Kinsfire's story Family Matters ended, but perhaps there were some loose ends? After all, what other bonds might have been snapped by the BondSevering Curse? Sequel by permission of Kinsfire.
For starters, let me make the appropriate disclaimer: Not mine, JKR's. Secondly, I must admit that this is not just a fanfic, but a fanfic of a fanfic - namely, Kinsfire's Family Matters, which can be found at FanFicAuthors Net. Please look it up - it's a wonderful story, with lots of room to play in! Kinsfire has in fact looked over the notes for this story, and given his approval of my writing it. The primary inspiration came one day while reading it with the realization that Family Matters is not particularly incompatible with the concepts introduced in Half-Blood Prince. The conversation between Slughorn and Riddle is taken verbatim from HBP.
And now, on with the show!
Graduation from Hoggy Hoggy Hogwarts had passed three weeks ago, and Minister of Magic The Honorable Harry Potter, Order of Merlin First Class, Honorary Member of the Defense Against The Dark Arts League, and so forth, was finally settling down to full-time occupation of his office in the Ministry building. Life was proceeding incredibly well - four children already, one pair of twins by his incredibly beautiful and intelligent wife, the other pair of twins by his mother-in-law were a blessing passed on to the couple who had born and raised his wife. Even a small miracle had occurred, and his godfather had returned from beyond the Veil some six months ago, and he was temporarily living with Harry's ex-werewolf Uncle Moony, and Moony's new wife, the Don't-Call-Me-Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin.
Everything seemed to be going well in the Wizarding world. There were minor annoyances, such as the pureblood resistance to some of the reforms that Harry was pushing through, as well as the changes to the Hogwarts curriculum regarding Muggle Studies for Wizards, and Wizard Studies for Muggle-Born. Harry wasn't worried about that, though. Hermione and Helen had gotten together and done some serious research, and proven that if the purebloods didn't change, they would no longer be an issue at all in another three to five generations, except as the last few died in the long-term care wards at St. Mungos. Discussions were already under way with the Goblin Representative to the Ministry about the potential economic disruption as those final families, which tended to have had the concentrated accumulations of wealth, finally died off without issue. The current idea, held a very close secret, was to keep track of cadet branches of the families that might be disinherited due to marrying out of the pure blood, such as the Tonks, and splitting the family fortunes between them. Nothing was completely settled yet, but there was time. Many of the pureblood families were already wiped out from having been Death Eaters, but there were still enough left that they had been able to make legal claims on the rest. The wealth from those was even more concentrated now, and much of that wealth was being used to put pressure on Harry to vote in their approved manner, but Harry wasn't budging, and he had the magical power to make sure they didn't push too hard.
Harry's secretary poked her head into his office. "Minister, the Dogfather is calling in the floo. Should I transfer his floo connection in here?"
"Certainly, Violet! Oh, and let your sister Lavender know I may be a bit late for my fitting for my new robes." Harry leaned back, relaxing, as his godfather's head poked into his fireplace.
"You know, Sirius, that just about everyone is calling you the Dogfather now. Next think I know, I'm going to find out you've killed some horse animagus, while he was transformed, and left his head in his wife's bed."
Sirius laughed. "I'm the Dogfather - that means I'm the opposite of the Godfather! I do good things for people! As it happens, though, I was calling to see if I could recruit you and your crew for some help this weekend. I'm thinking about selling 12 Grimmauld Place, since most everyone has bad memories of it, and I was wondering if I could get your crew, and the Weasley crew, to help me clean it out. If you need a bribe, tell Hermione she gets any books we find that we don't have to destroy. I'm going to call Molly next."
Harry laughed back at him. "Sure, that sounds like a good idea. I'll get ahold of Hermione, Doug and Helen and see what's on the schedule for this weekend. I don't know of anything, but I'll get back to you tomorrow about it.
