After speaking with Dumbledore, Harry had been certain it would be a lot easier to destroy the cup. He knew what he had to do. If he just thought about Ginny, things would be easy. He wouldn’t have to go through all of the things he did when destroying the locket. Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy.
Figuring it was best to start with something that had worked once, Harry tried the Reductor Curse again. He stood there with his wand pointed at the cup, which was situated on the table in the library. Summoning the happiest thought he could about Ginny Harry bellowed “REDUCTO!”
He was forced to use diversionary tactics to avoid his own spell. The cup looked completely unscathed.
“I would have been amazed if that had worked,” Hermione told him, crawling out from under the table where she had hidden to avoid just this sort of thing. “I mean, d’you really think he would have put the same sort of spell on this item as he did the locket?”
“So what would you suggest we do then?” Harry asked her.
“We’re just going to have to start trying things again.”
That had been three weeks ago. Now, in the first week of September, Harry was sitting alone in the library. He had his arms folded on the table, head resting in them, staring at the cup that was proving such a headache to destroy.
They had tried every conceivable spell to destroy it. Just the day before Harry, feeling completely frustrated, \ not for the first time that summer, tried dropping the cup from the very top of the stairs on the fifth floor. It clattered to the floor of the entrance hall. The only reward he received for this action was another bout of wailing from Mrs. Black’s portrait.
“Shut up you old hag,” Harry barked irritably as he came back down the stairs, yanking the curtains over the picture.
“I didn’t think that would work either,” Hermione replied, earning a glowering look from Harry. “Well I didn’t. The Reductor Curse packs a bigger punch than inertia from that height.”
Today though, Ron and Hermione were no longer at Order headquarters. After a week of unsuccessful research and attempts at destroying the cup, they had realized that they were not likely to find something sitting in Grimmauld Place. Hermione had stated, somewhat dejectedly, that she wished they were going back to Hogwarts so they could use the library there.
“So write to McGonagall and ask her if you can come down,’ Harry said.
She had. It took a few days to get a reply back, but McGonagall told them they were welcome to come by any time. Thus, Ron and Hermione had returned to the castle today, leaving Harry alone in the gloom that was his repugnant house. He had not wanted to go with them. Being back at the castle, but not actually living there would be too much. Instead, he was staying here and continuing the impossible task of destroying this stupid cup.
Harry was sitting at the table in the library that was piled several feet high with useless books. The cup sat there, glinting smugly in the flickering light of the fire burning in the grate. Despite everything they had attempted to do to it, there wasn’t a single scratch.
Harry crossed his arms and put them on the table, then he leaned his head on them and continued to stare at the cup, which he was quite sure was mocking him for his lack of success. What where they going to do to get rid of this Horcrux? It was creepy to have this thing with them all this time.
He was again sleeping badly. It didn’t really surprise Harry. The only time that he had been able to get a proper nights sleep in the last eleven weeks was when Ginny was with him. But this latest bout of insomnia was causing him to become very irritable once again, and was driving those around him mad.
After staring at that Horcrux for an untold amount of time, Harry found his eyelids getting heavy. He willingly closed them. How soon he drifted into sleep Harry didn’t know. But it was one of those situations where he knew that he was dreaming. Ginny was there, and Harry was thoroughly enjoying the fact that she was. He remembered wishing in the dream that she really was there with him. Things were always better when she was.
The shabby walls of Grimmauld Place were now stone. They bordered him on either side; the passage was narrow, and curved downwards. He was descending a set of steep stone stairs that curved with the walls. Many torches hung in metal brackets along the passage, causing flickering silhouettes to play across the walls.
Over the cracking of the flames, and the sound of his feet as he descended the stairs, Harry heard the sound of someone moaning. This pleased him greatly, and he took the last few stairs quicker than he had done the others. He came around the wall and was in a large stone dungeon. There were fewer torches here, but a small red haired figure was discernible lying in the middle. Harry had known from the moment he had started coming down the stairs that it would be Ginny.
When she heard someone approaching she looked up. Never in Harry’s recollection had she ever looked as she did now. She was scared, certainly. But there was also a fierce hatred in her eyes.
