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SIYE Time:9:44 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: 37987; Chapter Total: 795
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Early update! Since I broke some hearts with a death last week and left y'all on a big cliffhanger again, I figured I'd offer a peace offering by uploading ahead of schedule.

Sorry for killing off Viktor. I really enjoyed writing for him and hated to let him go, but I couldn't justify keeping him alive. After the way the story began in the first few chapters, it's pretty clear that Voldemort is incredibly dangerous and violent. Since I'm aiming for a combination of a love story between Harry and Ginny and an action / adventure fic, I didn't want to simply keep every great character alive just because I like them.

While I hated to lose a great character like Viktor, it was really encouraging reading so many comments from folks who enjoyed this portrayal of him and were equally sad at his death. Your comments really boosted me as a writer, since I'd hoped to write Viktor in a way that made this moment both heartbreaking and meaningful to the narrative. Thanks for sticking with me as we plow forward past this particular tough spot. Still have a couple of big chapters ahead, including this week's post. Hope y'all enjoy it!




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The surprised cries of people from all sides assaulted Harry's ears in the split-second before he crumpled to the ground, overcome with exhaustion and pain. He did not attempt to stand; his injured ankle, broken ribs, and various other wounds were enough to make even breathing exceedingly difficult, and he did not have the strength to focus on anything else at the moment. He could feel his glasses pressing angrily into his cheek as his face lay on the grass, but couldn't muster the will to open his eyes to take in the scene.

Above the din all around, a voice called out. "Harry?! HARRY!"

Strong hands quickly moved his body so that he was on his back. With some effort, Harry opened his eyes. The blurry face of Albus Dumbledore floated above him. Harry let out a ragged cough and tasted blood.

"He's back…" Harry whispered hoarsely. "Voldemort is back."

Another face appeared next to Dumbledore's. Topped by a green bowler hat, Fudge was looking down at Harry.

"What's going on? Potter, you need to tell us what happened immediately!" The Minister's face was flushed and there was more than a little panic in his eyes.

"The Cup… " Harry's voice was faint as he tried to compose himself enough to explain. The pain in his side and down his leg made him wince. "Was a portkey…"

"Yes, Harry. Miss Delacour told us about the last few moments before you and Mr. Krum were transported." The headmaster's voice was a forced calm. "Where did the portkey bring the two of you? Where is Viktor?"

"To a graveyard… Viktor…" Saying the name felt more real. The tears which had been held at bay by necessity and terror began welling in his eyes again. "He killed Viktor. I couldn't save him…"

As Harry's vision was becoming sharper, he could see the stricken look on Professor Dumbledore's face. The old man instinctively clutched a hand to his mouth.

"Krum is dead!?" Fudge was aghast. "How could this be?"

The Minister's exclamation reached the onlookers nearby. Harry could hear hushed whispers as the crowd relayed the news. Before he could answer the Minister, a strangled cry pierced the night.

Hermione.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut as tears began to roll down his cheeks. The sound of racing footsteps and heaving breaths assured him that Hermione had reached him and that she was not alone.

"What happened? Where's he been!? Harry, are you okay?" Ron's voice had none of the warmth it usually exuded, instead filled with panic.

"He was just about to tell us that," snapped Fudge. "All students are to stay back."

Harry felt a small hand slip into his. "We're here with you, Harry." Ginny's voice trembled as she spoke, but there was no question that her response was both a reassurance to Harry and a warning that they would not be moved.

Hermione's quiet sobs filled the quietness between them. Harry reopened his eyes enough to see her on her knees next to him, weeping into her hands. Ron was down on one knee with a hand on her shoulder, his face deathly pale. Ginny's eyes brimmed with tears as she huddled next to her brother, her hand tightly clutching Harry's.

"Harry," intoned Dumbledore with both kindness and power. "It is imperative that we know what happened. Can you tell us?"

Harry breathed in deeply to attempt to begin, but winced badly and started coughing. He released the cup that he had still been grasping in his other hand and covered his ribs with it.

"Albus, the injury on his side." Harry hadn't noticed Professor McGonagall's arrival, but she and Snape had approached from behind.

A bright wand tip twirled into Harry's vision. Moments later, the overwhelming pain from his ribs subsided as Dumbledore muttered something that sounded like, "Poppy will have my head…" With breathing much less painful, Harry again attempted to explain.

