Albus Dumbledore was sitting at his desk in his office, surrounded by the snoozing portraits of the past headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts. At the sound of a sharp rap on the door, he lifted his head from the pile of tedious but important correspondence that was an unfortunate part of being headmaster. Still distracted from what he had been reading, he pondered for only a moment who would come to speak with him at this hour.
"Enter, Severus," he called. The hook-nosed Defence Against the Dark Arts professor entered. It was obvious from the haunted look in his eyes and the stoop as he staggered in that he had been tortured severely. Rising to his feet, Dumbledore moved to help him to a seat. "Why did he do this? Has he discovered you?"
"He has known the entire time. He kept me alive this long because of his need for a skilled Potions Master. That and he planned to use me as a messenger this evening. Fourteen years ago, a second prophecy was made and a Death Eater stationed in the Ministry told him where to find it. The Dark lord demanded that I tell you what it said."
"Very well, please do so," started Dumbledore.
Snape leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees and his fists clenched. "Headmaster, please listen carefully. It is most important that you understand this the first time." He sat forward and took a deep breath.
The Emerald-eyed champion will have one chance to learn the power by the Dark lord unknown. The flame-haired maiden whom he saved from the serpent King owns his heart and to him must be wed. By the new Dawn of his sixteenth year, a bond must form, or all that is light shall fail. The one born as the seventh month dies shall fail in his mission and the Dark lord shall reign unchallenged for one thousand years. The champion will have one chance to learn the power by the Dark lord unknown.
"The Dark Lord seems to think this means that Potter should have married someone by New Year's Day or we will lose the war. It seems that Potter will be unable to stop the Dark Lord if he didn't. But to whom should he have been wed?" Snape growled.
Dumbledore fell backward into his chair as he sat down at his desk. The ever-present twinkle in his eyes was extinguished and for some unexplainable reason, tears appeared in those brilliant blue eyes.
Quietly, he called a house elf to bring Madam Pomfrey to care for Snape. "This is not a good thing. Please excuse me, Severus, but I must have a moment to consider this new development. This is certainly not a good thing, and all implications must be considered before I can take any further action."
Madam Pomfrey bustled in moments later and began to tend to Snape. She quickly made him drink an energy-restoring potion and then helped him out of his chair, guiding him down the spiralling stairs to the Hospital wing for further treatment.
As Snape left the office, he heard Dumbledore sigh, "This is going to be a very long night."
~ * ~
When Harry arrived the next afternoon, he found himself in Professor McGonagall's office. She was supervising the Gryffindor students arriving by Floo after their Christmas holidays, and she almost pounced on him as he stumbled out of the fireplace. Ron and Ginny, who had preceded him, were standing by the door waiting for him and both had similar concerned looks on their faces when she sent them back to Gryffindor Tower while telling Harry to wait.
Harry saw them glance back as they left and was startled by McGonagall when she said, "Mr Potter, Professor Dumbledore needs to speak to you. He said that it was rather urgent."
Harry opened his eyes in surprise at this, but quickly replied. "Yes, Professor, is there anything else you can tell me?"
"No, Mr. Potter. Please do hurry," she said as she turned to her fire to await the next student arrival.
Harry prompted her, "Um, Professor, the password for the gargoyle statue?"
"Yes, sorry, Mr. Potter. The password is Mars Bars." McGonagall answered as she dismissed Harry and turned her attention back to the Floo.
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said as he turned to continue on his way to the Headmaster's office.
As Harry walked quickly through the halls he wondered to himself why Dumbledore would want to see him so soon after returning from the Christmas Holidays. 'Could this have anything to do with that feeling I had the other night? I don't think Moony or Mr. Weasley would have repeated what I told them in confidence.'
Harry paused briefly in front of the gargoyle guarding the stairway to the Headmaster's office, gathering his thoughts. He glanced around and then muttered the password. Shaking his head as he marvelled at the Headmaster's absurd love of Muggle sweets, Harry mounted the moving staircase, and spiralled up. "Surely, if it was this important he would have contacted me at the Weasleys', and not waited for me to get back from the holidays," he told himself.
Because Harry was so uneasy about this meeting with the Headmaster, the ride up the stairs seemed to take an hour, but was really no more than thirty seconds. Arriving at the top of the stairs, he stepped onto the landing outside the door of the Head's office. "Well, I better get this over with," he muttered to himself, and forcing an outward appearance of calm that he really didn't feel, he reached to knock on the door.
However, before he could knock, Dumbledore called, "Come in, Harry."
"How does he do that?" Harry wondered aloud as he opened the door and entered. "You wanted to speak with me, sir?"
"Yes, Harry. Please have a seat. Would you like a Sherbet Lemon?" greeted Dumbledore.
Harry noted that Dumbledore displayed an outward calm, but there was a tension in the air that he could not identify the cause of. "Thank you, sir, but no, thank you." Harry sat on the edge of the offered seat, but chose not to accept the sweet. "Professor McGonagall was not able to tell me why you needed to see me, sir."
"That is because I did not tell her, Harry. You see, this information was not something I felt comfortable sharing with anyone. Per our agreement of last June, I am telling you something concerning both yourself and Voldemort as soon as I am able. Unfortunately, I find myself in an undesirable situation," Dumbledore began, causing Harry to groan, because if Dumbledore thought it was bad, that usually meant that it was going to be horrible for Harry.
