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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: 239
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: 54605; Chapter Total: 1375
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Whoa! Wild to see the 100th comment for this story go up! A huge shout-out to everyone who's been reading and reviewing here on SIYE. As a special thanks to this entire community, I'm going to occasionally be posting chapters here a day or two earlier than I put them out on some of the bigger, more general fanfiction sites. SIYE's been a huge encouragement to me, so it's a little way to show my gratitude. Figured it made sense to start with this chapter, especially since I've been eager to share the last section since it first popped into my head months ago. Hope y'all enjoy!




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The following two weeks followed much the same pattern. Harry would spend a few hours after breakfast cleaning alongside one or two of the other school-aged residents, occasionally aided by an adult. One or both of the twins would often sneak away to their room to invent and test joke products, but not even Hermione made much of a fuss about it. The group would reconvene for lunch, each trying to outdo the others with their tales of glorious battle.

After eating, Sirius would join them in the library for a few hours. He explained that the monumental task at hand was to comb through the entire Black family library for cursed items and books containing dark magic.

“This job is going to take a while, but it’s dead important. My family has done a lot more than just dabble in dark magic for generations. Anything in here could be jinxed six ways to Sunday. When we’re first clearing a bookshelf, I want an adult in here. And no, Fred, I’m not counting you two. I don’t care if it’s me, your Mum, or another Order member, but I want a fully-qualified witch or wizard standing by, just in case.”

George and Fred both looked a bit put out, but Sirius gave them a look. “I’m not kidding about this stuff. Before I got sorted into Gryffindor, the angriest I’d ever seen my mother was when she caught me and Regulus climbing that ladder to try to reach the books on the top shelf. She was absolutely raging. Said I’d almost ended the Black family line with my stupidity.”

He stared across the room without blinking for a few moments.

“First time she used the Cruciatus on me…”

A small gasp escaped Hermione’s lips. Ginny grasped Harry’s arm and squeezed hard, but didn’t say anything. Ron’s mouth was slightly agape, and the color had drained from both of the twins’ faces. Harry, on the other hand, felt sad but not surprised. He didn’t know whether the Dursleys would have ever stooped to those depths, but Harry was well aware of how an irate adult could wield power against a scared child.

“Look, I probably shouldn’t have said anything,” said Sirius as he raked his hand over his face. “The point is, there’s really dark and dangerous stuff in here. I want you lot to be smart about it. We clear off a bookshelf and bring everything to these tables. Split up the books and get to scouring them. You don’t have to read them all cover to cover, just skim.”

The six nodded quietly as he gave instructions about which shelves to use for the neutral books that weren’t a threat, where to pile the books containing strong dark arts influences, and how to store anything that felt off or dangerous until it could be examined by Moody, Bill, or someone else with expertise.

“One last thing before we get started,” said Sirius. He looked at Hermione, who was still shaken from his reference to the Cruciatus. “Most of my family believed in pure-blood supremacy and all that bullshit. I’m sure they never expected a Muggle-born witch to set foot in this house, much less peruse their personal library, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t curses that might target Hermione.”

He smiled at her. “I know a library like this is basically your Honeydukes, but I want you to promise you’ll be extra careful. If your gut says something isn’t right, leave it for one of us. Everyone else, keep an eye on her, yeah?”

Hermione let out a small sniffle as she moved to wrap Sirius in a hug. “Thanks for looking out for me. I promise to be careful.” He patted her shoulder before she released him. A small smile emerged on her face. “Plus, can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if I was done in by a book?”

Their afternoons in the library weren’t especially pleasant. Most of the time, the students were quietly flipping through assorted books filled to the brim with self-laudatory family histories, records of questionable financial transactions, or other details of no interest to anyone. By the end of their fourth day on the task, Harry had watched Hermione angrily toss no fewer than ten books across the room into their piles. Sitting across from him, Ginny whispered conspiratorially, “Never thought I’d see the day when Hermione disrespects books.”

