Content Harry Potter Crossovers
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Dumbledore’s ghostly gavel rapped the table in front of him, signalling the commencement of the session. The entire Wizengamot were arrayed behind him, each wearing the silvery version of their robes of office. Three figures were seated at a long table in front of them, two wizards and a witch. One wizard looked vaguely familiar to me, the other two I’d never seen before.

One wizard, obviously a clerk or recorder, since he was seated off to one side and didn’t have any special robes or anything like that, stood and announced in flowery language the opening of a special session of the Wizengamot. One thing that struck me was the secrecy oaths required by each member. This wasn’t just a blanket, ‘Do you agree?’ statement, asked of a group of people, but specifically answered by each member in turn, with the understanding that they would lose their ability to use magic should they break the terms of the oath. Nasty.

Once the opening insomnia inducing crap was out of the way, and Dumbledore once more rapped his gavel on the table. "Mr. Croaker, your findings please," he said formally.

The vaguely familiar wizard rose to his feet, and I finally remembered where I’d seen him. Mr. Weasley had pointed him out to me at the World Cup, saying that he was an Unspeakable and had no idea what the man got up to.

Croaker himself was replying in formal language. It only took me a moment to realise that he was reeling off the discoveries made after I’d knocked Voldemort’s block off in Hogsmeade.

"…which, combined with the corroborating testimony from one Mr.   Olivander, regarding the persons to whom he sold each wand, enabled us to positively identify the vast majority of the incinerated wizards. In cases where there was any doubt, hairs collected from the remains of the garments were combined with Polyjuice potion, giving us sufficient evidence for a positive identification. The definitive list of the so called ‘Death Eaters’ contains a great many notable families, many of whom were quite influential in Minister Fudge’s term of office."

One of the Wizengamot members rose to her feet. The witch’s features looked vaguely familiar. "Is it not possible, Mr. Croaker, that some of the remains identified were simply innocent bystanders, who were unfortunate enough to intercept some new dark curse that reduced them to ash?" she demanded haughtily.

 Croaker drew himself up. "With all due respect, Madam Royston, no. We have testimony and pensieve evidence to corroborate the events during the Battle of Hogsmeade. The events leading up to the finale have been thoroughly documented and confirmed. Your Great-nephew was indeed a supporter of the Dark Lord."

The elderly witch’s eyes flashed with anger, and it was only Dumbledore standing and quietly saying, "Anastasia, please," that she sat down.

Croaker continued. "While we now know who was involved as the Dark Lord’s inner circle, there have been approximately two dozen recent disappearances of close family members to those very same Death Eaters. We have been only able to make contact with three. Those three however, have been able to supply us with some rather disturbing information."

"Get to the point, man! Some of us are required at some, er, functions," called out one elderly wizard, whose beard was as impressive as Dumbledore’s, except that he had no moustache.

Croaker looked up at the old wizard. "My apologies for preventing you from attending such an important function as a regular Friday night pub crawl, Senior Member de Cort. If you’d care to renounce your vow to protect and uphold the laws of the wizarding world, the rest of us can get down to the business of preventing another catastrophe," the Unspeakable said, his words cold and icy with fury.

The bald-lipped wizard coughed and turned bright red, but showed he had the wisdom to sit on the Wizengamot by not responding.

At least one other member was awake and listening. "Another catastrophe, Mr. Croaker? Has the Dark Lord not been thoroughly defeated?"

Croaker sighed and shook his head. "Yes. Another catastrophe. My superiors were reluctant to release the information I am about to divulge, and while I don’t agree with the decision, I do understand the reasoning."


"It appears that the Dark Lord’s body has disappeared."

Several members of the Wizengamot gasped in shock and attempted to object, but Dumbledore shot to his feet, taking the initiative. "Disappeared? How?"

Croaker clenched his jaw, obviously unhappy, but shrugged. "I’m afraid that we have no idea. The charms are still in place, the coffin was only opened once, specifically, when we had prepared to perform the autopsy. It was already missing."

