Chapter XIII - The Last Horcrux


But not the sunlight, nor the stars,
Nor any light but theirs alone,
Nor iron masteries of Mars,
Nor Saturn's misconceiving zone,
Nor any planet's may be shown,
Within the circle of the grove,
Where burn the sanctities of love.
So, in the secret of the shrine,
Night keeps them nestled, so the gloom
Laps them in waves as smooth as wine,
As glowing as the fiery womb
Of some young tigress, dark as doom,
And swift as sunrise. Love's content
Builds its own monument,
And carves above its vaulted tomb
The Phoenix on her fiery plume,
To their own souls to testify
Their kisses' immortality.

(Aleister Crowley, The Altar of Artemis)


The next morning, Albus called Severus through the Floo system and asked him to talk to Riddle and schedule a meeting between Albus and Draco as early as possible. Albus's reasoning was that the sooner the better, for Riddle hadn't yet been able to form an organised army.

Severus saw the dark clouds gathering around him again. Trying to be objective and putting his Fate in Albus's hands, he reflected on which would be the best way to approach the subject with his Dark Lord.

The Dark Lord received Severus at his mansion. Severus informed him that Dumbledore was willing to shelter Draco Malfoy, and advised him to schedule the meeting for as soon as possible, to take advantage of the presence of Harry Potter in Grimmauld Place. According to the story carefully made up by Severus, Dumbledore wanted to remove his Golden Boy from Grimmauld Place and was ready to find a new hiding place for him.

The Dark Lord showed enthusiasm at the prospect of catching his two birds (Dumbledore and Harry Potter) with the same stone, and ordered Severus to set the meeting for June 27, one week from now. The Dark Lord himself would inform Draco of the details of his mission.

From the Dark Lord's mansion, Severus Apparated to Spinner's End, and then again to Grimmauld Place. Albus complimented him, looking very happy with the news.

Severus went back to St Mellyan, where his three housemates were waiting for him. Harry understood everything immediately and embraced him. Severus summed up the situation for Remus and Sirius. The three of them seemed concerned about the imminence of a battle and the fact that there was still a Horcrux to be destroyed and none of them had the least idea of what could it be, apart from a vague suspicion about Nagini. Severus just reported Albus's message: "Don't worry. I will make a few contacts and in two or three days I will call you for a meeting."


As soon as Remus entered The Crescent, the pub where he usually met Louis Auger, he noticed Louis wasn't there. He stepped back out into the street and walked about four hundred metres until he reached The Pirate's Den, the pub frequented by the Voldemort's allies among the werewolves. Those allies were mostly the rowdy friends of Fenrir Greyback, the violent werewolf who used to bite children and who had been the one responsible for making Remus a werewolf. The Pirate's Den was usually crowded and noisy, but tonight it was empty and silent. Remus went out and walked back to The Crescent. He entered the quiet room, sat at his favourite table, and ordered a Butterbeer.

An hour later, Remus had given up hope that Louis would appear, and was about to leave when a Chinese man came up to his table, selling mooncakes. Remus said he wasn't interested, but the man insisted and ended up giving him a mooncake. Remus found the seller's behaviour strange, and decided to take the mooncake home to investigate it. He left the pub and searched for a dark corner to Apparate to St Mellyan.


Because Remus arrived relatively early, he found Sirius, Harry and Severus still awake, reading in the sitting room. Remus told them about his weird experience, and soon the four of them were gathered around the table with the mooncake in its centre.

Remus took out his wand and did a few tests to check whether the mooncake had been cursed. Severus did some other tests to check whether it had been poisoned, and then repeated the tests Remus had done, to Sirius's evident annoyance and Remus's amusement.

Unable to contain himself longer, Sirius fetched a knife and started to slice the mooncake in half, under Severus's stern look.

The knife stopped in the middle of the mooncake, and Sirius tore into it with his hand, taking out a folded paper, in the style of a Chinese fortune cookie.

Sirius opened the paper on the table and read it aloud: "Bad things will happen soon. Unlucky number: 27."

"Er," said Harry. "Is this a fortune cookie or..."

"... a message from an allied spy infiltrated into the pro-Dark Lord werewolves?" completed Severus.

