Search for the Broken Soul


Story Summary:

Chapter 04 - A String of Death

Chapter Summary:
Mirrors! Notes! House-elves under bonds of silence! Can things get mre complicated? As the Horcrux hunt begins to unfold, the truth about the past is starting to emerge...

Harry thought back to his last meeting with Mundungus, in Hogsmeade. He still felt a hot surge of anger when he thought about Mundungus shamelessly nicking Sirius' - or rather, his - possessions just a few weeks after his godfather's death. Harry had always known the man wasn't exactly honest (to put it mildly) but had never before had any reason to dislike him. Once, Harry even felt indebted to Mundungus for Disapparating at the crucial time when Umbridge's Dementors had shown up; although it had almost led to his expulsion from Hogwarts, at least it had got Harry away from the Dursley's and back into the wizarding world.

But now Harry had a real basis for resentment; he was pretty sure that if the thief hadn't made off with the locket, it would have remained safely in Kreacher's little den for them to find. Being completely unfamiliar with the criminal wizarding underworld, Harry mused sourly that, by now, the locket would probably have passed through several hands, and the chances of him tracking it down grew slimmer with every day that passed.

"Well, we might as well write to the Ministry now," said Hermione, in a businesslike way, already searching for some parchment. Harry stopped brooding and looked over at her.

"Write to the Ministry? What for?"

Hermione rolled her eyes at him.

"Well, obviously we can't just stroll into Azkaban and chat to Mundungus - well, we could, but for my part I fancy keeping my soul in my body - so we need permission, don't we?"

Harry's insides gave an uncomfortable squirm, and he swallowed. "You, er - we're planning to go to Azkaban, then?" he asked, trying to keep his voice casual, but Hermione glanced at him sharply and then her features relaxed into a sympathetic expression.

"Oh, Harry, I wasn't thinking. You don't have to go, if you don't want to."

That sounded good. Then Harry shook himself mentally. Hadn't his friends decided to go with him wherever he went, and support him through whatever hell was coming? It would be nice repayment to let them do all the dirty work for him. Harry forced a smile.

"Well, Dementors aren't exactly my best pals," he said lightly. He felt Ginny's comforting hand on his arm, and relaxed a little. "But, no, I'll come. I don't think I should miss anything, and besides, Mundungus might feel he has to tell me about the locket more than you three, since he did steal it from my house. Anyway, there aren't that many Dementors there any more; most of them went to join Voldemort."

Hermione bit her lip, looking at Harry uncertainly, but she seemed to notice the determined set of his chin and nodded slowly.

"Alright, if that's what you think's best -" She was cut off by Ron's loud, irritable complaint.

"Harry, mate, get rid of him, won't you?"

They looked around to see Ron watching Kreacher with an aggrieved expression. The elf stood glaring nastily up at him through his bloodshot, bulbous eyes, muttering darkly about filthy blood-traitors just audibly enough for Ron to hear.

Harry laughed, and was about to order Kreacher to go back to the Hogwarts kitchens when Ginny's arm shot into his chest in excitement, winding him.


"Harry, wait!"

"I - I'm not doing anything!" Harry gasped, massaging his ribs. Ginny bounced excitedly on the bed, not noticing.

"Harry, I've just realised - Kreacher knew Regulus, didn't he? So, you can ask him about -" but at that moment there was a loud Crack! Kreacher had Disapparated, and Ginny broke off in surprise.

"Kreacher, come back!" said Harry loudly and firmly, having regained his breath, and with another Crack! Kreacher reappeared, twisting at his ears in agitation and stamping his little feet. Harry ignored him.

"And stay here, this time," he added pointedly. "Thanks Ginny, good idea. Right, Kreacher, we have a few things we want to ask you about. You don't seem to want to talk about your old master Regulus, judging by the hurry you were in to be off. Why?"

A shudder seemed to pass through the elf's little body, and Harry felt a little guilty for speaking so harshly to the pitiful creature, however foul he was. When he spoke again, it was with a gentler tone. "We just want to know what you know about Regulus. Anything at all."