"Viktor and I landed in some sort of graveyard. We thought it might have been some last part of the task, so we moved forward together until we heard voices. Someone was searching for me; It was Pettigrew on Voldemort's orders. We tried to get away from them, but Voldemort had a huge snake that he told to attack Viktor. Pettigrew stunned me, and when I woke up, we were both tied to tombstones."

"Pettigrew? You can't mean Peter Pettigrew! He can't believe the nonsense you brought to me about…"

Dumbledore's bright blue eyes held none of their usual twinkle as he shot a look at Fudge, who quieted at once, but still appeared horrorstruck and kept shaking his head and wincing when Voldemort's name was mentioned.

"Pettigrew had used some sort of potion to bring Voldemort back to full strength. Viktor said he used bones from a grave, some of my blood," he indicated the laceration on his arm. "And then Pettigrew cut off his own hand for the potion. Whatever it was, it worked. Voldemort is fully back."

"Impossible…" whispered Fudge as something flashed in Dumbledore's eyes. "He can't be back…"

"Then Death Eaters started arriving," continued Harry, his eyes focused on his headmaster. "Thirty of them, at least."

"Nothin' but a bunch of cowards!" Moody's growl matched the grimace on his scarred face as he limped to the gathered group. He spat on the ground as his magical eye focused on Harry. "Then what'd the Dark Lord do?"

"He was talking to the Death Eaters. Viktor was hurt badly from the snake bite, but he was trying to tell me what had happened while I was unconscious, but Voldemort noticed and stood in front of Viktor. He… He offered Viktor a chance to join him."

A gasp escaped Hermione's lips.

"Viktor refused. Didn't want any part of hurting Muggleborns." Harry's eyes darted to Hermione, willing her not to listen. "Then Voldemort used the Cruciatus on him."

Hermione cried out as Ron's eyes widened and jaw dropped. Harry felt Ginny shifting next to him as she reached across her brother to lay a hand on Hermione's leg. Fudge looked as though he wanted to flee, but remained still. Moody's magical eye was trained on Harry. Dumbledore dragged his hand through his beard but did not interrupt.

"I tried to get him to stop, told him that he didn't want Viktor and that he should let him go. Then he looked in my eyes… It was like he knew what I was thinking. He said he was going to use Viktor to hurt me…"

He blinked as hot tears flowed down his face.

"He said he knew that I was hoping someone would come to save us, or at least save Viktor. Then he…" The words lodged in his throat as another sob doubled Hermione over. "He killed Viktor."

What strength Hermione had left failed her as she collapsed onto Ron, releasing a cry of anguish into his robes. A gasp of grief escaped Ginny as her hand clenched tightly in Harry's. Dumbledore's head sank. He looked as if he'd aged decades in the hours since the third task commenced.

"This cannot be…" Fudge's eyes darted from Harry to Dumbledore and then back again. "If You-Know-Who returned, then how in blazes did you get back here?"

"Good question," said Moody as both his regular eye and electric blue magical eye bore down on Harry.

"He said he wanted to prove to the Death Eaters, prove that it was only luck that kept me alive when he'd killed my parents. He made Pettigrew give me back my wand so I could duel him."

Fudge scoffed. "And you expect us to believe that you bested He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in a duel?"

A gust of wind whistled as a surge of power from Dumbledore billowed through the robes of all those gathered around Harry. Dumbledore spoke in a deeper and more serious voice than Harry had ever heard him use. "Cornelius, there is no falsehood in him. We can verify with whichever truth potion you think best later, but for now, we will hear his account."

Fudge shrank back under Dumbledore's withering glare, and even Professor Moody took a small step back. But the headmaster's eyes returned to a kind sadness by the time he met Harry's gaze again. He nodded to the boy and resumed his posture of listening.

"I didn't beat him," said Harry softly. "He used the Cruciatus on me. He only let up because he was toying with me."

Harry felt the stares of his friends as he spoke, but he couldn't bear to meet their eyes, instead focusing on Dumbledore. The fear that had gripped him in the graveyard rushed back into the pit of his stomach.

"He was taunting me as the Death Eaters watched and laughed. He tried another Cruciatus, but I dove behind a tombstone. He said he was going to kill me, so I tried firing a spell back at him as he cast the killing curse. I don't really understand what happened, but our wands connected somehow. There was a golden light between them."

