Don't look back in Anger

Can some angry words change everything?

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10669760/1/Don-t-look-back-in-Anger

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11. Horcruxes

Emma slipped once more into bed beside her husband and snuggled into his back, Dan wasn't sleeping though.

"Girls okay?"

"Mmmm... I just keep being woken by imagining some of those horrific things we heard about today, and I know I won't get back to sleep until I go and check they're really safe."

After returning to the cottage and having a hearty meal, the previous night being a sleepless one had combined with a stressful day to see everyone hitting their bed early. Sirius, Remus and Xeno had used their wands to transfigure two armchairs and a sofa into three comfortable looking beds, they were currently snoring in the sitting room. The occupants of the cottage were soon in the land of Nod but this was the third time Emma had woken - and then checked on the girls.

It was Dan's turn to then air something that was troubling him, something a lot nearer home than the political meltdown of wizarding Britain. "I can't believe how close those three are..." His wife chuckling was not the answer he expected to his serious concerns.

"I can. I only shared Luna for a brief time, but it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I can only describe it as looking right through a person and seeing their essence - their very soul. One of Luna's happiest memories is the first night Harry visited her. He said she was a beautiful person, inside and outside. With Harry visiting her mind Luna knew that's exactly what he thought - it's impossible to lie to someone in that situation. I have to agree with what Harry said, she really is a beautiful person."

This had Dan turning onto his other side so he could face his wife. "And our daughter's boyfriend kissing her best friend you've just admitted he thinks is beautiful doesn't bother you? Our Hermione is clearly besotted with this boy, I would hate to see her have her heart broken." His wife smiling was again not the reaction Dan expected.

"Never going to happen, love. Some of the things I saw while Luna visited were Harry's memories. He truly loves Hermione and is a good bet to become our son-in-law someday."

"And Luna?"

"Well, she might be our daughter-in-law..."

"What?"

"Shush, love. It may not happen - and if it does, it will only do so because our daughter wants it to."

"You wouldn't have mentioned it if you didn't at least consider that outcome as a possibility."

Emma tried to explain what she'd glimpsed to her husband. "Hermione and Harry have been in love for a while. Harry's upbringing though was not the best, leaving it difficult for him to deal with or even recognise his emotions. Visiting the girls has helped him immensely, and also benefited them too. When have you ever seen Hermione so confident in herself and her actions - so happy even?"

Dan had no answer to that as his wife then pressed home her advantage, providing more revelations as she did so. "The feelings between the three are new - they haven't known Luna a week yet - but because of this roving those feelings are incredibly strong. Whether Luna remains their best friend or becomes something more will probably be decided over the next couple of months - and again it will only happen if Hermione wants it too. Neither Harry nor Luna would ever hurt our daughter. Anyone wanting to harm either of those girls is going to have to kill Harry first. As we saw today, that's not an easy thing to do..." Emma then melted into the strong arms of her husband, drawing comfort from the familiar embrace.

Dan too was struggling to deal with his emotions over this situation. "I saw this incredibly skinny kid in a hospital gown wrapped around our Hermione, he could barely stand on his own two feet and looked as if a strong breeze would blow him over. Then we saw what that same skinny kid went through in that graveyard and it blew my mind."

"Luna showed me him battling a dragon, that was no picnic either. He looks so frail, until you see him with a wand in his hand. He's apparently a very powerful wizard, I certainly believe that. I looked in on Harry too..."

"...and?"

"...and he looked so peaceful I think he's spending the night elsewhere."

This had a groan coming from Dan. "...and that means they're just going to get even closer." Emma's quiet giggles did nothing to ease Dan's pain. A boy could be spending the night with his daughter, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

-oOoOo-

Albus was back at Hogwarts, having a meeting in his old office with Severus and Minerva. The changes that hit their society yesterday would soon become common knowledge after today's edition of the Prophet was delivered, he wanted to ensure these two knew what was happening behind the scenes. Severus was rather desperate for news.

"The Dark Lord called a meeting last night after hearing nothing about yesterday's Wizengamot session, none of his ministry contacts appeared. As you might imagine, he was not pleased with that result. I certainly had no intention of mentioning I had heard Potter cheated death - again. What in Merlin's name happened yesterday?"

