AYNIL: Chapter Eight: In Kreacher’s Keeping

R.A.B was Regulus Black. Harry was sure of it. It made perfect sense. True, he didn’t know Regulus’s middle name, but that didn’t seem important now. Everything else fit here. It looked like things were finally going right for them in this search. But the problem now was where was the locket? He had a horrible feeling that it might have been one of the things that Mundungus took when he raided the house. What would have happened with those things when he had been arrested? Or even more troublesome, what if he had already got rid of everything by that time? The locket could be anywhere.

Why did Mundungus have to be such a skiving thief? If he had just kept his damned hands off of Sirius’s stuff the locket would still be here, and they would be a little farther on in getting rid of Voldemort. If Harry ever laid hands on that Fletcher, well, Mundungus would not get the chance to Apparate away this time.

Harry turned to flop back down on the couch when a flash of light caught his eye. The candles that were burning in the room had been caught in the reflection from one of the mirrors that was still sitting on the end table beside the couch. Well, thought Harry, it looked like they weren’t going to be needing those anytime soon. It really was no rush to get Hermione to look at them after all.

Harry started to mentally berate himself again for that night at the Department of mysteries. If only he had remembered this package. But, if Kreacher hadn’t been the little toe rag that he was, and had told the truth the situation could have been avoided too. Harry was in such a bad mood now, at having the locket so close but yanked out of his reach again, that he didn’t feel at all sorry for being as angry as he was at Kreacher.

Why hadn’t the Order set the evil little house-elf free before they had taken over Grimmauld Place as headquarters? That would have solved everyone a hole hell of a lot of trouble. The foul little git that had no problem demonstrating the pure-blood mania that Sirius’s parents had been known for. Even after Mrs. Black had been dead for nearly ten years, Kreacher worshipped her. Coming into the house and trying to sneak off everything that they were attempting to throw out . . .

“KREACHER!” Harry bellowed at top volume.

CRACK!

The house-elf appeared instantly. He was quite as filthy as he had been the last time Harry had seen him. Even though he had been working at Hogwarts now for the last year, he had not picked up any better grooming habits. Harry realized, for the first time, just how well he fit with this house.

“Master called?’ Kreacher asked, bowing low but not before he glared at Harry.

“Yeah I did. I want to talk to you about something. When we were cleaning the house —“

At that instant there were loud noises from two areas in the drawing room. Harry, quickly spun around, surveying the room. He had drawn his wand from his pocket as he did so, heart racing. Grimmauld Place was supposed to be safe from Death Eater attacks, well again except for Severus Snape, but that didn’t stop Harry from being prepared for anything. Moody’s repetitious refrain of ‘Constant Vigilance’ was having its effect on him.

In the corner closest to the Black Family tree another house-elf had appeared. It was Dobby.

The door of the drawing room had also burst open. When Harry spun in that direction he saw that Ron, Hermione, Lupin and Tonks were standing there with their wands drawn. Behind them, cowering, were Dudley and his parents.

“You can put those down, its only Kreacher,” Harry said to the four people that had their wands pointing into the room.

“What the hell Harry?” Hermione asked, clutching her heart with the hand that was still holding her wand. It was most unlike Hermione to swear. “We thought that Snape or someone —“

“Sorry,” Harry said shortly. He wanted to talk to Kreacher and couldn’t do it with all these people around. “I need to talk to Kreacher, alone please.”

“Right. Just no more shouting, please,” Tonks requested. Her hair had been that same mousy brown that it had been for most of the previous year, but was quickly turning back into her trademark bubblegum pink. The shock had caused it to change back to its normal color.

“You two can stay,” Harry told Ron and Hermione as he turned to face Dobby. How did the house-elf even get here? He had been under the impression that the Fidelius charm worked on everyone, human and elf alike. Maybe that wasn’t right. Maybe Dobby had some kind of tracking spell on Kreacher. Harry didn’t have time to contemplate this latest mystery though, “Dobby, I know that you probably want to help, but I need to speak with Kreacher alone.”