"Priori incantatem…" muttered the headmaster under his breath. "Of course…"

"What's that supposed to mean, Dumbledore?" Fudge was clearly not used to being out of the loop and was not taking the string of revelations well.

"A rare magic, indeed, in which two wands connected by outside forces are unable to properly attack each other. Tell me, Harry, did some sort of apparition appear from your wand? Or Voldemort's?"

Harry blinked back tears before nodding. "It was like smoke versions of the people he killed came out of his wand. First Viktor, then an older man. He was a muggle. Then a woman, Bertha Jorkins. Then…"

Harry hesitated, not wanting to describe his parents emerging. Mercifully, Dumbledore interrupted before Harry could continue. "These apparitions… What did they do?"

"They hovered near me and told me not to break the connection until the right moment. They said that the Triwizard Cup could take me back to Hogwarts. When they told me to break the connection, they flew at Voldemort and distracted him long enough for me to make a run for it, but I hurt my ribs and ankle falling. I think the smoke figures disappeared really quickly because the Death Eaters and Voldemort caught up to me, but I summoned the Cup and ended up back here."

Harry rested his head back against the grass and let his eyes close. All he wanted was for this to be over, for it all to be a nightmare, and to wake up back in Gryffindor tower.

"This is, without a doubt, the most preposterous story ever concocted…" muttered the Minister as he shook his head. "You-Know-Who is dead and gone! This boy has obviously suffered some sort of trauma, but what he said just cannot be true."

"Minister, there is much to be done. Igor Karkaroff fled before Harry returned. Viktor Krum's family is here for the task and they must be informed about their son's murder. His mother is influential in the Bulgarian ministry and our country needs our allies. You are skilled in challenging diplomatic matters such as these. Will you accompany me to speak with them, and then we can confer upon our next course of action?"

Harry couldn't help but notice that Fudge was shocked to have Albus Dumbledore speak to him so deferentially. A glance at McGonagall and Snape made Harry believe they were no less surprised.

"Yes… Well, I suppose…" Fudge was looking as though he, too, desperately wanted this all to be a nightmare he would soon wake from, but he also had puffed his chest out a bit as Dumbledore requested his help. Harry's mind traveled back to the Yule Ball when Percy had been so quick to amend his beliefs when Ginny plied him with compliments.

"But we cannot give them such an obviously false story!" The Minister had finally stumbled upon an argument that he felt satisfactory. "We cannot tell a prominent family their son has been murdered by You-Know-Who when there is no proof of his return!"

Dumbledore gave a small nod before turning to Snape. "Cornelius, I believe you will remember the circumstances under which I hired Professor Snape. Severus, would you please present proof to the Minister? It is crucial that he fully understands the importance of the moment."

Fudge looked at the Potions Master, as did Harry. Without expression, Snape rolled back his sleeve to reveal the image of a skull and snake emblazoned on his arm.

"It has been growing clearer all year, as you have no doubt been informed. It burned black minutes after Krum and Potter went missing. The Dark Lord used it to call his followers. When the Dark Mark burned, each was to disapparate and appear at his side. No one but the Dark Lord could have activated his mark."

Cornelius Fudge was not a man with a weak stomach. He had presided over numerous cases in the Wizengamot involving Death Eaters and the worst kind of crimes. But the sight of the ugly mark on Snape's arm along with Dumbledore's insistence on Voldemort's return became too much for him. He stumbled backward a few steps before turning and retching.

When he had wiped his mouth with his sleeve and turned back around, he looked at Dumbledore once more with fear and unbridled anger in his eyes.

"I don't know what you're playing, Dumbledore, and I don't care. That boy can't be trusted! Maybe you're trying to destabilize my administration, or maybe you've finally lost it after all these years, but I will not have you upset the fragile recovery we've built! I will not have you standing against me!"

"Cornelius, you refuse to see the danger right in front of you. None here stand against you; we stand against Lord Voldemort, and we gladly stand with all those who oppose him."

Fudge did his best to raise himself back up to a respectable stature, but even at his full height, he was not an imposing figure as he looked upward at the headmaster. "Expect to hear from my administration concerning your hiring practices and curriculum. As Minister, I will not allow our children to be so woefully misled."