Dumbledore's answer shocked both his subordinates. "The members of the Wizengamot who were death eaters found themselves in chains and questioned using veritaserum. They were of course guilty of quite despicable crimes and consequentially found themselves in the chamber of death at midnight. Any names given during their questioning that worked in the ministry were also duly arrested, and they will face the same trial procedure today. Names given of those who weren't ministry employees should be waking up to aurors blasting their doors off this morning."

In a most unusual response for him, Severus was left sitting there with his jaw hanging open. It was Minerva who replied. "Can I assume we have a new Minister of Magic?"

"You're looking at him, Headmistress."

"What? No!"

"Don't you think I'll make a good Minister of Magic, Headmistress?"

"I think you'll make a great Minister of Magic, and have repeatedly told you so over the years. It's me being lumbered as Headmistress of Hogwarts I object to."

Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling away as he revealed more of his scheme. "Ah but Minerva, supposing you could run the school the way you wanted?"

"The Ministry would never stand for…" That was when the realisation hit Minerva, the country now had a Minister who would.

"I would ask two favours of you, Minerva. First, I would like every child who completed a form to leave Hogwarts contacted. We made a big mistake there and need to say so. It will be my job to make the country a safer place for these families, and your job to keep those children safe while they are in the castle. Their parents at least need to be informed of these changes before making any final decision about their children's futures. Rest assured, you shall have my full support in whatever measures you take to curb any persecution of these students while they attend Hogwarts."

Minerva felt her emotions welling up, threatening to ruin her reputation as a stern witch after hearing that. Every single one of those forms had been regarded as a sign of personal failure by Minerva. That it was something she was powerless to change certainly didn't help the apparently former Hogwarts Deputy - it just made the pain worse. "And what would be the second thing?"

This saw a smile from the now former Headmaster. "When this is over I intend to retire as Minister of Magic. I was hoping a dear old friend might find a job for me at Hogwarts, I think I would enjoy spending my final years doing nothing more than trying to impart knowledge to young minds."

"What about me?"

"Severus, I will of course support you inside the ministry. Never fear my friend, the aurors won't be coming for you."

"Thank you for that, Albus. However I was more concerned over my position here…"

He found himself being interrupted by a Minerva who was back in serious mode. "You will certainly have to curb those Slytherins of yours, Severus. I simply won't stand for some of the behaviour Albus accepted from them."

"I understand that too, Minerva, again though I think you are both missing my point. I was referring to how these changes would reflect on my position within the castle to certain others. I won't be of much use to the Dark Lord if neither Albus nor Potter are at Hogwarts. He might order me to resign - and that would be awkward. Without being in the castle I have no means to pass information to our side. I might find myself being put in a position where I have to declare for the light."

Albus however had news he thought would help with that problem. "Severus, I have not yet given up hope that Harry will be at Hogwarts come September. At the moment, I'm trying to convince Harry and those close to him that this country really can change - and be a safer option for them. It's not going to be easy but they haven't left yet. Minerva making positive changes at Hogwarts will also help our case. A suggestion, Headmistress, it may be easier to find a new potions professor than hire someone to teach defence against the dark arts."

"You would give me the job teaching defence?"

"No, Severus, but Minerva might. Tom wouldn't remove you from the castle if you had that job, and Harry was here. Minerva could also sell it as an enticement for you curbing the more aggressive of your Slytherins, at least that's what you could tell Tom."

Both Severus and Minerva were once more speechless at the sheer audacity of that. Albus of course had more to say. "Headmistress, there are some items I really must remove from my old office today. The rest may be put in storage until I once more have time to deal with them. You and I have had discussions often about the changes you would like to see made at Hogwarts, Minerva, please be as radical as you need to be. I will of course support you in your endeavours to improve your school."

Dumbledore needed to oversee the ministry employee trials today, then he and Amelia were heading to Little Hangleton for a date - a date with a horcrux. Both knew this could not be delayed, no matter how busy they were.