“OK, Harry Potter, sir,” the house-elf squeaked. “If sir needs anything please call Dobby.”

“I will, thanks,” Harry ignored the look that he was getting from Hermione. Dobby smiled broadly before Disapparating with another loud CRACK.

“What’s this about Harry?” Ron asked as he closed the door behind Lupin, who was the last to leave. Harry didn’t answer the question. Instead he turned back to Kreacher.

“I want to know what you did with all the things that Sirius threw out.”

“Oh no, not the murderer again,” the ancient house-elf croaked in his deep hoarse voice.

“Don’t start,” Harry said dangerously, but Kreacher had gone off on his own tangent.

“The murderer comes back from Azkaban and starts throwing out all my mistresses prized possessions. My poor old mistress . . . lucky she isn’t here to see. Now there are mudbloods and half-bloods fouling up the house.”

“Kreacher answer me!” Harry demanded. “What did you do with those things?”

“They’re in Kreacher’s keeping,” he answered, vaguely. Then he added, in what was meant to be an undertone, “so they don’t get binned.”

Harry meant to grab the house-elf by one of his thin arms, but the elf moved just as Harry reached for him, and he ended up catching him by the neck.

“Harry no,” Hermione moaned.

He ignored her and brought the little loathsome being closer to him.

“Don’t mess with me. I am in no mood for this. I want to know what you did with those things. I want to know where you put them. Tell the truth.” Harry didn’t even notice that he had just used the exact same words as the young Tom Riddle had when Dumbledore had gone to see him at the Muggle orphanage.

Kreacher looked at Harry with sheer hatred in his eyes. But he couldn’t disobey a direct order.

“In Kreacher’s cupboard,” he said slowly, his voice full of malice.

“Did you take that locket Kreacher?” Harry asked. Again the elf gave him a look as though he were something disgusting, but he nodded. “Get it for me now,” he demanded. The elf snapped his fingers and a heavy gold chain appeared in his hand.

Harry only had to look quickly at it to know it was not the Slytherin locket. Another hope dashed.

“Is that it?” Hermione asked, coming closer to inspect the chain. The confusion that she had worn on her face when Harry had first spotted her in the door was gone, replaced by a look of pure wonder and anticipation.

“No,” Harry said quietly. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take. At least no one was hurt in this attempt to get the locket. “The other one has a snakey ‘S’ on it.”

“So where did this one come from?” Ron asked also coming closer to take a look at it. Both Harry and Hermione looked at him. Sometimes Ron could be thick, but this was stupidity worthy of Dudley. “I mean why was it here in the house in the first place?” he clarified.

“That’s a good question.” Hermione looked impressed. “Kreacher, can you tell us where this locket came from?” she asked kindly.

“The mudblood is talking to Kreacher again,” the house-elf said nastily. From the expression of glee that appeared on his face he knew very well that Hermione would hear him, and that the term was offensive.

“Don’t call her that,” Harry and Ron shouted at the decrepit elf. Then Harry added, “answer her Kreacher.”

The house-elf was going to have a permanent look of purest loathing soon Harry thought to himself as Kreacher fixed both him and Hermione with another gaze. He took so long to answer that Harry was about to make another demand.

“Kreacher is getting it with the Noble Master Regulus, the brave and gallant pure-blood who —“

“With Regulus?” Harry asked. “What you do you mean with him?”

Harry was sure that he was going to have to threaten Kreacher again to get this newest bit of information from him. To the amazement of the three people that were in the room the house-elf actually swelled to his full height and a smile crossed his face. He looked proud. This was a side of Kreacher that they had never seen before. It was strangely unsettling.

“Master Regulus worked for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He performed untold horrors for the Dark Lord, to please his parents, as was expected from one with so noble a bloodline. He did not besmirch the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black with mudbloods, half-bloods, werewolves, and – and others.”

“Get on with it,” Harry said impatiently. Kreacher glanced at him looking angry at the interruption, but continued.

