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His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 1]

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Seek Them Here, Seek Them There

‘Let us slip away now, Minerva,’ Andromeda said as she inclined her head to the Headmistress.

McGonagall scanned the hall and satisfied herself that the few Ravenclaws who remained at Hogwarts were busy with their soup. She nodded her agreement and stood, noticing Hermione had stood too.

The three made their way up the empty staircases to the seventh floor, and along to the Ravenclaw Common Room.

‘There’s no brooch in any of these,’ Andromeda said, confirming what Hermione had already known, as she looked at the last portrait of the dark-haired woman. Rowena Ravenclaw glared down on them like a mediaeval warrior, with her right hand on top of the sword planted between her feet, and her shield held lightly in her left.

‘Look,’ Hermione whispered, rubbing her thumb across the shield in the portrait. ‘What’s that?’

‘What’s what?’ McGonagall asked.

‘The shield, it’s not the same one as that,’ Hermione replied and nodded to where the original one thousand-year-old shield hung on the wall.

McGonagall frowned again at the shield as Andromeda took the portrait on the opposite wall down from its hanging.

‘She’s right, Minerva. It’s different.’

‘No, it is the same shield. The runes around the outside are the same.’ The Headmistress peered at the shield, levitated it down from the wall, and laid it on the floor. ‘The middle part,’ she murmured, running her slim fingers over the middle of the shield, ‘…the centrepiece has been removed. Fairly recently too, from the looks of it, certainly within the last few years.’

‘Do you think that’s what she meant by a brooch?’ Hermione asked.

‘Yes,’ McGonagall replied. ‘And so did somebody else.’

*****

Harry handed Sirius the likeness of the centrepiece of Rowena Ravenclaw’s shield; McGonagall had drawn it to the exact scale, about the size of a saucer. He frowned at Sirius’s reaction; something about it hadn’t pleased him.

‘I know where it is,’ he said quietly.

‘Well, that’s great,’ Harry replied, frowning again. ‘Isn’t it?’

Harry watched Sirius look away as though he were trying to think; he corrected himself, as though he were trying to deny where the coveted brooch was. Sirius looked around the others, ending with Snape, holding onto his eyes in some type of desperation.

‘Azkaban?’ Snape asked with a frown that looked like a scowl.

‘I doubt it. Anything that wasn’t nailed down there was sold,’ Lucius supplied with a shudder.

‘Yeah, yourself included, Shirley,’ Sirius said absently.

Malfoy ignored the remark, except for a flare of his nostrils. ‘Are you going to tell us, Black?’

‘It’s in the Department of Mysteries,’ Sirius replied dully. ‘He murdered there, remember.’

Snape nodded his understanding, and Harry could see he’d guessed what he’d just worked out himself, what had spooked Sirius so much. ‘It’s behind the Veil, isn’t it?’ Severus said quietly, nodding again. ‘I think that’s what Albus tried to tell me.’

The silence was broken only by the constant dripping of the tap for a few long moments, until Sirius picked a cigarette from his packet and lit it. ‘How did he get back?’ he asked Snape, as though he were the only one there.

‘Maybe he threw it behind,’ Harry offered. ‘Or it could have rolled in. He wouldn’t have had to go in himself.’

‘Remember, he put it there expecting to go for it one day. He must have someone he knows will call him back,’ Sirius replied. ‘Maybe someone called him back the way they called me.’

‘Who? Surely I would have heard that?’ Lucius frowned. ‘Someone would have bragged about that if it were one of the Death Eaters.’

Sirius nodded again, much as he hated to agree with Malfoy on any point. ‘You would have thought so.’

‘One person wouldn’t have,’ Snape said. ‘One who already had a part of him inside them.’

‘Nagini?’ Sirius whispered, looking at the cigarette he was rolling between his fingers. ‘Nagini could have done it.’ He turned to Snape again. ‘I think you’re right. I think we need to destroy all of the Horcruxes at one time, so they can’t keep taking up one another’s slack.’

‘But the diary and the ring are already destroyed,’ Harry argued.

‘Indeed, Potter,’ Snape concurred to Harry’s surprise. ‘However, I have long suspected that all of the Horcruxes have to be destroyed at one time. You do still have the diary, I trust?’

