Chapter 11: The Power the Dark Lord Knows Not
He soon regretted his promise. While Ron and Hermione split the research on the Founders between them, he spent the next several weeks reading a very large stack of books with titles like, Love Potions for the Lovelorn, Love Spells for the Broken Hearted, and his favorite, How to Use Your Wand to Win Your Witch's Heart. He still blushed when he remembered the way Ron had howled with laughter at that one.
"How am I supposed to take this seriously when my research looks like a pile of wizard porn?" he'd protested to Ginny later that same evening. She'd merely smiled and told him (in what he thought was a very unsympathetic manner) that as long as he lived, she didn't care how embarrassed he got.
Still, he knew better than to go back on his word. For one thing, he needed to find the spell that would allow him to defeat Voldemort. For another, if he didn't, the Dark Lord wouldn't need to kill him—Ginny would do it for him. That thought alone was enough to keep him in the common room most evenings, slowly working his way through the books.
That was where Ginny found him one evening in mid-February. The common room was surprisingly empty, so he'd claimed the couch directly in front of the hearth. A large fire was roaring, keeping the mid-winter cold at bay. He had just balled up a page of his notes and tossed them into the flames when she sat down next to him. "What are your plans for the evening?"
He didn't look up, but held the book up so she could see the title. "Thirty pages left." Thirty pages, and I'm no closer to finding a spell that will work, he thought, not without some anxiety. There was no shortage of love spell books in the library, but after six weeks he was starting to see repeat spells and a dwindling amount of new material. Even the few he'd found in the Restricted Section (books with disturbing titles, like A Woman Scorned: 50 Ways to Hex Your Loveri), hadn't been useful.
Ginny's voice drew him from his thoughts back into the warm common room. "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: How to Get the Answer You're Looking For. Do people really read stuff like this?"
Harry flipped to the front page of the book, running a finger over the list of checkouts. "This one has been checked out dozens of times, including once by a Miss Ginny Weasley. I wonder, is there a chapter on writing love poems?"
She tossed one of the square red and gold pillows at him and then sat down next to him. "That's enough of that, have you found anything useful?"
He flipped the book open to the table of contents and snorted. "Oh yeah, loads," he said sarcastically. "There's Primus Amor—First Love; Prinum Osculum Amoris—Love's First Kiss; and even Amor Semper Durat—Love Lasts Forever. Voldemort already has the "last forever" part down; I don't think he needs my help. I haven't found anything that sounds remotely like an act of love or that seems to be powerful enough to be a defense spell."
Ginny peered over his shoulder and Harry was suddenly distracted by the scent of flowers. "Here's one that sounds interesting," she said, pointing at the opposite page.
He shook himself out of his Ginny-induced haze and read the line she was pointing at, and then frowned. "Amissus Amor? You're having me on, right?"
She grinned at him impishly. "Well, there's certainly no love lost between you and Voldemort."
"Very funny, Gin," he said, rolling his eyes.
She chuckled and then snuggled into his side. "I thought so. What does it do anyway?"
It was fast becoming clear to Harry that no more studying would get done this evening, so he wrapped one arm around Ginny and held the book loosely in his other hand. "Amissus Amor: The Lost Love Spell. When this spell is performed, the caster will be thrown into a trance. Memories and images of a lost love will play out in their minds with startling reality."
Harry thought it sounded rather like something Fred and George would come up with, and was about to wonder aloud if they'd used something like it in the creation of their Patented Daydream Charms when Ginny asked a question. "It helps you… dream of someone you've lost?"
The slight break in her voice caught his attention. When he looked at her, she was staring straight into the fire. "Do we need to talk about this?" he asked, setting the book down.
"Talk about what?" she asked, clenching her hands together. "The fact that as soon as Voldemort shows up, you're going to have to fight him again? Voldemort, the mad magician determined to kill you?" She paused for a moment and glanced at him briefly before looking away again. "Harry, what if he succeeds?"
He stroked her arm lightly, trying to bring her back to reality. "Hey, aren't you the one constantly telling me I can win?"
