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SIYE Time:11:27 on 3rd December 2023


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

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Category: Post-HBP
Characters:All
Genres: Action/Adventure, General, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 198
Summary: After the horcrux hunt implodes leaving most of those Harry loves dead, he starts a new life with a few fellow survivors far away from wizarding Britain. But the discovery of an ancient ritual that promises to send a single memory back in time sparks hope that maybe things can change. Dark ending to DH followed by a tweaked retelling of GoF through DH. Harry/Ginny. Friday updates.
Hitcount: Story Total: 38036; Chapter Total: 334
Awards: View Trophy Room






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"And you are certain there are no additional details regarding the corridor that you are able to recall?"

Harry did his best to conceal the frustration he felt at being asked the same question for the third time within an hour. He looked back at Professor Dumbledore and shook his head.

"It's just a long, dark hallway with a locked door at the end," he replied with a shrug. The headmaster frowned slightly and looked past his three guests at something on the opposite side of his office. His shoulders sagged slightly as he sighed.

"Sirius, Remus, I am inclined to believe you made a wise decision by bringing this to my attention with such immediacy. However, I fear that the situation necessitates divulging certain details to Harry that I would prefer not to burden him with yet." Dumbledore's wisened face looked pained as his eyes cast back and forth between the two adults while avoiding Harry's gaze. "Do either of you object to sharing relevant information with him?"

Sirius shrugged. "You know I would've rather told him before the school year began. So yeah, I'm fine with talking through it with him."

"It's not my decision to make," said Remus with a sideways glance at Harry. "But I believe he's earned the right to know. Harry's well aware of how crucial it is to keep secrets, especially when the safety of others is hanging in the balance."

Even though part of Harry's head argued that Remus was referencing his own lycanthropy, a stab of guilt caught him in the chest as he thought of keeping the horcrux hunt from one of the most trustworthy people he knew. He slunk down into his seat a bit when Remus gave him an encouraging smile.

Dumbledore gave a small nod, smiling gravely. "I am inclined to agree with your assessment. Seeing as this information concerns not only Harry but also the late James and Lily, I think it may be better for all three of you to be privy to this conversation if it becomes what I assume it shall be.

"I doubt that doing so will change our decision, but perhaps it would be wise to begin with a look into the Pensieve. Though I trust your description of the dream, Harry, I doubt it would hurt to examine it from within. Then we may visit a memory of mine that would serve as a helpful jumping-off point for our discussion. Shall we?"

Harry was a little relieved when the memory of his dream easily adhered to his wand as he pressed it to his temple and allowed itself to swirl into the basin. He was grateful that this memory was not nearly as obstinate as the rogue memory which had refused to be extracted and had blown Dumbledore across the room over a year ago. The headmaster drew his own wand and deposited his own glowing white string of memory into the basin. Sirius and Remus crowded on either side of Harry, and the four dipped their faces into the liquid.

As Harry looked around, he felt justified in his description of the dream. The corridor was not well-lit and had no doors on either side, save for one at the far end of the long, straight hallway. Unlike his other forays into the Pensieve, there were no figures present except for the four people who were observing. The scene moved slowly and steadily toward the door.

"I hoped I was just being overprotective, but now…" muttered Sirius, trailing off as they walked.

"Yeah, I think we're well past the realm of odd coincidences, Padfoot."

The memory didn't last long enough for Harry to express frustration with their cryptic conversation, as the four arrived at the door. It was predictably locked, and the memory faded into nothingness before he had a chance to ask questions.

Within moments, the four landed back on the ground in the next memory. To Harry's eye, it appeared to be the very same corridor, only slightly better lit. This time, however, two figures walked alongside each other. Harry was unsurprised that Dumbledore was one of the two, but it took him a moment to register that the other was Minister Bones. She was more than a head shorter than the headmaster but carried herself with poise as they walked together.

