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

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Category: Post-HBP
Genres: Action/Adventure, General, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 247
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.

Original Timeline

Voldemort's Victory - Chapter 1-5 (Feel free to skip if you don't like major character deaths)

Tenochtitlán - Chapter 6-9

New Timeline

Harry's 4th Year - Chapter 10-28

Harry's 5th Year - Chapter 29-68

Harry's 6th Year - Chapter 69-Current
Hitcount: Story Total: 68055; Chapter Total: 1509
Awards: View Trophy Room


The next few days flew by Harry in a blur. Madam Pomfrey kept him in the infirmary for three whole days, which was excruciating for Harry. He longed for the peace of his own bed and the privacy of the empty classrooms in which he'd spent so many hours training with his friends. As a high-profile patient, it seemed like Harry couldn't go half an hour without visitors interrupting his attempts to connect with Hermione, Ron, and Ginny.

Sirius had stayed the first night, but Dumbledore had sent him from the castle on some sort of mission soon after Harry awoke the first morning. His godfather had assured Harry that they'd see each other again soon, and his wink before leaving made it clear that something was already in the works.

Bill and Mr. Weasley had both left the following morning, as well, but Mrs. Weasley had been unwilling to leave until Sunday evening. Though Harry did feel a bit smothered at times, especially when she brought him plates so full that even Dudley would have suggested it was too much, he couldn't help feeling grateful as she did her best to speed his recovery. When she finally departed, she gathered him into an embrace and whispered how proud she was of him. He blushed slightly when he felt his eyes grow a touch watery, but she gave him one last smile before leaving to use Professor McGonagall's floo.

The hardest part had been when Professor Dumbledore entered with Viktor's mother and sisters, along with Hermione. The headmaster served as a translator while Harry recounted the story. Yordanka Krum's face was streaked with tears as she listened, only asking a few questions during the retelling. Viktor's sisters were still too young to fully understand what had happened, and Hermione did her best to distract them during the worst parts of his tale, a kindness that their mother deeply appreciated.

Professor Dumbledore told Harry that she was grateful that he had brought word of Viktor's fate back to them and that she thanked him for being a friend to her son. "She says that Viktor spoke fondly of you and that you showed him kindness both in the second task and at the Yule Ball." A few tears escaped his blue eyes as he went on. "Viktor wrote to her every week, and he told her that you were an honorable competitor and a good person. He had hoped to remain as your friend after the tournament."

Before they left, Harry got Professor Dumbledore's attention. "Sir, will you please give Mrs. Krum the prize money? Viktor and I technically tied, and I don't want the winnings." Dumbledore smiled sadly and passed along the message, but she politely refused.

"She expresses her thanks but wanted me to assure you that they don't need it and won't take it. She only asks that you look them up should you ever visit Bulgaria."

The woman dried her tears with a handkerchief before bidding them goodbye. Though she had seemed a bit stiff when Harry first met her, he marveled at the emotion she poured into an embrace with Hermione before leaving. She then held Hermione by both cheeks and said something to her in Bulgarian, eliciting a soft sob as Hermione nodded emphatically.

Several of Harry's professors made visits to the hospital wing to see him. Professor McGonagall chatted with him for half an hour about his spellwork in the third task and in the graveyard, allowing herself to smile a little as he recounted his fight with her golem. "Mr. Weasley outmaneuvered my chess game, you beat my golem, and Miss Granger has aced every quiz and exam I've thrown at her. I may have to come up with something more challenging for the three of you next year…"

Professor Flitwick was also excited to talk through some of the highlights. Though Harry was weary of talking about what happened, he found that the diminutive man was especially interested in the details of his duel with Voldemort. Before he left, he promised that he would be willing to continue helping to train Harry, even though the tournament had ended. Flitwick figured that, since trouble had a way of finding Harry, it'd be worth giving him more ways to defend himself.

The Diggorys had taken Cedric straight to St. Mungo's after his removal from the third task, but he was back at Hogwarts before Harry had been cleared to leave the infirmary. The Hufflepuff spent part of an afternoon chatting with Harry while they snacked on some sweets he'd brought from the Great Hall.

