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Chapter Seventy-Eight—Another Name Than Romance
Harry blinked for a second as he watched Hermione slam her books down on the library table in front of him. For a moment, endless memories swam through his mind, all the other worlds where he had lived and she had been his friend, his rival, his enemy, himself.
He shook them off and asked, "What do you mean? I mean, which of the many things that might be covered by that phrase do you mean?"
Hermione flung herself into the chair across from him and crossed her arms. A lock of brown hair hung in her face; she blew it away from her lips, scowled as it fell promptly back in place, and used a hand to rake it away. "The purebloods! And what they're keeping from the rest of us?"
"Power?" Harry hazarded. In most worlds, Hermione had been a politician when she grew up, although sometimes an underground one.
Hermione blinked at him, then scowled again. "No! Knowledge!" She waved a hand across the books. "Do you know that all of these reference at least five or six books that I can't find in the rest of the library?"
Harry felt his eyebrows rise. That wasn't an issue he could remember coming up much in the past, although to be fair, the state of Hogwarts's library wasn't something he concerned himself with all the time. That brief, peaceful time in his second life when he filled in for Madam Pince had remained unique. "Do you think they could be in the Restricted Section?"
"I asked Madam Pince." Hermione's leg was swinging back and forth under the table, making it jump. Harry had to fight to keep from smiling, because she would probably think he was making fun of her, even though he wasn't. This was just so familiar. "She said that she couldn't let me in, but she could tell me what titles were there. And no! None of them are!"
Harry leaned back in his chair, intrigued. Part of him wanted to blame Dumbledore, because part of him always did in this life, but he didn't think Dumbledore would have removed every single book that Hermione was interested in. Just some of the Dark Arts ones, and as little as Harry liked the thought of restricting people's knowledge, he did have to agree that, well, Hogwarts students didn't need to get their hands on the kinds of curses that would let them eviscerate each other. "Do you have a list of the titles?"
Hermione nodded vigorously and dug through her bag for a second, then hauled out a long scroll of parchment and presented it to him. Harry flattened it on the table and dug in.
Yes, not all of them were the kinds of books that Dumbledore might have removed to keep them away from children. There were ordinary history books, biographies of Muggleborns who had achieved great things, books that explored the advanced stages of Runes and Arithmancy, alchemy texts, and one or two that sounded like the closest that the magical world probably got to Muggle genetic studies. It did seem more likely that someone who wanted to maintain the idea that purebloods were the only ones who belonged in political power would have taken them.
"I can get hold of some of these for you," Harry said absently, his eyes going back to the beginning of the list. "As long as you would only take notes about them and not write in the books or bend the pages."
Silence across the table from him made him look up. Maybe he'd offended her by assuming she might mistreat books?
But instead, Hermione was staring at him with wide, slightly damp eyes. "You would do that?" she breathed. "Really?"
Harry smiled and let the parchment roll up. "Of course. We're friends, aren't we?"
"Of course." Hermione bit her lip. "But I don't have a lot of friends who would volunteer to get me books. I mean, aren't they going to be awfully expensive? I could pay for some of them, but I have no idea where to start buying them…"
"Some of them are books that my parents already have," Harry said, which was true enough. "And some of them are the sort of thing that I bet purebloods have on their shelves even if they aren't sharing them with Muggleborns on a regular basis. So I can ask the people who want to impress me, especially those in my House, and they'll send them to me."
He looked back at the bottom of the list. "Some of these are going to be much harder, though. I mean, those last two that are about the implications of pureblood inbreeding producing Squibs…"
He trailed off as a thought occurred to him, but Hermione was going on, her face brilliant with joy. "It doesn't matter! I mean, someday I would like to read all of them," she tacked on. "But just the first fifty or sixty…" She jumped up and ran around the table to hug him.
Harry hugged her back, smiling, and then went to write the owl he'd been thinking about. Perhaps it was taking advantage of what Voldemort felt for him, sort of, but it was true that Harry didn't have any idea where to find those last few books, and Voldemort might, and it would make Harry happy to make both Voldemort and Hermione happy.
Voldemort stared at the letter in front of him, with the titles, and then leaned back and spent a moment tapping his fingers against the table next to the fireplace.
He had never heard of these books. He had not known that anyone was writing about the topic. If he had heard of them before he had met Harry, he probably would have tried to suppress them for much the same reason that they had apparently been removed from Hogwarts's library.