Kreacher bowed low, his eyes filled with loathing, and croaked slowly, "Young dead master used to live in the House of Black, he slept in the bedroom on the third floor, he liked the colour green, he -"

Harry lost his patience again, and cut the elf off. "All right, Kreacher, I guess I asked for that. Right - was Regulus Black a Death Eater?" But Kreacher didn't speak; a tremor shook his little body and he kept his lips tightly shut, glaring at Harry defiantly. Harry was surprised. A house-elf refusing to answer a direct question? Under the nature of a house-elf's bondage, this should be impossible.

"Okay, then," said Harry slowly. "When did he bring the locket here?" A huge spasm jerked through Kreacher little body this time. Harry scratched his ear in confusion. He knew Dobby had managed to disobey the Malfoys a few times - was this just Kreacher's stubbornness? Frowning, he tried once more.

"Did Regulus switch sides? Did he turn traitor to Voldemort, or was he always a spy?"

By now, Harry knew that something was wrong. Kreacher was twitching and shaking uncontrollably. Why wouldn't, or couldn't, Kreacher answer? Harry glanced round at Ron, who looked as perplexed as he felt. Ginny was shaking her head in puzzlement, but Hermione was gazing at Kreacher shrewdly.

"Harry, I think he must have been ordered not to give any information away about Regulus and the locket; probably by Regulus himself."

Harry felt his brows unknit. Yes, that must be it. House-elves have to answer their master's questions, but if they are bound by an older order - and Regulus was also a pure Black, perhaps that was why Regulus' orders overrode his own?

"Well, that's ... annoying," Harry said, feeling how hugely inadequate those words were to describe his frustration. "Okay, Kreacher, go back to Hogwarts now," he said slightly sharply, ignoring Hermione's disapproving frown.

With yet another Crack! Kreacher Disapparated, giving Harry his filthiest glare as he went. Harry barely noticed, slipping off the bed and pacing up and down restlessly. "So, Kreacher obviously knows a lot. There's something more behind this, but I just can't figure out what. Why would Regulus take the trouble of making sure Kreacher didn't go spreading his secrets?"

"Seems a bit weird," said Ron, shrugging. "Probably he was just being careful. I guess he didn't want to risk You-Know-Who, I dunno, maybe torturing Kreacher to find out how he found out about his Horcrux." Ginny and Hermione both agreed, happy to leave it there, but Harry still felt there was something he was missing, something nagging at his mind. But there were other things they needed to get on with, and Harry decided to let it go for now.

"Well, let's write that letter to the Ministry then," he said, decisively and Hermione nodded again, taking the ink and parchment over to a small, rickety writing desk in the corner of the room. Carefully she smoothed the parchment flat before dipping her quill into her inkpot, and lowering the quill to the page. Then she paused.

"Who do I address it to? Which Department?"

"Um ... no idea - Ron?" said Harry, looking at him. Mr Weasley worked in the Ministry so Ron knew the Departments pretty well.

"Probably the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I think they do stuff about Azkaban, trials, you know," said Ron absentmindedly.

For a little while after, the scratching of Hermione's quill filled the small room, and nobody spoke. After less than a minute, she stopped writing, scanned the letter and gave a small nod of satisfaction. Then she handed the parchment to Harry to sign. He read it through, Ron and Ginny peering over his shoulders.

Department of Magical Law Enforcement

Dear Sir/Madame,

Requesting a meeting with the prisoner Mundungus Fletcher, to discuss personal issues. It would be much appreciated if you would allow me a short visit, with my friends Ron and Ginevra Weasley and Hermione Granger.

Harry made a small noise of approval. "'Personal issues,' nice and vague, that's good. We don't want Scrimgeour or anyone getting suspicious." He signed the letter and waited for the ink to dry before rolling it up and magically sealing it. Hedwig was asleep in her cage, her snowy head tucked under one wing. Harry crossed the room and prodded her gently.

"Wake up, Hedwig, sorry - I need you to deliver this for me." She poked her head out from under her wing, blinking her large amber eyes at him.

"Take it to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in the Ministry of Magic, okay?" Harry said, stroking her feathered head gently. Hedwig gave a soft hoot of understanding, sticking out her leg, and Harry tied on the scroll. She hopped out of the cage on to his arm, and Harry carried her over to the window, leaning back as she took off in a flurry of white feathers and soared over the grimy rooftops towards the Ministry.

