|SIYE Time:4:46 on 16th January 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Sequel to Darkness Within. This story begins the night before Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Canon couples accurate to JKR. The romance between Harry and Ginny will develop slowly due to their ages. Please note rating and warnings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 13306; Chapter Total: 328
Awards: View Trophy Room
With thanks to my beta, Arnel!
Harry smiled confidently as he twirled Ginny around the room. Their dancing instructor, Madam Jones, was a remarkably energetic witch who had completed her education at Hogwarts a few years before Augusta Longbottom. The former Hufflepuff taught with a great deal of humor and an admirable amount of patience.
Their six two-hour lessons were scheduled over two weeks. Today marked the end of the first week’s lessons. At the beginning of their first dancing lesson on Monday, Madam Jones instructed them to pair off. Anna and Neville were already standing side-by-side, and he automatically took her hand. Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand without even looking at her. His heart pounded in his chest. Fortunately, she gave his hand a gentle squeeze which he took to mean she was willing to be his dancing partner.
For Anna and Neville, this marked their third summer of dancing lessons. It was quite clear they were comfortable with their teacher and one another. Monday’s lesson was somewhat awkward for the other teens.
Harry always seemed to pull Ginny closer to him as each dance progressed. Madam Jones continually reminded him to move back a few inches. Ginny was smirking by the third reminder and stifling giggles by the fifth.
Ron and Hermione were having a different problem. Ron had difficulty learning and following the steps. He was so focused on placing his feet in the correct positions that he had a slight scowl etched on his face. Hermione tried to take over and lead them a few times that first day. Madam Jones was quick to correct this as well, reminding her that the gentlemen should always lead.
Wednesday’s lesson had progressed more smoothly, and today Harry was truly enjoying himself. His feet moved correctly to the music. He maintained the appropriate space between himself and Ginny. He finally understood why dancing could be a fun activity, particularly since he was able to hold Ginny in his arms for well over an hour each day.
As Augusta came into the room to chat with their instructor at the end of the lesson, Harry steered Ginny quickly out of the room and around the corner towards the kitchen.
“Harry, what are you doing?” Ginny asked.
He pulled her gently towards him. Sirius’s advice was swirling around in his brain, but suddenly he couldn’t remember what he’d decided to say or do first.
“I…erm…I really like your hair, Ginny.” He swallowed and tried desperately to recall the words he’d practiced while lying in bed the previous night. “What I mean is, you’ve got the most beautiful hair. It always smells so wonderful, like flowers from a meadow.”
“Thank you, Harry.” A faint blush appeared on her cheeks. She seemed to breathe a little more quickly.
He stroked the side of her face with his thumb. “You have the softest skin,” he said. “Dancing with you this week, being allowed to hold you in my arms has been brilliant.”
She swallowed. “I’ve enjoyed it, too.”
“I…I want to kiss you. May I kiss you, Ginny?”
Harry leaned forward slowly waiting for her to respond. He stopped a few inches from her lips and finally met her bright brown eyes.
“Yes, Harry.” Her voice was barely even a whisper, but he heard her.
He pressed his lips gently to hers, feeling their warmth, feeling their softness. One hand threaded through the silky strands of her hair while the other tightened around her waist. Releasing her lips, he looked at her closed eyelids. Her eyelashes were dark against the paleness of her cheekbones.
“Gin,” he murmured, lowering his mouth to hers once more, pressing harder this time, turning his head slightly to find a better angle. She felt even better than he remembered. Their brief kiss so many months ago had been a hint of what could be. Harry felt a bit disoriented and didn’t care in the least. All that mattered was holding her, touching her, tasting her.
Ginny ended the kiss this time and stared into his eyes as she tried to catch her breath. She gripped the front of his shirt tightly.
“Will you be my girlfriend?”
“Of course, Harry.” Her lips curved into a smile. “I’d love to be your girlfriend.”
He knew he was grinning as he lowered his mouth to hers. He gently kissed her lips, her cheek, and the spot just below her ear. Ginny made the most wonderful whimpering sound as her hands moved up to his shoulders.
“Oi! What do you think you’re doing with my sister?”
Harry’s head snapped up at the sound of Ron’s voice. He tried to remember the perfect argument he had come up with last night for why Ron should be pleased about him dating his little sister. Unfortunately, his brain seemed to be working in slow motion. He couldn’t recall a single word of it.
“For goodness sake, Ronald, you should have seen this coming!” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Just be glad your friendship with Harry doesn’t have to change. Some girls don’t like their boyfriend’s friends and try to limit how much time they spend together.”
