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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: 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: 54581; Chapter Total: 741
Awards: View Trophy Room

Author's Notes:
Mama pajama! It's absolutely wild to be posting the 50th chapter of this fic! The story that I couldn't get out of my head has become something so much bigger and broader than I could have imagined a year ago when I was frenetically typing out the first few chapters of the old timeline.

Shout-out to all the readers who've followed along, whether you began reading when I first started posting or found the story recently. And an even bigger thank you to everyone who has left comments / reviews. Your kind words and thoughtful points along the way mean so much to me. I can't fully express how encouraging you've been!


Sirius laughed heartily as Kingsley ran his hand over his face. McGonagall sipped her drink with an incredulous look and shook her head, and Dumbledore's eyes twinkled brightly as the firelight danced behind his half-moon spectacles. Harry, for his part, couldn't help chuckling along with his godfather as the man relayed how one of Voldemort's Horcruxes came to be found in the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.

"So after months of chasing leads all over the map, you mean to tell me the locket has been here the whole time?" asked Kingsley with more than a bit of pain in his voice.

"Precisely," answered Dumbledore. "According to Kreacher, it was pilfered by young Regulus shortly before his death. The elf has kept it here at Grimmauld Place for years and made every attempt to fulfill his master's last command to destroy the object."

Kingsley's eyes fell on the miserable elf, who had been ordered by Sirius to stand in the corner of the room and not allow himself to hear anything. Kreacher's pained eyes were fixed on the locket as tears streaked down his sallow cheeks. It had taken direct instructions from Sirius to remain silent to prevent mournful wails from echoing through the entire house.

"Does he understand what Regulus was trying to do? Or how impossible the task was that his master set before him?"

McGonagall leaned forward to set down her glass before responding. "From what we gather, he does not understand the full implication of what his orders meant; only that Regulus believed destroying the locket was of paramount importance. Albus believes that his inability to fulfill his master's command has addled Kreacher's mind and contributed to his inability to keep up with maintaining the house."

Harry did not harbor many positive feelings for the elf, especially after he'd heard Kreacher muttering all kinds of offensive words about Hermione, Ginny, and many other guests at Grimmauld Place over the summer. But pity sprang up inside him as he watched the disconsolate elf shuddering with great, inaudible sobs as he stared at the locket.

"I suppose it isn't a surprise that pitting yourself against something that evil would drive you around the bend," said Kingsley ruefully. "Have you thought through next steps now that we've found it?"

"Yes and no. Much of what we need to discuss should be done once we can be assured of our privacy, but I do have an idea of how we could proceed in a way that may yet be advantageous."

With a snort of a laugh, Sirius nudged Harry and said, "Someday, he's going to simply say what he means the first time without a long preamble and I'm going to faint from sheer shock. Just you watch!"

McGonagall gave Sirius a disapproving look that Harry had been on the receiving end of multiple times, but Dumbledore simply laughed to himself and forged ahead.

"With your leave, I think it would be worthwhile to assuage Kreacher's long misery by allowing him to know our purpose, with regard to the locket. In fact, it may be worth taking action upon it this very night."

Harry's eyes darted to the headmaster, whose face was impossible to read.

"You think we should do it tonight?" asked Kingsley incredulously as he looked back and forth between Dumbledore and McGonagall. "Should it not be examined?"

"Minerva and I have taken some time to examine the locket closely whilst we waited for you to be able to join us. Much of the arithmancy we had previously undertaken has been completed, to the best of our ability. Unless I am much mistaken, I doubt keeping the locket would yield us any new information beyond that which Minerva and I have already discovered." The smile on his wizened face was accompanied by a slight raise of his bushy white eyebrows.

Harry felt a jolt of excitement at the thought that their study of the ring may have produced results, but he noticed that Sirius looked unconvinced. "I'm not sure about keeping Kreacher around for whatever we decide to do next. He's been nothing but trouble to me these last few months, and he certainly wasn't much better when I was growing up. I don't see any reason to let him know what we're going to do."

