~Chapter III ~
Statement of the Case
“Voldemort should have died.” Harry Potter explained. “He murdered my mum and dad, and then tried to kill me. But my mother’s last enchantment protected me, and his curse rebounded and hit him instead. It should have killed him, but it didn’t. He disappeared for thirteen years, and a little over three years ago he regenerated.”
“What do you mean he ‘regenerated’? Don’t you just mean he returned?” asked Sherlock.
“No. He … regenerated. I was there. I saw it.” Marks of old horrors were written on the boy’s face as he said this, and with a sickened feeling, I wondered what place a boy of fourteen could have had there.
“What were you doing there?” asked Sherlock, and I knew from his tone that he was not insensible to this either.
It was Miss Granger who answered.
“He was captured.” she said. “Because of his failure to kill Harry, Harry became a symbol of resistance and Voldemort meant to begin his second bid for power with killing him in front of his followers. … But he was overconfident. Harry fought him and got away.”
“Ah.” said Sherlock. “That is why you expected to be targeted tonight.”
“He’s been hunting Harry for years.” said Hermione. “Our friend who escaped the ministry tonight sent us warning that they were coming.”
“I see. Please continue.”
“Wait.” I said. “So he, Voldemort, has sort of a – fake body?”
The three children looked as though they weren’t sure how to answer that question. It was Sherlock who answered me.
“Oh, it’s real.” he said. “Flesh and blood … DNA … But if it is unnaturally created, like cells designed and grown in labs, that would help to explain … a great deal.” He flashed his gaze back to Harry. “You are certain of this?”
“Completely.” said Harry.
“What state was he in before he made this artificially regenerated form?”
The answer that Harry gave consisted of anecdotes which did not seem to me to work out into a conclusive or even consistent explanation. Ghost or goblin, or ruined man – or all of them together? I couldn’t believe that Sherlock seemed to be swallowing it. But perhaps, I thought, he’s humouring Harry, or maybe he sees what’s really going on through Harry’s explanation, or he’s understanding what Harry is saying better than I and it matches so well with information he already knows that he’s willing to take it as a working – if improbable – hypothesis until he can find a better. I, in any case, was utterly confounded.
“So, it was these safeguards which enabled him to regenerate?” said Sherlock finally, apparently deciding that that was the really important point – the how of the matter was academic.
“Yes.” Harry replied definitively.
“Then if his exact location was known at this moment, and an aerial missile strike was called down which incinerated the entire vicinity … that would not get rid of him?”
“The equivalent of that’s already happened to him once.” said Harry. (Harry has never seen a missile strike, I thought.) “If it was so simple as that, we wouldn’t be having this war now. The horcruxes must be destroyed first.”
“I see.” said Sherlock. “Well, I’d prefer not to rule out the missile strike anyway, just yet. But – your objective is to hunt down and destroy all of these objects, so that when the legitimate wizarding forces confront Riddle, he is not invulnerable?”
“Exactly.” Harry nodded.
Sherlock nodded. “Very well. What do we know about these ‘horcruxes’? How many? What do they look like? What kind of places are they likely to be found in? Please be as specific as possible.”
“Dumbledore – Albus Dumbledore was the headmaster of Hogwarts, the Wizarding school – found out Voldemort was going for a seven part soul; six horcruxes, plus himself. We’ve already destroyed two.”
“Excellent. How and when?”
“I destroyed the first five years ago, when Lucius Malfoy – a Death Eater, one of Voldemort’s closest followers – used it to release Slytherin’s monster.”
“It was Tom Riddle’s diary.”
“Riddle’s father Thomas, or Riddle himself?”
“Riddle’s … a book, nothing written in it, but if you wrote in it, it wrote back to you. It, or the bit of Voldemort in it, possessed Ron’s little sister Ginny, and used her to open the chamber of secrets beneath Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in order to release the basilisk.”
“Basilisk? Isn’t that a kind of mythical snake?” I asked. “Killed with its glance?”
“Well this one was real.” said Harry. “Dumbledore’s phoenix helped me to kill it.”
“A phoenix helped you to kill a basilisk? … All right. Okay.”
“So the horcrux released the basilisk on your school?” asked Sherlock in clarification.
“That’s what Voldemort designed it to do.” Harry said.
“You destroyed it. How?”
