Stories begun in 2006 (post-HBP)
This is the final, edited, complete version of Harry Potter and the Last Horcrux. Chapters 1 through 14 were completely written prior to publication of Deathly Hallows in 2008; chapters 15 through
19 and the alternate ending were in draft or outline form by that time.
The Price Paid
July 13, 1998 John O' Groats, Caithness, Scotland
Another rock flew from Harry's hand into the sea. There was little to do other than to throw rocks. A handful of refugees from the Department of Mysteries were into their third day of examining Ravenclaw's Grimoire – they called it an examination, at any rate. He knew that they were frightened of it, and Hermione was getting weaker. A sort of fog roiled along the ground and across the top of the water - the locals called it hoar or something like that. He drew his anorak closer against the mid-summer chill.
Ron's healer strolled from the veranda through the tall grasses and to the edge of the shore. Harry knew that if he spent more than an hour watching the water, she would come to the veranda to check on him. The fact that she was walking his way probably meant that he'd been out considerably longer than that, he figured, unless...
He called out nervously, "Is she all right? She hasn't...?"
"I would not say that Miss Granger is 'all right', but nothing has changed," Stefánsdóttir returned. She looked to the sea and added, "The fog is slow to lift this morning."
"There's been a lot of fog," Harry said. "I don't mind though. I like it here, actually. Does it remind you of home?"
"This reminds me of parts of Iceland," she said, "but my home is not on the sea. How are you feeling today, Mr. Potter?"
"How do you think I'm feeling? Hermione's in a bad way, and I can't change that. She did this to herself for me, for Merlin's sake - what was she thinking?" he snapped. "I suppose I could kill myself. Do you think that would make it stop?"
Stefánsdóttir's brow rose for a moment, but she said calmly, "That would not help matters." She then looked at him in a way that for a moment left him feeling like a specimen. "Do you feel any weakness or physical pain?" she asked.
"I feel fine," Harry said dejectedly, "just bloody great."
Stefánsdóttir thrust her hands into her pockets. She was in shirtsleeves and seemed unaffected by the ill wind. "Why do they not ask for your help?" she said. " These men know nothing more, but cannot admit that they know nothing."
Harry caught the prompting in her eyes, and began to tell her in general terms what Dumbledore had told him. Ron trusted this woman and Harry had watched her care for Hermione. This was no Death Eater - he was certain of that – and she wouldn’t have opportunity to convey any messages; Lupin had the perimeter secured with a series of subtle but deadly wards. Not even a beetle was likely to get through intact without permission. Stefánsdóttir nodded frequently, asked questions on occasion, and let her brow crease in thought a time or two.
"This diary, the one that you destroyed, it was draining the life from Ronald's sister?" she confirmed. "It was feeding on her?"
Harry nodded. "Riddle was using her to bring himself back... bloody hell!"
Stefánsdóttir nodded fervently. "We are having similar thoughts," she said. "If it was known what spell she obtained from the Grimoire, then it could be known whether the spell was altered. The flow of energy from her exceeds your needs, Mr. Potter."
Panic rose within Harry. "It's draining her... that book's sucking the life out of her!"
Stefánsdóttir ran her fingers through her fringe, her brow once again creased. "This would be easily tested," she said. "A null field cast around the Grimoire should have an effect on Miss Granger –"
"Hermione," Harry said quickly. "Her name is Hermione. Mine is Harry. If you're going to use Ron's name, then use ours."
A smile played at the corner of Stefánsdóttir's mouth, and she said, "Ronald chooses his friends well."
Harry thought about the healer's suggested test. "When you cast that field before, she started screaming. Would it... would it do that to her again?" Stefánsdóttir nodded.
He shuddered, but was resolved. "We have to know," he said. "Then I can destroy the damn thing. She'll be better then, right?"
"I do not know," Stefánsdóttir admitted. "It could be that she is feeding both you and this horcrux? If this is the case, destroying the book will reduce the drain... she is more likely to recover."
Harry took in a sharp breath. "More likely... is she dying, then?
"Mr. Lupin has sent word to her parents, in the event that it proves so," Stefánsdóttir said softly. The words barely carried through the wind, but they were sharp enough to tear through Harry. He felt something that he hadn't felt since the Department of Mysteries, despite all the danger that they had since faced.
