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SIYE Time:11:49 on 3rd December 2023


Harry Potter and the Ritual of Love's Memory
By Forge2

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Category: Post-HBP
Characters:All
Genres: Action/Adventure, General, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 198
Summary: After the horcrux hunt implodes leaving most of those Harry loves dead, he starts a new life with a few fellow survivors far away from wizarding Britain. But the discovery of an ancient ritual that promises to send a single memory back in time sparks hope that maybe things can change. Dark ending to DH followed by a tweaked retelling of GoF through DH. Harry/Ginny. Friday updates.
Hitcount: Story Total: 38047; Chapter Total: 1100
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
We've reached the new timeline! Hope y'all enjoy!




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Harry woke with a start. The sheets of his four-poster were drenched in sweat.

Less than a week prior, he had been fighting for his life against a Hungarian Horntail. He was still more than a little shocked at how well his firebolt ploy had worked against the great dragon. The incredible relief of not only surviving but also scoring well had eased a lot of his worries, not the least that he was not treated like a pariah by the majority of the school anymore.

Harry brought his hands to his head as the ache inside it grew. This wasn't a normal pain, like the kind he often felt in his scar. No, this was his entire head pounding and pulsing. He felt like his mind had been placed on high alert to prevent an intruder from barging in.

His eyes got wide. Was this what someone felt like when they were about to be possessed? Had Voldemort found a way into the castle and was trying to infiltrate his mind?

Harry grabbed his glasses and wand then sprang out of his bed. He pressed his back to the stone wall while pointing his wand at the door.

"Ron! Ron!" he didn't want to wake the entire dormitory, but Harry desperately wanted some sort of backup as he scanned the darkened room. Without taking his eyes off the door, he kicked Ron's bed.

"Whuzzat? Whachu want?" A groggy Ron looked for the source of the disturbance.

Ron might be a challenge to wake up, but Harry did feel a strong sense of gratitude that their friendship had returned to normal. Whatever was happening, he was glad to have someone else nearby.

"Ron! I got a weird headache and I think something's after me! Maybe all of us! Help me keep a watch out!"

The panic in Harry's voice seemed to shake the sleep from Ron's brain. He sat bolt upright and fumbled for his wand before standing between his and Harry's beds. He immediately trained his wand at the same spot as his friend.

"Should we wake the others?" Ron whispered as he sidled up to Harry.

"Not yet. I know a lot of wild things happen with me, but this feels different. I can't explain it." Harry took stock of his surroundings. There didn't seem to be anything setting up to attack him and his head wasn't pounding as much anymore. A sudden burst of shame filled his heart as he thought about the embarrassment of waking Ron for a false alarm.

"Better safe than sorry, mate. Wanna head down to the common room and wait it out?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. You don't have to come, I'm sure the feeling will pass…" Harry trailed off, still unsure of how to act around his prodigal best friend.

"Or…" Ron smirked. "You grab your cloak and we make a run to the kitchens?"

Harry's smile matched Ron's. "You, sir, are a genius."

Cloak in tow, the two friends snuck down the stairs into the common room. Before they could make their way out of the portrait hole, a glowing strand of golden light fluttered through the glass pane of the window. The two friends froze as it moved through the air towards them.

"What do we do?" whispered Ron as it approached. The throbbing in Harry's head had returned, but was somehow more gentle. It felt almost as if all the blood vessels in his head were strings on a guitar that were being gently strummed.

Harry shrugged. "I dunno. It feels like it's not going to hurt us. You don't think it's dark magic, do you?"

"Beats me. I've never seen anything like it. It doesn't look dangerous, but I could be…"

Before Ron could finish his sentence, the strand of golden light flew forward, directly at Harry's head. Harry's well-honed Seeker instincts helped him duck out of the way.

"Get out of here!" Ron yelled to Harry as he aimed his wand. "Stupefy!"

The spell had no effect on the strand, which rocketed back around for another pass. Harry scrambled to his feet and tried to make a break for it, but the light collided with the back of his head as he ran towards the portrait hole.

"HARRY!" Ron was beside him an instant later. "Mate, are you alright?"

But Harry Potter didn't answer, except to emit a loud snore.