The labyrinth had been a lot more challenging for Cedric, who didn't have a crazed Death Eater clearing a path for him. Harry was quite appreciative of the opportunity to sit back and listen while Cedric explained the various obstacles he'd encountered. As Harry winced and grimaced at the story, the events of his own night were pushed a little bit toward the back of his mind, if only for a few minutes.

Cedric was effusive in his thanks for Harry defending him while he was unconscious in the maze. Though Harry attempted to demure, Cedric was of the opinion that Harry had acted both bravely and with loyalty, which he deemed fitting for a friendship between a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor. Though neither of the boys said it aloud, Harry felt confident that their connection would be all the stronger next year. At least when they weren't flying against each other.

Out of all his visits, Luna's was by far the most odd. After one of his potions had left him a bit groggy in the late afternoon, Harry fell asleep. When he woke an hour later, he was surprised to find Luna sitting on her knees in the chair next to his bed, drawing on a spare piece of parchment. He hadn't a clue what to say to her, so he feigned sleep for another ten minutes as she scribbled.

"If you're pretending to sleep so you won't have to talk about everything that happened again, don't worry. I'm sure it's probably the last thing you want to talk about."

"Sorry, Luna!" Harry's eyes shot open and he began coughing out of nervousness. "But you're right. It seems like that's all anyone wants to talk to me about."

"If that's what you don't want to speak about…" She flipped the parchment sideways before starting again. "What do you want to talk about?"

Harry lay back on his pillow and looked at the ceiling. "Err… I don't really know, to be honest. What about you?"

"You want to talk about me?"

Harry jolted his head off the pillow. "Wait, no! That's not what I meant! I was just trying to ask what you wanted to talk about."

"Hmm. I supposed that makes more sense." She moved her quill so the end of it nestled in the hair dangling behind her ear. "I think I'd like to talk about Ginny."

Harry gripped the sheet beneath him as the perils of a Luna conversation crystallized.

"I think Ginny was happier this term than I've seen her before. It felt as though some of the sadness she had been carrying since first year melted away. Did she seem happy to you?"

In truth, Harry did think Ginny had seemed happy, though he had imagined that was mostly her default. A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he thought that maybe he'd been a part of her having a good spring.

"I'm not sure if I'm a good judge of that, especially since I didn't know her as well before this year, but I think you're right. She seemed like she had a good term, even though she spent a lot of it helping me with stuff."

"I'm glad we agree. During our lunches in second year and last term, her laugh wasn't nearly as strong as it's been the past few months, and somehow she felt more subdued. I think she's been more like her true self."

Harry liked the sound of that, though he didn't know how best to respond. It seemed as though Luna was the type of person who was not afraid of silence, as they both remained quiet for another couple of minutes as she scribbled on her parchment. The quiet would usually make Harry uncomfortable, but it seemed to suit the conversation.

As he lay there, his mind wandered from one thing to the next. His thoughts flit from the golden strand of memory to the golden thread between his wand and Voldemort's, then to the smokey apparitions he'd seen for just those few moments.

"I saw my Mum and Dad when I was in the graveyard," whispered Harry without meeting Luna's gaze. He could see from the corner of his eye that she'd begun to smile. He wasn't sure exactly why he hadn't told any of his friends about that part of the story; he'd given a fairly thorough account to Ginny, Hermione, and Ron the previous evening, but had skipped past his parents emerging from Voldemort's wand. Somehow, it hadn't felt quite right to explain it to his friends who still had both of their parents.

"I'm glad to hear that. I'm sure it was very frightening, so I imagine having your parents present would be helpful. What were they like?" There was no disbelief in Luna's voice, but there also wasn't any pity. Harry felt something warm inside him as he considered her question.

"It's hard to say… They were only there for a few moments from some sort of magic that I don't understand…" Harry looked out a nearby window as he tried to compose his thoughts. "They were young. They were both really young.

"When I look and Ginny and Ron's parents, they seem old. Not like Dumbledore old, but like real adults. Same thing when we're at Platform 9 ¾. It seems like everyone's parents are… I dunno… Grown-ups, if that makes sense."

Luna nodded but did not interrupt, and Harry was grateful that she was the kind of person who would understand even if his words didn't explain well.