"I must confess, even having worked in the Ministry for my whole adult life, I've rarely stepped foot in the Department of Mysteries. I suppose that's true of most of our employees, though." Their pace was deliberate and neither seemed to be in a hurry, which Harry thought odd. Based on how she looked, Harry guessed that the memory was from around when she took over as Minister of Magic.

"From my experience, you are correct. It is a vastly important department, even though it is often overlooked," replied the Dumbledore from the memory.

The four interlopers watched from behind as the two spoke quietly. Though he didn't understand the implications of the memory, Harry got the feeling that things were more dire than the ease of the conversation suggested.

"As a concerned citizen," Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he spoke. "I may or may not have asked a few trusted persons to stand guard in the evenings when your predecessor refused to take seriously the threat of Voldemort's intrusion."

Sirius good-naturedly bumped Remus with a shoulder, and Harry wondered if the two of them had been assigned guard duty over the previous months.

Bones' voice belied little amusement. "Given the dire need of the situation, that seems like a reasonable course of action, given your alternatives. I would hope that such measures would be unnecessary now."

"Indeed, that would be much preferable for all involved. There are many urgent tasks that can be attended to now the Ministry is rid of its blinders, both by formal institutions and by those wishing to do their part from the outside."

Madam Bones didn't look especially pleased by his response but gave a curt nod. "As I understand it, there are a number of security measures already in place. The head of the Department of Mysteries will meet us shortly to go over some specifics. I understand you would like for us to increase security in specific areas of the department?"

The memory around Harry and the others began to fade as the Dumbledore who was speaking to Madam Bones nodded. "Just one, in fact. The Hall of Prophecies."

With a start, Harry found himself once again in the headmaster's office. Liquid dripped from his face back into the Pensieve as Dumbledore retrieved the silvery memory from the basin. Harry did likewise before wiping his face dry with his sleeve.

"If you would each be so kind, let us gather around the desk. There is a great deal that needs to be explained and possibly more that must be left unsaid. For what it's worth, I had been preparing to share much of this with you over the summer, Harry. But it seems as though my hand has been forced, and once again I must share more than I would prefer so as to do right by those most affected."

Harry took a seat between Sirius and Remus, opposite Dumbledore. The older man looked poised to spend the next quarter-hour in a preamble leading up to whatever topic was at hand.

"There is still information I am privy to that I believe would be disadvantageous to divulge at this time, but I think it would be worth allowing Harry to know what I have shared with the two of you, first and foremost. If you would begin filling him in, I will consider which further cards I shall lay on the table."

He picked up a nearby quill and began absent-mindedly twirling it between his fingers as his face grew thoughtful. From Harry's side, he heard Sirius whisper a swear under his breath.

"Well, I'd definitely been banking on Dumbledore being the one to tell you some of this," said Sirius nervously. "Moony and I figured it was important for you to know, but it wasn't our place to tell you."

"Especially before you got more proficient at Occlumency," added Remus. Harry could hear the weight in Remus' tone and could tell Sirius was having a hard time figuring out what to say.

"I know you've wondered about why Voldemort came after you back when you were a baby," began Sirius, steeling himself as he spoke. Harry took a sharp breath and his eyes grew wide. "As I understand it, there was some sort of prophecy made before you were born. We don't know all the details, but we are certain that this prophecy involves Voldemort. And it involves you."

"From what we do know, Voldemort learned of the prophecy without finding out the details about what it says," said Remus softly. His hand shifted slightly as if he was going to place it on Harry's shoulder, but he left it on the arm of the chair. "But the fact that a prophecy exists at all was enough for him to target you."

It felt as if Harry's heart was trying to break a hole in his chest. Behind his glasses, he could already feel the pinprick of tears forming in the corners of his eyes, but he couldn't bring himself to say a word.

"Not sure how Dumbledore found out as much as he did, but he got the word to your parents before you were even born. They'd both been really involved with the Order, but finding out you were on the way and that Voldemort was after you was what convinced them to go into hiding." Sirius' expression looked even more pained to Harry as he spoke. "I don't have a damn clue what about the prophecy made him so obsessed with you, but you definitely threw him for a loop that night."

