Before the end of year 2, there will probably be one major character death (and by major, I mean significant in this story).
Chapter 13: Christmas with The Prisoner of Azkaban
Heading back to the Burrow in the enchanted car, most the talking was done by Harry and Sirius. Harry had a never ending amount of questions about his parents and Sirius was all too happy to relive his memories with boy that reminded him so much of James.
As they walked inside the Burrow, Sirius turned his attention to others in the group for the first time. He slowly looked at all the children, pausing for an extra moment on Ron and Ginny. “So I guess it would be the two smallest who’ve made all of this possible.”
Setting down his luggage, Percy said, “He knows?”
Ginny started to set down her own bag, but Harry took it from her. Ginny wasn't shocked Sirius knew, because for once she'd been asked about something beforehand. “Dumbledore asked me yesterday if he could tell Sirius. We need in Sirius's house, so I told Dumbledore just to tell him everything.”
Sirius smiled at her. “Then you've been lied to, because I don’t think he told me anything close to everything.”
“Us either,” added Ginny to herself.
No one else besides Sirius heard her. He gave a grin and leaned in close to her. Quietly he said, “Dumbledore will always have secrets. I bet you have one or two as well.” Ginny hadn’t really known Sirius very well in the other timeline, but she was starting to like him here instantly.
Sirius turned to the whole room. “My thanks to all of you for getting me out of there. I will forever be in all of your debt.”
Sirius waved his wand and 5 snowballs went flying towards his victims.
Ron said, “That's not fair. We can't use magic.”
Sirius said, “You're right.” He smiled. “It's not fair.” He waved his wand and 5 more snow balls went crashing toward the kids.
Harry, Ron, and Ginny quickly grabbed snow balls, silently deciding to work together on this. They started throwing.
Two of the snow balls missed. Harry's was right on target, but Sirius blocked it with his wand and it disintegrated before reaching him.
“We'd appreciate a little help,” Ron said. The twins for some reason hadn't thrown anything. He turned around and didn't see them. As he did, one of Sirius's snow balls hit him on the neck.
Ginny decided to charge at Sirius and Harry and Ron joined her, but as they did, the number of snow balls increased quickly and they were forced to retreat back beside the shed.
Harry looked up as he heard something overhead.
Sirius heard it too, but it was too late. The twins were flying close together. They held a sheet between them and on top of it was a large pile of snow. Given it's weight and the fact they had to stay together, they were going at a remarkable speed. They dropped it down right on top of Sirius and he had more snow on him than the rest of them combined.
Everyone laughed hard, especially Sirius. Harry went over and started helping to wipe snow off his Godfather.
As the twins landed, Sirius congratulated them. “That was brilliant. It's something James and I might have thought of to even the odds.”
Ginny smiled and thought of one future thing she hadn't revealed yet. Not looking at the twins, she said, “Fred and George are rather in awe of you and James.”
The twins looked at her oddly.
Sirius laughed. “Really?”
Even though he had no idea what Ginny was talking about, very seriously Fred said, “Oh, yes.”
George then added, “We don't see many people get that much snow on them and still stand.”
They laughed. Ginny said, “They have something that you created back in school.”
Fred and George raised their eyebrows as their minds raced. Fred said, “Really? What do we have?”
Ginny smiled. “Nevermind, you two don't care. I'll tell Sirius later.”
The twins exchanged glances. George said, “Oh, we want to know.”
Fred said, “And we might have to get some more snow if we don't find out.” George started making a snowball in his hands.
Ginny laughed. She wouldn't let it be that easy on them. “But if you did that, I'd have to throw some back and Sirius might like a little revenge himself and he's armed.”
Sirius pulled out his wand and shook the snow off it. With a just a hint of seriousness he said, “I just might want a little revenge. That's true.”
Ginny added, “And I think I could get Harry and Ron on my side, so it would probably be 5 vs. 2.”
Harry nodded and Ron wasn't about to go against the others.
Fred conceded, “OK. No snow.”