Later that evening, Harry apparated into the foyer of the home he and Hermione had moved into. "Evening, love! What am I making for dinner tonight?" The previous summer, it had become well established that Hermione would do the shopping, and planning of meals, while Harry would cook them. A certain resemblance to Tonks had become apparent when Hermione tried to do the cooking. Despite a couple of weeks trying, and a rather large bookbag of books on the subject, Hermione had really not gotten any better, and they'd finally agreed that this was probably one of those things that couldn't be learned from books, and why didn't Harry just do it, since he seemed to be pretty good at it. Since Hermione knew Harry had long days at the Ministry, she made sure to select meals that wouldn't take long to prepare, nor did they take long to clean up, since she still felt guilty taking advantage of house elf labor, even though Dobby and Winky had spent a long weekend explaining how house elves felt and ran their culture. Dobby had finally brow-beat her into at least letting them take care of doing the dishes and laundry, and general clean-up. Harry just enjoyed the cooking too much to let them do it.
Over dinner, they discussed their day. Hermione was still looking at job offers coming in from all over the Wizarding world. The plans for Hermione to take over from Griselda Marchbanks when she retired had not been made public, so that the announcement would have maximum effect. Neither of them could decide if the offers from PlayWizard were funnier than the offers from various Quidditch teams, considering how well Hermione could actually fly on a broom. Finally, Harry remembered Sirius' floo-call from earlier.
"Do we have anything on for this weekend? Sirius called earlier, and he's considering selling the old headquarters, and wants some help cleaning it out. He asked me if I'd ask you, and your parents, if they want to help."
"Sure, we can do that. Sounds like fun. Why don't you go call Mom & Dad, and see if they want to come?"
"I'll go do that. And to think, I didn't even have to use his offer of a bribe!"
"What did he offer for a bribe?"
"Any books they find, that don't have to be destroyed, you can keep."
"Then we can just tell him that you did have to bribe me!" They shared a laugh while Harry went off to call Doug and Helen.
Doug and Helen quickly agreed to join everybody on the weekend expedition to the bowels of Black Manor. It was to be their first experience exploring an ancient Wizarding family home, and nobody was certain what would be found. With some 30 rooms to search thoroughly for the first time, in addition to another 30 that nobody had bothered to enter, it was expected they would find some interesting things.
The next morning, in between meetings with the Bulgarian Minister of Magic, and the president of the World Dragon Conservation Foundation, Harry found a couple of minutes to floo Sirius and let him know that the four of them would be there bright and early Saturday morning at 8am. Sirius in return let him know that the Weasley Brigade would be reporting for duty as well. Dobby and Winky were initially somewhat put out, until it was explained to them that it wasn't really cleaning up, as much as sorting out what was to be thrown away, from what was to be kept, or to be sold, and that the house elves would be kept quite busy enough vanishing trashed items, and keeping everyone supplied with snacks and drinks for refreshment, as well as watching over the children. They seemed to find that to be a most enjoyable day for them, having to run from place to place and to constantly be making new things.
The rest of the week went smoothly. Harry only had a dozen howlers intercepted by the Ministry mail wards, though careful note was made of what they were complaining about, so a proper investigation of the situation could be made. Another two dozen of his messages were offers of marriage, to which he had a standard form-reply made very politely informing them that he was quite happily married as it was. An announcement in the Daily Prophet shortly after he had defeated Voldemort that any mail with improper proposals and pictures would be turned over to the Aurors for investigation of charges of attempted solicitation of a minor, and that Harry didn't care if the Aurors shared the pictures among themselves, mostly stopped that kind of mail. It did, however, result in a few Aurors showing up one day with really big smiles, after "investigative visits" had been made to a "random" sample of some of the witches.
Saturday morning arrived, and everyone met up outside of 12 Grimmauld Place. A quick discussion led to the decision to leave the Fidelius charm up for the time being, so they wouldn't disturb the neighbors. Sirius walked up the sidewalk, threw open the doors, and invited them all inside with the statement "Welcome to the unmaking of my hell!".
