Chapter Five: A Fool
"Understand your enemy," Dumbledore had always told him. "If you do, then you can foresee their every move."
As Harry awoke from the stunner he had let him, he thanked Dumbledore silently for that bit of wisdom. Harry knew his enemies well—their strengths, weaknesses, pride, idiocy.
On a prison island with anti-apparation wards in place, what was a group of Snackers to do with Voldemort's two most wanted men? There are a couple of options: Take them back to Azkaban prison half a mile away—but risk the Dementors taking credit for the capture or applying the Kiss before their Master had time to torture and interrogate them—or bind them and go to make the report to the Death Eaters on duty. Of course, each Snacker would want the glory for themselves during the report to the Death Eaters, so they would all want to return. That means the weakest, lowest rung on the ladder would be the one forced to stay behind and stand guard.
Snackers were not known for their magical ability or their brains. That's why they weren't Death Eaters, after all. Instead, Harry had the sneaking suspicion that when he was stunned by a weak stunner, none of the Snackers would bother to ensure he didn't wake up within a few minutes.
Harry kept his eyes closed as he tried to take in his surroundings without opening his eyes or moving. He heard a familiar crashing of waves behind and below him, which meant he had been left on the same cliff edge where they had just been fighting. Harry was on his side, his hands bound behind his back. Hearing just one set of footprints walking slowly back and forth, Harry decided to open his eyes a crack. Through the small opening, Harry could see Dumbledore's form similarly lying on the rocky ground. He could also see a single set of legs pacing back and forth in front of him.
Harry waited until those legs walked back and forth a few times to understand the pattern of the Snacker. Once he felt comfortable, Harry waited for the moment where the Snatcher walked right by his legs and Harry swung his leg mightily just under the man's knees, sending him to the ground, face first.
The man hit the ground with a large grunt and Harry quickly pulled his legs up and moved his bound hands from behind his back to the front of his body. Just as the Snacker was getting back to his feet, Harry leapt onto his own. Harry once again struck out with his foot as the man—who Harry noticed was balding quite spectacularly, but was attempting to cover it up with a comb-over—pulled out his wand. Harry kicked the wand free of the man's grasp. Comb-over turned to chase down his wand, but Harry clasped his already-bound hands together in a fist and swung his hands into the man's left kidney.
He fell to the ground, shouting in pain and clutching his lower back. Harry leapt over the man and chased down his wand. He quickly cast a cutting charm to break his bonds and then raced back to Comb-over, who was still lying on his stomach and rolling pitifully on the ground.
Kicking him in the ribs one last time for good measure, Harry flipped the Snacker over on his back. Harry quickly pulled the man's hands above his head and straddled him, pointing the wand in between the eyes of its owner. "How long have they been gone," Harry asked in as dangerous a voice as he could. Harry realized at that moment that he should probably practice his threatening voice in the mirror later, just to make sure it would spark the necessary fear in his enemies. The Snatcher seemed to think he didn't need much practice, though, as he trembled under Harry's weight and gaze.
"I don't know!" he whimpered. Harry pushed the tip of the wand into the man's forehead. "Four, maybe five minutes! Please don't hurt me!"
Harry rolled his eyes before casting a stunner at the man. At this close of a range, the stunner should last nearly an hour, even with the strange wand he held—though it felt more comfortable in his hand than he expected.
Harry glanced back at Dumbledore, who chose this moment to begin stirring. The Headmaster looked around him and took in his surroundings.
"We were attacked?" Dumbledore asked Harry, noticing marks in the ground where spells had hit from the battle and the Snacker lying unconscious on the ground next to Harry.
"Yea…terrible timing, really. Right when you dozed off, five…er…twenty Snackers showed up."
Sensing Harry's nonchalance, Dumbledore seemed to relax behind him. "You couldn't handle five Snackers?"
Harry huffed. "I was protecting your old arse. Besides, I didn't need to beat them…just outsmart them."
"So you got yourself tied up?" Dumbledore asked, no noticing the ropes on the ground that had held Harry.
"So little faith you have in me," Harry said, tsking. "Your wand should be disillusioned in your back pocket. I vanished mine before getting hit, so you should be able to summon it once you've got your…"
Harry didn't need to finish his sentence, as Dumbledore had already found his wand which Harry had hidden, vanished the ropes that held him bound, and summoned Harry's wand back from whatever dimension it had been hiding in. Harry pocketed the Snacker's wand and gladly held his own once more. Finally aware of the pain around his wrists, Harry cast a charm to sooth the pain and rubbed where the ropes had been.
