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Chapter 54

"Ow fuck god damn it." Sirius yelled in pain as pulled back the slashed and bloody mess that was his hand only seconds before. He examined the damage and tried an episkey charm to heal the numerous cuts only to find it didn't work. There was a high-pitched menacing laugh at Sirius struggling.

"Stop laughing and go get me some bandages." Sirius barked in anger.

"As my mistress's shame of a blood traitor son commands." Kreacher said as he walked away, obviously deciding to walk to retrieve them instead of popping as would be faster.

"Bloody elf," Sirius muttered under his breath. He was in his family home library trying to find all the books that had any mention of Horcrux. He had already found the main books on the subject. They detailed what making a Horcrux could do to a person, what being around a Horcrux would do to a person, and the power a Horcrux could have on its surroundings. There was even a detailed description of how to make a Horcrux with a full arithmantic breakdown of the ritual under the idea of knowing your enemy.

What there wasn't in those books was a way to track a Horcrux. That was why Sirius wanted to check on the journals of previous black family members. Many of his ancestors had taken on the family quest to destroy a Horcrux and he was hoping that one of them had developed a tracking spell of some kind.

Unfortunately, while the Black family may have been rather virtuous on the topic of Horcruxes in the rest of their lives they were one dark backstabbing lot. So one of the most common things they did with their journals was layer them in dark spells to prevent anyone else, especially family, from reading them.

Kreacher came back with a pile of bandages that looked disgusting. Like they had been used once before then the elf had used them to scrub a toilet. Sirius felt his head throb in frustration. He vanished the filth with a flick of his wand then through gritted teeth said. "Kreacher, you will stand there without moving until I say dismissed, you will then go and fulfil my orders exactly with all possible haste." The House elf froze. "You will take two galleons from my belt pouch, then pop yourself to an apothecary in Diagon alley and purchase a bottle of Murtlap essence and some new clean sterile bandages, then you will bring me the bottle of Murtlap essence and the bandages unopened and unspoiled with all possible haste. Then once depositing those items with me you will go and punish yourself until you feel you have been punished enough as though you presented that filth to my mother. You are however not allowed to cause your death or any damage that would keep you from working. Dismissed."

"Kreacher obeys. Oh, what his mistress would say seeing her traitor son in her house again." Sirius watched in satisfaction as the elf realised just how much he would have to punish himself. He would never forgive himself if he had presented those bandages to his mother, and the vicious little bastard deserved it after everything it had done to Sirius over the years.

It only took maybe ninety seconds for the elf to return with the bandages and essence. The elf handed the items to Sirius and then popped away again. Sirius conjured a bowl on the nearby table and poured the essence into it, he then opened one of the bandages and put it directly in the bowl where it could soak up the essence. He then wrapped his bloody hand in the essence soaked bandage. Almost immediately his hand started to feel better as the soothing essence numbed the stinging pain.

Once his hand was wrapped In the bandage he was able to calm down and think a little better. He taped the bandage on his hand with his wand casting a spell that would keep the essence from evaporating before he poured the rest of the essence back into the bottle to keep for later.

He called Kreacher to have him put the bottle away. The elf popped in next to Sirius and gave him one of his normal insulting greetings only Sirius didn't hear a word. Instead he was looking at the elf. His ears were mangled like they had been shut in the oven door repeatedly and his arms were covered in welts where it looked like he had been whipping himself with something.

Sirius was immediately overcome with remorse for what he had ordered the elf to do. With their history and with Sirius being in not insignificant pain he had let his anger get the better of him. He would have apologised to the elf but he knew that Kreacher wouldn't accept it and would take it as a sign that Sirius was weak so instead he just let the elf off any more punishment. "Put that bottle away and that will be the end of your punishment, let it be a lesson to you not to disrespect the Warlock of the house of Black again." He was just about to dismiss the elf when he thought of an idea. "Kreacher, do you know which of the Black's took on the family duty to destroy Horcruxes?"

