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 understanding, his face displaying sympathy.
Harry stood and began pacing, trying to work out his feelings about his friends, or indeed anyone finding out about this second prophecy or the problems it would cause.
They deserve to know the danger they are in, one voice said in his head.
Harry responded, Yes I know that, but some things should not be discussed.
You mean because of how Ron would react to you and Ginny being a couple? a second voice said. Why this one sounded like Arthur Weasley, Harry couldn't say. But it made him pause and consider his reasons before answering it.
Well, of course I am worried about what Ron would think. He's my best mate, and I don't want him to hate me. Harry shook his head as he considered his own words. He stopped pacing and looked directly at Dumbledore before saying aloud, "How could I face them if they knew, sir? It is hard enough being the hero they expect me to be. To have them be disappointed that I can't save them anymore, I don't think I could handle how they would treat me."
"I understand you are not happy about others learning of this, but I promise to not tell them anything they do not need to know. Now I think you should consider the fact that these people are your friends and they will love and respect you anyway. In fact, it would probably be better received if you were the one to tell them. That way you could better judge their reactions and tell them what you feel they need to know. Now it is late so I guess we should call it a night."
"Very well, sir. I will try to tell them something. Good night, Professor."
"Good night, Harry," Dumbledore said, ending the discussion and letting Harry return to the Gryffindor common room.
~ * ~
A few minutes after reaching the portrait of the Fat Lady, Harry saw Hermione returning from her prefect rounds. He was quiet as he waited for her to give the password so they could both get into the common room.
"You forgot to ask for the password from Professor McGonagall, didn't you?" she asked when she saw him waiting by the portrait. Hermione walked up to him, and without pausing for a breath, said, "Harry, Professor McGonagall said you had to go to see the Headmaster. What was so important that he kept you out past curfew?"
Harry didn't answer her immediately but simply looked at her and then at the closed portrait hole before whispering, "Not out here."
Once inside, Harry said, "Dumbledore received some news and wanted to keep me updated on what was happening." Dropping into his favourite chair before continuing, Harry said, "He also said that he had a research project to discuss with you, Luna, and a few others he trusts. Apparently, he wants you to work with him on solving a problem that has arisen. He asked me to tell you to meet with him tomorrow after breakfast."
Sitting in the chair beside him, Hermione studied Harry's facial expression and body posture. Then coming to a decision, she said, "Harry, something must really be bothering you. You are just not your usual self today." Harry quietly stared at the fire not sure how to answer, so she continued, "Does it have anything to do with what Dumbledore wanted to discuss with you? Was it bad news?"
Harry quickly answered both questions at once, "Yes!"
Pleased to have received some type of answer, Hermione pressed forward with her questions. "Well, what was it he wanted to talk about? Did it have anything to do with Voldemort?"
"Yes, it did," Harry replied. He paused, watching Hermione solemnly, giving her the impression that he had grave news. "Hermione, we are really good friends, right?"
"Of course we are. Why do you ask?"
"I need you to understand what I am asking and why I am asking it." Harry drew a breath. "A second prophecy was brought to Dumbledore's attention a little over twenty-four hours ago. It said that I had to marry a girl fitting a very specific description by a certain date, which has recently passed."
Hermione's derisive snort reminded Harry of what she thought of Divination, but he continued with his story. "Yes, I know that they are only accurate if someone believes in them. Unfortunately, this one is tied directly into the one that is already causing me problems."
"Harry, how can you be sure that this prophecy says the time has recently passed?" she asked.
Harry answered almost mechanically, "Because the recording orb in the Department of Mysteries was dead, and it was still active on the thirtieth of December."
"So, who would have been the lucky girl? Do I know her?"
"Um, Hermione, I need you to promise me that you will not tell anyone if I tell you." Harry looked her directly in the eye. "I know that she has a boyfriend and that she is happy with him. Now promise me you will say nothing, please."
"Alright, Harry, I promise to try to avoid saying anything to anyone. You know I will do my best, but I have to follow my conscience. If I am going to help, then I need to know everything that you can tell me. If this person is a friend of mine, then I think I could tell her in a discreet manner that will not endanger her current relationship."
Harry stared in astonishment, and then after a quick deliberation made the choice to tell her everything. "Hermione, you need to understand that I don't want to hurt anyone, and I think that knowing the information I am about to tell you, could cause problems with her relationship."