Dumbledore waved his wand once more, and Comb-over's limp body straightened and rose into a standing position. Harry understood that Dumbledore didn't want to tip off the incoming army that they were free. Harry sat back down on the ground and placed his hands behind his back again as if he was still tied up. Dumbledore did the same.
"How much time do we have?" Dumbledore asked.
"This guy said five minutes. If it's a half mile there and another half mile back, my guess is five more minutes or so. They may bring some Dementors with them." Though Harry doubted Dementors would be coming for the same reason he doubted that the Snackers would take them back to Azkaban.
Dumbledore made a sound of agreement, but voiced what Harry was thinking, "Death Eaters will want this capture on their own, most likely. I suspect we'll have six or seven of them in addition to the…twenty Snackers, was it?"
Harry sighed. "It was five…and I don't understand why I couldn't take them. They weren't any more talented than the others I've faced. Sure I had to stay stationary, but that doesn't explain my lack of power and endurance."
Dumbledore was silent for a moment, considering Harry's plight. "Why are you here, Harry?" he finally asked.
Harry hesitated, unsure of what he was being asked. "Because I lost a dueling match?" he guessed.
"No…not tied up and on the ground. Why are you at Azkaban right now?"
Frowning and still confused, Harry took another shot in the dark. "To free some innocents who can help us in the war?"
"Okay," Dumbledore said. "And why do you want to win the war?"
Harry let out a long sigh. He had long gotten used to Dumbledore's vagueness and mind games. He no longer fought them, but played Dumbledore's game and looked forward to whatever revelation would enlighten him at the end. "To defeat Voldemort. To prevent pain and suffering throughout the land. To keep those I care about safe."
Dumbledore was silent for another moment. "And has any aspect of this purpose, your purpose, Harry, waivered as of late?"
"Are you asking if I want to prevent pain and suffering less, Professor? No. I want to stop it the same amount as I always have."
"And as for protecting those you care about?"
"Of course I still want to do that!"
"And who falls under this umbrella of special protection, Harry?"
"Well, my friends, certain students at Hogwarts, Remus, the Weasleys definitely. And Ron and Hermione." Harry was starting to feel attacked by the old man. How dare he imply that he cared for his friends any less?
"And what of Miss Weasley?"
Harry didn't respond immediately. Of course, Ginny! He hadn't said her name specifically because he didn't want Dumbledore thinking she deserved special treatment. And also because he couldn't bear the thought of needing to protect her specifically.
"I said the Weasleys…" Harry finally responded without much adamancy.
"You also said Ron by name," Dumbledore retorted.
"Yes, well, that's because…" Harry trailed off. "Why does it matter anyways?"
"Harry, wizards and witches have natural magic levels and abilities. You for instance have a great magical potential on your own. Miss Granger has also been gifted with a natural ability. But what most witches and wizards fail to grasp is that this basic ability is dwarfed by the potential that comes from purpose—be it fear, power, or the greatest of all, love.
"Voldemort had unmatched basic ability, Harry. But it was his initial fear that made his abilities emerge, and his later purpose of attaining all power that made him the most powerful wizard of all time. But what you have had up on him your whole life, Harry, has been your unmatched love for your friends."
Harry let his words sink in. It certainly made sense that one who was driven by powerful motives would become more powerful—and that magic itself obeyed that rule. Still, it didn't all connect. "So, what does this have to do with Ginny and why I couldn't defeat those Snackers that would have been easy targets just weeks ago?"
Dumbledore pondered for a moment. "Harry, that's something you will have to discover for yourself, for I cannot tell you who or how to love. I can surmise, however, that it is no coincidence that your drop in power coincided with your emotional dismissal of Miss Weasley. Perhaps you were a fool to do what you did."
Harry wanted to retort that he hadn't emotionally rejected Ginny. That he still cared for her deeply, so much so that it hurt thinking about her so much. But his actions spoke much more loudly than his words would. And as much as he cared for her, he had refused to let her in. They, together, had never been able to create a more powerful motivation for him to carry in to battle. Instead of his love for his friends, his true motivation had turned into fear for his friends' safety—and that kind of purpose would not cut it against Lord Voldemort.
"Harry, there seem to be twelve figures approaching. Their surprise at us being able to attack will give us enough time to take out six of them. Make sure your stunners fly true, and then be ready to dodge the killing curse. Try to take out the Death Eaters first, who are much more capable of casting it."