The entire Wizengamot burst into outraged, babbling indignation. For several moments, each individual member of the Wizarding court made their own set of threats (mainly of sacking) towards Croaker. Rather calmly, considering the situation, Dumbledore leaned forward. "Correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Croaker, but the autopsy was scheduled to be performed over a year and a half ago," he asked over the noise.

Despite themselves, the Wizengamot quietened down in order to hear the poor bastard’s answer. Croaker calmly glanced down at his notes. "Yes, sir. Nineteen months, six days ago."

"And you are only reporting this now because…?" Dumbledore thundered.

Croaker sighed deeply. "The information came into my hands a little over six hours ago. My former superior was initially put in charge of the investigation. Once it became clear that he had lost the cadaver of the most powerful Dark Lord in recent history, he panicked. He took the empty autopsy report and sealed it, declaring the contents secret. The three other wizards who were aware of the circumstances were all, according to them, forced to swear an oath of secrecy. It is only because of the political pressure put on my former superior to release the autopsy results that I was even informed of the actual events." Croaker sighed. "He committed suicide less than an hour later, this morning at approximately ten o’clock."

That news troubled more than one person in the assembly. The murmuring that ran through the body was both respectful and angry. The woman Dumbledore identified as Anastasia rose to her feet again. "How terribly convenient that not one of your retinue here today is to blame," she snarled down at Croaker, gesturing towards his two aides.

While the aides shuffled nervously, Croaker proved to be made of sterner stuff. His eyes narrowed slightly, but other than that, he appeared unfazed. "Indeed, though you should probably have begun that sentence, ‘How terribly inconvenient for my political career’."

"Enough!" Dumbledore said gruffly, rapping the table in front of him with his gavel. "This bickering between ourselves is pointless. Mr. Croaker, do you have any theory as to what happened to Voldemort’s body?"

I’ll give Croaker credit here, he was the only one in the room besides Dumbledore not to shiver slightly. "I have a suspicion, based on the events after his first demise." At Dumbledore’s nod of approval, he continued. "The Dark Lord’s body was not recovered from Godric’s Hollow after the events of Halloween, nineteen-eighty-one. While Ministry personnel were dispatched to the scene, they arrived several hours after both Rubeus Hagrid and Sirius Black. Given that the body was not present, we all assumed that Black, or another loyal Death Eater, had retrieved the remains. From subsequent testimony, it became obvious that Voldemort was ejected from his body following his attempt to curse Mr. Potter. If, and this is just a blind hypothesis at this point, the body disappeared, disintegrated or dispersed before the clean up team arrived that night, it is possible that the same phenomenon occurred after we retrieved the body from the battle at Hogsmeade.

"It follows, if that specific hypothesis is correct, it is possible that the Dark Lord could, given a similar ritual which occurred after the Tri-wizard Tournament, be revived once more."

 I sat back in my chair, ensuring that my Occulmency shields were well established, and that my expression was schooled into bland neutrality. Hermione had gasped with surprise several times during the presentation and was now looking at Dumbledore with a mixture of hope and fear.

Dumbledore took a deep breath as the silvery figures finally vanished into the pool of mercurial memories. "As you can see, the news wasn’t taken very well."

"Why didn’t you simply tell us that the idiots at the Ministry have mislaid Voldemort’s body?" I asked evenly. I already suspected the answer, but wanted him to spell it out.

Dumbledore gave me an odd look before doing so. "You needed to see the entire exchange, including the timeframe." Ah, he thought my observational and deductive skills had atrophied.

Hermione frowned. "You mean that it took nineteen months for the report to be unsealed?" she asked.

I shook my head in disagreement. "No, that the Wizengamot have known for several weeks now, a few months even, and that they haven’t informed the public as yet," I explained, keeping my eyes fixed on Dumbledore’s non-twinkling blue orbs.

He nodded at my assessment. "Yes, Harry. We have not released this information to the public as yet. It terrified the majority of the sitting members enough that they decided to seal the findings."

I still kept my voice neutral. "What have you discovered since?"

