Disclaimer: If they were my characters, I wouldn’t put
them through this.
Warning: The second part has a small amount of blood,
and no gore, but it does present appalling cruelty. This is Voldemort we’re
talking about, after all.
A/N: Sometimes the lesser evil can be the greater good.
A love supreme
A love supreme
A love supreme
A love supreme
– John Coltrane
She was dead, and he was lost.
He knew he was somewhere near Hogwarts. He was in the woods.
That should have meant the Forbidden Forest, but he knew that he had never
seen these woods before. Beyond that he knew little or nothing: not where he really
was; not how he had got there; not where he was going. He suspected that
Voldemort had conjured these woods – or was it just the appearance of woods?
– to lead him into a trap. He didn’t care. He was looking for Voldemort
anyway, and it didn’t matter where they met. She was dead now, and Harry wanted
nothing so much as to face him.
Hermione and Ron had killed her, just as they had planned. While
Harry dueled Voldemort and kept him occupied, Ron had baited her into chasing
him, down by the old walls. As she passed by, Hermione dropped a tonne of
stone on her. Then, to make sure, the two of them incinerated her body on the
spot. Nagini was gone; the Horcrux hunt was finished, and, with luck,
Voldemort didn’t know that it had even been going on.
But he did know that she was dead. He had turned his
head toward the crash of the collapsing wall, too late to see anything besides
billowing dust, but the crackle of the magical flames and the hiss and stench of
burning snakeflesh would have told him she was gone. He bellowed with rage, and
Harry’s scar blazed white-hot, worse even than a Cruciatus Curse. But instead
of taking advantage of Harry’s vulnerability; Voldemort had simply disappeared.
From that moment to the time he found himself in these woods, Harry remembered
nothing. He certainly hadn’t seen his friends, and he needed to find them.
But most of all he needed to find Voldemort. Voldemort was mortal now, and it
was time to finish this.
Muffled explosions sounded behind him; wherever he was, he
was moving deeper into the woods and away from the battle. A cry sounded in
the distance ahead. It was too far away to make out the words, if indeed there
were any, but the timbre was unmistakable: Ginny’s voice. Real or not? No
matter. If Voldemort was trying to lure him on, using Ginny’s voice was the
obvious way to do it. He headed in the direction of the voice.
Ron and Hermione hadn’t yet set a date for the wedding.
“After Voldemort’s gone,” was the only reply Hermione had given him when he had
asked. Well, he thought, tomorrow will be “after Voldemort’s gone.” But you’d
best not have it then. I already have my wedding present, but everyone
else will need some time to prepare.
It was springtime, but nothing in these woods was in bloom.
It was just the sort of thing Voldemort would have forgotten. He pressed
Everyone who had heard about the engagement was surprised,
but no one was surprised for more than a moment. True, Ron and Hermione were
young for marriage. But no one who knew them could think they were being
hasty. They unquestionably knew each other’s character far better than most
engaged couples a half-decade older. In fact, Harry mused, he had been
watching them mold their characters to one another for some time now. Their
feelings for each other had gotten far ahead of their physical relationship,
which was now only gradually catching up. No matter, he thought, they’ll have
plenty of time for that.
So help me.
He heard a crackling from far off to his left, and he turned
left into the undergrowth to follow it. Immediately he heard a scream, much
closer and slightly to the right of his original direction. No, that
was the way he was being led. He turned back and continued toward the scream.
The three of them had been in Diagon Alley when it happened,
taking a break from the Horcrux hunt to rest, to do a bit more research, and to
lay in a few more supplies. They had split up early in the day; later, in the
afternoon, he and Ron had met up with Hermione again in front of the boarded-up
remains of Florian Fortescue’s ice cream parlour. Ron had flashed him a
significant look and, suddenly remembering something he had forgotten to pick
up at Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, he had excused himself to go back and get it.
When he returned they were in a close embrace; on one of Hermone’s hands,
looking as perfect as he’d known it would, was The Ring.
It had all been perfect: the ring; the joy and
promise and certitude in their eyes as they greeted him; the backdrop before
which the proposal and acceptance had taken place – he knew that this scene by
itself was reason enough for him to finish Voldemort. And he had many reasons.