George said, “So are you going to tell us.”
Ginny was having too much fun. “Hmm...I don't think so.”
George said, “I think she's just making it up Fred.”
Fred said, “Yeah. Let's just head back inside with our victory in the Great Snowball War.”
“Fine,” said Ginny.
The twins started walking away. Ginny knew they couldn't stand it though and they turned back around before they got to the house.
Fred said, “Come on Ginny, what do we have?”
Ginny had held it long enough. “The Marauder’s Map.”
Sirius and the twins all spoke simultaneously. “You have what?” “You made that?”
Ginny laughed as Sirius and the twins exchanged stories. Harry hung on every word about the maps creation. Slowly they did start to walk in to dry off though.
Mum met them at the door. She took one look at Sirius and rushed to him. “The kids got you soaked.”
He smiled. “Nothing I didn't have coming I'll assure you.”
She started some drying spells on him and turned to the rest, “Kids, go ahead and change out of your wet clothes. Dinner will be shortly.”
They started to head up stairs. Molly turned to her youngest boy. “Ron, wait. There is a letter from Hermione that just arrived for you. You should probably write her a Christmas card too.”
Ron seemed happy by the news. “I already did, but I'll write her back again.”
Molly paused for a second on her drying spells and wondered about that. It was difficult to ever get Ron to write. If he followed through with what he just said though, he'd have written that girl twice in the days since they were back. If it weren't for knowledge of the future memories, Molly would have found that simply be cute and possibly nothing at all. Since she did have that knowledge, Molly tried to avoid thinking of the fact that in those future memories of Ron were years spent in hiding where Hermione was one of only a small handful of his companions.
Dumbledore was at dinner. During the meal the conversation was merely jovial, but as the plates were cleaned and everyone gather in the living room, the conversation turned serious.
Sirius looked around the room and was the first to turn the conversation. “Well, it's already hanging in the air, so I'll go ahead and ask. What do we have to do now to make sure You-Know-Who is never an issue again?”
Arthur said, “We have 4, maybe 5 Horcruxes to destroy still.”
Sirius said, still trying to believe the fact for himself, “And the next one is, of all places, somewhere in my house?”
Dumbledore nodded. Molly said, “Ginny, where exactly is it?”
Ginny, for the first time, realized she'd never said. “I'll show you when we go over.”
Mum spoke firmly, but Ginny could sense the little bit of doubt. Mum knew she didn't have all the cards here and she knew Ginny knew it. “You kids are already looking for the diadem. We'll get this one.”
Ginny thought for a second. Was this worth another fight? She decided it was at least worth an attempt. “In the other timeline, we all touched the locket without even knowing it was a Horcrux. It's not that dangerous to be there.”
Still completely firm, Molly said, “Ginny...”
Ginny quit trying to fight. She'd probably win, but it wouldn't be worth it. “It's in a glass case in the drawing room. It shouldn't be hard to spot.”
Molly said, “Thank you.”
Ginny didn't respond.
Sirius looked to Dumbledore. “We can go whenever you want. I'd say get this over with as soon as possible.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I agree. Tomorrow morning then.”
Arthur said, “Molly and I will go with you two.”
Ginny didn't say anything, didn't even look around.
Harry tried to push the conversation forward and away from that discomfort. “What about the others?”
Dumbledore spoke next. “The ring I wish to leave for awhile as Ginny informed me it had very adverse effects on me, and it's possible it's protections are greater than the others. The Cup of Hufflepuff I believe should be our next our target. I have been examining every available record on the layout of Gringotts. I should have another record soon and after I have examined it, I believe it will be best if go on my own. If I am exceptionally careful with my concealment charms, I believe that I can avoid security and make my way to the vault by foot.”
Ron shook her head. “By foot? It's deep in there.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I'm glad your memories are coming along.”
Ron nodded. It didn't even occur to him that was a memory, but he did kind of remember the trip down. The trip back up had been quicker somehow.
