Hermione Granger was not stupid. She was quite the opposite of stupid, thanks oh so much, and she was proud of her ability to use reason and logic to solve any situation she came across. It was her mind that had discovered what the creature in the Chamber of Secrets truly was, out of everyone who had searched for the answer since the incident fifty years ago. Not even the Headmaster had connected the dots and solved that particular riddle. No, Hermione Granger was no twee daft cow, thank you very much!
So when her best friend seemed to have a near complete personality change in a single summer, she noticed. She had no idea what had happened to change her best friend so much but she knew that whatever it was, Harry was different and that was undisputable.
He spaced out for no reason at random times, sometimes during the middle of conversations. If she didn’t know better, she’d almost suspect that he was listening to someone else during those times. Who, she’d no clue as no one else was ever there besides herself or Ron for him to listen too. That, in itself, was something Harry had never done during their first year and it concerned her. Even more so when the Chamber had been opened.
For one horrible moment she had considered Harry to be behind the attacks. It couldn’t be coincidence, she had told herself. Her best friend changes drastically and the Chamber of Secrets opens all at the same time? That couldn’t be chance. What were the odds?
Yet it had been chance despite the odds. Harry hadn’t had anything to do with the Chamber and his personality change continued long after the real culprit had been stopped as well. She had never been so relieved when they had realized that the diary Harry had found was behind it all and the thought that she’d been suspicious of Harry…well, that still managed to way upon her conscience.
So she decided to wait for Harry to tell her what had changed him. She would never jump to conclusions again, that she’d promised herself.
She still remembered the conversation they’d had, when Harry had told them that he couldn’t tell them what had changed with him. Not in those words. Harry had stressed that the secret he kept was far too dangerous to tell them, not yet at least. It had hurt to know that he couldn’t trust them with the knowledge just yet but not as much as she thought it should have. Not as much as she had predicted it would have when she’d considered the possibility in the past.
That was attributed to the simple fact that Harry was willing to tell them. Hermione knew that and could see it in his body language, he just couldn’t do so just now. Yet it was obvious to her that he needed to talk to someone about whatever it was he was hiding and she tried her hardest, along with Ron, to be one of those he went to. Surely, if they kept their mouths in check, Harry would be able to tell them? That was what they had decided after that conversation with him.
He didn’t though. He still hadn’t and it had been two years since the change had taken place. His continued silence only made her even more curious (and more nervous) about what it was that was so important to keep secret. It couldn’t have been a horrible secret, she knew. Not with the way that unicorns and other animals reacted around him. No, it wasn’t a horrible secret but it was dangerous in some way. In a way that she could not figure out despite the research, logic, and time she had spent on the problem when there were no prying eyes to see.
Thankfully the extra classes that came with third year gave her something else to focus on. Once she had dropped Divination and Muggle Studies, Hermione hadn’t even needed the time turner to get to all her classes each day and had only ended up using it for a few extra hours a week. The homework was more manageable as well and she couldn’t even bring herself to miss the classes all that much.
As fascinating and amusing as Muggle Studies had been, it was also the class that had given her the most homework. She was not sad to see it go, not really. It was a subject that she could go back to once she was out of school. Until then, she contented herself with Care of Magical Creatures, Arithmancy, and Ancient Runes. And she’d let Harry’s changes slip into the back of her mind.
Until they were brought forward again in the middle of summer by one Sirius Black and his offer.
Sirius knew what was up with Harry, that much was overly apparent to her. It both pleased and saddened her that Sirius knew. It was great that Harry had someone to confide in at the same time it was also depressing to know that she was not that person. It had taken Ron a bit longer to catch on and she could tell the redhead was similarly affected by Sirius’ obvious knowledge.
His offer, though, gave her hope and a renewed determination. Sirius Black was going to teach them Occlumency, the ability to protect one’s mind, so that they could be fully trusted with Harry’s secret. Not that he said as much; Hermione had been able to read between the lines well enough to know that it was what he meant, however. The man was not too subtle in his implications, after all. She suspected that was because he wanted them to catch on.
They’d accepted and had gotten permission from their parents. She wasn’t sure how Ron had convinced his mum or dad; her own parents had been thrilled that she had received such an offer. Her parents were always pleased when they learned how well Hermione was doing in the magical world and for someone to take an interest in ever furthering her abilities? Hermione suspected that the reasons behind it barely mattered to the enthusiastic adults. Just the fact that it made her happy was enough for them, in the end.