Something moved again in the undergrowth, and he dropped to
a crouch, wand at the ready. He barely made out a squirrel-sized creature
scurrying away. He leveled his wand at it, reasoning that any animal in these
woods must be spying for Voldemort. Or, he then thought, it might just be a
ruse to get me to use magic and give away my position. Whatever, I’ll just keep
moving and sooner or later we’ll find each other. If he gets the drop on me,
he’ll need to gloat anyway, and that will give me a little breathing room.
At least it wasn’t a rat.
The day in Diagon Alley had begun with him and Ron leaving
Hermione to pore over books old and new at Flourish & Blotts, while they
went off by themselves. It was only when Ron suddenly collared him and dragged
him into a jeweler’s shop, of all places, that he realized that they had
actually dumped Hermione – Ron’s brilliant tactic to get a chance to put
his secret plan into effect. Once inside the shop, it was only moments before
The Ring caught their eyes, The Ring which had obviously been made for the sole
purpose of adorning Hermione’s hand. Ron examined one ring after another: plain
bands, braids, knotwork, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds … but every few minutes he
came back to sigh over The Ring. At length he picked up one of the others,
weighed it in his hand, and started toward the counter. Harry had stopped
him. “Ron, why not that one?” And when Ron murmured, “I don’t have
that kind of money, Harry,” he had simply replied, “Yes, you do.”
He made to part the branches of the tree in front of him
with his wand, then stopped and used his left hand instead. It was the first
time he had actually touched one of the trees in this wood, and he wasn’t at
all sure the branches wouldn’t grab him. Better, he figured, for them to catch
his hand than for them to snatch his wand away. But they did neither.
It had been a simple deal, really. The lantern belonged to
Ron; they had all agreed on that. Having been half melted would have lowered
its value somewhat, no doubt – not to mention the curses – but it had been
priceless in its day. Ron would never have parted with it if it weren’t a
choice between it and The Ring. But since that was precisely the choice before
him, he simply asked Harry to name a price. Harry managed to catch himself
before just repeating the price of The Ring; instead he offered that amount less
the price of the ring in Ron’s hand – the one that had not been forged
just for Hermione. The deal was done quickly enough; Ron had The Ring and the
next hundred or so years of his life in his pocket; Harry had got a somewhat
damaged historical artifact for a bargain price. And how often do you get to
buy an ex-Horcrux from your best friend?
It would make a perfect wedding gift.
A brief flash of light illuminated the forest from above,
the trees casting crazy shadows that made his position seem even more fantastic,
more surreal than it really was. The thunder that followed was muted by all
the leaves above him. For all he knew there might be a torrential rain coming
down, but none of it made it through the forest canopy to him. At least the
fight would be on dry ground.
Harry had been the first to spot the ancient, ornate, and
clearly magical lantern, hanging from the rafters in what he recognized as
young Tom Riddle’s room, as they searched the old orphanage for a Horcrux.
Hermione spotted Ravenclaw’s crest on it. Ron, meanwhile, simply climbed up on
the chest of drawers to take it down. As soon as he neared it, the lantern lit
itself – a hellishly bright light, so brilliant that it was agonizing even with
your eyes closed and your face covered. A light to drive you mad, a light to
make you want to claw your own eyes out. Then, suddenly, pitch blackness.
Either they had been blinded, or the light was somehow gone; whichever it was, the
room was now getting unbearably hot. A moment later Ron was pulling him by his
hand. Hermione’s voice shouted, “Ron, the door is this way,” and he
felt Ron lurch to the right before saying, “I know, come with me,” and dragging
her back the way they had been going. He felt like his clothes would burn his
skin by the time they blundered into the wall. Ron pulled them to the right
along the wall, sweeping furniture out of the way. When they reached the door,
their skin and hair smoldering, Ron shoved them out ahead of him, then came
through and slammed the door behind him just as the room exploded in orange
flames. They could see again.
“Peruvian Darkness Powder,” Ron explained, panting. “Guess
absorbing all that light heated it up a bit.”
Hermione was livid. “Were you trying to get us all killed?
Why didn’t you lead us to the door? We could have still been in there when
that fire started!”