‘Err, no, actually.’ Harry shook his head and gave Lucius a quick glance. ‘Dobby’s got it.’

‘Dobby?’ Snape looked at him. ‘Lucius’s elf?’

Harry nodded.

‘Quite,’ Lucius sneered. ‘Potter felt it would be good sport to free Dobby by conning me into handing him a dirty sock inside a burnt out Horcrux.’

‘Don’t you start,’ Sirius snarled at him. ‘If you hadn’t been playing your stupid power games, that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if you hadn’t treated the elf like shit, it wouldn’t have rebelled.’

‘Here speaketh the expert on elves,’ Malfoy snapped back. ‘Anyway, I didn’t know what it was.’

‘You knew it was trouble, you evil bastard.’ Sirius had stood up. He was leaning over the table as though he were going to poke the cigarette he in his hand into Malfoy’s eye to emphasise his point.

‘Stop it, both of you,’ Lupin interjected. ‘We can get it back.’

‘I’m not helping him to get rid of Voldemort so he can carry out his aims,’ Sirius snarled. ‘We can do without him. You should have left him where he was.’

‘Oh, spare me the Gryffindor nobility.’ Lucius had sat back with his superior smile on his face. ‘I mean we all know your only interest was saving wizardkind, wasn’t it, Black?’

‘I said stop it,’ Lupin said quietly.

Harry had never heard Lupin sound so firm. He was surprised when Malfoy gave him a quick look and backed down. Harry was uneasy about Lucius; nothing he knew about him suggested he was anything but an enemy. He thought he’d like a word with Lupin sometime soon. He looked at Sirius, but he seemed to have backed down as well.

‘Behind the Veil?’ Sirius balked as he repeated it. ‘We can’t go behind the Veil. If Remus and Lucius hadn’t been standing in the room when I went through last time, I wouldn’t have got back. Although materialising in a cell in Azkaban wasn’t funny, come to think about it,’ he said, glancing again at Malfoy, ‘until I discovered that fat tart was the resident.’

‘We could always have left you where you were,’ Snape said dryly before Lucius had a chance to interject.

‘Which of us is going through the Veil?’ Sirius asked with a shudder. ‘It’s horrible through there, it’s … it’s horrible.’ Harry thought something desperate had crept into his voice, something that frightened him.

‘Let me think about it for a while,’ Snape replied, as though he had an idea he wasn’t ready to share.

‘I’m going back to Hogwarts,’ Harry said, changing the subject and looking at Snape. ‘Do you need anything?’

‘I shall accompany you. I need to speak to Dumbledore,’ Snape replied.

‘I’m coming too,’ Sirius said quickly and shot Malfoy another hard look. ‘I’m not staying here with him.’

*****

‘This looks like it,’ Hermione said as the three witches rounded a sharp bend in the lane. The little house sat in a dip, as though it had sagged into the earth and no one had bothered to pull it back out again. The air of neglect seemed to reach out to the hard-packed dirt, where a couple of disillusioned hens pecked hopefully at nothing.

Andromeda let the tarnished badger knocker fall twice, and stepped back as the grate of a key sounded. An old man opened the door.

‘I ain’t buying nothing and I got nothing to sell, so bugger orf,’ he said as he began to close the door, without even asking who they were; Hermione wondered why he’d bothered to open it.

‘Please, Mr Smith, my mother was a friend of Hepzibah,’ McGonagall said as she put a hand to the door. ‘Spare us a couple of moments … please.’

‘I still ain’t got nothing,’ the man grunted. ‘Don’t know what the interest is in me all of a sudden.’

The three witches exchanged a look as they stepped into the hallway. The abandoned look stopped short at the front door. The inside of the charmed entrance hall was panelled in polished rosewood and hung with tapestries and portraits; the one above the fireplace was unmistakeably Helga Hufflepuff. Hermione had always suspected that some sympathetic artist, who had flattered them all to look beautiful, had painted the portraits of the founders. She was stunned when the woman in the portrait turned and smiled at them in greeting.

‘Welcome, ladies.’ She smiled down on them. ‘What would two Gryffindors and a Slytherin be doing in the house of Helga Hufflepuff?’

Hermione looked at McGonagall and Andromeda, but both women seemed as surprised as she was. They obviously didn’t know that a real portrait of any of the founders had survived.