Albus had also been wracking his brain in attempting to decipher how Harry having that horcrux removed from his head affected the prophecy. Clearly 'neither could live while the other survives' was no longer the case, did that mean Harry didn't have to be the one to kill the dark lord of the prophecy? Harry had certainly "vanquished' Tom enough times to fulfil the prophecy, could this last vanquishing mean his prophesied part in this was now complete?

He intended to treat the situation as such, unless proven wrong. If Harry had to push a restrained Tom through the veil then so be it. He was not about to leave that young man with the job of bringing down Voldemort. Albus had been given a second chance to do things right, and this time Harry didn't have a death sentence hanging over his head, so Albus intended to grasp the opportunity he had been given with both hands. The Death Eaters however have had all the chances they were going to get, there really was only one option available to the ministry after some of the atrocities they had heard from the death eaters own mouths yesterday.

-oOoOo-

Albus Dumbledore wasn't the only one trying to grasp a second chance - and help make the Death Eaters pay for their crimes. Along with the Ministry of Magic, the Daily Prophet's campaign against Harry Potter also saw them face a backlash from the shocked British wizarding public. Their issue yesterday held only sketchy information on the fate of the boy-who-lived, and barely mentioned the possibility that you-know-who had indeed returned. Even that though was enough to see subscriptions drop by nearly forty percent and their advertisers leaving in droves. They were clearly being made to shoulder at least some of the blame for Harry Potter's perceived fate by the public.

While yesterday's session of the Wizengamot had taken place behind closed doors, the newspaper had then been given a full report of what happened during that historic session - and also invited to send representatives to witness justice being carried out at midnight.

Today's issue was being given away free, as well as still being sent to those who had so recently canceled their subscription - obviously in the hope this special edition would change their minds.

Their main headline would certainly help the newspaper entice their subscribers to return…

Boy-Who-Lived-Lives-Again!

There was no explanation offered to the phenomenon of Harry Potter yet again surviving the unsurvivable, rather just a massive outpouring of joy that he happened to do so. There was also a rather grovelling apology to Harry, his girlfriend, Hermione, and anyone else caught up in the lies being supplied to the newspaper by certain individuals from the Ministry of Magic. They had also lifted Colin's picture of Harry from The Quibbler to adorn their own front page, though they did accredit the photo to both the rival newspaper and the photographer. The headline under that picture made for even more positive reading…

Triwizard Champion Awarded Order of Merlin, First Class.

This article then went on to describe the circumstances behind how Harry became eligible for this most prestigious of wizarding awards. Battling a resurrected Voldemort after being lured into a deadly trap, with over two dozen of the Dark Lord's closest followers in that cemetery to assist their master, and yet Harry still managed to escape. Not only that, he was able to return his friend's body back to his family.

These unbelievable headlines continued inside the newspaper.

"Dumbledore New Minister of Magic", "Potters' Betrayer Found - Sirius Black Innocent" and "Death Eaters Passed Through Veil" were a few of the more provocative ones. The fact that Voldemort had returned, and raided Azkaban to free his followers, was buried under all the positive headlines.

There was also an iconic picture that would change Britain forever. Death Eaters turning up at your home was the very epitome of the bogeyman to residents of magical Britain. Here though were those same bogeymen unmasked, decloaked, disarmed, now held in chains and left facing the horror of their own imminent execution. These supposed masters of terror were visibly scared out of their wits and panic-stricken as their own imminent deaths now stared them in the face. The picture clearly demonstrated these terrorists were not the undefeatable force their powerful dark image portrayed, stripping away their anonymity - that aura of invincibility was lost along with their masks. At the same time, this picture served as a timely warning of the consequences they could face to anyone considering joining the death eater ranks of their own free will.

This edition of the Daily Prophet was probably the most shocking ever printed and was guaranteed to be the centre of attention in every home it had been delivered to, Remus' copy certainly was in the cottage.

Dan though was looking at the entire thing from a completely different angle.

