12 Grimmauld Place
12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.
Harry grimaced at the dilapidated masonry and the rusted iron terraces. It seemed eons ago that he had first stood before the townhouse much as he was now. Back then, of course, his future had been uncertain for an entirely different reason and the house had been, in truth, an entirely different house. Unlike eight years ago, however, he was no longer a stranger to the ancestral home. Though, he was a stranger to this particular version of the house. The building of brick and mortar before him was as unfamiliar with him, as he was with all things in this strange reality.
But not quite, Harry noted, as he steadily ascended the front stoop. The wards palpably slid along his body, the magic testing him, as he passed each checkpoint unhindered. Though he had never been granted access to the version of 12 Grimmauld Place in this world, he had been granted full access to the version of 12 Grimmauld Place in his world. In fact, he was the recognized authority over the wards in his world, seeing as Sirius had died and willed the entire Black Estate to him. With Sirius still alive to control the wards in this world, however, he wouldn't have the same authority over the wards, as he had in his world. Still, it did not change the fact that the wards protecting Grimmauld Place in his world had already imprinted the necessary approval on his magic, granting him full access to the property.
Unsurprisingly, just has Harry had assumed that the wards would, the wards surrounding this world's version of 12 Grimmauld Place recognized the imprint on his magic and accepted him, as if he had been given access by the Sirius of this world.
Harry smiled, as the much abused front door of the ancestral home of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black swung inward of its own accord, welcoming him.
"Home sweet home." Harry sighed, as he stepped into the long, narrow entrance hall. The dusty and cobweb strewn, gold chandelier overhead had lit up with his presence, yet the dim light of the forgotten wax candles barely penetrated the surrounding darkness or the expansive ceiling that he knew to extent all five stories of the house.
Much like the deplorable state that the house had been in in his world, when Harry had first set foot within the ancestral home of the House of Black at the age of 15, the wallpaper all down the hall was peeling away from where it had once adhered to the walls, the fibers of the carpet running the length of the entrance hall were embed with and layered by dust particles and age old dirt, and Walburga Black's portrait hung at the far end of the hall- though he couldn't help but notice the distinct lack of the moth eaten curtains that had once secluded her from being privy to the movements of the rest of the house. He also couldn't help but notice that the house was even worse off than he remembered his version of 12 Grimmauld Place being eight years ago. Cobwebs clung to the banisters in thick, white sheets of sticky spider silk and seemed to descend down from the vaulted ceiling to spread across all available surfaces with pearly strands crisscrossing from one side of the hall to the other. The air that he had always noticed to have a stale quality to it with a repugnant twinge was far more repulsive than it had ever been.
Shutting the door behind him, Harry whipped out his counterpart's wand.
"You there - yes, you, young man - what do you think you are doing?"
"Taking over this house to suit my own nefarious purposes,"Harry replied in a very matter of fact manner to Walburga Black's less than affable inquiry and cast a controlled cutting hex up the hall. Like a knife slicing through warmed butter, the cobwebs separated, providing him a clear path ahead. In order to keep from breathing in too much of the dust that had been disturbed, he sent a wind sweeping charm after his cutting curse, followed up by the few household cleaning charms that he had picked up on over the years in order to make dower living conditions just the slightest bit more bearable."Much better."
It truly was. Though the cobwebs remained and the wallpaper was still peeling off of the walls, the air quality had been improved and the dust had been dispersed. Seeing as he was on a time clock, he wasn't about to take time to cast the necessary vanishing spells or repair charms that it would take to restore the hall to a shadow of its former glory.
"Are you a Black, young man?"
"My grandmother on my father's side was a Black," Harry gave the most acceptable answer that he could without lying, as he advanced up the hall with the full intention of making his way to the Black Library. He ignored the shrewd look that Walburga regarded him with, as he ascended the grand staircase. The old wood stairs warped and creaked under the pressure of his weight with his every step and echoed up through the floors of the house.
Harry paused on the top stair, as several loud bangs and various other noises indicative of the house waking from its slumber filtered down to him from the upper floors. Looking to the animated portrait of the sour faced Walburga Black, he asked about the one being in the house that might cause him trouble. "Is Kreacher around?"
Walburga tutted and turned her sharp nose up in the air in pointed disapproval. "No, that blood-traitor son of mine freed him long ago."
