The shock of losing Mad-Eye hung over the house in the days that followed; Harry kept expecting to see him stumping in through the back door like the other Order members, who passed in and out to relay news. Harry felt that nothing but action would assuage his feelings of guilt and grief and that he ought to set out on his mission to find and destroy Horcruxes as soon as possible..Cartier Love Bracelet.
â€œWell, you canâ€™t do anything about theâ€ â€“ Ron mouthed the word Horcruxes â€“ â€œtill youâ€™re seventeen. Youâ€™ve still got the Trace on you. And we can plan here as well as anywhere, canâ€™t we? Or,â€ he dropped his voice to a whisper, â€œdâ€™you reckon you already know where the You-Know-Whats are?â€.replica christian louboutin.
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â€œI think Hermioneâ€™s been doing a bit of research,â€ said Ron. â€œShe said she was saving it for when you got here.â€.bvlgari rings replica.
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â€œThe Traceâ€™ll break on the thirty-first,â€ said Harry. â€œThat means I only need to stay here four days. Then I can â€“ â€.cartier love bracelet replica.
â€œFive days,â€ Ron corrected him firmly. â€œWeâ€™ve got to stay for the wedding. Theyâ€™ll kill us if we miss it.â€.hermes bracelet replica.
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â€œMumâ€™s been trying to get it out of Hermione and me. What weâ€™re off to do. Sheâ€™ll try you next, so brace yourself. Dad and Lupinâ€™ve both asked as well, but when we said Dumbledore told you not to tell anyone except us, they dropped it. Not Mum, though. Sheâ€™s determined.â€.hermes bracelet replica.
Ronâ€™s prediction came true within hours. Shortly before lunch, Mrs. Weasley detached Harry from the others by asking him to help identify a lone manâ€™s sock that she thought might have come out of his rucksack. Once she had him cornered in the tiny scullery off the kitchen, she started..hermes bracelet replica.
â€œRon and Hermione seem to think that the three of you are dropping out of Hogwarts,â€ she began in a light, casual tone..cartier love bracelet replica.
â€œOh,â€ said Harry. â€œWell, yeah. We are.â€
The mangle turned of its own accord in a corner, wringing out what looked like one of Mr. Weasleyâ€™s vests.
â€œMay I ask why you are abandoning your education?â€ said Mrs. Weasley.
â€œWell, Dumbledore left meâ€¦ stuff to do,â€ mumbled Harry. â€œRon and Hermione know about it, and they want to come too.â€
â€œWhat sort of â€˜stuffâ€™?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry, I canâ€™t â€“ â€
â€œWell, frankly, I think Arthur and I have a right to know, and Iâ€™m sure Mr. And Mrs. Granger would agree!â€ said Mrs. Weasley. Harry had been afraid of the â€œconcerned parentâ€ attack. He forced himself to look directly into her eyes, noticing as he did so that they were precisely the same shade of brown as Ginnyâ€™s. This did not help.
â€œDumbledore didnâ€™t want anyone else to know, Mrs. Weasley. Iâ€™m sorry. Ron and Hermione donâ€™t have to come, itâ€™s their choice â€“ â€
â€œI donâ€™t see that you have to go either!â€ she snapped, dropping all pretense now. â€œYouâ€™re barely of age, any of you! Itâ€™s utter nonsense, if Dumbledore needed work doing, he had the whole Order at his command! Harry, you must have misunderstood him. Probably he was telling you something he wanted done, and you took it to mean that he wanted youâ€“â€
â€œI didnâ€™t misunderstand,â€ said Harry flatly. â€œItâ€™s got to be me.â€
He handed her back the single sock he was supposed to be identifying, which was patterned with golden bulrushes.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s not mine. I donâ€™t support Puddlemere United.â€
â€œOh, of course not,â€ said Mrs. Weasley with a sudden and rather unnerving return to her casual tone. â€œI should have realized. Well, Harry, while weâ€™ve still got you here, you wonâ€™t mind helping with the preparations for Bill and Fleurâ€™s wedding, will you? Thereâ€™s still so much to do.â€
â€œNo â€“ I â€“ of course not,â€ said Harry, disconcerted by this sudden change of subject.
â€œSweet of you,â€ she replied, and she smiled as she left the scullery.
From that moment on, Mrs. Weasley kept Harry, Ron and Hermione so busy with preparations for the wedding that they hardly had any time to think. The kindest explanation of this behavior would have been that Mrs. Weasley wanted to distract them all from thoughts of Mad-Eye and the terrors of their recent journey. After two days of nonstop cutlery cleaning, of color-matching favors, ribbons, and flowers, of de-gnoming the garden and helping Mrs. Weasley cook vast batches of canapÃ©s, however, Harry started to suspect her of a different motive. All the jobs she handed out seemed to keep him, Ron, and Hermione away from one another; he had not had a chance to speak to the two of them alone since the first night, when he had told them about Voldemort torturing Ollivander.