But now, he was interested in reading them himself. Perhaps he would acquire copies and then send duplicates to the Granger girl. At least Harry was honest about wanting them for a friend, not himself.
I wish he would ask for something more for himself, but this is a good start.
And Voldemort did have some idea on how to acquire the books, for all that he had never heard of them before.
He made the Floo flare green with a negligent flick of powder, and murmured, "Malfoy Manor," as he stepped through.
The house looked much the same as it always had, though there were a few Dark artifacts, like the shrunken heads of some ancient Malfoy enemies imbued with their final, fearful thoughts, back on display now that the Malfoys' fear of Auror raids had apparently lessened. Voldemort turned his gaze indifferently over the white and blue marble and the shimmering curtains. He was much more interested in the treasures of knowledge that the libraries contained.
But there were footsteps hurrying towards him now, and for all that Voldemort could take what he wanted by right of power, he had discovered a reluctance in himself to do so unless he could be assured that Harry would not find out. So he waited.
Lucius came into the room and slammed to a stop, staring at him. Voldemort smiled. Yes, he had forgotten. Lucius had not seen him since his last Horcrux absorption.
Lucius's voice was low and uneasy. He didn't even seem to know whether he should still call Voldemort by that title when he hadn't commanded the Death Eaters in so long. Voldemort half-nodded. "Yes. I am in search of two books that you may have in your library, Lucius." He unfolded Harry's letter, performed a small blurring charm on the signature and the Granger girl's name, and held it out.
Lucius looked at it and read through it with some perplexity. But Voldemort knew him, and he could see the way his eyes widened when he came to what must be the book titles, and the way his throat clicked when he swallowed.
"Is something wrong, Lucius?"
Lucius looked up, shivering. Voldemort waited, entertained. Clearly, something was wrong, but he had never realized how much fun it could be to urge someone to speak of it on their own initiative, as opposed to torturing them until they screamed the truth amid pleas for mercy.
"I—of course not, my lord." Lucius gave him a sickly smile. "It is simply that the books are not currently in my library, and may prove—hard to get hold of."
"Oh? You lent them to a friend, perhaps?"
"Well. No. As a matter of fact, my lord, I don't have them anymore."
Lucius was still cringing in a delightful way. Voldemort let his eyes widen a little. "Then you have perhaps sold them?"
"No." Lucius straightened his spine exactly as if he wasn't afraid that Voldemort would turn it to molten metal in the next instant. "I destroyed them."
"Ah, I see. In that case, I will acquire some copies of my own—"
"I mean," Lucius broke in, and he was sweating so badly that Voldemort let the interruption proceed, "I destroyed all of them. The copies that were held in other libraries. The copies that were in bookshops. The used copies." He swallowed.
Voldemort stared at him. The notion rattled around inside his skull, rolling back and forth like a marble, and because he was still himself, he ended up asking, "How?"
"I—I found a spell that would seek out any copies of a certain printed material. It only works on books and scrolls, not anything else," Lucius added hastily, as if he thought that the capabilities of the spell would displease Voldemort. "I cast it on the copies of the books in my possession, and now they're gone from the world."
Voldemort nodded slowly. He would make Lucius write down the spell for him before he left. For the moment, however, he was more concerned with something else. "Why did you decide to destroy those particular books out of all the ones that you had removed from the Hogwarts library?" Harry had only hinted that there were more books missing from the library, but Voldemort knew Lucius.
Lucius's spine snapped painfully straight. "My lord! They said horrific things about purebloods! That our preservation of our traditions and purity of blood led to the birth of Squibs! That magic itself is forsaking us, giving itself to Muggleborns to right some imaginary balance!" Lucius spat the words, his eyes shining the way they had when he tortured people at Voldemort's behest in the past. "I could not permit such lies to exist in the world!"
"So you read the books before you destroyed them?"
"My lord! Only enough to get a picture of their contents, and to know why they should be removed from the world and not simply laid by in my library where someone with a meddling nature might someday rediscover them."
"I see. Then you are wrong about their content no longer existing, Lucius."
"They exist in your memory." Lucius's eyes widened as Voldemort's wand descended to point at him. "And that means they are recoverable, although of course the process is not what anyone would like. Legilimens!"