"Kreacher is knowing some. Why is the rotted spawn of my mistress' flesh wanting to know?" The elf had a subtle shift in its tone however that had Sirius curious.

"Voldemort has created multiple Horcruxes and I intend to find them and fulfil the family duty to destroy them." He answered honestly.

Kreacher froze for a moment, obvious indecision on his face then asked. "Master will fulfil his duty? He will destroy them? But master is a traitor to the Black family."

"I will destroy them and my mother is the traitor to Black family. She tortured the heir, she encouraged the family to swear loyalty to another over the family. One depraved enough to use the most vile of magic." Sirius spat the words at the elf.

Yet for once the elf didn't seem to be offended by Sirius's words about his mother instead the elf just said. "Master Regulus tried to destroy the dark lord's locket. But he could not. Kreacher still has the Locket but can't destroy it."

To say Sirius was shocked by Kreacher's words would be an understatement. You could have told Sirius he was actually still in Azkaban and he had hallucinated the last two years and he would have found that easier to accept. After about two minutes of silence Sirius said. "Bring me the Locket."

-ϟϟϟ-

Charlus dismissed his last class for the day and made his way to his rooms. A whole day in the Potions lab left his robes with a lingering smell of a mixture of brewing potions. And that wasn't exactly a pleasant aroma. He didn't really notice it any more, being a potions master you needed to develop a strong tolerance for exotic smells. His Dorea however had never developed such a nose and had long before she died gotten him into the habit of changing once he was done working in a potions lab for the day.

He would have thirty minutes to refresh himself before he would have to go put in a few hours in his office. He had a pile of homework to mark and he had to be available for any of the students who needed help with their homework.

He opened the door to his rooms expecting to find them empty but instead found Sirius slumped in a chair, a large glass of what smelled like his best scotch in his hand and an unfocused expression on his face.

"What happened?" Charlus asked, a tone of urgency in his voice as he imagined everything from the statute having fallen and the muggles declaring war to an attack on the kids by Voldemort.

Sirius didn't say anything, instead he just pointed at the table in front of him. Charlus looked and there was just a pendent on the table. Then he did a small double take and looked again. That was just like all the images they had seen of the Locket of Slytherin. The Locket that they were looking for because it was one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.

"Is that real?" Charlus asked. His voice forced calm.

Sirius nodded. And took a drink of the whisky in his hand.

Charlus' eyes went wide at that and he asked. "Where did you find it?"

Sirius finally spoke but only one word. "Grimmauld."

That was enough for Charlus. Grimmauld could only mean Sirius's childhood home. That made sense as he knew Sirius was searching for books with the information on Horcruxes they needed. But none but a Black could enter that place uninvited. That meant that either Voldemort was invited into the Black home or one of the Blacks was trusted with a Horcrux. Either way he understood why Sirius was drinking.

"What do you know?" Charlus asked as he sat in another chair.

Sirius told his uncle everything that Kreacher had told him. About how his brother Regulus had joined the death eaters. How he was so loyal the dark Lord entrusted him to help hide an important artefact. How Kreacher had been left to the dark Lord and only through a specifically worded order was the elf able to survive. How Regulus was able to work out exactly what Voldemort was hiding from the story that Kreacher had relayed to his master. How Regulus had taken up the family duty and had died in the process of retrieving the Horcrux and had tasked Kreacher with its destruction, a feat that was apparently beyond the elf.

"The big question of course is what do we do now." Charlus mused after Sirius had finished with his recounting of the elf's tale.

"What do you mean?" Sirius asked, confused; as far as he was concerned there was only one option, destroy the damned thing.

"Well do we destroy it, or do we see if we can use it to locate the rest of them, or experiment on it in the hopes that there is some type of connection between them so we can destroy them all." Charlus explained his thinking.

Understanding what Charlus was saying now Sirius thought about it. "The problem with any type of experiment is that neither you, I, nor anyone we trust is an expert in soul magic. It's an incredibly obscure branch of magic. I wouldn't know where to start or who to ask for advice, what about you?"

