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SIYE Time:2:29 on 18th September 2021


The Lost Year
By _kb_

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Category: Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ron Weasley
Genres: General
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 93
Summary: After the battle in the Department of Mysteries, Ginny seems different and more confident; she also inspires Harry to change. How did that happen? (gray H/G)
Hitcount: Story Total: 8712; Chapter Total: 689
Awards: View Trophy Room






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Chapter 9

It was mid-October as the group of sixth years went to breakfast. Harry was feeling a little uneasy despite their fun day planned with a trip to Hogsmeade because his big talk with Dumbledore was supposed to be this afternoon and evening.

“Mate,” Ron said, “we’re doing really well this year. We’re almost at Halloween and nothing bad has happened yet this year.”

“Thanks for jinxing it, Ron,” Harry told him sarcastically.

Hermione looked at them, ending on Ron. “Based on the last five years, on average you’d have to wait until after Halloween to say that.”

“Hmm, yes to first year,” Ron muttered as he spread jam on his toast, “probably third too, definitely yes to fourth; hard to say about fifth. I think you’re right, Hermione.” The girl smiled knowingly at him, causing him to concentrate on his breakfast a little more although with a pleased look.

By the time they were ready to go to Hogsmeade, Harry was actually antsy because they were close to an hour later than originally planned. Ginny holding his hand and having a whispered conversation about fun things to do mostly kept his mind off of the problem.

The five Gryffindors finally left the castle and started on their short trip, but they were late enough they were by themselves. Harry felt better to finally be going and was smiling and joking with the rest … at least until they neared the gates of the school.

There, he saw Katie Bell with a package in her hand walking back towards the school. He figured she wanted to take her purchase back to her room until he got a good look at her face.

“Ginny,” he said softly, “did Katie look different to you, maybe a little off?”

The redhead looked over her shoulder at the girl who’d just passed them. “She wasn’t smiling like she usually does; she looked very determined also.”

Harry stopped, forcing his girlfriend to stop too and the others to almost run into them.

“Hey,” Ron said indignantly.

“Katie!” Harry called out. The blonde Chaser kept walking. “Katie!” he called out louder, causing the others in the group to look between him and her.

Harry let go of Ginny’s hand and hurried after his teammate, also drawing his wand as red flags were being thrown figuratively although he had trouble naming why. “Katie Bell!” he yelled now.

The girl stopped and turned very woodenly. In fact, her stop was so sudden the contents of the package in her hand came out of the wrapping so she was holding only the paper; a necklace with a strange stone on it was now on the ground. The necklace barely made an impression on Harry. What did grab his attention was the hollowness of her eyes as if “no one was home upstairs”.

Slowly and stiffly, she bent over to grab the necklace.

“No!” he shouted and started running towards her as the probable cause of her strange behavior hit him. When his shout didn’t faze her and she kept reaching down, Harry thrust his wand forward and shouted, “Stupefy!” The spell hit her just before she touched the necklace and threw her back several body lengths before she landed and flopped in a heap.

“Harry! What are you doing?!” Hermione yelled in disbelief of his action.

“Someone, run to the school and get a teacher like McGonagall or Flitwick and tell them to get Pomfrey and get back down here in a hurry!” he commanded, even more intense than he’d been in the Department of Mysteries.

“Harry?” Ginny hurried over and stood beside him, as did Neville.

“Did you see her eyes?” he asked, trying to keep both the necklace and Katie in his vision.

“Yeah, it was like she wasn’t there,” Ginny said and then looked shocked and alarmed. “You don’t think…”

“I don’t know, but either that wasn’t really Katie Bell or something was really wrong with her,” Harry answered.

“I agree,” Neville said. “I’ll be back with help as soon as I can.” He edged around the necklace and then started running towards the school.

“Ginny, keep an eye on her; I’m going to make sure no one touches this thing,” Harry said.

His girlfriend pulled her wand and moved a little closer to her unconscious teammate.

“Do you think she really was under the Imperious?” Hermione asked a little fearfully as she walked closer to him. “Here?”

Ron walked over too and looked at the necklace, although he kept a healthy distance from it. Harry thought it might be because of the brains he’d been attacked by in the Department of Mysteries. Harry couldn’t blame him for that feeling as he felt a little creeped out by this thing too.

“I don’t know,” Harry finally replied, “but something was wrong. If I’m wrong, she can yell at me.”