The shields that Lucius had raised probably instinctively around his mind when he saw Voldemort blew apart under the pressure of his lord's power. Voldemort swam through Lucius's mind, touching on and discarding memories that he knew from the shape and feel of them were not the ones he wanted.
It had been decades since he had been able to read a mind as clearly as this. Voldemort wanted to laugh.
It was Harry who had bought this for him, as he had so much else.
And that meant it was all the more important to retrieve one of the few things Harry had ever asked for.
Voldemort hit the right memories at last, lumpy and sticky like a tree stump covered in tar. He snatched them up in his imaginary claws and carried them to the surface of Lucius's mind, then back into his own.
He held still as the memories settled oddly into his own mind, which reshaped itself around them. He had never absorbed this much knowledge all at once. And the books Lucius had destroyed had been long manuscripts, thick with information.
But he could do it, because of Harry. And he would do it, because of Harry.
What was probably long minutes later but felt like an hour in the eye of a storm, Voldemort opened his eyes. Lucius was kneeling on the floor with his arms around his head, shaking a little, although he was too proud to whimper. His wife stood behind him, her dread-filled eyes fixed on Voldemort.
But there was something else behind the dread, too. Voldemort doubted he would have recognized it before he became enamored of Harry.
"Do not seek to attack me," he told Narcissa, more gently than he would have told anyone anything of the kind a year ago. "It will only result in my making your husband a widower, and I do not wish to do so."
"Someone who matters more than any Death Eater ever has would be displeased with me."
Narcissa blinked and said nothing, but Voldemort could see the emotion in her gaze change to confusion. That was at least an improvement. He half-bowed his head to her and stepped back through the Floo.
He would make Lucius write down the spell that destroyed all the copies of a certain kind of printed material later. For the moment, his head ached with the newly-retrieved memories, and he would have to rest before he even read anything or wrote the letter back to Harry, lest he damage his own memory.
But that did not mean he could not anticipate the delight Harry would feel when he heard what Voldemort had discovered.
Jonathan glanced up with a smile that turned to a frown when Hannah sank into the chair next to him. They were the closest in the Hufflepuff common room to the fire, but she was shivering, her eyes wide with something that looked like shock.
"Hannah? Hannah, what is it?"
Jonathan repeated himself a few times before she seemed to hear him and turned to face him. Her eyes blinked and got glassy, and Jonathan leaped to his feet. He thought he should go and get Madam Pomfrey if she was in shock or something. He wasn't a Healer, he didn't know anything about how to treat it.
And if she was going to cry, then Jonathan was still tempted to run for Madam Pomfrey. He didn't know how to help a crying girl, either.
Hannah gave a gasp and got control of herself, luckily. Jonathan cautiously sat down in the chair across from her again, still tensed to run if any sign of tears showed up.
"My mum sent me a letter," Hannah whispered. "I tried to refer to my grandmother's runes in my last owl home. I thought I was being subtle. I reckon I wasn't." She stopped and wrapped her arms around herself.
"She told you that she wouldn't let you have them because she thought they were Dark?"
"She told me that I couldn't have them because she burned them." Hannah closed her eyes and sat there for a second. Then she said, in the most softly upset voice Jonathan had ever heard, "I really wanted those runes."
Jonathan awkwardly patted her shoulder. He knew it was awkward, and he wondered what Harry would say in this situation.
Something wise and immortal, probably. But Hannah didn't need the comfort of someone wise and immortal. At least, Jonathan hoped she didn't, or he really would have to run down to the Slytherin common room and get Harry.
"Do you want me to teach you a spell to get revenge on your mum?" he ended up asking. Because, well, he would have wanted to know one if his parents had burned a precious possession like that.
Then again, Jonathan had a really hard time picturing Mum or Dad being so stupid as to believe that some objects were Dark simply because someone who might have been a Dark witch had owned them.
Hannah swallowed. "Really?"
"Only if you want to," Jonathan said, lowering his voice a little. Sometimes his Housemates reacted to things like revenge spells or pranks with horror, which had made Sirius sigh when Jonathan explained it to him. "I mean, you don't have to. But I think it would comfort me if I was in your situation."
Hannah was quiet for a long, long time. Jonathan nearly picked up his book again, but he could see that she was thinking about it.
Then she stared at him and said, "Yes. Teach it to me."
Jonathan smiled, and reached for his wand. "Let's go to the library, and I'll show you."