"Honestly, I'm just as in the dark. I have no idea who to speak to about soul magic. But I do have full access to the Hogwarts restricted section as a professor. I could look into it."

"And what do we do with this in the meantime? We can't just keep it in your desk drawer. What about Gringotts?"

"The goblins would refuse if we asked and would confiscate every coin we had there if we got caught sneaking something this dangerous into the bank. Not worth the risk. If we have to keep it somewhere I will apparate it out to a tiny rock off the coast, put it in a safe, permanent sticking charm the safe to the rock, and I'll erect a Fidelius ward. That should keep it away from anyone."

"We could put it down in the Chamber of Secrets. Only Harry can open that." Sirius suggested.

"No, that puts a school between Voldemort and his Horcrux if he ever finds out where it is. That's the sort of plan that proved Dumbledore wasn't a suitable head of a school.

Sirius winced at the comparison, but had to acknowledge that Charlus was right. That was the sort of thing Dumbledore would have done and the potential risks were too high. Someone like Voldemort wouldn't care how many children he killed if they were between him and his Horcrux.

Their discussion was suddenly broken off as there was some frantic knocking at the door. As the knocking sounded almost panicked and there was a possibility there was a student in trouble Charlus rushed and opened the door. However, at the door was not a student or even a professor. It was the team of curse breakers that the school had employed to track down the source of the curse on the defence against the dark arts position.

"Where is Professor Lupin?" The one in front demanded.

"Why? What's wrong?" Sirius was instantly on edge.

"There is a build up of the curse magic we have been tracking in this room. So tell me where he is now." The same man insisted.

"He's not here." Charlus said.

Charlus's mind kicked into overdrive for a moment and he started to make connections about what exactly the dark magic they were detecting was and what the implications of it being the same frequency as the defence curse actually meant.

While Charlus was thinking about that, the three curse breakers, believing they were reacting to an emergency situation barged into the room looking for either the buildup of magic to disperse it or the soon to be victim so that they could evacuate him before he was targeted. Of course the spells they were casting and their dark detectors didn't find a hidden Remus Lupin or any free magic searching for its target. However they couldn't fail to notice the Locket on the table with the exact same signature as the one they were tracking.

Instantly there were wands posted as Sirius and Charlus. The head of the curse breakers then said in a calm but dangerous voice that promised violence was incredibly close said. "You need to explain now."

Charlus kept his calm. "I think this is best explained to the headmaster at the same time. Will you indulge us long enough for a walk to his office?"

So that's what they did. Charlus, Sirius, and three curse breakers made their way to the Headmaster's office. The locket was taken as well in a lead box one of the curse breakers had pulled from a pocket in his robes where it definitely shouldn't have fit.

Headmaster Greengrass was surprised to have so many suddenly needing to see him, and he was shocked that one of his professor's was being held at wand point by a curse breaker he had hired. "Williams, explain now." He was not happy.

"We found these two in the presence of an artefact we believe is the source of the curse on the defence professor position. When we demanded answers they wanted to come here and answer those questions with you present. We agreed as it will make any explanations easier if you learn as we do."

Greengrass looked at Charlus who nodded and said. "I'm sure that from their perspective that's exactly what everything appears to be, however I can assure you that the artefact in question is not responsible for the defence curse, in fact I think once this one is removed from the castle then you will find that the one the curse breakers have been tracking is still hidden in the castle somewhere."

One of the curse breakers, the youngest by the look of her and Irish if her red hair and accent was anything to go by, got in Charlus face. "Then tell us where you hid the other one." She demanded.

Charlus continued talking to the headmaster like she hadn't said anything. "This artefact, Sirius literally only found it today. Nowhere near this castle. We were discussing how and where to contain it and whether we should seek to destroy it immediately or study it."

"Why would you study it? It radiates dark magic. That thing is evil, you're best off destroying it." Williams said.