“The basilisk left a poisoned fang in my arm – I stabbed the horcrux with it.”
“Basilisk venom destroys horcruxes?”
“Basilisk venom is one of the few things that actually does. Merely breaking the object doesn’t actually destroy the horcrux.”
“If the venom is so potent, then why didn’t it destroy you?”
“Fawkes.” said Harry. “The phoenix. His tears healed me.”
“How does that work?” asked Sherlock.
“Well,” I interjected, “as long as we’re talking about myths – Rapunzel’s tears could completely regrow whole eyes. … Uh, Harry, are you being quite serious?”
“Harry’s telling the truth.” declared Miss Granger. “He went down into the chamber of secrets, slew the basilisk with the sword of Gryffindor, destroyed the horcrux, and rescued Ron’s sister.” Harry had spoken with what almost seemed embarrassment. But Miss Granger’s voice had taken on a tone of admiring pride, and she held her head higher as she spoke. She then seemed to notice that Ron was giving her puppy-eyes, and added: “Ron was there too – it wasn’t his fault the roof caved in and Harry had to go on alone.”
“So.” said Sherlock. “The first was a diary. It was left with Riddle’s henchman Lucius Malfoy. It actively did pre-programmed things. And it was destroyed by basilisk venom?”
“What happened to the basilisk?”
“Uh … it’s still down there, I guess … or its skeleton is.”
“Dumbledore destroyed the second. It was the ring of the house of Gaunt.”
“That would be his mother’s family, correct?”
“Yes, the Gaunts were descended from Salazar Slytherin … a famous wizard and one of the four founders of Hogwarts School. Dumbledore found it in the ruins of the Gaunts’ cottage.”
“Ah.” said Sherlock. “How did he destroy this one?”
“I don’t know. … I should have asked him, but, I didn’t think of it until … ” Harry trailed off.
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Well, that was thoughtless of him.”
A momentary flash of indignation crossed Harry’s face, as if he took this criticism of his late teacher ill. But he made no retort.
“So,” said Sherlock, “we have a diary, left with a follower, and a ring, hidden in his Wizarding family’s house?”
“Yes.” said Harry.
“Do we know anything about the rest?”
“Dumbledore thought he knew what three of the remaining were – he spent years trying to put together a picture – to trace Voldemort’s footsteps over the years – and he had a guess at the fourth. Riddle has a thing for important Wizarding artefacts, especially belonging to the four founders of Hogwarts. That’s Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. So, Dumbledore said he thought the remaining horcruxes are the locket of Salazar Slytherin, the cup of Helga Hufflepuff, Voldemort’s snake Nagini, and something else probably belonging to Gryffindor or Ravenclaw.”
“His python is a horcux?”
“You know about Nagini?”
“I could hardly miss it, though I didn’t know its name until now. So the kind of objects which can be made into horcuxes is very broad? Both animate and inanimate – just about any type of substance? We have here paper, metal, and living flesh.”
“Well, snakes are easy enough to kill. And it’s always going about with him, so finding that one shouldn’t be much too of a problem, we’ll have to find Riddle anyway. Any ideas on the other three?”
“Dumbledore actually found where Voldemort originally hid the locket.”
“It had been moved?”
“Yes. … Someone had been there before us.”
“Riddle shifting it? Or someone else trying to destroy it?”
“He left a note, for … Riddle, saying he planned on destroying it.”
“Perhaps he did, then.”
“Yes, we thought of that, but we’ll have to find it to be sure.”
“Do you happen to have that note?”
“Yes, I have.” said Harry. He pulled from his robes a small brown pouch which had been hanging around his neck and drew out a large golden locket.
Sherlock took it and turned it over and over in his hands; looking at the gold, the smooth unmarked surface, the finely worked chain. Finally he opened it – examining the hinge as he did so, took out the little square of paper within, and carefully unfolded it.
“Exceedingly high quality parchment.” he commented. “Either the thief was well-to-do to have this on hand or he chose expensive paper particularly for the purpose. Most likely the former, since it is not generally poor men who use golden lockets to send notes in. Obviously written during Riddle’s previous attempt to seize power.”
I got up and walked behind Sherlock’s chair to look over his shoulder. On thick, yellowed paper, written in small but bold printing, I read the following message:
“To the Dark Lord,
I know I will be dead long before you read this
but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.
