Harry Potter and the Ritual of Love's Memory by Forge2
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.
Voldemort's Victory - Chapter 1-5 (Feel free to skip if you don't like major character deaths)
Tenochtitlán - Chapter 6-9
Harry's 4th Year - Chapter 10-28
Harry's 5th Year - Chapter 29-68
Harry's 6th Year - Chapter 69-Current
Harry Potter and the Ritual of Love's Memory by Forge2
Chapter 46: Chapter 46Author's Notes:
As Harry and Ginny climbed the stairs out of the Defense Chamber, he did his very best not to allow his minor frustration with their newly-collected third wheel to show on his face. The Fourth Years had shown some real promise during their first breakout session under the watchful eyes of their two leaders. Harry had been pleased to realize that several new students had been added to the group in the wake of their successful first meeting, including Slytherins.
Luna had surprised him with a few very well-cast spells while they were practicing. He wasn't entirely sure if she wasn't paying close attention to the explanations that he and Ginny gave or if she'd simply decided to cast with her own little flourishes, but it seemed to be working for her. Her shields were particularly sturdy.
When a Ravenclaw student pulled on Harry's sleeve and pointed to Demelza, who was practicing alongside Colin Creevey, all he could do was shrug. He didn't have the heart to send her away and thought she was easily better than at least some of the Fourth Years despite being a year behind.
Colin, on the other hand, was less adept with his spellwork. His shields lacked power and he had trouble casting an Expelliarmus consistently. Harry had spent several minutes going over the basics with the eager younger boy. Every tiny modicum of progress elicited such an enthusiastic excitement in Colin that Harry felt slight embarrassment at the boy's sheer earnest joy.
Once the session ended, Harry had hoped for the chamber to clear out so that he could find a more roundabout path back to Gryffindor Tower. Unfortunately for Harry and his plans, Colin waited gleefully with the two of them for everyone else to leave, energetically helping put away supplies and peppering Harry with various questions. Throughout the entire walk to the Common Room, Colin asked Harry incessantly about all manner of completely unrelated-to-Defense questions. Sometimes, he even stopped long enough for Harry to answer one of them.
Ginny was silently laughing at the spectacle as they arrived in their Common Room, where Harry quickly excused himself to catch up with Ron over a game of Chess. Harry was relieved when Colin didn't hug him as he bid them goodnight and intertwined his fingers with Ginny's as they approached Ron and Neville by the chess board that was set up next to Hermione's study area.
"I promise he won't always be that intense," said Ginny through a snicker. "He's just been really wound up since he learned that you'd be helping out with our year's sessions. He thinks you're a bit of a big deal."
"Kinda wish he didn't. I'd been thinking about swinging by the kitchens with you after we left, but that went out the window by the time we got up the stairs. Any chance you could convince him I'm just a normal bloke?"
"Not likely. I'm sure your humility and down-to-earth nature will only endear you to him more!"
Harry rolled his eyes as he plopped down next to Neville and across from Ron. "Think our session with the Fourth Years went pretty well, wouldn't you say?" Hermione left her book open but moved from the table to sit on the arm of the couch as Ginny nodded emphatically.
"Absolutely. Everyone there was at least able to produce a shield by the end of it, and some of them even held up against the Stunners we practiced. Glad Cho and Hermione gave us the warning about going over how to use Rennervate before we started using the Stupefys." She smiled at her bushy-haired friend. "Not everyone could cast it right, but having a few others to revive someone who was knocked out saved Harry and me a lot of time."
"Glad the advice helped," said Hermione brightly. "I was thinking that it might help to schedule our year's session first next time. That way the three of us can all see what works and what doesn't and then can use what we learn in the other sessions."
Ron nodded. "Yeah, I think that'd be helpful. I was a bit out of sorts on Tuesday with Cedric and the Seventh Years. It was weird being in there with the twins and Angelina. Not used to Fred and George actually listening to me, and Ange is the Quidditch Captain but still let me help with her stance for her Stunner. It definitely felt odd."
"I wonder if this is what it's like when the professors are hanging out," mused Neville. "Think they swap stories and ideas of how to help make their classes go better?"
"Probably some of them do, but I have a hard time imagining Umbridge huddling with the others to figure out a way to help me pass Defense," said Harry darkly. "But I wouldn't put it past McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout. They actually care about whether we learn this stuff."
"Speaking of Umbridge, are you two going to be able to go to Hogsmeade this weekend?" asked Neville.