“What do you want?” she demanded. Harry inwardly groaned, but that feeling was eclipsed by several other feelings: a touch of anger, but admiration as well. No one ever dared talk to him this way. The girl had spirit there was no doubt about that. It would be fun to suck it out of her before the end.
“Tut, tut. What a way to talk to your superiors Ginevra! You are another one that I am going to have to teach manners to before the end,” Harry stated. He pulled out his wand, noticing that his fingers were long and much paler than usual. “Crucio,” he said, pointing his wand at Ginny. Her screams filled his ear.
Harry jumped to his feet, knocking over his chair, which clattered to the floor with a loud bang. He didn’t notice this though. He barely registered the pain in his scar. His mind was consumed with one thought. Voldemort had Ginny! He was torturing her. Harry needed to find her, and rescue her. He was not going to let this be another replay of what happened with Sirius. He was not going to delay.
Halfway down the first set of stairs, Harry stopped. Sirius! This situation was eerily like that one. He had tried to check that Sirius was OK, but Kreacher had lied. If only Harry had remembered that mirror.
Still standing in the middle of the stairs, Harry pulled the mirror, which he carried everywhere with him, out of his pocket. He called Ginny’s name. It took a minute, but she finally appeared looking bleary eyed and tousle haired, but otherwise perfectly normal.
“What Harry?” she asked.
“I just wanted to make sure that you were OK,” Harry said. He explained what had just happened.
“Sounds a lot like what happened with Sirius,” Ginny commented.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed with her.
Ginny was just about to start taking the O.W.L.s she had missed in June. Harry felt bad for waking her at this late hour. On the other hand, he was glad that he found her still at home, and not in Voldemort’s clutches. He was even more thankful that he had remembered to give Ginny the mirror. It allowed him to confirm that the one thing that he wanted most in the world to avoid had not come to pass.
But that brought some other troubling things to Harry’s mind. As he walked down the stairs to get something to eat he started to wonder why he had that vision in the first place. It was obviously planted there by Voldemort. Exactly why was another matter. Surely he didn’t think that Harry would fall for that again. Ignoring the fact that he almost had, Harry contemplated the Dark Lord’s motivation in this action, for he would surely have one,
Harry seriously doubted that Voldemort was doing it just to mess with his mind. He wanted information. Exactly what was he looking for though? Even more troubling was the fact that Harry was now certain that Voldemort was going to try and get to him by using Ginny.
After a quick bite to eat Harry made his way back up to the library and stared at the cup again, hoping that some brilliant insight would come to him. Nothing did of course. He resorted to looking through some of the books stacked on the table again, hoping that something would jump out at him.
Things were getting more and more dangerous in the world at large. Dark Creature attacks were occurring in multiples each day. The Death Eaters, from what Harry understood, were starting to attack more frequently than ever before, and with more ferocity. This was perhaps the reason that so many Order meetings were scheduled. It seemed like there was at least one a day. Today was no exception.
It was mid-afternoon when Harry took another break. He needed to refresh himself so he went to go take a shower. He heard voices on the other side of the door as he stepped out. It sounded like they had just met because they were exchanging greetings. He recognized both. One belonged to Ginny, Harry’s heart leapt. He didn’t know she was coming here today. But the other voice belonged to Dudley.
As he got dressed Harry listened to the conversation. The other times that Ginny had been there with Dudley, she hadn’t been alone with him. Harry had noticed that she was revolted and annoyed at his cousin’s actions, but she had never taken him on one-on-one before. How would Dudley react if he aggravated her enough to get hexed?
“Did you hear about my mum and dad?’ Dudley asked in a sullen voice. He had indeed been walking around in a much more somber mood since the death of his parents. This was certainly understandable, but Harry knew he was not the only one that thought Dudley was acting more than feeling. It was a game to get more sympathy from people.
“Yes I did, I’m sorry,” Ginny replied. From the tone of her voice she sounded like she was trying to empathize, but also wanted to get away from the lump as soon as she could. “Listen, I don’t mean to be rude but I’m actually looking for Harry. Have you seen him?”