A few minutes later they saw McGonagall hurrying with her holding the front of her dress up to her knees showing some old fashioned women’s boots. Flitwick and Neville (who was puffing hard from having to hurry both ways) was coming behind. Pomfrey came around the turn a moment later also hurrying as she carried a dark brown bag.

McGonagall went to Katie as did Pomfrey. Flitwick took charge of the probably cursed necklace, or Harry thought it had to be to do that to Katie.

Harry turned to Ron who was still standing nearby. “You really did jinx us this morning by saying nothing bad had happened yet this year.” Ron just shrugged and continued to look on.

Eventually, the students were dismissed and went on into town for lunch. It wasn’t fun in anyway. In fact, after lunch Harry had to leave his friends, after a quick kiss for his girlfriend, and walk back to the school for his meeting.

– – –

Harry knocked on the door to Dumbledore’s office and was invited in. Before anything could be said, Harry blurted out, “How’s Katie? What did that necklace do to her?”

“Have a seat,” Dumbledore said calmly from behind his desk before he cast several spells for privacy on his own office. “Miss Bell will be just fine in a few days or a week at most. Harry, take twenty points for Gryffindor for your excellent observation skills to notice that she was under the Imperious Curse.”

“The Necklace did that?” Harry choked out, amazed that the innocent looking piece of jewelry could do that.

“Oh, no, someone cast that on her. That’s being investigated and has yet to be determined if we ever do,” Dumbledore assured him. “The necklace was cursed too. Professors Flitwick and Snape are still working on it, but they have assured me it would not be good for the wearer as it has at least two very powerful and deadly curses on it.”

“Err… Wow…” Harry managed, not really able to articulate the depth of his feeling about this other than it was very bad.

“Yes, it is all quite the tale.” The Headmaster looked at him carefully. “Is this still a good time to discuss Voldemort?”

Harry blinked and responded, “Yes, Sir.”

“Very well. I have six memories for us to consider,” Dumbledore told him as he rose and walked over to his Pensieve. “Shall we?”

– – –

When they came out of the Pensieve, Dumbledore said, “As you can see from the haziness of it, the last memory was tampered with.” He sighed. “I had hoped to convince Horace Slughorn to come teach here and perhaps he’d give you the memory in honor of your mother, who was one of his favorite students. Alas, that did not work out and we can’t be sure what Tom’s goal was.”

Harry frowned for a moment. “We should be able to work it out though. You said the diary Ginny had and the ring you found were a Horocrux; so that’s two. You believe the Slytherin’s locket and Hufflepuff’s cup are, which would make four. Then Tom should be considered a part so that’s at least five. What’s the next magical number? Ginny told me once that some numbers are considered more magical than others.”

Dumbledore chuckled. “Well reasoned, Harry. The next highly magical number is seven, which makes me think we’re missing something of Ravenclaw’s -- as all of Gryffindor’s special possessions are accounted for and are clean -- plus one other. I suspect Nagini might be it as the reports I have of her make her seem more intelligent than any normal snake. The problem is that we’re having to do a lot of guessing and it would be good to be sure.”

“Professor,” Harry said with a hint of disappointment, “even if you knew the number there’s no guarantee Tom actually made that many. Not everyone reaches all of their goals.”

“True,” Dumbledore said with a nod, “but this was important enough to him that he would have made it happen in some way. Now, let’s discuss the other memories too.”

They did that and ate dinner that a house-elf brought them when they took a break.

Eventually, the discussion returned to the Horocruxes. “So you see, Harry, history is important here. I’ve also been trying to figure out where they are, but that’s going even slower. I fear the task of finding them will fall to you.”

Harry looked at the old man as he thought about it all. “Professor, I do not wish to say this, but you’re making the same mistake you did before.”

“Oh?” Dumbledore said nonplussed as he leaned back in his chair.

“Yes, Sir. I mentioned before that you told me learning this information was important and I can sort of see your point,” Harry saw Dumbledore smile slightly, “but you’re making the same mistake where you’re telling me finding and destroying these objects is very important but you’re doing very little about it.

“Sir, you aren’t Chief Warlock or Supreme Mugwump anymore. You’re only a Headmaster and you don’t teach any classes. Take some time off and go find them. In fact, find someone to take your place and step down as Headmaster at Christmas and go search as you did this last summer. If you can’t find them with your knowledge and contacts, I don’t know how you expect me to as you know a lot more magic than I do.”