"I swear, Harry, that I will only tell her if I can be sure that it will not cause her a problem with her boyfriend. Okay?" Hermione said with a sombre expression.
"Good enough." Harry paused to consider how to begin. "If you were me, how would you have told a person you are only friends with that you had to get married by a certain date or else a Dark lord will rule the world? Especially if you had been told by some of that person's siblings that the person in question had feelings for you, and that you had been told that they said they had got over those feelings, but you really had no idea what to believe."
"Harry, please tell me that you are not talking about Ginny Weasley," Hermione practically squealed, while doing her best to keep her voice quiet. "She would be so hurt if that was the case and you did not at least tell her. Then again, she would not be happy that you and her were not together, especially if it was necessary to defeat Voldemort. How will you tell her, Harry? Are you planning to tell her soon or...?"
Hermione was off on a lengthy list of questions. Harry marvelled at how one of his two oldest friends seemed to be able to talk for almost ten minutes without appearing to take a breath. Finally realizing that he was not likely to end this rant without speaking quickly, he interrupted, "Hermione, will you please take a breath? You are starting to frighten me with these continuous questions. Please remember I can only answer one at a time, okay?" The last sounding more like a question than a statement. "Now, one at a time, and I will try to tell you everything that I know," Harry said.
"Um, okay." Hermione took a breath and started again. "I guess, I should ask them more slowly. Oh, I think I should also take notes on this. Wait right here, I'll be right back."
She jumped up and ran to her dormitory. 'Probably to get some parchment and a quill to take notes with', Harry thought. And sure enough she returned after quickly gathering parchment, quill, and ink. Hermione sat and unrolled the parchment, then opened the ink bottle, dipped the quill in, and began to write what Harry told her as she asked him to repeat some of his previous thoughts and ideas. Then she continued with more specific questions.
She wrote down her first question as she asked the same of Harry. "Harry, I need to ask you this first before I can do anything to help. Do you currently have, or have you had special feelings for Ginny?"
Harry's eyes were fixed as he looked anywhere except at Hermione. "What type of special feelings are you talking about?" he answered, trying to avoid this particular topic. He still wasn't sure if that was something he wanted to talk about, not even with Hermione.
"Please, Harry," Hermione said with surprising casualness. The hint of a mischievous smile appeared on her face before she continued, "Your blushing says more than your words. Now, will you just please answer the question. If you don't have feelings for her beyond friendship, it would be useless to go any further in this manner. Neither of you would be happy."
Harry took advantage of her pause to blurt out, "Alright, yes, I have feelings for her that go beyond friendship, but I am not sure even how to describe them. I will also say... umm," pausing for a moment to compose himself, he continued, "I have had these feelings for the past few years, but was unsure how to approach her, or if I even should."
This caused Hermione to pause. "Harry," she squealed, "how could you? Ginny cried herself to sleep so many nights, simply because you never noticed her."
Hermione paused for a second to glance at Harry as a realization came to her. She looked more closely into his eyes, confirming what she had just realized. "That is why you don't want to tell her," she said. "You're afraid. The brave conqueror of the mighty Dark Lord, the one who can send the greatest evil on earth running for his life, is afraid of a little, teenage, red-haired girl."
Looking closer still, Hermione realized even more. "No, you're not afraid, you're terrified. Is the thought of someone loving you unconditionally that frightening?"
"Not of being loved, but of losing the love offered by the only family I have ever known. If I did or said something that hurt her, they would never forgive me." Harry's voice dropped almost to a whisper.
"Now you know that is not true. Mrs. Weasley loves you as if you were her own son. Better even," Hermione began, "she would be as likely to blame Ginny for hurting you, as to blame you for hurting her. Oh dear, this is a conundrum, isn't it?"
"Now you see why I never said anything. I'm not even sure if I would call the feelings I have for her love or not. If I were to have to put a name to them, I would have to call them... desire for companionship and mutual understanding."
Harry paused, and then looked Hermione directly in the eye before saying, "You know that I think of you as the closest thing to a sister that I have ever known. I am about to trust you with something that I would never tell anyone else. Even telling that, I'm not sure if I want to say this, but it should help you to understand this situation better."
