King and Bishop
A/N: This is J. K. Rowling's
sandbox; I'm just playing in it. I'd like to thank HelenH, who beta'd
"If Dumbledore told you it
wasn't your fault, Harry, then it probably wasn't. He would know. But
he didn't do you any favors if he didn't remind you that you were
responsible for your own actions."
I've been thinking
about our last conversation. I think it could have gone better, and I
still have some questions. So I'd like to talk some more, if you have
time to spare.
Thank you for
contacting me. I agree with your assessment. At the moment, I do not
believe it is yet safe for you to travel unaccompanied. I will visit
you tomorrow evening at 7, if that is convenient.
Harry's gaze flitted around
his room, looking for anything out of place. His last conversation
with Dumbledore had gone so poorly that he found himself too nervous
about the next one to sit still, and he had tried to use that energy to
tidy up. He had even unpacked, sorted, and repacked his trunk. The
fragments of the mirror Sirius gave him sat wrapped in a handkerchief
on the desk, next to Hedwig's empty cage; he had sent his owl to the
Burrow in hopes that she would return with details of when he was to go
He looked at the clock. 6:58.
Dumbledore would arrive momentarily. He pulled the chair away from the
desk, then sat on the bed. He could hear the Dursleys laughing at some
vulgar American TV show downstairs. His eyes wandered again, and after
a moment, his mind followed.
There was a faint popping
sound. Harry flinched, startled. Dumbledore was standing at the
doorway to his room. "Oh. Hello, Headmaster." He jumped to his feet,
and gestured at the empty chair.
"Hello, Harry. I'm sorry if I
startled you." The headmaster walked over to the chair, casting a
Silencing charm on the room as he sat down. "You look better than I
would have believed four days ago."
Harry nodded, sitting down
again. "Ginny stopped by. That helped a lot." Seeing Dumbledore's
eyes widen in alarm, he added hastily, "George came with her, just in
"Ah. Was your conversation
with her related to your request to talk to me?"
"A bit. It prompted me to
think about our last conversation in ways I might not have." He
chuckled quietly. "Which reminds me: I'm sorry for how I acted the
last time we talked. I hope I didn't do any permanent damage."
Dumbledore sighed. "None to
me, Harry, nor to my office. I would not make a habit of such
"I don't plan to." Harry
looked out the window; the neighborhood was quietly alive with people
enjoying a mild summer evening. "Why did you try to take the blame for
what happened at the Ministry?"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.
"Do you still believe that you are to blame for what happened?"
"Well, naturally I was for
some of it," Harry said. "I went to the Ministry. I didn't trust
Snape to relay the message I gave him." He reached over to the
handkerchief on the desk, and unfolded it slightly. "And there's this."
"Reparo." The fragments jumbled
around each other back into place. Dumbledore looked at the mirror,
and then at Harry, who was gripping the bedspread very tightly. "Did
Sirius give you this, Harry?"
"Yeah. But I was worried
about him doing something rash, and swore I wouldn't use it. I forgot
that I had it until I was packing up to leave at the end of term." He
wiped his eyes. "If I hadn't, none of this would have happened. I
could have talked to him directly."
Dumbledore nodded slowly. "If
he had the mirror with him at the time. Harry, the blame for what
happened at the Ministry truly belongs mostly on my shoulders. It is
part and parcel of my responsibilities to you and to the Order of the
Phoenix. So I do not consider it a deflection. If you truly believe
yourself responsible for your actions, then I will not argue with you.
It is a sign of maturity. I would counsel you, however, that
acceptance of responsibility without acceptance of self can be
damaging, and in your case, possibly fatal."
Bewildered, Harry just stared
at his headmaster.
"Your ability to love has
saved you in one way or another in every encounter you have had with
Voldemort since you arrived at Hogwarts. If that ability is impaired,
I am not sure what will happen. And despising yourself for your
mistakes, whatever their consequences, will impair that ability over
Harry nodded slowly. "I
suppose. But I can't learn from my mistakes if I don't know what they
For a moment, the older man
looked uncertain. "I am hesitant to continue this conversation, and I
believe you know why."
Harry nodded again, once.
"Yes. You mentioned it the
last time we talked, but not this time. Why?"
"I don't believe I learned
anything in those lessons. Except that my father was occasionally an
arse, and that Snape always was."
"Professor Snape. Well. The best way I
know of to find out what you have actually learned is through practical
examination. Are you prepared?"
Harry swallowed, and looked at
Dumbledore. "As much as I can be."
Dumbledore nodded. "Legilimens."
-Ginny perched at
the foot of his bed, legs wrapped underneath her... "The headmaster has
sent me to tell you, Potter, that it is his wish for you to study
Occlumency this term..."-
Dimly, Harry remembered
something that had worked before. "Protego!"