Harry laughed as she grinned back at him. The two locked eyes for a moment and Harry felt the familiar rush of heat in his cheeks. He quickly refocused on the ancient tome in front of him, which was surely destined for the dark arts pile. Some of the curses it described were horrific, and the inclusion of detailed illustrations made Harry all the more eager to finish with it and move on to something else.

Remus joined them when he wasn’t on a mysterious mission for the Order, even though Sirius teased him relentlessly whenever he donned his reading glasses, refusing to address him as anything except “Professor Moony.” Despite the mockery, the former Defense professor proved exceedingly helpful, especially when they were reshelving. Remus had worked at two different Muggle bookshops before taking on the Hogwarts teaching post, and he was quite adept at organizing the books and slipping them back into place on the walls.

“When you take a few sick days each month for the full moon, you’ve got to find ways to endear yourself to the owner,” Remus explained while Hermione watched him awestruck as he categorized books. “When Miss Crowder wasn’t looking, I’d alphabetize boxes of new books and magazines so that I could get them put away a lot faster than her other employees. Held that job for nearly a year before my transformation coincided with a big, midnight book launch. Still the longest I’ve kept the same job.”

The first major incident occurred late in the afternoon on a Friday. Sirius called for everyone to knock out one more book before they finished for the day. Ron’s drooping eyelids were a sign that his concentration was lapsing, but he trudged to the unsorted pile dutifully. He rummaged around, avoiding the thicker options before settling on a large green hardback that looked to have fewer than one hundred pages. He flopped back onto the bench, rested the side of his face on his hand, and opened the book.

A spray of shiny black ooze poured out from the pages, covering the table and the front of Ron’s shirt and splashing onto his arms. A few drops of the ink flew onto his face as he stumbled backward off his seat, crying out in pain.

Sirius bounded to him in a flash and used a cutting curse to remove the shirt, which was already beginning to disintegrate where the poisonous ooze had made contact.

“Fred! Get your Mum! Scourgify! Damn it! Someone get me wet towels!”

Fred apparated downstairs and was back in moments with Mrs. Weasley. Her face blanched at the sight of her youngest son writhing on the floor as dark ooze looked as if it was boiling on his arms and face, but she swooped down to him without a second of hesitation and began rubbing his face with the dish towel she’d been using in the kitchen.

Ginny rushed back into the library after wetting some towels she’d found in the closest loo. While still halfway across the room, she shouted, “Mum! Catch!” With a heave, she launched a balled-up towel at her kneeling mother, who barely looked up from Ron as she caught the wet cloth and applied it to his arms. Ginny skidded to a stop on Ron’s other side a moment later, and the two Weasley women went to work removing the ink as best they could.

A loud pop indicated someone had apparated into the library. George ran to Sirius with his hands filled with small bottles and boxes. “I’ve got our Dittany and Murtlap Essence! There’s not much, but will it help?”

“Absolutely!” exclaimed Sirius. “Molly, you know more about remedies. Trade spots?”

Mrs. Weasley stood and grabbed the box of dittany leaves from her son. “As soon as they’ve cleared it from his arms, slather the Murtlap on. I’ll take care of his face.”

She stuffed the leaves into her mouth and chewed vigorously while George applied the Murtlap Essence to the parts of Ron’s arms that Sirius and Ginny had gotten clean. Angry purple and green boils were already forming on his skin, and he was still kicking his legs and moaning loudly. Molly spit the chewed leaves into her hand and smeared the mixture onto the discolored splotches on Ron’s cheeks and forehead. The boils ceased growing as soon as the Dittany made contact, with their color fading quickly.

Mrs. Wealsey took over scrubbing Ron’s arm from Ginny, who began helping apply the Murtlap. After a few minutes, Ron’s moans had quieted and the group was able to take a breath. Harry replaced the now-sullied towels with fresh ones, one of which Sirius folded to serve as a pillow for Ron as he lay on the floor sucking in deep breaths.

“Great thinking on the Dittany and Murtlap,” said Sirius as he fell into a high-backed chair. “Probably prevented permanent scarring.”