“Kreacher does not know how the youngest Black came to know of the cave, but he asked Kreacher to go with him on a dangerous mission. Kreacher was very pleased to go with the young Master. They go to a cave with a lot of green light. They travel in a boat across a smooth lake with inferi. The young master conjures a goblet and gets Kreacher to drink a horrible potion that makes him feel as if a Dementor is near. Kreacher doesn’t want to, but does it for Master Regulus —“

“How horrible! He made you drink it?” Hermione asked shrilly.

“Kreacher does it because he is pleased to serve in the Noble house of Black. He and Master Regulus travel back Kreacher thinks there was fire, but can’t remember too well because the potion makes him feel quite sick. But when he and Master Regulus get back to the house master Regulus gives Kreacher a locket and asks him to disguise it. Kreacher does so and then Master Regulus puts it in the cabinet where it was removed two summers ago.”

“Why didn’t he just destroy it?” Harry wondered aloud.

“Kreacher doesn’t ask questions that are not befitting of his station,” the house-elf said as if Harry had suggested he do something disgusting. “The mudblood, should remember that,” he added in another audible whisper.

“How many bloody times to I have to tell you not to call her that?” Ron asked hotly.

“I forbid you to use that word again,” Harry spoke angrily. He didn’t wait for the inevitable nasty look. “You said that you disguised the locket? Show me.”

Kreacher ran one of his long fingers over the locket and the gold in the centre seemed to melt into the ‘S’ shape that he had seen on the other occasions. Ron and Hermione leaned in even closer so that they could take a look at the change in the locket. Harry pulled the fake Horcrux out of his pocket.

Now he looked at the two chains together he felt even more stupid that he hadn’t caught on that the locket he and Dumbledore had got together wasn’t the real one. It looked nothing like Slytherin’s locket. That was of little importance now, they had the actual Horcrux; a seventh of Voldemort’s soul.

Harry reached out to take the locket from Kreacher. His hand an inch away he stopped. He didn’t want to take it. They hadn’t learned how to destroy a Horcrux. The last one he had destroyed had been with a Basilisk fang, they didn’t have one of those lying around Grimmauld Place.

“Go on, take it Harry,” Hermione encouraged.

Reluctantly he stretched out his fingers the last inch to take the locket. Kreacher snatched it back.

“Give that to me,” Harry demanded, making a grab for it. Kreacher dodged him. Harry felt a strange sense of déjà vu. He had done this dodging thing once before. “Kreacher I demand that you give that to me,” he said.

Mumbling furiously under his break the elf stepped forward and stretched out his hand. Feeling a fresh wave of foreboding, Harry once again reached out to take the Horcrux. Knowing Voldemort there was some nasty curse on this thing that would activate when he touched it. As Harry’s fingers closed on the cold metal of the locket he squeezed his eyes shut, bracing himself for something horrible.

But nothing happened. Harry opened his eyes. The locket lay there looking no different than any other antique pendant.

“Well, one down,” Ron said.

“Yeah.” Harry didn’t take his eyes off the locket. Despite the frustration he had expressed over the past days on their lack of useful findings during the hours they spent in the library, he couldn’t believe that they had found the locket so easily. It almost seemed too easy. Dumbledore surely would have known who R.A.B. was.

But Dumbledore never saw the note. It wasn’t until Harry had gone to see the lifeless form of his dead headmaster that he had found the locket, which had burst open after the fall. It was then that he had found the note with R.A.B.‘s initials.

It was strange. Harry was feeling both sadness and happiness at the same time. He was happy that they had found the locket. Well, maybe not happy, relieved. But that had brought back all those painful feelings about Dumbledore. Harry remembered how he had disappointed his headmaster in not getting the memory from Slughorn that told of the Horcruxes, how anxious he had been to show Dumbledore when he finally did procure it. He wished that the great wizard was here now. Harry wanted to tell him that he had succeeded in finding the Horcrux that had not been in the cave.

The headmaster couldn’t talk to him though. He had been murdered. Killed by someone that he had been sure was a friend no less. Harry felt himself starting to get angry at the thought of Snape again.