Neither man spoke for a long moment. The memories of his parents' last moments flashed before his eyes. With a deep sigh, Remus took over the telling of the tale.

"Prophecies, real ones at least, get stored at the Ministry of Magic. The only people who can retrieve a prophecy are the people who are involved in it. Professor Dumbledore informed the Order of a prophecy that can only be removed by you or Voldemort. Our thinking is that he wants to know the full contents of the prophecy, both because he considers it a threat to his rise to power and because you've thwarted his plans seemingly at every turn."

"He's looking for an edge, any sort of advantage he can find," added Sirius. "Which is why the Order was protecting the Department of Mysteries and why Dumbledore got Bones to up the security there."

Harry's head was swimming as waves of information crashed over him. "But why am I dreaming of a hallway I've never seen before? That doesn't make sense…"

"Perhaps I can help illuminate the situation," said Dumbledore as he leaned forward on his desk and stowed his quill back in an inkwell. "As you may have surmised, most of the Order is aware of what Sirius and Remus relayed to you. I have only shared what I deemed necessary, and the majority of the group accepted that I have good reasons for such decisions. A few members have pressed me for further details, especially with regard to how all of this affects you, though I have been reticent to divulge more until now."

With a sideways glance, Harry met Sirius' eyes. He shrugged back and gave a look that Harry took to mean "I tried."

"Because a prophecy can only be retrieved by a person about whom it has been made, there are only two persons who could possibly gain access to it at this time. Lord Voldemort, for all his strength and cunning, does not want to simply waltz into the Ministry of Magic to collect the prophecy. So far, he has been using his allies and spies within the Ministry to ascertain whatever details he can glean about it, but he has found no way to have one of his lieutenants procure the prophecy on his behalf. But there is another option he has likely contemplated and appears to be attempting…"

Dumbledore stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Instead of risking his own safety and plans by entering the Ministry, Voldemort is now attempting to trick you into retrieving it for him."

Harry's eyes went wide. Remus lay his hand on Harry's shoulder while Sirius gripped his own forehead with a frustrated expression.

"At the beginning of last term, we discussed the importance of Occlumency. One of the main reasons I wished for you to learn the skill was so that I could share information without fear of Voldemort easily wresting it from your unprotected mind. The grave consequences were so very worth avoiding that I assigned your tutelage to both Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall. Had I surmised Voldemort would make an attempt like this, I daresay I may have excused you from more of your classes and helped teach you Occlumency myself.

"Fortunately for our cause, Minerva and Severus have reported that your ability to defend your mind is significantly more advanced than they would have predicted when your lessons began. While I would only trust a scant few to defend their minds against a full assault from Lord Voldemort, your efforts have progressed to a level with which I am much more comfortable."

Remus squeezed Harry's shoulder encouragingly and Sirius kicked Harry's shin and gave him a proud smile, even if it still looked shaky. Dumbledore looked as if he was second-guessing his decision, but plowed ahead anyway.

"What I am about to disclose is a secret of the highest order. Many lives would be endangered and a significant tactical advantage would be lost should this reach Voldemort. Yet the risk of keeping it from you poses an even more dire threat. I leave the decision to you as to whether you wish me to continue." The headmaster's body sagged slightly as if the act of giving Harry the choice instead of making it for him had come with a high cost to the old man.

As terrible as the decision felt to Harry, he couldn't bear the thought of declining. Whatever answers Dumbledore had been keeping to himself might as well come to light for all three of them. He looked back and forth at Sirius and Remus. Both seemed to be feeling the same combination of trepidation and determination Harry was experiencing.

"What do you say, Harry?" asked Sirius softly. "We're with you, either way."

Harry nodded stiffly, earning a firm pat on the back from his godfather. The three turned to Dumbledore expectantly.

