You're my Density

Just Suppose Harry hadn't heeded his godfather's advice, and actually lost his temper at his trial? Time travel fic and title is 'Back to the Future' joke.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11033616/1/You-re-my-Density

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20. Never Look a Gift Horse...

Sirius picked the four of them up from Crawley and escorted the group to Diagon Alley. It had been hard for the young couple to leave Privet Drive last weekend, though they would be meeting Petunia and Dudley again tomorrow for another trip to the Alley. That visit would see them acquire formal robes so all three Dursleys could attend the engagement party on Saturday. If things went as they hoped today, Harry and Hermione would be ready to celebrate on Saturday night.

They met Neville, Parvati and Padma in the Leaky Cauldron and decided Madam Malkin's would be their first stop. All the students needed school robes, as well as formal robes for the upcoming party. Dan and Emma, currently dressed in normal robes, found themselves receiving new formal wear for the party too.

Harry and Hermione went thought the day in a bit of a dream state, they knew what was waiting on them when they entered Flourish and Blott's. This proved rather unfortunate for the photographer who tried to grab them both as they walked into the aforementioned bookshop.

"Bless my soul, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. Three Orders of Merlin holders in the same shop - I've got to get a photograph of that."

What he actually got, as he grabbed Harry and Hermione to drag them over toward Lockhart, was a sharp elbow to the gut from Hermione, and his legs kicked out from under him by Harry. Lying winded, with two wands now covering him, the photographer then also had an irate father to deal with.

"Who the hell do you think you are, grabbing my daughter and Harry like that."

He managed to wheeze 'Press' between gasping for breath, which didn't improve Dan's mood in the slightest. "That doesn't give you the right to go about manhandling children…"

"There seems to be a misunderstanding here, Perhaps I can help. After all it doesn't do to upset our friends in the press." While wearing his widest smile, Gilderoy had made the very serious mistake of possessively draping his arms around Harry and Hermione's shoulders. With his fingers now dangling tantalisingly close to Hermione's developing chest, there was no way Lockhart was going to escape being reprimanded for his inappropriate actions. Before any of the duo could react though, an already raging Dan beat them to it.

He grabbed Gilderoy by the outlandish and loud cravat the fop was wearing, pushing him back off and away from the young couple. "If there's a misunderstanding here, then you just made it. Who are you to think I'll stand for some creep putting his arm around my twelve year old daughter like that? You were practically groping her."

Still grinning like a fool, with no idea of the trouble he was in, Gilderoy began performing his well rehearsed spiel for when he was asked his identity. When he got to the part about 'five times winner of the Witch Weekly's most charming smile award, Dan's temper finally snapped at this ponce who had, in his opinion, grabbed Hermione in a wholly inappropriate manner.

"Well, that's something we can change right now." His fist impacted on Lockhart's jaw, knocking him to the ground amid a lot of high pitched shrieks - not all of them coming from Lockhart's legion of female fans that were packed into the bookshop.

Gilderoy's only response was fighting back the tears, as much from the shock that someone would actually hit him as the pain he was currently suffering. "There was no need for violence. I'm going to be their new defence professor at Hogwarts. I was just trying to introduce myself…"

"I'll be teaching at Hogwarts too, that doesn't mean I'll be going around the castle groping young girls. What it does mean is that I'll be keeping a close eye on you…"

He then found Hermione at his side. "It's okay, Dad. I won't be taking any classes of his, or buying his stupid books. Harry and I will be covering the subject by self-study. We've already received Professor McGonagall's permission, as well as permission for those of our friends who want to join us."

Neville immediately added his name to that list, Parvati was on his arm and asked if she could join them too. Her mum had all Lockhart's books at home, and he was Lavender's favourite author too. The handsome author pictured on the covers of those books, as well as the one portrayed within their pages, bore no resemblance to the wizard sitting snivelling on the floor.

Lockhart was bleeding from the mouth, his normal perfect appearance well and truly ruffled. Parvati couldn't be certain but was almost sure he was wearing a wig too. Considering this was the person who was supposed to teach them how to defend themselves, she was already thinking Lockhart could be worse at that task than Quirrell. If Parvati could reach that conclusion, her Ravenclaw twin had certainly worked all that out as well. Padma was soon added to the growing group not taking Lockhart's class.