Hermione was pulled out of her mind with a gasp as Sirius pulled back. They had been working on her barrier for a good forty minutes already and Hermione had yet to hide her memories or to push Sirius out of her mind.
“Not bad for a beginner,” Sirius told her, smiling gently. “Don’t stress about it too much, it won’t take long to figure out whether or not Occlumency is the way to go for you.”
Hermione nodded, still panting from the effects of the spell. Her head throbbed in protest to its rough treatment, particularly behind her eyes.
“You alright, ’Mione?” Ron asked from his seat next to her. She gave him a faint smile in return. Ron nodded and prepared himself for his own attack, Sirius already raising his wand to perform the spell.
They would get this down, Hermione thought in determination as Ron hissed in pain next to her.
“Voldemort did what?!” Sirius shrieked. Grey eyes were wide in horrified disbelief and his godfather was shaking his head. Remus looked just as horrified, as well as nauseas at what Harry had told them.
“He split his soul,” Harry repeated before continuing. “And we don’t think he did it just the one time. The Diary soul piece was made to open the Chamber and Voldemort wouldn’t have designed it like that if it was the only soul piece he had split from himself.”
Sirius whimpered and placed his head into his hands. “Absolutely barmy,” the man moaned into his hands as Remus moved to rub his back soothingly. The Black was white as a ghost and looked as if he was going to throw up at any moment.
Harry frowned at him, eyes narrowed. “You know something.” Gabriel perked up inside their mind, curious to see where this conversation was going. If Sirius knew something, it could very well either narrow down their search for information or negate the need entirely.
Sirius sighed as he calmed himself and lifted up his head. “It’s called a Horcrux and it is the darkest of magic around. The creation calls for a specific ritual to split the soul with the death of an innocent used as the catalyst to break the soul. That’s all I know about them, not even my family was stupid enough to practice such magic.”
′He used the death of an innocent,′ Gabriel snarled in their head, disgusted. ‘No wonder that soul piece was so twisted. To even consider something like that stains the soul and to go through with it… If we were at full power, he’d be nothing more than a smoking crater by now. Things like the soul shouldn’t be meddled with in such a way.’
Harry said nothing, agreeing completely with the Archangel. “Do you know if you have any books on the subject in any of your libraries?”
Sirius shuddered. “No idea but I know who does. Kreacher!”
The house-elf appeared with a slight pop to announce his presence. “Filthy master calls for Kreacher?” The elf glared at them all. “Filthy master keeps the presence of a filthy half-breed and a…”
Harry gave the elf a small wave, enjoying the wide gaping eyes and mouth of the house-elf. Kreacher had been too focused on Sirius when they were in Grimmauld Place and Harry hadn’t seen the need to make his presence known to the elf at that point. He had been trying to keep Sirius’ attention away from his differences at the time and having the elf gaping as he was doing now would not have helped matters. His wings ruffled a bit under Kreacher’s gaze, uncomfortable with the sudden attention.
“Filthy master keeps in the company of a celestial,” the elf whispered. “Kreacher is honored to be in such a presence.”
′Okay,′ Gabriel drawled as Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise. ‘Not the reaction I was expecting from the little bugger. Dobby didn’t react like this.’
‘Yeah but this is Dobby we’re talking about. He’s always acting like he’s in awe of us.’ Harry pointed out, before sighing. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t spread that around,” he politely told the elf.
“Kreacher will keep silent, Master Celestial sir!” the elf nodded enthusiastically. “How may Kreacher be of service to Master Celestial sir?”
Sirius, the annoying bastard, was quite happily laughing his ass off. The pale nausea having diminished. Remus looked just as amused though he kept from laughing, thankfully. Harry glared at his godfather for a moment before turning back to the elf. “Kreacher, I was hoping that you might be able to tell me if the Black Libraries have some information that I require.”
“Kreacher can tell Master Celestial sir. Kreacher knows all of the books that are in the Libraries, sir. Former Mistress and Master had all books moved to Grimmauld, Master Celestial sir.” Kreacher told him before glaring at Sirius. “Filthy master shows no manners in front of Master Celestial sir! Filthy master is a stain to the Black Family!”
′Right, I’m still all for not getting in the middle of that.′ Gabriel offered as Sirius and Kreacher began their favorite pastime of glaring holes in the other’s skull. If either of them had the ability to kill with a glance, they’d both be dead. Harry nodded, rolling his eyes as he brought the elf’s attention back to himself. “We were wondering if the Black Libraries have any books on Horcruxes.”