Dumbledore nodded. “A brilliant plan with a fatal flaw. Harry, if I disappear from the school, it is almost certain that Tom will attack here in my absence. I am a deterrent Tom cannot ignore, especially in this place with all of the magical defenses it has. In addition, we do not want to tip him off to the fact that we know about his Horcruxes so that he moves them to places that are harder to get to. Do not worry, the prophecy says you’ll figure it out.”

“Or die trying and I think the last is more likely as Tom has 50 years more experience than I do,” Harry said sarcastically. “Professor, the prophecy doesn’t say that I have to do it all, just that I’ll have the final blow. Others can hold him down for me.”

The professor chuckled. “That is a valid interpretation, but I think it more likely that you’ll need to find the remaining Horcruxes before you meet him in a duel to finish him off. I believe you can do it.”

Harry only shook his head. “So that’s the plan? You think I have to find the Horcruxes, destroy them, then defeat Tom in battle?”

“More or less,” Dumbledore agreed. “As mentioned, there are parts of this we’re having to guess at.”

Harry shook his head again but didn’t argue his point anymore as he knew it wouldn’t do any good at this time. “What do you think the Ravenclaw item is?”

Dumbledore considered it for a moment. “The most famous item of hers was her Diadem of Wisdom. Miss Lovegood could show you a picture of it I’m sure. Alas, it was lost centuries ago, so if Tom found it -- which is possible I suppose -- then it will be a shame to destroy it.”

Harry considered that and made a mental note to talk to Luna. “Slytherin’s locket was that heavy gold one with the snake on it that we saw, right?” He thought it looked familiar but couldn’t place it.

“Correct. Hufflepuff’s cup has a badger on it as you also saw,” Dumbledore reminded him. “I would expect the snake would have to be killed last, or about the same time as Tom is killed.”

“How do you destroy them? How did you destroy the ring?” Harry asked. “I need to know so I don’t have the same problem you did.” He gestured at Dumbledore’s blackened hand.

The professor took a deep breath and looked uncomfortable. “There are multiple ways. If you could successfully cast a very strong Killing Curse, then that would probably do it. However, I’m not able to test that and I doubt you would be able to either. It would probably take Tom casting the curse and that’s unlikely to happen.”

“Short of tricking him, I have to agree.” Harry wondered if that was even possible.

“You destroyed one with Basilisk venom. I destroyed the ring with Gryffindor’s sword,” Dumbledore told him.

“What happened to your hand then?” Harry asked and could tell Dumbledore really didn’t want to answer.

After a long moment Dumbledore said, “There are almost always protections around his treasures. I ran afoul of one. I’m sorry, but I’ll say no more on it.”

Harry supposed he could understand; he didn’t like telling others about his mistakes either. “What else do I need to know?”

“I’m sure there are any number of things,” Dumbledore told him sadly, “but it would take years to learn them all. You’ll have to trust your instincts, which I’ve found to be very good when you need them.”

“You’ll let me know if you find out new information?” Harry asked with a hint of demand. He hoped that wasn’t rude but he really did need to know.

“I will.”

With a nod Harry stood. “Thank you for telling me.”

“You’re welcome.”

Harry left to go back to the Tower, deep in thought the entire way. One of his questions was if he should tell Ron and Hermione or continue to keep quiet. He was going to need help but he didn’t want to drag them into it … to get them hurt. Another part of his mind pointed out he’d told Ginny; it also asked why she was different. He didn’t have an answer other than she was different.

When he stepped into the common room, he was pleased Ginny saw him first and came over. The others followed. Knowing he’d have to say something, he walked over to the side of the room that was the emptiest and levitated a couch over before he pulled Ginny to him and onto his lap which she gave a short laugh to.

“Was it that bad?” she asked him and the others sat on the couch or pulled up their own chair.

Hermione looked very eager to hear what he had to say, as expected -- although Ron wasn’t far behind her. That tore at him a little. He was pleased that Neville was quiet but looked supportive.

Harry sighed. “I can’t give details, but Dumbledore answered my questions that I’ve had for years. What I can’t figure out is if what he told me matters or not.” He wanted to tell them about the prophecy but couldn’t bring himself to. His arms around Ginny waist, he held on and leaned his forehead against her shoulder.

“Oh,” he moved to look at them and wasn’t surprised to see disappointed looks. “I found out that Katie was placed under the Imperious curse by someone.”

“By who?” Ron demanded with a tinge of fear.

