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Chapter Twenty-Three

Harry paced his room restlessly as he realised that he needed to convince Minerva that going for the Horcrux before the potion was ready was the best thing to do. Snape’s words explaining that Malfoy would be found out by Voldemort, who would put a greater protection on his remaining Horcrux, echoed around his head. He had to get to the last one before it was too late, and if that involved going on his own then so be it.

He tried talking to Bill and Kingsley first, they being the two most likely to listen to plans which involved them throwing themselves into life risking situations. They seemed to think that his point was one well made, but that Minerva was unlikely to take risks until they knew that the potion worked.

“I don’t particularly like going against Minerva’s word on anything,” Kingsley said as he twirled his wand between his fingers, and then dropped it on the coffee table with a clatter, “but I’ll go to Riddle House to try and get it out with you, if that’s what you need. The later we leave it, the more chance Voldemort’s got to hide it somewhere else, or sit there with it when we get there.”

“Definitely,” Bill said solemnly, “you’ve made a particularly good point there, not like you. But I’m sure we can rally up more people to help, the twins, Tonks… they all enjoy a good bit of defiance.”

“They don’t know about the Horcrux though,” Harry said. “We can’t tell them we’re just going there for the sake of a hidden artefact, they’d figure it out.”

“Harry, most people don’t even know that Horcruxes exist. Most people won’t even talk about them, or hear them mentioned so no one’s first thought is that we’re hunting them down,” Bill argued. “If we say that it’s just something that we need to help us locate Voldemort then I’m sure they’d go for that.”

“Mad Eye won’t,” Kingsley told him. “If he thinks there’s a chance that anyone can guess what we’re doing, he’ll spin them a tale so bizarre and elaborate, it’d be easier to leave them here.”

“Or we can leave Mad Eye here,” Harry suggested.

Kingsley grinned. “Leave Mad Eye out of a potentially life threatening situation? He’ll have a fit! Brilliant, when do we go?”

“As soon as possible, who do we take?” Harry asked.

“The two of us, Tonks, the twins, Charlie… Ron and Hermione?” suggested Bill.

“Too young, Ron will want to be right in there with the action but be scared at the same time so he’ll be all panicky and I don’t think Hermione likes being left behind, but I don’t think she wants to get too deeply involved either,” Kingsley said. “Besides, neither of them could keep a secret if their lives depended upon it.”


“Too excitable.”

“Elphias Doge?”

“Too old.”


“Are you mad?”

“Hestia, Lupin, Aberforth?” Bill suggested in quick succession. “They might be okay, and I’m pretty sure they’d all happily go against Minerva…”

“Hestia’s still out in the middle of nowhere, following those hags,” Kingsley reminded him. This was news to Harry, who didn’t bother to say anything; he was more concerned about getting hold of the last Horcrux whilst he could. “Aberforth would be brilliant, get hold of him. And Lupin, I don’t know…”

“The twins reckon he’s a bit of a rule breaker when he needs to be,” Bill said and Kingsley nodded thoughtfully, “and the full moon’s already been and gone.”

“I’ll ask him, but if he says no then I don’t want him to know that we’re still thinking of going ahead with it anyway, even though he’ll know that we don’t have Minerva’s permission,” Kingsley said, “and I can’t imagine him being overly thrilled that Harry’s behind this whole thing.”

“So we’re just not going to ask for Minerva’s approval at all?” Bill asked. “Not even ask and then pretend it was a very specific hypothetical situation?”

“Better not to,” Kingsley said. “Like I’ve already said, I’d rather that we had more support on this, but if she says no then we won’t have a chance of getting in there until the potion’s been brewed. I think we should be going as soon as possible.

“I’ll talk to Lupin, you can talk to the twins and Charlie, get hold of Aberforth once you’ve done,” Kingsley said to Bill, “and you, Harry, can go after Tonks.” He took a deep breath and got to his feet, moving towards the door. “Either of you, start planning how we’re going to get in and out, try and find out what we’ll be facing over there, and get a plan of the house if you can. Harry, before you go after Tonks, get into Hogwarts and check the Frequency Counter – if it’s gone then we’re already in trouble.”

Moments later, Harry was swirling through the Floo network and into Hogwarts. He was admitted with no troubles at all, and fell through into Minerva’s office. It was a stroke of luck that she was not there at the time; had she been then he would have had a hard time explaining just what he was doing there, or why he wanted to look at the Frequency Counter which followed Riddle House.

It was still there.

He could have cried with relief. After the last time they’d looked at the counter and found that the Horcrux which they had been diligently following had vanished entirely, none of them had any desire to have the past repeated on them.

Behind him, the fire glowed green suddenly and Harry leapt for the door. He slammed it shut just as he heard someone step through the fireplace and into the room. He wasn’t sure who it was, but he wasn’t particularly keen on meeting up with anyone at that moment in time. He walked quickly through the school, ignoring the wondering looks of the few students he met on his path, as he took as many disused passageways as he could remember in order to get up to the seventh floor.