Kreacher jerked. “Master Celestial wants books on vile objects?”
′ That’s one way of describing them.′
Harry grimaced. “We need information on them in order to track down certain horcruxes.”
Kreacher gave him an uncertain look, clearly still uncomfortable with the subject. Coming from an elf who thought having his head hanging on the wall of a hallway with the heads of other dead elves would be the greatest of honors, Harry figured that was saying something. “Kreacher will go retrieve the books.” The elf disappeared with another pop.
“That went smashingly!” Sirius cackled from his place on the floor. “Does Master Celestial sir need something?” The man asked in a butchered parody of Kreacher’s voice. ‘I wonder if we can get away with turning him pink? I bet Remus would help us.’
‘Maybe later.’ Harry stuck out his tongue at the man. “I hope the Hogwarts elves won’t act like that,” the teen groaned after a moment. “Dobby certainly doesn’t.”
Sirius hummed in agreement after he finally calmed down. “From what you’ve told me of that elf, Dobby already acts like that around ‘Harry Potter sir’.”
Speaking of Dobby… “Any luck on contacting Narcissa?” Harry asked. “Dobby should have had enough time to play his part by now.”
Sirius nodded. “She’s already gotten back to me on it. Said that she has a couple house-elves that I might be able to use. I’ll be flooing to Malfoy Manor to ‘inspect’ them before choosing which ones I take.”
Harry blinked in surprise. “She’s letting you take more than one?” He hadn’t expected that. The most he’d been hoping for was Dobby out of this deal. The chance to rescue similar cases from the abusive hands of Lucius Malfoy and his brat son (Harry held off judgment on Narcissa, having never met her) was already brightening his mood.
“I know, shocked me too.” Sirius shrugged, ignoring the blank look Remus was giving them both. They’d yet to tell the man about their little plot with Dobby and the Malfoy’s. “I was thinking of calling Dobby over and seeing which elves he thinks would appreciate escaping from the Malfoy Family’s care.”
′Good,′ Gabriel agreed. His Archangel alternate was still seething about the state that Dobby was always in. ‘The more that get away from those monsters, the better.’
“Kreacher has brought Master Celestial sir his books!” Kreacher announced as he reappeared in the sitting room, books in hand. The conversation concerning Dobby ended abruptly as they all turned to inspect said books.
Harry hissed at the stain of black magic clung to the cover of the book, nearly blocking out the text completely. “Sirius, do you mind if I burn these once we’re done with them?” he asked, motioning for the elf to set them on the floor.
Sirius snorted and waved a nonchalant hand. “Be my guest. The world would be better off if without books like those in existence.”
Remus eyed the books with as much distaste as Harry. The werewolf could likely smell the same thing that Harry was seeing and it was obviously making the man uneasy. Kreacher moved to stand out of the way, watching with interest to see what they were going to do. Harry didn’t bother ordering the elf away. He had some questions that he planned on asking the elf the first chance he got.
With a shudder, Harry flipped open the cover of the book nearest to him before snatching his hand back as the black magic staining it attempted to leach off onto him. “Bugger,” Harry moaned as he shook feeling back into his suddenly numb limb. ‘Those things aren’t going to let me touch them, are they?’
′They probably sense our Grace,′ Gabriel mused. ‘They aren’t going after Sirius or Remus and Kreacher could hold them no problem. We, though, are a threat to them and the magic tainting them must know it.’
Gabriel was right, Harry noted. Sirius and Remus were handling the books with no problem but as soon as he moved to touch the cover again, the magic attempted to leach onto him once more.
Sirius must have noticed something off as he put down his own book to look at Harry in concern. “What’s the problem?” the man asked, frowning as Harry inched away from the book warily.
“Their magic is reacting to my Grace.” Harry glared at the offending book and probably would have made to set it on fire if they didn’t need the information in it. Every instinct he had was screaming at him to destroy it. “The magic tries to leach onto me whenever I go to pick it up, likely a defense mechanism to keep me from getting too close so I can’t destroy it.”
Remus frowned and glanced down at his own book in consideration. “The magic on them is fairly strong,” he admitted. “Mooney really doesn’t like them either.”