â€œI think Mum thinks that if she can stop the three of you getting together and planning, sheâ€™ll be able to delay you leaving,â€ Ginny told Harry in an undertone, as they laid the table for dinner on the third night of his stay.
â€œAnd then what does she thinkâ€™s going to happen?â€ Harry muttered. â€œSomeone else might kill off Voldemort while sheâ€™s holding us here making vol-au-vents?â€
He had spoken without thinking, and saw Ginnyâ€™s face whiten.
â€œSo itâ€™s true?â€ she said. â€œThatâ€™s what youâ€™re trying to do?â€
â€œI â€“ not â€“ I was joking,â€ said Harry evasively.
They stared at each other, and there was something more than shock in Ginnyâ€™s expression. Suddenly Harry became aware that this was the first time that he had been alone with her since those stolen hours in secluded corners of the Hogwarts grounds. He was sure she was remembering them too. Both of them jumped as the door opened, and Mr. Weasley, Kingsley, and Bill walked in.
They were often joined by other Order members for dinner now, because the Burrow had replaced number twelve, Grimmauld Place as the headquarters. Mr. Weasley had explained that after the death of Dumbledore, their Secret-Keeper, each of the people to whom Dumbledore had confided Grimmauld Placeâ€™s location had become a Secret-Keeper in turn.
â€œAnd as there are around twenty of us, that greatly dilutes the power of the Fidelius Charm. Twenty times as many opportunities for the Death Eaters to get the secret out of somebody. We canâ€™t expect it to hold much longer.â€
â€œBut surely Snape will have told the Death Eaters the address by now?â€ asked Harry.
â€œWell, Mad-Eye set up a couple of curses against Snape in case he turns up there again. We hope theyâ€™ll be strong enough both to keep him out and to bind his tongue if he tries to talk about the place, but we canâ€™t be sure. It would have been insane to keep using the place as headquarters now that its protection has become so shaky.â€
The kitchen was so crowded that evening it was difficult to maneuver knives and forks. Harry found himself crammed beside Ginny; the unsaid things that had just passed between them made him wish they had been separated by a few more people. He was trying so hard to avoid brushing her arm he could barely cut his chicken.
â€œNo news about Mad-Eye?â€ Harry asked Bill.
â€œNothing,â€ replied Bill.
They had not been able to hold a funeral for Moody, because Bill and Lupin had failed to recover his body. It had been difficult to know where he might have fallen, given the darkness and the confusion of the battle.
â€œThe Daily Prophet hasnâ€™t said a word about him dying or about finding the body,â€ Bill went on. â€œBut that doesnâ€™t mean much. Itâ€™s keeping a lot quiet these days.â€
â€œAnd they still havenâ€™t called a hearing about all the underage magic I used escaping the Death Eaters?â€ Harry called across the table to Mr. Weasley, who shook his head.
â€œBecause they know I had no choice or because they donâ€™t want me to tell the world Voldemort attacked me?â€
â€œThe latter, I think. Scrimgeour doesnâ€™t want to admit that You-Know-Who is as powerful as he is, nor that Azkabanâ€™s seen a mass breakout.â€
â€œYeah, why tell the public the truth?â€ said Harry, clenching his knife so tightly that the faint scars on the back of his right hand stood out, white against his skin: I must not tell lies.
â€œIsnâ€™t anyone at the Ministry prepared to stand up to him?â€ asked Ron angrily.
â€œOf course, Ron, but people are terrified,â€ Mr. Weasley replied, â€œterrified that they will be next to disappear, their children the next to be attacked! There are nasty rumors going around; I for one donâ€™t believe the Muggle Studies professor at Hogwarts resigned. She hasnâ€™t been seen for weeks now. Meanwhile Scrimgeour remains shut up in his office all day; I just hope heâ€™s working on a plan.â€
There was a pause in which Mrs. Weasley magicked the empty plates onto the work surface and served apple tart.
â€œWe must decide â€˜ow you will be disguised, â€˜Arry,â€ said Fleur, once everyone had pudding. â€œFor ze wedding,â€ she added, when he looked confused. â€œOf course, none of our guests are Death Eaters, but we cannot guarantee zat zey will not let something slip after zey â€˜ave â€˜ad champagne.â€
From this, Harry gathered that she still suspected Hagrid.
â€œYes, good point,â€ said Mrs. Weasley from the top of the table where she sat, spectacles perched on the end of her nose, scanning an immense list of jobs that she had scribbled on a very long piece of parchment. â€œNow, Ron, have you cleaned out your room yet?â€
â€œWhy?â€ exclaimed Ron, slamming his spoon down and glaring at his mother. â€œWhy does my room have to be cleaned out? Harry and I are fine with it the way it is!â€
â€œWe are holding your brotherâ€™s wedding here in a few daysâ€™ time, young man â€“ â€
â€œAnd are they getting married in my bedroom?â€ asked Ron furiously. â€œNo! So why in the name of Merlinâ€™s saggy left â€“ â€
â€œDonâ€™t talk to your mother like that,â€ said Mr. Weasley firmly. â€œAnd do as youâ€™re told.â€
Ron scowled at both his parents, then picked up his spoon and attacked the last few mouthfuls of his apple tart.
