JavaScript Menu, DHTML Menu Powered By Milonic

The next morning broke as the curtain of darkness slowly rolled down the gentle hills. Illuminating the very tree tops, the new golden honey of the day dripped down from bough to bough, bringing warmth and promise with it. An undulating layer of mist wrapped the floor of the dale in gray serenity, and the dew-laden grass found itself pock-marked with the footprints of scurrying garden gnomes. All evidence of tents, carriages and the throngs of guests had been magically whisked away. Skirted by the mist, the downstairs windows of The Burrow glowed brightly through the suspended drops of water.

Inside, Mrs. Weasley glanced at the family clock, patiently waiting for the children to come down for breakfast. While they wrestled with sleep and hunger upstairs in their rooms, she prepared a hot breakfast of pancakes, sausages and syrup. Although she was, by rights, exhausted from the previous day's wedding, Mrs. Weasley was determined to stretch her wave of motherly nurturing just a bit longer in order to see all the kids safely and happily off.

The breakfast table was satisfying and the conversation spirited, but soon Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Hermione excused themselves up to Ron's room for some discussion. Mrs. Weasley understood completely and would not have allowed them to leave for school without that time together. She was aware of how important the coming days and months would be, and her stake in these matters was more than most.

"Neither can live while the other survives."

Four pairs of eyes gazed at the War Parchment as Harry touched his wand to it, and its contents came into view. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, sitting on the edges of the two beds, were astonished at all that it now contained, and they were beside themselves as the temptation to ask questions bubbled to the surface, but each waited, maybe not patiently but mindful of their roles and the job that Harry had to do. They also waited for Hermione to perform silence charms on all the posters and photos inhabiting Ron's walls. Although they could probably trust the eyes and ears of Viktor Krum, other Quidditch teams and various tourists in the snapshots taken near the pyramids in Egypt, they all agreed that it would be wise to not take any chances. "Better to be safe than sorry" was an idea that would underlie many courses of action in these times where trust was a luxury they could ill afford.

Harry appreciated the silence of his friends, and he showed them as much respect as they afforded him by carefully reviewing most of what was happening and was going to happen in the wizarding world's conflict. As he began to explain what was to transpire, it dawned on Harry that these were all plans and nothing more. It would be sheer folly to assume that all would occur according to plan, but he had to start somewhere. The biggest unknown would be Voldemort and the plans he must be formulating this very instant, indeed, plans that he might already be putting into action. To think otherwise would be dangerous, and every witch and wizard had now seen where that would lead.

Each listened intently as Harry described some of the entries on the War Parchment.

"During the summer, Hagrid and Mme. Maxime were actively contacting Giants in various regions of Europe. They traveled to the mountains of central Europe as well as the Urals in Russia. From what I've heard reported back, little progress has been made. The Giants are very divided over what path to follow, if they were to choose any path at all. Considering that their temperaments, let alone mental limitations, often get in the way of their decision making, that is not a surprise. It is, however, a disappointment nonetheless.

Much more progress has been made with the House Elves. It seems that Hermione has created a great deal of good will with them." At this, Hermione could not help but beam and give Ron a good-natured jab in the ribs with her elbow. Harry continued, knowing full well that he deserved an equal dose of Hermione's righteousness, "Dobby has been actively working with the House Elves, and most seem ready to help when asked. Their peculiar variety of magic is quite powerful, and I believe that it will be very useful to us in the fight against Voldemort."

Each part of the War Parchment brought its own bit of fascination and intrigue. Harry knew that now was the time to designate the roles of Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. He hoped they would not balk simply on the unavoidable necessity that each would be separated from the others. He went on determinedly, "Ron, I need you back at Hogwarts to run the DA. They need greater levels of organization and skill, and there is no one I trust more to do the job than you. Please set up weekly meetings in the Room of Requirement, and each week I will have an auror or member of the Order come out and give a lesson on specific charms, deep, dark and powerful ones that we will doubtless be needed - and soon. Many of the aurors are, by their nature, more wary and far less political than the Minister. They will help.

Hermione, we need you to continue your research into the possible horcruxes and any connection that exists beyond the obvious one of Voldemort. He simply does not do things randomly, and there must be some symbolism to his choices. We just don't see it yet. If you need to, please access the libraries at Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Mme. Maxime and Professor Nedkov, the new Headmaster at Durmstrang, are expecting you and say you are most welcome. If anyone can solve the riddle, you can."

"For Lily and James."

