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â€œBut youâ€™re dead,â€ said Harry.
â€œOh yes,â€ said Dumbledore matter-of-factly.
â€œThenâ€¦ Iâ€™m dead too?â€
â€œAh,â€ said Dumbledore, smiling still more broadly. â€œThat is the question, isnâ€™t it? On the whole, dear boy, I think not.â€
They looked at each other, the old man still beaming.
â€œNot?â€ repeated Harry.
â€œNot,â€ said Dumbledore.
â€œButâ€¦â€ Harry raised his hand instinctively toward the lightning scar. It did not seem to be there. â€œBut I should have died â€“ I didnâ€™t defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!â€
â€œAnd that,â€ said Dumbledore, â€œwill, I think, have made all the difference.â€
Happiness seemed to radiate from Dumbledore like light; like fire: Harry had never seen the man so utterly, so palpably content.
â€œExplain,â€ said Harry.
â€œBut you already know,â€ said Dumbledore. He twiddled his thumbs together.
â€œI let him kill me,â€ said Harry. â€œDidnâ€™t I?â€
â€œYou did,â€ said Dumbledore, nodding. â€œGo on!â€
â€œSo the part of his soul that was in meâ€¦â€
Dumbledore nodded still more enthusiastically, urging Harry onward, a broad smile of encouragement on his face.
â€œâ€¦ has it gone?â€
â€œOh yes!â€ said Dumbledore. â€œYes, he destroyed it. Your soul is whole, and completely your own, Harry.â€
Harry trembled over his shoulder to where the small, maimed creature trembled under the chair.
â€œWhat is that, Professor?â€
â€œSomething that is beyond either of our help,â€ said Dumbledore.
â€œBut if Voldemort used the Killing Curse,â€ Harry started again, â€œand nobody died for me this time â€“ how can I be alive?â€
â€œI think you know,â€ said Dumbledore. â€œThink back. Remember what he did, in his ignorance, in his greed and his cruelty.â€
Harry thought. He let his gaze drift over his surroundings. If it was indeed a palace in which they sat, it was an odd one, with chairs set in little rows and bits of railing here and there, and still, he and Dumbledore and the stunted creatures under the chair were the only beings there. Then the answer rose to his lips easily, without effort.
â€œHe took my blood,â€ said Harry.
â€œPrecisely!â€ said Dumbledore. â€œHe took your blood and rebuilt his living body with it! Your blood in his veins, Harry, Lilyâ€™s protection inside both of you! He tethered you to life while he lives!â€
â€œI liveâ€¦ while he lives? But I thoughtâ€¦ I thought it was the other way around! I thought we both had to die? Or is it the same thing?â€
He was distracted by the whimpering and thumping of the agonized creature behind them and glanced back at it yet again.
â€œAre you sure we canâ€™t do anything?â€
â€œThere is no help possible.â€
â€œThen explainâ€¦ more,â€ said Harry, and Dumbledore smiled.
â€œYou were the seventh Horcrux, Harry, the Horcrux he never meant to make. He had rendered his soul so unstable that it broke apart when he committed those acts of unspeakable evil, the murder of your parents, the attempted killing of a child. But what escaped from that room was even less than he knew. He left more than his body behind. He left part of himself latched to you, the would-be victim who had survived.â€
â€œAnd his knowledge remained woefully incomplete, Harry! That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and childrenâ€™s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.â€
â€œHe took your blood believing it would strengthen him. He took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon you when she died for you. His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you and so does Voldemortâ€™s one last hope for himself.â€
Dumbledore smiled at Harry, and Harry stared at him.
â€œAnd you knew this? You knew â€“ all along?â€
â€œI guessed. But my guesses have usually been good,â€ said Dumbledore happily, and they sat in silence for what seemed like a long time, while the creature behind them continued to whimper and tremble.
â€œThereâ€™s more,â€ said Harry. â€œThereâ€™s more to it. Why did my wand break the wand he borrowed?â€
â€œAs to that, I cannot be sure.â€
â€œHave a guess, then,â€ said Harry, and Dumbledore laughed.
