DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Harry Potter and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of J.K. Rowling, along with her publishers and Warner Bros., as regards the movie material.
This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.
Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but I trust in the intelligence of my readers (and the availability of the books) to recognise them when they see them.
Chapter 1 - A Black Day
August 23, 1994
The bright purple triple-decker bus would’ve drawn eyes in any neighbourhood it appeared in, even without the shotgun-like blast that heralded its arrival. Nonetheless, no one seemed to notice its existence, nor that of the youth who stepped off of it, and after the bus disappeared, walked around the corner into the shadow of a nearby alley. Even had anyone been inclined to watch him, it would have been a fool’s errand, because after a moment’s action, there was literally nothing to see. Nonetheless, a few sensitive souls might have felt a faint chill wash through them, and those with a knack for observing patterns might have been able to trace the reactions to that chill as passing in a straight line, up and over several blocks, until it subsided near a block of townhouses.
After several moments, after which he was satisfied that he had not been followed, and was not being observed, Galen Salvatore removed the Cloak of True Invisibility, the third of the Deathly Hallows, and tucked it safely into the inner pocket of his dragonhide duster. Then he paused a moment, to consider the place - and the task - before him.
Truth be told, I’d rather keep the Deathcloak on, he thought. But while it might conceal me from the wards, that same concealment would also prevent me from entering, as they wouldn’t know I’m there to grant access to. And I really don’t want to surprise them, either - by suddenly “appearing.” So I’ll have to walk through them as plain as day.
Steeling himself, Galen walked from the sidewalk up to the front door. As soon as he passed the rusted fence, he felt the hum of the myriad layered protections on this place (Every protection known to wizardkind, he reminded himself. Save one, for the moment), though mundane folk would never notice, as the outer layers were specifically designed to prevent it. He had little doubt that more lethal measures would’ve been preferred - but constant deaths would’ve brought too much attention. So, avoidance and concealment, first, and save the lethal stuff for those souls who won past it.
As he stepped up to the worn stone steps to the battered, black door, Galen gazed for a moment at the serpentine door knocker, and said, quite distinctly, “I, Galen Richmond Salvatore, scion of Orion Black, do seek entrance to the home of my forefathers, by the blood of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.”
If Sirius is wrong, and something’s changed, I am about to be killed . . .
A gesture brought his lignum vitae wand to his hand, and he tapped it against the door. To his eternal relief, the serpent did not sink its fangs into his throat, but instead, there was the sound of a great many locks and chains coming undone. The house and wards had acknowledged his blood and password, and thus, his right of entry to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.
And that, he thought as he entered the house, was the easy part.
Shutting the door behind him, Galen drew his wand and whispered, “Lumos.”
The tip of his lignum vitae wand shone with a pale light, like a tiny star. It did little to illuminate his surroundings - but then, there was little to illuminate about them. The house was covered in dust and grime, and he knew that underneath that, dark colours like black and emerald abounded. No, there was little of light in this house, even at its best. A dozen or more years of neglect and rot had simply deepened the gloom. Still, Galen wasn’t planning to move in - yet, at least. He was here for a specific purpose, and standing in the doorway wasn’t going to get it done.
Galen concentrated, frowning. While he was not the master of the house, he was of Black blood, and per Sirius’ plans, his heir-apparent. That meant that he could make at least some of the house’s enchantments respond to him, if he worked at it . . . A faint hissing filled the air, as the gas lamps lit themselves, casting an eerie light and equally unsettling shadows about the house. Something skittered off in the distance that Galen really didn’t want to think about, but as expected, the sudden light also awakened one of the house’s long-term residents.
“Who did that?” came a shrill, horrible cry. “Filth! Scum! Who dares invade the house of my fathers - ?”
“I do,” Galen said calmly. “I am the grandson of Orion Black, and the last descendant to bear the blood of the Noble and Most Ancient House’s main line.”
This was a slight untruth - his mother and sister were still alive, as was Sirius, but with wizarding society being inherently patriarchal, especially among the ancient pure-bloods, he was technically the last generation that counted, given Sirius’ acknowledgement despite his mother’s bastard status. Even without that fact, though, Draco Malfoy, the other male heir, was a generation younger than he was, and his mother’s descent was through Orion’s younger brother, to boot.