Harry could understand; he didn’t want it done to him either, even if he could break it. “They don’t know yet. The necklace didn’t control her, but it was highly cursed and probably would have killed anyone who put it on.”

“But it was so pretty,” Ginny protested.

“Probably one of the ways it works,” Hermione said with a sigh, “you know, to make you wear it.” Neville nodded in agreement.

“So now what?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. “Don’t know that there is anything for me or us to do. I think it’s up to Dumbledore as long as he’s around.”

“Does that mean it’s up to you if someone kills him?” Ginny asked with a frown.

Harry shrugged again. “Hard to say, but maybe. Dumbledore gave a good story, but I’m still working out how much I believe it. I’d be chuffed if he was wrong.”

“But he rarely is,” Hermione pointed out.

“I have several examples where he has been,” Harry told her firmly before he felt Ginny rub his arm and neck. He relaxed into her touch. “You do have a good point though,” he conceded.

“Don’t worry about it now,” Ginny told him. “You can think about it for a while and maybe the problem will become clearer.”

Harry smiled at her. “Thanks, Ginny.” He realized she’d calmed him again. As the others returned to what they had been doing, Harry held her in his lap. Whispering, he told her, “I’ll tell you the details tomorrow; you’re right that I need to not worry about it now.”

She kissed the top of his head. “Of course I’m right.”

He chuckled at her.

“They really don’t know who cursed Katie?” she asked quietly.

Harry shook his head. “If you think about it, it could have been anyone since it happened in Hogsmeade.

Ginny shifted and leaned back against the couch back, putting her arm more around his neck, causing him to shift a little to get more comfortable. “But what if it was done by a student. Who could have done that? That’s … that’s something a Death Eater would do.”

He considered that for a moment. “You’re right and I know who I’d want to ask but he’d never answer.”

Ginny snorted in obvious agreement. “I’m sure we’re thinking of the same person. I agree we’re not going to get the truth from him.”

Harry rubbed her back and side. “What if we did? What if he confessed to it, then what?”

“Like if you fed him Veritaserum or something?” She shrugged. “I don’t know. Unless a teacher hears the confession, I don’t think anything would happen.” She looked at him. “I know where you’re going with that, Harry. You’re walking a difficult moral line that you’d probably end up crossing when you shouldn’t. I wouldn’t help you without absolute proof.”

He nodded and squeezed her gently. “I actually agree with you, but I just wonder what if I had the proof, would I be able to really do anything or not?” He shrugged. “I suppose it doesn’t matter since I don’t know.”

“No it doesn’t; leave it be,” she told him as she shifted again. “It’s far more important for you to keep your girlfriend happy.” She moved her face to his and they kissed deeply for some minutes.

Harry felt more relaxed at the end and even had mostly forgotten about his questions. There was something niggling at the back of his mind, but he’d figure it out later.




A few days later, Harry and Ginny walked into the library to meet Luna and revise with her and seeing their blonde friend reminded him of a research project he needed to do. Sitting beside Luna he whispered, “I understand Rowena Ravenclaw had famous diadem. Do you know where I’d find a picture of it?”

Ginny looked at him strangely for the question, but Luna just said, “The easiest way to see what it looked like would be to come into our common room and look at the statue of her there. I think that’s why the Grey Lady never comes in -- it’s sad.”

“Do you think you could take me in?” Harry pressed, glad there was at least one representation of the artifact.

“Harry, we’re in a library,” Ginny stressed the last word with a ‘don’t be stupid’ look.

He looked down sheepishly for a moment and scratched his head. “Do either of you know where I’d find a book with her picture in it?”

Luna rose without saying a word. The other two followed her. Using her wand, Luna tapped a book that was above her head on the bookshelf, causing it to pull out and then float down until she could grab it. Opening it, she flipped through it then stopped and handed the book to her friend.

Harry stared at it for a moment before he swore quietly, “By Merlin’s Staff!” Closing it, he held it next to the bookshelf and let go, allowing it to reshelf itself. “Thanks Luna! You’re brilliant, totally brilliant and I’ll explain that more one day.” He surprised her with a very quick hug. “I need to go tell Dumbledore something.”

Harry headed back to the table where he’d left his bag, grabbed it, and slung it over his shoulder as he headed for the exit. When he reached the door, he realized Ginny was catching up to him with her own bag over her shoulder.

“Err…” He wasn’t sure what to say to her coming with him.

