The Sugar Quill
Author: cranston  Story: Power  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.




Disclaimer:  J.K. Rowling owns these characters, so please don’t tell her what I’ve done to them.


A/N:  Just a little diversion … on the eve of the publication of Deathly Hallows, I thought we should reexamine a few of our standard assumptions before JKR shows us that they are, in fact, correct.  I’m serious about the Horcruxes wanting to be found and destroyed, and about love being powerful but slow-acting – and about precious little else.  Maybe the Dementor, though…




“Fulgura frango”



I.  The Locket



“Hermione, I know you like house-elves, but that doesn’t mean you have to do Kreacher’s laundry for him!”


“Give it a rest, Ron,” Harry said irritably.  “It’s not like it’s going to make Kreacher any more unpleasant, is it?”


Hermione had extracted a pile of filthy rags from Kreacher’s “bedroom” in the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place.  “Ugh,” she observed, wrinkling her nose and holding the mess as far away from her as possible.  “How am I ever going to clean these things?”


“Fire?” Harry suggested.


“I wouldn’t try to clean those if I were you,” Ron opined.  “The dirt’s probably all that’s holding them together.”


“I think I may have to start with Doxycide.  Let’s see, which room did we leave it in?”


Hermione, leading the boys and following the mephitic rag pile, made her way to the last room they had been involved in cleaning.  Once inside the room she walked past the bookcases toward the curtain where they had left the Doxycide, but before she got there … “OWWW!” … something heavy fell on her foot.


“Merlin’s bunions!” Harry shouted, scooping up the offending object.  “It’s the locket!”


“Brilliant!” Ron chimed in.  “R.A.B. came through for us after all!  Um, now all we need is to figure out how to destroy the thing.”


Hermione was on the floor, clutching her mashed toe, when something caught her attention.  “Hello?” she said as she pulled a particularly musty, rat-gnawed, unlabelled tome off the bottom bookshelf.


The spell they needed was on page 87.


The locket exploded with a brilliant flash of blue-white light and a tremendous noise, accompanied by a terrible, agonized, heart-rending shriek that gradually faded away to nothingness.  Somehow the scene reminded Harry of something.


*          *          *          *          *



II.  The Cup



Christmas Eve was dreary in Grimmauld Place.  No one was surprised by this, though, since everything was dreary in Grimmauld Place.  Hermione had made a supreme effort to cheer things up:  She had gone home and come back with one of her mum’s special chocolate gateaux.  Ron was once again grateful for the Floo connection they had had made for the Grangers’ fireplace, with a name so secret that only the three of them knew it.  What a pity they’d had to Obliviate the installation wizard to keep the secret.


Harry was trying to imagine how Hermione was going to keep Ron away from the gateau when a feeling suddenly seized him and he leapt up as if he had suddenly been seized.  “Ron!  Hermione!  We need to go back to Godric’s Hollow!  Right now!”


“What?” they replied in unison.  Ron was so surprised he actually missed the opportunity to snatch a piece of gateau while Hermione gaped at Harry.


“Something’s about to happen there … I can feel it.  We have to go right now!”


The three bustled into the fireplace, Flooed to a safe location, and from there Apparated to the old shambles.  As soon as they arrived, Harry’s nose told him that something had indeed been happening, and for quite a while.  Apparently, Ron hadn’t finished that bottle of milk they’d bought when they’d been here back in the summer.  But before Harry’s intestines could react, a rafter collapsed and a small, ornate cup rolled in front of his feet.


Hufflepuff’s cup.  Just as with Slytherin’s locket, it was almost as if it had wanted to be found.


As Harry turned the cup over and over, it all began to make sense.  Hadn’t Hepzibah Smith mentioned that the cup was reputed to have magical powers of its own?  How would a powerfully magical object feel about being used as a Horcrux?  Wouldn’t it fight against that fate?  If it lost, wouldn’t it then try to find someone to destroy it?  He could only hope that this particular magical object would also find a way to show him how to destroy it.


“So that’s what was about to happen!” Ron observed, but Harry shook his head.  Somehow he knew that wasn’t it.  But a moment later a chill in his brain told him what was.


“Dementor,” he whispered.  “There’s a Dementor nearby … it’s coming this way.”


