|SIYE Time:10:48 on 3rd December 2023|
Harry Potter and the Ritual of Love's Memory
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Genres: Action/Adventure, General, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
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: 38015; Chapter Total: 439
Awards: View Trophy Room
The Defense Chamber was brimming with the excited chattering of students who were lined up against the wall. The number of group members had increased slightly during the previous term, but there were nearly a dozen more students at this term's first meeting of the Defense Club than there had been at the previous meeting. The nervous energy of the crowd was palpable as they surveyed how the chamber had been reconfigured and there was much speculation as to what their lesson would look like.
"Good evening, everyone!" called out Cho, her voice echoing slightly in the cavernous expanse of space. "We're excited to have Defense Club up and running again this term. We've got something special planned for our first meeting back together and want to especially thank one of our Defense Club advisors for his help. Professor Flitwick isn't only your Charms professor and the Ravenclaw Head of House; he's also an International Duelling Champion. When he told us about his idea for today and how he used to train on something similarâ€¦ Well, we got as excited as I'm sure you're going to be."
Hermione waited for Cho to finish, then spoke up. "We're focusing on charms today. We'll be breaking up into groups based on year to talk through strategy before we get to our activity, which we have decided to callâ€“"
"THE GAUNTLET!" bellowed Ron, causing several younger students to flinch. Hermione let out a small sigh and tried to look at Ron reproachfully, but she couldn't maintain her stern look and turned back to the students.
"Yes, the Gauntlet. We'll try to make our way from one end of the Chamber to the other, using the cover provided as well as the skills we've practiced to make it across as quickly as possible."
"To make it a bit more fun," added Harry. "Professor Flitwick set up the spells that we'll be up against. There are four paths that you can try out, each based on a different year's level. But don't worry if you want to ease into things or if you feel like trying something more challenging! You can try out multiple paths if you want something more or less advanced. The main idea is just to get practice thinking on your feet and moving forward."
The prospect of tiers of difficulty immediately set the students to murmuring as friends began discussing whether they felt confident enough to attempt more challenging paths. Harry immediately noticed a few students from the Fourth Year group who he thought would likely attempt to navigate a more challenging course when given the opportunity.
Cedric yelled for attention and the crowd got quieter, even if a few side conversations continued in whispers. "We're focusing on charms only today, but you can use anything we've learned in class or that we've covered here in the club. If there's something you might want to use that isn't in the Hogwarts curriculum, Professor Flitwick is going to help us run things, so just ask him before breaking out anything new. What else they should know before we get started?"
The diminutive professor looked almost as excited as the students. "Just a few quick notes: when your group leaders asked me to put together this challenge, they were adamant that I not tell any of them what I had planned. They will be running the course alongside each of you. Though it isn't meant to be a competitionâ€¦" Professor Flitwick paused for a moment as a smile blossomed on his face. "I must say that testing my skills against others often provides the opportunity to measure where my strengths can be built upon and what weaknesses I need to address.
"This is the sort of training I used when preparing for dueling competitions, so I hope you will take it seriously. But it is also a training that I personally enjoy a great deal, so I hope you also find it to be fun!"
The students gathered into their groups based on years, with Flitwick mostly talking to a few of the older students. Harry was pleased to find that the Fifth Years had little need for his aid, as Hermione, Susan, and Blaise each brought up several useful charms and jinxes for their group to have at the ready. Parvati, who had been impressive in the previous term's Defense Club meetings, offered the idea that the Impedimenta could be particularly useful. With a quick tap on Ron's shoulder and a nod to the Fourth Year group, Harry made his way to the younger students who were talking animatedly.
"I doubt it," said a boy Harry thought was in Ravenclaw. "You weren't here last term. I bet she gets past at least two of them, maybe three."
Ginny had a hand on her hip and was staring down a girl wearing Slytherin robes whom he hadn't seen at Defense Club before. Her light brown hair was pulled back in a no-nonsense bun and she wore a decidedly unimpressed expression.
"Maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong," she said with a bit of haughtiness. "I just remember having Charms with her in First and Second Year, so I'm a bit skeptical."
"Ginny is quite exceptional. I'm confident that she will outperform you." Harry fully agreed with Luna's estimation, even as he snickered at the displeased look on the Slytherin's face.
"I guess we'll just have to see, won't we?" said Ginny, her eyes alight with competitiveness. The girl didn't break eye contact, her face impassive.