“You have that look,” she said quietly, “that says you’re about to go have an adventure and possibly do something stupid, even if it works out somehow. I’ve spent enough time and effort to make you an acceptable boyfriend that I’d like to ensure that effort isn’t lost.”

Harry blinked at her and realized she looked very serious. “No, I’m not going to do anything stupid, I promise. I just need to go talk to Dumbledore.”

Ginny sighed. “Harry, I’d really like to believe you but we’re walking the wrong way to get to his office.” She glared at him. “Don’t lie to me!”

“Well, I do need to pick up something, or maybe two somethings first, but I really am going to see Dumbledore,” he insisted as he walked up a set of stairs that would take him to the seventh floor.

“Right,” she drawled out, disbelief dripping from the stretched out word. “I’ll help make sure you get there then.” She kept up with him.

Harry consider the predicament he was in. Dumbledore had said he could tell Ron and Hermione about the prophecy and the discussions of the memories, which he took to mean he could tell trusted confidants. That he hadn’t told them much but had told Ginny more was sort of the same thing, wasn’t it?

“I suppose,” he replied thoughtfully, “from what I’ve told you and what you’ve been through, you have the most right to know this.”

Her looked changed to surprise but she kept walking with him. When he was at the correct spot, Harry thought about finding a place to hide things. The door appeared as expected and he opened it and waved her in. Inside, he closed the door and thought about the door disappearing to hide them and it did.

“Wow, there’s a lot of junk in here,” she said in awe as she looked around slowly. “I see some attempt at organization, but there’s still a lot of junk.”

“The head house-elf told me at the end of the summer that I’d done a good job, and he sort of implied for not being a house-elf,” he told her with a grin as he pulled his bag off and took hers, setting them both by the door before he started walking to a specific area.

“This is where you told me you stayed and cleaned? No wonder you’re so good at some of the spells we do in class,” she said as she slowly followed him.

“I did some spells probably hundreds of times over the summer,” he explained. “I became very good at Animation spells as well as the Levitation spell. I lived over in the corner, had my own little bedroom and living area. The rest of the room was a place to do whatever I wanted. I even flew around in here some; sort of had to get some of the stuff down from the top of the taller stacks. Oh, here it is.”

Ginny turned and looked at the shelf her boyfriend was looking at and exclaimed. “You found Ravenclaw’s lost diadem in here?!”

“Yeah, didn’t know what it was at the time,” he told her. “I put all of the unknown but possibly interesting and useful thing on shelves.”

“The wig it’s on is atrocious, but the diadem itself is pretty.” She started moving forward with an arm outstretched.

“Oh no you don’t!” he shouted and grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back, almost knocking both of them over until he caught his balance. She ended up facing him so he kissed her hard for a long moment.

“Yum, I didn’t mind that at all, but why did you pull me away?” asked Ginny as she gazed into his eyes.

“Because I didn’t want you to touch it. Did you feel the need?” he asked with a hint of worry.

“No, I just wanted to look,” she replied. “It’s not every day you find something from one of the school’s founders.”

“A point I suppose,” he conceded, “but you see one every year with the Sorting Hat.”

“True,” she conceded his point. “What’s so special about that you came looking for it? Other than it’s Ravenclaw’s,” she added hastily, “because it seems like you asked Luna for a reason.”

Harry signed and let her go, but grabbed her hand and pulled her over to the section of furniture to find two chairs that were close together where they sat.

“I, uh,” he had to stop. “There’s no good way to explain this that you’re going to like, so please bear with me.” He grabbed her hands as her look changed to worry. “Probably the most important thing Dumbledore and I talked about during our long meeting is how … Tom,” he decided to make it a little more personal for her, “stayed alive over the years.

“There is some very dark -- the darkest of the dark -- magic that allows the person to break off part of their soul and put it in an object. If that’s been done, then if they are killed, they don’t really die and go on. They lose their body, but they don’t pass on. Obviously, Tom did that, which is why he disappeared for about thirteen years before he did some other probably dark magic to get a new body in my fourth year.”

Ginny looked at him with wide eyes and in a fearful voice with dread whispered, “The diary.”

He squeezed her hands and nodded. “It was one of several.”

She launched herself at him, hugging him with a death grip. He held her and did his best to soothe her. When she finally let go, he could see tear tracks on her cheeks.

“After you saved me, I felt like I always needed a bath but couldn’t truly get cleaned,” she said softly. “I feel like that again.”

