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.
Willoughby Williamson Weatherby, the Third, stepped through the front door of his new Manor house. It had cost him a significant amount to buy the place at the Ministry Auction, but he just knew it would open doors for him in Wizarding Society. It had taken the Ministry Aurors three months to bring down the dark magic wards protecting the house; fortunately, he had not had to pay for those. However, he did have to hire and pay for the Goblin team to reset the familial wards that were not dark magic to accept him as the new owner. That had cost him a third as much buying the manor had originally.
It really hadn't cost him as much as he had expected though. It was, after all, previously the Malfoy Manor. Malfoy's reputation, as well as the rumors that Lord Voldemort had occasionally used this house for revels and for a headquarters, had combined to drive the price down somewhat. Willoughby wondered if he would find any dark artifacts hidden within the house. Supposedly, the Aurors had done a thorough search, but it was almost expected that there might well be a few places that only the owner of the house could find.
He clapped his hands twice. A small pop-eyed house elf appeared by his side. "Yes sir, Master Sir? How may Bibbly serve you, Sir?"
"Bibbly, I'm planning on making this my new primary residence. While I tour it, I want you with me making notes on any cleaning and repair work that needs doing. You and Toaloo will be splitting your time between this house and my old one, which will serve as my city house and retreat. I don't care much how the two of you split things up, as long as one of you is around when I need you. Now, come along, and let me know if you find anything important."
"Yes sir, Master Sir! Bibbly will make sure both Bibbly and Toaloo are giving you as good service as ever!"
As they walked through the house, Weatherby occasionally made some comment about some change he wanted made. Bibbly occasionally made notes of his own, muttering about bad elves not keeping the house properly even after the Master had gone away. At one point, they came across a large dining room with a hole blasted in the floor. Inside the hole, they found stairs leading downwards.
Weatherby mused to himself. "This must be the room they found that huge cache of dark artifacts in. The Prophet didn't list what all was found, but judging by the size of this room, it must have been a lot of stuff! Bibbly, I think this room would make a good wine cellar. See to it!"
"Yes sir, Master Sir! Bibbly will make sure of it!
As Weatherby walked around the room, he noticed the barest edge of something shining in the light, but the rest of the item was completely hidden in the shadows under some shelves. Reaching down, he felt around under the shelves and found a pair of gold goblets. "Nice worksmanship, heavy enough to be real gold. And they even have my old House emblem on them. Bibbly, let's go back upstairs for now, and have a spot of brandy. I'm thirsty!"
"Good idea, Master Sir! I just pop back to your old home, and get a bottle for you, Master Sir!"
Weatherby walked back up the stairs, and sat down at one of the tables. He looked the goblets over very carefully, and decided he wasn't going to sell them. They looked much too expensive to waste that way; they were obviously very old, and he decided he might even be able to pass them off as relics of Helga Hufflepuff herself!
Bibbly popped back into the dining room. "Here is your favorites brandy, Master Sir!"
Weatherby took the bottle, and after blowing the dust out of one of the goblets, poured himself a generous splash. He looked at it, wistfully, and said "To success." He then took a few sips. As he took his last sips, he throught he heard, distantly, someone casting the killing curse. But it didn't matter to him, because he was lost in blackness.
As Monday morning dawned bright and early, Harry woke up curled around his favorite bedwarmer. As he carefully extricated himself from her arms, he heard the shift in breathing that meant he hadn't managed to avoid waking her up this day. "Are you going to want to go in with me, love, or do you want me to floo you when Professor Slughorn gets in?"
He felt her shift, and start to get up. "I'll come in with you, darling. That way, we can share the shower this morning!" Harry laughed, and watched as his wife slid off her side of the bed and strolled nude into the shower. He finally stood and followed her.
Forty-five minutes later, after they had managed to clean each other, mess each other up, and clean each other again, before finally exhibiting amazing self-control in not getting each other messy once more, they made their way to the kitchen. There, Harry got out the frying pans, and quickly made a fairly standard breakfast. "Honey, frankly, I'm scared of what Professor Slughorn is going to tell us."
"This whole thing of horcruxes scares me, just to start with. And I'm sure you noticed Professor Dumbledore wasn't thrilled with the idea that there might be more than one of them. If I had to guess, I would say that he'd thought of the possibility of Voldemort making one, but not several. I think it scared him to think that Voldemort might have gone that far."