At this, Harry turned to Ginny and reached out to her, his hand resting gently on hers. Her mission had already been discussed the night before, and he was sure she had shared it with the others. The relationship of the four encouraged complete and open communication, and Harry knew they could not survive without it. It was now time for all to head out on their appointed tasks.

Harry, preparing to leave for 12 Grimmauld Place, stood outside the front door of The Burrow and gazed at the vista that represented so much of what he loved. Archie McClendon, the auror who was now stationed at The Burrow full time, was walking through the garden area enjoying the beauty of the country but nevertheless warily taking its pulse.

That was his job, and Harry felt secure he was good at it. The Ministry knew Harry would be spending much of the next year there, and they considered this one of the necessary precautions. Harry trotted over to McClendon and shared a few words, followed by a firm handshake and pats on respective shoulders.

As Harry walked to the clearing, he clutched his DA galleon in his hand and sent a message. He sighed wistfully at the prospect of leaving The Burrow, but the house at 12 Grimmauld Place was his, and right now it represented much more than that.


The bright light of day caused Harry to squint as he emerged from the train station onto the tainted limestone of the plaza. Muggles, and more than a few wizards and witches, interwove as they went about their business, hardly looking up at each other or even at the stone obelisk with the cross that signified the station. Having ridden the train and being here at King's Cross made Harry miss Hogwarts station all the more. Simply thinking of Hogwarts gave Harry an added boost, and he quickened his step as he crossed the plaza, mindlessly avoiding the throngs of people. Emerging from the plaza onto the street, he turned away from the river and walked toward 12 Grimmauld Place.

Harry's strides were long and purposeful, and he soon found himself crossing Grimmauld Place's square and stepping onto the pavement as he approached The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. As many times as he had run through this moment in his head and tried to convince himself otherwise, Harry still ached at this reminder of the loss of Sirius. There was no getting around it, so Harry raised his head, threw his shoulders back and took a deep breath as he walked up the stone stairs that brought him to the weatherworn black door.

The coiled snake that was the door's knocker as well as a recurrent motif within the house perfectly represented the great conflict that tore through the Black family. There was such good as well as such evil within the very same branches of the family tree, and much pain and anguish had resulted from that. Members of the family had felt it, innocent victims had suffered for it, and Harry's loss was even greater for it. All the ironies were not lost on Harry as he surreptitiously drew his wand out from underneath his jacket and gently touched it to the door.

Musty air and oppressive darkness greeted Harry as the door quietly swung open. Harry stepped across the threshold into the solitude and despair that was the Black House, and no amount of sunlight streaming through the door could change that. If anything the contrast intensified the expectations of what lay ahead. The light felt like nothing more than a false hope as the door swung closed, and Harry had to light the lonely candles of the candelabra by wand. No one should have been here since the Order abandoned 12 Grimmauld Place as its headquarters.

Harry glanced down the entrance hall as it danced in the flickering light of the flames. At the end of the hall was a wide but steep stairwell that led down to the kitchen and beyond that his target. Before Harry would head that way, he wanted to be certain that all was as he remembered it. A mistake in memory now was a risk he did not want to take, so he turned and headed up the stairs.

The banister felt smooth under Harry's hand as it slowly inched its way upward, and his feet nestled into the gentle grooves worn into the stairs by years of use. Each floor was as it should have been, from dusty neglected bedrooms all the way up to Buckbeak's den in Mrs. Black's old bedchamber. Satisfied that everything was as expected, Harry made his way back downstairs into the dining room.

Habit made Harry glance around one more time before he descended the final staircase into the large kitchen. Mixed memories greeted Harry once again: bright warm fires, important people, conflict, pain, Snape.

Had Sirius still been alive, this was a house he could have loved, but now his heart was filled with loathing. That disgust was only accentuated by the knowledge of many deeds yet undone - acts of vengeance and acts of necessity all standing in Harry's path. Harry reached into his pocket, grasped the DA Galleon once again and sent a message.

Within moments, two house-elves appeared out of nowhere. Dobby was dressed in an orange and brown checked shirt, green woolen socks and a blue knit hat that almost certainly had been made by Hermione. The sight of Dobby could not help but bring a brief smile to Harry's face. Harry already knew of the other house-elf, Rekky. Carefully chosen by Dobby for his trustworthiness as well as his youth and skills, Rekky was dressed in more normal garb for a house elf, even one from such an enlightened institution as Hogwarts. Harry had been very careful to impress upon Dobby that this was all business, and he appreciated their help and considered them virtual equals. It took a direct order even then, but the two house-elves accepted Harry at his word.

