"At the outset, Harry, let me say that I do not believe that you can completely trust me," said Dumbledore.

Dumbledore's words caught Harry by surprise. "What do you mean I can't trust you?" asked Harry.

"I did not say that you could not trust me. I said I did not think you could completely trust me," stated Dumbledore stoically. "This is a new experience for both of us. A word of caution, I am not the Albus Dumbledore that you knew. It is time to explain, as nearly as I can, what has transpired. You see, a complete Porcrux is a collection of saved knowledge, passions, personality, wisdom and connections of friendship. It by no means makes me a person."

Harry realized that even though he had heard a similar explanation from Moody, Dumbledore hadn't been there to listen or share insight except as a glow in a globe. This was going to be a challenge. This Porcrux's words would have to be weighed in the balance of what it knew and what it didn't. Harry suddenly understood that the Porcrux was not a complete representation of the living person he had known. He put the thought in the back of his mind as a benchmark to rely on when he needed to judge between what he knew and what the Porcrux presented.

"I think I understand what you mean and I'll try to be cautious," said Harry.

"To understand what I am, you need to know a few details about what brought me to this point. As I considered the clumsy attempts on my life during this year, and as I realized the danger of seeking out Voldemort's Horcruxes, I came to the conclusion that the best way to prepare for an unsure future was to make arrangements for storing and reading of my willy. Each part of a willy carries considerable force of character. In combination they would be overwhelming for a single wizard, no matter how powerful. That is why five separate readers are required for the reading. I tried to make a careful balance in my choice for each reader. Each reader would be exposed to thoughts, emotions and incidents that could leave lasting impressions and influences. Examine my choice for each reader. Moody for example had knowledge most nearly akin to mine; therefore, many of the things he experienced during the reading were not new to him. Professor McGonagall's passions for the things she was dedicated to, and the things we have shared, made my passion willy a fairly close match. You would had to have known Arthur Weasley when he was younger to appreciate his command of personality; imagine Fred, George, Ron, Charlie, Bill, Ginny, and Percy rolled into one, and you get a basic idea of Arthur as a young man. Now add the touch of Molly that has rubbed off on Arthur during their marriage and you will begin to see why he was able to handle my personality willy so admirably. Remus Lupin has faced the savage opinions and prejudices of others since his childhood. He has learned to handle them with magnanimity and understanding. He is wise beyond his years. His wisdom and courage made the reading of my wisdom willy possible. It was a daunting task which he performed flawlessly."

Harry had listened intently. He felt that some of his long unanswered questions were on the cusp of revelation but he was troubled by Dumbledore's words. Tentatively he interrupted, "Why me for your friendship willy? You have shared so many friendships and I really haven't had that many friends in my life." Harry concluded, not knowing if he really wanted to hear the answer.

"Yes Harry," said Dumbledore, "I realized that you had not experienced a tremendous number of friendships in your short life. Indeed, much of your life has been shrouded in sadness and frustration. But remember, Harry, it is not the number of friends who hold you dear; it is how dearly you hold the friends you have. I have seen the fierce loyalty you have demonstrated to those you count as friends. I could not have asked for a better reading of my friendship willy than what you accomplished. There were two additional reasons I chose you for my reading. First, you had room in your mind for the extent of friendships I had saved and stored. Secondly, I thought that you might benefit from some of the friendships to which you would be exposed. This, I admit, was a selfish reason on my part. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me for putting these things upon you without warning. In retrospect, I see that many times I may have separated too much of myself for storage. If you ponder our relationship you may recognize times that I was distant. Some of these times I thought I was protecting you, other times however, were because I had stored too much of myself away to be me.

Harry absorbed the words. He would have to give this new revelation some thought. If true, it explained a lot about incidents that had nagged at Harry's mind. Sometimes Dumbledore had seemed far away, less than focused. Maybe this was the reason behind some of those times.

"Now Harry," Dumbledore continued, "as I said, I do not know if you can completely trust everything I say because I am not really all here. If I had put my all in the orb for the future, I would have ceased to exist. I had to pick and choose what I included. I may have made errors in my choices, and possessing a greater intellect than most wizards, errors I may have made would have more severe consequences. Therefore, be cautious in how much stock you put in what I say. I was usually trustworthy, but now I am not totally sure of myself. Be that as it may, I do have some things I would like to go over with you." Dumbledore paused and then plunged on, "You need to know what I can and can not do; I can not do magic, I can not force you to act on or even respond to my suggestions, I can not intervene in any mortal matters, and I can not see the future; however, I can share ideas with you, I can set you on paths that may not have occurred to you, I can help you locate resources to aid you in your quest, and with some preparation I can help you communicate very quickly with your friends in a totally secure fashion.

Harry absorbed the words. They contained many limitations but also many possibilities. "Where do you suggest that I start?" Harry asked cautiously.

"Shall I take that question as a desire to move forward?" Dumbledore inquired. Dumbledore's question held the pause and promise of a future determined.

"Yes," Harry stated simply. With his answer the die was cast.

"Good," said Dumbledore, "would you please sit down at the desk, there is parchment in the top right-hand desk drawer. We will discuss some things that might bear consideration. You may write down any that you feel are worthwhile."

Harry sat down at the desk and retrieved the parchment from the drawer. He then pulled a magnificent scarlet quill and silver inkwell toward him from the top of the desk. "I'm ready," said Harry. He had almost added, "Professor Dumbledore." He realized that it would take some time before he would think of this Porcrux as anyone other than Professor Dumbledore. Until he was totally comfortable with that thought, Harry decided to avoid using any names.

"Let us begin with some of the most immediate items," began Dumbledore, "I do not believe that the Ministry will try any longer to trouble the order of things here at Hogwarts. Nor do I believe that they will make any further attempts to acquire my possessions. However, if they learn of some of our remaining resources they might renew and redouble their efforts. I will explain that more fully later. I would like you to consider starting your education today."

Harry was taken aback by the statement. He had spent the better part of six years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and he thought he had just about gotten his education.

Dumbledore continued uninterrupted, "You see Harry, most students come to Hogwarts with little understanding of what is available to them here and even less inclination to apply themselves to the lessons at hand. Although it is true, that once in a while someone as bright and talented as Miss Granger comes along who applies themselves to all available opportunities. You have been distracted each year you have attended Hogwarts. I believe from the memories I have of you, that you have far greater talent and ability than you have demonstrated heretofore. If you recall the strides you made in your magical abilities with Remus Lupin, and with your own applied efforts, you will begin to see that there is more you can do than you have done."

Harry touched quill to parchment and wrote: 1. Get an education/Improve my knowledge of magic. He immediately recognized the bright purple ink that he had dipped from the ink well on the desk as Dumbledore's signature ink.

"I can arrange with Minerva to have you excused from remaining classes and examinations for personal instruction," Dumbledore said, as he looked down on Harry, "If you are committed, as I believe you are, to ending Voldemort's reign of terror, you will require more magic ability than you currently possess."

Harry wrote, 2. Practice/Improve my ability to control magic. Harry didn't correct the Porcrux Dumbledore. Harry realized that Dumbledore didn't know that the remainder of term had been canceled and the students had left on the train hours ago. It suddenly occurred to Harry that he had missed the train back to King's Cross and would have to catch the Knight Bus in Hogsmeade. He hoped that he would be allowed to stay long enough to learn what Dumbledore had in mind. His decision not to return to Hogwarts for his final year was before he was presented with the idea that Dumbledore was still available. He thought for a moment and said, "A few weeks is not much time to prepare to face Voldemort."

"You are right about the time being short, but for the wrong reason," said Dumbledore.

"Please open the box directly in front of you on the desk and I think you will see some additional possibilities."

Harry put down the quill, reached for the oddly shaped box and pulled it toward him. He attempted to open it but could discover neither lock nor latch. Looking up to Dumbledore for help, Harry waited.

Dumbledore said simply, "Harry look through the glasses you are wearing."

Harry looked down through the half-moon glasses and could immediately see the brilliant tattered grey glow around the box. He slowly turned the box, examining every inch of the rune-incised exterior. It appeared to have been made from a single piece of wood and no seam was visible. As he lifted the box and examined the bottom, he saw a small spot that glowed with an intensity greater than the rest of the box. Cautiously he took out his wand and touched the spot. As he did so, a memory of a far away place and a dark skinned wizard in a turban flashed through his mind. A feeling of friendship surged through Harry. He recognized the box as a gift of gratitude for saving the wizard's village from a fate that stayed just outside Harry's mental grasp. Even though the actual event was outside of Harry's memory, the wizard's explanation of the workings of the box was very clear. Harry intoned, "Alohamora Indicta." A seam appeared around the middle of the box, a latch clicked, and the lid swung silently open. Harry was astonished. He had just performed magic that, as far as he knew, he had never been taught.

"Very good Harry," said Dumbledore, "it is as I had hoped, you appear to have access to specific memories that I included in my orb."

Harry realized that Dumbledore had prepared this test before he died. "How much thought had Dumbledore put into the future? How much control and direction could Dumbledore accomplish from beyond the grave?" Harry took pause at these thoughts. Once again, he knew he was going to have to weigh carefully the information he was given.

Harry placed the box on the desk and looked inside. An emerald coloured scarf covered the contents. Before reaching inside the box, Harry looked carefully through Dumbledore's glasses at the interior of the box. He immediately saw a fine black web stretched across the opening. It was situated in such a manner that one could not reach into the box without touching the invisible strands. Harry looked over the glasses, and as he had expected, the black web disappeared. Before he went further, he turned to the portrait of Dumbledore and asked, "What do I do now?"

"Very good Harry," said Dumbledore who had been carefully observing Harry's actions as he opened the box, "You have already begun to apply new-found abilities and you have exhibited remarkable restraint. Do not reach into the box with your hand. Place the tip of your wand under the web you see and say "Extendere."

Harry did as he was told. The moment that he uttered the incantation, the web folded neatly along the inside of the edges of the box.

Harry waited until the web was totally out of the way, waited for a moment longer to be sure that nothing unexpected happened, looked once more through Dumbledore's glasses, and finally reached into the box. He removed the emerald covering, and found that when he removed it from the box, it became colourless, almost transparent. He draped it over the silver inkwell on the desk which promptly disappeared. The small cloth was an invisibility cloak of some sort. "An invisibility hanky," Harry thought wryly, "that would come in handy if you had an exceptionally nasty cold." Harry looked at the inkwell through Dumbledore's glasses. He could not see the invisibility "hanky" but he could make out a shimmering outline of the inkwell. "Is that what Dumbledore saw when I used my invisibility cloak?" mused Harry. Returning his attention to the box, Harry was struck by the size of the interior; it was out of proportion to the outside. "Enlargement charm," thought Harry. The inside of the box was filled with an assortment of items and instruments, most of which Harry recognized in form and purpose. Harry stifled an intake of breath, one stood out. On a long gold chain was a shimmering Time-Turner. Harry cautiously removed the chain and Time-Turner from the box. As he did so, Harry noticed a small gold clasp that kept the miniature hourglass locked in place. "Aren't Time-Turners regulated by the Ministry? I thought they were all destroyed the night Voldemort's followers tried to recover the prophecy," Harry said as he looked up to Dumbledore's portrait.

"Yes Harry," said Dumbledore measuredly, "the Ministry does regulate Time-Turners and yes, all the Time-Turners in the Ministry's possession were destroyed that night. I have had that particular Time-Turner for well over fifty years. It was given to me by Minister of Magic Samthon Lung, just hours before he was killed by Niscus Grindlewald. There have been quite a few Ministers since then and perhaps, like an overdue book, the records have been misplaced, misfiled or forgotten. At any rate, I was given charge of that particular Time-Turner to aid in my assignment to defeat Grindlewald and end his quest for power in the wizarding world. I will teach you its judicious use to aid you in your desire to stop Voldemort and his followers.

Dumbledore paused, waiting for Harry to absorb the information. Then he continued, "Harry, there are several things that you could do for me."

"I'll do whatever I can do to help," Harry said almost adding "Professor."

"First is a matter of artistic license," began Dumbledore, "I need a message sent to Madame Maxime. I would like her to contact an artist named Francois DePais personally, without using an owl. He is a renowned wizard artist. He painted this portrait of me by the way. I would like to have Madame Maxime arrange for Francois to visit Hogwarts as soon as possible. Second, as you leave tonight, please go directly to Professor McGonagall's office before you are off to bed. And lastly, Harry would you please take just a few moments and explain the circumstances surrounding my death. It may aid my decision making to know how I died."

Harry was taken aback by the request. He hadn't registered the fact that Dumbledore's memories had been placed in the orb before the fateful trip to the cave, or that unlike a ghost, he didn't know about the end of his mortal life. As Harry considered this, he marveled at the restraint Dumbledore had shown. Dumbledore had taken care of many things tonight before ever mentioning his curiosity about his own death. Harry thought that if the situation were reversed, he would have wanted to know, right at the off, what had happened to cause his death.

Harry wasn't really sure where to start. "Where would you like me to begin," he asked.

"That would depend on how much you know about what happened," Dumbledore said simply.

Harry realized, once again, that this wasn't Dumbledore before him. It was an excellent likeness and had many of the same attributes of Dumbledore, but it was not him. It lacked knowledge of common current events. "When was the last time Dumbledore added information to his orb?" Harry wondered.

"Well," Harry began tentatively, "I was with you the night you were killed."

"Excellent!" said Dumbledore with no apparent discomfort of the subject, "You will be able to fill me in on all the details. Please tell me about the evening."

"Well, you called me to your office..." Harry related the events of that evening. He told of the promise, of leaving Hogwarts grounds, apparating to the cliffs, the swim, the cave, the hidden entrance, the password blood, the lake, the boat, the drink (Harry almost broke down upon relating how he had forced Dumbledore to continue drinking), the locket, the Inferi, the trip back to Hogwarts, the Dark Mark, the tower, Dumbledore's protective spell for Harry (at this, Dumbledore mumbled something Harry didn't catch), Draco's inability or unwillingness to kill Dumbledore, Snape's appearance; here Harry paused and considered his words. He related, word-for-word, the exchange between Dumbledore and Snape, and then Snape's killing curse. Harry stopped; his throat had closed in a spasm of grief.

Dumbledore showed no emotion, no response at all. It was as if they were discussing fog in London. A minute ticked by, marked by the huge grandfather clock behind Dumbledore's desk. Dumbledore's penetrating stare never wavered from Harry. Then in a soft voice he said, "Thank you, Harry, I appreciate your candor in relating these events. I will need to consider what you have told me in light of what memories I have. As I have mentioned, I am not the complete Albus Dumbledore. I am a complete Porcrux but there is a wide difference. As an example, I have a specific memory that begins as I walk into my office soaking-wet. Was it raining outside? Had the giant squid inundated me as I strolled around the lake? Had I been talking to the merpeople? You see Harry; I do not know the answer. I can guess and surmise but those are poor ways to reach a definitive conclusion."

"I am like a mirror that has been shattered in the frame. Each piece reflects the subject from a slightly different angle. We can, by taking the views presented in those thousands of tiny fragments, ascertain to some degree what the whole of the subject looks like. But we can never be sure we have an accurate picture. Some details may be obscured in the fracturing, some views may be distorted. Still we do our best with the information we possess."

Harry was infinitely saddened by the realization that Albus Dumbledore was truly gone. As Harry had relived that awful night, he realized that he would have done anything to change places with Dumbledore, to keep Dumbledore alive. As this thought crossed his mind, he considered the Time-Turner he still held in his hands. Harry realized that he could change places with Dumbledore. He could go back and prevent Dumbledore from going to the tower; no, he could prevent Malfoy from repairing the vanishing cabinet; no he could go back and kill Snape! Yes!

Harry had no more than framed the thought when Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "Even though your intentions would be noble, Harry, there are some things you cannot change. My mortal life is over, and we must carry on from here."

Harry was once again shocked. "Can this Porcrux perform Legilimency? Can it see my thoughts?" wondered Harry.

Almost as if in answer to Harry's unasked questions, the portrait began to speak, "No Harry, I can not read your mind but I can reach conclusions. You are coming to grips with yet another loss in your life, you have a Time-Turner in your hands, you have a desire to go back and change something, but you must not. Some things must not be changed. I too was tempted to go back and alter the past, to remove Grindlewald when he was young, or to even prevent him being born in the first place. You may have the same thoughts about Tom Riddle. Think, Harry, of those who have been strengthened, who have become more than they ever would have been, had they not faced the great opposition of these evil wizards. To remove the evil is possible, but in so doing you remove a known quantity and replace it with...what? An unknown future just as evil, possibly. Only then, you or I will not be there with the talents and abilities to stop them. No Harry, that is not how the Time-Turner is to be used. Remember Harry, awful things happen to wizards who meddle with time."

Harry felt at crossed purposes. His first thought had been of saving Dumbledore, not of saving the wizarding world from Voldemort. He felt himself deflate as surely as if he were a leaky balloon.

"Harry we both have a lot to consider. I think it is time for you to get back among the living," said Dumbledore. He continued, "Please return the Time-Turner to the box, replace the invisibility cloth, use "Ani Extendere" to arm the grip web and then reseal the box."

Harry did as he was told, using "Alohomora Condicta" summoned from somewhere in his memory to lock the box. At his command it sealed back to one seamless piece.

"Well done Harry," said Dumbledore, "now if you would unseal the room."

Harry mimicked what he had seen Professor McGonagall do, he pointed his wand at the door, windows and fireplace, and then waving his wand over his head in an arc, he said "Repato." The golden coverings seemed to be drawn back into his wand. A loud click was heard from the door as it unlocked.

"Harry try to get a good night's sleep," said Dumbledore, "I believe you are as safe here at Hogwarts as you would be anywhere, given the circumstances. Tomorrow there will be time to answer many of the questions you do, and will, have. As you speak to Professor McGonagall, please ask her to come see me before she retires tonight. I would ask you to please come back here tomorrow morning at 7:00 sharp. Oh, and please bring Dobby with you."

"Yes Professor," said Harry, thinking of sleeping alone in an empty dormitory.

"Call me Albus," said the portrait warmly.

"Yes, Albus," Harry said hesitantly. As he turned to leave, he noticed that the other portraits were returning to their somnolent positions. All except Phineas Nigellus, who had left his frame and was talking with Dumbledore in hushed tones. The heavy oak door opened easily at Harry's touch. As he entered the cool stairway, the door closed behind him with a click. Harry took off Dumbledore's glasses and put on his own, pocketing the half moon glasses in his robe. Harry made his way down the winding stair and stopped at the wall behind the stone gargoyle. "Novus Ordo," Harry intoned. The wall opened and the stone gargoyle stepped aside and bowed as Harry passed by, then resumed its guardian position as Harry strode into the hallway.

« Chapter 4 - The Porcrux Speaks   Chapter 6 - Friends in Need »


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