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A hush fell over the church at Voldemort's words; all rustling of robes and whispered discussions had ceased. Sirius doubted that any of them had known ahead of time what their lord was planning to do with the young scion of the Blacks.

In the silence, there was a gentle cough. Voldemort, who had been staring into Sirius' eyes, turned his head slightly.

"Yes, Rodolphus?"

The man who had coughed stood and pushed his mask up on his forehead so that he could speak more clearly.

"My lord, you know I am the last man in the world to deny the power of the Black family line," he said slowly. "Nor to deny that my wife and her sister have been loyal to your cause. More loyal than some I could name."

Sirius saw Bellatrix next to Rodolphus, her mouth done up in a pert smile. She winked at him.

"And yet..." Rodolphus hesitated, then plunged ahead. "He is just a boy, my lord, and he is known to be a close companion of our enemies. He has no reason to join us nor any motivation to remain faithful."

"Are you questioning my judgement, Rodolphus?" Voldemort asked. He looked faintly amused.

"No! No, my lord! Never would I!" the man said hurriedly. "I am merely...curious as to how we are to ensure that he does not run with mouth open back to his companions. And in addition to this..."

Sirius realised with a start that Voldemort had no eyebrows; one brow lifted, but the effect was still not quite the same.

"...there is the fact that the men of his family line have proved...unstable," Rodolphus finished. "We all remember Regulus, and the boy's own father was quite mad before Azkaban."

"There is no doubt that your family has often misallied itself," Voldemort remarked to Sirius. "And I am well aware that the Potter child has quite a charismatic air about him. Surely, however, you have felt yourself occasionally...under his sway? As though you fought your true nature, in siding with Muggle-lovers and mudbloods?"

Sirius swallowed. His mouth was dry; he was still trying to grip the fact that Lord fucking Voldemort had asked him to join the Death Eaters.

And where the hell was the Order?

"As for how we are to keep him safe..." Voldemort held up one hand, palm facing Sirius, and curled his fingers inward; the stone shackles fell from Sirius' wrists at the same time that Draco came forward to stand next to the other man in the aisle. "I think we may place him in his cousin's care. Draco will teach him and ensure that his loyalty is true; such a boy, parentless and lost, should be cared for and guided by his remaining family. Do they not make a splendid study in contrasts?" he asked.

Sirius gazed deep into the eyes of Narcissa's son and saw something in them that made him very, very afraid. Voldemort rested his hand on top of Draco's head, pale fingers threading through the white-blond hair. He tugged, slightly; Draco bowed his head and returned to stand next to Peter on the stage.

"No, Rodolphus, I do not think I am mistaken," Voldemort continued. He turned to Sirius, backing up a little as he did so. "Your decision, young man, if you please. Join us or perish slowly. I would give you more time but alas...we have other business to attend to, tonight."

Sirius forgot about the Order, forgot about Harry, forgot that this was not his time, forgot that he was a prisoner here. He poured seventeen years of being the Popular Boy and twenty generations of pureblood arrogance into a single, scornful syllable.



The Order had gathered with remarkable efficiency when Tonks gave the call; in four minutes all but the Twins, Harry, and Remus had appeared at Grimmauld Place, which had taken on the dim, dusty appearance of an unlived-in house -- essentially what it was, in fact. Remus had come running in with Glastonbury on his wrist and Harry at his side just as the Twins appeared, looking like cats who had eaten a couple of canaries.

"All right," Remus said, immediately the centre of attention. "I'm going to find him; I'll be back to lead the rest of you. When you arrive, keep quiet for Merlin's sake and try to spread out as much as you can. If you can take someone by surprise without making any noise, do it. Do not," he said sharply, "attack anyone who isn't wearing a mask. Those are members of a werewolf pack who've infiltrated the organisation. Do not try to attack Voldemort, either. Your primary targets are the snake and the Death Eaters. If you are injured or if you see someone injured, grab them and get out. We'll do without you. Don't be martyrs and don't be heroes."

"Augustus is standing by at St. Mungo's. Don't be afraid to take the injured there," Tonks added.

Remus nodded at her. "If you're lost, look for Tonks, myself, Sirius, or Harry. Ready?"

Harry nodded at him and Remus vanished. The expectant silence was broken not by his return but by the slamming of the front door.

