Harry eyed the stone wall where the room was hidden. "Right, then. Here we go." He paced past it three times, thinking, "We need the place where everything is hidden." After his third walk past, the door appeared.
Inside the room, they looked around. "Blimey," Ron said. "How are we supposed to find it? We don't even know what it looks like."
"Accio horcrux!" Hermione said. When nothing happened, she shrugged. "It was worth a try."
"How was Snape planning on finding it again?" Harry asked.
"He was going to sense the dark magic."
"Do you know how to do that?"
"No," Hermione answered. "I don't know if there's a spell, or if it's just a feeling, or what. You've had the most experience with horcruxes, Harry. Maybe you could, I don't know, walk around and see if anything feels like a horcrux?"
"Hermione Granger, telling someone to just feel?" Ron scoffed. "Now I'm imagining things."
She glared at him. "Well, do you have a better idea?"
He did not have a better idea, so Harry started walking around. Ron and Hermione followed him, sometimes pointing out an object that looked dark. Harry had no idea what he was looking for, and was starting to regret his impulse to sneak into Hogwarts. It was starting to only seem like a waste of time.
After thirty minutes of wandering the aisles, they were in an area that Harry recognized. "Hey, I think this is where I hid the Prince's book!"
"Wasn't that closer to the door?" Hermione asked. "Are we going in circles?" she looked worried.
Harry shrugged. "I have no idea." He prodded the bust of the ugly old warlock experimentally and the tiara fell off.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry, please try not to make a mess."
"I just wanted to know what it was made out of," he mumbled. He bent down to pick the crown up.
"Ow!" He dropped it again. "It bit me!"
"How could a tiara bite you?" Ron asked dubiously.
There was a look of dawning revelation in Hermione's eyes. "It can if it's a horcrux."
They all looked down at the crown. "You know," Hermione began. "Rowena Ravenclaw was rumored to have a diadem. It was supposed to increase the intelligence of the wearer, but it's been lost for centuries."
They all looked at the diadem. "You think that's it?" Harry asked.
"It's the most likely thing we've found," Ron said. "Is there any way to find out for sure?"
"Well," Harry said, "the diary was sentient. And while this may not be quite as alive as the diary was, since the diary'd been feeding off of Ginny for a while, it's probably at least a little bit sentient. So maybe it'll react when we try and destroy it."
Ron grimaced. "You mean it's going to try and defend itself?"
"Oh, wonderful. So how do we kill it?"
They all stared at each other. "We probably should have thought of that before we came here," Harry said weakly.
"I can't believe I didn't think of this!" Hermione said, throwing her hands up in the air in exasperation. "I knew we would need a way to destroy it! I don't know how I managed to forget such a simple thing!"
"Snape used the Sword of Gryffindor," Harry said. "All we need to do is find the sword, and we're set."
"And how do you plan on doing that?" Hermione asked him. "We have no idea where it is, and we can hardly ask Professor Snape."
Harry was lost for an answer. He looked around the room in the hopes of finding an answer, and then remembered where they were.
"We need the sword of Godric Gryffindor," he said loudly.
"I know we do, but how are we going to get it," Hermione said snarkily.
"Hermione, where are we right now?" Harry asked her.
"Hogwarts. In the Room of Requirement- oh. You think the room could give us the sword?"
"It's worth a try." They waited a bit more, thinking about how desperately they needed the sword. Nothing happened.
"Maybe we need to leave so it can reset," Ron suggested. He grabbed an iron fireplace poker that was leaning against a stack of cauldrons and used it to tentatively pick up the diadem. They left the room, and Harry paced in front of it again, thinking about how he needed the sword. The door appeared, and he opened it to a room. It was much smaller than the room they had found the diadem in, about the size of a classroom, with a tall ceiling. There was a window on the wall facing the door, which shouldn't have been possible considering the Room of Requirement was in the middle of the castle. In the center of the room was a round wooden table.
Harry stepped into the room, and Hermione and Ron followed. The table looked ancient. It was covered in runes that Hermione whispered were even older than the ancient runes she had studied. Harry started walking around the table. "Hey, there's something here." He picked up a leather scabbard, decorated with some kind of gemstone.
"Is that Gryffindor's sword?" Hermione asked.
Harry shook his head. "No. It looks older." He carefully pulled the sword a few inches out of the sheath. The blade glistened.
"Hey, Ron," Harry called. "Bring the diadem over here."
"What do you think, mate?" Ron asked. "Would it work, even though it's not Gryffindor's?"
"Well, the Room must have given it to us for a reason. We might as well try."
Ron brought the diadem over, still dangling from the tip of the poker. He placed it on the floor and then stepped back. Harry stood hesitantly over it.
"Should I stab the middle of it, or try and cut it in half…? What do you think?"
"The main goal is to destroy it so much that it can't hold the soul shard anymore. That leads me to think that cutting it in half would be the best way to go about this," Hermione said.
"Right then," Harry said, staring down at the diadem. The jewels glinted at him. He pulled the sword out of the sheath and held it up, ready to let it fall, when the diadem hissed at him. He swallowed, staring at it.
"Harry, what are you waiting for?" Hermione hissed at him. "Destroy it!"
Dark smoke started spewing from the diadem, and Harry remembered what had happened when the piece of soul in the diary came out, and before the smoke could form into anything, he swung the sword down, cutting the diadem cleanly in half. There was a shriek, and the smoke cleared. They all looked down at it.
"Is that it?" Ron asked. Harry prodded the pieces of the diadem with the tip of the sword. "I think so."
"Could I have a bag, please?" Hermione said to the open room. She picked up the small cloth bag that appeared on the ground and carefully levitated the pieces of the diadem into it. "We can always have Professor Snape or Terence confirm it."