Hermione frowned before answering while Ginny squeezed Harry's hand. "If she lets us out at the same time as usual, we should be able to spend a couple of hours there. Maybe we can even grab a late lunch with you all, depending on how fast we can get to the village."
"Are you sure you don't want us to wait for you?" Ginny had already suggested to Harry that it wouldn't be a big deal to have a bit of a lie-in and all come to the town together. He'd brushed off the idea and assured her that he was happy for her to explore without him while she hung out with other friends.
"We'll be fine," said Harry with a smile. "Just a couple more detentions and we'll be done with Umbridge for the term."
"A few weeks away from her sounds great to me," said Ron as he commanded his knight to take Neville's last rook. "Still can't believe you get to skive off tomorrow…"
Harry shrugged. "I mean, it's not like extra classes with Snape are much better, but at least it's useful."
"What's it like?" asked Neville, in a low voice. "Having him inside your head?"
"Not pleasant. Apparently, Occlumency goes after memories with strong emotions attached to them. I've got some really good memories that I want to block him from seeing, including some that involve breaking a variety of school rules. Probably best if he doesn't see a certain somebody setting his robes on fire back in First Year." Hermione looked abashed at her tactics to stop the professor from 'jinxing Harry's broom' when he'd actually been using a countercurse to keep Harry safe, but Ron grinned proudly at the memory.
"But most of the memories that pop up while we're training aren't fun. Lots of stuff from back at my Aunt and Uncle's house. And it's not like things have always gone well here at Hogwarts, either."
"Yeah, I don't envy you having to see the bloody spiders or the Chamber over and over again," said Ron.
"It wouldn't be as bad if I felt like I was making more progress," said Harry dejectedly. "I keep trying to do what McGonagall said works for her, but it's just not getting me anywhere. I'm supposed to clear my mind of thought and emotion and be some sort of blank slate. She wants me to fold each memory in half somehow and put it away like a book, but I can't seem to do it."
Hermione pursed her lips as she consider the description. "That seems logical. The mind is kind of like a library of all your thoughts and memories, so storing whichever one pops into the forefront of your head while being attacked makes sense. "
"Maybe for you," said Ron without moving his gaze from the chessboard. He turned Neville's recently defeated rook over in his hand absent-mindedly. "My brain sure doesn't act much like a well-organized library." He moved a bishop diagonally to put his opponent in check.
"Of course, it doesn't!" exclaimed Ginny excitedly. "If you were learning Occlumency, you wouldn't imagine your mind as a library full of books like McGonagall or Hermione. Your brain is completely different than theirs. It'd make more sense for yours to be like a chessboard, and you'd be capturing pieces instead of shelving books!"
Ron looked up from the game in front of him and blinked owlishly as he considered his sister. "Wait, that's brilliant! It's not like you're the most studious bloke, Harry. Instead of acting like your memories are books, you could switch it up to play more to your strengths."
"That makes sense," murmured Harry as his mind traveled back to another time he'd been advised to find a way to use his strengths to overcome a challenging task. The fact that the suggestion came from a disguised Death Eater didn't make it wrong.
The friends spent the better part of an hour workshopping ideas of how Harry could incorporate his strengths into his Occlumency lessons, though some of the time was spent answering clarifying questions to ensure everyone better understood what was possible while under a mental attack. By the time Ginny kissed Harry goodnight, his spirits were buoyed by the chance to try out a new tactic in his upcoming lessons.
The Potions classroom smelled strongly of something that had been burnt by one of the Third Year Hufflepuffs when Harry entered. Professor Snape wore a more severe scowl than usual as he waved his wand back and forth twice, causing the acrid smoke that hovered near the ceiling to vanish, taking most of the pungent odor with it.
Professor McGonagall had not yet arrived, so Harry took a seat at his customary front-row desk and began trying to slow down his breathing with his eyes closed. He took a deep breath in through his nose, held it for several beats, then released it slowly before repeating the practice.
Less than two minutes later, a slightly out-of-breath McGonagall strode through the doorway.
"I hope you haven't been waiting long, Severus. The First Years are going to drive me 'round the bend if they can't figure out a simple Hovering Spell."
"Not at all," he replied. "I just finished dealing with the smoke from a botched attempt of a Third Year who thought it wise to store his Fairy Wings in a vial with Fire Seeds."
Professor McGonagall gave a huff of a laugh. "At least tell me it wasn't one of mine."
"I wouldn't put it past any of them, but not this time."