"But my parents… They looked almost like they were kids straight out of Hogwarts. My Mum came to me and just kinda touched my face while my Dad was on his way over. He helped tell me how to get away from there, then they both helped keep me safe when I made a run for it. Before that, though…"

Harry's voice got caught in his throat and he felt his eyes becoming watery. Without saying anything, Luna leaned forward and grabbed his hand. Harry let out a sniffle but was heartened to note that there was no flush in his cheeks.

"My Mum told me that they both loved me. Then my Dad said they were 'damn proud of me.'"

Luna breathed in and out deeply a few times before responding. "What a gift. What an extraordinary gift."

"Yeah… Yeah, I think so, too."

Again, they sat quietly for a while, Luna still gently holding his hand. Harry wasn't quite sure how the conversation was supposed to continue, let alone end. The problem was solved when Ginny walked through the doors into the infirmary, arms laden with snacks from the kitchens.

Harry's eyes grew wide as he hurriedly withdrew his hand from Luna's. His traitorous face chose this moment to turn red.

"Oh, hello Ginny! Harry and I were just talking about you a few minutes ago."

Harry didn't mean to shoot daggers at Luna with his eyes, but it felt like he didn't have any alternative options. Ginny seemed awfully pleased about something, and the grin plastered on her face made Harry nervous.

"You were speaking about little old me? Should I be concerned? And was that why you were holding hands when I came in?" The panic swelling in Harry meant he didn't notice the mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"It's not like that, Ginny," he said a little too loudly. He wasn't sure why explaining himself to her was imperative, but he knew that it was. "She was just doing it because we had been talking about the graveyard and stuff, so she was trying to be supportive. I wasn't trying anything on her, I swear!"

Ginny burst out into laughter as Luna started giggling, too. Harry, feeling very out of the loop, had to wait for the laughs to subside.

"I very much doubt she suspects us of being in some sort of secret relationship," said Luna with a wide smile. "Ginny is well aware that you aren't my type."

"Very true!" replied Ginny as she tried to stifle another fit of giggles.

Harry was clueless. He looked back and forth between the two friends for a moment before Luna began again.

"Harry, I prefer girls rather than boys."

That was a thought which had not occurred to Harry Potter. Luna and Ginny fell back into giggles as Harry's face began to look as if he'd been struck with a rather strong Confundus. It was a few moments before he regained his ability to speak.

"So, err… Is that something you'd like me to keep a secret? Or… Uhh…"

"Eloquent as always, Potter!" said Ginny with a small snort.

"Well, I think the question is kind, nonetheless. I'm not hiding who I am. If someone asks, feel free to be honest."

Harry nodded as he tried to regain control of his cheek coloration. "That sounds fair. Seamus basically said the same thing to us in the dorm in third year, but he eventually told us not to worry about it at all once he and Justin started going out."

"Thank you, Harry. Ginny assured me you were a safe person."

Soon, Ginny and Luna were chatting away about the end of the term. Their conversation didn't pertain to him all that much, but Harry found it somehow comforting to hear them talking through all sorts of things that had nothing to do with him. He drifted into a small nap feeling content.

When Madam Pomfrey finally discharged him, Harry bounded back to Gryffindor tower. He was thrilled to be out of the hospital wing and looked forward to the few remaining days before the train ride back to London. He ignored several small groups of students who began to whisper and stare as he made his way through the corridors.

When he reached the common room, he waved to his friends who were lazing around the fireplace recuperating from their end-of-year exams. Being exempt from those tests remained one of the only things Harry appreciated about the damned tournament. He ducked up the stairs to drop off the things he'd brought back from the infirmary (a few sweets left for him by well-wishers, the potions Madam Pomfrey made him promise to take each night before bed for the next week, and a beat-up snitch that the twins had nicked from the quidditch shed), only to find a hand-written note in a loopy scrawl sitting on his bed.

I should like to spend some time discussing your recent adventures and some upcoming challenges with you. I will be in my office at 8:30 this evening. The password is 'chocolate frogs.'

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

Back in the common room, Harry passed the note to Hermione, Neville, Ginny, and Ron in turn as they lazed near the fireplace.