“No,” Dudley lied. Harry had seen him ten minutes before and had told him exactly where he was going. He lowered his voice a little so that Harry had to strain to hear. “But maybe there’s something I can help you with?” It would have been an innocent enough question, if it were not for Dudley’s suggestive tone. From the sound of the question, Harry was quite certain that his cousin was leering. It made him angry, and he pulled his shirt on without realizing it was inside out.
“No, I don’t think so,” Ginny replied in a way that clearly showed she was disgusted. “I’ll just find him myself thanks.” Harry heard her start to walk away. Dudley called after her.
“You know you could do so much better than him,” that same suggestive note was in his voice again.
“Really? With someone like yourself perhaps?’ Ginny asked. Harry imagined that she had just spun around to face his cousin, probably with her arms folded.
“Well . . . “ Dudley was probably grinning broadly now. Harry was listening raptly. He was already smiling. He didn’t think that Ginny was remotely interested in Dudley. When she had been staying there before she had threatened to curse Dudley more than once. She hadn’t had to act on it yet though because Harry had usually intervened, and for some reason his cousin was now afraid of him.
Harry quietly opened the door. He needed to see this. Ginny was indeed standing with her arms crossed. She saw that he was standing there, but shook her head very slightly telling him not to interrupt.
“So what do you say?” Dudley asked in that same suggestive manner.
“Let me think about that . . . “ Ginny pretended to think for a minute. “Uh . . . sure when that portrait downstairs starts talking civilly.” This comment went right over Dudley’s head. Harry was smiling behind him, leaning on the doorframe as he watched the scene play out.
“Was that a yes?” Dudley asked, hopefully.
“Oh yeah, of course,” Ginny replied sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “No of course it isn’t.” She slapped away Dudley’s hand, which had been stretching towards her. “I would never do that to Harry, least of all with you.”
Dudley backed away a few steps, as though she had slapped him in the face.
“What do you see in him anyway?” he asked grouchily.
“Everything that I don’t see in you,” she answered smiling and looking directly at Harry for the first time. Dudley looked at her for a minute and then spun around. He looked scared when he saw Harry standing there. “D’you really think that I would even be interested in someone that would do something like that to his own cousin anyway?’ Ginny questioned, sidestepping Dudley and coming over to Harry.
“I don’t think he would really care,” Harry told her, leaning down to kiss her lips. “What are you doing here anyway? How was your exam?”
“Mum’s here for an Order meeting. It was boring. I really hate History of Magic. And it’s only the first one,” Ginny responded moodily as she followed Harry back upstairs.
He didn’t know what it was about the library. It was perhaps the fact that he had been spending so much time there that he automatically journeyed to it whenever on the stairs.
“At least you’re done in a week rather than the normal two,” Harry told her. Those that had missed their tests in June were taking them at the Ministry. Because of the danger out there, it had been requested that the schedule be condensed.
“Yeah, but two exams a day — you try doing that,” Ginny complained as she and Harry sat in one of the winged back chairs that were placed the back wall of the library.
“No thanks,” Harry stated, smiling as he stroked her hair. He was glad to have her here, even for the short time. It relieved his worry, which had again intensified after realizing that Voldemort was more aware of his relationship with Ginny than Harry wanted.
“So how are you coming on with destroying that thing?” Ginny gestured over to the table where all of the books were still piled two feet high.
“Not well. Nothing we try works,” Harry admitted. “I know it’s not impossible to destroy it, but it almost feels like it is.”
“Brew up some amortentia and dip it in,” Ginny suggested jokingly.
Harry laughed, but stopped to ponder that for a second. The one thing that Voldemort underestimated was love. What would happen if you stuck a Horcrux, something that was created by the ultimate act of evil, into something that was almost it’s exact counter? It seemed odd, but he was actually thinking of trying it. Then Ginny dashed his hopes.
“That wouldn’t work anyway. It’s not real love right?”
“I think Fred and George would probably be the best ones to ask in a case like this,” Ginny said a few minutes later as she rested her head on Harry’s shoulder.
“Er . . . “ Harry didn’t know what to say to this. He didn’t doubt that the twins were brilliant when it came to gadgets, and that they might be able to help. However, telling them about the cup meant that yet two more people would know about the Horcruxes. He was already stretching by telling Ginny about them. But the more he thought about it, the longer they delayed the more horrible things that were happening, risking everyone’s lives. It might be worth a go. “OK,” Harry agreed.