Ron looked straight ahead as they made their way out of the
building. “And suppose we’d aimed for the door and missed,” he replied. He turned
and looked Hermione in the eye. “Which way would we have turned when we got to
After the fire burned itself out, they picked through the
rubble and found the remains of Ravenclaw’s lantern. Harry and Hermione agreed
that it rightfully belonged to Ron.
The voice now seemed to come from directly behind the bole
of a great tree before him. Wand at the ready, he circled the trunk
counterclockwise, only to come back around to his starting position without
seeing anything unusual. The voice keened again, still behind the tree. Smiling
grimly, Harry started to circle the tree again, this time clockwise. Of
course, he mused, this would be the way he’d make me go – with my wand arm
pinned against the tree. Halfway around, this time, he found himself looking
across a clearing into Voldemort’s eyes. At long last.
* * * * *
“Harry!” Voldemort called out with just a touch of menace
poking through his cordial tone. “I’m so glad you were able to drop in and
Harry could not have hoped for better than this – Voldemort
was once again taking time to gloat. In the precious seconds this gave him,
Harry leveled his wand and shouted, “AVADA KEDAVRA!” He knew his aim was true
… but something deflected the spell ever so slightly. Voldemort lazily
stuck a finger in the lurid green light as it sailed harmlessly past his left
shoulder, then bent and straightened it, examining it appraisingly. “Weak,
Harry. That wouldn’t have done at all. I’m disappointed in you, showing up
here so woefully unprepared. Surely your teachers would have insisted that you
practice that spell. It’s too bad you didn’t listen to them. Such
willfulness can often be costly. Now rest assured, in a little while I will
show you how it is done properly. But first we have some other business to
attend to. Oh, and you won’t mind if my illustrious ancestor keeps his hand
between us while we are occupied, would you?”
Voldemort swept his wand in a wide arc and the appearance of
the clearing changed. The ground and the surrounding trees were now a stone
floor and walls. Harry recognized the place instantly even though he hadn’t
seen it in five years: the Chamber of Secrets. Slytherin’s statue towered
above him, its stone hand now interposed between him and Voldemort. Harry
essayed a few steps to the side; the statue moved its hand, keeping it poised
between them. “Merely a temporary inconvenience, I assure you. I shall be
sure to restore it to its original state when we are ready for your final
duel. In the meantime, it will keep either of us from getting impatient and casting
spells on the other.” Harry was doubtful about this, but Voldemort seemed to
regard the matter as closed, as he took his eyes off Harry and turned to his
“You will be pleased,” he announced, “that I have arranged
for us to have an audience when we duel. Oh, none of my Death Eaters – I
wouldn’t want you to have to fight in front of a hostile crowd, and in any case
I plan to work some magic that I don’t care to have them witness. No, but when
I impressed upon them how important it was to have the right audience,
they went out most efficiently and invited some of the people that you and I
would most want to have in attendance. Observe.”
He flicked his wand, and suddenly Ginny was visible, her
ankles encased in the very rock of the wall. “I was most anxious to have Miss
Weasley, as I was sure her voice would be the most effective means of leading
you through my little enchanted forest to my new home here. And to keep her
company …” Another flick and Molly, Arthur, and George were visible, similarly shackled.
“… a few more members of the family.” Suddenly he dropped the pretence of
cordiality, and his voice went cold. “And now the most important guests of
all.” He flicked his wand yet again, somewhat farther to his right, and to
Harry’s unsurprised sorrow, Ron and Hermione appeared.
“I’m afraid, Harry, that your friends Mr. Weasley and Miss
Granger have made rather a nuisance of themselves. In fact I’m rather
surprised at you, that you would associate with such people. Why, while there
was no doubt important work for them to be doing, I saw these two needlessly
and wantonly kill my dear, harmless Nagini. Their behavior was so disgraceful
that I actually spent most of the time that I was waiting for you to arrive in
considering what a suitable punishment might be.
“I must admit that since his not untimely passing I have
found a certain respect for your old Headmaster, and I have even started to
entertain the possibility that there may be some grain of truth in even the most
ridiculous ideas he was wont to propound. Come to think of it, I actually
began doing that somewhat before he died. You see, as you no doubt know,
Dumbledore was always going on about the importance of `love.’” Voldemort
spoke the word as if it were some disgusting thing on the floor that he was
obliged to clean up. “So last year I experimented with it and found, rather to
my surprise, that it can be quite effective. It managed to impel that young
Malfoy lad to try to end the old fool’s life, and at the same time it was very
useful in keeping his over-ambitious father in line. Delightful, no?
