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SIYE Time:11:34 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: 38039; Chapter Total: 243
Awards: View Trophy Room






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An hour after much of the castle cleared out for the Easter holidays, Harry found himself in one of a half-dozen chairs arranged in a circle within Professor Dumbledore's office. Across from him sat the headmaster, flanked by McGonagall and Kingsley's open seat, who was chatting with Remus in hushed tones. Sirius sat to Harry's right and kept whispering conspiratorially to his godson while pointing at the Auror and former professor as they spoke. Harry didn't fully believe that Kingsley was threatening Remus with harm if he didn't figure things out with Tonks, but he couldn't help noticing the nervousness the man exuded as he slumped down into his seat.

"Splendid! I am exceedingly grateful that each of you was able to attend this gathering," began Dumbledore with a broad smile. "Let us first acknowledge our newest co-conspirator. Remus, we look forward to the wisdom and skill you will undoubtedly bring to this endeavor. Having had a few weeks to digest the deluge of information with which you've been presented, do you have any pressing questions or concerns? And would you share how the search has progressed?"

"Nothing ground-breaking to report," answered Remus. "Chasing down leads in the horcrux hunt is a lot different than werewolf diplomacy, but I feel like I'm getting the hang of it. Sirius and I haven't discovered anything of note yet, but we're crossing possibilities off the list. I suppose the main concern is that we're running low on realistic options where a horcrux might be hidden. Most of the places we've searched seem unlikely to harbor something of such value."

"Yeah, we were already running into that issue when King and I were scouting options," added Sirius. "Now with Remus, we've moved past the options we thought were unlikely and started in on long shots."

Dumbledore peered over his half-moon spectacles and stroked his long beard. "I think it wise to consider some alternative locations that may be more likely to contain a horcrux, although they will be more onerous to search. However, unless one of you has reason to suggest otherwise, I would counsel that we first tend to the matter of Voldemort's interest in the Department of Mysteries."

The headmaster's eyes moved from person to person, but none spoke up against the idea.

"Very well. Kingsley, would you be so kind as to start us with an update on the health of Nymphadora?"

"Gladly," said the Auror with a smile. "Tonks is a fighter and a good deal tougher than she might appear. The bites she received are no joke, but she's young and strong enough that the Healers expect her to be back on her feet within a matter of days. Things might've been different had she not been discovered so quickly, but I'd be shocked if she isn't already arguing with the staff that she's well enough to be released."

"That is certainly welcome news," said Dumbledore, his head bobbing up and down. "Her successful gambit to thwart Voldemort's attempted incursion into the Department of Mysteries is not likely to end his plans to gain access to the prophecy, but it has provided us with insights into his methods and means."

"Any word on Avery? Or Bode?" asked Remus.

"None yet, but we've got an arrest warrant out for them. Both are up there on the list with everyone who escaped Azkaban." Sirius let out a conspicuous cough, which drew a smile from Kingsley. "Well, not everyone who escaped Azkaban. Avery has always been a power broker due to soft influence and a willingness to exchange galleons for favors. With him on the run, it'll mean one less problem for the Wizengamot. It's disquieting to know Voldemort had a spy within the Department of Mysteries, but at least he's been flushed out."

Kingsley produced his small notepad from a pocket in his cloak and flipped several pages over as he spoke. "Minister Bones has approved increased security due to the circumstances. We'll have an Auror posted there at all times, not just overnight. The Unspeakables seem confident that the protections within the Department of Mysteries are up to snuff, but Croaker is looking at what could be added anyway."

"Discerning more about Voldemort's allies may prove to be the most crucial detail we glean from the encounter," said Dumbledore cryptically, his face unreadable. "Before delving too deeply into that subject, however, I would like to examine the possibilities that our enemy may be yet considering to retrieve the prophecy. I think it unlikely that Voldemort would attempt the same strategy a second time, especially after losing the leverage of a Death Eater working within the department. He does, however, seem to have an alternative means of procuring the prophecy in mind."

"We know that it involves Mr. Potter," said McGonagall matter-of-factly. "Voldemort has been planting the seeds of such a plan in his head for nearly a year."