Their first task was immediately made obvious, when the portrait of Sirius's mother started her normal screeching rant. Hermione had been looking forward to this day, though, and had come up with a plan. Taking very careful aim, she vanished the paint on the wall behind the painting. Everyone but her was amazed to see the portrait hit the floor. "Well, it was obvious, once I thought about it. The sticking charm held her to the paint, the paint held onto the wall. If the paint is gone, so is she. In fact, there's been so many layers of paint on this wall since it was built, I don't think we'll even need to paint it!" Sure enough, no damage was visible to the wall, and so everyone felt happy with the results. Except of course, Mrs. Black. Sirius looked sternly at his mother's image. "Now, you old harridan! You're going into the Black Family Vault, only to be brought out to punish really bad children by making them have to listen to your screeching voice! You sound worse than nails on a chalkboard!" Harry looked at Sirius. "Do you really want to do that to the other poor paintings in that vault? I would hate to have to bring you up on charges of abusive use of Dark Magic - and she qualifies as dark magic if I've ever seen it!" Sirius decided he was right. "OK, everyone. Let's step back outside, I'll throw her up in the air, and everyone hit her with your best shot!" As quick as that, a dozen incendios hit her, and she flashed into ashes gently wafting away on the winds. Once back inside, Sirius described the basic idea of what all he wanted to keep out of the house, and what he felt like should be destroyed. He handed out a bunch of small wands to everyone with a charm on them. "These are Dark-o-meters. Touch them to any item, and the darker it is, the higher it will register. As it happens, any light items will indicate a negative number, but I really doubt we'll find any of those in here. Most everyone should be able to handle anything that rates a one or two. Just get Dobby or Winky to vanish them unless they're a book or something else somewhat special. Don't be afraid to ask if you can't decide.. Books should go to Hermione, of course. Anything from 3-7, ask Harry, Remus, or I to take a look at and take care of. Do not try to destroy it yourself. Anything 8 or higher, and we'll see about calling in a team from the Department of Mysteries. They may decide to take it in for study, or transport it somewhere else for destruction, or simply destroy it here. We'll let them decide. Harry probably has the power needed to destroy them safely, but he doesn't really have the experience. Be careful - this house may well bite you if you aren't!"
The day started well, with a number of interesting items found. Even a couple of items that registered as low-level light items were found. Soon, everyone had fallen into a rhythm of putting things into various piles and occasionally calling Dobby or Winky for refreshments, or to vanish a pile that was starting to get a bit large. Occasionally, Remus or Sirius would be asked to get rid of something that registered a bit high on the dark-o-meters.
Fred and George decided to start at the top of the house, in the attic. Bill and Charlie started at the floor under that. Molly, Ginny, and Arthur elected to start in the subbasement. Remus and Tonks picked a floor, as did Ron and Sirius. At one point, Ron asked Dobby to get Bill to check on something for him. As it turned out, Ron had found a moderately valuable Goblin artifact, the return of which resulted in an argument. The Goblin's first offer was to deposit it in Sirius's vault, as he was the home owner. Sirius, though, felt it should go in Ron's vault, as he was the one to recognize that it wasn't just a piece of junk. Ron had the normal Weasley aversion to what he felt was un-earned income, since it was just sitting there, waiting to be picked up. Bill was caught in the middle somewhat, as a Weasley family member, an employee of Gringotts, and as translator. Finally it was settled that Ron would take it, if Bill had to beat it into his bloody head!
Harry and Hermione had started, as everyone expected, in the Black Family Library. The majority of the tomes registered a perfectly neutral 0, with only a few going as high as 1.3. Finally, one was found that registered a 7. Hermione whimpered as Harry set it out in the middle of the room, getting ready to destroy it. "Can't we just copy the information, even if we have to destroy this copy, love?" She asked.
"No, love. The information itself is pretty dark. It's not this particular copy that is dark. Even the restricted section in the Hogwarts library doesn't have anything that would register over 4. Professor Dumbledore might be able to handle this one, but I doubt he would want to..." Harry's comment was cut off as a scream echoed through the house.
Everyone took off downstairs as fast as they could, taking the stairs two and three at a time. They found the source of the screams in one corner of the subbasement, huddled in a corner, lashing out at anyone trying to get near. Ginny was screaming and crying "He's back, he's back! Get it off of me!" Her convulsions were getting worse, rapidly.
Looking closely with his talent for spotting the snitch, Harry saw that Ginny was wearing a locket that she hadn't been wearing before. Reaching out with his wandless magic, he lifted it off of her neck, and laid it out on the floor. A quick touch with a dark-o-meter showed it registered a solid 9.4
Fred looked closely at the locket. "Isn't that that locket we found last summer, that nobody could open? I know it disappeared - where did Ginny find it?"
