Chapter 18

Chapter 18 – The Lost Horcrux

Harry and Hermione perched themselves on the edge of Celesca’s bed, Harry behind Hermione with his arms around her waist. They were breathing in synchronised rhythm, which pleased them both. Harry wondered vaguely if Hermione could feel his heart beating against her spine. As much as he loved their passion, their explosive sex, just holding her like this was equally as intense for him, albeit in a much more tender sort of way.

Luna was sat on the other side of the bed, smoothing Celesca’s fringe. It was growing close to her eyes and would need a trim soon. She brushed it back delicately, picked a stray hair from her moon-milky skin, then leant down to place a motherly kiss on her forehead.

Celesca turned her hopeful eyes up to her mother. “Will I sleep tonight, Mummy? Without the black-haired lady coming for me?”

Luna turned at looked at Hermione, and it was she who answered. “You can sleep soundly, beautiful girl. She wont hurt you ever again. And if anyone else tries to hurt you in your dreams, you just come and tell me or Harry and we will go and sort them out for you.”

“Thank you, Lady Hermione,” said Celesca, yawning broadly. She worked her jaw with her tiredness, then snuggled down into her fluffy quilt with a contended little mewl. The adults rose from the bed, Hermione added a protective kiss to Luna’s own, and they made to leave the bedroom.

Hermione reached for the light rune, but Luna snatched at her wrist.

“No, leave it on, please,” she whispered quickly. “She’s terribly afraid of the dark.”

Harry felt his heart bleed. He wasn’t sure how comfortable he was with bringing such a young girl into a ritual situation, it might be too much for her, but he had to find a way to help her. Maybe something lower key, something just to let her have a normal night’s sleep. It wasn’t right that a child should have to endure such nightmares as Celesca did.

After all, Harry was a powerful adult and his nightmares were hard enough to cope with.

But, at least she would sleep soundly for tonight. Harry, on the other hand, knew he couldn’t sleep. It was borderline impossible. He was just far too energised. He kept running through the events of the evening in his mind. From Hermione’s pitch perfect killing of Ginny to the fireworks of the Palladium’s destruction…it was like a perfect dream where everything had gone like clockwork.

And Ginny Weasley was dead.

Harry fist-pumped at the very thought. The most corrupt woman he’d ever come across was dead. The bitch who had love potioned him during his sixth school year, who had actively worked against him ever noticing Hermione – to the point that even she thought he never would – was no more. He wasn’t even sorry that it hadn’t been more strung out. That was how he wanted it.

The vision of her writhing and kicking helplessly, as she dangled over that balcony, choking on Hermione’s noose…that was the kind of thing to produce a Patronus with.

Harry thought about all these things, as he watched Hermione going through her bed routine when they were alone in their room. Scrubbing her teeth, pulling on her nightie, running a brush pointlessly through her hair…all so normal, yet somehow adorable, too. What had he done to earn such luck? To have a front row seat to the intimate nuances of the most incredible woman he could ever know.

“I love you. Do you know that?” Harry asked, almost in wonder that he could say the words.

Hermione smiled back, then grimaced as her brush got stuck. “I have a fair idea, yeah. Any particular reason for this sudden declaration? What have you done…or what are you going to do!?”

Harry laughed and moved to the bed, where he curled up to wait for his wife. “No reason. I just can’t remember if I told you today, that’s all.”

“You don’t have to tell me every day,” said Hermione. “It’d be nice if you did but I know you have a lot on your mind, so it’s okay if you forget every now and then. I know how much you love me. Just don’t make a habit of forgetting to remind me!”

Hermione quirked Harry a grin and slid onto the bed with him. “How did I do tonight?”

“You were incredible,” said Harry, picking at a knot Hermione had missed in her curls. “How are you feeling, though? That kill was up close and personal…and very hands on.”

Hermione huffed. “I’m only sorry I didn’t get my hands around her throat. I think I’d have quite liked to have felt the life bleeding out of her. But, time was short and our window was narrow. So, I’ll just have to accept this and learn to be satisfied with it.”

“Merlin…this side of you,” Harry whispered in slight awe. “Where the hell did it come from?”

“Conditioning, I suppose,” said Hermione, leaning back on the headboard. “You said you conditioned yourself to be calm around baby Alison, whereas I’ve been conditioned to be easy around violence. Maybe in later life I’ll have some regrets, but right now there’s nothing that I’m not prepared to do.”

Harry looked over wickedly at her and slid under his sheets. “I’m really glad you said that…come on, come to bed, honey.”

Hermione smiled vampishly, and obeyed the command…

* * *

The next morning found Harry and Hermione leant over a softly simmering cauldron in Cassie’s potions lab. Making an antidote for Harry’s scar and his poisoned blood was a tricky endeavour, and they had to get it right at their first try. They didn’t have an endless supply of Riddle’s blood to test with, so the potion had to be perfect first time.

It was a very fine margin to work within.

“What we have to ensure,” said Cassie, pondering her mixture. “Is that your blood is completely cleared of the infection. We’ll have to take samples of your blood, Harry, and see if we can’t get it to form its own antibodies, which will attack Riddle’s evil essence in your system.”

“So that he is essentially killing himself…in me?” Harry queried.

“Exactly,” said Cassie. “We have your blood thinning potion, which we already know is very good at limiting the spread of infection. But I don’t know if it can be adapted to attack it.”

“No, we’ve never managed that before, have we?” Harry pondered. “And I can’t see how simply adding Riddle’s blood to it will make any difference.”

“No, I agree,” said Cassie. “But – and don’t hate me for this – that is the most potent potion I’ve ever brewed. I’m not sure what will work, if we assume that wont. If I did, we’d have already done it.”

Hermione drummed her fingers against her chin. “Harry…what about one of your alchemical elixirs? They must be more powerful than standard potions.”

“They are,” Harry confirmed. “But the White Elixir, which is the most powerful I’ve successfully made so far, is really only effective for physical injuries. It’s soothed aches, fixed bones and cuts, that sort of thing. And, just like the blood thinning potion, I’ve taken that plenty of times. If that was the solution, it would have made more of a dent in Riddle’s little legacy on me by now.”

“Most powerful…so far?” Hermione quirked.

“Yeah,” Harry nodded.

“So…there’s more? Something you haven’t done yet?”

“Well, I’ve never made it as far as The Elixir of Life,” said Harry. He thought quietly for a moment, deeply pensive. “I suppose…that could help the process. It cures all disease after all. But I’ve never even gotten close…and unless you know someone who has a Philosopher’s Stone they want to lend us, we’re kind of limited on that score.”

“Harry, love, stop being so bloody negative about this!” Hermione cried in frustration.

“I’m just being practical.”

“No, you’re being a dickhead,” said Hermione. “Don’t you see…don’t you get it? All the things you’ve been trying to tell me…about alchemy, our joining, our chemical wedding? We are the Philosopher’s Stone, you said. You need me to complete your Opus, to be part of it. Well, as yet, you haven’t made me part of it. These things that you have failed to achieve so far, you failed because you were doing them alone.

“But you aren’t alone anymore. You never will be again. I’m here with you, a part of you. So let me into these alchemical processes of yours. Take my power, take my blood, my essence, my love…whatever you need. And lets take this final step together, create The Stone, The Elixir…and use it to heal you completely. Can you do it?”

Harry looked hard at his wife. His heart was beating so fast for her, he was sure it might burst right out of his chest. He considered her words, her proclamation…and he felt stunned by them. He stepped close and brought his mouth down to hers.

“Yes, yes I can,” he said as they broke breathlessly apart. “There’s a full moon tonight. At midnight, we’ll begin the transmutation process.”