Hermione was fiddling absentmindedly with the drawer of the writing desk, which appeared to be stuck, while Ron watched her with a would-be-casual expression, though with a slightly dreamy look in his eyes. Harry sat back down next to Ginny, who leant comfortably into him. He took some strands of her long red hair between his fingers and twirled them, muttering teasingly, "Ginevra ... I never knew that was your name."

Ginny elbowed him. "Don't call me that," she warned. "It's almost as bad as Nymphadora."

Harry smiled, but at that moment was distracted as out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed something that made him jump as though he had received an electric shock. Hermione was still sitting at the writing desk, which now had its drawer hanging open, and from it she was lifting a small, dusty, very familiar square mirror. Harry crossed the room in two strides and grabbed the mirror from Hermione's startled hand.

"Harry, what -" she began, bewildered, but broke off, looking at him in concern.

Harry's chest was suddenly tight and his breathing constricted, as memories of Sirius came crashing over him in waves. That mirror - that damn mirror! Hadn't Sirius given him another just like it, so that they could communicate easily? Without making stupid plans for breaking into the High Inquisitor's warded office, which were bound to go wrong.

And he'd not even bothered to open the package, at least not until after Sirius was murdered, and a fat lot of good that had been. The guilt Harry had felt at his godfather's death, long suppressed, now surged through him afresh leaving him feeling wretched and empty. If he had just opened it he would have been able to find Sirius at Grimmauld Place, without relying on Kreacher. But he hadn't. And now Sirius was dead, and it was all his fault...

"Harry!" said Hermione sharply, and he jumped. He had almost forgotten she was there. Looking around, Harry saw them all staring at him, perplexed and anxious. Feeling a warm pressure on his hand, Harry looked at it to find that Ginny had been holding it comfortingly, which he hadn't noticed. Ron cleared his throat nervously.

"Um, Harry? You feeling all right? What's with the mirror?"

Harry couldn't speak. His chest still felt as though it was clamped in a steel band. Finally, Ron stood up. "Okay, I'm getting Mum."

This made Harry come to his senses. It was only a mirror, he told himself firmly. You aren't to blame for Sirius' death; he would've left the house at some point anyway. And though this was far from satisfactory, Harry pushed it out of his mind and taking a deep breath, forced himself to speak.

"This is Sirius' mirror," he said, striving to keep his voice steady. "He - he gave me one, too. It's a two-way mirror; we could've used them to communicate with each other ... " he trailed off as he felt his voice shaking slightly. Ron and Hermione didn't seem to notice his agitation.

"Really?" said Hermione, looking very interested. "A two-way mirror? They're ever so rare. Can I have a look at the other one?"

"Er, no," he admitted, feeling guilty again as she looked surprised and hurt. "I - it broke."

"Oh, Harry," said Hermione reproachfully. "You let it break?"

"Yeah, well, I didn't know it was that special," he said defensively, then paused, thinking. "Oh, hang on - yeah, I think the pieces are still in my trunk, somewhere."

Hermione beamed at him, leaping off the bed and dragging out Harry's overstuffed trunk from under the bed. She threw it open and began rummaging in it, throwing aside all the junk that had been amassing in there since, probably, his first year at Hogwarts. Harry watched her for a bit, smiling slightly, then pulled out his wand from his jeans pocket, pointed it at the trunk and said firmly, "Accio Sirius' mirror!"

"Oh, yes," said Hermione, looking embarrassed. "I keep forgetting we can use magic now ... Harry, nothing's happened." It was true. No shards of mirror had come zooming out. Harry frowned. He had, in truth, forgotten about the mirror, but now he remembered having felt guilty for breaking Sirius' gift to him, and shoving the pieces back in his trunk.

"That's weird," he said. "Wait, I'll try again. Um, Accio broken mirror?"

There was a disturbance in the trunk, like several small mice fighting to extricate themselves from the jumble of Harry's possessions, and out soared seven pieces of mirror, gleaming dully in the weak sunlight.

Hermione eagerly pointed her wand at them, saying, "Reparo!" and the shards flew together, good as new. Harry watched her idly as she examined the two mirrors closely, throwing the repaired one to Ron so they could test them out. He still wondered why they hadn't answered to the Summoning charm as 'Sirius' mirror.' Well, Harry supposed it technically wasn't his godfather's any more, seeing as he had given the mirror away. Still, it had belonged to Sirius. At that moment, however, he was distracted by Ron's loud, excited voice in his ear.

