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SIYE Time:11:06 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: 38024; Chapter Total: 800
Awards: View Trophy Room






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"So Dumbledore really thinks You Know Who is getting stronger, huh?" Ron shuddered as he posed his question. Ginny had gone a bit pale while Harry explained everything and Hermione looked as though she might be sick to her stomach.

"Yeah, that was the feeling I got from him."

Hermione did not chastise Ron when he swore in response.

"It's hard to believe that Professor Dumbledore would allow Snape to teach here after all that," whispered Ginny. "I've always been on edge in his class from hearing so many bad things from you and the twins, but knowing that he was a Death Eater?"

"No kidding," said Harry ruefully. "Dumbledore wouldn't tell me what made him switch sides, but it definitely makes me suspicious."

"But Harry, remember that Professor Snape saved you back in first year," argued Hermione. "It seems more likely that Karkaroff or Bagman would be behind this. They're the ones who showed up this year and are trying to interfere with the tournament. Karkaroff has obviously given you unfairly low scores as a judge and Bagman keeps trying to help you. I think they're both more suspicious."

"They're both dodgy, but Snape's definitely had it out for Harry since day one." Ron clearly wasn't not going to absolve the Potions professor so quickly.

"I'm going to write to Snuffles about it all tonight. I dunno what else to do about it for now."

"Quick question…" interjected Ginny. "You said that you asked Dumbledore about telling Snuffles about the memory this summer. What memory?"

Harry's eyebrows shot upwards. He had been so intent on sharing all that had transpired with the headmaster and in the Pensieve that he hadn't thought to leave out that portion of the conversation. Ron and Hermione both looked to Harry to respond as Ginny waited for an answer.

"Well, about that…" His mind was swimming, trying to come up with a way to avoid saying too much. It was one thing to have given a few details to Hermione and Ron back when the memory first lodged itself in his mind. It was another thing entirely to try to explain it to Ginny, who was prominently featured in said memory. "Dumbledore swore me to secrecy about a lot of it, so I can't share much. But I can tell you what I told them when it happened. It was a few days after the first task. I woke up with a weird headache and a really bad feeling."

Ron jumped in. "He woke me up out of a dead sleep and told me he thought something was coming for him! We got ready for a fight, just in case, but nothing happened, so we decided to go down to the common room. Harry grabbed his cloak, in case we wanted to make a run to the kitchens since neither of us thought we'd be able to go back to sleep."

"When we got down there, something really strange happened…" Harry tried to picture the events of that night, which were oddly more fuzzy in his recollections than the memory he'd never actually experienced. "A golden string-like thing came straight through the window and was heading right for me. I dodged it on its first pass while Ron tried to hit it with a spell, but it tracked me down when I made a break for the portrait hole."

"Wait, some sort of golden string thing broke open the window?" asked Ginny.

"No, it didn't break the window," replied Harry. "Think like a ghost moving straight through it."

"Okay, that makes sense. Well, not that any of the stuff that happens to you actually makes sense, but I guess I understand how the string got to you. What did it do?"

"That's the thing, I don't really know. It hit me in the head and the next thing I knew, I woke up a couple of hours later in the hospital wing with Madam Pomfrey complaining about how often I end up in there. Apparently, your brother had to drag me there on his own."

Ginny rolled her eyes with a smile. "Did he drop you while going up the stairs? Probably ended up more injured from the trip than from the attack, right?"

Ron puffed out his chest and did his best impression of Percy. "Young Harry had a run in with an unidentified bit of magic, so I took it upon myself to escort him to the infirmary. Can't let the Boy Who Lived perish on my watch. Plus, saving Harry's arse looks excellent on a resume. I'll be Minister of Magic before 40!"

Ginny snickered and gave Ron a friendly shove while the others laughed along before Harry restarted.

"When I woke up, there was something different. I had a new memory, but it wasn't anything I'd experienced before. It was like something out of someone else's life."

Ginny's grip on the arms of her chair tightened and her breath caught as the laughter from a moment before evaporated. She tried to keep the panic out of her voice as she asked, "What do you mean? Someone else's memory attacked you?"

Luckily, Harry picked up on her apprehension right away. "Sorry, I didn't explain that very well. It wasn't like the diary where you fell into someone else's memory that you were viewing. It felt like my own memories, except that it was something I'd never done before."

