Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE ( Chapter 9 )
Harry had thought that he knew Hogwarts from top to bottom, but Professor McGonagall brought him along corridors and staircases he had never seen before. Walls that he’d thought to be solid opened up into passages and even large halls. He lost all sense of direction, and thought that he was under the lake when suddenly he turned a corner and found that they were at the entrance to the Headmaster’s office.
“I’ll wait for you here, Potter. Take your time. Whatever this is, I’m sure it’s important,” said McGonagall briskly
“Professor, I can easily find my way…” began Harry. Even as he said it, he realised that it wasn’t true.
“Nonsense, Potter!” He might have been eleven years old again. “I haven’t even told you where your room is.”
“Oh. I assumed…”
“Assumed that you’d be in your old dormitory? That would never do. You’re an adult. Now, I’ll stand over here and you can enter the password.”
“Um… Professor? I don’t know the password.”
McGonagall frowned. “Really? That’s strange. Professor Dumbledore implied that you would. Have a try. I’m sure it will come to you. If it doesn’t, I’ll let you in.”
Harry walked over to the gargoyle. “It’s me, Professor Dumbledore,” he said. “Harry Potter.”
The gargoyle made a movement of about an inch, but then slid back.
“Open. Let me in! It’s Harry Potter!” But nothing happened. Harry thought for a moment. It had to be something he would know, something that Dumbledore would expect him to say…
“Lily and James,” said Harry, quietly. The gargoyle slid aside to reveal the staircase. Always another test, thought Harry.
Harry didn’t feel like an adult as the steps carried him up towards the headmaster’s office. He felt like a nervous boy on his first day of school. His dream didn’t seem to matter now. It felt very different from the visions he’d had when Lord Voldemort’s thoughts had intermingled with his own. It was almost a relief to have normal nightmares, born of anxiety and anticipation. He was nervous about what was going to happen – but not concerned that Voldemort would jump out from behind him.
He walked across the room staring at the portraits, until he came to Dumbledore. He’d been afraid to confront the portrait – afraid to hear that kindly, yet half-mocking voice.
“Good evening, Harry. So glad you could come.” He forced himself to look up. It was Dumbledore, looking as he had when Harry had first seen him in the Great Hall – before his arm had been withered and blighted by Voldemort’s curse. “You look very like James, now – except for the eyes, of course.”
“Hello, Professor,” said Harry.
“If you would be so kind, make your way to the Pensieve. It has been prepared for you.” The portrait of Dumbledore sat back in its chair and closed its eyes.
Harry turned away and walked to the cupboard where he thought he remembered that the Pensieve was kept. Wait, he thought, is it here? He opened the cupboard to find the Sorting Hat. He began to close the door when it spoke.
“Ah, Potter. I’ve always felt rather put out about you. ‘Not Slytherin’, eh? Why don’t people trust the hat? I’ve been doing this for hundreds of years. They will keep changing the rules.” Harry sighed. It seemed that it wasn’t just Professor McGonagall who wanted a chat. Being alone in a cupboard all year must be quite boring.
“Now Minerva McGonagall wants to pension me off. Just let the children decide, she says. Fine thanks after all this time. Nobody listens to me, of course. I tried to tell them about Tom Riddle the first day he set foot in this place. ‘Evil to the core,’ I said. ‘Darkest thoughts I’ve ever read. What did they do about it? Noth…”
Harry gently closed the cupboard and walked across to the other side of the room. He passed in front of the portrait, which sat up and opened its eyes. “Good evening, Harry. So glad you could come. You look very like James…”
Harry sighed, and kept walking. He could hear the Sorting Hat and the portrait talking quietly to themselves.
When he reached the Pensieve, he felt foolish for getting lost. He had made considerable use of this amazing magical device, over the course of several years, supervised by Professor Dumbledore or occasionally
The water in the Pensive appeared clear, without the swirling thoughts and memories that Harry remembered. He stared at the blank surface for a moment, then plunged his face into it. He opened his eyes, but could see nothing but the base of the bowl. When he could hold his breath no longer, he raised his head back up. Nothing. He was exactly where he had been. Except…
Except that the portrait and the Sorting Hat were now silent. Had the portrait simply finished Dumbledore’s message? He looked to where it had been hanging, and found that it was no longer there. Behind the headmaster’s desk, however, sat Dumbledore himself.