"Hey, this is so cool! Look, Harry, I can see Hermione in here, and talk to her and everything!" He gazed, fascinated, into the mirror. Harry moved behind him so that he could look over Ron's shoulder. Through the film of dust he could make out Hermione's face - glancing over at her, Harry saw her smiling down into her own mirror at Ron, who blushed, seeming to realise he had been ogling Hermione for about a minute, and hastily laid his own down on the floorboards. Harry almost laughed, but stifled it quickly as Ron coughed, his ears turning red. Smiling inwardly to himself, Harry wondered when on earth Ron was going to be able to just go out with Hermione without being awkward and flushing every other second. He supposed it would take some time.

"Harry," said Ginny suddenly, "There's something stuck to the back - look!" She pointed to the underside of Hermione's mirror, where Harry now saw a small square of yellowish parchment. His's heart gave a strange jump, and Harry grabbed at it. Immediately, the parchment began to tear.

"Watch it!" exclaimed Ron, knocking his arm out of the way. "It's stuck!"

Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Well, get it off, it might be ... " Harry fell silent as he watched Hermione picking at the corner of the parchment. He didn't feel like voicing his thoughts aloud.

Hermione seemed to be having difficulty. In the end she picked up her wand, murmured, "Diffindo!" and the parchment was ripped from the mirror. It floated downwards and they all dived for it. But Harry, with his Seeker reflexes, got there first. Turning it over, he saw a message written in an elegant hand, though it was scratchy and untidy, as though scrawled in a very great hurry. His heart sank. It was not Sirius' writing, but an untidy, yet familiar, scrawl - it looked as though the writer had scribbled this in a very great hurry. Disappointed, Harry nevertheless read the note out loud, in a low but clear voice.

I write this in the hope that it falls into the right hands; I dare not address it in case it does not. For the same reason it is hidden here, in the hope that you were to think of the connection. If you are whom I pray you to be, you will understand the use intended for this mirror. We may not meet again, but I thank you for your loyal servitude, and if you are brought the tidings of my death, journey at once to Borgin and Burkes, at Knockturn Alley, where it has awhile been my suspicion that another is hidden. Seek a string of death. And if my fortune is fair and I return alive, we shall make this journey together.

Harry finished reading and looked up. Only Ginny looked confused; he could tell from the satisfied looks on Ron and Hermione's faces that they were thinking along the same lines as he was.

"Well," he said, breaking the silence that had followed. "I think we all know who that's from." They all nodded, including Ginny.

Ron scratched his ear. "Yep. Our favourite cryptic messenger. Likes his secrets doesn't he, that Regulus - who's he writing to, d'you reckon?"

"He must've had someone to help him get that locket," said Harry slowly. "Dumbledore said one person couldn't have done it."

"Which means," said Hermione thoughtfully, "someone else knows about the Horcruxes," They all exchanged an uneasy glance, but Ginny suddenly laughed.

"Oh, no - I think I can guess who it is," she said triumphantly. "Kreacher!" There was a collective sigh of enlightenment as everybody realised the reason for Kreacher's forced muteness. Ron gave his sister the thumbs-up. She looked quite pleased with herself. "But I don't understand," Ginny continued, frowning slightly and taking the parchment from his hand. "Harry, what can he mean by the 'string of death'?"

This, however, Harry did not find at all hard to explain; since that terrible Hogsmeade weekend last October, the name Borgin and Burkes always conjured up an image of Katie Bell, writhing and twisting on the ground, a brown paper package beside her, glittering purple visible through a small tear in the wrappings.

"That'll mean that opal necklace," he said confidently. "It was in Borgin and Burkes, I saw it there. Malfoy bought it and gave it to Katie. Oh, wow - you don't suppose it is a Horcrux?" he added, excitement welling in him. But it was also mixed with doubt. He saw his feelings mirrored on Hermione's face.

"I don't know, Harry," she said hesitantly. "It might be. But don't you think Dumbledore would have recognised it as a Horcrux?"

"Well, you can't tell that something's a Horcrux," interrupted Ron. "Can you, Harry? Doesn't it just look exactly the same?"