George was poking around. "I think she found it in here, behind the boiler. It looks like Kreacher set up a cache of things here. We'll probably find a lot of the worst stuff here, in fact. Where did Kreacher go, anyway?"
Remus laughed a somewhat nasty laugh. "Kreacher found his way into Buckbeak's room, and didn't find his way back out in time. Apparently he didn't know you have to show a hippogriff respect before you get near it."
Sirius piped up. "Good riddance to bad rubbish. Nasty little bugger."
"Dobby!" Harry's voice rang out.
POP! came from the corner, as Dobby appeared. "Yes, Master Minister Harry Potter The Greatest Wizard Ever!?"
"Dobby, please go and find Professor Dumbledore. Tell him we have a rather nasty relic here that somehow relates to Tom Riddle."
"Dobby goes!" The pop sounded once more.
"Tonks, would you go escort the Professor down here when he arrives?"
"Sure, Harry. I'm sure he'll be here pretty quickly."
Sure enough, within five minutes, an old man wearing chartreuse and lavender robes with flaming pink unicorns cavorting across its folds was walking up the sidewalk towards the entrance to Black Manor. "Ahh, my dear Nymp..."
A silencing spell hit him. "I told you not to call me that name! Now, let's get you down into the sub-basement, where you can check out this thing. Harry thinks it has something to do with Voldemort, and from what Ginny was shouting while she had it on, I suspect he's right."
Together, they descended into the depths of the building. When they got into the room with everyone else, Tonks released the silencing spell she had put on the old geezer.
"Professor, if you would?" Harry said.
Dumbledore looked closely at the locket, without touching it. Remus asked "Is that the Slytherin Family crest on the locket, Professor?"
"It certainly appears to be. Let me test a few things out here."
Dumbledore's wand came out of a pocket, and he started casting a rather large number of spells. "Your dark-o-meters certainly weren't lying. This is an incredibly dark artifact. It appears to be some kind of soul magic. The locket itself is extremely old; in fact, it appears to be old enough to actually have belonged to Salazar Slytherin himself. However, the dark enchantment on it is quite a bit newer, only about 40 or 50 years old. I wonder..." Dumbledore appeared to descend into deep thought.
Getting out a handkerchief, he carefully reached over and picked up the locket, wrapping it up. "Let's go upstairs, get something to eat, and drink, and we'll cover what we know. I may have a suspicion, and this could answer some questions I've long had about what happened when your parents died, Harry."
Gathering around the kitchen table, they all looked closely at the heavy gold locket. The silver snake, twined in a S, had glittering emerald eyes, and it lay on a field of green enamel. Dumbledore reached over to touch it carefully. "You say you all handled it back before Voldemort was destroyed?"
"Yessir. We all held it, tried to open it, but nobody could. We were going to mention it later, but things got busy, and it disappeared. We all figured either Kreacher or Mundungus had stolen it. We didn't get an evil aura from it at that time."
"Now, Miss Weasley, could you tell me what happened this time?"
"It was kind of like in my first year, Professor, when I had the diary, after it had really gotten into my mind. It kind of talked to me, started trying to rifle through my memories about Voldemort, and the Chamber of Secrets, and everything. It felt just like the diary, though, like it was the same person! It felt like Tom!"
"I believe you, Miss Weasley. In fact, during my research about the diary, and what kind of enchantments might have been on it, I came across more mentions of something I had only heard about a long time ago. Many years ago, a Dark Lord discovered something truly evil. He learned how to split his soul, so that he could put part of it in an object, and stay tied to this world, after death. It worked, to a point. Once the person's body is destroyed, they're left in a ghost-like state, only able to do things by possessing another body. But such possession always causes a strain on the body, destroying it.
"Your first year, Harry, Professor Quirrell, as we discovered, was possessed by Voldemort in that state. However, other things could have done the same thing, so my mind did not automatically leap to the possibility of a horcrux, as these things are called. Then your second year, and you destroyed the diary. At that time, the thought of a horcrux did cross my mind, but the signs that initially led me to think that Voldemort did not die with your parents in Godric's Hollow were still there. I then decided that it couldn't have been a horcrux, and kept on researching other possibilities.