Ginny nodded weakly, though she was still apprehensive. "What was the memory, then? Do you recognize anyone from it?"

Harry had a feeling this line of questioning was coming, but still had a hard time controlling the warmth in his cheeks. "Well, that's the thing. It was like a memory from when I was older. I was definitely in it, and it was like I was looking from my own eyes. I told Dumbledore about it that evening, and he pretty much confirmed that it was a real memory and that it was incredibly hard to fake something like that."

"Wait, a future version of you was in the memory?" Ginny looked incredulous.

"Yeah, pretty much. I recognized myself and one other person, but we both were older than we are now. I can't explain what happened in the memory because Dumbledore swore me to secrecy, but some of the things I said didn't make sense. He said he'd do some research on the whole situation, he called it a 'rogue memory,' but he seemed really concerned about some of the things I heard."

Hermione was grinning like the cat that ate the canary. "You didn't tell us there was only one other person in the memory last time! That's helpful information!"

Harry groaned. He had zero interest in delving further into the details of the memory with the three of them, especially with the other main character sitting across from him.

"Yeah, and he told us that neither of us was in it and that it didn't have You Know Who," added Ron. "Any other details, Hermione?"

"Nothing else that he shared. Has Professor Dumbledore given you any indication of when you'll be able to tell us more about it?"

"No update yet," said an increasingly nervous Harry. "I don't think he's pleased that I've shared as much as I have with you all, and he didn't seem especially fond of the idea of talking about it with Siri… Err, Snuffles."

"So you're saying that you got some sort of future memory from yourself?" The look in Ginny's eyes softened as her fears subsided.

"Yeah, that's the basic gist of it. And I get why you'd be nervous about it after the whole situation with the diary, which was a big part of why I went straight to Dumbledore."

Ginny nodded, more to herself than anyone else. "Okay, I think I've got it. How's it affecting you? Not like you don't have a lot on your plate already…"

Harry frowned. That was not a question he had been expecting. He thought back to the past months since waking with a new memory lodged in his mind and felt like he didn't have any complaints.

"It's hard to explain," began Harry. "I don't really know how much it's affecting me. But it's a good memory, so it's not like I'm upset about having it. Dumbledore seems to think it's important, so I guess that it's good that he's got the information from it. I dunno… It might not be how my future goes, but it seems pretty good to me."

A smile crept across Ginny's face. "Well, if the memory really is from an older version of you, at least you know you'll survive the third task!"

Harry laughed out loud. "At least I've got that going for me…"



The weeks leading up to the third task seemed like a blur to Harry. Though he was grateful to not have to study for final exams, as Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were doing while assisting him in training, the looming task cast a shadow on all of his activities.

Sirius was sending letters daily, suggesting ideas for navigating the maze and hexes to learn. Hermione had been thrilled when he suggested a spell that functioned like a compass, and Harry could see how such a skill would come in handy amongst the tall hedges.

He'd become proficient in a number of spells that he'd hoped would aid in his task, one of which was the Impedimenta. It was excellent at slowing down or even stopping a solid object that had been in motion. When Ron suggested that Harry learn it, Hermione was skeptical at first, since it wasn't taught until sixth year. Ron countered that he'd learned a bit about it from the twins, and demonstrated surprising skill with the spell when Ginny threw a pillow at him from a few feet away. Harry was ready to ask for Professor Flitwick's help mastering the spell, but Ron insisted they go to the twins first.

"Oi, George! You think this scrawny git has what it takes to learn from us?" asked Fred.

George pursed his lips and walked around Harry slowly, murmuring to himself. "I reckon he might survive our training. Might be a nice way to improve the odds on our bet, too."

Hermione perked up. "Bet? What do you mean, bet?"

"Don't worry about it, Hermione," placated Fred. "A few students just set up a little wager as to how the results of the tournament will shake out. Naturally, we put some coins in on Harrikins winning it all. Not that you need extra encouragement, mate, but there are more than a few Slytherins who'll be out galleons if you win this thing."

"So it helps our chances if we get Harry prepared… I like it!"

After a few rigorous training sessions, Harry felt confident in his ability to pull off the spell. He felt much less confident once he saw how the twins planned to test his skills. Angelina, Alicia, Katie, and Ginny strolled into the large classroom that Harry had been using to train with Fred and George. All four were holding a quaffle or two, and Ron entered right after them with a thumping chest that clearly contained two bludgers.