Nothing had been heard about Snape since he had Disapparated with Draco that night. At least, there was no news that had reached Harry’s ears. He wasn’t sure if this was because no one from the order had been in contact with the slime ball, or if they just weren’t mentioning it to Harry. He hoped it was the former, because he couldn’t stand the idea that anyone from the order would buy into what the two-faced murdering — Snape was a master Occlumens. He could hide things from the two most powerful wizards in the world. He could therefore hide things from others, surely.

“What’s got you so worked up now?” Ron inquired, looking at Harry quizzically.

“Snape,” Harry spat.

“What does he have to do with this?”

“He killed Dumbledore,” Harry said loudly. “That has everything to do with this. I wouldn’t have to do this alone if it wasn’t for that fu-“ he stopped. Ron and Hermione were looking hurt. “No, I mean, not alone, but you know, without Dumbledore.” He finished lamely. What was wrong with him lately, putting his foot in his mouth with what seemed like every other sentence he uttered?

“We understand,” Hermione said, consolingly. “You’ve been frustrated lately. Given what’s ahead of you — of us —“ she corrected, “I would be amazed if you weren’t a bit on edge.”

“Thanks.” Harry turned to Kreacher, who was staring at the three friends; he looked as if he was about to be sick. “You are not to tell anyone in any way about this locket. You are to deny that you ever had it in your possession if asked. Tell no one about what you heard us discuss today. I want you to go back to Hogwarts and stay there. I’ll call you if I need you.”

Harry waited as he had done before, to make sure that the elf didn’t get one of those wicked grins on his face indicating that he had found a loophole. None came, making Harry, Ron and Hermione breath a little easier. Nonetheless, Harry felt need to add, “If I find out that you have made any mention that you were here today for something other than cleaning, I swear I will throttle you to death. Understood?”

Kreacher gave him another disgusted look as he nodded.

“You can go.” There was another loud crack and the filthy house-elf disappeared.

“Harry, I can’t believe that you would talk to him like that!” Hermione said indignantly.

“Don’t start with that spew stuff again. I don’t want to hear it right now,” Harry replied, not looking at her. He was staring at the locket. Now they had it, a more pressing matter was upon them, how to destroy it.

No brilliant insights came to any of them when Harry brought up their newest dilemma. It looked as though they were going to be spending more time in the library.

* * * * * * * * *

Harry’s birthday was fast approaching. In three days he would turn seventeen. He didn’t have strong feelings about this either way. His birthdays had never really been something he looked forward to. Harry supposed it would be nice to be of age and be able to legally do magic, without having to worry about getting a letter from the Improper Use of Magic office. But it was going to be strange too. He would be an adult, and able to do whatever he wanted.

Mr. Weasley had stopped by headquarters that very day on his way to work. He had come to finalize the arrangements for moving the trio to the Burrow. Hermione was going to go straight there with Tonks of the day of Harry’s birthday. Harry and Ron, however were going to accompany Mr. Weasley to the ministry to take their apparition tests, like they had talked about when Ron had failed his in the spring.

There had been much discussion on this topic. Mrs. Weasley was not fond of the idea of her youngest and surrogate sons doing something so dangerous. They were going to be out in the open and could be snatched by any Death Eater, especially if they didn’t Apparate to the right place. She had sent a howler when Ron flat out refused to change the plan. He had sent one right back telling her they were not changing the plan.

In the midst of these plans, the trio was spending about eighteen hours a day looking through any book they could lay their hands on that might help them in destroying the Horcrux. They were going to try and avoid trial-and-error tactics if at all possible. Who knew what would happen if they used the wrong spell.

Hermione had Harry recount how he had destroyed the diary back in second year. She wanted to go over everything that had happened in minute detail. Harry retold the story so many times that he became thoroughly sick of it. He was sorely tempted to buy a pensieve, put the memory in it, and let Hermione peruse it at her leisure.