Susan was there with Hannah and her mother. Beth Abbot was also a big fan of Lockhart and didn't know what to make of this situation. She would certainly have slapped any man who grabbed her Hannah in a manner like that and, knowing Hannah was friends with this group, Beth was now trying to decide if she actually wanted her daughter in Lockhart's classes. "Are you allowed to just decide not to attend classes?"

It was Harry who answered the concerned parent. "No Ma'am. You need to submit your objections to Hogwarts in writing, have an alternative in place - including course objectives - and also have an adult witch or wizard to supervise you."

This had Sirius immediately volunteering to be that adult if needed, earning a smile from Harry. "You'd be more than welcome anytime you come to class but Hermione and I are already considered adults, thanks to our Orders of Merlin. We posted our objections, as well as our course objectives, to Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall knows we study ahead and not only approved, she also made the offer of allowing our classmates to join us. Lockhart may have gained himself a bit of a reputation as an author but very few people believe he's actually done the things the character in his books claims to have."

The boy-who-lived decrying his books, and not taking his classes, was an even more painful blow to Gilderoy than the punch to the face - and that still bloody hurt. It was about then something else struck Gilderoy, only this time it was a lot more pleasant than a fist. He'd just deduced who this wizard was that punched him, and he wasn't a wizard at all. Gilderoy thought he could now take command of the situation so boldly staggered to his feet.

"You sir, besmirched my good name, damaged my reputation and then physically struck me. My honour demands satisfaction, I challenge you to a duel." Since Hermione Granger was the most famous muggle born in Britain, that obviously meant this man - her father - was a muggle. Gilderoy thought he couldn't lose here. If he'd had a bit more experience dealing with Harry and Hermione, he certainly wouldn't have been so sure of that outcome.

Before Dan could accept the challenge, Harry stepped in. "Had you taken the time to look at Dan's robes, you would have seen this man is under the protection of my house…"

"…and mine too." Chipped in Sirius, leaving Lockhart looking decidedly queasy.

Harry's smile was almost predatory now. Hermione had told him a lot of this prat's history. That Lockhart had no problems cursing and leaving children to die, while he then intended to pen a best seller of how he fought bravely but in vain to save them, meant there would me no mercy shown here today.

"Since your honour demands satisfaction, here are your options. If you choose to face Dan without your wand, no one here will interfere. Should you insist on a magical duel, your choice of opponents would be between Lord Black or myself."

From a position where Gilderoy thought he couldn't lose, how the hell did he end up staring humiliation squarely in the face? The imposing muggle seemed desperate for him to choose the 'no magic' option, Gilderoy's aching jaw was screaming that wouldn't be bloody happening anytime soon. A mere glance at Black meant facing the ex-convict was never an option Gilderoy would ever willingly decide upon either. That left facing the boy who had so recently seen off the dark lord… Gilderoy tried to worm his way out of the situation he'd just rushed headfirst into.

"Perhaps I was a bit hasty…"

Harry had no intention of letting this worm wriggle off the hook he'd so willingly placed himself on when Lockhart thought he would be using his wand against a muggle.

"When a person's honour demands satisfaction, there really is no other option but to carry through with a duel. You wouldn't want all these people here to think your honour wasn't worth defending, would you?"

Looking around at all the expectant faces, book buying parents and his future students all, Gilderoy felt the walls closing in on him. Even the photographer was back on his feet, in anticipation of a more sensational story than the book signing he was originally here for. Sensing a viable excuse, Gilderoy introduced a last ditch effort to save himself the embarrassment of being defeated by a twelve year old. "There simply isn't room to duel in here, with the Alley being really too narrow and crowded for powerful mages to fight a proper duel. I feel I have no option but to put other peoples' safety above my own pressing need to see my honour satisfied."

"That's very noble of you..."

Gilderoy was congratulating himself on that piece of quick thinking when Harry continued - eloquently and publicly taking his excuse away.

"...though lack of space is a problem that can easily be overcome. Two weeks from today is the first day of term at Hogwarts. Dan, myself and you will all be there. Sirius will be available too, if you chose to duel him. Hogwarts certainly has facilities that can be used to hold an honour duel. It will also give all your new students the chance to see exactly what they're getting as a defence professor. Do you want to make your choice of opponent now? Holding it then will also give your press friends time to get to Scotland to witness this duel."