"Cavalry!" Fred cried with a grin. Neville and Luna stood on the threshold. "Harry, allow me to re-introduce you to Dumbledore's Army, rallied and prepared for the fray..."

"Fine, but you're in charge of them -- you'll have to figure out how to take them there," Harry answered. George held up a glass globe.

"Ready-to-set portkey," he said. "Just say the word and -- "

Remus burst back into the room in a flurry of red feathers.

"Found him," he said. "He's chained up in an old church. We'll go in from the sides. Don't fight until I give the word. If we do this right we can have them completely surrounded. If you can follow me, do it; if you can't, grab hold of someone who can."

Harry put his hand on Remus' arm and gripped tightly.

"Try not to get killed," Remus said, and then Harry felt the familiar crush of Apparation.

They reappeared in a dark alley, between two tall and windowless brick walls; soon the alley was rather too full for comfort. Remus put his finger to his lips and pointed across the street, where a large church stood in a bare lot, blocked off by a chain-link fence. Tonks led a handful of people down the back of the alley and a moment later they could be seen creeping across the street. Remus waited until they were gone before taking Harry's wrist and jerking his head forward. Just as they left the alley, the rest of Dumbledore's Army appeared. Fred ran up to Remus, his feet hardly making a noise.

"Hold back as reinforcements," Remus whispered. "I'll send up a flare when you're needed."

Harry followed him up to the fence and then, with a whispered set of charms, right through it; he felt himself passing through a series of wards, as well, and was reminded that Remus had managed to hold his own with James and Sirius for seven years, which meant he must be a pretty good lockpick.

There were two guards just inside the front door; Remus flattened them without a sound. Harry gave one of them a sound kick in the ribs for good measure as they passed, peering through a crack in the inner door that led to the nave. Remus held up his hand to stop those coming in behind them, then waved it; the others began to spread out along the side-halls, and Harry could hear the soft thump of bodies as they went.

He could also hear Voldemort's voice, and just barely see Sirius standing in the aisle of the church. His breath caught.

" -- not think I am mistaken," Voldemort said, and Harry saw his face over Sirius' shoulder. "Your decision, young man, if you please. Join us or perish slowly."

"Oh Merlin," Remus whispered.

"I would give you more time," Voldemort continued, "but alas...we have other business to attend to, tonight."

Harry held his breath. Had Voldemort just offered Sirius a chance to join him?

His question was answered when Sirius spoke again, in a voice dripping with scorn and disgust.


Harry heard murmuring from those in the pews, which nicely masked the sound of Kingsley arriving behind them.

"Snape knows," he said. "And Arcadia."

Remus nodded even as Sirius continued over the murmurs. "You want me to serve you? You?"

He could see the insulted, almost incensed look on Voldemort's face. "You will not speak to me in that tone, child."

"You dare to tell me what I will and will not do?" Sirius said loudly. "I am Sirius Black, paterfamilias of the house, sole name-heir of the clan." Harry could see him tilt his chin up with indescribable insolence, his posture radiating arrogance and pride. "If my cousins were not whores and fools they would know better than to displease their paterfamilias."

"YOU DARE -- " Bellatrix shrieked, rising from her pew, but Voldemort raised a pale hand and she choked off in mid-scream, clutching her throat.

"Yes. You are the son of a very proud house, a pure house," he said, visibly controlling himself. "All the more reason you should take my side, don't you think?"

"I wouldn't touch your filthy side with gloves on," Sirius snarled. "You're nothing but a jumped-up half-blood -- "

"I am the descendant of Salazar Slytherin!" Voldemort roared.

"Yeah, on your mum's side," Sirius said disdainfully. "Who's your father, eh? What great wizarding feats have his family accomplished? Regulus Black beat you when he was eighteen years old -- "

"A lie! I killed him!"

Sirius grinned, insanely, and took something out of his pocket, holding up his fist. His fingers loosened slightly and Salazar Slytherin's locket fell from his palm, dangling at the end of its chain. Remus groaned softly.

"He nicked it, the bloody little fool," he whispered.

"Give me that," Voldemort said dangerously.

"Sure," Sirius said. He threw it easily and Voldemort's fingers twitched, stopping it in midair. It spun slowly, the chain twisting around it like a golden cloud. "It's broken, by the way. We killed the bit of you inside it. You were never a match for the Blacks. Probably your weak blood showing," he added with a sniff.