"Alright then, Harry. It's time to see if you're as good under pressure as people keep saying you are. Sure, you may have beaten a dragon, escaped a werewolf, and killed a basilisk, but you've never had to face off against the Gryffindor quidditch team." Fred looked to George as he stepped toward the chest.

"You'll start by the wall, while these three incredible chasers and a future team member attempt to pelt you with quaffles. You can dodge if needed, but we want you to focus on using the Impedimenta quickly and accurately. They'll start by throwing only one at a time, but things will become more chaotic soon." George's eyes gleamed dangerously. "If you do well enough on that, we've got other options for testing your skills."

Harry gulped as the four girls stretched their arms and rolled their shoulders in preparation for the onslaught. He had spent a good deal of time in primary school gym classes playing dodgeball, but none of the children from his school had the power or aim that these four possessed.

"You two promised a reward for helping out with his training," called Angelina as she pushed her left hand on her right elbow to stretch it a bit more. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, we had an idea about that, but we haven't run it past Harry yet," replied George. "There's one last Hogsmeade trip coming up next weekend. How about whichever of you hit him the most gets a coupon for a trip to the village with whichever of the three of us you choose? If you're into scrawny gits with glasses, you could go with Harrikins. Or you could go with the second-most attractive Weasley brother over there." He pointed to Fred who was making a rude gesture at his twin. "But for the discerning among you, I'm sure you'd prefer my company."

There was a good deal of eye-rolling from the contingent of chasers, although Ginny's eye roll was accompanied by a rapid surge of color to her cheeks.

"I've already got plans with Adeline for the Hogsmeade trip, plus none of you are exactly my type," said Alicia. "Your 'reward' basically seems like an excuse for one of you to take Angelina or Katie on a date without having to do the asking yourself."

Fred looked aghast. "Alicia! I can't believe you would suggest such a thing! We were only trying to offer the most valuable thing we possess: ourselves." His wide grin coupled with waggling eyebrows got the girls laughing.

"How about whoever has the deadliest aim gets the option to choose between you three, but can also pass the option to any of the other competitors?" Angelina had a wry smile that Harry sensed had a bit of danger to it.

"I don't see why not, Fred," said George with a shrug. "Though I cannot be held liable for any friendships that crumble over your need to spend time with me." Angelina's quaffle collided with George's stomach and his eyes bulged.

"Consider that a warmup," said Angelina as she collected the quaffle from the ground. "How're we keeping score? I don't trust any of Ginny's older brothers to keep a fair count if the prize could be a date with a boy." Ginny continued stretching as if she hadn't heard anything.

"I'll keep the tally," offered Katie. "But try to keep up with your own score, too, just in case."

The four girls smirked as they stepped forward. "What do you think, Ange? No throwing past the halfway point of the room?" asked Ginny. "Just to be sporting."

"Works for me. You ready, Harry?"

Sweat was beginning to form on Harry's brow. "As ready as I'm gonna be. Ron, if I don't make it, you can have my cloak, give Hermione Hedwig, and Ginny can have the Firebolt, yeah?"

Ginny's eyes flashed as she grinned widely then yelled, "Incentive!"

"Good luck, mate!" cried Ron from the other side of the room as Harry drew his wand.

Alicia wound up and threw her quaffle right at Harry's midsection, though she didn't put quite as much oompf on it as he had feared. With a quick sidestep, he was able to dodge the incoming projectile.

"Oi! The whole point is to use the spell!" called out Fred. "And Alicia, I'm dead certain you can throw harder than that."

Angelina gave a small headnod to the girls as she stepped forward, and Harry had the distinct feeling she wasn't going to hold anything back. She rocketed the quaffle toward him and let out a grunt of exertion as it flew off her fingertips.

Harry's eyes were wide as the ball barrelled toward him. He pointed his wand and shouted, "Impedimenta!" just before the quaffle impacted his left shoulder.

"Well thrown, Ange!" called out Katie as Alicia and Ginny looked at their captain in awe. George let out a whistle while Fred instructed Harry, who was rubbing his tender shoulder..

"That wasn't too shabby! Remember what we trained on, though. Anticipate where it's coming from and try to fire and move together. You're squirrelly enough to dodge a bit, but you've got to get the shot off quickly if it's going to work. You fired half a second late, but your aim was really good. Nail the timing and you'll be golden."

