Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related plot events and characters are the property of JK Rowling.
Summary: PostHogwarts. Harry must deal with the horrors of war, and in doing so he will embrace his heritage and leave a lasting legacy on the world.
A/N: This is Rated M. I hope you enjoy!
PART ONE, April 1998
Chapter 1: Love's Labor
This was it. The end had come. Harry stood facing his destiny. He stood resolute and determined, a little bit afraid, but secure in the knowledge that his three best friends were standing behind him. He stood staring at the door, at what he knew lay beyond it...and at what it represented to him. This was the final obstacle, the final hurtle that Harry had to pass through in order to reach his fate. To Harry, though, the door acted as a mirror, as well. As he stared at the smooth black surface, his mind wandered to the events of the last seven years of his life. He could remember the elation and wonder that surrounded him when he first learned that he was a wizard. He remembered how innocent he was then, knowing nothing of the battle facing the wizarding world and the crucial role he would end up playing in it. He remembered meeting Ron and Hermione, and the first time he saw Ginny. His mind wandered through the years, fondly recalling the high points of his time spent at Hogwarts and reminding him of the trials he had already been through. His heart ached for those that had been lost - Dumbledore, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Snape...
When his mind brought the image of Snape to the forefront, he started a little. It was only a year ago that he had considered Snape just as a much of an enemy as what lay beyond this door. He had only just begun to understand what Snape and Dumbledore had set in motion that night. It had all led to what just happened - Snape sacrificed himself in order for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to go on. The Death Eaters had all been assembled to stop their progress, but the five of them together were a force to be reckoned with. In the end, though, five against twelve was poor odds, and Snape did the heroic thing of placing himself in harms way so the rest could go on. He stepped in front of a Killing Curse, making it possible for Hermione and Ron to savagely send their own Avada Kedavra's and finally overcome the last two Death Eaters. Harry's mind mulled over the events of the past several hours, reliving each moment as it all became more and more surreal. The five of them - four now - had infiltrated what the Ministry of Magic had deemed 'the last and strongest bastion of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named...any attempt on this fortress will surely fail'. Surely fail? SURELY FAIL? Harry couldn't believe the rhetoric that the Ministry had used - it was almost as if they expected everyone to fail in the war they had denied was even happening for so long.
His mind wandered back to the present, in which he was still staring at the door in front of him. He turned to his friends. "Well, I suppose this is it..." Harry's face acquired an uncomfortable look before he continued. "I'm not going to lie to you guys. We'll be lucky to come out of this alive; any of us. You can still turn back if you want to. I wouldn't blame you and no one else would either."
"Harry," Hermione began, "you know we could never do that. I've told you before that we had the opportunity to turn away from you long before now, and we never have. We're not about to start now." She held up her hand as Harry began to speak. "I don't want to hear it. We all love you and we know what this is going to be like. We've watched each other grow during the past few years, and I would be ashamed to leave now. This our fight, our battle...it's our bond that Voldemort fears most."
Harry did not say another word. Instead, he looked from Ron's face to Hermione's, and finally to Ginny's, who gave him a small smile and leaned over to kiss him. She leaned back and said, "Don't think you're alone in this, Harry. You're not and never have been. Let's do this." Harry turned to the door and reached for the handle. As his hand got close to it, his scar started to burn. When he touched it, the pained roared into a blinding, searing force. He knew what this meant...Voldemort was terribly angry. He recovered from his momentary stagger and turned the knob. The door swung open.
"Ah, at last, we have come to it," hissed a snake-like voice from within. The four of them cautiously entered the room beyond, which was dimly lit. It looked like a massive circular room. Voldemort was standing there, glaring at them. "So, Harry Potter, you have come, just as I thought you would...and I see you have brought your little friends as well," he said, as his red reptilian eyes swept over the other three.