-"I'm trying, but
you're not telling me how!" "Manners, Potter...Now, I want you to
close your eyes..." Sirius' body curving in a graceful arc as he sank
backward through the ragged veil-
Harry opened his eyes.
Dumbledore looked at him gravely. "Why did you use the Shield Charm?"
"It worked once on Snape. On
"Interesting. It appears that
your assessment of the effectiveness of your Occlumency training is
correct. You learned very little in those lessons."
Harry's left fist clenched.
After a moment, he noticed, and forced it open. "What little I learned
was in spite of my instructor, not because of him. The dreams actually
increased after each lesson."
"This despite your emptying
your mind of emotion before going to bed?"
Harry shook his head,
reluctantly. "I was never any good at that. So much was going on that
I never...succeeded...at emptying my mind. If there's some trick to
it, Snape never told me."
"There are some techniques
that help at first. Focusing on a pleasant or neutral memory, for
example. Something vivid enough to draw your attention away from
anything else. Once you are entirely focused on that memory, take away
individual elements until nothing remains."
"Thanks. I'll try that."
Despite himself, Harry could feel his anger rising at the Headmaster,
at Snape, and at himself for their shared responsibility for what had
happened. Something was odd about that, though... "Headmaster, what
has Voldemort been doing since the fight at the Ministry?"
"We don't know, Harry. Why?"
"Because I haven't felt
anything from him." He smiled as something occurred to him. "I was
angry a moment ago, but it was my anger. I remember feeling hatred for
you during the year, but...I don't think it was mine." He laughed in
relief. "I think I just figured out how to tell the difference."
Dumbledore's face was still
very grave, but the twinkle was back. "You will need that in order to
truly resist Voldemort's influence. Especially now. Telling you the
contents of the prophecy was a terrible risk, Harry, one I would not
have taken if I was not confident that you would soon learn to protect
your memory from invasion. And it is vital that you not tell anyone
Harry bristled. He had
forgotten to ask Dumbledore if it was all right to tell Ginny; now that
his question had an answer, he found he didn't like it. "Why not?"
"As important as you are to
him, Voldemort still believes that it is my death which will guarantee
his victory. Do you remember Minerva's lovely chess game, from your
Harry nodded, trying to ignore
the anger rising inside him.
"After the affair with the
Philosopher's Stone was settled, several of the staff and I watched
re-enactments of the two games played. We wanted to see Voldemort's
style of play, and we also wanted to see how the three of you got past
"What we learned was greatly
disturbing. Voldemort is a master strategist. His game lasted less
than thirty moves, and was incredibly bloodthirsty. Less than ten
pieces remained on the board at the end of the game. He possessed a
tight focus on his objective, and was willing to sacrifice where
necessary in order to achieve that objective. The sole flaw he showed
was arrogance; he assumed the role of king, and checkmated his opponent
using his queen...and himself.
"Then there was your game. It
was clear that Ronald Weasley controlled your side of the board;
certain moves only made sense from the perspective of the knight whose
square he occupied. More interesting to me, however, was not the game
itself, but that he placed none of you as the king. He did not, and
does not, know that you are far more important than a mere bishop. And
neither does Voldemort.
"To most of the wizarding
world, he and I face each other as opposing kings. Only two people
know otherwise. More to the point: only two people know that it is at
all possible to know otherwise. Therefore, allowing anyone else to
know puts them in grave danger."
"They're in danger anyway."
Harry could feel his control slowly slipping away. "Just knowing me
they're in danger." Abruptly his anger vanished, replaced by an odd
clenching feeling in his stomach. "I make their lives dangerous."
"The Weasleys and the
Longbottoms have long and proud histories of opposing the beliefs and
practices espoused by Voldemort and his followers. The Lovegoods have
a shorter but no less impressive record of open-mindedness and
tolerance in the face of persecution. And Miss Granger is a shining
example of the folly of pure-blood ideals. You are their natural ally,
Harry, and a powerful one. Their lives would be far more perilous
without you. I ask for their sake that you hold this secret to
"I don't know if I can."
Harry picked at his fingernails. "Ginny said that I'm terrible at
lying to...certain people. I think Hermione would be one of those
people, and even if she isn't...sooner or later they'll figure it out."
"And so we are back to
Harry met Dumbledore's eyes,
refusing to blink. "I will not take lessons with Snape again. Potions
was bad enough, but at least I learned something."
Dumbledore's gaze hardened,
and for a moment, Harry could see how the older man might be described
as frightening. But he refused to look away. "I am not refusing to
learn Occlumency, Headmaster. I am refusing to learn it from him.
You've already taught me more than he ever did, just by telling me how
to clear my mind."
"Very well. I will make other
arrangements. I suspect that N.E.W.T. level Potions will be difficult
Harry's jaw dropped slightly.
"I got an O?"
"Not in Potions,
unfortunately. You will have to petition Professor Snape for entry
into the class."
