Harry continues his quest while Bill & Fleur try to help him.
It’s been long enough that perhaps a bit of summary is in order:
Previously, Harry discovers the secret of Grindelwald’s disappearance - he is hiding somewhere without any of his memories - that is, if he still lives. Harry then travels to an odd reality of Dementors and Patronuses, retrieving the locket Horcrux before he leaves. Meanwhile, Ginny has discovered her brothers’ plans and disarms them, deciding it is time to use a ritual to finally bring back her beloved Tom. She has somehow retrieved the tattered remains of the diary, and plans to sacrifice Ron to summon Tom back into existence.
But before this can happen, Fleur appears, vanishing Ron into nothingness and killing Ginny. She uses the diary to summon Harry and explains that she is involved in the reality faction nonsense in some unknown manner. Harry really needs some sleep at this point, so Fleur sends him to a place he might find quite... restful.
Harry yawned mightily and stretched out his arms, feeling utterly fantastic. The previous night had been a true delight... wait...
He glanced over to see who shared the bed - but he was alone. Harry slumped back against the bedrest, considering this - was the last night just a memory? Had he and Fleur... no, it wasn’t possible. It had to be a dream - or somehow not real. But then Harry realized that he wasn’t in the room at the Tonks house, but an entirely unfamiliar bedroom.
Harry quickly jumped out of the bed and put on his clothes, which he had apparently thrown about the room. He checked his pockets in a sudden alarm, but relaxed when he found the remains of Tom Riddle’s diary. So the last night had indeed happened... but that meant...
Harry shook his head and realized something was missing - the bracelet!
Or what had Fleur called it? The Anubis Charm. The name sounded vaguely familiar from Harry’s time in primary school - it was the name of one of those ancient Egyptian Pharaohs.. or perhaps one of their gods? Harry realized after a moment’s thought that it wasn’t on his wrist, of course, and he began to search the room in a panic. He finally found the bracelet under the bed, although it had rolled so far, he had to Summon it. As he clipped back on the Charm, he felt himself begin to relax. Harry hadn’t realized how much he had missed the shiny artifact.
He carefully gathered the rest of things, although he hadn’t had much with him, thankfully enough - mainly just his wand and a malfunctioning watch. Harry crept out of the room to see a nice, albeit somewhat small flat, seemingly completely empty of anyone. He smelled something quite wonderful, and walked to the kitchen to see a magically warmed plate of breakfast. A small note was tied to the fork next to the plate.
Slightly concerned, Harry unwrapped the letter.
You did not wake this morning even when I tried my secret tricks, so I left you to sleep. Right now, I must leave for work, but I left your favorite breakfast as you can see. Tomorrow you make for me, oui?
I will see you tonight, I will return at eight.
A wave of guilt rushed over Harry and he dropped the note, which fluttered down to the table. He eyed the food and frowned. He was quite famished - perhaps just a quick bite and then he’d leave back to the main reality? Surely food was food in any reality. And while eating, he could pretend he didn’t feel bad about cheating with Bill’s fiance.
Although, Harry mused as he stuffed some bacon in his mouth, Fleur had sent him here. She must have known, right? But what did that mean exactly? Did she fancy him in the main reality? Or... just a part of her?
Harry grimaced, feeling a bit of a headache coming. It was still too early to think about the intricate nonsense of how reality was broken or not broken, or who’s split personality fancied whom. Harry wasn’t even entirely sure of how he felt about Ginny, even after the latest revelation that she had been working with the diary. Something about that didn’t seem quite right - how had the fragment managed to contact Ginny? Harry recalled quite clearly that he had returned the diary to Lucius Malfoy in a hilarious fashion, freeing Dobby at the time.
Although Harry had been sure his feelings for Ginny were entirely gone after his visit with the Sustainers, he was no longer quite sure. After all, how much could he really trust what they had done? Had he even been cursed in the first place?
Harry sighed and washed down his breakfast with a glass of water. It would be nice if he could get help from someone he actually trusted. A sudden thought occurred to Harry: could it be that these various secret cults were using very attractive girls to influence him? First Cho and now Fleur? Curse his bloody hormones! The thought of the last time Ginny was up close to him came unbidden to Harry’s mind, and he winced. Well, who said that evil couldn’t also be hot at times?