"It doesn't say you hafta go," offered Ron weakly.

"It's Dumbledore," replied Hermione as she rolled her eyes. She had been much quieter over the past few days, and Ginny had mentioned she'd been pulling off on her own more, too. Ron had been walking on eggshells trying not to argue with her about anything, but his insistence on agreeing with her no matter what didn't seem to make much of a difference in her mood. "Just because he didn't say it outright doesn't mean Harry has much choice in the matter."

"Wonder what he means by 'upcoming challenges'?" mused Ginny as she prodded the fire with a metal poker. "Other than the Ministry denying everything."

"Not sure," muttered Harry as two burning logs collapsed in the fireplace, bathing them in warmth and splashing a red glow onto all of their faces and Ginny's hair. "But Sirius already told me that Dumbledore wants me to go back to the Dursleys after the term ends."

"Mum mentioned that to us before she left. Apparently, she tried to talk Dumbledore into letting you come straight home with us this summer, but he wasn't having it. Seemed like she expected that we'd see you soon, though."

"And we'll write to you," added Ginny as Neville nodded. "Maybe it won't be as bad this year."

"Maybe…" said Harry without meeting any of his friends' looks. "But the note says challenges. I get the feeling he's not just referring to heading back to Privet Drive."

Neville glanced at the clock. "Well, we can wait up for you, if you want."

"You don't have to. How about I give you the highlights tomorrow? I'm sure whatever it is he's going to tell me can keep for one more day." He pushed himself up off the couch and started toward the portrait hole. As he walked, he called over his shoulder, "Don't let Hermione stress over her History of Magic exam!"

A few minutes later, the gargoyle sprang out of his way before he climbed up to the headmaster's office. He lightly rapped on the door twice, then entered as the door swung open. Professor Dumbledore sat behind his desk, writing something on a long scroll of parchment. He indicated an overstuffed chair across from him, and Harry sat dutifully as his host finished what he was writing.

"Ahh, Harry. So good of you to join me this evening. I trust you are on the mend if Madam Pomfrey allowed you to leave her sight?" His eyes twinkled as he smiled down at Harry.

"Yes, sir. My ankle feels good as new, and most everything else feels fine. She said I'll still be sore from the Cruciatus for at least another week, but it's much more manageable now than it was."

Sadness crossed Dumbledore's wisened face. "Yes, she is correct. It has been many years since I was last struck by that ugly curse, but I will not soon forget the aches that came with it. I'm sorry that you have had to deal with that, but I am so grateful you made it back in such relatively good shape. When Fleur told us what happened, I feared the worst."

Harry felt quite curious about the circumstances under which Dumbledore had been hit by the Cruciatus, but thought it better not to pry.

"I've spent a good deal of time in the last few days in the Pensieve, examining the memories you loaned me. My dear boy, I cannot begin to tell you how proud of you I am. You withstood a burden that would have undone many grown witches and wizards, yet you not only survived, but you did so while holding fast to who you are. I fear that the rest of the students and even the faculty might cry foul if I awarded you House points for your actions that night…"

The image of the faces of Snape and Malfoy in despair as they were showered in crimson at the End of Year Banquet caused a small smile to break onto Harry's face.

"There is a great deal that our side now knows because of you which will aid us as we fight the tide of violence Voldemort seeks to unleash. Though you deserve to understand your contribution better, I thought perhaps it would be better to explain what we have learned regarding how you ended up in the graveyard that night."

Harry's ears perked up. This was what had caused him the most consternation as he lay in his hospital bed: how did Professor Moody, one of the fiercest of those fighting against the Dark Arts, end up sending Harry into the clutches of Voldemort? Why did Mad-Eye Moody change over to help orchestrate Voldemort's return?

Dumbledore seemed to anticipate Harry's thoughts. "The truth is that you never knew the real Alastor Moody. The man who taught Defense classes was a Death Eater named Bartemius Crouch, Jr., who used Polyjuice Potion to assume Alastor's likeness all year."