“Well, Harry,” said the familiar voice, “I think we have some matters to discuss.” This was the Dumbledore Harry knew from the last weeks of his life. Vulnerable, in pain, dying. He held his withered hand out of sight behind the desk.
Harry walked over to the other side of the desk and sat down. He had a hundred things to say, but couldn’t think of which was most important. “I miss you,” he said.
Dumbledore nodded. “I must caution you, Harry, that just because something is happening in your head, doesn’t mean that it’s real. I am not Dumbledore, the man. The man is dead. I am a memory, only. A little like the portrait, but rather more sophisticated.”
“I thought that memories in the Pensieve were just played back – you couldn’t talk to them.”
Dumbledore smiled. “That is certainly the case for most thoughts stored in the Pensieve, most of the time. I’ve simply used my quite considerable magical talent to make this memory a little bit more ingenious. Do you remember Tom Riddle’s diary, Harry? That was a memory, but it talked to you, if you recall.”
“That was a Horcrux, though, wasn’t it? Was that how…”
“That was how the diary was able to possess Ginny Weasley, Harry, yes. Don’t be concerned. There is no fragment of my soul embedded here. I am truly dead. If I were not – if Severus, by some stroke of brilliance were able to cure me – then the messages would not have been sent, and the Pensieve would not have opened for you.”
“It’s still… it’s good to talk to you again. We’ve all – we’ve missed you.” There was a slight catch in Harry’s voice.
“That is one of the benefits of dying, Harry. The pain of seeing loved ones lost is over. That pain belongs to those who remain. I am, however, glad to hear that you still think well of me.”
He toyed with an ornament on his desk. “I think it must also be true that if you are here, Lord Voldemort is dead. Is that the case?”
“It is, sir,” said Harry. “He’s finally gone. Forever, this time.” It felt good to Harry to say this with certainty – to tell Dumbledore this, even only a memory of Dumbledore.
“You have done well, Harry. You always do well.” There was a note of pride in Dumbledore’s voice. He’s my father, thought Harry. The only real father I ever had, since James Potter died. Not Uncle Vernon, or Arthur Weasley, not even Sirius.
“Now, Harry, to business. You have had an awful childhood. Since you came to Hogwarts, you have been subjected to death and terror. As for your Muggle guardians – you remember the house-elf Dobby warning you of certain death if you came to Hogwarts?”
“And yet, rather than stay with the Dursleys, you were determined to risk it. That says everything about the way you were treated. I consider myself to blame – no, no, I’m old enough to take responsibility.” He held up a hand to silence Harry’s protests.
“You have suffered, again and again, far more than any child should suffer. You have lost your loved ones. You deserve a rest. You deserve happiness.” Dumbledore shook his head. “And yet, I have need of you. There are things – vital things – that nobody can do but you.”
“Professor – I still consider that I owe you everything. You have saved me many times, from myself as often as not. If you have a job…” Harry sat up straight. “…I’m Dumbledore’s man. I always was, and I always will be.”
Dumbledore looked immeasurably sad. “I know that, Harry. I know. I also know that I do not deserve this loyalty.” He gave Harry a look that silenced him – a sideways, guilty look. “I wasn’t sure how to reward you for what you have done. I know that you have wealth. Did Miss Ginevra Weasley survive?”
“Yes,” said Harry. “We lost some friends, but Ginny’s fine.”
“I’m so very glad, Harry. You have wealth, and love. What can I offer you?”
Harry leaned forward. “Professor, you don’t have to offer me anything. I’m loyal to you, always.”
“Nevertheless, Harry, it is wrong that you should labour without hope of reward. If you are able to perform the task I have set for you – a task of the utmost importance to the wizarding world, and beyond – then you will be paid in the only coin I have that you will value. I will pay you in knowledge.”
Harry stared. “Knowledge of what, Professor? Magic? Secrets of Hogwarts?” Harry felt bewildered. He’d been a hard-working student, but he’d never had the love of learning that possessed Hermione so intensely. It sounded as if Dumbledore was going to reward him with extra homework.
“Of yourself, Harry. Of your life. Of what really happened at Hogwarts over those seven years.” Dumbledore’s voice was quiet now, without the usual chuckle. “Of what happened then, and before. Before you were born.”
“But… but… you told me everything. Didn’t you?” Harry felt dizzy. He’d been sure that he’d understood everything that had happened. Over the years, Harry had felt lost and confused about his life – but it had all been explained, eventually. There were no more mysteries left, surely?