Hermione’s wand was out immediately.  She glanced to her side, and breathed in sharply.  “Ron?” she cried.  “Ron!  Where are you?”  He was gone.


An instant before panic could take her completely, Ron bustled out of the kitchen bearing a bottle about a quarter full of some substance that Harry could just barely imagine having once been milk.  As Harry stared at the fluid in revulsion, Ron snatched the cup out of his hand, set it on a small table near the broken-in door, and filled it with the defunct milk.  As he rejoined his friends, Hermione seemed to suss out what he was doing.


Just as she was about to speak, Ron turned abruptly and went back into the kitchen, so that she had to call after him.  “Ron, no!  Let me go back and –”  He reappeared with a plate and a nearly empty tin of biscuits that they had left behind.  “– get a slice of gateau,” Hermione finished emptily as Ron blazed past her.  Working quickly, he set the plate next to the cup and arranged the biscuits on it, then retreated.  Tossing the tin away, he squeezed Hermione between himself and the dazed Harry.


As the Dementor floated into the room, a silver stag, an otter, and a manic puppy erupted from the three wands and positioned themselves between the Dementor and the wands’ owners.  The Dementor briefly took the measure of the three Patronuses.  Apparently deciding that they posed no immediate threat, it then calmly turned its attention to the table.  It poked at the biscuits with a bony finger, then seized the cup and lifted it toward what appeared to be its mouth.  The milk disappeared with a sickening sound.  Then, as it raised the cup away from its … whatever, the Dementor gave a little start.  For a moment it actually looked happy – or would have, if it hadn’t been a Dementor – like a child who drains a glass of milk and discovers a chocolate kiss at the bottom.  Greedily it brought the cup back to its, well, lips.  There was a terrible, agonized, heart-rending shriek that gradually faded away to nothingness.  The Dementor made a sound very much like a belch, a sound that was, in many ways, soul-satisfying.


Back in Grimmauld Place, Harry enjoyed the best eggnog of his life while listening to Ron and Hermione bicker in relief.


“Ron, you should have let me go back and get a slice of gateau.  You saw how it didn’t like the biscuits!”


“Don’t sweat it, Hermione.  It worked, didn’t it?”


“Yes, well, if we’d given it gateau, all the Dementors would be on our side now.”


Harry was sure that Ron just wanted to keep the gateau for himself. 


That night, he dreamt of a brilliant flash of blue-white light and a tremendous explosion, of anxious, inchoate voices, and blubbering nearby.


*          *          *          *          *



III.  The Lead



Grimmauld Place and the lack of further progress in the Horcrux hunt could cast a pall over even the most pleasant spring morning.  One such morning found Hermione humming a melancholy tune in a weird mode.


“That sounds familiar,” Ron remarked.  “Didn’t they play that at the Yule Ball?”


“Hm?” Hermione replied.  “Oh, no, it’s just something I learned from a recording of my parents’ at Christmas a year ago.  It’s a nyckelharpa tune from Sweden called Västanmads Polska…”


“A what tune from Sweden?”


“Nyckelharpa.  It’s kind of a fiddle with keys, or a bowed hurdy-gurdy.  It’s funny … in Sweden they used to think that nyckelharpa players could do magic, and that the nyckelharpa itself was alive.”


“That is odd,” Harry concurred.  “Sounds as if some Dark wizard played one, and made a Horcrux out of it.”


“Could be,” Ron said.  “D’you think You-Know-Who’s made one out of, oh, a guitar or something?”


“Don’t be silly,” Hermione chided.


“I don’t think guitar is his instrument,” Harry said.


“What would it be, then?”  For some reason, Ron seemed compelled to follow this line of thought.


“Dunno,” Harry replied.  “I suppose it would be … Wait, I’ve got it.  I’ll bet his favorite is … the lyre.”


“Oh, honestly!” Hermione lamented, rolling her eyes.  But suddenly she started.  “Hang on a minute,” she said.  Her eyes lost focus, and she said to the air, “Child 39?”


“Thirty-nine?  Hermione, my parents have seven children, and I assure you, no one has thirty-nine!”


She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples.  In a measured voice, she said, “Not thirty-nine children, Ron.  Child ballad 39.  Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go check something.”  Calling out the secret name of her parents’ Floo connection, she swept peremptorily into the fireplace.