Completely ignoring the tension of the moment, Colin noticed Harry's arrival and immediately began asking questions. "Hey, Harry! What do you think will be in the Fourth Year Gauntlet? Are you going to try all of them out? Do you think you can get through them all?"
With as much patience as he could muster, Harry began to answer that he imagined each gauntlet would be tailored to what that year had been learning, that he was interested in trying several of the challenges, and that he didn't know how he'd fare.
"The main thing I want everyone to remember is keep at it," he said as more of the gathered students listened in. "If you go through once and can't make it through, that's okay! Try to figure out what you could do next time to get a little farther. It's not about getting it exactly right the first time; it's about learning and improving."
"Exactly," added Ginny, allowing herself to look around at her other classmates instead of only glaring at the Slytherin girl. "The point is to get better at defending ourselves. Even if you don't get all the way through our gauntlet by the end of tonight, you'll still have gotten some good practice and learned something about yourself, even if that's something you need to improve."
"OI! YOU LOT!" Ron's yell echoed through the Chamber, reminding Harry why he'd been chosen to gather everyone after they'd had a few minutes to plan. His friend didn't need a Sonorus to be loud enough to grab people's attention. "LINE UP IN FRONT OF THE GAUNTLET YOU WANT TO TRY FIRST!"
The groups hurriedly moved toward the four entrances. It reminded Harry of the maze from the Third Task, at least in that the walls on either side were imposingly tall and more than a bit intimidating. There wasn't enough space for the paths to wind or turn too much, but it definitely wasn't a straight shot, either.
As he walked back to the Fifth Year contingent, Neville passed him going the other direction and Harry caught him by the shoulder. He looked nervous and a little embarrassed to be starting out on the easiest level before Harry addressed him. "Remember to play to your strengths. Your best charms have been Banishing and Severing. When you're going through, it might be worth it to try to think about how you can use those to your advantage. Good luck!" Harry patted his friend twice on the shoulder before joining the other Fifth Years, hoping that his friend would perform well.
"Students will be allowed into the gauntlet one at a time," said Professor Flitwick as the anxious crowd got quiet. He swished his wand and green flames covered the entrances to the four pathways. "Once a student has entered, the flames will glow red. When that student reaches the end of the gauntlet, the flames will return to green, indicating that the next participant may attempt the course."
"What happens if someone gets stuck?" asked a Sixth Year from Hufflepuff whom Harry hadn't officially met.
"Ah, yes! Excellent question. One need only cast up sparks and I will come to your aid. The level of difficulty is such that I anticipate needing to swoop in often, so don't hesitate to call for help. If you happen to be knocked unconscious, I'll be there quickly to set your to rights. Madam Pomfrey is available, due to our relative distance from the Hospital Wing, but I have assured her that these challenges should not pose significant risk of injury. Also, each path will reconfigure after every attempt, so if you try more than once, you may encounter new obstacles or a different order of challenges. Any other questions?"
This news caused further excitement among the students. Some students were nudging each other out of the way to secure the places near the front of their group's queue, although nobody seemed out of sorts about Defense Club leaders being the first to tackle the challenge.
"Very well! Let the gauntlet commence!"
From the end of the Fifth Year line, Harry watched as Cedric, Cho, Ron, and Ginny stepped forward through the green flames, which flashed red once they were each inside. There were many excited whispers from those still in the queue, occasionally punctuated by the sound of one of the four students calling out a spell or some unidentifiable noise. Hermione stood ready to enter next, looking almost as nervous as she did before major exams.
Almost four minutes later, both Ginny's and Ron's entrances returned to green flames at nearly the same time. Hermione took a deep breath before stepping forward as a Hufflepuff Fourth Year who had impressed Harry in previous sessions did the same. Not long after they vanished behind the flames, an excited cry from the Seventh Years indicated Cedric had completed his gauntlet. Angelina determinedly entered her path before Cho finished, with her completion allowing the other Ravenclaw Prefect to barrel forward into the challenge.
Harry kept looking for Ginny and Ron to make their way back to the queues with a scouting report of what they'd faced, but none of those who'd made their way through the gauntlet returned. With a modicum of resignation, he assumed that Flitwick didn't want anyone to be given hints before their first run-through.
It became difficult for Harry to keep up with who was in which path at any given time. Harry saw sparks fired by quite a few participants midway through their run, many from Fourth Year students, but also from some of the older students, especially the Seventh Years. He kept his eyes focused on the air above Neville's path after he plunged through the flames, and let out a long sigh of relief when they shifted from red back to green a few minutes later with no indication that his friend had been stopped.