â€œI can help, some of itâ€™s my mess.â€ Harry told Ron, but Mrs. Weasley cut across him.
â€œNo, Harry, dear, Iâ€™d much rather you helped Arthur much out the chickens, and Hermione, Iâ€™d be ever so grateful if youâ€™d change the sheets for Monsieur and Madame Delacour; you know theyâ€™re arriving at eleven tomorrow morning.â€
But as it turned out, there was very little to do for the chickens. â€œThereâ€™s no need to, er, mention it to Molly,â€ Mr. Weasley told Harry, blocking his access to the coop, â€œbut, er, Ted Tonks sent me most of what was left of Siriusâ€™s bike and, er, Iâ€™m hiding â€“ thatâ€™s to say, keeping â€“ it in here. Fantastic stuff: Thereâ€™s an exhaust gaskin, as I believe itâ€™s called, the most magnificent battery, and itâ€™ll be a great opportunity to find out how brakes work. Iâ€™m going to try and put it all back together again when Mollyâ€™s not â€“ I mean, when Iâ€™ve got time.â€
When they returned to the house, Mrs. Weasley was nowhere to be seen, so Harry slipped upstairs to Ronâ€™s attic bedroom.
â€œIâ€™m doing it, Iâ€™m doing â€“! Oh, itâ€™s you,â€ said Ron in relief, as Harry entered the room. Ron lay back down on the bed, which he had evidently just vacated. The room was just as messy as it had been all week; the only chance was that Hermione was now sitting in the far corner, her fluffy ginger cat, Crookshanks, at her feet, sorting books, some of which Harry recognized as his own, into two enormous piles.
â€œHi, Harry,â€ she said, as he sat down on his camp bed.
â€œAnd how did you manage to get away?â€
â€œOh, Ronâ€™s mum forgot that she asked Ginny and me to change the sheets yesterday,â€ said Hermione. She threw Numerology and Grammatica onto one pile and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts onto the other.
â€œWe were just talking about Mad-Eye,â€ Ron told Harry. â€œI reckon he might have survived.â€
â€œBut Bill saw him hit by the Killing Curse,â€ said Harry.
â€œYeah, but Bill was under attack too,â€ said Ron. â€œHow can he be sure what he saw?â€
â€œEven if the Killing Curse missed, Mad-Eye still fell about a thousand feet,â€ said Hermione, now weight Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland in her hand.
â€œHe could have used a Shield Charm â€“ â€
â€œFleur said his wand was blasted out of his hand,â€ said Harry.
â€œWell, all right, if you want him to be dead,â€ said Ron grumpily, punching his pillow into a more comfortable shape.
â€œOf course we donâ€™t want him to be dead!â€ said Hermione, looking shocked. â€œItâ€™s dreadful that heâ€™s dead! But weâ€™re being realistic!â€
For the first time, Harry imagined Mad-Eyeâ€™s body, broken as Dumbledoreâ€™s had been, yet with that one eye still whizzing in its socket. He felt a stab of revulsion mixed with a bizarre desire to laugh.
â€œThe Death Eaters probably tidied up after themselves, thatâ€™s why no oneâ€™s found him,â€ said Ron wisely.
â€œYeah,â€ said Harry. â€œLike Barty Crouch, turned into a bone and buried in Hagridâ€™s front garden. They probably transfigured Moody and stuffed him â€“ â€
â€œDonâ€™t!â€ squealed Hermione. Startled, Harry looked over just in time to see her burst into tears over her copy of Spellmanâ€™s Syllabary.
â€œOh no,â€ said Harry, struggling to get up from the old camp bed. â€œHermione, I wasnâ€™t trying to upset â€“ â€
But with a great creaking of rusty bedsprings, Ron bounded off the bed and got there first. One arm around Hermione, he fished in his jeans pocket and withdrew a revolting-looking handkerchief that he had used to clean out the oven earlier. Hastily pulling out his wand, he pointed it at the rag and said, â€œTergeo.â€
The wand siphoned off most of the grease. Looking rather pleased with himself, Ron handed the slightly smoking handkerchief to Hermione.
â€œOhâ€¦ thanks, Ronâ€¦. Iâ€™m sorryâ€¦.â€ She blew her nose and hiccupped. â€œItâ€™s just so awf-ful, isnâ€™t it? R-right after Dumbledoreâ€¦ I j-just n-never imagined Mad-Eye dying, somehow, he seemed so tough!â€
â€œYeah, I know,â€ said Ron, giving her a squeeze. â€œBut you know what heâ€™d say to us if he was here?â€
â€œâ€˜C-constant vigilance,â€™â€ said Hermione, mopping her eyes.