It's just a goad, Harry told himself, watching Sirius in horrified fascination. He doesn't mean it.

"When I say, push the door open and shout for Sirius to duck," Remus said. "Go right and find cover behind the pews."

Voldemort turned his hand over and the locket floated gently into it. He studied it curiously; then his fingers curled around it into his fist, and he raised his hand.

"Now," Remus said, and Harry's heart pounded in his chest as he shoved the double-doors wide open and shouted "Sirius! DUCK!"

"Avada K -- " Voldemort said, but Sirius dropped to the floor instinctively. The air sizzled in a shower of green sparks.

People exploded through every door and out of every dark shadow; Harry actually ran past Tonks, running the other way, as he dove for cover. Bursts of light filled the air as the Death Eaters tried to defend themselves, but in the confusion not many of them were doing very well, especially since the werewolves had thrown back their hoods and were savaging anyone within reach.

Harry lay flat on his belly and stared through the moving legs, under the pews; he saw Sirius crash down behind one, clutching his arm, and fury filled him. He stuck his head out the side of the pew; Voldemort was rallying Death Eaters to the aisle. As much as he wanted to strangle him with his bare hands, he had other targets just now....

He darted out when space opened in front of him and ran, hunched low, dodging hexes thrown his way. It wasn't all that different from darting around Bludgers in Quidditch, except that now he had only his own legs to carry him. He was almost hit a few times, but somehow everything aimed at him seemed to go wide; when he looked over his shoulder he saw Remus following him with more deliberation, covering him and methodically felling Death Eaters one by one.

Draco was still standing near the altar, though Peter Pettigrew had vanished. The pale-haired young man looked around as if seeking guidance, rooted to the spot. Harry had no time for him, however, because suddenly there she was -- Nagini, Voldemort's tame serpent, the fifth Horcrux. He could hear her, calling for her master, crying out in fear. She was wrapped around a cracked stone baptismal fountain, just in front of the first pew, ducking her head away from the light and noise.

Come here, he called in Parseltongue. Come here, Nagini, come to me...

To his amazement she obeyed trustingly, slithering away from the fountain and towards him, across the steps leading up to the altar. He raised his wand.

I'm so sorry, he said, and then "Avada Kedavra."

Suddenly his world was filled with green light and pain, bowling him over with that singular memory from his infancy, the flash of green light that he'd thought for so many years must have been the oncoming car which killed his parents. His scar throbbed and stabbed, even as he saw the snake twitch and die. He stumbled forward and tripped over her, crushing her already-limp spine, falling down the steps.

A stranger caught him at the bottom, and for a moment he thought he was done for; they were wearing the white robe of a Death Eater.

"Chosen One," the man rasped, pulling him away from battle. "Are you hurt?"

"W -- who -- "

"One of Arcadia's pack," the man explained, turning with a feral snarl to backhand someone else against the wall. "Our alpha's mate is injured -- I must go."

"What?" Harry asked, bewildered, but the man was already running away again. Harry breathed deeply and ran back into the scrum, looking for Remus; he seemed to be fighting with his bare hands too, as though his wand had been lost somewhere.

A dedicated knot of Death Eaters in the centre aisle were repelling all comers, even the reinforcements that the twins had just led through the doors. Harry lifted his wand to help, but even as he did so he heard an anguished cry that drowned out all the other noise. He turned away from the fight, trusting in Remus and the others to protect him. At first all he could see was Draco, still standing confusedly in front of the altar, but then he heard a low hiss from nearby, and came slowly forward.

Behind the first pew, someone was crouched over the crushed and bloodied body of Nagini, cradling the snake's large, wedge-shaped head in his hands. He had a thick mane of white hair, and when he lifted his face Harry saw traces of Tom Riddle's handsome youth in it.

Voldemort, mortal as Regulus Black had hoped. Just an old man -- wrinkles in his forehead and around his mouth, pale pink human skin, sunken eyes -- a strong jaw, a pointed nose, tufty white eyebrows.

"You killed her," he said brokenly. "You killed my Nagini."

Harry watched, bewildered and almost paralyzed, as this terrible parody of a man bent again to stroke the snake's blood-streaked head. Tom Riddle, who had killed countless people, who had murdered Harry's parents and his own father, coldbloodedly, was crying over the crumpled body of his pet snake.

"Nagini," Tom whispered, softly. Then his shoulders tensed and he let the snake's head fall to the ground. He lifted his face once more to gaze at Harry, standing as he did so.