“Ah, Harry. There’s always something else to know. In your case, there is so much. However, the choice is yours, always. I’ve always thought of you as a boy – and a man – who would rather have the truth, the unpleasant truth, rather than a comforting lie.”
Harry remembered the Mirror of Erised – how he’d been tempted by the illusions it generated, of family and safety. How Dumbledore had helped him to resist it. “The truth. Always. Whatever the cost.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Very well then, Harry. What would you like to ask me about?”
Harry thought for a moment. “I was wondering about the Elder wand. What were its…”
Dumbledore burst out laughing. “Oh, I’m sorry, Harry. That was a bit of a bluff. I guessed that you would ask me about the adventure of the Philosopher’s Stone. You see, that is all that I can tell you. I am just a fragment of a thought, after all, and all I can do is respond with what the real Professor Dumbledore placed in the Pensieve. If I were here in my full, living self, then I would be able to tell you anything, within reason. As it is, I will have to just tell you about your first year at Hogwarts.”
“I see,” said Harry, shortly. Usually he enjoyed Dumbledore’s frivolous attitude, but in these circumstances, it annoyed him. “Well, then…”. He thought frantically. Back then, he’d known literally nothing about Hogwarts, and what to expect, except that it would mean escaping from the Dursleys. Suddenly a fragmentary thought crossed his mind.
“Professor,” he asked slowly, “is the position of Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher still cursed? By Lord Voldemort?”
Dumbledore smiled. “An excellent question, Harry, and as it happens, one that I can answer, as it relates to the very question of the Philosopher’s Stone. Yes, there is a real, genuine curse on the position. Perhaps you can summarise for me the fate of all the Professors who have held the post since you arrived at Hogwarts?”
Harry thought. “They’re all dead, or in prison. Oh, Lockhart is in hospital still, I think.”
Dumbledore steepled his fingers and nodded. “Ah, yes, the accident with Ronald Weasley’s broken wand. Typical of the ill fortune that attended the curse. So, Remus died? Poor Remus. I had hoped… And Severus, I presume. I am sorry, but not surprised. He set himself on a hard path, and I did not release him from it.”
“How does the curse work? I mean… we never learned…” said Harry, stammering.
“Such a curse would be typically described in your fifth year, when Dolores Umbridge was responsible for telling you about it. I suppose that I am not surprised that she failed to pass on the knowledge. Your friend Miss Granger will no doubt know the details, but suffice it to say that such a curse is almost the opposite of a luck potion, attached to a person, place or, in this case, job. It does not cause any specific harm, but produces misfortune according to the intensity of the curse. Voldemort’s malice and power were considerable, and the effects seemed to increase as the years went on. Generally, the worst could be avoided by changing the Professor year on year. When they left the job, the curse ceased to follow them. Ultimately, as Voldemort returned and regained his strength, the curse became stronger as well, taking its effect before even a single year had finished.”
“I see,” said Harry. “But in that case, why did you…”
“Why did I allow a succession of Professors to suffer from the curse? That’s an excellent question, Harry – so good, that I felt compelled to interrupt in case you failed to pose it. Before I answer it, perhaps you could ask me a parallel question dealing with the people who held the post?”
Harry thought. Quirrell, Lockhart, Lupin, Mad-Eye – no, Barty Crouch, Umbridge, Snape… “They weren’t a great bunch, in retrospect, Professor. I mean, apart from Lupin…” Harry choked for a moment, and was unable to speak.
“Ah, Remus,” said Dumbledore softly. “So brave.”
Harry shook his head. “It was at the very end. With Tonks. The two of them. They had so little time…”
Dumbledore stared emptily into space. “It should not be a surprise. I knew there would be a great many individual tragedies. Still… well, well. There is nothing we can do about it.”
“So, Professor,” said Harry, struggling to suppress the picture of Lupin and Tonks lying side by side, “weren’t you rather – er – unlucky with your choices?”
Dumbledore stroked his beard. “It would be very bad luck to have so many active enemies in the job, wouldn’t it, Harry? Tell me, do you think that I’m a foolish man, easily deceived?”
“Foolish! No!” blurted Harry. “I mean… I’ve always thought you seemed to be able to see whatever I was thinking. Not just me… you were just one step ahead, all the time.”