Harry nodded before bowing his head to appear unconscious to the approaching villains. His mind was racing, and his heart began to swell as he began to think about his classmates, Remus and Tonks, the Weasleys, Ron and Hermione…and Ginny. He felt his focus shift from simply protecting them to desiring complete happiness for them—which included that he himself survive. He felt a new purpose driving him forward. In his mind's eye, he envisioned the same picture he had a couple of weeks earlier—Ginny happily married with children running around. This time, however, Harry was the husband that came home from work and greeted her with a kiss. He began to sense his magic pulsing through his body, and his fingers twitched with the anticipation of letting it out.
The approaching Death Eaters wouldn't know what hit them.
When they arrived a few moments later, Harry heard Dumbledore's hands lightly tapping the ground, giving the countdown. Three…Two…One…
The two wizards leapt to their feet, launching curse after curse at the surprised group of would-be assailants. Harry watched as his first stunner hit with shocking amount of power, sending the mask-toting Death Eater soaring several feet backwards before he rolled and slumped to the ground, not to wake for hours.
A second Death Eater received a similar fate, but had managed to raise his wand before falling into a deep sleep.
A third Death Eater was able to put up a shield, but Harry's powerful spell shattered right through it. Whether this was due to a poorly constructed shield made in a moment of fear and confusion or because Harry's curse was simply that powerful, Harry didn't know.
But, now that the six that Dumbledore had prophesied would fall had fallen, Harry decided to find out. The remaining six had put up shields and were about to strike. Harry shouted "Confringo," desiring the little extra power that would come from the verbal casting. A glorious blue emerged from his wand, heading for the feet of the Death Eaters and Snackers clumped together.
Either the Death Eaters didn't have time to put up a shield to Harry's spell, or they figured it would miss them and cause no problem, because they failed to protect themselves from the impending doom.
Harry's curse hit the ground, and a great CRACK was heard and felt as the rock under their feet exploded. The metamorphic formation where the spell hit immediately turned to dust. However, in the fifteen foot radius around the impact, rocks flew every which way, sending the hapless six enemies (and six unconscious ones, too) soaring through the air from the force of the spell. Each of them was met by rocks during their flight and upon landing. Harry had thrown up his own shield along with Dumbledore to prevent any stray stones from hitting them. When the dust settled, Harry walked forward slowly into the carnage.
A shallow crater had formed, and Harry stepped down into it. He heard several moans from a few different directions, but wherever he turned, his enemies were incapacitated. After a quick inventory, Dumbledore learned that none had departed, though two needed immediate healing attention.
As Harry looked around in shock, Dumbledore made a pair of portkeys to send the injured back to headquarters for their medical team to look at. He then ensured that those remaining would not be attacking them again with various binding charms and hindering wards.
At last he turned to Harry and smiled softly at the boy, a twinkle in his eyes. "I assume you figured it out?"
Harry nodded silently. "Good," his mentor continued. "Then shall we proceed with the mission?"
Harry nodded silently once more and followed the old man towards the prison of Azkaban.
His body shivered, and he felt cold and clammy as he walked towards the Burrow. It was certainly a cold night, as snow fell peacefully around him, but that was not the cause for his discomfort. Instead, it was the lingering effects of the Dementors he had just spent the better part of his afternoon and evening around. It had not been pleasant, and he hoped that he and Dumbledore would be able to find a more permanent way to destroy the creatures in the future. But for the time being, keeping them at bay with Patroni, and consuming some chocolate afterwards would have to do.
The chocolate that Harry was now seeking, however, was not for eating. All he wanted was to look into Ginny's chocolate eyes and tell her everything. The warmth he sought was that of her embrace, and her kiss. And so he ignored his shivering hands and trembling lips, knowing that the cure was close by. He could deal with this discomfort for a while longer—but he could not delay telling Ginny what he felt.
Arriving at the lopsided home, Harry sent a single spark up at her window, nervously rubbing his hands together. He couldn't wait to see Ginny's face at the window, with a surprised look on her beautiful fa— "Harry?" came a strained and matronly voice.
"Bullocks," Harry said under his breath, realizing whose window he had actually signaled. "Hey Mrs. Weasley…could you come let me in?"
Fighting down a blush, he waited as his surrogate mother left her bedroom and walked to the door, asked a few test questions, and then let him inside, worriedly.
