The graveyard at Little Hangleton has not changed much in the years since Voldemort's return - it was dark and overgrown then, and it is even more so now. There is still a large yew tree, and a small church, and a large hill with a grand house. It's quiet, except for the occasional burst of birdsong.
It would be picturesque, if Cedric Diggory had never died here. It would be calming, if Harry Potter had never been tortured here. It would be peaceful, if Lord Voldemort had never risen here.
But those things did happen, and for the witch and two wizards exploring the graveyard in search of a certain goblet, the knowledge of those events is more than enough to spoil the beauty.
Kingsley, on his guard for anything, comes perilously close to hexing a squirrel. The squirrel, unused to seeing humans and probably unaware that they're dangerous, gives the Auror a look best described as 'bitch, please' and promptly runs off.
Kingsley promptly attempts to look like he didn't do anything, and fails.
Tonks doesn't notice. She's too busy tripping over an ancient, half-crumbled headstone. "Sod it," she mutters, catching herself on a nearby cross. Raising her voice, "Arthur, you making any progress over there?"
Arthur's head, with its thinning red hair, pops up from the far side of the graveyard. "Not a damned thing," he replies, sounding bemused. "Still, we've a third of the graveyard to cover yet, haven't we?"
Making an small noise of agreement, Kingsley ducks his head once more and proceeds along the row, his wand held out in front of him. The wand vibrates ever so flightly, and a faint red glow emanates from the tip. Tonks and Arthur both resume their own searches, all three using the same spell, designed to locate even the smallest magical trace. Such a spell is generally useless in the Wizarding World, where magical residue covers nearly everything in sight.
But in Little Hangleton graveyard, the spell is much more useful. They've already re-established the site of Voldemort's re-birth; the spell-traces, though fading, are still present. Tonks had shivered as she followed the trail of curses, watching as the electric-green ghost of Avada Kedavra shimmered briefly over the spot of Cedric's death.
Now, though, the ground beneath their feet yields no evidence of magic, and hasn't for the better part of two hours.
"Think I might have something over here."
Kingsley's quiet voice cuts through the chorus of crickets, and Tonks and Arthur hurry to his side.
A soft, yellow glow hovers over a grave marked by a crudely-carved headstone, which bore a winged skull in place of a name or epitaph.
"That's cheerful," says Tonks, and drops to her knees to inspect further. "Reckon this is our pauper's grave, mates. Arthur, you wanna do the honours?"
"With pleasure. Stand back, you two. It'll probably be booby-trapped."
The two Aurors step out of harm's way, and Arthur raises his wand. "Exaro!" With an almighty whoosh, a grave's worth of tamped-down dirt and grass splits down the middle and, like the Red Sea, rises up and out of the earth, revealing the rough wooden coffin below.
But not a cup. And no visible traps.
"I suppose it would've been too much to ask that the cup not be inside the actual coffin," Arthur sighs, and with another flick of his wand, the lid pries itself loose with a tremendous creak and a puff of dust.
The three of them peer over the edge of the grave, and then Kingsley pauses, frowning. Without a word, he grabs both Tonks and Arthur's arms, and hauls them away just as coils of Devil's Snare shoot out of the open grave, covering the open coffin within moments, and writhing their way up their legs with frightening speed. "Incendio!" Tonks cries, and a bright jet of flame bursts into being. Arthur and Kingsley follow suit, and with difficulty, the three of them fend the vines off, though not away from the grave.
"They do not appear to be burning," Kingsley notes with his usual calm. He's right; the plants aren't catching fire, and in fact seem to be growing in strength with each passing moment. "This isn't normal Devil's Snare. It's not nearly so afraid of the fire as it should be."
Arthur's teeth are gritted with the effort of sustaining the spell. "'Ere, let's all go at once-- one-- two-- THREE!"
As one, the three of them cast the charm anew, and their combined efforts create a living wall of flame, with a metre or so of bare grave visible at their feet.
"You two, keep it up, I'll go for the cup," Tonks gasps, and drops to her knees, plunging her arm into the coffin. "I can feel something, hang on, almost got it--"
"Hurry, Tonks," Kingsley says in a slightly strained voice, watching as the vines begin to creep forward once more.
"I know, I've almost-- there-- ow fuck!" With a cry of pain, Tonks jerks her arm out of the coffin, her hand clenched tightly around a golden goblet adorned with peridot gems around the base. "Hot-- Get it off me!" Helplessly, she opens her fingers, but the searingly-hot metal is seemingly fused to her palm.
Without a word, Kingsley breaks the spell, picks up Tonks, puts a hand on Arthur's shoulder, and Apparates them to the far side of the graveyard. Arthur stumbles, a bit disoriented from being pulled away from the spell, but then his eyes widen as he looks at the cup in Tonks' hand. "Right," he says after a moment, all business once more. "Extra-strength Sticking Charm, I expect. Kingsley, hold her still for me."
The Auror complies, steadying Tonks as she cries out in pain, and Arthur points his wand at the witch's hand. "Solvo!"
With a rather sickening squelching sound, the cup finally drops from Tonks' hand, and lands in the grass at their feet. She takes a shuddering breath and looks at her hand, which is shaking.
"Bloody fucking hell," she whispers unevenly, staring at her already-blistering skin. "Fuck fuck fuck."
"Steady on, Nymphadora, we'll get you fixed up in no time. Can you cast the spell with us?" Kingsley ducks down to look her in the eye, his brow furrowed.
Tonks closes her eyes, gauging her strength, and then nods.
"Right, then. You know what to do."
The three of them circle Hufflepuff's cup, three wands trained on the pretty, innocuous-looking object.
For a moment, nothing happens.
Then a soft, high-pitched whining begins buzzing in their ears, and they step back; it grows louder, and then louder still, until all three of them are covering their ears.
Then there is a flash of sickening, blood-red light, and a sound almost like a scream--
And when they open their eyes, the horcrux is no more.