“Indeed? And don’t you think that it’s rather strange that I should be so easily deceived by a succession of villains?” Dumbledore was fixing Harry with the intense stare that he associated with tricky questions.
“Very strange,” mumbled Harry, “unless…”
“Yes, Harry? Unless…”
Harry spoke haltingly but with growing certainty. “Unless you knew about them, and you used the curse against them?”
Dumbledore clapped his hands. “Bravo, Harry! Admittedly it has taken you nearly ten years to work this out, but yes, I found it rather amusing to use Lord Voldemort’s curse against his supporters.”
“Lupin didn’t support Voldemort!” said Harry, fiercely. “He was the best teacher we ever had!”
“Yes, I felt it necessary that you should be taught by somebody with the necessary skills, Harry. You lost a year with Lockhart, and Quirrell was mediocre at the job. Remus was an excellent, skilled teacher.”
“So how could you subject him to the curse?” snapped Harry, angrily. It wasn’t the curse which had caused his death, was it?
“There’s a strange hierarchy of curses, Harry. A greater curse will always outweigh the effects of a lesser. Dear me, I would have hoped that Dolores would at least have taught you that. Remus Lupin was already suffering from the effects of a far more terrible curse – the curse of lycanthropy. Any lesser magic would simply dissipate.”
“Lockhart wasn’t a Death Eater, though? He was just…”
“Just a fraud, who used the only spell he ever properly mastered to take the credit from better men. I needed someone to fill the post, and Lockhart needed to be apprehended and punished. I had no hard evidence against him, and he was immensely popular. I preferred to kill two birds with one stone, and offer him what he thought was a safe and rewarding position, and to wait for his misdeeds to find him out.”
Dumbledore frowned. “Professor Snape, Harry. We will talk of that another day. Let us discuss Professor Quirrell. Or rather, let us discuss the adventure of which the late Professor Quirrell played such a central part.”
“The Stone…” said Harry, softly. “It’s strange… we were so young, and we just jumped into things. I wasn’t ever really scared.”
“You could not know, then, what Voldemort was. It was important that you did not. The fear that he engendered… the very name unspeakable. No sooner had you learned of his existence than you knew that you had defeated him, as a little baby. That is where the story really begins.”
Harry was silent. He had the vaguest of memories of what had happened –flashes of green light, screams, a searing pain – but it still haunted him.
Dumbledore smiled, as if knowing Harry’s feelings. “It was a difficult time. The tragedy of your parents’ deaths, the glory of Voldemort’s defeat. I had to force myself to look past the emotional reaction – the very strong emotional reaction – and ponder the situation.”
“What happened when your parents died…” Dumbledore was silent, for such a long time that Harry thought that something had gone wrong.
“Professor? My parents…”
Dumbledore stirred. “I will talk about that at another time. I had to deal with the situation as it was, not as I would have wished it to be. Your parents were gone. Voldemort had disappeared, his power apparently broken. How did it happen? Where was he, if he were not dead? If he were not dead, how was he to be dealt with?”
He shook his head sadly. “I leave aside how I came to understand what had happened. Suffice to say – Voldemort was not dead. He was in a state near death, but something had saved him – something that I did not yet understand. It was your mother’s sacrifice that had protected you and destroyed his physical form. The horcruxes had prevented his total demise, but I did not yet understand this.”
“It became my aim firstly to find Lord Voldemort, and then to destroy him. Finding him was difficult, but not impossible. It is fortunate that most of his followers were dead, imprisoned, or in hiding. Some, like Professor Snape, had genuinely recanted. Some, like the Malfoys, had pretended to renounce him. The net result was that none of them were seeking him – or indeed, had any idea that he had survived.”
Dumbledore suddenly smiled. “At every stage, Harry, we see how Voldemort’s arrogance, his obstinacy, his lack of trust frustrated his own plans. He had taken the precaution of the horcruxes in order to protect himself against bodily death – but had not alerted any of his followers as to how they were to proceed if such an event happened. He had told no-one where he would hide, or how his physical form should be restored.”
“But you didn’t find him,” said Harry. “Quirrell did – blundered on him. Wasn’t that it?”
Dumbledore laughed. “Not quite, Harry, not quite. Let me tell you about Professor Quirrell. Professor Quirrell was a quiet, unassuming man, who became ambitious. He had the fault of many Ravenclaws – he pursued knowledge for its own sake, disregarding the effect it might have on himself and others. He wished to become expert in the Dark Arts. It is a different motivation to the followers of the Dark Lord, who seek knowledge to gain power, but all too often it leads to the same end.”
