“Have you any idea what a horcurx is?” Snape asked.
“No,” Harry replied immediately. “What is it?”
After a moment’s deliberation, Snape explained, “A horcrux is a Dark object that contains a piece of one’s soul. While a part of someone’s soul is stored within the horcrux, they cannot truly be destroyed.”
“What’s it look like?” Harry asked, frowning.
“It can be anything. It could be a pebble at the bottom of the ocean or family heirloom. It could be anything,” Snape repeated, sounding tired.
Harry looked at him. “So Vold-”
“Do. Not. Say. His. Name.”
“Sorry,” Harry apologized. “Anyway, You-Know-Who made a horcrux? And that’s what the cup is?” he guessed.
“Yes. Luckily, he opted for the heirloom type vessel, as foolish as that may be,” Snape replied critically.
“So all we have to do is destroy it and he’ll die, right?” Harry asked hopefully.
Snape gave a humorless laugh. “As if it would be so easy. No, to make a horcrux, you must split your soul. Part of it remains within your body and part within the chosen vessel.”
“How do you split your soul?” Harry asked, deeply disturbed.
“Usually by killing someone,” Snape said with deceptive casualness.
“Nice,” Harry commented sarcastically. “Right, so we destroy the cup, then kill You-Know-Who?”
Snape shook his head. “That is not all. It is possible to make more than one horcrux.”
Harry groaned, throwing his head back. “Oh Merlin. We have to find another one, then? He made two?”
“He made seven,” Snape said dryly.
“Seven?” Harry repeated in astonishment. “Is that even possible?”
“Apparently, for he did it.”
“He’s insane,” Harry muttered in shock.
Snape gave a half shrug. “I cannot disagree.”
“So we’ve got to find another six of those things?” Harry asked in horror. “They could be anything!”
Snape held up a hand to tell Harry to calm down. “You may not realize it, but you have already destroyed one. The diary you stabbed with a basilisk fang held a piece of Tom Riddle’s soul.”
“That’s how I saw him,” Harry said, understanding. “That’s how he possessed Ginny.”
“Exactly,” Snape said. “Also, Dumbledore was fairly certain that the Dark Lord was able to possess Quirrell because Quirrell found one of the other horcurxes. A locket belonging to Salazar Slytherin.”
“Slytherin?” Harry asked in surprise. “Really?”
Snape nodded. “That cup belonged to Helga Hufflepuff.”
“Huh,” Harry said, reconsidering its value. “That leaves four then.”
“Dumbledore found and destroyed one of his own, so three,” Snape corrected. “The Dark Lord himself counts as one.”
“Right. Two, then. Do you know what the others are?” Harry asked.
“Dumbledore informed me of his suspicions,” Snape said. Something odd worked its way into his gaze, unnerving Harry. He couldn’t identify the sudden change, yet it was familiar somehow. Harry fidgeted in his seat.
“Well, what were they?” he asked, hoping to get Snape to go back to the blank expression he generally wore.
“The Dark Lord has a pet snake-”
“Yeah, I know,” Harry said.
Snape looked at him in askance. Harry waved a hand dismissively.
“I watched it kill someone in one of my more disturbing visions. I try not to think about it.”
“Obviously you couldn’t be bothered to practice your Occlumency,” Snape stated critically.
Harry replied defensively, “That one was before you even tried teaching me. And it’s not like you actually gave me much of a chance.”
“Which I recall as being your fault, due to your inability to control your curiosity. Do you still get these visions?” Snape asked, brow furrowing.
“Not so much. Can we move on?” Harry asked impatiently.
“The snake was his only guess. The other we will have to figure out, it seems,” Snape informed him.
Harry tapped his fingers on the desk. “Let’s make a list.”
Harry moved to the writing desk and withdrew a piece of parchment and a Never-Out Quill. Snape raised a brow but didn’t comment.
“What was it you said Dumbledore destroyed?” Harry asked, pressing the parchment flat against the table.
“Nothing special, then?” Harry asked.
Snape replied flatly, “He did not say.”
Harry looked at the list. They weren’t even halfway through. “We have the cup. Should we destroy it, then?”
“How do you propose?” Snape asked, leaning back.
Harry shrugged. “Reducto?”