“I have come because I require the services of your house-elf, Lady Black,” Galen continued smoothly, bowing in supplication. “Will you release him to me, for an hour’s span?”
“My elf?” said the portrait of Walburga Black blankly, speaking at an oddly normal volume - Galen supposed it was the shock of the request. “Why would you need . . .?”
“I am here on behalf of Regulus Arcturus Black,” Galen said, taking care to enunciate the last three words carefully, and to speak them loudly. “I have come to fulfill the last command your house elf was given by him.”
There was a sudden sound like a thunderclap, and the aged, wrinkled form of Kreacher the house-elf was suddenly crouched before him, trembling and growling as though he would explode into violence, bloodshot eyes maddened. His long, gnarled fingers twitched as though the house-elf would like nothing better than to seize Galen by the throat and splatter his brain matter across the wall.
“It dares to speak Master Regulus’ name!” he snarled. “It speaks as if it was worthy of speaking it!”
Galen did not back down, and his posture was as rigid as stone, a fitting counterpoint to his voice. “It is here to destroy the locket.”
Kreacher sprang back with a cry, and began hugging his knees, rocking back and forth. “It knows! It knows about the hateful locket - hateful thing, terrible thing - and it says it can destroy it! Does Kreacher dare trust it? Kreacher tried to destroy the locket, oh, how Kreacher tried, but Kreacher could not do it - can it succeed where Kreacher failed . . .?”
“It is wizard-wrought, Kreacher,” Galen said quietly, but he sounded no less firm. He couldn’t afford to - Kreacher was trained to respond best to certain behaviours, and his best hope of cooperation was to emulate them. “Its destruction is rooted in its creation - in wizard’s magic. That you failed is not your fault - you did not know what it was.” Galen’s eyes narrowed. “But I do.”
Kreacher stared at him with his overly large eyes, made larger still by his wide-eyed expression.
“. . . Can it really destroy the locket?” Kreacher asked in a feathery, fragile voice - as though he didn’t dare to hope it was true, but desperately wanted to.
“I swear on my honour, and in the name of my uncle, Regulus Arcturus Black, that I will destroy the locket within the hour, or perish in the attempt,” Galen said, in an iron voice.
Kreacher’s eyes, impossibly, seemed to grow wider.
“I’ll need the locket, Kreacher - and a very sturdy room. Terrible violence went into its making, and equally terrible violence must be used in its unmaking.”
Galen felt his eyes empty of all human characteristics, and he could see the acknowledgement of that fact in the house-elf’s face.
“The dungeons, yes,” Kreacher said eagerly. “Very strong, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black made them - very strong. Come, Kreacher will show you.”
The books had never detailed the lower levels of the house, nor implied that anything below the ground floor existed, but common sense indicated that something must have. This was a household of Dark wizards - they must had places to mix dangerous and volatile potions, cast forbidden spells of terrible power. The existence of a dungeon beneath Grimmauld Place wasn’t terribly surprising, in retrospect. And the place to which Kreacher led him was definitely a dungeon - dark stone walls which looked, felt and sounded impressively solid. A low ceiling, but it would have to serve. Manacles and iron doors stood at intervals, but Galen had little interest in them at the moment, he simply measured the length of the corridor they filled.
“This will do,” Galen decided. “Kreacher, place the locket at the other end of the hall, then come back and stand behind me - this will be dangerous, and difficult to control, and I do not wish you harmed.”
The old house-elf started, and Galen looked at him imperiously.
“Kreacher, do you serve the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black?”
“Yes, Kreacher does!” the old house-elf said firmly.
“Then you serve my house, my family - and thus, you are mine. So long as you serve me, you are under my protection. I will allow no one to punish or harm you without my express permission.” He felt his face empty again as he added, “And those that try will regret the deed.” He blinked, and said softly, “Thus, I will protect you from even myself, if I can, and if I must. And in this case, Kreacher, I can and must. This working is dangerous, and controlling it may be beyond my abilities. If I succeed, the locket will be destroyed - but if I fail, you are to flee, do you understand me? If I fall, you are to go to Sirius Black, and tell him what has happened.”
“Blood traitor,” Kreacher muttered. “Broke the mistress’ heart, yes, he did . . .”
“If Sirius Black is a traitor, then so too was Regulus,” Galen said quietly.