“Besides, you should be happy, Ron,” Neville commented. “Harry would never hurt Ginny. She’ll be safe with him.”
His words sobered Harry and probably prevented Ginny and Ron from making a further scene.
“Why don’t we have some tea in the garden room?” Anna suggested. “I’ll just go to the kitchens and ask Litty and Bitty to prepare something for us.” She paused to touch their arms as she passed them. “I’m very happy for you both.” She smirked.
Sirius frowned as he stared at the golden locket on the Headmaster’s desk. “You’re sure it has to be Harry?”
“Unless you know of another Parselmouth, I’m afraid we will have to ask Harry to open Slytherin’s Locket,” Albus replied. “I have spent these past weeks poring over every scrap of knowledge about the Founders and their personal relics. The Hogwarts’ library as well as the Headmaster’s own personal library concur that Salazar Slytherin routinely spelled objects to only respond to a Speaker. I believe Voldemort would have been quite pleased with that tradition.”
“Are you certain the locket must be opened before it can be destroyed?” Remus asked.
“I cannot be certain of anything regarding such magic.” The Headmaster shrugged. “What I can tell you is that I have tried to destroy it and have not been successful. You indicated that Kreacher also failed in his attempts. We must assume the Horcrux will continue to resist our efforts until the locket is opened.”
Sirius sighed. “I’ll go get Harry.”
Taking the Floo back to Longbottom Manor, he smiled as he spotted his godson enjoying a spirited game of Exploding Snap with Neville. Augusta was sipping her tea as she observed their antics. Anna was pouring over one of the esoteric texts on Numerology and Arithmancy he had found in the library at Grimmauld Place.
“Harry,” he began. “I’m sorry to interrupt your game, but Professor Dumbledore is requesting I take you to Hogwarts.”
“Is everything okay?” He stood up.
Sirius forced a reassuring smile. “I believe so. The Headmaster simply needs your assistance with a small object. I’ll explain the situation once we arrive, but it shouldn’t require anything more than a few words on your part.”
Harry nodded. “I’m ready, then.”
“You have your wand?”
Exiting the Floo, Sirius turned to help his godson and was pleasantly surprised when the boy managed to land more gracefully than usual.
“Harry, my boy, I’m glad you were able to come for a visit this evening. I hope your summer break has been enjoyable.” The Headmaster’s eyes twinkled as he spoke.
“Yes, sir. I’ve had a wonderful summer!”
“Excellent!” Professor Dumbledore indicated the chairs in front of his desk and sat down in his own chair. “I’m afraid we have a small situation which I believe you will be able to handle rather well.” He stroked his long beard thoughtfully. “What I’m about to tell you should be revealed to as few people as possible. Voldemort must not have the opportunity to learn that we have discovered part of the means to bring about his ultimate downfall.”
Sirius was unsurprised to see the curious and hopeful expression on his godson’s face.
“You remember, of course, the diary that possessed Miss Weasley a few years ago,” Dumbledore began. “When you broke its power by stabbing it with a Basilisk fang, I became curious about the exact nature of such a powerful, and clearly Dark, magical object. My research eventually convinced me that the diary was, in fact, a Horcrux created by Voldemort decades ago.”
“What’s a Horcrux, sir?”
“It is the evilest concept ever entertained by wizards. A Horcrux is a form of immortality for the soul. To create one, a wizard must knowingly and deliberately set out to commit murder. That horrific act causes the soul of the murderer to temporarily be severed. He is then able to contain a piece of his soul in a specially prepared object.”
Harry’s eyes widened in confusion. “Why would anyone want to damage their soul like that?”
“The advantage of such separation is that if the wizard is ever killed, he will not truly die. The piece of his soul safely residing in the object allows him to continue to exist and affords him the time and opportunity to regain a body, to live once more. Naturally only a wizard who truly fears death would ever attempt such a vile act.”
“And that’s how Voldemort stayed alive all those years?”
Professor Dumbledore nodded. “I believe it is the only explanation for how he survived the events at Godric’s Hollow so long ago. The Killing Curse that left you with your scar and rebounded upon him should have killed him. The fact he continued to exist is evidence that Voldemort used magic of the darkest kind to preserve his life. A Horcrux would also explain how he managed to be reborn into a new body on the last night of the Triwizard Tournament.”