Snape scoffed, “You do not know much about the Dark Arts, do you?”
“No, that’d be your area of expertise,” Harry replied sharply.
“Hm. Yes, well, a Dark Object like that will not be so easy to destroy,” said Snape.
“How do we destroy it, then?” Harry asked. “I mean, I killed the diary with a basilisk fang, but unless you’ve got one of those handy...”
“‘Killed’ is an appropriate word,” Snape commented. “And no, I do not have a basilisk fang.”
“I truly do not know,” Snape admitted. “Albus said he used the sword of Gryffindor.”
Harry brightened. “Great! Can’t you just nip on over to the school and grab it?”
Snape shot him a look.
“What?” Harry asked indignantly.
“You truly think... Do you even think? The school is now run by Death Eaters. I would hardly imagine they would give me the sword if I ask nicely,” he said disparagingly.
Harry stiffened at his tone. “Well I didn’t mean it like that. Surely McGonagall would help you, right?”
“And would you be the one to put her in such a position? With the Carrows lurking around every corner?”
Harry peered at him. “I’m sure she’d be glad to help however she could. You’re not telling me you care what happens to her?”
Snape replied sharply, “I have known Professor McGonagall for a long time. She has done me numerous favors that I would not have repaid by whatever horrors would be in store for her is she were to be caught.”
“Then I’ll go,” Harry offered.
Snape looked at him in exasperation. “And just what would that solve? If you are to succeed, you will need help, thereby placing whatever teacher you choose to condemn in the same position.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic.”
“Unfortunately, I am not being melodramatic,” Snape replied dryly.
“Oh,” Harry said shortly. “At any rate, I’m sure I could do it myself. I’d take the invisibility cloak.”
“Even if I were okay with this plan, which I am not, I am not certain that the sword is even still at Hogwarts,” Snape said.
“Well why didn’t you say so earlier?” Harry snapped in annoyance. “Where is it, then?”
“I don’t know.”
“What?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know!” Snape repeated in a low and angry growl. “I cannot be expected to supply all of the information for this little endeavor.”
“‘This little endeavor’,” Harry repeated slowly. “Right. Well sorry that I know absolutely nothing because nobody ever bothers to tell me anything even when it concerns my life or sanity or future.”
“It is better to be ignorant than to be told things you would rather not know,” Snape countered.
“No it wouldn’t, Harry replied testily.
“Yes it would. If I had not been told about these bloody horcruxes, I would not be here forced to explain them to you,” Snape said with an air of triumph.
That was, until Harry came back with, “If I had been in the loop and known what a horcrux was before twenty minutes ago, you wouldn’t need to explain them to me.”
Snape looked at him. Harry stared back smugly.
“We are getting nowhere,” Snape pointed out.
“Yeah,” Harry conceded. “Fine then. If we aren’t shooting for the sword then what are we going to do?”
“Research?” Harry parroted. “God, you sound like Hermione.”
“I had always hoped that Ms.Granger would knock some sense into you before you got yourself killed,” Snape informed him.
“You would’ve liked to have seen that, wouldn’t you?” Harry jibed immediately. After a brief pause, he rescinded his comment. “Sorry. I, uh, know better now.”
Harry’s apology didn’t spare him from Snape’s quick and angry glare. Without another word, Snape got up and headed for the library. Harry trotted after him. “Did you really try to protect me?” he asked innocently. “My friends and I were so convinced that first year you were trying to kill me.”
“As usual, you Gryffindors jump to the wrong conclusions,” Snape said dryly. “It was only for your mother that I tried to protect you, nothing more.”
“So you weren’t really trying to kill me?”
“No, but do not make me give it another more genuine attempt,” Snape snapped.
For some reason the threat didn’t sting or dissuade Harry. Inexplicably, he grinned. “I get the feeling that you genuinely did hate me though.”
“Did?” Snape demanded, looking at Harry in concern, probably wondering if he was mental.
“Yeah,” Harry replied unperturbed. When Snape’s expression didn’t change, Harry challenged, “Oh, come on. After my rescuing you from that manor, you can’t still hate me.” He added as an afterthought, “Can you?”
Snape frowned. “I am certainly grateful and forced to acknowledge that you are not quite so insufferable and self-centered as I have been led to believe.”