‘I am the current Headmistress of Hogwarts, Helga,’ McGonagall said when she composed herself.

‘Of course you are, Minerva.’ Helga smiled again. ‘Albus told me you were. What brings you here?’

‘We suspect the only surviving artefact of yours has been used as a Horcrux by one of Salazar Slytherin’s descendants.’

‘Indeed it was, Minerva.’

‘Do you know where it is?’ McGonagall asked.

‘Not at this precise moment.’ Helga Hufflepuff looked at the man who had opened the door to them. ‘Hactor sold it, ladies. I’m afraid you’re too late.’

McGonagall turned to Hactor Smith. ‘Whom did you sell it to, if I may ask?’

Hactor had dropped his hostility, seemingly quite comfortable in their presence now. Hermione suspected it was because the Portrait had spoken to them.

‘Dunno, ma’am,’ he replied. ‘Lady came to the door and asked if I had an old cup she had been trying to trace. She had Charms cast about her, I think. Paid me in good hard gold though.’ He smiled a gap-toothed smile.

‘When was this, Hactor?’ Andromeda asked him.

‘Couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours ago.’

‘But nobody else knows about it.’ Hermione gasped her frustration and looked again to the portrait. ‘Couldn’t you tell who it was?’

‘I did not see her, little girl. She came to the back door, the same way as the Dark One who murdered Hepzibah.’

*****

‘No one else knew of this, Albus.’ Snape paced the floor in front of Dumbledore’s portrait. He raked his fingers through his hair, annoyed when he found there wasn’t enough of it; he’d forgotten he was in Lupin’s form. He felt ill at ease; Hermione’s news had rocked him, and he had an ominous pain in the pit of his stomach from another dose of Polyjuice. All in all he didn’t think they were moving forward.

‘Except for Tom Riddle,’ Dumbledore pointed out reasonably.

‘I bet it was that bitch, Bellatrix,’ Sirius muttered. ‘That’s two I owe her now.’

Hermione watched them. McGonagall had been right about one thing; when she’d said they hadn’t grown up, she was right.

‘I’m still worried about any of you going behind the Veil. I don’t like that idea,’ Harry said. ‘What if you can’t get back?’

Snape spun again as he reached the outer limit of the piece of rug he was wearing a hole in. ‘Can we take this one step at a time?’ he said testily. ‘There is no point in speculating about that until we have the rest of the Horcruxes.’

‘Are you still convinced that you need them all at one time, Severus?’ Dumbledore asked as he sipped a cup of something a blonde witch had carried into his portrait.

‘Yes. I am not sure that his soul could not flee to another Horcrux if we destroy them one at a time. After all the diary still exists, doesn’t it?’

Dumbledore nodded. ‘I see your reasoning, Severus, but I am not sure that even Voldemort has the power to recreate the Horcrux once destroyed.’

‘He wouldn’t need to recreate it. All he would need to do would be to re-invade it. I suspect an already used article would be more susceptible to him.’

‘What are you saying, Severus?’ Sirius asked. ‘Nice and slowly, I’m a Gryffindor.’

‘I’m saying that if he really needed to he could send himself to one of the destroyed Horcruxes.’

‘What makes you think that?’ McGonagall asked.

‘He doesn’t seem any weaker, does he?’ Snape offered. ‘That makes me think that his soul fled as opposed to being destroyed when Potter and the Headmaster destroyed their Horcruxes. I also think that if we destroyed all of the Horcruxes one by one, he would simply flee from one to the other.’

‘How do we get them all in one place? I mean if Nagini is one, how do we get a hold of her?’ Andromeda asked.

Hermione watched Snape exchange a long look with Sirius.

‘But there’s only four of us and six Horcruxes,’ Sirius said.

Hermione watched him; she didn’t know what they were thinking about, but whatever it was Sirius didn’t like it.

‘The other two will have to be replaced, Sirius, by another Slytherin and another Gryffindor, if I’m thinking what Severus is thinking,’ Dumbledore said. ‘And I know I am.’

‘I can’t allow it,’ Sirius flared. ‘I can’t allow that. They’re only children, Albus.’

‘Then, as I said to Severus, I suspect you have already failed.’