"I see what you mean. We'll definitely have to wait and see Professor Slughorn has to show us, though. Hopefully, it won't be as bad as say that Voldemort has created a horcrux every time he has committed a murder."
"Oh, Merlin forbid! That would probably make things impossible! Still, we need to find these things before someone gets hurt. The power I felt coming off of the locket, once Ginny put it on, was incredible. I'm afraid that at the minimum, some dark wizard could find one and learn how to extract the knowledge Voldemort had from one, or add the power from it to himself."
"You've thought of something worse than that?" Hermione asked with furrowed brow.
"Indeed. What if somehow Voldemort himself came back because someone tried to use one?"
The look of horror on Hermione's face said enough.
Harry finished cooking breakfast, and they ate fairly quickly, neither feeling much like talking after that. Together, holding hands, they floo'd into Harry's office.
Harry stepped to the door, and poked his head out. "Violet, I'm in." Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a bit of movement. Turning, he saw an older, balding man. It took him a second to recognize the older Mr. Slughorn from the much younger image in the Pensieve. "Professor Slughorn! I'm glad to see you! Please, come in! Violet, would you let Professor Dumbledore, Bill Weasley, Remus, and Sirius know that Mr. Slughorn is here? My wife is already here with me."
Harry escorted Slughorn into his office. "Thank you for coming, Professor Slughorn."
"Please call me Horace, Minister. It is an honor to meet such a distinguished gentleman as yourself! I don't know quite why you called me in, but I'm always willing to do my best to serve the Ministry!"
"Thank you, Horace, and my name is Harry. I asked you to come in, in regards to a student of yours from quite a while back. But we need to wait for the rest of the people to get here."
As Harry said that, the fire in his office fireplace turned green, and out stepped the four gentlemen that Harry had asked his secretary to call. "Professor Slughorn, I believe you know Professor Dumbledore, and you might remember Mr. Lupin and Mr. Black from classes at Hogwarts. I believe Mr. Weasley here attended after you left."
"I do, I do remember Mr. Black and Mr. Lupin, and their little group, the Marauders. It's been some time, Albus, hasn't it? And good to meet you, Mr. Weasley!"
"OK, everyone. Now, Horace, here's the situation. I don't know how much you know about the Chamber of Secrets incident in my second year. We tried to keep a number of things quiet about it. One of those things was that the Chamber was opened by a student who was controlled by a diary made by one Tom Marvolo Riddle. Eventually, this diary forced her into the Chamber, and started to steal her life-force to bring Mr. Riddle back to life. Fortunately, with the aid of Professor Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, I managed to stop the diary.
"Over the weekend, that same student came into contact with another artifact. She started screaming, and when the artifact was removed from her, she told us that it tried to invade her mind, much like the diary had. Looking over her memories of the invasion, we found this."
Harry tapped the side of the Pensieve, and the fragment of the memory of the conversation between Riddle and Slughorn played. "We need to know the rest of that conversation. Would you be willing to try to bring it up and let us watch it?"
Slughorn had gone pale. "Horcruxes. Nasty business. I think I can let you see that memory." He got a look of concentration for a moment, thinking back, then he placed his wand at his temple and withdrew the gleeming silvery strand of memory. Placing it into the Pensieve, he tapped the side.
Together, they watched a short conversation between Riddle and Slughorn, about how horrid horcruxes are, and how they would never be taught at Hogwarts. After the memory runs its course, though, Harry looks around. "Did anyone notice anything wrong there? There were a couple of places in the memory that looked... I don't know, blurry, I guess. They just didn't quite seem to fit right. Could a memory charm do something like that?"
"You are right, Minister." Dumbledore spoke up. "Horace, would you like me to try to break them with legilimency, or do you think you can break them from the inside now that you know they're there?" Harry detected a slight undercurrent in Dumbledore's voice, almost as though he were accusing Slughorn of something.
"That's quite alright, Albus." Slughorn said quickly. "I'm sure I can get them myself." He leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes, seeming to sink into himself. After a few minutes, he came back out of his trance. "I believe I have cleared the blockages. Shall we try this again?"