As the queues of students began to dwindle, Harry noted that the Sixth Year group was the smallest remaining contingent. On top of having fewer total members to start, two of their number, a Hufflepuff and a Ravenclaw, had opted to attempt the Fifth Year course first. There were still seven students ahead of Harry by the time the last of the Sixth Years reached the end of their path.
From in front of Harry, Blaise's eyes had also fallen on the empty queue. With a jolt of excitement, Harry wondered if the Slytherin was considering the same thing he was thinking.
As if on cue, Blaise turned around and met Harry's look. "What do you think, Potter? You up for a challenge?"
Harry smiled. "Sure thing. You want the honors, or should I?"
"You go ahead," he answered with a confident smile. "If it chews you up and spits you out, I might want to reconsiderâ€¦"
With a laugh, Harry walked alongside Blaise to the entrance of the Sixth Year path, cracking his knuckles nervously. He pulled out his wand, took a deep breath, and strode forward as confidently as he could. "See you on the other side!"
The pathway ahead of him was narrow enough that three students would have difficulty walking next to each other, even where the corridor was not impeded by large conjured objects that were placed along the way for cover. Harry eyed them with suspicion, wondering what sort of obstacles he would encounter. He grit his teeth as he tried to ignore the feeling that it would have been far wiser to start off with the Fifth Year course.
As he carefully approached the first bit of cover, a jet of bright blue light shot toward him from just beyond the object. Without time to identify the incoming spell, Harry dove to his right and pressed his back against the wall, ready to cast a shield at a moment's notice. Moody's admonition to take training seriously in order to build the right kind of life-or-death habits echoed in his ears as he prepared to move.
He popped up from behind the cover with his wand drawn, surveying the path ahead swiftly. His eyes zeroed in on a robed figure with a wand raised. It aimed at Harry's exposed head mechanically, and he immediately thought of the training mannequins Flitwick had mentioned during an Advanced Defense lesson the previous term. Before it could get a shot off, Harry ducked back behind the cover and reemerged on the other side of the cover near the ground.
"Expelliarmus!" he cried, and the red light struck true. The robed figure wilted back to the floor where Harry assumed it had been waiting to spring into action. Trying to remember his training, Harry crept forward. He stuck close to the left wall as the path veered that direction a little ways ahead.
With a loud rumble, several large objects like he'd hidden behind materialized and toppled into the gap in the path ahead of him. The way forward was completely blocked. Behind him, he heard movement as the mannequin began to reanimate.
There was no cover between Harry and his attacker and the path forward was impassible. He felt fairly confident he could disable it again without too much trouble, but if it kept coming back every twenty to thirty seconds, things could get dicey.
With a slash of his wand, Harry called out, "Impedimenta!" Turquoise light erupted from his wand and the mannequin's movement slowed down significantly. If it only fired spells once standing up, Harry thought he had a few moments to deal with the blockade. He planted his feet and focused on his wand movements as he tried to keep one eye on the attacker's jerky, slowed movement. "Reducto!"
Harry used his non-wand arm to cover his face as the objects were reduced to a fine mist. He plunged ahead and turned the corner quickly before the mannequin could even fire a second spell.
Before Harry could move half a dozen steps down the path, a wall of magical flames rose up to impede his progress. They licked the walls on either side, leaving no means to continue without dealing with them. With dawning trepidation, he realized how challenging this blockade could be.
Even though he was fairly certain it wouldn't work on magical fire, Harry decided to start out by attempting to douse the flames. He pointed his wand and shouted, "Aguamenti!" A jet of water pulsed out of his wand at the wall of fire, but just before reaching them the power and heat of them caused his stream to evaporate into steam. The steam filled the path and made Harry feel rather damp and uncomfortable and the smell of it was quite unpleasant. He was tempted to cast a Bubblehead Charm just to keep the moist air that was offending his nose away, but didn't think it would be a good idea to weaken anything else he cast simply for a little more comfort.
The fire roared just as dangerously as when he started. Harry nervously ran his hand through his hair as he tried to think of something he could use to get past the flames. The only thing that seemed like a possibility was the Extinguishing Charm, but he hadn't practiced that since before the Third Task. It was an exceptionally tricky charm meant to dispel. Professor Flitwick had trained him in case magical fire was an obstacle in the maze, but he definitely hadn't mastered it in his mad rush to learnas much as he could as fast as possible.