He turned to leave in a huff but stopped short and rummaged in his robes. He pulled a sack of gold from his pocket and dropped it next to Harry with disdain, speaking without meeting Harry's eyes. "Your winnings for the tournament. There was to be a ceremony, but under the circumstances, it has been canceled. Congratulations and whatnot." He then swept away from the gathering.

Dumbledore squeezed the space between his eyebrows between his thumb and forefinger and sighed deeply.

"It seems we are already frightfully behind on doing what's needed. Minerva?" Professor McGonagall looked as if all the blood had drained from her face over the last few minutes, but she met the headmaster's gaze unflinchingly. "Take Harry and these students to the Hospital Wing. Then begin contacting the old crowd. Tonight was not how Voldemort wanted to announce his return, but we must begin making his enemies aware of this new reality.

"Alastor, please help Pomona and Filius get the students back to their dormitories. And I'll need you to begin reaching out to your auror contacts."

Moody looked up at Dumbledore, though his magical eye remained fixed on Harry. "I can do that easy enough. Though it might be better for me to take Potter. She's more talented at wrangling scared first years than me." He stuck out his wooden leg and shook it a bit.

Dumbledore had already turned to Snape before Moody finished speaking. "Certainly, Alastor, take these four. Severus, I trust you know what I am asking you to do?"

Snape's dark eyes didn't blink as he stared back at the headmaster. He gave a curt nod.

"Then good luck."

Snape didn't wait a second longer. He strode purposefully away from the crowd toward the gates to Hogwarts, disappearing into the darkness of the night.

Ron and Ginny helped Harry to his feet, but his ankle had swollen to twice its normal size. He couldn't put any weight on it at all without debilitating pain shooting up his leg. He settled for throwing an arm over Ron's shoulder, who stooped a little to allow his friend to hobble along next to him. Ginny pulled Hermione into an embrace before taking her arm and following behind the two boys. Professor Moody stumped along behind them, his magical eye whizzing around as if assailants were likely to pop out from behind every shrubbery.

As they moved through the Great Hall and into a corridor that led toward the infirmary, Harry tugged on Ron's shoulder. Harry was exhausted from the task, the graveyard, and hobbling along on one leg. "Quick break?"

Ron chuckled darkly. "Oh, c'mon, mate. Only four staircases until we get to the hospital wing. Three if you don't count…"

"STUPEFY!"

Harry and Ron looked back just in time to see Ginny and Hermione collapse to the floor as Moody lowered his wand at them. "STUPEFY!"

Ron shielded Harry as the spell struck, but both boys fell limp to the ground once Ron was no longer supporting both their weights.

Harry remained motionless, willing himself not to cry out. His back was now to Moody, who was muttering to himself. Harry tried to grab his wand, but the weight of Ron's body prevented him from reaching it and he couldn't hope to make a move without alerting their attacker.

As Moody let out a series of escalating swears, Harry decided to chance a look in his direction and saw that the man's back was to them. He made a grab for Ron's wand, which had fallen to the floor next to them.

"Expelliarmus!" The wand that Harry had barely touched flew away from his fingertips and into the hand of his Defense professor.

"Potter, you absolute pain in my arse!" Moody snarled. "Petrificus totalus!"

Every part of Harry's body, whether relatively unharmed or deeply injured, froze stiff as a board. He could only watch as the man returned to what he was doing. It looked as though he was casting some sort of complex spell on a school book.

"Do you have any idea how infuriating you are?" called Moody as he made two loops in the air with his wand, then a counter-clockwise twist. "I spent a whole year carrying you across the finish line in this damned tournament, and you still almost managed to fail.

"Convinced Hagrid to tell you about the dragons, and I still had to bludgeon you over the head with a clue to get you past the first task!" He spat his words venomously, but Harry had no way to respond. His regular eye was focused on the spellwork, but the magical one had zeroed in on Harry. "Had to help Diggory in the second task just to get you past the clue, gave Longbottom the book with the perfect solution, and you still couldn't come out on top! It would have been even closer had I not riled up the blasted squid the night before!

"But despite it all, I got you to the third task with a lead. Dispelled most of the obstacles on your path so that you could get to the Cup first, but no! You had to check on Delacour after she threw off my imperius and wait with Diggory so the spiders wouldn't eat him."

He swore loudly and began redoing the last several wand movements. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to make two portkeys in one night? Especially after forcing that damn golem to only attack the others?