Harry stared coldly at the thing before him. "Little? What do you know of it, Riddle? You stand here cowering in this room, leaving your Death Eaters out there to fend for themselves. They were all waiting for you to come; you could see it in their eyes. You could also see the shock on their faces when they realized they had been deserted as they died." Harry's green gaze had matched the intensity of Voldemort's red stare and his voice had become uncharacteristically icy.
Voldemort laughed at this. It was a high, snivelly sort of thing, almost like nails on a chalkboard. "Big words, boy. I don't need them. I'm more powerful than anyone could ever imagine. I could take all four of you down with one flick of my wand if I wanted to."
There was a silence for a moment as everyone contemplated what Voldemort had just said. The four friends were standing in a line facing Voldemort, who glared at them all from underneath his black hood. It was a sight, to be sure. The four teenagers were standing fearlessly against certain death, their faces grim and set and their wands out and ready. They had come this far and were not easily intimidated by mere words anymore. Voldemort hadn't realized this yet.
"So why don't you?" asked Hermione, suddenly.
Voldemort looked at her coolly for a second, but did not respond.
"Come on, Tom, share with us all why you aren't doing anything," said Ginny, sarcastically.
"Girl, you had best shut that mouth of yours, or I will wave my wand and end it," snapped Voldemort. Harry thought there was something odd in voice as he said those harsh words. Was it uncertainty? Perhaps fear? Or was he just bluffing?
"You keep talking about that, yet you just continue to stand there," said Ron, looking as cold as he'd ever been. All the joy and happiness had been drained from the room. The teens were no longer teens - they were as mature in their own sense as they would ever be and they were all facing what was coming like much older and more battle-wizened wizards. It was Voldemort who seemed to be the uncertain one.
"Crucio!" shouted Voldemort, waving his wand at Ron, but Harry was too fast for him.
"Protego!" bellowed Harry, waving his wand at Ron. The normal protective shield flared into existence, gleaming white around the edges, but as the curse came closer, the shield flashed a deep green. The Cruciatus bounced harmlessly off of the shield, slamming into the wall behind Voldemort and leaving a small crater there. The three others looked at Harry questioningly, knowing that under normal circumstances a simple Protego incantation couldn't block an Unforgivable Curse. Harry was far from normal and these were hardly usual circumstances, so they just accepted it as another unexpected glimpse of what they secretly believed to be Harry's true power.
Voldemort eyed the crater for a moment, and then turned his head to look at Harry. "I see your reflexes…and other things…have improved since last we met. I'm impressed. With some work you could become a truly great dark sorcerer with me."
This shocked Harry. He had always considered Voldemort his mortal enemy and he thought the feeling was reciprocated. Apparently Voldemort had other ideas, though. Harry felt his temper rising as he thought this - did Voldemort think this was some kind of joke?
Through grated teeth, Harry said, "Never. I would never associate with scum like you. After all you've done...how could you even presume for one moment that I would ever think of you in any other way than murder? You killed my parents, you killed my friends, and you killed my mentors; YOU KILLED MR. AND MRS. WEASLEY, YOU TORE APART THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! CRUCIO! STUPEFY! REDUCTO! AVADA KEDAVRA! SECTUMSEMPRA! Ron and Hermione took Harry's sudden outburst and flurry of spells as the word to attack. Ginny, however, had been watching Harry intently. She became aware of a tangible sense of his anger as it simmered beneath the surface. As it grew, she thought she saw the olive-emerald depths within his gaze begin to swirl and smolder. While she was observing this, Ron and Hermione had followed Harry and thrown their own spells at Voldemort. In total, fifteen spells were unleashed upon him in only a few short seconds. Voldemort dodged some and repelled the rest.
Harry stood panting for a moment as the dust settled and everyone stood still for a moment. Harry knew that Voldemort had not been expecting them to have such masterful control of advanced dark magic, but it wasn't something that made him think they had any more of a chance from when they came in. Voldemort had a sharp mind and he could adapt to many things on the fly. Four teens that know how to use Unforgivable Curses shouldn't be too much of a problem for Voldemort.