"Perhaps he has, but perhaps not. After considering the evidence, I am no longer certain that the dreams Harry has experienced have been intentionally planted." Harry listened carefully as the headmaster explained himself. "Under either circumstance, let us assume that Voldemort desires to use Harry as a means to retrieve the prize he covets. An increasingly desperate Voldemort will be dangerous and unpredictable in ways a more thoughtful, methodical Voldemort would not be."

"So, how do we keep Harry safe and make sure the prophecy stays out of his grasp?" asked Sirius.

"I believe our best course of action will be to anticipate potential means he might employ and prepare accordingly," answered Dumbledore serenely. "For example, the visions of the corridor could be a precursor for an attempt to convince Harry to enter the Department of Mysteries or a gambit to build curiosity in him. Minerva and Severus have done an outstanding job of mitigating this potential means through their Occlumency lessons, and Harry's choice to alert Sirius and Remus about his misgiving expedited our decision to explain the prophecy and why Voldemort might seek to lure him there."

Kingsley scribbled something on his notepad as he nodded. "He's already kidnapped Harry by way of a portkey. Has anyone taught him the charm to identify one?"

Sirius and Remus both looked at each other aghast before turning to Dumbledore, who appeared similarly stricken. McGonagall's pained expression as she covered her mouth with her hand spoke volumes.

"Alright, I'd say that would be a good place to begin," said Kingsley gravely. "I'm sure that the relative safety of Hogwarts contributed to the oversight, but protective enchantments can't be our only means of defense. Let's think through other options Voldemort might use and figure out what we can do to protect against them."

The conversation that followed was unpleasant for Harry, not only because it revolved around the myriad of ways Voldemort could kidnap him, but also all the increasingly onerous ways the group decided to prevent such an occurrence. By the time the discussion concluded, he had been assigned to learn the complicated Portkey Identification Charm with Professor Flitwick, was to undergo more thorough training to throw off the Imperius Curse, and had been forbidden from attending the final Hogsmeade trip. Harry did his best not to allow his face to look as sour as he felt as Dumbledore began to transition to another topic.

"The past few months have not yielded any horcruxes from the locations we have investigated. With three more to identify and locate, I would like your permission to adventure well past verified fact and into speculation."

The headmaster paused to allow for an interjection, but all seemed quite happy to give him the floor. He rose to his feet and began to slowly pace as he spoke.

"Over the last term, I have been doing my best to consider the clues with which we have been presented. Though we cannot yet be certain, our timeline of when the horcruxes were created leads me to believe that Voldemort had not yet completed his seventh when he attacked the Potters. If that is the case, then it seems likely that he would have done so at his earliest opportunity."

"Not necessarily," contested McGonagall skeptically. "He began creating them while he was still in school and had many years in between then and his fall to finish the task."

"True, but from what we know, it seems that he saved the horcrux creation process for murders he considered most meaningful to his rise, much in the same way that the objects he used were of greater value to him. Myrtle's death served as his first murder, and I believe the ring's horcrux coincides with his father's death. Even the killing of Hepzibah Smith could be considered a reclaiming of his birthright and heritage as Heir of Slytherin." Dumbledore's face looked grave as his eyes fell on Harry. "It seems reasonable to presume that Lord Voldemort planned to create a horcrux the night he murdered James and Lily. It would have been an alluring opportunity to mock death by further cementing his immortality at the expense of the one prophesied to stand against him."

Harry shuddered involuntarily. None of the adults had gone into much detail about what sort of ritual was required to make a horcrux, but Harry imagined it was nothing short of terrible. He tried to put those thoughts aside as the headmaster continued.

"If we work under the assumption that Voldemort was at least one horcrux shy of his desired goal, there is a possible option that might answer another question I have been pondering…" Dumbledore peered over the spectacles that were perched precariously at the end of his crooked nose. "Harry's description of the events at the graveyard has concerned me since he first relayed them that fateful night. I believe that Voldemort was able to possess an ally that helped turn the tide in his favor for whom I had not accounted."

Harry's mind raced to Crouch, who'd hoodwinked the entire school into thinking he was Mad-Eye Moody for a full school year. Had the man been literally possessed by Voldemort when he tried to portkey Harry back to the graveyard?

