SIYE Time:11:00 on 3rd December 2023

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

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Category: Post-HBP
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: 38020; Chapter Total: 888
Awards: View Trophy Room


"I'm just saying that it wouldn't hurt to talk to Neville first. You know how much Sprout likes him. Cedric is from her house, so if you're going to ask her about the task, you might want to get some insider information on how to approach her."

Harry frowned as he considered the idea. "What do you think, Hermione?"

"I agree with Ron," she replied as they sat with notes spread out at a short table in front of the common room fireplace. "Neville is her favorite student and he helps her out in the greenhouses a lot. Hagrid helped you out because you're one of his favorites."

"Plus, I think he's still grateful for your help during the Yule Ball," added Ginny. "I bet he'd be happy to repay the favor!"

"I guess that makes sense. I think I just hate to bother people by asking for help."

"We ask for Hermione's help on homework all the time," countered Ron.

"Yeah, but that's different. It's not the same with you three, since you've all offered to help with the tasks."

"Well, I still think he's worth asking," said Ginny. "And he's walking in, so here's your chance."

Sure enough, their Gryffindor housemate had just climbed through the portrait hole. He looked just a little queasy, but Harry thought that could be due to the stress from their double Potions class earlier in the day. Snape had taken special care to humiliate Neville in front of the class after his potion burned through a cauldron and left a foul-smelling stain on the dungeon floor.

"Hey, Neville!" called Harry as the boy neared them. "I've got a question for you. You up for sitting with us?"

Neville looked almost startled by the offer, but quickly nodded and took a seat next to Harry. "Sure, Harry. What's up?"

"So, we're working on figuring out how to tackle the second task, and we've made some progress. We think I'm going to have to swim to the bottom of the Black Lake and reclaim something from the merpeople who live there. But there's tons of stuff living down there that will make things difficult. I talked with Hagrid about the different creatures I might run into, but he said I should check with Professor Sprout about magical plants that could give me trouble."

Neville was nodding along while Harry explained.

"I know Cedric is from Sprout's house, so I kinda expect that she won't be as willing to help me out as Hagrid was. I was wondering if you had any ideas about how to talk to her about what I should be looking out for?"

"Oh, that's all you need?" asked Neville. "Professor Sprout is really easy to talk to. I stay after class to help her out with plants all the time. I think she'd be willing to talk you through anything you might encounter, but there probably isn't too much to worry about. The water temperature here is far too cold for many of the aquatic magical plants."

He looked off to the left as he appeared to be thinking deeply. "You could possibly run into Scorealtus Weeds, depending on how deep you end up going, but their blooms are the only dangerous part of them and they won't even be budding until late spring. Poloffertols can live this far north, but they need salt water. Never heard of Lalert Pads attacks in the area." He looked back to Harry. "Nothing springs to mind that you should worry about, but I'll keep thinking. And if you want, I don't mind asking Professor Sprout with you after class Thursday."

"That'd be great," responded Harry with a bit of relief. "Considering all the things Hagrid warned me about, not dealing with a bunch of deadly plants is a small victory. Although, if I can't figure out how to dive down long enough to complete the task, all the knowledge in the world won't help me."

Neville paused. "Do you have any ideas on how you'll do that yet?"

Hermione jumped in. "We're still researching possible solutions, but we did find a charm that Harry could use. It's a lot more advanced than we'd like, but it could work."

"Are you allowed to bring things with you into the task?" Neville's brow had furrowed and he was intently staring at Harry.

"Yeah, I think so. Bagman told us we could only bring a wand for the first task, but he didn't give us any instructions about what we could bring for the next one."

Neville's eyes lit up. "Give me a sec, I'll be right back!" With that, he darted up the stairs toward the boys' dormitory.

"Wonder what he's on about?" mused Ginny.

"Maybe he thinks you could bring something with you,' said Ron. "I've heard muggles have underwater breathing suits. Maybe you could wear one to dive down?"

"Well, those do exist," offered Hermione. "But they are really complicated to use and you need lots of special training. I doubt that would work, especially since all the magic around Hogwarts makes muggle technology likely to malfunction."