‘I can’t allow it.’ Sirius’s voice had taken on an odd pleading tone as he turned again to Snape. ‘We’re older, our lives are all fucked up anyway.’ Snape had looked away, but Sirius grabbed his arm and turned him round. ‘Listen to me, you arrogant fuck. I’m not taking a seventeen-year-old boy behind the Veil, and that’s final.’

‘Why do we need to go behind the Veil?’ Draco spoke up for the first time from where he’d been sitting beside Harry.

Sirius pointed at Snape. ‘Because he thinks that he can summon Voldemort behind the Veil if he destroys all of the Horcruxes at one time. He thinks that Voldemort is going to oblige us by turning up with Nagini.’

Harry had stood up; he’d exchanged a couple of whispers with Draco. ‘I think he’s right,’ he said. ‘And we’ll both go if you reckon we’ve got any chance of getting back.’

‘Now look what you’ve done.’ Sirius hurled the accusation at Severus. ‘And take some more Polyjuice; it’s bad enough knowing you’re you, without having to look at your ugly face as well.’

McGonagall gave Hermione a knowing glance of exasperation. Before Snape got the chance to defend his idea, there was a respectful knock on the door, and it swung open. They all turned to look across the room to where a heavily-hooded witch had come in. She walked across to the Headmistress and wordlessly laid a small parcel on her desk. She turned, and seemed about to leave without addressing anyone or removing her hood.

‘Don’t you want to embrace your son, my sister?’ Andromeda said to her back.

Narcissa Malfoy stopped in her tracks.

*****

‘I cannot wait long,’ Narcissa said as she looked at the mantle clock ticking its way to teatime. ‘Bella thinks I am visiting Lucius.’

‘How did you know about the cup, Mrs Malfoy?’ Harry frowned. He’d been sure only he and Dumbledore knew about it.

Narcissa laughed. ‘I told you already, Potter. I am Legilimens.’

‘You stole it from my mind?’ Harry frowned again. ‘But I wasn’t thinking about the cup at all.’

‘Not your mind, young Harry. The Dark Lord has asked my sister to collect all of the Horcruxes. He ought to know where they are, after all.’

‘Oh dear, Bella will be disappointed,’ Andromeda said with a smile. ‘Last in the queue again.’

‘Indeed, Sister.’ Narcissa gave a tinkling little laugh and turned to Sirius. ‘I confess she is a little worried about visiting you behind the Veil to get Rowena’s brooch.’

‘I can live with that,’ Sirius snarled. ‘I’ll enjoy putting that bitch in her place.’

‘The black sheep of the Black family has spoken. Don’t underestimate her,’ Narcissa remarked. ‘However did you manage to get back from behind the Veil anyway, Sirius?’ she asked archly, as though she didn’t already know.

‘It was magic,’ Sirius said with a tight grin.

‘Quite,’ Narcissa replied. ‘I must go. Even Bellatrix wouldn’t believe I spent so long with Lucius.’ She had reached the door when a thought seemed to occur to her. She looked across to Draco. ‘How is he anyway?’

‘Father? A bit put out that you’re Legilimens, actually, Mother.’

‘I’ll just bet he is,’ she replied with a smile of faintly malicious triumph.

*****

Hermione raked through the trash that was the worldly goods of Dobby. Some tea towels, several socks, none of which had a neighbour, some rather garish boxer shorts, and a few of the woolly hats she’d knitted were piled on top of the box he used to sleep in, when he wasn’t in residence in Azkaban. She had emptied the box and kicked it in irritation. The Diary was underneath it.

She picked it up gingerly, but it didn’t feel any different to any other mouldy old book. It still had the holes in it from where Harry had punctured it with the Basilisk fang. She wondered if Snape were being over cautious; this was just a tatty old diary, nothing else. She was about to slip it into her robe when something else under the box caught her eye. It looked like a scorch mark.

‘What’s that?’ Draco said over her shoulder.

Hermione had pushed the box aside completely. ‘It’s been burnt,’ she said as she began to trace the outline with her fingertip, but Draco snatched it away.

‘Don’t touch that,’ he whispered urgently. ‘Can’t you see what it is, Granger?’

Hermione frowned, and then felt something unpleasant flood through her as she realised she’d been looking at the Dark Mark upside down.

‘I think we’d better let Severus look at this,’ Harry said as he shared an uneasy look with Draco.

*****

His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 1]

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