Ron and Harry stared at the spot where she’d been, still looking as if she’d been speaking to them in Martian.


“I wonder how many libraries she’ll visit this time,” said Ron.


*          *          *          *          *



IV.  Interlude



Harry and Ron knew that Hermione would be gone for hours.  Harry expressed the hope that she would come back with a compelling argument about what and where the remaining unknown Horcrux would be.  Ron thought it much more likely (and desirable) that she would come back with a gateau.  They agreed, however, that they weren’t going to accomplish anything that day without her, and so they decided to take the day off and decamp to the Burrow, where it might actually be possible to enjoy the weather.  Ron wrote Hermione a note to that effect, in large letters, and left it levitated in front of the fireplace for when she returned.


Harry always enjoyed visiting the Burrow, except that he did not enjoy simultaneously trying to be with Ginny and trying equally hard to avoid her, as he tended to do these days.  In fact, his left brain and his right brain were squabbling so furiously over this that he had come to a new, fuller appreciation of the Muggle expression “beside oneself”.  He’d been beside himself for nearly a year now, and for this reason alone he was more than ready to deal with the last three bits of Voldemort’s soul.  Of course, the prospects for that were bleak.  First, even if Hermione were to track down the unknown Horcrux, there was no telling what it would take to destroy it.  Next would come Nagini, who should be easily taken care of … once they figured a way past the small hurdle of separating her from Voldemort.  And then, of course, would come the final showdown:  a student one year shy of his NEWTs versus the most powerful Dark wizard in history.  It somehow didn’t seem like a straightforward task.  Yes, he was supposed to have some “power the Dark Lord knows not”.  Dumbledore had always maintained that that power was his ability to love.  (Harry’s, not Dumbledore’s.  And certainly not Voldemort’s.)  Not that Harry had any idea how he was supposed to love Voldemort to death.


As he sat at the kitchen table, nursing these thoughts and a mug of tea, Ginny entered the room.  Her eyes met his, and suddenly the Burrow was a lot smaller than he remembered it.  And wasn’t the ringing in his ears somehow supposed to dissipate the crackling in the air between them?  He noticed that his mouth had gone dry, so he tried raising the mug to his lips; the steaming tea somehow felt much colder than his mouth.  Then, while his right brain watched Ginny, transfixed, his left brain coshed it over the head and made him escape outdoors.  He fled the kitchen, vaguely wishing that Voldemort were the one cursed with the ability to love.


Being outdoors was not much of a help.  It was spring, after all, and Nature was, well, doing what Nature does in the spring.  Squirrels were chasing each other into the trees, birds were going through their complicated aerial dances, frogs called to other frogs from the pond …


But the snakes were the worst.  He could understand the snakes.  At least he could mostly understand the snakes.  And what he could understand was just hellishly embarrassing.


Hssspxx thssfss shhhfpfff.”


– and that was the tame stuff!  God, it was enough to make Dudley blush.  Or would be, if Dudley spoke Parseltongue.  And then there were the words Harry didn’t understand.  He suspected that he could have a long and happy married life and never find out what some of those words meant.


Not that he planned to marry a snake.


Fthththsss xfxfxss pxxhssss!


Oh, no, that was just too much.  A picture of Ginny came unbidden to mind – he would never voluntarily associate her with such things! – and he felt the color drain from his face.  In an amazing strange-bedfellows moment, both his left and right brains, each for its own reasons, urged him back inside.  In he fled.


Ginny was gone, but Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were in the kitchen when he entered; Mister was saying something to Missus about “ekeltricity between them” but broke off when he saw Harry.  Harry, in his turn, just waved as he went through the kitchen heading for who-knows-where.  Glad of something else to think about, he smiled fondly as he thought of Arthur Weasley, practically his second father (well, maybe fourth?), he of the lifelong obsession with all things Muggle who nonetheless still couldn’t pronounce “electricity” correctly. 


But presently he found himself concerned about just who Mr. Weasley had been talking about.  Must be Ron and Hermione, he thought.  They’re the only ones with ekeltricity between them.  Indeed, they had been his romantic anchor since last summer.  That thought brought him up short.  His romantic anchor was Ron and Hermione!  No wonder he felt so badly at sea.


He resolved to find some more stable couple to be his example.  Perhaps Seamus and Lavender … Neville and his plants … Fred-and-George and the joke shop … it didn’t look promising.