Harry's look of consternation was not reason enough for Dumbledore to pause his explanation. "Once Professor McGonagall brought the imposter to my office after Sirius had stunned him, we administered a powerful truth potion called Veritaserum. Under its influence, Crouch admitted to a string of crimes committed in the name of Lord Voldemort. His father had smuggled him out from Azkaban as a final favor to his dying wife, hiding his son at home as a secret prisoner, controlled by the Imperius curse."

Harry imagined the young man from Dumbledore's memory of the trial locked up with a glazed look on his face and shuddered when he realized his imagination had placed the younger Crouch in a closet beneath a flight of stairs.

"The unfortunate Ms. Bertha Jorkins delivered some work to Mr. Crouch Sr. at home one evening and discovered the secret. Crouch, Sr. placed a powerful memory charm on her which hampered her brain's functioning. She ended up far from home, lost within a forest deep in Albania. Pettigrew discovered her and captured her for his master, who plumbed the depths of her mind. It destroyed her, but he learned of the upcoming Triwizard Tournament and that he had a loyal servant waiting for him.

"Voldemort and Pettigrew showed up at the Crouch home. They subdued the elder Crouch and placed him under an Imperius. He was forced to go about his work under the power of Lord Voldemort, reporting what he knew and helping the wizard he'd spent his adult life fighting.

"The three hatched a plan to provide the Dark Lord with the ingredient of his resurrection that he most desired…"


"Precisely. He had learned about how your mother's sacrifice provided you with a magical protection that went deeper than the dark magic into which he had delved through the years. I believe he coveted that protection, and thought by using your blood in the ritual that it would be passed to him."

"He was right," said Harry morosely. "After he came back, he could touch me. Whatever protection my Mum left me didn't work anymore."

"Of that, I wouldn't be so sure," replied Dumbledore with the beginnings of a wry smile. "Though he was able to overcome the barrier that prevented him from physically touching you, by my recollection, it seemed as though your mother and father were still squarely in the camp of those working to protect you. When the echoes of your parents appeared during your duel, neither spent time comforting Lord Voldemort nor did they attempt to aid him once you broke the connection. Despite the use of your blood, it seems that the sacrificial love of your parents is still capable of distinguishing between the two of you."

Harry shook his head from side to side as he tried to comprehend what the headmaster was saying.

"In any case, Pettigrew attacked Alastor before the term began, holding him captive in a trunk so that Crouch Jr. could mine him for all the information he needed to impersonate him for months and use his hair for a steady supply of polyjuice potion. Quite ingenious, really… Alastor was infamous for only ever drinking from his flask as means of protecting himself from being poisoned.

"In the end, Crouch Jr. volunteered to bring the cup to its pedestal in the maze, where he turned it into a portkey. That, of course, is a tricky bit of magic. Round-trip portkeys are easier to create, which is what provided you with your ticket back to Hogwarts. Quite a nasty shock for him when he realized you'd made it back safely."

Professor Dumbledore sighed as he looked down his half-moon spectacles at Harry. "I should have realized something was amiss when he made the play to take you to Madam Pomfrey. Alas, I allowed my frustrations with Minister Fudge to cloud my thinking. When you returned, my first thought should have been to ensure everyone's safety, since someone had just abducted two students from the grounds from right underneath my nose. It's far too small a gesture at this point, Harry, but I wish to offer my most sincere apology. I will be forever indebted to Sirius for following you into the castle and preventing further calamity."

Harry nodded gravely, not knowing exactly what to say. "So, what happened to Mr. Crouch? The one from the Ministry who I met?"

"Sadly, his son was the first to find him using Alastor's magical eye after he approached you and the other champions. Crouch, Jr. confessed to using the Imperius curse to force his father to stun Mr. Diggory and Mr. Krum, then he killed his father and hid his transfigured body in the forest."

"And what will become of Crouch, Jr.?"

"That is an interesting question, indeed…" replied Dumbledore. "The Ministry of Magic is working to discredit him as a crazed lunatic. With Minister Fudge denying that Voldemort has returned, Crouch, Jr. has become a bit of a challenge for them to explain away.

"Fortunately, after Professor McGonagall and I questioned him under Veritaserum and procured a few copies of important memories, we were able to transfer him into custody. Rufus Scrimgeor, for one, has assured me that he will be given a full trial so that all of his statements and memories will be on full display. And Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt let me know that he's got trustworthy people ensuring that Crouch remains safe until he can be brought to trial."

