Post HBP, major character deaths, homophobic language
Italics – emphasis
Blocks of Italics – Hermione’s point of view
“Do you know what I like about wizards, boy?” asked Vernon. “Much like faggots, the only thing they’re good for is burning.”
Harry stared dazedly at his uncle, the stench of petrol strong in the air. A lit match flew at him, a miniature comet blazing a graceful arc in the twilight.
“Uncle Vernon?” Harry croaked, before the world erupted in hellfire and damnation.
Those were two words that Hermione Granger never expected to hear Harry’s oaf of a cousin ask anyone, much less her best friend. She’d barely had time to hide underneath Harry’s Invisibility Cloak when they heard the young man stagger up the stairs. She held a hand over her mouth to stifle the gasp of surprise when Harry moved back from the door. Welts crisscrossed Dudley’s back in an ugly pattern of black and blue and green and yellow. When had this happened? The two weeks that she and Ron had been hiding out in Harry’s room, there’d been no evidence of anything amiss in the Dursley household.
“What the – what happened to you, Dudders?”
The boy shuddered. “Be careful, he’ll be after you soon. Thinks you did it to me. Thinks it’s a spell or something.”
“Dudley, what the hell are you talking abou—”
“There you are.” Vernon Dursley’s ugly voice came through the doorway. “I knew you’d run up here, you dirty little catamite.”
Dudley whimpered. Harry gaped – not an attractive look for him, really – and Hermione huddled still and silent, suddenly grateful for Ron’s absence to go placate his mother.
“And you, you freak, you filthy little bastard son of a whore, how dare you do this to my Dudley? Isn’t it enough that you’re as freakish as you are? Did you have to destroy my son and heir too?”
Vernon’s long leather belt uncoiled, the tarnished brass of the buckle gleaming darkly in the flickering incandescent light. Harry’s eyes flashed toward her, grass-green eyes dark with warning.
“Uncle Vernon, what are you –”
The belt snapped forward, snake fast, the buckle catching him sharply in the temple, and Harry collapsed.
“You bastard!” Dudley staggered to his feet. “Why do you –”
Vernon Dursley’s hand shot out, grasping his son by the throat. “Shut up, if you want the diseased bitch that bore you to survive.”
Dudley gurgled slightly, air barely forcing its way past Vernon’s grip. The man released him with a snarl.
“Pick him up. We’ve got places to go.”
“Stupid boy,” muttered a dark voice, wholly unwelcome in the tide of pain lapping at Harry’s neck and rising rapidly. “If you cannot defend yourself against one stupid Muggle, how in the world do you expect to defeat the Dark Lord?”
“Snape, you bastard. ” Harry forced his eyes open. “You murdering –”
“Shut your insolent mouth, Mr. Potter. You are in no condition to antagonize your caregiver.” Snape sneered at him. “I am sure you will be grateful to know that you and that miserable whale you call a cousin have survived this unfortunate incident, with most of your faculties intact.”
“Dudley? What do you care about Dudley?”
“I care nothing for the ungrateful wretch that your loathsome aunt gave birth to, Mr. Potter, except that his survival is currently necessary for yours. It seems that your aunt had a slight accident recently, and you are in desperate need of blood kin in order for your mother’s sacrifice to be sealed to you.”
“My mother’s sacrifice –” Harry stared at Snape. “Why haven’t you turned me over to Voldemort?”
“You can hardly defeat the Dark Lord, Mr. Potter, if I allow him to murder you in your sleep.” Snape held a potion to his lips. “Drink this, Mr. Potter.”
“I won’t –” A long-fingered hand trapped his nose forcing him to gasp for breath. The potion in the cup was surprisingly pleasant as it flowed over his tongue and down his throat.
Hermione paced, unsure of what to do. She’d sent Hedwig off to find help, realizing only after she’d sent the bird off that she hadn’t specified who she wanted. It was too late, though, and she’d have to trust the owl’s judgment.
Frustrated, she flopped down on Harry’s bed, narrowly missing the book he’d been reading.
Principia Femina, and Other Useful Spells.
She held in hysterical laughter, remembering when Harry had shown it to her days ago.