"Easy for you to say," mumbled Harry, but he repositioned himself in front of the wall, his eyes on Katie. When she let loose, his wand was already moving and his spell connected as the quaffle was halfway between them. Harry's hop to the left proved unneeded because the ball had come to a near-complete stop in midair. Ron let out a whoop as Harry wiped his brow with his sleeve.

"Excellent work, Harry!" called George.

Ginny tossed a quaffle up and down a few times, feeling it out as she stared Harry down. He couldn't help but feel a bit nervous as she wound up. When she released the quaffle, Harry attempted another hop to the left as he fired the spell, only to see the light soar well above the ball. Ginny had aimed low and to her right, nailing Harry's ankle as he landed.

"Nice throw!" called Alicia as Angelina gave her a hearty slap on the back.

"Harry always dodges left if he can," explained Ginny with a smirk. "We've been doing a lot of training and he's pretty hard to hit. But if you can anticipate which way he's going to move, it gives you an edge."

"Good to know…" Alicia's eyes narrowed and Harry got the impression that a pride of lionesses had just zeroed in on their next kill.

Fred was laughing at Harry's fearful expression. "Alright, ladies, why don't you take two more throws each, then we'll see how our target is doing?"

Ginny caught Harry jumping right the next time in an attempt to outthink her, but his spell stopped both Ange and Katie's quaffles. Alicia did a sidearm throw that Harry hadn't expected, and even his reflexes weren't enough to prevent the quaffle from smacking him in the thigh. In the third round, Harry managed to stop all the throws with the spell except for Angelina's, which was too close to him by the time he'd managed to fire. He ducked to the side enough that it only grazed his arm.

"Now for the fun part!" George drew a circle ten feet across in the center of the room with a spell that reminded Harry of chalk. He then had Angelina and Katie stand on one end of the room while Alicia and Ginny were on the other. Ron, Fred, and George sat to the side on a windowsill with their gangly legs hanging down. "The four of you will have just one quaffle between you. Harry has to stay within the circle to dodge and cast spells. How many points do you each have?"

"Ginny and Ange have two, Alicia's got one, and I'm sitting on a goose egg," answered Katie, though she didn't look pleased about it.

"Right then! Two points if you can nail this bespeckled git, but also one point for the assist to whoever passed to the one who gets him. What do you think, George? Stop once he's been hit five times?"

"Fair enough! Go on the count of three… Two… One!" George tossed a quaffle to Angelina, who immediately faked a throw at Harry. While he fired an Impedimenta at where he thought the ball would be, she deftly passed to Katie, who took the shot without hesitation. With a stinging quaffle-sized red whelp on his side, Harry resolved to avoid asking for help from the twins for a while.

Luckily, Harry was a fast learner. The three chasers had lots of experience passing a quaffle back and forth while trying to hit a small target, but they were used to maneuvering at high speeds through the air. With limited space to move, Harry had a decent opportunity to keep the ball in front of him, ensuring he wasn't blindsided. It took a good five minutes of work before Alicia and Angelina both got him again on spectacular throws about a minute apart, one assisted by Ginny and the other by Katie. Ginny took a smart pass from Katie not long after that and caught Harry in the knee.

Another three minutes of near misses and effective spellwork ended with Angelina powering a shot that caught Harry below the waistline. She apologized as he crumpled to the floor, and the Weasley brothers all grimaced and let out a collective moan on Harry's behalf.

Out of the three, George recovered his speech first. "Give the man a minute! What do the scores look like?"

"If I counted it right, I think Ange took it with seven points, Ginny had five, and Alicia and I ended up with three and four."

"I think that checks out," agreed Angelina. "But it's sometimes hard to tell with their convoluted points systems." The tall girl took a mock bow as the competitors and spectators clapped. "So does that mean I get the so-called grand prize?"

"Yep, unless Harry wants to go a few more rounds. We didn't even use the bludgers yet!"

From his place lying on the floor, Harry called out that he was quite ready for the training session to be done.

"In that case, I think I'll bequeath the honors upon Ginny. She had some excellent throws and makes me confident that the team will be in good hands once I graduate." She gave a wink to the younger girl.