“Well, if that works, it’s one part down,” said Cassie, flushing at being witness to the passion of the Potters. “But what about the other part…the physical wound?”

“I have a feeling that if we can clean the wound, rid it of the surface Dark Magic, we should be able to close the flesh wound like any other,” said Hermione.

“I agree,” said Harry. “We could use the Elixir-blood mix as a salve, which – assuming it works at all – would rid the wound of the magic that stops us closing it now.”

“But, what about the side-effects of such a Dark curse?” asked Cassie.

“What side-effects?” asked Hermione.

“Well, take Neville for example,” said Cassie. She cocked a curious eye at Hermione.

Harry guffawed. “It’s fine, Cass, she knows all about that.”

“Oh. Of course she does,” Cassie grinned. “Well, when his…er…manhood was reattached, it didn’t work at all, did it? His body pretty much rejected it. He could just about urinate through it, but nothing else. No blood flow, no sensitivity, no nerve signals. We had to spell it…just so that it wouldn’t rot, remember?”

“I see what you mean,” said Harry. “My scar is ugly enough. Having half my dead flesh peeling off wouldn’t be much better.”

“Exactly,” said Cassie. “But also…we could regrow your other eye. If we could get this to work, you’d be back to normal. Though…that would be weird.”

Harry laughed at that. “It definitely would. I don’t know whatnormal is for me. Min? Any ideas?”

“You always were a little strange, honey,” Hermione grinned. “But having a full face would be a start. Is it odd that I’d miss your lop-sided smiles a bit, though?”

“Pretty odd, yeah,” said Harry. “But think how much better I could kiss you with my lips all intact!”

“You kiss me pretty well as it is,” said Hermione, fairly.

“You really do, Harry!” Cassie agreed. “If that was anything to go by.”

“And that was just a peck, really,” Hermione swooned.

“It’s a pity we haven’t got anyone to test the potion on first,” said Harry. “I’ve healed Neville and Angharad…do you think anyone fancies going out and losing a limb to Dark Magic in the name of research?”

Hermione suddenly became excitedly animated. “Harry, Harry…what about an elf as a test subject!”

“Sally! Of course,” said Harry. “Did we keep her arm?”

“Yeah, I think we did!” said Cassie. “We put it in stasis, just in case. But then we saw how Dark the magic was that severed it, and we just forgot about it. It should still be there.”

“How long till this part of the potion is done?” asked Harry.

“An hour, two at most,” Cassie replied.

“Good. When you have it ready, bring a sample up to the Recuperation Room. I’ll fetch Rhian and Sally and we’ll see if we cant give an elf a hand!”

Hermione shook her head and looked pityingly at her husband. “Harry…that was terrible, honey, even for you!”

* * *

Enola and Neville were messing around when Hermione entered the paddock in the garden. The unicorns were grazing merrily nearby, chasing and frolicking with Harry’s Bayard, Bavieca, who could move so fast she was pretty much a blur. Hermione watched in complete wonder at the display, delighting in the natural fun these animals were having.

Then she looked down. And frowned.

“Where the hell are they?” she asked to herself.

The little map in her hand responded. It glowed bright orange, highlighting the names Enola Longbottom and Neville Longbottom and the little dots that represented them. Hermione had been reduced to going to Myfanwy, who was chief of palace security, to try and find the elusive husband and wife, who Hermione had scoured the house for. According to the map, they were in the paddock, but all Hermione could see was a coal-black owl and a bottle-green dragonfly she was chasing.

Hermione huffed out a little giggle. Of course…

“Ennie! Nev! Can you come down, please? I need to talk to you.”

The owl fluttered down from the rafters, touching the ground as the most beautiful witch Hermione knew, and the dragonfly was close behind, her proud husband in human form. Hermione huffed again.

“You never told me you were an Animagus!” Hermione quirked at Enola.

“It never really came up,” said Enola, smoothing out her hair. “We don’t often play in our animal forms. It hurts Nev to change, see.”

“Fucking kills if you must know,” said Neville.

“Why do it then?” asked Hermione.

“Oh it’s worth it, when I become the dragonfly,” Neville explained. “It’s such a sense of freedom, to be able to fly. And there’s just something more…I don’t know…in tune with nature when you’re in your animal form. It’s worth the discomfort of the transformation.”

“Now, for proper Animagi, people who are good at it,” Enola teased. “Like me and Harry, for example, the transformation doesn’t hurt at all after the first couple of times. Nev’s just never quite gotten the hang of changing smoothly.”

You try squashing down to the size of a dragonfly!” Neville complained. “Let’s be honest, darling, you can’t weigh much less as an owl than you do as a witch!”

“There’s a compliment in there somewhere,” Enola grinned. “In any case, don’t use that as an excuse. You chose to be a dragonfly. It’s not my fault that you made it harder for yourself.”

“I like dragonflies,” Neville protested in half a whimper.

“So, let me get this right…you chose your animal forms?” asked Hermione.

“Oh yes,” said Enola, brightly. “Didn’t you know that was how it worked?”

“Honestly, no,” said Hermione. “I always assumed a witch or wizard was predisposed to become whatever animal was naturally attached to them. Actually, that sounds a bit silly saying it out loud. Why would anyone have a specific animal attached to them?”

“That’s a good bit of learning on the fly,” said Neville. “I think there are some animals that a wizard finds it easier to invoke, based on their own personality. Harry, for example, is obviously very much a lion, in so many ways. When he summoned the lion spirit, it came to him as if it was Harry’s right to call it. Not everyone is so fortunate, and a wizard can always pick an animal of his choice, but then he has to commit to a tougher process to invoke it.”

“Of course,” said Hermione, nodding in understanding. “Harry once told me that his father and Sirius became Animagi and picked large animals that could run and control Remus Lupin as a werewolf. How could I have forgotten that? The first time we saw Remus and Sirius in their animal forms was the first time Harry and I…”

Hermione stopped, blushing furiously.

“The first time you what?” asked Neville, suspiciously. “You never kissed in school, did you? You’d better not say you did. I lost ten Galleons to Dean Thomas over that.”

“Over what?” Hermione asked pointedly.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist!” Neville replied, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender. “But I had a bet with Dean that you and Harry would kiss or start going out at some point during our time at Hogwarts. We kept trying to catch you at it, but by seventh year, when it was clear you weren’t coming back, I had to concede and pay up. Of course, that cunt Alecto Carrow saw it, took Dean’s winnings and gave us ten magical lashes each for illegal gaming, which she made up on the spot as a new school rule, just to give her a reason to punish us.”

Enola winced and smoothed Neville’s arm consolingly.

“Whatever happened to her?” asked Hermione. “I never heard from them when I was around Ron and his Death Eater cronies.”

Neville smiled in fond remembrance. “It was one of the first missions Harry took me on after he came back from Germany. We kidnapped the Carrows, Harry tortured and killed the husband in a mock trial for his abuses against the kids of Hogwarts. I made Alecto watch, then I slit her throat. It was my first proper kill of the war, and it felt fucking good!”

“Okay. So…back to this bet!” Hermione pressed.

“What about it?” said Neville, unabashed. “Everyone thought you were together…or were going to get together…at some point. I thought it during Third Year. You just seemed so much closer. You spent more time together without Ron, and looked totally comfortable like that. Which was weird for boys and girls that age. And Harry talked about you a lot. I don’t know if he knew he was, but I could hardly have a conversation with him without your name coming up.

“It wasn’t anything romantic, but we’d be in class and he’d say things like – ‘Oh, Hermione wouldn’t brew the potion like thatshe’d do this instead, which is better,‘ or ‘Hermione says that bit of History of magic is wrong, because it’s mer-people sourced, and they can’t write anything down on account of their webbed hands…‘. Stuff like that. It was like you were always on his mind.

