faced you that last time, not falling. Secondly, none of his then-current followers had the initials R.A.B. Third, the letter itself made no mention of recent events. While the short note could have been planted to give the impression of age, I must assume that it is authentic, or the sheer scope of the task would threaten to overwhelm us.

I’m not sure if Sirius ever told you he had a younger brother. Regulus was sorted into Slytherin, and was part of the group who believed in blood purity. I am afraid that he joined with Voldemort of his own free will, early on in the Dark Lord’s first reign. Something happened though, and Regulus tried to leave the circle of Death Eaters.

As you have probably guessed, Voldemort does not take kindly to those who betray him and his ideals. Regulus’ body was delivered to Grimmauld Place around the time of your birth.

Regulus’ middle name was ‘Archimedies’.

It is therefore not difficult to deduce that Regulus somehow discovered Voldemort’s use of horcruces (or at least the existence of one of them), and decided to take the locket and hide it himself. Whether he knew about the others is a secret he took with him to the grave. I have several agents from the Order working to try and discover the location of the locket, by investigating Regulus’ last documented movements, but it is proving slow going.

I am more than pleased that you managed to succeed where Miss Granger and I failed. Recovering, not to mention destroying, a piece of Voldemort’s soul, especially one as well protected as the journal had been, is no mean feat. If an international incident was the least of the repercussions, I consider it well worth the price. I cannot say how proud I am of you for your skill and perseverance.

I understand that you have received an owl from the Vatican, requesting your presence at an investigation in the near future. While I realize that advice from me is particularly unwelcome, I feel obligated to urge caution in your approach. As noble and genteel as the Pope is, the man has a Slytherin’s ambition, a quality necessary for any Churchman who wishes to attain the highest rank within the ecclesiastical hierarchy. I predict that your skill with Parseltongue will be of great interest to them, since there exists a significant minority of Cardinals who would be incredibly interested in cataloguing and perusing the papal storehouse of confiscated items.

If you are asked to once more descend into the bowels of the Vatican on a retrieval mission, please inform someone in the Wizarding world what was recovered. If not myself, then Madam Bones, or Kingsley, or even Nymphadora. You may not be aware, but certain segments of the Church were complicit with Grindlewald and his Muggle puppet Hitler. Much like our own society, there are elements within whose bigotry and xenophobia drive them to acquire power over those they hate, be it items, knowledge or position. Please, do take care.

Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, vis-à-vis a venture of vindication, so I shall sign off here in the hope that I remain yours sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore.

I placed the rather long letter down on the table, and sat down in one of the chairs. Fawkes was staring straight at me, head tilted to one side questioningly.   The fire-bird had ignored every plate of food placed in front of him, from bacon-rinds to peppermint ice-cream.

"Either you’re not hungry, or you’ve got a really weird appetite," I said, selecting a marshmallow from one of the plates on display. I popped the fluffy sweet into my mouth and grinned at the curious bird. "You know, marshmallows taste so much better when they are toasted," I muttered to myself, chewing thoughtfully.

Fawkes tilted his head to the other side, and gave the sweets an evaluating stare. He looked back up at me briefly, before leaning over and pecking at one. After a couple of tries, he managed to get his beak into the soft treat, and stood back up straight.

"Go on," I said. "Have a taste."

I nearly jumped out of my skin as Fawkes’ head burst into flames, quickly reducing the marshmallow to a charred, sticky mass. As quickly as they had arrived, the flames disappeared, and Fawkes gobbled down the remains of the sweet quickly. He even pecked at the droplets of melted sugar left on the table, left over from the bits that dripped before he could swallow.

I clutched at my chest, feeling my heart slowly return to its normal beating rate. "Right, note to self, never suggest cooking anything in front of a phoenix, ever again."

After Fawkes left, I sat back in one of the armchairs on the top floor and thought deeply.

Hermione leaving me was a blow. The floo to her house was still active, though that meant little. Even if she had disabled it, I could still Apparate to her home in less than a second. Though the fact that it was still active perhaps meant that she would come back, or perhaps at least gave herself the option of coming back. Either way, traveling to her house in Oxford to try and force the issue would be counter productive. She was smart enough to think through events once she had calmed. I hoped. The day could hardly get worse.

In the mean time, I needed to digest the news that one of the Horcruces had been moved from its original hidey-hole. If Dumbledore had been relegated to a hospital bed after the recovery, then whoever took the locket must have been either very powerful, or very cunning.

And I’d go with cunning, to leave the fake locket under the same levels of protection as the original. That in itself would have been a great shock to Snake-face if he ever got around to hunting for the things again.

Where would Regulus have left the thing? Certainly not somewhere the big V or his henchpeople, goons or lackeys could get their hands on it easily. That left out places like Grimmauld place, which until the death of Sirius’ mother, had been a haven for dark wizards, or at least those with a blood purity fetish. That’s the thing about blood purity. Those who insist on sticking to their own gene pool refuse to notice when it gets shallow, until the deficiencies become too much to overcome. Take the Malfoys, for example. For someone who was such a Slytherin, Draco didn’t actually have the will to make anything happen. He simply believed that it was his birthright. A true Slytherin, like Zab or Blaise, identifies their goal, then makes it happen, by whatever means. Whenever Draco’s idiocies were thwarted, he couldn’t believe it, and generally stood around pouting and sulking. It had been pathetic watching the intellectual cripple over the years. Every time he was threatened, the existence of his father would miraculously enter the conversation.

Mind you, I suppose even bright people who fall into those sort of beliefs shed IQ points at an alarming rate. Take Tom Riddle. Incredible student; bright, driven and powerful. Suddenly, blood purity is everything, he decides to protect his life with horcruces, and promptly leaves them lying around, ready for a magical scavenger hunt.   I mean, family heirlooms, documents and powerful artifacts are constantly being stored in Gringotts’ vaults safely. Why would you hide pieces of your soul scattered around the place?

That reminds me, I must get the gear I made in Italy to break into the Vatican together and go and store it at Gringotts.

I blinked. Was it that simple? Could RAB have stored the locket in a Gringotts vault? If he died, it would have gone to his family. Or someone who was against the big V.

Only one person fits both scenarios. Sirius.

And Sirius left his vaults to…

As if in response to my thought, another owl swooping in through the window interrupted my silent ponderings. It dropped a note from its beak, and flew out the window without pausing.

I picked up the envelope from my lap, turning it over in my hands. Speak of the devil, it’s from Gringotts.

Dear Mr. Potter,

It is our embarrassing duty to inform you of a successful robbery from one of your vaults.

The letter fell from my suddenly nerveless fingers, the rest unread.

Well, I suppose the day could get worse.

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