Neither McGonagall nor Kingsley brought forward arguments for either side, but something in the elf's mournful look spoke to Harry. "Kreacher reminds me of when Dobby was trying to warn me about Malfoy's plot to open the Chamber before my Second Year. He kept punishing himself for almost everything. From what he said about the locket, it seems like he's been trying to destroy it for over a decade. I think it'd be nice to let him know his task is finally accomplished."

Sirius remained unconvinced, but acquiesced when the others came to the side of Harry and Dumbledore. With more than a little skepticism in his voice, he ordered Kreacher to stand in the middle of the room. With a crack, the elf disappeared and reappeared where his master was pointing.

"Alright, Kreacher. Listen up!" he barked, glowering unkindly at the diminutive elf. "Against my better judgment, we've decided to loop you in on something. Here are my conditions: under no circumstances can you ever communicate this to anyone. You are bound by my orders. Do you understand?"

The elf was still unable to make a sound, but nodded solemnly at Sirius. "Well, the locket Reg charged you to destroy is dark magic. Real evil stuff. So it's our intention to destroy the bloody thing ourselves. Probably tonight by the sound of it. By retrieving it and bringing it here to Grimmauld, you've done right by my brother."

A shudder ran down Kreacher's small body as a gasp of a sob escaped his lips. Harry looked on with a good deal of pity as the elf looked at his master and each of the others in turn with a frantic expression.

"Go on, you can speak if you need to," said Sirius with a tone not quite as harsh as he'd used with the elf previously.

"Master Regulus' locket is powerful and will resist any attempts to destroy it," said Kreacher with a shaking voice. "Kreacher has tried everything Kreacher could think of, but it has resisted at every turn."

"I don't doubt that you have given it your best effort," offered Dumbledore kindly. "I believe that we have the means to see it unmade. Would it be safe to assume that you will know when the deed is completed, even if you are not present?"

Kreacher nodded apprehensively. "If the locket is destroyed, Kreacher will feel the obligation given by Master Regulus dissipate."

"All the more reason to be done with it at once!" Dumbledore clapped his hands together with excitement. "Though its enchantments seem much less powerful than they could have been, let us be overly cautious and bring the locket to Hogwarts in Kingsley's containment chest. I have a few ideas worth trying out once we arrive."


The curtains were drawn on all the portraits and the door had been securely locked when Harry stumbled out of the fireplace into the headmaster's office. Kingsley was already positioning the secure chest on Dumbledore's office as McGonagall summoned chairs for Harry and Sirius, who stepped into the office without collapsing in a heap like his godson. Sirius snickered as he offered a hand to pull Harry up and whispered something about floo practice as they took their seats.

"Before we get too involved in the matters at hand, I have a question," said Kingsley as he settled into a high backed chair and pulled the small pad from within his cloak. "From what I gathered earlier, Lupin was with you two when you discovered the locket. How much do you think he suspects? And what actions should we consider based on what he will have gleaned from the incident?"

"Moony's pretty bright. Sometimes more than he lets on," mused Sirius. "He notices things, as evidenced by him being the one to realize something had a hold of Harry. I'm not sure if he's ever heard of a Horcrux, though it seems unlikely. If I didn't know about them as a scion of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, I can't imagine him hearing about it growing up."

"He is one of the few qualified Defense professors we've had in a long while, but this kind of magic seems beyond the scope of what he would have ever studied," added McGonagall. "Perhaps one of the books gathered from your family's library this summer would have aroused his suspicions as he examined them?"

"I don't think so," answered Sirius, rubbing his chin while in thought. "All the worst books were brought to me for inspection, and the few that mentioned Horcruxes got stowed away pretty quickly."

"Out of all the people who might have been present for the discovery of a Horcrux, Remus Lupin is near the top of the most advantageous," offered Dumbledore. "From what I have seen of the locket and heard from Harry's description of the events, its malevolence appears to cause intense emotional strain on those nearby. I must admit that I would not have appreciated living in a room adjacent to such an object."