I have stolen the real horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,
you will be mortal once more.
“He expected to die?” I said. “Was he planning on committing suicide?”
“Perhaps, but he was clearly committing treason against a very hard master. He may have expected to be killed before Riddle checked his hiding place. … ‘I face death’, that doesn’t sound like he’s going to take his own life … but it also makes it sound more inevitable and immediate a threat than being eventually hunted down for treachery. But then there is the intending to destroy it ‘as soon as I can’ which sounds as though he’s going to be living for a while. … There are clearly a number of other factors here.”
“You say he was Riddle’s servant?” I said.
“Obviously. Follower anyway, ex-follower. The writing suggests a familiarity between them, and he clearly expects Riddle to recognize his initials as a matter of course. Can’t be a family member. Riddle didn’t have any near family left alive after the age of sixteen, besides perhaps an uncle – but local sources say he disappeared from muggle view at least at about the same time that the Riddles died. And his initials were M.G. Also the greeting. “The Dark Lord” That’s very formal, as if he is used to speaking up to him, like a henchman. I doubt that ordinary wizards are in the habit of referring to him by any such preposterous title as ‘the Dark Lord’.”
“No they’re not.” supplied Harry.
Sherlock nodded. “So this note was written by one of his followers, who turned against him and tried to help bring him down, apparently at the expense of his own life.”
“His?” said Miss Granger.
“This is a man’s writing, a young man’s, of a decisive and probably arrogant personality. Principled to some extent – he had the moral courage to change his allegiance when it was not clearly personally advantageous to him. Proud, since he wanted it known. But unwise, since it took actually working under Riddle to show him what bad news he was. Riddle is a charismatic person, is he not?”
“Yes, he is … very. It’s part of what makes him so dangerous.” said Harry.
“Well, this R.A.B.” I said. “You don’t know who he is?
“No.” said Harry.
“I’ve looked up all the well known witches and wizards with those initials.” Miss Granger said. “And I couldn’t find anything to connect them to Voldemort.”
“Well, he mightn’t be all that well known.” I suggested. “Shouldn’t we go through all the well-to-do B families in your society that we can find information on and see if any men in that age category had names beginning in R?”
“Yes.” said Sherlock. “It should have been the first step taken. And since we’re sitting in the Blacks’ parlour we can start with the Blacks. Your said your godfather’s name began with an S, so …”
“And Sirius was never a Death Eater!” said Harry, suddenly fierce.
“Were any of his family?” asked Sherlock, totally unphased. “Death Eater connections or the possibility of such connections, name beginning with R, would have been a young man about twenty years ago…”
Harry’s face fell.
“What is it?!” cried Ron and Miss Granger together.
“Regulus.” said Harry. “Sirius’ younger brother … Sirius told me he joined the Death Eaters when he was really young, got cold feet, and disappeared not long before Voldemort’s first downfall!”
“R.A.B!” screamed Miss Granger. “Regulus Black! What was his middle name, Harry?”
“I don’t know. But it fits!”
Sherlock was not impressed – they’d had that locket and note since June. But the three children were far too excited to bother about his pointed comments. They scurried about, checking out Regulus’s bedroom (where we learned his middle name was Arcturus) and other hiding places around the house. Sherlock and I helped in the search, but found nothing, or at least no lockets. Half an hour passed before Miss Granger had an epiphany and remembered a large golden locket engraved with an S which they had thrown out two years ago while trying to clean the place up a bit. The three were appalled by this news, but Sherlock didn’t seem to think that it was so very dreadful. He was making inquiries of them about Wizarding methods of garbage disposal when Harry had another thought.
I would have expected that upon discovering a non-human creature who possessed humanoid form and the power of speech, one’s first response would naturally be curious scepticism, and then, if sufficient evidence was presented to overcome this, delighted fascination. But the arrival of the creature which Harry called into the kitchen left little room for for either sensation.