“Hey, Hermione, what do you think of these?” Harry had whispered into the night. He held up one of the books they’d filched from the Restricted Section while McGonagall and Pince turned a blind eye.
“What is it?”
“I’m not entirely sure – ever hear of the Principia spells?”
She’d felt her eyes double in size. “Holy – Harry, hold on a moment! How long is Ron supposed to be gone?”
“He had to put in some kind of appearance at The Burrow, doubt he’ll be back until morning. It’s easier to sneak him in after Uncle Vernon’s left the house.”
“Good. You don’t want him to know that you’re even looking at that, or anything that talks about the Principia class spells.”
“I figured there was something like that, but the spells don’t seem to be Dark, or anything.”
Hermione shook her head. “They’re not. At least, not exactly.”
“Then why are they illegal?”
“Because…” Hermione blushed. “They’re based on an ancient system of magic that the Ministry opposes.”
“Well…because they’re about the magic of the sexes, really. Well, sort of.”
“What, you mean like spells only girls or only boys can cast?”
Hermione sighed, considering the convoluted – and incorrect – reasoning of the ministry. “Well, not exactly.”
When Harry next woke, he was free of pain, much to his surprise. Severus Snape, Death Eater, murderer, and evil bastard extraordinaire sat by his side, curdling all of the milk in a ten mile radius with his sour façade.
“I presume that you are feeling better, boy?”
Harry lunged at him, only to find himself restrained forcibly by the scratchy woolen bedclothes.
Snape smirked nastily. “I’ll take that as a yes. I’ll warn you now that you’ll be unable to use magic for a while… an unfortunate side effect of the potions used to regrow your skin and nerves.”
“You utter shite –”
“You would have preferred to burn to death at the hands of that rather appalling Muggle your Aunt married? I knew that you were a foolish child, but had no idea you were quite that stupid.”
“Let me go, you prick!”
“Counterproductive in the extreme, my boy.” Black eyes gleamed darkly. “Sherbet lemon?”
Harry nearly screamed at Snape’s jocular imitation of the Headmaster.
“HOW DARE YOU!”
“I dare many things, Mr. Potter, in the name of the Headmaster.” Snape actually smiled, although it failed to reach his eyes. “Not the least of which is to save the life – once again! – of his golden boy.”
“YOU KILLED HIM!”
“Hardly that, Mr. Potter. The headmaster was already dead – I simply made it as painless as possible. It was your hand that forced him to drink an untreatable potion. You’re the one who made it so that the only way to end the Headmaster’s suffering was the Killing Curse. The Headmaster would have lingered for months in agonized delirium. So I ended it.”
Harry gaped at him.
“Oh, to your minor credit, I’m sure he told you it was necessary.”
“You… you…” Harry’s mind was a seething tempest of grief and guilt and horror.
“Tell me, Potter. Even if you had found what the two of you were seeking, do you have any idea what you would have needed to do? No?”
“Why would I tell you?”
“Because I have the information you seek, but it is useless unless you know what it is you’re supposed to do with it.”
“No. I don’t know. We were supposed to destroy it.”
Snape’s scowl assuredly put every hen in the district off laying and dried the milk of every cow within five counties.
“Masculine and feminine principals aren’t inherently restricted to gender, exactly. They can’t be – otherwise witches would be of little use in the world as it is now.” Hermione told him, flopping back on the bed. “Most of the magic taught at Hogwarts is basically male magic and we girls learn it just fine.”
“Why do they only teach boy magic?”
“Because it’s easier to structure, I think.” Hermione stared idly up at the bare bulb in the ceiling. “Female magic tends to be a bit more chaotic – more subject to will and intent rather than the strict structure of words.”
“How do you know all of this, anyway?”
“Really, Harry, it’s in The History of Magic.”
“What, not Hogwarts, A History?”
She threw his small, lumpy pillow at him. “No. Or, rather, they do talk about it a little bit, in the discussion of how Hogwarts came to be founded. Hufflepuff wanted to teach feminine magics but was voted down by the rest of them. Slytherin and Gryffindor thought it too difficult and uncontrollable and Ravenclaw disliked the messiness of it. I gather that she wasn’t actually much good at feminine magic. She liked order rather a lot, I think.”
“So why can’t I ask Molly about it?”