A scowl beset Harry as his headmaster mentioned the possibility of a trial. "Why should Crouch get another trial? He's already gotten a trial once, and now he's getting a second when they never gave Sirius one! Shouldn't he just be thrown into Azkaban?"

"I thought you might bring up the discrepancy between his treatment and that of your godfather," said Dumbledore with a gleam in his eye. "One of the reasons I used my considerable influence to guarantee that Crouch, Jr. receives a new trial is because of the implications his testimony will provide. Should this trial prove that Peter Pettigrew is not only alive but also working in the service of Lord Voldemort…"

Harry's face lit up. "It'd help prove Sirius is innocent!"

"I certainly hope so. Sirius has gone through so much undeserved, much like his godson. If things go well, perhaps Sirius could be exonerated. I know that this past week, and the tournament as a whole, has been a terrible burden for you, Harry. I would be quite pleased if the suffering you endured produced something as sweet as freedom for Sirius."

The dour feelings that had plagued Harry for most of the meeting evaporated as he allowed himself to imagine disembarking from the Hogwarts Express and seeing Sirius waiting for him with his trademark grin.

"How can I help? I can be a witness or offer up my memories if that'd help!"

"Those details haven't been finalized yet, but I promise to discuss the next steps with you and Sirius over the summer. Which brings us to another important juncture…" Professor Dumbledore eyed Harry for a moment as his pupil leaned forward eagerly. "When we last spoke, you expressed an interest in explaining the contents of your rogue memory to Sirius. Do you still wish to continue with this plan?"

The excitement at a potential life with Sirius had made Harry forget all about his desire to tell his godfather about the memory from the future and how he had perhaps overstepped his place in pushing for it with Dumbledore. Despite feeling a little bit less confident than he would have preferred, he answered, "Yes, sir. I want Sirius to know." He almost left it that, but then offered an addendum. "He saved me."

"Indeed, he did. To be honest, since you first suggested doing so I have felt that divulging such information would be a mistake. I changed my mind when Sirius' patronus alerted me to your danger." The old man pulled off his spectacles and rubbed between his eyes before addressing Harry again.

"Please understand my position, Harry. For years, decades, I have mostly kept my own council as a leader in the fight against Voldemort. I have earned my reputation as a duelist and tactician. And yet, I allowed a Death Eater to roam the halls of Hogwarts, to murder a Ministry wizard on school grounds, and to kidnap two students he used to revive Voldemort.

"I fear that whatever future sent back a memory to you did not remain as idyllic as your recollection of your minutes with Miss Weasley appeared. I will admit that my plan had been to address Voldemort's horcruxes on my own, never burdening others with the knowledge of the depths of the Dark Arts he explored. If a future version of me was so hard pressed that I divulged this awful truth to a student, even a student as exceptional as you, my assumption is that something went exceedingly wrong."

As Harry watched and listened, he saw Professor Dumbledore seem to sag under the weight of his thoughts. He barely resembled the jovial man who had led so many dissonant renditions of the school song, always bobbing his head to a tempo that was completely unused by the student body. It was as if he was an elderly grandfather lost in memories of a war long past, but still vividly painted in his mind.

"A brilliant young arithmancer once told me that insanity was repeating the same action and hoping for different results. With that in mind, I plan to bring a few trusted people into my confidence regarding what I have learned about Lord Voldemort and his horcruxes. Would you be willing to hear my choices and advise me as to whether you believe them to be wise?"

To say that Harry felt overwhelmed would have been quite an understatement. Professor Dumbledore always seemed like he was holding all the cards, so for him to acknowledge his own faults and offer Harry a glimpse into his inner thoughts was jarring.

"I suppose, sir, but I'm not sure why my thoughts would be helpful…"

"Thank you, Harry. Let us skip the 'Why' for brevity's sake and work under the assumption that I value your thoughts on the matter. Would you prefer all of them one by one, or should I simply list off my top choices?"

"Err… I guess maybe just all at once?"