I could see something in Dumbledore’s expression indicating that he was beginning to realise that I was a little more informed than he suspected. "Several close family members of the late Death Eaters disappeared after the final battle. Initially, we all assumed that they were supporters, and would be rounded up with a minimum of difficulty and fuss."

"You’ve discovered differently," I said, with no surprise or interest in my tone. Hermione looked over at me rather oddly.

Dumbledore’s attention shifted to Hermione briefly, before he returned his gaze to me. "Yes, I suppose we have. The three we have found are still in St. Mungo’s. Narcissa Malfoy is one example. Despite being one of Voldemort’s supporters, she had no Dark Mark. She was not a member of his inner circle. Oddly, she was not apprehended in England, but travelling through Europe, towards Albania."

I raised my eyebrows at this unexpected piece of information. "Hardly a vacation hot spot for the rich, infamous and egotistical, this time of year," I offered.

Dumbledore nodded, looking rather relieved that I had begun taking part in the conversation. "Yes, though I’m sure you are aware of what significance Albania has when combined with the information you just saw in my pensieve."

I shrugged nonchalantly. "Those two pieces of information could easily be explained away as a coincidence, especially since Croaker was taking a wild stab in the dark, at night, at a black cat."

Dumbledore’s expression flickered, and I saw an expression of deep disappointment there before Hermione took me to task. After a gasp of shock, she rounded on me and let loose. "Harry Potter! I cannot believe that you are taking this so irresponsibly! The Headmaster has information that could save your life, and you are ignoring him!"

I sighed, leaning slightly away from her tirade. "’Mione, please!" I half begged, holding up a hand.

"No! Why can’t you accept that Voldemort may still be alive? Are you too afraid to face the fact that you may not have killed him?" she screeched.

I set my lips together and turned to face her. "Don’t be so stupid, ‘Mione," I hissed at her. "I said nothing of the sort. It’s just that those two specific pieces of information could be explained away. Don’t forget that he mentioned other disappearances too, and that they were being held in St. Mungo’s! And he used the word apprehended, which more than likely means that aurors were involved. Those two things tell me that either the aurors were over-enthusiastic, in which case the supporters would probably be dead rather than incapacitated, or that there was something wrong with each of them to start with.

"If there was something wrong with each of them, it’s not inconceivable to assume that Voldemort did it to them before his death. It can’t be something as simple as an Imperius Curse; that would be easy to cure, and not require a prolonged stay at St Mungo’s."

Hermione blinked, but I was far more interested in Dumbledore’s reaction. He had initially reddened at my hostility, and at first, looked as though he would leap to her defence. But Hermione’s surprise at the news encouraged his line of thinking down the path I wanted, that I was as ignorant as she. I didn’t want him to suspect that I already had a good idea what he needed to tell me. That would put him at a severe disadvantage for the rest of the conversation.

I turned back to Dumbledore. "So, am I to guess that Tom Riddle Senior’s grave has been violated? That his skeleton has been stripped? Perhaps these three baffled and bemused supporters were carrying an old bone or two on them?"

Dumbledore gaped briefly, but collected himself quickly. "Yes, you are in fact perfectly correct, Harry. Voldemort’s father’s remains have been exhumed. And yes, each of the three apprehended supporters had a bone in their possession. I must say that I’m very impressed with your-"

I waved his encouragement aside with a scowl. "I’m not interested in impressing you. So, we have a group of people who, while not Death Eaters, were at least strong supporters, or family members. That means that Voldemort had access to them before his timely demise. They disappeared after the battle, and haven’t been seen since. The ones who have been captured each had two of the components of the spell used to return Voldemort back to life. They were all heading to a place where Voldemort was known to have fled the last time he was incorporeal."

Hermione frowned briefly, but then her expression changed to one of realisation. "Two components? Oh! Flesh and bone."

I nodded. Apart from the potion or whatever it was Wormtail dumped Voldemort into, all that was needed was blood forcibly taken from an enemy. And given how pissed the world was at Voldemort, just about every single wizard and witch in the world would fit the bill.