“But…the diary is destroyed, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Harry.” The Headmaster nodded gravely. “And, therein lies the true problem. We do not yet know how many Horcruxes Voldemort managed to make. They must all be found. Every piece of his soul must be obliterated before he can be defeated. Besides the diary, I have also found and destroyed this ring.” He pointed to the gold ring set with a black stone on his desk. “Sirius and Remus brought this locket to me not long ago. We believe it is a third Horcrux.” He held out Slytherin’s locket for Harry to examine.
“The S on it looks like a snake,” Harry murmured.
Sirius rested his hand lightly on his godson’s shoulder. “Albus believes the locket must be opened by a Parselmouth.”
“You want me to talk to the locket? What should I say?”
“I believe simply commanding it to open in Parseltongue will likely be enough.” Dumbledore walked over to the sword of Godric Gryffindor. “Once it is open, stabbing it with this blade should destroy it.”
“I thought Horcruxes were practically indestructible.” Remus frowned. “I understand that goblin-made weapons are extremely valuable, but they aren’t exactly rare.”
“You are quite correct. Most goblin-made swords would not be suitable for our purposes. However, Harry’s actions in the Chamber of Secrets caused Gryffindor’s sword to be the perfect weapon.”
“The Basilisk.” Remus stroked his chin.
The Headmaster nodded. “This blade is imbibed with Basilisk venom. One of the greatest strengths of goblin-made weapons is their natural ability to take in that which makes them stronger. The smallest cut from this could be quite deadly.”
“So, are we ready to do this now?” Sirius asked.
“I believe now is as good a time as any.” Dumbledore placed the locket in the middle of the stone floor of his office. “I should warn you the Horcrux may try to fight back. You may see false visions or hear sounds which aren’t real.” He picked up the sword and handed it carefully to Sirius.
“But…you never said you intended for me to do it!” Sirius glanced down at the golden locket.
“I believe you have an excellent opportunity to obtain a small measure of justice. Your brother made the ultimate sacrifice when he retrieved this Horcrux. Your house-elf has spent many years trying to break its power.” Albus glanced around the room. “Remus, it would be advisable for you to take a step back. Harry, if you would please command it to open.”
Sirius gripped the sword tightly in both hands. Remus and Dumbledore took a step back but held their wands at the ready.
Harry stared at the glittering green stones decorating the object. “Open,” he commanded.
“That was English, Harry. Please try again.” The Headmaster smiled calmly. “I realize it is not easy to speak Parseltongue when there is no true snake about; however, I’m confident you’ll succeed with a few more attempts.”
His godson nodded and took a few slow relaxing breathes. “Open,” he said. “I command you to open.”
Sirius barely had time to register the soft, sibilant sounds emanating from Harry’s mouth before the locket opened with a quiet click. Dark eyes looked out from inside the golden jewel and locked with his.
“I see your guilt…your fears.”
Sirius’s hands shook as he tried to lower the blade to the necklace.
“You failed to save your friends. They died because of you. Because of your poor suggestions…your poor choices.”
“Stab it, Sirius!” The Headmaster commanded. “Do it now!”
“Your bravery is weakness. The kind of bravery that allows others to suffer. Your attempt at vengeance is a coward’s way out.”
Two figures slowly emerged from the locket. Sirius stood paralyzed as the forms became his lost friends, James and Lily.
“How could you, Padfoot? How could you allow the Dursleys to raise our son? We trusted you.”
He shook his head in denial as he tried to focus on the sword in his grasp.
“Sirius, don’t listen to it!” Remus shouted. “The Horcrux is trying to distract you. Use the sword. Destroy it!”
“Our son suffered because of your foolishness. He was denied a proper childhood. You should suffer. You deserve to feel the pain and loneliness that he did. It’s all you fault. You failed. You’re a failure as a friend. As a brother. As a son. You failed everyone.”
“It’s lying!” Harry’s voice was loud and angry. “Sirius, listen to me! You were a wonderful friend to my parents! You are wonderful to me! I love you! None of it was your fault! Stab it! Destroy it!”
Gritting his teeth, he clutched the sword tightly and thrust it down into the locket. A piercing scream echoed about the room, drowning out his sobs as he collapsed to his knees. The clang of the blade striking the stone floor reverberated beneath him. A hand gripped his shoulder tightly as the sword was removed from his slack fingers.
“You did well.” The Headmaster’s voice was calm. “Three are now gone, and we are left with the task of discovering how many more are still out there.”
“How can we find out?” Remus inquired. “Voldemort could have made four, five, six. How are we ever going to discover the exact number?”