"Excellent! As you've probably surmised, Sirius is one of my choices. Professor McGonagall is another. A third choice was a bit more difficult to settle on, but I am considering the real Alastor Moody. And finally, I thought perhaps you would be willing to delve deeper into these matters with us, as one unwillingly dragged into the situation from a young age, but who has provided a bevy of insights and has thwarted our enemy on multiple occasions. That would equal five with the knowledge to effectively lead the fight against Voldemort, should the need arise."

With that, Albus Dumbledore steepled his fingers on his table and fixed his eyes upon Harry with an expression on his face that looked uncannily like Hermione's when she was waiting for a professor to grade an assignment she felt confident she would ace.

"Oh! Okay then…" said Harry nervously as he tried to collect his thoughts about the individuals Dumbledore had just named, figure out how his headmaster wanted him to respond, and wrestle with the news that he would be included. "I guess it would be helpful to know what you're wanting from the group. What are we going to be doing?"

"Our purpose will be to identify, track down, and destroy the horcruxes created by Lord Voldemort. Until these tasks are finished, Voldemort cannot be defeated. Our allies must be capable of great magic, able to keep the gravest of secrets, and be willing to sacrifice all to see Voldemort defeated."

Harry tried his best to absorb the information. "Well, I agree with you about Sirius. It might be hard for him to contribute while he's on the run from the Ministry, but he can definitely keep a secret. And he wants to see Voldemort defeated as much as anyone. Plus, he's an animagus, which might come in handy."

"Astutely put. Professor McGonagall?"

It felt odd to be speaking to Dumbledore about his professor, but Harry did his best to swallow his discomfort.

"I think Professor McGonagall is really smart. Some of the things she's done in Transfiguration and when she helped with training me this term definitely count as 'great magic.' Plus she's an animagus, too. She seems like a strong choice, except she has a lot to do here at Hogwarts. I imagine she has a lot of grading to do for all her classes, plus trying to keep all of us Gryffindors out of trouble as a Head of House. I don't exactly know what being a Deputy Headmistress requires. I guess I think she'd be really good at it, but she's also doing lots around here."

"Well reasoned, Harry. It would be fair to note that the time-related drawback is not limited to Professor McGonagall. I, too, find myself pulled in many directions that require both time and attention. Another reason why your suggestion to include Sirius sparked such a change of perspectives in me. Please continue."

An uncomfortable knot was forming in Harry's stomach as he gathered his thoughts to continue. It wasn't that he thought Professor Moody was a bad choice, but there was something about it that just didn't feel quite right.

"I think it would be hard for me to give a good answer about Professor Moody, since I never really met him, just someone pretending to be him. From everything I've heard about him, he seems like a really powerful wizard who would be helpful in tracking down dark objects. I don't fully understand how his magical eye works, but it seems like it would be helpful."

Harry paused, wondering if the headmaster might bail him out by moving the conversation along. Instead, the older man simply sat patiently behind his desk. He reached for a lemon drop from a dish in front of him and popped it into his mouth. He gestured to the dish for Harry, but the younger boy shook his head slightly. Dumbledore sucked on the sweet, seemingly unperturbed by the growing pause.

"I don't think it's enough reason not to choose him, but part of me feels like it's not a good idea…"

"Interesting. Can you explain why you feel this way?"

"I dunno. Maybe it's because he's been locked up in a trunk for nearly a year as a prisoner, and this seems like a lot to drop on someone just getting over something like that." Harry searched his head for a better reason for the tightness in his gut. "Did you say that he had retired from being an Auror?"

"Yes, Alastor has been retired from the Ministry of Magic for a few years," answered Dumbledore.

Harry considered Mad-Eye Moody's strengths and weaknesses, as far as he knew them. "I guess I'm not exactly against him joining… Having someone connected to the Ministry could be useful, especially if Fudge makes it hard for you to get help from them. It might be nice to have it be someone still working there, but I don't really know many people like that. Maybe Mr. Weasley? But I guess he doesn't seem like a great fit…"

"While I feel confident Alastor will be raring to make up for lost time, you are wise to note that it may take a bit before he is back to full fitness after such a long ordeal. And you are quite right that a Ministry connection would be advantageous."