His attempt at levity only earned him a strangled laugh. "Most of me believes that… the rest of me is just… just afraid that you'll leave me." His heart ached when she dashed the tears from her eyes. "Listen to me, going on like some silly girl."
The fear and frustration in her voice so echoed what he was feeling that he knew he had to make her see it all—he had to show her what he was most afraid of. Memories of his boggart flickered in his consciousness. He caught her chin and waited for her to look him in the eye. When she finally did, he dropped all his defenses and let her see exactly what he was feeling. He saw the flicker of comprehension, and knew that she understood.
"Do you think you're the only one with that fear, Ginny?" His voice was raspy, and she winced at the raw emotion. "I'm dead scared that something will happen to you—Ron and Hermione too, but mostly you. I wish…"
She sat up straighter and glared at him with some of her usual vim and vigor. "Harry Potter, don't you dare go back on your word. You promised me last summer that I could be there at the end. You can't change your mind now."
Now it was Harry's turn to stare at the fire. "I won't. I mean… I would if I could, but I know better than that. But… Hell Gin, how am I supposed to focus on Voldemort if I'm wondering if you're alive?"
She frowned now, her Gryffindor spirit back in full. "You won't have to wonder. I don't plan on leaving your side when the time comes," she said tartly. "Someone has to make sure you don't do something noble and get yourself killed."
A ghost of a smile crossed Harry's face at their inside joke, but at the same time her words made his insides twist with fear. "Don't do anything stupid. If I had to watch you die…"
"The same goes for you."
Harry slowly unclenched her hands and slipped one of them between his. Again, half remembered words from Dumbledore were surfacing in his mind. This time though the wisdom was for someone else. "I need you to promise me something."
"If I die—" Her hand tightened around his reflexively. "I said if, Ginny—if I die, promise me you won't use the Lost Love spell. Living in dreams… that's not really living."
"That sounds like sage advice, coming from you," she said shrewdly.
Harry made a face at the backhanded compliment. "It's not really coming from me… It's something Dumbledore told me in my first year. I know you've heard the story about how we got through the trap door and how I found Quirrell, but I don't think I ever really told you about how I first found the Mirror of Erised."
He paused to remember that cold wintery night six years earlier. "I was wandering the castle over the Christmas holiday and…" He told her the whole story; how he'd found the mirror, and had become so entranced by it that he would spend hours staring at the picture of himself with his parents and extended family—the one thing in life he wanted so desperately, but had never had. "And Dumbledore told me that men have wasted away in front of the mirror, living in their dreams… I don't want that to happen to you," he said in conclusion.
Instead of being duly chastened, she was looking at him thoughtfully. "I promise, but Harry… has it ever occurred to you that Dumbledore always prepared you for the challenge he knew you were going to face?"
"What do you mean?"
"He's always given you the tools you would need. In your first year, he made sure you knew how the Mirror of Erised worked before hiding it down the trap door. In your second year, he showed you Fawkes and the Sorting Hat, in your third year he gave Hermione the Time-Turner…"
Harry could easily see where she was going, and continued the list for her. "And in fourth year, he hired Moody to teach us so I'd be prepared to deal with the Dark Arts when I came face to face with them."
He felt Ginny looking at him expectantly, but he couldn't think of what she wanted him to say. She rolled her eyes and said, "Can't you see? He's always given you exactly what you need to face whatever challenge waited for you. Now he's told you that love is all you need to defeat Voldemort. Maybe you ought to take him at his word."
The hope he'd felt when she'd started this line of thinking disappeared. She didn't have any new insights… In fact, she sounded so much like Professor Dumbledore that for a moment, he almost wondered if she'd gone into McGonagall's office to speak to his portrait. He'd gone over the Dumbledore's words a million times, they held no answers.
"And no, I haven't talked to Dumbledore," she said, reading his mind once again. "Maybe I've just paid a bit more attention to what he's already said. We're looking for a spell, Harry, but what if there isn't a spell? I don't remember there being anything in this book that could help you—yes, I did read it once," she said, cutting him off before he could sidetrack her.
"But if it isn't a spell, what is it?" he asked, a deep frown marring his features.