Once more, he concentrated, then pulled a memory out of his head. This time, it was obvious that the previous version of the memory had been highly editted, and that this time, it was quite a bit worse. The conversation quickly got into the question of whether or not someone could make multiple horcruxes, and the possibilities of having seven pieces of the soul. The shared revulsion at the idea was apparent on everyone's faces.
Once done with that memory, everyone thanked Professor Slughorn for coming in, and sharing that memory with them. After he left, Sirius turned to Albus. "So, Professor. I presume from your tone of voice that you think Slughorn /obliviate/'d himself to hide that conversation?"
"As much as I like and respect the man, I am aware of his faults as well. And I do suspect he might well have done that. However, I'm also fairly certain that he understood my challenge, and that we got all of that memory. He is a bit of a social climber, and I doubt he would want to risk your good opinion, Minister, any more than he would have to."
"Indeed. Well, whatever the reason, I think we found some very important facts out. Voldemort was indeed, even as far back as that, thinking about the possibility of multiple horcruxes. Specifically, seven of them."
Remus interrupted. "No, six horcruxes, I think. He himself would be the seventh, to complete the magical number. We can be fairly sure that he did want to use seven as the number though, for it has long been associated with the soul and with the heavens."
"OK, six of these things running around, then. We know of two specifically - the diary, and the locket. At least, we think we do. I'm still waiting for that deeper report from the Department of Mysteries. Professor, Moony, Hermione - have any of you learned anything more about these horcruxes, or horcruxes in general?"
Dumbledore spoke up. "I do know a little. I have confirmed that it is not simply a matter of committing a murder - there is actually a small ritual that must take place to create the horcrux. I cannot, however, actually find anything about the specifics of the ritual. Nothing I have been able to find suggests any long-range way of detecting horcruxes, though there is confirmation that there is a spell to check a specific item. That spell is supposed to be known to the Department of Mysteries, since they would normally be the ones to be dealing with these."
Just about then, there was a quiet knock on the office door. "Come in!" Harry said.
Violet stuck her head in. "Minister, there's an Unspeakable out here, who says he needs to brief you?"
"Send him in, Violet. Please."
"Good morning, Minister. I am Agent Odin, head of the Department of Mysteries. When your request for information came in, you caused quite a stir. We don't often get requests for information on horcruxes, and we had thought Voldemort was a closed case."
"I fear he is not quite. We recently found an artifact, currently being held in a very secure location, that appears to be an active horcrux for Voldemort. In addition, we have come to believe that the diary that played a part in Chamber of Secrets incident - I suspect your Department got a full report on that - was also one."
Agent Odin gasped. "Multiple horcruxes for one person? Sweet Circe! There's nothing in our records to indicate anyone has ever done that before! This confirms that something else I must inform you about is probably very important. Saturday evening, after your request for information came in, one of our analysts left as normal to go home. This morning, when he did not show up as normal, a team went to his house to check on his situation. They found he was not there. Checks showed that he apparated out of his home about two hours after he got there. The destination of the apparition was fairly fuzzy after so long, but Little Hangleton would be within the range of likeliest destinations. His emergency alert had not been set off, and in fact was found at his home.
"Therefore, Sir, since you have a team behind you that you know and trust very well, I'm going to suggest that you use your team to investigate this, and only ask us for informational support. In the mean time, I will be doing another round of security checks, and I think the questions under veritaserum will be a bit more intrusive. I'm going to leave this folder with you. It has everything we know about horcruxes, including the only spell known to specifically check for them. We know of no way to safely destroy them, nor do we know of any way to find them from afar. You already have all of the information we have about Riddle himself, at least as far as I know. I will be having someone go over my agent's files to see if he might have concealed something."
"Very well, Agent Odin. I am taking your suggestion, that we be the ones to investigate this. However, if your Department sees anything that might relate to this, get it to me immediately. For the time being, we are going to refer to this as the Enigma Matter. As soon as this episode is cleared up, we will be sure to give your Department everything we have found out about horcruxes and what Voldemort did with them. When all is said and done, we probably need to review the wording of the oaths your department takes, looking for loopholes. We probably should get a couple of lawyers with experience in the muggle world to look at them as well. I swear they can prove that black is white, sometimes!"