“I don’t think basilisk venom would work in this case anyway,” she said for about the fortieth time. The three of them were sitting in the basement kitchen, around the wooden table. The Dursleys had long ago gone to bed, and Lupin and Tonks were off doing work for the order. Harry was sure they were at the Burrow as guards this evening. As the wedding approached and the trio made ready to return security was being tightened even further.

“We know that,” Ron stated irritably. All three of them were exhausted. They had been doing little else but research and sleeping. Their lack of progress mixed with lack of sleep was making the three friends short-tempered with each other.
“Well at least I am making suggestions, unlike you,” Hermione snapped. Ron opened his mouth to retort.

“Shut up already,” Harry yelled at them. “This isn’t getting us anywhere. Maybe we should just take a night off or something. You know, do something fun, or sleep. We always seem to stumble on something when we’re least expecting it. Maybe we’ll get a sudden inspiration if we aren’t trying to find it so hard.”

Ron was all for that idea, but Hermione, predictably, wanted to continue working.

“I think that we should just start trying things,” she said. Both Ron and Harry looked at her. They were sure this was her last ditch effort to keep them working. It had been she that had said they shouldn’t chance destroying the Horcrux without researching first. “At least if we try something it might tell us if the locket is cursed.”

None of them were really enthusiastic about this idea. Harry kept thinking about Dumbledore’s withered hand. He already had one scar that caused people to gawk at him. He wasn’t anxious to have another.

“And exactly what should we start with?”

“We need to destroy the locket,” Hermione stated thinking aloud. “I mean what is a Horcrux but a container for the piece of soul. So we would need to break the locket and that should release it, thus causing the Horcrux to be rubbish, no longer useable. “ She had stood up from the table and was walking back and forth in front of the large fireplace. Her head was down and she had her hand over her mouth as she paced. She looked like she was thinking hard.

“Hermione, you’re starting to make me dizzy,” Ron spoke a few minutes later. His head had been following her progress. She had stopped speaking, but it looked like thoughts were racing through her mind, and she had started to walk faster.

“Yes, that would be the best to start with,” Hermione said slowing down. “Harry, I think that you should try a reductor curse.”

Harry, who had put his head down on his arms as she strode about the room in silence, slowly sat back up and looked at his friend.

“Really? Doesn’t that seem like it would be too simple?”

“Do you have any better ideas?” Hermione snapped, putting her hands on her hips and looking angry.

“No,” Harry admitted. He guessed that it was worth a try. The worst that would happen (he hoped) is that the spell would bounce back and reduce something else. He stood up, pulling his wand out as he did so. Harry reminded himself to be ready to duck. As he prepared to make the first attempt at exterminating this Horcrux Ron suddenly spoke up.

“I — uh — think that maybe we should back away, just in case.” Without question the three friends stepped back several paces. They now stood about five feet away from the table, each on a different side. “I wouldn’t much fancy a black and withered hand,” Ron confessed sheepishly.

“Well, here goes . . .“ Harry raised the wand again. He didn’t know what to expect. He hadn’t been injured the last time that he had destroyed a Horcrux. He hadn’t been injured by the Horcrux anyway. “REDUCTO,” he yelled.

The spell hit the locket and rebounded immediately on Harry. He didn’t notice this though. As soon as the spell made contact with the locket pain shot through Harry’s scar and he lost his balance, sinking to his knees. If he hadn’t the spell would certainly have hit him. Instead it hit a pot that was hanging on the wall behind Harry and reduced it to dust.

“Harry are you OK?” Hermione asked as she and Ron rushed over. “What happened?”

“Scar,” Harry said, from his place on the floor. He had his hand over his forehead. He was feeling a little queasy now, even though the pain had gone. Why did shooting a reductor curse at that locket cause him to feel sick? Harry had used that curse plenty of times before and had never experienced an effect like that.

“That was close,” Ron said, glancing at the pile of dust that had landed on the counter behind Harry. Hermione had her hand over her mouth as she gazed at him, her concern and shock evident.