With all avenues of escape now firmly closed, Gilderoy was left with only bluster. "Very well. Let it be known that I, Gilderoy Lockhart, will face the boy-who-lived in an honour duel at Hogwarts in two weeks. I promise to go easy on the lad."

Gilderoy's forced laughter at his own joke wasn't fooling anyone. The photographer gained something out of this situation by taking Lockhart's picture in this dishevelled state. With his mouth still bleeding too, this certainly didn't improve Gilderoy's disposition.

Deciding to leave the shop, Harry was angry because the entire situation could now be a bust. They needed Malfoy to part with that diary. These thoughts were interrupted by a voice he was gradually coming to detest.

"Bet you loved that, Potter. More attention, and now duelling a professor! I hope he kicks your arse..."

"And what makes you think I give a shit about the opinions of a boy who used to take a death eater to bed with him every night?"

With a wild scream, Ron launched himself at Harry. It was actually rather shocking to discover Lockhart was right about something, there really was no room in here to fight. Ron was swinging wildly, and could end up hurting some innocent bystander, so Harry tackled him to the ground.

Punches were thrown, legs were kicked out and Harry managed to plant his forehead onto Ron's nose before both boys were effortlessly hoisted off the floor and into the air. Hagrid had a grip on each of them, holding them up and apart until both their families got to them.

Hermione taking Harry's hand and using their danger signal focused his attention far quicker than the words she was speaking. His enquiring glance was met by the slightest of nods. Harry's few injuries were instantly forgotten, as was the person who inflicted them - the diary had been passed on.

Ron wasn't for forgetting, and certainly not in a forgiving mood. Even while being held by his father, and berated by his mother, his gaze never left Potter. The one good punch he'd landed looked to be blackening his eye, before the Granger bitch took her wand to it. She soon healed his grazed cheek too, adding to Ron's not inconsiderable rage.

With a nose gushing blood and his right eye closing, it was easy to see who had come out worse from this scuffle. The pain as his nose was magically repaired by his mother was simply another reason to hate the boy he'd once considered his best friend. The two weeks of constant ear bashing today's fight would undoubtably see coming his way just cemented Ron's view that all his troubles were Potter's fault. Even after the fight, Potter was now ignoring him. It was as if he wasn't worth bothering about. Well, Ron would just have to show him different when they returned to Hogwarts.

With all thoughts of further shopping forgotten, and the brief fight being a perfect excuse for doing so, Harry turned to his godfather. "Sirius, we need to go to your house."

"Are you all right? Did you bang your head or something?"

Lowering his voice so only his godfather could hear, Harry gave Sirius just enough information to get him interested. "No, I'm fine. We need to floo Dumbledore, and it needs to be somewhere private."

"My house has been lying empty for years, and the house elf has gone a bit crazy from being left alone with only portraits for company. There are currently only a few parts of the house that are habitable."

The underlying urgency in Hermione's tone alerted all three of the adults there was something else going on here. 'This is something that we need to do, quickly and quietly."

Sirius simply nodded while Harry and Hermione then said goodbye to their friends, telling them everything was fine and they would see them on Saturday.

While leaving the bookshop, Hermione noticed Ginny was in tears at the scene her brother had just caused. She couldn't help but think this was a far better outcome for the youngest redhead. A few tears now over Harry fighting with her stupid brother was infinitely preferable to having a basilisk added to the confrontation.

Watching from the shadows, Lucius had an evil grin on his face. Starting a confrontation with Weasley, while very easy to accomplish, was still opening himself up to the risk of his real motives being discovered. The confrontations that had just taken place had allowed him to fulfil his task without exposing himself in the slightest. After what happened today, very few people would even remember he was actually in the bookshop. If ever questioned, he was merely another parent acquiring their child's school supplies. Lucius was certain no one had witnessed what he'd just done, he was wrong.

-oOoOo-

Emma was sure Sirius could have made a fortune charging admission to his house for Hammer Horror film fans, it looked as if it had played a starring role in over half that franchise's productions. She also felt sure the unusual umbrella stand was a prop from one of those films too. Sirius telling her it was a trolls leg saw Emma let out a shriek.

As if the very thought of using a creature's leg to hold umbrellas wasn't bad enough, the size of the creature this leg once belonged to really shocked her. It was after all a troll that had tried to kill Hermione last Halloween.