“Agreed,” said Molly while wiping sweat from her brow. “The splotches on his face are almost completely healed already. His arms may be discolored for a while, and I’d feel better if we could get him checked out at St. Mungo’s or by Poppy, but it looks like he’s going to be fine.” She released a long breath.

Ron’s eyes were still closed as he lay, with Harry, Ginny, and Hermione each sitting on the ground close to him. As his mother discussed options to get him checked out, Ron muttered quietly, “Bloody books…”

~RLM~

It was challenging for Harry to balance his curiosity about the upcoming meeting with not frustrating his out-of-the-loop friends. When the day finally arrived, he did his best to contain the eager energy he felt. Hermione peppered him with questions at lunch, most of which he couldn’t answer. She vacillated from sympathetic to his plight to exasperated at the lack of adequate answers.

Ginny was forcing herself not to fall in with Hermione’s inquiry, despite her clear interest. Occasionally, he’d meet her gaze with a pleading look after an especially pointed question. She would frown and shrug, which Harry didn’t take as full support but at least made him feel slightly better.

When Kingsley arrived for dinner, Harry sat close to him to learn more. The Auror was more subdued than Sirius, but the two got along quite well. He regaled the table with a few embarrassing stories about their host from their school days and explained the process of becoming an Auror. Harry found this line of conversation fascinating, as did Ron. Both boys had become interested in the career the previous year in school, although the revelation that the man encouraging them to consider it had been a Death Eater in disguise had dampened their excitement somewhat.

After dinner, the dining room cleared out as both McGonagall and Dumbledore arrived. Once they reset the privacy wards, Dumbledore began to explain the research he had been undertaking over the past two years.

The headmaster knew far more about Tom Riddle than anyone at the table, and Harry guessed more than anyone in the world, other than Voldemort himself. He carefully laid out what he knew about Riddle’s parents and early years, leading into his time at Hogwarts. Harry listened in rapt attention as Dumbledore enumerated the suspicious disappearances that he believed could coincide with the creation of horcruxes.

“Riddle has been collecting objects since I first met him in the orphanage those many years ago. As his knowledge and power grew, his affinity for mementos appears to have expanded. With the knowledge he gleaned from his time working at Borgin and Burke’s, he could have begun targeting and acquiring objects of great significance to him. I believe it likely that the Slytherin locket is now a horcrux, as it symbolized his connection to a Hogwarts founder and his place as the Heir of Slytherin. Furthermore, I posit that either the Gaunt ring or the Hufflepuff cup could be another. Possibly both.”

“If you’re right about that, which is still a big if, we still don’t know if he created any more of these things,” said McGonagall as she massaged her temple.

“You are of course correct, Minerva, though I still have several leads to track down.”

Kingsley, who Harry noticed rarely sat still for long, was pacing back and forth at the far end of the table. “He entrusted the diary to Malfoy. What are the chances he left others with his followers?”

“That’s plausible, except if the Death Eaters had the means to bring back Voldemort, why’d they wait so long? And why would my deranged cousin attack the Longbottoms if they already had what they needed?” Sirius leaned back in his chair. “Not that she ever needed a reason to be a psychopath…”

“The mystery persists,” replied Dumbledore as he smoothed out his beard with his hand.

“How long would it take to examine those memories together, Albus?” Kingsley wore a determined look as he met the headmaster’s eyes.

“I have hundreds of hours of collected memories of varying significance. If we focused on the most pertinent, perhaps twenty hours?”

“Yikes,” said Sirius as he allowed his chair legs to fall back onto the floor with a thud. “So much for your off days.”

“Probably worth it to get another set of eyes on those memories, though.” Kingsley scrawled a note to himself on a small pad before pocketing it again.

“It would be beneficial for us to learn how best to identify a horcrux,” suggested McGonagall, eliciting nods of agreement from the others. “After Harry brought you the diary, how did you determine what it had been?”

“With a rather ingenious bit of magic, I must say.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as he drew himself up to full height in his chair. “I began by attempting to use various dark detectors and revealing spells, none of which gave satisfactory results. I believe that the process of horcrux creation scrubs the object of the type of magical signatures that such methods use for identification.