"Well, it doesn't matter what kind of luck got you away from my Master tonight. As soon as I'm done with this new portkey, you'll end up right back at his feet. And I'll be honored as the most loyal, his most capable, the Dark Lord's most faithful…"

"STUPEFY!"

The enchantment on Harry evaporated and all the pain of his injuries being held stiff for so long washed over him as he watched the figure of Alastor Moody fall to the floor. Behind him stood Sirius, his chest heaving and with furious terror in his sunken eyes.

"HARRY!?"

He sprinted the length of the hallway before skidding to a stop in front of Harry, whose face shone with relief as the man pulled him into a rough hug. Sirius held Harry tightly to his chest, and it was only when his godson let out a low hiss of pain that he thought to release the still-injured boy. He swore loudly before grabbing either side of Harry's head and staring him in the eye.

"Harry, are you okay?" Emotion dripped from each word.

"Well… Not really," answered Harry honestly. The terror of being sent back to Voldemort had not yet fully subsided. "But I'm a lot better now that you're here."

"Fair enough. Hold steady here for a minute, yeah?"

He got back up and walked back toward the man he'd just attacked. "Incarcerous!" Dark ropes bound Moody as he lay on the floor. Harry was about to ask a question when he saw a great silvery dog leap from Sirius' wand and bound back down toward the quidditch pitch. Sirius grabbed the wand from Moody's hand before turning to Harry.

"Figure we better get Dumbledore up here before I figure out all the reasons I should tear one of his staff limb from limb. Suppose he's the one who got you into the tournament in the first place?" Harry was nodding as Sirius moved toward the crumpled heap of Hermione and Ginny. With two carefully cast enervates, both girls began to wake up while Sirius cast another at Ron's stunned form.

"How'd you know to come find me?" asked Harry as his friend stirred next to him. "And how'd you get here so fast?"

"What, you thought I'd miss out on my favorite godson's final task?" He laughed at his own joke and Harry allowed a faint smile for a moment. "Been listening to Bagman's miserable commentating from over by Hagrid's hut. Fang and I get along famously since I ran around with his mum during my time here. When you disappeared, I moved close enough to keep an eye out. Caught sight of Dumbledore when he ran over to where I'm guessing you landed because the area got blocked off except for you two, Fudge, your friends here, and a few professors."

"What's going on?" asked Hermione as she gathered herself from the floor. "Why are we on the ground? And why is Sirius here?"

"'Cause we got attacked by another bloody Defense professor," said Ron pointing to where Moody was tied. "Harry and I heard him stun the two of you, then he got both of us before we could react."

"Actually, mate, he just knocked you out." Ron turned back to Harry with the first twinge of frustration on his face as his mouth opened slightly, but Harry continued. "You pulled me back a bit and shielded me from the spell. I still collapsed when you did, since you were holding up most of my weight at the time, but you definitely took the curse for me."

Ron's cheeks went pink. With nothing to say, he just sat there with his mouth agape.

Sirius laughed as he helped Hermione to her feet. "I can hear someone running this way, probably a couple of people. I'm going to duck into a classroom until we're sure who all is coming, but be ready for anything. I'll keep watching, too. I'd rather get sent back to Azkaban than have anything else happen to you."

Sure enough, by the time Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall came barreling into the corridor at breakneck speed, Sirius was well hidden in a nearby darkened classroom.



"Then how did you manage to escape?" The Deputy Headmistress looked to be some combination of horrified and incredulous.

Harry's condensed explanation had stalled because he didn't want to give away his godfather's presence.

"Minerva, I would venture a guess that their savior is nearby and might be willing to reconnect with one of his favorite professors if you would…"

"SIRIUS BLACK!" Her yell cut across Dumbledore. "If you aren't out here in the next five seconds, you will sorely regret it!" Professor McGonagall's nostrils were flaring and she had a wild look in her eyes. Harry was alarmed enough to make a move toward her, but Dumbledore placed a hand gently on his shoulder and the twinkle had returned to his blue eyes.

Harry watched as his godfather sheepishly walked into the corridor, shrugged his shoulders with his palms out to either side, and met her blazing look.

"Ta-da?"

With speed Harry wouldn't have believed had he not seen it, McGonagall ran to Sirius and engulfed him in her arms. Through her choked sobs and his words of consolation, Harry could barely hear what they were saying.