Harry took a deep breath and, slowly releasing it, he began, "This past summer, when we were at The Burrow, Ginny and I became close. The nightmares I was having about Sirius and the Ministry of Magic were causing me to wake after only a few hours of sleep each night. Rather than wake anyone, I would make my way downstairs as quietly as I could and find a relaxing position to sit for the rest of the morning. Not long after I was comfortable, Ginny would come and join me and we would sit and talk for hours as if we had been friends forever. The conversation was comfortable, and flowed between us as if it was natural. I must say that I enjoyed talking to her more than I ever enjoyed talking to you or Ron." Seeing the hurt look on Hermione's face, Harry continued quickly, "She would just sit and listen and let me talk until I had said everything I needed to say. I was unable to go back to bed, but would often find myself distracted from my troubles, and could convince myself for a short time I didn't have the whole weight of the world on my shoulders."
"Oh," Hermione commented. "I sometimes woke up and wondered where Ginny was, but always assumed she was out flying. She told me that she loved flying at night when she was by herself, because no one was there to judge or criticize her."
Harry nodded and then continued, "This lasted for the entire time I was visiting The Burrow this summer. Then we got on the train, and when I suggested we find a seat, she reminded me that she was dating Dean Thomas, and was going to sit with him." Harry paused as he remembered the hurt he had felt that morning. He continued a little more slowly, as if reluctant to say any more, but pressed on nevertheless. "I wished her a good day and after some searching, I found the cabin I was in when you and Ron joined me later. But not before being reminded one more time of the fact that she was with Dean and apparently had no feelings for me beyond simple friendship."
The tears that had been threatening to fall for the past few minutes slowly rolled down his cheeks as he asked Hermione the question that had been bothering him since that day. "Despite others telling me that Ginny had those kinds of feelings for me, I have never really seen any evidence of them. I mean, she would never stay in the same room with me, or talk to me. She treated me like I was some kind of horrifying monster. Then she started talking to me, and I thought things might soon change. I realized that I was starting to have feelings for her, but I didn't understand them at first. I started to consider trying to spend time getting to know her better, then that day in Hogsmeade you told me she had got over me and moved on.
"It was … uncomfortable to find that she was talking to me now, only because she had started going out with other blokes. I would say it was painful, but the feelings I had then, I really didn't understand them. That and I had a stupid crush on Cho." Tears falling freely now, Harry wiped his face, and whispered, "What was so wrong with me that she would only talk to or even stay in the same room with me if she was dating another bloke?"
Hermione had no idea what to say. After all, she was the one who had encouraged Ginny to go out with other people so Harry would notice her. "Harry," she said softly, wrapping him in a hug, "you really were interested in Ginny all of that time?"
"Looking back now and thinking about it, I have to say yeah, but I was so scared of destroying the rest of my little circle of friends that seemed so fragile. I..." He paused for a moment to try taking a calming breath, and continued, "I really didn't know how to even approach her. Look what a mess of things I made of my date with Cho. That should tell you why I was so afraid of messing things up with the Weasleys by asking Ginny out."
"Harry, you mean to tell me that you kept something that important from Ron and... well, from me at least. I can understand why you kept it from Ron, but how did you keep me from noticing your feelings in an unguarded moment?"
"Simple," Harry said, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "I was raised by the Dursleys, and when that happens, you learn to never let your feelings show, unless you want to lose everything that matters to you. Anytime I showed emotion growing up, I would often find myself on the receiving end of a beating by Dudley and his friends."
"Didn't your aunt and uncle ever say anything to him to stop him?"
"Well, sometimes they would give him umm... advice on how to make the punches hurt more, but never would they speak in my favour. Dumbledore said that even though they took me in grudgingly, they still took me in. But they had a reason for everything they did."
"Surely Dumbledore would have found someone better if he could."
"I know he would, but the fact remains that he didn't. The only consolation I have in all of that is the fact that Voldemort said that I was better protected there than even Dumbledore knew. What he meant by that, I have no clue."
"Well," Hermione began, glancing at her parchment again, "I think we need to get to bed: it appears I have a meeting with Dumbledore tomorrow." She smiled softly as she brushed Harry's hair from his forehead, exposing his famous scar. She nodded and, kissing him on the forehead, said with a short giggle, "Goodnight, Little Brother."
"Good night, Big Sister," said Harry with a smirk as he stood and glanced down at her, before making his way up the stairs to his dormitory.
Hermione had returned to the common room so quickly when she went for her quill that she had failed to notice the shadow that followed her down. Her belongings in her hands, she froze as she reached the bottom of the stairs, staring into the soft brown eyes of Ginny Weasley. "How much did you hear?" she asked, smiling gently.