"So you're saying it wasn't his fault he's been a mopey berk with an attitude problem for a while now?" asked Sirius.

"That may be the case, though perhaps you would like to keep it in your bedroom for a while so we can better understand the adverse effects of living in close proximity with–"

"No thanks! That's not necessary." Sirius shook his head. "For the record, he did a great job looking out for us, even though he didn't know what the bloody thing was. Tossed Harry out of the way like he was a ragdoll and stood between us and the locket. Made sure we could get out of there before following us and was quick to grab potions to help take care of Harry."

"Even though I was fine once I got away from the thing," added Harry.

"Well, we didn't know that at the time. I'm just saying that you're right about it being good he was there." Sirius glanced from Dumbledore to Harry, then back to the headmaster again. "And it's hard to keep all this from him. He doesn't ask questions about what I'm up to when I go searching with King, but I know he's curious."

"As fruitful as expanding the circle has been, I am still loath to bring others onboard without good reason, as I have explained to you previously," said Dumbledore. His voice was not unkind, but Harry thought the older man was quite certain of the rightness of his belief.

"And I get that… I really do," answered Sirius. His expression looked pained as he drew himself up in his chair. "Last time around, I didn't trust him. I thought he might've been the traitor when it was Wormtail, and I'm never going to forgive myself for that. That's something I'm just going to live with."

Harry watched as Sirius took a long breath. None of the other adults made to interrupt.

"I guess I'm just saying that he's earned my trust again and again. I'm not saying we have to bring him in, but he's a good man who wants this war won just as much as any of us."

Dumbledore peered over his spectacles at Sirius for a few moments and allowed his shoulders to sag. "Your points are well made and I do not doubt that Remus would be a strong addition to our group of conspirators. He joins a list of several others who have the time, talent, and most especially the will to aid us in our task. My reasons for not including them for the time being boil down to the necessity to keep our work confidential.

"Even with one as trustworthy as Remus, each person who learns of our goals is another potential breaking point which could be exploited by our enemies. I feel confident that none of us would willingly divulge what we have been doing, but if one of our number were captured and faced with a skilled Legilimens or Veritaserum…" His voice trailed off as his fingers rubbed between his eyebrows.

"I must say that I agree with Albus, at least for the moment," continued McGonagall. "Should he work out the truth of what was discovered today, I might be inclined to change my mind. But for now, I think it best to remain as we are."

"I'm not in a position to disagree too strenuously," said Kingsley as he leaned forward slowly, his deep voice taking a thoughtful tone. "I do think highly of the man's intelligence and instincts. From the description of events in the drawing room, he acted exactly as I would hope to respond. Given that and his schedule being more free than most, I'll likely be hoping he figures things out so that we could bring him in."

Dumbledore's weary smile faltered slightly, but Harry saw it return almost immediately. "The question of Remus deserves more time and attention than we currently have to spare. For now, let us allow the matter to rest as we address some other weighty topics."

He nodded to McGonagall, who produced a small box from a drawer and opened it to reveal the ring.

"Minerva and I have spent countless hours studying this ring and poring over arithmancy notes. Though it has taken longer than we'd hoped, we are confident that we have found the answers we sought."

"As we suspected," said McGonagall. "Each time a Horcrux is created, the soul is split in half. When creating the diary Horcrux, Voldemort's soul was cleaved into two roughly equal parts. One half remained in his body while the other was bound to the book.

"But in our examination of the Gaunt ring, we were able to ascertain that the Horcrux within it comprised approximately one half of what had been within the diary."

Shacklebolt nodded encouragingly, even though Harry still felt a bit lost. "So, you're saying that Voldemort's soul didn't mend itself or regrow after he split it for the first time?"

"Precisely," answered McGonagall with a satisfied smile.

"How long does it take to check one of them?" asked Sirius. "Can you do it for the locket?"