"I'm just saying that you don't have to think of it as that big of a deal," said Angelina as Ginny paced back and forth in the older girl's dormitory. Katie and Alicia were also sitting on beds, lazily tossing one of the quaffles from earlier in the day back and forth. "You two seemed to get along just fine at the Yule Ball."

"But that was different," countered Ginny. "He only asked me to go with him as a friend. We had a really fun time and all, but it feels like there's more pressure on this, especially since the twins didn't exactly give him a choice in the matter."

"Ginny, you're going to be fine," said Katie. "Harry's a nice enough bloke and he didn't object at all when Fred and George offered up the possibility of the reward being a Hogsmeade date. I think it's way more likely that he's happy about how it all played out. He doesn't seem like the kinda guy who relishes asking a girl out, like your brothers do."

"Yeah, but maybe he was hoping one of you three would win and go with him. He might be disappointed that Ange gave it to me." Katie snorted as she tossed the ball to Ginny while Alicia and Angelina laughed.

"I think we'd know if he had the hots for any of us," argued Ange. "We all look out for each other in the air and in general. Alicia was the one who noticed George's eyes lingering on me while I was flying last year, and she and I both figured out that Wood fancied Katie, even if he was too obsessed with playing professionally to do anything about it."

"Bloody idiot, he is…" said Alicia.

Katie continued. "Not to trash talk our venerable seeker or anything, but he just doesn't seem like the smoothest operator when it comes to girls. If he had a crush on one of us, I bet he'd have a harder time talking around us. Might have plucked up the courage to ask us to dance at the ball or even to go with him, yeah?"

"Speaking of getting tongue-tied around a girl, I seem to remember you said he rambled on a bit when he asked you to the Yule Ball." Alicia snagged a low throw by kicking it up to herself before continuing. "Seems like the boy might enjoy spending time with you but have a hard time saying it."

Ginny caught Alicia's pass and tried to twirl the quaffle on her finger, but it fell after a few seconds. "I guess I just don't want to get my hopes up or make things weird between us. But honestly? I'm looking forward to it. Hermione is hanging out with Viktor, so it'll be the two of us and Ron, but I have my doubts about how that will go."

"Ron's great and all, but probably not your preferred third wheel for your day." Angelina looked out the window for a moment. "How about this: Katie and I can meet you at the Three Broomsticks for lunch with the twins. If they're good for anything, it's soaking up attention. Maybe Alicia will bring Adeline, too. You can decide whether to come with us to Zonko's afterward or head off with Harry. Gives you options, and having options always helps calm my nerves." She bent down to grab the quaffle, tossing it just beyond Katie's reach so that she tumbled off the bed as she lunged for it.

"Yeah, Adeline isn't much of a planner, so I bet she'd be happy to eat with everyone."

Ginny considered the idea. "Sounds like a good plan to me, although I'm always nervous that Fred or George will tease me in front of Harry, what with the poem and all."

Ange looked at Ginny sympathetically. "I've seen you put them in their place enough that I'm not worried about that, but we have ways to keep them in check, too." She grinned wickedly.



Harry had to admit that lunch had been entertaining.

He and eight others were crammed into a booth that was meant for six, and found himself squeezed between Fred and Ginny. He tried to angle his shoulders for a bit more breathing room, but he couldn't go more than a minute or two without knocking into someone with an elbow. The three chasers, four Weasleys, Harry, and Adeline spent a raucous hour and a half downing butterbeer, eating lunch, and telling stories.

His nerves were on edge when Fred and George had announced the prize during training, but Ginny had assuaged his concerns the next day. She had simply asked if he wanted to grab lunch at the pub in Hogsmeade with her and her brothers, along with the rest of the squad that had pelted him black and blue. He quickly agreed, with the caveat that he was hoping to visit with Sirius again that afternoon and that she was welcome to come along.

By the time the group poured out of the Three Broomsticks, Harry was anxious to visit with Sirius again. The main contingent, including Ron, were heading to Zonko's while Alicia and Adeline planned to go off on their own. Harry hung toward the back of the group as they walked in the joke shop's direction, soon finding the youngest Weasley alongside him.

"Hey Harry, quick question," whispered Ginny under her breath so that the raucous bunch ahead of them couldn't hear. "I know you said you wanted to meet up with Snuffles. If you don't mind company, I'm happy to come along, too, but if you wanted it just to be you and him, that's fine. Just didn't want you to show up to meet him and get an earful for being off on your own."