“Despite my certainty that the diary had contained a part of Riddle’s soul, I could not confirm my belief. It wasn’t until several months later that a dead simple solution occurred to me.” He caught Kingsley’s eye. “Would you be so kind as to cast the spell you use to determine if there are humans nearby?”

Albus smiled as realization dawned on the Auror’s face. “Homenum Revelio!”

“Tell me, Kingsley, how many human presences are you picking up?”

“I’ve got five strong ones that correspond to each of us, but something faint down at your end of the table.”

Dumbledore reached forward to pat the diary between McGonagall and Harry. “The horcrux leaves a mark of the humanity it once contained. I believe it likely that a horcrux we have not yet destroyed will still give off a signature that the spell can identify.”

“It’s a good start, at least,” said McGonagall. “But I’m going to be uneasy until we can determine how many horcruxes there are in total. Albus, what progress have you made so far?”

“Very little, I’m afraid. Having never encountered such magic before and the extreme methods used to cast, my options are limited when studying the mechanics of the spells involved.”

“It’s been a few years since I undertook a research project of this scope,” she mused while rapping her fingers rhythmically against the table. “It stands to reason that a soul which has been ripped apart and had a piece of itself stored elsewhere would be… Diminished. Made lesser by the process. If that is the case, and the remaining soul fragment in the creator of the horcrux doesn’t grow back or heal itself, there would be less soul to rip apart after each instance.”

“That makes sense,” replied Sirius, his fingers lacing through his dark hair. “Think that’d create an upper limit as to how many could be made?”

“Possibly. The arithmancy needed for confirmation would be more complex than anything I’ve undertaken.” Her eyes fell on the headmaster.

“Not knowing the properties of a soul is an added complication,” he said, twirling the end of his beard. “But between Minerva and myself, I believe we have a reasonable chance at ascertaining the outer limits of horcrux creation.”

“As crucial as that research is, theory isn’t my strong suit,” said Sirius. “I’m more of a hands-on guy.”

“Same here,” agreed Harry, speaking for the first time in a long while.

“Perhaps those of us who are less adept in theoretical matters can begin searching for the horcruxes we presume to have identified,” suggested Kingsley. “Crouch, Jr.’s trial will be at the end of the month. With any luck, that will get Sirius a real shot at being exonerated, which would mean he and I could tag team some investigating. The orphanage you mentioned and the Riddle property both could be worth checking out.”

Sirius was nodding along. “Agreed. Probably want to add the Gaunt shack to the list, too.”

“Good call. Any other ideas about places he could have hidden a horcrux?” Kingsley looked at each of the adults, but none spoke up.

“Actually, I might know of a place worth searching,” said Harry. “Professor Dumbledore told us that Voldemort came to Hogwarts to apply to be the Defense professor. Maybe he slipped away to hide one in the Chamber of Secrets? He’s the only one who knew how to get inside at the time, plus it was defended by a Basilisk.”

“Well-reasoned, Mr. Potter,” said McGonagall with a proud smile. “The Chamber seems the most likely place named yet.”

Dumbledore also looked impressed. “I confess that I had not thoroughly considered that possibility. The diary was connected to the Chamber, which led me to believe that other horcruxes would be tied to different markers in Riddle’s life. However, that assumption may not be accurate. It would certainly be worthwhile to explore it further.”

A smiling Sirius balled up a scrap parchment in front of him and tossed it across the table at Harry. “Teacher’s pet!”

The rest of the meeting was mostly logistical. The two professors scheduled meeting times at Hogwarts to delve into the arithmancy surrounding souls and horcruxes while Kingsley and Sirius coordinated ideas for searching potential horcrux hiding spots. They resolved to check the Chamber first as it was the only one located somewhere Sirius wouldn’t be in danger of potentially running into law enforcement. This encouraged Harry because he felt certain that he would be included in the search as one of the few people able to speak Parselmouth. Having previously explored the subterranean chamber was a plus, too.