“Great. I’ll get them to come up here when the Order meeting is over,” Ginny replied. Seeing the blank look on Harry’s face she explained. “Oh, did I forget to tell you. They finally joined the Order, just last week in fact. Mum was not happy,” she grimaced at this recollection. “Couldn’t hear properly for about a day. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you.”
Harry and Ginny hadn’t been talking very much. She had been busy revising for her exams, and Harry had been busy getting nothing done again. Over the last few weeks they had barely talked. Most of their conversations were just cursory checks to make sure that the other was still OK.
Harry had returned from the Burrow the night after finding the cup feeling much better than he had when he arrived there. At least, he felt better until he reentered Grimmauld Place. He hadn’t told the others that he was going to The Burrow. They had apparently been worried for hours about him until, through a message from Mr. Weasley to Lupin, they learned where Harry had gone.
Hermione in particular was unimpressed with this action. She had been very irritable with Harry all day, and kept making comments about how irresponsible it was for him to do such a thing. Death Eaters could have taken him and they would never have known. She finally relented though when Harry told her that he needed to get out of the dreary place that was Order headquarters after all the bad news of that night.
“Yeah, I guess Fred and George might be able to help,” Harry added.
Thus, both Ginny and Harry went to find the newest Order members shortly thereafter. Ginny did most of the talking when they were once again situated in the library. She didn’t mention the word Horcrux. She simply said that it was an object imbued with Dark Magic that they were trying to destroy. Then she had Harry tell the twins what he had tried already, and what had happened when he had tried the multitudes of spells.
“Interesting,” Fred said, rubbing his chin as he looked at the golden cup, which was no longer looking as smug as it had before. “Must have quite the wicked spell on it to block your Reductor. That should have worked like that.” He snapped his fingers.
“Very odd,” George agreed.
“Give us a few minutes. We’ll think of something.”
Fred and George sat together at the table talking in very low voices. Every once in a while they would glance at the cup appraisingly. Finally after about ten minutes George spoke.
“You’ve only tried spells right?”
“That’s right,” Harry told them.
“And you haven’t tried potions or beasts of any sort?”
Harry shook his head.
“Well then we think we know just what you need to try mate,” Fred spoke. “Chizpurfles.”
‘Huh?” Harry asked. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but he had no idea what they were. Maybe it was something that Fred and George had invented.
“They love magic. They usually will eat the remnants of potions out of cauldrons and things like that,” George explained. “One of those’d probably be able to eat right through whatever spell is on this here cup.” He went to pat it and jumped back in alarm, another burn victim.
“Sorry about that. I should have told you it does that,” Harry apologized. He gave the cup a glowering look. That stupid thing was getting on his last nerve. He wanted to be shot of it three weeks ago after the scene on Glastonbury Tor. Remembering all of those poor Muggles, he told Fred and George that their suggestion was worth a try. They said they would be in touch after discussing the matter with a ‘contact’ of theirs.
“Mundungus?” Harry asked, absentmindedly.
“Yeah,” Fred admitted.
“OK,” Harry wasn’t too impressed with having to deal with the skiving sneak thief (as Mrs. Figg had so accurately called him two years before) but he would do what he must just to get rid of this stupid Horcrux. He nodded to show his assent. “As quick as you can please.”
“Right, we’ll find him straight away,” George said as the twins left the room.
Harry sank a little farther back into his chair. He was thinking again of those Muggles at the Tor. They had probably thought they would spend a nice day sightseeing, and then have stories to tell their families when they got back. But, of course they didn’t get back. They had died.
Harry was revolted at the very thought of everything that had happened in that tower. He was mad at himself for not keeping Dumbledore’s words fresh in his mind. He was angry about the fact that he had not listened to his instinct and had either stayed behind, or had Ron or Hermione stay. He was furious at Voldemort for being the cold-blooded murderer that he was, and even putting a spell like that in place, and for making the damned Horcrux in the first place. But right now he was feeling mostly revulsion at what he, Ron and Hermione had had to do.