â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ said Ron, nodding. â€œHeâ€™d tell us to learn from what happened to him. And what Iâ€™ve learned is not to trust that cowardly little squit, Mundungus.â€
Hermione gave a shaky laugh and leaned forward to pick up two more books. A second later, Ron had snatched his arm back from around her shoulders; she had dropped The Monster of Monsters on his foot. The book had broken free from its restraining belt and snapped viciously at Ronâ€™s ankle.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, Iâ€™m sorry!â€ Hermione cried as Harry wrenched the book from Ronâ€™s leg and retied it shit.
â€œWhat are you doing with all those books anyway?â€ Ron asked, limping back to his bed.
â€œJust trying to decide which ones to take with us,â€ said Hermione, â€œWhen weâ€™re looking for the Horcruxes.â€
â€œOh, of course,â€ said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. â€œI forgot weâ€™ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.â€
â€œHa ha,â€ said Hermione, looking down at Spellmanâ€™s Syllabary. â€œI wonderâ€¦ will we need to translate runes? Itâ€™s possibleâ€¦. I think weâ€™d better take it, to be safe.â€
She dropped the syllabary onto the larger of the two piles and picked up Hogwarts, A History.
â€œListen,â€ said Harry.
He had sat up straight. Ron and Hermione looked at him with similar mixtures of resignation and defiance.
â€œI know you said after Dumbledoreâ€™s funeral that you wanted to come with me,â€ Harry began.
â€œHere he goes,â€ Ron said to Hermione, rolling his eyes.
â€œAs we knew he would,â€ he sighed, turning back to the books. â€œYou know, I think I will take Hogwarts, A History. Even if weâ€™re not going back there, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d feel right if I didnâ€™t have it with â€“ â€
â€œListen!â€ said Harry again.
â€œNo, Harry, you listen,â€ said Hermione. â€œWeâ€™re coming with you. That was decided months ago â€“ years, really.â€
â€œBut â€“ â€
â€œShut up,â€ Ron advised him.
â€œâ€“ are you sure youâ€™ve thought this through?â€ Harry persisted.
â€œLetâ€™s see,â€ said Hermione, slamming Travels with Trolls onto the discarded pile with a rather fierce look. â€œIâ€™ve been packing for days, so weâ€™re ready to leave at a momentâ€™s notice, which for your information has included doing some pretty difficult magic, not to mention smuggling Mad-Eyeâ€™s whole stock of Polyjuice Potion right under Ronâ€™s mumâ€™s nose.â€
â€œIâ€™ve also modified my parentsâ€™ memories so that theyâ€™re convinced theyâ€™re really called Wendell and Monica Wilkins, and that their lifeâ€™s ambition is to move to Australia, which they have now done. Thatâ€™s to make it more difficult for Voldemort to track them down and interrogate them about me â€“ or you, because unfortunately, Iâ€™ve told them quite a bit about you.â€
â€œAssuming I survive our hunt for the Horcruxes, Iâ€™ll find Mum and Dad and lift the enchantment. If I donâ€™t â€“ well, I think Iâ€™ve cast a good enough charm to keep them safe and happy. Wendell and Monica Wilkins donâ€™t know that theyâ€™ve got a daughter, you see.â€
Hermioneâ€™s eyes were swimming with tears again. Ron got back off the bed, put his arm around her once more, and frowned at Harry as though reproaching him for lack of tact. Harry could not think of anything to say, not least because it was highly unusual for Ron to be teaching anyone else tact.
â€œI â€“ Hermione, Iâ€™m sorry â€“ I didnâ€™t â€“ â€
â€œDidnâ€™t realize that Ron and I know perfectly well what might happen if we come with you? Well, we do. Ron, show Harry what youâ€™ve done.â€
â€œNah, heâ€™s just eaten,â€ said Ron.
â€œGo on, he needs to know!â€
â€œOh, all right. Harry, come here.â€
For the second time Ron withdrew his arm from around Hermione and stumped over to the door.
â€œWhy?â€ Harry asked, following Ron out of the room onto the tiny landing.
â€œDescendo,â€ muttered Ron, pointing his wand at the low ceiling. A hatch opened right over their heads and a ladder slid down to their feet. A horrible, half-sucking, half-moaning sound came out of the square hole, along with an unpleasant smell like open drains.
â€œThatâ€™s your ghoul, isnâ€™t it?â€ asked Harry, who had never actually met the creature that sometimes disrupted the nightly silence.
â€œYeah, it is,â€ said Ron, climbing the ladder. â€œCome and have a look at him.â€
Harry followed Ron up the few short steps into the tiny attic space. His head and shoulders were in the room before he caught sight of the creature curled up a few feet from him, fast asleep in the gloom with its large mouth wide open.
â€œBut itâ€¦ it looksâ€¦ do ghouls normally wear pajamas?â€
â€œNo,â€ said Ron. â€œNor have they usually got red hair or that number of pustules.â€
Harry contemplated the thing, slightly revolted. It was human in shape and size, and was wearing what, now that Harryâ€™s eyes became used to the darkness, was clearly an old pair of Ronâ€™s pajamas. He was also sure that ghouls were generally rather slimy and bald, rather than distinctly hairy and covered in angry purple blisters.