Dumbledore shook his head. “We like to think that by learning more about those different to us, we will become more sympathetic to them. Alas, this is not always the case. Professor Quirrell was a teacher of Muggle Studies. One would hope that this would have led him to a belief in the essential fellow humanity of wizards and Muggles. It did not. Quirrell began to despise Muggles, to subscribe to the main tenet of Voldemort’s ideology – that Muggles were to be enslaved, and that wizards should rule.”
“Why didn’t he become a Death Eater, in the first place?” asked Harry.
“In the first place, he was too young, when Voldemort was recruiting,” said Dumbledore. “Secondly, he had no sympathy with the preposterous pure-blood theories believed in by Voldemort’s followers. It was power he sought. Power and knowledge. He was never fond of what one might call the Slytherin tendency.”
“So, he set out to find Lord Voldemort?” asked Harry.
“He would have done, if he had known where he was to be found. He knew what Professor Snape’s history was, and he tried to find out from him where Voldemort was located. Snape did not know, and would not have told him if he had. However, I did know, and I had Snape reveal that fact to Quirrell. Or rather, have Quirrell discover it, thinking it was due to his own cleverness.”
“You knew where Voldemort was?”
“It was not an easy thing. There was no simple spell, no obvious way to track him down. But the Dark Lord had used powerful magic, designed to control and monitor his followers and destroy his enemies. This magic left a trace, a faint trace, which linked to him. I was able to track him down. Since then, I have always been able to tell, within a few miles, where the Dark Lord was concealed. I have told you this before. If I could have used this information to capture him, I would have done so, at least while he was almost powerless. I could not have done so, because he would have fled before me. Sending another wizard risked their corruption and enslavement, or death. What could I do?”
“Wasn’t he harmless? Out of the way, powerless, hiding…”
Dumbledore shook his head. “As we saw, it was only a matter of time before one of Voldemort’s followers sought him out. Peter Pettigrew was a mediocre wizard, but yet he managed to find his master, and to gather other supporters around him. I knew that eventually, this would happen.”
“So, you wanted Quirrell to find Voldemort?” Harry was starting to understand. He wasn’t sure he liked it.
“Quirrell had made up his mind – even though he might not have known it himself – to serve Lord Voldemort. I enabled him to do so. Does this trouble you, Harry?”
Harry nodded. “It seems a bit… ruthless.”
“And so it was, Harry. So it was. You may find, over the next months, that you learn other things that trouble you – actions that I took, feeling them to be necessary, that you may find shocking. I realize this, but yet I feel I must be honest with you, even at the cost of your respect.”
“I will always respect you, Professor,” said Harry. “I know that whatever you have done, it has been for the best. Even when…”
“Even when it involved sending you to your death, Harry? I always knew that there was a terrible risk that you might not survive, though I am very glad that you did.” Dumbledore’s voice was very quiet, but very clear.
“I expected to die, Professor. I would do the same again.”
Dumbledore turned his head away for a moment. “Well, well. That is, at least for now, good to hear.”
He paused for a second, then turned back. “Well, Harry, the problem then became – how best to prevent Quirrell and Lord Voldemort decamping together, and organizing in secret. I sent Quirrell after Voldemort to bring him into my clutches. Even then, I feared that I would not be able to capture him. Voldemort at that stage was a mere disembodied spirit. Any spells I might apply to him might simply cause him to dissipate, only to reappear months or years later, in effectively the same form. I wished to trap him, to destroy him forever.”
“I talked at length with Professor Quirrell about Lord Voldemort. I confided in him my fears, my knowledge of Lord Voldemort. I realise this seems manipulative, Harry. Would Quirrell have gone so badly wrong if I had not offered him this temptation? I cannot tell.”
A look something like guilt seemed to pass over Dumbledore’s face. “’For The Greater Good’. I have fought against that slogan, Harry, but yet I am perhaps the worst offender. Had I done nothing to tempt Quirrell, it is my honest belief that he would have found his own way to damnation, but I will never know that. I helped him on a path that led to his destruction – not merely his death, but his ruination as a man. I must bear that shame.”
“He had a choice, Professor,” said Harry.