“So I made the bet with Dean. I was certain I was going to win after the Yule Ball. When I asked you to go, and you said you had a date but it was a secret, I was sure that Harry must be it. Because he didn’t have a date either. It made sense. That was going to be the big announcement, the night that you finally admitted to the school that you were a couple. I told Dean and he agreed. Even had the Galleons in his pocket waiting for you to walk into the hall together. Then it all went tits up.”

Hermione blushed. “Funnily enough, I was waitingfor Harry to ask me, but he didn’t. So Viktor Krum came along and I was so surprised I said yes without really thinking.”

“I bet it was a surprise,” said Neville darkly. “A seventeen year old asking out a girl he thought was fourteen. Fucking scummy perv, if you ask me.”

“Well, he did grab my arse a bit more than I was comfortable with when we were dancing,” Hermione recalled.

“For fuck’s sake don’t tell Harry that,” said Neville warningly. “He’ll wipe the country of Bulgaria off the map to find Krum, if he learns he took advantage of you in any sort of way. Especially like that.”

Hermione smiled fondly. Neville meant well, but to have such a destructive force to call to her defence was a little breathtaking, and more flattering than she could ever put words to.

“So, if you and Harry didn’t kiss that night you’re talking about,” Enola went on. “What did you do?”

“Oh, we didn’t do anything,” said Hermione. “More’s the pity. It was just the first time Harry opened up to me…about his desire for a family. We’d never been…well…that intimate before. I’ve always seen it as a watershed moment in our relationship.”

Enola smiled fondly. “And now you’re fulfilling that dream…with him. That’s just too cute, Min!”

“But, Hermione,” said Neville, as Hermione dealt with a birth of butterflies in her womb. “Have you never thought about becoming an Animagus yourself? You’re certainly powerful enough. And it’s a useful skill to have at your disposal.”

Hermione considered that a moment. The truth was she never had given it much thought. Ron would have frowned on it, drawing suspicion onto herself. And she’d always just tried to get through the day as quietly as possible when she was under his iron heel.

“No, I’ve never really thought about it,” she replied eventually. “What would I be, do you think?”

“A dire she-wolf?” asked Neville. “You’ve shown a vicious side to yourself, after all.”

“No, that doesn’t seem right to me,” said Enola, pacing around, sizing Hermione up. “I’m onside with the big cat theme…and you do have the aggressive streak of a wolf…but there’s something regal about you. Wolves are vicious, but largely feral. No…I think…and it would be quite fitting, too…if you chose to become a lioness.”

“To be Harry’s perfect mate!” cried Neville. “Oh yes! That’s definitely it. A lioness. Tick that box, hun.”

Hermione blushed and felt her heart begin to speed as the idea took root.

“Do you really think I could?” she breathed softly. “Become a…a lioness?”

“A witch of your power?” Enola exclaimed. “Absolutely.”

“What would I need?” asked Hermione. “To start, I mean.”

“Totems, things connecting you to nature, to Harry – as his mate – and the lioness spirit,” said Neville.

“Ooh Nev, Nev!” said Enola, excitedly. “Surely she could take a cutting of Harrys mane…in his lion form. That would give her a direct link to him and the lion spirit!”

“Yeah, yeah it would!” Neville replied. “Do you think Harry would let you do that?”

Hermione grinned. “My husband will do as he’s told.”

“Oh Min! This is going to be so exciting!” Enola squealed. “I’ll help you. I’ll show you the books you need, to learn the spells and meditation and things. It’s going to be so great. We should start tonight.”

“No, not tonight,” said Hermione, darkly. “I have something else I need to do tonight. That’s why I came to find you, actually.”

“Okay,” said Enola, cautiously. “What is it?”

“Well, this whole thing with healing Harry’s scar and things with Tom Riddle’s blood has got me thinking…maybe we can heal his other wounds the same way.”

“How so?”

“Harry has a lot of mental scars,” said Hermione. “But he’s not been able to heal them with any meditation or magic he’s tried so far. But there doesn’t seem much difference between his scars from Riddle, and some of his other ones. So, I was thinking, if we can get the blood of his mental torturers, maybe we can make a physical antidote for his mental wounds.”

Enola’s expression turned fiercely dark. “You’re thinking of his Muggle relatives, aren’t you? Take their blood, heal Harry, maybe break their link to Riddle’s Horcrux…if they are part of its defence?”

“Even if they are not,” said Hermione darkly. “They tortured my Harry as a child. I can’t abide them to be alive in the world with that guilt on their heads. They deserve to die. I intend to make that happen.”

“I’ll get my cloak,” said Enola firmly. “Nev…open the wards for us, will you darling? And, if Harry asks where we’ve gone, tell him we’ve popped out on family business.”

“Okay. But you’re taking Fan and Ann with you, no objections,” said Neville, fully steeled for the act ahead. “Harry will flay me if he finds out I let you leave without an armed escort. But Hermione…there is just one, little, slight snag in this scheme of yours.”

“Which is?”

“How do you intend to kill the Dursleys…if they are already dead?”

“Oh…yeah,” said Enola, her face dropping as she remembered. “They were murdered…years ago. I forgot that.”

“You see, I don’t think they were,” said Hermione shrewdly. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’m convinced Riddle would have used them as Horcrux Protectors. He couldn’t get to Harry at Privet Drive, and he would have been too lazy to find out the truth behind that. So, I acted on a hunch and had Celesca take a look for me. She’s good like that. But she was very confused. She said there are three people there…but not there.”

“What the hell does that mean?” asked Neville.

“I have two theories,” said Hermione. “The first one is that he did kill them, and that Celesca can sense their ghosts. In which case, I need Enola’s knowledge of ritual.”

“For what?”

“To perform a magical exorcism on Privet Drive,” said Hermione. “Send their cruel spirits into purgatory.”

“And if they aren’t ghosts?” asked Enola.

“They I think they aren’t dead at all, just trapped inside,” said Hermione. “Perhaps on some sort of plane of existence created by Tom Riddle’s magic.”

“You mean…like a giant fucking Horcrux!” Neville breathed.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” Hermione confirmed.

“What…the whole house?“Enola gasped.

“A whole world maybe, who knows,” Hermione speculated.. “We can only guess. The house had a magical protection when Harry lived there, made it invisible to Tom Riddle’s eyes. There would have been some residue of that left behind when the enchantment lifted. I think Riddle found a way to project a different image out onto the world, even going so far as to make the neighbours think a murder had happened there.”

“Just like when Muggles around Hogwarts see a cordoned off ruin and Keep Out signs instead of the school!” cried Neville.

“That’s where I got the idea from,” said Hermione. “Tom Riddle thought of Hogwarts as his home. It makes sense he would try to duplicate its protections.”

“Which is why he used Gryffindors Seal as his own Horcrux,” Enola nodded. “It protected the castle…so he thinks it will protect his soul.”

Hermione nodded. “Which it wont, because Riddle isn’t the true Heir of Gryffindor…and it will only answer to either one of them. Keep that sword of yours sharp, Nev. You may need to break open an ancient Seal with it soon.”

* * *

“What do you mean family business?”

Harry paused, the potion-salve vibrating in his hand. Angry confusion was seeping out of him and Arianwen, who was holding Sally the house-elf’s severed arm, watched him in fitful concern.

“That’s what they said,” Neville returned, baulking in the face of the rising tide of Harry rage.

“And you let them go?” Harry fumed. “Nev…we just killed one-hundred-and-twelve Death Eaters, including Antonin Dolohov and Ginny Weasley, and you’ve let our wives just walk out into the world on the back of that?!”