"Very well. During their explanation, Sirius mentioned not knowing how I had come into possession of the details regarding the prophecy. As a matter of fact, I was present at the moment the prophecy was made, not unlike how you bore witness to Professor Trelawney predicting Pettigrew absconding to rejoin Lord Voldemort almost two years ago. This means that I have no need to enter the Hall of Prophecy, as I remember what was said quite well."

Surprise jolted through Harry at the declaration, but his shock seemed muted compared to the reaction from Sirus and Remus. His godfather was positively gobsmacked and looked likely to fall from his chair, while Remus gripped Harry's shoulder with such ferocity that he winced at the pressure. Both men swore vehemently before they could recover any semblance of poise.

"The contents of the prophecy are as follows:

'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…

Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…

And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…

And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…'"

A buzzing sounded in Harry's ears as Dumbledore finished reciting the prophecy and his vision grew blurry. He could hear Sirius and Remus speaking loudly, but their voices seemed distant. He looked down at his hands.

"Neither can live while the other survives…"

The words echoed in his head as his breathing became more difficult, each small gasp of air burning within his lungs.

"Neither can live while the other survives…"

"Harry?"

"Neither can live while the other survives…"

"HARRY!"

Sirius shook him forcefully until Harry's eyes refocused on his godfather's pale face.

"Harry, you're going to be alright. We're right here with you. We're right here."

Harry blinked owlishly until he felt slightly more steady. His cheeks burned with heat as thoughts flit in and out of his mind faster than he could process them.

Remus spoke deliberately as if maintaining a calm tone was almost more than he could sustain. "Albus, what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"The realm of divination was never my forte, but I will admit I have spent a great deal of time and effort studying the practice since first hearing this prophecy. For now, let us skip to the identifying sections: the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord was to be born at the end of July to parents who had defied Lord Voldemort three times. During their work with the Order during the war, there are three instances in which James and Lily opposed Death Eaters acting on Voldemort's direct orders, escaping with their lives."

"Which means it had to be talking about Harry," added Sirius numbly.

"A reasonable supposition, but not necessarily a correct one. You see, there was another couple who had a son just before Lily gave birth and they, too, had been fighting against Voldemort and defied him thrice."

It took a few moments, but Remus drew a sharp breath through his nose. His face became even more downcast as he spoke in no more than a whisper. "Frank and Alice… They went into hiding, too."

"At the same time as the Potters," finished Dumbledore forlornly. "I advised each couple to go into hiding once I determined that a spy for Voldemort overheard part of the prophecy. Luckily, the Death Eater only caught part of what was said. To the best of our knowledge, he is only aware of the beginning of the prophecy that identifies the one with the power to defeat him."

"Wait, but I thought you said only me or Voldemort could retrieve the prophecy," said Harry, his mind swimming with more and more thoughts by the minute. "But it could be Neville, too, right?"

Dumbledore smiled sadly but shook his head. "Alas, I'm afraid that Voldemort unwittingly foreclosed that possibility. You see, the portion of the prophecy he did not learn states that he would mark the child as his equal. In his haste to eliminate a perceived threat, he fulfilled part of the prophecy himself."

Reflexively, Harry's hand reached for the scar on his forehead. Sirius drew a ragged breath and leaned forward in his chair.

"Interestingly, though their movement espouses belief in the supremacy of those from pureblood families, Voldemort chose to target the child born to a Muggle woman rather than the child of two purebloods. Perhaps the fact that your parentage more closely resembled his own was a reason for his decision, seeing that Tom Riddle is a half-blood as well."

The reminder of his similarities to Lord Voldemort, the most evil wizard alive, did little to comfort Harry. Remus blanched at the news that Voldemort wasn't even a pureblood, though Sirius and Harry had long been aware.

"Okay, okay, okay… We get that it's about Harry," began Sirius, his voice sounding strained. "The thing said something about the power to beat Voldemort. Any idea what it's talking about?"