“Before we adjourn, a word of warning,” said Dumbledore as the party began to rise from their seats. “In the event that one encounters a horcrux, it is imperative that the utmost caution is used. The diary that fed on the soul of Ginny Weasley was dangerous enough to wield a wand. Other objects may be protected by any manner of powerful spells or other means of defense. If possible, do not interact with a horcrux directly. Searching in pairs is preferable.”

The meeting had not lasted nearly as deep into the night as the previous, which meant that when he quietly climbed the stairs to his shared room, he was not met with the sounds of Ron slumbering. Hermione’s eyebrows were smoldering as Ginny laughed and Ron covered his grin with the Exploding Snap cards in his hand.

“Thank goodness you’re back,” said Hermione while wiping ash off her face. “I haven’t lasted more than ten minutes in a game yet. How was the meeting?”

“It went well. There’s still not much I can tell you about it, but I did learn that Crouch, Jr.’s trial is going to be at the end of the month! Kingsley thinks there’s a chance that Sirius will be cleared of his charges!”

“Wicked!” exclaimed Ron. “Does he think we’ll need to testify?”

“Probably not in person. Kingsley said that since we’re underage he’ll probably be able to just bring our memories for a Pensieve viewing. They’ve also extracted some from him, plus his testimony under Veritaserum should be enough to prove he was behind the whole Goblet of Fire situation and that he was working with Pettigrew. It’ll also be a huge problem for Fudge since he’s been publicly denying that Voldemort is back.”

Ginny scoffed as she rolled his eyes. “Dad has been saying that Fudge has lost a lot of popularity. It’s not like everyone’s ready to believe Dumbledore yet, but there are so many holes in Fudge’s story that Dad thinks there’s a chance of a No Confidence vote.”

“Sounds right to me,” said Harry darkly. “Still can’t believe he’s pretending it’s all a hoax…”

Hermione nodded while shuffling through her bag, producing a copy of The Daily Prophet with a photo of a blustering Fudge opposite a serene-looking Dumbledore under the headline “Who is telling the Truth?”

“The Prophet is putting a lot of emphasis on the upcoming trial. I think Fudge was trying to keep it quiet at first, but someone from the ministry gave an anonymous quote that the prisoner that will be examined will be Crouch’s son and that he’s implicating Pettigrew. The paper ran with the story, probably against Fudge’s orders, and the readers ate it up. As much as Fudge would like for them to just report on his talking points, I’m sure the Prophet sold a lot more papers with such a sensational story on the cover.”

“When everything comes out into the open at the trial, Fudge is going to look really bad,” said Ron. “Bet he doesn’t last another month after that.”

“Anything else from the meeting?” asked Ginny hopefully.

Harry sighed as he racked his brain for details that he wouldn’t be opposed to sharing that might satiate his friends’ need for information. “Okay, so I know it’s not what you want to hear, but there’s not much else I can share for now.” He cringed slightly as the faces of his three friends fell, and his eyes caught Ginny’s for a moment. “But I learned a whole lot more about Voldemort and some of the things Dumbledore thinks we can do to defeat him. Honestly, the meeting was mostly him talking about Voldemort’s life and then the adults planning out what they’re going to do next.”

Hermione sighed. “I know you’re trying to keep us from feeling bad, but you do realize that listening to Dumbledore lecture for two hours on the wizarding history of You Know Who sounds like my ideal birthday gift, right?”

A small chuckle escaped Harry as he shrugged at her. “Sorry, Hermione. You know I feel super guilty about not being able to share everything with you.” A thought occurred to him, and Harry smiled while raising an eyebrow at her. “I’d feel even worse if you hadn’t been playing around with a Time-Turner for a whole school year without telling us…”

A flush reached Hermione’s cheeks while Ron laughed and bumped her with his shoulder. “That’s the only reason she hasn’t thrown herself headlong into researching Veritaserum, Harry. Otherwise, you wouldn’t stand a chance!” Ginny had scrunched her face up while giggling and grabbed onto Harry’s arm for a few moments. Despite being on the scrawny side, Harry still flexed his muscles a little. The four chatted and played games as the evening wore on before Hermione and Ginny said their good nights and headed to their shared room.