Dumbledore noted Harry's reaction and continued, "Harry, in this case I am afraid that I must agree with your assessment of the situation. It seems that... I have... made a grievously large mistake." Dumbledore paled, his usual twinkle was gone from his eyes, and he looked absolutely ancient.
"Something should have happened by New Year's Eve, but didn't," Harry commented dryly and without thinking.
"How did you know? I was only given the information yesterday evening, and was not able to verify it until this morning," Dumbledore asked, surprise evident in his voice.
"Unlucky guess," Harry responded. "All day long on New Year's Eve I had a feeling of extreme unease. It only got worse as the day went on, until midnight. Since then, I have had what can only be described as a nagging feeling of hopelessness. Almost as if the world were ending. So what was it that was missed?" Harry said with a frown.
Dumbledore drew a breath and while slowly releasing it, began to tell Harry the news. "I am unsure if I really want to tell you this," he confessed, "but there has been a second prophecy discovered. It basically stated that you had to marry a certain young woman before midnight New Year's Eve, or the war against Voldemort would be lost..."
"Bloody hell," interrupted Harry. "How was I supposed to get married? I don't even have a girlfriend." Harry began to rant and stood to prowl the room like a caged predator. "And I am sure that none of the girls I know would be interested without some real work on my part."
"No, Harry, Miss Chang would most certainly not fulfil the requirements set by this second prophecy, and neither, for that matter, would your friends Miss Lovegood or Miss Granger, nor any other young woman in your year or above." Harry stopped pacing, realizing that Dumbledore had ruled out most of the girls he knew, and that really left only one person. 'Surely it couldn't be…' Harry thought to himself before he turned and faced Dumbledore who looked him straight in the eye and recited the second prophecy for him.
Harry listened to the prophecy as he dropped heavily back in the chair. With his suspicions confirmed, he found himself speaking before thinking. "There is no way possible that it could be her. No, I would never consider it … would I?" he added almost as an afterthought.
Dumbledore asked softly, "Who can it not be, Harry? Why would you never consider it?"
"Why would you think it would be Ginny Weasley?" Harry immediately said, realizing only after saying it aloud that he had done so.
Dumbledore looked at Harry with what seemed a calculating expression on his face. "Harry, Miss Weasley would be a nearly perfect match for the girl of that prophecy. The only question that I have is; does she own your heart?" Dumbledore's words broke into Harry's thoughts, making him realize what he had been dreading since seeing Ginny with Dean last September.
He tried to hide his feelings, failing miserably and after pausing at Dumbledore's more thoughtful expression, Harry spoke, "But Ginny and I are just friends; she's dating one of my dorm mates. Besides, she got over her crush on me years ago. She doesn't have that kind of interest in me anymore; any attempt to get her interested in me now would be disastrous to our friendship."
"I understand your concern, Harry; however, prophecies do not often ask the people they concern if they like each other. Had only one or two past events been different, I find that the thought of seeing you and Miss Weasley together would be a great deal easier to believe," Dumbledore said with a knowing look focused on Harry.
"Well, those events happened as they did, so how does knowing this help us now?" Harry commented dryly.
"I believe that knowledge is truly a great weapon, Harry. And often find that what we want most can often be found with a little research," Dumbledore replied.
"Okay, what are we going to do about this now that we know? What help is it for us to know something after it is too late to act on it? I would think a Time-Turner might be of help if there were still any left after the battle at the Ministry last spring," Harry said thoughtfully.
"True. We need to consider our options very carefully. However, a Time-Turner would be of no help in this situation as it only allows a person to go back twenty-four hours at most. Now, as to Miss Weasley, it will be important to consider your words when you talk to her next. She should be informed as soon as possible," Dumbledore said.
Harry looked up sharply at the headmaster. "Professor, I think that I should leave telling her anything about this to you. I have enough people trying to hex, jinx, and curse me as it is. Now that I think of it, I will also let you be the one to tell Mr. and Mrs. Weasley about the situation."
Dumbledore paled even more at the thought of telling either of the Weasley women of the fact that Ginevra and Harry should already be married, and that this particular oversight would now very likely cost them the war. He knew that despite Harry's assertion to the contrary, young Miss Weasley still carried a torch for Harry, and had occasionally been heard to comment on how nice it would be to be alone with Harry in a broom cupboard.
Harry and Dumbledore discussed the other situations for another few hours before Harry said, glancing at his watch, "Sir, it is really late and I awoke earlier than usual this morning."
"You're right, Harry," Dumbledore said. "I will keep working on this situation. One more thing; would you have a problem if I asked for a little help on this matter from some of your friends?"
"Who?" asked Harry.
"Well, Harry, Miss Granger is one of those I was thinking of. In addition, Miss Lovegood and a couple of others who I believe would be useful in this case," Dumbledore said.
"Sir," Harry began, "I really wish that my friends didn't have to know about this. They have enough things to worry about. I know Ginny is happy in her relationship with Dean Thomas, so I certainly hope she doesn't find out, yet." Dumbledore nodded in