"...the boy escapes from the clutches of a dragon, not a scratch on him, and I think to myself, 'Maybe his run of bad luck is over!' Then, not a week later, he's in my wing again for who knows what!?" Madam Pomfrey seemed to be in a mood based on her tone. She rarely spoke in such a way when students were around, so Harry surmised that she thought any students in her care were asleep.

He peeked a look at the window and saw the inky blackness of night was only just beginning to warm with the first hints of sunrise.

With a start, Harry remembered the circumstances of his wakefulness in the night and the wild situation he and Ron found in the common room. He tried to recall details about the mysterious light they had seen, but came up with little. It wasn't much of a silver lining, but knowing that Ron had seen it, too, made him feel slightly better. At least when he was explaining the circumstances to Hermione, and maybe Dumbledore, Ron could back him up.

He tried to concentrate on what he remembered from the night's adventures. It was odd, because he could recall most of what happened right up until the strand of light hit him. Then everything went black.

But as he strained his mind to think back, he felt a warm sensation in the back of his mind. It was as if he was focusing on a strong, happy memory to fuel a patronus charm, but it didn't feel familiar. He closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could.

It was as if he could feel the warm sunlight that was dappled by the tree overhead on his skin. The air was a bit muggy, but a gentle breeze kept him from being uncomfortable. His back was leaned up against the trunk of a thick tree, and his legs were splayed out in front of him on the cool grass.

To his right, he could sense that something or someone was leaning up against him. The weight was pleasant against his shoulder, even as a few red strands of something tickley blew against his face in the breeze. His right arm was pressed against something warm, and he could feel that warm right down to his hand and between his fingers. A glance confirmed that beyond his interlocked fingers were a pair of legs that rested quite near to his own.

A somewhat-familiar floral scent filled his nostrils as he gave a satisfied sigh.

"Hey, Harry?" He marveled at how the voice seemed both tender and excited. "What are you thinking?"

Harry began to speak, or at least his memory of himself was speaking. "I dunno, Gin. Just how happy I feel right now. And how much I wish I'd started to get to know you sooner. Especially after your first year, all of us should have done a better job of supporting you. Me, Ron, Hermione… Even the twins."

A wry smile blossomed on his lips. "It woulda been great to realize you were this amazing sooner."

Harry was so confused. He recognized himself, sort of. And he saw enough of the girl in question to piece together that it was Ginny, though she seemed somehow older. But none of this made sense!

Harry leaned to the side and pressed his lips into the crown of red hair at the top of Ginny's head and thought to himself, "I can't believe this girl fought one of Voldemort's horcruxes all on her own for nearly a year."

Voldemort's what? Harry felt as if he had absolutely lost it. As the memory began to fade, he heard Ginny chuckle and whisper, "I guess we'll hafta make up for lost time."

Harry swore loudly.

What in the world was going on? One minute, he was engaged in some weird combat with a golden flying string, the next minute he was on a cot in the hospital wing with some weird version of a memory floating around in his head. None of it made any sense.

Madam Pomfrey rushed to the bedside and put the back of her hand on Harry's forehead. "Mr Potter! I'm glad you're awake and alert, but I won't have any such language here." She began looking back over her notes. "If there were other students in here and you'd woken them up…"

"Madam Pomfrey, do you know what happened to me?"

"Lay back down, Mr. Potter. Mr Weasley brought you to my door a little over an hour ago and told me that he had seen some sort of light touch your forehead after you'd woken up with a nagging pain and a feeling that something was after you. I've found nothing the matter with you and you seemed to be sleeping just fine until a moment ago."

Harry layed back for a second before asking, "If I'm okay, may I be excused? I need to find Professor Dumbledore."

The witch sighed. "I doubt he'll have much more to say about it than I do, but since my tests have all come back clear, you may."

Harry thanked her quickly before running out the doors and sprinting down the hallway. Over his shoulder, he heard the matron call out, "And watch your language!"



Sunlight was pouring into the dormitory by the time Harry reached it. He tossed items and clothing aside as he searched his trunk for the Marauder's Map. When he found it, he whispered, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good" and began scanning for the Headmaster. Several professors had already gathered in the Great Hall, as had Madam Pomfrey and Mr. Crouch. Dumbledore hadn't arrived yet, but appeared to be walking that direction with Madame Maxime. He stuffed the map back into his trunk and hurriedly put his robes on for the day before rushing toward breakfast.