Harry shook his head, looking around for some distraction. He glared at his bracelet, willing them to change color. “C’mon, show me that red,” he growled at the Charm. And then, to his astonishment, three stones instantly began to glow in the familiar sanguine hue, two on the left side and further down. One was almost entirely on the other side of the bracelet. And just a single on the right, about in between the other two.
Harry tapped his chin and looked at the two thoughtfully, then checked his watch before realizing a moment too late that it was still broken. A quick spell revealed the time to be already half past eleven in the morning. Harry blanched - he had seriously overslept! Although in fairness, he had probably needed the rest. But he did feel refreshed and satiated, ready for another day of nonsensical adventure. Harry then realized with shock that it had only been about twenty-four hours earlier that he had met with Slughorn - it seemed like a lot more had somehow happened since then.
Still, the old Professor was probably just fine; he was quite capable at hiding from his enemies. The next step was the more important one - which Horcrux fragment to pursue? Harry guessed that the further one traveled, the more bizarre it would get - which sounded similar to what he remembered the Sustainers rambling about.
So one of the red glowing stones wasn’t so far - closer than the Dementor one had been. And one of the others was very far away - well, an easy choice then. The simpler one first. Harry checked himself and verified everything was in place. Wand, clothes, diary, bracelet. And the other Horcrux bits ought to be safe. He touched the closer red stone and vanished.
CHAPTER 7: HAIL
Underground, a fair bit West of the primary reality
Harry instantly began to cough, as a cloud of dust seemed to completely surround him - and then he realized he was falling. He scrambled about in the air, pulling out his wand to arrest his fall, and then he struck the ground with a heavy thud. Harry blinked and slowly got to his feet, patting himself quickly. It didn’t seem that he had fallen that far. Harry moved forward, waving his hands to clear the dust. Eventually the dust had settled enough to see his immediate surroundings.
He was in an enormous cavern, with no natural light anywhere noticeable, yet Harry realized he could still see perfectly. If he squinted a bit, Harry could even make up distant gems embedded in the high, arching ceiling. But it seemed so desolate... Harry wondered where everyone was hiding. And for that matter, where was the Horcrux? Wasn’t the Charm supposed to take him directly to the correct location?
A distant sound, a sort of chattering suddenly caused Harry to jerk in alarm. It was almost certainly some people talking, although nothing Harry could make out. Harry paced back and forth, trying to think - where could the Horcrux be hiding? Then a horrifying thought occurred to him and he looked up. Embedded in the rocks just a bit beyond his reach were several shining metallic objects, including an assortment and gold and jewels. And a small golden cup emblazoned with a badger.
Harry’s pulse began to race as he looked around for a way to scale the rocky walls. The cup was almost certainly the Horcrux he had seen in the Penseive - thankfully it was one of the ones Harry knew about. He already had the diary and the locket, and the ring was already taken care of - which left at least two other Horcruxes, one of which was probably Nagini. Hopefully the Charm would remove some of the tedious guesswork - awfully convenient, as it was turning out.
Perhaps a Hovering Charm might work? Although Harry had never tried Hovering himself - seemed an iffy sort of thing to experiment with. An angry shout interrupted Harry’s thoughts, and he whirled to see the distant but rapidly approaching forms of what seemed to be distinctly goblin-like forms. Probably goblins, actually.
“Damn it,” Harry cursed softly. “Think, think. How can I get that bloody cup?”
Could it be simple? As easy as getting the locket?
“Accio Hufflepuff’s Cup!” The cup didn’t even seem to twitch in response. “ACCIO!” Harry yelled, but still nothing happened. And the angry shouts were getting closer. Something clattered against the rock violently, causing Harry to jump back with a wince - then he began to feel worried. It was a spear - the goblins were throwing bloody spears at him!
Harry turned and began throwing curses at the small group of attacking goblins, simple ones like the Stunning Spell and Body Bind Curse. They worked magnificently, leaving the furious goblins entirely knocked out or senseless. Harry began to grin until he spotted several dozen more goblins streaming out of tunnels in seemingly every place he looked. He looked back up at the embedded treasures and considered his options. The way the rocks were sticking out of the wall looked to make it impossible to reach the cup, which stuck out from a protruding ledge. It seemed simply inaccessible by climbing the wall - but wait...