“What was that?” Harry asked, looking at Hermione. He realized that she probably didn’t have the answer either, but she would be most likely to find it, given that she read every book in sight. He explained what he had felt when the spell connected with the locket.

“I don’t know. That’s not normal,” she said, stating the obvious. “Maybe it has something to do with the evil that created the Horcrux, or with the connection that you have with Voldemort.” Both she and Harry ignored Ron’s shudder.

The momentary queasiness he had felt was gone, now a reckless anger was causing Harry’s blood to boil. After having this revolting thing for several days they were no closer to being rid of it. He still had three other objects to find before he could even chance taking on Voldemort. Harry wanted to do away with the locket as soon as possible. He stood up. If he had to stand here all night trying every spell he knew, he was going to find one that worked.

“I’m going to try that again,” he told Ron and Hermione, his jaw fixed in determination. He was going to start with the reductor curse again. Maybe it was a matter of having to hit the thing at the right angle or something. “REDUCTO,” he shouted again.

Ron and Hermione had ducked before Harry had even opened his mouth. The spell ricocheted again As had happened the first time, Harry felt that same sickening feeling. He ducked his own spell, but was able to remain on his feet. He tried again, and again, and again. that the effect was no different whether he changed positions or not.

With each failed attempt Harry’s anger increased. As it did, so did the pain in his scar increased. The last time that he tried, he barely hit the locket because he had his eyes screwed up in pain

“COME OFF IT, THAT SHOULD WORK!” he finally shouted furiously, his eyes watering from the pain in his scar, and his knees weak with that sickening feeling. He felt like he was going to wretch.

“Harry, I don’t think that this is the right spell,” Hermione said timidly. “We’re not supposed to be playing dodgeball here.”

“Dodgeball?” Ron asked her Interested.

“Another reason you should have taken Muggle Studies,” Hermione hissed at him before quietly saying “later.”

“No, this is the one. We just have to do it differently,” Harry said, firmly. He didn’t know why he felt so sure that this was the right spell, but he was certain of it now. “It might require more force. C’mon you guys, help me. Reducto on three. One . . . two . . . three . . . “

Ron and Hermione pulled out their wands, looking as though they thought Harry had gone mad. But when Harry reached three they both added their shouts of, “Reducto,” to Harry’s.

Nothing different happened this time either, except for the fact that all three of them had to duck to avoid their own spells. Two more pots were reduced to ashes.

“See Harry, I don’t think that this is the right spell,” Hermione said again, getting back to her feet and dusting off her pants. This time Harry had to admit that she was probably right. His absolute certainly wasn’t that absolute after all. He had tried every conceivable way of shooting that spell at the locket and nothing had changed. It didn’t even look like it had been touched.

The anger that Harry felt inside was replaced by the all too familiar sense of despair he had experienced ridiculously often over the last six weeks. The only way he knew how to destroy a Horcrux was with basilisk venom. He didn’t have any of that now as Hermione already stated, and he didn’t feel much like brewing up poisonous potions to try.

“I think that we should give it up for tonight and do some more research,” Hermione suggested.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed in a defeated voice. He sat back down at the table and put his head in his hands once again. “AAAARRRGGHHH!” he suddenly burst out in fury and frustration.

“We’re going to bed. We’ll try again tomorrow” Ron told Harry. Both he and Hermione were looking at Harry sympathetically. “See you up there.”

“Yeah,” Harry still had his head in his hands. He felt too drained to try another spell.

Just this week Lupin had brought word of more Dementor attacks, and Tonks had told them that the Aurors had been called in to investigate the death of Sturgis Podmore, the bloke who had been arrested the night before Harry started fifth year. Once he had got out of Azkaban he had come back to work for the order. Lupin and Tonks had known him well and were quite upset at his murder.

If Harry wasn’t able to destroy this Horcrux, the one that had already been removed from its original location, there was little hope that he would be able to find and get rid of the other three. It seemed like whenever he, Ron and Hermione made any sort of progress in this hunt, they would be forced to take two steps backwards. If this stream of setbacks didn’t turn around soon Harry’s fear of never being able to defeat Voldemort might become reality. He would have to sit back and watch as everyone he cared about was murdered.

