The Sugar Quill
Author: imc130d  Story: King and Bishop  Chapter: Default
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King and Bishop

King and Bishop

by imc130d

 

A/N: This is J. K. Rowling's sandbox; I'm just playing in it. I'd like to thank HelenH, who beta'd this story.

 

*~*~*

 

"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."

 

Headmaster:

 

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.

 

Harry Potter

 

 

Harry:

 

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.

 

Albus Dumbledore

 

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 there himself.

 

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 case."

 

"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 outbursts, however."

 

"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 time."

 

Harry nodded slowly. "I suppose. But I can't learn from my mistakes if I don't know what they are."

 

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. "Occlumency."

 

"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-

 

"PROTEGO!"

 

Harry opened his eyes. Dumbledore looked at him gravely. "Why did you use the Shield Charm?"

 

"It worked once on Snape. On Professor Snape."

 

"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 else."

 

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 first year?"

 

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 this obstacle.

 

"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 yourself."

 

"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 Occlumency."

 

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 enough."

 

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."

 

"WHAT?"

 

"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 on yourself."

 

"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 does know?"

 

"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 you."

 

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, Headmaster?"

 

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 affected."

 

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."

 

"Telemency?"

 

"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."

 

"Why?"

 

"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.

 

//
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