"Do you know how to destroy it, Mr.... Harry?" Stefánsdóttir asked. "The men inside, they do not."
He shook his head. "That's why we kept them as we found them," he said.
"Yet some have been destroyed, you say. How was this done?" she wondered.
"Well, Dumbledore smashed the ring. It cost him his arm, and maybe more. Now with the diary, I..." Harry stopped. A grim smile emerged. "It might still be there, if Voldemort hasn't been inside."
"I do not follow," Stefánsdóttir said. "What might still be where?" Harry didn’t answer; instead, he strode briskly toward the cottage.
Ron met him at the door to the veranda. “I was wondering when you’d come in. I don’t know how you’re going to feel –”
Harry cut him off without breaking stride. “Where’s Remus?”
“There’s a meeting in the front room,” Ron answered. “Harry, I swear that I didn’t –”
“Remus!” Harry called out as he proceeded through the kitchen and into the hall. “I need something of you; it’s really important!” Someone dashed out of the front room and he quickened his pace.
“HARRY!” a familiar voice called out. He found himself pinned in an embrace, his face awash in a mass of flower-scented red hair.
“G-Ginny!” Harry managed. “I don’t… what are you doing here? How did you get here?”
“I was with Dad in Oslo – we’ve secured people this time, not just money – when we heard that Remus was on his way to meet you, and that he was bringing the healer,” she said breathlessly. “After what happened to Ron…” Harry began to pull away at that, but she wouldn’t release him. “I didn’t mean it that way,” she insisted. There was a hitch in her voice when she went on, “I wanted to be here for Hermione… I’m told… erm… her parents are coming?”
“That’s why I need to talk to Remus right now – it’s about Hermione,” Harry said.
“Remus is upstairs arguing with a couple of ex-Ministry boffins. Shacklebolt’s here, so is Dawlish… wait, have you come up with something that might –?” She stopped, her eyes looking over his shoulder. “Oh… hello, Gudrun…”
Stefánsdóttir responded from behind Harry. “Hello, Miss Weasley,” she said. The healer always spoke with an even tone; nonetheless, Harry thought he heard a flicker of something less than friendly in the greeting.
The look on Ginny’s face wasn’t especially welcoming either, he noticed. “Remus is upstairs. Fetch him for Harry, would you?” she said to Stefánsdóttir. The healer headed for the stairs without a word.
Harry frowned. “What was that all about?”
Ginny sighed. “It’s not her fault, I suppose. I guess she hasn’t been stringing him along… and she did save his life – Ron’s, I mean.” She looked over his shoulder again, toward the door to the master bedroom. “Hermione needs Ron badly right now, and he’s carrying on about some healer that’s much too old for him, for a start. The woman’s too smart not to see it, and the last thing Hermione needs is to be hurt any worse than she already has been.”
“I… I don’t think Hermione’s feeling hurt by anything to do with Ron,” Harry offered hesitantly. “Um… it’s not as though they were, you know, seeing each other.”
Ginny laughed. “What are you talking about? Of course they were seeing each other! Didn’t you see them at the wedding, or when you came back before the trip to Iceland, or when you…” Her laughter quickly faded away. “Or when you brought Ron back?” she went on. “The look in his eye… of course they were seeing each other!”
Harry kept silent, so that he wouldn’t be snappish. There was still a hitch in his chest when he looked at her, along with a dull roar from the monster inside. That wasn’t exactly comforting, knowing now that the monster was one-seventh of Voldemort. She didn’t know that, of course. They had been chasing after artefacts needed to bring down Voldemort, as far as Ginny knew – if she knew the first thing about a horcrux, it had come from someone other than Harry.
“You don’t know,” he said at last. “You haven’t been with us.”
“I should have been,” Ginny shot back. “When you and Hermione left again, I should have come with you.”
“There were three of us when Ron was hurt,” Harry said. “If you’d been there, it might not have made a difference at all.”
“You make it sound like I would have been in the way. I wouldn’t have been a distraction, no matter what you think,” Ginny said. “I can take care of myself – you know that.”
“Ron had his guts torn out of him, and you’ve seen Hermione,” Harry barked.