Harry did his best to remember what he'd been practicing and keep up with his breathing, though the collegial conversation between one of his favorite professors and the much-loathed Snape was distracting.
"Mr. Potter, have you been practicing clearing your mind since our last lesson?" McGonagall's sharp eyes were fixed on Harry when he looked up at her.
"Yes, Professor," he replied as calmly as he could. "I haven't been able to make much progress with the technique you suggested, though."
"Have you been focusing on the seam of the memory or emotion to ascertain where it could be folded?"
"I have been, but it just wasn't working for me. When I was talking it over with some of my friends, they helped me come up with an idea of something else that I was hoping to try. It's like what you were describing, but a bit different."
McGonagall's lips grew slightly thinner as she arched her eyebrow. "Very well, feel free to attempt a different approach. But if after testing it thoroughly Professor Snape remains unconvinced of its efficacy, you will need to return to the first method."
With a nod toward his Head of House, he turned to meet Snape's stare. The man's dark eyes narrowed as Harry prepared for the first attack.
Harry clamped his eyelids closed and concentrated with all his might on breathing deeply as a swirl of color flashed in his mind. An image of his Uncle Vernon's beet-red face materialized, transported from deep in the recesses of Harry's brain where it had been seared after Dobby ruined the large man's business dinner party. Harry could remember the visceral fear he'd felt that moment as the image loomed larger and larger in his mind's eye.
With tremendous effort, Harry tore his focus away from his uncle's livid face. Instead, he focused on the feelings of making a steep dive while riding his broom: the rush of wind on his face, the feel of the handle in his hand, the press of his glasses digging into his nose against the wind. The image of his uncle still loomed above Harry, or at least, from the direction that Harry thought might constitute "up," but it felt less detailed and intimidating. With a wrench of his head to the side, Harry turned away from the memory completely and felt it fade as he flew ahead into black nothingness.
"Severus, what happened?"
A bead of sweat dripped down Harry's forehead and onto his nose as he opened his eyes to see a look of confusion on McGonagall's face. Snape, on the other hand, looked positively gobsmacked, though he quickly regained his composure before answering.
"It seems that Potter has found a more effective means of protecting his mind," he said with forced calm. "That was his best effort to date."
"Would you please explain your method?" asked McGonagall, looking quite intrigued.
"Sure," answered Harry, hands on his knees as he attempted to catch his breath. "Ginny suggested that Hermione's mind might work more like yours, like a library of sorts, but that Ron's would be more like a chessboard. It got us thinking that maybe focusing on putting away a memory like a book might not be working because that's not as natural to me. So we brainstormed until we landed on flying. Instead of filing the memory away on a mental shelf, I tried to mentally fly away from the memory like a bludger."
"Fascinating," mused Professor McGonagall. "Considering how rarely you darken the doors of the library without Miss Granger dragging you there, perhaps it's to be expected."
"Your technique was enough to catch me off guard, Potter," said Snape as he scribbled something on a parchment on his desk. "You were still too slow in removing potential footholds within your mind. I will be interested to find out if your success is replicable or merely a one-off. Are you ready to defend yourself again?"
Truth be told, Harry thought he could use another few minutes to catch his breath and calm his mind, but he found himself nodding as Snape stepped directly in front of his desk and invoked the spell again.
With his eyes shut tight, Harry attempted to prevent any emotional memories from forming. He focused again on the feeling of flying until his vision flooded with Viktor in the graveyard, hiding from Pettigrew until Voldemort's snake burst forward to sink its fangs into his leg. With desperation, Harry tried to mentally turn from the scene, but Viktor's howl of pain drowned out the whistle of the wind in his ears. He saw Wormtail's watery eyes lit with delight as his wand turned toward Harry. With a groan of effort, he tore his gaze from the unfolding memory and focused on the great black void, willing his ears to tune out the sound of Viktor lashing out at the serpent. Pettigrew's cry of "Stupefy!" was not enough to make Harry look back over his shoulder.
Without warning, Harry's vision was surrounded by dark clouds lit by lightning strikes. He could feel a deep chill as rain fell hard against his body as he flew against a strong gust of wind. Looking down, Harry saw dozens of cloaked figures pointing up at him, their rasping breaths somehow amplified over the sound of the claps of thunder on every side.