â€œWhat you must understand, Harry, is that you and Lord Voldemort have journeyed together into realms of magic hitherto unknown and untested. But here is what I think happened, and it is unprecedented, and no wandmaker could, I think, ever have predicted or explained it to Voldemort.â€
â€œWithout meaning to, as you now know, Lord Voldemort doubled the bond between you when he returned to a human form. A part of his soul was still attached to yours, and, thinking to strengthen himself, he took a part of your motherâ€™s sacrifice into himself. If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your bloodâ€¦. But then, if he had been able to understand, he could not be Lord Voldemort, and might never have murdered at all.â€
â€œHaving ensured this two-fold connection, having wrapped your destinies together more securely than ever two wizards were joined in history, Voldemort proceeded to attack you with a wand that shared a core with yours. And now something very strange happened, as we know. The cores reacted in a way that Lord Voldemort, who never knew that your wand was a twin of his, had ever expected.â€
â€œHe was more afraid than you were that night, Harry. You had accepted, even embraced, the possibility of death, something Lord Voldemort has never been able to do. Your courage won, your wand overpowered his. And in doing so, something happened between those wands, something that echoed the relationship between their masters.â€
â€œI believe that your wand imbibed some of the power and qualities of Voldemortâ€™s wand that night, which is to say that it contained a little of Voldemort himself. So your wand recognized him when he pursued you, recognized a man who was both kin and mortal enemy, and it regurgitated some of his own magic against him, magic much more powerful than anything Luciusâ€™s wand had ever performed. Your wand now contained the power of your enormous courage and of Voldemortâ€™s own deadly skill: What chance did that poor stick of Lucius Malfoyâ€™s stand?â€
â€œBut if my wand was so powerful, how come Hermione was able to break it?â€ asked Harry.
â€œMy dear boy, its remarkable effects were directed only at Voldemort, who had tampered so ill-advisedly with the deepest laws of magic. Only toward him was that wand abnormally powerful. Otherwise it was a wand like any otherâ€¦ though a good one, I am sure,â€ Dumbledore finished kindly.
Harry sat in thought for a long time, or perhaps seconds. It was very hard to be sure of things like time, here.
â€œHe killed me with your wand.â€
â€œHe failed to kill you with my wand,â€ Dumbledore corrected Harry. â€œI think we can agree that you are not dead â€“ though, of course,â€ he added, as if fearing he had been discourteous, â€œI do not minimize your sufferings, which I am sure were severe.â€
â€œI feel great at the moment, though,â€ said Harry, looking down at his clean, unblemished hands. â€œWhere are we, exactly?â€
â€œWell, I was going to ask you that,â€ said Dumbledore, looking around. â€œWhere would you say that we are?â€
Until Dumbledore had asked, Harry had not known. Now, however, he found that he had an answer ready to give.
â€œIt looks,â€ he said slowly, â€œlike Kingâ€™s Cross station. Except a lo cleaner and empty, and there are no trains as far as I can see.â€
â€œKingâ€™s Cross station!â€ Dumbledore was chuckling immoderately. â€œGood gracious, really?â€
â€œWell, where do you think we are?â€ asked Harry, a little defensively.
â€œMy dear boy, I have no idea. This is, as they say, your party.â€
Harry had no idea what this meant; Dumbledore was being infuriating. He glared at him, then remembered a much more pressing question than that of their current location.
â€œThe Deathly Hallows,â€ he said, and he was glad to see that the words wiped the smile from Dumbledoreâ€™s face.
â€œAh, yes,â€ he said. He even looked a little worried.
For the first time since Harry had met Dumbledore, he looked less than an old man, much less. He looked fleetingly like a small boy caught in wrongdoing.
â€œCan you forgive me?â€ he said. â€œCan you forgive me for not trusting you? For not telling you? Harry, I only feared that you would fail as I had failed. I only dreaded that you would make my mistakes. I crave your pardon, Harry. I have known, for some time now, that you are the better man.â€
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ asked Harry, startled by Dumbledoreâ€™s tone, by the sudden tears in his eyes.
â€œThe Hallows, the Hallows,â€ murmured Dumbledore. â€œA desperate manâ€™s dream!â€
â€œBut theyâ€™re real!â€
â€œReal, and dangerous, and a lure for fools,â€ said Dumbledore. â€œAnd I was such a fool. But you know, donâ€™t you? I have no secrets from you anymore. You know.â€
â€œWhat do I know?â€
Dumbledore turned his whole body to face Harry, and tears still sparkled in the brilliantly blue eyes.