He sincerely hoped Hermione would find that Horcrux soon.  At least that would be something he could wrap his mind around.


*          *          *          *          *



V.  The Harp



It was back in Grimmauld Place, and well past midnight, when Ron blessedly woke Harry from his disturbing dreams of bright lights, explosions, and Ginny gazing deeply into his eyes and hissing suggestively.  Ron had been waiting up for Hermione; when she had stepped out of the fireplace, she had taken one sweeping look around the room and then said “Get Harry” so urgently that Ron had scurried right up to the bedroom.  He hadn’t even looked to see if she’d brought a gateau, let alone tried to identify the strange object she had brought with her.


It was a harp, as it turned out, but the strangest-looking harp any of them had ever seen.  Hermione explained:  “There’s a Child ballad about a woman who’s been murdered – drowned – by her older sister.  A passing musician finds her body, makes a harp out of her breastbone and strings it with her hair.”


“Muggles sing about that to their children?” Ron interrupted, incredulous.


Hermione sighed and pressed her fist to her forehead.  “Not a children’s ballad, Ron, a Child ballad.  That’s Francis Child, who published a collection of English and Scottish ballads in the 1880s and ‘90s.”


“And that one is Child ballad 39,” Harry said, catching the drift.


“Well, no, it’s actually Child ballad 10.  Number 39 is something else.”


“Not 39?” Ron exclaimed.  “Hermione, I’m shocked!”


She hit him.


“Anyway,” she continued, “once the harp was made it sang the story of the murder, and so the guilty sister was found out.  It turns out the story was true.  The ‘musician’ was actually Gryffindor.  This is the harp.  And this is Horcrux number five.”  The look on her face was nothing short of triumphant.


“But Hermione,” Harry spluttered, “how did you get it past all the protective spells?  You could have been killed, or – or worse!”


“Oh, that.  Well, it seems Voldemort was very clever.  He simply hid it in a place where no one would ever find it, so he didn’t need to cast any spells for protection.  Or even concealment, for that matter.  All I had to do was go to the right University museum and it was just there for the taking.”


“Brilliant.  Now we just need to find how to destroy it.”


“I’ve an idea,” Ron said quickly, glancing at the clock.  “If we go back to the Burrow right now, we can try it tonight.”


Harry and Hermione looked at each other and shrugged.  The three headed for the fireplace.


Once in the lounge at the Burrow, Ron took charge.  “Okay, one of you needs to tune that harp.”  Hermione shoved it at Harry, who was reluctant even to touch it.


“Oh, come on, Harry,” she whispered.  “She’s been dead a thousand years, she’s not going to hurt anyone.”  He took it gingerly and started to pluck at a few of the strings.


“Right, Hermione, we’ll need lots of Silencing Charms so we don’t wake anybody.”  She duly set to work.


“So, Ron, what’s the plan?”


“In three minutes, a program starts on the Wireless.  I want to see how it affects that harp.”  Ron looked back and forth between two very doubtful faces.  “When I was little, every time I tried to stay up too late Mum threatened to make me listen to it.”  The faces got even more doubtful.  “Well, it can’t hurt to try,” Ron said defensively.  “Much.”


Three minutes later Ron switched on the Wireless and set the harp directly in front of the speaker.  Less than a minute after, Harry fully understood why Ron had qualified his assurance with the word “much” – the music was truly execrable.  Some awful mix of ‘80’s Wizco, over-produced Conjure’n’Western from the States, and contemporary New Mage.  He looked at Hermione; her face was green and her eyes desperate.  But Ron’s jaw was set, and he was touching up the tuning of the harp strings ever so slightly.  One by one they started to vibrate sympathetically with the alleged music coming out of the Wireless.


After about twenty minutes there was a terrible, agonized, heart-rending shriek that gradually faded away to nothingness.


“Hermione,” Harry asked when they got back to Grimmauld Place, “how did you find out about all this musical stuff?”


“Oh, my parents have always been interested in folk music.  I never paid all that much attention, but over the Christmas holidays last year, some of these songs just, well, they were relevant to … what was going on in my life at the time.”


Harry just nodded.  I guess I owe it all to Lavender Brown, he thought.