"Yesterday, your Prime Minister was effectively chucked out because he was incompetent. Then half a dozen members of your government were shown to be terrorists, tried and sentenced to death. There was a terrorist choking himself to death, while another attempted to kill the director of your law enforcement department - all taking place in the very heart of your government building - yet Harry is the one plastered all over the front page of your newspaper. Could someone please explain that fact to two clueless dentists?"

None of the trio of teens wanted to go anywhere near Dan's question, they kept their heads down and gave Winky's delicious breakfast the attention it deserved. Of the three remaining adults sitting at the expanded table, Xeno was best placed to attempt an answer for the Grangers.

"Yesterday, you heard some of the atrocities death eaters committed - and those six weren't alone in their murderous behaviour. That's the fate our country was facing in nineteen eighty one, people of that ilk controlling it - controlling us. Only a miracle saved us from that fate, and that miracle is currently sitting between our daughters."

Being described as a miracle had Harry blushing though most at the table were too intent on what Xeno was saying to notice. "It's hard to explain our country's relationship with the boy-who-lived to someone who didn't come through those times, anyone who did doesn't need any explanation. After Hermione's first bout of accidental magic, these animals would have turned up at your door - and they wouldn't be there to invite her to Hogwarts. Everyone sitting at this table is only alive today because Harry Potter stopped Voldemort that Halloween. You multiply that fact by the number of families throughout Britain in the same position as all of ours, then there's your explanation to why Harry Potter still being amongst us deserves being on the front page."

Seeing how embarrassed all this was making Harry, Emma changed the subject slightly. "Do we believe Dumbledore's promise that he won't stop us leaving the country?"

The unanimous chorus of negative answers this generated pleased both Granger parents, since Emma and Dan shared that same view.

This was a subject Hermione was more than happy to give her opinion on. "I think our new Minister of Magic really wants to believe his own promise but when push comes to shove - I don't think he'll be able to let Harry leave. What we need is a plan B. Portkeys saved the Bones' and the Weasleys from Voldemort, can we get a few of those too? Ones that would take us out the country if the death eaters find us - or Dumbledore decides we must stay?"

Remus had taught Hermione and experienced her intellect before, but Sirius was becoming more impressed with this young witch the better he got to know her. "That's a superb idea, and I know just where to get them. The goblins would supply us with portkeys - for a price. Harry and I need to visit Gringotts anyway to sort out some business, since I'm now free and he's an adult. We can arrange to get portkeys made at the same time."

Turning to Dan and Emma, Sirius had a suggestion for them. "You should come with us, it might help if you see people's reactions to Harry walking down Diagon Alley..."

This was met with a groan from the wizard in question before Remus had his say on the Diagon Alley idea. "Albus mentioned a protection detail. I think we should have one for that trip..."

Dobby popping into the room halted all discussion on the matter, rather the elf's condition did. He had deep scratches on his forehead and a portion of his ear appeared as if it had been chewed on. He was swaying on his feet until Harry reached out to steady the little guy.

"Master Harry, Dobby found something - and then Kreature attacked Dobby. Kreature not be attacking anyone else again. Same evil as diary so Dobby brought it here..."

Luna was first to recognise the locket that Dobby was holding by the chain, she asked him to drop it on the table. Harry then called for Winky to look after Dobby while Hermione was getting everyone else, especially her parents, out the kitchen. After Winky had taken Dobby away, Harry and Luna then joined the rest of their group for a quick discussion on how to proceed.

Remus was first to offer his opinion. "If that's what I think it is, we need to get it to Dumbledore and let him deal with it."

"It is and we don't, Remus. To open this locket requires a parselmouth - that's me. Luna has Voldemort's knowledge and we destroyed the last one, so me and her would seem the logical team to do the same to the locket."

Both Sirius and Remus quickly volunteered to be a replacement for Luna but it was actually Xeno who dissuaded them. "The sheer number of hours sharing their minds these two have already accumulated by roving means they know what each other is thinking for most of the time. Only Hermione is comparable with their level of teamwork but Luna has Voldemort's knowledge."

Emma wanted to know if this was dangerous, and whether they needed to leave the house. "As I said, Emma, Luna and I destroyed the last one - this shouldn't be any different."