"You'll suffer for this," he growled, and suddenly Harry saw what Tom Riddle intended for his future -- and he saw why.

He saw himself blinded, hobbled by chains, naked -- captive. Clean, well-fed, but imprisoned like a pet, like Nagini had been, forced to serve Voldemort as his lord and master, the scars on his skin far outnumbering the ones on hand and forehead until those faded into insignificance. Tortured for Tom Riddle's delight.

Because if he kills you, he kills part of himself...

He saw also, at the same time, a scene from sixteen years before -- from the cottage at Fourteen Back. His mother's body curled around a tiny black-haired child, himself. A wand raised.

No. Two wands; one wood, the twin to his own, and one almost invisible, made out of the palest, clearest glass tinted by a faint hint of cobalt blue, with a silver core. A flash of green light and the glass glows red and then yellow and then white with the heat, but the reason we don't use glass wands, Tom Riddle, is that they are unstable and they --

Shatter. A glass wand formed and tempered by Rowena Ravenclaw herself, shattering and scything off into a million pieces, one of which strikes the child and slices open his skin as it passes. And the precious piece of soul ripped away from Tom Riddle goes with it, goes into the child.

"You'll suffer," Tom repeated, voice low and hoarse as the visions from his mind washed over Harry.

I am the sixth horcrux.

The battle was unnaturally silent, suddenly, and Harry turned with great effort to see Remus off to Voldemort's left; the guilty, hunted look on his face told him all he needed to know. Guilt, apology, and a question in his too-old face.

In a split second of stunning, glasslike clarity, Harry met his eyes unflinchingly and nodded.

Remus raised his wand for the killing blow, but before either he or Voldemort could move, Snape came barreling out of nowhere, blood running down his forehead, and knocked Harry aside, away from the Dark Lord's hateful glare.

"Let go of me!" Harry cried, skidding backwards on the polished stone floor. They collided with another body just as Snape's head thudded against the pew. Harry saw his eyes roll up in his head as he passed out, then turned to see who they'd plowed into --

Sirius, feet braced against one pew and back against the other, breathing heavily, sweating.

"Sirius," Harry gasped.

"Arm's broken," Sirius answered, biting down on his lip so hard it threatened to bleed. "I tried to fight as long as I could -- "

Harry looked down and saw a splinter of bone protruding from Sirius' forearm.

"I can't heal that," he said.

"I know," Sirius replied.

"Sirius, listen -- " Harry said, suddenly wanting to tell him everything he'd ever felt or thought, because it would be the last chance he'd have. "Sirius, I love you."

Sirius pressed his head to Harry's forehead, still gasping for breath. "I know. I love you too."

"But I have to go -- it's me."

"What's you?"

"I'm the sixth horcrux -- "

"Oh..." Sirius said faintly. "So that's what I saw."

Harry stared at him. "You saw it?"

"Everyone saw it," Sirius replied, moaning as he tried to tighten his arm against his ribcage. Harry leaned forward and cupped the back of Sirius' head, kissing him.

"Then you know -- "

"Shut up," Sirius said suddenly. His eyes were brilliant, too bright; he swung his right arm around and grasped Harry by his shirtfront, suddenly.

"He won't die until I do, that's prophecy," Harry said desperately, aware that any moment Voldemort might be making his escape. People were still fighting in the aisles.

"Bollocks prophecy," Sirius said, and to Harry's horror he lifted his broken arm, pressing the heel of his left hand against Harry's forehead. The pain was so intense that Harry felt it, radiating off of him in sickly waves, but then he felt something else.

Sirius' fingers were curling forward, slowly, pressing against his scalp and then -- then through it, through hair and skin, like a ghost's touch. Only warm, so warm, and at once Sirius' pain flooded through him coupled with a strange feeling of lightness...

When he opened his eyes, Sirius was holding his left arm, palm up; blood ran down his fingers but floating in his palm was a little ball of green light.

"The power to touch souls," Sirius whispered, staring wide-eyed at it. He scrambled against the back of the pew, trying to clamber up it one-handed; Harry took him by the shoulder of his robes and pulled him up, trying to ignore the scream of pain Sirius stifled.

"TOM RIDDLE!" Sirius shouted, and Voldemort stepped over the bodies of two Death Eaters before halting when he saw the light floating in Sirius' palm.