“WHAT?” Kreacher roared.
“Sirius fought the Dark Lord, and what he stood for. As did Regulus, at the end. He died to destroy this locket, that the Dark Lord would be mortal again, and vulnerable. The Dark Lord espoused all that the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black believed in, and yet, both the one you call blood traitor and its most loyal son defied him. If one is a traitor, then so is the other. But if Regulus is a loyal son, then so too is Sirius. And if you tell Sirius how his brother died - and why - you will see something in him that I wager you will have never seen before: pride in his brother, and in being a member of this house, for what Regulus did.”
Galen shook himself. “But enough - place the locket and return, Kreacher. Its time is at an end.”
The old elf moved in something like shock, as though stunned by the effort of trying to reconcile what he’d been told. Still, Kreacher was not slow, despite his size, age, and mental condition, and was soon standing beside Galen again. Galen took aim at the locket with his wand, closed his eyes, and chanted, “Incendio malignum!”
Ilyasviel von Einzbern had named the length of lignum vitae in his hand the Wand of Passion, for passion was the key to its power. The stronger the desire, the stronger the spell - but by itself, the wand had no care for the morality of its usage. Certain of his friends might believe the wand a powerful protective, and ultimately benevolent tool, but that would be a criminal mistake. The wand simply wanted, and would serve an evil purpose as easily as a good one. And so, when Galen called forth the Fiendfyre, the wand didn’t hesitate, and his view of the corridor ahead was almost immediately blocked by sulphurous orange flames.
Fire poured from his wand, for fire, especially, it loved - a trait garnered from the Veela hair at its core. And, unfocussed as it was, the rapidly-growing blob of flame sought to devour everything it could reach. Manacles melted to pools of red-hot metal, cell doors twisted and warped, and the stone began to crack - and then the Fiendfyre began spreading back, towards him. Galen concentrated all his willpower, all his focus. Fiendfyre was, as he’d once noted, something of an Anti-Patronus Charm - called and fed by negative emotions rather than positive. That said, unlike the Patronus Charm, it was easy to call forth - its true danger lay in the difficulty of controlling the stuff. It sought to devour everything it could, caster and all, but Galen’s will was not something that surrendered lightly. Gradually, the blazing glob halted, and began to twist and wriggle, moulding itself into a shape . . .
Galen stared into the eyes of the beast, the physical form of his curse. The werewolf glared back, fangs bared. The crackle of its fiery form served well as an animalistic snarl. The two adversaries locked eyes in a battle of wills - even contained as it was, the Fiendfyre refused to surrender easily, but Galen had never surrendered in such a contest, and fought enemies far superior to the magical manifestation of his own emotions. Gradually, the werewolf turned, to face the locket, tensing itself to spring. And the locket, seemingly finally sensing the danger it was in, sprang open.
The distant corner of Galen’s mind that liked to make caustic but usually accurate comments said, Of course it wouldn’t be that easy. The locket’s aware, after all - it would have to try and defend itself, especially if it looks like it’s about to be destroyed! Did you really think it would stay passive?
A howling wind sprang forth from the open locket, as well as a dark and terrible voice. Abruptly, Galen thought to bring his Occlumency barriers up - as he’d had no direct contact with the locket, perhaps it wouldn’t be able to get into his head.
“I can see your heart,” intoned the cold, sibilant voice. “I can see your dreams, Galen Salvatore, and I can see your fears. All you desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible . . .”
If you can’t even see my true name, I doubt it, Galen thought.
“Always accursed and alone,” the locket continued. “Always abandoned and unwanted, even by yourself. Doomed to pain and hopelessness, and eternally powerless to change your fate, or that of those you claim to love . . .”
Spectres materialised, the first of Hermione, nude and slightly fuzzy, tinted an odd mixture of silver and gold and blue, her eyes so dark as to be black.
Cue the Evil Naked Hermione . . . And God, I don’t know which makes her hotter - the naked part, or the evil part.
“Foolish beast,” the Horcrux version of Hermione said icily. “Did you really think I could ever love you? A sad, pathetic excuse for a man who refuses to grow up, or make anything of his life? And that is the best part of you - the other half is a monster!” Horcrux-Hermione shook her head, causing certain parts of her anatomy to jiggle in an enticing manner. “No, no matter what you try, eventually I’ll find my way to my true love, the only one who really deserves me - the man I was meant to be with . . .”