It was easy to get into Snape’s temporary chambers, once it was known where they were. Harry stepped through the door to find Snape hovering over a set of plans, which Harry then realised was a map of somewhere, in very good detail, rather close up.

“Potter, I wasn’t aware I’d invited you.”

“I thought I’d see how you were and what you’re doing,” Harry said, an edge of suspicion touching his voice. Snape rolled his eyes and went back to his studying.

“Being suspicious, of course. And as for how I am, I’m being waited on by a house-elf who seems to think that you are a god, more’s the pity. Not sure what it calls itself, but it appears to enjoy wearing an odd pair of socks,” Snape sneered slightly.

Harry moved to peer over his shoulder, glancing at the plans, which were for a reasonably sized building.

“Riddle House, naturally,” Snape replied to the question which never quite made it to Harry’s lips. “I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that you would want to get in there and get the Horcrux quite soon, and since I am in no place to do it then you and your minions will be doing it for the benefit of all.”

“I don’t suppose you know where the Horcrux is, in the house?” Harry asked as he sat down in one of the comfier looking chairs near the table.

“Oh yes, the Dark Lord loves to give out the locations of his prized objects to anyone who asks, and for Horcruxes he’s been handing out leaflets with precise maps on, where did you think I got this one?” Snape sneered.

“Where did you get the map?” Harry pressed.

“Old historical records,” Snape replied and threw a heavy book across at Harry.

‘Historical Magical Buildings,’ the title simply said. Harry flicked through the thick, dusty pages until he found Riddle House. There was lots of information about it, dating back hundreds of years and examining the owners of the house in detail, along with the extensive grounds allotted to it, and of course the building itself. Having belonged to many magical persons in the past, it was considered as a strongly magical area, and the walls of the house itself were known to move and shift, in a labyrinthine manner.

“If the house changes shape, like a labyrinth, then how can there be a map?” Harry asked.

“The house cannot change the way it was built,” Snape replied wearily, “and these maps show the floors of the house at their most basic. Walls which will not change shape or move, but doors are created within them at will, and other walls and obstacles have been known to appear inside the house when faced with magical intruders. Muggles who enter have never yet had any problems within, but that may be because they are too ignorant to note the fact that it took them an extra half hour to leave the building than it did to enter and go to a specific room…”

“Obstacles?” Harry repeated, dubiously.

“You heard me correctly,” Snape clarified. “The house has a very strong awareness of magical power within a particular witch or wizard. It prefers pure blooded individuals – so don’t be taking Granger along, she won’t get out again – as well as those who have a particularly strong will. The more strongly willed you are, the more the house will test you, and if it believes you to have passed its rigorous trials, then you can probably move at least reasonably freely through the house.”

“I don’t believe you,” Harry told him flatly. “There is no way that a house would do all that just to prevent people from moving about. It’s just a house, it’s not a living thing or anything.”

Snape sighed and got up from the floor, where he had been kneeling over the maps, spread across the coffee table by the fire. He poured himself a small glass of something which looked like it might have been Fire Whiskey and sat down on one of the sofas near to Harry’s chosen chair.

“It is quite clear that you have learnt nothing from your experiences of magic and its behaviour. Even when you are fully aware that Hogwarts moves its staircases and some passageways to help or to hinder those who walk within her walls. Dumbledore greatly overestimated you,” Snape said coolly and took another drink. “As it is, if you enter the building unprepared then you will be in for a great shock. Pick your accompanying comrades carefully, as many of them may not be returning otherwise.”

“How much control will Voldemort have over the house?” Harry asked suddenly. “I mean, can he make it so that the house won’t let me in at all?”

“No, wizards themselves have no control over houses unless the house wishes them to. Dumbledore had a lot of influence over Hogwarts, and I daresay some of Hogwarts more favoured students may also have done,” Snape said, looking pointedly at Harry, who raised a slightly sceptical eyebrow. “Oh don’t be ridiculous, boy, think of all the things you’ve mysteriously found in this castle. You happen to walk into the mirror of Erised, the corridor which was forbidden in your first year just happens to be one of the first you walk into, and you can find your way around the school faster than any other pupil around… This school likes you, for some odd reason, and even gets you out of the dungeons when you wander around there.”

Harry thought for a moment and was forced to grudgingly admit, as least to himself, that most of what Snape was saying was right; he did seem to have a particular knack for finding things that he probably wasn’t meant to, whilst inside the school.

“Anyway, returning to your previous question,” Snape said pointedly, “Wizards can’t have any control over the houses unless the house wants to occasionally do what certain magicians wish. Voldemort, though fearsome, earned the displeasure of the house, by bringing it into disrepute and murdering his family. Therefore, the house won’t stand for him.”

“How do you know all this?” Harry asked, again suspicious of the man he was talking to.

“I know about magical control of homes and places because my own previous home was in there and I was brought up manipulating my house,” Snape said, again sounding bored of the endless questions, “and as for Voldemort’s inability to manipulate his home? Guesswork. He doesn’t use the house, and the last time he went there, he was gone for three days. That was years ago, and presumably when he hid the Horcrux. I would presume from that, that the house locked him in somehow and tried to cause damage to him for all that he’d done against the house, which now has fallen into disrepair. Getting out alive might also involve some magical DIY,” Snape said the word with some distaste, as if the word itself was bitter to him, “in order to please the home you’ll be in.”