If he could somehow get above those rocks, maybe he could just yank out the stupid Horcrux? He just needed to get a hold of it somehow...
In a flash, Harry realized the answer and Apparated immediately behind the Horcrux on the stony ledge. He began to slip forward down the unstable surface, so he dropped quickly to his feet to stop the momentum. Harry carefully inched forward, keeping an eye out for the amassing goblins. His disappearance didn’t seem to be taken all that well - the little brutes were yelling unintelligibly at each other and several were actually stabbed in small, bloody fights that were over in seconds.
There probably wasn’t much time left before they noticed Harry still within spear throwing distance, so Harry slowly leaned forward and pulled at the goblet. A sudden shuddering rippled through the wall, catching the goblins attention - several spotted him and began hooting with painfully severe shrieking. One tossed a spear but it passed harmlessly over Harry’s prone form.
And then the ground seemed to erupt, as intensely hot lava burst from the wall directly below the embedded treasure, catching a few unwary goblins in its wake. The ones that weren’t instantly killed screamed in agony as they burst into flames.
Harry’s eyes widened and he began to sweat profusely - the heat was only getting worse. The ledge shuddered and Harry had to swallow a sudden lump in his throat. How stable was this thing anyway?
He pulled at the goblet again, but it didn’t move. Harry was afraid to grab for his wand - any more movement might cause the ledge to crumble and fall into the ever expanding pool of lava. If he could somehow use the Charm to travel back - he’d escape that way. But what about the Horcrux fragment? On the other hand, if it fell into the lava, maybe it’d be destroyed - that’d save some time certainly.
The ledge shook again and lurched horribly. Out of time.
Harry was out of remaining options, so he closed his eyes, holding on tightly to the goblet. Everything else he’d been holding had travelled with him, so why not this as well?
And Harry focused on the primary gem - he didn’t even have to look. He knew precisely where it was on the Charm. After a moment of nothing happening, Harry opened his eyes, to find himself back in the Weasleys’ attic. And a singed but whole goblet in his hands.
The gem was no longer red.
“And there was hail, and fire flaming within the hail, very heavy, the likes of which had never been throughout the entire land of Egypt since it had become a nation.”
Slughorn poured himself another glass of brandy, already more than a bit soused even late in the morning. As he let the rich drink sit for a moment, he considered young Harry Potter, whom he had only seen a day prior. Hopefully he had found the diary useful and perhaps even had gotten a start in his quest to track down the Horcruxes. That is, if he hadn’t been waylaid by one of the mysterious factions that were always watching.
A sip, then. It was wondrously smooth - a rare vintage, an excellent gift from old Ambrosius Flume. Slughorn wondered if the talented sweetmaker was faring well in such dangerous times.
There was a sudden, odd vibration in the air that caught Slughorn’s attention. At first, he looked about in a confused fashion, not recognizing the magical spell. And then it came at once - the perimeter alarm! He hurriedly shifted his form into the battered recliner, hoping he still appeared hidden.
The door swung open slowly, and Lord Voldemort walked in, wand held high. His red, off-putting eyes swept the room, and Slughorn did not even chance a single breath.
Then the Dark Lord’s eyes fell upon the cup of brandy that Horace had foolishly left out. “I am not a patient man,” the Dark Lord said simply. “If I leave here without finding my quarry, I shall merely use Fiendfyre to cleanse the land of this odious Muggle dwelling.”
Slughorn knew he had no choice -- and he could not activate any of his secret emergency Portkeys while in his transfigured form. He would need to be extremely cautious and careful with every movement. Slowly the chair transformed back into his human shape and he pulled himself to his feet shakily.
“What... what can I do for you Mr. Riddle?” Slughorn hoped the tremor in his voice wasn’t too apparent.
Riddle spat on the ground. “Don’t address with that Muggle name! Do not even presume to address me by name, Slughorn. None have earned that right.”
Slughorn swallowed and his hand searched for the Portkey stashed under a hidden pocket. “As you say, my... my lord. Why have - that is, what do you require from me?”