“They have Fan and Ann with them,” Neville offered weakly.

“Oh, for fucks sake!” Harry yelled. “I don’t believe you…I don’t fucking believe you!”

“Harry…this arm wont survive long out of magical stasis,” said Arianwen, quietly. “If we are going to do this, it has to be now.”

“Yes…yes you’re right,” said Harry, mastering his anger. He turned to Neville. “But as soon as we are done here, you and I are going straight after our girls. Honestly, Nev. Sometimes I think you’ve got rocks in your head.”

Neville huffed. “Have you tried telling Hermione no?”

Harry smirked. “Do I look like I have a death wish?”

“Well, imagine that with Enola in tandem,” said Neville. “That’s beyond even your strength of resistance, mate.”

Harry nodded and grinned as he conceded that. “Right, lets get this done. Cass – keep checking on Sally’s vitals, just in case.

“Is this dangerous, Master Harry?” asked Rhian, as Cassie began diagnostic spell casting on Sally, who had been put into magical sedation for the procedure.

Harry considered the question. “I don’t know, actually. I’ve never done this before.”

Rhian squeaked and pulled on her ears as the anxiety washed through her.

“It’ll be fine, Rhian,” Harry soothed. “The worst that will happen is that Sally’s arm wont work at all…which is no different than she is now. Cassie’s just keeping an eye on her, that’s all.”

“Rhian trusts you, Master Harry,” said the fraught little elf.

“So, Arianwen,” said Harry, turning to Enola’s mother. “I’m thinking to just apply this like a cream. Do you agree?”

“Yes, work it in nice and deep,” Arianwen replied, as Harry began to apply the salve. “Good. Don’t scrimp on it. Might as well use it all. Here…you take her arm…and I’ll begin the reattachment procedure.”

Harry did as he was told, following Arianwen’s instructions on positioning and adjustment until the arm was just right. Then the medi-witch began a series of delicate spells, reattaching bone and sinews and the arterial pathways. It was slow work, taking over an hour to completely link everything back together. By the end of it, Harry’s own arms felt like they were about to fall off from holding Sally’s in position for so long.

“There…I think that should do it,” said Arianwen, stepping back.

“How will we know if it’s worked?” asked Harry.

“I’ve rejoined everything,” said Arianwen. “But the veins are still closed at the connection points. If I open them up, blood should flow in and the arm will come back to life. If this has worked.”

“Do it,” Harry ordered.

Enola’s mother nodded, then swept her wand over Sally’s shoulder. Rhian looked on cautiously, Cassie cast her own wand over the arm…then grinned up at Harry.

“Blood flow, Harry…we have blood flow!” she sang.

“Wake Sally up…we have to know for sure,” said Harry.

Cassie cast the spell, Sally stirred sleepily and looked around.

“Did it work, Master Harry?” she asked groggily. “Does Sally have two hands again?”

“You tell me,” said Harry, ticking Sally’s flat hand and grinning as her fingers curled up at his touch.

“Ooh, Master Harry! Yous fixed me! Yous fixed me!” Sally cried, tears swelling in her bulbous eyes.

“Then gives yous Mummy elf a hug…with two arms!” said Rhian, drawing Sally into an embrace.

“Well done, ladies,” Harry smiled at Cassie and Arianwen.

Just then there was a whoosh of Apparition, and Luna materialised with a very fraught-looking Celesca in tow.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, Harry, but this couldn’t wait,” said Luna seriously.

“What is -“

“Master Harry you have to go…go right now,” said Celesca urgently.

“Go? Go where?” said Harry, who was up on his feet in preparation.

“Your old house, the one you grew up in,” said Celesca.

Harry started in surprise. Of all the locations he might have expected, that was way down on the list.

“Privet Drive? But wh -“

“Ladies Hermione and Enola are there,” said Celesca frantically. “They’ve gone to sort out your nasty relatives. But they aren’t alone. The lady with the wild hair – snake-man’s favourite – she’s gone there, too…and the dead man with the long beard and hair. And they’re going to kill them if you don’t hurry!”

Harry’s throat dropped into his stomach. Neville looked enraged.

“Bellatrix Lestrange,” he hissed. “She’s mine.”

“And Dumbledore,” Harry completed. “Let’s go.”

Harry cast a Summoning spell and Excalibur flew to his hand as he raced down the main staircase, Neville hot on his heels.

* * *

The big square houses of Privet Drive had barely changed in the six years since Harry Potter had been whisked away, in seven different forms, with Tom Riddle and his Death Eaters in hot pursuit. The destroyed ruin of Number Four looked exactly as Hermione remembered it from three years ago, the last time she was here. There was a crumbling wall on one side, exposing all the rooms, shattered windows, fire damage…the building was nothing more than a derelict shell.

Oh how looks could be deceiving.

Up close, Hermione could feel the fallacy now. The place was thick with magic. It sat heavy on the air and Hermione shuddered as its Dark signature passed over her. She walked up the path, stopped a moment at the front step, where her husband had been left as a baby by Dumbledore, and she frowned at how fucking stupid that was. Childcare 101, that.

And the dumb old coot had been allowed to run a school! Honestly, the magical world had some serious design flaws.

“This place has known some proper magic,” Enola whispered as she followed Hermione across the threshold. “Serious magic…and Dark as fuck.”

“You feel that, too?” asked Hermione. Enola nodded. “We should be careful.”

“We’ll guard the gardens,” said Angharad. “Fan, you take the front, I’ll head round the back.”

They parted with a kiss for luck, and spilt up. Hermione moved into the house, wand in hand and crackling with her magic, as Enola trod along in her wake, her own whitewood wand glowing in the gathering dusk. Hermione shivered as the magic of the house entered into a silent battle with her own, Dark against Light. She could feel it heave and surge against each other, causing a slight breeze to swirl around her body.

“What do you think happened here?” Enola whispered, picking her way through an inch of dust and debris. “I don’t sense death, but that Dark magic is sticking in the back of my throat and making me heave.”

“Me, too,” Hermione replied. “I can only imagine this is the lingering residue of Horcrux creation. There isn’t much magic that is much worse than that.”

They searched the house. The kitchen was ruined, the living room a complete wreck…and then.

“Oh, no…” Hermione moaned, leaning down in the hallway…and pulling open the door to the cupboard under the stairs.

“Oh…fuck me, Min!” Enola gasped. “Look how small it is in there!”

“They kept him in cramped in here…” Hermione spat out, hot tears building behind her eyes. “For a fucking decade! Oh…Harry…”

“How can human beings be so cruel…to a child…a blood relative child!” Enola breathed.

Hermione felt a surge of anger sweep through her, driven by her powerful love for Harry. It was vitriolic, potent, it drove back the Dark Magic trying to swarm her.

“Stand back, Ennie.”

Enola did as ordered, and Hermione fired seven blasting curses into the space under the stairs, decimating it. She had hoped it would be a cathartic experience, but it didn’t erase the echo of Harry’s suffering in that tiny, cramped alcove of this hated house. The very air itself would be forever tainted by it, stained with Harry’s misery, sodden with the silent tears he dared not show to his tormentors.

“If they aren’t dead, I’m going to cut out their still-beating hearts,” Hermione promised darkly, as she massaged her own, to offset the throbbing ache that was assaulting her there.

“Min, I don’t think there’s any point searching,” said Enola. “However Harry’s relatives are held here, it isn’t on our plane of existence. We have to find a way to get into the Horcrux energy field.”

Hermione nodded in agreement. “The question is…how?

“If we assume this house is a Horcrux, then how do we get in? How did you get into the others?”