“Well… because it’s almost taboo for wizards to think about it.” Hermione stared at him for a moment. “I, uh, asked the Headmaster about it when I was in second year, and he warned me that it wasn’t really a safe subject. There are things when you really study the Principia class spells that take a lot of time and effort to understand, particularly if you’re of the wrong gender. Certain things can make it easier –” she blushed again “—but it’s very rare for anyone to master them.”
“What makes it easier?”
“Well, if you’re a male… Being gay – or bisexual – it’s apparently easier to access the necessary energy flows… but that can be a problem.”
Harry stared at her, confused for a moment before understanding lit his eyes. One of the few things that wizards and Muggles had agreed on for the last few centuries was that homosexuality was forbidden. Indeed, Muggles had progressed remarkably far in the tolerance of it, as the wizarding world still burned homosexuals at the stake.
He stared at the book in his hand. “Does the fact I don’t think that anything I’ve read in this looks difficult mean anything?”
Hermione plucked it out of his fingers, her eyes darting rapidly across the pages. She flipped through one section, frowning slightly as she stopped at one page. It was an association spell – if only they had one of the Horcruxes! This might be possible… Still, it was heavy with the Principia and while she had no doubt that she could cast it, there were no guarantees in war… She looked at Harry.
“None of them look difficult?” She held the book out, turned to a page that held the association spell. “Not even this?”
“No – I was thinking that it might do for fighting Voldemort.”
“Well, yes. But –” Hermione closed her eyes, pondering the meaning of that. Most of the Principia spells were things anyone could learn, but she recognized that this one had an internal rhythm quite alien to the magic they’d learned at Hogwarts. “It’s girl magic, Harry. Deeply so.”
“Oh.” He stared at her, green eyes reflecting something that was not exactly a revelation, but a confirmation of something he had feared. “Guess I’d best not tell Ron.”
“Fuck that, Harry. You’d best never tell Ginny.”
“Eh, what’s this about not telling Ginny?” Ron’s head appeared in the window as the young man clambered over the sill.
“Honestly, Ron, can’t you use the door?”
“The the family’s in the front room. Duddykins is sitting with one of his friends.” Ron sniggered. “Looks a bit like flame bait, sitting that close. Your aunt was looking a bit ill, but she always looks like someone stuffed a lemon up her nose.”
“Wonder what that’s about?” wondered Hermione.
“Dunno. I suppose it would be too much to hope that he was coming out of the closet or something.”
Harry’s days became an odd mixture of rage and despair. He would wake to find Snape taunting him, only to have the older wizard force him to sleep when he could provide no answers. Anger limned every waking moment with red and gold, wrapping every moment in the flames of his ire. He stopped speaking to Snape at all, holding his fury to his chest and feeding it with every cutting word, every unfair memory, every prick and scowl and smirk aimed at him. He drank Snape’s venom along with his potions, nursing at the blackened teat of hate until he could hold no more.
“Nothing to say for yourself, Potter? Due to your ineffectual bumbling with the Headmaster, it seems that the Dark Lord is in position to take the Ministry. Where’s your vaunted courage, you pathetic litt—”
Grey-green light flared within Harry, writing words of power across his mind.
Snape choked, coughing until something soft and wet fell from his mouth.
Harry stared for a moment, disbelieving, as Severus Snape’s pointed, vicious tongue splatted wetly on the floor.
Snape himself raised an eyebrow at the sodden mass, coal-black eyes considering it with something weirdly akin to approval. Elegant hands reached to the floor, incongruously shaking the bit of flesh, as though to dust it off, before placing it back in his mouth. Harry felt magic move through the air, a gentle swirl spinning into a vortex of invisible light and sound…
“Took you long enough.” Snape said, only faintly spiteful. Those dark-dark eyes studied him for a moment, something unknowable lurking in their depths.
Harry began to laugh.
It was only later, when Hermione realized the house was totally silent, that it occurred to her to wonder what had happened to Harry’s Aunt Petunia. She’d seen the woman interacting with her son. There was no way under Heaven she’d have allowed Vernon to beat the boy.