Harry felt like he was falling from the sky, closer and closer to the Dementors that were gazing at him hungrily. He tried to grab for his broom but came up empty. A loud scream escaped his lips as he plummeted toward the figures until he landed hard on the stone floor of the Potions classroom. He winced, tasting blood from where he'd bitten the inside of his cheek when he collided with the floor.
McGonagall stooped to grab Harry's glasses, which had careened off his face on impact with the ground. He couldn't see what was wrong with them from a distance but heard her cast a Reparo, so he assumed they'd been broken on impact. He hoisted himself back up and took the glasses from her outstretched hand.
With his vision no longer blurry, Harry saw the smug look on Snape's face. "This method seems more suited to your particular style of defense, but it is not without flaws. You are focused on the feeling of flying on a broom, yes?" Harry nodded while using his tongue to try to ascertain just how badly he'd bitten the inside of his cheek. "As I surmised. That feeling is tied to many emotions and memories. Professor McGonagall's method provides fewer potential points to defend. Considering the quality of the assignments turn in, it is unsurprising you have few memories to target involving the library."
"But considering his lack of progress in our previous sessions and how he's done today, do you think it to be a worthwhile tradeoff?" Professor McGonagall asked with just a hint of intrigue.
Snape looked down his nose at Harry. He didn't look pleased, but it wasn't his typical sneer, either. "I think his best chance at success is to build upon this technique. It may still prove to be a lost cause, but he put up more of a fight while attempting his method."
Professor McGonagall looked at Harry appraisingly. "Well, there you have it. Do you feel up to practicing more?" Harry wiped his sweaty brow with his sleeve before nodding resolutely.
She looked to Snape, who stood in front of Harry's desk with his wand in hand. "Now seems an opportune time to stop going so easy on you. Prepare yourself. Legilimens!"
Detention had been especially challenging due to the myriad of voices completely overtaking Harry's senses far more quickly than they had during his first few sessions with Umbridge. He and Hermione had not discovered any means of dampening the sound, even though they'd brought the problem to Fred and George. Hermione hadn't objected when the twins suggested pilfering the professor's quill, ink, and parchment in order to study it more closely, but assured them that it would be worth waiting until the holiday break to decrease the chances of her missing the items.
A hurried walk to Hogsmeade left Harry's cheeks rather windburned, but he paid little attention as he squinted against the icy gusts they met as they rushed to the enter the warmth of the Three Broomsticks.
The thought of a much more enjoyable afternoon buoyed Harry's spirits as he and Hermione sat down on either side of Ron at a table near the back of the busy pub. Ginny was midway through a story from the previous summer he had heard her tell on several occasions that was soon to conclude with Harry obliviously not noticing her scooting next to him on the couch, allowing her hand to lightly brush against his. He elbowed her ribs good-naturedly as he settled into the seat next to her, causing Demelza to let out what Harry thought a rather unnecessary "Oooooh!" He draped an arm across her shoulders and waited for the story to end while sipping the butterbeer that had been waiting for him.
"It's a good thing he asked me the following week. If he'd waited any longer, I might have needed to threaten him with my Bat Bogey Hex." She looked up at Harry with mischief dancing in her eyes. "Rosmerta's been swamped with so many students here today that we decided to go ahead and order. I got you Shepherd's Pie and Fish and Chips for me, but we can swap if you'd like. Or maybe she can change the order if you don't want either."
"No way, Shepherd's Pie sounds delicious. And you've been craving good fish for weeks!" He took a swig of his butterbeer, willing his ears to focus on his girlfriend instead of the echoing voices incessantly telling him not to tell lies. "What have you been up to this morning?"
"Well, Demelza and I checked out Zonko's and Honeydukes, but I wanted to wait on checking out quidditch supplies until you got here."
"Don't worry," said Demelza in a stage whisper. "I'm going to hang out with some other friends this afternoon. Wouldn't want to be a third-wheel for you two."
Harry blushed slightly and furtively looked toward Ron, who had stopped mid-gulp of his butterbeer. Ginny laughed as she kicked Demelza under the table. "You know us hanging out with you isn't a problem! We're going to be with Hermione and my brother for most of the afternoon anyway."
Lunch was filled with loud conversations and raucous energy. The pub had thinned out a bit by the time Rosmerta brought out the heaping trays of food for their table. Ginny's impression of Umbridge midway through the meal nearly caused Harry's butterbeer to come out his nose, but he'd somehow managed to regain his composure. Just as he finished the last of his Shepherd's Pie, Sirius and Remus entered the pub while laughing loudly. Before Harry could wave them to the table, his godfather sauntered up the bar and leaned toward the barmaid.