Harry imagined himself wearing the kind of suit he'd seen when Dudley was watching television. A picture of a swarm of grindylows ripping at the tubes as he sank motionless to the lakebed was enough for Harry to mentally nix the idea.

Less than two minutes later, Neville bounded down the stairs with a large book in his hands, his thumb acting as a bookmark. He opened the book and pushed the tome toward Harry.

"Do you think Gillyweed would work? I'd never heard of it until Professor Moody let me borrow this book on magical plants from the Mediterranean." Harry started reading as quickly as he could, but Hermione had outpaced him while looking over his shoulder.

"Neville, this is brilliant! It says that if a person eats this plant, they sprout gills for up to an hour at a time!" She kept reading. "Harry, this could be just what you need. Growing gills from the neck checks out… Webbing between fingers and transformation of feet into flippers? That'd increase your speed and mobility significantly! Increased eye size ensures higher-quality vision when submerged in dimly lit depths?"

Ginny had snatched Hermione's parchment and was furiously taking notes based on what her friend was reading out loud. Ron was muttering to himself about how these new abilities could be used strategically to ensure Harry made it to the bottom of the lake first. But Harry was simply staring up at his sheepish-looking friend.

"Mate, I don't know what to say. It hadn't even crossed my mind to consider looking at magical plants for help, and even if I had, I doubt I'd have ever found this."

Neville blushed under the praise. "It's not really a big deal. I wouldn't have known about it at all if Professor Moody hadn't lent the book to me after that run-in with Malfoy last term."

"No, Neville, you don't understand," Harry glanced back at the book as Hermione read it as if it would disappear any second. "I can't tell you how important this is. I've been having nightmares about my Bubblehead Charm failing while I'm at the bottom of the lake, and you just provided a way for me to avoid all those worries."

Harry scooted over on the couch to make room and Neville plopped down next to him. "When I first got thrown into this bloody tournament, I just wanted to survive and hopefully not be a laughingstock. But now…" His eyes were twinkling as if he'd just beaten Malfoy to a snitch.

A smile grew on Neville's face. "Yeah, I think you can win it all, too."

Harry bumped him good-naturedly with his shoulder. "So, how'd the rest of the evening go with Susan?"

After leaving Herbology a few days later, Harry had to give Neville even more credit. Professor Sprout had indeed been forthcoming with her thoughts about the potential challenges that magical plants in the Black Lake could present, but she hadn't provided any new information beyond what Neville had already said. Harry made sure to brag to the professor about how knowledgeable his friend had been.

Neville grabbed a few extra order forms for a herbology supply store Professor Sprout swore by for her more difficult-to-find supplies as they thanked her for her advice, then headed back toward the castle.

As they walked from the greenhouses, they spotted Hagrid teaching a group of third-year Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors about unicorns, complete with a pair of juveniles for them to pet. Hagrid's voice boomed a greeting to them and both boys waved back.

Before Harry's attention could fully return to walking back to the castle, his eyes fixed on a red-haired student who was brushing a unicorn's mane. He smiled without thinking before tripping over a tree root that he swore came out of nowhere.

"Alright there, Harry?" asked Neville while stifling a laugh. Harry quickly got to his feet and dusted off his robes.

"Yeah, yeah. Perfectly fine," said Harry unconvincingly. "Nobody else saw that, right?"

"Looked like Ginny got a kick out of it," replied Neville with a wry smile.

Harry cast a furtive glance back toward the field where the students had gathered around the unicorns. Ginny remained next to her unicorn, seemingly chatting with a friend and oblivious to the boys making their way toward the castle. He glared back at Neville, who looked ready to crack up.

"Low blow, mate. I should put you in a full body bind and just leave you here."

"Yeah, well, that worked out alright for us in the end, so I'm not all that worried. Best ten points I ever earned." Harry laughed as Neville continued. "Anything happening between you two?"

Without intending to do so, Harry looked back over his shoulder toward Hagrid's class. "Just friends is all. She's great and we had a lot of fun at the ball, but I'm not sure about anything else for now."

"Plus, she's Ron's sister?"

Harry nodded grimly.

"For what it's worth, I figured he'd have been more upset about you asking her. Dean, Seamus, and I were ready for another blow-up. Maybe you earned some goodwill by saving her back in second year?"