"Such speculation will take us beyond verifiable fact and more deeply into guesswork, but I can share a hypothesis." There were many times when Harry deeply appreciated the intellect and wisdom of the headmaster, but at this point, he wished the man would simply say what he meant in simple terms. "Tom Riddle does not love anyone or anything. He does not understand love and thus believes it is a weakness and not worth considering.

"And yet it was Lily's love that caused her to stand between her son and the most dangerous wizard alive, knowing it would cost her life. The love that Voldemort overlooked, that he didn't value, protected Harry from the Killing Curse and caused it to rebound back, destroying the body of its caster.

"The protection she bestowed upon Harry is powerful and mysterious. I sought to harness some of its best qualities through your presence in Lily's sister's house. By dwelling in a home with one who shared blood with the one who sacrificed herself on his behalf, Harry was afforded a measure of safety while under her roof that I could not convey by any other means. Though that particular protection has lapsed now that Harry can no longer call the Dursley's house his 'home,' it served its purpose by ensuring that Voldemort had no means to harm you there for over a decade. With greater insight into my reasoning for your place in the Dursley's home, I hope you can each better understand why I insisted on such miserable circumstances for Harry."

The frustration Harry felt toward his aunt, uncle, and cousin was dwarfed by the fear rising up in his stomach at the prospect of the prophecy's implications. Much of his anger at being banished to Privet Drive as a child and each summer melted away as he envisioned an orb of his mother's light protecting the house. He had no intention of returning to the house again, but the hurt that had once burned bright inside him flickered as he looked at the forlorn face of his headmaster. He couldn't bring himself to say anything, but he nodded his head slowly as the closest thing to absolution he could offer to Dumbledore.

Dumbledore straightened his back to fully sit up in his chair, his bright blue eyes brimming with empathy. "Voldemort's mistake, one of his most disastrous miscalculations, is that he continues to underestimate the overwhelming power that love imbues into those willing to risk it. He never considered that Lily's sacrifice would be powerful enough to pose a threat to him. Even now, having barely survived his first encounter with you and after experiencing the power of that love when Professor Quirrell attacked you, he mistakenly assumes that he has overcome that protection by using your blood to regenerate his body. He cannot comprehend that a mother's love could differentiate between her child and the one who attempted to murder him."

The beating of Harry's heart slowed ever-so-slightly as he considered the point. He had been nervous about Voldemort's use of his blood ever since returning from the graveyard but had tried to put such thoughts out of his mind whenever possible. The idea that the protection from his mother was not completely spent and could still help him felt like a small warm light fighting against the encroaching cold darkness. It gave him just enough courage to speak the question that was echoing louder and louder in his head.

"Does the end of the prophecy mean what I think it means?" he asked nervously, unwilling to look the headmaster in the eye.

Harry heard Dumbledore sigh deeply. "Nothing with prophecy is certain, which is why the Ministry of Magic dedicates great time and energy toward such research. But even if Voldemort never learns the complete prophecy, I believe he has plotted a course of events that will lead to its resolution."

The old man's voice was growing stronger as he spoke, his words seemingly crackling with quiet power. "By murdering your parents and attempting to do the same to you, Voldemort set the two of you on this path. It was his actions that unknowingly activated a deep, powerful magic that protected you from harm. He unwittingly imbued you with some of the skills he was known for; skills which you have, in turn, used to thwart his plans."

Harry wanted to interject, to argue the point, but Dumbledore was building up steam and it seemed optimistic to the point of foolishness to try to derail him. The headmaster's eyes shone as he looked at Harry with disarming earnestness as if the man wished nothing more than for Harry to understand what he was saying. His voice grew louder and more fervent.

"Voldemort has not heard the full prophecy, and yet unintentionally still does everything within his power to fulfill it! He has hunted you since before you were born, and yet has failed to kill you on three separate occasions! Four if we consider his horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets! By attempting to take your life, he has expertly trained you to better oppose his tyrannical rule and given you all the cause one could possibly want to compel you to stand against him!