Dumbledore gave a knowing smile to the confused-looking Harry. "I do not think that Lord Voldemort possessed any of his human servants. Neither the description of Pettigrew's actions in the graveyard nor Crouch's here on Hogwarts grounds strike me as the work of a man possessed. What has captured my attention, however, is the peculiar behavior of his pet snake, Nagini. It communicated and attacked in perfect concert with Voldemort's wishes, a feat that would be exceedingly difficult for even the most accomplished Parselmouth.

"In the months following Pettigrew's escape, a Muggle named Frank Bryce, who served as the caretaker for the old Riddle property, was murdered. Because of Harry, we know that this was also the work of Lord Voldemort. If his desire to create a seventh horcrux had not yet been fulfilled, this murder would have served as an opportune moment to rectify the error."

"Wait, you think he made his snake into a horcrux?" asked Sirius in consternation. "Wouldn't that undermine the whole point of a horcrux to have it inside another living thing?"

"Yes, there would certainly be many potential drawbacks to that course of action," agreed Dumbledore with a nod. "But consider his circumstances: Voldemort believed that splitting his soul into seven parts would be part of his invincibility, yet he may have found himself one horcrux shy of his goal. He had been too weak to take his own physical form for over ten years and had only just been capable of using a weak form that would have infuriated him. The prospect of completing his long-sought task and gaining greater control of his serpent may have been alluring."

"That would explain some of what we heard from Tonks," mused Kinglsey quietly. "She said that her spells couldn't penetrate the snake's hide. If it were a horcrux, it'd be a lot harder to damage. Nothing she recalled casting at it would have been enough to do damage to a horcrux."

"Having a piece of his soul within the creature would likely make it more receptive to possession, even at a distance," posited McGonagall thoughtfully. "The notion isn't outside the realm of possibility."

"It's definitely worth keeping in mind," added Sirius. "If nothing else, maybe one of us will run into it at some point and can capture or kill it ourselves. Even being close enough to cast a Homenum Revelio might answer some questions."

"So, if we think the last horcrux might be the snake, is the consensus still that the third was probably the Hufflepuff Cup?" Remus' amber eyes landed on Dumbledore. "And there's no strong idea of what the other one might be?"

"That is our conjecture at this moment," replied Dumbledore with a nod. "We have posited that, with artifacts from two of the four founders of Hogwarts turned into horcruxes, Voldemort may have targeted something belonging to Rowena Ravenclaw or Godric Gryffindor. Items belonging to either of them would be exceptionally challenging to procure, even for one as resourceful as Tom Riddle. But they would serve as connections between him and Hogwarts, the place his magical talents were first honed and the only place he ever considered to be 'home.'"

"I spent a lot of nights poring over the memories that Albus collected," added Kingsley as he flipped through pages in his notebook. "From what I can tell, that makes the most sense. I quietly went back through the case files regarding suspected murders in that time frame, and there wasn't anything that would lead me to believe Voldemort was targeting something other than the cup. But there's just not much of a trail to go on to determine what else he might have used."

"The two items known to belong to Gryffindor are both in this room, as we speak. Minerva, Kingsley, and I have examined them at length and we are confident that Voldemort has not been successful in binding a piece of his soul to either one, but I will not be insulted if anyone would like to double-check my work."

"Not necessary," said Remus with a wave of his hand. "I can't imagine how he'd have managed to turn the sword or the Sorting Hat into a horcrux."

Dumbledore smiled kindly as he continued. "Artifacts relating to Rowena Ravenclaw are even more rare. Though I have kept my ear to the ground for many years, I must admit I have yet to find any leads worth pursuing."

"In that case, it may be wise to focus our time and energy on locating the cup," said McGonagall. "When we first discussed possible locations a horcrux might be hidden away, I believe that Kingsley suggested the chance that another might have been entrusted to one of his followers. Considering the impasse we have reached in our search, it may be worth revisiting the possibility."

"That still doesn't make sense to me, because if a Death Eater had the means to revive Voldemort, I don't understand why they didn't just go ahead and do it?" remarked Sirius in frustration. "Why wait around for him to come back and melt back into society?"