"Well, well, well. I see you have learned much in your time at Hogwart's. I must give Dumbledore credit - never when I was there did they come near teaching this level of magic. It is impressive, indeed. But, nonetheless, I will still kill you all," said Voldemort. Harry, however, looked to his friends - they had noticed it as well. Voldemort's voice was no longer calm and collected. It has a slight edge to it, almost as if the uncertainty they had sensed was actually coming into play now.
"Dumbledore didn't teach us these things," Ginny began quietly. Hermione picked up where she left off. "That's right – you knew Dumbledore was dead. He couldn't have taught us this. I doubt you'd be surprised to learn it was Harry who trained us…" Hermione trailed off, hoping she hadn't said too much.
"Let's see how much Potter has actually taught you and how well he trained you to use it," hissed Voldemort. Everyone was silent for a moment, waiting for what was coming next.
"NO!" yelled Ginny suddenly. As she yelled this, Voldemort staggered back a step. The other three eyed her in surprise.
Voldemort returned to his former stance and eyed her seemingly somewhat warily. "I see he has successfully taught you how to resist the Imperius Curse. Interesting, very interesting indeed." Voldemort was looking from one person to another now. Harry took this as the fact he was formulating some kind of plan. He knew that once Voldemort launched his real attack against them, it would be brutal and coldly efficient. He searched his mind for something to do, but it was empty. He had come here willingly to face his fate, but he couldn't just stand here and let his friends succumb to the same. He had to do something, now that it came down to it. It would break him to see them meet their end here, in this cold room deep beneath the earth, where no one could hear them scream or ever know their story and how brave they all were. He had to do something.
It was as if Voldemort could read Harry's thoughts, though, because Voldemort began to laugh. Even though he was now skilled at Occlumency, the laugh suggested that Voldemort had somehow known what Harry was thinking. The laugh grew in intensity and mirth – Harry's scar started to burn. He gasped; the pain grew stronger and stronger, and, finally succumbing to it, Harry sunk to his knees.
He let out a cry of agony as he kneeled on the ground, holding his head. His friends threw wicked looks at Voldemort, who was still laughing at them shamelessly. Harry was now on all fours on the cold floor, panting and crying as the pain increased. He thought his head would explode from it. It was driving through his scar into his skull, creating shockwaves that seemed to vibrate his very brain. Harry yelled out involuntarily as his friends moved closer, trying to get a good look and see if they could help. Voldemort just stood there, laughing.
"Harry Potter, do you now see how powerful I am? Do you now see what I can do? Of all people, I expected you least of all to underestimate me and what I'm capable of," said Voldemort, still laughing.
As Voldemort said this, Harry could see images of his past floating through his pounding skull. Images of his friends, his loved ones, all those that had died…he realized then that this is what his whole life had been leading up to. All those that had died for him – his parents, Sirius, Dumbledore, the Weasley's, and just recently Snape – had shown their love and support for him even as they died. His best friends, in the face of certain death and agony, stood by his side and plowed into the heart of the devil. They were fearless; No, Harry thought, through the pain, they are irreplaceable. He loved them so much. The pain in his scar had seemed to reach a plateau, but it wasn't one such that he could move or stand-up from.
"Ah, Harry, just accept what is coming. I know you can feel it, how pointless all of this has been. After you die, guess what I'm going to do? I'm going to torture each and every one of your little friends until they scream so loud they can't anymore. And then you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to do it again and again - until they die," said Voldemort without remorse or regret – only contempt.
Harry heard this through the pain, and he also could sense the raw and powerful fear coming off of his friends now. Images of their torture – horrible, unspeakable images of what Voldemort was going to do them now floated through his searing brain. Ron was being tormented with a Cruciatus curse, writhing around on the ground as his vocal chords gave way…Hermione was getting mauled by Greyback, screaming in terror and then agony as the beast advanced upon and attacked her…and Ginny…his Ginny…no, not Ginny…At seeing what ugly things Voldemort had planned for Ginny, the pain started to grow in his scar even more. This was a different pain, though. It was crisper, sharper, and yet not as crippling. A bright white light began to show from where his scar was on his forehead.