"For a moment, forget everything you have learned about the prophecy and think only of what you have personally experienced: the wizard who murdered your parents, attempted to kill you, and who has caused untold suffering wishes to see your life ended. Harry James Potter, what do you believe that to mean?"

Professor Dumbledore's chest was heaving after delivering such a rousing speech. He stared at Harry expectantly, but with no judgment on his face. He simply looked like a man convinced that there was only one viable option, though it was every bit as difficult as it was simple. Harry was aware that Sirius and Remus were completely still as they waited to hear what Harry had to say, but he did not break the stare between bright blue eyes and green.

"He wants me dead and won't give up until he does it or until someone stops him. Which means everyone I care about is in danger." Harry's voice was little more than a whisper, but he spoke with unmistakable clarity. "It's not what I wanted, not by a long shot. But if it comes down to Voldemort or me?"

He glanced to the side to see pride swelling in his godfather's watery eyes. On Harry's other side, Remus beamed as if he was sitting next to a son of his own.

Faces flashed through Harry's mind: Ron and Hermione as First Years creeping along under the Invisibility Cloak, then shouting out to him as they trained in Advanced Defense. Of Neville giggling while being pummeled by pillows in the Common Room. Cedric and Cho smiling while talking Quidditch. Of his dormmates, the Fourth Years in Defense Club, his friends from the Gryffindor team. Luna delighting in her Patronus. Blaise's firm handshake. Parvati's defiant look while standing up to Umbridge. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's kindness. Tonks telling jokes and tripping over her own feet. Kingsley showing him how to investigate. McGonagall's sincere apology and vote of confidence. Snape's begrudging respect. Hagrid's warm smile and hearty laugh. The blazing look on Ginny's face whenever she was especially excited.

Harry took in a long breath, releasing it slowly before meeting the kind eyes of the headmaster.

"I'm in. No matter what it takes."

"Why am I not surprised?" asked Sirius with a rueful chuckle. He met Harry's eyes as he spoke sincerely. "I don't care what that damn prophecy says; I'm going to be here alongside you every step of the way. You aren't alone in this, not by a long shot."

"He's right," agreed Remus, who did his best to smile encouragingly. "We're right here with you."

Harry watched a tear tumble into Dumbledore's beard. "There is still a great deal to be done in order to thwart Voldemort's plans. For the time being, I will request that you redouble your efforts to master Occlumency. Knowing that the enemy is trying to convince you to enter the Hall of Prophecies may prove advantageous, but your ability to shield your mind will likely be tested, nonetheless."

Dumbledore looked up and to his left, wincing slightly as he appeared to consider his available options. "Your dreams of the corridor in the Department of Mysteries are concerning. Combined with the flashes of Voldemort's emotions and your glimpses into his surroundings, it would seem that Occlumency may be even more vital than I would have predicted. Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape have assured me that you take your lessons seriously and are working hard. Even so, I would ask that you redouble your efforts and report if anything seems amiss."

Harry could think of very few things that seemed more important than Occlumency at the moment and wasted no time agreeing to work at it with renewed resolve. His former sheepishness about telling Sirius and Remus about his dream had been replaced by gratitude that they'd insisted on apprising the headmaster.

"Excellent!" replied Dumbledore with a warm, grandfatherly smile. "While there are a great many questions left to be answered and much planning to do, we have covered quite a bit of ground this evening. Is there anything pressing before we adjourn?"

The words of the prophecy swam in Harry's head, but it all felt too overwhelming at the moment. He thought that at least Voldemort wouldn't have the opportunity to infiltrate his dreams if Harry couldn't sleep due to nervousness about the prophecy.

"Actually, I've got a question about something you said earlier," said Remus, curiosity creeping into his voice. "When you were talking about how Voldemort had gone after Harry multiple times, you said something about a 'horcrux.' What's that?"