"However, I am coming to the conclusion that I may have underestimated what Voldemort could do. I'm starting to wonder if Voldemort perhaps split his soul into several parts, and placed them into more than one horcrux container. If he did, then ... but too, all of the signs are that Voldemort is gone. I don't know what might have happened to send Voldemort away, but leave these pieces of his soul behind."
Harry spoke up. "What about when I cast the bond-splitting curse on Voldemort, Professor? It split the connection with his body, and Snape's casting it on me had already split my connection to him. Is it possible it also split the connection he had with his horcruxes?"
Hermione spoke up now. "That's a possibility. We'll need to research it. We'll also have to research everything we can to find out how many horcruxes Voldemort might have made, and what he might have done with them. We need to find out if there is any way to detect them specifically, and with luck, some way to find them long-range. We need to find out how to safely destroy them. There's a lot of power tied up in a soul; we don't need to be causing explosions when we destroy one. I think, Harry, the only way you survived destroying the diary was because much of the soul-piece was already out, and much of the energy went into returning Ginny's life-force to her body."
Ron's turn came. "So, what do we do now? Do we try to destroy this one now? Save it for research? It's probably a good thing that we didn't take the Fidelius charm down when we started today."
"Indeed, Mr. Weasley. I know this is an imposition, Sirius, but could I ask that we continue to use this house for a little while longer until we get this situation with the horcruxes resolved?"
"Of course, Professor Dumbledore. I don't need to sell this house particularly, I just thought I would unload it and get rid of the memories. But you're right. We're going to need this house. We need to find out how that horcrux came to rest here, for starters, I think."
"And that is a very good question we all forgot to ask. I'm sure Voldemort didn't just leave these around where they might get stolen. We know Malfoy was responsible for the diary ending up in Miss Weasley's hands."
"Professor," Harry asked, "perhaps we could adjourn to my office in the Ministry? I think we need to send a request to the Unspeakables for any information they might have on horcruxes, and I'll have better access to Ministry resources. Because I have the frightening thought of what might happen if there's another one of these, and it does manage to take someone over and completely re-materialize its body? We could be looking at a new Voldemort, and perhaps one that the Prophecy about me no longer applies to. A good point, that - we need to get a survey of Prophecies, see if there are any about this, as well as get some analysts on whether or not the Prophecy still applies."
The group quickly traveled via floo to the Minister's Office. Once there, Harry rapidly wrote out a request to the Unspeakables for any information they had about horcruxes, Tom Riddle's early life, and anything that might relate. Tapping the parchment with his wand, the parchment started flashing red, and flew off out the door.
"OK, Ginny, can you remember anything from what you saw or felt while you were wearing the locket?"
"Just flashes. He seemed a little older than he was in the diary. I remember him killing someone, and the feeling of joy it gave him - I think it might have been the first time he killed someone, and he did it with his fists. I remember a bit about a talk with a professor - hey! I remember he mentioned horcruxes in that talk! That was about the time you took the locket off of me, though."
"You didn't recognize the Professor, Ginny? Any clue what class it might have been that he taught?" Harry took over the questioning.
"No, no clues. He was too focused on the Professor to really see anything. I wish there was a way to show all of you his face. I'm sure Professor Dumbledore would recognize him."
"Perhaps you could put her memory in a Pensive, Professor? I have mine right here."
"If Miss Weasley would allow it, that would be an excellent idea, Minister Potter. Miss Weasley, this is perfectly safe, but it's a way we actually could all see what you are talking about. If you will let me, I'll ask you to pull that memory to the forefront of your mind, and then I'll extract it with my wand. Minister Potter has seen me do this many times, and I've even done it a couple of times with him."
"Sure, Headmaster, that would be great!"
Ginny concentrated for a moment, then said "Go ahead. I'm ready." Dumbledore put his wand to her temple, and pulled the silvery strand of memory free, before releasing it into the Pensieve.
"Now, everyone who wants to, if you'll join hands, we'll go see what we can see."
Inside the Pensieve, everything took on a smoky, dreamy look. They found themselves in one of the dungeons of Hogwarts, in what looked to be a potions lab. In the front of the lab, they saw a rather short man, with thick blonde hair and a mustache. With him was a rather good-looking boy talking to him.