"The process is not overly lengthy, once one knows how," said Dumbledore. "Minerva and I were able to complete a check while you and Remus tended to Harry as we waited for Kingsley. As we had hoped, doing so has provided more helpful clues that will aid us in our endeavor."

"The diary contained what would equal about one half of Voldemort's original soul, while the ring contained nearly one quarter. But the locket?" McGonagall's eyebrow raised as a small smirk tugged at the corners of her mouth. "Only one sixteenth of the original."

Harry's brow furrowed. He had never been too strong in mathematics and didn't fully understand her implication. Judging by the look of confusion on Sirius' face, Harry wasn't alone.

A wide and bright smile grew on Kingsley's face. "Which means that the locket wasn't the third one he created. It was his fourth!"

"Indeed, you are correct," said Dumbledore sagely. "Were you still one of my pupils, I would feel obligated to award Hufflepuff house points."

"And knowing their order of creation could help us narrow our searches for the other Horcruxes…" Kingsley flipped the pages in his small pad and started scribbling furiously, scratching out words and drawing occasional arrows. "With this as a starting point, we'll be in a lot better shape trying to find the others!"

"And that's not all we've discovered," added McGonagall. Harry's eyes were glued to the Transfiguration professor, as were Sirius' and Kingsley's. "From what we have deduced, there should be an upper limit to the number of Horcruxes one person can create."

The room grew exceedingly quiet; the only audible sound was Fawkes breathing softly with his head under his wing in sleep.

"Unless we are very much mistaken," said Dumbledore quietly into the stillness. "Voldemort should not have been able to create more than six Horcruxes. Those six, along with the sliver of soul that remains in his corporeal body, would represent the uttermost bounds of what mutilation a soul could withstand.

"Though he can and certainly has killed after the completion of his Horcrux strategy, Voldemort should not be capable of cleaving off enough soul in order to affix part within another object."

"And we've got two here right now," whispered Sirius.

"And another already destroyed," added Kingsley.

Dumbledore nodded gravely. "After speaking at length, Minerva and I agreed that we are not likely to glean much more information from holding onto these horcruxes. Safe as Hogwarts is and despite our vigilant watch, I will feel much more at ease once these objects are destroyed. We have no reason to believe that Voldemort will be aware of our actions, but we do have eyes and ears nearby tonight which could alert us if our assumptions are ill founded."

Harry heard Sirius mutter something under his breath that sounded like "Snivellus."

"Are there any objections to taking care of the items this evening?" asked Dumbledore, peering back and forth at the four others.

"Not an objection, just a question of logistics," interjected Sirius. "These things are supposed to be bloody hard to destroy. How are we going about it?"

"That is an excellent question and one I will answer with another question," said Dumbledore slyly. "What do you know about goblin-made blades?"

"My dad used to say that it was the best kind of weapon money could buy, other than a wand," answered Sirius. "But he never mentioned anything about it being something that could counter a spell."

"The work of the goblins is absolutely fascinating for a myriad of reasons, though only one concerns us tonight. Goblin-made weapons can become more powerful over time by imbuing it with the strengths of what it contacts.

"There are scant few ways to destroy a horcrux and it was very fortuitous that Harry was able to use a Basilisk fang in just the nick of time. After reflecting on the tale of Harry's success, it occurred to me that when he plunged the Sword of Gryffindor into the serpent, there is a chance for the blade to have come into contact with some of that potent venom."

Albus stood up from his chair and slowly walked to the mantle where the Sword of Gryffindor rested. He removed it from its stand and gently placed it onto his desk. "After our search of the Chamber during the summer months, I took it upon myself to extract some venom from the decaying beast. I applied it to the blade so that we could be confident that the Sword of Gryffindor has now been impregnated with the same properties as Basilisk venom." He chuckled to himself before adding, "As such, it would be highly inadvisable to cut yourself upon it."

"So you think the sword can be used to destroy a horcrux?" asked Kingsley, eyeing the blade.

"Indeed, though there is only one way to be certain." Dumbledore's eyes glinted with the light reflecting off the blade. "Kingsley, though you have far more courage than many who have dwelt in the house of lions, I believe it may be wise to allow a Gryffindor to be first to attempt using Godric's fabled sword."