Dumbledore continued. “I don't wish to attract suspicion. It was the intrusion into Gringotts which alerted Voldemort of the attempt to destroy his Horcruxes in the other timeline. It's key that he does not know about it here. It may take a couple weeks to get in and out, but I believe I can do it unnoticed. I have already informed Professor McGonagall that she may have to take over my duties for part of the school year.”
Sirius said, “Well that's three of them. What about the other two?”
Dumbledore said, “Based on dreams from Harry, I believe that Voldemort has made his snake Nagini a Horcrux. To destroy it, we will have to find Voldemort and destroy it. It will be the last of the Horcruxes though as it will be impossible to kill the creature and avoid alerting Voldemort of our intentions.”
Arthur asked, “What about the diadem? Are you kids having any luck?”
Ginny answered before anyone else could. “We'll finish up checking the Room of Requirement soon. We're going through records to see if we can find anywhere else it could be.”
Sirius said, “I might be able to help with that. We did a lot of searching around when we made the Marauder’s Map.”
Fred said, “Sure.”
Excitedly George added, “The three of us combine our talents, and we'll know more about the castle than the Founders themselves.”
Ginny didn't like adding an adult, even Sirius, to their job but she couldn't protest if Fred and George were agreeing. In the end, hopefully it didn't matter anyway. There was still a lot of the Room of Requirement they hadn't checked and they'd try the fire in there after Christmas break. Odds were decent that they'd find it then.
The air was moldy, but familiar. The colors, the furniture, everything so familiar. “Wow,” Sirius said as he took a few steps in. “It's like I never left.”
Arthur looked around the house. It was large, but didn't seem that warm. It was probably just the lack of life in the place for so many years. “This is where you grew up?”
Sirius nodded. “For too long.” He glanced around one more time and was done with the very brief trip down memory lane. “Let's get this over with.”
Sirius started leading them to the locket when a House Elf entered the room. Creature said, “Master, welcome home.” Under his breath he said, “Mudblood lover.”
Sirius just scowled at him. “I almost forgot about you.”
Sirius walked by, but Dumbledore addressed the House Elf. “Creature we are here to destroy the locket that Master Regulus entrusted to you.”
Creature almost did a double take. “To destroy it? Dumbledore can do that?”
From ahead, Sirius said, “Yes. Now just stay out of our way.”
Creature said, “Master Regulus wished it destroyed.”
Dumbledore said, “I know.”
The 5 went to the drawing room and found the locket easily enough.
Molly asked, “Should we do it here?” The question was addressed primarily to Sirius.
Never taking his eyes off the locket, Sirius said, “I don't see why not. No point putting it off. Dumbledore please let me take this one.”
Dumbledore pulled out the knife carefully from a case. It was the same one as before, but a little battered as the basilisk venom had worn it away somewhat. “I will not stop you from trying Sirius, but I must warn you the piece of Voldemort inside that locket will try to harm you. You have many terrible memories, some very recent, and it will exploit those.”
Sirius nodded. “I learned to starve off madness from the Dementors. I can do the same here.”
Dumbledore looked to the Weasleys, but they seemed to be deferring to him. Dumbledore decided that Sirius was right and even with Sirius's difficult past, he could accomplish this. Dumbledore wondered if he'd be as fortunate himself. It was too much to ask anyone else to destroy more than one and his turn was coming. Dumbledore decided he would destroy the Cup of Hufflepuff himself. The ring was clearly something that had caused him issues before, perhaps because it could fool him into thinking it was a hollow (or else it actually was one). That one would probably have to be Molly's. Dumbledore handed the knife to Sirius.
Sirius took the knife and examined it for a second. Then he dipped it into the small jar of basilisk venom. There was a smell coming from it he didn't care for, but he ignored it and turned to the locket. He opened it up.
Images of Azkaban flooded Sirius's mind.
It was like he was back in his cell and Sirius felt an overwhelming urge to protect himself and turn back into a dog. He heard the voice of a judge. “Sirius Black you will return for a life sentence.”