“And so I thought I might take this opportunity to try out
another of Dumbledore’s daft ideas. I remember him telling me, not so long
ago, that there are worse things than death. Absurd on the face of it, I
thought, but … could there be some truth to it? So I determined to perform another
experiment: One of these two will die, and for the other we will prepare a
punishment that the old man would likely have considered worse than death.
Now, I wondered, what could that be? And inspiration came quickly to me as I
thought once again of Dumbledore’s fascination with this `love.’ What could
Dumbledore have considered worse, I asked myself, than for one to kill a person
that one loves? Your friends seem to be engaged to be married, so we will
simply arrange for one of them to kill the other.
“Ah, but which one lives and which one dies? At first I thought
I might give them the choice – that would make for a fascinating
experiment, would it not? Then it occurred to me that it might be more
mannerly for me to sacrifice science for hospitality, and let you, my
guest, make the choice. But finally the realization struck me that there was in
fact a simple, correct answer to the question. Mr. Weasley comes from a large
family, and so there are several people he `loves’ that he can be compelled to
murder. Since I am by no means convinced that it is even possible to inflict a
greater punishment than death, it is obviously important to make his
alternative punishment as severe as possible. So Mr. Weasley will kill Ms.
Granger, and then the rest of the members of his family in turn.
“Now no doubt you have heard of people being so overcome
with remorse for things they have done that they take their own lives. We
wouldn’t want Mr. Weasley to do something like that, though – it would ruin the
experiment if he were to choose his own death. Fortunately, there is magic to
prevent this. Have you ever heard, Harry, of a Horcrux?”
Harry carefully avoided reacting.
“No? I suppose they still don’t teach about them at
Hogwarts. It is a rather simple spell, actually, by which one ensconces a
fragment of one’s soul in a suitable material object. Performing a murder
conveniently detaches a piece of your soul and makes it available for storage.
And with it safely stored in your Horcrux, your soul is firmly anchored in the
world so that you do not die even if your body is destroyed.”
“So I suppose you have one?” Harry asked noncommittally,
hoping for useful information.
Voldemort laughed unpleasantly. “Do I have one? My
dear Harry, I have five, soon to be six. Three that honor my
illustrious ancestor here, and – soon – one to establish my mastery over each
of the other three of the Hogwarts founders. Imagine, Harry: one soul in
seven houses. How grand!
“I must say, however, that Gryffindor, and you,
proved rather difficult. Your late Headmaster would not allow me access to the
only object known to have been owned by Gryffindor, so I was forced to expend
considerable effort finding another one. Seventeen years ago I brought it with
me to a place called Godric’s Hollow, thinking to use your murder to make my sixth
and final Horcrux. But somehow my Killing Curse backfired, and although my
first five Horcruxes prevented my dying, Gryffindor’s cloak-clasp was again
lost. Eventually, while some of my more incompetent servants were making a
pig’s ear of helping me restore myself to a body, I admit that I lost patience
and decided to give up on procuring a relic of Gryffindor. In part, this was
because I had conceived a truly fascinating idea: I would make Nagini
into a Horcrux – no one has ever made a Horcrux out a living being before. Your
insolent little friends have now made that impossible, of course, and for that
they must pay. But it is no matter, since in the confusion of battle I was
finally able to secure this.”
He lifted Gryffindor’s sword from a nearby stone slab,
turning it so Harry could see it well. Tossing it casually back onto the slab,
he continued, “And when I am done with it, I will even be able to return it to
its accustomed place in the Headmaster’s office. But I digress. To keep your
friend Mr. Weasley from killing himself, we shall have him make a Horcrux for
himself, using his first murder. Now we do need a suitable object to be
his Horcrux, but I see that there is one right at hand. On Miss Granger’s
hand, in fact – that ring will do quite nicely. Once we are done with the
spell, I will simply enlarge it a bit and then wear it for safekeeping.