"That's fair, although I must admit I'm curious as to whether it would allow me to handle it," admitted Kingsley. "It'd be quite the challenge for us if it dissolved into a puff of smoke when I touched it, though. No need to worry about my feelings when deciding how we go about the task."

"Very well," said Dumbledore as he glanced at the others. "We have two horcruxes to dispose of and four Gryffindors present who can do the deed. How should we go about it?"

"Seeing as Harry's underage," began Sirius, causing Harry to glare at him in disbelief. "And, even moreso, seeing as he's already gotten to destroy one of these things, I'd like to strike him from the list for the first one. If it blows up and takes me with it, that's one thing. If it went wrong and got Harry, I'd never forgive myself."

The reasoning may have technically been sound, but that didn't mean Harry liked it at all. He glowered at Sirius, who was unsurprisingly avoiding eye contact.

"A wise precaution, Sirius," said McGonagall while nodding. "Since you've recently become Harry's guardian, perhaps it would be best for Albus or myself to take the first swing at it."

"Wait a second, you're not pulling that on me," countered Sirius. "You and Dumbledore aren't any less valuable just because you aren't in charge of a hoodlum like this. You both bring a lot of skills to the table that can't be replaced. If things go badly, you could replace me with Moony and be no worse for wear!"

"We are not turning this discussion into a debate as to who is most valuable," said Dumbledore sternly. "Perhaps the question should not be 'Who is willing?' but instead 'Who is most eager?'"

Sirius sat back from the edge of his seat and looked at Harry, who was still giving him a disapproving look. "Don't joke about dying," said the younger in a quiet voice. "I don't want to lose you when we just got the chance to live together."

A few seconds passed as Harry's words sank in, but he gave a serious nod and sat up a little straighter. "I'm eager to take out the locket. My brother gave his life to get it, so it feels right for me to be the one to take it out. But I don't mind waiting until we test the sword on the ring first, if you'd prefer."

"Quite a reasonable request," said Dumbledore, who was smiling wistfully at Sirius and Harry. Harry wondered if the old man had heard their quiet aside. "Minerva, I have heard you curse the ring many times over the past few months. Considering our assumptions about the me from the rogue memory's timeline, it might be fair to presume that a version of me has already destroyed a horcrux or two. Would you like to do the honors?"

She stood with a frown of steely determination and began to roll up the sleeves of her dark sweater. "With pleasure. I've been waiting to send this damned ring into oblivion for months."

"As I have expressed to you in private, the stone set in the ring is something I would like to examine further," said Dumbledore as he handed over the sword. "If at all possible, please avoid striking the stone directly. I should think the steadiness of your hands will make that simple enough for you, Minerva."

The witch gave a stoic nod as Dumbledore levitated the ring onto a rug on the floor. "I don't suppose you mind if I cleave a hole in your rug, do you Albus?"

Sirius indicated with his head that Harry should back away from the middle of the room and followed his godson into a corner near a bookshelf. Kingsley stood opposite of them next to a tall window while Dumbledore peered over his desk at the ring. McGonagall looked somewhat wary as she drew closer to its spot on the rug.

"The enchantments on the sword are likely to affect the ring no matter how hard you strike it, but perhaps it would be wise not to give it your full strength on the first go," suggested Dumbledore, clearly relishing the build up of tension. "I would hate for you to break a hole straight through my floor. With that said, whenever you're ready–"

A sound not unlike a warcry pierced Harry's ears as McGonagall's typically poised demeanor fled in the wake of her furious swipe of the sword. The gleaming, jewel-encrusted hilt shone from within her hands as she brought the blade down in a rush. With a mighty CRACK, the sword found its target, which flashed light and emitted a long and unearthly screech when struck. The force of the blow and the ring's reaction knocked McGonagall backward and she nearly stumbled. A quick arm from Kingsley steadied her as both of them stared at the objects clattering on the ground.