"What is the matter? Why have you come here? Not that you aren't welcome, Harry, Dear…it's just that I wasn't expecting you, of course. Oh you are shivering! You must be so cold! Come into the kitchen, Dear…"
Mrs. Weasley continued to ramble about the dangers of being out so late as she bustled around the kitchen, making a cup of hot chocolate for him. Harry had to admit that as unfortunate as his wrong-window blunder had been, this was the next best thing to holding Ginny in his arms at the moment.
He sipped some hot chocolate and felt his entire body warm up and relax. Mrs. Weasley, now content that he was feeling better, actually gave him time to respond to her most urgent question. "What are you doing here, Dear?" she asked, kindly.
Harry took another sip of his drink before he addressed her. "Well, Mrs. Weasley…you see, I was with Dumbledore tonight…and…" Harry trailed off as he heard a fortuitous distraction behind him.
"Mum?" came her voice as she walked down the stairs. Ginny appeared in view, dressed in her pajamas and her hair slightly mussed up, but still looking as beautiful as ever. "Oh…hi Harry…"
Harry didn't realize that he had stood up from his chair at the table and could not take his eyes off of her. He had completely forgotten what he had been saying to Mrs. Weasley, or even that she was in the room.
She cleared her voice and spoke softly. "Well, Harry, Dear...I'll set up a bed for you in Ron's room, then. You'll head straight up there in a few minutes?"
Harry finally tore his gaze from Ginny to look at Mrs. Weasley. Ginny had either told her quite a bit, or this woman was intuitive in noting that he and Ginny needed a few moments together. He nodded to her and said, "Of course, Mrs. Weasley. Thank you."
The woman walked past Ginny, and up the stairs, looking back only once, curiously. Ginny walked forward slowly and Harry met her halfway. The Burrow was still and calm around them, with Mrs. Weasley's footsteps fading in the distance.
"What are you doing here, Harry?"
Harry smiled softly before responding sarcastically. "It's nice to see you, too, Gin."
Ginny didn't smile. "No. You don't get to do this anymore…" She shook her head and looked at her feet. "I can't do this anymore, Harry. We both screwed things up, and I don't want to keep hurting myself here. Things have changed, and you know it…"
Harry reached forward and grabbed her shoulders, willing her to look in his eyes. He never wanted to hear that she was getting hurt again.
"You were wrong, you know," he said. When she just looked confusedly back at him, he continued. "When you said the plan was foolproof."
Ginny frowned. "Well, I guess I didn't realize just how foolish we could be…" She looked back at him pointedly.
"Yes…well, I was wrong, too. You asked me if I thought it was a good idea for you to end our fake relationship. I said that I didn't know what you should do. You then gave me another chance a couple days later, and I again decided to be an idiot."
She stayed silent, urging him to keep speaking with her eyes. There was hope in them, but reservation, too.
"I knew bloody well what you should've done three weeks ago when our relationship ended. It just took a little reflection in Azkaban for me to realize what is important in my life, Ginny. Up until six hours ago, I was convinced that I needed to distance myself from you in order to defeat Voldemort. That I needed to focus entirely on that goal.
"Now, I realize that without your love, I can't possibly do it. Without loving you, I won't have the purpose to get the job done." He released her shoulder and his hand cradled her face. She leaned into his touch. "Without the hope of coming home to you, Ginny, I won't stand a chance against that monster."
Harry began to lean forward, and he whispered to her. "Give me something to fight for, Ginny. Give me a reason to end this and survive. I need that. I need you…"
Ginny closed the few inches remaining between the two of them and kissed him desperately. He could feel all of her emotion pouring into him: her fears and insecurity about where she stood with him; her hopes and dreams about where she could be with him; her love for him. She was giving herself to Harry, unreserved and unguarded. She was giving him the ultimate reason to fight and win. He would have to, because he could never hurt her again.
And the experience was infinitely better than the hot chocolate had been just minutes earlier.
They pulled back and stared deeply into each other's eyes. Harry spoke first. "I love you Ginny Weasley."
Ginny's breath caught before she whispered back.
"What were you doing in Azkaban?"
Silence filled the room as Harry contemplated her response to his declaration of love. "Really, Ginny?" He asked, pulling back slightly, and his jaw dropping a fraction. "That's what you say to me?"
Ginny nodded, acting as though nothing were the matter. "Well, you caught me off guard when you said you were in Azkaban and I was curious what you were doing there. I couldn't exactly interrupt while you were ramping up to your conclusion, now could I?"