Dumbledore nodded too. "Yes, it seems that Tom put measures in place to ensure that he would have a greater chance of resurrection on his death than he had the first time around. Though letting his supporters know that he had put in place a means of cheating death would have meant that they would have pushed harder for his resurrection the first time, it would also point out a weakness of his to them."

"Yeah, well, he wasn’t exactly the trusting type, you know."

Dumbledore nodded. "Indeed. And while it seems the Tom did indeed learn from his mistake, his thirst for vengeance cheated him out of his inner circle."

I shrugged. "Perhaps he thought that if he was to die again, his marked Death Eaters would have proved themselves to be completely useless."

Dumbledore tilted his head, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. "Perhaps. At any rate, we are left in a situation where Tom’s body has disappeared, and goodness knows how many minor supporters trying to discover his location."

I scoffed lightly. "Are they trying willingly? Or are they being compelled?"

 Hermione gave me an approving look. She picked up on that too.

Dumbledore tilted his head to one side. "That is debateable. It makes little difference however, to our goals. We cannot allow anyone; whatever is driving them, to find what’s left of Tom."

I frowned, crossed my arms and leaned back. Something wasn’t right. Something Dumbledore had said didn’t seem to gel with me. Whether or not my burgeoning Legilimancy skills were enough to get a light impression from the old man when he was telling a lie or hiding something, I don’t know. But somehow, I just knew he was leaving something out. I had already guessed most of what he had told us. It was what he was hiding that I needed to know.

"What is it?" I asked pointedly.

Nothing, not a flicker appeared in his eyes. "It, Harry? To what are you referring?"

Growling, I rose to my feet. "Listen, old man, you’re hiding something from me. Maybe it’s something you have been forbidden to reveal, maybe not. Maybe it’s something you’ve decided to keep from me, maybe not. But I will tell you one thing right here, right now. You will tell me everything, now, or I will walk out of that door, now, and for good. I will never speak to you again, no matter what happens in the world. Hell, dark wizards could take over every street corner, and I’ll ignore anything you care to say to me. I will never step foot in Hogwarts again. Any children I have will be educated at Beauxbatons, well away from any of your damned machinations. Dumbledore, either you tell me what it is, or I’m out of here."

The old man’s face twisted into an expression of agony. "Please, Harry, I’m begging you. I cannot tell you what it is you wish to know! I am forbidden to speak of it."

"Why?" I snapped, slapping my hand down on the desk.

"Need to know," he whispered, the expression still in place.

I’m quite sure my expression turned as black as my godfather’s animagus form. I released the self-imposed limits on my magic, letting it flare in time with my anger. "Just whose decision is it as to who ‘needs to know’?" I snarled.

Dumbledore swallowed, but kept his ground. "The Minister."

Reaching across my body with my right arm, I grabbed the left edge of Dumbledore’s desk and with a massive push and a growl of effort, I hurled it to one side. The half-ton desk crashed into the wall to my right, destroying shelves and knocking over Fawkes’ perch. Bits and pieces of magical gadgets and trinkets flew everywhere, shattering on impact with the floor. I faintly heard Hermione squeal, but I was focused completely on Dumbledore.

"Then you have thirty seconds to either convince our dear Minister that I need to know, or you break your vow and tell me anyway!" I shouted. "I refuse to take any action without knowing everything, Dumbledore! The last time I did, Sirius paid from my mistake!"

The old fart glanced over at Hermione, a pleading expression on his face. Hermione however, was leaning back in her chair, arms crossed over her chest, her entire demeanour exuding hostility. It’s nice to know that she will side with me when I’m proved right. With his admittance that he was keeping something from me, even though it was probably secret, he had effectively lost the only real ally in the room. Finally, realising that he was getting no help from her whatsoever, he slumped in his chair, the set of his shoulders wordlessly admitting defeat.

"Very well, Harry," he whispered. "I will tell you. But before I do, I must ask you one thing. No, I must beg of you this one thing."

I narrowed my eyes, not at all placated by his ceding ground. "What is it?"

He swallowed. "The information being withheld is that which Tom used to remain alive, even in spirit form, after his body was destroyed. I must ask that you…" He didn’t seem to be able to finish the sentence. Realisation struck.

My eyes bulged. "You think that I’d be tempted to use it myself?" I blurted incredulously.

Dumbledore closed his eyes. "It has been discussed at many levels, Harry. The ease of command you have over dark curses is a great worry to many in power. They fear that you will follow the path Tom did fifty years ago."

I collapsed back into my chair, feeling bewildered. All I want is to be left alone to live my life as I see fit. By using misdirection after I shortened Tom by about a foot, (or more specifically, a head) my life hadn’t been overly invaded by journalistic parasites. The past few months had been the most enjoyable of my life. Despite what Zab and others thought, I was taking an interest in the wizarding world; I had even begun establishing the foundation for my own intelligence network. Sure it was only in the initial phase so far, but I had rather high hopes for it.

Now, because of the ill-informed opinion of a bunch of the mentally challenged, paranoid haemorrhoids in power, suddenly I was going to be the next damned Dark Lord.

"Dumbledore, I’ve not had such a magnificent life that I’d be inclined to extend it. And while you and your paranoid friends have been working themselves into a frothing panic about my intentions, I have been living in a quiet home, surrounded by friends, and simply enjoying my time. I’ve been more at peace over the past six months than at any other time in my entire life. And now, you actually have the gall to suggest that I want to follow in the footsteps of the bastard who killed my parents?"

He actually seemed to brighten at that. "I am pleased to hear that, Harry. I understand why you would be horrified at our reasoning, but please consider my position. I already have had one student who attained a level of power greater than expected who went on to become a powerful Dark Lord. I am terrified that…" he paused at my furious expression. "Please, let me finish. I am terrified that you will lose yourself, Harry. You are a fine young man. I want nothing more than to see you enjoy a long, happy and content life. Using the lore I had intended on keeping from you would strip you of that, something I would do anything to prevent."

Oddly, he had lowered his mental defences, and I got an overwhelming sense of truth from him. I almost sighed out loud. Despite how open he was at the moment, and whatever strife he was willing to put himself in by telling me all this, I just still couldn’t get past the fact that he had manipulated me and my life from the start with no checks and balances. I forced myself to remember that he was a master manipulator, and that his subtle efforts to compliment himself back into my good books should be discarded as irrelevant. I relaxed into the chair, reached over and took Hermione’s hand.

"Very well. What is it?"

Dumbledore again drew his ruined hand out of his robes and wordlessly restored his desk to its original location. Another flick sorted all the papers, ornaments and other nick-nacks back into their original places.

"Sorry about that," I offered, lying easily, not to mention poorly. No one would have mistaken me for being sincere at ruining Dumbledore’s office for a second time.

He waved my insincere apology away. "Once more, Harry, you have shown me that I continue to break whatever promises I have made. It is I who should apologise," he said, as he summoned a tome from one of his many shelves. The oddly dust-free book settled on his desk, facing us. I glanced over at the shelf, noting that while dust covered many of the books, perhaps three others had been used recently.

"Before we continue, Miss Granger, have you ever come across the term ‘Horcrux’? Dumbledore asked her.

Hermione frowned; tilting her head to one side as she thought deeply, then finally shook her head, looking intensely curious. I resisted grinning at her.

Something in the back of my mind tickled me, a memory of that word. Well, not the word itself, but seeing it written down somewhere.

Dumbledore continued, not noticing my sudden frown of thought. "It is an object created by the darkest of magic. Something that no wizard would consent to teach to another."

That brought Hermione up short. "Why? Even the Unforgivable Curses are taught to others. Blaise has been taught to use both the Cruciatus and the Imperius curses in the course of her work."

"She has?" I blurted.

Hermione nodded, turning to me with a smile. "The Cruciatus, despite being used to inflict pain, can be used to stimulate dead or damaged nerve endings, helping them reconnect and heal correctly when combined with the proper treatment. It is only extended and unmonitored exposure to it that is truly harmful. The Imperius has uses in helping people overcome phobias and the like. She needs to get her Mediwitch licence before she can use them on patients though."

I gave a ‘hmm’ of surprised acceptance, before again focusing on Dumbledore. "So, we have dark lore that can only be learned from books. I assume that in teaching it to someone else it either exposes a weakness or gives a method of defeating whatever advantage it gives."

Dumbledore nodded with approval. "Very good, Harry."

Hermione gave me a brief dark look, one she saved for times I thought of things she wishes she had come up with first.

"You are not quite correct, but close," he clarified.

Hermione sent me a mock superior stare. I made a face back, which caused both of us to have to suppress our laughter.

Dumbledore watched our non-verbal banter with a cross between relief and longing. "Knowing the exact nature of a Horcrux will explain my answer. Essentially, it is an item that stores part of your soul, keeping it safe against all harm."

I raised an eyebrow. "Like a mythical lich’s phylactery?"

The old wizard nodded eagerly. "Precisely! Except that while in classical mythology a lich holds his entire soul in the object, to remain permanently locked between life and death in an indefinite undead state, a Horcrux stores only a fraction of your soul, leaving you alive and keeping it safe against an untimely death."

"Voldemort," I said evenly, though a shiver ran down my spine at the memory of his rebirth.

Dumbledore nodded. "Tom Riddle did indeed use this lore to protect himself from death." He paused suddenly, before taking a deep breath and continuing. "With one, rather important, difference."

My eyes narrowed. Dumbledore obviously had to struggle with himself to tell me this part, despite his agreement to tell me everything.

"Tom didn’t just use one. He created several."

The room fell silent, expect for the shuffling of the dead Headmasters in the various portraits around the room.

"Bugger," I said finally. "So we can’t just destroy one to kill him? We have to destroy all of them before he will be gone forever?"

Dumbledore nodded his head sadly. "Yes. Though there is some good news, at any rate. I am aware of the destruction of two of them already."

I blinked. "Really? How? And how many are there in the first place?"

Dumbledore smiled at me sadly. "How many? We have no way of truly knowing, though I understand he had plans to split his soul into a numerically powerful figure."

I blinked. "Sorry? A numerically powerful what?"

Hermione squeezed my hand. "Numbers have power, Harry. We learned that in Arithmancy."

I turned to her. "So what is a powerful number?"

She shrugged. "Mathematically? Both six and twenty-eight are perfect, in that the sum of their factors add up to the original numbers. In nature, there are some extremely powerful ratios, like Phi, the golden ratio. Eight is powerful to the Chinese," she paused, thinking hard. "Though perhaps it is more accurate to say that it is lucky rather than powerful."

I snorted. "So is there a particularly powerful number you could split your soul into for maximum evil?"


Hermione and I blinked in unison and turned to face Dumbledore.

"I beg your pardon?" I asked incredulously. "There is actually a good number to split your soul into?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "No, not really. I managed to track down Tom’s original source of information. While this wizard didn’t teach Tom how to create them, one thing he did remember was that Tom actually asked if he could split his soul up further, perhaps into seven pieces, since that was a numerically powerful figure. The notion horrified the Professor at the time. It took me a great deal of persuasion to get him to give up his memories."

 I frowned. "Why? I mean, I realise that these things are considered dark. And that to teach someone else exposes your own to be discovered, but why is it such forbidden lore?"

Dumbledore sighed. "Because, in order to create a Horcrux, you need to commit a cold-blooded murder. One for each."

I nodded slowly. "Ah. I see."

Dumbledore opened the book in front of him with a flick of his wand. The pages flickered rapidly across until it was open at a specific page.

"This is a journal, written by a witch three hundred years ago, detailing her search for the Horcrux of a Dark Lord of the time. She describes in detail how the item was discovered, and how she destroyed it."

Hermione and I leaned forward to read; she eagerly, me with resignation. The text was difficult to make out initially, due to the appalling handwriting and archaic spelling, but I managed to finish the passage only three or four minutes after my Gryffindor girlfriend.

"My Master taught me four of the six spells she said she used," I noted absently. "I don’t suppose you’d consent to teaching me the final two?"

Dumbledore gently closed the book. "I shall place myself at your complete disposal, Harry."

I nodded, ignoring Hermione’s sudden frostiness she was wordlessly sending in my direction. "Now, you said before that some of old What’s-His-Name’s spiritual rubbish bins have been destroyed already. I assume you are referring to whatever happened to your hand?"

Dumbledore smiled at my new pseudonym for my old foe. "What’s-His-Name, Harry?"

I shrugged. "Even now, after everything, people are still calling him You-Know-Who. If I can’t get people to call him by name, I’ll get them to call him by the most insulting thing I can. Calling him that gives people the opportunity to not actually say his name, but it is such an insult to someone to whom his name was everything, that the same effect results, people will be less afraid."

Dumbledore blinked, his eyes twinkling for the first time since I walked in the door. "Oh, Harry, your parents would have been so proud of you. There is no way I can express just how much like both of them you are."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "Thank you," I said softly, finding it harder and harder to continue to distrust this man. One thought burst through my conscious, pointing out that Dumbledore had studied me for years, and knows exactly how to compliment me without appearing fawning or gratuitous. A flash of anger at that thought raced through me, but I kept my face expressionless.

Dumbledore nodded slowly at my visible reaction, reaching across his body with his good hand to open a draw and extract a tiny object. He held forth a ring with an odd pattern.

"This is the family signet ring of Marvolo Gaunt, Tom’s maternal grandfather. I discovered it located in the ruins of the Gaunt house, on the edge of Little Hangdon. They were, in life, rather proud of the fact that they were the sole surviving branch of Salazar Slytherin’s descendents, and often proved it by conversing in Parseltongue with each other. When I retrieved it from its hiding place, it was whole, the centre stone unblemished. However, I rather underestimated the defences Tom put on it, which did indeed cause me my rather considerable injury," he said, gently rotating his right wrist, examining his hand. "Despite this, I did manage to evict the portion of Tom’s soul stored within. Much like you did to another of his Horcruces, Harry."

I frowned for a second before inspiration struck. "The diary!"

Dumbledore nodded, and again reached across his body to extract the familiar leather-bound book from the same drawer. "Lucius discarded it before he exited Hogwarts after you tricked him into releasing Dobby. Your strike broke all the enchantments on it, leaving it a worthless pile of soggy pages. Argus found it and brought it to me. It remained at the bottom of one of my many drawers of spent magical items until my research into Tom’s magicks led me to it once more."

I glanced down at the mangled diary, the gaping hole where I’d stabbed it with the tooth plainly visible. "It didn’t try to blow me up when I stabbed it with the basilisk’s tooth," I noted. "Was that because Tom’s soul was already outside of the diary?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "No, or that wouldn’t have destroyed him in the first place. The reason it worked so well is simple. A basilisk’s tooth is one of the most potent weapons in existence. Deadly inside the beast’s mouth, inherently magical outside, and can be used to great effect when manufactured into a dagger."

I gently bit the inside of my cheek, thinking hard. Hermione spoke up. "So, we need to find and destroy another five of these awful things."

Dumbledore shook his head, frowning in confusion. "No, just four."

I looked up at the pair, letting them banter while I thought deeply.

"But you said he had seven of them," Hermione pointed out. "If two have been destroyed…"

Dumbledore smiled gently at her. "Miss Granger, I merely said that Tom wanted to split his soul into seven parts. Six Horcruces and his own body form seven parts."

"No," I said absently. "I’m sure there are five left. Hermione is right, just for the wrong reason."

The expressions they both gave me were the curiously mixed. Despite agreeing with her, Hermione looked betrayed, and despite disagreeing with the Headmaster, he looked intrigued. "Your reasoning, Harry?"

I took a deep breath. "I destroyed the diary years ago. Well before Tommy boy made a return. If I needed seven parts of my soul around to be more powerful, I’d have replaced the lost one rather quickly, just after being told about its loss, actually. "

Dumbledore blinked. "Goodness me, I didn’t think of that." He frowned. "Though you are assuming that Lucius actually told his Master that the diary had been destroyed."

I sighed. "Maybe, but you’re assuming that the destruction of part of your soul would pass unnoticed."

Dumbledore nodded absently, and leaned back in his chair, his unharmed hand balled into a fist and resting against his bearded chin. The pose, combined with his unfocused eyes, indicated that he was deep in thought. "I had initially thought to simply focus on finding the remaining Horcruces without alerting Tom to our activities. But if you are correct, and that he can indeed feel the loss of part of his soul, then if he is ever revived, he may well be able to create more. Though, spreading his soul so thin would be dangerous in the extreme."

I stared at Dumbledore for a little while before answering. "Tell me, exactly how did you know where to find the other Horcrux? The ring?"

With his left hand, Dumbledore gestured towards his pensieve. "To answer that, Harry, we need to examine the history of Tom Riddle in detail."

The three of us sank into memory after memory, living once more the childhood, adolescence and early adulthood of the world’s most feared wizard.

I leaned back in my chair, my head spinning. "Right, so we need to find Slytherin’s locket, Helga Hufflepuff’s goblet, some artefact of Rowena Ravenclaw’s, and one or two others."  I ran my tongue over my bottom lip. "So, where will I be going first?" I asked Dumbledore.

Hermione cleared her throat in a definitive manner. "’I’? What about ‘we’, Harry? I’m coming too!"

I raised an eyebrow. "What if the search takes months? Or worse, years? You’ve just begun your college education, you can hardly take months at a time off your studies," I pointed out. Reasonably too, in my opinion.

Not in her’s though. "What if it only takes a few days?" she started, her temper flaring much like a Weasley female. She’s been hanging around Ginny too long. "You still seem to think that you have to do this alone," she huffed, and this time her crossed arms were focused in my direction.

I sighed. "I don’t think that at all. I do think that I have the training to hunt down and defeat someone who is protecting these Horcruces, something you don’t. I don’t mean that in a bad way, ‘Mione, just that my apprenticeship taught me things that aren’t covered here at Hogwarts. I will need your help for research, for enchanting things to help my search, and for support when necessary. But I will not let you put your life on hold when it doesn’t need to."

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "If I may, perhaps I could offer a compromise? I have pinpointed the location of one of the artefacts, and I have a good lead on another. Perhaps I could persuade Miss Granger to accompany me when I retrieve one from its hiding place. Harry, I’m afraid that tracking down the second one would be far more suited to your situation and talents."

I raised an eyebrow. "You know where one is?"

Dumbledore nodded. "To the best of my deductive abilities, yes, I believe I have located the hiding place of one of the outstanding Horcruces. It should be a simple matter for someone of Miss Granger’s ability to retrieve, with my help, of course. The other, which I believe is Rowena Ravenclaw’s personal experimental journal, is lost, though I have a lead. Since it may well require you to travel extensively to track down, I believe you would be the perfect person to take up this task."

I nodded glumly. "Right. Someone who has had extensive training, but is young, rich, idle, and would not attract any attention if they left the country for maybe years at a time."

Hermione’s face fell, but Dumbledore nodded, just as glumly as I had. "There is no one else I could assign this to, Harry. None of the Order members could disappear for more than a month before raising suspicions, or at least, those with the training this will require. I do not trust the Ministry, and have not given them this information. Not even Severus has been informed."

I snorted sarcastically . "Well, you are beginning to show good judgement."

"Harry…" Hermione began.

Dumbledore waved away her objection. "Please, Miss Granger, Harry has every right to his opinions. As much as I wish it were different, I must accept most of the blame for the current state of affairs."

I sighed again. Bloody passive aggressive techniques. "Right, so the two of you have somewhere to go. Where will I be heading to tonight?"  

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