“And so did I, Harry, so did I. Well, it was as it was. I felt that if I did not let slip Lord Voldemort’s location, then Quirrell would set out on his own path, and I would have no control over what he might do.”
“But, had I simply allowed him to seek out Voldemort, that would not have helped me. I needed to attract Voldemort to Hogwarts, where our conflict could be at a time and place of my choosing. I needed a bait too strong for him to refuse. What could be better than the Philosopher’s Stone?”
“So you contacted Nicolas Flamel?” said Harry eagerly.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Really, Harry? After all this time? Tell me, when you were so assiduously searching for some reference to my old friend Nicolas in the Hogwarts library, what did you find?”
“Er… nothing. That is to say, Hermione…”
“Precisely, Harry. If Miss Granger could not find any reference to Nicolas Flamel, then perhaps you should be wondering why.”
Harry thought for a moment. “I don’t know. Because he was an alchemist, not a wizard?”
“Do you remember your alchemy lessons, Harry?” said Dumbledore gently.
“Er… we never studied alchemy, Professor.”
“Of course not, Harry. Nobody does. It is nothing to do with magic. It is, if anything, a Muggle attempt, without access to magic, to achieve the same ends. It led to some interesting Muggle ideas, with which Professor Quirrell was familiar, as Muggle studies was what he used to teach. Nicolas Flamel is a figure from history, Harry. He died many years in the past.”
“Surely – surely Professor Quirrell knew this?”
“He did, Harry, and when I introduced the subject to him, he was initially sceptical. However, I continued to drop little hints to him, and to explain the capabilities of the Philosopher’s Stone, or Sorcerer’s Stone, or whatever you prefer to call it. I do not believe that he was ever fully convinced, but I knew that he would tell Voldemort. Dumbledore has the Philosopher’s Stone, he would tell him. He has it stored away. And Voldemort would believe it to be true.”
“Why would he believe it? If alchemy doesn’t exist…”
Dumbledore sighed. “We all have a tendency, Harry, to believe what we wish to believe. Voldemort thought himself to be cunning, brilliant, better than everyone else – and most of all, better than me. He thought it impossible that I could trick him, so he failed to realize when I did. Most of all he wanted – he needed it to be true. Needed some way to return to a living form. He convinced himself that the Philosopher’s Stone would do this.”
“Meanwhile, the Wizard world was full of rumours about the Stone. Rumours which I set about promulgating. The wizard world is very credulous, Harry. Very credulous and very curious. You have suffered from this over the years, I believe. It was necessary that people came to believe that there was some secret item that I had hidden away, that would master life and death. I do think that adding a little note to my Chocolate Frog Card was rather a neat touch. A holiday in Egypt was easily transformed into an alchemical conference.”
“Why did you need to tell anyone but Quirrell?”
“That is a matter of the kind of person Tom Riddle was. An abandoned child, an orphan, who was determined to demonstrate his own independence, his own superiority. It’s a very sad story, Harry. You know better than anyone how hard it is to be left alone, with nobody who cares for you. In your case, you became a better person. Tom Riddle…”
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. “I believe that the damage had been done by the time I met young Tom – that there was nothing I could have done. Still, there is this sense of failure – of a huge loss, a terrible pity. When someone is damaged so much, they may achieve a great deal, but they remain a less functional human being, Harry. Their potential is wasted.”
“Tom Riddle always believed whatever made him appear the more insightful, the cleverer person. There were vague rumours about some magical item that he, the brilliant Lord Voldemort, knew about better than anyone. He would not have accepted the information if it were only from Quirrell. He needed to see through obscure clues – clues planted in order that he decipher them to what I intended him to think.”
“Then it was a matter of informing Quirrell where the stone might be concealed. I could not just tell him. That would have roused suspicions. This involved a degree of subtlety. I gave Rubeus Hagrid a mission. A mission to be undertaken with the greatest degree of secrecy.”
“You know, Harry, Hagrid is perhaps the most noticeable person in the school. His very presence in Diagon Alley attracts attention. Then, of course, he drops dark hints to a few trustworthy people, about special missions for Dumbledore and ‘it’s a matter between him and Nicolas Flamel’. All with Professor Quirrell lurking around, taking it all in.”
“Was Hagrid told about the plan, Professor?”