Her shriek however awakened a demented portrait that immediately began shouting and screaming racial abuse at them. Sirius introducing this vile woman as his mother left them without anything to say in return. He pulled heavy curtains over the painting, before leading them past and into a large reception room.

Ignoring the peeling wall coverings and slowly rotting furniture, the large fireplace was what held the two youngest's attention. Hermione then had a strange request for the house's owner.

"Sirius, can you floo Dumbledore and tell him we got it. He needs to come here with the substance to deal with it, and he needs to come now."

A bemused Sirius still complied, and his head was back out the fireplace only seconds later. "Dumbledore just about jumped out of his robes when I gave him your message. He'll be here shortly. Will we then find out just what's going on here?"

Before Hermione could answer, Dumbledore stepped out the green flames of the fireplace and headed straight for the young couple.

"Sir, it's in my left pocket - and incredibly powerful. It's trying to push a compulsion onto me, and only my occlumency is allowing me to resist its efforts. It's Tom Riddle's diary..."

"Perhaps I should take it back to Hogwarts..."

"No, sir. No delays, no studying this thing - we want it gone. It's also not something you want to deal with when on your own. Do it here, do it now."

If Sirius was shocked at the way Hermione was effectively giving orders to Albus Dumbledore, it was only to be the first of many shocks today. Using his wand, Albus soon had the book summoned out of Hermione's pocket and floating toward a heavy table that was already in the room. As the book settled on the table, Albus removed a vial from his pocket.

His detection charms were showing this to be the darkest of magic but Albus was still considering studying the item. "Are you sure about this?"

"Certain sir. It has to be done, we can't take any chances. Mum, dad, can you get behind Harry and me. Sirius, you might want to take a couple of steps back too."

Without touching the book, Albus allowed a couple of drops of deadly basilisk venom to land on its surface. Like Quirrell's reaction to Harry's touch, the diary began to rapidly rot away where the liquid had settled. In an even eerier parallel, the book began to scream as the spirit of Voldemort left it. This time however there was no escape for this portion of his soul. It too appeared to rapidly rot while being pulled back into it's former host, until only a small black blob of gunk remained in the centre of the now ruined diary.

Albus cast a couple of detection spells at the gunk and diary, both showed a residue of dark magic but were now safe. Before any of them could comment on what they'd just witnessed, a different voice asked a question.

"You destroyed the dark one's precious object. Kreacher wants to know if you could destroy another? Master Regulus tasked Kreacher with destroying it but Kreacher failed his master's last order. Kreacher is a bad elf. If you destroy it, then Kreacher would not have failed. Kreacher would need to see you destroy it, Kreacher really need to see it destroyed. Tried so hard, Kreacher did."

Kneeling to be at the same height, Hermione spoke to the old elf. "Kreacher, if you bring the item here, we will destroy it - and of course you can watch."

"Kreacher will allow the mudblood to speak to him, if she promises to destroy the locket."

"I promise, Kreacher. Please fetch it and we'll do it now."

As the old elf shuffled away, Hermione held her hand up to stop anyone else speaking. "I have no idea what Kreacher is talking about, and I don't care. If he brings us another one, we destroy it at once. Then we can ask all the questions we want. Destroying any of these we find is our absolute top priority, and we will not jeopardise being able to deal with one that seems about to land in our laps."

Sirius had been raised in a dark family. He only had one question, a question he was sure he already knew the answer to. "That diary obviously held a piece of Voldemort, is that why he's not dead?"

Hermione's nod guaranteed his full support. "Definitely destroy first, questions later. There will be questions however, lots of them."

The old elf shuffled back in, holding a locket and chain that Kreacher carefully placed on the table. Albus' wand soon confirmed this was another horcrux. His scans also supplied some bad news.

"There's a shield charm on this that I've never seen before. I think it needs to be opened before the venom would work..."

"Kreacher already knows this, Kreacher thought you could open it."

"I can't, Kreacher, but we have someone here who just might be able to manage it. Harry, I think this has been sealed using parseltongue. It would take a command in the same language to open it." Albus looked to Harry, having already suspected this might be a skill he possessed. Receiving a nod by way of answer, Albus then offered a warning. "I also suspect this locket will be able to protect itself to some degree so you must retreat as soon as it opens."