That night, he dreamt of a brilliant flash of blue-white light and a tremendous explosion, of the ground shaking beneath him, of a high voice blubbering and whining, a man’s voice pontificating, and a woman’s voice speaking words of comfort, but not to him.


*          *          *          *          *



VI.  The Snake



As spring melted into a hot and muggy summer, Harry worried long and hard about destroying Nagini.  The tricky bit, he knew, would be getting her away from Voldemort.  He was having lunch with Ron and Hermione when it came to him.


“So,” Hermione wondered, trying to define the problem, “is Voldemort so fond of Nagini that she’s never out of his sight?”


“I don’t think ‘fond’ is the right word,” Harry replied.  “Voldemort isn’t really capable of being fond of anything.”


Ron theatrically raised the back of his wrist to his forehead.  “Oh, poor lovelorn Nagini!  And I’ll bet You-Know-Who doesn’t even approve of any of her boyfriends.”


“You think they’d approve of him?” Hermione asked with a grin.


But Harry’s nose popped up as if he had caught an old, familiar scent.  “Wait a minute – Ron, say that again.”


And so the next morning found the three sharing a disappointingly insipid breakfast in a Muggle pub on the edge of Great Hangleton.  Harry excused himself and went outside into the woods, sneaking a particularly suspect-looking banger out in a paper napkin.  Fifteen minutes later he was back, minus the banger.


“We’re in luck,” he announced in a hushed voice.  “The snakes tell me that there’s somebody answering Nagini’s description living in the old Riddle House.”  He looked significantly at Ron.  “They say she doesn’t get out much.”


Fuelled by the powerful mix of weak tea, powdered eggs, and questionable breakfast meat, the three spent the day scouting around the hills overlooking the neighbouring village of Little Hangleton.  Eventually they settled into a sheltered spot low on the opposite side of one pathless hill.  Well after the late summer sunset, and after a rather more satisfactory Chinese take-out meal, Harry declared that it was time. 


Moving apart from his friends, he sat on the ground, rested his head on his knees, and starting remembering his hours spent alone with Ginny.  He had planned to be careful to avoid bringing her face to mind – after all, he was trying to communicate the images to Voldemort – but this turned out to be much easier than he’d anticipated:  at the particular times he was remembering, the most pleasant of them all, he had been far too close to Ginny to actually see her face.  After a few very enjoyable minutes (far too few, in his opinion), he felt a lurching in his scar, and he knew he had got through.  Voldemort was retching.


Harry cleared his mind and waited long enough for Voldemort to conjure himself a good, stiff drink or three.  Then he started sending him some images that were far more pleasant – or would be, if you were Voldemort.  Memories of his hours spent alone with Dolores Umbridge.  After a few minutes (not few enough, in his opinion), his scar started to buzz pleasantly and he knew that Voldemort was asleep.  Cuing Ron and Hermione to take their positions, he hopped onto his Firebolt, flashed them a thumbs-up, and sped off toward the old derelict mansion.


With Voldemort dreaming his sweetly malicious Voldemort dreams, Harry quietly called Nagini away.  He rode the Firebolt ahead of her endlessly, it seemed, continually looking back.  Never flying too fast, lest he lose her; never flying too slow, lest she catch him; always mindful of what was liable to happen to him if she did catch up.  He led her around the outskirts of the village, into the woods, across the hill to where Ron and Hermione lay in wait.  As their spells struck her, there was a terrible, agonized, heart-rending shriek that gradually faded away to nothingness.  Nagini may have been a Horcrux, but separated from Voldemort, after all, she was just a snake. 


Who would have thought that listening to the snakes in the woods around the Burrow this spring would have been the key?  When the idea had come to him, he’d been sure it was daft.  But hadn’t Dumbledore told him repeatedly that love was the power that Voldemort didn’t know?  Hadn’t he drilled into Harry the conviction that his ability to love was his greatest weapon in this fight?  Voldemort’s inability to love, Harry mused, had finally hurt him directly.  Nagini would never have followed Harry if Voldemort had been saying those things to her, those words that spoke of, um, love.  Or would, if you were a snake.


Pitiful, Harry thought.  Even Romilda Vane wouldn’t have fallen for those lines.  Not even if she spoke Parseltongue.


He tried to send the sleeping Voldemort an impression of those lines, followed by images of a snake-on-a-spit barbeque.  The last bit was made up, of course, but he figured it should get a rise out of Voldemort.  If it got through.