Harry shrugged. "I'm not sure. The diary felt pretty normal. No, hang on, it didn't. I kept feeling like I had to keep looking through it. And so did you, Ginny, didn't you?" she nodded, looking as though she'd rather not talk about that. He moved on hastily.

"Well, and that snake, Nagini, has almost human characteristics, the way she obeys Voldemort and stuff. And you said the locket was really heavy, unnaturally heavy, right, Hermione?" She nodded also. "So," he continued, feeling hopeful again. "Dumbledore might have recognised it, and destroyed it. He never said anything to me though." This was where the doubt came in. Wouldn't Dumbledore have told him?

"Well, anyway," said Hermione briskly, "That's another thing we have to follow up. Do you think that it could be the Ravenclaw Horcrux?"

Harry hadn't thought of that. He supposed it could have been the founder's necklace, the 'something of Ravenclaw's' that Dumbledore had told him to find. But Ron snorted.

"Why would she wear that if it would kill her? Looks a pretty Dark object to me, more like something from Slytherin. Anyway, I dunno if it's really a Horcrux. Why would it just be stuck in a glass case in a shop for everyone to see?" But Hermione just threw him an exasperated glance.

"Oh, Ron, if it was Ravenclaw's, it wouldn't have been cursed when she had it. That would be Voldemort's - oh, get a grip - Voldemort's doing. To stop people from touching it and trying to destroy it. As for it being in a shop, sometimes the best places to hide things are right in front of people's eyes. Who would guess? And I asked how much it was, remember? One and a half thousand Galleons! Riddle might have asked Burkes to put it at that price to make it stay there - probably Malfoy only got it in the first place by showing his Dark Mark."

Harry was convinced, and it seemed so were the others, for they were both nodding, Ron for once not rolling his eyes at Hermione's cleverness but instead looking rather impressed. But then -

"Now that you've got that sorted out, would you mind telling me what on earth a Horcrux is?" Ginny's eyebrows were raised.

Harry froze. What an idiot he'd been; in his excitement he had forgotten Ginny's presence! His mind whizzed through dozens of ways to cover up his stupidity, but before he could say anything more, he was saved.

For at that moment a loud pop echoed behind Harry; he jumped to his feet so fast his head spun. Harry whirled around to find himself face to face with what he thought, for a split second, was some kind of hallucination.

Fred and George stood there side by side, beaming at him, hair as offensively red as ever. They were decked in their old favourite dragon-hide jackets, but this time with boots to match, and clashing floppy wizards' hats of a garish orange. Their clothes almost seemed to shimmer and change colour as Harry gazed at them, stunned, and as he looked closer he realised the dragon-hide was now charmed so it seemed as though they were covered in swarms of multicoloured bees. They made his head swim to look at them, and so he blinked, still feeling dazed.

"Um," he said, finding his voice. Harry lowered his wand, which he found he had been holding raised in front of him. "Business going well then?" he said, raising his eyebrows and nodding towards the jackets. The twin's grins grew even wider.

"You bet," said George, fingering the leather lovingly.

"Never better," said Fred. "Anyway, how are you doing, old bean?"

"Not defeated You-Know-Who yet?" added George. Harry, startled, opened his mouth to speak, though without any idea of what he was going to say. How did the twins know he had to kill Voldemort? It made him uneasy. More and more people seemed to have learnt the truth, when Dumbledore had specifically told him to kept it as quiet as possible.

"I'm surprised at you," said Fred, shaking his head at him sagely. "We reckoned you'd have done it by now.

"How - what - what do you mean?" said Harry quickly, "Why d'you think -"

But Fred interrupted him. "Come off it, Harry, we all know what you're going to have to do eventually. The Chosen One and all that."

Harry felt his face going slightly red. "That's just the Daily Prophet," he said hastily, glancing at Ron, who raised an eyebrow at him.

"Nah, it's not," said George. "You can trust us, you know, Harry. Besides, we have information from another source other than the Prophet."

Harry's stomach lurched. Who else knew about the prophecy?

"Yeah, you don't think we'd just trust that old rag, do you, mate?" said Fred, snorting. "Nope, our informant is none other than -"

" - our dear younger brother," finished George. Harry's mouth fell open, and he turned to stare at Ron reproachfully.

"W-What?" stammered Ron, his ears turning red. "I never said anything! You know I wouldn't!"