She sighed and rolled her eyes again, and he started to feel a bit like he did when he was talking to Hermione. "Maybe it's just love, Harry," she said, and he wanted to throw his hands up in exasperation. He'd heard the "just love" mantra so many times he wanted to scream, and yet people kept coming back to it.
Ginny didn't just leave it there for him to figure out by himself though, she explained a bit further. "The love you held for Sirius was enough that Voldemort couldn't stand to possess you. Your mother didn't have time to cast a spell to protect you, but her love for you was strong enough to save your life. Neither you nor your mother used a spell. It was just love."
He blinked. For once, the concept of love as the ultimate defense against Voldemort had been laid out for him in a manner he could understand, and almost accept. Something about it bothered him though, driving him to argue. "That… that makes no sense," he stammered, his brain scrambling for the missing piece
Ginny pulled back and looked at him, one brow arched. "You don't think love is stronger than Voldemort?" she asked.
Harry backpedaled quickly. "Of course it is. I'm just saying… Love… death… defeating the Dark Lord… completely mental!" he answered haltingly, now more nervous than before.
"Ah, but mental like Dumbledore, as Ron would say," she told him, her expression serene. "Keep reading the books if you really want to, Harry, but mark my words—it's just love that'll defeat Voldemort."
She got up then and walked to her dorm room. Harry watched her go, slack-jawed. Dumbledore did insist that love was what would let him kill Voldemort, but he'd refused to take the headmaster at his word. And there was still something niggling in the back of his mind, insisting that Ginny was forgetting something…
And then he had it. Both of the two times she'd mentioned had involved a death. He didn't particularly want to die, as his mother had done to save him, and he was adamant that none of his friends would give their lives, like Sirius had. So how could he get the emotional energy he'd need?
He shook his head slightly, determined to get back to his studying. A giggle from the portrait hole distracted him however, and he looked up to see two fourth years whose names he couldn't remember walk in, both of them starry eyed. The girl held a red rose and a card in her hand, and he remembered what day it was.
"You forgot Valentine's Day?" Ron asked when Harry mentioned it the next morning at breakfast. "That could be bad, mate. You know how crazy girls get over this stuff."
"She didn't say anything though," he argued. "If she was upset, she would have said something."
"She could have just been baiting you, giving you time to hang yourself," Neville said. "After all, doesn't she usually join you for breakfast?"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been living the war since summer, but the biggest shock to them had been returning to school and finding their dorm rooms half empty. Neville was the only 7th year boy remaining in Gryffindor, and Hermione actually had her room to herself. When they'd asked Neville why he'd returned when no one else had, he's simply shrugged and said, "Gran wanted me to stay home or fight in the war, but I figured part of the fight was to keep life as normal as possible. And I reckon… I reckon my mum and dad would want me to finish school." It was one of the few times he'd ever mentioned his parents of his own volition, and Harry's respect for his friend had risen even more.
In the six weeks they'd been back at school, he'd also learned that Neville's quiet personality gave him the perfect opportunity to observe people. He didn't very often share his thoughts, but when he did, he was usually spot on. Ginny was harder to pin down than most people, but if Neville thought she might be upset with Harry, it was a distinct possibility.
"What do you think, Hermione?" Harry asked, turning to the only girl sitting at their end of the table. She was being unusually quiet, which typically meant that her mind had skipped ahead five or six steps to the solution to their problem.
"About what?" she asked absently.
"About… Hang on, what were you thinking about?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
Hermione snapped out of her semi-trance and glanced around at the other tables. They were all half-full, but that still amounted to about 200 students milling around the Great Hall. "I'll tell you in a minute," she said and stood up from the table.
Ron and Harry stood up with her. "See you later, Neville," Harry said. "Have a good morning."
"Not likely… I have a Charms exam," he said glumly.
"That's one thing I don't miss about school," Ron told Harry, whispering so Hermione wouldn't hear him.
"Name one thing you did miss," Harry challenged him.
Ron's answer was immediate. "The food," he said, patting his stomach. "Well, that and the Hogsmeade visits."
"Oh, will you two stop!" Hermione said over her shoulder as she led them up the stairs. "There are things that matter more than food or Hogsmeade."