"You did receive an E on the
Potions O.W.L. -- a high E. Had a different wizard graded you, you
might have received an O. You are capable of success in N.E.W.T.-level
Potions. Also, mastery of Potions requires particular skills that I
suspect you will need in order to truly master the mental disciplines.
Most important, however, is that N.E.W.T-level Potions includes a
section on how to recognize and counter the effects of various potions
"Sna--Professor Snape will
never accept my petition."
"You will have to find a way
to persuade him to accept it. Your father never made peace with
Professor Snape, and your godfather never could. But you must. You
still have much to learn from him, and too much is at stake for you to
allow your focus to be divided any longer."
"Fine." Suddenly, Harry
wanted to change the subject. He cast about desperately. "What will I
have to do to defeat Voldemort?"
"I don't know."
"You don't..." Harry trailed
off. He flopped backwards on his bed, and looked at the ceiling. "Who
"I don't believe anyone knows
yet, Harry. Eventually, you will learn for yourself. You will have
to." He left an unspoken Or... hanging like a convict. "I
do know that your best chance to defeat him depends on his
concentration being elsewhere. You have the power to defeat him, but
he is older and more treacherous than you, and these are qualities not
to be taken lightly. But as long as Voldemort is unaware of the true
connection between the two of you, he will not focus his efforts on
Briefly, Harry felt that the
headmaster was omitting something important, but he couldn't figure out
what that would be. He raised himself on his elbows to look at
Dumbledore, whose face was as innocuous as it had been when he mentioned
seeing socks in the Mirror of Erised. Frustrated, he snapped, "Great.
I don't know how to defeat Voldemort, I don't know how to find out, and
I can't ask anyone for help, because no one else knows that I'm the one
that has to do it. Any other good news while the mood is so light,
Dumbledore shrugged. "Many of
the O.W.L. exam results appear to have been tampered with, including
some of your own, and so you may have to re-take those exams that were
Harry stared at him for a
couple of moments, then opened his mouth to say something only to find
that he was laughing. "Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds
after what we were just talking about?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I
believe I do. Try not to worry about what lies ahead just yet, Harry.
I believe that you will be safe for the summer, and until I find a
better tutor, you will be working with me on Occlumency, and possibly
Telemency as well."
"Yes. Occlumency allows you
to block intrusions into your thoughts, and Legilimency allows you to
read the thoughts of others. Voldemort used Telemency to send the
visions you saw. But it can also be used defensively -- if you can
project certain thoughts strongly enough in your own mind, anyone who
tries to read you will only see what you project. It is even more
difficult than Occlumency for most people, but I suspect it may prove
easier for you."
"You've already shown some
talent for it, I believe. The memories I was able to see in our
session a few minutes ago were mostly concentrated on a subject
relevant to what we'd discussed. That is not common."
"Oh." Harry looked at the
headmaster curiously. He realized something, and his eyes narrowed.
"That's not all, is it?"
"No. It also proved easier
for Tom Riddle," Dumbledore said, and Harry was struck by how old he
looked, just for that moment. "Harry, I do not mean to completely
isolate you from the people you love. I believe that would be as
dangerous to you as anything Voldemort could do to you. But you must
understand the danger that waits for anyone who learns what you now
know. And your friends must understand it as well, before they can
even attempt to learn Occlumency. Voldemort cannot be allowed to even
suspect that there are any secrets to be kept. He believes the
prophecy to be lost to him, and our best chance at victory depends on
that belief. If he believes that anyone other than me knows the
prophecy, he will stop at nothing to discover its contents."
"I see your point,
Headmaster." Harry looked out the window. Hedwig still hadn't
returned from the Burrow. He hoped she would soon. "And I'll try
harder to learn Occlumency."
"Good. I shall send an owl
with more information. And now I should leave you to your leisure
time," Dumbledore said, and stood up. "Oh, it almost slipped my mind.
The Defense Against the Dark Arts results were found not to have been
tampered with. They were investigated, however, because of the unusual
concentration of scores."
"What do you mean?"
"It seems that every fifth
year student in your, ah, club, received an O. That is the highest
number of O scores ever awarded on any O.W.L. exam. Congratulations
are definitely in order."
Harry's eyes began to burn.
"Thank you, Headmaster. It's nice to know that something good came out
of that." He looked out the window again. "I think Hermione would
want to know as well. It was her idea to begin with."
Dumbledore chuckled. "As I
should have suspected. Good evening, Harry."
"Good evening, Headmaster."
The older man cancelled the
Silencing charm, then Apparated out of Harry's bedroom with a faint
pop. Harry slid his elbows forward and lay back down on the bed,
sideways. A year ago he had been in exactly this place knowing nothing,
and angry at his friends for not telling him anything for it. Now he
knew too much, and he couldn't tell anyone. He wondered how angry they
would be at him, if and when they found out. Suddenly he wasn't sure
how eager he was to go to the Burrow anymore.