Dumbledore ceased his pacing behind Fawkes, petting the bird's head as he began to speak. "As I understand it, Lucius Malfoy was punished quite harshly for allowing the diary to be destroyed. But I think that even a follower as useful and well-connected as Lucius would be unlikely to survive had he knowingly lost one of his master's horcruxes. The information we have gathered suggests that the Death Eaters are not fully aware of the significance of the diary or what uses it could have served."

"And if they didn't know it was a horcrux," added Kingsley. "There's the chance that another Death Eater has a horcrux without knowing what it really is."

"You think there's a chance Voldemort gave horcruxes to multiple of his followers without telling them how it could be used to resurrect him?" Remus looked incredulous as his gaze shifted from Kingsley to Dumbledore.

A small, sad smile emerged on the headmaster's face as Fawkes leaned his head into Dumbledore's hand. "He wouldn't be the first leader to withhold crucial information from those most capable of using it well."

Remus chuckled darkly. "Then let's hope that he doesn't learn from his mistakes as gracefully as some others I know."

"I'll work on a list of Death Eater residences and other pertinent information," said Kingsley while scribbling quickly into his notebook. "Infiltrating their homes won't be easy, but at least it's something that the Ministry can take an active role in pursuing."

"Wouldn't put it past them to use Gringotts, either," mused Sirius. "But I have my doubts about whether the goblins would allow anyone to search vaults, even if the owner was an escaped convict."

"I, too, have little hope that the goblins will allow us access to the secrets hidden within their vaults," said Dumbledore as he returned to his seat. "Yet it seems wise to begin considering what options we may possess should such a need arise."

"Mr. Potter has been unusually quiet," said McGonagall thoughtfully. "Is that due to so much of this weighing heavily upon you, or is there something else of which we should be aware?"

A few thoughts had been weighing on Harry, not the least of which was that each step forward in destroying the horcruxes was another inexorable step toward a final confrontation between himself and Voldemort. He did his best to push down the dread of that thought as he tried to focus on matters more at hand.

"Professor Dumbledore explained some of the ways that Voldemort is like me. Or at least some similarities between how we grew up. Not knowing about magic and then having Hogwarts become like a home."

Heat began rising to Harry's cheeks as he spoke. It was one thing to discuss Voldemort's plans with adults whom he deeply respected, but it was another thing entirely to note how his experiences mirrored the most powerful dark wizard alive.

"I've been trying to think about where I would have hidden a horcrux, if I were in Voldemort's position." He didn't mean for it to happen, but a shiver ran down Harry's spine as he spoke. "I know there would be a lot of downsides to placing one here, but I keep thinking about how Hogwarts means so much to me. I know we didn't find anything when we searched the Chamber of Secrets, but I can't shake the feeling that Hogwarts is important to him."

Kingsley grunted an assent as he scribbled something in his notepad. "It's as good of a lead as we've got at the moment. We know Riddle had access to the castle as a student and that he returned as an adult. The timeline fits our presumptions about when he created his horcruxes, and there's still the chance that he could have had one of his followers stow it away on his behalf."

"I will be the first to admit that I have not fully plumbed the depths of the castle's secrets," conceded Dumbledore. "Though we have eliminated the most obvious hiding place as a possibility, a more thorough search of Hogwarts may prove advantageous."

"A fine idea, but one I hope could wait until after the end of the term," added McGonagall. "I'd prefer to undertake such a task without worrying about dodging inquisitive students or the prying eyes of certain staff members."

Her eyes narrowed and her lips grew thin as the professor was unable or unwilling to mask her feelings for who Harry assumed was Professor Umbridge.

"That makes sense to me," replied Sirius with a nod. "Remus and I might even have a way to help keep track of our progress as we're searching."

"Then it is settled," concluded Dumbledore. "We will reconvene after the school year ends to do a more thorough search of the castle and grounds. Before we adjourn, is there any other pressing business to discuss?"

The meeting had already lasted quite a while, but a nagging thought in Harry's mind kept vying for his attention. The headmaster's kindly gaze fell upon him as he raised his brow invitingly.