"Because we know what it is and we know there are more." Sirius said. "Worse, if you think this is what was causing the defence curse that means that there is another one here at the school. We were hoping to use this one to track the others and destroy them all."

"What is it?" Williams asked not even realising he had lowered his wand now.

Sirius looked at Charlus who nodded approval, then Sirius said. "A Horcrux."

There was a gasp from the curse breakers carrying the lead box with the Locket and a clatter as he dropped it to the floor and jumped back. Williams barked "Cusick, out now, this just jumped way over your pay grade." She tried to protest but Williams was firm and she left in a fuff. Then he turned to Charlus and said. "You better explain quickly."

"Yes and you can start by explaining what a Horcrux is." Greengrass insisted.

So that's what Charlus did. "A Horcrux is a piece of dark magic that at terrible cost makes the person who made it unkillable while it still exists. I won't go into any detail about how they are made, personally I think this knowledge needs to die. It's enough to say that to do it will have any sane individual brand you as evil."

"We are talking magic so dark even the Black family decided to destroy any they discover. And not just the good parts of my family, I mean the entire lot of them." Sirius interjected.

"We became aware that someone had made seven of them." Charlus said and the two curse breakers went pale. "Harry destroyed two of them and Sirius and myself have been trying to track down and destroy the rest. We were hoping that because of the way that Horcruxes work there may be a connection between them we can use to find the rest."

"Who?" Asked the still unnamed curse breaker.

"Excuse me?" Charlus asked, needing more than just a single word to understand the question.

"Who? Who made seven Horcruxes?"

Sirius snorted. "Funny you should ask it like that because you know -"

It took a few seconds for everyone not in the know to work out what Sirius meant. Then the unnamed curse breaker just said. "I quit."

"What!?" Demanded Williams.

"I quit. This was a simple curse breaking job, the complication was just finding the source in this goddamn maze of a school. Now you tell me I'm hunting a piece of you-know-who's soul. Fuck that! fuck no! I'm getting the fuck out of here! I'm taking my family and accepting that job from Gringotts to go tomb raid Mayan temples. I'm not staying in a county with a dark Lord with five fucking Horcruxes. Mayan death traps are safer than pissing off that half dead bastard." With that he pulled a pinch of floo powder out of his pocket and threw it into the fire, disappearing a flash of green flame and thick smoke.

Sirius stared at the man obviously considering him a coward. Charlus however understood. This was Voldemort's biggest secret; he would do anything to keep it and the torture and murder of a man's entire family was not only possible but probable if he ever discovered that man even knew about the Horcruxes let alone that he actually partook in hunting them.

Greengrass however was all business. "Well the first question we need to answer Williams is, can that artefact be used to track the others?"

"... I don't know. They are right that in theory there could be a connection between the Horcruxes and their creator. However, whether there is a connection between the Horcruxes themselves is just pure speculation. It would make sense for there to be one. Then if the connection did exist then it's possible you could develop something to help find the rest. There are a lot of ifs and maybes in there. Do you have any research on the matter?" He asked Charlus and Sirius.

They admitted they did not. "We were just considering starting as we have a test subject to work on." Sirius added.

"Where? Because you are not keeping that thing in this school." Greengrass put his foot down.

"I was thinking I would buy a cottage in the countryside. A good mile from anywhere else and we would put it under a Fidelius charm. Only people who have taken suitable unbreakable vows would be given the location to work on the project. Though I will admit I was hoping that Hogwart's restricted section would be open to us for research purposes." Charlus added at the end.

"Well, the cottage sounds as good as you can get without spending a goblins ransom on something purpose-built and you can always sell it later once we are done." Said Wiliams.

"We? So you're intending to work with us then." Asked Sirius.

There was a moment of silence before Williams answered. "This goes beyond something I can walk away from. I will help you. At least when I can fit it in. I still have bills to pay."

"Talk to me after this." Charlus said before he turned back to the headmaster. "So restricted section access to the darkest books in the library?"