"Enough," the redhead said. "What does he mean by that comment 'what was so wrong with me that she would only talk to or even stay in the same room with me only if she was dating another bloke?' I talked to him on countless occasions when I wasn't dating, and did he ever express any interest in me then?"
"He did say that one reason he never mentioned wanting to go out with you was that if you two did start dating and things went badly, he would lose not only his best mate, but the closest thing to a family he has ever known," Hermione said.
"But..." Ginny paused when another part of the conversation she had overheard came back to her. "Tom can't win, Hermione," she said suddenly. "We can't let him. There must be a way to cheat this prophecy. There must be."
"I know, Ginny," the older girl said, "but I need time and help to find it."
"You'll have as much help as I can give you, and I will bring those I trust with Harry's life. Not just the ones Dumbledore trusts, but we are going to need a cover story for those not in the Order."
"I know," Hermione replied. "But it really is late and we both need to get up early. This is your OWL year after all."
"Okay, good-night." Both girls hugged as they turned to climb the stairs. "Harry will win, and we will be there with him to celebrate the victory, and make that bastard Tom Riddle curse the day his parents conceived him," Ginny growled quietly.
The intensity of Ginny's emotions frightened Hermione for a moment, then she paused to consider what the younger girl had just said, and with a smile told her, "I have got to admit that is the best suggestion I have heard all day." Giggling, they climbed the stairs to their respective dorms and went to bed.
Ginny lay in bed a few minutes, thinking about all she had heard. 'How could Harry not know I had loved him all that time? How could he think that I would only talk to him... well, I did only really talk to him since I had started dating Michael and then Dean. What am I going to do about Dean?I really want to be with Harry, and I know that I can cheer him up if given the chance, but I honestly don't want to hurt Dean. He hasn't really given me a reason to break our relationship off.' She finally came to a decision, 'I can only hope that we will either grow apart, or Dean will find someone else to chase.'
Thinking to herself, she concluded, 'Ginny, you have really dug yourself into a mess this time.' Exhaustion took her soon after, but her sleep was plagued by strange dreams, and she found herself waking with little rest the next morning.
~ * ~
The following morning, shortly after breakfast, Hermione found herself sitting in Dumbledore's office, just as Harry had the evening before. The headmaster sat back in his chair behind his desk, his palms pressed together just under his chin. He looked unusually serious.
"Miss Granger," Albus Dumbledore began, "I have called you here to assist me in a little research project."
"This has to do with what you told Harry yesterday, correct, sir?" Hermione asked.
"Yes, it does. I assume he informed you of the entire problem then?"
"Yes, sir. And Ginny knows also. She overheard us talking and wants to do all she can to help."
"She knows and did not try to hex Harry for not telling her?" Dumbledore asked in astonishment.
"That is correct, sir," Hermione replied, and then thinking it best to continue, said, "she did, however, mumble something about hexing someone until they cursed their parents for the day they were conceived, but I really couldn't hear who she was talking about. Although I'm reasonably certain that she didn't mean you, sir, the possibility remains that if Harry loses to Voldemort, you might want to remain alert."
"Thank you, Miss Granger, I shall remember that," he said with a sombre nod. "Now to the reason I have asked you here. I would like you to begin researching the possibility of sending either a message or someone back in time, and the effects it might have on this situation." Hermione gasped, as Dumbledore continued, "In order to maximize the probability of finding a solution, please contact those you can trust in addition to Miss Lovegood and Miss Weasley. I will allow you unlimited access to the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts' library, my own private library, and the Black family library from Grimmauld Place. Any other place you may be able to gather information from without breaking too many rules will be helpful. I will also include some people from the Order I know will have Harry's best interest at heart such as Molly Weasley, and Remus Lupin."
Pausing for only a moment, Hermione asked, "Professor, what about the Room of Requirement? Do you think it might provide us with some helpful information?"
"Yes, Miss Granger, it could give us the answer we are looking for; however, the more information we can gather, the better our chances of success."
"Professor, you just mentioned wanting to include some people from the Order. Who among them could be most helpful in this situation?"
"Who might you ask if you were me, Miss Granger? In fact I think I will give you responsibility of putting this team together." Dumbledore paused before saying with more emphasis, "And ask those that you trust with Harry's life, because if too many people learn about this, then Voldemort will make every possible effort to prevent our success."