Dread caressed her with icy fingers as Hermione walked out the bedroom door – an egress neither she nor Ron used often. The window might be bloody damn inconvenient but it was safer than traipsing around a small house in an Invisibility Cloak. She didn’t bother with trying to be quiet – the house felt like a tomb.
When she got to the kitchen, it was obvious why.
With that, Harry’s training began in earnest. He still hated Snape – how could he not? The bastard had killed Dumbledore, no matter his motivations, but Snape was the only one who could teach him what he needed to know, and be guaranteed not to tell. The only male master of the Principia in an age was unlikely to report that The Boy Who Lived liked boys.
“Why,” Harry panted, dodging Snape’s wordless attacks, “is this so hard?”
Snape smirked. “What, are you surprised that women are better suited to dueling?”
“Is that what it is?” Harry raised his wand, only to have it knocked from his hand by the force of Snape’s will. “Damn it.”
“They would be, if it were allowed.” Snape sneered. “The Ministry disapproves of those it cannot control, you know, and it cannot control those who use the Principia.”
“Is that so?” A wordless hex flew from Harry’s hand, only to be blocked effortlessly by his… trainer?
“Do try to be a bit more creative, Potter,” Snape said as a hex struck Harry from behind.
“How do you talk and… OW, goddamnit!”
“Learn to block, boy!” Snape actually laughed, a moment of distraction Harry took advantage of, getting off a minor curse that originated from his left foot.
Snape smiled slightly as he was hit. “Better.”
“Fuck, yes.” Harry broke the spell that had turned his left arm into a mass of writhing tentacles and summoned his wand. “Is it time for a break yet?”
Snape considered him. “I suppose so. I need to show you what I have managed to sieve from Voldemort’s mind, in any case.”
Harry gawked at him. “You’ve legilimized Voldemort?”
“He does not really expect it,” Snape said, matter-of-fact. “He never actually employs Occlumency.”
“Arrogant of him,” Harry noted.
“Well, until recently, I haven’t been in much of a position to use it.”
Harry froze at the unwelcome reminder of Dumbledore’s death.
“You used –”
“Don’t be an idiot, Potter. Albus was dead the moment he touched Salazar’s ring. The only thing we could do was try and extend his life long enough for you to gain the information you would need. Why he felt the need for all of those bloody pensive memories instead of just telling you –”
“He needed the evidence,” Harry said softly. “Without Slughorn –”
“Without Professor Slughorn, we might not have known the probable number of Horcruxes, this is true, but it was evident what the man had done.” Snape looked disgusted. “Then again, Albus was never a devotee of the Dark Arts.”
“And you are?”
“The Dark Arts have their place, Mr. Potter.” Snape said coldly. “If for no other reason that one cannot rely on Muggles never finding us with their technology. One day war will break out between us, I am certain, and left up to those who do not wish to use either the ancient magics of will or the modern ones of the Dark, we will fall easily to them.”
“You fear Muggles so much.”
“As individuals? No. But they, like the pureblooded elitists, are close-minded xenophobes who will destroy that which they do not understand. By the time they realize that we are merely human, we doubtless will be so few in number that we will disappear.”
“There are always Muggleborns…”
“Who will have no way of knowing what they are, and have no one to train them if the Wizarding world is destroyed. But that is an argument for another time, I think.”
“You think Muggleborns –”
“I care not a jot about the blood of Muggleborns, Mr. Potter. I care quite a bit about the exposure of our world. I believe that we should return to the practice of leaving simulacra for Muggleborn children, so that they could be raised in our world without exposing us to the Muggles. Unfortunately, Muggle technology is such these days that it becomes dangerous without creating better fakes than were used centuries ago.” Snape shrugged.
“Wizards stole children?”
“I imagine Binns didn’t cover that in History of Magic,” Snape shook his head. “Him and his bloody Goblin Wars. As if nothing else ever occurred in our history.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “There’s a reason why it’s an excellent class for napping in.”
“Or doing other homework,” Snape agreed, without any vitriol. “Although I suspect sleeping was what you preferred.”
Harry laughed and they moved the furniture back to the proper positions.
“Tell me,” Harry said, “What hold did Dumbledore have over you?”
Snape froze. “What?”
“Dumbledore trusted you implicitly, which was rather foolish of him, wouldn’t you agree?” Harry stared into dark, shuttered eyes. “So he must have had some hold over you.”