He pulled her into his lap to hold her closer and she didn’t resist at all. “I said there were several, but the real number is probably seven. We’ve destroyed two, I did the diary and Dumbledore did another. The diadem is one and I know where one more is now that I really think about it. Dumbledore believes he knows what the other two are, but we don’t know where one of them is.”

Ginny nodded and thought for a moment. “Now what?”

“I need the other one.” Harry called out in a strong voice, “Kreacher, come!”

The old elf popped in, looking as he always did, including his surly expression. “Master called?”

“Kreacher, last time I was there, I recall seeing a golden locket with a snake on the floor.” He purposefully didn’t mention Fletcher. When he saw the elf take in a surprised breath, he added, “I see you remember it too. Please bring it to me.”

The elf stood there for a moment. “What does master plan to do with it?”

That surprised the boy. “Why? What’s special about it to you?”

Kreacher looked down and wouldn’t look back up. “Master Regulus gave me a command I’ve been unable to fulfill.”

“What?”

“He said I was to destroy the locket, but I can’t.” The elf tugged on his ears before he started to hit himself.

“Stop,” Harry ordered and the elf did after one more hit. “Kreacher, if you’ll bring me the locket, I promise it will be destroyed. It may be a day or two, but I know how to destroy it.”

Kreacher finally looked up and Harry thought it might have been with hope. With a quick move, the elf snapped his fingers and was gone.

Harry helped Ginny up and conjured a box on the chair they had been in before he summoned the diadem, directing it into the box.

Kreacher returned and Harry had him drop the locket into the box. It looked to be the same as what he saw in the memory.

“We all touched that…” she paused to prevent herself from saying something she couldn’t.

Harry just nodded, as revolted as she must be too. He closed it up and conjured brown paper and string, wrapping the box like a present. “There, that will hide them until I can get to Dumbledore’s office. I believe we can destroy these tonight if we’re lucky.”

He looked back at the elf. “I know you don’t like me and I’m not happy with you lying to me so that Sirius was killed, but thank you for this.”

The elf looked at him for a moment and nodded.

“Oh, where did you, or rather Regulus, get it?” Harry wondered aloud.

“It was in a cave by the sea where the Dark Lord hid it and where … Master died.”

“Thank you, Kreacher, you should return to the house,” Harry told him gently. The elf nodded again before leaving.

Harry looked at his watch. “It’s close to time for dinner. You should probably head there. If I don’t meet you there, I’ll find you in the common room.”

“Are you sure you’ll be all right?” she asked with some worry and a glance at the box.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine now. I won’t open the box until I’m with Dumbledore,” he promised and started walking her towards the door.

Ginny reached for their bags and Harry pulled out his Marauder’s Map. Checking it, he frowned.

“What?” she asked.

“Malfoy is outside this door, as are Crabbe and Goyle. I wonder what they want?” He watched and they weren’t leaving. “I guess we’ll have to wait until they go.”

Ginny rolled her eyes at him. “You’ve forgotten us leaving by another door to escape from Umbridge, haven’t you?”

Harry looked up for a moment as if asking for help. “Yeah I have, good one. I should do something else first. Dobby come!”

His other elf popped in. “Master called?”

“Dobby, I need a big favor,” Harry told him. “I’m sure you’re working on dinner, but this is more important.”

“I will do it,” the elf said enthusiastically.

“Splendid,” Harry said and knelt down on one knee. “We’re about to leave here and Malfoy is on the other side of this door. I remember you telling me that elves can do work while invisible to people.”

“Yes, Harry Sir; we do it all the time when cleaning,” Dobby boasted.

“Great,” Harry grinned. “I’d like you to go around to the other side when we leave and watch Malfoy when he comes in here. If you can pop in when the door is open so he doesn’t know you’re here, that would be even better. I’d like to know what kind of room he needs and why he wants in there and what he’s doing.”

“Dobby can do that easily.”

“Oh, one more thing. Can you follow him around a little, invisible too, and tell me if he has a Dark Mark on his arm? I’ve seen him rubbing his arm and I’d like to know.” Harry was hopeful on this too.

“Of course! Dobby will tell you tomorrow.”

“Splendid,” Harry grinned and rose. “I need an exit where we won’t be seen.” They saw all a door open to their left and walked that way.