It came quickly, I didn’t see from where; Harry called ‘Creature!’, there was a sharp crack, and when I turned around to see what had fallen, a strange creature was standing there. My instant response of mingled revulsion and pity at the sight of this hideous little mockery of the human form quickly increased to something very like horror. The contempt and hatred of Harry it expressed, even as it addressed him as ‘Master’ surprised and disturbed me. Harry had impressed me as being a quite decent young fellow; hardly likely to inspire such hatred in a subordinate. But then, he was not the sole object of its hatred. Room was left for Ron and Hermione Granger in its extreme displeasure; the titles of address it gave to them were the peculiar epithets ‘blood traitor’ and ‘mudblood’ – which I recognized as favourite catchwords of the screaming painting in the hall. It muttered them bitterly under its breath with vicious inflection and angry glares. Then it noticed Sherlock and I.
The paroxysm of fury and horror at the presence of ‘filthy muggles!’ in his ‘mistress’ house’ into which it erupted was of so violent a nature that Sherlock and I thought it politic to excuse ourselves from the room. This was to the evident relief of Harry, who was frantically trying to make him stop and apologize to us at the same time. Miss Granger, who looked at it with sadly sympathetic eyes, came with us, out into the hall on the other side of the kitchen door.
The gentle girl, to whose kind, upright nature the situation was utterly abhorrent, related to us that this creature (it appears it had no other name) had long been bound to the service of the house of Black, in a position which she considered no better than slavery. There was a firmness about her lip and an indignant flaring in her nostrils as she said this which were the first signs I had seen from her that she might be a very formidable person if prompted. When Sirius died the legal ownership of the house had passed to Harry, and so had ‘Creature’. Harry had not wanted him. He did not desire a servant, and to make matters worse, Creature had conspired with a Death Eater cousin in the affair which cost Sirius his life. But Dumbledore had bade Harry keep him, legally bound to obey his commands, for the time being at least; for Creature knew too many secrets. If he were permitted to go where he wanted and do as he wished, he would undoubtedly go at once to that cousin, one Bellatrix Lestrange, one of Riddle’s foremost lieutenants and Sirius’ killer, a full-blown psychopath whose brutal deeds were infamous in the Wizarding world, and offer her his service and his knowledge. For she was the nearest in the Blacks’ line. I saw now that it was not only dislike of the horrible house which made Harry hate his inheritance – he might well consider it a curse.
Once the ‘muggles’ and the ‘mudblood’ were out of his immediate presence (‘mudblood’, we learned, was a racist slur for a wizard whose parents were muggles) Creature was able to calm down enough to answer Harry’s questions about the locket.
I need not here go deeply into the sad story that the creature told. Sherlock, Miss Granger, and I heard almost all of it from just beyond the door. Before Creature was half finished, tears were streaming down Miss Granger’s face. Even Sherlock’s countenance had assumed a grimmer aspect. In that moment I conceived a loathing of Tom Riddle which knowledge of his merely expedient political violence had not produced, and which time has not effaced.
But I see no reason to take up space and darken my tale by repeating the poor little person’s story in full. Therefore, passing over some hideous anecdotes of wanton cruelty not strictly relevant to the investigation, let it suffice to say that many years ago Creature had gone with his beloved, long-dead Master Regulus as guide to the cave where the horcrux had been hidden. Regulus Arcturus Black had never come out again. He had succumbed to the horcrux’s defences, and died a terrible death before his servant’s eyes. But he managed to send Creature back home again, with the horcrux, and orders to destroy it. Creature had tried, tried and tried. But he been unable to do so. His master’s, his very dear master’s, last behest was unfulfilled. The locket had sat in the house for years. Creature had carefully guarded it. He had stolen it out of the trash when it was thrown away. He had kept it hidden in his own little cubbyhole until Sirius died. Then an associate of theirs, one Mundungus Fletcher, burgled the house. Among the plate-ware and trinkets he took was Regulus’ locket.
Creature finished and sat sobbing on the floor, sobbing as if his heart would break; hatred forgotten in grief. Miss Granger had broken down and rushed back into the kitchen. She would have embraced the wretched creature, but it rebuffed her, crying ‘what would his mistress say?’. Ron stood by, looking distinctly disturbed. Harry was kneeling on the floor beside Creature, his vivid green eyes wide. It was clear that the teens had never seen this side of their unpleasant acquaintance before. Harry’s question had broken into a locked up corner of his heart, and the nasty little bundle of spite had broken down into a weeping, grieving, almost childlike creature. Harry tried to ask of him how, after what Riddle had done to him and what Regulus had done to bring Riddle down, he could then connive with Riddle’s henchmen. I don’t know if Creature even registered or understood the question. It was, as Miss Granger pointed out, not of sides or wars that he thought, but of people. He had loved Regulus and Mistress Black with single-minded blindness, what should he do but accept their prideful world-view in its wretched entirety? Why should he not do as their cousin ‘Bella’ asked of him?
