Why to Avoid Them, How to Counter Them and When to Run
A week later, after several sessions of lessons, umpteen exercises, and mind numbing drills, Harry thought his arm was going to fall off. This was nothing like Hogwarts and he wanted to go back. Anywhere was better than here.
“If he tells me to get on with it, one more time, I’m going to use an unforgivable on him!” hissed Ron under his breath to Harry.
Harry could only grunt in agreement as he was hanging upside down with a steel ball between his legs in mid-air. Ron, meantime, was upside down doing the same. It was heavy and this exercise was excruciatingly hard. The blood was running to Harry’s arm and pulsing, one more second and he’d get the right energy and … KAPOW! A second later Ron did the same.
A store manikin, once having graced the local Tescos dressed in waders and wellies for a fish and chips display, was now obliterated by the two weird wizards in training. A thin tendril of smoke whirled up from a mound of ashy remains.
Hermione clapped heartily from her perch next to Professor Merrythought. “Go and help them down, lass,” he said. He sat on a cushy throne of satin and velvet looking for all the world the withered old Merlin instructing Arthur.
There was no seeing into the mind of Merrythought as he puffed on his long pipe watching as Harry and Ron dangled whilst shakily trying to pry themselves from the heavy ball with their weakened wands. “You’ve not the stuff of giants yet, lads!” he yelled. “Until you can wield the spell and get down with a flourish, you’ll be dead before midnight in any fight.” He shook his head. “I’ve seen a better display from first years in my day. Get on with it!”
He waved his wand irritably toward them. The young men fell from the balls onto their heads before Hermione had time to shield them. Merrythought chuckled softly.
“You did that on purpose!” spluttered Ron before he realized he was talking to a teacher who could turn him into sauerkraut. There were no school rules at Godric’s Hollow or so it had been explained – at length.
“I did at that,” said Merrythought. “Alright, lass, you show them how it’s done then.” He waved at Hermione, who was struggling to help Harry to his feet.
“Yeah, lass,” teased Harry laughing at the worry in her face. “Show us, won’t you?”
Hermione pushed him off to watch while she tucked her shirt into her jeans before mounting the steel ball.
Merrythought had pitted them against each other, only to make them work together to get many a task right time after time in the last three days of grueling lessons.
Harry and Ron threw themselves onto the chairs groaning with muscle pain and numb digits. Harry’s hand needed some ice on it. Ron was openly grumbling at Merrythought, who was directing Hermione in her attempt to mangle another manikin.
“Use your wand not your brawn, Miss Granger, or you’ll never lift it otherwise.”
Hermione dangled upside and concentrated her will to the hand…KAPOW! She screamed as the energy siphoned out of her beheading the manikin with a crack. She’d done it more quickly but with less power.
“Good one, Hermione,” yelled Ron.
“Thanks,” she said as she used her wand to back flip off the ball as if she were a gymnast. The ball crashed to floor with a resounding thud. “Sorry, sir!” She blushed with embarrassment. The ball was supposed to settle gently but she wasn’t exactly nimble when it came to the physical part of this type of magic.
“That’s quite all right,” said Merrythought. “Now come over here and sit with these shlubs on the chairs then and listen.”
He took a long slow draw on his pipe. “Now what did ya learn?”
“I learned that it’s bloody difficult hanging upside down and holding a ball up while I’m trying to wield a ruddy blasting curse without opening my mouth,” grumbled Ron.
“Tsk! There’s a lady present. You’ll watch your language, Mr. Weasley.”
“I think that we hit the manikin too hard,” said Harry. “And it took too long.”
“Right, you are, Mr. Potter. You would’ve been dead if he’d seen you coming and why wouldn’t he have? A great big lad like yourself hanging upside down like that, why, even on a broom stick at 40 clips he’d have seen you.” Merrythought’s eyes crinkled with amusement. For a wizard that looked of considerable age, he often seemed amused when pointing out ways that any one of them might die. “So, what should you have done if that manikin had been Voldemort?”