â€œMaster of death, Harry, master of Death! Was I better, ultimately, than Voldemort?â€
â€œOf course you were,â€ said Harry. â€œOf course â€“ how can you ask that? You never killed if you could avoid it!â€
â€œTrue, true,â€ said Dumbledore, and he was like a child seeking reassurance. â€œYet I too sought a way to conquer death, Harry.â€
â€œNot the way he did,â€ said Harry. After all his anger at Dumbledore, how odd it was to sit here, beneath the high, vaulted ceiling, and defend Dumbledore from himself. â€œHallows, not Horcruxes.â€
â€œHallows,â€ murmured Dumbledore, â€œnot Horcruxes. Precisely.â€
There was a pause. The creature behind them whimpered, but Harry no longer looked around.
â€œGrindelwald was looking for them too?â€ he asked.
Dumbledore closed his eyes for a moment and nodded.
â€œIt was the thing, above all, that drew us together,â€ he said quietly. â€œTwo clever, arrogant boys with a shared obsession. He wanted to come to Godricâ€™s Hollow, as I am sure you have guessed, because of the grave of Ignotus Peverell. He wanted to explore the place the third brother had died.â€
â€œSo itâ€™s true?â€ asked Harry. â€œAll of it? The Peverell brothers â€“ â€
â€œ â€“ were the three brothers of the tale,â€ said Dumbledore, nodding. â€œOh yes, I think so. Whether they met Death on a lonely roadâ€¦ I think it more likely that the Peverell brothers were simply gifted, dangerous wizards who succeeded in creating those powerful objects. The story of them being Deathâ€™s own Hallows seems to me the sort of legend that might have sprung up around such creations.â€
â€œThe Cloak, as you know now, traveled down through the ages, father to son, mother to daughter, right down to Ignotusâ€™s last living descendant, who was born, as Ignotus was, in the village of Godricâ€™s Hollow.â€
Dumbledore smiled at Harry.
â€œYou. You have guessed. I know, why the Cloak was in my possession on the night your parents died. James had showed it to me just a few days previously. It explained much of his undetected wrongdoing at school! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I asked to borrow it, to examine it. I had long since given up my dream of uniting the Hallows, but I could not resist, could not help taking a closer lookâ€¦. It was a Cloak the likes of which I had never seen, immensely old, perfect in every respectâ€¦ and then your father died, and I had two Hallows at last, all to myself!â€
His tone was unbearably bitter.
â€œThe Cloak wouldnâ€™t have helped them survive, though,â€ Harry said quickly. â€œVoldemort knew where my mum and dad were. The Cloak couldnâ€™t have made them curse-proof.â€
â€œTrue,â€ sighed Dumbledore. â€œTrue.â€
Harry waited, but Dumbledore did not speak, so he prompted him.
â€œSo youâ€™d given up looking for the Hallows when you saw the Cloak?â€
â€œOh yes,â€ said Dumbledore faintly. It seemed that he forced himself to meet Harryâ€™s eyes. â€œYou know what happened. You know. You cannot despise me more than I despise myself.â€
â€œBut I donâ€™t despise you â€“ â€
â€œThen you should,â€ said Dumbledore. He drew a deep breath. â€œYou know the secret of my sisterâ€™s ill health, what those Muggles did, what she became. You know how my poor father sought revenge, and paid the price, died In Azkaban. You know how my mother gave up her own life to care for Ariana.â€
â€œI resented it, Harry.â€
Dumbledore stated it baldly, coldly. He was looking now over the top of Harryâ€™s head, into the distance.
â€œI was gifted, I was brilliant. I wanted to escape. I wanted to shine. I wanted glory.â€
â€œDo not misunderstand me,â€ he said, and pain crossed the face so that he looked ancient again. â€œI loved them, I loved my parents, I loved my brother and my sister, but I was selfish, Harry, more selfish than you, who are a remarkably selfless person, could possibly imagine.â€
â€œSo that, when my mother died, and I was left the responsibility of a damaged sister and a wayward brother, I returned to my village in anger and bitterness. Trapped and wasted, I thought! And then of course, he cameâ€¦.â€
Dumbledore looked directly into Harryâ€™s eyes again.