His friends stepped back as they saw this. They looked toward Voldemort, who had stopped laughing and was staring intently at Harry. The look on his face was unreadable. He was paying no attention to anyone other than Harry at the moment, so they felt safe in ignoring him, if only for a few seconds. They turned their gazes back upon Harry, who was still panting on all fours on the ground. The white light was still emanating from his scar, only now it seemed to be growing stronger and brighter. Hermione and Ginny gasped in amazement as Harry began to rise from the ground. Ron watched in utter disbelief as Harry was lifted off his hands, then his knees, into a standing position, and then off the ground entirely. They had no idea what was happening to him; whether he was in any pain or not. They couldn't do anything for fear of injuring him.
As Harry was raised upward by a seemingly invisible force, they could see his eyes were closed. His head lolled back and then to the side; his back was arched and his arms were outstretched a bit. The white light was growing in intensity so much that soon the three others had to shield their eyes from it and back away a few steps in order to get a clear look at Harry. He was suspended in the air now – the tips of shoes were a little more than a foot of the ground. The white light started to pulse from its origin. With each pulse it grew brighter and stronger. Soon, the entire room – all of the huge vast expanse of the circular dungeon, was brightly lit by it. Voldemort was still standing opposite Harry, staring at him with wide eyes. Ginny glanced at him, wondering why he didn't seem to be doing anything. Suddenly, there was a blinding white flash and a loud snap, as though something had either been broken or unbroken. The light faded away. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and even Voldemort stared in shock at what they saw.
Harry was still upright and off the ground, but he had changed drastically. His robes and hair moved as if a stiff breeze continually blew over him. He started to descend and when he touched the ground, his eyes opened. Ginny gasped at what she saw – Harry's unusual green eyes had taken on a whole new dimension and now were confident, fearless, all-knowing, and poised. His wand began to intermittently emit fiery red sparks from the tip as Harry stood there. The sparks, curiously, exactly matched the color of Ginny's hair. The very air around Harry seemed to crackle as he stood there.
Harry looked at them and smiled. It wasn't a smile they had ever seen before. It was utterly and completely brilliant. He looked to each of their faces and his smile deepened – he finally realized why it had to be him to kill Voldemort. His eyes left their gazes and turned toward Voldemort. As they did this, his wand started to positively throw the fiery sparks everywhere. When his gaze met Voldemort's, the sparks started to come out of his eyes. The air around Harry grew hot and listless. The three could audibly discern small pops as if minute firecrackers were going off near Harry. They stared in wonder at the sight before them. Harry had changed into something else entirely, even though he still looked like Harry Potter. Harry took a step forward, towards Voldemort. The air around him sizzled as he moved through it. The sparks were searing the floor. He moved with the most grace and confidence he had ever possessed.
"Cheap tricks Potter. Couldn't you be a little more creative?" Voldemort said, as if without a care in the world. His voice belied his words, though, because clearly this new Harry startled him. "I tire of this. Goodbye, Ms. Granger," Voldemort said, very casually. He raised wand and fired at her. The spell was green – the Killing Curse. Hermione futilely yelled a Protego as Ron and Ginny screamed and shut their eyes. They all knew that Avada Kedavra was unblockable. They waited for the inevitable…but it didn't come. Ginny opened her eyes, and breathed in sharply as she saw what had happened. The green essence of the spell had stopped a few feet in front of the three. It was now motionless, just hovering in the air. She looked to Harry for understanding, and things fell into place. She was finally starting to comprehend what had happened to Harry. He had put his left hand up toward the curse and had stopped it from hitting Hermione. He beckoned the essence toward him, closing his hand as he did so. The green essence dwindled to nothing more than a fluorescent marble, which Harry brought close to his mouth. He puffed out some air – poof – and it was gone.