Harry closed his eyes and tried to remember the Charms professor's instructions. Feet shoulder-width apart. Incantation was "Extinguo." Two small circles of the wandâ€¦ Clockwise? Or was it counter-clockwise?
He couldn't remember, but time was wasting. He set his feet and faced the wall of flames. He twirled his wrist clockwise twice and shouted "Extinguo!"
Nothing happened. Not even a quiver at the end of his wand. He shook his head back and forth and blew out a breath before trying again, (this time circling in the other direction) before yelling out, "Extinguo!" once more.
There was a hissing sound as the fire diminished slightly, looking as though some of the magic feeding it had been drained away. It took Harry three more attempts to remove enough of the flames to be able to safely move ahead, and he felt a bit drained by the effort.
The exit was visible a short way ahead, but there was another obstacle to tackle first. He darted behind more cover as two more mannequins attempted to stymie his progress. A well-placed "Stupefy!" brought one to the ground.
Suddenly, the walls on either side of Harry began to glow yellow. Harry felt a tingling sensation that reminded him of searching for Horcruxes with Kingsley. He was ready to fire another disarming spell at his remaining attacker, but thought better of it.
He set his jaw and ran forward, out of the yellow light and directly toward the remaining mannequin. After leaving the glow, he cast the strongest shield he could muster, which deflected a purple spell cast directly at him.
Before it could fire another, Harry yelled "Expelliarmus!" and watched it crumple to the floor next to the other. With an extra burst of speed, Harry ran forward past the exit and into the open area beyond the gauntlet.
"Oi! Look who finally decided to show up!" said George from a circle of students nearby. He smirked at his twin. "Told you we should have waited around to help out. Poor kid got confused and ran the wrong race!"
"It's a real shame," agreed Fred, shaking his head with disappointment. He spoke with exaggerated slowness. "You're supposed to be in Year Five, Harry."
As Fred held five fingers aloft, Harry rolled his eyes and nonchalantly smacked his hand away. They were interrupted by Angelina, who leaped onto George's back and smiled at Harry with her arms around her boyfriend's neck.
"Starting out on a higher difficulty? I like to see it! Well done."
They chatted for a few moments before Harry noticed the other leaders gathered with Professor Flitwick. He almost walked in their direction, but decided to hold back for a moment, instead listening to how Fred escaped a near miss when he was struck by a tripping jinx from an assailant he didn't know had reanimated before he fell to another spell.
A shower of sparks arose from the course Harry had just completed. Blaise was breathing heavily and holding onto his left elbow when he emerged from the Sixth Year gauntlet and he looked rather frustrated with himself. Harry strode over to him as he caught his breath.
"That was more challenging than I expected. How far did you get, Zabini?"
"You're not kidding," he replied, rubbing his elbow gingerly. "Pretty well-designed course. Made it to the last bit, but the Backfire Jinx caught me off guard. Good thing I wasn't using a Stunner or else I'd probably be knocked out cold from my own spell."
"I didn't expect the mannequins to get back up after I put them down," said Harry thinking back to his run-through. "Disarmed the first one, but then got stuck between it and the blockade."
Blaise looked at Harry appraisingly. "Then good on you for being aware enough to sniff it out. I'd trained with them before, so I knew it was coming. How'd you bypass the Backfire Jinx?"
"Honestly? Didn't even identify it, except that it seemed like bad news. I'd knocked out one of the mannequins before I reached the jinxed walls, then I just plowed ahead and used a shield to protect myself until I could disarm the second mannequin."
"Damn," muttered Blaise in frustration. "And that was the end of it? Would've liked to get past it on the first go."
"Even so, not bad for a first attempt for either of us, I'd say," remarked Harry earnestly. He sensed that Blaise was trying to figure out whether his response was sincere, but Harry did truly think the Slytherin had performed well. "I'll bet you get it on your next try."
"Alright, everyone! Your attention please!" Professor Flitwick's voice rang out through the Chamber once the last of the stragglers had emerged. "I must say I'm quite pleased with your progress thus far. Many of you performed admirably, whether you completed your path or not.
"As promised, you may now return to the entry point to make another attempt, either through the same path as before or a different one. I would like to add that there is no shame in testing yourself against a greater challenge and learning what you need to improve upon, even if that means attempting a route which may be beyond your current abilities."