A better fate than Sirius outright killing him for being the foul, little shit that he is. Then again, knowing Kreacher, death would have been a more acceptable option, Harry mused. Kreacher's fate in this world was inconsequential to him, however, as long as he didn't have to worry about crossing paths with the deranged house elf over the next few days. The rest of the living beings within the house - the ghouls, the boggarts, and whatnot - wouldn't bother him, as long as he didn't bother them, and should they cross paths, he was more than capable of taking care of them.
"Why have you come here, little lordling?" Lady Black asked with narrowed, suspicious eyes.
"Respectfully, Lady Black, that is my business and mine alone," Harry said, inflecting his voice with authority.
The painting pursed her lips and scrunched up her nose with disdain.
"Good day, my lady." Harry tilted his head in farewell. While exchanging a few polite words with the banshee would make his stay more pleasant - seeing as he wasn't about to start knocking down walls without Sirius's permission - he didn't particularly care to drag out their conversation. He had a mission to complete, after all.
Silence followed Harry, as he cleared the first floor hall in much the same way that he had cleared the entrance hall and headed directly for the familiar door that housed the Black Library. With the tip of the ash wand lit to provide him with a semblance of light, he caught sight of the drawing room door at the end of the hall. He froze in his steps, staring at the door, as a memory of what was housed within the room assaulted him.
He was cold, so very cold. His gloved hands had gone numb hours ago, even stuffed in his pockets as they were - his right hand clutched around his wand, his left hand clutched around the object that was the reason for their trek up this hellacious mountain and their infiltration of a near impenetrable fortress.
They needed to keep moving, he knew. He knew that they needed to keep moving no matter what, knew that stopping meant that the enemy would have an even greater chance of locating them and dragging them right back up the mountainside to pay for their crimes against the Regime. Yet, they had had to stop. They had been forced to stop, and now they were boxed in - not by Voldemort's men, but by the weather. An unforeseen blizzard had descended upon them, leaving them trapped - stranded as sitting ducks for the Voldemort's wolves to sniff out and reveal their location.
He huddled his shivering body closer to the rock wall of the shallow cave that they had taken shelter in from the onslaught of flurried snow. He could hear the chattering of teeth coming from his comrades deeper within the cave and the faint moans of pain from his wounded men, as their medic did her best to treat them. The howling wind beyond their shelter did nothing to drown out these sounds of suffering that came from within. In moments like these, where the future seemed especially bleak and their chance of survival was so infinitesimal that it was almost zero to none, he couldn't help but wonder if it was all worth it, or if resistance truly was futile.
As things were, the second that they cast any sort of magic to better their situation, Voldemort would know exactly where they were and, blizzard or not, he'd send his best to come after them. The item that they had stolen from the Dark Regime was priceless. Its recovery would be paramount. In fact, they'd be lucky, if Voldemort, himself, didn't ascend upon them to retrieve the locket.
He slipped the gold item from his pocket and upturned his frozen hand to look at the 1000 year old piece of history made into a vessel for a shard of the Dark Lord's soul. His eyes traced the curved 'S' on its gold face. The Locket of Salazar Slytherin. He had seen the memory of a young Tom Riddle ogling the item, as Hepzibah Smith had proudly displayed it to the charming young man, along with the Chalice of Helga Hufflepuff. That was the only time that he remembered laying eyes on the locket prior to four hours ago. Yet, there was something far more familiar about the weight of the locket resting in his hand than a brief glimpse of it in someone else's memory. It was almost as if he had held it once before, as if he knew what the frosted gold would feel like against his bare skin, despite having only ever handled it with gloved hands.
Harry pushed the memory away with force and shook his head in refusal to let it continue. He had been horrified to realize that he had not only held the locket before, but had had a hand in putting the horcrux into circulation on the black markets, which had ultimately led to Voldemort coming back into possession of it. The locket had been safe, protected, and in the hands of the Order of the Phoenix prior to him, Sirius, Mrs. Weasley, and the others tossing it aside and condemning it to be thrown out as rubbish during the summer prior to his fifth year at Hogwarts, when they had launched a cleaning crusade against 12 Grimmauld Place, in order to make the house habitable and functional as the Order's new headquarters.