Ronald Weasley materialised beside her, and Galen felt absolutely no desire to glance down and confirm that he was as naked as the image of Hermione, blurred-out gentalia or not. The smug smirk on his face was nauseating enough.
“Come on, mate, you knew it was going to happen,” Horcrux-Ron taunted. “The books, movies, author, and millions of fans all said so! Did you really think what you wanted was going to matter? She’s supposed to be mine, no matter what happens - which means I can do anything I want to her, and she’ll forgive me every time, because everything says that’s the way it is. Isn’t that right, bitch?”
Horcrux-Hermione’s response was to begin a passionate snog, and Galen heard the Fiendfyre werewolf’s snarl increase in volume, as its shape began to deform. He hastily clamped down on it - he would not lose control of it.
“Of course, there’s always me,” said Takara’s voice, as the couple faded out slightly, retreating to a background position in the corner of Galen’s vision - still present, and visible, but no longer the main event. That was reserved for what his inner voice dubbed “Evil Naked Takara,” who was just as hot as Evil Naked Hermione had been.
“Your dream come true,” she taunted. “Exotically pretty, intelligent, caring - and in desperate need of a hero. We both know that if I hadn’t needed you, I’d never have looked at you. Even if you weren’t a gaijin, what could you offer me as a man? Physical competition? Intellectual stimulation? Financial stability? Sexual prowess?” She laughed at the last, a piercing sound. “Hardly. But my honour code says I have to keep hanging around you because I owe you, and you never seem to die long enough for it to stick. You can’t even get that right.”
Horcrux-Takara shook her head. “I wish you’d just hurry up and finish it, but you’ve always been too much of a coward for that, and lazy enough to just loll around, hoping that something else would do the work for you.”
“You really should die, you know,” Horcrux-Ilya advised as she appeared to stand beside the Japanese girl. “You’re a monster after all, and monsters are supposed to die when their usefulness is over. Why do you think I let you go? I got what I needed, so I didn’t need you any longer.”
“He never knows when to take a hint,” Horcrux-Takara complained. “That one friend had to avoid spending any time with him for over a year before he figured out that he wasn’t wanted - and they’d been friends for almost a decade. You have to pound things into his head with a sledgehammer.” The Japanese girl giggled. “Hey, I know - let’s find Shirou! We’re both H-game heroines, after all - maybe if we prove it, he’ll catch on!”
Horcrux-Takara and Horcrux-Ilya withdrew, as the first pair had, and for similar reasons, as they were joined by an indistinct figure of Shirou.
“There you go again,” Horcrux-Luna said sadly. “Corrupting and defiling everything. All those dark desires, pent up for so long, festering inside you - when they come out, it’s like poison to everything around you. Even me, the most innocent person you know - and look at what I look like, because deep down, you really want to see me like this.”
The Evil Naked version of Luna gave him a sad smile that nevertheless held traces of a smirk. “You really are a monster, you know. But you’re more afraid of your fists than you are of your fangs. And that doesn’t even count your wand. All that power, just itching to be used - how long before it is? How long before you lash out, like you did before? How long before one of us is beaten, or strangled, or hexed - or will you use your fangs, after all? Will you wake up one full moon morning, to find us lying beside you?”
Horcrux-Luna’s body suddenly sprouted horrific wounds - gouges and tears that exposed organs and bone. The other figures, minus Weasley, appeared, seeming to have suffered the same treatment - but some had been strangled, others battered - and all of the girls had been visibly, savagely raped.
“You’re a bigger monster than the wolf could ever be,” Horcrux-Luna said sibilantly, almost gently. “It will only kill us, but you . . . You’ll defile us. You’ll ruin everything you love about us. And if you want to stop that from happening, if you care about us at all, you need to die, before it’s too late. Or else you’ll destroy us.”
“I know I will,” Galen whispered sadly. Then, flatly, “Sic ‘em.”