Ginny paled but wouldn’t relent. “Ron gets careless and Hermione gets in over her head, and you know it. I’m more capable in terms of Defence than either of them, Harry –”
Harry reached out and squeezed her hands to stop her. I will not shout, he told himself. “This hasn’t been the D.A.,” he said evenly. “This hasn’t been like the Department of Mysteries, or the Death Eater attack at Hogwarts. It isn’t a game, Ginny. Hermione’s in more danger than Ron was, and she put herself in that position.”
She didn’t flinch. “We haven’t exactly been on holiday. I’ve been in a half-dozen battles this year – battles, Harry. I could have handled skulking about. I could have helped you. I should have been there.” She had the same fiery pout that he remembered from sixth year – from a hundred years before, it seemed. It had made his heart pound then. Knowing what he knew, living the life he’d lived for a year, it seemed rather silly.
He tried not to glare, but knew that he probably failed. “It’s easy to say that now, when it’s almost over,” he snapped.
Lupin appeared in the hall just then, with Stefánsdóttir at his heels, and Harry felt a spot of gratitude. For his part, Lupin seemed rather irritated. “Ah, Harry – back inside at last! I didn’t know that Ginny would be accompanying Arthur… seems that someone coerced Shacklebolt into changing up the travelling plans, despite the stringent arrangements I had established – or thought I had established…”
Ginny cast her eyes downward. “I’m sorry, Remus, really I am. Kingsley didn’t raise a fuss, and I shouldn’t have let Mum talk him into letting me…” She shuddered and crossed her arms. “It’s cold in here.”
“No colder than Oslo, I should think,” Arthur Weasley called out. He strode jauntily from the front room to shake Harry’s hand. To Harry’s great surprise, Mr. Weasley was dressed in thoroughly conventional Muggle clothing; he looked like a well-to-do banker on holiday in herringbone and tweed.
“You don’t think that it’s cold?” Ginny said.
Mr. Weasley shook his head. “I’m quite comfortable,” he said, “but I’m rather more heavily clothed than you.” He slipped off his blazer and draped it over her shoulders and she rolled her eyes. For his part, Harry agreed with her that it was a brisk day, inside and out.
Lupin frowned, “Arthur, you’ve put your foot in it. The news from Oslo could have waited. Is Shacklebolt in the front room?”
“Yes, yes, he is,” Mr. Weasley said quickly, “and Dawlish as well.”
“Send Dawlish out, and I’ll brief you along with Shacklebolt. I imagine he needs to get back to Ten Downing soon,” Lupin said.
“If this is regarding protocol, you know that Ginny should –” Mr. Weasley began.
“Under the circumstances, Ginny has no business being here at all,” Lupin snapped. “Let’s finish this and then we’ll decide what to do with the two of you. You may not be able to leave for a few days.”
By the time Lupin budged past them and stomped into the front room with Stefánsdóttir in tow, Ginny came undone. “Harry… I didn’t mean… I just wanted to see Hermione before… she’s my friend, and I just… I missed her, Harry, and if they’re sending for her parents in the middle of all this… and… and they let Ron come, and Dad didn’t see any harm… I didn’t know…”
“You’re right. You didn’t know,” Harry said.
Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, and Harry didn’t like to see her that way. “I’m sorry,” she said, and he knew that she meant it.
“No harm done, I expect,” he said. “We won’t be here much longer, anyway.”
She buried her face in her hands. “I know better… gods, I know better! I shouldn’t have let Mum budge Dad into –”
He laughed. “I don’t think Voldemort could stop your Mum from talking your Dad into something.”
“Too true,” she admitted.
“Look… I am glad to see you,” Harry said. “I didn’t think I would before it’s over, all of this.”
She seemed energized by that. “We’ll have all the forces we need really soon,” she told him. “Iceland’s come through, of course, and now Norway… the Danes are lining up, and the Swedes – well, if we can keep them from fighting with the Norwegians. The point is, we’re not alone anymore. We’ll come through with our part of the plan – I promise you that.”
“Right… the plan,” Harry said. “It’s great, what you and your Dad and the Macmillans have been doing. We’ll need all the help we can get.” Other than Harry himself, Hermione, Ron, Lupin, Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt were the only people alive who knew that there was no plan, save that Harry had to kill Voldemort. Still, if he was successful, he knew that his friends would have to face the challenge of rebuilding wizarding Britain. Everything Ginny and the rest had been doing would be quite important later. “I’m proud of you,” he added. “It’s… it’s all really something.”