This was the very thing that was different about Professor Merrythought. No other professor had been as blunt as he except Snape, who’d said he didn’t stand a chance against Voldemort. Merrythought would say, “When you fight Voldemort,” or “If you come upon him in the forest you will…” in his sentences. Merrythought was preparing them for the inevitable battle of their lives. He didn’t pussy-foot or mollycoddle. He said things plainly, such as ‘you will die if you don’t think first’ and other tidbits. He was forcing them to visualize themselves actually doing battle with Death Eaters. The once retired professor had a ready supply of manikins to destroy.
“It would’ve been quicker to have used an Expelliarmus spell but if you were to miss at high speed, you’d be a goner. The blasting spell is the right one. It has more range of power and it can find a victim if you’re off a mite because the energy attracts to the wizard’s own energy. It’s all about the focus of your wizarding will.”
There was a clanging bell somewhere announcing an approaching presence. The house was well equipped with gadgets and gizmos of every sort, especially of the warning variety.
“Tea, anyone?” Lenore Merrythought walked in the door of the room of requirement followed by two heaping trays of cups, saucers, scones, sandwiches and creams that floated effortlessly in her wake. Her long dark hair and robes leant her the air of a happy dark cloud entering the room.
“At least the food is very good here,” offered Ron rubbing his sore arm.
Harry had enjoyed their days in Godric’s Hollow. It’d been grueling and he’d fallen into bed each night trying not to think of how he hurt in places that he didn’t know were possible to hurt in, but actually it was better than brooding and thinking. He liked the work of it, relished the strategy; all of it. Thinking about pulverizing Voldemort and the Death Eaters was actually pleasurable.
“Good, Lenore!” sang out Merrythought. “I’m glad you’ve come. I was just about to talk about the Unforgivables, Mr. Weasley has threatened to wield one at me in jest. We both know there is no joke about the Unforgivables, so you’ll have to lend a hand to explain.”
Ron sunk low in his chair. The old man had no trouble hearing a pin drop.
Lenore blanched. “Lend you a hand in what way, Husband?”
Merrythought only winked. “You see how she, even now, cannot forget.” He settled a clear and serious eye on Harry. “That’s how it is when you face an Unforgivable.”
They sat waiting as the room rearranged itself for tea. The chairs deepened with cushions, the trays grew legs and the teapot began to pour out.
“I’ve put it off, while you trained your soft muscles, but it must be brought up,” said Merrythought.
The threesome leaned forward to listen with their cups nestled in their laps.
“You all three have faced these so called Death Eaters and you know that they take every opportunity to use the most evil and unmentionable of curses. There’s a special pleasure that they find in the wielding of a death knell.”
Harry gritted his teeth remembering Bellatrix LeStrange’s malicious glee as she threw curse after curse at him. She’d actually taken pleasure in killing Sirius Black. Her curse was stronger because of how she enjoyed the thought of killing him. He’d used an unforgivable to his shame and it had barely touched her.
“Yes,” said Merrythought watching him with a cunning look. “You’ve seen it, that look of joy and power.” He leaned back and tipped his face to the ceiling gathering his words. His face was so lined with age that the crinkles were uncountable. He brought a gnarled finger up to scratch his beard. “An Unforgivable curse is wicked because of what it does to others but doubly so because of what it does to the wizard wielding the very curse, as well. The thrill of power is intoxicating and you must avoid it at all costs, not because of the guilt or the wrongness of your act, but because of what the curse will do to you.” He looked squarely at Harry. He was talking directly to him. “Professor Dumbledore will have told you that you must understand how Tom Riddle became Voldemort, but what is also imperative for you to learn is how to NOT become like him while learning. The thirst for power is the wrong way. The will to kill the killer with your hate for him is the wrong way.”
Hermione set her tea cup on the tray where the pot automatically poured more tea into it. Lenore Merrythought watched the process with a shaking resolve. “Once you use the power,” she said with a voice reminiscent of the raven that she could become. “Once you feel the power rush from you and snuff the life from another, you can never take it back. It feels intense –seductive-- and you will take pleasure in the intensity, feed on it, and even yearn for it. That’s the evil that you’re capable of.” She closed her eyes. “That we’re all capable of.”