Back home in Grimmauld Place that night, Harry dreamt of a brilliant flash of blue-white light and a tremendous explosion, of the ground shaking beneath him, of high blubbering and whining, a man speaking of a protected cottage, and a woman’s voice speaking words of comfort.  The voices belonged to the Dursleys.


*          *          *          *          *



VII.  The Leader



In the morning, Harry began his final preparations to battle Voldemort.  He knew it had to be done today, before Voldemort wised up to the fact that Nagini was dead, and that her demise had been the culmination of a larger plan.  Harry knew where he wanted the confrontation to happen – a clearing atop one of the hills around Little Hangleton had given him a good, tingly feeling when they’d come upon it yesterday.  He would have to get Voldemort to meet him there at sunset.  He’d position himself on the northwest edge of the clearing, with the setting sun at his back – and in Voldemort’s eyes.


To get Voldemort there, he tried the simplest possible thing:  he wrote him a note.  As he was about to sign his name, though, an idea came to him.  Worth a try, he thought.  And so he closed the message with:


            Fangs a lot for everything!

            Love, Harry



If that didn’t kill Voldemort outright, he figured, it should at least get him to come out and fight.  For good measure, he carefully wrapped Nagini’s fangs in the parchment, and addressed the message to


            Tom Riddle

            dba “Lord” Voldemort

            Craven Hiding Place

            The Riddle House

            Little Hangleton

            North Yorkshire


“Be careful,” he told Hedwig needlessly as he tied the little parcel to her leg and she sailed off to make her delivery.  Getting him there is half the fun, he thought morbidly.


Mid-afternoon found him in a sheltered spot below the clearing.  The air was oppressively hot and humid.  As he waited for the sun to go down, an odd memory wafted into his head, some news story about how the murder rate is highest at 97° – at lower temperatures, people aren’t quite as irritable; at higher temperatures, it’s just too hot to bother.  Not very likely that it will be too hot for Voldemort to bother.


He still didn’t know how he could possibly use his ability to love to defeat Voldemort in a duel to the death.  Love, he knew, is very powerful.  Love, he also knew, is very slow-acting.  He felt he needed something much quicker.  And there were mere hours to figure it out.  He turned the problem over and over in his mind, but saw nothing new in it.  Eventually the sultry heat got to him and he started to doze off.


He began to dream once again of a brilliant flash of blue-white light and a tremendous explosion – and woke with a start.  He recognized the memory!  He was four years old, maybe only three.  Uncle Vernon was driving the family to a cottage they had rented for a week that summer, and they had been caught in a storm.  Lightning struck right in front of the car.  He and Dudley were terrified; he remembered Aunt Petunia saying, “Don’t be afraid, Diddikins, it will be over soon.”  And Uncle Vernon was saying that they would be safe at the cottage, because …


He looked to the west.  The sun was getting low; one way or the other, it would all be over soon.  Ominous clouds were piling up between him and the horizon.  Great, he thought, it’s going to look like some B movie.  He gazed into the roiling clouds, and a desperate thought came to him:  could Dumbledore have been wrong?  It was the merest chance, but he had to take it … he’d have to play for time … As he made his way up to the clearing, he tapped his trainers with his wand, thickening up the soles a bit.  If only for luck, he thought.  Height makes right.


Moments after he reached the edge of the clearing, Voldemort Apparated to the other side with a soft pop.


“Where is my snake, Potter?” he snarled.


Harry ignored Voldemort’s question.  “So, Riddle, you decided to show up.”


“What’s that you called me?”


“Your name.  What, are you too old to remember it?”


“You don’t want your death to be an easy one, Potter, do you?”


“Or have you forgotten how you got it – from your Muggle father.  Riddle.


You will call me by the name I have chosen!


“Why would you want me to do that?  It’s such a stupid name.”


Voldemort advanced into the clearing, firing a curse.  Harry parried it easily, and it incinerated a nearby bush.


“I mean it, Riddle.  The Canadians keep mistaking you for a Muggle singer.”


Harry heard rumbling behind him.  His back felt cool; the clouds behind him were cutting off the sun.  A wind kicked up.  How melodramatic.  He deflected another curse.