Sure that Voldemort would be alerted as to what had caused a mass Muggle death at that popular landmark; Harry, Ron and Hermione had all agreed that they couldn’t leave those people there. They had, as per Ron’s suggestion, moved the bodies to less obvious places. It had been nearly impossible to do. By the time the last person had been moved all three of them were in tears and all felt as though they were weighted down with every body they had to transport. It was an experience that Harry never, ever wanted to relive again.
Harry had told Ginny this part when they woke up together the next morning. He had been scared this would be the last straw for her, and she would turn away from him in disgust, but she hadn’t. She had just felt really bad for what he had to do, and angry with Voldemort for yet another thing.
Mrs. Weasley came upstairs shortly thereafter, not to tell Ginny that it was time to return to the Burrow, but rather that she and Mr. Weasley were going to be busy with Order business for the next few days and they were going to be staying at Grimmauld Place. She wanted Ginny to come home now only to get her things and then they would be returning.
“What great news!” Ginny said, bounding out of the room. Mrs. Weasley watched her go that same worried look on her face. She motioned Harry over to her before she followed her daughter.
“Harry, we’re not going to be around much. Will you be able to see that she gets safely to the ministry and back for her O.W.L.s?”
“Of course,” Harry replied, wondering exactly what was going to be keeping the Weasleys so busy. He also wondered, and not for the first time, exactly what the Order was doing out there. They certainly didn’t seem to be making any progress; the Death Eaters were wreaking havoc.
It wasn’t all that exciting their first night nearly alone. Ginny spent it revising for her Potions exam, and Harry sat reading an old book of wizarding history hoping, without much conviction, that he might stumble across something that would help in the hunt for that last mysterious Horcrux, or miraculously, aid in the destruction of Hufflepuff’s cup.
Harry spent the majority of the next week buried behind this or that large book as he sat in the ministry waiting for Ginny to finish her exams. He really was glad when they were over and he could get out of that place once and for all.
They hadn’t heard anything from Fred and George, or Ron and Hermione. After two week had passed, Harry was starting to worry. What if something had happened to them and they were not able to get in contact. It was Ginny that pointed out that they would certainly have heard about it if something had gone awry. Ron and Hermione were at Hogwarts, with McGonagall. The twins were the suppliers of gadgets and things for the Order, if they weren’t around for a whole week people would notice.
September was fast drawing to a close when Fred, George, Ron and Hermione reappeared at Grimmauld Place. As had been the pattern that summer, news and activity seemed to come in great dollops. For weeks Harry had been trying to destroy that cup, with ever increasing frustration at his lack of success. Ron and Hermione had been gone for nearly two weeks, without one single quill scratch about the progress they were making.
Fred and George came bursting into Order headquarters a little under two weeks after they said they would track down a Chizpurfle for Harry.
“There you go,” Fred said, depositing a tiny glass jar into Ginny’s hand. “Just tip this onto that cup and it’ll devour the magic.”
“You sure this’ll work?” Ginny asked, holding it to eye level attempting to see the little critter.
“Yes,” Fred replied. “We’d stay and demonstrate but duty calls. We have a massive order that we need to finish up for the ministry. Mind you behave yourselves.” He gave Harry and Ginny a roguish grin, and then disappeared through the front door with George.
“Did you want to try this right now?” Ginny asked. Harry nodded. It had been over a month since they had got the cup. He wanted to be rid of it as soon as possible.
“Let’s just go in here,” Harry stated, motioning to the drawing room. They were still alone in the house, Lupin and Tonks both off doing their parts in this war. Dudley had been steering clear of them for the last few weeks. No one knew, or cared, what he did all day.
Harry went upstairs and got the cup out of his trunk. Then he dashed back downstairs. Ginny was waiting there, the glass jar still in her hand.
“Well, here goes —“ Harry said, very nervously. He didn’t really want to even think about what might happen when that little creature started to gnaw at the magic that was surrounding the object. He tipped the jar down so that the little bug would fall right out into the cup. It was so tiny he wasn’t sure If there was even anything in the jar. Had it not been for a very faint buzzing, he would have thought this was another of Fred and George’s hoaxes.
Harry and Ginny sat and watched the cup for a full five minutes, with no change.