Voldemort nodded and waved his wand, causing a pair of chairs to appear from nothing. “I wish to speak with you, and I shall grant you some minor respect due to your history as my Professor. Take a seat.”
Slughorn nodded, feeling Riddle’s eyes track his movement. Could he retrieve the Portkey without revealing his intentions?
“Please, take another drink,” Voldemort said in a voice that was anything but polite. “Don’t let my presence interrupt your drunken proclivities.”
The old Professor reached out to his drink, now prevented in the short term for his hand to grasp the Portkey. The glass shook a bit as he lifted it to his lips and took a healthy sip. Thankfully, the liquor was just as smooth as before, even with as frightful as his current situation had become.
“Something very odd is going on,” said the Dark Lord with a curled lip. “Oddness that I cannot decipher. Things are being hidden from me - from me! Even from, I greatly suspect, my own dangerously shortsighted followers.”
“I see,” replied Slughorn slowly, his hand shaking a bit. “What makes you think I might possibly know something you don’t? Perhaps that was true once, but I have not been your teacher for many decades.”
Riddle made a derisive sound. “Don’t play that game with me, Slughorn. Everyone has their secrets, even you. I have it on very good authority that you and Harry Potter spoke yesterday. Is that why he was not at his Muggle relatives last night?”
This reference to relatives was a bit confusing; this wasn’t something Slughorn knew about. Although he wondered how Voldemort had possibly found out about Harry’s visit - after all, if he had known at the time, wouldn’t he have attacked then? And he didn’t know the specifics of the conversation either, which was either very good or very worrying news.
“I suppose there’s no point in trying to conceal the fact we spoke,” Slughorn spoke carefully, trying not to reveal something that would get him killed. “But it was nothing of consequence, I assure you. And I had no idea where he was before then, or where he was after. I didn’t even realize he had Muggle relatives - although, of course, it’s obvious now that you mention it. Lily was a Muggle-born...” He stopped talking at Riddle’s sudden expression of rage.
“Stop your lies!” Riddle hissed in a disconcertingly serpentine manner. “What did you tell him about Horcruxes? What did Dumbledore instruct you to do before he died?”
Slughorn put down his drink and reached for his pocket, hoping he could reach the Portkey in time.
Riddle held up his wand and Slughorn froze. “What are you doing?” Riddle’s eyes narrowed and he waved his wand. “Incarcerous.” Instantly the old Potions Professor’s arms were tied to his sides by the conjured ropes.
“I have grown tired with your incessant fidgeting,” Riddle informed him. “Now, enough with your equivocating and answer my questions!”
Sweat beaded on Slughorn’s forehead, and he wished desperately for his handkerchief - but he dared not broach the subject. “You don’t understand, my lord. I dare not reveal the true contents of our conversation. It would put us both in grave danger.”
Riddle’s eyes widened and he breathed in sharply. “You dare suggest I am I danger? I knew you had secret knowledge - what in Merlin’s name is going on that I have not been told of?” His mouth closed and Voldemort looked suddenly troubled. “What does Potter know about Horcruxes?”
“A great deal,” Slughorn admitted. “But that is not where you should be concerned.”
“How much do you know?” Voldemort demanded.
Slughorn shrugged through his bonds. “Only what Albus told me, and a bit of historical knowledge as well. I know that you created Horcruxes, probably six in number based on our conversation so long ago. But the truth of those cursed objects - that I only learned about far more recently.”
Riddle blinked and sat back in his chair. “What truth are you vaguely referring to? And what about Dumbledore?”
“He’s the one who pointed me in the right direction, albeit a bit circumspectly.” Slughorn tried to still his breathing - his heart felt like a pounding hammer in his chest. “Normally I worry about revealing too much - but then, I’m dead anyway, aren’t I?”
“You have spoke to Dumbledore and Potter about Horcruxes, haven’t you?”
Slughorn nodded slowly. “Yes, although Albus suspected as much already. But the Horcruxes... I know what you think they can do, but the truth is far worse. You have been manipulated into creating multiple Horcruxes.”
“Nonsense!” Riddle spat. “Such nonsense! As if anyone else had any part in my quest!”
“It may have been more subtle than you realize,” Slughorn pointed out, and then licked his suddenly dry lips. “A chance remark, a book given to you... do you recall how you initially came across the concept of Horcruxes?”