Her eyes were shining. “Thank you, Harry,” she whispered, which left him feeling a bit fluttery, and then she pulled him into an all-encompassing hug. It seemed as though she was pressed against him everywhere, and it was wonderful – it made him think of being back at the Burrow. The monster within stirred though it didn’t roar.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said absently, and gave her a loving kiss on the cheek. When he pulled back, she had the oddest look on her face and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“I can’t believe how cold you keep it in here!” she complained. Harry’s attention was already drawn to the stairs. Two of the former Unspeakables were entering the corridor, one with Ravenclaw’s Grimoire in hand.
Ginny loosed her grip on Harry. He noticed the absence and turned. Her arms crossed tight and she shivered. “W-what is t-that?” she chattered.
“Something you don’t need to know about,” Harry said flatly, even as he moved to warm her.
“Harry, I’ve f-felt this b-before,” she said, her voice rising.
“There aren’t any Dementors around – believe me, I’d know,” he assured her.
“N-not D-Dementors,” she managed. The Unspeakables had stopped, and were watching Ginny in a way that Harry didn’t like at all. The one with the book moved toward them, and Ginny whimpered.
“Is this Arthur Weasley’s daughter?” the other asked.
“Fascinating,” the holder of the book said.
“Stand aside,” Harry demanded. “We’re going out.”
“There was more than one d-diary?” she croaked. “Oh God, Harry, is this what you’ve b-been chasing after?” Her eyes saucered. “Hermione! She didn’t… NO! Harry, please tell me…!”
One of the Unspeakables began, “This phenomenon may help us understand how the book is able to maintain a hold –”
“Like hell!” Harry snapped. He snatched the Grimoire away from the startled scholar, and made for the veranda.
Behind him, Ginny was saying over and over, “I didn’t know… I didn’t know…”
Lupin chased after him. “Harry! Wait! I know it seems hopeless,” he called out, “but… Ginny? Ginny, what’s happened? Stop, Harry!”
Harry stopped halfway across the veranda, eyes on the sea, and shook. Lupin’s hand came to rest on his shoulder, and he barked, “Ginny can’t leave, Remus. She knows. She can feel it – she can feel him in there. I have to get rid of it!” The shaking grew worse. “Thank Merlin I left her behind…”
“Gudrun was just explaining her theory,” Lupin said. “It sounds more likely than anything the Unspeakables have come up with, and… you know that Hermione’s running out of time.”
“I need to get into Hogwarts,” Harry blurted out. “Has Voldemort been inside? Do we know that?”
“He hasn’t been inside,” Lupin said with certainty. “McGonagall’s still there.”
Harry nearly fell to the decking. “McGonagall? But…?”
“She’s still there,” Lupin said. “She had unfinished business, apparently. For whatever reason, the wards still recognise her as Headmistress. Voldemort hasn’t been inside, not yet.”
“Will she let me in?” Harry asked.
Lupin gave a wry smile. “Do you think she’d refuse one of her two favourite students, come to help the other?” He withdrew his wand, pointed it southward, and muttered, “Expecto patronum.” A silvery shape rushed off before Harry could clearly make it out. “Now let’s get you fed,” he told Harry. “There’ll be nothing to eat at Hogwarts, surely.”
Harry waited until Stefánsdóttir ushered everyone else out of the bedroom and left herself, before he cast an Imperturbable charm on the door and lit into Hermione. “I’m tired of playing games!” he growled. “Tell me the name of the spell!” He waved the Grimoire at her. “Tell me or I’ll start looking for myself!”
Hermione didn’t lift her head from her pillow but her eyes widened. “Don’t you… don’t you even think of opening that book…” she croaked.
Harry forcibly held down his voice. “Do you understand what you’ve done to yourself?” he scolded. “You didn’t just give me energy – the horcrux is feeding on you, just like Riddle’s diary did to Ginny.”