Once dismissed, the raucous crowd of students hurried back around to begin the process again. Harry walked alongside Blaise, joined by Theo and Daphne. While Harry wasn't close to any of the three Slytherins, he'd grown to grudgingly respect them for dutifully attending Defense Club despite the hell they probably caught from some of their housemates. The idea of having Malfoy in almost all of their classes seemed like an unfortunate fate for all three of them, much less Theo and Blaise sharing a dormitory with him.
Daphne had completed the Fifth Year course, but Theo was forced to send up sparks at their final obstacle. Harry waited for Daphne and Blaise to give their own suggestions before weighing in.
"Yeah, I'm with them on this," he added, again trying to sound sincere. "Banishing is tricky and it's even harder when you don't have time to concentrate as well as you'd like. Your shields have really improved a lot over last term, so maybe you could rely on that to help give you time to cast a good Repulso."
Theo didn't meet Harry's gaze but seemed to be considering the advice.
"He's right about your shields, Theo," said Daphne fairly. "Just because you had a hard time with them at first doesn't mean you can't rely on it more now."
Seeing Ginny walking with Demelza in front of them, he gave Theo what he hoped was an encouraging slap on the shoulder before jogging forward to catch up with his girlfriend.
When reflecting on the meeting as they helped Professor Flitwick clean up afterward, all six of the student leaders considered the evening a rousing success. Most members of the group from the previous term had been able to complete their own year's course, with the exception of the Seventh Years, and the few who came up short seemed to be encouraged about their progress over the span of the session.
Harry's head was swimming as he tried to remember which of his friends had completed which paths. His pride swelled when Neville made it through the Fifth Year course on his third attempt and had nothing but praise for the gaggle of Fourth Years (and Demelza) who plowed into their path again and again until they'd successfully made it through. Ginny made good on her classmate's conjecture by completing the Fifth Year course on her first attempt and the Sixth Year version on her third try. Ron and Hermione both managed to make it through the Sixth Year gauntlet on their second tries. Cho managed to best the Seventh Year course on her third attempt, letting out a whoop of joy when she tumbled out from the path.
While other students were making their way through the gauntlet, Harry paced back and forth through the groups of students that vaguely resembled queues. He did his best to give helpful encouragement and advice, which was always better received than he would have expected. After years of being either put on a pedestal or treated like a potential monster, Harry thought it was a nice feeling to just be generally appreciated.
Even Colin, who had not yet stopped treating Harry like some sort of celebrity, was calm enough to ask relevant questions about the challenge and listen well when Harry gave him some tips. The younger boy still ended up as one of those who didn't finish the course, but his brimming enthusiasm about making more progress made Harry smile. There was an endearing quality to his unbridled enthusiasm and positivity, even if it didn't quite make sense to Harry.
"I must say," called out Flitwick as he vanished the last of the walls that had made up the gauntlet. His eyes shone with pride as he turned to face the remaining student leaders. "It is clear that your time practicing defense has not been wasted. I may need to keep that in mind when designing future courses for your clubâ€¦"
"Thanks so much for setting all this up, Professor," said Cho brightly. "I think this was the best Defense Club we've had so far!"
The others echoed her sentiment, evoking an almost-imperceptible blush on the professor's cheeks. "It was quite exhilarating to see you perform so well. I will admit that I expected far fewer to complete the higher difficulty tracks. Of course, I thought it possible that some of you would best the level above them, but I sincerely doubted any students below Seventh Year would be able to complete the last course."
Harry grinned sheepishly. The most challenging course had gotten the best of him on his first attempt, but he'd learned from the experience and blazed through the toughest gauntlet on his next try. Ginny's hand slipped into his and squeezed him encouragingly. Harry, Cho, and Cedric had been joined by only a handful of the Seventh Years in completing the final gauntlet. Angelina had bested the course on her second try, as had Fred. George came out on top after his third attempt, as had three other Seventh Years, one from Hufflepuff and two Ravenclaws.
Hermione hadn't gotten through on the one try she gave the final challenge, but Ron had apparently come tantalizingly close on his third attempt. There wasn't enough time for Ginny to attempt the last course after making five other runs, but the competitive look in her eye assured Harry that her relative youthfulness would not prevent her from trying it out next time.
"Professor Dumbledore told me he regretted missing out on the meeting today because of some important matters he needed to attend to, but he did predict that the challenges might prove lacking in the face of the six of you. I think next time I will add an extra option specifically for students who can get past the Seventh Year gauntlet. I've got a few ideas that already have me excited!"
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