The ring was split cleanly into two pieces, the larger of which contained the ugly stone that was set into it. It spun unevenly on the carpet like a runaway top that was likely to crash at any moment. The smaller piece careened off the ground, struck Dumbledore's desk with a great thunk that did not at all reflect its small size, and then came to a stop on the carpet a few feet away from the other piece. The terrible screech finally subsided as both pieces popped up for a moment, shuddered in midair, then fell back to the floor and ceased all movement.

Dumbledore hurried around his desk with wand in his hand and performed a few complex motions as the rest of the group looked on in anticipation. "Two down!" the older man exclaimed with a wide smile.

"And four to go before we can take down the bloody bastard!" answered Sirius joyously. Harry could hardly contain his excitement as everyone returned to their places, except he noticed Dumbledore eyeing him with a slightly forlorn expression, though he might have only imagined it.

McGonagall seated herself in a high-backed chair with a look of self-satisfaction as she examined the sword in her hands more closely. "I'm quite fond of using my wand for most anything I might need to do, but, I must say, this is an exceptional weapon. Sirius, if you suddenly feel trepidation about using it, I could easily be convinced to give it another go."

Sirius snorted as he sprang forward to accept it from his former professor. "Not a chance!" He glanced at Dumbledore questioningly. "I can put in in the same spot so that everything's easier to put back to sorts after, if you'd like." An affirmative nod from the headmaster later, the locket was placed in the same spot where the ring had been, its pieces now resting next to each other on Dumbledore's desk.

With every bit as much power as McGonagall's, Sirius brought down the sword with a strong stroke. Sparks flew in every direction when the blade made contact and a great rush of wind extinguished every light in the office. The sound of a small, metal object hurtling around the room and colliding with all manner of surfaces was the only way Harry could keep track of where the locket had rocketed off to in the dim light of the moon and stars shining through the windows.

When the sound relented, the voice of Dumbledore rang out into the relative darkness to relight the candles and torches in the room. "Any ideas as to where it finally came to rest?" he asked with an amused tone.

Harry felt as baffled as Sirius looked, and no answers were forthcoming from McGonagall, either.

"I believe I heard it settle in that direction," supplied Kingsley, pointing to his left. "Over near your Pensieve."

While the others peered in the indicated direction, the Auror moved to check. Sure enough, he returned moments later with an intact locket and laid it back on the rug where it had been struck. "Not to put him on the spot, but it appears that Sirius needs to learn how to become a bit stronger from Professor McGonagall."

"It's performance anxiety," said Sirius through a snort as he raked his free hand through his hair. "I couldn't do it with you all watching!" McGonagall shook her head but looked quite pleased that her attempt had been the successful one.

"I very much doubt Sirius' strength or skill had anything to do with the outcome of his strike, but this does create an unforeseen challenge to address," said Dumbledore quietly. He steepled his fingers and stared at the locket without saying anything more.

"Do you think it had something to do with how you and Professor McGonagall dismantled the protections on the ring?" asked Harry. "Maybe we need to do that again for the venom to work properly."

"Not a bad observation, but I do not think that to be the reason the locket remains intact," answered Dumbledore slowly. "If the unwinding of protections were required, I fear you would not have survived your run-in with Tom in the Chamber of Secrets. No, it seems as though something else is at play…"

"Perhaps the sword requires the use of a new drop of Basilisk venom after each use," suggested McGonagall. "Would destroying a horcrux siphon off the toxicity with which it had been imbued?"

The headmaster made a noise that Harry thought to be a grunt of interest, but frowned again and shook his head. "I highly doubt that to be the case, though we may be forced to test your idea further if no other conclusion can be reached. I am not an expert of goblin-craft, but I believe their work should permanently gain the attributes of anything it contacts that could strengthen it. Clearly, the sword has become powerful enough to unmake a horcrux. It should not matter that it has been used for this purpose previously."

