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Walk the Mirrored Path

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A plea to the Albion Magicks for guidance the day before the Triwizard First Task seemed like a good idea in theory. How it resulted in the soaked and shivering form of a near-dead Regulus Black, Holly hadn't a clue. Maybe she was to use him as dragon bait? fem!Harry, Regulus x Harry, Neville x Hermione

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"Are you sure you want to do this, Holly?" Hermione's hesitant voice repeated, as her hand steadily painted the runes on the floor. "There's no guarantee that anything useful would come out of this. We would be better off practicing the Accio charm instead."

"I've already mastered that spell, Hermione," Holly said, "Another hour or two of practice won't add much improvement."

The dark-haired Gryffindor witch had spent almost every free hour she could scrounge on the summoning charm over the last week. Her plan to outfly the dragon- which sounded more and more like the height of idiocy every time she considered it- relied heavily on calling her Firebolt to the stadium. She had even skived off of History to practice and there was no better indication of how dangerous her task would be, then Hermione's decision not to harangue her about it. The hours of relentless practice had paid off though, and her Accio was as good as it was going to get now.

There would be no additional benefit to working on the summoning charm, which is why a freshly-showered Holly was dressed in a thin, white, opaque under-robe and sitting in a ritual circle right now.

"Remember to sprinkle the plants after you light the candles," Neville reminded her, handing her the a smooth wooden bowl filled with shredded petals and leaf cuttings. Her other best friend had been the one to suggest the ritual and handle most of the planning, since he had been the one raised under Pureblood traditions.

Neville had also been the one to select her assortment of flowers and herbs. While looking down at the near-overflowing bowl didn't elicit much recognition, the Longbottom Scion had explained the symbolism to her beforehand. White heather and nettle for protection, oak leaf for strength, baby's breath for innocence, rue petals for clear vision, pink carnations for a mother's love, and, of course, holly for hope. It wasn't the happiest message, but it was a good representation of what she needed.

'If nothing else comes out of this, at least Neville got another boost to his confidence,' the Potter heiress thought. For the last few years, Holly and Hermione had been working on boosting their mutual friend's lagging self-confidence, and had found that one of the best ways to do so was to acknowledge his own areas of specialty like Herbology and Pureblood Culture. Being able to help his friends with a tricky bit of knowledge- especially Hermione, who was scarily brilliant- made the wizard feel useful and capable, and had made him far more confident than his younger self.

When Holly had first met her best male friend, right after storming out of the train carriage due to the insensitive words of a redheaded prat, he had been a mess. Half-convinced that he was a Squib, forced to live under the shadow of his father, and constantly berated by his Gran, Neville had been a chilling reminder of what she could have become if the Dursleys were any more successful at 'stomping the freakishness out of her'. She had responded to that reminder with her normal stubborn defiance by asking the strange boy if had a compartment to sit in, and then- after receiving a stuttered negative- forcefully grabbing his hand and declaring that they would find one together. They had come across Hermione wandering around alone after being thrown out of her compartment ten minutes later and struck up another friendship. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Okay, chalk, wine, bread, flowers, and candles," Hermione counted off, "That's everything, right? We have everything? Wait, how are you going to light the candles?! I forgot to get any matches!"

"Holly's a witch, Hermione. She'll use her wand," Neville patted her shoulder, "You drew the Runic circle perfectly, and we have all of the supplies. The ritual will go perfectly."

"Don't jinx it, Neville," the bushy-haired witch groaned, though her hands stopped fluttering anxiously over one of the four tapered wax candles. Each placed for the phases of the moon- new, waxing, full, and waning- the first placed directly in front of her. "Do you want to start now?"

The ritual that they were attempting now was the dusty remnant of a Pureblood coming-of-age tradition. It would call upon the spirits of her ancestors to offer her guidance, not through direct communication but by a magical sign or act that would be carried out through the Albion Magic of Merlin. This was, obviously, a very vague description of family-infused magic that was notorious for not eliciting any reaction whatsoever and could quite possibly blow up in her face, which was why Hermione had been so against it.

Neville though had disagreed; mentioning that rituals with a base-6 arithmetic formulae and a base-4 summoning were incredibly grounded and stable. He had further pointed out that getting tricky, borderline impossible magic to work was Holly's Merlin-given gift. Finally he had concluded his argument by stating that the worst-case scenario would be that the ritual would putter out, and the best that Holly could have a better way to face a nesting mother dragon tomorrow.

Hermione had relented on that last point which was even more evidence that out-flying a dragon is a monumentally stupid plan.