â€œHeâ€™s me, see?â€ said Ron.
â€œNo,â€ said Harry. â€œI donâ€™t.â€
â€œIâ€™ll explain it back in my room, the smellâ€™s getting to me,â€ said Ron. They climbed back down the ladder, which Ron returned to the ceiling, and rejoined Hermione, who was still sorting books.
â€œOnce weâ€™ve left, the ghoulâ€™s going to come and live down here in my room,â€ said Ron. â€œI think heâ€™s really looking forward to it â€“ well, itâ€™s hard to tell, because all he can do is moan and drool â€“ but he nods a lot when you mention it. Anyway, heâ€™s going to be me with spattergroit. Good, eh?â€
Harry merely looked his confusion.
â€œIt is!â€ said Ron, clearly frustrated that Harry had not grasped the brilliance of the plan. â€œLook, when we three donâ€™t turn up at Hogwarts again, everyoneâ€™s going to think Hermione and I must be with you, right? Which means the Death Eaters will go straight for our families to see if theyâ€™ve got information on where you are.â€
â€œBut hopefully itâ€™ll look like Iâ€™ve gone away with Mum and Dad; a lot of Muggle-borns are talking about going into hiding at the moment,â€ said Hermione.
â€œWe canâ€™t hide my whole family, itâ€™ll look too fishy and they canâ€™t all leave their jobs,â€ said Ron. â€œSo weâ€™re going to put out the story that Iâ€™m seriously ill with spattergroit, which is why I canâ€™t go back to school. If anyone comes calling to investigate, Mum or Dad can show them the ghoul in my bed, covered in pustules. Spattergroitâ€™s really contagious, so theyâ€™re not going to want to go near him. It wonâ€™t matter that he canâ€™t say anything, either, because apparently you canâ€™t once the fungus has spread to your uvula.â€
â€œAnd your mum and dad are in on this plan?â€ asked Harry.
â€œDad is. He helped Fred and George transform the ghoul. Mumâ€¦ well, youâ€™ve seen what sheâ€™s like. She wonâ€™t accept weâ€™re going till weâ€™re gone.â€
There was silence in the room, broken only by gentle thuds as Hermione continued to throw books onto one pile or the other. Ron sat watching her, and Harry looked from one to the other, unable to say anything. The measure they had taken to protect their families made him realize, more than anything else could have done, that they really were going to come with him and that they knew exactly how dangerous that would be. He wanted to tell them what that meant to him, but he simply could not find words important enough.
Through the silence came the muffled sounds of Mrs. Weasley shouting from four floors below.
â€œGinnyâ€™s probably left a speck of dust on a poxy napkin ring,â€ said Ron. â€œI dunno why the Delacours have got to come two days before the wedding.â€
â€œFleurâ€™s sisterâ€™s a bridesmaid, she needs to be here for the rehearsal, and sheâ€™s too young to come on her own,â€ said Hermione, as she pored indecisively over Break with a Banshee.
â€œWell, guests arenâ€™t going to help Mumâ€™s stress levels,â€ said Ron.
â€œWhat we really need to decide,â€ said Hermione, tossing Defensive Magical Theory into the bin without a second glance and picking up An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe, â€œis where weâ€™re going after we leave here. I know you said you wanted to go to Godricâ€™s Hollow first, Harry, and I understand why, butâ€¦ wellâ€¦ shouldnâ€™t we make the Horcruxes our priority?â€
â€œIf we knew where any of the Horcruxes were, Iâ€™d agree with you,â€ said Harry, who did not believe that Hermione really understood his desire to return to Godricâ€™s Hollow. His parentsâ€™ graves were only part of the attraction: He had a strong, though inexplicable, feeling that the place held answers for him. Perhaps it was simply because it was there that he had survived Voldemortâ€™s Killing Curse; now that he was facing the challenge of repeating the feat, Harry was drawn to the place where it had happened, wanting to understand.
â€œDonâ€™t you think thereâ€™s a possibility that Voldemortâ€™s keeping a watch on Godricâ€™s Hollow?â€ Hermione asked. â€œHe might expect you to go back and visit your parentsâ€™ graves once youâ€™re free to go wherever you like?â€
This had not occurred to Harry. While he struggled to find a counterargument, Ron spoke up, evidently following his own train of thought.
â€œThis R.A.B. person,â€ he said. â€œYou know, the one who stole the real locket?â€
â€œHe said in his note he was going to destroy it, didnâ€™t he?â€
Harry dragged his rucksack toward him and pulled out the fake Horcrux in which R.A.B.â€™s note was still folded.
â€œâ€˜I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.â€™â€ Harry read out.
â€œWell, what if he did finish it off?â€ said Ron.
â€œOr she.â€ Interposed Hermione.
â€œWhichever,â€ said Ron. â€œitâ€™d be one less for us to do!â€
â€œYes, but weâ€™re still going to have to try and trace the real locket, arenâ€™t we?â€ said Hermione, â€œto find out whether or not itâ€™s destroyed.â€
â€œAnd once we get hold of it, how do you destroy a Horcrux?â€ asked Ron.