Voldemort gasped as he saw what Harry had done. "But –that's impossible. Avada Kedavra is…can't… No, that can't have happened…I must have made a mistake," he muttered to himself. Voldemort raised his wand and four green lights came flying out toward them. Ginny shrieked another futile Protego and huddled closer to Ron and Hermione, waiting for it, but yet again, it didn't come. They all looked and saw that the four had stopped just as the first one had, several feet in front of them. Harry repeated what he had done earlier, sending the spells away with little puffs of breath.
Voldemort was clearly frightened now. He raised his wand, but before he could cast anything, Harry spoke.
"Tom, Tom…why do you persist with that rubbish? Clearly you can see that will not be working anymore. Lower your wand and make it easier on yourself," said Harry, calmly. The others marveled at his voice – it was as if they were experiencing it rather than hearing it. It flowed through their veins and gave them each a confidence that none had ever known. Hermione had a dawning look on her face and then stared wide-eyed at Harry as she realized something. He was sharing his soul with them, unconditionally and without hesitance. They could all feel the power swirling within him.
Voldemort laughed shrilly. "You have no idea what you're talking about, little boy! Nothing can stand in my way! Don't you get it? I'm Lord Voldemort, the most powerful wizard this world has ever known!" Voldemort raised his wand and began casting Avada Kedavra's all over the place, but each and every one of them was stopped and given the same treatment.
After a few moments of this, Harry bellowed, "ENOUGH, TOM!" The air around Harry exploded into sparks and hissed as he shouted – the end of his wand was practically a torch now. The sparks coming from his eyes had died off, but the greens swirling within reached new depths. An aura around Harry started to glow as he advanced on Voldemort.
"Can you not see what is happening here, Tom? I would have thought you were smarter than this. Avada Kedavra is a spell based purely in hate – you have to utterly loathe the person you are casting it on for it to be effective. As you can see, however, they are largely ineffective at the moment." Harry neared Voldemort and came to a stop. His aura had started to glow a deep green, much like the color in his eyes. His stare burned into Voldemort's red eyes, which showed only hatred.
"And I'm sure you're wondering why. Well, let me tell you that I have you to thank for that. Yes – don't look at me like that – it was you who did this. When you put those images of the Ron, Hermione, and Ginny within my head, you unknowingly triggered something that I think even Dumbledore was wary of," explained Harry. He made a gesture, as if to show Voldemort what he'd become. "Dumbledore always said that love was a powerful force – one which is mighty in the brain but unimaginably powerful if it ever manifested itself physically."
Voldemort seemed to be catching on, because the fear was now radiating off of him.
"That is what I have become – the physical representation of love. When I saw what you had planned for Ginny, something deep within my soul stirred and awoke. I think it is the last and most powerful part of the protection my mother gave me when she died. Even Dumbledore didn't seem to know how to trigger it – he never hinted that he did, at least – so I'm not sure if this has ever been done before…but regardless of any of that, I want you to give me your wand."
Voldemort couldn't help himself from laughing even though was obviously scared. He simply raised his wand and began a rapid-fire assault on Harry, who was only feet away. His friends screamed when they saw this, but quickly stopped. Voldemort was unleashing Killing Curse after Killing Curse upon Harry, but they all hit him and vaporized harmlessly. His aura glowed brighter with every new spell that dissipated in front of him.