"Yes, sir. I will only talk to those I can trust, and no one else," Hermione said as she began to mentally form a list of those to ask.
"Miss Granger, there is one more thing I need to ask of you. I need you to find a list of prophecies which failed to be fulfilled for any reason and tell me what happened if the person they were about intentionally acted in a manner to ensure they no longer applied to them." Dumbledore then excused her to get to work.
~ * ~
Hermione had spent the day planning who she would get to help her on this assignment. Well she would most certainly include those who were in the DA the previous year. She wasn't sure about including either Ginny or Luna because they were in their fifth year and should be studying for their OWLs, but she knew that neither of them would allow her to leave them out. "How can I include those two and not interfere with their studies?" Then the answer came to her, "They can work on the prophecy portion of the assignment. Luna is in Divination, and Ginny has more of an understanding of it than I do."
Happy with herself for the simple solution to that problem, Hermione began to contact the people she had chosen to help her. She had prepared a paper similar to the DA sign-up sheet of the previous year. "While I may want to trust them, they may still cause problems."
By the following day, Hermione had everything prepared. She had used the fireplace in McGonagall's office to contact the Weasleys and some of the members of the Order. Finding other Gryffindors had been easy. However, the students she had wanted to include from the other houses had to be found and contacted in the Great Hall or the library. She gave each m all the same message. "Please meet the Headmaster and myself in the Room of Requirement after dinner this evening. It is important and I have to ask you not to discuss this with anyone before that meeting. Can you do that for me?"
Hermione, along with Ron and Harry arrived before anyone else. When she opened the door to the Room of Requirement, she had to laugh at the expressions on both Harry and Ron's faces. She knew they had heard her asking for a room where she could tell people what they needed to know, and were probably expecting something like the Transfiguration classroom. Instead, she noted happily, the room arranged it self more like the library with three big study tables and some seats at the front for the trio and the Headmaster.
Hermione heard Harry mutter to Ron, "Why is it like the library?"
While waiting for the others to arrive, Hermione, Harry, and Ron explored the room. After about five minutes Professor Dumbledore arrived along with the adults, followed by the students Hermione invited.
They all took seats at the tables quickly and quietly, looking anxious and a little curious as to why they were there. They also looked a bit worried, except for Luna, who appeared as calm and distracted as ever. When they had settled, Hermione began to speak, "I asked each of you to gather here today for a very special reason. It seems that a problem has arisen, and we are the people who are most trusted to solve it.
"Please remember what happened to Marietta Edgecombe," Hermione continued. Ron sniggered, until she shot him a dirty look, and then he subsided, his ears reddening slightly. "This is so important that I am going to have to ask that you to sign a magically binding contract to the fact that you will never talk about what you are asked to do with anyone who is not part of this group. If any of you feel that you cannot sign this contract, then please leave now before you learn something that you do not want to know."
Hermione waited for a minute while the group looked at each other deciding among themselves if they should stay or leave. After a few moments, not a single person had moved from their seats and they all looked at Hermione expectantly. "Very well," she said. "Here is the contract." She passed the paper to the group and watched as they read and signed it.
While the others were reading and signing, she turned to Ron and Harry. "Ron, I think we all know how you feel about research for anything other than Quidditch, so I am asking that you and Neville never leave Harry alone at any time." At the strange glances they shared she continued, "What we are doing will all be for nothing if Harry dies before we can finish." Both nodded in understanding. After the contract was signed, Hermione rolled it up and handed it to Dumbledore.
"Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, I need each of you to take the assignments I have for you seriously. Lavender, Parvati, Ginny, Colin, and Luna, you will be group one and will be assigned a special task. I will tell you about it later when the other two groups have their assignments," Hermione said, singling out her roommates and the fifth years for the question of the prophecies. Turning to the remainder she said, "Susan Bones, Padma Patil and I will work as the second group along with Fred and George Weasley, who will be joining us momentarily. The third group will be composed of Molly Weasley, Remus Lupin, Bill Weasley, and Fleur Delacour. These are such important projects that each group will need to finish as soon as possible. It is essential that all available information be included in your reports."
Parvati spoke first, "Hermione, what are we doing that is so important?"