Voldemort frowned and stroked his chin. “I... am unsure. I may have to investigate my memories later.” He looked back up at Slughorn, his eyes glowing with rage. “Something isn’t right... perhaps I believe you after all. But it makes little sense - why would someone from long ago wish me to become immortal?”
Slughorn sighed and swallowed, shifting a bit in his chair. “Because Horcruxes have a dangerous side effect - they cause a dangerous instability in the foundation of reality. The secret you have only suspected is that a clandestine war has been fought for centuries regarding how reality is comprised and can be manipulated. There are those who wish to disrupt the status quo and those who strive to maintain it.”
“Some secret cabal dares to manipulate Lord Voldemort!” The Dark Lord seethed, his hand clenching his wand turning white. “The signs have been there all along, but I refused to acknowledge the very idea of such blasphemy against me.” He looked at Slughorn and frowned. “I can tell you are speaking truth now. Explain what you mean - how can the creation of Horcruxes affect the composition of reality?”
Slughorn breathed in deeply and closed his eyes. This was it - there wasn’t much of a chance of getting out alive no matter how suddenly sympathetic Riddle seemed. He opened his eyes and looked directly at his former prized student. “It is complicated and highly technical, and I do not fully understand it,” he said slowly. “But perhaps you shall succeed where I failed and rise above their efforts at manipulation.
Riddle nodded once, up and down.
“The most concise way I can describe it is thus: The creation of a Horcrux bifurcates the internal magical substrate of that individual into probabilistic subjuncts off the primary identity baseline reality matrix, but the separation acts as a hard differentiating factor that according to reasonable logical induction, exponentially accumulating subjunct fragments for each additional Horcrux. The concern is that this will initiate a cascading failure of substrate connectivity that could theoretically cause the disruption or disintegration of reality.”
For a full minute, there was silence in the room, then Riddle spoke. “You use words that don’t entirely make sense in that context, but they seem logically consistent. Why would anyone wish for such a thing to happen? For the world to end?”
“Madness, I suspect,” Slughorn said with a cough, beginning to feel a bit lightheaded. “Or perhaps they believe - “ he coughed again. “That they can reform or influence reality in some powerful way by disrupting it.” Slughorn felt his throat itch and suddenly it became difficult to breathe. His face slowly began to turn red and Slughorn grasped at his throat, making choking sounds.
Riddle stood up in shock. “What in Merlin’s name...? Is this some sort of trick?” His wand was pointed straight at Slughorn, but the Dark Lord seemed a bit uncertain. “Eripio iugulum!”
The portly Potions Professor began to breath in suddenly available bursts of air. “That...” The prone man coughed and wheezed but tried to complete his sentence in a horribly raspy voice. “That won’t work, my lord. They have seized my breath in secret.” He held up his wand and waved it once - the wood began to vibrate slightly.
“This stopgap will not last long,” Slughorn’s voice emanated from the vibrating wand.
Riddle’s eyes widened in surprise. This was a spell he had never seen before - for that matter, he hadn’t even noticed the death spell on Slughorn that was constricting his throat.
“I don’t have long,” Slughorn’s voice continued. “This spell against me only works because they set it up years earlier. The nature of the Horcruxes has caused instability in the lower subjuncts, as I said, leading to an inability to access them any longer. But previously prepared spells such as this... all too possible.” Slughorn’s face was starting to turn almost purple and his eyes began to bug out a bit.
“Research the word ‘subjunct’, but carefully. And track down who influenced you to create Horcruxes. There you shall find the answers you seek. For now, you and Harry Potter work towards the same goal.” This was not quite true, but Slughorn did not wish Riddle to know the full truth of things.
A sudden, violent convulsion rippled through Slughorn and he dropped his wand in agony.
Riddle stepped forward and looked straight in Slughorn’s eyes. “Mercy?” He asked quietly.
After a pause, Slughorn managed to nod, his body shaking and shuddering with the pain.
With a nod, the Dark Lord stood up straight and smiled slightly. “Lord Voldemort is merciful. Avada Kedavra.”