Continuing to keep his head in his hands, Harry started to think about Ron and Hermione, and then of Ginny. He knew that he could not stand to see any of them lose their lives because the Death Eaters were gaining control over everything in the magical world.

Sighing heavily, Harry grabbed the locket, got to his feet and walked slowly to the door, weighted down with worries about his friends, and especially Ginny. She was fine now, but Harry still worried about her incessantly. If anything happened to her because of him . . .

Harry always felt better when he thought of Ginny. She was the only one that could make him see reason when he was being thickheaded. It had been her that had changed his mind about their relationship. She had made him see that his logic had been flawed. She had pointed out that not being together would do nothing but make them both miserable.

Harry would be seeing Ginny in just a few days. This thought made him smile, his first in days. He would be back at the Borrow which, now that they were back together, was once again the welcoming environment that it had always been . . .

Harry turned around halfway up the stairs, and walked back down to the kitchen. Upon entering he put the locket back on the table. He needed to try this one more time, if only just to satisfy himself that he had done the spell every which way. What would one more go at it cost him anyway?

Harry backed away, like he had done earlier. He raised his wand as he stared at the Horcrux that was sitting before him. He didn’t shoot the spell right away, instead he thought about what it would mean for Voldemort to be defeated for good. He thought about all of the lives that would be spared. He thought about Ron and Hermione and Lupin and Tonks who had just started their relationships and had years ahead of them. He thought about Bill and Fleur who were getting married in a few days, and deserved to raise the dozens of scarlet and golden haired children they were bound to have in a safe world. But mostly he thought about Ginny. He thought about how she wouldn’t be safe until Voldemort was gone for good.

“REDUCTO!” Harry shouted again.

He instinctively ducked, expecting to have to avoid his own spell again. But it was needless. The spell didn’t ricochet this time. Instead the room shook, there was a loud shrieking noise and the sound of breaking metal. The room was soon engulfed in thick clouds of green smoke. As the smoke swirled around, not showing the usual signs of clearing, Harry was reminded of being back in that cave. It was an eerie feeling.

He had been forced backwards into the wall when the room had shook. Harry righted himself and walked over to the table. Lying there, where he had placed it, was Slytherin’s locket. But now, it was in several pieces.

Harry picked up the pieces and stared at them in disbelief. He had been determined earlier to destroy this thing, but hadn’t really thought that they would be able to do it. He was sure that it would take some spell of immense power and complexity to get through whatever it was that blocked the reductor curse.

Harry heard footsteps thundering down the stairs. The kitchen door squeaked as it burst open.

“Harry?”

“Harry, are you all right?”

“What happened?” Ron asked, coming into the room. The smoke had finally started to clear a little and Harry could see the outlines of Ron and Hermione.

Harry answered them by holding out the locket. A look of dawning comprehension appeared on both of their faces as they edged closer.

“You did it. But how?” Hermione asked surprised. “What spell did you use to destroy it?”

“Reductor curse,” Harry said. He had a huge smile on his face. He felt triumphant.

“But that didn’t work before,” Hermione replied in a tone that showed she doubted what Harry was telling her. “You had to have done something different.”

“Nope,” Harry replied, but then he thought for a moment. “Well . . . I suppose I didn’t get angry like I was doing before. That’s about it.”

Ron and Hermione continued to look like they thought he wasn’t telling them something. They still wanted to know the details of how he had destroyed the Horcrux. Harry recounted exactly what had finally worked.

A few hours later, when he finally made it up to bed, Harry was still wearing a huge smile on his face. He had done it. He had destroyed the locket. There were only three more Horcruxes left. He wasn’t worried about what obstacles he would have to get past to reach those last three. Right now all he felt was joy that something had gone right for a change, and in just a few days he would be back at the Burrow, and with Ginny.

With that last pleasant thought, he drifted into a night of peaceful sleep, one of the few he had all summer.

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