Sirius tried to shake it, but it took all his effort not to run.
Arthur spoke in the background. “Fight it Sirius. Remember what he wants to do to Harry.”
Sirius's mind barely registered those words at first, but with Harry's mention, he felt he could fight again.
Sirius held the knife above the locked. As he did, he felt the Dementors closing in on him, about to give him the kiss.
Sirius pushed down hard. He did it again and again and then looked around.
Everyone sighed in relief. Molly said, “Good job Sirius.”
Dumbledore said, “Excellent.”
Sirius avoided even looking at the locket as he tried to get the image of the Dementors out of his mind. He turned to Creature. “Throw this out.”
Creature said, “Throw out sir?”
Sirius shook his head. “Do something with it. Just make sure I never see it again.”
Creature took the item with him and turned to them. “Thank you sir.”
Hermione awoke up sweating and crying. She walked out of her room and looked around the hall. Had that been a real dream or a memory? Ron had memories as dreams often, maybe she was starting to as well. What happened in it?
She thought about it for a few minutes. She'd been here in this house and Death Eaters had been here. She couldn't picture their faces, but they had killed Mum and Dad.
Hermione sat on the couch and tried to calm herself down and tell herself this was just a dream. Ron's dreams like this were real though.
She tried to grasp reality, but the more she did, the more she thought about her parents dying here. Looking around did no good because she pictured blood on the walls. Their blood. They had protected her from so much and she must have led them to their death in a terrible way.
Hermione felt an arm wrap around her. She looked up and saw her mum. She hugged her tight.
“What's wrong honey?”
Hermione was kind of ashamed to admit it. It wouldn't make sense out of context and she wasn't going to be explaining the memories. “I just had a bad dream. I know it's silly, but it just felt so real.”
Her mum sat on the couch with her and held her close like she was a lot younger. “It's not silly. Why don't we just watch some TV and fall asleep down here.”
Hermione knew she'd grown up a lot in the last year and half. Right now though, it felt good to feel little again.
Ron had delayed getting Christmas gifts so this time it was Ginny and Harry vs. the twins in quidditch with Sirius serving as a referee. The matches were pretty even. The twins operated almost as one, with each knowing exactly what the other was doing and neither taking this any less serious than a real match (after “the embarrassment” of losing to Ginny the first time, they'd taken all matches involving her very seriously). Harry and Ginny for their parts were exceedingly agile on their brooms and not a bad team at all. In the end the twins won, but just barely.
Sirius clapped as the four landed. “Well I guess I've seen half the Gryffindor Quidditch team now and I must say if you don't win the championship with that talent, you must have the worst coach in the history of Hogwarts.”
The twins took the brooms back and Harry and Ginny started walking back with Sirius.
Harry looked to Ginny. “Sorry. I'm not as good with a quaffle as I am as I am with a snitch.”
Ginny said, “No,” said Ginny. “You were great. I needed to guard a little better.”
Harry said, “Well...”
Sirius interrupted. “You two do work pretty well together.”
Harry said, “Thanks.”
Ginny understood there might be more to the comment than simply on the game and said nothing.
Sirius looked at Harry. “Can you go ahead to my room and bring down the presents. I've been meaning to put them under the tree.”
Harry nodded and ran ahead.
Sirius looked to Ginny. “So what do you have planned?”
Ginny's face turned red. “With Harry. I...I don't have anything planned. I'm just...Well...”
Sirius laughed and cut her off. “Actually I was talking about with the Horcrux?”
Ginny felt like she wanted to die of embarrassment. “Oh.”
Sirius smiled. “Although I did figure that there was probably something that would go on between you and my Godson eventually too.” After a second he added, possibly for Ginny's benefit, “Potters do seem to have a thing for redheads.”
Ginny felt like changing the conversation to anything else. “Nothing much planned with the Horcrux. We'll finish the Room of Requirement and then start searching elsewhere?”