"That would be a good idea, Sir. I will almost certainly be hiring some of the recent muggle-born graduates to help us. It is starting to become obvious that the muggles are not what we have always thought about them."
Agent Odin left. Harry looked at everyone. "Shall we adjourn to the safe house to check things out?" Everyone agreed. "Violet, I'm going to be out for about an hour and half. My next appointment is the Working Witches for Wardrobe Equality at 13:00, right?"
"Yes sir! I've got things under control here, Sir. See you when you get back."
As the group floo'd away, Hermione asked Harry "Working Witches for Wardrobe Equality? What in the world is that about?"
"Apparently, they feel discriminated against that men can walk around topless, and women can't. While I can sympathize with their point, I'm not sure what they expect me to do about it!"
Hermoine looked at Harry with narrowed eyes. "I'll just bet you can sympathize with their point!"
"Your turn at the floo, love." As the fire started taking her, after she had given her destination, Harry gave her a good solid swat on her bum.
When Harry arrived at 12 Grimmauld Place, he had to laugh. He had just barely been able to keep his balance, which was a bit better than normal for him, but Hermione was sprawled on the floor looking very put out with him. "Did you trip, my love, coming out?" He smirked at her.
"You will pay for that, Harry James Potter!" The group laughed at her tone of indignation.
Dumbledore led the way into the Master's Study, where a place had been cleared on the desk for the locket. Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out the remains of the diary. "Did you want to cast the detection spell, Harry, or should I?"
"I was thinking we should all cast the spell against the locket, which we know for certain is an active horcrux. Then we can cast it against the diary, and see what it can tell us about destroyed ones. Perhaps even cast it in the boiler room, and see if they leave any residue behind when they're stored somewhere."
"That sounds like a good plan, Harry." Dumbledore started things off, by casting the spell on the locket. "/Animus Moneo!/" His wandtip swept out a quick spiral inwards until it pointed at the locket. The locket glowed a blazing red, the glow arching upwards from the top.
Next was Harry. "/Animus Moneo!/" A similar spiral this time, however, the blazing red glow from the locket arched upwards, and this time formed a face - the face of Tom Riddle. Bill Weasley started in surprise. "I guess if you can put enough power behind it, the spell not only can tell you that it is a horcrux, but who it is a horcrux for! That's certainly useful!"
Remus laughed. "Not that useful, if Harry is the only one who can do it! You did notice that Professor Dumbledore's casting did not do that."
Bill replied. "Certainly, though I suspect Professor Dumbledore didn't try to put as much power into it. Plus, there are power-combining rituals that we use occasionally in ward-breaking that would help here. This is definitely an aspect of the spell, though, that probably should remain with the Department of Mysteries."
Dumbledore tossed his two cents worth in. "I did watch, and Harry did put more power into the spell. However, if I pushed a bit harder, I think I could match that. So it's not that over-powered a spell. I think everyone here could do it if they try hard enough. I don't advise it, though. It would likely leave you feeling very drained."
Everyone took their turn at casting the spell on the locket, though everyone else also took Dumbledore's advice, and didn't try to push for the identification level. After that, they turned their attention to the diary.
Casting the spell on the diary showed a washed-out red glow across the diary, except where the hole from the basilisk tooth had punctured it, which was not glowing in the least. Even Harry's more powerful version of the spell showed no signs of identification. They were satisfied that Voldemort's soul piece was gone from the diary.
Down in the basement, they checked the area where the locket had been found. A glow similar to that of the diary is found. Normal purification spells don't seem to work, until Harry gets annoyed and casts a Patronus at it. As the Patronus sweeps through the area, sure enough, the glow disappears. "Well, would you look at that? Add another use for the Patronus to your lesson plans, Remus!"
"Do you think it would work against the horcruxes themselves?" Remus asked.
Hermione speaks up. "I have no clue, Remus, and that bothers me. I think we should wait until we know a bit more, or have a couple to test on, to find out. It would be nice, I'm sure to be able to stand back and cast it at something even suspected of being a horcrux, but I doubt we're going to get that lucky. Remember, Patronuses don't normally do much to Dementors except to herd them away from people. The incident at the Final Battle was by far unprecidented, and quite likely involved at least some of that accidental magic that was leaking from Harry at the time. Let's wait at least until we can review what the Department of Mysteries has for us on horcruxes."