Looking outside, Harry saw an empty corridor and smiled. With a look at the elf, he nodded and the elf disappeared. The two Gryffindors left and closed the door behind them; it disappeared a couple of seconds later. They watched the map and a minute later, Malfoy disappeared from the map and the two sidekicks stayed where the door should have been. “Most curious,” Harry said dryly as he put the map away and started walking, also having seen that Dumbledore was in his office.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Ginny asked.

“No, I’ll be fine. I’ll find you later and let you know what happened,” he told her.

Ginny nodded. “If anyone asks, I’ll tell them you’re talking to Dumbledore.” She grinned. “That will stop Hermione.”

Harry chuckled. “Right. See you later.” He bent down and kissed her quickly.

“Thanks for telling me, Harry,” she said before she left.

As he neared the Headmaster’s office, he turned the corner and almost ran into Snape. Of all the times, he thought. “Please excuse me, Professor.” He stepped to the side to go around the man.

“Potter, what’s in the box?” He pointed to the thing under Harry’s arm.

This was so like the time Snape took his Quidditch book from him. “It’s something Professor Dumbledore requested. Please excuse me.” Again he tried to leave.

“Not so fast,” Snape stepped in front of him. “After the incident with Ms Bell, we can’t be too careful. Let me see the box.”

Harry took a step back. “I’m sorry, Professor, but this is not for you. It’s something personal that the Headmaster requested.”

“Which is exactly what Ms Bell said about her cursed item. Hand it over.” Snape held out his hand.

“No.”

“What did you say?” Snape said threateningly, daring Harry to say it again.

“I said this is for the Headmaster only.”

“That will be detention with me for refusing an order. Now hand it over,” Snape commanded.

“No, but you’re welcome to come with me and if the Headmaster wants to share the contents with you I guess that his choice,” Harry held firm. Snape narrowed his eyes and Harry felt an attack, but he was ready for it, had been expecting it and shoved the man out of his mind, causing Snape to stagger backwards a half step. “Stay out of my mind,” Harry told him firmly before stepping around the man swiftly and walking quickly. He was not surprised Snape followed him.

Since Harry had the password, he gave it and both went up the stairs. They entered with the Headmaster’s invitation.

“Harry, Severus, what a surprise. I was about to head to dinner,” Dumbledore said. “What can I do for you?”

Speaking up quickly, Harry said, “Professor, I have a small present for you in regards to those things we talked about last time…perhaps a clue to help you. Professor Snape seems to think I shouldn’t be bringing that to you and demanded I hand it over and gave me detention when I wouldn’t.” He didn’t bother looking at Snape, knowing the man would be giving him a displeased look.

Dumbledore smiled. “I so enjoy clues to a good puzzle, thank you for bringing it. Severus, I’ll handle it. Feel free to continue on to dinner.”

Snape was silent for a moment before he said, “As you wish, Headmaster.”

“Headmaster, about the detention?” Harry prompted before Snape could leave.

“Of course, I don’t think there’s any need for that,” Dumbledore said smoothly, “I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding, Severus.”

The Potions teacher nodded before giving Harry a displeased look and left.

“Let’s see what you found,” Dumbledore said eagerly.

Harry set the box on the desk and unwrapped it. “While I think we could touch them and not be hurt, I’ve been careful not to today.”

“Them?” Dumbledore asked with surprise.

Harry just opened the box to show what he’d brought.

“Ravenclaw’s diadem and Slytherin’s locket,” Dumbledore breathed in surprise. “How? Where?”

“The locket was at #12, so you were near it multiple times,” Harry said with a bit of a smile which turned into a grin at Dumbledore’s surprised expression. “As for the diadem,” he shrugged, “it was pure luck I ran across it.”

Dumbledore nodded, not asking for more details. “Would you like to destroy them now?”

“Yes.” Harry was actually happy to be included. Perhaps his talk with Dumbledore a few weeks ago had really helped.

Dumbledore handed him the Sword of Gryffindor and conjured wooden block upon which he set the diadem. “I think cleaving the silver part will be all that’s required.”

As Dumbledore pointed his wand at the diadem, Harry quickly swung the sword as directed and when the sword contacted the diadem he was blown back a few feet and knocked on his bum by the small explosion and a short unearthly scream.

Dumbledore’s hat was now on the other side of the room behind him and his hair and beard were both blown back over his shoulders as well. He looked down at the boy with a disappointed look. “Perhaps you can wait until I erect a shield next time?”