"That's exactly what I would like to know. Because Voldemort's attack is to happen on June 27, as you already know. If it was Louis who sent me this message, this means he's willing to be our insider. They probably had a meeting tonight. That's why The Pirate's Den, the pub frequented by the Death Eaters' friends, was empty. Louis was invited too, witnessed it all and managed to send me this info."

"It's completely useless to us, but perhaps it's a good sign," said Severus.

"I don't like the way this is going," said Sirius.

"There's nothing I can do besides going back to The Crescent every night, to wait and see if Louis sends me another message," Remus stated.


The next day, in the afternoon, Dumbledore called Severus through the Floo system and invited Severus and Harry to pay him a visit at 12 Grimmauld Place.

"Why just the pair of you?" Sirius complained. "What's he up to?"

Neither Severus nor Harry knew the answer. They said goodbye to Sirius, who gave a quick hug to Harry and exchanged grimaces with Severus.

Dumbledore served tea with fairy cakes. They sat in comfortable armchairs, tea-trays floating in midair.

Severus had lost his patience a long time ago and Harry was going through the same process when the Headmaster started to speak.

"Severus, Harry, I have something very important to tell you."

What else is new? thought Harry. Or perhaps it had been Severus; Harry couldn't tell. Probably they had thought the same thing at the same time.

As neither of them dared to speak, Dumbledore continued, "When I had evidence of the existence of a magical empathy between the two of you, I was very happy, not only because I thought that would have a positive effect on both of you and would make your magic more powerful, but also because it could be the solution to a grave problem I didn't know how to handle."

Dumbledore paused, perhaps to take a breath.

Severus sighed. "Spit out the bad news, Albus."

"I don't want to frighten you. I believe we have a solution to the problem."

"All right," said Harry. "We're prepared."

"Harry, I admit I feared for your fate. However, in spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart."

Severus stood up, nervously. "What is the problem with Harry?"

"Calm down, Severus," said Dumbledore.

Severus approached Harry from behind and rested a hand on his shoulder. "I am tired of waiting."

Dumbledore sighed. "When Tom Riddle went to Godric's Hollow, fifteen years ago, he intended to make a Horcrux with Harry's death. Harry's mother put herself between Riddle and Harry to prevent her son's death, and thus she created a protection for Harry. When Riddle tried to kill Harry, the Killing curse rebounded and he killed himself, splitting his soul and forcing part of his soul into Harry. Harry is a Horcrux."

The words penetrated slowly into Harry's brain. He was a Horcrux. Suddenly, it was as if all the lights had been turned off. Harry closed his eyes; the darkness was so deep that stung. Voldemort was inside him. The only way to kill Voldemort would be to sacrifice himself.

"It's not possible!" Severus exclaimed. "The Dark Lord wouldn't have tried to kill Harry if Harry were one of his Horcruxes."

"Oh, I believe Riddle wouldn't think twice before killing one of his Horcruxes if he believed this Horcrux was threatening his life. He is confident that he still has the other five Horcruxes."

"What about Nagini? Is Nagini a Horcrux too? But then there would be seven Horcruxes. He would have split his soul into eight pieces."

"No, Severus. I don't believe he would do that. He considers seven to be the perfect number."

"Right. So you were misleading us when you mentioned the possibility of Nagini being a Horcrux."

Dumbledore didn't reply. Harry, who was listening to the discussion between Severus and Dumbledore apathetically, felt Severus's hands squeezing his arms.


Harry noticed Severus was more worried than himself: Severus was in panic. Harry opened his eyes, saw Severus leaning before him and embraced him.

"Let's hear what Albus has to say," Severus whispered. "He said there is a solution."

Dumbledore transfigured Harry's armchair into a settee to allow Severus to sit beside Harry. "I should have known you would feel better if you sat side-by-side," said the Headmaster in a slightly humorous tone.

Harry bit his lip to prevent himself from cursing Dumbledore, perhaps in more than one sense of the word.

"Very well," said Severus. "What shall we do?"

"I am thoroughly convinced the magical empathy will save Harry. Your slow process of bonding to each other was a success, and prevented any major disturbances."

"We had to do it slowly or we would have gone insane!" protested Severus.

"Very true. It was a risk we had to take, and I believed it to be worthwhile, for it was the only way I could see to save Harry."

"But how can we save him?" asked Severus, exasperated.