Upon reaching his destination, he strode purposefully past the sparsely filled house tables to the front of the room.

"Ahh, Harry! Splendid morning to you. How are you feeling now that the first task is behind you?" The Headmaster's eyes were twinkling as he smiled down on his pupil. Madame Maxime, who was seated next to him, seemed considerably less pleased to find the second Hogwarts champion in front of her as she was dining.

"Er, feeling rather glad to be through with it. There's something rather concerning that happened last night, and I was hoping to discuss it with you privately?"

"Very well, very well. I shall expect you to visit my office this evening at seven. The password will be 'pumpkin pasties.'" Dumbledore smiled kindly, but also in a way that communicated that the conversation would not begin any sooner. Harry gave him a nod and then slowly walked back to the Gryffindor table.

Harry's plate had already been picked clean by the time Hermione and an exhausted-looking Ron found their way to the seats across from him.

"I can't believe Madam Pomfrey let you out already! I figured this was going to be another three days in the hospital wing, for sure."

"No, she let me out early this morning, though she still wasn't exactly sure what had happened. But either way, thanks for waking up with me and getting me to her so fast. I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to talk to Professor Dumbledore about it this evening."

Hermione couldn't contain her questions any longer. "Ron explained a bit of what happened last night, but I'm curious about your perspective. How'd you wake up? What happened when the gold light struck you? Have you felt any differently since you woke up?"

Harry smiled. He half expected Ron to give her a hard time about her flurry of questions, but he seemed just as interested, though he was loading up his plate while listening. "Well, I woke up with a sort of throbbing pain in my head, but it wasn't like when my scar hurts sometimes. That's more of a tingling or at worst a stabbing pain. This was more like the blood in my head was all pounding in a slow rhythm."

As he searched for the right words to describe the ordeal, a group of third year girls walked into the Great Hall. From the corner of his eye, he saw Ginny whispering conspiratorially with a blonde girl from Ravenclaw. The other girl smiled and nodded. Both went to their own tables, grabbed a plate of food, then headed to a doorway that led outside.

"Umm… Then what happened?" he asked aloud, having lost his train of thought.

Ron answered, "Then you made a mad dash for the portrait hole before the light beaned you in the dome!"

Harry nodded, "Yeah, that's about it. When it struck, I think I sorta passed out. I woke up about an hour or so later with Madam Pomfrey going on about how she thought my luck had turned around after the dragon failed to eat me, but I'd proved her wrong."

"Considering how often you end up under her care, you really ought to buy her some flowers, mate. Maybe you could ask her to be your date to the Yule Ball!" Ron laughed a bit at his own joke while furtively glancing past him at Hermione.

"Ugh…" Harry groaned. "I'd almost forgotten about that. At least the two of you have it easy."

Hermione looked at him indignantly. "And why is it easier for us?"

"Because neither of you have to bring a date. McGonagall told me that it's required of all the champions to bring a date and start off the ceremonies with a dance. You don't even have to attend if you don't want to."

Hermione seemed to accept his answer as acceptable. "You shouldn't have much trouble finding someone to go with you, especially now that most of the school has decided to get behind you as a champion. I've already owled to my parents asking for permission to stay for the dance. It should really be a fascinating experience, especially with the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students involved."

"It's still a long time away, Harry," assured Ron with a mouthful of eggs. "One crisis at a time, right? Figure stuff out with Dumbledore tonight, and find a girl to ask later." Harry shrugged but thought the plan made sense.

He hadn't told Hermione or Ron about the weird pseudo-memory he'd awoken to this morning. For starters, he had just gotten back into a good place with Ron, and explaining a weird dream-memory about dating his sister didn't seem like the best way to rebuild their bond. He also had a lot more questions than answers already, and Hermione seemed likely to only add to that growing list of questions.

As his friends dug into their breakfast, his mind wandered to the odd new memory that seemed so vividly stuck in his mind. Harry had dreams fairly regularly, but most faded into some unknowable part of his brain almost as soon as he was awake. This thought felt distinctly different from those illusory dreams. He wondered what it all could mean and how he'd be able to explain it to Professor Dumbledore.