“How are we going to know if this works?” Ginny wondered aloud.
“I dunno. The locket, when I destroyed that, gave off a huge amount of green smoke, there was this shrieking sound, and it shook the room. I’m not sure if that was because of the fact it was a Horcrux, or just the spell.”
It was after ten minutes that the little beast seemed to have made some progress. It was actually visible looking like a piece of dust that was creeping along the edge of the cup. Harry and Ginny had read in their copies of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that Chizpurfles could become very hard to eradicate if they gorged on too much magic. Feeling that the little critter would probably be getting more than feast’s worth of magic, they had ordered a potion that would get rid of the bug when the job was done.
They couldn’t really tell if any progress was being made. At least they couldn’t verify visually. After those ten minutes, just when they started to notice the thing crawling, Harry started to feel a tingling in his scar. He scratched it, not taking his eyes of that cup. He had spent so much time staring at that thing lately that he was sure there would be a permanent impression of it on his retina soon.
That tingling sensation in his scar started to twinge, then it started to throb, then it ached. The pain increased more and more as time went on.
His eyes watering from the pain, it felt like someone was drilling into Harry’s skull through his scar. He couldn’t even see the tiny bug that was now about the size of a small fly.
“Are you OK Harry?” Ginny asked, concern once again in her voice.
Harry shook his head. No, he was blinded by anguish. It could only be coming from what the Chizpurfle was doing to that cup. He didn’t like this at all, but knew that it was working. He wouldn’t have to wait much longer. Soon it would break through that barrier and it would all be over. If he could just hang on . . .
Just as the pain reached such a pitch that blackness threatened Harry’s vision there was a loud bang that shook the room. As before there was a loud shrieking and they were engulfed in that thick green smoke.
Harry felt relieved. That was two Horcruxes down. There was only one more to find and destroy. Then he passed out.
* * * * * * * * *
How long he was out was unclear but there were several voices around when Harry regained consciousness.
He almost wished he hadn’t. When he attempted to sit up a great wave of dizziness overcame him, and he felt a little ill. His head was throbbing painfully.
“Oh,” he moaned, putting his hand to his head.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” Ginny’s voice said. She was speaking way too loud given that she was quite close. “How’re you feeling?”
“Like I drank a bottle of firewhiskey,” Harry said. His voice was raspy. “How long have I been out?”
“Eight hours,” Ginny replied, the volume of her voice still far too high.
“Not so loud,” Harry stated, wincing.
“Loud? I’m practically whispering,” Ginny said, looking at him in concern again. “Does it really seem loud?”
Harry grunted his answer. Nodding his head hurt too much. His head hurt more right now than it had after he had his skull fractured by that bludger several months before.
“I suspect its that connection again,” Hermione’s voice screeched through Harry’s head, making him cringe again. Why did everyone need to talk so damn loud?
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed, covering Harry’s ears before she answered, shielding him a little from the loudness. “You screamed just as that smoke appeared,” she said to Harry. “Did you do that last time?”
“Dunno,” he stated, realizing for the first time that he was parched. He didn’t recall screaming, but that would explain why his throat felt so sore. Come to think of it, he remembered a little of that when he had destroyed the locket. It now seemed likely that he had screamed before.
“Are you well enough to hear our news?” Hermione asked. She sounded absolutely ecstatic.
“I hope it’s good,” Harry said, sitting up very slowly with Ginny’s help.
“Well —“ Harry saw that Hermione was dancing on the balls of her feet. “- you may be wondering why we haven’t been in touch over the last couple of weeks. We were going to, you see, but were trying to work as quickly as possible. Madam Pince was no help of course —“
“Hermione just get to the point,” Ron said, sounding irritable. She looked angrily at him.
“Ron it’s not that simple. We need to explain —“
“We found the unknown Horcrux,” Ron interrupted her. He reached into his bag and pulled out an old, battered box. Taking the lid off, he extracted a thin wand. Ron and Hermione were beaming as they looked at it.
There was something very familiar about that wand.
“It’s the wand that used to sit in Ollivander’s window,” Ginny stated in an amazed voice.
“The very one. And before that it belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw!”