~RLM~

After the initial shock of Remus' question, Harry almost laughed at the consternation plastered across Professor Dumbledore's face. The headmaster was clearly frustrated with himself for allowing his desire to motivate and encourage Harry to lead him to let slip such a crucial bit of information.

Dumbledore alerted McGonagall, who joined them in his office a few minutes later. Kingsley wasn't available that evening, but the impromptu meeting of the horcrux hunters was still quite lively as the four brought Remus up to speed.

For a good portion of the evening, Dumbledore, Sirius, and McGonagall explained the relevant events that led to the horcrux hunt. Remus was wide-eyed as he listened in rapt attention as they went through the memory's arrival from some alternate future, the assembling of the horcrux hunting team, and their discoveries thus far. He didn't interrupt until Dumbledore finished listing the suspected horcruxes they identified over the summer.

"Slytherin's locket… Was that?" he asked, his eyes bouncing from Dumbledore to Harry and Sirius. Dawning comprehension flashed across his face as Sirius nodded. "I knew there was something else about that thing!"

"Which explains why we couldn't tell you at the time…" replied Sirius regretfully. "Despite how much we wanted to."

"We didn't want to keep it from you," added Harry earnestly. "We would have told you if we could."

Remus stared into the distance for a few long moments.

"I must admit that it was largely due to my own reticence to add any to our initial group that kept you in the dark," said Dumbledore quietly. "Though it may come as little comfort under the circumstances, my unwillingness to share with you previously was due to my own misgivings about too many knowing these secrets and not due to any doubt in your character or ability.

"With that being said, the five of us all spoke highly of your skill and determination when we met after the discovery of the locket. Sirius, not for the first time, argued for your inclusion in our number." Remus gave a silent huff of a laugh as he glanced at his friend, who cocked his head to the side and shrugged. Dumbledore allowed himself a weary smile. "The reasons for bringing you into the fold were many, and the sole reason to abstain was my desire to not see our group expanded unnecessarily."

The headmaster heaved a long sigh as he looked at Remus steadily. "If you would be willing to forgive an old man for withholding such information from you, I believe it would greatly benefit our group to extend the invitation to you."

There was a twinge of hurt in Remus' voice when he spoke, but his jaw was set and his eyes were clear. "A chance to help bring down Voldemort? How could I refuse?"

It took another hour for them to get Remus caught up on the rest of the group's work. Sirius spent a good deal of time explaining the leads that he and Kingsley had been chasing, and Dumbledore was especially detailed when chronicling their foray into the old Gaunt shack and the dismantling of the Ring's protections. Harry's former professor beamed with pride when the headmaster described Harry's use of the Patronus to fend off the smokey figures produced by the horcrux. McGonagall shared about their Arithmancy which determined how many horcruxes could be made and the order of their creation.

Remus absorbed the deluge of information well, asking occasional questions but mostly listening and nodding along. It didn't surprise Harry that his former professor was eager to join the search for more horcruxes. With Kingsley more tied up with official Auror duties, especially since the Azkaban breakout, Remus would be paired with Sirius on horcrux-finding missions. The group was still short on leads for what the other horcruxes might be, but there was general consensus that Hufflepuff's Cup was a likely suspect.

While the adults did their best to bring Remus up to speed, the weight of the prophecy began weighing on Harry's mind. He did his best to focus on the horcrux hunt, but he kept dwelling on how alone he felt as the one singled out by the prophecy. His inability to share any of it with Ginny, Ron, and Hermione seared in his chest like a burning coal rattling around his heart. A small, hopeful part of him dared to wonder if his friends could be included, too, considering that Remus had been brought in.

None of the three had any experience with Occlumency, and Harry thought that Dumbledore would never have shared the information about the prophecy until he had become proficient in defending his mind. As the adults arranged schedules to plan a meeting that would include all six horcrux hunters, Harry allowed his mind to wander to the faint possibility of his three closest friends learning Occlumency.
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