An easy smile flickered across Harry's face. "It'd be great to have you come with. Just be ready in case he gives us a hard time. Teasing seems to be one of his specialties."

"Oh, I'm ready for him this time around. I went easy on him last time because I was just meeting him and he looked so hungry, but this time I won't have to hold back as much."

Harry chuckled as they passed a few small shops on the way to Zonko's, looking at the happy students inside. "Are you sure you want to spend most of your Hogsmeade trip hiking with me and Snuffles? Seems like most people are finding fun things to do around the village, and I was supposed to make your trip special and all."

"You were kind enough to go along with the twins' training plan, which was a lot of fun for me already, and didn't complain about getting thrust into hanging out with me. Plus you paid for my lunch! Seems like a pretty good deal for me as long as I don't fall down the mountain."

"Fair enough! Just didn't want you to feel trapped into spending the afternoon talking about the tournament and how there's some nutter trying to kill me again."

The two kept walking as the others moved toward the entry to the joke shop. Ron glanced over his shoulder at Harry, who kept walking toward the spot they were to meet Sirius.

"Hey mate! You want me to come with?" Ron's eyes darted in the direction that he was sure a Snuffles was waiting.

"No, it's alright. Enjoy Zonko's and we'll catch up with you later. Gin and I can fill you and Hermione in later."

Ron looked as though he was considering his options, but gave a thumbs up before ducking into the joke shop behind Fred.

The late-spring sun was warm on the two of them as they trod the last few blocks to where the road ended. Sure enough, a scruffy black dog was asleep in the grass next to the road.

Ginny pressed a finger to her lips as she crept toward the dog, pulling something from her pocket. Before the dog could react, she'd fastened a collar around his neck complete with a leash.

Snuffles leaped back, pulling against the line, but Ginny held fast. "He's a pretty cute pup, but he definitely needs some training. Probably should have him neutered, too."

The dog let out a reproachful bark while Harry bent over laughing. Ginny finally relented when Snuffles let loose with his most mournful eyes, and she clicked the collar open. Sirius bounded several feet away, watching her warily.

"Charlie taught me that you've got to show dominance with animals, or else they'll think they're in charge," explained Ginny to Harry, though she made sure to say it loud enough that Sirius could hear. He tried to growl at them, but his wagging tail gave him away.

The trek to the cave didn't take quite as long this time, partly since they knew the way and partly because they weren't waiting on Hermione. Ginny's legs may have been shorter than Harry's, but her years of exploring the woods near the Burrow had made her adept at navigating off the beaten path.

Once they arrived at the cave, Sirius transformed and enveloped Harry in a hug before doing the same to Ginny. The difference in his appearance was remarkable; he had put on a good amount of weight from the care packages that were being regularly owled to him. Ginny had nicked some robes from the twins and Ron had sent one of his own, which meant that Sirius' clothing from Azkaban had been reduced to kindling for his small fire weeks ago. The robes didn't cover his exposed ankles, but he looked much more put together now that his previous rags were long gone. The gaunt look on his face remained, but his cheeks had filled out enough that he didn't look skeletal, and his eyes weren't as darkened as before.

"I guess I'm out of practice on pranking because it usually takes a lot more than that to get the drop on me. Mooney tried to leash me once in sixth year, but I bit him pretty good." He looked back and forth at the teens. "It's good to see you two! Buckbeak isn't nearly as good at holding a conversation. Where're the other two?"

"Hermione has a date with Viktor and my brother couldn't resist the siren song of Zonko's, so it's just us today," replied Ginny as she carefully walked to greet the hippogriff. "Last time you said to bow first and let him come to me, right?"

"If he gives you a return bow, you can just walk up to him," said Sirius, watching her as she approached Buckbeak. She gracefully bowed to the creature, who eyed her cautiously before inclining his head to her. She stepped forward and began stroking his neck.

"So the two of you left your chaperones behind in order to sneak off and see me. Or was it more along the lines of wanting to see each other and I just made myself a third wheel?"

Harry's cheeks began to burn, but Ginny had prepared for this line of questioning. Without removing her left hand from Buckbeak, her right pointed her wand at the man as she uttered "Canaris!"

Where once stood Sirius, a small yellow bird flapped and fluttered on the ground. Harry was beside himself with laughter, doubling over while the canary squawked. It only took a minute before Sirius was back to his former self, complete with a look of bewilderment and awe.