"Or if Ginny is mad at me," Harry added, and noted they were turning down the seventh floor corridor. He felt a slightly sick feeling in his stomach when he realized they were going to the Room of Requirement. The Room of Requirement, where Draco had used the Vanishing Cabinets as a type of Trojan Horse to let the Death Eaters into the castle. "Ah, Hermione?" he said quietly.
"Give me a minute, will you?" she asked, pacing three times opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. "There," she said when the door appeared. "Go on, get in there."
Harry was the first to reach for the handle. He turned it slowly, not sure what he would see on the other side, or even what he was expecting to see. When he saw the familiar red and gold décor of the Gryffindor common room, he breathed a sigh of relief. There was nothing here indicating what had happened the last time the room had been used.
"Hermione, if you wanted to talk, why couldn't we just have gone back to the common room?" Ron asked.
She huffed impatiently before answering. "Because I didn't want anyone else to hear, of course. Or maybe you'd like us talking about ways to defeat Voldemort where any Gryffindor can walk by?"
"Why don't you just tell us what you're talking about, Hermione," Harry said, wanting to stop the argument before it got started.
The trio sat down in their favorite group of chairs right in front of the fireplace. "Valentine's Day got me thinking," she said once they settled comfortably into their seats. "After all, Dumbledore told you that it's love that will defeat Voldemort, and I guess seeing all the couples wandering around yesterday… well, I started thinking," she repeated.
"About what it could possibly mean for love to defeat Voldemort. And by the way, I don't think you've given that nearly enough credence, either one of you. Haven't you ever heard that love conquers all?" Ron and Harry looked at each other blankly and then back at her. "Of course not," she muttered. "You would actually have to have read a book.
"Anyway, I was thinking… Harry, why can't we take his words at face value? He's never led us astray before."
Ron cut in before Harry could answer. "You're mad, Hermione. Harry can't just walk into the final battle wandless and expect his love to save him."
"No, of course not. But love has defeated Voldemort twice before, hasn't it?"
Harry was starting to get an odd sense of déjà vu, and he was glad to let Ron keep arguing with Hermione so he could collect his thoughts. "Has it really?" his friend asked. "Why don't you fill us in, Hermione?"
"Oh, you're being ridiculous!" she said, crossing her arms and glaring at him. "I'd think at least one would be perfectly obvious—when Harry survived the Killing Curse, of course. He's told us what happened, how his mother's sacrifice sheltered him from Voldemort."
"Yeah, but I reckon Harry doesn't want to die, or let anyone else die so he'll be safe enough to kill You-Know-Who," Ron retorted.
"You said twice, Hermione. When was the other time?" Harry asked, already knowing what she was going to say. She bit her lip, looking hesitant for the first time. "You can say it," he told her. "It's Sirius, isn't it?"
She looked relieved that he'd said it first, but Ron still didn't get it. "What about Sirius? He died, remember? How exactly did love save him?"
"Yes, Ron, I do remember that my godfather is dead," Harry said mildly. Ron turned a deep red and shut his mouth.
"I'm not really sure on this, it's just something that I've pieced together from what Harry's told us about that night…" Hermione said, looking unsure again. "He said Voldemort tried to possess him, and… I don't know exactly what happened…"
"All I could think about was Sirius," Harry cut in. "I wanted to let Voldemort have me, because then I'd be dead and I'd be with Sirius again."
"Right. And Voldemort left you alone after that," she said triumphantly.
"And what does that have to do with love?" Ron asked, genuinely curious now.
"The only thing on my mind when he tried to take over was love, and he backed off like I was a hot potato," Harry explained. "I'm still curious to know where you're going with this, Hermione," he said, even though he had a pretty good idea himself.
"Why are we so certain there's a spell involved?" she asked. "Dumbledore never mentioned finding a spell that would defeat Voldemort. The prophecy doesn't mention a spell, it mentions a power—"a power the Dark Lord knows not." We all agree by now that power is love. What if that's literally all there is to it?"