Luna agreed with Harry, and was already moving to get prepared. They had left Dumbledore a fang for each of the three remaining horcruxes, the cup, locket and ring. Since they had already used a fang on the diadem, they had kept the remaining two Dobby harvested from the basilisk for emergencies. This situation certainly could be considered as an emergency.

Now dressed in a robe and wearing her dragon hide gloves, Luna entered Harry's room and kissed him as he lay on the bed. Hermione kissed both of them for luck before they reentered the kitchen. Everyone else crowded around the door, determined to see what happened. Dan had a supportive hold on Hermione, it was also a hold though that would stop her charging into the kitchen if anything went wrong. Xeno, Remus and Sirius all stood ready in case they needed to intervene, Dan was just ensuring Hermione let the adults take care of this.

Looking through Luna's eyes, Harry could once more see darkness radiating off a horcrux. "Did I look like that with one of those things in my head?"

"No, Harry, your own aura easily overpowered its. It was only when your aura was being affected by the dementors it was able to have any influence at all."

Feeling much better after hearing that, both then concentrated on the task in hand. The locket lay exactly where Dobby had dropped it, none of them had wanted to touch the foul thing. Following that same logic, Luna began moving plates and cups away to create a clear area on the table around the horcrux. After she had unwrapped the fang and held it ready for use, Harry took over for an instant to say 'open' in parseltongue.

The locket sprang open, leaving Luna gasping in shock at the familiar red eye staring directly at her from inside the locket. When Dumbledore had tried to invade Hermione's mind, the old wizard was trying to do so subtly. The horcrux chose a different method, it just went for a full frontal attack on Luna's thoughts. Harry was still able to repel it but not before this thing apparently found what it wanted.

Mist began pouring out of the locket and forming shapes, those shapes soon being recognisable as Harry and Hermione wrapped around each other while kissing. Both figures then stared at Luna with contempt, this version of Harry began spouting words that cut Luna as deep as any blade.

"Did you really think we would want anything to do with you - loony Lovegood?"

Both figures then broke into derisive laughter before the real Hermione could be heard shouting louder than the evil projection.

"Luna, that's not us, you know that's not us. Listen to Harry, he would never lie to you. Listen to him, believe in him, end this monster…"

Recognising this new threat, the horcrux's version of Harry now had Luna in his arms as the new couple taunted Hermione. "You're a mudblood, what do you know of our world? Go back to where you came from. You don't belong with us, we don't want you with us…"

Hearing this version of Harry say those words found Hermione struggling to take the advice she'd been shouting at Luna just a moment ago, and she didn't have Harry in her head to offer reassurance. Luna did though, and watching Hermione now become the subject of the horcrux's attack spurred both occupants of Luna into action. It was debatable who was in control but that didn't matter - it was simply the result that counted. The fang was brought to meet the locket with considerable force, stabbing its red eye right in the pupil.

Unlike the diadem, this time the horcrux met its end by sending out a powerful magic pulse that threw Luna/Harry into the wall while blasting Hermione out the door. Since her father still had a tight hold of Hermione, both she and Dan sent everyone else flying. Not a single piece of crockery in the kitchen survived whole, the windows were also blown out.

Hermione was first to extract herself from the tangle of bodies lying on the floor, heading into the kitchen on her hands and knees in her haste to get to Luna and Harry. Hermione soon had a dazed Luna wrapped in her arms.

"Luna Lovegood, you frightened the bloody life out of me. You know what Harry and I think of you, never listen to anyone saying any different again. I'll bet Harry is currently telling you the exact same thing…"

Luna was soon holding on to Hermione just as tightly, both ignoring the wands that were currently scanning them looking for injuries. When Remus and Xeno gave the all clear, Emma stepped in and helped both girls to their feet. This proved slightly more difficult than it should have been, purely because neither would let go of the other.

The original plan was to get them seated but Luna headed straight for Harry's room - taking both Granger ladies with her. She bent down to return Harry to his body, his arm though snaked out and pulled Luna to him the instant he was back in control. He also continued the kiss, while his other arm reached for Hermione. Luna was now lying at one side of Harry, Hermione instantly slipping into his arm and occupying his other side.