"I knew that something wasn't right! It just made no sense at all for you to betray James and Lily, and then all last year I wondered but… Then I learned you hadn't even gotten a trial!"

Harry had always suspected that, underneath her stern exterior, Professor McGonagall harbored great affection for her students. He thought her fondness might have extended especially to those whom she disciplined most often. But seeing tears flow unabated down her cheeks as she apologized for not believing in Sirius seemed something else altogether. Harry smiled as his godfather floundered under the weight of regret his former professor was laying bare.

"And then as soon as I heard that Pettigrew was alive tonight, the truth of it came into focus. You've got so much explaining to do, not the least of which is how in blazes you escaped from Azkaban and snuck into Hogwarts multiple times while the whole Ministry has been searching for you!"

Sirius looked down at McGonagall, whose confession and apologies had somehow still sounded professorial, and grinned widely. "Explaining that'll take several hours that we don't have right now and at least one bottle of firewhisky, but how about this for a preview of the story…"

He took a large step backward and began waggling his eyebrows as a smirk emerged on his face. In the blink of an eye, there stood a shaggy, black dog in the spot Sirius had been, wagging its tail with wild abandon. An instant later, Sirius was human again. Minerva swore softly to herself, looking as shocked as Harry and Ron had when she transformed from a cat during their first Transfiguration class.

"Remember how me and James asked you about becoming an animagus back in our second year?" Mischief was dancing in Sirius' eyes, and it was clear to everyone present that he'd been wanting to savor revealing this secret to her for a very long time. "We may have started working on that little project earlier than we let on."

A twinge of a smile formed on McGonagall's face. "You didn't…"

"James fully transformed about a month before the summer holidays in fifth year, and I got it a week and a half later. Peter took until the third week of our sixth year."

"And you spent the next two years running amok through the castle and grounds?" Harry thought Professor McGonagall looked both incensed and impressed.

"Hard to beat four friends pulling all-nighters under a full moon."

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "I am quite pleased that the two of you are reacquainted, but perhaps it would be wise to continue bringing the students to the hospital wing? Once they are safely under the care of Madam Pomfrey, there are a number of questions I have for our Defense professor…" With a swish and a flick of Dumbledore's wand, the unconscious Moody floated a few feet off the ground.

When they arrived, Madam Pomfrey sprang into action. She swiftly closed the curtains behind her as she left the bed Fleur was sitting upon with the Delacours huddled around. Harry's cuts and bruises were easily dealt with, but his ankle had been badly broken and his ribs hadn't been mended to the matron's high standards. Harry noticed that Professor Dumbledore had whisked Professor McGonagall away to question the captive before the examination of his injured ribs had begun.

Pomfrey made Harry drink three revolting potions to help with his broken bones and the effects of the cruciatus, then left to track down a spare dreamless sleep potion. Harry thought for a moment that he would be able to speak privately with Sirius, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, but Mrs. Weasley burst through the door just as Madam Pomfrey was leaving. Bill and Mr. Weasley followed soon after, though they looked less frantic than she.

Mrs. Weasley had rushed halfway across the room before she stopped in her tracks as her eyes met those of the fugitive murderer Sirius Black, who was standing over Harry's bedside and next to her daughter. Her wand moved with lightning quickness and before any of them could utter a word of explanation, Sirius lay stunned on the floor.

"Bloody hell, Mum!" cried Ron. "He's a good guy!"

Mrs. Weasley's eyes flashed dangerously as she moved in between Sirius' unconscious body and the children, indicating that Ron's words had not registered.

"Really, Mrs. Weasley, he saved us tonight! He's been protecting Harry since last year."

"Yeah, Mum! I've met him before and he's really nice!"

Neither Hermione nor Ginny's words had much effect as the Weasley matriarch kept her wand trained on Sirius' form slumped on the ground against an empty cot, though her shoulders did seem to relax a tad. Both Mr. Weasley and Bill had their wands out, too, but Bill was looking and listening as he slowly walked back and forth through the infirmary while Arthur quickly stepped to his wife's side.

Harry heard Madam Pomfrey talking to herself as she reentered the room. She took one look at the scene before smacking a hand against her forehead and muttering something under her breath, then addressed Mrs. Weasley.