Harry winced. "Do we have to?"
"Well, we're going to have to let them know about it sooner rather than later, because Professor Snape was planning on searching the Room of Requirement tomorrow." She glanced down at her watch. "Or rather, today."
Harry frowned, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he sheathed the sword and placed it back on the table where he had found it. "Thank you," he said to the room.
They left the room with the broken horcrux in the bag. "Harry, call Dobby. We should be getting back," Hermione said.
"Too late," someone cackled at the end of the hall. Harry spun around to see the Carrow siblings standing behind him. "Stupify!" he cried out. Ron and Hermione reacted to his cry and also spun around, firing spells at the two death eaters.
The spells bounced off of a powerful shield charm.
"You're going to have to try harder than that, Potter!" Alecto Carrow said. She slid her right hand up her left wrist, her fingers caressing her arm in a way that made Harry feel uncomfortable. When her fingers touched her mark, Harry expected something dramatic to happen, but nothing did. It was very anti-climatic.
"He's coming for you," her brother said. "Better run, Potter."
"Never!" Harry snapped at him. He went on the offensive again, firing spells at them while dodging their responses. He tried to stay close to Hermione and Ron, but eventually, in the flurry of spells flying through the air, the trio were separated. Ron and Hermione faced down Amycus Carrow and Harry battled Alecto Carrow. Alecto kept edging him farther and farther away from his friends until she had maneuvered him around the corner and he could only hear them.
One of Harry's stunners hit her, but as she fell to the ground, Voldemort stepped up to take her place. "Shall we, Harry?"
Harry's eyes narrowed. He didn't know when Voldemort had appeared or how long he had been watching Harry's duel with Carrow, but that hardly mattered now. His only response was to attack. He was tired of Voldemort's tendency to gloat and banter with him. He was in enough trouble as it was.
They battled back and forth until one of Voldemort's spells slipped through his defenses. Harry watched in horror as his wand flew out of his hand and into Voldemort's. Beside her master, Nagini slithered forward to hiss disdainfully at Harry.
He was backed up against the wall. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
"Prepare for pain, Harry Potter," Voldemort hissed.
Harry braced himself for what he knew was coming.
The pain coursed through his body, sending him falling to the ground, writhing in pain. When Voldemort finally lowered the spell, Harry took a deep breath, trying to control his panting.
"Pathetic," Voldemort mocked. "The Great Harry Potter, the Chosen One. If only the wizarding world could see you now."
He raised his wand again, and this time, Harry knew it would be for the last time.
Voldemort began the incantation. "Avad-"
And then an arrow hissed down the hallway, bursting first through Nagini's flesh, and then embedding itself in Voldemort's chest. He looked down in shock at the end of the arrow sticking out of his chest.
He laughed. "You think to kill me? Me, Lord Voldemort?"
"Yes," Terence said from down the hallway. He was standing in the middle of the hallway lowering a bow, looking for all the world like he had never been painted. "And since your horcruxes are all gone, that should do the trick."
Voldemort looked down at the arrow in shock, and for the first time, noticed that the world around him was growing dark.
"You can't kill me. You can't-" and then his body fell to the floor.
Harry stared at in shock. "Is he...dead?"
Terence moved forward, pulling another arrow from his quiver and poking Voldemort with it. "It sure seems that way."
Terence shrugged. "His horcruxes are gone. Nagini was the last one, and I got her right before I shot him."
"No, how are you here? You're not in a painting. You're...actually here. With an actual physical body." Harry reached out as if to poke him, but drew his hand back before he could actually touch him. "Are you a ghost? But you still have a body? But how did you shoot him? What?"
Terence smiled mysteriously. "Magic."
"But you were a painting!"
"It was not a normal painting. Most magical paintings contain memories, traces of their subject. My painting was a stasis spell. I was frozen in a moment of time, so to speak."
"You were frozen?"
"Not literally. I was in a state of suspended animation. Time passed differently for me than it did for the rest of the world. There's not really a good way to explain it, and to be honest, I don't completely understand it myself. I wasn't the one to cast the spell."
Harry stared at him. "So you're still alive?"
"How long were you in that painting? And why?"
Terence shrugged. "I lost track of how long it was. Like I said, time moved differently for me. As to why... well, I was waiting for something."
"And you're not waiting anymore?"
Terence smiled. "I have a feeling that what I've been waiting for has already been set in motion."
"Oh," was all Harry said in response to that. "So what are you going to do now? I bet you would make a great defense teacher. I think there's an opening."
Terence gave a rueful smile. "Unfortunately, I know very little actual magic myself. I doubt I'd be of much use as a magic teacher. But if you don't mind, I think I'd would like to stay at Hogwarts for a while. I am sure that Severus could use some help cleaning up the mess left from Riddle's pet death eaters."
Harry grimaced. "I'd forgotten about Snape again."
Terence chuckled. "I can't imagine he'll be too pleased about your little adventure tonight." Despite his light tone, there was a hint of reproach in his eyes. Harry winced.
"I should go find Ron and Hermione," he said. As Harry turned back to go find his friends, he paused to look back at Terence. "You're from Camelot, aren't you?" he asked.
Terence smiled. "Yes."
"You said you were waiting for something. Is King Arthur coming back?" Even Harry had heard stories of King Arthur and how he was prophesied to return.
Terence smiled the mysterious smile that Harry was beginning to realize was his trademark. "Sorry, Harry, you're just going to have to wait and see. But I can promise you that the next couple decades definitely won't be boring."
From a painting on the wall, Luneta snorted. "That's an understatement."
Well, it's taken me a couple years, but I've finally finished it. Thanks for reading!