Ron was ready for bed in record time, but a thought had lodged itself in Harry’s mind while they were discussing the meeting. Ginny’s hand on his arm while she laughed replayed again as he told his roommate he’d be right back.

His feet quickly brought him down the hall to where the girls had left their door open. Hermione stepped out of the room with a rather large plastic basket of shampoos and conditioners, almost dropping them when she noticed Harry approaching. “Don’t scare me like that!” she said reproachfully.

“Sorry, Hermione,” said Harry as he fought back the blush already encroaching on his cheeks. “Err… Is Ginny still up? There was something I wanted to talk to her about.”

Hermione’s tight-lipped smile said a great deal, but the bushy-haired girl simply replied, “She should be coming back in just a minute. G’night, Harry!” A few moments after she disappeared around the corner, Ginny stepped into the corridor in her place.

“Oh! Hey Harry. What’s going on?”

“Hey, Gin. There was something I wanted to talk to you about. Could I borrow you for a few minutes?”

“Sure, but Hermione will be back through after she showers and I could hear the twins still at work in their room, so it might be better to find somewhere other than the hallway. Downstairs? Or the third floor?”

Harry thought about options. The third floor was unoccupied at the moment and the drawing room had a few comfortable couches where they could have a conversation. But the room gave him a sense of unease that few other places in the house matched and he wanted to be at his best for this conversation. The sitting room made for a better option, even if it was more likely someone might stumble upon them.

“Let’s go downstairs if that’s okay.”

She grinned at him and said, “Lead the way!”

They crept back down the corridor and past Mrs. Black’s portrait, which they were glad did not awaken when Harry accidentally stepped on a particularly creaky stair. Ginny lightly smacked him on the shoulder and shushed him as she tried to hold back a giggle. At the bottom stair, Harry turned toward the sitting room until a warm hand tugged at the crook of his elbow as Ginny moved toward the kitchen. He smiled at the ways she was similar to Ron.

Ginny grabbed a bowl of strawberries before hopping onto the kitchen counter, leaving enough space for Harry beside her. He happily took the spot next to her and reached for a strawberry, only to have her pull the bowl just out of his reach.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t you know never to take food from a Weasley? You’re liable to pull back a bloody stump if you try to swipe my food!” She grinned as she popped a ripe berry into her mouth, then reluctantly passed the bowl to Harry.

The two sat in a comfortable silence as together they downed a half dozen berries while Harry tried to think of how to begin.

“So, remember how I told everyone there wasn’t much I could say about our meeting?” Ginny met his gaze as she chewed an especially juicy berry. “There was something that came up that I can share but didn’t want to say in front of everyone. I kinda wanted to tell you first, if that makes sense.”

Harry saw her gulp and hoped it was merely the strawberry instead of trepidation about what he was going to share.

“I can’t go into all the reasons, but we’re going to be exploring some places Voldemort went to over the years looking for clues about… Well, clues about how to beat him.” She set the bowl down on her other side and focused in as Harry explained. “We were trying to think of different places where he might have left something behind, or might have protections or be hidden and out of the way…”

“The Chamber,” she whispered as a shudder ran down her spine. “You’re going back down into the Chamber again.”

Harry paused for a long moment before grabbing her hand in his. “Yeah, we are. I dunno what we’ll find, if anything.” He let out a long breath. “I just kinda thought you might want to know first. Seems like somebody brings up the graveyard every few days without realizing it. Remus and Kingsley said something at dinner last night that just sorta sent me back there. Your Mum made an off-hand comment a few days ago that made it flash in front of my eyes again. I dunno. I didn’t want to do that to you, y’know?” He squeezed her hand and hoped that he hadn’t messed things up.

Ginny rested her head on Harry’s shoulder without saying anything. They sat in the dim light of the empty kitchen for several minutes, with only the ticking of an ancient grandfather clock breaking the silence. Despite having no idea what to say next, Harry felt rather content sitting quietly as he breathed in the flowery aroma that he associated with Ginny and his rogue memory.