"Of course, as a professor you have access anyway. I see no problem expanding that to include dealing with an issue that threatens the school. I was considering opening the library to researchers for a fee before the return of you know who necessitated I keep security tight."

"Understandable." Said Charlus. "Anything that makes extra money for the school without compromising the school is a good idea." And it was in Charlus's opinion. Headmaster Greengrass had already shown that while he was going to manage the school's assets to make money, all of that gold was then spent on the school. And he presented documents to the professors in their regular meetings to show what extra gold was coming in and exactly how he was spending it.

"There is one more thing." Interjected Sirius. "The sword of Gryffindor." Everyone turned to look at the sword that was in a display case on one of the office walls. "When Harry recovered that sword he used it to slay the basilisk he killed. We have reason to believe the sword has taken on the properties of basilisk venom, which as you may know is one of the most potent magically destructive substances in the known magical world. It is one of the few things that is known to be capable of destroying a Horcrux. The only other one I know of is Fiendfyre. So you can understand why I am asking to be allowed to use the sword to destroy the Horcruxes when we find them."

There was some nervous shuffling from the Headmaster and the curse breaker. They knew the story of Harry having slayed a basilisk, Gringotts had been good on their word disseminating the story to drive up the value of the carcass. That combined with Harry wearing its hide during the Triwizard Tournament had made sure everyone heard the story. But the idea of a twelve-year-old boy having to face a thousand-year-old monster was not a comfortable one.

After a few moments the Headmaster said, "I'm not sure I can allow that. As headmaster, I have to protect the school's assets. This sounds like something that can possibly damage a priceless artefact."

"An artefact I'm not even sure the school legally owns." Said Sirius. "Harry is the one who received the sword. And there is no law that says just because something belonged to a founder of the school makes it the property of said school. The legal owner is either Harry as the one who discovered an ancient relic or the descendants of Gryffindor. However, the previous Headmaster simply took the sword from Harry without informing him he had a claim to ownership of the sword. Now I'm sure Harry, like many people, will agree that Hogwarts is the best place for the sword to stay. I am sure I can get him to officially give up his claim in exchange for limited use of the blade to destroy Horcruxes."

That put Greengrass in an awkward position. If Sirius was right the school was technically guilty of having stolen the sword. And a legal struggle over the sword wouldn't look good to anyone. Hogwarts would look like it was trying to steal from a student and the Potter family, who were quickly getting a reputation of being sue happy, wouldn't look good arguing with a school over the ownership of a priceless artefact. This was going to take some careful negotiating.

-ϟϟϟ-

Draco Malfoy was trying to work out how to proceed with his plans. The two Potters needed to be taught that you don't cross the Malfoy family. He needed to avenge his father's imprisonment. There was also the matter that Draco had inherited his father's mission until the Dark Lord could free him from Azkaban. The Dark Lord needed Potter's blood. He had been able to smuggle the artefact he was given for the job into the castle. It was apparently something the Dark Lord had enchanted himself.

The issue Malfoy was having was that the damn curse breakers had apparently detected it. He had hidden it away in an enchanted chest that was made to conceal anything placed inside it and had hidden it in the dungeons. He had to find a way to use it on Potter without getting caught. Something that seemed impossible while the curse breakers were searching the castle.

Then Malfoy saw something that made his day. One of the curse breakers, an Irish woman, was storming through the corridors loudly complaining. "Above my paygrade is it, well we will see how well he does when it's just the two of them. I have over ten years of experience, I am one of the best curse breakers in the country. Condescending bastard. I have plenty of job offers, I don't have to stay here and be disrespected."

Malfoy had no idea what had caused the woman to be so upset. But he understood two things. First whatever happened had upset the woman enough to quit. The second thing was that while he didn't know much about curse breaking he knew enough Arithmancy to know you needed at least three points to triangulate something.

Together this meant that he had a window to operate in where there wasn't going to be a team of curse breakers trying to track his every move.

A/N
remember every comment saves me just a little from my crippling energy drink addiction. (not really addicted. I'm fine.)