"So instead you interrupted the actual moment I was ramping up to? Let's try this again," Harry said, exasperated. He tried to readopt his serious tone. "I love you Ginny Weasley."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "I love you, Harry Potter. As if I would need to say at this point…"
"Well, that could use some work…but I guess it will do for now." Harry smiled at the girl in front of him and lightly kissed her lips once more.
"You were wrong, you know…"
Hermione looked up from her book, across the fire in the Gryffindor common room, her eyes meeting Harry's. He lay on the same couch he had been in when Ginny came in complaining about hormonal boys months earlier. This time, however, he held her in his arms as she drew circles in his left palm. "How was I wrong?" Hermione asked.
"You said one of two outcomes would happen," Harry responded. "Either we'd realize our love for each other or we'd destroy our friendship. Both of them happened."
"You're right about destroying your friendship," Hermione said. "But my other possible outcome was more specifically, 'the relationship becomes real in some dramatic and beautiful way.'"
"Okay," Harry responded. "So both happened. You were wrong."
Hermione shook her head. "You may have covered the dramatic aspect, Harry, but it was not beautiful, the way you made the relationship real."
Ginny shook her head. "I don't know, Hermione. It was pretty great to me." Harry smiled and thanked Ginny for her support.
"Oh please, Ginny. You're clearly biased because of how happy that night made you. He woke up your mother instead of you!"
Ginny deflated in Harry's arms. "Oh, that is true. That certainly wasn't beautiful."
"You told her about that?" Harry asked, surprised and a little betrayed. "Look, it was late…and I was kind of out of it from my battle with Dementors…"
"Not helping your case, Harry," Hermione responded dryly. "Bringing up Dementors is not a beautiful thing."
"What do you mean? That's romantic, right? Coming from death and despair to my brightest light and hope? It simply demonstrates how desperately I needed her that I sent the sparks to the wrong window." He stroked Ginny's hair gently. He loved the way the fire made it shimmer with different shades of red. Ginny tried to make up her mind about who she agreed with more.
Instead, it was Ron who butted in. "Well, I don't think any of this is beautiful. Right disgusting, this is."
This seemed to push Ginny over the edge. "Well, that makes it beautiful!" she exclaimed. "Sorry, Hermione. You were wrong."
Hermione gave it a second thought before agreeing. "You're right. If Ron thinks it's disgusting, then it's likely pretty beautiful."
"Hey!" Ron shouted indignantly. "I resent that. I know how to be romantic."
The other three common room occupants burst into laughter. Trying to control his fits of laughter, Harry managed to get out, "Good one, Ron!"
He slumped in his armchair, folding his arms in front of him and scowled. "I knew you loved my sister before you did, mate. That's got to count for something."
Harry knew he could immediately turn that argument right back on Ron. After all, he knew that Ron loved Hermione and wasn't doing a thing about it. But, he wouldn't embarrass Ron again like that. Not after the support he had given him through the whole charade.
"You're right, Ron," Harry admitted. "And what an idiot I was for ignoring what was right in front of me this whole time."
Ginny turned her head to look up at him. "You'd better make it worth the wait."
He smiled back at her. "I'd be a fool not to."
A/N: Well, thanks everyone for a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this, and I hope you had fun, too. I've got a couple other story ideas bouncing around in my head that haven't quite materialized yet. Maybe a few reviews will give me the added encouragement necessary to get them written…
DanielWhite: Right you are!
Darkryus: They are morons, but looks like they figured it out.
Turquoiserainlilies: I'm glad you liked it. Hope you enjoyed the last chapter!
Princess Luna of the NLR: Thank you! I certainly don't mind the complements…
Mystic Passion: Hope this last chapter continued the trend of improving chapters. Thanks for your review!
MelGinnylover: I'm glad you enjoyed the relationship and entendres aspects of the story. I hope I gave a little redemption to the action portion. I kind of cut it off before it got going, really, to give a cliffhanger. Anyways, thanks for being a great reviewer, and I hope you liked the story now that it's all done!
Slincoln: I'm so glad you caught the Archer nod! I've tried to give this story a tone where my referencing Aragorn, Inception, and Archer are not out of place but are just fun punch lines instead. I don't know if you feel the same way, but that's what I was going for. A standard Romcomy feel yes, but hopefully you enjoyed the ride. Phrasing…