She tried to sit up and failed miserably; she barely budged the thick blanket wrapped around her. “Just have to figure out how to get rid of them without… killing you,” she mumbled. “I need paper and a biro… have to start figuring out –”
Harry grabbed her by the forearms. “No! There’ll be no figuring it out! Hermione… Remus sent for your parents – you know that, right? We don’t even know Voldemort’s location; I can’t go after him yet. I don’t even know if I can destroy the book before… before…” The room swam before his eyes, and he knew that it surely did Hermione no good for him to become upset or angry, but he couldn’t help himself. “Tell me the name of the effin’ spell!” he roared.
The door shook with a whump! and Stefánsdóttir burst into the room. “Harry, I will ask you to keep your voice down and to keep yourself calm,” she said.
Harry threw open the cover of the Grimoire and began to turn the pages. The room seemed colder, just as Ginny had described, and there was a humming – almost a vibration – in his head. He ignored all of it, and struggled to recall a translation charm. “It had to be in Latin, didn’t it?” he grumbled.
“No, Harry… please… I won’t… I won’t let you… I know what you’ll do…” As she trailed off, Hermione curled into a ball and began to cry – it wasn’t weeping or blubbering, but full-on crying, and Harry made himself press on though it cut at him like a sword. Stefánsdóttir was at Hermione’s side – he could see her from the corner of his eye, holding one of Hermione’s hands and stroking her arm and whispering something to her.
The Grimoire was resisting his efforts at translation – the text would appear as plain English, then abruptly shift to Latin or a crazy-quilt mixture of the two languages. Worse, he suspected that the spell he sought was fleeing from him, shifting from one page to the next. He cursed a blue streak at the book even as he sped his pace through the pages.
He heard the uncomfortable thump of Ron’s cane passing through the threshold, and Ron joined Stefánsdóttir at the bedside. He couldn’t take the time to look up, not when he needed to find the spell responsible for this – he hoped Ron could pry it from her, but he couldn’t watch.
Ron took Hermione’s hand and spoke very quietly in a very level tone; it was so unlike him that it bothered Harry. “He’s going to fight for you, you know?” he said. “I know because I’ll fight for you, too. You’ve done something foolish – stupid, actually, and that’s not like you – and he’ll do something just as stupid if you let him. I’ll help him do it, Hermione. We’re going to go off and do something stupid. What happens when you set forth unprepared, Hermione? What happens?” When she said nothing, he added, “Come on, it’s your line – what happens when you set forth unprepared?”
“Nothing good will come of it,” Hermione sniffed.
“He’s over there rubbing elbows with that thing,” Ron said. “It doesn’t get much more stupid than that. Why don’t you tell us what you’ve done? Tell us, and maybe our next move won’t be completely cocked up?”
“Can’t do any worse than I have,” Hermione said quietly.
“You took a spell from the book, and it tricked you,” Ron said. “You knew it would probably trick you, and you did it anyway because you couldn’t let Harry die. I understand that much. I don’t understand why you won’t help us undo it.”
“H-Harry… please…” Hermione began.
Harry looked to her – she was trying again to raise her head, but she couldn’t seem to manage it. He tried to sound commanding but managed little more than despair. “The spell, Hermione, we need the spell… I need it. What do you want from me? Do you want me to beg?”
“Not a spell… magus convalere,” she whispered. “It was supposed to be magus convalere.” Stefánsdóttir gasped something in her native tongue; Harry had no illusions that it was anything good.
“The Grimoire transformed it into theurgus valere,” Hermione continued. “I knew it, but it was too late. He was d-d-d…”
She began to shudder and couldn’t say any more. Stefánsdóttir let out an angry string of something that confirmed for Harry exactly how bad this was. He happened to glance at the open Grimoire. It displayed the very thing that Hermione had just named.
“Petrificus totalis!” Harry shouted with the tip of his wand jammed against the book, for it was the first and only thing he thought of that might hold the words in place. The book froze with the pages half-flipped and the text still visible. “Quill! Parchment! Now!” he shouted.
He set the Grimoire on the floor; someone handed him what he’d asked for, and he began to write down the words. He wanted to rapidly scribble, but he forced himself to painstakingly write each letter of each word. He couldn’t allow himself to read what he was writing, not by the time he’d made it halfway through what was obviously a dark and complicated ritual.