Sirius shook his head. “Yes, but there is something you aren't telling the rest of us. I've gathered that much from the others. What are you planning on? How exactly do you plan on finish checking the Room of Requirement?”
He was good. Ginny gave him that. Grudgingly, she told him of their plan to quickly finish checking all the items.
Sirius seemed conflicted. “Dumbledore could probably do this more effectively. It's impossible to tell the effect of curse fire on all those objects.”
Ginny shook her head. For once, she hoped one of the adults would understand. “Sirius please don't tell them. They'll insist on doing it themselves and they've taken away almost everything. They destroyed the diary and locket without us there. They'll do the same with the ring and the cup and then go off to face Voldemort and take out Nagini with us on the sidelines. We were the ones who risked it though and we've got to be able to do some of this on our own.”
Sirius nodded slowly. He seemed conflicted, but was going along. “Alright. I'm sure you guys will be fine.”
Ginny hugged him.
As they came inside, Mum and Dad called Ginny.
She walked up to them. Dad spoke first. “Ginny, Charlie and Bill are both coming for Christmas and will be here tomorrow. Do you want to tell them, do you want us to, or do you want to keep your secrets?”
Ginny appreciated being asked. For the first time, her parents left decision about changing future entirely up to her. Like Dumbledore, they probably already knew her answer, but at least the question was asked. She thought for a second, but knew she didn't want to go through the story again. “You can tell them. I'll answer questions afterward.”
Arthur nodded. “We'll meet them on Diagon Alley tomorrow.”
Ron sat trying to think of what to write. Hermione had written and asked how he knew when a dream was just a dream and how to tell if they were a memory. Obviously she'd had a nightmare and he didn't want to lead her in the wrong direction. For her sake though, he kind of hoped they were just regular dreams.
He wrote down a few things, but the truth was that he didn't always know. A lot of times he just had to check with Ginny.
He heard Percy knocking and he decided he'd finish it after dinner.
Bill exchanged glances with Charlie as the two walked up to the house. Their parents had spent the last several hours telling them a story that was frankly almost impossible to believe. It was also almost impossible to believe their parents would spend so much time on some weird joke though. Bill still wondered if Fred and George had pestered them into it, hoping they'd finally get him on a joke, but he knew Charlie had finally been convinced (mostly). Honestly he was too, but this was just too weird and he decided to reserve judgment until they saw Ron and Ginny.
Mum opened the door and Bill saw Ron, Ginny, and what had to be Harry playing exploding snap. Ron and Ginny quickly came up and hugged them.
Bill hugged them back. They had both grown and looked older. It was nice to be home. Now was the time to find out if this was all true though.
Bill looked first at Ron. He'd already learned some of this before and it was still difficult to believe. “Did you really face a troll last year and beat a giant chess game set-up by McGonagall?”
Ron was a little flushed, but he nodded. “Yeah. I mean it's not as good as it sounds. If Harry wouldn't have been there for the troll we would have been flattened and Hermione did get hurt going through the chess game so I could have done better.”
Bill hugged youngest brother. “That's more than I ever did in 7 years at Hogwarts.”
Ron seemed to be beaming at that and Bill smiled. Charlie added, “And since the cat's out of the bag on everything else, he did also get Hagrid's dragon to me so that we could get someplace safe.”
Looking at Ron, Bill knew his reactions were completely genuine. All that had been said about last year was certainly true. Now, what about the rest? Bill looked at Ginny. “What's the basic ingredient in Milolac's Remedy?”
While happy to see them, Ginny was clearly nervous about seeing her oldest 2 brothers. “The leaves from a...gialop plant. We spent 5 weeks 4th year on that with Snape. Not my favorite project at all.”
That was all the convincing Bill needed and he hugged his two youngest siblings again. “You two are incredible.”
It was one of the best Christmases Ron ever remembered. The whole family was here and on top of that, Harry and Remus (whom had come to see Sirius) were here. He'd never remembered receiving this much attention from his siblings and even though it was for something horrible, it was oddly very nice.