"Rosmerta! It's been far too long since I last saw you! Been staying out of trouble?"
She gave Sirius a quick up and down glance. "Not in the slightest. I hear congratulations are in order!" She reached for a bottle of Firewhisky from the top shelf.
"I'll be glad to raise a glass to freedom once the students are back at Hogwarts, but Remus and I are on guard duty for now," said Sirius with a wink. "I'm going to check up with the table full of hooligans back there, but would you let me pick up their tab?"
"Good thing, because I'm sick of splitting checks. Remus, keep him from getting out of line, yeah?"
"Impossible. But I'll at least bring him back by later for some of that Firewhisky." The two began to walk toward Harry's table as Remus called back over his shoulder. "No promises that I can keep him from proposing again, though!"
"Hey, she didn't say no!" Sirius reached down and swiped a chip from Ginny's plate, popping it into his mouth before she could growl at him. "Hey you lot! How's the Hogsmeade trip so far?"
Ginny glared at Sirius menacingly and swatted his hand when he foolishly reached for another chip. Hermione, who had offered the rest of her sandwich to a very grateful Ron, piped up. "Harry and I just got here. Umbridge's detention kept us back at the castle all morning."
"Ugh, Saturday detentions are the worst," replied Sirius sympathetically. "Harry, you really oughta take a page out of the Marauder's book and time your infractions so that you don't miss out on Hogsmeade trips or Quidditch games."
"These stupid detentions are from over a month ago," groused Harry, stabbing the last remnants of his Shepherd's Pie with his fork. "If I so much as sneeze in her class, she'll assign detention from now until May."
"Yeah, she sounds like a real piece of work. Is she still using that bloody Quill of Echoes?" Harry and Hermione nodded in frustration. "We had a couple of professors who used that on us back in the day. Dumbledore tried to get it banned by Hogwarts Governors, but couldn't make it happen. You dad and I had to resort to our own methods to push the ones who used it too much into early retirement. Remember old man Daughtry?"
Remus grimaced. "A curmudgeon if ever there was one. That was Fifth Year, right? He actually taught a little bit of Defense on occasion, but he was way too quick assigning detentions." He smiled down at the students, who all seemed to be enthralled by stories of their former professor and a recently exonerated convict's time at Hogwarts. "It was one thing when James and Sirius ended up in trouble every fortnight or so, and Peter and I earned a couple here and there, too. But by the end of the first term, even Marlene and Lily had gotten multiple detentions."
"You know I'm behind your Defense Club and undermining her without going into an all-out war…" He squeezed Harry's shoulder and gave his godson a smirk. "But just remember that you've got Marauders in your corner if you decide things need to escalate. Some of what we pulled on Daughtry would definitely make Umbridge run for the hills. It's a damn shame that old Fudge had her sign a magical contract to teach for the whole year. Dumbledore's known for giving professors too long of a leash, but his hands are tied with her even if wanted to give her the boot."
"I wouldn't mind getting some advice on how to escalate," said Ron. "But if nothing else, I think the two of you might want to look in on something the twins will be working on over the holidays."
Sirius' eyes lit up and he subconsciously licked his lips. "Two excellent co-conspirators, if I do say so myself! That's something to look forward to. This Umbridge woman… Remus, isn't she the one who was pushing the anti-Werewolf legislation behind the scenes?"
"That's her, alright. Glad that she's out of the Ministry, even though I hate to see her inflicted on you all." Remus smiled at his former students. "On the plus side, it's nice knowing my place as your favorite Defense professor is safe for another year."
"I dunno, Hermione still might have you below Lockhart…" said Harry with a grin. Her face grew red immediately as she assured him that he was by far the best professor they'd had for Defense, and not only due to the pitiful alternatives he was up against.
"Well, not to stop you all from inflating Remus' anemic ego, but we need to get back to patrolling the town. Lunch is on me, though, so feel free to order some dessert if you want it. I already got it squared away with Rosmerta."
The students thanked Sirius, who mussed Harry's hair before following Remus out the doors. Ron quickly made his way to the counter, where he requested a few desserts to share with the table. When they finally left another thirty minutes later, all were in great spirits even though they were full to bursting. The now-fading whispers in Harry's ears couldn't prevent him from thoroughly enjoying visiting the quidditch supplies store with Ginny and his friends. With Ginny's arm snaked around his elbow, he couldn't help feeling optimistic.
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