Merrythought reached over and lovingly patted his wife’s hand. “It’s for you to remember, children, that these Death Eaters are strong because they enjoy the killing, the torture and the thrill of another misery and destruction. The more they do these abominable acts of cruelty, you must know, that they change. So, just as Voldemort is barely human, so too, his Death Eaters become less than human. They look like us, of course, but you’ll notice differences -- ticks, jerks, a shrill voice, or a nameless fear that hovers over them. There’s a certain sort of insane maliciousness about them. They hunch over the evil they’ve let loose with their bodies or sit ramrod straight to contain it. It’s a friend to them, a crutch, a bandage against the open wound, the sore that they’ve opened by torturing, and taking of another’s life.”
“I understand how horrible it is to take another’s life,” said Harry thoughtfully. “But how are we to stop them otherwise? How do we counter such curses?”
“You must remember that you are a wizard, Mr. Potter,” said Merrythought. “A Muggle might take out their big guns or those bomb widgets they seem so proud of in the name of protecting themselves, but you, and all our kind, are a different kettle of fish.”
“Killing is still wrong in the Muggle world, too!” said Hermione indignantly.
“Yes, yes, I haven’t said that it’s right, have I?” Merrythought crinkled his face with concern. “Killing is killing. The difference is that a Muggle and his gadget can pretend he’s got an excuse. He separates from the machine or gizmos that he uses. Hell, a Muggle separates himself from the very act of it, but a wizard cannot do this. It’s the nature of the magic. Ever think on why they’re called Death Eaters?”
Hermione frowned. “They eat death.”
Merrythought nodded sadly. “They eat death. A wizard feeds off the death he takes whether he knows it or not. The murder changes them.”
“I thought it was just a name that they made up to seem scary,” said Ron.
“No, when a wizard uses even a blasting curse, as you just did on that manikin to kill, they have to feel the very death in the spell. You only felt power destroying the thing because it wasn’t a human. Using an unforgivable is much, much worse. The first rule of fighting an Unforgivable is to duck and cover. Simple, yes, but you’d be surprised how often running and hiding does work. If you can, of course, you’ll do whatever you can to disarm and stop, but you’ll avoid using the forbidden curses on your pursuer. You’ll avoid killing.” Merrythought pointed at Harry. “There’s only one that you’ll kill, lad, and when you succeed, it’ll change you, just as it already has.”
Lenore suddenly jumped up and paced about. Her voluminous robe was flowing along the floor with her. “They can be countered,” she said nervously. “They can be stopped. You’ve just got to wear the will like body armor to reflect their vengeance back at them. You must stop them with your own power, twined with theirs; it will curl back at them, just as death would on you. What they wish of you reflects back on them and they themselves die horribly while leaving you untouched -- mostly. It’s possible.”
All three would-be weird wizards looked alarmed at the sudden monstrous talk from the old couple. Professors at Hogwarts were always avoiding such pronouncement of power. They were continually denying the existence of evil within the halls.
Mrs. Merrythought was whirling about the room in a feverish state.
“You see how she is, my lovely wife,” said Merrythought sadly, “when she remembers her time with Grindelwald.”
Hermione was puzzled. “But I thought she was a spying on Voldemort! She called him the Dark Lord!”
Harry watched as Lenore still paced. Unconsciously, he brought the teacup up to sip. He felt a sudden kinship with her obvious pain. She’d suffered as he had and survived just as he wished to. They would never be normal; never untouched. He wondered what she’d had to do to spy on Voldemort.
“She was, yes, a spy.” He puffed on his pipe. “Voldemort sought her out to his kind because of her allegiance to Grindelwald. It had been well known that she had served him. Voldemort was always seeking people and information to add to his power and Lenore was someone who knew of the secrets of power at its darkest. Albus and I decided early on to let her use her unique gifts to thwart Voldemort if she could. Those were the years when I was in hiding, or dead as Miss Granger pointed out, and the weirding wizards were helping the Order of the Phoenix fight against the growing disaster, Voldemort. We three had had quite the alliance when battling Grindelwald and thought ourselves experienced and worldly enough to take on the upstart Tom Riddle who’d only just been our student. We were the Weird Wizards –la-di-da --and most powerful. Luckily, for Lenore, she was already old and Voldemort liked his followers young. She was only somewhat useful or so he thought. But we made a mistake letting Lenore come under the influence of Voldemort. Albus was always sorry, as was I.”
Lenore breathed deeply. She raised her hands above her head and breathed deeply again. Hermione, Ron and Harry sat a little closer together. This was getting stranger by the minute.
“Enough of our history,” she said at last. She sat back down and picked up her teacup. “Let’s tell them the counter spells. It gets me aggravated to think of all that I’ve done wrong. Let’s, at least, do this right.”
Merrythought nodded and puffed on his pipe. The fragile looking old wizard stroked his beard. Silence filled the room.
The room of requirement, the one at Godric’s Hollow, was as sensitive to the needs of its inhabitants as the one in Hogwarts. The room grew smaller. In fact, Harry had wondered in the last week of working in the room, if indeed they weren’t at Hogwarts School while they were in it. Occasionally, there’d been sounds, the bell tower that he’d sworn he’d heard, laughter in imagined halls outside the door, and yesterday, the cry of Mrs. Norris somewhere nearby. The room felt the same in every way. And, as they sat listening to the silence and waiting for the professor to gather his thoughts, the room folded and closed around them, as if it, too, listened, as if it wanted to hear just what Professor Merrythought was about to tell them.
“You’ve got to feel the magic,” he began. “It comes from within and its strength is as different as the color of a person’s hair or eyes. To say it simply, there is a counter to every curse. The Muggles will tell you about the spirit of yin and yang and this is the very truth of it.” He took a slow draw on his pipe and blew out rings of smoke. The threesome watched as the rings lifted into the air. “A thing to fear can be reflected by its opposite but the trick of the matter is to feel it just as strongly and that’s where the everyday wizard or witch will fail. The will of hate and the thrill of power are immensely powerful and easy…too easy to feel. The opposing feeling is much more difficult to focus. For instance, take the counter for the Cruciatus Curse. It’s Curatiosum. Said quite quickly, the word Crucio is the Latin word for torment. It’s only a word, ain’t it? But when a wizard uses his wand and feels the curse, it’s an Unforgivable. Curatiosum, the counter spell, is simply healing whole in Latin. You can see the problem, can’t you?”
Harry, who’d been listening intently, as if his life depended on it, which it most likely did, spoke before Hermione, for once. “In a confrontation, it’s easier to hate than to heal. If the feeling isn’t as strong, it can’t deflect.”
Merrythought nodded a twinkle in his eyes. “That’s the rub. When our people of the Order of the Phoenix faced the Death Eaters, none could muster the deflection. All had hate in their hearts or fear in their limbs and the curse hit them squarely, feeding on the lack of will.”
Ron sat stunned. They all sat stunned. “I won’t be able to do it,” said Ron. “I could never do it.”
“Aye, that’s it. That’s the very heart of the problem. We humans find it impossible not to rise to defend without the like feeling of hate or fear.”
Lenore, who’d been tensely silent, leaned forward. “I’ve done it. It’s a matter of knowing that you can.”
“No one has ever survived the Killing Curse, however, save you, Mr. Potter,” said Merrythought. He seemed to be making a point. He was jabbing his pipe toward Harry. “Your mother knew the counter. She couldn’t survive it, but she was able to allow you, a little baby in his crib, to survive it. I was there that next morning, with Moody, Dumbledore, and a few others from the Order. We all saw the results. Blown up the place was, with you sitting amongst the rumble unharmed, save for that scar.”
Harry’s mouth was dry. He couldn’t speak. It had happened here, below him, somewhere near the tree.
“We thought she might have used a potion. I read the Beowulf diary that Dumbledore gave us and we thought that she must have protected him with an armor potion of some sort that protects him from being killed,” said Hermione. She looked mesmerized by the conversation, hanging on every word that was said.
“Lily Potter was very adept at potion work, or so I’ve heard, yes. That was another thing about that night that neither Dumbledore nor I could figure out. What potion had she used, eh? Did Lily Potter know that she’d be protecting her son for years to come? For that matter, did she know there was more than one of him when we did NOT! ” Professor Merrythought stared at Harry, seeming to want him to say something more.
“What should I do?” said Harry finally in almost a whisper.
The professor smiled having reached the point that he’d wanted to make. “When you face him, boy, and look into that pasty evil mug of his and hear the wickedness of his chatter, what you’ll do is counter him with love.”
“You’re joking!” cried Hermione. “That’s absurd!”
“Ditto, that and then some,” said Ron disgusted. “There’s not a chance.”
Both Lenore and the professor started to laugh. Tears of merriment streaming down their face and it took several minutes for them to stop. “Gads, but I wish I had a picture of your faces,” laughed Merrythought. “It was priceless, it really was.”
Harry had sat in shock and revulsion. “You really were joking, then?”
Still chuckling, Merrythought wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. “No, no, I’m not joking. Mind you, if Miss Granger or Mr. Weasley faces a Killing Curse, I suggest that they run for cover. They haven’t a chance given their attitudes. But you, Mr. Potter, WILL face the Killing Curse again and yes, you must counter it with love.” He chuckled again and puffed at his pipe. “I’m not suggesting that you kiss the idiot! Surely, you’re not daft enough to think that. Your mother did it with the love she had for you, Mr. Potter, she threw herself into the path of that Unforgivable and blew Voldemort to smithereens with the counter spell served with her love. You’ll do the same.”
Hermione stood up, dropped her tea onto the floor and started stuttering in shock. “Y-You aren’t s-suggesting that Harry’s mother killed Voldemort?”
Merrythought drained of all mirth. “That little witch killed the blighter. He was a pile of ash as blown away by the wind just as that manikin would be if we were outside. She did it and died in the process, but she did it. To this day, I'm not a hundred percent sure how she accomplished it but it was with the counter, surely.” He sat back into his chair seemingly very interested in his pipe. “We didn’t know that there was more than one of him at the time, mind you. Only Albus suspected something was amiss. I overlooked that snag completely, though there you were, Mr. Potter, with that jagged scar on your head for all to see.”
Hermione sat back down, her mouth still open, at a loss for words.
None of them knew what to say to that.
The professor sat back looking satisfied. “That’s enough of a tea break, I think,” he said. “We’ve a few hours before dinner.” He flicked his wand and the room expanded before them. A narrow beam appeared in the middle of the work area.
“I gather you’ve seen a balance beam before, Mr. Weasley? Good. You’ll be first then.”
Ron shook his head and folded his arms in protest.
“Aw, mutiny, then, is it?” Merrythought narrowed his gaze on Ron. “Want me to make you?” He smiled wickedly.
Ron grumbled as he strode over to the beam. It hung in the air with no supports.
“You next, Mr. Potter.”
“But, I’ve never seen one before, sir. I’ve no idea what to do.” Harry just knew that it was more than it seemed.
Merrythought chuckled. “It’s a balance beam, Mr. Potter, for dueling practice. You and Mr. Weasley will be dueling.” He flicked his wand and the beam started to rock back and forth. Ron tried to get his balance but failed miserably and flew off. He landed in a heap. “Ever notice how graceful a Death Eater can be, boy? They don’t keep their feet flat on the ground as a Muggle would. It’s too easy to trip. The trick is to stay on the beam while you disarm your opponent. Give it a go.” He motioned Harry to rise. Ron was gathering himself from the ground and cursing under his breath.
“Enough grumbling over there, Mr. Weasley,” he shouted. “Get on with it.”
"I just love magic," said Harry. *wink* Leave a review, if you please. Pru Prior
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