A small trill from Fawkes startled Harry, who had barely noticed the bird seated upon his perch. Dumbledore chuckled as he stood to walk to Fawkes' stand, where he pet the bird's long neck. "Oftentimes, I am guilty of waiting too long to make a decision, while other times I choose far too quickly. Perhaps, the best course of action at this juncture would be to plan to loop Sirius and Minerva in over the summer, and keep an ear to the ground, so to speak, about a possible fifth confidant.

"In the meantime, we must discuss a few points of scheduling. Though unpleasant, I must ask that you again return to your aunt and uncle's house for the beginning of summer. It is of great importance that you not only remain there for at least a few weeks but that you not get into any unnecessary trouble. With the Ministry looking to discredit your account of Voldemort's return, it is imperative that you stay both safe and inconspicuous."

Harry's shoulders sank a bit, but he did his best not to wear his disappointment on his face. It wasn't as if it was particularly shocking news, since Sirius had warned him about it during their previous visit in Hogsmeade. Considering how many deeply important things Dumbledore had shared with him, Harry figured that this frustration wasn't worth pushing. He simply nodded to the headmaster as the man walked back behind his desk.

"Additionally, I have spoken with Professor Trelawney regarding your withdrawal from her Divination class."

A sudden heat filled Harry's cheeks as he remembered that he had not only stormed out of her class after telling her off in front of his classmates, but he had never really resolved the issue. Though there had been only a month of school left when he'd absconded from Divination, Harry had been so overwhelmed with training and preparation for the third task that he'd simply used the free period as a chance to polish up his technique.

"As headmaster, I am not typically of the opinion that classes should be dropped without thorough consideration and consultation with the professor in question and one's Head of House." Harry's eyes grew wide as he imagined sitting under Professor McGonagall's stern glare while Professor Trelawney loudly accused Harry of all sorts of things of which he was technically guilty. "Fortunately, I believe I have come up with a solution that you may consider preferable to returning to Divination during your fifth year."

The hope of a year without Trelawney predicting his imminent doom on a weekly basis caused Harry to sit up a little straighter in his chair.

"If you are to be studying matters involving Lord Voldemort and the Dark Arts alongside adults, it seems reasonable for Hogwarts to do more to prepare you to defend yourself. Not only with spellcasting, but also with abilities like how to close off your mind from would-be attackers. I am proposing that, once a week, you will spend time learning directly from myself or other specially chosen instructors. There are a variety of skills that I believe will be even more important now that Lord Voldemort has returned." Professor Dumbledore's blue eyes were twinkling as he watched the broad smile emerge on his pupil's face. "Unless you would prefer to return to Divination?"

Harry quickly assured the headmaster that he would certainly be willing to miss out on Professor Trelawney's class for these special sessions.

"Excellent!" Dumbledore clapped his hands before rising from his seat. "I have kept you from your bed for far longer than Madam Pomfrey would approve of, so I shall send you on your way. Unless there is anything else you wish to speak of?"

A nagging thought wouldn't leave Harry's mind, even though he didn't want to push his luck. "Well, here's the thing… I've been trying really hard to not tell Ron, Hermione, and Ginny about the things you and I have discussed. But it's getting harder and harder to keep secrets from them. I want to do a good job of honoring the fact that you've shared so much information with me, but I also want to be upfront with my friends."

"And you would like me to share what information needs to remain secret, for the safety of your friends and for your own?"

Harry breathed out a "Yes, please," as the weight of keeping secrets tugged at his chest.

"I still have not found satisfactory answers about your rogue memory, which makes me believe that it remains a subject worth not fully divulging. Voldemort's horcruxes would be the brightest line over which I would ask you not to step while speaking with your friends."

A quick inventory in Harry's head confirmed that the restrictions were both reasonable and that he hadn't yet broken them. "Thank you, sir. I think they will all appreciate being looped in on what's allowable."

"If I remember correctly, when you first presented me with the information regarding the rogue memory, you were only concerned with sharing details with Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger." Harry would've sworn he saw Professor Dumbledore's right eyebrow make the most subtle waggle. "It seems that what was once a trio now more closely resembles a quartet."

Harry didn't know quite what to say in response as he stood up from the overstuffed chair, but couldn't help noticing the broad smile on his professor's face.
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