But the twin's faces just split into wide grins.

"Not knowingly, you wouldn't," said George, kindly.

"But you talk in your sleep," Fred informed him.

Ron's face fell, the red now creeping up his neck. "What else did I say?" he whispered, horrified.

"Not much," George said, sighing in disappointment. "But enough," he added, suddenly serious. "So, you're not going back to Hogwarts then, you three? Are you sure that's wise?"

"You can't say anything, you left early, too!" said Ginny hotly. Fred and George gave her identical, searching glances, then turned to look at Harry, eyes wide.

"You aren't taking her with you?" they said simultaneously, looking appalled.

"We figured Ron could look after himself, but -" Fred never finished what he was saying. Ginny pushed herself off the bed so violently that Hermione was pitched sideways into the hollow in the bedsprings. She stood there, hair swishing over her shoulders and her brown eyes flashing with anger. Harry was reminded uncannily of Mrs Weasley. It seemed so were Fred and George, for they exchanged uneasy glances and tried to speak. But Ginny beat them to it.

"SO YOU THINK I CAN'T LOOK AFTER MYSELF?" she cried, fury ringing through every syllable. "AFTER ALL THAT I'VE DONE?"

"Ginny -" Fred began, in a pacifying voice, but she rode on, building into a passion.


"No," said George, quickly. "But - "

"You haven't done half the stuff that I've done! I'm coming with Harry and that's final. He's agreed, and I'm coming even if he changes his mind, and nothing you two say is going to stop me!" She finished in a quieter tone, but her cheeks still blazed dangerously and her hair seemed more fiery red than ever.

"Whoa," said Fred, hands raised. But before he could say anything more, a horrible sound ripped through the house from the hall - an all-too-familiar screeching.

"Filthy blood-traitors, despoiling the house of my fathers...

"Oh, dammit," said George, wincing. "Ginny, you woke her up."

Ginny shrugged, unrepentant. "You made me."

"Whatever," Fred said, striding to the door. "We'd better go down and shut her up - you know, Mum only told us to come up here to tell you that lunch is ready; she didn't want to shout up the stairs because of that old hag."

"Get out, begone, all you filth, you Mudbloods and foul half-breeds, desecrating the noble house of Black..."

They hurried downstairs, hands over their ears, reaching the screaming portrait of Sirius' mother just as Mrs Weasley came bursting out of the kitchen looking harried, wisps of hairs straggling all over her forehead.

"Fred! George!" she said, exasperated. "I told you to be quiet!" On the last syllable she gave the left-hand curtain a huge tug and with a joint effort they managed to yank the dusty hangings back over the struggling, howling old woman, whose screams became muffled and slowly ceased altogether. Mrs Weasley wiped her forehead with the back of her hand.

"What on earth were you screaming about, Ginny? Well, never mind that now," she added, looking all of a sudden very wary, her eyes flicking between Harry and her daughter. "The meal's ready. Be on your best behaviour, you lot, we have guests for dinner. And no tricks," she finished, with a sharp glance at the Fred and George, who looked at her, identical angelic expressions on their faces.

"I mean it," Mrs Weasley said in a stern voice, though seemingly only half-heartedly. Glancing again at Ginny, she turned and led the way back into the kitchen. Harry and Ginny looked at each other. He could see the unease he felt reflected in her eyes. It almost seemed as though Mrs Weasley knew about Ginny's decision to leave Hogwarts.

He had no time to worry about this however, for then they walked through the doorway into the cavernous kitchen, grey and cold still but now awash with light from the now-sparkling windows. All grime and cobwebs had been scrubbed away, and the once grim stone walls covered with cheerful red hangings. It almost reminded Harry of the Gryffindor Common Room; he stopped and paused for a moment, feeling a twinge of regret for the cosy tower-room and the bunch of Gryffindors he had almost come to regard as family. Not to mention the rest of the wonderful old castle, his dormitory, the suits of armour, the Ghosts ... at that moment he would have even liked to see Peeves, the annoying Hogwarts poltergeist, once more.

But Harry knew he could not let himself dwell on what had been. That part of his life was over, and he had to accept it. And so Harry sat down at the long wooden table, which was groaning with food, trying to push all thoughts of Hogwarts out of his mind, when he glanced up only to find himself looking directly at Professor McGonagall.