â€œWell,â€ said Hermione, â€œIâ€™ve been researching that.â€
â€œHow?â€ asked Harry. â€œI didnâ€™t think there were any books on Horcruxes in the library?â€
â€œThere werenâ€™t,â€ said Hermione, who had turned pink. â€œDumbledore removed them all, but he â€“ he didnâ€™t destroy them.â€
Ron sat up straight, wide-eyed.
â€œHow in the name of Merlinâ€™s pants have you managed to get your hands on those Horcrux books?â€
â€œIt â€“ it wasnâ€™t stealing!â€ said Hermione, looking from Harry to Ron with a kind of desperation. â€œThey were still library books, even if Dumbledore had taken them off the shelves. Anyway, if he really didnâ€™t want anyone to get at them, Iâ€™m sure he would have made it much harder to â€“ â€
â€œGet to the point!â€ said Ron.
â€œWellâ€¦ it was easy,â€ said Hermione in a small voice. â€œI just did a Summoning Charm. You know â€“ Accio. And â€“ they zoomed out of Dumbledoreâ€™s study window right into the girlsâ€™ dormitory.â€
â€œBut when did you do this?â€ Harry asked, regarding Hermione with a mixture of admiration and incredulity.
â€œJust after his â€“ Dumbledoreâ€™s â€“ funeral,â€ said Hermione in an even smaller voice. â€œRight after we agreed weâ€™d leave school and go and look for the Horcruxes. When I went back upstairs to get my things it â€“ it just occurred to me that the more we knew about them, the better it would beâ€¦ and I was alone in thereâ€¦ so I triedâ€¦ and it worked. They flew straight in through the open window and I â€“ I packed them.â€
She swallowed and then said imploringly, â€œI canâ€™t believe Dumbledore would have been angry, itâ€™s not as though weâ€™re going to use the information to make a Horcrux, is it?â€
â€œCan you hear us complaining?â€ said Ron. â€œWhere are these books anyway?â€
Hermione rummaged for a moment and then extracted from the pile a large volume, bound in faded black leather. She looked a little nauseated and held it as gingerly as if it were something recently dead.
â€œThis is the one that gives explicit instructions on how to make a Horcrux. Secrets of the Darkest Art â€“ itâ€™s a horrible book, really awful, full of evil magic. I wonder when Dumbledore removed it from the libraryâ€¦. if he didnâ€™t do it until he was headmaster, I bet Voldemort got all the instruction he needed from here.â€
â€œWhy did he have to ask Slughorn how to make a Horcrux, then, if heâ€™d already read that?â€ asked Ron.
â€œHe only approached Slughorn to find out what would happen if you split your soul into seven,â€ said Harry. â€œDumbledore was sure Riddle already knew how to make a Horcrux by the time he asked Slughorn about them. I think youâ€™re right, Hermione, that could easily have been where he got the information.â€
â€œAnd the more Iâ€™ve read about them,â€ said Hermione, â€œthe more horrible they seem, and the less I can believe that he actually made six. It warns in this book how unstable you make the rest of your soul by ripping it, and thatâ€™s just by making one Horcrux!â€
Harry remembered what Dumbledore had said about Voldemort moving beyond â€œusual evil.â€
â€œIsnâ€™t there any way of putting yourself back together?â€ Ron asked.
â€œYes,â€ said Hermione with a hollow smile, â€œbut it would be excruciatingly painful.â€
â€œWhy? How do you do it?â€ asked Harry.
â€œRemorse,â€ said Hermione. â€œYouâ€™ve got to really feel what youâ€™ve done. Thereâ€™s a footnote. Apparently the pain of it can destroy you. I canâ€™t see Voldemort attempting it somehow, can you?â€
â€œNo,â€ said Ron, before Harry could answer. â€œSo does it say how to destroy Horcruxes in that book?â€
â€œYes,â€ said Hermione, now turning the fragile pages as if examining rotting entrails, â€œbecause it warns Dark wizards how strong they have to make the enchantments on them. From all that Iâ€™ve read, what Harry did to Riddleâ€™s diary was one of the few really foolproof ways of destroying a Horcrux.â€
â€œWhat, stabbing it with a basilisk fang?â€ asked Harry.
â€œOh well, lucky weâ€™ve got such a large supply of basilisk fangs, then,â€ said Ron. â€œI was wondering what we were going to do with them.â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t have to be a basilisk fang,â€ said Hermione patiently. â€œIt has to be something so destructive that the Horcrux canâ€™t repair itself. Basilisk venom only has one antidote, and itâ€™s incredibly rare â€“ â€
â€œâ€“ phoenix tears,â€ said Harry, nodding.