Hermione made to step forward with Harry but her father's hands on her shoulders stopped the young witch before her intended could say no. "I'm not happy at Harry being involved in this, but it would seem he needs to be. You, on the other hand, don't. You're staying over here, with your mother and me."

It was only Hermione telling him witches and wizards considered the ability a bad thing that had stopped Harry proclaiming to the world he could converse with snakes. For someone with aspirations of becoming a vet, being able to talk to an entire species of animals was a gift beyond belief. He'd practiced using his gift every chance he got, though making sure no one else bar Hermione saw him doing so.

Approaching the table, just the sight of the beautifully carved snake adorning the locket was enough for Harry to unleash his gift. While everyone else just heard Harry hissing, the locket understood he had asked it to open - so it did.

It was probably unrealistic to expect any locket Voldemort had once owned to have pictures of his loved ones displayed inside it. Instead, the red eye that appeared to be sentient, stared out from the inside of the locket. This eye that was not an eye immediately focused on Harry, its unnatural gaze holding a level of malevolence far in excess of anything he'd ever encountered before. It felt as if a double decker bus had just slammed into his occulemency shield, with only Dumbledore stepping in front of him saving his shield from being shredded. It was now Harry's turn to feel hands on his shoulders as Sirius dragged him back to a safer distance.

They all watched as a mist left the locket and formed an image of a lovely teenage girl. She had long blond hair and the deepest blue eyes, she was also someone Dumbledore clearly recognised.

"Albus, don't kill me. You can't kill me again, brother, that would just be too cruel. Albus please…"

The Albus in question was having trouble holding his hand steady enough to administer the basilisk venom, with the first two drops actually hitting the table - burning right through it. As the image's pleading got louder and even more personal, Albus finally managed to get a drop of venom onto the locket.

The screams of the girl were terrifying, though they then morphed into Voldemort's face and voice. The magical explosion signalling the locket's demise blasted an emotionally drained Dumbledore across the room. only Kreacher's quick reactions and magic saved the headmaster from being injured.

Kreacher was also first to react when the shout of 'What the bloody hell is going on here?' came from the person who'd just stepped through the floo.

"Harry Potter and the headmaster destroyed the dark one's precious locket, the one Master Regulus asked Kreacher to do. Kreacher carried out his master's last orders, Kreacher's honour is restored. Kreacher will have tea ready in the kitchen." At that, the old elf shuffled off. It was hard to tell with Kreacher but he seemed to be standing just that little bit straighter as he did so.

Harry and Hermione helped the headmaster to his feet while Sirius headed straight for their unexpected visitor.

"Ami, what are you doing here?"

"Susan flooed and told me what happened in the bookshop. She was worried something might have happened to Harry, so I came over to check. Sirius, just what was that?"

"I'm not really sure but I've been promised answers. You should hear them too, since you know I'll tell you anyway."

A shaken Dumbledore interrupted. "Perhaps we could have that offered cup of tea first? Then I'll tell you what you both need to know."

From the four sets of worried looks heading in Dumbledore's direction, Sirius arrived at the obvious conclusion. "Can I take it Emma and Dan already know this story?"

"Like you appear to have decided with Amelia, Harry has no secrets from Hermione. Since this then affected Hermione's family, it seemed reasonable that these two would tell them what was happening too. We also need to consider that you, and soon Amelia, will be part of the same family, it's now important you know this information as well."

They all made their way through to one of the few serviceable rooms in the house where tea, coffee, pumpkin juice and a plate of cakes were waiting on them. Sitting around the kitchen table, Albus sipped his tea while resisting the temptation of cake. He would have a slice after he told his tale.

"Sirius, do you know why James and Lily went into hiding?"

"Voldemort was after them?"

"Yes, but there was a specific reason Voldemort was after them. To be rather more precise - after their son."

This had the undivided attention of everyone at the table, with the other four worried that Albus was going to reveal the secret of Harry and Hermione's trip 'back to the future'.

"A prophecy was made, claiming that a child would be born with the power to defeat the Dark Lord. Voldemort had no intention of waiting on that child growing to an age where he might one day challenge him. He set out that night to murder Harry, the prophesied child. James and Lily were simply in Voldemort's way."

While the shock of hearing this held the power to silence Sirius, it seemed to explain a few things for his fiancee. "That helps me understand part of what happened that night with Quirrell. Would you care to elaborate on what I saw when I flooed here, and why do I think it's linked to how a supposedly already dead Voldemort managed to escape that same night."