"Making it possible for Harry to defeat Voldemort." Most of those present flinched when the name was mentioned, but all of them understood the need for Harry to be victorious. "Group three will be working on a means of sending messages back in time. Yes, I know Time-Turners are useful, but they only go back twenty-four hours at most. The message needs to be as detailed as possible, and will need to be sent to only one person in order to avoid the danger of the wrong person finding out too much and causing a paradox with the timeline. Please insure that nothing else can interfere with the message. Assuming that there is a means of doing this, the other two groups should thankfully become unnecessary.
"If group three can't find the information we need, then group two will hopefully come up with a means of time-travelling for a person or group of people to get the message back to the appropriate time." The assembled people glanced at each other trying to determine if Hermione had finally gone off the deep end or simply not in control of all of her faculties. "Thank you, and please do the best you can to compile a large amount of information." And with that the second and third groups were dismissed.
As the others left, Hermione turned back to the first group and said, "You are charged with learning all you can about prophecies and how they work." Glancing at each member of Group One, she added, "I will say that I am personally sceptical, but evidence to the contrary has proven me wrong before. Please be careful what you study, and remember that anything could possibly be useful. In particular we need to know if it is it possible for one who is under the effect of a valid prophecy to avoid its results, or even step away from its control. In other words, if a prophecy was activated by someone, and it said you had to either kill them, or they had to kill you, and no one else could kill either of you, you have to determine what the effects of another person killing either person one would be. I also need you to determine if it would be possible for one of them to take their own life, thus negating or even cheating that prophecy."
She paused at this point to glance at each person present. "I know none of us want to consider 'that' as a possible outcome, but it may be necessary." She turned to look at Harry for a brief moment before continuing, "Also, I need you to find a list of prophecies which failed to be fulfilled for any reason, as well as what happened if the person they concerned intentionally acted in a manner to ensure they no longer applied to them. Or what happened to the person or persons if they did not find a way to do so."
As Hermione finished describing what each was to do, she concluded by saying, "You should all know that a prophecy was given which says that either Harry kills Voldemort or Voldemort kills Harry. Our problem is that a second prophecy which was believed to pertain to the time after Harry was victorious actually contained requirements to be met before defeating Voldemort. This prophecy said that Harry had to do a certain thing with a certain person by midnight on New Year's Eve or Voldemort would win. We did not know this until it was too late. Three days too late, to be exact. Now it is up to us to find a way to overcome this obstacle to help Harry be victorious."
Hermione finished her speech by giving each group their specific instructions and sending them on their way to find out what each would need in order to succeed. "Group Three will need to look in the library at Harry's house in London first, and then Dumbledore will give you access to his private library. Groups One and Two will be allowed unrestricted access to the Restricted Section of the library, as well as the other two libraries I have just mentioned. This should make our tasks easier."
~ * ~
Two weeks later,eleven Death Eaters congregated to make an attack. When they had gathered, Voldemort issued his orders to them, "You are to provide a diversion for Wormtail to enter the building, and then come back. You may torture or kill anyone you find, but if you encounter Potter, you are to avoid killing or injuring him. That shall be Wormtail's task. He is to perform it in an especially painful manner, for the blood-traitors, that is." The last comment was accompanied by a satisfied smirk.
"Yes, Master. We understand and will obey. How long should we give the infiltrator to enter the building before returning, my Lord?"
Turning to Pettigrew, Voldemort said, "You can enter in less than five minutes."
"Yes, my Lord, but I desire ten minutes in order to be certain of success," the short, balding man responded.
"Why so long, Wormtail?" Voldemort glared at the man as he asked the question.
"My lord, I desire the extra time in order to insure that I may enter the building as discretely as possible. If I am able to enter without anyone seeing or hearing me, then I can be assured of fulfilling your orders quickly," Wormtail answered, knowing that to do otherwise was to invite the wrath of the Dark Lord.
Pausing for only a moment to think of his plan and his desire to see it completed, Voldemort said, "Very well." Turning to the rest of his followers present, he said, "You will give Wormtail ten minutes and then you will return."
"Yes, my Lord," said the leader of the small group of Death Eaters. "We will obey your commands at once."
"See that you do." Chuckling to himself, Voldemort continued, "Fail me or disobey me, and you shall all be fed to my snake Nagini. Your Portkeys are prepared, now go!"
They broke into two separate groups, the first of six and the other of five. They each touched their assigned Portkeys and after five seconds felt as if a hook behind their navel was pulling them forward, and they were gone, leaving only Voldemort in his sanctum, alone.