“And those Yanks, Tom.  You know, a whole lot of them are refusing to shop at a place called Volde-Mart or something.”


The wind swirled and the rumbling resolved into peals of thunder as Voldemort advanced and cast yet another curse.  Harry parried this one as well, though the force of it nearly knocked him over.


“And you should hear what your own people call you.  When Snape was at Hogwarts I always thought he was talking about the Dark Lord.  It took me the longest time to understand his accent, but then I figured out that he was saying ‘Dork Lord’ all along.”


The next curse was unfocused, and accompanied by a loud, wordless growl.  Harry smiled to see Voldemort reduced to a preverbal state.


“Or maybe it was ‘Dork Lard,’ it’s hard to tell.”


“ENOUGH!” Voldemort bellowed, brandishing his wand high above his head.  In an instant, Harry conjured a thin silver rod, extending a couple of kilometers straight up from the end of Voldemort’s wand.  High in the air above, a band of electrons wandering like lovers lost in the wilderness suddenly found a silvern highway spread out before them.  They rushed down along it, and burst almost effortlessly through the puny resistance of Voldemort’s wand and body to their joyful reunion with their positive-charged beloveds in the ground.  In milliseconds they were followed by thirty billion billion of their fellows following the same path, the heat of their passion rising to tens of thousands of degrees.


It all took less than half a second.  The wood of Voldemort’s wand had exploded; his corpse was ruined.  A single phoenix feather, liberated from the core of the wand, drifted downwards in the now-still air and settled mockingly on Voldemort’s nose.  Or would have, if he’d had a nose.


Thanks, Uncle Vernon, Harry thought as he surveyed the preternaturally peaceful scene, for talking about lightning rods.  And thanks, Dumbledore, for making sure I got a Muggle upbringing.


Wizards just don’t know the power of electricity.




A/N:  Where do I begin?  Oh, yes, with the epigraph.  “Fulgura frango” means “I break the lightning.”  It was a common inscription on church bells, back in the days when the ringing of church bells was believed to break up the path of lightning, and when electrocution was an occupational hazard of church-bell ringers.  Page 87 is a hat tip to the Sugar Quill; it’s a joke that is so inside that I don’t get it either.  For those of my fellow Yanks who have never had to puzzle over a British menu, gateau is a layer cake.  See?  Just because you don’t know what it is doesn’t mean it’s a mistake to order it.  (Although I’m glad my mother dissuaded me from ordering “cheval” that time in Switzerland…)  The word “shambles” is often used nowadays to refer to a place that’s a wreck, but it really means a place where slaughter has occurred (and which may be a wreck as a result).  The Swedish nyckelharpa was in fact once believed to be alive, and nyckelharpa players to be magicians.  Perhaps in some places they still are.  Västanmads Polska is a real, and wonderfully evocative, tune, written by the early-19th-century nyckelharpa master (and reputed magician) Byss-Calle when he was asked to play at the wedding of the woman he loved.  Thus Hermione would have latched onto it during the Christmas holidays when Ron was going out with Lavender; Ron, on the other hand, would associate it with the Yule Ball for precisely the same reasons.  Child ballad #39 is “Tam Lin”, about a man who is stolen away by the Queen of the Faeries to be her lover; no doubt Hermione, at the time, noticed the parallels with the story of Ron and Lavender.  “I guess I owe it all to Pamela Brown” is a song by Leo Kottke, which Hermione’s parents probably know.  Sorry, I’ve forgotten which fic I read that suggested using the snake grapevine to locate Nagini and Voldemort – if you know, please leave a review and remind me!  “Dba” stands for “doing business as”.  “Getting there is half the fun” was the tag line of Cunard Cruise Lines, back when people traveled on ships to get somewhere.   I’m just guessing that Little Hangleton is in North Yorkshire; we do know that it’s about 200 miles from Little Whinging, Surrey, so that’s at least a reasonable guess.  The Canadian singer in question is Valdy.  The information on lightning, including the epigraph, comes from a short, semi-technical book, All About Lightning, by Martin Uman.  The “leader” (more precisely, “stepped leader”) is the spark that walks randomly to the ground, ionizing the air as it goes and creating a conducting path for the free electrons in a thundercloud; when it reaches the ground, the “return stroke” produces the visible lightning flash and the thunder, and extremely high and damaging temperatures.


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