Kingsley did not voice a question of his own, but stepped back to where the horcrux lay and grasped it by the chain. He held it at his eye level and stared at the rotating golden locket. His eyebrows raised slightly as he examined its front and he caught it with his hand to prevent it from moving.

"Salazar Slytherin's locket," he said with a curiosity in his deep voice. "Emblazoned with an 'S' only. It reminds me of our time down in the Chamber. Harry, quick question: how did the diary horcrux summon the Basilisk?"

"He used Parseltongue. I remember he said something odd, like–"

"WAIT!" yelled out Kingsley in alarm and Harry quickly shut his mouth. "Sorry for scaring you, but I had an idea that I'd rather not test with the damned thing in my hand."

Harry's heart was pounding harder in his chest, but he could see the other adults nodding along as Kingsley rested the locket back on the ground and stepped away. "Salazar seems to have been a bit lazy in coming up with protections for his most prized possessions. The entry to the chamber and the main door were both opened by using Parseltongue. His statue opened by it, too, and his great monster was directed in the same way…" His eyes met Dumbledore's and the Auror arched an eyebrow. "Maybe we just need to open it up first?"

The headmaster's smile was triumphant and his eyes danced with excitement. "Very well reasoned, Kingsley! Very well reasoned, indeed. Sirius, are you willing to give the locket another go?"

"Absolutely. Harry's going to ask it nicely to open up so I can put it out of our misery?"

"That seems like a worthy plan. Harry, if you would be so kind, please do the honors and then quickly retreat to stand next to Professor McGonagall while your godfather rids the world of this vile thing."

Harry gave an involuntary gulp but stood between Sirius and the locket. He stared down at the serpentine S on the front of it and narrowed his vision until the twisted shape was all he saw. He took a long breath in through his nose and hissed out "Open!" though it sounded very odd to his ears as he said it.

A small click alerted Harry that the plan had worked, but before he could move a destructive clap of thunder was accompanied by dark clouds emanating from the now-open locket. He tried to turn and run but found that great tendrils of the cloud were grasping at his wrists and ankles, and he was being pulled forward toward the locket, which was still spewing heavy smoke-like clouds.

Before Harry could even cry out for help, the form of Professor McGonagall sprinted the few steps between her and her pupil. She grasped him around his waist without slowing as she lunged forward, roughly pulling him to the ground at Kingsley's feet. The Auror already had his wand out and was using a dark blue spell to beat back the angry cloud tentacles which continued to grope for Harry, even as Dumbledore reinforced the defensive action with spells of his own.

"We're clear!" cried McGonagall as her body collapsed over Harry's, shielding him from the scene behind them.

Sirius needed no further encouragement, loosing an angry, guttural yell as he ran forward with sword aloft. Harry thought that the clouds were attempting to reconfigure into some sort of shape, but Sirius didn't give it a spare moment. With his full strength behind the swipe, he cut through the dark clouds and straight into the locket. A sickening scream echoed in Harry's ears as the locket gave way before the blade. A flash of light made him squint and bring his forearm the shade his eyes as Sirius quickly raised the sword again before plunging it down a second and third time. The clouds disappeared quickly, leaving two wizards pointing their wands at Sirius, whose breath was heaving as he stabbed what was left of the locket once more.

From their vantage point on the ground, Harry and McGonagall could not see Sirius' expression, but he let the sword in his hand drop to his side and wiped his face with the sleeve of his robe. He muttered something under his breath that Harry couldn't quite hear, though he thought he could pick out the word 'brother' and "Harry" along with a few potent swears.

Kingsley hurried to where Professor McGonagall was pulling herself up off the ground and offered her a hand, which she took graciously. "I hope I didn't injure you, Mr. Potter. I feared that using a spell so close to the horcrux might be unwise, so I decided to try a different method."

The strong hands of Kingsley pulled Harry to his feet and dusted off his robes a bit as Harry gratefully assured his Head of House that he was no worse for wear and appreciated her help.

"Not bad for a day's work," said Kingsley with a broad smile. "Three down and three to go!"
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