“But now it seems to me that Miss Granger may be getting off
rather lightly here, and we can’t have that. So we shall perform a second
experiment at the same time as the first. You see, some of my Death Eaters
have reported to me that if you maintain the Cruciatus curse on a Muggle for
long enough, its body simply gives up and it dies. It seems to me that the
same should be true of Muggle-borns, don’t you think? Well, we shall
see. Mr. Weasley will simply cast the Cruciatus curse on Miss Granger and
maintain it either until she dies, or … well, until she dies.
“But enough of this talk. Let us begin.”
A wand flew through the air into Ron’s hand. His
wand. Quick as thought, Ron shot a nonverbal Stunning spell straight at
Voldemort, who parried it effortlessly and chuckled horrifically. “Harry!” Ron
shouted in a constricted voice, “Kill me if I can’t fight him off.” His
trembling wand hand jerked toward Hermione; in short order his wand was trained
on her. “Kill me if I can’t stop it, Harry, kill me if I can’t C … C
… Cru … Cr … Crumllrrgh.” Blood streamed out from his
mouth and dribbled down his chin.
“Cretinous fool,” Voldemort snarled, “You think you can stop
me by biting through your tongue, do you? Well, boy, you should know
that a wizard with sufficient skill and motivation can cast the Cruciatus
nonverbally. You, of course, have neither. Fortunately I can provide
you with both.”
In an instant Hermione fell screaming to the floor, the rock
shackles still encircling her ankles holding her in a grotesque pose. Blood
drizzled from Ron’s chin and he trembled all over from the futile effort to
resist Voldemort’s Imperius curse.
Watching his friends’ ordeal was just as agonizing for
Harry. In his mind’s eye he saw replayed dozens, hundreds of scenes of
friendship, all his memories of his first real friends, the first two people
since his parents who really loved him. Hermione’s screams and the Weasleys’
shouts, the horror of the whole situation, made conscious thought impossible;
he could do nothing more than feel his blood boiling with love and compassion and
empathy for his suffering friends. Presently Voldemort’s roaring added to the
din that filled the Chamber. Harry’s head no longer belonged to him; it was
taken over by Ron’s voice, echoing over and over, “Kill me if I can’t fight him
off. Kill me if I can’t stop it.” Could he do it, though? Could he kill his
best friend, even if it was to save him from what Voldemort was planning for
him? Other voices joined the argument. “To the well-organized mind, death is
just the next great adventure.” “Nothing is worse than death.” “Killing rips
the soul apart.” “Your failure to understand that there are things much worse
than death …” “The soul is supposed to remain intact and whole.” “The supreme
act of evil …” “Splitting it is an act of violation.” “… has always been your
greatest weakness.” Harry closed his ears to the noise around him; he shoved
the cacophonous voices out of his mind. They were no longer needed. He had
made up his mind. He knew what fate awaited Ron if he did not act. He could
not allow that to happen to his best friend. He would give his life to prevent
it if he could, but he had no way to do that. He would need to give even
more. He would have to live, not die, but live with the memory of having
murdered his best friend. Live as a murderer, an outcast in the Wizarding
world. Live with the hatred of all those who had ever loved him. Live with
his own soul rent in two. And for Ron he would do it.
With nothing left in him but the will to kill, to kill Ron
in order to save him, he aimed his wand, screwed his eyes shut, and intoned, “Avada
No green light. No feeling of power. No sense of having
done magic at all. Harry opened his eyes to the dreadful sight of Ron
standing, very much alive, his wand still trained on the witch he loved. Ron,
still bound for the abominable existence that Voldemort had planned for him –
the abominable existence that Harry was unable to deliver him from. For a
frozen moment of time, Harry merely existed, in an empty world. Empty of
comfort. Empty of warmth. Empty of everything but failure.
Empty of sound. Harry realized that everything had indeed
gone silent; it horrified him even through his numbness. Hermione had stopped
screaming. She was dead. Ron was a murderer. Soon half of his ruined soul
would be imprisoned in the very ring he had placed on her hand with a promise
of eternal love, and the ring would be on Voldemort’s hand, a toy to be turned
at his whim. And Harry was powerless to prevent it.
Then, after an eternal second of silent hell, sound returned
to the world. Ron’s wand clattered to the floor of the Chamber. Hermione
whimpered. And from somewhere to Harry’s right came a heavy, dull thud.