"Fair enough. Why don't we start on that, while Harry heads back to his office. I'm sure he needs to do some careful study of the issues before he is descended upon by the witches who want to go topless."
Harry laughed. "Oh, no! I don't want to risk the wrath of certain ladies!" Laughing, he floo'd back to his office, to get back to his job.
When Harry arrived home, he found Hermione, Remus, and Bill sitting around the table, papers spread out in front of them. "Have you three found anything yet?"
"No, nothing yet." They chorused. Hermoine looked up. "How did your meeting with the topless witches go?" She had a gleam in her eye.
"Well, fortunately, they did not show up topless. We discussed the issue. I expressed my sympathy for their plight. I explained that while I personally had no issues with it, that I couldn't simply pass the law by edict - that I was doing everything I could to distance myself from the Fudge Administration's way of doing things, and so I was bound by law to bring the issue up in front of the Wizengamut, and that it was very unlikely that I would manage to get it past those old fuddy-duddies. They found my use of the term fuddy-duddy very entertaining, and I suspect we may start hearing it more in the next couple of generations of kids going through Hogwarts. Over all, I think I survived. I was very glad to spend some time talking to Bagman about the possibility of starting a Quodpot league over here, after that!
"So, love, any idea what I'm making for dinner tonight?" Harry asked.
"I figured we could just do pizza. I called and placed an order about 20 minutes ago, so it should be just about ready for pick-up, if you'll pop out and get it."
"That should be perfect. After the fight for the rights of free-range breasts everywhere, I don't really feel like cooking!"
"Free-range breasts?" Remus and Bill cracked up over that.
Hermione looked like she couldn't decide whether to be insulted for the women, or to laugh at the thought. She finally decided to laugh at it. "Did you cast any /Finite/s at them, to see if they were enhanced for your viewing pleasure?"
"Oh, definitely not! I wasn't about to risk that! You know darned well that Kipling was right about More Deadly Than The Male!"
Harry popped out, and picked up the pizzas. When he returned, they all had a good evening. Together, they reviewed the notes they'd gotten from the Unspeakables. "The biggest thing, Harry, that I've been able to find is that Riddle was a bit of a magpie when he was at the orphanage" Hermione noted.
"Right. He collected things - most often, souveniers of his more important battles. He also seemed very interested in the history of the Founders of Hogwarts - most notably, of course, Salazar Slytherin. However, it's known he made approaches to collectors, and he may have obtained, one or more relics of the Founders. If so, we think he would have taken great pride in corrupting them by turning them into horcruxes. In support of this theory, we have the locket, which appears to be one owned by Salazar Slytherin. If so, we're looking for at least something owned by Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Godric Gryffindor. There's not many known relics out there, so we should be able to check on most of them fairly easily. However, counting the diary, that's only five items."
Remus looked up. "Perhaps he picked something from one or the other of his families? In a sense, he would already have something for his mother's side, since the Slytherin locket comes from that side. Maybe something from the Riddle family?"
"We'll have to investigate that. I can check on that, and just in case, on the Gaunt Family, through my contacts at Gringotts. I can use the excuse of them being one of the old pureblood families that's died out, and so we were thinking about looking at it as a test case for cleanly getting the money into the economy without disrupting things." Bill added his contribution to the pot.
"OK, that sounds like a bunch of good ideas. Let's see what we can do with that for now. Come Saturday, we'll get everyone together back at the old place, and see where we're at.
The rest of the evening passed in pleasant conversation, with the major topic being Hermione's upcoming job, and all of the offers she had gotten for it. Bill found one offer, while looking through the pile, that cracked him up. "Hermione, you know that you had best never show this offer to my brother!"
"Which one is that, Bill?"
"This one, to play for the Chudley Cannons! Ron got three offers from professional teams, but he was depressed that they didn't make him an offer. In fact, we thought for a while that he'd never play Quidditch again. We think he felt that if his favorite team didn't think he was good enough, then he couldn't possibly be good enought play Quidditch. I'm not sure what the girls had to do to get him out of it, but I suspect it might have something to do with why the trim in his house is painted orange. Oddly enough, two days later, an offer from the Cannons did come in, and how long do you think it took for him to reply?" Bill's laughter rang through the house.