The werewolf sprang forward with a roar of flame, the hatred and rage the locket had unwisely stoked finally given a target on which to let loose - the locket itself. The phantom forms evaporated like so much smoke as the blazing beast surged through them, and with a snarling whoosh, jagged fangs “bit” into the golden trinket, instantly turning it red, then white-hot. With a tortured scream, the soul fragment of Tom Marvolo Riddle expired as its container bubbled into a molten, twisted lump - and the dark curses which had bound it there shattered explosively.
“Protego!” Galen cried, directing his wand in a motion so well-practised it was almost reflexive. The silver light of a Shield Charm sprang into being between himself and the magical backlash - and shattered, hurling those who had sheltered behind it flying towards the dungeon’s back wall. Galen was reminded of Kreacher’s presence when he caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of his eye, and the wizard seized the house-elf in mid-flight and drew him in close, curling protectively over the smaller body before the pair struck the stone wall with a resounding thud, and fell to the floor.
Pain shot through Galen’s legs - the landing had not been easy. Still, the duster had done its job once again, and absorbed the bulk of the impact. If it hadn’t, he’d be nursing a broken spine, now. Exhaling slowly, he uncoiled himself from over the smaller being, and released him.
“Are you all right, Kreacher?” Galen rasped.
“Kreacher is saved,” the elf said wonderingly, eyes wide. “Young master destroys the locket, as he said he would, and protects Kreacher from nasty fall - young master is hurt protecting Kreacher!”
“Mine, Kreacher,” Galen snapped. “My vassal, my responsibility, mine to protect. Besides, the danger was my fault - I underestimated the amount of effort it took to control the Fiendfyre, and couldn’t manage a sufficiently strong Shield Charm because of it. You should not suffer for my failure.”
“No!” Kreacher bellowed. “Young master did not fail! He has done all that he said he would, has done what Kreacher failed to do! Truly, the young master is a mighty wizard, and Kreacher is honoured that the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black has him to call its own, that Kreacher might serve him!” The house-elf fell to his knees in supplication, forehead touching the floor.
Galen was momentarily bewildered - he hadn’t expected a reaction like this! But a moment’s thought made it understandable. The mere promise of destroying the locket had won Kreacher to Harry’s side, and now the elf had witnessed it firsthand. He had seen with his own eyes the last command of his beloved Master Regulus fulfilled - by a wizard who had acted to shield him from harm, as Regulus might have. Perhaps Kreacher’s sudden zealotry was not so difficult to understand.
“Rise, Kreacher,” Galen said. “You needn’t kowtow to me. You are my vassal, not my chattel - my servant, but never my slave. And I will be relying on you greatly, in times to come.”
Kreacher sprang to his feet, almost Dobby-like in his eagerness. “Young master has orders?”
“I do,” Galen said. “Firstly, know that while I am the heir-apparent of this Noble and Most Ancient House, Sirius Black is still its Head - and as such, his orders are that you never discuss or mention anything you see or hear regarding we two, or those with us, with anyone else unless given his permission to do so. A great many lives depend upon secrecy, Kreacher - including our own. Like Regulus, we seek the fall of He Who Must Not Be Named, and those who would serve him - as certain other members of the family would.”
Kreacher paused, before nodding. “Kreacher understands. Mistress Cissy and Mistress Bella are not to be told anything.”
Galen nodded. “Or their husbands, or their children, Kreacher. Black blood they might bear, but they would place themselves in the service of a half-blood who seeks to rule them - and do so willingly.”
The elf trembled with sudden rage. “What? The purest of houses in service to a half-blood? What would my poor mistress say?”
“Nothing good, I’m sure,” Galen said with a grim smirk. “Your second task, Kreacher, is to prepare this house for habitation again - while neither I nor Sirius intend to live here any time soon, it is among the most well-protected places in Britain, and will serve as our refuge of last resort, should it be needed. To that end, it must be well-stocked, sanitary, and as secure as it can possibly be made. Secrecy is paramount - what our enemies do not know about, they cannot find - but should the worst befall, I want this place to be able to withstand a siege not seen since the days of Salazar Slytherin himself.”
Kreacher straightened to a parade-ground posture that any military in the world would have found acceptable. “It will be done, young master. Home and sanctuary this has been to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black for generations - and it will be ready to be so again.”