"I'm so sorry, I would have warned you if I wasn't so preoccupied tending to Mr. Potter's injuries." She whisked past everyone and knelt beside Sirius, placing the back of her hand against his brow. "You sure stunned him good, Molly…"

Her eyes fell on Arthur, and she called him over with a look. "I need to finish grabbing a few things for a dreamless sleep potion. Would you be so kind as to revive Mr. Black? I assure you that he is here under orders directly from Professor Dumbledore and is not a danger to any of us."

Mr. Weasley nodded slowly and used a quick "Enervate!" despite how confused he looked as the matron slipped back into her office with the ingredients that were under her arm.

A window slammed shut behind a triumphant-looking Hermione, who was holding something tightly in her hand, but most eyes stayed trained on Sirius. The man looked a bit groggy as he stood back up and dusted himself off. "Judging by the hair and the protective mother bear energy, would it be safe to assume you're a Weasley?"

Mrs. Weasley had mostly lowered her wand, but she still positioned herself between the man and her youngest children. Her cheeks remained flushed slightly despite Madam Pomfrey's reassurances.

"Yes, I'm their mother," she indicated her youngest two, though she didn't see Ginny roll her eyes at Sirius. "I'm sorry for stunning you. After seeing your face on wanted posters for almost two years, you can imagine how startling it was to see you looming over the children."

"Actually, I get it completely. I'm Harry's godfather, and I reacted exactly the same earlier this evening when I ran up on someone threatening these four." He smiled broadly and offered his hand to her. "You probably guessed already, but I'm Sirius Black. It's a pleasure to meet you in person. I've heard good things about you and Arthur, and if how your kids treat Harry is any indication, you're definitely my kind of people."

There was definitely some hesitation on her part, but Mrs. Weasley slowly extended her hand to shake his. "Molly Weasley… We're all quite fond of Harry, and always glad to know others who care for him."

Mr. Weasley took his hand as well. "I'm guessing there's a story here that we haven't heard yet," he stole a quick glance at Ron, who was doing his best not to look guilty. "But we trust Dumbledore. I'll be interested to hear more about whoever was threatening our kids earlier, but you have our thanks for stepping in."

Sirius' eyes got a little bit more distant all of a sudden, and he turned back to Mrs. Weasley. "Hold on a sec… You wouldn't happen to be Molly Prewett, Fabian and Gideon's little sister, would you?"

Harry watched as Mrs. Weasley's face went pale and she clutched her hand to her chest. Her husband grabbed her other hand and ran his thumb back and forth over her knuckles.

"Yes, I was a Prewett before I married Arthur." Her attempt to maintain her composure was valiant, but her voice still trembled as she spoke. "Did you know them?"

Sirius gave her a sad smile. "I did. During the war, Dumbledore had me and some others fresh out of Hogwarts helping out where we could. Your brothers helped train up me and Harry's dad during that first year. We both liked them a lot. They were good men, and I was sad to hear what happened."

Mrs. Weasley let out a sniffle and squeezed her husband's hand. "They were so good about helping others. I'm glad you got to know them."

"Excuse me, the dreamless sleep potions are prepared," called Madam Pomfrey as she walked briskly back into the room. She peeked her head through a gap in the curtains at the Delacours, then opened them more fully so that both patients and their visitors could see her. Fleur's injured leg was wrapped in a cloth that looked to have been dipped in some sort of purple potion. "Both of my patients require a good night's sleep. I was instructed to allow one visitor to remain with each of you, but the rest of you will need to leave."

Ron started to offer to stay back with Harry, but Ginny elbowed him in the side and nodded to Sirius, who was chuckling at the two redheads. Mrs. Weasley also looked as if she fully intended to maintain watch over Harry, but Mr. Weasley placed a hand on the small of her back and whispered something in her ear. Bill's eyes had locked with Fleur's while her father was translating for her mother, who it seemed would remain in the hospital wing that night. Gabrielle and her father kissed Fleur before leaving the infirmary, followed by the throng of Weasleys and Hermione.

Sirius dragged a chair next to Harry's bed and fell into it as Madam Pomfrey administered the potion. He laughed and said, "Bottoms up, kiddo!" while resting his feet on the crisp sheets of the bed, only for Madam Pomfrey to promptly knock his feet back to the ground. The last thing Harry saw as the world around him faded was his godfather's roguish grin.
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