â€œExactly,â€ said Hermione. â€œOur problem is that there are very few substances as destructive as basilisk venom, and theyâ€™re all dangerous to carry around with you. Thatâ€™s a problem weâ€™re going to have to solve, though, because ripping, smashing, or crushing a Horcrux wonâ€™t do the trick. Youâ€™ve got to put it beyond magical repair.â€
â€œBut even if we wreck the thing it lives in,â€ said Ron, â€œwhy canâ€™t the bit of soul in it just go and live in something else?â€
â€œBecause a Horcrux is the complete opposite of a human being.â€
Seeing that Harry and Ron looked thoroughly confused, Hermione hurried on. â€œLook, if I picked up a sword right now, Ron, and ran you through with it, I wouldnâ€™t damage your soul at all.â€
â€œWhich would be a real comfort to me, Iâ€™m sure,â€ said Ron. Harry laughed.
â€œIt should be, actually! But my point is that whatever happens to your body, your soul will survive, untouched,â€ said Hermione. â€œBut itâ€™s the other way round with a Horcrux. The fragment of soul inside it depends on its container, its enchanted body, for survival. It canâ€™t exist without it.â€
â€œThat diary sort of died when I stabbed it,â€ said Harry, remembering ink pouring like blood from the punctured pages, and the screams of the piece of Voldemortâ€™s soul as it vanished.
â€œAnd once the diary was properly destroyed, the bit of soul trapped in it could no longer exist. Ginny tried to get rid of the diary before you did, flushing it away, but obviously it came back good as new.â€
â€œHang on,â€ said Ron, frowning. â€œThe bit of soul in that diary was possessing Ginny, wasnâ€™t it? How does that work, then?â€
â€œWhile the magical container is still intact, the bit of soul inside it can flit in and out of someone if they get too close to the object. I donâ€™t mean holding it for too long, itâ€™s nothing to do with touching it,â€ she added before Ron could speak. â€œI mean close emotionally. Ginny poured her heart out into that diary, she made herself incredibly vulnerable. Youâ€™re in trouble if you get too fond of or dependent on the Horcrux.â€
â€œI wonder how Dumbledore destroyed the ring?â€ said Harry. â€œWhy didnâ€™t I ask him? I never reallyâ€¦â€
His voice trailed away: He was thinking of all the things he should have asked Dumbledore, and of how, since the headmaster had died, it seemed to Harry that he had wasted so many opportunities when Dumbledore had been alive, to find out moreâ€¦ to find out everythingâ€¦.
The silence was shattered as the bedroom door flew open with a wall-shaking crash. Hermione shrieked and dropped Secrets of the Darkest Art; Crookshanks streaked under the bed, hissing indignantly; Ron jumped off the bed, skidded on a discarded Chocolate Frog wrapper, and smacked his head on the opposite wall; and Harry instinctively dived for his wand before realizing that he was looking up at Mrs. Weasley, whose hair was disheveled and whose face was contorted with rage.
â€œIâ€™m so sorry to break up this cozy little gathering,â€ she said, her voice trembling. â€œIâ€™m sure you all need your restâ€¦ but there are wedding presents stacked in my room that need sorting out and I was under the impression that you had agreed to help.â€
â€œOh yes,â€ said Hermione, looking terrified as she leapt to her feet, sending books flying in every direction. â€œwe willâ€¦ weâ€™re sorryâ€¦â€
With an anguished look at Harry and Ron, Hermione hurried out of the room after Mrs. Weasley.
â€œitâ€™s like being a house-elf,â€ complained Ron in an undertone, still massaging his head as he and Harry followed. â€œExcept without the job satisfaction. The sooner this weddingâ€™s over, the happier, Iâ€™ll be.â€
â€œYeah,â€ said Harry, â€œthen weâ€™ll have nothing to do except find Horcruxesâ€¦. Itâ€™ll be like a holiday, wonâ€™t it?â€
Ron started to laugh, but at the sight of the enormous pile of wedding presents waiting for them in Mrs. Weasleyâ€™s room, stopped quite abruptly.
The Delacours arrived the following morning at eleven oâ€™ clock. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were feeling quite resentful toward Fleurâ€™s family by this time; and it was with ill grace that Ron stumped back upstairs to put on matching socks, and Harry attempted to flatten his hair. Once they had all been deemed smart enough, they trooped out into the sunny backyard to await the visitors.
Harry had never seen the place looking so tidy. The rusty cauldrons and old Wellington boots that usually littered the steps by the back door were gone, replaced by two new Flutterby bushes standing either side of the door in large pots; though there was no breeze, the leaves waved lazily, giving an attractive rippling effect. The chickens had been shut away, the yard had been swept, and the nearby garden had been pruned, plucked, and generally spruced up, although Harry, who liked it in its overgrown state, thought that it looked rather forlorn without its usual contingent of capering gnomes.
He had lost track of how many security enchantments had been placed upon the Burrow by both the Order and the Ministry; all he knew was that it was no longer possible for anybody to travel by magic directly into the place. Mr. Weasley had therefore gone to meet the Delacours on top of a nearby hill, where they were to arrive by Portkey. The first sound of their approach was an unusually high-pitched laugh, which turned out to be coming from Mr. Weasley, who appeared at the gate moments later, laden with luggage and leading a beautiful blonde woman in long, leaf green robes, who could be Fleurâ€™s mother.