“They were all activated by using the object,” said Hermione. “Dumbledore wore a ring, Harry wrote in a diary, that sort of thing.”

“But this is a house,” said Enola. “We can’t exactly live in it, can we?”

“No…but we can enter through the front door,” said Hermione. “And…as I’m a Potter…I think my blood will act as the key.”

Right…and why would Riddle have put that condition in?”

“I think it would be to trap Harry…or…”

“Or?” asked Enola.

“To trigger an alarm…or a defensive response,” said Hermione bluntly.

Enola swallowed hard, taking a deep breath. “Should we get help before doing this?”

Hermione cocked an eyebrow at her. “Harry once told me you were a Hit Witch of the highest power grade. You aren’t afraid of a few Death Eaters, are you?”

Enola grinned wickedly. Power swept through her wand with a buzz of magic. “Are you going to unleash me, my Lady? You know I’ve been bound and gagged by the Order.”

“I do,” Hermione smiled back. “But, as I now officially head the Order of Merlin…I think I’ll untie your shackles for tonight.”

Enola breathed deeply, as her power was released. It surged off her pulsing waves. Hermione fully appreciated just why she’d been restrained so. Her magical level was astounding.

“Oh, fuck me that feels good,” Enola breathed. “I’ve missed that. Let’s do this.”

Hermione led the way back to the front step, cast a little cutting charm onto her finger, then pressed it to the keyhole. The effect was instant. The door swung open with an eerie creak, revealing a very different scene to the one Hermione and Enola had just seen.

The house was bright, sunny as if in the throes of a July day. It was neat, ordered, clean to the point of being surgically sterile. Hermione led the way inside, drawn as if by instinct to the cupboard under the stairs. There was a delicate little knock coming from it. Hermione lent down, as a broken little voice spoke through the grate.

“Hello…hello? Is there someone there? Please…I’m so hungry…just a little bread…maybe some cheese…or a little water?…I’m so very thirsty…help me, please…”

Hermione buckled at the sound of child-Harry’s broken, starved voice. His pathetic, nervous little knock for help. She couldn’t think for her crying, her abject grief. If Enola hadn’t prompted her to move, she might have been paralysed there.

“I know what this is,” said Enola, sadly. “It’s pretty much the same as that place in Harry’s mind. It’s designed not just to trap his relatives…but to trap him… cripple him with the weight of the memory…as you are now. I think you’re channelling that part of Harry you carry around now…reacting as if you were him.”

“But how would Riddle know that Harry would react like this?” Hermione sobbed. “Oh, Ennie…my heart…it hurts!”

“I know, I can see,” said Enola, in deepest concern. “Riddle must have interrogated Harry’s relatives, found out the truth, then set this up as a trap, in case Harry came to the same conclusion as you did and came for revenge. Come on. We have to find the Dursleys. Kill them, destroy this place. Up you get, Mrs Potter.”

Hermione stirred at the use of her married name. She allowed Enola to haul her up, and they began moving through Harry’s own personal House of Horrors. Here he was in the kitchen, having his hand held over the flame of the cooker, now in the garden being back-handed so firmly that he was sent toppling over the wooden bench. Then he was ladelling peas to an important client of his Uncle’s drill firm, while his own stomach churned and clenched with his hunger.

As each scene faded, Hermione’s knees threatened to fail her again. Her tears were ones of furious anger now, and she shuddered to think what she would find anew as they made their way upstairs…and when she found it, she howled aloud. For there was Harry, aged fifteen maybe, tenderly smoothing a moving picture in his large photo album.

A picture of her.

“Why wont she write me, Hedwig?” Harry was asking, his voice pained and aching with loneliness. “Of any of them, I didn’t think she’d abandon me.”

“Oh, Harry! I’m here…I’m right here!”

And Hermione reached for him…and as soon as she touched him, he transformed…into an Inferi. Hermione shrieked out in surprise as the reanimated corpse flew at her…sharp fangs bared and ready to strike…

And Enola Longbottom reacted with all the fury that had made her banned from combat work for over three years.

Her wand slashed and cut through the air at incredible speed. Arms, legs, tongue…all flew out in different directions. Black blood splattered the walls. Hermione found the presence of mind to conjure a Shield Charm, but Enola’s ferocious burst pushed hard against it, forcing Hermione back into a wall. Enola screeched like a banshee, wild and feral, continuing to cut, until finally she cast an incendiary charm and set the pieces of the Inferi to furious flame.

Then she twirled her wand like a sharp-shooter from the Wild West, blowing at imaginary gun smoke from its tip.

“Fuck me that felt good! I’d forgotten how much!” Enola crowed. “Let’s do some more!”

Hermione laughed at her and threw an arm around her shoulders. “Come on, Ennie the Kid! You can do two of the three Dursleys, if we ever find them!”

“Oh, goodie,” Enola sang. “Poor Harry, though. Did you know he pined for you like that?”

“No, I didn’t,” Hermione huffed. “He has a lot of explaining to do later. But, I suppose I owe him an apologetic kiss or two, for not telling the Order of the Phoenix to kiss my arse, back when that all happened.”

“I’m sure Harry will kiss it for you!” Enola laughed, quirking an eyebrow at her. “What? Did they stop you from contacting him or something?”

“Yeah, for all of that Summer,” Hermione confirmed.

“And you just agreed to that?” asked Enola, astonished. “You agreed to stay away from Harry? For an entire Summer?”

“Don’t remind me,” Hermione frowned, before adding thoughtfully, “Maybe I owe him three kisses, then.”

Enola laughed. “Merlin knows what you must have been like when you saw him again!”

“I think I tried to break his ribs and squeeze the life out of him,” said Hermione, remembering. “It was some hug. He had been attacked by Dementors and threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts during that holiday. I thought a bit of a cuddle might be just the tonic. But it was as much for me as it was for him.”

“Why? Did you just want to rub your tits against him or what!” Enola hooted.

“Well, there was that,” said Hermione, flushing furiously. “I’d had a bit of a growth spurt that Summer. But, no, I’d kissed him at the end of our last school year, the last time I’d seen him.”

What! I thought you told Nev you didn’t?”

“It was only a kiss on the cheek, I don’t think it counts,” said Hermione.

Enola looked at her curiously. “Was it a peck…or a kiss?”

“Oh, no, it wasn’t a peck,” said Hermione, blushing into her hair now. “I lingered on purpose, kept my lips to his cheek just a second more than a friend should have. I dwelt on it all Summer, too…wondering what Harry thought about it. But he didn’t bring it up when we met again. Though, in defence of his cluelessness, he had just seen one of our classmates killed and Riddle reborn into his body. He was distracted.”

Enola laughed. “That’ll do it for you. Poor Harry. Despite everything, all his power and skill and things, he’s still such a boy, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, but he’s my boy,” said Hermione. Then she smiled. “And there’s value in that!”

Enola hooted out a laugh. “Yeah, there is. You’ll have to tell me about Harry in school one day. I bet he was a Prefect and things, wasn’t he?”

Hermione frowned. “He should have been. With me. Dumbledore took it off him, gave the position to Ron. Ooh, Harry and I would so have gotten together with all that extra alone time. Dumbledore has a lot to answer for.”

“Yeah, and leaving Harry to suffer at the hands of these twats is right at the top of the list,” Enola hissed angrily. “Come on, last room.”

And she kicked open the door. There, in a sort of suspended animation, were the three Dursleys. They were lying in three beds, like coma patients waiting to come around.

Well, that was never going to happen. Not now Hermione Potter had found them.

“I call dibs on the fat boy and the Aunt,” said Enola.

“Okay, but I get to do the Uncle first,” said Hermione.