Dumbledore laughed. “Harry, I trust Hagrid more than anyone else I have ever met. However, I knew that his simple honesty – a quality greatly to be admired – meant that it would not have been safe to tell him of my true intentions. To Lord Voldemort, who trusts no-one and who confides none of his deep secrets, my genuine trust in Hagrid would mean that he would see nothing surprising in my telling him confidential matters that he would be sure to give away.”
Harry thought for a moment. “But… Professor, Hagrid was supposed to be collecting the Stone from Gringotts. If Quirrell knew that the Stone wasn’t in Gringotts any more, why did he break into the Hogwarts vault?” asked Harry, frowning.
“He suspected that the Stone had been moved to Hogwarts, but he could not know. Nor indeed could I be certain of Quirrell’s – and Voldemort’s – intentions.
“Hagrid might have told the secret to any number of people,” said Harry. He was starting to enjoy piecing together the story – though he felt rather foolish for not realizing much of this before. “Might one of them tried to break into the vault?”
“Indeed so, Harry. However, it was Professor Quirrell, and only Professor Quirrell, that I permitted to learn the secrets of accessing the Hogwarts vault. Voldemort at his full strength might have been able to break into Gringotts – though even he might have had some difficulty. In his wraith form, it would have been quite impossible, and Quirrell – well, the idea is laughable. The only way to break into Gringotts is to have inside help. I ensured that Professor Quirrell had access to the codes and keywords that would allow him to bypass the many safeguards protecting our vault. I had to invite him to my office on six occasions, I believe, before he found them. I had to virtually leave them lying on my desk.”
“So Quirrell broke into Gringotts thinking that Hagrid might have brought the Stone there,” said Harry slowly, “and when he didn’t find it, he knew that the Stone was at Hogwarts.”
“Indeed, Harry, indeed. I will note that I changed the codes and keywords as soon as the break-in took place. I implied to the goblins that I might have been careless. They were somewhat upset, but then, I find that goblins usually are.”
Dumbledore gave a little smile. “I had asked Quirrell for his assistance – in great secret – in obtaining a guardian for some special papers. He provided me with a troll. Dear me, he was rather naïve to think that I would not notice when an almost identical troll appeared in the school, and that he was the one to announce it. Sometimes, Harry, I had to force myself to bite my tongue. I worried sometimes, whether Voldemort was playing some more subtle game, and was tricking me in the way that I thought I was tricking him. In the end, I was almost disappointed to see how easily he fell into the traps I was setting for him.”
“But… what was the trap, Professor? The obstacles…”
“Oh, Harry, that was another great worry. The obstacles were so childishly easy that I feared that Voldemort might realise my intention. I considered making them harder for him, but I feared that they might be too difficult for you and your friends. You see, Harry, you were the trap. I needed Lord Voldemort to attempt to destroy you in person – and thus destroy himself. Of course, it didn’t work out quite as I’d hoped…”
Harry thought back over that first adventure. “So… the chess game, the puzzle with the potions… that was all…”
“It was all intended for you to find your way through. A chess game, crafted to be just short of defeating a talented but not over-intelligent twelve-year-old. A logic puzzle, set up to allow Miss Granger to congratulate herself. Simple monsters. You were fortunate that you did not have to face the troll, but after all, you had defeated one earlier. I even allowed you to demonstrate your Quidditch skills. Naturally, none of this served to impede Voldemort in any significant way.”
“The only potential hazard was Hagrid’s contribution. I had very clearly specified from each of the staff what kind of obstacle I wanted. Hagrid was asked to provide a slightly ferocious beast. You have seen the kind of creatures Hagrid considers harmless. It is unsurprising that he would produce a literal hell-hound.”
“Didn’t Voldemort suspect? That things were too easy?” It didn’t seem easy at the time, though, thought Harry. “I mean… you’ve always said that he was brilliant. Clever brilliant, not that you thought he was good…” I’m babbling. I’m twelve again, thought Harry.
“Oh, he was. He was. The thing is, Harry, Voldemort was very clever, but he had no common sense whatsoever. In some ways, he was a complete fool. Just look at the man. A clever, charming boy, well able to become a leader, and to have anything he wanted, and he turned himself into a noseless freak, with a mob of insane, deluded followers. No, he convinced himself that the trivial obstacles were easy because he was the most powerful, most clever, most ruthless of wizards, and poor Professor Dumbledore was a babbling old fool.”