Slughorn no longer shook or convulsed. His suffering had ended, and Riddle stood alone in the room. An odd feeling came over him as he looked at his old Potions Professor, but he shook himself and then began to feel rage. Those fools that dared manipulate and defy him would perish in pain. Worse than they had ever done to Slughorn, a thousand times worse.
Riddle swore silently that they would all pay and the Dark Lord vanished from the room.
“Joy descends gently upon us like the evening dew, and does not patter down like a hailstorm.” - Jean Paul Richter
An uneasy feeling washed over Harry as he looked around the new empty attic, desolate even with the small shafts of light spotting the room from many small windows. Although there was no physical evidence of anything nefarious, there was still something that gave Harry chills. He knelt on the floor where only hours earlier some odd magical circle had been drawn. There was not even the hint of it remaining. Bill and Fleur had done an utterly fantastic job cleaning up the scene.
He would need to talk to them soon, hopefully they would have ideas of destroying the Horcruxes once all had been gathered together. Harry ran over them quickly in his head to keep track. The ring wasn’t an issue and the locket was under his bed at the Tonks house. The diary and the cup were with him right now, although the Hufflepuff cup felt suddenly cold. Perhaps it knew Harry was thinking about it. That left Nagini and something probably belonging to the Founders. Harry still had no idea what the mystery item was, but with the power of the Anubis Charm, he wasn’t worried about finding it.
Only just a tad worried about actually identifying it when he came across the bloody thing.
Two Horcuxes left out there and two lit gems remaining. One closer, on the right, and one quite far, on the left. Harry still planned to wait that one out as long as possible, so clearly the somewhat closer reality was the better, wiser choice.
“Hmm,” Harry grunted thoughtfully and looked around the attic for a possible hiding place. The diary was easy enough to keep with him, but Harry was worried that he could drop the cup without realizing it. He spotted a musty old rug draped over a few old pottery jars and grinned. That’d do until he came back with the Horcrux, whichever one it was... probably not Nagini, which was good, because how would that even work exactly? Harry packed the Hufflepuff cup under the carpet and moved it until the cup was completely concealed. There.
Harry stood back and glanced at the Charm - the same two gems were still glowing red. He then pulled out his watch to check the time, but of course it was still broken. Harry’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully and then he smacked his forehead. How could he have been so stupid?
“Reparo.” A pause, carefully inspecting the timepiece, but after several seconds and even a bit of frantic winding, the watch remained nonfunctional. “Ah, you’re bloody useless!” Harry was about to throw the thing aside, but paused and looked at it again. “Nah, can’t stay mad at you.”
He grinned. The stupid thing had been with him too long to discard it now. Perhaps it’d come in handy if Harry ever came across a sub-reality where people worshipped clocks. Anything was possible, after all.
But although Harry was still not entirely sure the time, he could tell it was already early afternoon most likely - and it wasn’t like he had anything else to do that day anyhow. With barely a hint of concentration, Harry shifted to the Eastern reality.
This time, there was no disorientation at all, and Harry looked around to look for the Horcrux. He found himself in a very familiar graveyard, the desolate one where Voldemort had been resurrected. An odd place to hide the Horcrux, certainly - hardly seemed in keeping with Riddle’s behavior, although it was where his father had been buried.
Harry pulled out his wand and walked forward, looking around for any signs of the mysterious object. Hopefully it wasn’t actually buried underground... that’d be a pain to retrieve. And for that matter, what sort of alternate reality was this? A glance at the Charm revealed that he had indeed traveled elsewhere, but where?
A sudden movement in the corner of Harry’s eyes and he whirled to see a hawk screaming out at him, talons outstretched. “Stupefy!” The quick spell hid the bird head on and it fell to the ground with a thumping sound. A chill ran down Harry’s back and he turned slowly - he had been surrounded by several vicious animals. A large dog, a few cats and a bird or two. Nothing he was entirely worried about, but there were ten or so, which was potentially quite dangerous.
So... this was the Animal world then?
“Stand back, fools!”
Harry jumped back with a start. He had understood that hissing sound. Wait, a hissing sound? But that could only mean...
An enormous snake slithered between gravestones and halted between the dog and a cat. The immense reptile was distinct and obviously unique. Nagini. Well, no one ever said Horcrux Hunting would be easy!