"Well, that doesn't matter right now. I'm just trying to get through the tournament and the rest of this year as best I can. Things will hopefully calm down after all that."

"With your luck? Not likely."

"We'll see. For now, I just want to get this order sent off so I can practice with the Gillyweed a few times before the task."

Hedwig brought back the reply from Herbologist Sherry Gunderson the next week. Gillyweed was apparently not easy to find at this time of year, but for an additional procurement fee (on top of the already exorbitant amount of galleons Flora Obscura was charging for the plants), Harry could have his order by mid-February. That was cutting it closer than he would prefer, but Harry couldn't see a better option.

His extra tutoring with Professor Flitwick made Harry more grateful for Neville by the day. Trying to cast a Bubblehead Charm reminded him of his ordeal attempting to master the Patronus his previous year. It was a complex spell that required a great deal of concentration. It also was difficult to practice under the conditions when it would be most needed.

Professor Lupin had been able to simulate a dementor attack with a boggart, but there wasn't a particularly simple way to replicate the effects of water pressure, advancing time, and a variety of water creatures on Harry's Bubblehead Charm. Flitwick had eventually settled on having Harry first master the basics without outside interference before attempting to use the spell underwater. The diminutive professor explained that a workable version of the charm was easy enough to perform in order to protect one's self from airborne odors, but the power and focus required to maintain the bubble underwater while casting other spells would significantly increase the difficulty. He seemed more than a little relieved once Harry confided that he had discovered an alternative to the charm and that the Bubblehead had been relegated to a backup strategy. Harry was encouraged that this confession did nothing to diminish the professor's verve when it came to their practice sessions.

After a long Saturday afternoon session (in which he had been able to keep his bubble intact for a solid 40 minutes), an exhausted Harry collapsed into his seat at the Gryffindor table. The amount of energy he'd expended left him feeling nearly hungry enough to outeat Ron.

"How was training today, Harry? Flitwick put you through your paces?" Ron smiled as he added an extra roll to his plate.

"Half the time I think he's got money on me to win, he pushes me so hard," groaned Harry as he filled his plate. "The other half I think he bet against me and is trying to bump me off before I even get to the task."

Ginny gave him a sympathetic look. "At least you've got a strategy in your back pocket, just in case. What would you have done if summoning your broom hadn't worked?"

Harry shrugged. "I figured I'd just waltz up to it and try to talk it down. Parselmouth and all that, right? Maybe the Horntail would have just let me take the golden egg when it realized that it wasn't part of her brood."

Ginny spit out some of her pumpkin juice as she started laughing and Ron nearly choked on a bite of chicken. Hermione let out a high-pitched squeal of a laugh before covering her mouth with both hands while Neville nearly toppled off his seat.

Hermione wiped a stray tear from her eye once she regained her composure. "Oh, Harry, that's too good. You would have been charred to a crisp!"

"Yeah, I've gotta say I feel much more prepared this time around," acknowledged Harry. He gave a couple of firm pats to Ron's back to help him through his coughing fit.

"Thanks, mate!" Ron had regained control of his airway.

Hermione took a sip of her pumpkin juice before addressing Harry again. "Other than training with Flitwick and doing a couple of test runs once the Gillyweed arrives, is there anything else you need to do to prepare?"

"I kinda think we're on a good track for now. If you're right about the other champions using the Bubblehead Charm…"

Hermione cut in. "No guarantees that the others will use it, even if it's the most likely scenario. And Viktor and I don't talk about the tournament, so no insider information." She blushed a little before conceding the floor back to Harry, who couldn't help but notice the frustration on Ron's face when Viktor came up in conversation.

"Of course. Not a problem, Hermione. But unless other champions are using Gillyweed, I should have an advantage when it comes to speed. And not having to worry about my concentration for the bubble means any spells I cast won't be weakened like anyone using the charm."

Ron had the same look as when he was plotting out the final few moves before a checkmate. "That advantage could be a difference maker for you. Sure, the others are older and more experienced than you. But if they play this in a way that divides their power between multiple strategic fronts, that significantly weakens them."

Ginny was nodding in agreement. "The other three champions got chosen for a reason, and none of them are going to be push-overs. But Ron's right: you've got a real shot at winning this task outright."