"I've killed your pet werewolf," he said calmly. "Do you think a ball of light is going to hurt me?"

"Oh, this one will," Sirius said, almost hysterically. "I took it out of Harry."

"Move and I'll crush you both," Voldemort snarled.

Sirius gave him a crazed grin and closed his fist. The illumination winked out between his fingers and there was a shriek of pain from the little light, that seemed to crumple in the air even as it rose.

Tom Riddle dropped to his knees on the cold stone, clutching his heart. Sirius slumped forward into Harry and he eased him down onto the pew, left arm hanging grotesquely awry. He had passed out from the pain.

The church was very quiet now; apparently whoever had been left standing had fled, except for Draco, still standing near the altar like some kind of pale mannequin. The only sounds were the moans of the injured and the soft murmurs of Order members speaking to each other, looking for one another. Harry wondered how many were dead.

I've killed your pet werewolf.

Harry stepped up onto the pew and walked along it, avoiding Snape's limp body on the floor below. He felt oddly childlike, as if he were five or six years old again and walking along the edge of a pavement kerb, arms outstretched for balance.

When he dropped down to the floor again Tom Riddle was still there on his knees, hunched over, snowy-white head bowed.

"They're gone," Harry said. Tom looked up, despairingly, and Harry saw the same pain he'd seen when Tom was grieving for Nagini. A childish loss. Then again, he'd lived his life by childish fears. "All of them."

"You don't know," Tom rasped harshly.

"I do know. Diary and ring, locket and cup -- and two living things," Harry said. Only a short distance separated them, hardly ten paces. "They're gone. It's over. You've lost."

Tom began to weep again, quietly, arms wrapped around his body. Harry saw Tonks watching warily from the periphery of his vision.

"You're a murderer and a torturer," he said, more because he needed convincing not to pity this man in pain than because he wanted to hurt him any more. "You killed your own family and mine. You killed my godfather. You killed Dumbledore. You don't deserve to breathe."

Tom didn't appear to hear him. Harry raised his wand.

He wanted to say it. For his father and mother, for Sirius that had been, for Neville's parents, for Dumbledore. They were two easy little words, just like killing a snake. He knew he had to say it, because no one was safe while the monster kneeling in front of him was still alive.

I don't reckon my dad would've wanted them to become killers -- just for you.

Your mother's coming...she wants to see will be all right. Hold on.

My mother can't have been magic, or she wouldn't have died.

Harry lowered his wand.

"You'll be sent up for a trial, properly," he said, voice hardening like stone. "If you fall down a flight of stairs on your way to the court I won't cry, but I won't kill you with my hands. You aren't worth being a murderer for."

It took Harry a good deal of time, much later, to puzzle out precisely what happened.

He knew that he turned to Tonks to gesture that she should come forward, as was proper, and as an Auror take him into custody. He knew that for some time he had been hearing a soft melody in the background, akin to the elegy Fawkes had sung for Dumbledore almost a year ago, but much gentler and much less mournful. He knew that he heard a snarl of rage and turned in time to see something, but none of it was truly clear in his mind until he saw Remus standing with one arm around Tom Riddle's throat and the other around his ribs, the pale-bladed knife he'd used against the Dementors in his hand.

He heard something, too, but he didn't credit it, not from Remus; it must have been a trick of his hearing that made him think someone had said "I was waiting for you to do that". And surely it was a trick of the light that Remus thrust the knife up into Tom Riddle's ribcage and through his heart -- surely Tom impaled himself as they struggled together, Remus only trying to protect Harry from a powerful wizard lunging forward at him.

There was a wet thump as Tom's body fell to the ground, and then silence.

Glastonbury fluttered across the church, swooping low and gliding in to land on the edge of the pew next to Harry. His feathers were wet with tears, and there was a healing scar across Remus' throat.

"Go to Sirius," Harry whispered to the bright scarlet bird, and Glastonbury obediently hopped down onto the pew and strutted along it, butting Sirius' left arm with his head. The bone crackled and groaned as it slid back into its proper place. Harry looked away, nauseated, and found himself meeting Remus' gaze. Remus opened his mouth.

"Don't apologise," Harry said. "I would have done the same."

"What happened?" Tonks asked.

Harry glanced back at Sirius. Glastonbury had curled up on his chest and was steaming contentedly.

"Things ended," he said.

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