Deciding he now needed a piece of cake, Albus washed his first mouthful down with a sip of tea before answering. "I wont insult either of you by mentioning the need for secrecy over this. Once you hear what I've got to say, you can make up your own mind. I've thought ever since that Halloween this war wasn't over. I also had a suspicion of just how Voldemort managed not to die that night. It's only very recently I've had that suspicion confirmed. He created horcruxes, and yes - that's plural."

Putting those facts together posed many questions for Amelia, she immediately focused on the most important one however. "I thought it was impossible to have more than one, have you have any idea how many he made?"

The excellent chocolate cake was helping Albus get himself back on a more even keel. Seeing a representation of Arianna like that would see him needing something stronger than chocolate to get any sleep tonight. Nothing less than dreamless sleep potion would see him heading to bed at all. "It's supposed to be impossible, which is another reason it would appeal to Tom Riddle. The bad news is I have no idea how many he actually made. The truly excellent news is we destroyed two of them today - you witnessed the second of those."

"How the hell did you manage that?"

It was Hermione who answered that question from Amelia. "A very good friend of ours passed on the information that Lucius Malfoy had one, and intended to use it to cause death and destruction inside Hogwarts. Knowing this, we asked Professor Dumbledore to acquire some basilisk venom - in the hope we could get our hands on it. You see, we even knew who Malfoy's intended target was today - and had planned to steal it straight from them."

This actually raised a chuckle from Harry. "Malfoy must have thought he was being so smart, slipping the diary to Hermione while I was rolling on the floor with Weasley. He doesn't know that just saved us a job."

"Kreacher supplied the other one, apparently from Regulus Black. I for one want to find out how he got his hands on it." Hermione was looking at Sirius as she said this but his eyes never left his godson.

"Harry, I'm so sorry. This isn't the life me or your parents wanted for you."

"Look around the table, Sirius. I have a great life..." Hermione kissed his cheek at that as Harry then continued. "I've had a fabulous summer holiday with my family and friends, and we're really looking forward to Saturday night. If the rest of the country was like the people who'll be at that party, it wouldn't matter how many of these things Voldemort had - he'd already be beaten."

Sirius' hand just seemed to reach for Amelia's at hearing that, both drew comfort from the gesture because Harry wasn't anywhere near finished.

"Draco Malfoy publicly insulted half the people sitting at this table yet his father's apology was all about breaching etiquette. Why? Because he thinks of Hermione, Dan and Emma as worthless too - and so do most of his fellow purebloods. That's the attitude feeding Voldemort's cause, with both followers and gold. I'll do my very best to end the bastard once and for all, but not at the cost of even one of my friends - my family is already sacrosanct. Professor Dumbledore has been an immense help to us but Hermione and I have always been clear with him on one thing. Should Voldemort return, and his followers all flock to him, our number one priority will be getting our friends and family out of the country. I have to say, Sirius, Black Island seemed like a smashing bolt hole to us..."

Having polished off his cake, and now on his second cup of tea, Albus confirmed what Harry just said. "Since the three of us with experience of the first war know the country was only months from capitulating to Voldemort and his Death Eaters, I can't fault their reasoning or reactions. I also know that was a condition of their families allowing them to return to Hogwarts after Christmas. At the castle, we are trying to change attitudes. Alas, that won't happen overnight."

So many of the things that had happened recently now made sense to Amelia. She looked appraisingly at the young couple before asking another pertinent question. "The headmaster is obviously teaching you two more than potions but just how powerful are you?"

This drew a wry smile from Hermione. "Powerful enough that you could safely bet your vault on Harry beating Lockhart in their upcoming duel."

Albus' eyebrows rose at this, before hearing what had happened in the bookshop. The headmaster didn't see any way Lockhart's career as a defence professor could survive being defeated in a public duel with a student who was just entering their second year. Like Hermione, he was confident on how that contest would end. He would need to inform Minerva as soon as he got back to the castle, that news might actually put a smile on her face.

It was then time for Sirius to call Kreacher and discover how that locket ended up in the elf's possession, and what his brother, Regulus, had to do with it.

The old elf told his harrowing tale, a tale that had both Kreacher and Sirius in bits at the part where the faithful elf was given a direct order to leave his master in that cavern with the approaching inferi.