“Stupefy!” Harry shouted immediately, hoping to get the drop on the serpent, but Nagini darted aside quickly. She leaped at Harry with outstretched fangs.
“Protego!” Nagini bounced off the hastily raised magical shield, then slid rapidly through the weeds and grass. One of the birds came at Harry then with two of the cats at the same time. Grimacing and ducking, Harry threw the Reductor Curse at the cats, knocking both back at the same time. He hit the bird with a silent Stupefy, which would have impressed him more if he had do so intentionally.
Nagini’s tail burst out from behind him and smacked hard against Harry’s ankles, sending him stumbling forward, then the snake jumped at him again.
“Die!” She hissed angrily.
“Sectumsempra!” Harry cried in desperation, and the giant snake’s head was knocked back, blood spurting in the air. Now with a bit of an advantage, Harry pressed forward. “Reducto!” Nagini was knocked back again, seemingly stunned. “Stupefy! Petrificus Totatalus! Reducto! REDUCTO! SECTUMSEMPRA!” The battered snake twitched but seemed alive. Harry walked over, feeling quite bold, and stuck his wand in front of the snake’s mouth.
“Diffindo!” A hole burst out the back of Nagini’s head, and Harry jerked his hand back before the fangs accidentally touched him. After a minute, Harry realized that the giant snake was dead. Probably.
Harry started to pick up the snake then stopped. He could almost hear Ron shout “Are you a bloody wizard or not?”
“Wingardium Leviosa.” The snake hovered into the air and Harry grabbed onto the scaly body, hoping it would travel with him. The remaining animals, probably Death Eater animals, now that Harry thought about it, stood nearby uncertainly. Harry glared at them.
“You want to die too? I’m the only one with a wand here.” Really, it was quite an unfair advantage.
The animals all backed away, and Harry grinned widely. Cowards. Smart cowards, but cowards nonetheless. It was time to head back home. Or to the Weasley’s attic, and then home. Well, he’d figure it out.
“Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.”
“Are you sure about this?” Bill asked for about the tenth time.
Fleur scowled and smacked him on the shoulder. “Oui, Bill! ‘ow many times must I say zis? Do you really not trust your bruzzers?”
“I think I trust the twins,” said Bill slowly. “But for all I know, they could be enmeshed in this conspiracy too. How do we know for sure?”
“You are too paranoid,” huffed Fleur and tossed back her hair. “Ze twins are good boys. And zis is precisely ze sort of sing ze’d be perfect for.”
“I’m not denying that.” It was certainly true that the twins were more than qualified to blow things up - but anchored Horcruxes? Or Horcrux fragments, as Fleur had explained. Bill prided himself on the ability to easily understand obscure magical theory that stymied even the most intelligent Ravenclaws of his year, but this bizarre reality theory was hard to truly grasp without the physical evidence to back it up.
Although the equations and theories certainly seemed to be consistent so far, there was a glitch in the process. Fleur outright refused to talk out loud about several key concepts, as she claimed they could attract unwanted attention by merely speaking certain words aloud. Certainly the concept of Taboo words was hardly a new concept, so it was well within the realm of possibility. But it frustrated Bill when he couldn’t clarify whether subjuncts could overlap over individual substrates or if spells could travel transversely as opposed to linearly.
“Read ze books,” she had kept saying.
“Sick of reading bloody books,” Bill grumbled as they walked through Diagon Alley.
Fleur gave her fiance a sharp look. “What was zat?”
Bill rolled his eyes but plastered a huge smile on his face. “Nothing, darling! I’ll just be glad when we can talk in a secure location.” He raised an eyebrow. “And that will be... when exactly?”
“Not zis again,” Fleur said and shook her head. “I do not know ze spells for absolute security. And I do not want zem knowing zat I ‘ave told you anysing at all. So ze normal safehouse is off-limits for us.”
“Well, fine then,” Bill replied, pretending it didn’t bother him, although he knew Fleur could read his moods more than easily. “Anyway, we’re here. Shall we, mademoiselle?”
Fleur giggled and held a hand to her mouth. “Oh, Bill you know ‘ow it excites to ‘ear you mangle français like zat!” She kissed him on the cheek.