"Well, I've been thinking about something for a while, but I'm not sure if it would ever be an option," began Harry cautiously. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and tried to remember the way he'd practiced saying this in his head. "First off, I want to say that I understand why we aren't broadcasting the horcrux hunt to everyone in the world, or even in the Order. And I'm not sure when or if this would be a possibility…"

Harry fidgeted in his seat as he tried to bring up the matter gently. He locked eyes with the headmaster and pressed forward.

"Let me ask this in a different way: what would Ginny, Ron, and Hermione need to do to make it so I could talk with them about all this?" The words tumbled out of Harry like ice that had stubbornly clung to the bottom of a glass until they could be held back no longer. "I mean, Occlumency would be a given, of course, but I think they could figure it out with enough time and practice. The Advanced Defense course you mentioned when we talked about careers would be important, and I'm sure there would be other things that they'd need to do but I haven't thought about them…"

He winced slightly as he trailed off. The argument he'd rehearsed had been a great deal better thought out and much less frantic. The feeling of nausea rising up in his stomach did not help matters.

Sirius let out his bark of a laugh and clapped Harry on the shoulder, but his eyes met Remus'. "Well, you were right about the timing, but I called that he'd name Ginny first."

Confused, Harry peered at his godfather's smiling face and then to Remus' knowing grin.

"Forgive us, Harry, if we do not appear startled by your request," placated Dumbledore, whom Harry thought looked exceptionally pleased about something. "In the months that we have labored together, it has grown increasingly clear that your love for and reliance upon your friends is one of your greatest strengths. Those of us who have had the pleasure of witnessing your growth by leaps and bounds in our defense lessons can attest to your commitment to one another and to the ways your strengths build upon each other and bolster weaknesses that might otherwise be your undoing."

A slight twinge of frustration bubbled up in Harry at the transparency he had apparently displayed. He had been quite sure prior to this meeting that his suggestion would be shocking and dismissed out of hand. With hope growing in his chest, Harry suddenly wondered if there was a chance they would consider the idea.

"I will admit that I am quite pleased with the care you have taken to not share information from our work with your friends. It is not lost on me that it was the oldest of our number, rather than the youngest, who proved incapable of holding his tongue." Bright blue eyes danced with mischief behind Dumbledore's spectacles. "It would be fair to say that the three you mentioned are not yet in a position to learn the workings of this group. Their minds are unprotected from external assault and could be tricked or coerced into divulging information that might lead to the ruin of all, themselves included.

"Yet it is also true that I am not growing any younger. Though this group possesses a great deal of youth, we court calamity far more so than most by opposing Lord Voldemort. Death may yet catch up to any of us, whether from age or at the end of a wand. Should our goal of destroying Voldemort's tethers to life extend far enough into the future, there may come a time when other witches and wizards will need to take up the mantle that we can no longer carry."

McGonagall nodded stoically. "Though Miss Weasley, Miss Granger, and Mr. Weasley are not yet ready to be entrusted with such knowledge, I must say that my hopes for them have grown in the past months. Time will tell if they can prove themselves up to the task, but they will certainly have the opportunity to do so."

"Look, Harry, we hope that this is all over and done with long before they can get trained up enough for us to even consider looping them in," said Sirius earnestly. "But if we're at this for years, it wouldn't hurt to have some more potential members waiting in the wings. I remember how much it ate up your mum and dad to not be able to tell us about why they went into hiding and keeping this whole horcrux thing from Moony for so long was really hard for both of us. You've shouldered heavy burdens and you've honored your commitment to not share them with anyone."

"We understand that all this has put you into the position of basically being an Unspeakable," added Kingsley with a wry smile. "And I must admit that I'd much rather see you join the Aurors…"

The headmaster nodded. "In summary, if you seek to know when your friends may be able to more fully join this work, the answer is 'Not yet.' While certainly not the most satisfactory answer available, perhaps it will prove enough to buoy your own hopes and encourage you to aid them as they work to master the skills required."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he peered down his crooked nose at Harry, whose heart was already swelling with eager anticipation. Even if it was still a long way off, the hope of finally confiding in his friends felt like the first glimmer of sunshine pushing its way against the darkness of an exceptionally long night.
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