It was in a changed tone that Harry again addressed Creature, when the poor fellow had recovered himself sufficiently to hear anything. He asked him in a distinctly gentle voice if he could find Fletcher. ‘We’ said Harry ‘we need to finish Regulus’ mission’. Creature agreed without dispute and prepared to leave. But, apparently moved by some sudden impulse, Harry took out the golden locket which had held Regulus’ note and told Creature he thought Regulus would want him to have it.
Well, the calming down had to be done all over again. It was difficult to tell at first if this gift made Creature very happy or very sad, just that it made him very hysterical. But the care and almost reverence with which he stowed the little treasure away made me think it must have been at least partly positive emotion. A change had come over his attitude as well. It seemed that Harry had transformed himself in Creature’s eyes from being a base nobody – a ‘half-blood’ whom Mistress Black would despise – into an ally of Master Regulus. And it was astonishing how his viciousness had disappeared. He was downright respectful to both boys. He was tersely polite to Miss Granger. And he even consented to courteously ignore the existence of Sherlock and I. And, promising to bring back the thief, he left.
The affair left a nasty impression on my mind. It was not that I judged that the three children had done ill – I was not sure what else they could have done. But a terrible situation it was all the same. Miss Granger was right. However much he had loved some of his masters, Creature was a sentient being held very much in bondage. Sherlock seemed greatly annoyed by the whole affair, and he and Miss Granger spent a great deal of the time in which Creature was recovering off in the corridor, conversing earnestly and indignantly together. I had no doubt about what.
“Right.” said Harry when we finally reassembled in the parlour. “Two are dead. Mundungus Fletcher stole the one. The other is hanging around Voldemort. That leaves just two we don’t know.”
“You said that one was a cup and the other an artefact related to one of two founders of the school.” said Sherlock. “We know something then. Could you recognize this cup if you saw it?”
“Good. And the other. Do you know if any artefact which fits that description is missing?”
“No. There’s only one relic of Gryffindor really. The sword of Gryffindor. And it’s perfectly safe.”
“Well, if it is most probably from either Ravenclaw or Gryffindor and cannot be from Gryffindor, shouldn’t we be looking at Ravenclaw? … What artefacts are there belonging to Ravenclaw?”
“We’re all from the house of Gryffindor.” said Miss Granger. “We wouldn’t know.”
“Would someone from the house of Ravenclaw know better?”
“I suppose so.” said Harry.
“Then we need to talk to someone from Ravenclaw. They don’t need to know why we’re looking for it. But we can’t discover which artefact it could be until we know which ones there are. Who from Ravenclaw would you be least worried about talking to right now?”
“Luna Lovegood.” said Harry instantly.
“Is she a teacher?”
“No, she’s a student. … But she’d know about artefacts, come to think about it. Her father is really into everything weird.”
I wondered what a person weird by Wizarding standards would be like.
“Where is she now?” asked Sherlock.
“At her house, not far from my place, in St. Ottery Catchpole.” said Ron.
“Do you know how to get to her house?”
“I’ve never been there. I just see her at school.”
“I’m sure we could find it though.” said Miss Granger.
“Good.” said Sherlock. “In that case we should call on the Lovegoods tomorrow. But once we know what it is we’ll still need to find out where it is. Now since we know where he left four out of the six, we should be able to make reasonable estimate of where the last two are. One with a trusted lieutenant. One in the ruins of the Gaunt family home. One he keeps with him. One in a cave … was there anything special about this cave that you know, Harry? Why might he have chosen it?”
“There is a story about how he once, back when he lived in an orphanage – his mother died when he was born, you know, and his father had left when she was pregnant – he went on a holiday with the other orphans and took a bunch of younger kids off alone. Did something to them. No one knows what exactly happened, but they weren’t right afterwards. … Dumbledore thought that this was that cave.”
“I see.” said Sherlock. “One in a place important for its ancestral roots. One in a place where he hurt someone.”
“One that related to his lineage. One that related to his abilities. Both pointing to his status as a formidable wizard.”