~ * ~
Dumbledore had spent these last two weeks fretting over how or even whether to tell Molly and Arthur about their family's role in the second prophecy. He knew it had to be done sooner or later, and was getting worried as to what Harry's reaction would be to him withholding information. Yet, to his surprise, Dumbledore found himself balancing his fear of Molly's reaction if she was told against Harry's if she was not. Eventually one evening he sighed as he got up from his chair and walked over to the fireplace in his office. Throwing a pinch of Floo powder into the flames, Dumbledore asked them to come and talk to him. A few moments later the senior Weasleys were sitting in front of his desk. Arthur looked concerned, and Molly's expression was even harder to read then usual: was she angry? Worried? Impatient? Dumbledore was not reassured by her expression; Molly in a temper was more dangerous than her twins especially if it involved those she considered as part of her family.
"Albus, why did you need to talk to Molly and me? I know she is working on that special project, and we both wonder why these things will be of help in defeating You-Know-Who."
"First, Arthur, I have been trying to decide the best way of telling you both this information for the last two weeks, and have come to the conclusion that the whole truth is the best."
Dumbledore spent the next twenty minutes telling Arthur and Molly Weasley of the first prophecy and the effect it had on Harry's life. He answered their questions concerning what he had done to help prepare Harry for the task of ridding the world of Voldemort.
Finally, just as he was getting to the second prophecy and how it would affect the Weasley family, Fawkes made a sound that drew his attention to the window. Looking out on the grounds, what he saw made his heart sink into the pit of his stomach.
Making a fighting retreat from the Quidditch pitch toward the castle were Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter and two Aurors. They seemed to be taking turns covering for each other as they withdrew from a small force of six attacking Death Eaters. What really had him worried though was the second group of four Death Eaters to the right of the five retreating people.
Knowing that there was little time to act, Dumbledore placed his wand to his throat and mumbled, "Sonorus." Then he said in a magically magnified voice that was heard throughout the school, "All students are to return to their common rooms without delay! Prefects, Head boy, and Head girl, as well as all staff members are to proceed to the Entrance Hall immediately! Anyone found out of their common rooms without approval of either the Deputy Headmistress or myself, will be subject to a month of detentions with Mr. Filch, and a deduction of one hundred house points.
"There is a Death Eater assault in progress, please return to your common rooms, NOW!" With that he murmured, "Quietus," and took the wand from his throat.
Turning to face the seated couple he said, "There are three students and two Aurors on the grounds making their way back from a detention. They are fighting their way to the castle now. One of them is Harry, the others are your son Ronald, and their friend Neville Longbottom. I am sorry, but we will have to finish this discussion later this evening. If you wish to help, then come with me."
Molly and Arthur had never seen this kind of fear from Dumbledore before. They hurried to the Entrance Hall meeting the other called individuals on the way there. Ron, Neville, and Harry were fighting for their lives, and would hopefully be rescued as soon as possible. The discussion with the Headmaster had slipped their minds, and they were now worried about their boys, and what was happening to them.
~ * ~
Meanwhile, Dean Thomas was sitting alone at one of the worktables in the Gryffindor common room, his Charms homework open in front of him. But he was muttering to himself, grumbling about the secrets that Ginny was keeping from him. Although he had no idea what it was about, he found himself sure that it had to do with Harry Potter. He certainly did not like the fact that Harry had given Ginny a silver charm bracelet for Christmas and she seemed to like it more than the golden necklace he had given her. "What is that git doing giving my girlfriend jewellery? Even if he is the Boy-Who-Lived, where does that give him the right to steal my girlfriend?" His eyes shifted to where Ginny was talking with Parvati, Lavender, and that fifth year boy she was friend with, Crawling Creepy or whatever his name was.
Dean sat staring at the group, wondering what was so important that Ginny didn't have enough time for him anymore. He could count on one hand the number of times they had even kissed since returning to Hogwarts after the Christmas holidays. Finally making up his mind to go and see what was so important he rose to his feet only to be surprised by the sound of the Headmaster's voice magnified many times over.
The common room became a madhouse as the younger students began to crowd the stairwells to their dorms while the older ones began to prepare to fight the attackers if they made it to the tower. Dean glanced at Ginny to see that she was assisting the younger students to get to their rooms. He knew she might not be back down until after the attack ended. "Damn," he muttered to himself, "I will have to talk to her later."