“I hate that stupid Chamber.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper, but there was strength behind her words. “It’s been years, but I’m still so mad at myself for getting into that whole mess. I feel so guilty for letting him use me.”

“It’s not your fault,” said Harry as he released Ginny’s hand to wrap his arm around her opposite shoulder. “None of us think less of you because of it.”

Ginny let out a sniffle. “I keep telling myself that, but it’s like his voice is there in the back of my mind, still telling me all those horrible things.”

“I hear you,” Harry replied. “But it wasn’t really you doing those things. It was him. If Crouch had gotten Fleur under an Imperius during the task and she hurt one of us, would you blame her or Crouch?”

“But she was smart enough and strong enough to fight back. I just let him take over.”

“Not according to Myrtle. She said you tossed the diary into her u-bend. Pretty morose about the whole situation, if I remember correctly.”

An elbow gently bumped into his ribs. “Was she ever anything other than morose?”

“Hey, you know that’s not fair. Sometimes she was depressed, other times sullen. I even saw her dejected once!”

Ginny closed her eyes as her head rested against Harry. “You know it’s different, though.”

“I learned about unforgivable curses from a Death Eater, so I don’t know what to believe,” replied Harry, not wishing to linger too long on that fact. “But the diary seemed to work a lot like an Imperius, and you fought it for an entire school year.”

“I have so many blank spaces in my memory from that year… So many times I’d wake up knowing I should be terrified without knowing what had happened. I was so on edge all year. I don’t even remember the Chamber itself, except for walking out after you’d saved me. I think Tom wanted to keep those secrets, even from me.”

“You’re not missing out on much,” said Harry as he brought his hand forward to count. “It’s not well-lit, super slimy, and smells pretty foul. Weird statue of Slytherin’s head. Giant snake infestation. Simply not an ideal living space.”

Ginny’s quiet laugh made Harry smile. “See, you’re thinking about it all wrong. It’s not infested with snakes, it’s newly exterminated. It’s got unique architecture, a long history, and plenty of space. Needs some renovation, sure, but look at the location! Could be great for a family with students at Hogwarts or for a professor.”

Harry laughed along with her. “Y’know, you’ve almost got me convinced.”

Ginny sat back up straight. Harry did his best not to sigh as he returned his arm back to his side instead of its preferred perch on her shoulder. “I don’t remember if I ever thanked you for saving me from there.”

“In your defense, you’d just been through a really tough time.”

“I was so afraid that I was going to be expelled and that Mum and Dad were going to go ballistic…”

“Yeah, I’ve done the walk to the Headmaster’s office when you think you’re getting expelled before. Not fun at all. But you didn’t get in any trouble and, last I checked, you’re still enrolled.”

“Still, I should’ve thanked you for coming after me. You didn’t even really know me at the time.”

With a warm smile on his face, Harry replied, “You’re very worth saving.” Ginny blushed as he looked at her for a long moment. “Plus, you more than paid me back already. You helped make sure I was ready for the second and third tasks. You came with me to visit Sirius and kept me from making a fool of myself at the Yule Ball.”

Ginny laughed again before responding, “I don’t think any of that makes up for you stabbing an enormous snake through the skull and defeating Tom while he tried to steal my soul.”

“Well, how about this? The months since we became real, actual friends have been the happiest I can ever remember. That’s gotta count for something!”

Her blush deepened, with shades of pink reaching all the way to her ears. Harry grinned as a genuine smile burst onto Ginny’s face. At that moment, he felt a surge of Gryffindor courage. He had only intended to talk to her about the Chamber stuff, but seeing her so pleased to have made him happier burst the last vestiges of hesitation. He brought a hand to her cheek.

“Gin?”

Her brown eyes grew wide at the touch, but she made no move away as he leaned in until his lips met hers.



In an instant, her hands found him. One gripped his shoulder while the other intertwined in his hair. Harry, who had been quite worried about a potential first kiss and whether he’d be any good at it, lost himself in the moment.