Harry watched as if from another world as Ron, the shackles
gone from his ankles, dropped to his knees with excruciating slowness and
gathered his fiancée in his arms, bleeding into her hair as he tried to
minister to her. Far to the side he heard Weasleys falling to the floor, their
shackles evidently having vanished also. Turning to his right, Harry beheld a
vision of Voldemort collapsed in an unnatural heap, every visible patch of his
skin moon-white. He walked mechanically toward it, and when he reached it the
vision was one of a corpse. Its hand – Voldemort’s hand – still
clutched a wand. Harry pointed his wand at its wrist and murmured, “Diffindo.”
The hand fell off and hit the floor with a very real sound, and from the arm it
had come from Harry heard a rush, a hiss as if of escaping gas. There was no
Then something hit him hard from behind, and there were
slender arms across his chest.
* * * * *
When it came time to deal with the last seven people to see
Voldemort alive, St. Mungo’s showed itself at its best. The Healers
immediately understood that most of the harm the seven had suffered was mental
rather than physical, and that consequently they were the people best able to heal
one another. To facilitate this, the physical plant staff cleared the
Ministerial ward and magically rearranged the interior walls to create a suite
of comfortable, interconnecting rooms. The security staff already had a plan
for keeping unwanted visitors away from the ward should the Minister of Magic
be hospitalized; even though it wasn’t the Minister this time, their best
people jumped at the opportunity to implement it.
For Ron and Hermione, who had suffered the most physical
damage, the prognosis was much better than it might have been. Hermione was
responding well to her therapy for extended exposure to the Cruciatus curse;
the Healers had wisely put her and Ron together in one room as part of that
therapy. Her forelegs required much more effort, though. They had been
shattered when she collapsed from the Cruciatus curse while her ankles were
still held by Voldemort’s stone shackles. The Healers had painstakingly fitted
the dozens of fragments of bone back together, and Hermione was expected to
walk again, although not any time soon. Repairing Ron’s mangled tongue had
been simple by comparison, but it would still be some time before he could use
it without pain.
“We’d better enjoy the silence while we’ve got it, then,”
Harry suggested to Hermione, as he visited the next morning.
“What silence?” Hermione replied with arched eyebrows.
“Yeah, wha’ hsiyess?” Ron attempted to echo. Harry looked
back from Ron to Hermione. Her lips were pursed, and she rolled her eyes. In
a moment all three were laughing hysterically.
The soft swish of the door opening and closing was
completely drowned out by the uproar, so they were all taken by surprise when
the visitor spoke. “Well, if it isn’t my three star pupils, if I may be so
bold as to claim you as mine?”
“Prof–,” Harry began brightly, but the visitor cut him off.
“Remus, please, and I’ll thank you to forget that I
mentioned anything about ‘pupils’. I do believe you are all well beyond that.”
“But, Professor, we still have –”
“Yes, I understand that, Hermione, but I think you also
understand what I meant,” Lupin replied, Summoning a chair and settling
“Ow i you ge i?”
Lupin had just taken a breath to speak, but this brought him
“He asked, ‘how did you get in?’” Hermione translated.
“You can understand that?” Harry asked in wonderment.
“You’d better get married, then!” Hermione’s blush was disappointingly
“How did I get in?” Lupin chuckled. “Well, Ron, it seems
your parents have taken quite firm control over who is allowed in and who is
“Surprise, surprise,” Harry deadpanned.
“Yes, and the St. Mungo’s security staff are doing
admirably. Scrimgeour was simply apoplectic when I was let in – I thought he
was about to do accidental magic. Wouldn’t that have been a scene? Of course,
he was already livid because the guards wouldn’t let him into the ward that’s
normally reserved for his use. And to make matters worse, they did let
his junior assistant in.”
“The very same. He’s now in the foyer of the ward, having a
little heart-to-heart with the rest of the family.”
“I ho ey wip i ow of hi shesh.”
“Ron!” Hermione scolded. “I’m quite sure they won’t!”
“Won’t what?” Harry and Lupin asked together.
“Wip hish hah –”
“Rip his heart out of his chest,” Hermione announced with
“I doubt that that would make a heart-to-heart chat any
easier,” Lupin observed dryly. “Hermione is right –”
“For once,” Harry broke in, and Hermione blushed much more
satisfyingly as Ron and Lupin laughed.