"What exactly is he supposed to do then—walk up to You-Know-Who and love him to death?" Ron said, asking the same question Harry had wanted to ask since Ginny had suggested it earlier.
"Of course not. He'll have all the standard Defense hexes and curses, but he'll have a different reason for using them. Remember what I said at the wedding Harry? I told you that you would win because you have the good things to look forward too. That's the power behind your magic. All Voldemort has is hate and more hate."
Harry nodded his agreement and moved toward the door. "If we're finished here, I'm going to go find Ginny. She's got a free hour right now, if I can catch her before Potions."
Before leaving the Room of Requirement, he took a quick look at the Marauders' Map. He'd grown used to carrying it with him at all times the year before, and it was still dead useful. Good, she's in the real common room alone, he thought and then wiped the map clean and headed up the stairs to the tower.
"Mimbulus mimbletonia," he said to the Fat Lady. As the ranking Gryffindor, Neville was in charge of the password, and he favored Herbology references. At least he can remember it, he thought wryly as he entered the common room.
He easily spotted Ginny sitting alone in the corner of the room, curled up in one of the larger chairs with a book on her lap. "Hey," he said, approaching her slowly in case she was upset.
"Morning, Harry," she said, not looking up from her book. "Sorry I wasn't at breakfast this morning; I wanted to study the different uses of this potion in case Slughorn gives us a quiz today."
Well, she doesn't seem angry. Maybe this is a safe time to apologize. "That's okay. Listen Ginny, I'm sorry I forgot yesterday was Valentine's Day."
"Oh, was it?" she said, but even he could tell the casualness was fake.
That's not a good sign, however. "You know it was. Really, I'm sorry. I've just been spending so much time looking for hexes and curses and spells and… I just forgot."
"Harry," she said, finally putting her book down and looking at him fully. "If I were mad, don't you think I would have said something?"
He breathed a sigh of relief. "You're not upset then?" he asked, just to make sure.
Ginny smiled softly and stroked his face. "No. I spent the whole night talking to you." She grinned then, and he knew the danger was truly past. "It might not have been a traditional Valentine's Day, but when have we ever been traditional?"
The laughed together, but part of him was still feeling guilty that he hadn't given her the special night she deserved. "Next year, Ginny, I promise."
"You just make sure there is a next year," she scolded him playfully.
"Yeah… about that..." he said, realizing he ought to tell her about Hermione's ideas.
"What about it?" she asked as she made room on the chair for Harry to sit next to her.
He sat down beside her and wrapped an arm around her before answering. "Hermione agrees with your theory."
"Of course she does. I'm right," she said and poked him in the ribs.
He squirmed slightly at the ticklish sensation. "I'm beginning to think you might be," he admitted.
"Oh, how very gracious of you, Harry."
"No, I mean… she gave me a few more ideas. It's not just me going in, wearing my love for you and everyone else as some kind of magic shield. It's more that… love is the power, the energy behind any spell that I cast, and love is greater than any of Voldemort's power."
"I think you have it, Harry," Ginny said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I ought to go up to my room and get ready for class."
She brushed past him, and his senses were flooded with the scent of flowers. "I don't think so," he growled. Before she could get out of reach, he grabbed her arm and pulled her into his lap. "I think I want you right here for just a moment longer."
He kissed her then, and just like every other time, the world disappeared. There was no Voldemort or Death Eaters, just him and Ginny. This is magic, he thought hazily and pulled her even closer. He felt her twine her arms around his neck and he ran one hand lazily up and down her back.
A few minutes later, a familiar voice penetrated his consciousness. "Oy! There are other people in here, mate."
Harry and Ginny broke the kiss, but he still wouldn't let her leave his lap. Instead, he wrapped an arm around her waist and smiled cheekily at Ron. "I'm just practicing my power the Dark Lord knows not, Ron."
"Yeah, well that better be all the practicing you do," Ron mumbled and tossed him a pointed look.
Ginny slipped from his grip and stood up, leaving one hand on his shoulder for a moment. "Harry, I think Ron has an unknown power too," she said before he could reply to the obvious warning.
"What's that, Gin?"
"Being a prat," she said and flounced up the stairs.
i Credit Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."