In this new tangle of limbs, Hermione was again first to react. "Luna, Harry has shown you what you mean to him. It's time to visit me and learn the truth, we can't let something that should make us stronger be turned into a weakness and used against us." She leaned in and kissed Luna, Harry was then left supporting the blonde's now limp body as she visited Hermione.

Standing there watching as the trio comforted each other, Emma felt she would be better off trying to get the kitchen back into some kind of order. Harry was holding on to both girls as if he would never let go while Hermione and Luna were clearly having an important conversation. Emma kissed all three on their foreheads.

"You take as long as you need to sort this out, we'll still be trying to fix the kitchen by the time you come back out."

This drew a weak smile from Harry. "Winky will already be doing that - I just hope Dobby's not too badly injured..."

At that, Winky popped into the bedroom. "Dobby will be fine by tonight, Winky made him rest. Winky will bring you tea in about fifteen minutes, it will take Winky that long to clean all the mess and repair the dishes..."

The little elf was fretting that might be too long for her master but was heartened by a genuine smile. "That would be fantastic, Winky. You and Dobby really are the best."

Emma left, struggling to see any way the war zone that used to be a kitchen could be operational in fifteen minutes. She went into the living room and found Dan dishing out her mother's brandy, that had been hard for all of them to watch. Emma decided to wait those fifteen minutes and take the spirit the same way her mother used to - a little splashed in her tea.

"Luna's sharing with Hermione while you would probably need crowbars to get Harry's arms from around each of them. It would appear not all horcruxes are the same."

Taking a sip of his much needed brandy, Dan could find no fault in Harry keeping them close. "When that thing turned its attention onto Hermione, you could feel the evil pouring off it. I think I understand a bit better now, Xeno. That thing wanted nothing more than to see everyone in this cottage die - slowly and painfully being preferable."

No one disagreed with Dan but Sirius had more to say on the matter. "That was part of a being who murdered a young couple so he could kill their fifteen month old son. If that doesn't qualify as evil then I don't know what does. My family were all dark wizards but I can't imagine Voldemort giving something like that to the Blacks for safekeeping - wasn't that one supposed to be in some cave?"

This got a nod from Remus, he had more than that to add to the subject of horcruxes. "These things can obviously protect themselves. We need to convince those three this is a job for the adults. We happen across another one, we let Dumbledore deal with it."

That was something Dan would certainly drink to, so would Emma since Winky had just arrived with her much-needed tea.

When Hermione passed Luna back to her own body, both then just snuggled into Harry - a Harry who had no intention of complaining about the situation he now found himself in.

"I'm sorry guys, I should have..." Luna never got to say any more, Harry and Hermione simply tightened the arm each had around her.

"We were overconfident and got caught out - simple as that. We should never have tried that with Emma and Dan in the house. That was a stupid risk we didn't need to take, Dumbledore deals with the rest - agreed?" Both girls quickly agreed with Harry, they'd already had enough of horcruxes to last them a lifetime.

Winky popping in with tea for them forced the trio to sit up, though they didn't move apart. After facing that horcrux, they wouldn't be moving apart for at least the rest of the day. Harry was also in no hurry to discover what the girls had just talked about, he would find out later on when he roved into their room to spend the night.

-oOoOo-

Unlike Harry, Voldemort needed answers - and he was demanding those answers now. Unfortunately for his terrified followers, they didn't have any answers to give him. All those he had rescued from the high security wing in Azkaban were currently on their knees before him, as was his spy, Severus Snape.

Bella's mind welcomed her master as he viewed the Potter incident inside Azkaban from her perspective. The Dark Lord reached the same conclusion as his most faithful follower, Harry Potter had been tortured by Umbridge and then kissed by a dementor. There could be no doubt whatsoever that Bones and the prison governor certainly thought so, as Potter was carried from the cell by the aurors he could see why.

In no mood for subtlety, Voldemort then ripped into his newest follower's mind - finding more of the same. Umbridge had definitely planned for Potter to be kissed, and was convinced she'd achieved her aims. There was only one slight anomaly in her memory that troubled Voldemort, something he'd never seen before. As one of the world's leading authorities on administering the torture curse, in all the years Voldemort had been using the cruciatus curse he had never witnessed a case where the victim's eyes turned red.