“Excellent - let me know if you require anything from me to accomplish it.” Galen paused. “Be aware, Kreacher, that some of those I might bring to this place will be half-bloods, halfbreeds, mudbloods, blood traitors, or other things your mistress would deem unsuitable. Whatever their nature, they are my allies, and their allegiance is valuable to me - in some cases, I may even owe them my life. You do not have to approve of them - I will not ask, or order that of you - but do not insult them. If your behaviour costs me their alliance, I will be extremely angry.”
The house-elf’s eyes flicked to the left, where the remains of the locket lay, still glowing faintly red, and he nodded quickly.
Galen nodded back, and pulled out his money pouch. He counted out a stack of ten Galleons.
“Your next task is to buy yourself garments suitable for a vassal of the House of Black,” Galen said firmly. “Your own choice as to what they are, Kreacher - but you represent the House poorly, garbed as you are. What respect should we command, when we appear unable to properly care for our own servants?”
Kreacher’s eyes were wide again, before they narrowed, and something like a smirk crossed his face. “The young master is crafty - Kreacher will have clothes, but the young master did not give them to him, no - Kreacher was given only money, and the clothes came from the money, but it is Kreacher who will present the clothes to the young master. Clever young master . . . Kreacher will enjoy serving you.”
“Serve Sirius as well,” Galen said quietly. “His is the more dangerous part. Where Regulus sought to bring about the Dark Lord’s fall, Sirius seeks to prevent him from rising again. He may need your aid, Kreacher, but approach him in private - the wrong word in the wrong ears could mean his death. And do tell him about his brother - it will do him good, and perhaps yourself as well.”
Kreacher nodded. “Kreacher will.”
Galen sighed, and felt the pain of what was liable to be a lovely set of bruises along his back as he did. Nevertheless, he got up, dusted himself off, and replaced his wand.
“And with that, I believe the hour I asked of your mistress is nearly up,” he said. “I will come to check in on you from time to time, to make sure your needs are being met, Kreacher. And I would ask, when you begin your cleaning, that you start with the library - I suspect the knowledge it contains will be of great help.”
“Yes, young master,” Kreacher said.
Galen nodded, and smiled. “Then until next time, my faithful friend. Good fortune to you.”
Galen bowed in farewell to the portrait of Walburga Black as he left, then walked several blocks away from Grimmauld Place under the Deathcloak before discreetly summoning the Knight Bus again. He paid the fare and gave the driver a new destination, in a certain mundane neighbourhood. Taking a seat, Galen gripped the back of the seat in front of him tightly, and despite the wildness of the ride, fought to stay awake.
The Fiendfyre had been more draining than the Horcrux’s taunts - really, why did everyone and everything he encountered that tried to use his deepest, darkest fears and impulses against him expect him to be shocked and horrified by their existence? He knew who and what he was, he’d spent years coming to terms with it. And knowing that made the loneliness that occasionally came upon him easier to bear - that it was better that he was alone, because he was unworthy of love and romance . . . Galen shook his head. He had more important things to worry about at the moment than that well-worn path.
So far, things were going well for the day - he’d survived Grimmauld Place and destroyed the locket, consigning another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes to oblivion. That made it three down, and left the ring, the cup, and possibly the snake. Just as important, the task his uncle Regulus had died trying to accomplish was now complete, restoring the family honour. And he seemed to have made a willing ally in Kreacher, which he’d hoped for but hadn’t truly expected. No, all was good, for the moment - even if he felt like he wanted a stiff drink and a week’s bed rest after casting those spells.
Still, he reminded himself as the bus came to a halt, the task was far from over yet. The Horcruxes they’d destroyed were the three most easily accessible ones, terrible as their protections were. The other three would be far more difficult and dangerous. The cup was in Bellatrix Lestrange’s Gringotts vault, and guarded by goblin warriors and magic. Nagini the serpent was a massive and deadly creature in her own right, in addition to being in the constant company of Voldemort himself. And the Gaunt family ring, in addition to being warded by Voldemort’s spells, contained the Resurrection Stone, another Deathly Hallow - and who knew what use the soul fragment might be able to make of it? Or, given the cloak’s additional attributes beyond the power to confer mere invisibility, what unknown abilities the Deathstone might hold?
No, the remaining Horcruxes might be even more dangerous than Voldemort. Saying the job was even half-finished was optimistic, at best. Still, they’d accomplished more in three years than Dumbledore had in seven - and with the death of Pettigrew, the desperate need for haste that had characterised the original Horcrux hunt might not be present here - there was a more than likely chance that they’d managed to forestall Voldemort’s resurrection.
