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Power of Three

Title: Power of Three
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: trio-friendship
Summary: "There's a magic spell for everything, if you look hard enough. ... If you're willing to pay the price." And in wartime, it's a lot easier to pay the price -- especially with friends by your side. Written as a pinch-hit for kaitoujeanne for mistletoemagic 2005. (D)

// There's a magic spell for everything, if you look hard enough.

You might even be able to use that spell-- if. If you're a good enough wizard, strong enough and clever enough and with enough control. If you need it enough. If you're willing to pay the price.

There's always a price. //

"Look," Harry said in a hoarse whisper. "What does magic need?"

"In case you haven't noticed," Ron whispered back, "we're not in Hogwarts any more." He rubbed at the streak on his face, a dark smear of grime. "I don't need quizzes, thanks."

There was a shout, somewhere in the distance, and a flash of green light. Ron and Hermione both flinched; Harry just curled into a tighter crouch, looking resigned. "Hermione?"

"Talent, I suppose." Her own whisper was nearly inaudible. To their left, something or somethings crashed relentlessly through tangled branches, looking for them and for others.

"Talent, ability, yes." Harry started ticking the points off on his fingers. That was one. "Knowledge." Two. "Belief." Three.

"Belief?" Ron echoed, wrinkling his nose.

Hermione gave him a thin smile. "Magic works better when you expect it to work, Ron."

"That makes no sense."

"Hush," Harry said. "It's not supposed to make sense; it's magic." He continued with his points: "Courage, for the more powerful spells." Four. "And for the worst spells, desperation." He folded his arms across his chest again, hands tucked in for the warmth. "And we have those, don't you see? You've got the knowledge," looking at Hermione, "and the belief. You've got the courage," glancing at Ron, who made a disbelieving noise in the back of his throat. "You *do*," Harry insisted. "Remember the chess game in our first year at Hogwarts?"

"...yeah," Ron said slowly, "but that was... it was just... it had to be done, you know?"

"Just because it had to be done doesn't mean it didn't take courage," Hermione murmured, with a look in his direction that made him flush with pleased embarrassment.

"We've all got the talent," Harry finished. "And I've got the desperation. But that isn't enough by itself. I can't do this alone. I need both of you."

"We're here," Hermione said. She sounded miserable. "Harry, are you sure about this? It isn't what good guys do."

"We're not good guys," Harry said grimly. "At least, I'm not. I can't be, if I want to win this. I'm less bad than Voldemort, but I'm not good. Good guys just die. They don't win."

"They do sometimes," Ron insisted, but he didn't sound certain.

"Not against *him*." Harry looked at both of them, expression serious. "I wish there were a different way to do this, but I don't think there is."

Hermione looked down for a long moment, and then looked up at Harry with a wavering smile. Her fist unclenched, finally, revealing the paper inside. "I think you're right," she said softly, and leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek.

Harry took the paper, blinked slowly at it, and then gave Hermione a tight one-armed hug. His other arm reached out to Ron, who hesitated for just a moment before coming in. The three of them crouched there for a long moment, holding on to each other, gathering strength.

"Okay," Harry said finally. "Let's do this."

Hermione nodded, her face suddenly as determined and unafraid as though they were still in school, as though this were just one of their end-of-year exams. "They need to get closer."

"Right," Ron said. "That would be me." And with a deep breath he sprang up out of the bushes they'd been hiding in. A quick spell sent bright white sparks splashing up from the end of his wand, and he danced about, hollering and waving his arms, the sparks arcing over his head. "Over here, you great big oafs! Yeah, I'm talking to you. Hey! Nice juicy meat, this way!"

"You're sure about this?" Hermione whispered to Harry. "I haven't tested the spell, I don't know for sure it'll work."

"It'll work," Harry said with a tight grin. "I have faith in you."

"But it's never been done!"

"'Course not. The binding's usually pretty permanent, and re-binding only
works for the same person anyway."

"Except for you," Hermione said. To one side, Ron whistled sharply, wand still sparking.

"I've got part of him in me, remember?" Harry forced himself to grin, even though he didn't much feel like it. It was a gamble, but really it was the only chance they had. "Trust me."

"I always do."

Ron flung himself down next to them, panting. "They're close," he said with a fierce grin, "and coming closer."

"Well," Harry said, and stood up. There were more Inferi than he expected, more than he could see clearly in the dim light of the crescent moon, a shambling sea of dead white faces and grasping hands. "Fire, please," he said, surprising himself with how calm he sounded.

Ron and Hermione knelt one on either side of him, hands clasped to form an unbroken circle around him. Hermione spoke the words of the spell, but it was their joined power that gave it strength. A circle of low flames sprang up around the three of them, and the closest Inferi flinched back and staggered to a halt.

Harry glanced down at the paper in his hands, the re-binding spell that Hermione had found. If this worked, he would have an army of his own to use against the enemy.

If this worked, he would be delving into the Dark Arts with very little chance to redeem himself.

If this worked, would he be any better than what he was fighting?

He closed his eyes for a moment, aware of the dark hatred that spilled from the Inferi, Voldemort's anger and hatred and pure love of death and despair channeled through the bodies of the living dead -- and equally aware of the warmth inside the ring of flames, linking him intangibly with Hermione and Ron, friendship and love that sometimes wavered but never failed.

He needed them, to win this. He needed their strength. Love had saved him once; it was the only path available to him. Even if the actions he took might destroy the friendship that supported him, might mean they wouldn't be there for him afterwards.

It has to be done, Harry thought.

Wand in one hand, Hermione's spell in the other, he began to speak.


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