“Deal, as long as you use this,” said Enola. In one movement she summoned a hairbrush from a vanity table nearby, transfiguring it into a serrated-blade knife before it reached her outstretched hand. “I want to see the last beats of his black heart as he dies.”

Enola handed the knife to Hermione, who strode to Vernon Dursley, and ripped open his starch-stiffened shirt. She pulsed with anger, with hatred, as she looked at the beetroot red, plump face; at the mouth that had formed so many cutting insults at her love; at the hands that had balled to fists to punch her husband-as-child. Hermione spat on him twice, watching her spittle dribble down the bridge of his nose.

Then, without a second of remorse, Hermione drove the knife in deep and hard into his sternum, cut a jagged circle, then reached into the chest cavity and ripped out the warm, beating organ that she found there.

Vernon’s body, held asleep by magic, didn’t wake. But it jerked and twitched, and blood flowed freely and formed an astonishing pool around his rotund frame. Hermione looked at the bloody heart in her hand, watched its last beats with curious and callous disinterest. Then she squeezed on impulse, till her fingers pierced the hated flesh. She clenched until the heart was squashed, feeling the life leave it with every ooze of blood down her knuckles.

And in a moment, Vernon Dursley was no more. Hermione scooped his blood into a vial she conjured, ready to brew Harry another cure, then turned to watch the deaths of the other two.

Then Enola began her dark artistry. She started with Dudley, slicing him from scrotum to chin, and armpit to armpit, before folding open his skin and ripping his internal organs out in sequence, humming to herself as she did so. She took cuttings of his heart, his spleen, his intestines, and offered them to Hermione, who stored them in a little box, along with Vernon’s blood. 

Then she moved to Petunia, scorching her skin from head to toe with a Burning Hex, a hex so hot her flesh bubbled and melted as it fell from her bones. Enola scooped it up like wax, and formed it as a candle – to burn in ritual later. It was a fitting vengeance for all the times Petunia had burned Harry, scolded him with boiling water, taken her clothes iron to his forearms…

Then Enola slit her horse-necked throat, just for all the hatred she’d spewed about her sister, Lily Potter, and about Harry, too.

As Petunia died, and the curse Tom Riddle had cast was broken, the scene around them dissolved, leaving Hermione and Enola in the front garden of the ruined house again. They looked up in surprise, for Angharad and Myfanwy were standing side-by-side, expressions fixed and fierce, wands throbbing with magic, ready, poised, on the verge of attack.

And then Hermione saw why.

“Ah…Mrs Potter…we were starting to think you’d never get here!”

***

Hermione’s breath caught in lungs, her heart speeding in her neck. She looked out at a horror scene – an arc of Death Eaters, maybe thirty or forty of them, all masked and black-robed, all holding flaming torches like a lynch mob. And at the centre of it…the manic figure of Bellatrix Lestrange, her wand drawn and sparkling with furious power. And next to her…the imposing figure of zombie Dumbledore.

Hermione felt her bowels empty at the sight. She closed her eyes at the shame, as the stench of her fear hit her nostrils. Enola turned to her, facing off sternly against her humiliated expression.

“No fear, Mrs Potter,” said Enola, firmly, cleaning Hermione with a flick of her wand. Hermione smiled her thanks.

“You were foolish to come here tonight, ladies,” Bellatrix taunted. “We have been waiting for you.”

“No mercy, girls,” Enola whispered, the thirst for battle as manic as that of Bellatrix. Her wand was vibrating with magic, eager to lash out. It was building like a dynamo. “Keep tally of how many you take out. None of you will outscore me…but that cunt at the centre is mine…I owe her for what she did to my Nev’s parents.”

“No, she’s mine…”

There was a whirlwind of Apparition around the space. For a dozen, maybe twenty new arrivals had appeared and ranged alongside them. There was Oliver Wood, Eloise Midgeon, Jenny and Sally-Anne Perks, Frank and Alice Longbottom, all of Harry’s inner circle, Daphne Greengrass was somewhere among the number…and the witch at the head of the party, the one who had spoken, made Bellatrix step back in abject horror as she spoke again.

“No, Enola, my sister belongs to my wand!”

Narcissa Malfoy strode into the No-man’s Land between the two forces, as if she hadn’t a care in the world.

“Cissa…what are you doing!” Bellatrix breathed.

“What I should have done years ago, Bella,” Narcissa returned. “Showing my true colours. And those colours are not all black.”

Then, without preamble, she flicked a spell at Bellatrix so fast and powerful, it slashed across her face, leaving a gash very much like Harry’s. Bellatrix’s scream might have been heard by Harry himself, back in Wales.

And the fight began.

Enola darted forwards firing off spells as fast as Hermione had ever seen Harry do. Her wand was, essentially, a mirage. She blew two Death Eaters into pieces as she raced into the melee, heading right for Bellatrix, who had recovered now and was duelling fiercely with Narcissa. Hermione saw Fan and Ann race head on into the carnage, roaring like wolves as they took the fight to the enemy.

For a moment, Hermione was held fast, not sure where to go. There were screams and shouts, bangs and blasts, as spells criss-crossed in each in every colour, and in every direction. Then Hermione chose her target. Oliver Wood was hit by a spell and doubled up, and Patrick O’Brien darted forwards into the breach, but he was smashed aside too, by the force of the spell. Hermione looked ahead and saw the reason…both were trying to fight Dumbledore…and that wasn’t for them.

This was a Potter fight.

Hermione sped forwards, pushing David Pincott out of the path of a jet of green that Dumbledore had sent his way. Then she sent a slicing curse, a blasting hex and a jack-hammer jinx at Dumbledore. They hit him in quick succession and he was rocked backwards by their force. He returned fire, but Hermione conjured her trusty shield and the spell rebounded, giving her time to spin and send another volley at him.

Dumbledore was hit again, but absorbed the blow, returning a jet of orange magic like a spear. Hermione threw up a Shield Charm, which took the impact but knocked her to the ground, where she lay winded a moment. Dumbledore threw a blast of chain fire at her, and Hermione only just rolled away in time. She bumped into Frank Longbottom, who was knocked out and sporting a large bump on his head. Hermione looked over his body at Enola, who was now duelling Bellatrix alone, as Narcissa was throwing up nearby after taking a curse to her abdomen.

And then…

Enola was shunted by a stray Death Eater, who was being furiously pummelled by spell after spell from Luna Lovegood, who had joined the fray from who knows where. But it distracted Enola, who was hit square in the head by a curse from Bellatrix. She tumbled to the ground, losing her wand as she did so. Bella moved forward for the kill…

“You and your spawn should be happy in the next life,” Bellatrix taunted. She raised her wand…

Hermione watched, frozen…she couldn’t move…

She tried to scream…no sound came out…she could see Bellatrix’s mouth form the word Avada –

And Dumbledore was aiming a spell at Hermione…though she couldn’t see that…couldn’t know she was seconds from death…all she could see was Enola…and her life about to be taken…

Then there were two flashes of Apparition light…a wave of ridiculously potent energy that flooded the place….Hermione felt herself cocooned in a Shield Charm of such force that Dumbledore’s power spell didn’t even dent it…and Neville Longbottom was suddenly standing between Bellatrix and Enola…The Sword of Gryffindor gleaming in his hand…

“Not my wife…not my child…you cunting bitch!”

scchhiinng cut through the air as Neville swung his blade with vicious intent…and Bellatrix Lestrange’s head soared through the night sky as she was decapitated in one blow.

Hermione felt her heart swoop at the sight and she watched as Neville bent down, scooped Enola up into his arms, nodded to a point oddly above Hermione, then vanished in another flash of Apparition. Hermione looked up…and lost her breath entirely.