The Resistance had lost nine of its best fighters throughout the mission to recover the locket. They had lost three men within the bounds of Castle Rohner, two more men had been lost during the blizzard (one to hypothermia and the other to his injuries), and an additional four men had been lost, as they had fought their way off of the mountain. That three of their dispatched squad had made it to the safe house in Vaduz alive, with the locket still in their possession, had been regard as a huge success for the Resistance, as well as a miracle. The mission had been referred to as a suicide mission by pretty much anyone who had been asked to consider making the dangerous trek.
Without even being fully consciously aware of doing so, Harry stepped past the door to the Black Library and headed straight for the drawing room.
The door opened with an ominous creak and light flood Harry's vision, as the afternoon sun poured into the drawing room through the large, arched windows overlooking the street below. The room - the excess of cobwebs and dust aside - was just as he remembered it all those years ago, when he'd spent hours playing chess with Ron, joking around with the Weasley twins, and listening to another one of Hermione's well-meaning rants about SPEW and the importance of preparing for their upcoming OWLs.
"Better days, easier times," Harry murmured reminiscently, as he crossed the drawing room over to the ornate, glass fronted cabinet that had displayed the Locket of Salazar Slytherin in his world. The rattling of the writing desk, as he passed it and fought his way through the mass of cobwebs strewn throughout the room, didn't even faze him. It was just a boggart, he knew.
Prying the dusty, glass cabinet doors open, Harry's heart pounded rhythmically in his chest. He had been in the presence of six horcruxes throughout his life and had been a horcrux himself for many years. The objects were not foreign to him. The feeling of a hidden piece of soul was almost soothing, in that he associated it with being one step closer to Voldemort's ultimate destruction. Having a piece of Voldemort's soul in hand meant that he'd soon be purging that fragment of soul from its vessel and, by doing so, be purging a source of Voldemort's power from the mortal world. If that wasn't acomforting thought, he didn't know what was.
"No," Harry said, as he took in the dusty items contained within the cabinet. The Locket of Salazar Slytherin was missing. The place where it had once been on display was visible, due to the fact that it was the only space within the entire cabinet that was discernibly empty. Something else might have sat in that space. The horcrux might not have ever been in this house, the rational side of his brain offered up in counter to his gut instincts telling him otherwise.
Harry shut the cabinet doors with a little more force than necessary, causing the glass doors to reverberate in their frames and dust to shower him in a wispy cloud of displaced particles. Coughing, he mentally berated himself for even bothering to check if the horcrux was in the cabinet. This isn't why you're here. Getting home, if possible...that is what you're supposed to be focusing on. This world's horcruxes are this world's problem.
Having reprimanded himself for his impulsive action, Harry swiftly left the light of the drawing room with a purposeful stride and made his way back up the dim first floor hallway and directly to the Black Library. This was his mission.
Darkness enveloped Harry, as he stepped into the room. Lighting the tip of the ash wand once more, he sighed at the state of the library. It was just as bad as the rest of the house and would surely take him hours to clean, and seeing as he planned to spend a majority of the next two days in the room, he had every intention of cleaning it. He'd have to clean out the bathroom down the hall for his use during the duration of his stay as well. He wouldn't bother with the kitchen, however, as he could eat his meals out at alocal pub with much less fuss.
Jeremy Adam, the man who he'd lifted a rather fat wallet of off on the way to the train station in Godric's Hallow, was buying for the time being. Judging from the number of 50 pound notes that the guy had been carrying and the tailored suit and polished shoes that the guy had been wearing, Adam could definitely afford being charitable, even if charity wasn't the guy's thing, as was evident from the arrogant, shithead attitude that the guy had carried himself with and the extremely self-centered thoughts that had flitted through the berk's mind. Adam's face, when the guy finally noticed that his wallet had been stolen, would have been worth seeing, as the guy had made for a distinctly satisfactory mark. Unfortunately, he had had a train to catch.
Knowing that there was nothing for it and that it was better to just get it over with, despite whatever lingering discomfort that ached through his body, Harry set to work on beginning the long process of vanishing the cobwebs draping the many floor to ceiling bookshelves lining the walls and plaguing the corners of the armchairs and sofa, as well as covering the chairs surrounding the rectangular, colonial style worktable and chest of maps. Once he had the cobwebs and dust somewhat under control, he could locate a more dependable source of light than maintaining lumos while casting, preferably a few oil lamps. Things would go much smoother, though no less tedious, once he had. Household charms had never really been his forte. Their mind numbing nature didn't mix well with his accustom lifestyle or the general application of his magic in day to day use.