"Harry Potter must wake up, sir!"

Harry's eyes shot open to see the blurry form of Dobby on his chest, prodding him again and again with his spindly finger. He yelped in surprise and the elf hopped down to the ground, looking relieved.

"What are you doing, Dobby?" grumbled the still-sleepy wizard. He groped for his glasses and his wand. "You nearly scared me to death!"

"Harry Potter must hurry to the lake for his second task! The task begins in 20 minutes!"

A gasp escaped his lips as he noted how brightly the sun shone through the window.

"My alarm didn't go off! Ron was supposed to help me get ready this morning!"

"They have taken Harry Potter's Weezey to the bottom of the lake!"

Harry froze in his tracks.

"Wait a second, Dobby… What do you mean that they took my Weezey?"

"Harry Potter's friend Weezey was taken by Professor Dumbledore to the bottom of the lake for the task."

His eyes blazed over as he stood, half-dressed and staring at Dobby. The words of the riddle echoed in his head.

"But past an hour - the prospect's black,

Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.

A panic descended into Harry's heart as he strapped a knife to his left leg and his wand to his right. He ran out the door, swore loudly, quickly reentered his dormitory, and grabbed his pouch filled with his remaining two mouthfuls of gillyweed.

He called out over his shoulder, "Thanks, Dobby! You're a lifesaver!" and was leaping down the stairs three at a time before the elf could decline the praise.

The common room and corridors were empty as Harry sprinted toward the doors leading outside. He furiously tried to recall the lessons he'd learned in his practice sessions in the lake. Avoid the grindylow-infested plants at the dropoff where the shallows began to steeply transition to deeper waters. The giant squid looks fearsome but doesn't mess with you if you don't mess with her. The merpeople's village is in the deepest part of the llake bed Don't panic if the gillyweed starts to wear off, just have another bite at the ready.

As he was going through his mental checklist, he finally saw the tops of the newly-constructed stands surrounding the lake. Harry arrived in the champions' tent with two minutes to spare. Cedric, Fleur, and Viktor each looked slightly peeved that he had made such a late entrance, but Ludo Bagman was beaming.

"Ah, our fourth champion decided to show up fashionably late! Could that be an intentional tactic to gain an advantage?" The former Quidditch star's eyes had lit up.

Through his huffing and puffing, Harry managed to reply, "No… I just… Overslept… Sorry about… That…" His hands were on his knees as he tried to regain his breath. He didn't notice Bagman's face fall at Harry's answer.

"Well, then…. Not to worry, we're about to get started. You'll each have one hour to retrieve the person we've taken into the lake. Top points will be awarded based on speed of rescue and skills used while en route. I've got to get up to the announcer's box, but each of you should be ready to start within the next five minutes or so." He looked hard at Harry. "Mr. Potter, can I borrow you for a moment?"

Harry reluctantly stepped forward, still breathing heavily, and walked with Bagman outside the champion's tent.

"Harry, m'boy, how are you feeling about the task? Got everything figured out?"

"Yeah, I feel pretty confident about getting down there. But did you really put Ron down there? What are you on about?"

"Not to worry! Not to worry! Dumbledore took care of it all. But do you know what you're going to do? Need any last-minute tips?"

"No, I'm fine," replied Harry, looking askance at the older man. A question began to form in his mind. "Why do you keep offering to help me?"

"Offer to help? Not at all! I just feel bad that you got roped into this, is all. Listen, I need to get up to the box, but I'm going to stall for a minute or two so you can catch your breath. Wouldn't be fair for you to go into the task at a disadvantage, right?" He gave Harry a roguish wink before heading up toward the announcer's box. Moments later, the magically magnified voice of Ludo Bagman boomed out to the gathered crowds.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled to welcome you to the second task of the Triwizard Tournament!" A bevy of cheers and applause rang out, and Harry noticed that Bagman gave the audience more time to express their excitement than was necessary. "The champions each secured an egg in the first task, which contained a clue as to what they'd be facing today. It is time to see whether they successfully cracked their riddles and whether they've devised a means to rescue their hostage from the bottom of the lake." A gasp rose from the crowd.