“You do not think his knowledge of my… preferences… shall we say would be enough?” Snape’s lips contorted into a sardonic twist that hardly could have called a smile. “It was part of a mutual, unbreakable oath.”
“He protected your secret…”
“And I do whatever I must in order to protect you and destroy Voldemort.”
Somehow Harry had never considered that Snape might have sworn an Unbreakable Oath, aside from the one Malfoy had indicated about the murder of Albus Dumbledore. He considered this as they went over the information that they had about the Horcruxes. When it came down to it, Harry thought, they only really needed one.
“Hermione told me that the Principia Femina is the magic of will, not wands.”
Snape looked up at him from the enormous tome spread out in front of him. “It is. We teach only its base form at Hogwarts – the basics of wandless magic. People rarely go beyond that.”
Harry frowned a little. “Wandless magic is women’s magic?”
Snape sighed. “In the minds of…”
“You must understand some of the attitudes of older cultures, I suppose. Once the matriarchies fell, the disciplines of female magic were relegated to mysteries that only women could really learn, and, eventually, were classified as things no proper person would learn. All magic is about will, but the Principia took advantage of the energies that naturally flow through the body, something that women had a greater affinity for than men. It was considered a rather feminine trait, in fact, to be aware of personal energies instead of simply commanding the energies of the environment.”
“The magic of wands.”
“Yes, the magic of wands.” Snape sighed, looking pensive without scowling for once. Harry felt an odd tug in his middle, realizing for the first time that his – his, what? Mentor? Tutor? – was actually an oddly attractive man when his face wasn’t twisted in hate or rage. Harry grimaced, pushing that thought away.
“So the invention of wands put men in power, or something?”
“Or something? How very articulate of you.” Snape waved an elegant hand. “Bah! Goblin rebellions and giant uprisings. Did Binns teach you nothing?”
Petunia Dursley’s blue eyes stared vacantly up at Hermione in silent surprise and accusation. A length of twine formed a garrote, pulled taut around that slender neck. Nausea threatened to engulf her and she ran from the room. No doubt this was what had kept Vernon from Harry’s room for so long.
The protection ensured by Lily’s blood needed Petunia alive –
No, a cold part of her thought. So long as Dudley lives, it will continue.
“How incompetent are you, Granger?” came an unwelcome voice, and Hermione found her wand flying before she could raise it. “Lost our golden boy, have you?”
“Snape,” she hissed.
“Tut, tut, girl.” The tall man smiled, venom dripping from each crooked tooth. “You sent for help, did you not?”
“Why would Hedwig go to you?”
“Because I’m the only one who can save Potter’s pathetic hide.” He sneered. “You’d best leave this place, girl. The warding spells on the house fell when Dumbledore died –”
“When you murdered him!”
“I’ll not debate the realities of war with you. Use that clever head of yours.”
Hermione refused to be distracted by the fact he thought she was clever. “Bastard.”
“There is no time to waste – have you been to the House of Black?”
“Not since you betrayed us.”
“Go there. I am almost certain one of the Horcruxes is there. Find it.”
“Why should I?”
“I have to save Potter. Is it too much to ask that you assist us in trying to save the world?”
“Where did you get this?” Harry turned the locket he and the others had found in Sirius’ house over in his hands. “And how do we know it’s a Horcrux?”
Snape sneered at him. “Dark magic – like to like. In truth, everyone who bears his mark is part of it.”
“The marks are Horcruxes?”
“No, the mark is a Horcrux, spread out among many. Tiny slivers of Voldemort’s soul that are useless to bring him back on their own – but are enough for him to exert some control over us. In order to do what we must, we need an intact one.” Snape smiled softly, to Harry’s astonishment. “Thank you, Regulus.”
“Regulus Black – my lover.” Snape stared at Harry, expressionless.
“No wonder Sirius hated you.” Harry clapped a hand over his mouth.
“For leading his brother down the garden path?” Snape laughed. “No, he hated me simply because he thought I was queer. I suppose I can’t blame him, since I am. I don’t know that he was ever aware that Regulus Black tripped me into his bed.”
“He was wrong,” Harry snarled, to his own surprise. “He shouldn’t have tormented you for something so… stupid as that.”
“You and Albus,” Snape said it with an odd yearning. “I miss Albus. He never –”
“Oh, he hated me too, but at least it was for what I had done, not what I was.” said Snape. “But at least he saw my value.” He laughed. “Queer and expendable.”
Harry wasn’t sure what to say to that. “You’re not expendable.”
“Am I not?” Snape’s dark eyes met his, expression neutral. “Dumbledore’s murderer. The Half-Blood Prince who is queer into the bargain? No one wants me to live, Potter.”
Something inside him screamed about Dumbledore, about the attack on the school, about being hexed as much because Snape liked hexing him as because Snape was training him.
Those elegant hands flicking spells from their fingertips; the vicious mouth spewing poison and obscenities – those images flashed in his mind. Suddenly he knew in his bones that without his oath to see to the destruction of the Dark Lord, Snape would surely have taken his own life to end the misery of it, if not to atone for his sins.
Harry shook his head slowly.
“You’re wrong,” Harry found himself saying, with some surprise. “I want you to live.”
Hermione stared at the place Snape had been long after the crack of Apparation faded away. She stared at it even as she heard Ron galumphing up the stairs like an inebriated elephant.
“I don’t know.”
“What are – holy shite! What happened here?”
“I’m not sure, but I think Vernon Dursley may be under the Imperius.”
She turned to Ron. “We have to go to Grimmauld Place.”
“Dumbledore is dead, Ron. What happens when the Secret Keeper dies?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Neither am I, but I think I know where one of the Horcruxes is. We’ve got to find it before Voldemort realizes where the real Horcrux might be.”
“But Hermione –”
“Harry can take care of Vernon Dursley,” Hermione weighted her voice with all of the conviction she could, since she didn’t entirely believe it. “But we need to find that Horcrux.”
“Ron. We’ve got to get it done before Harry’s birthday – that’s when his mother’s protection will expire, remember? If Harry is going to defeat Voldemort, it will have to be before that, don’t you think?”
The association Principia was simple to cast but required more power than Harry or Snape could generate individually.
“You want to do a concordance?” Harry frowned. “I’m not sure –”
“Have you got a better suggestion that doesn’t involve killing someone?”
Snape raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t we have to like one another, or something?”
“Sometimes, Mr. Potter, I wonder if you slept your way through Theory of Magic. We need only hold something in common. In this case –” Snape rolled up his sleeve. “—we have both been marked by the Dark Lord.”
“Will this destroy them all?”
“It should.” Snape stared at the Dark Mark. “It will also set off some rather interesting alarms at the Ministry.”
“The Ministry fears the Principia and those who wield it. They watch for powerful surges with the magical signature it generates.”
“Why do they fear it so much?”
“Prophesy, of course.” Snape’s lips twitched into a sardonic smile. “It isn’t really that it’s women’s magic so much that it takes time and discipline to learn – time and discipline that create witches and wizards of remarkable power. It was once foretold that the Wizarding World would be brought low by those bearing the ‘Mark of the Witch’ – the mark of the Principia or so it was believed. Thus it is neither taught, nor spoken of and many of those with the greatest aptitude for it are put to death.”
“Stupid.” Harry shook his head. “Shall we do this, then?”
Harry spun a thread of magic out toward Snape, catching the one sent to him… and began to weave them together, making them stronger.
It took the best part of two weeks for them to locate the locket they had once found and Hermione wondered how they could have missed the fact it was rotten with Dark magic.
“Ewww,” said Ron, holding it up. “We messed about with this?”
“Maybe the magic wasn’t quite so strong before Dumbledore destroyed the first one.”
“Eh. Maybe.” Ron wrapped the thing in a silk handkerchief he’d scavenged from one of the abandoned bedrooms. “It’s nasty.”
“So it is.” Hermione stared at the cloth-wrapped lump. “We’ve got to get it to Harry.”
“We don’t know where Harry is.”
“No.” Hermione turned her eyes to Hedwig, roosting silently in the corner. “But I think that she does.”
“Hermione – we’ve got to help Harry do this thing.”
She stared at him for a moment, thinking objectively for the first time in months about all of the things she loved and hated about him. She thought of the book hidden her pocket – she was never without it now, studying whenever she’d managed to chase him off for a while. She thought of his earnest will and his tenacious prejudices.
“Actually, Ron,” she said quietly. “I’m not at all certain that we can.”
Harry and Snape fell into the concordance of magic and thought and energy, power reflecting between them magnified beyond imagining as they sought out the first Horcrux and used it to dowse for the rest. Each Horcrux responded with a jagged ringing, a discordant symphony of Darkness. Harry gripped his magic – their magic – and shaped it, a shining cauldron in which to pour the noisome mess they gathered. Harry felt Snape’s hatred of the Dark Magic even as he invoked ancient purification spells. He felt the ocean of love hidden behind that hatred, and for a shining moment, as pieces of Voldemort’s soul burned away, Harry knew just how much he was valued.
“You know something that I don’t” said Ron.
“I know a number of things that you don’t,” Hermione snapped. It had been two days since she’d sent Hedwig off and they’d returned to The Burrow.
“This is about Harry.” Ron’s eyes narrowed. “It’s about Harry and that book that you don’t want me to see.”
Ron’s hand lashed out, grabbing the volume she’d tried to hide in her robes. He scanned the title and scowled. “You’re hiding this? Hermione! It’s dark magic! Not even Voldemort resorted to this stuff!”
“It’s hardly dark, Ron,” she protested. “The Principia isn’t evil…”
“Hermione, is this what Harry is doing? Is this what you didn’t want to tell Ginny? That she was kissing a… a… fucking queer bastard? Goddamn it, Hermione!”
“Ron, Harry’s just the same as he always has been…”
“He’s a faggot if he uses this. You know that only fags can use it.”
“You’ve managed wandless magic –”
“That’s not the same thing at all!”
“Yes it is!”
“Hermione – it isn’t safe, this kind of magic…” Ron’s voice became cajoling. “Please, Hermione, tell me that you’re just… interested, like you are in, well, books.”
“RON!” Arthur Weasley’s voice echoed up the stair. “We need your help. There’s been a massive surge of magic near Hampton.”
Ron stared at her and she bit her lip.
“What kind of magic?”
“It’s done,” Snape said, exhausted. “He’s vulnerable, now. Go.”
“I can’t leave you here! The Principia –” Harry stared at him. “You can’t –”
“Don’t think you can tell me what to do,” Snape snarled, although his heart didn’t seem to be in it. “You cannot be found here. You know what the Ministry will do when they detect the surge.”
“I am a murderer by your own words, Potter.”
“Don’t start that, not now!” Harry’s hands tangled in the tatters of Snape’s outer robes. “Not now, not when I know –”
“You know nothing, boy!” Snape pulled away from him. “Nothing! Whatever you saw – whatever you felt, means nothing.”
Snape glared at him, venomous for the first time in weeks. “Go, you wretched boy.”
Something hit him in the chest and he knew, knew what it was that Snape would not say, would never say, could never even whisper in the depths of his mind.
An invisible hook grabbed Harry’s bellybutton and he screamed his denial as it pulled him away.
“Harry!” Hermione cried. “Where have you been?!”
“They’ve got him now,” Ron said, gloating. “Dead to rights, casting those spells. Bastard’ll burn, and serves him right, trying to corrupt us.”
“Ron!” Hermione gasped.
“Principia Femina spells. Obliterated something beyond resurrection, looks like, or so Dad says.”
“So what?” asked Harry, despite Hermione’s dark look.
“Only faggots use Principia, Harry. And you know about faggots. I can’t believe that Dumbledore didn’t know. How could he hire one of them to teach, even if he thought Snape was on his side?
“For love of God, Ron, how can you say that?”
“Dirty, rotten faggots all ought to burn, Hermione. Why do you think we call them faggots for Christ’s sake? Other than the fact that everyone knows that they pop stiffies around little boys they try and convert to their ways. No wonder Slytherins go bad.”
Hermione’s hand flashed out, rocking Ron’s head back. “Get out of my sight, Ron.”
“What’d I say?”
Ron left, throwing a glare at her.
Hermione collapsed into a chair.
“My aunt’s lesbian. He’s met her. He told me he thought she was really nice.” She raised tear-filled eyes to Harry. “He’d burn her, Harry. He’d do it.”
“So would Voldemort,” said Harry. “And right now, he’s a greater danger to her.”
Hermione shook herself. “So he is. But Harry –”
“One thing at a time.” He refused to think about Snape, or the destruction of the Horcruxes.
“Harry, if he knew –”
“I know.” He stared at her. “We have to leave. Now. Tonight. Voldemort is vulnerable right now.”
“Snape destroyed the Horcruxes.”
“We did.” Harry ached with the loss he felt, that moment of the infinite when they balanced everything between them.
He loves me. The thought echoed in his mind. He’s going to die for me.
Harry could almost feel the tattered places of the shield placed upon him by his mother’s dying wish, the Principia she had cast healing with dark, united energy. What his mother had done by accident Snape had chosen to do with purpose.
It enfolded him in its shadowy cloak and Harry smiled.
“Let’s find Voldemort, Hermione.” He looked into her eyes, fey and wild. “Let’s end this.”
It wasn’t hard to find Voldemort, he’d made himself quite at home at Malfoy manor.
Harry laughed when they were brought before the creature sitting upon a throne fashioned from the bones of his enemies. Draco Malfoy stood leashed at his side, bruised and battered with vacant eyes staring at nothing.
“Harry Potter,” came the whining voice. “So pleased to meet you again under such circumstances.”
Harry couldn’t help it. He laughed, touching off half-hysterical giggles from Hermione. “Nice to see you, too, Tom. Might I present one of my best friends? Hermione Granger, Muggleborn witch.”
Hermione choked down her laughter. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Riddle.”
The inhuman thing on the throne hissed. “I should kill her for your edification, Mr. Potter, but instead I will thank you for bringing me such a valuable specimen. Perhaps I can find out why one such as her could be so powerful.”
“Perhaps you could, but you’d have to go through me first,” Harry said.
“Quite correct. You have been quite the irritation.” Voldemort picked up a wand. “You’ll note that I’ve had another created, just for this occasion. Shall we duel, Mr. Potter?”
“And me without a wand? That seems rather unfair.”
“Dear me, we can’t have that.” Voldemort nodded to one of their captors. “Give the boy his wand. And the girl – why not make it at least interesting.”
“My lord –” Bellatrix Lestrange stepped forward, her glorious face unmasked and luminous in its recovered beauty. “—please allow me the…honor… of testing the Mudblood. She is rather a curious conundrum, one that I would enjoy… exploring.”
Harry’s wand was placed into his hand and he saw Hermione receive hers with a smirk.
“As you wish my dear.” Voldemort stood. “Shall we?”
Harry smiled. “Of course. On the count of three, perhaps?”
“Why not?” The inhuman creature strode forward until he was perhaps five body lengths away. He nodded to Bellatrix, who walked forward, and he matched his count to her stride. “One… Two… Aveda Kedavera!”
Harry didn’t bother raising his wand. Instead he pulled his magic deep within himself, forming a single thought from the love he bore his greatest friend and sister-of-the-heart. Green light flashed toward him as his will surrounded her with a cloak of shadowed light.
Live, he thought, as a nimbus of green light surrounded them both. Live.
The world vanished in green fire.
“You can’t do this –” Hermione stood at the edge of the crowd, trying to fight her way through the masses of jubilant flesh. “Without them, Voldemort would never have been defeated! How can you do this?”
Ron held her back with an iron grip, preventing her from tearing her way through the celebrants waiting for the guests of honor to meet their fiery fate. They stood, back to back, forbidden to gaze upon one another, or speak – staring out over the crowd that waited only for the sun to touch the horizon before the incendios would be cast at the wood surrounding their feet. Snape looked resigned; Harry, beatific. She could feel the pulse of Harry’s affection on her skin, just as she could trace the lightning-bolt scar on her shoulder.
“How can you do this?” she repeated in a whisper.
“Hermione, it has to be done. Snape – Harry – they’ve corrupted you with that… that…magic.” Ron spat. “But you have to forget it – and them. It doesn’t matter if they used it to defeat the Dark Lord. You have to understand – faggots are for burning.”