Sherlock jumped up and began swiftly pacing the room.
“What other places might he consider important to his Wizarding status? How about the Wizarding school? Might he have considered that important?”
“Well, the school was where he went when he first learned that he was a wizard. Dumbledore thinks it meant more to him than any person ever has.”
“Hogwarts school then. Put that down as a highly probable place. It would relate both to his lineage and his ability, making it doubly important.”
“How could he hide it at Hogwarts?” said Miss Granger.
“Yeah, he’d have to get in for starters.” said Ron. “And he hasn’t been there since … when was You-know-who at Hogwarts last, Harry?”
“When he tried to get Dumbledore to hire him as the defence against the dark arts professor.”
“When was that?” asked Sherlock.
“Ah … before he openly started trying to take over – he wasn’t actually considered a criminal at that point, but after he’d started the Death Eaters.”
“He sought a teaching position?” said Sherlock. “On the eve of trying to take over the country?”
“Dumbledore doesn’t think he really wanted the job. He thinks that he just wanted to get in the school.”
Sherlock swung both fists in the air in a gesture of delight.
“Just wanted to get in! He hid a horcrux there that night, it’s almost a certainty!”
“Well … Dumbledore thought he was looking for something to turn into a horcrux.”
“Maybe he was. Could have done both. … Did he ever commit a serious crime in Hogwarts?”
“Yes, he murdered a muggle-born student, he set the basilisk on her in the girl’s bathroom. I think that was probably the murder he used to turn the diary into a horcrux.”
“Wait,” I said, “what do you mean?”
“Well … a horcux is a broken off piece of somebody’s soul, right?” said Harry uncomfortably.
“ … Okay?”
“In order to ruin your soul like that you’ve got do do really terrible things … like murdering people.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I said nothing.
“Was it his first murder?” asked Sherlock matter-of-factly.
Harry looked thoughtful.
“I don’t know. I think he murdered both her and his father and grandparents in his sixth year… but you won’t know about that …”
“Yes I do. … Impossible murder. The squire, his wife, and their grown son all dead. Found in their dinner clothes the next morning; not a mark on them. No cause of death ever determined. No one ever found guilty in their deaths. A small place like Little Hangleton doesn’t wear out stories like that in a mere fifty years. Especially with the house still standing empty …”
“He killed his father and grandparents?” I said, appalled by the total lack of filial respect, and the utter bloodthirstiness of such a massacre.
“Yes.” my friend replied. “At the tender age of sixteen.”
“Revenge for his abandonment?” I asked.
“Possibly in his father’s case. But the wanton slaying of his grandparents, who, judging by local reports, never even knew they had a grandchild, suggests that not only revenge, but racism was at work. Hatred of his own race. You will recall that the Wizarding connection was on his mother’s side.”
“Yes.” said Harry. “Dumbledore thinks he killed them to wipe out his muggle ancestry. …”
“Might not that too have been considered a momentous occasion? At least as much as the abuse of a pair of children? … I have already been over the Riddles’ house and its grounds fairly thoroughly, but I wasn’t looking for horcruxes at the time. The cup of Helga Hufflepuff, can you describe it?”
“I saw it in a … recorded memory that Dumbledore showed me. It’s made of gold, it’s got two handles, and there’s a badger engraved on it.”
Sherlock shook his head. “I saw nothing of that description. But that doesn’t rule out either horcrux being hidden there.
“We’ll check the Riddle house then.” said Harry. “After we know what the last one is.”
“The Riddles’ house and the bathroom at Hogwarts …” said Sherlock.
“Actually, I can’t think of any way to hide a horcrux in the bathroom.” said Harry. “I mean – if we manage to get into Hogwarts – we could look, but I doubt …”
“Then where in the school would it be? You must know the place. … He would have known the place too. … If you wanted to hide something in Hogwarts, Harry, where would you put it? Pretend for a moment that you have something to hide and only a few minutes to do it in. You don’t want to put it where anyone, especially a teacher, will stumble across it. You have to be able to get there and back quickly before anyone realizes you haven’t gone straight for the headmaster’s office. Now tell me, where have you put it?”