Finding no reason so far to fault any of his followers, he then turned his attention onto Snape. Knowing his spy was a master occlumens, meaning he would have to shred his mind to discover if he was hiding anything, the Dark Lord asked his spy a question. It wasn't out of any form of compassion that Severus was allowed to keep his thoughts to himself, more that to shred his mind would be a waste of a valuable resource at the moment.

"So my slippery friend, why am I only discovering these facts by reading about them in the Daily Prophet? When that piece of ministry propaganda is better informed than my spy, it forces me to reconsider your usefulness to me."

Severus was quite pleased his outer demeanour didn't register the shiver of fear that traveled down his spine at hearing those words. "Forgive me, Master. Dumbledore didn't return to the castle until this morning, it was only then I heard the news. By the time I could get myself out of the senior staff meeting he then called, the Prophet had already broken the story."

"Can I assume he called this meeting to say goodbye, since the Minister of Magic is not allowed to hold any other positions of power or influence? Again, with no Dumbledore or Potter in the castle, it brings your usefulness to me into question."

"I live to serve, My Lord, and will of course do whatever you ask of me. Harry Potter though is still in the country, and Dumbledore is determined to keep him here. That is why the brat was gifted his ludicrous award, the Ministry are trying to bribe him into staying. If that ploy fails, I'm certain Dumbledore will then resort to other measures to keep the boy here. If Potter remains in Britain, he will still need to attend school…"

"Yes, Severus, I agree - Dumbledore won't want to lose control of his golden boy. I would assume McGonagall will be the new Headmistress, are you in the running to become Deputy?"

"I wouldn't think so, Master. Her choice would be either Flitwick or Sprout. I am hoping to convince the new Headmistress to let me take the vacant post of defence against the dark arts…"

This actually drew a sarcastic chuckle from the Dark Lord, a truly terrifying sound for those of his followers still kneeling there - expecting at any moment to be punished. "So one of my servants will teach their precious boy defence for the second year running - right under their noses again. The irony of that pleases me, Severus. We shall wait and see how this plays out before making any decisions on your position. I would still like to know how the brat survived a dementor's kiss, you will probably be best placed to discover that information for me."

They were disrupted by a distraught mistress of the house, Narcissa Malfoy practically staggering over to her master before joining the rest of the death eaters down on her knees.

"Forgive me, Master, I've just had some very disturbing news."

"Have you found that useless husband of yours yet? After sparing him over his last failure, Lucius better have a good reason for his latest fiasco."

"Master, I have no idea where he is - though I do have news of him. I was at Gringotts and couldn't gain access to the Malfoy vault. A goblin then informed me that, circumstances being what they were, I had lost all privileges and access to House Malfoy affairs."

This immediately claimed Voldemort's interest - had Lucius taken his money and ran for it? "And just what are these new circumstances?"

"The only way that could happen is if Lucius had died, Master."

That wasn't exactly terrible news to the Dark Lord, except for having regrets he himself didn't get to carry out the deed. He thought there was a method to solve House Malfoy's problems however, a solution that put him in charge of the Malfoy fortune too. "If young Draco needs someone to take over House Malfoy affairs until he is of age, I will offer myself for that position."

It was then Narcissa started to really shake. "I'm sorry, Master. That matter is out of our hands. When negotiations began on my bridal contract, Abraxas Malfoy managed to slip in a clause where, if there was no head of the Black Family, the Malfoys would look after their affairs until such time as there was again a Black qualified to take over. To get this past Arcturus Black, he had to insert a reciprocal clause for House Malfoy. Lucius was livid when Arcturus Black died and he didn't get his hands on the Black fortune, the contract recognised Sirius Black as being Head of his House. Unfortunately this means Sirius Black is now in control of the Malfoy family fortune and affairs."