Dumbledore frowned. “Don’t underestimate your enemies, Harry. Don’t overestimate your own abilities. Thinking too well of himself was Voldemort’s major flaw. So, Voldemort and Quirrell made their way to the final chamber where they were confronted with the mirror of Erised. The Stone, of course, was nowhere to be seen.”
“You’d hidden it with a spell, so that it would only…” Harry ground to a halt when he saw Dumbledore smiling.
“That would have been needlessly complex, Harry. I placed a stone in your pocket earlier that evening. The only magic was a simple charm to ensure that you would not notice it until you reached the mirror. I did not know how closely you would follow Voldemort. I had, after all, strictly forbidden you to do so. I suppose it was possible that you might have obeyed school rules and with some regard for your personal safety, stayed in bed – in which case I would have had to find some way to motivate you. I later came to realise that nothing could stop you sneaking around the castle at night, especially when I ensured that you possessed tools like the Cloak of Invisibility and the Marauders’ Map.”
Dumbledore paused for a moment. “Ah, yes. If I had hidden the stone – or a stone, at any rate – then I could not be sure that Voldemort or even Quirrell might not find it, and be gone before you reached them. If the Stone was not there, then they could be expected to spend a good long time looking for it. As it was, you were hard on their heels.”
“With the obstacles that we thought were so dangerous, but really you’d designed them for us,” said Harry, wryly.
“Not just to allow you through – to ensure that Mr Weasley and Miss Granger were sent back. They did not have your special protection, Harry, and I did not want to risk them coming to any harm. Poor Cedric Diggory was lost in that way, alas.” They both sat in silence for a moment.
“Well, well. Life is a stern trial, sometimes. I would not have wished to outlive any of my pupils, but it is not always up to us. I wanted to protect Miss Granger and Mr Weasley, but also I needed a pretext to be summoned. I had not, of course, gone to the Ministry, though I gave every appearance that I had done so. When Miss Granger appeared with her warning, I was delighted to be able to time things to perfection. The unfortunate Quirrell was a pile of dust. The Dark Lord, however…” Dumbledore shook his head.
“So… you thought I would destroy Voldemort – but it didn’t happen. Why?”
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. “Why did I think so, or why did it not happen? Well, Harry, I thought so because in your first encounter, you nearly did destroy Voldemort. My guess was that a second dose of whatever you did to him might finish him off. As to why this did not happen – I believe that you know this.”
Harry nodded. “The Horcruxes. I could hurt him, but he couldn’t die. I’d destroyed whatever was left of him, but they were keeping him alive. Sort of.”
“This was in many ways a defeat for us. Lord Voldemort was not killed. He was back in the same state in which I had found him. But he felt himself more secure. The thing he might have feared – your protective spell – might continue to protect you, but it would not suffice to destroy him. He had overcome the terror which had kept him hidden, and from that time on he would devote his not inconsiderable intellect to plotting his return.”
“However, Harry, I had also gained invaluable information. I now understood to a far greater extent what was necessary to destroy Lord Voldemort. We also did something else that was very important. We ensured that Voldemort regarded you as his greatest enemy. Who knows what he might have done were he not to become obsessed with Harry Potter, the alter-ego, the nemesis?”
Harry was suddenly seized with a feeling of intense bitterness. “So you set me up as Voldemort’s greatest enemy. An eleven-year-old boy.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Harry, you’ve known this for many years, now. I knew from the moment of your parents’ death that you were the key to the destruction of Lord Voldemort, and I have made use of you. I do not know what I would have done if you had refused the challenge. As it was, you were always willing. You always made the sacrifice, the risk. I respect this, and I have to tell you – I would do the same thing again.”
Harry shook his head. “Forget it. I’ve always known, I think, since that first year. I wanted it too. Revenge. Justice. Just… wanting him out of the way. Not hurting anyone any more. It seemed important. More important than anything.”
“I think it was, Harry,” said Dumbledore gently. “What you have done has affected millions of lives, Wizard and Muggle, for the better.”
“And what you’ve done too, Professor,” said Harry quickly .
Dumbledore sighed. “I do hope so, Harry. If only I could know for sure. Well, that concludes this little revisionist history. If you fulfil my request, I can tell you much more. Of course, at any time you can withdraw from the arrangement.”
“What arrangement, Professor?” asked Harry, bewildered.
“For the next year, Harry, I wish you to take up the post of teaching Defence Against The Dark Arts at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry,”