"Yes, that's right!" exclaimed Bagman. "Each of our champions must dive into the chilly waters of the Black Lake to retrieve someone special who has been taken from them. They will have one hour to complete this task. Without further ado, let's welcome our champions! First off, from Hogwarts' Hufflepuff house, it's Cedric Diggory!" Yellow-and-black-clad supporters erupted in cheers as Cedric stepped out of the tent and into the bright morning sunshine. "Mr. Diggory will be attempting to rescue Miss Cho Chang of Ravenclaw!" The Ravenclaw students cheered almost as loudly as Hufflepuff when they were mentioned. Several wolf whistles and giggles could be heard as the shouts began to subside.

"Next up, hailing from Beauxbatons, is the lovely Fleur Delacour!" called out Bagman. Her classmates, and a sizable portion of the male population of the other schools, raised their voices to the sky. Fleur walked to stand next to Cedric, her long hair bundled into a swim cap. She gave a polite wave before turning to stare into the water. "Miss Delacour will be searching for her younger sister, Gabrielle.

"From Durmstrang, our next competitor is the Quidditch sensation, Mr. Viktor Krum!" All of the Durmstrang students began to yell in support, along with some of the biggest Quidditch fans. "Mr. Krum will seek to retrieve a student from Hogwarts, Gryffindor's own Hermona Granger!"

As Krum stepped to the edge of the lake, a number of students laughed at the awful pronunciation of Hermione's name. Harry's heart began thumping even harder in his chest. Hermione and Ron were both trapped underwater, counting on him and Viktor to reach them within the hour. Beads of sweat began to form on his brow.

"And finally, our fourth champion who was quite unexpected, both when his name came out of the Goblet of Fire and when he finished his dragon quickest out of all competitors, Mr. Harry Potter of Gryffindor!" Harry shuffled forward to riotous applause from the red and gold contingent of the crowd. He noticed that a significant portion of the other Hogwarts students was clapping politely. The Slytherins were mostly giving him dirty looks, but most of the Ravenclaws appeared to be behind him, and even a fair number of Hufflepuffs had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "Mr. Potter will be attempting to rescue his fellow Gryffindor, Ron Weasley!"

"Leave him down there, Harry!" The voices of the twins rang out before anyone else could applaud. Harry grinned as he looked to the stands where Fred and George were already being scolded by Professor McGonagall. Almost all the nearby students were laughing along with the not-at-all-remorseful-looking twins. Harry resolved to thank them afterward for lightening the mood.

Bagman's loud chuckle echoed through the cool morning air. "Let's hope Mr. Potter doesn't take advice from those two!" He looked to either side, where the other judges each gave him a nod. "Alright, champions, you may begin in three! Two! One! GO!"

Harry hastily brought a clump of Gillyweed to his mouth and began chewing. The rubbery texture and muddy flavor weren't something he'd be requesting as a snack anytime soon, but he gulped it down as he ran into the water ahead of the other three champions, who had each stayed on the shore to cast whatever spells they were planning to use. Harry took that as a good sign and plunged headlong into the frigid waters just as gills sprouted on his neck.

Webbing between his fingers and fin-like feet allowed Harry to move through the water much faster than he could normally swim. He stayed near the surface to keep himself oriented towards a large copse of trees on the far banks. Once he'd swam for as long as he thought necessary, he pointed his nose straight down and began swimming toward the lakebed.

Visibility diminished as the sunlight filtered through the murky waters, but Harry's newly enlarged eyes helped him see clearly, even in the low light. He grasped his wand in his webbed hand, which slowed his movement slightly. Considering how he'd been surprised by grindylows during his first practice foray into these waters, however, the slight loss of speed seemed like a reasonable tradeoff for added safety.

As if on cue, four grindylows materialized from the dark waters to Harry's left. He knew that they were quick enough to keep up with him, even if he was swimming as fast as he could, so he pointed his wand and began thinking with as much concentration as he could muster of the spell he had determined would be most effective.

"Stupefy!" He mouthed the spell as his wand lit up. Though he didn't hear any sound, a pulse in his arm and a blinding flash of light indicated that his spell was away. Sure enough, when his eyes readjusted to the dim light of the depths, he could see all four creatures stunned and floating harmlessly back toward the surface. With a powerful kick of his legs, again Harry sped downwards.