While Amelia held Sirius, it was Hermione who again knelt to offer Kreacher some comfort. "You are a good and loyal elf to the Black family, Kreacher. All the Black family ancestors will look down and approve of your actions. Today you avenged your master, you avenged your family."

Looking at the witch, Kreacher couldn't fail to hear the sincerity in her voice. He decided not to address her as mudblood. "Thank you, miss."

The emotional state Sirius was in, Amelia convinced him to come home with her. Albus offering to return the four to Crawley saw the last objection for Sirius not accepting Amelia's offer disappear. Yes they would all be meeting on Saturday at the party but this was not a subject that could be discussed outside this company. Everyone present also knew that was something that needed to happen - and soon.

Having managed to destroy two of Voldemort's abominations today, it had graphically been brought home to Albus that working with others was the best chance for them to end this. "Since everyone sitting here will want to see Harry's duel with Lockhart, can I suggest we all sit down together at Hogwarts the same day and see where we go from here. I still have a few drops of basilisk venom left, though I dare say we will never be as lucky again as we were today."

They agreed with all of that and Black Manor was soon empty as they left, Albus creating a portkey to the Grangers while Sirius and Amelia used the floo. In another part of the house, Kreacher began the long and arduous task of cleaning the neglected home. The elf now had his honour back, he could once more take pride in his work.

-oOoOo-

In Crawley, after Dumbledore had left to return to Hogwarts, it was another elf who found himself at the centre of congratulatory hugs. Hermione then attempted to head off the lecture she knew would be coming from her parents.

"Mum, dad, we were never in any danger inside that bookshop. Malfoy's original plan was to slip that diary to Ginny Weasley. Between Dobby, Harry and me, I'm certain we could have ensured it didn't go back to the Burrow with her. As you witnessed today, once getting our hands on on the diary we had plans - and a qualified person - in place to deal with it. We didn't tell you because we wanted you to act natural, though dad flattening Lockhart wasn't part of our plans either."

This diverted her father's attention. "I thought I better hit him, before either you or Harry destroyed him. We had already arranged the time off, since Dumbledore asked if we could be at the opening feast, so we'll at least get to see Harry take him apart. Tell me you've got something special planned for him?"

Harry just shrugging his shoulders was not the answer Dan was looking for.

"To be honest, Dan, in the great scheme of things - Lockhart is nothing more than an annoyance. Compared to what else happened today, he doesn't even rate a mention. We're back at Diagon Alley tomorrow for more clothes shopping, an engagement party on Saturday then spending the last week of the holidays with Neville. I might give the pratt some thought on the train ride to Hogwarts, not before."

His intended had a different way of looking at today's events. "Elves have now delivered two of Voldemort's horcruxes to us, that's a source we should not overlook when searching for the rest of these things."

"If word spread amongst elves that Harry Potter was searching for these things, it could help us. If another one was held by a death eater, we could not count on them having an elf who was as ready as Darla to help. That elf could also feel compelled to tell their master we were looking for something he held dear. Dobby will be at the meeting in the headmaster's office to hear what is said. Dobby will not be seen."

Dobby blushing as he mentioned Darla was ignored by everyone in the Grangers. They had all made it clear Darla would be welcomed with open arms into their family - should she ever get away from the Malfoy's grip. The four non-elves in the room were also certain that would be something Dobby would be working on.

"So, we see what that meeting with Dumbledore throws up - before deciding if that's a risk worth taking?" Since no one disagreed with Hermione, they now had the beginning of a plan for moving forward.

-oOoOo-

Petunia had just spent the afternoon with her family, yet not her family. Even while appearing uncanny like Vernon, Harry had still held his hand out for Hermione. Watching Vernon walk holding Hermione's hand, while Dudley strolled along attentively at his other side was the picture perfect image of a loving family.

Her Vernon had loved the dress robes she had worn to Harry and Hermione's award ceremony, she couldn't wait to see his expression when he came home and saw the robes they'd chosen for him to wear on Saturday night. Neither could Harry and Hermione, who were both staying to dinner so they could witness his reaction. Dudley was waiting to talk his father's ears off about all the wonderful things he'd seen while in Diagon Alley today.

The Dursleys were now looking forward to Amelia and Sirius' party, not something Petunia thought she would ever see happen.

 
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