This year will be the proof of it, Galen reminded himself. If there are four competitors in the Triwizard Tournament again, then we have more work to do . . . I wonder who it will be? Shirou, as the basilisk slayer and wielder of the brother wand of Voldemort’s? Takara, the youngest Seeker in a century, and “born as the seventh month dies?” Or will the universe pick me, just because I’m making too much progress and it’s getting pissed off? It’s going to pick one of us, that’s for sure - it’s gone to too much trouble marking us as Harry’s replacements not to.
But that, Galen reminded himself, was a problem for another day. And until then, he still had promises to keep - like this one.
The wizard paused in front of the door of the well-maintained home, a stark contrast to Grimmauld Place. His advanced hearing could make out an argument on the other side of the door.
“Mum, I’m ten - and highly mature for my age, you keep saying. I do not need a babysitter!”
“Maybe not, but we’ll feel safer knowing you have one,” her mother said. “Besides, he should be here any minute.”
“He? Terrific - it’s some strange boy that’s liable to treat me like a dumb little kid!”
Galen quietly tilted the mail slot in the door open and grinned as he called through, “Shall I just go home then, Mira?”
There was a moment of silence in which he could imagine Miranda Granger’s face turning a lovely shade of crimson, followed by a quickly hissed “Why didn’t you say it was Galen?” before the door was opened with sudden violence.
Galen had dealt with the Granger girls for a number of years now, and he knew that Miranda idolised and emulated her older sister. Therefore, he was prepared for the sudden impact of the youngest Granger’s enthusiastic embrace.
“Nice to see you too, poppet,” he murmured. “May I come in?”
His only excuse for not witnessing being dragged inside was that he blinked.
“Missus Granger,” Galen greeted. “All set for your awards dinner?”
“Yes, and thanks again for agreeing to this on such short notice - are you sure you won’t accept money?”
“Positive,” Galen said. “Hermione does enough for me over the school year that it’s nice to be able to work off some of the karmic debt.”
The eldest Granger female shook her head. “You may have added to it - Hermione was most put out when she realised you weren’t going to this Quidditch match. I was half-certain she was going to stay home after that, but she decided to go after all. Surprising - she was never much of a sports fan.”
“She still isn’t, as far as I know, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass up,” Galen remarked. “Spending time with everyone outside of school, plus the chance to meet witches and wizards from all around the world? I was half-tempted to go myself, but I had some family matters to take care of.”
For which they will no doubt flay me alive, later.
“Nothing serious, I hope?”
“Nothing serious at all.” More “Regulus,” actually. “And all brought to a satisfying conclusion, so you really do have nothing to worry about. Enjoy your dinner, gloat over your awards - Miranda will be safe and sound, and sleeping, when you come home.”
“Whereas Hermione will be either bone-weary tomorrow, or bouncing off the walls in excitement,” Mr. Granger added as he came down the stairs. “All set, dear?” At his wife’s nod, he said, “Right, then. Off we go. Good night, poppet . . . Galen.”
“Sir,” Galen acknowledged. He closed and locked the door behind the Grangers, and watched them drive off, sparing a moment to think of his friends at the Quidditch World Cup.
It should be OK. Without Lucius Malfoy to spur them, the Death Eaters probably won’t attack - and if they do, I doubt they’ll be as well-organised. It should be relatively easy to evade them - or take them out.
Galen grimaced at a sudden memory of being disarmed by Sirius Black last year. He hadn’t quite been going all-out, wanting the scene to look authentic, but the use of silent spells, however much weaker they were, had proven to be a big advantage in their mock fight. And he knew for a fact that several Death Eaters were capable of them.
Stay safe, guys. I’d have gone with you, but I needed to destroy the locket, as a matter of family honour - and I didn’t want to go through the arguments with you over it. Still, what’s done is done.
With a sigh, Galen turned his attention to Miranda, smiling as he said, “All right, Mira, what would you like first?”
“Would you answer a question for me?” the girl asked.
“If I can, of course.”
She looked at him with the earnest guilelessness that only children can muster, took a deep breath, and said, “Why haven’t you and Hermione kissed yet?”