Several minutes later, the two somewhat reluctantly pulled apart. Harry had a sheepish grin plastered on his face. Ginny took a long, slow breath as Harry allowed the red hair that his hand had been playing with to slide from his grasp and fall gently back onto her shoulder.

She smirked before launching herself at him and squeezing his midsection tightly. His arms snaked around her back and pulled her closer, inhaling deeply as the taste of strawberries and the scent of flowers flooded his brain. He delicately used his thumb to brush a few strands of hair behind Ginny’s ear so that he could see her rosy cheek a bit better.

Her voice was quiet but unmistakable as she spoke a solitary word.

“Finally!”

~RLM~

“H e’s been out an hour! I think we should enervate him!”

George was nervously pacing, as he had been for most of the hour since Harry fell into unconsciousness. Angelina had given up trying to force him to stop moving and was instead sitting on the arm of one of the cushioned chairs, her bare feet underneath her on the seat. Bill was leaning against a nearby wall and trying to reason with his younger brother while massaging Fleur’s shoulders as she sat on a stool in front of him. Atzi was seated with her legs crisscrossed in front of Luna’s chair while her girlfriend absent-mindedly played with her dark hair.

Harry’s prone form had been gingerly placed onto the couch by George and Bill, where he still lay unmoving as Angelina found his pulse and determined that he was still breathing. As the minutes dragged on, the entire group became more and more antsy. George had taken to checking Harry’s blank face every few minutes for any sign of a change, but there was no indication from Harry about what was happening in his head.

“We’ve got no idea how that might affect him and there’s nothing I’ve read about how long this could take,” replied Bill wearily. He glanced at Luna, but she merely shook her head. “Using magic to wake him might ruin the whole ritual. We don’t know what kind of reactions it could cause.”

“I am weeth Bill. I theenk we let him sleep overnight, at least.”

George scowled. “I don’t like it. Are you sure we shouldn’t wake him up now? We could just shake him, or pour some water on him, or… Something!”

“I think they’re right, babe,” said Angelina with a sigh. “There are so many unknowns with the ritual that we don’t want to risk. Let’s just let him lie there for now. We’ll have a better idea of what’s going on in the morning.”

George’s lips grew thin as he stared at the ceiling and mumbled something to himself, but turned back to the group. “And if he doesn’t wake up in the morning?”

Luna piped up. “Then we try to wake him ourselves. Without magic at first, like you suggested, but ready to use an enervate if we need to.”

Atzi nodded. “We can stay up with him overnight. Maybe we take turns?”

“Absolutely,” said Bill with a glance at George. “Genevieve will be up in an hour anyway, so we’ll be awake. How about one of you take the first shift, then Fleur or I will come relieve you while the other gets Gen a bottle?”

The group spoke for a few minutes, ironing out logistics to ensure someone stayed next to Harry all night. As they began to bustle around to gather their things to leave, a surprised Atzi exclaimed something in Spanish and rushed next to Harry’s prone form.

“Look at his face!” she cried with excitement.

The others quickly gathered around to look at Harry. His unconscious face was sporting a wide grin. Luna’s eyes shone with hope as she waved her hand in front of Harry’s closed eyes, but he didn’t react at all.

“This must be a good sign... Do you think it worked?” asked Atzi

Luna was already nodding. “The research said that one of the people who used the ritual was later able to confirm that it had worked, but it didn’t explain how they knew. Maybe… Maybe Harry already knows that it’s worked somehow?”

“You theenk ‘Arry might be smiling because ‘e ‘as told Dumbledore about ze memory?”

The nearly frantic worry that had gripped George melted away as he started to laugh. He nudged Angelina. “Doubt that look has anything to do with Dumbledore… I remember you with that same grin after we first snogged!”

Ange elbowed him right back. “Sure it’s not the look you had after the Astronomy Tower in seventh year?”

George snorted. “Better not be, or else Bill and I are going to hafta have some serious words with Harry once he wakes up!”
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