Thus, with plans already in place, nothing more than a nod of acknowledgment needed to be exchanged among the three. Harry lit his wand, walked to the door of the boiler room and entered with Dobby and Rekky close behind. Carefully and deliberately, Harry walked to the doorless cabinet along the wall, crouched down, and reached over to the filthy rags below the pipes that Kreacher, Harry's inherited house-elf who was now assigned to Hogwarts, once called home. Harry lifted one corner of a rag, revealing the edge of a picture frame. This was not at all a surprising sight considering Kreacher's penchant to preserve all things Black, particularly objects related the nastier side of the family.

As the rag was lifted, more and more of the red frame was revealed until, at last, Harry could see the face of Arcturus Black. Tension made the silence even more overbearing, but it was broken the moment light from Harry's wand touched the eyes of the figure in the picture. At that instant Arcturus Black let out a loud call of alarm which was immediately echoed by a blood-curdling scream from upstairs. Mrs. Black had picked up the alarm, and her shrill voice filled the entire house and beyond.

Harry, Dobby and Rekky all stood up and looked around out of sheer habit. In that moment of weakness, they heard a 'pop' behind them, followed by a familiar sneer. Harry, Dobby and Rekky spun around only to see the back of Kreacher as he disappeared into a secret door in the wall behind his rags. Surprised but not unprepared, Rekky dove through the secret door with all the intensity of equal purpose.

What Rekky saw was so unlike a house-elf that he had to put his amazement aside and concentrate on chasing Kreacher. The path wound through the walls of the house, lined by old curtains and bedsheets discarded over the years by the family. Looking ahead, Rekky scampered through the twisting turns, barely able to keep Kreacher visible. As Rekky emerged onto the first floor, the wall opened up into a small sanctuary hidden somewhere between the rooms.

The floor of Kreacher's hideout was covered with old clothes, many from eras of days gone by but all tied together by threads of the Black Family Tree. With Kreacher nowhere to be seen, Rekky raced through the opening at the other end and continued his pursuit upward. The second floor sanctuary was lined with repaired pieces of the Black Family china, all the seams expertly and lovingly sealed together once again. The chase continued with the third-floor hideout covered with more clothes and the walls lined with knives and swords dating back hundreds of years. As Rekky sped upwards, there was no way for him to know that one particular dagger had been removed from its perch. . .

Harry and Dobby raced up the main staircase of the house, Dobby actually in the lead as he sensed the location of Rekky and followed it as best he could. When it appeared to Harry that the two house-elves might be heading to Kreacher's old lair in the attic, he raced to the top room and waited, both he and Dobby on high alert.

. . . nor could Rekky have foreseen what was awaiting him on the fourth floor. He flew out of the tunnel and emerged into a brightly lit room, the walls covered with Black family portraits and jewelry everywhere. Nearly blinded, Rekky raised his hands over his large protruding eyes, needing a moment to adjust. That hesitation, along with the element of surprise, was all that Kreacher needed against the agile young house-elf. Instantly, a dagger was sent flying through the air, and it found it's target in the chest of Rekky, driving him backwards and pinning him to the wall. Rekky looked down in pain and shock as the cross guard of the dagger was firmly against his chest. The handle of the dagger, composed of a snake with emerald eyes, was the last thing Rekky ever saw as his head slumped forward.

Kreacher cackled, grabbed a golden object off the wall and bounded through the tunnel up to the attic where Harry and Dobby awaited. As he emerged from the tunnel and stood up, Dobby gave him no chance whatsoever as he shot out both his hands, fingers curled forward, and two green sparks shot straight into Kreacher's chest. The look of surprise was frozen on his face as he died on the spot, slumping to the floor. Dobby, knowing that Rekky was dead, walked over and stood above Kreacher, glaring but saying nothing. Harry realized it too, and a tear fell from his eye as he walked over to Kreacher and removed the golden locket from his hand.

Harry placed the locket on the table, aimed his wand, and said "Soulus Exctinctus." A teal light shot from his wand and enveloped the locket, causing a vacillating glow that lasted for nearly a minute as it destroyed the Horcrux within. Slowly, the light dissipated as the locket returned to normalcy. Harry found the light entrancing while it went bright and dim, and also perversely satisfying as it did its job.

Somewhere, Lord Voldemort was gripping the edge of a table in a rage as his one-seventh soul screamed in silent agony at what had just occurred.


Home  |  Post A Message  |  Links   |  Disclaimer

© Copyright 2006, Jeff Starr