"We have to extract the Horcrux from Harry. Obviously, if we cast the removal spell on him, this will put his life at risk. We don't know the effect the removal of Riddle's soul piece can have on Harry's soul. However, with the magical empathy, you can bond your souls together, even if for a brief moment. If, in that moment, I cast the removal spell, Harry's soul will be safe."

"His soul will be safe for a moment. What if it's not enough? What if it doesn't work?" asked Severus, his voice faltering.

"Even so, there will still be hope. We know Riddle's soul cannot stand the contact with Harry's for a long time. If everything goes wrong and Riddle's soul piece meets Harry's soul, I believe it won't be able to stand it, and it will leave Harry's body."

"What about Harry's body?"

"If Harry's soul resists, his body won't be affected."

Harry turned to Severus, and they exchanged a long glance. Then Harry turned to Dumbledore. "We'll do what we have to do."

"You are a wise and brave young man," said Dumbledore. "Now, you two should leave and talk. If there is any misunderstanding or disagreement between you two, this is the time to come to an understanding. Your level of mutual trust and commitment must be absolute. When you feel that everything is clear and settled between you, you will be ready. It doesn't matter if it takes a day or two; we can wait one or two days - not more than that. When you are ready, I want you to bring me the Grail."


They had to decide where to go. Curiously the first image that formed in Severus's and Harry's minds was the green lake they had found when looking for Rowena Ravenclaw's esplumeor in the Great Glen, so they decided to go there.

They Apparated to the lake shore, amidst the green pines, birches, hazels and rowans. It was a pleasant summer day. The sun was bright and a few white clouds dotted the blue sky. They sat on the shore, the mild breeze blowing their hair. Severus leaned towards Harry and kissed him gently.

"If I die now..." started Harry.

Severus interrupted him. "You will not die. Don't say that."

"But if it had to happen, this would be a beautiful moment to die."

Severus took Harry's face into his hands, almost violently. "I won't have any of that, do you understand? You will live."


Severus released him immediately. "Did I hurt you?"

"N-no. I mean, you just squeezed my face hard, and you scared me." Harry saw Severus's expression saddening and realised Severus had misunderstood him. "No, you didn't scare me because I thought you'd hurt me. You'd never do that. I'm scared because you're... in pain."

"I can't stand the idea of losing you."

A kingfisher dived into the water, creating waves on the surface of the lake.

"Dumbledore said we should reach an understanding. Do you think this is feasible?" asked Severus.

Harry smiled. "Of course not."

Severus arched an eyebrow. "You are learning to be sarcastic."

"No wonder, having to share a mind with you!"

Severus's lips curled up slightly, and he didn't say anything.

"And you're learning to smile, you know that?" asked Harry.

"Me? Never!"

"Since we'll never reach an understanding, maybe we should just go and fetch the Grail," Harry suggested.

Severus produced from his pocket the strange horn that he always carried with him: the ptyx.

"Er... What's that thing for? I remember you saying something about it being the only object that could contain the Nothing and... I didn't get it at all," Harry grumbled.

"I didn't lie to you: the ptyx is the only object that can contain the Nothing. I always carry it with me because... if I hold it while I say the right spell, my soul will be sucked up by it, and hence... the Dark Lord will not be able to read anything else in my mind."

"But Severus, that'd be like a Dementor's kiss!"

"It's just a last resort to protect the Order. I know a few crucial secrets, and we can't afford the risk of their disclosure. As you can see, I never had to use it. My Occlumency powers have been strong enough to block the Dark Lord thus far."

"Does Dumbledore know you have that ptyx?"

"He was the one who gave it to me."

Harry shook his head, distressed. "Throw it into the lake, please."

"Don't be silly. The ptyx makes me feel more confident and secure. Besides, it's also a Portkey to Albus's office in the castle."

"Ah! That's a clever one. Did you use it to come back from the Death Eaters' meetings straight to Dumbledore's office?"

"Whenever possible. Sometimes I had to Apparate elsewhere first, in order not to raise suspicions."

Harry shuddered just thinking of what Severus had had to endure, and what they still would have to face. "Severus, on second thoughts, I don't think we should go before we sort this out. I mean, I believe we have to come to terms with death, if we want to overcome the last barrier."

Severus gave a sardonic smile. "Eat our own death..."*

Harry shivered. "Now you're confusing me. Do you think the Death Eaters..."