â€œMaman!â€ cried Fleur, rushing forward to embrace her. â€œPapa!â€
Monsieur Delacour was nowhere near as attractive as his wife; he was a head shorter and extremely plumb, with a little, pointed black beard. However, he looked good-natured. Bouncing towards Mrs. Weasley on high-heeled boots, he kissed her twice on each cheek, leaving her flustered.
â€œYou â€˜ave been so much trouble,â€ he said in a deep voice. â€œFleur tells us you â€˜ave been working very â€˜ard.â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s been nothing, nothing!â€ trilled Mrs. Weasley. â€œNo trouble at all!â€
Ron relieved his feelings by aiming a kick at a gnome who was peering out from behind one of the new Flutterby bushes.
â€œDear lady!â€ said Monsieur Delacour, still holding Mrs. Weasleyâ€™s hand between his own two plump ones and beaming. â€œWe are most honored at the approaching union of our two families! Let me present my wife, Apolline.â€
Madame Delacour glided forward and stooped to kiss Mrs. Weasley too.
â€œEnchantÃ©e,â€ she said. â€œYour â€˜usband â€˜as been telling us such amusing stories!â€
Mr. Weasley gave a maniacal laugh; Mrs. Weasley threw him a look, upon which he became immediately silent and assumed an expression appropriate to the sickbed of a close friend.
â€œAnd, of course, you â€˜ave met my leetle daughter, Gabrielle!â€ said Monsieur Delacour. Gabrielle was Fleur in miniature; eleven years old, with waist-length hair of pure, silvery blonde, she gave Mrs. Weasley a dazzling smile and hugged her, then threw Harry a glowing look, batting her eyelashes. Ginny cleared her throat loudly.
â€œWell, come in, do!â€ said Mrs. Weasley brightly, and she ushered the Delacours into the house, with many â€œNo, please!â€s and â€œAfter you!â€™s and â€œNot at all!â€™s.
The Delacours, it soon transpired, were helpful, pleasant guests. They were pleased with everything and keen to assist with the preparations for the wedding. Monsieur Delacour pronounced everything from the seating plan to the bridesmaidsâ€™ shoes â€œCharmant!â€ Madame Delacour was most accomplished at household spells and had the oven properly cleaned in a trice; Gabrielle followed her elder sister around, trying to assist in any way she could and jabbering away in rapid French.
On the downside, the Burrow was not built to accommodate so many people. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were now sleeping in the sitting room, having shouted down Monsieur and Madame Delacourâ€™s protests and insisted they take their bedroom. Gabrielle was sleeping with Fleur in Percyâ€™s old room, and Bill would be sharing with Charlie, his best man, once Charlie arrived from Romania. Opportunities to make plans together became virtually nonexistent, and it was in desperation that Harry, Ron and Hermione took to volunteering to feed the chickens just to escape the overcrowded house.
â€œBut she still wonâ€™t leave us alone!â€ snarled Ron, and their second attempt at a meeting in the yard was foiled by the appearance of Mrs. Weasley carrying a large basket of laundry in her arms.
â€œOh, good, youâ€™ve fed the chickens,â€ she called as she approached them. â€œWeâ€™d better shut them away again before the men arrive tomorrowâ€¦ to put up the tent for the wedding,â€ she explained, pausing to lean against the henhouse. She looked exhausted. â€œMillamantâ€™s Magic Marqueesâ€¦ theyâ€™re very good. Billâ€™s escorting themâ€¦. Youâ€™d better stay inside while theyâ€™re here, Harry. I must say it does complicate organizing a wedding, having all these security spells around the place.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ said Harry humbly.
â€œOh, donâ€™t be silly, dear!â€ said Mrs. Weasley at once. â€œI didnâ€™t mean â€“ well, your safetyâ€™s much more important! Actually, Iâ€™ve been wanting to ask you how you want to celebrate your birthday, Harry. Seventeen, after all, itâ€™s an important dayâ€¦.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want a fuss,â€ said Harry quickly, envisaging the additional strain this would put on them all. â€œReally, Mrs. Weasley, just a normal dinner would be fineâ€¦. Itâ€™s the day before the weddingâ€¦.â€
â€œOh, well, if youâ€™re sure, dear. Iâ€™ll invite Remus and Tonks, shall I? And how about Hagrid?â€
â€œThatâ€™d be great,â€ said Harry. â€œBut please, donâ€™t go to loads of trouble.â€
â€œNot at all, not at allâ€¦ Itâ€™s no troubleâ€¦.â€
She looked at him, a long, searching look, then smiled a little sadly, straightened up, and walked away. Harry watched as she waved her wand near the washing line, and the damp clothes rose into the air to hang themselves up, and suddenly he felt a great wave of remorse for the inconvenience and the pain he was giving her.
The Deathly Hallows
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .