Harry and Co. seek the remaining Horcruxes and find just a little more than they bargained for . . .
Harry, Belle and Marietta appeared near the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade the following day and began the long slog up to the castle that was Hogwarts. The cooler highland air was invigorating and the trio enjoyed the walk and the companionship. They arrived at the gates to find them locked and chained, a sign across the gate read "By Order of the Ministry of Magic, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is Closed until further notice," the sign was signed by R. Scrimgeour.
Harry tapped the lock and said in a clear, authoritative voice "alohamora!"
The chains began to slide off, then stopped, retightening themselves like a petulant metal snake.
"I wonder" Harry mused, then repeated his actions this time saying alohamora in parseltongue.
The chains slinked to the ground, then raised a set of end links in Harry's direction as if awaiting orders.
"Belle?" he asked "can you transfigure this into a snake for me?"
"Of course, m'lord, do you have a preference?"
"I wish you would just call me Harry" he sighed, knowing she was from an old traditional family and would never be comfortable not addressing her perceived head of family by anything other than an honorific. "Um how about a boa constrictor?"
She nodded and raised her wand, a moment later a two-meter long Colombian Boa Constrictor lay on the ground.
"Can we shrink it a bit?"
She said "of course" and the snake was now about half a meter in length and about as thick as their other snake friend, the adder Sssai-hath Ssseck.
Harry got down on one knee and extended his hand, saying would you like to come with usss?
The small boa answered by slithering up the sleeve of his robe to cuddle against the warmth of his arm.
"Oi, can't you read? Ministry says we're closed!" the nasally gravelly voice of Argus Filch, caretaker called down from a low crenellated wall.
"This is Ministry business, kindly inform Headmistress McGonagall that we've arrived Mr. Filch."
Filch, used to taking orders from those he perceived to be authority figures was very much impressed with the auror officer's uniforms and braid.
"Roit you are sirs, come straight in an' I'll guide you up!"
"That's all right Mr. Filch, we know the way, thank you. We won't keep you from your duties."
The old caretaker nodded and walked off.
Harry put on his "official" demeanor as they neared the office of the current head of Hogwarts. As they arrived at the stone gargoyle Harry said, "Official Business, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Magic to see Headmistress McGonagall."
The gargoyle nodded and slid to one side, Harry and the ladies rode the spiraling staircase up to the office. Just before Harry knocked a strong Scottish brogue called "come in" through the door.
Harry stood before his old transfiguration teacher and noticed for the first time just how old she looked. He wondered if it came with the job, the pressures of running the preeminent school of its kind in Europe.
She remained seated behind her massive desk as Harry and Marietta stood at attention before her, clearly letting her know that in this place she was in command. Belle stood respectfully to one side although not at attention.
"Headmistress, I am Commander Evans, I believe you know Lieutenant Edgecombe?"
Minerva's eyes widened in recognition, "Lieutenant Edgecombe; so soon? You've done very well for yourself Miss Edgecombe, I'll be the first to say it and very glad too!"
"And you are?" the headmistress asked Belle.
"This is Miss Black, headmistress, my bondmate, who also just happens to be a special consultant in the case we're currently working on."
"We've had several members of the Black family attending here, I don't recall you though Miss. That hair is striking, I'm sure I would have remembered seeing it before. It's redder than the Weasley's as their hair tends more to the orange end of the spectrum." She smiled at the recollection.
"Headmistress, might we all sit down, I'm afraid my Lady Black is in a delicate way."
"I'm pregnant m'lord, not crippled" she said in an exasperated tone. Thankful that Harry had redirected McGonagall from her uncomfortable scrutiny.
"Of course, my apologies and congratulations, both of you, do you know whether it's a boy or girl?"
"Oh yes, it's a little witch, and our healer says ours is the strongest bond he's seen in years so she's already magical!" Belle practically gushed.
"You are such a girl sometimes" Harry sent over their bond and smirked.
"Well congratulation again, both of you, I fully expect to have this school up and running again long before your daughter. . ."
"Alexis" Belle and Harry offered simultaneously and smiled.
". . . long before your daughter Alexis is due for her letter. I'm afraid this damn war is going to keep us from opening anytime soon."
Saying that Minerva McGonagall seemed to collapse in upon herself.
"Headmistress," Harry offered, "if we are successful today I believe you may be able to reopen sooner rather than later."
"Commander what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that the key to Voldemort's defeat is within the walls of this castle, wouldn't you agree, Professor Dumbledore?"
The portrait of Albus Dumbledore seemed surprised to have been caught eavesdropping.
"Whatever do you mean Commander?" the painting asked.
"Have you told the current head of Hogwarts about Tom's horcruxes?"
The painting stood tall and imposing within its frame "What do you know of horcruxes, and most importantly how do you know of horcruxes?"
"Tom Riddle was so afraid of dying that he split his soul into seven different pieces, one he's kept in that travesty of a human form he currently inhabits; the other six were placed into objects of particular significance to him."
"How do you know this?" Minerva stood and asked, not sure if she could believe it.
"He told me" Harry said, hooking his thumb at the portrait.
"The first horcrux was destroyed by a twelve-year-old boy, in the Chamber of Secrets. The second was destroyed, along with the previous headmaster's arm last summer. The third . . ." Harry reached into his robes and pulled out Slytherin's locket ". . . the third is right here in the headmistress' chambers as are the fourth and fifth soul receptacles."
Albus sat in his painting, Minerva sat in her chair.
"That scabbard is a horcrux" he said pointing to the worn leather scabbard behind the glass display case that held Godric Gryffindor's sword.
"And the alabaster inkwell on Rowena Ravenclaw's desk, the one that writes in green ink no mater what color inks you fill it with? That's the fifth one."
"And Helga's cup?" Dumbledore's painting asked.
"That would be in Salazar's chamber, inside the statue of his head."
"But only a parselmouth can enter that chamber." Minerva offered.
Harry raised his arm and said come out and ssshow yourssself, Irisss
The little boa came out, Irisss, why Irisss?
Because Isssisss isss too long
If Iris'd had shoulders she would have shrugged them.
"Until recently there hasn't been a parselmouth in this school since the days of Tom Riddle, who are you?" McGonagall demanded.
The portrait of Albus Dumbledore laughed, "Don't you know, Minerva? Oh this is too droll for words, please reveal yourself, my young old friend."
Harry shrugged and waved his wand over his features changing his hair back to the unruly black mop and reconfiguring his glasses to the black rimmed goggles that people had become accustomed to over the past six years.
"Professor McGonagall." He rejoined.
"Mr. Potter, where have you been, what have you been up to all summer?"
Both Marie and Belle smirked at the last question. A reaction not missed by the sharp eyed professor "other than the obvious, really Potter at your age . . ."
Both Belle and Marietta took umbrage at the last comment.
"Harry is a very old soul in a young man's body," Belle told the headmistress, "and you don't know the circumstances that have brought us together, as happy as I am about how things are progressing for us; you would not like hearing the details."
"Nor does anyone need to, Belle, that's all behind us." Harry said gently.
"Actually, m'lord, it will be before us for the next six and a half months or so" she teased.
"And you will address him as Commander, Professor, he's earned it" Marie finished
"I've been under the tutelage of Sergeant Major Moody, Mad Eye to you, Ma'am. He's been helping me prepare to meet the Dork Lord and had arranged some really high powered help to go along, but before we can take on Moldishorts and his death nibblers we have to destroy the remaining horcruxes."
"Be careful Harry, each horcrux demands a price for its sacrifice."
"Yes, about that Sir. The horcruxes are not dangerous to Tom or anyone who shares a bit of his magic."
"Yes sir, if you had given me the ring, I could have smashed it without any danger to myself. I could have drunk the potion containing the faux horcrux without any ill effects whatsoever."
"Ah yes, as always, in hindsight it seems so obvious."
"Yes sir" he turned to the headmistress, "if I may begin collecting the rest of Tom's soul?"
"Of course" and for the first time Minerva emerged from behind her desk in her tartan overcoat and fuzzy slippers. "Well, these stone floors are cold."
She retrieved the inkwell as Harry pulled the scabbard from behind the glass case.
"Just the cup left then, I'll take them to the Quidditch Pitch, My Lady Belle is an accomplished researcher and has determined that dark magics are least powerful at solar noon, which will be in just under two hours so, if you'll excuse me?"
His ladies rose to join him but he forbade it.
"Not this time I'm afraid, first there's no need for all of us to go, as I'm the only one who can open the chamber and I don't want you jostled about on the slide down."
"Yes m'lord, might I go with you to the entrance?"
Harry rolled his eyes but smiled, "Yes milady, of course."
"And as I'm your adjutant, I really must insist." Marietta said, in a tone that would brook no argument.
"Someone please remind me that I'm the ranking officer here?"
"Of course Commander" Marietta said kissing his right cheek.
"Of course m'lord" Belle said kissing his left.
Harry placed the scabbard around his waist and pocketed the (empty) inkwell along with the locket and said "shall we?"
As they entered the second floor girls bathroom Harry heard a familiar voice.
"You're not welcome here anymore Potter!"
"Oh, hello Myrtle" Harry said in an effort to be cordial.
"Don't you 'oh hello' me you murderer, you assassin. Tell me, did it feel good when you slashed and tried to murder the only friend I've had in ages? Did you brag to all your friends about how he lay bleeding on my floor? He was so sensitive and good and gentle and kind and so frightened and you had to ruin everything!"
Harry had just about had enough. He was not looking forward to going back into the chamber in the first place and now there was a psychotic ghost in his face.
He raised his hand, palm out and in his command voice said "Myrtle, stop; have you managed to convince yourself that I attacked him?" he demanded, green eyes boring into her grey ethereal ones, "who started with the unforgivables? Who started cursing in the first place? What was he planning to do, and . . . wait a minute?" Harry realized something that he should have known all along. "You and he talked for hours; you must have known what he was trying to do!"
Myrtle shrank back toward a wall.
"When did you know, Myrtle? When did you know that he planned to attack this castle, to bring death eaters into these halls, to kill Albus Dumbledore?"
Belle interrupted, "Myrtle, are we talking about Draco?"
"Well, let me show you what your good and gentle and kind boyfriend is capable of!"
Saying that she undid the lacings of her emerald green velvet dress and peeled the top down so that she could remove the white camisole, then she presented her scarred back to the ghost girl.
"This is what your good and gentle and frightened boyfriend did to me, and you know what? It wasn't enough, he would have crucioed me too if someone hadn't been there to stop him."
She restored her top with great dignity and said, "Now stop annoying us little ghost, and think in the future how your actions reverberate through the land of the living!"
This time Myrtle moaned in shame and guilt as she did a header into one of the toilettes.
Harry walked over to the sinks and found the one with the faucet that bore the snake emblem.
Open he said in parseltongue.
The sink retreated into the floor revealing the slide tunnel behind it.
"All right ladies, stay here, I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Wait, Harry." Belle said, "I know the Dork Laird, he would never slide down a hole like this - too undignified."
"What would he do?"
"He would have a conveyance of some sort, or at the very least, stairs."
Harry shrugged, then said Ssstairsss
The slide angled every foot or so forming a long graceful spiral staircase.
"My Lord?" she said holding out her hand.
Harry groaned and took it leading her carefully into the dark chambers below.
"Commander?" Marietta said and drew her wand as she stepped past them and whispered "Lumos!"
The directed beam of light allowed them to safely navigate the stairs all the way to the bone littered base.
"There was only the one basilisk, but if you see anything moving shut your eyes straight away, all right?"
Both ladies nodded their agreement.
As they all entered the main chamber torches magically lit showing off the serpentine architecture. At the end of the great chamber was the statue of the monkey-faced Salazar Slytherin, the mouth still open since the last time Harry had entered the chamber four years before. There was no trace of the basilisk's body. Harry didn't want to think about what could render twenty meters of snake to nothing, not even a skeleton.
"Keep your eyes peeled, have your wands ready, just in case."
"Harry, do you know something you're not telling us?" Marietta asked.
"I'm not sure, but there should be a very large dead snake here and there isn't; not even a pile of bones."
Both ladies appreciated his honesty and candor. Of course both pulled their wands and started scanning the room.
"Stay close, it's going to be a bit wet here."
He strode ahead of them into the knee deep water until he reached Salazar's open mouth, the lighted wand tip revealed nothing but a dark furnished room, some books and a large desk. Looking back to make sure his ladies were watching his back and each other's he slipped inside.
There to the left of the door was a small recessed alcove, and resting on a shelf was Helga Hufflepuff's golden goblet.
He picked it up and thought, "This is too easy."
"Harry, get out here!" Marietta shouted.
He jumped out of the small room and joined the two ladies standing near the water's edge.
"What is it?" he asked.
Both ladies were still scanning the chamber.
"See that?" Belle asked.
"See what?" Harry asked.
"Just keep looking at the far entrance." Just then a dark shape scuttled through the distant opening - through the roof of the opening.
All three mages redirected their wand lights toward the ceiling of the chamber.
The ceiling was alive with multi-legged creatures with multiple multifaceted eyes.
The acromantulae had found a new home.
The three humans were welcome guests.
Welcome for dinner.