"The Death Eaters are a distortion of the idea of overcoming death. In fact, the Dark Lord fears death above everything, and his minions learn to feed from other people's deaths, but they have never learned to face their own deaths. It's a cowardly attitude."

"So you think you and I will be able to eat our own deaths?"

"The Book of the Law says, a feast for fire and a feast for water; a feast for life and a greater feast for death! The Baphomet blends the lion, or the instinct to live and love life, and the serpent, or the regeneration that conquers death. The Baphomet shows that life and death are just different phases of a single manifestation of energy."

"What else does the Book of the Law say?"

"Love one another with burning hearts."

"Oh, that's an easy one!" They exchanged an intense look. "But you didn't reply to my question. Do you think we can eat our own deaths?"

"I cannot eat your death."

Harry heaved a long, contemplative sigh. "I can't eat your death either. If you died, I wouldn't want to stay. Why don't we make a pact?"

"Gryffindors... Don't you think this is a bit too romantic?"

"And so what? The idea that we will be together can help me to go on. I know that there's life beyond the veil - I heard their voices. I'm not saying you'll have to kill yourself if I die. But we can think that we'll meet again, sooner or later."

"Should we meet again, wherever and whenever it may be, will your heart burn for me?" asked Severus.

"It will."

Harry lifted his eyes to meet Severus's. This time there wasn't anything in Severus's mind besides the pure acceptance of sharing his fate with Harry's, forever.

A glow in the corner of Harry's eyes called his attention and made him turn to the lake. A golden chalice, encrusted with jewels so dazzling brilliant that it was hard to look at them, was hovering on the surface of the lake.

Severus stood up. "The Grail! How is it possible?"

"I don't know, Sev, but I'm glad we won't have to go down to that bloody Chamber again. I bet Moaning Myrtle would show up and harass us, the statue of Slytherin wouldn't let us pass, and so on. We've already gone through all this. The Grail belongs to us."

"I hope it knows that."

"If it didn't know, it wouldn't have appeared to us! Unless this has something to do with that ptyx of yours."

They stepped into the lake, held the chalice and took it to the shore. The big chalice weighed no more than a feather.


They Apparated to Dumbledore's office in 12 Grimmauld Place, the Grail in their hands. Dumbledore greeted them with a twinkling smile and pointed them to a high mahogany table, at the centre of the office, where they placed the Grail.

"I wasn't expecting you so early. Did the Grail appear to you somewhere?"

"Yes," said Harry.

"It is a wonderful sign. It means we are on the right path. The Grail is an inexhaustible source of life, and you are in tune with its energy." Dumbledore looked rejuvenated, radiating enthusiasm. "In the centre of the Grail, the movement of time and the immobility of eternity meet together."

"What shall we do now?" asked Severus.

Dumbledore approached Fawkes' perch and stroked the resplendent red and golden plumage of the phoenix. Then he walked back towards Severus and Harry and wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders - Severus on his left and Harry on his right. "I want you both to touch the Grail at the same time, focusing on your bond. Join your minds and magic. Be as one. And stay calm."

Harry did what Dumbledore asked and joined his mind to Severus's. His heart hammered at the clear message Severus was sending him: Severus loved him, and would never let him down.

I love you too, thought Harry, and then he heard Dumbledore casting the spell.



The entire world became dark around Severus, but he felt Harry's presence.

Stay with me, Harry.

It's dark.

Yes, it is. But what matters is that we are together.

As if in a dream, Severus held Harry's hand in the darkness.

"Lumos!" said Harry, flicking his wand. Severus almost said it wouldn't work, because they were just in a fantasy created by his own mind, but suddenly an intense light dazzled his eyes. They were in front of the Grail. Or rather, Severus was in front of the Grail, and Harry was unconscious beside him, his hands still holding the chalice. Albus and Fawkes were beside him too, with expectant eyes.


I'm here, Sev. It seems I'm out of my body. What if I can never go back? Will I keep haunting your body?

Don't think about that. Take a rest. I will too. When we wake up, everything will be all right.


*"Eat our own death" is a quote from "Crucius", by Dolores Crane, a brilliant story that influenced me a lot. You can find it at the Walking the Plank archive.

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Ptyx, February 2006