With a sudden realization, he was aware that later this evening he would be face to face with the headmaster attempting to explain a vision of himself snuggling up to another student. Harry drug his hand over his face as he imagined how that conversation would unfold. When he, Hermione, and Ron left for their first class of the day, Ginny was still outside the Great Hall, eating her breakfast with a friend in the bright, morning sun.



At ten minutes until seven, Harry Potter was nervously pacing the corridor leading to Dumbledore's office. If only he'd stopped to think about it before blabbing to the headmaster. Color was rising to his cheeks seemingly with every breath.

When the waiting became more than he could take, Harry approached the gargoyle and uttered, "Pumpkin pasties." It sprung to life and jumped to the side as a winding staircase appeared behind it.. Harry trudged up and tried to rethink for the hundredth time how to explain the previous night in a way that didn't make him sound like a candidate for St. Mungo's.

He rapped on the door to Dumbledore's office and entered after he heard a kindly voice beckon him to come in. Harry again marveled at the ornate instruments and trinkets that adorned the walls and tables. With a low trill, Fawkes shook his plumage and craned his neck toward Harry. "'Lo, Fawkes," murmured Harry as he scratched the Phoenix behind the ears.

"Good evening, Harry. May I offer you a lemon drop?"

"No, thank you, Professor." Harry heaved a deep sigh. "Did Madam Pomfrey tell you what happened last night?"

"I receive a daily report each morning about all students who visited the infirmary the previous day. But I must say, I take a little more interest when the story that goes along with the report is filled with intrigue and unexplained happenings, especially if they concern students who frequent the Hospital Wing."

"Okay, well… There's more to the story than Ron was able to tell Madam Pomfrey." Harry looked into sparkling blue eyes for affirmation, but the older man simply steepled his fingers under his chin.

"So, I woke up in the middle of the night with a pain in my head. It wasn't like when my scar hurt, because that was all contained right here in my forehead." He pulled his hair to the side to indicate the scar. "My whole head was throbbing and I felt almost like my brain was trying to defend itself from something."

Dumbledore let out an interested "Hmmm…" but didn't interrupt.

"I kind of panicked, because I thought about how Voldemort had possessed Quirrell in first year and Ginny during second. I woke Ron up so that he could help me keep watch, but by the time he got up I was feeling a little more calm. We went to the common room to regroup, when this golden light string thing flew through the window."

"Fascinating. Now Harry, did this light break the glass when it entered the common room?"

"No, sir. It went straight through it, kind of like the castle ghosts go through walls."

"Ah, excellent. Please continue."

He felt a twinge of frustration that the headmaster always seemed so nonplussed by all the wild things that happened to him, but Harry supposed that if he lived to over one hundred years old, maybe it'd take a lot to surprise him, too. "Well, it flew directly at me, so I ducked out of the way. Ron tried to hit it with a spell, but it didn't seem to affect it at all. Then it charged right back at me as I ran and hit me in the back of the head. Next thing I knew, I was lying in a cot in the hospital wing."

"Would you please describe this light in detail?" Dumbledore's brow was furrowed slightly, almost like Hermione's when she came across a word in her book that she didn't recognize.

"It was kind of like a glowing string the length of my wand, maybe a little longer." Harry replied as he thought back to his brief interaction. "When it moved, it wasn't like an animal, but it did seem almost alive."

"The glow of it… Was it a white light?"

"No, sir. It was golden."

"Hmm. That is curious." Dumbledore stroked his long beard. "Is there anything else noteworthy about the encounter that you can share?"

"Well, there's something that happened when I woke up in the infirmary, but it's a little difficult to describe…"

"Do your best, Harry, and we will attempt to piece the clues together."

"When I woke up, I could hear Madam Pomfrey speaking," he began, careful to point out that this wasn't just some weird dream. "I was trying to remember what all happened the night before, when I remembered something new. Or thought of something I had never experienced before, but I had already…" Harry felt a growing sense of embarrassment as he grasped for the right words to describe his experience.

Professor Dumbledore simply gazed at him, betraying no emotion. Harry didn't feel like the headmaster disbelieved him yet, but also he didn't seem convinced.

"It was so odd. I've had lots of weird dreams over the years and I saw Professor Trelawney do the trance-thing when she made the prophecy last year, but this wasn't anything like those." A note of desperation caught in his voice as he tried to get the point across. "It was almost like there was a new memory in my head, someone else's memory." Harry sighed as his explanation fell flat. He did not think he'd done a good job explaining the situation.