Lord Voldemort was absolutely raging that Lucius was apparently dead, he so wanted to kill the fool himself - slowly and painfully of course. Not only had he allowed one of his precious horcruxes to be destroyed, this situation may also now endanger one more that his faithful follower had hidden. He switched his attention to another of his death eaters. "Rodolphus, was a similar agreement in place when you married Bellatrix?"

"I'm not certain, Master. My father handled all the negotiations, I didn't care about any details as long as Bella became my wife."

Having known Arcturus Black to be one of the most devious people he had ever met, Voldemort had to believe there would be a similar clause with the Lestrange family. Those fools would see nothing but the Black riches and sign on the dotted line, not realising Arcturus would never allow them anywhere near his family's fortune. Voldemort reckoned his cup would no longer be safe in Bella's vault, it was now just a matter of the best way to get his soul anchor out of there.

There was also the problem of this article in today's Prophet needing a response from him, not to do so would be paramount to admitting defeat. The new recruits needed to be blooded anyway, and the dementors would ensure a suitably high terror factor and body count. All this acting as a diversion which would enable Bella to access her vault unnoticed.

This slight threat to another of his soul anchors solidified his plans to create one more. His beloved Nagini would serve as host, greatly enhancing their already strong connection and increasing the snake's lifespan to a point approaching his own. It was of course more dangerous to use a living host as a container but Nagini would never stray far from his side, anything wanting to harm her would have to get past him first. Lord Voldemort intended to rule forever, and this procedure should see Nagini at his side for all of those centuries.

Looking down at his kneeling servants, Lord Voldemort also decided who would have the honour of helping him create that horcrux. Narcissa Malfoy was left practically useless to his cause. Narcissa now had no money, power or skills that could help him in this fight. He would also be forced to leave Malfoy Manor, since she now didn't even control the wards. Narcissa would die tonight as part of the horcrux ritual, Nagini could then feast on her carcass to enhance the binding of the horcrux. It was time to let his servants know his decisions.

"Narcissa, I want you to find any papers on this matter that you can. We will then meet again tonight and discuss the situation further." As the witch couldn't hide her relief at hearing that, Voldemort was pleased - but this was not pity from her Dark Lord. This witch would die tonight, so Narcissa Malfoy might as well enjoy her last few hours on this Earth happily completing a pointless task for her master.

As the condemned witch left, Severus was next to learn his fate. "I want you to return to Hogwarts and do everything in your power to discover just how Potter managed this feat. The brat has now survived a killing curse and being kissed by a dementor. I need to know whether he has to be killed in a specific manner - beheading, disembowelling, whatever it takes. I need this information, Severus, do not fail me…"

After Severus left, it was time for the Dark Lord to start planning his Death Eaters' next attack with those followers who remained still kneeling before him.

-oOoOo-

It would never cease to amaze Albus how quickly one's fortunes could change. It was extremely distressing listening to atrocity after atrocity committed by death eaters, all being justified in the name of some blood cause. In their second round of trials earlier, not one witch or wizard was found to be redeemable and all would face the veil tonight.

To go from that extreme low, Albus just couldn't shake off the feeling he had failed these people, to one of complete elation was quite the turnaround. The reason for that elation was currently resting in his hand, something he'd been searching many decades for. All he had to do was slip it on and he would get to speak with his beloved sister again...

Albus was knocked out of his daydreaming by the pain, it brought him back to his senses. He was left rubbing his jaw as Amelia apologised.

"I'm sorry, Albus, but you seemed to be in another world there. For one awful moment I thought you were actually going to put that horcrux on. You clearly weren't hearing me and I was afraid to use magic so close to that thing, That's why I had to slap you."

"I'm very glad you did. I'll destroy the horcrux and then I want you to keep this ring safe. More specifically, keep it away from either Harry or I."

As strange requests go, this latest one from Dumbledore wasn't even worth remarking on. Amelia did receive a modicum of revenge when a blood freezing scream emitted from the ring as Albus stabbed it.

For the second night in a row, Death Eaters would be taking a walk through the veil. At least they had the satisfaction of knowing the criminal actions of these people justified their punishment, and another piece of their Dark Lord had just faced justice too. Amelia would feel even better when Xeno Lovegood contacted them later about a certain destroyed necklace.

 
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