“Great, so it sounds like we’ll have a right job just getting out of the house itself, and that’s if we’re not assaulted by Death Eaters or something along those lines,” Harry sighed and ate some of the Every Flavour Beans that materialised in his lap.

“Depends who you’re taking,” Snape reiterated.

“Weasleys, Tonks, Remus, Aberforth, Kingsley and me,” Harry replied.

“Weasleys and Aberforth are purebloods, they’ll be fine, especially Aberforth, as he’s also old and the house respects age just as you ought,” Snape said, running through those Harry had listed, “Shacklebolt, I don’t know about, but if he’s strong enough to be an Auror, I’m sure he can beat the house, Tonks the same, you’ll struggle unless you take previous advice and pander to what the house wants, and as for Lupin… Well, I don’t know what the house will think of a dark creature entering its midst. You might be better leaving your dog outside.”

“Thanks, you’ve been a lot of help,” Harry said and got to his feet to leave.

“So you’ve finished your questioning then,” Snape said and then stopped suddenly. He turned to Harry and said, “You’ve not asked Minerva about doing this, have you?”

Harry didn’t reply and Snape’s smile, which was unusual in itself grew somewhat larger.

“You’re in for it, Potter. If this goes wrong, as I suspect that it might, then no one will know what happened to you and Minerva will be left knowing that the last thing you did killed the lot of you without her permission,” Snape grinned. “She’ll love that. And if she’s not involved then you’re doing all the planning yourself. This just gets better and better…”

By this time Harry had already moved to the door and turned the handle to leave, pocketing the sweets which the room had given him for later, and taking the book which Snape had thrown with him, carrying it under his arm.

“Bye, Professor,” Harry said as he left the room.

“You’re all going to die, Potter!” Snape yelled before the door slammed shut. A third year Hufflepuff who had wandered out of her way, stared at Harry as he left the room, and the door disappeared into the wall.

It didn’t take Harry long to leave the school and get to Grimmauld Place, where he found Tonks talking with Bill, Kingsley, Charlie, the twins, Remus and the man he recognised as Aberforth, from the Hog’s Head pub.

“Harry, just who we were waiting for,” Kingsley said as Harry fell through the fireplace and was caught mid-fall by Charlie, who sat him down at the table.

“So, since Harry is finally here then we can start the more detailed planning,” Bill said as he and Charlie cast some charms around the room, preventing them from being overheard.

Everyone leant forward eagerly and they discussed, just above whispering, just what they were going to do. Harry reiterated everything which Snape had said to him earlier, but did not disclose the fact that Snape had been the one to tell him all this, and put most of his knowledge down to the book he had been ‘given’ by Snape.

Maps were drawn out of the main house and plans of entry and exits were decided upon. They discussed who would stay with whom, but Remus ventured himself that the house would not like him, and he would be better staying outside. This was disputed but eventually agreed upon; Remus would keep watch outside, and if anything happened out of the usual then each of them would feel their Phoenix grow warm.

It was at this point that Aberforth smiled and turned to Harry. He had not said much throughout the proceedings, allowing everyone else to take the floor as and when they wished, but it was then that Aberforth wished to speak. He was not a particularly well spoken man, he was nothing like Dumbledore, but he was a powerful wizard in his own right, even if the knowledge he had was not acquired through conventional schooling. He did not even possess a wand…

“We let the rest of the Order know when we’re in trouble,” Aberforth said briskly. “One of the easiest ways, though it doesn’t always give a particularly vivid location, is the Phoenix. It’s a small brass phoenix which will remain on your person at all times from now on, so that we’ll be able to tell if you’re in trouble. When anything happens, the other Order members will see a flickering image of who is in trouble, and their location. That will be all, and then we run to you to help.” That was all he said for the rest of the evening. It was known that he rarely spoke, but when he did, it was to Harry more so than anyone else.

He opened his hand to show a small phoenix, intricately made, with something of Hagrid’s work in it. Aberforth handed it over to Harry, who took it with a slight smile and pocketed it.

“However,” Remus said, taking over from Dumbledore, “if one of us is in trouble, we only expect you to assist when you’re out with us, on such rare occasions as these. We don’t want you disappearing out of the house, should anything happen then. If you’re not specifically out, then we don’t want you reacting to any trouble going on.”

“But you’ll keep the phoenix on you, because you’re the one most likely to find trouble in the safest of places,” Charlie grinned slightly. “So from now on you can consider yourself an honorary member of the Order of the Phoenix, since you’re still not quite old enough to be a part of us yet… even if you are more involved than half the Order anyway.”

“So, we’ll head over there tomorrow morning, first thing, just to see what we’re going to face,” Bill said, signalling that it would be he and the twins who went.

“And then in the evening,” said Fred.

“Under cover of darkness,” George added.

“We can go steal stuff,” Fred grinned and then whispered to George, rather audibly, “I’ve already got our swag bags out.”

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