Dumbledore stood up from behind his large, wooden desk and opened what appeared to be a small closet area on the side of the office.

"Your description of the string of glowing light and what you've experienced since have made me wonder. Harry, would you come to this basin, please?" The aged wizard scooted to the side as Harry walked to the edge of the raised basin. "This is a Pensieve. A rather remarkable magical object, and a very rare one, as well." Harry gazed into the liquid pooled in the basin.

"A Pensieve is incredibly useful because it can be used to view previous memories. To use it, one can simply remove a memory, like so," he placed his wand on his temple, "focus on the memory to be extracted," his eyes closed in concentration, "and pull it from the mind." As he did so, a glowing white string was brought forth out of Dumbledore's head. He held it out at Harry's eye level.

Harry's breath caught in his throat. "Professor, that looks a lot like what I saw in the common room." The glowing white string moved subtly, but did not appear to be alive. "The only differences are that the other one was golden and moved around on its own."

"That is exceedingly unusual, but there is much beyond my own understanding. Perhaps what you experienced was a phenomenon that I have not yet learned about." Dumbledore began to smile. "I do enjoy learning new things."

"Do you think I could pull it out of my head to put in the Pensieve, if it's a memory?"

"Yes, my boy, I think that should be well within your power. And it seems likely to be the best way to uncover more clues about this mystery."

Harry suddenly felt hesitant. Although the memory wasn't anything out of bounds, it did feel rather private. The moment was shared between the older him and the older Ginny, and he couldn't help feeling like it wasn't one he would want the world seeing.

But Professor Dumbledore was already instructing him on the technique of extracting memories, and his concerns were quieted as he started to learn the proper wand motions to bring forth a memory.

Within five minutes, Harry felt fairly confident about the procedure. "Just in case something goes wrong, should I try a regular memory first, Professor?"

"Splendid idea! Pick any memory you want for us to relive together."

Harry thought hard about memories, and hoped he didn't accidentally pull one where he was breaking school rules. After a few moments, he scrunched his eyes closed, put his wand to his temple, and breathed out slowly as a glowing white memory dangled off the end of his wand.

"I did it, Professor! What do I do now?"

"Dip it into the Pensieve and it will mix with the liquid inside. Then, all we must do is submerge our faces to view the memory."

Harry swiftly dropped the memory in and watched the glowing white swirl around in the dark mixture.

Professor Dumbledore asked, "Shall we?" and without waiting for an answer, plunged his face into the basin. Harry followed, but soon felt himself falling, falling ever deeper, until he landed amongst filled tables in the Great Hall. The headmaster came alongside him and spoke. "Ahh, the Welcoming Feast. Judging by your diminutive size at the Gryffindor table and the presence of Professor Quirrell, am I right to assume this was during your first meal at Hogwarts?"

Harry wasn't sure why he felt a bit sheepish about this being his chosen memory, but a little color found its way to his cheeks. "Yes, sir. It was a strong memory, so I thought it might be easier to collect."

"Very well reasoned, Harry." The memory Dumbledore was rising to give a speech.

"Can the memories hear us, Professor?" Harry whispered as the students began to get quiet.

"Not at all. They cannot see or hear us, as this is only your impression of the event."

"Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!"

Harry snickered as the real Dumbledore smiled broadly. "Sir, you really have a way with words."

"I am glad you think so. The memory seems to be fading. Was this the end of that on which you were concentrating? If so, we should be returned to ourselves next to the Pensieve…"

With a gasp, Harry pulled his face from the water. He was dripping on the carpet and felt bad once he saw that Dumbledore had remained over the Pensieve so that the liquid fell back into the basin.

"Well, that was rather fun. I must admit that I have relived portions of that day before, but never that particular piece. Thank you for sharing your memory with me."

Harry used his wand to remove the memory from the Pensieve and returned it to his temple. He didn't see exactly how it got back into his mind, but he felt almost as if a small book had been set back into place on a great shelf within his head.

"Now Harry, let us attempt to plumb the depths of this rogue memory. Would you please place it in the Pensieve for us to view?"