So quickly that I thought he must be telling us not where he would hide something, but where he had hidden something, Harry quipped out:
“The Room of Requirement. … It’s a shape-shifting room in Hogwarts. It changes shape based on what you need. One of the things it turns into is a great big storage room … A lot of people have hidden things in there over the centuries, it’s filled with all sorts of things. … Like an overstuffed attic.”
“Hide it among the tumbled secrets of school-children…” mused Sherlock. “Yes … a single important artefact in a room like that – isn’t a haystack the best place to hide a needle? … It would have been possible for him to get into that room during that evening?”
“Definitely … if he knew that it existed.”
“We’ll have to check both, of course. With Riddle in power it will require infiltration, but you know the place. And the Riddle house. That one is easy. It’s standing empty. We can just stop by and give it a run over. Any other suggestions? You’ll know his history far better than I do of course. Places where he worked, or lived, or killed somebody important …”
“He worked at Borgin & Burke’s – that’s a Wizarding shop that caters to the dark magic crowd – for a while after he left Hogwarts.” said Harry. “And he’s spent a lot of time in Albania over the course of his life.”
“Albania? Why Albania? And a country is too big to go on, we’d have to narrow that down a bit before we tried to search it.”
“I don’t know where, just Albania.”
“Well, if we run out of places to look in England, we’ll have to try tracing his footsteps in Albania. But let’s try England first. A shop sounds like a bad place to hide a horcrux. Too many people, and a brilliant way to get a trinket like a cup or a locket accidentally sold. But I suppose we can look. And there’s another thing. What about people? You said he left the diary with Lucius Malfoy? Who is Lucius Malfoy? Who else might be an equivalent to him? Who else among Riddle’s people might he be willing to entrust so important a device to?”
Harry sat there for a while without answering, arms crossed, shoulders slumped, staring into the carpet. Pain chased itself across his face as he thought. In asking him to judge among Tom Riddle’s followers, Sherlock was asking him to relive all his most painful memories. I considered all that had been said and implied this evening – both parents murdered, multiple murderous attempts on his own life, his godfather’s death at the hands of that cousin, the recent death of a clearly beloved teacher. … After what seemed a very long time indeed, Harry started listing names; odd names, that fell on my ear with the ring of a strange language. Two of the names stood out to me, not for peculiarity of syllable, but for the anger they roused in the young speaker; Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape. Mrs. Lestrange was the cousin who had killed Sirius; she had struck him down in battle when he had come with ‘the Order’ to save Harry and some friends, who had been trapped by some of Riddle’s forces. The name Severus Snape was familiar, for the fake ghost downstairs had called the name. It was against him that the booby-traps had been intended. Snape had been a professor at Hogwarts. It was at his hands that Headmaster Dumbledore had died, not two months before. He was now openly serving Riddle. That the thought of him raised Harry’s indignation did not surprise me. Harry could not seem to help but stop and briefly lambaste Snape’s villainy and treachery before continuing his list.
Finally, Sherlock asked him if there was any incontrovertible way of telling if something was a horcrux or not. Harry knew of no foolproof test, but was able to say that both horcruxes which had been destroyed so far had put up some kind of a fight. The diary had set the basilisk on him – and seemed to think that it was going to duel him somehow. The ring had withered Dumbledore’s hand.
The night was growing old. Miss Granger was sitting bolt upright in a failing attempt to remain alert. Ron had long since slumped over on the sofa beside her. Even Harry, though still eager, was drooping. It was clear the children at least could do no more that night.
“You might as well get a few hours sleep, John.” Sherlock commented (though he himself showed no signs of weariness). “It’s too late to go home tonight.”
A very short while ago, I would have shrunk from the notion of sleeping in this place, but it seemed that weariness had done away with my fastidiousness, for when Miss Granger offered me one of their blankets I accepted without question, and scarcely noticed the children’s own preparations, or the sort of camp they set up with cushions and sleeping bags in a corner. As I was drifting off, Sherlock appeared at my shoulder and spoke to me in an undertone.
“John, can I have your gun?”
Sleepily handing it to him, I inquired: “Worried they’ll try to obliviate you in the middle of the night, eh?”
Chuckling, he stowed it away in his own coat. “That is the least of my reasons.”
I remember nothing more that night save a brief image of Sherlock Holmes, curled up in an armchair by the empty hearth, his old briar pipe in his hands, and his face illuminated by a flash of fire.