"Yeah, I think I'm ready," Holly took a deep breath, forcefully shoved down her apprehension, and lifted her wand. "Parvus Ignis." Her wand tip lit up like a Muggle cigarette lighter, and she moved clockwise as she lit each of the candles. Having repeated these words many times, they fell easily though not naturally from her lips.

"I, Holly of the Line of Potter, a Child of Myrddin, a Daughter of Albion, call upon the ancient magicks of the Isles to enter this circle." For a second she didn't think anything would happen, and- a brief flicker, was the candle about to be snuffed out- then the tongues of flame almost doubled in size.

'Bloody. Hell.' She didn't need to look up to know that her female friend would be almost quivering in curiosity and excitement now.

"I beseech the spirits of my ancestors, of my-" Holly's voice wavered, and then firmed, "Of my mother, Lily of the Line of Evans and of my father, James of the Line of Potter to enter this circle."

Taking a handful of the shredded plants, she slowly sprinkled it around her. There was less than half a meter of space between her body and the edge of the circle, which left plenty of room to cover with petals. When she was done a strong, flowery scent surrounded her, and a tentative sniff identified it as that of lilies. Holly's stomach felt tight, even as her heart abruptly soared.

'Are they here-' Behind square-framed glasses, her eyes strained forward for any hint of her parents' forms. It would be in vain though, because she knew that this ritual couldn't help them materialize. 'I need to finish the rest of the ritual.'

"I ask the spirit of Myrddin Emrys, Guardian of Avalon and Herald of the Dawn, to enter this circle. I offer to you bread to slake your hunger and wine to sate your thirst." She picked up the decanter of wine smuggled in from Hogsmeade and poured it over the air. Rather than splash onto the painted symbols as she had expected, the liquid faded away into nothingness before it touched the ground. The same result occurred to the small loaf of bread that she broke in two.

'Step one down. Now I need to make the plea,' the dark-haired witch reminded herself. Eyes flickering up, she saw both of her friends staring at her intently. Neville offered a weak smile of comfort, while Hermione still appeared gobsmacked by the vanished offerings.

"I find myself surrounded by my enemies, abandoned by my protectors-" Holly certainly considered herself let down by the entirety of Hogwarts negligent staff. "-and hunted by an agent of evil. Against my will, I am forced to compete in tasks of life and death. Tomorrow I must face a dangerous beast of fire and air in a gladiator game of old. I am a child, alone but for the help of few other children, and I come here to beg for protection and guidance."

The scents of lilies grew stronger in the air, and Holly drew strength from it as she picked up the chalk. She had chosen Arithmancy and Care for her electives, but this set of runes had been painstakingly beaten into her by her bushy-haired friend. Slowly but confidently, she drew out a set of runic scripts in Old Welsh.

"My soul is your conduit, my body is your vessel," These were the lines that she had been most wary of. "Channel your magic through me, and enforce your will upon the world. Protect me from my foes, guide me to new allies. I, Holly of the line of Potter, do so willingly surrender myself to you."

The last word fell from her lips. One heartbeat. Two. Thr- Holly's entire world lit up blindingly white.

'It's working!' A plethora of emotions, from shock to terror to glee, rushed through her, as the dark-haired girl's body locked still. She could practically feel her magic gushing out of her, leaving room for a different sort of energy, old and heady, to fill her body to bursting. She couldn't feel the magic spiralling up her nervous system and into her neurons, reading each memory, dream, and stray thought that she ever had. She couldn't see how the magic lit her up from within, making messy black hair fly back wildly against an invisible wind and leaf-green eyes glow like the Killing Curse.

Although she couldn't possibly know, a nineteen-year-old body held in suspended animation within a lake of inferi had also lit up like a sun. She didn't know that magic was burning through the Draught of Living Death flowing through his veins, repairing decayed nerve fibers, reversing muscle atrophy, and restarting his heart. She didn't know that with a near-silent crack the body was Apparated to the supposedly unyielding wards of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She didn't know that Regulus Black had taken a breath for the first time in fourteen years.

Holly had asked for a protector. An ally; a guide. A defender and a champion. And Magic had chosen to give it to her.

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This is mostly the expositional chapter where I showed a little of the trio's friendship and established the ritual that would bring Regulus Black into the story. I want to state at the very beginning that he has not aged a day since his untimely suicide/revenge mission against Voldemort, and yes, I know that the Draught of Living Death doesn't actually work that way, but I'm applying fanfiction orders on this. Voldemort created a new form of Draught of Living Death that not only puts people into suspended animation, but also keeps them from growing older. Let's just all agree that a romance between 14 year old Holly and 19 year old Regulus would be easier to read then one between 14 year old Holly and 33 year old Regulus, yes?