“Well what were you expecting?” Sirius asked them both with an odd look. “Horcruxes are vile things; information on them isn’t going to be in just any old book. That book is titled ‘Magic Moste Evile: Through The Ages’ for a reason.”
Harry glared at the book once more. The damn thing was taunting him, he just knew it. The information he needed to take down Voldemort could very well be right there in front of him and he couldn’t access it!
“Don’t worry about it.” Remus told him. “I’ll go through these books and let you know what we find. Hopefully, we’ll be able to use some of this information on Voldemort’s Horcruxes.”
Sirius frowned at the werewolf. “What about me?”
Remus rolled his eyes. “We both know you want nothing to do with these books. Go help Ron and Hermione with their Occlumency. You’re supposed to meet them at the Burrow in ten minutes, remember?”
“Bollocks!” Sirius cursed and all but ran to the Floo room.
Harry laughed at his godfather’s antics. “I suppose I’ll leave it to you, then.”
′ Not like we have much choice.′
Remus only grunted, having gone back to reading. Harry shook his head and motioned for Kreacher to follow him and left the room.
“Master Celestial sir has another task for Kreacher?” the elf asked hopefully.
′You know, he’s not all that bad when he’s not cussing Sirius out.′ Gabriel mused.
Harry ignored him and turned to Kreacher. “First off, I’d like you to call me Harry when in the presence of anyone other than Remus or Sirius.” Best to get that out of the way before it became a problem.
“It will be down, Master Celestial sir.” Kreacher nodded, ears flopping.
“Second, I wanted to ask you a few questions,” he continued. “I’m not sure if you’ll have the answers I need but I would appreciate it if you answered me with complete honesty.”
“Kreacher will, sir!” the elf exclaimed. Kreacher was far more lively than he had been when he’d first ‘met’ him, he noted.
Harry nodded in acknowledgment, frowning as he began musing on what his first question would be.
From Sirius, Harry and Gabriel had learned that the Blacks had been avid followers of Voldemort. Apparently, Orion had gone to school with Tom Riddle, as had Walburga. Both had been supporters and Sirius’ younger brother had even become a Death Eater. He’d also learned that Kreacher had been Regulus’ personal elf. Purebloods often took House-elves for granted and discussed thing of sensitive nature without any care for if an elf overheard it, such as the case had been for Lucius and Dobby in second year. Harry was counting on that fact being the same with Regulus and that Kreacher might have some information that could be useful in their search.
“Sirius told me that you belonged to his brother, Regulus,” Harry began. Kreacher squeaked at the name, eyes watering. “He also knows that Regulus was a Death Eater.”
Harry studied the elf’s watery eyes and nodded to himself. “Did Regulus ever discuss any sensitive information about Voldemort in front of you? It may not have sounded important at the time, maybe just about some trinkets Voldemort had?”
Kreacher nodded, full out sobbing now. Harry was rather alarmed about that reaction, actually. “Master Regulus said that the Dark Lord had entrusted two very important objects to Master Malfoy and Mistress Bellatrix, Master Celestial sir. Master Regulus used to wonder what importance such objects could have.”
′Malfoy had the Diary,′ Gabriel spoke up. ‘No doubt that’s what Regulus was talking about. Bellatrix is one of Sirius’ cousins, likely she was given another Horcrux to guard.′
‘So that’s two already.’ Harry nodded. “Do you know what those objects were?”
“Master Regulus did not know. He only said that Mistress Bellatrix had put the object within her vault for safe keeping and that Master Lucius had hidden his within his manor.” Kreacher told him, still shaking. Harry almost felt bad for asking him.
′ Right, so we already destroyed the Diary. That leaves whatever Bella had in her possession.′
Harry nodded with a smirk. “Thank you, Kreacher. If you remember anything else, I would like you to come tell me, alright?”
The elf nodded, looking conflicted. “Kreacher will.”
Before Harry could address the conflict in the elf’s eyes, Kreacher vanished with a pop.
‘He knows something,’ Harry commented with narrow eyes.
Gabriel hummed in agreement. ’Let’s focus on figuring out what Bella’s ‘trinket’ is for now. Whatever Kreacher knows, I suspect he’ll come to us about it eventually.′
Harry frowned, annoyed. It made sense in some way as Harry was getting that same feeling yet at the same time, it felt wrong to let the elf go just like that when he very well could have vital information. ‘We’ll focus on the Bella lead for now but if he doesn’t come clean soon I’m going to force the issue.’