Harry nodded and focused his mind on the odd new memory. His wand was at his temple again, and he began to gently tug. Strangely, the memory seemed to be holding on tightly, much unlike the ease with which he extricated the previous one. Professor Dumbledore watched in puzzlement as a faint golden glow emanated from the spot on Harry's head where his wand tip was touching, but try as he might, Harry could not pull it from his own mind.

"Not a problem, Harry, you can relax. Let your wand down." Dumbledore pulled his wand forward. "I have a good deal of experience helping others with this sort of thing. If I might have your permission, I'd like to try to bring it out myself."

Something inside him twitched and he felt a sudden distrust of allowing anyone else to tamper with this memory. Instead of acting on the feeling, he simply nodded his assent and closed his eyes. "Alright, Harry, now concentrate on the memory." Dumbledore raised his wand and lightly tapped it to his pupil's temple.

Without warning, a sound like a clap of thunder boomed through the office. The windows overlooking the grounds exploded outwards and glass fell onto the shrubberies beneath. A great many of the trinkets fell from their tables and shelves, smashing on the floor. Fawkes remained on his perch, but hid his head under one of his wings. Professor Dumbledore was thrown back and landed heavily into one of the overstuffed chairs arranged near his desk.

Harry's eyes snapped open. Seeing the headmaster crumpled across the chair, one leg over an armrest and an arm hanging limply over the back of the chair, he rushed over. "Professor, are you alright? I swear I didn't do that on purpose, I don't know how it happened!"

The old wizard blinked owlishly a few times before shaking his head. "Well now! That was certainly unexpected!" He met the frantic eyes of his student. "Not to worry, Harry. That was not your fault, and it shall be easy to remedy."

He stood upright and dusted himself off before reciting a few spells. The glass from the windows sprang back up off the ground below and reformed the windows. With a wave of his wand, the odds and ends that had fallen to the floor returned to their respective spots.

"Ahh, good as new!" Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling as he walked back behind his desk and indicated for Harry to be seated again, as well. "Perhaps it would be wise to assume that your new memory does not wish to be removed, either by you or by outside forces. Instead, would you be willing to describe the memory as best you can?"

"Yes sir," Harry answered. A part of him was relieved that Professor Dumbledore wouldn't be strolling around in the middle of the memory, but he wasn't looking forward to saying it all aloud. He closed his eyes and began to speak. "I think I'm at Hogwarts during the springtime. I'm leaned up against a large tree near the lake."

"Just a moment," interrupted the headmaster. "When you say that you're at Hogwarts, do you mean that you are observing as we did within the Pensieve?"

Harry considered the idea. "No, we were able to move around in the Pensieve and I wasn't seeing everything through my younger self's eyes. In this memory, it's like I'm recalling what it was like to be in that moment without the ability to change anything."

"Ahh, I see. Please continue."

"So, I'm leaning up against a tree while seated in the grass. It seems like I'm older somehow, though that doesn't really make sense." A blush made it to Harry's cheeks as he concentrated. "I notice that there's someone sitting next to me, and she's leaning up against my shoulder."

"Interesting," murmured Dumbledore.

"She and I were holding hands and she asked me what I was thinking. I replied that I was thinking about how happy I was and how much I wished I'd gotten to know her better before and how great she is. And that I wished Ron, Hermione, the twins, and I had done a better job supporting her after the chamber."

"Which identifies the girl as young Miss Ginevra Weasley…"

"Yeah, that's what I figured. Then I, err…" He sputtered as he tried to carefully choose his next words. "I think I kinda kissed the top of her head, then she said we needed to make up for lost time. Then the memory fades."

"Absolutely astounding. Is it safe to assume that this memory is not something that has happened to you and Miss Weasley?"

"No, definitely not! I've never had a girlfriend, much less dated Ron's little sister."

Albus gave him a knowing grin. "As I thought, but I had to check. Is there anything else about the memory that you would like to report?"

Harry thought to himself before one of his main questions sprang to mind. "Actually, yeah, there is. After I mentioned how much I think of her, there's something that I remember thinking about, but not saying out loud." His eyes closed again as he tried to remember the feel of the moment. "I thought to myself, 'I can't believe this girl fought one of Voldemort's horcruxes for nearly a year.'"