“Led to believe by who?” Harry scoffed, running his hand down a shelf of books, looking for one that would be pertinent. “Yourself?”
Harry shot him a cheeky grin. For some reason, he had been in a very good mood since taking that horcrux out of his pocket. Maybe it was a rebound effect. “See, look at us. Getting along just fine. Soon you’ll let me call you ‘Severus’.”
“If it will make you shut up,” Snape said candidly.
Harry brightened in surprise. “Really?”
Snape looked up from the book he was attempting to read. “If you stop. Talking.”
“Right,” Harry said, curling up on a leather armchair with an antique Dark Arts book he had just found. He read a few pages, skimming for the word “horcrux”. After a few minutes, he looked up. “You know, Severus, you’re not half bad.”
Snape shot him a look of annoyance mixed with surprise and even skepticism. There was probably disgust in there somewhere too; disgust that he hadn’t succeeded in maintaining his menacing image and making Harry’s life a living hell.
“Okay, I’ll shut up now.”
“I think I found something,” Harry said a few hours later.
“Care to share?” Snape asked dryly.
“It’s not much but it’s the best I’ve come across,” Harry admitted. “‘A horcrux is an object of unspeakable Darknesse. Should one be discovered, it should be destroyed immediately. To do this, one must damage the vessel beyond physical or magikal repair’,” Harry read.
“Wait, there’s more,” Harry said. He looked back down at the book. “‘Fortune be yours should you come across one’.” He looked back up. “So pretty much ‘good luck’.”
“Indeed. Does it give any tips on how to damage it so thoroughly?”
Harry shook his head. “It doesn’t say. Basilisk venom?”
“We have been through this,” Snape commented.
“How’d the sword do it? Was it just an exceptional sword?” Harry asked.
“It was the sword you used to kill the basilisk,” Snape pointed out. “It was impregnated with venom.”
Harry nodded. “Neat. Can we just shoot an Avada Kedavra at the cup?”
“That does not damage the vessel.”
“So...” Harry trailed off, searching for another option. “More research?” he asked glumly.
“It seems prudent.”
Harry groaned and opened another book when a thought struck him. “Can I ask Hermione to do some research? I mean, she actually enjoys it,” he said with a shudder.
Snape looked at him. “Haven’t we decided that your friends not be told what is going on?”
Harry shrugged. “You saw how hard it was for me to find any mention of a horcrux. Surely if I tell her that we need a way to damage something,” Harry coughed deliberately, “a cup, beyond repair, she wouldn’t catch on to the horcrux thing.”
“And she will not ask questions?” Snape asked skeptically.
“Not if I tell her I can’t answer them,” Harry said confidently. “Trust me on this. We need all the help we can get.”
“Very well. Be absolutely certain that the message is not intercepted,” Snape commanded.
“I will,” Harry promised, moving to the writing desk in the corner of the library. He figured this was something too complicated and too private for a patronus message. He would have to write it out.
I hope all goes well for you. Do you remember that time when you and I wrote letters to each other almost constantly? We should get back to that. I know need exceeds help and finding you a new way is to help damage control something that’s past. Whether magical, mental or even physical, you’ll repair it, I know. Will anxiously await your reply.
I miss you guys,
Harry looked over his letter with satisfaction. He knew Hermione would get the reference of writing constantly; they had taken a few days doing nothing but writing code letters for a case like this. Harry had thought it was a waste of time but was now glad that Hermione had insisted. After the third line, it would be obvious to Hermione that he had switched to their code of every other word. His grammar may not be perfect, but she would get the message. Though it was rather crude and easy to crack, this was simply one security measure among many.
Harry tapped the parchment at each corner with his wand, muttering an incantation.
“Brevacio iri Hermione,” he repeated multiple times. When he was finished, the words disappeared. Hopefully, only Hermione would now be able to read it.
Harry sealed the letter with wax and then used a transport spell that he was only capable of doing on small, light objects to transport it to Grimmauld place. If someone was able to foil each of those levels of security, then maybe they deserved to read the letter. Satisfied, Harry returned to his seat, picking up his book. He sighed, hoping that Hermione would come through soon so that he could put an end to this blasted research.