"Love is more powerful than hate, Tom; far more powerful. Nothing you can do to me will hurt me now. You have one-seventh of a soul left. Even if you somehow embraced love in the next 10 seconds, you couldn't begin to imagine what real and boundless love and friendship feels like. Accio wand," said Harry. Voldemort's wand flew to him. He snapped it in two and threw it on the ground. This didn't stop Voldemort, however, because he wandlessly continued to attack Harry. Harry stood there for a moment, but he had had enough. He closed his eyes and immediately his aura began to get brighter and pulse once more. Large, green lightning bolts flew from it, as it grew stronger. Swirling tendrils emanated from the main aura and started circling Harry. His robes and hair were rippling like he was in the middle of gale. When Harry opened his eyes again and looked at Voldemort, he knew what he had to do. He focused his power intensely for one brief moment, and then there was a green flash.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny felt Harry's love as it washed over them – this wasn't just the feeling of love, though; this was the actual thing. The physical representation of his love was so much more powerful than anything they had experienced, and they all stared wordlessly at their friend – they had never guessed the extent to which his soul had really cared for them all. Ginny was in tears as images of Harry's hopes and dreams for their future cascaded through her brain. She was smiling, unable to control herself in light of the dire situation. Hermione was goggle-eyed as she realized how much Harry appreciated her wisdom and tenacity. He considered her absolutely brilliant and respected anything she had to say. Ron could do nothing but stare open-mouthed at Harry – the images that ran through his brain were of him and Harry becoming even closer later in life and always holding onto their special bond.
Voldemort, on the other hand, was unprepared for the sudden contact with true love. His tiny shard of a soul was overwhelmed almost at once and shattered. He screamed in a high-pitched, airy voice, and collapsed to the ground. He convulsed briefly and then laid still. The waves of green washing through the room died off slowly, leaving Harry standing there, resolute and straight in his crackling glow. He turned to face them.
"My friends," he said hoarsely, with open arms. "I love you so much," he whispered fiercely at them, as tears started to pour down his face. They all rushed over to him. They hugged him and Ginny kissed him – it was deep, long, and beautiful. She looked in the great green depths of Harry's eyes, matching his sparkling emerald intensity with her own glowing brown orbs. "I love you Harry Potter. I love you," she cried as she buried her head into his shoulder.
Harry seemed to be coming down from his newfound power, because his clothes and hair had stopped rippling and the air was no longer crackling. Hermione and Ron were looking at Voldemort, who still lay where he fell. They looked at Harry and then back to Voldemort.
"Is he dead?" Hermione asked.
"No – he's just utterly broken. His soul couldn't handle that. It shattered and he's now powerless," Harry told her. A Dementor would be proud, he thought ruefully.
Ginny was looking at him with nothing less than awe. "Harry…oh Harry…how did you do that? That – that was just amazing…"
"He showed me what he planned to do to you three. It was so terrible – I just couldn't control myself anymore. I let loose completely and the next thing I knew I was standing upright facing him. I felt…not more powerful, not exactly…more focused and clear on what I had to, I think. There was something else, though…love, I'm sure… much more potent, that I could only control by instinct. I'm not sure if even Dumbledore thought I would be able to do that…"
"I think he knew," said Hermione, thoughtfully. "He was always telling us that love was the most important thing and to hold onto it. He knew that this could happen – whether he'd seen it is doubtful…oh, Harry, it was so beautiful, when those, er, waves washed over us. We saw your thoughts…" and she ran to him and buried her face in his other shoulder, as Ginny had occupied the other again. Ron just looked at him. "Wow, mate, I never knew how much, well, how much you cared for us all," he said as tears glowed in his eyes.
"And Harry, what I saw was breathtaking…" remarked Ginny. She looked into his eyes once more. "I would be happy to partake in all of those wonderful things you showed me," she said calmly, gazing into his depths as if she could see his soul. He smiled at her and the leaned down to kiss her.
Hermione backed away, looking curiously at his forehead. Her eyes widened.
"Harry, your scar! It's…it's gone!" she breathed.
Harry felt his forehead. Sure enough, the lightning bolt-shaped scar that he had worn since the night his parents died was no longer part of his features. He left his hand there for a moment, wondering how it had happened.
"Neat," he said, with a mischievous smile and a twinkle not unlike Dumbledore in those ravishing eyes of his. The four friends began to walk from the room. This had started so long ago, with the appearance of that lightning bolt. Now, all these years later, as the four friends somberly but happily walked away from the crippled Dark Lord, they realized that it had ended with the disappearance of that same lightning bolt-shaped scar.