Harry almost continued talking, wanting to inquire about what a horcrux was, when he reopened his eyes. Dumbledore looked absolutely gobsmacked. His jaw was hanging slack and the twinkle in his eyes had evaporated. The man almost looked like he had aged considerably in the few moments that had passed.

"Umm, Professor? Is everything alright?"

The ancient wizard stared blankly ahead for another full minute before attempting to regain his composure.

"I'm quite sorry, Harry, but that was most unexpected. Could you repeat it back one more time, so I can be sure my aged ears aren't playing tricks on me?"

"I guess. I was thinking, 'I can't believe this girl fought one of Voldemort's horcruxes for nearly a year.'"

"Harry, this next part is exceedingly important: have you ever heard of a horcrux before? Even the most obscure reference to a horcrux from another student or stumbled upon it while in the restricted section of the library? I assure you that I will not be upset with you, no matter how far out of bounds you may have been when you came across it."

Harry thought back to his excursions into the restricted section but could not recall any mention of a horcrux. "I'm sorry, Professor, but I think this memory is the first mention of it I know of." Professor Dumbledore's piercing blue eyes were staring intently into Harry's, so much so that he felt the old man could see straight through him. After a long moment, he seemed satisfied with the answer.

"Very well. Harry, I cannot for certain determine from whence this rogue memory has come, but I must admit that it seems rather significant. I need to conduct some of my own research on this phenomenon. I would like to request that we keep the details closely guarded, as the implications could be far-reaching."

"Well, err, about that…" Harry squirmed in his chair. "I told Hermione and Ron about it this morning. Not everything, but enough that they were both very curious."

"Ahh, I see. Have you shared with them the contents of your new memory?"

"No, sir. I figured it wouldn't be a good idea to explain that until I had met with you."

"And perhaps you did not wish to tell young Mr. Weasley the details about being cozy with his sister?" The twinkle had returned to Dumbledore's eyes in full force.

Harry shrugged lamely and gave a slight nod.

"Understandable. Let us keep that portion of the mystery strictly between us for now. Is there anything else that is concerning you at this time?"

"Have you found any more clues about who entered my name into the Goblet of Fire? Or if there are any ways I could withdraw?"

Dumbledore laughed to himself. "After your display in the first task, I thought you might have reconsidered your hesitancy to compete. I must say that I was quite impressed. But alas, the trail has run cold as of late. I will certainly inform you if further information comes forward. Until such a time, it would probably be wise to proceed under the assumption that you will be a part of the second task. Have you begun discovering the secrets of the egg?"

Harry blushed and looked at a spot on the carpet. "I opened it in the common room while we were celebrating, but it screeched so loudly that I put it away. I've been, err, focusing on catching up on my classes this week, since I was prioritizing preparing for the task before."

"A worthwhile choice. As much as your professors would love to have a Hogwarts champion, I imagine they will not deem that a good bargain if you fail their classes." The corner of his lips twitched ever so slightly. "I am forbidden by the rules of the contest from giving aid to students, so I will not direct you towards the answers you seek within the egg. I will, however, remind you that you have many who are freely able to help, should you ask."

"I know, Professor. Hermione helped out a lot when I was practicing the summoning charm, and she and Ron have offered to help me get ready for the second task."

"Ah, yes, two excellent allies to have in your corner. But I was suggesting you think beyond just your schoolmates. While a professor could not help you decipher the egg, many of them would be more than willing to give you extra lessons on mastering a spell that you thought important. Perhaps a trusted adult who does not work at the school would be able to advise you, as well."

Harry thought about the suggestion. Could Mr. and Mrs. Weasley help him understand the egg? Would Professor Flitwick or Professor McGonagall tutor him once he knew what he was up against? Could he get in touch with Professor Lupin and Sirius?

His eyes widened as he imagined two adult Marauders orchestrating a plan to unearth the egg's secrets and whisk him through the task to safety.

A soft smile rested on the kindly old man's face. "You appear to be well on your way to a plan. If there is nothing further, I will contact you about the rogue memory at a later date." The twinkle in his eyes sparkled as Harry rose to leave. "And speaking of a later date… Not to lay another burden on you, Harry, but it seems you also need to find a date for the upcoming Yule Ball. Yet another task on which I would caution you not to procrastinate."

Harry's face reddened as he gave a tentative nod and exited the office.
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