He handed off the parchment, in hopes that someone else would blow the ink dry. Stefánsdóttir was shouting at Lupin, Lupin was shouting at one of the Unspeakables, Mr. Weasley was shouting at someone else entirely, Ginny was softly weeping in the corner, Ron sat next to Hermione’s bed in mute shock, and Harry rose to his knees and looked at his frail friend who had willingly set out to trade her life for his.
She was shaking as though the noise around her was an assault, staring up at the ceiling because she could manage little else. He half-crawled to the side of the bed opposite Ron, climbed atop it, slid inside the blanket, and pulled her to him.
“Why?” he whispered in her ear.
She lightly cleared her throat, and whispered into his ear in return. “If you had died, it would have been the end. If I die, it doesn’t matter –”
“It matters!” he hissed into her ear.
She flinched but never missed a beat. “– in the grand scheme of things,” she finished.
“We need to buy some time,” he said, “enough time to destroy the book and figure what to do next.”
“Do you… know how to get rid of it?” she asked. He could almost feel her weakening in his arms. He pulled back, and saw that she looked as if she was going to fall asleep.
“I think I do, yeah,” he said.
The argument around them came into focus in bits and pieces. Most of it was over his head – the Unspeakable was going on excitedly about changes in wording from the normal ritual, something about datio versus devolvo and convalescere versus contabescere or the like, and Stefánsdóttir was snapping back – and little of it seemed pointed toward keeping his best friend alive.
This was surely as bad as watching her writhe under the Cruciatus Curse and being able to do nothing about it, except that there actually was something to do about that – Hermione had unearthed the proper spell, after all. In the direst of circumstances, one person could willingly share the pain of the curse with another in hopes that both would remain sufficiently intact to escape the situation.
This wasn’t exactly a curse, he reasoned – it was technically a ritual and it had been self-inflicted – but then again, the horcrux had changed the rules. The ritual Hermione thought she had been performing was supposed to give her energy to him, not to the bloody book. Of course she’s cursed, he decided.
“You’re going to hate me for this,” he said. “I wonder, did you say that to me when you did this in the first place?” Nearly everyone else in the room seemed to be arguing. Ron looked catatonic. Only Ginny was watching when Harry drew his wand and placed it at Hermione’s temple. She stood and pointed and screamed, but not before Harry said, “Excratio pensare,” with more certainty than he had ever applied to a spell in his life.
He knew instantly that it wasn’t pain etched on her face – it was fatigue, it was bone-crushing weakness. It was the heaviness he’d felt after carrying Ron nearly a mile on his back through passages so narrow that he’d had to pull him sideways at times. It was part and parcel with pain, though; he’d also felt it when Voldemort had possessed him at the Ministry. He could feel the energy flow out of him, like it had flowed from Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets or from Ron as his blood had poured out or from Hermione as her life had been drawn into him. He could feel a magical tug of war afoot – the horcrux was confused, he figured, if it was capable of confusion. Now there were three of them connected – four actually, counting the horcrux within his scar – and a new balance had to be struck. He tried to focus on the next move, on getting to Hogwarts, but it was hard to focus on anything other than the desire to sleep. The weakness changed from a wall into waves, and he let himself feel the waves in hopes that he could learn to ride them. He felt Hermione stir and the movement caught his attention. His eyes opened slowly and heavily.
She was awake and her colour was already improving, except for the dark rings under her eyes – eyes that were wide and appalled. “Harry… you… I can’t believe… what were you thinking?” she demanded.
The room was very quiet, he realised – uncomfortably so. Hermione wasn’t the only one looking for an answer to that question, he supposed. “I couldn’t let you go,” he said, because it was the first and truest answer that came to mind.
Hermione was hugging him, Lupin was on about Strengthening Potions, the Unspeakables were eyeing both Harry and Hermione like they were prime candidates for their own room in the once and future Department of Mysteries, Stefánsdóttir was helping Ron to his feet, Ron was twirling her around in glee, and Ginny was saying something to Hermione that sounded civil even though her eyes told a different story. Harry felt like he should listen to Lupin, and berate the Unspeakables, and thank Ron for prying the information out of Hermione, and say something comforting to Ginny about whatever it was that needed comforting, and, most importantly, set off for Hogwarts with the bloody wretched book, but he succumbed to the hugging and let the waves of weakness carry him out into the grey sea and then into darkness.