For there was Harry, standing between her and Dumbledore, his wand in hand, thrumming with such incredible potency Hermione felt it pounding inside her body. The rage, the anger, the feral power sweeping off him had made the surviving Death Eaters turn and Apparate away. They wanted no part of Harry Potter defending his wife.

Dumbledore flicked a spell, Harry deflected it easily, angrily, as though insulted.

“Come on, Tom,” he roared in his fury. “You’re better than that.”

Dumbledore cast again, Harry deflected. His anger was immense. His imperative need to protect Hermione a thousand times moreso. It pinned Hermione to the floor, secure beneath that shimmering shield. Dumbledore began to move more quickly, and Harry darted left and right, dodging spells as they flew at him. Hermione saw Narcissa moving around, reviving the wounded, as Harry duelled with Dumbledore at a ferocious speed in the background. Luckily, they didn’t seem to have any dead.

Hermione yelped just then, as Harry was hit with a spell, and it rocked him backwards. But he just laughed at it.

“That’s more like it, Tom,” Harry taunted. “Again.”

Hermione had the oddest sense. It was as if Harry was talking to the Horcrux, not Dumbledore. It sort of made sense. Dumbledore was dead, a reanimated automaton. Tom Riddle’s soul fragment was around his neck. But why was he taunting it?

“Hermione, are you all right?”

Narcissa had finally reached Hermione, and was looming over her in concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Hermione. “But I need to help Harry.”

She looked up as Harry hit Dumbledore with a series of spells so powerful they sent him spinning away like a top. But even in his anger, Harry was tiring faster.

“He’s winning…but he can’t keep this up long enough,” said Hermione. “It’s taking all he’s got to bring Dumbledore to his level…we need to weaken him.”

“There may be a way, if Harry can get close enough,” said Narcissa.

“What is it? Quickly now,” Hermione implored.

“Dumbledore’s power is immense, he and Harry are both more powerful than Riddle, but evenly matched against each other,” said Narcissa. “What you need…is a Dumbledore’s help.”

Hermione cocked at eyebrow at Narcissa. “But they killed Aberforth, a week after the Second war ended.”

“Yes, but you need to use Albus’s weakness…his own Achilles Heel,” said Narcissa. “You need Ariana’s help.”

“His sister?” Hermione breathed, as she watched Harry Apparate away from an Avada Kedavra behind them. “How can she help?”

“If you can get to Godric’s Hollow, get to her tomb, summon her…you did it with Lily Potter,” said Narcissa.

“But that was in Harry’s Ritual Room. How can I -“

“You are the Head of the Order of Merlin!” Narcissa cried. “Any place is a ritual space for you. All you need is your wand, your magic, and the ability to draw a circle! And you are a White Queen! If you summon a spirit at its resting place, it will answer your call.”

“And what makes you think Ariana will help us?” asked Hermione.

“Tom Riddle is abusing her brother’s body,” said Narcissa. “To free him from that should be reason enough.”

Hermione leapt up, an intent in mind. She turned to Narcissa. “Get everyone back to the palace. As Lady of the Manor, I grant you permission to take our friends across the wards.”

“I’ll get everyone home safe,” said Narcissa. “Can I call on your elves?”

“They are at your service,” said Hermione. “I have to go.”

And Hermione darted off. Harry and Dumbledore were exchanging rapid fire, with neither scoring a serious advantage. Harry saw her coming, realised she needed to speak to him, and pushed a bit more power into his latest spell. It pushed Dumbledore to the ground, but the effort cost Harry his legs, too, and he fell to a knee.

“You’re doing all right, hun, to be honest!” Hermione teased as she reached him.

“”Thanks,” Harry quirked. “Better than last time, eh?”

“Definitely, but still not enough,” said Hermione.

“I’m open to suggestions,” said Harry. “Watch out!”

He grabbed her and rolled away, as Dumbledore rose up and fired a jet of greyish light at them. Harry pinned Hermione down, and fired another spell at Dumbledore in return.

Hermione looked up from under Harry. “You know I find you distractingly sexy, but maybe now isn’t the time?”

Harry grinned at her. “You were about to give me a brilliant suggestion to turn the tide of this fight. I’m starting to tire.”

“I know, but have you got a burst left in you?”

“For what?” asked Harry, rolling Hermione again as Dumbledore renewed his assault. When they stopped, she was on top now. She grinned down at him. Harry was liking this a bit more than he should….that much was obvious. Enola was right…he was such a boy.

“We need to get Dumbledore to Godric’s Hollow,” said Hermione. “Can you get close and manage it?”

“Godric’s Hollow?” Harry quirked. “Why?”

“I’m going to summon Ariana Dumbledore, see if she’ll help us,” said Hermione.

Harry looked up at her with awestruck reverence. “Now that is what I call lateral thinking! I’ll get Dumbledore there. Meet you in the graveyard.”

And Harry jumped up, pushing Hermione clear of another jet from Dumbledore. He dived in for a quick kiss, span into Apparition, reappearing at Dumbledore’s side, then grabbed him and vanished from the battlefield.

Hermione wasted no time. She turned into her own Apparition, arriving at the kissing gate to the cemetery. A second later and she was through, bolting inside and racing through the gravestones, towards the place she remembered the Dumbledore’s plot to have been. When she found it, Harry was already there.

But he was alone.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Harry read from the headstone. “Apart from being grammatically retarded, any idea what that means? I never really thought about it.”

“I suppose it comes down to how you define treasure,” said Hermione, sitting down next to Harry. “You know how allegorical Dumbledore was. Treasure probably means love to him. So it’s probably, ‘where your love is, that’s where your heart is’. To which I say – no shit, Sherlock. As we all love with our hearts.”

“He could have told me that,” said Harry. “That might have been useful. And then just tagged on, ‘oh, and Hermione means treasure in old…I don’t know…Norse goat,’ or something. And then maybe I’d have made the link and asked you out sooner.”

“No, honey, you wouldn’t have,” Hermione teased. “But…where is Dumbledore?”

“He gave me the slip mid-Apparition,” said Harry. “Can’t say I’m too upset by that. I need to recover for five minutes. Seriously, it’s no wonder old Tom was frightened of Dumbledore. His magic fucking hurts.”

“Are you okay?” Hermione asked, her eyes full of concern.

“Yeah, but I’ll have a few bruises in the morning, so be gentle with me,” said Harry. “That was tough going.”

“Well, think of it like this, hun, you were winning against Dumbledore and Riddle back there,” Hermione pointed out. “You were kicking ass. I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, love,” Harry grinned. “Do you know how to summon Ariana?”

“Yeah, I think so,” said Hermione. “Narcissa said I just need to draw a circle and push my power into it.”

“That’s right,” said Harry. “But you have to start at True North and work anti-clockwise. You’re summoning a dead person…it has to be backwards like that.”

“How do I know where True North is?” Hermione asked, wringing her hands. “I don’t have a compass.”

Harry stared at her incredulously. “That is a pity. It’s a shame, you know, that I don’t have my Time-Turner with me. You see, a few years back, some psychopath that didn’t like me very much – there have been a few in my life – decided to enter me for this ludicrously perilous little competition. Maybe you read about it. But the third part of it involved me going through a maze. And, back then, this very clever and very sexy young witch – now don’t go getting jealous about this – taught me something called the Four-point spell, to give me directions. If only she was here now…she’d know what to do…”

Hermione stood with her hands on her hips, waiting for Harry to finish his story. The stare she gave him would have incinerated most wizards.

“Are you finished?” she asked crossly.

“Yeah, I think I covered everything,” Harry replied with a self-satisfied smirk.

“Couldn’t have just said ‘four-point spell’? Rather than being a fucking knob about the whole thing?”

“I like my way better,” Harry grinned. “I haven’t got a compass…honestly! Are you a witch or aren’t you?”

“I’ll show you how much of a witch I am, when I bubble, bubble, toil and trouble your bollocks!” Hermione spat at him.

“That was below the belt,” Harry complained.

“Well, kinda had to be, bubs,” said Hermione. “I know you’re a dickhead, but I don’t expect your bollocks to be up there, too. They’d hang right down in front of your eyes!”

“Eye,” Harry pointed out.

“Oh…yeah,” said Hermione, sheepishly. “Sorry.”

“And that’s a win, folks!” Harry crowed, throwing his hands up in victory. “Go Team Harry! Merlin, that was too easy!”

“Fuck you, Harry,” said Hermione, fighting her own grin as she began to draw the circle.

She traced out the circumference carefully with her wand, anti-clockwise as Harry had instructed. When the two ends connected, Hermione pushed a little of her magic into it, as she’d learned to do in ritual with Harry. The circle glowed brilliant white a moment and she looked over at Harry, who inclined his head to her, a salute of a job well done

Hermione stood at the heart of her circle and called out, in a clear voice, “Ariana Dumbledore! I, Hermione Jane Potter, Head Acolyte of the Order of Merlin, summon you to my presence!”

“I am so fucking hot for you right now,” Harry swooned from his place watching nearby.

“Really?” Hermione grinned, failing at trying to admonish him. “In a cemetery?

“Merlin, honey, if we found an open tomb nearby I’d fuck you on top of the sarcophagus while all the ghosts were watching!”

“Wow…just…yeah. Okay.”

There was a stirring of energy nearby, disturbing Harry and Hermione’s moment. A bright light burst from behind the headstone, blinding them a second, and when it dimmed a girl of around fourteen was standing before them. She had ice blonde hair and a kind expression.

“Ariana Dumbledore?” asked Hermione slowly.

“Hermione Potter,” said Ariana, with a little curtsey. “What can I do for the Head of the Order of Merlin?”

“We need your help,” said Hermione. “My husband is trying to defeat Tom Riddle, the worst, most Dark of all sorcerers. Riddle had reanimated your brother to fight in his service, and to protect the last piece of his split soul. But they are too equally matched, Harry and Albus. I…we…were hoping you might help us…to free your brother from his forced bondage…which would allow Harry to defeat him in battle.”

Ariana stepped forwards. “I know of your struggle. You are both so brave. And a Red King and White Queen…I have never seen the like. How can I help?”

“Albus is being powered by external sources,” said Hermione. “It’s making it nearly impossible for Harry to fight him on a level playing field. And he isn’t really fighting him…merely a perversion of him that Tom Riddle has corrupted into his service.”

“Harry Potter is angry at Albus, I know this,” said Ariana. “Very angry.”

“But he also loves him…maybe against his own will, but he does,” Hermione replied.

“I know this, too,” said Ariana, smiling fondly.

“Can you help us?” asked Hermione. “Will you?”

“I can,” said Ariana. “I can use the Dumbledore family magic to block the external influences on him, giving your husband the chance to destroy his body for good.”

“But?”

“But in order to summon him here, you will need to desecrate my grave,” said Ariana. “Albus will come to my aid in that circumstance.”

“I will remove your effigies, and those of your mother,” said Harry, entering the circle. “And rebury them at my estate. My family home lies on the magical energy well of Cymru…you will be blessed by the Spirit of the Earth, herself, to be interred there.”

Ariana looked at him shrewdly. “I accept your terms. Remove our totems, and I will help you.”

“Rhian!” Harry called out. His Head Elf popped to his side.

“Yes, Master Harry?”

“Under the ground there are two coffins,” said Harry. “Please take them home and arrange for a royal burial for them, with full honours.”

“Yes, Master Harry,” said Rhian. She closed her eyes, pulled her powerful elf magic to her task, and for five minutes the others just watched her. Then she took a deep breath. “The remains be safe at home, Master Harry.”

“Thank you, Rhian,” said Harry. “Please return home and arrange the burial. Take care of it personally.”

Rhian nodded once, then popped away.

“Thank you, Lord Potter,” said Ariana. “Now…disintegrate my headstone…and Albus will come.”

“What shall I do?” asked Hermione.

Ariana looked at her curiously. “Do you trust me?”

“No,” said Hermione bluntly. “But I’m open to changing that.”

Ariana smiled at her. “I can see why Merlin likes you.”

“What do you want from me?” asked Hermione, colouring slightly.

“This will work well as it it,” said Ariana. “But, if I have access to a body and a wand, I could bring Albus to heel with relative ease.”

Harry looked sternly at Hermione. “I don’t like that idea.”

“Ariana…how?” asked Hermione.

“Albus will not strike me, in any form,” said Ariana. “He will see me and…remember. I can subdue him, and this evil force can be lifted from his neck.”

“The Horcrux,” Harry breathed to Hermione. “It’s a risk…”

“Do it…use my body,” said Hermione. She exchanged a look with Harry. “Just finish this, Harry.”

“I will,” he swore.

And Ariana stepped forward into Hermione’s body, robbing her of any sense of cogency. Harry aimed his wand at the tombstone, and blew it to a hundred pieces with one spell. Then he dived behind another to wait.

He wasn’t waiting long.

There was a swirl of Apparition and Dumbledore was there, his wand pounding with furious magic. It was so intense Harry felt a prickle of fear pass over his skin. Dumbledore looked around, seeking the source of this attack. Then he just stopped.

“Hello, Albus.”

Hermione spoke, in Ariana’s voice. It was very odd for Harry to watch.

“You’ve been a bad brother again,” said Ariana. Dumbledore just cocked his head, like a mongrel trying to understand the inflections of a stranger. “You have to kneel now.”

Ariana flicked a spell. It was so forceful Harry felt his hair stand on end as the shockwave passed over him. Dumbledore was on his knees, powerless against his sister’s form.

“You have to do as you’re told now,” Ariana went on. “And give me your wand.”

She flicked an Expelliarmus at him and Albus was disarmed. Ariana moved to Albus and eased his head up to her.

“Harry Potter is going to destroy this body now,” said Ariana gently. “And you are going to let him. And then your soul tether, trapped to this world by Tom Riddle, will be released. I will see you soon, dear brother.”

Ariana-as Hermione turned her head, nodded at Harry and moved away.

And Harry struck.

He fired everything he had at Dumbledore. All his anger, his rage, all his pumping love and fierce protection of Hermione, hit Dumbledore like a thousand arrows. His body was ripped to pieces. Limbs fell, rotting skin was torn from ancient bones. And Hermione cast, too, burning to ashes each piece that Harry blasted away, until Dumbledore’s entire earthly remains were ablaze.

And Harry fell at the pyre and howled loud as tears came hard, feeling like his heart was being pulled from his chest.

That face, those eyes, once so kind, yet so misguided, melted before him. And he loved and hated the man he’d been in equal measure. For all the wrong he’d done, for all the stab at good. Harry knelt and wept and cursed and screamed to someone to tell him what he should be feeling. And suddenly, there were arms around his shoulders. Loving arms, pulling him close. Arms of the woman who loved him more than the entire world could in conjunction. He turned into her powerful embrace…and just let her care for him.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she whispered softly, her fingers threading through his sweaty hair. “It’s all over…all over now.”

And the fire burned, until there was nothing more than white, foliated ash. And at the heart of it…a golden medallion, the lion of Gryffindor in striking pose.

They had recovered Tom Riddle’s lost Horcrux. 

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