â€œGrindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me. Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution.â€
â€œOh, I had a few scruples. I assuaged my conscience with empty words. It would all be for the greater good, and any harm done would be repaid a hundredfold in benefits for wizards. Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes. If the plans we were making came to fruition, all my dreams would come true.â€
â€œAnd at the heart of our schemes, the Deathly Hallows! How they fascinated him, how they fascinated both of us! The unbeatable wand, the weapon that would lead us to power! The Resurrection Stone â€“ to him, though I pretended not to know it, it meant an army of Inferi! To me, I confess, it meant the return of my parents, and the lifting of all responsibility from my shoulders.â€
â€œAnd the Cloakâ€¦ somehow, we never discussed the Cloak much, Harry. Both of us could conceal ourselves well enough without the Cloak, the true magic of which, of course, is that it can be used to protect and shield others as well as its owner. I thought that, if we ever found it, it might be useful in hiding Ariana, but our interest in the Cloak was mainly that it completed the trio, for the legend said that the man who had united all three objects would then be truly master of death, which we took to mean â€˜invincible.â€™â€
â€œInvincible masters of death, Grindelwald and Dumbledore! Two months of insanity, of cruel dreams, and neglect of the only two members of my family left to me.â€
â€œAnd thenâ€¦ you know what happened. Reality returned in the form of my rough, unlettered, and infinitely more admirable brother. I did not want to hear the truths he shouted at me. I did not want to hear that I could not set forth and seek Hallows with a fragile and unstable sister in tow.â€
â€œThe argument became a fight. Grindelwald lost control. That which I had always sensed in him, though I pretended not to, now sprang into terrible being. And Arianaâ€¦ after all my motherâ€™s care and cautionâ€¦ lay dead upon the floor.â€
Dumbledore gave a little gasp and began to cry in earnest. Harry reached out and was glad to find that he could touch him: He gripped his arm tightly and Dumbledore gradually regained control.
â€œWell, Grindelwald fled, as anyone but I could have predicted. He vanished, with his plans for seizing power, and his schemes for Muggle torture, and his dreams of the Deathly Hallows, dreams in which I had encouraged him and helped him. He ran, while I was left to bury my sister, and learn to live with my guilt and my terrible grief, the price of my shame.â€
â€œYears passed. There were rumors about him. They said he had procured a wand of immense power. I, meanwhile, was offered the post of Minister of Magic, not once, but several times. Naturally, I refused. I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power.â€
â€œBut youâ€™d have been better, much better, than Fudge or Scimgeour!â€ burst out Harry.
â€œWould I?â€ asked Dumbledore heavily. â€œI am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.â€
â€œI was safer at Hogwarts. I think I was a good teacher â€“ â€
â€œYou were the best â€“â€
â€œâ€“ you are very kind, Harry. But while I busied myself with the training of young wizards, Grindelwald was raising an army. They say he feared me, and perhaps he did, but less, I think, than I feared him.â€
â€œOh, not death,â€ said Dumbledore, in answer to Harryâ€™s questioning look. â€œNot what he could do to me magically. I knew that we were evenly matched, perhaps that I was a shade more skillful. It was the truth I feared. You see, I never knew which of us, in that last, horrific fight, had actually cast the curse that killed my sister. You may call me cowardly: You would be right, Harry. I dreaded beyond all things the knowledge that it had been I who brought about her death, not merely through my arrogance and stupidity, but that I actually struck the blow that snuffed out her life.â€
â€œI think he knew it, I think he knew what frightened me. I delayed meeting him until finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could.â€
â€œWell, you know what happened next. I won the duel. I won the wand.â€
Another silence. Harry did not ask whether Dumbledore had ever found out who struck Ariana dead. He did not want to know, and even less did he want Dumbledore to have to tell him. At last he knew what Dumbledore would have seen when he looked in the mirror of Erised, and why Dumbledore had been so understanding of the fascination it had exercised over Harry.
They sat in silence for a long time, and the whipmerings of the creature behind them barely disturbed Harry anymore.
At last he said, â€œGrindelwald tried to stop Voldemort going after the wand. He lied, you know, pretended he had never had it.â€
Dumbledore nodded, looking down at his lap, tears still glittering on the crooked nose.
â€œThey say he showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that is true. I would like to think that he did feel the horror and shame of what he had done. Perhaps that lie to Voldemort was his attempt to make amendsâ€¦ to prevent Voldemort from taking the Hallowâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦or maybe from breaking into your tomb?â€ suggested Harry, and Dumbledore dabbed his eyes.
After another short pause Harry said, â€œYou tried to use the Resurrection Stone.â€
â€œWhen I discovered it, after all those years, buried in the abandoned home of the Gaunts â€“ the Hallow I had craved most of all, though in my youth I had wanted it for very different reasons â€“ I lost my head, Harry. I quite forgot that I was not a Horcrux, that the ring was sure to carry a curse. I picked it up, and I put it on, and for a second I imagined that I was about to see Ariana, and my mother, and my father, and to tell them how very, very sorry, I wasâ€¦.â€
â€œI was such a fool, Harry. After all those years I had learned nothing. I was unworthy to unite the Deathly Hallows, I had proved it time and again, and here was final proof.â€
â€œWhy?â€ said Harry. â€œIt was natural! You wanted to see them again. Whatâ€™s wrong with that?â€
â€œMaybe a man in a million could unite the Hallows, Harry. I was fit only to possess the meanest of them, the least extraordinary. I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not boast of it, and not to kill with it. I was permitted to tame and use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it.â€
â€œBut the Cloak, I took out of vain curiousity, and so it could never have worked for me as it works for you, its true owners. The stone I would have used in an attempt to drag back those who are at peace, rather than enable my self-sacrifice, as you did. You are the worthy possessor of the Hallows.â€
Dumbledore patted Harryâ€™s hand, and Harry looked up at the old man and smiled; he could not help himself. How could he remain angry with Dumbledore now?
â€œWhy did you have to make it so difficult?â€
Dumbledoreâ€™s smile was tremulous.
â€œI am afraid I counted on Miss Granger to slow you up, Harry. I was afraid that your hot head might dominate your good heart. I was scared that, if presented outright with the facts about those tempting objects, you might seize the Hallows as I did, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. If you laid hands on them, I wanted you to possess them safely. You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.â€
â€œAnd Voldemort never knew about the Hallows?â€
â€œI do not think so, because he did not recognize the Resurrection Stone he turned into a Horcrux. But even if he had known about them, Harry. I doubt that he would have been interested in any except the first. He would not think that he needed the Cloak, and as for the stone, whom would he want to bring back from the dead? He fears the dead. He does not love.â€
â€œBut you expected him to go after the wand?â€
â€œI have been sure that he would try, ever since your wand beat Voldemortâ€™s in the graveyard of Little Hangleton. At first, he was afraid that you had conquered him by superior skill. Once he had kidnapped Ollivander, however, he discovered the existence of the twin cores. He thought that explained everything. Yet the borrowed wand did no better against yours! So Voldemort, instead of asking himself what quality it was in you that had made your wand so strong, what gift you possessed that he did not, naturally set out to find the one wand that, they said, would beat any other. For him, the Elder Wand has become an obsession to rival his obsession with you. He believes that the Elder Wand removes his last weakness and makes him truly invincible. Poor Severusâ€¦â€
â€œIf you planned your death with Snape, you meant him to end up with the Elder Wand, didnâ€™t you?â€
â€œI admit that was my intention,â€ said Dumbledore, â€œbut it did not work as I intended, did it?â€
â€œNo,â€ said Harry. â€œThat bit didnâ€™t work out.â€
The creature behind them jerked and moaned, and Harry and Dumbledore sate without talking for the longest time yet. The realization of what would happen next settled gradually over Harry in the long minutes, like softly falling snow.
â€œIâ€™ve got to go back, havenâ€™t I?â€
â€œThat is up to you.â€
â€œIâ€™ve got a choice?â€
â€œOh yes,â€ Dumbledore smiled at him. â€œWe are in Kingâ€™s Cross you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able toâ€¦ letâ€™s sayâ€¦ board a train.â€
â€œAnd where would it take me?â€
â€œOn,â€ said Dumbledore simply.
â€œVoldemortâ€™s got the Elder Wand.â€
â€œTrue. Voldemort has the Elder Wand.â€
â€œBut you want me to go back?â€
â€œI think,â€ said Dumbledore, â€œthat if you choose to return, there is a chance that he may be finished for good. I cannot promise it. But I know this, Harry, that you have less to fear from returning here than he does.â€
Harry glanced again at the raw looking thing that trembled and choked in the shadow beneath the distant chair.
â€œDo not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, they we saw good-bye for the present.â€
Harry nodded and sighed. Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss. He stood up, and Dumbledore did the same, and they looked for a long moment into each otherâ€™s faces.
â€œTell me one last thing,â€ said Harry, â€œIs this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?â€
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harryâ€™s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
â€œOf course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?â€
The Deathly Hallows
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