“Sorry, Professor,” Harry apologized as he rose, mindful of the very sharp sword in his hand. The diadem was in two pieces and there was a burnt looking spot on the wooden pedestal. “I guess that worked?”

“It did,” Dumbledore said as he levitated the locket over and then did a spell around the pedestal. “That should contain the magical backlash. When you’re ready?”

Harry swung the sword again, cleaving the locket into two parts, the explosion only going straight up. Again there was an unearthly scream.

“Very good work, Harry,” Dumbledore was smiling.

“Good luck on searching for the cup,” Harry told him as he set the sword on the pedestal. “I think I can still make dinner if I hurry.”

“Of course. Again, good work,” Dumbledore told him as he started to clean up.

Harry hurried to the Great Hall and took a seat at the empty place next to Ginny that she’d saved for him. At her expectant look, he leaned over and whispered, “They were ones and they’re destroyed.”

She brightened and grabbed his hand and squeezed.

Harry noticed a puzzled and almost an unhappy look from Hermione; Ron was only a little better in that he was only puzzled. He was thankful they didn’t ask for details.

After a hurried dinner, they all returned to Gryffindor Tower, where Hermione pulled him to the side along with Ron. Ginny came over on her own.

“Harry, what’s going on?” Hermione asked. “I know something is but you’re not telling us; why not?”

Pulling his wand out, Harry put up a privacy spell as he considered his answer. In the end, honesty was the right answer here. “Hermione, Ron, I’ll admit I have haven’t told you everything I’ve been discussing and doing for Dumbledore, but he’s asked me to keep it private so I am. Also, I’ve only told you a summary because I’m trying to protect you. I’m afraid that if you knew all of the details it’d put you in more danger that you already are as my friends.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Really, Harry? You can’t tell us but you can tell Ginny? Don’t deny it, I’ve see you two have private conversations with privacy spells and there’s no need for that if you’re only talking about where to go snog.” Hermione nodded her agreement.

Harry glanced at Ginny who was giving her brother a surprised look. “I’ve told her a little more but there are details that I haven’t told her either.”

“But why her and not us?” Ron said, sounding hurt.

“Because she’s affected by it too and I felt she deserved to know why her first year was so bad,” Harry answered.

Hermione gave a meek, “Oh!” as her eyes went wide in understanding.

However, Ron didn’t let it go and asked hotly, “What Hermione I have gone through with you over the years isn’t good enough?”

Just as hotly, Harry responded, “When you’ve been possessed by Voldemort, when you’ve fought him directly and would have died if you lost, come see me and I’ll tell you more. Until then, be happy you’re not as involved.” He grabbed and squeezed Ginny’s hand and then stormed off.

Ron just stared after Harry, hardly believing what he’d just been told.

Ginny put a hand on her brother’s shoulder. “Ron, he over reacted and I’m sure he’ll apologize to you tomorrow, but you shouldn’t have pushed him like that either. You need to apologize to him also.”

“But I just wanted to know; he’s never kept things from us before,” Ron replied, now looking back at his sister, honestly confused.

“From what little more I know,” she told him, “the stakes are higher now and he’s only trying to protect you because he cares about you two. You heard him, he doesn’t tell me everything either. It’s my opinion he has a burden you don’t ever want.” She did her best to allude to the prophecy without saying anything about it. “Give him some space and see what happens. Don’t be surprised if he tells you only a little more.”

Her speech given to try to calm her brother down and bring the trio back together, for it seemed like Hermione had understood a little faster and better, Ginny left for her room. Perhaps she’d put this behind her for the evening by doing something completely different by gossiping with Lavender and Parvati as she didn’t see them down here.




(A/N: Until this chapter, Harry had no idea why Tom Riddle was able to "come back to life". In the books, that was pretty late in book6; so it’s no wonder he didn’t remember (quoted from book5) "a heavy locket that none of them could open" from #12 GP almost two years later. As I mentioned to someone, I have no plans to write a 280K-word Horocrux hunt (a.k.a. book7). Therefore, with one exception, I don’t have to do anything special other than let Harry more fully use his resources than he did in the books. I will admit that timing also helped him with the diadem, by being able to talk to Dumbledore and have Luna’s help without any pressure. In addition, as this chapter showed, you got to see why staying in the Room of Requirement last summer was so helpful. :-) Since I have no need to sell seven books, I can have Harry "force" Albus to talk with him so info is truly shared and with the better "resource" usage the tale is shortened in a way I prefer.)

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