The outlines of spired buildings started to become clear as he neared the lake floor. An eerie green glow emanated from a phosphorescent algae that lit the city. The faces of Merpeople dotted the windows as Harry made his way toward the center of the city to what he assumed was the town square.

In the middle of the square were four large stakes, each with a person lashed to it and it wasn't hard to determine who was who. Cho's dark hair was a dead giveaway, as were Hermione's bushy locks. Ron was by far the tallest hostage, and his red mane was distinctive even in these conditions. Gabrielle looked like a mini-version of Fleur, and her tiny form seemed even smaller next to the gangly redhead.

Harry stowed his wand and opened his knife, making quick work of the ropes that bound Ron. But before he turned back toward the surface, his gaze fell onto Hermione. He looked at his watch. He'd only been underwater for about twenty minutes. If he could get Ron to the shore quickly, he could make a quick turnaround and check to make sure that all the hostages were rescued.

With a furtive glance back at his friend still tied to a stake, Harry grabbed onto Ron's collar and kicked upward. The dour glares of dozens of Merpeople were unnerving, and he was glad once the city began fading beneath him.

A shape was materializing in front of him as he swam toward the surface. Out of the inky blackness, a shark was swimming straight toward Harry. Hagrid had definitely not mentioned sharks during his briefing on creatures of the Black Lake, and Harry drew his wand as he shielded Ron with his body.

Faced with a wand pointed at its head, the shark turned to the side to move around Harry. As it showed its flank, Harry saw that the creature was half shark, half human. It kicked its legs as it descended into the depths, and he wondered if that had been Cedric or Viktor.

Nearing the surface, Harry spotted another figure in the distance. Fleur had used the Bubblehead Charm but she had been grabbed by nearly a dozen Grindylows. She looked like she was more than a little off course, and each swipe of her wand seemed a little weaker than her last.

Without stopping to think, Harry turned toward the French witch. He whipped his wand towards the creatures that were clawing at her and fired off spells in rapid succession. Several of the Grindylows were knocked back while another few were immobilized. With a cry of rage that was muffled as it carried through the water, Fleur cast her own curses at the remaining Grindylows, which knocked three more out, and the last few swam away in terror.

Fleur mouthed, "Merci!" to Harry, who pointed her in the direction of the Merpeople city. She gave him a nod before setting off toward the hostages.

At the forty-minute mark, Harry and Ron burst through the placid surface of the lake not more than a stone's throw from the shore. Harry had to keep his face beneath the water to breathe, but he was able to drag the unconscious form of Ron to the edge of the water. Assured that his friend was safe, Harry leaped backward, disappearing back into the water.

Ten minutes into his trek back to the Merpeople's city, everything went pitch black. Harry's eyes were still wide from the Gillyweed, but his vision wouldn't work no matter how much he strained his eyes. As he struggled in the darkness, he felt something wrap around his left ankle. Suction cups affixed to his skin as the Giant Squid pulled him out of the inked water and towards its huge beak. An enormous eye focused on him as the beak opened wide.

The tentacle was dragging Harry back towards the gaping maw when Hagrid's training sprang to mind. Deep water creature. Huge eyes. Sensitive to light!

With great effort, Harry put all his energy into a powerful, "LUMOS!" The light burned brightly and the iris of the Giant Squid contracted. Harry felt the tentacle release his ankle as the beast jetted away from the light.

A very distant-sounding, "Nice one!" came from Harry's right. He looked to see Cedric in his own Bubblehead Charm swimming Cho back toward the surface. Harry gave him the best version of a thumbs-up his webbed hands could produce before descending again.

The city of the Merpeople was in view when Harry checked his watch. He had only another five minutes or so before he would need another dose of Gillyweed. Fleur was just making her way out of the city square when Harry arrived. He gave her what he hoped looked like a friendly wave before moving toward the stakes.

Harry was shocked to see Hermione remained tied to her stake. Viktor had to have been the partially transformed shark, and he was the closest behind Harry as he was heading up earlier.

A beeping at Harry's wrist indicated that the Gillyweed was about to wear off. He reached for his Gillyweed and used his knife to cut the plant in half. He pocketed half of it and stuck the other half into his mouth. It was less painful to eat some before the effects completely disappeared, and he could feel his head clear once his first gulp of water flowed over his new gills.