"Sir, I wanted to ask you something."
"Ask away, then, m'boy, ask away..."
"Sir, I wondered what you know about ... about Horcruxes?"
"Project for ..."
With that, the memory faded away, and they found themselves outside of the Pensieve once more.
Sirius came through on this one. "That was Professor Slughorn, wasn't it, Headmaster? I remember him - he thought Lily was one of his best students ever. He also had his Slug Club. He wanted me to be a member, until he found out I had been expelled from the family. He seemed good enough, though I never really liked the way he collected people who had connections."
"That's right, Sirius. That is indeed Horace. I will do my best to contact him, and see if he can give us the rest of that memory, as well as anything else he might be able to tell us."
While the rest of them discussed the possibilities, Dumbledore made his way to the floo to call Professor Slughorn. After a couple of moments, he returned. "Professor Slughorn is in the middle of creating a rather touchy potion, so he can't get here just yet. He'll come as soon as he can, probably late sometime Monday."
Harry looked up. "OK, what can we do now? If nothing else, I suspect my wife would like to dive back into the Black Family Library, in search of more information. I suspect she figures that Professor Dumbledore would know of anything in the Hogwarts Library that might apply. Not much else we can do until we hear back from the Department of Mysteries, or Professor Slughorn."
"You know me too well, my love. Let's go hit the books. Anyone coming with?"
"We'll catch up with you later, Harry, Hermione. We're going to go back to the Burrow and make sure Ginny gets some rest. That experience with the locket certainly didn't sound good!"
Meanwhile, deep within the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries, Harry's inquiry was working its way through. The need for the information was quickly verified, and the head of the department had a folder prepared with the easily-gathered information they already had. This was sent on up to the Minister's office, while a notice was sent out to the researchers to put this on top of their priority list in researching.
One of the researchers saw the note, and a different plan of action came to mind. He remembered the defeat of Lord Voldemort. And he realized that if Lord Voldemort had made a horcrux, and he could bring the Dark Lord back to life, he would be well rewarded. A little research, in notes he didn't give the head of the department to send up to the Minister, and he had a lead on a possibility.
Nigel Darinius had long served the Dark Lord from within the Department of Mysteries. He was one of a number of the Dark Lord's unmarked servants, due to the risks of being caught in the Department. Slightly less trusted because of this, he was still often far more useful than many of the marked Death Eaters. And he wanted that trust and respect from the Dark Lord, and he believed he finally had a shot at it.
Nigel was a careful sort, so he didn't immediately leave. Instead, he did a normal day's work, before checking out and leaving for home. Once home, he carefully spent a couple of hours sitting, reading, doing nothing. Once he felt sure that anyone watching would have left, believing him to be in his normal pattern, and not going anywhere until the morning, he went into an inner room, and apparated out to a place he remembered both from meetings, and from the file.
Riddle Manor looked much as it had some three years before, when his Master had first been resurrected. As he was unmarked, he was also not expected to have been at that first meeting, and he wasn't. However, he had shortly been called in to re-affirm his loyalty to his Dark Master, and he had, most willingly. Darinius was one of the few Death Eaters who knew much about his Master's history, who even suspected that he was in fact a half-blood. It didn't matter to him.
What did matter to him, this night, was the possibility that Lord Voldemort had hidden his horcrux here, or some kind of clue to what and where it was. His first step was a short survey of the building, looking for places where a hidden room or compartment might be. While doing so, he kept an eye out for any artifacts that might have made suitable horcrux containers. As he would find a likely object, he would cast a detection spell on it, but so far he had had no luck.
After his first pass through, he started on his second pass, this time examining areas where he's spotted possible hiding places in his first pass. Carefully, he cast searching and revealing charms, and he found quite a few items of significant evil, or value, or small caches of money. He was three-quarters of the way through his second pass when he actually found it.
"It" was a large ring, of what appeared to be gold, with a black stone engraved with a family crest. It didn't seem to radiate any feeling of menace or dark magic, but Darinius' detection spells first confirmed that it was deeply evil magic, and secondly, that it was in fact a horcrux. Looking it over, he decided the easiest way to keep track of it was in fact simply to wear it. It was far too important to take any risk of losing.