“As I was saying,” Lupin continued, “Percy, to his credit,
hasn’t shown any interest in using his family connection to get his boss past
the guards. I hope that proves to be something upon which a rapprochement can
Harry saw Hermione tense up and glance surreptitiously
toward Ron. He turned toward Ron himself. Ron was looking away to the side,
his jaw set. Slowly, he started to nod, then crossed his fingers. Hermione
smiled, and her shoulders dropped a little.
“Prof– Remus,” Harry asked, “have you heard about what
happened in the Chamber?”
Lupin nodded. “Arthur told me the story before letting me
“Do you have any idea how it happened?”
Lupin flopped back in his chair and looked toward the
ceiling. “Harry, Harry, Harry,” he chuckled. “You and the Killing Curse are
going to keep a lot of us busy for a very long time. First you survive it, which,
of course, no one has ever done before, and still, after – what is it, about
seventeen years now? – no one has anything more than a guess as to how. Then
you get it to do something else it has never been known to do before: kill
someone other than the one on whom it was cast. And now, two days later,
you’re asking me to explain it?” He looked around the room, inviting wry
smiles from the teenagers to match his own. “But seriously, Harry, nobody
knows precisely how the Killing Curse works, even without Harry Potter to
further muddy the waters. You’ll have noticed,” he continued, nodding toward
Hermione, “that the incantation is not based on Latin, as is the case for most
of our spells. The working of the magic itself is similarly unusual. Most of
us who investigate the Dark Arts are of the opinion that the Killing Curse is
related to the uncontrolled magic that Wizard children perform, especially
Muggle-borns and those like you, Harry, who grow up among Muggles. You and
Hermione will certainly remember, and perhaps you do also, Ron, you will
remember situations in which you involuntarily performed magic when under
“I remember one time when I was around eight, some bigger boys
were chasing me, and when they’d almost caught me I suddenly found myself on
the roof of the school. With no idea how I got there.”
Lupin and Ron looked at each other wide-eyed. “Appa’ishin?”
Ron whispered. Lupin nodded, then shook his head slowly before continuing.
“Right, well, it’s believed that the Killing Curse works in
a similar way. The Dark wizard trains himself to regard his victim’s continued
existence as an intolerable situation. He then unleashes this primitive,
nearly uncontrolled magic to rectify that situation. In your case, Harry, you
certainly found yourself in an intolerable situation. Perhaps the curse found
another solution than the one you envisioned.”
“But Harry,” Hermione said, “you told us that you hadn’t
even felt like you had worked magic.” She turned to Lupin. “Shouldn’t he have
at least realized that he’d done magic if it happened that way?” Lupin
shrugged. “I think it might be something else. I remember you telling us, Harry, about the night Voldemort came
back – how he used your blood as part of the spell to make himself a body.
Well, there’s a magical connection between blood and love, isn’t there? So his
using your blood would have created a connection between the two of you, and
whenever you felt love it would have affected him as well.”
Harry looked skeptical. “So he’d start to get all romantic,
“Don’t be silly. He had cut himself off from love as
completely as possible since he was a child.” She started to turn pink as she
continued, “So completely that even his body wasn’t, … you know, …”
“Ma’ wi’ wuv,” Ron offered helpfully.
“Yes,” she said, struggling to regain her composure.
“Anyway, I’d bet that whenever you felt love it pained him.”
“Like my scar but in reverse?” Harry mused.
“Exactly. And so when you chose to end your friend’s life
to save him from what was about to happen, and to accept everything that that would
do to you, that much love just overcame him.”
Lupin considered this for a minute. “An interesting hypothesis,
Hermione. May we never have the opportunity to test it.”
A/N: 1. Inuit hunters will steer a boat to reach shore
at a point well to one side of where they want to go, so that they will know
which way to turn when they reach the shore. Turning the wrong way, in the Arctic, would be fatal. See Shadow of the Hunter, a wonderful ethnography by
Richard K. Nelson. Strategist that he is, Ron would probably think of that on
2. I know “snake flesh” is two words, but I think the
neologism “snakeflesh” is more evocative. To me, snake flesh is just the flesh
of a snake. Snakeflesh is something altogether more sinister.
3. Thanks again to Zsenya for helping me clarify the
things that I hadn’t intentionally made unclear.