His eyes darted around once more, searching for any sign that Viktor was nearby, but saw nothing but angry Merpeople eyeing him menacingly. Harry looked at his watch one last time. The hour was gone and Krum hadn't made it to save Hermione. With a look of determination plastered across his fishy features, he grabbed his knife and started freeing Hermione.

A spear tip lowered as a Mermish guard swam forward. Harry figured things would get more difficult if he tried to rescue a different hostage, so he had his wand at the ready. For a moment, the guard stared into Harry's unblinking eyes. The tip of his wand glowed as Harry concentrated on a spell that he knew wouldn't be pleasant. He tried to express with his eyes that he didn't want trouble, but that he wasn't about to leave a hostage.

Suddenly, a red light flashed from the road leading to the town square. Krum swam forward, and his body had returned to its fully human form. His body was covered in scratches and suction cup marks, and he looked decidedly worse for the wear. He was struggling to maintain a small Bubblehead Charm that looked ready to burst at any second.

Viktor swam unsteadily toward Hermione as Harry backed up a few feet. The bubble was barely large enough to cover the young man's nose at this point, and he took longer than expected to detangle Hermione from the ropes. He gathered her under his left arm and started to swim back up.

With a small pop, the Bubblehead Charm gave way, and Viktor accidentally took in a deep breath of cold water. He started thrashing about, even as he held fast to Hermione's arm.

In a matter of seconds, Harry was beside them. He grabbed for the last of his Gillyweed and shoved it into Viktor's open mouth as he screamed noiselessly into the depths. The older boy's eyes shot open, and Harry mimed chewing and swallowing. Comprehension dimmed the panic on Viktor's face as he began to force down the plant, and Harry soon saw the Seeker transform in front of him.

Krum stared down at his webbed hands and powerful feet before grasping Harry by the head. Terror gripped Harry for a moment, until Viktor simply placed his forehead on Harry's. Harry breathed a sigh of relief, then followed behind Krum as he brought Hermione back to the surface. With ten minutes of Gillyweed remaining, the three of them breached the surface.

"And there they are! Krum returns with his hostage in just over one hour and twenty minutes!" Applause rang out over the lake.

Harry and Krum stayed in the water until the last of the effects of the Gillyweed wore off. While they waited, they noticed the Merchieftainess speaking in hushed tones with Dumbledore by the water's edge. When Viktor and Harry were finally able to exit the lake, they were rushed by Ron, Hermione, and Ginny.

Ron's long legs helped him make it to them first, and he gave Harry a friendly shove. "Oi! What's with leaving me soaking wet in the reeds while you went for another refreshing swim?"

Ginny barreled into a bearhug, nearly toppling Harry to the ground. "You did it! You got Ron out way faster than anyone else. What'd you go back in for?"

Harry pushed Ron right back. "The other hostages were still down there, so I figured your super tall brother could handle the ten feet to get onto the shore on his own." He smiled as Hermione reached Viktor and started peppering him with questions. "I woke up really cross with Ron since he was supposed to make sure I got out of bed on time, but I guess since he was unconscious at the bottom of the lake, I'll let him off this time."

"Yeah, Dumbledore called Hermione and me into his office with Cho and Fleur's sister last night, and next thing I knew, I was lying in freezing water with Madam Pomfrey scowling about dangerous this and irresponsible that."

"And I stand by those comments!" came the matron's voice. Madam Pomfrey wrapped a warm towel around Harry and insisted that he accompany her to the champion's tent, where Hermione and Krum were already heading.

A brief check from Madam Pomfrey kept Viktor busy, so Hermione excitedly joined her friends. "You did so well, Harry! I heard that you rescued Ron faster than any other champion, and then you came in and helped Viktor. He said that his Bubblehead Charm failed while he was very nearly at the bottom of the lake, but that you gave him some of your Gillyweed! I can't thank you enough!" She flung herself into Harry, who awkwardly hugged her back. Harry looked past her bushy hair to where Ron and Ginny were beaming at him. Somehow, it felt like the point totals didn't really matter all that much.
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