Bill grinned widely, knowing this quite well indeed. He pushed open the door to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, which was actually a bit crowded even with the terrified pall over the Alley.
“Why look who it is!” Fred popped around a case of random nonsense with a wide grin on his face. “Our favorite Weasley!”
“Oh, and Bill,” George put in from the other side.
Fred nodded approvingly.
“I am not quite in ze family yet,” Fleur told them with a cheery laugh.
Shaking his head dramatically, Fred scoffed loudly. “Mere details. Give us a hug then!” He held Fleur for just a bit too long, forcing Bill to send a small hex at his bum.
“Hey!” Fred rubbed his arse and his eyes narrowed. “No hexing the store owners, that’s a rule.”
“Family exemption,” George pointed out sagely.
“Hmph, never should’ve allowed that,” grumbled Fred.
George put an arm around Bill’s shoulder and grinned. “So how goes the wedding? Mum gone balmy yet?”
“Almost,” Bill chuckled. “But that’s not actually why we’re here.”
“Do you ‘ave a private room zat is secure?” Fleur asked seriously.
Fred and George exchanged a look.
“Is this a serious sort of thing?” George asked.
Bill nodded. “The most serious sort.”
Fred sighed and nodded. “Guess it can’t be helped. Come on then, you two.” He led them to the back of the store into a workshop. After George closed the door, Fred tapped three times on a book in one of the bookcases, which rose into the air, revealing a lit staircase underneath.
Winking at them, Fred gestured with his wand. “After you, my dears. Age before beauty, after all.”
“Well I suppose I’m last down then,” George said thoughtfully.
“That’s enough out of you,” Fred told him in a severe tone.
Bill walked down the twisted stairway, Fleur right behind him. They found themselves before a locked door, and then Fred raced down before they could attempt to open it.
“Hold on there,” he said, a bit out of breath. “A few traps on this one. Not that I doubt the talents of the family treasure hunter, but better safe than sorry, innit?” He mumbled something under his breath and the door swung open, revealing yet another workshop, albeit a bit smaller.
George was now behind them and nodded at Fred. “Upstairs is secure. We’re good to go.” He closed the door behind them and cast a quick obscuring spell.
Fred smiled at Bill and Fleur. “All right then, you two. What’s the big secret?”
Bill grinned at the Twins. “We need you to blow something up.”
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder....
Harry sighed as he picked up the apparently undiscovered Hufflepuff cup from its hiding place. It had been a tiring day, and he was utterly exhausted again. But it had been a quite productive day, leaving just the single mystery Horcrux still. Whatever it was, of course.
If only the Anubis Charm could work as a way to jump between physical places in the main reality too, it’d be easy to just quickly head over to the Tonks house and grab the locket so he could have them all in one place. Harry looked at the Anubis Charm and considered the notion. Well... perhaps it was possible to do that?
Harry let his mind focus on the locket that he had stowed under the bed and concentrated on the Charm at the same time. It was difficult to think of two things at once, but suddenly it snapped into place and it seemed so utterly obvious, Harry was shocked he hadn’t realized how earlier. He vanished and reappeared in the Tonks house, his room seemingly unchanged from the day before.
“Accio locket!” Thankfully, the Horcrux was still there, jumping into Harry’s outstretched hand.
Harry yawned and considered his options. He really wanted to get some sleep before tackling the final Horcrux fragment, but he was worried about the safety of the Horcruxes he already had. Perhaps Bill and Fleur might have some ideas about where they could be stored? And then, Harry could focus on the tasks remaining without constantly worrying that he had dropped something in some random reality.
Time to try the Charm again, this time to find Bill and Fleur, if they were actually together. Harry closed his eyes and inserted the memory of the two into the Charm, then relaxed and refocused as had just a minute earlier. Sure enough, it worked and Harry found himself looking at a surprised Bill Weasley, with a smug looking Fleur next to him. And the Weasley twins were there as well, jaws hanging open.
“Oh hey guys,” Harry said nonchalantly. “Um, say... where are we again?”
Fleur began to laugh.
Voracious and unstoppable, the locusts devour all life in their path - unless you know where to hide.
BLOOD FROGS LICE BEASTS PESTILENCE BOILS HAIL LOCUSTS DARKNESS DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN