As soon as he felt strong enough, Harry made his way down the path to the stone and iron entrance gate. He found the Nimbus 2000 where he had left it. It wasn't until he swung his leg over the handle that he realized that he was still under the disillusionment charm. "Well, Ogram and ghosts alike can see through that charm. That's good to know, it might come in handy sometime," thought Harry. He checked the time on his wristwatch, reconnoitered the area for anyone who might see his broom; finding no one, he headed back to the castle.

Taking to the air, Harry layered his memory and calculated what the "other" Harry was doing in Dumbledore's office. He had to time his arrival so as to avoid being seen by "himself." As he contemplated the past day's actions, his mind reeled. He knew that right now, he checked his watch again to make sure, "he" was reading the last of the school syllabus books. "If I can time it right, I can come through the cupboard while I'm under the Wallacearia Condensata spell. That spell makes me oblivious to what's going on around me. I should be able to get back into the office with little problem. Timing will be critical. There will be a moment when the outer door opens and light will flood the room from the broom cupboard. If I am unlucky enough to arrive while the "other" Harry is replacing or retrieving books it could get dicey," thought Harry as he approached the back of the tall tower.

Taking a deep breath, Harry headed for the hidden door. He planned his actions with the possibility of running into himself weighing in the back of his mind. He knew he would have to be quick about it. As he approached the tower, he watched closely for the wall to begin to open. It did so without command and as soon as the aperture was sufficiently large to admit him, he flew quickly through. Once inside the cupboard, the outer doorway sealed and Harry stood motionless and listened for any indication that "he" had noticed himself.

He stepped cautiously from the now darkened broom cupboard; the disillusionment charm still in place. He looked to the study desk and found that "he" was sitting and reading sixth-year course materials. From the look of the stack the process had just begun. Harry knew that he had less than twenty minutes before "Harry" was done reading the books. He pulled his wand from his robe pocket and concentrated on "Muffliato," expecting the sound-deadening spell to give an added layer of insulation between him and "Harry." When the spell was in place, he removed the disillusioning charm and made his way to the portrait, picking up his earlier meal on the way, and addressed Dumbledore in a quiet voice, "This could get a little crowded with two of me here. Do you have any suggestions?" Harry waited for the portrait to answer.

"Welcome back, Harry," said Dumbledore in an enthusiastic whisper. "Please continue in a quiet voice and we can have a fairly safe conversation. No need to take any more chances than necessary. Tuck in, you will need to finish that," whispered Dumbledore nodding at Harry's meal. "I believe that your lunches will be here before you conclude reading the sixth-year texts."

Harry just finished stuffing the last of a sweet roll in his mouth when there was a knock at the door. He recognized Dobby's knock as it seemed to come from somewhere near the bottom of the door. Harry considered the spot he was in. "Dumbledore couldn't be seen by Dobby, and Dobby couldn't see two of me without some kind of explanation." Thinking quickly, he sprinted silently to the desk to retrieve an invisibility cloak. To his horror, he found that the cloaks, the orbs; indeed everything he had left on top of the desk earlier was gone. Dumbledore softly cleared his throat and, getting Harry's attention, motioned to the desk. He rounded the desk and was pulling open the right-hand drawer when he saw Dumbledore shake his head and motion to the left. Taking the hint, he opened the left-hand drawer but it appeared to be empty. Realizing that things weren't always what they appeared, he reached into the drawer as a second knock sounded at the door. His hand encountered a silken shadow that he recognized as his father's invisibility cloak. He snatched it up, and as he headed toward the door, he used Wingardium Leviosa to settle the cloak over "himself" seated at the desk reading the sixth-year texts. "He" disappeared just as he made it to the oak door to admit Dobby.

The house elf bowed and started a squeaky explanation but Harry cut him off, "Dobby, before you come in," he whispered, an admonitory finger to his lips, "I want you to know that there are two of me in this office. Don't worry; I'm just practicing some new magic. I think you saw me earlier in the Gryffindor commons when I showed you my sock. I may be around the castle from time-to-time in odd places. You will always be able to tell it's me because I'll point to my sock. All I ask, is if you see more than one of me, don't let anyone else know, not even myself." Harry ceased speaking knowing that he must sound raving.

To Harry's astonishment, Dobby said, "Dobby has not forgotten Harry Potter's instructions from before." Then elf silently took the trays to the Headmaster's desk and set them down carefully.

As Dobby picked up the dishes from, "What was it?" Harry thought, "Just a couple of hours ago?" Harry saw that he was losing the track of time. "I'll have to mention that to Dumbledore. He may have a remedy."

Harry recognized that the elf had gone about his business wordlessly. He had expected to have to cover for Dumbledore's absence but the elf had asked nothing. It wasn't until he really looked at Dobby that he realized that the elf had silent tears streaming from his tennis ball sized eyes. "Dobby what's the matter? Can I help?"

Although Harry's tone reflected his sincere desire to help, Dobby did not answer. He continued clearing the remaining dishes from the office.

Harry thought that Dobby might not have heard his question and was about to ask again when the elf glanced up at the empty picture frame that housed Dumbledore's portrait. The effect was immediate. Dobby broke into great wracking sobs and a flood of tears.

"Dobby, what is it?" asked Harry although he thought he already knew the answer.

"Harry Potter it is a dark day. Evil deeds have been done during the night. Dobby and the other house elves knows. Dobby is worried. Dobby is not afraid for himself, no, Dobby is afraid for the others." Dobby shuddered and more tears fell to the floor, splashing Harry's feet and robes.

"Dobby, what do you know, what dark deeds?" asked Harry.

"Harry Potter must not be concerning himself with dark deeds. Harry Potter is a good wizard. Harry Potter will be protected as long as Dobby is near." More sobs had punctuated Dobby's choked words.

"Dobby please tell me, maybe I can help," said Harry earnestly.

"Dobby knows that Harry Potter is noble and brave. Maybe Harry Potter can help. Dobby hears things. Professor Dumbledore's painting has been damaged. Wizards have been attacked outside of Hogwarts. Strange things, dangerous things, come out of the forest to Hogwarts. Dobby does not know what to do Harry Potter. The other house elves is afraid too."

"Dobby," Harry began in a soothing voice, "you can tell the house elves that they are safe here." Suddenly Harry's thoughts were drawn back to his confrontation with Lucius Malfoy after Dobby had been freed as Malfoy's house elf. Lucius Malfoy had been furious; he had drawn his wand and had been about to attack Harry when Dobby had interceded with his own brand of powerful magic. Upon consideration, given how angry Malfoy had been, Harry was sure that Malfoy would have attacked both him and Dobby if there had been a surety of success. Harry realized belatedly, that Malfoy hadn't been the least bit afraid of him. On the contrary, Malfoy had been more than ready to attack him. It had been Dobby's elfin powers that had cowed Malfoy.

"Here I am telling Dobby that he and the other house elves are safe here at Hogwarts, when in reality they are probably safer than any wizard here," thought Harry. "House elves would be powerful allies in a fight against Voldemort if they could be convinced to help."

Harry's thoughts changed his tack with Dobby. "Dobby would it help if I talked with the house elves. If I explained what we were up against, how they could help?"

Dobby's eyes brightened, "Oh yes, Harry Potter. House elves is happy to serve when we is shown what to do. Hogwarts house elves, excepting Kreacher, admire Harry Potter. They would listen to Harry Potter's words. Would Harry Potter do this great kindness?"

"Yes Dobby, " said Harry, "I have a meeting with my friends after I'm done here. I could come down to the kitchens to talk with the house elves at around nine o'clock tonight. Would that work?"

"Thank you Harry Potter sir," squeaked Dobby wiping the last of the tears out of his now hopeful eyes, "Dobby will tell all the house elves. They will be there to hear the great Harry Potter."

"Is there anything specific I can address?" asked Harry.

"It is the headmaster, Harry Potter. The house elves were deeply saddened when Professor Dumbledore was, was, was..." At this Dobby broke down into unintelligible sobbing and muttering.

Harry went to the weeping elf's side, knelt down next to him and put a comforting arm around his bony shoulders. "There, there Dobby. It's not as bad as you think. Professor Dumbledore provided a way to have a shade of his old self remain at Hogwarts after his..." It was Harry's turn to get choked up; he cleared his now tightened throat and finished..." you see, it's going to be all right."

"Harry Potter is a brave wizard, Harry Potter puts the best face on things," sobbed Dobby. "Elves can tell when dark magic, evil magic, has been done, it always leaves a mark. The night He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacked the castle; the mark of dark magic was thick within the walls of the castle. Again this morning, dark magic was present here. Dark deeds has been done. Dark magic has been used at Hogwarts. The great Professor Dumbledore's portrait has been harmed. We elves mourn his death, as much as if he had been our only master. Hogwarts house elves owes allegiance to Hogwarts School first, then to the Headmaster and staff. House elves have seen Headmasters, Headmistresses and staff come and go with the changing school years. We understands that our loyalty is to the school. But Professor Dumbledore was different than any previous Head. He visited us elves. He worried about us and our families. He made life a joy for house elves here at Hogwarts. When we house elves was told of his murder, there was nearly an uprising. Many elves wanted to track down the murderer and exact revenge. Professor McGonagall worked long and hard to convince us elves to stay at Hogwarts and not go about looking for trouble. In the end, only two house elves left to find and punish the murderer. Dobby wanted to go with them, to help them, but Dobby saw that he needed to stay close to Harry Potter, to protect Harry Potter. Now dark magic has been done again in the castle and we elves fear that we have lost the great Professor Dumbledore forever. House elves hears things, we know that Professor Dumbledore's portrait has been damaged and that something dark escaped through the forbidden forest. All house elves except Dobby has been instructed to stay away from the Headmaster's office. We house elves sees what this means. Dobby knows that the great Harry Potter is spending time in the Headmaster's office. Dobby thinks Harry Potter is trying to undo the dark magic that has harmed Professor Dumbledore's portrait." With this, Dobby once again broke into sobs and tears.

This was probably the longest running speech that he had ever heard Dobby, or indeed any house elf, engage. It shed light on the state of mind of the house elves and brought some new and very interesting questions to mind. Kneeling by Dobby's side, he could feel the elf's whole body shake as he sobbed in grief.

Harry was suddenly struck with the thought that he had helped put this plan in motion. The house elves believed Dumbledore's portrait to have been harmed, and although they were not human, they were experiencing deep grief and sorrow because of his plan. He realized that plans made in the relative safety of this very office would have far reaching influence on the lives of countless others. Suddenly Harry was struck with the weight his decisions were going to have on people and creatures he would never meet. He wondered if he was up to the task.

The sobbing elf under the protection of his arm brought Harry back to the situation at hand. He knew the plan, and he knew that the rumor that Professor McGonagall had started had spread. It was now time to make it look like that information was being covered up.

"Dobby," Harry, hating himself for what he was about to set in motion, began, "indeed, you are correct, there has been dark magic with ill intent performed in the castle during the night but I can assure you that Professor Dumbledore's portrait is just fine. Steps have been taken to restore, er secure, Professor Dumbledore's portrait. Please tell the house elves not to worry."

The sobbing elf looked up from under the crook of Harry's arm, great tears still glistening in his eyes, but a new hope dawning on his face. Dobby straightened, regained his composure, settled the tray and dishes he was carrying and turned to leave the office. "Enjoy your lunch Harry Potter. Dobby will tell the house elves to expect Harry Potter in the kitchens tonight." Dobby smiled a weak smile, glanced toward the "Harry" reading under the invisibility cloak, shrugged his bony shoulders and quietly bowed his way from the office.

No sooner had Dobby left than Dumbledore stepped back into his portrait. He was smiling a wry smile. "Well done, Harry," he said, "that was quick thinking on your part. And your concern for the house elves is gratifying. It also seems the rumor has started and now it will appear that we are attempting to contain it. If Voldemort does indeed have spies inside Hogwarts, this news will make its way to him eventually. Now Harry, back to business. You need to eat. You may be hungrier than you realize."

Glancing behind, at the grandfather clock, Harry saw that the time was very short until "he" would be through reading. He summoned the cloak, once again exposing a "Harry" who was so focused on reading that "he" hadn't noticed a thing. Harry could see that "he" was about halfway through the texts. He had only scant minutes before this would get really complicated. Harry levitated the meals to their places, and taking his portion, he turned to Dumbledore's portrait.

Dumbledore smiled again and began; "Now I think it is time for you to visit Professor Lupin. He, you will be glad to hear, is perfectly fine according to Professor McGonagall. Apparently Greyback did not take time to visit him before he came to this office. Professor McGonagall has informed Professor Lupin to expect you at noon for some additional Occlumency training."

"No time to argue the pointlessness of Occlumency," thought Harry. He nodded to Dumbledore's portrait, swirled the invisibility cloak around his head and strode from the office. He could have sworn that as the door clicked shut he heard his own voice from inside the office. "This could be maddening," thought Harry as he made his way quietly down the stairs.

« Chapter 18 - Ogram   Chapter 20 - Front of the Mind »


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