It had been three months since Harry had left the Dursleys', and he had never looked back. October was just beginning, bringing the smell of wet leaves on the ground. Harry was becoming more and more familiar with this scent. Late night walks were his one escape, and decaying leaves were in abundance in this neighborhood. This fragrance was exactly the opposite of what he wanted the most, and, coupled with the constant mist, his senses were drowning. Much had happened in that time since he had left. He had visited the Burrow for the wedding of Bill and Fleur. Afterwards, he, Ron, and Hermione, had traveled to the remains of his parents' home in Godric’s Hollow; before setting out on their undertaking. That was all just a memory of summer now though, blurred by his reality. Already they had tracked down one of the Horcruxes; the locket.
Now, Harry was lodging at Grimmauld Place with Ron and Hermione. They had come here for safety while they planned their next move, but found it wasn’t quite as private as they thought. The Order’s continued use of the house as headquarters only impeded their progress. They had spent two weeks discussing what they knew and after many long days and nights they had still not come to any decisions. There were constant distractions and interruptions that were beginning to wear on his patience. While their research had not been a complete waste, Harry knew that there was some clue he was overlooking, something that would lead him to the next Horcrux.
In the meantime, Hermione had taken on the task of researching more about Horcruxes, but there was almost no information available at all. Most important for her had been the knowledge of how to destroy a Horcrux. Until they knew that, Harry was unwilling to risk harming the objects, vividly remembering Dumbledore’s hand. Harry and Ron were left to discover more information on the probable locations, and what artifacts might have been used. Strangely, Hogwarts: A History had been their most useful resource, as it provided information on the founders, and the artifacts that had once belonged to them.
Once again, Harry found himself alone in the study, like so many other nights in recent memory; a single candle burning on the desk. The small flame did little to relieve the darkness that seemed to creep through the window. Dark blue shadows, from the storm outside, surrounded him in his loneliness. There was a fire in the grate that burned low, as the wind and rain whispered to him. He sat quietly; trying to recall all that he could about Voldemort’s past. Everything, from the once handsome young face and commanding voice, to the burning red eyes, passed through his mind. Places he hardly knew circled in his thoughts; the cave, the orphanage …. the lazy town of Little Hangleton, and Harry dreamt of another country road, one with wild flowers growing along the edges. It lead to a single house surrounded by stone walls. He saw fields that were dotted with clover, and bluebells. It reminded his senses of a sweet scent - Amortentia.
It would be a long time before he would be back there again. It was a choice he made out of love, the first of its kind that he could remember. “Noble” she had called it, but it felt more like he was ripping his own soul apart. Not that Harry would allow himself to change his mind.
It was hardest in the days before the wedding. He had spent those first days of sunshine doubting his own resolve, hiding away in the work that needed to be done. But he had no cause to worry as it turned out that he was only fooling himself. When Ginny told him that she understood, she had meant it. Now Harry could recall how strong she was. There was no bitterness between them, or need for long conversations about his decision. Their love for each other had not changed, only the circumstances that surrounded them. In her own way, Ginny had made him realize this. She knew his heart, the selflessness of his choice, and it was why she loved him. He would deny himself the love and comfort he needed to keep her safe, and Ginny accepted him.
Golden days and warm, star-filled nights slipped by somewhere between the hum of crickets and the scent of primrose. They spoke quietly over shared chores, allowing the preparations for the wedding to replace their need for something more. They danced together at Bill and Fluer’s reception, and kissed goodnight at the end of the evening. When it was time for Harry to leave, there were no tears or pleas, just a short embrace, and a lingering moment as her hand left his.
Now she was back at Hogwarts, and Harry was alone with his thoughts. The hours of longing were more painful to him than anything his enemies could conjure.
He sat back in his chair half-heartedly. He needed to put her out of his mind and concentrate. It was a difficult task, considering that he had very little in the way of facts and she was far more pleasant to dream about. He forced his thoughts back to his current undertaking, knowing that he could only be with her again when he had destroyed Voldemort.
Harry had to lean heavily on the guidance that Dumbledore had given him, through the memories, to make any guesses about where to look for the remaining Horcruxes. It didn’t really matter which one they found next, it was more of a problem deciding where any of them might be hidden. He could safely rule out the cave, and the Gaunt House. Both had already been searched, and it was highly unlikely that there would be more than one Horcrux hidden in any one location; it would defeat the purpose. Still, there were many places that Voldemort could have chosen to conceal pieces of his soul; Hepzibah Smith’s home, the orphanage where he had grown up, Borgin and Burkes, or even the Riddle House itself, or another place entirely.
From what he did know, Voldemort would choose a location significant in his life and rise to power. That didn’t necessarily eliminate any of the locations. The Riddle House seemed to be the least likely, and the last place Harry wanted to look. For all he knew Voldemort might actually be there. Further more, the ring had been hidden nearby in the Gaunt House. If that place had been chosen because it was where Voldemort had found the ring, or because it was close to where he had murdered the family of his father, then it wasn’t likely that the Riddle house would also be a location for a Horcrux. It was simply too close.
This brought Harry’s thoughts to Hepzibah Smith’s home. The circumstances were very similar to what he knew about the ring. It was where Voldemort found both Slytherin’s locket, and Hufflepuff’s cup. He had framed another for committing the murder that allowed him to take the objects, just like Morfin. The largest problem was that he had no idea where she had lived. Finding that information might take months, if it could be found at all. Still, it might be worth looking into.
Borgin and Burkes would be a very poor choice as a hiding place in general. If anything were to be hidden there, it would have to be extremely well concealed, and protected by powerful spells. Also, Harry wasn’t sure how significant of a place it would be in Voldemort’s view. It had been his first job, that was true, and had led him to find two of his artifacts, but beyond that there wasn’t much that would attract Voldemort.
Harry considered the orphanage where Tom had lived as a boy to be the next most likely place, aside from the fact that he had hated that place and the people who had lived there. However, with a little effort Harry was sure he could find where it was. The question was would it be a safe place to conceal something so important? It could be easily masked from Muggles, and wizards would have no reason to be there. As a place where Voldemort had spent so much of his life, it was hard to overlook as a possibility, and it was the first place he had ever collected “trophies”.
Wherever they chose to search, Harry wanted to do it soon. They had been idle too long and he was growing restless. Harry pondered his choices for awhile longer, but in the end he decided to try one of the more likely places. He would confer with his friends in the morning, but as the orphanage would be easier to find, that would be the first place they would look.
The night held no promise of anything more that Harry would consider progress. His choice was made and he would move on the next day. He allowed himself to sink further into the chair and drifted off to sleep, the dieing embers and lonely candle his only companions.
Author's note: Thanks for taking the time to read this story, I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. I want to say thank you to Katie for beta reading this for me. She did a tremendous job making sure this story was ready to read. I appreciate all of her efforts, and I hope that you do too.