“I believe we will be able to learn the exact number, though I admit it may take some time.” He paused. “I wonder if I may borrow Harry for an hour or two while I visit an old friend.”
Sirius rubbed the wetness from his eyes and cheeks, finally standing and getting himself back under control. “What old friend?”
“You know him well.” Albus smiled. “I need to convince Professor Slughorn to return to Hogwarts. I am, as always, short a teacher. I believe the chance to teach young Harry may be enough of an inducement to lure him back to his old post.”
He nodded. “That would be fine, as long as Harry is willing to go.”
“I don’t mind,” Harry assured him. “He has to be better than Professor Umbridge.”
Sirius choked on his laughter as he glanced at the other men in the office. Remus was chuckling quietly.
Albus was smirking, his familiar blue eyes twinkling. “Thank you, Harry. I believe we all needed a moment of levity.”
Sirius picked up the broken locket. “May I take this to Grimmauld Place? I’d like to show it to Kreacher.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I’m sure that will be very helpful to Kreacher. He spent a great deal of time and effort trying to complete the last task Regulus gave him. I trust you will remind him not to speak of the locket.”
“I’ll remind him, and of course, I won’t tell him what it actually is, only that it’s now broken.” He slipped the necklace into his pocket. “I have already forbidden Kreacher to communicate in any way with anyone of the Lestrange family or the Malfoy family. He’s been doing much better since we knocked down the wall and removed my mother’s portrait.”
“I’m relieved that your relationship with your house-elf has improved so markedly. I admit I had some concerns. Shall I return Harry to Grimmauld Place after our visit or to Longbottom Manor?”
“Grimmauld Place, please.” He hugged his godson. “Are you okay? I know that was a bit rough.”
Harry smiled. “I’m fine, truly. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”
Augusta sipped her tea as she relaxed into the sofa. It was a perfect summer evening. Neville had gone off to the greenhouse to check on his plants. Remus, Sirius, and Harry were still off on their errand with Albus. Anna was slowly flipping through the pages of a book, making the occasional note on her parchment.
“Anna dear, I don’t mean to rush you, but I wanted to ask whether you have given any further thought to the betrothal letters.”
“Oh, well…yes.” She set her quill on the table and looked up from her place on the floor. “Actually, Ginny told me that Charlie will be arriving at The Burrow on the night of the twenty-eighth. I know we’re all going to be there on the thirty-first for the joint birthday celebration Molly’s planning for Harry and Neville, but…”
Neville closed the door behind him as he came in. “It should be a fun party! Harry and I are really looking forward to it!” He sat on the sofa next to her.
Augusta bit back an exasperated sigh. In such a large house with so few residents, it should not be so difficult to have a few minutes of private conversation with her great niece. “I’m sure it will be a lovely occasion. Molly is an excellent cook.” She patted her grandson’s knee before turning back to Anna. “You were saying, dear…”
“I was wondering if it might be possible to invite Charlie over to the Manor. The birthday celebration will be loud and exciting, but I’m not sure it will be very easy for us to talk. I was hoping to have some time to get to know him.”
“That’s an excellent idea! Why don’t we invite him to come over for tea on the afternoon of the twenty-ninth?”
“Who’s coming to tea?” Remus asked as he made his way into the garden room.
Augusta closed her eyes and rubbed her left temple.
“I was just asking Aunt Augusta if Charlie Weasley could come to the Manor for a visit.”
“Sounds reasonable.” Remus poured himself a Firewhisky. “Would you like one, Augusta?”
“Yes, Remus. A drink would be nice. Anna, if you write the letter now, I’ll look it over for you before you send it off.” She accepted her drink with an appreciative nod. “Charlie can come over for tea, and then the two of you can take a stroll through the garden.”
Anna moved to the small desk by the window and began writing on a fresh sheet of parchment.
Neville murmured. “I’m not sure she should be going off alone with him.”
“Why shouldn’t she?” Augusta whispered.
“Neville, I understand your concern, but do you really want your cousin to be afraid to be alone with a man in the garden of her own home?” Remus asked.
He grimaced. “No. I just…”
“None of us know Charlie well,” Augusta began, “but we know the Weasley family and…”
“Neville, you can come along,” Anna interrupted. “I really only want to spend a bit of time with him where it’s quiet. I don’t need to be alone with Charlie. If this is okay, Aunt Augusta, I’ll send it off with Mista before I go to bed?” She handed her the letter.
It was brief, but polite and perfectly appropriate. “That’s just fine, dear.”
Author’s Notes: Part of this chapter was borrowed heavily from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
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