"What the bloody hell was that?!"

"My brothers are quite the pranksters. Really look up to some former students who were pretentious enough to give themselves the name 'the Marauders.' They've been coming up with their own joke products, including a dessert that can turn folks into birds. Canary Cremes, they call them. By the way, did you enjoy the food I sent you last night?" Harry's laughter continued as Ginny's eyebrows waggled. "Surely a distinguished purveyor of pranks would know not to blindly trust food provided by someone with motives that could be diabolical?"

Sirius' mouth was agape as he looked positively gobsmacked. "Harry, as someone with a vested interest in your well-being, I must insist that you do not piss off this young woman. I get the feeling I wouldn't be able to protect you from her wrath." Ginny winked at Sirius before giving her full attention back to Buckbeak.

For two hours, the three talked strategy and tactics for the third task. Harry demonstrated some of the new spells he'd been practicing while Ginny explained details they'd gone over with Hermione and Ron.

"Any ideas on what to do if you get turned around in the maze?" asked Sirius as they were wrapping up.

"Figure I'd have to retrace my steps and try a different path."

"Well, that's one way to go about it, but it might not be your only option. Depending on how the hedges are enchanted, you might be able to use a cutting curse or some fire to go straight through the wall."

Ginny was nodding along. "If you use your compass spell, you could know exactly where it'd be best to go through. Maybe you could dodge a few obstacles that way. Saving time and energy would be really helpful."

"Exactly! You were at an advantage in the second task because the others were all sustaining themselves using their own magic, instead of relying on gillyweed. This time around, each of them will likely be in their top form, which means they'll each be drawing from larger reserves and more years of experience. To be fair, you're a good deal more powerful than most fourth-years and probably have more defense experience than the three of them combined, but conserving your energy for things you can't get around is important."

"Right, avoid what I can so I can take on other stuff."

"Ginny, have you gone over his acceptance speech yet? I don't want him rambling on and on. He's got to get up there, grab the cup in one hand and the winnings in the other, thank the three of you and his devastatingly good-looking Godfather, then tell Snivellus that he can go…"

"I'm not practicing a victory speech, Sirius! I'm already too famous for my own good and I don't care about the prize money. I just want this to be over and to get on with what passes as 'normal' in my life."

"Now that you mention it, I've got some news about what should be a new normal for your summer…" A wide grin spread across his face. "Ol' Dumbledore thinks that I should be able to take control of Grimmauld Place this summer. It's my family's ancient house in London. Warded as much as any home in Britain and hopefully safe enough for me to post up in for the foreseeable future. Dumbledore still says you've gotta spend some time at the Dursley's house to start the summer, but we should have you out of there as quick as we can. Might even have some more guests there by the time you arrive!" He nodded to a puzzled-looking Ginny but gave no further explanation.

"Wait, I might get to spend the summer with you? And you'll have a place to stay?" Harry's face was shining with hope.

"Part of the summer, but yeah! It's not exactly a fun place by any means, but it's a damn sight better than a cave."

"That'll be great! Anywhere's better than Privet Drive. I'd almost rather spend the summer with the Malfoys." Harry looked out the entrance to the cave to see the sunlight shifting into orange and red tones. "We'd better start heading back if we're going to avoid taking secret passages. Anything you need from us? Have we been sending enough food?"

Sirius laughed as he patted his belly. "As you can see, I've filled out a touch since your last visit thanks to all your deliveries. It's been perfect." He moved to change into his animagus form before hesitating. "Although, Ginny, if you could send another of those Canary Cremes, I'd be quite grateful. Gotta scope out what your brothers did. If they're trying to rekindle the marauder magic, I need to do my due diligence. Probably should meet them in person at some point, too, but that can wait."

"When you meet them, make sure to give us a heads up so we can stay a safe distance away," replied Ginny. "What do you think, Harry? At least a few miles, just in case?"

"Definitely," agreed Harry. "Thanks for going over everything with me. It was a big help."

Sirius gathered him into a hug before pulling in Ginny as well. "You two are alright in my book. I'll walk you down, but any more talk of neutering and I'll treat your leg like a fire hydrant, got it?"

Harry and Ginny laughed as they followed the great black dog out of the cave and back toward the village.
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