Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Sifting Through The Ashes

Summer, Days 9 - 10

by ZanyMuggle 2 reviews

Harry, Remus, and Tonks spend some quality time together. Black Mansion is turned over to the Malfoys. Harry and Dumbledore have their first "discussion" since the night of Sirius' death. Voldemort...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG - Genres: Angst, Drama - Characters: Dumbledore, Harry, Lupin, Tonks, Voldemort - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2006-09-09 - Updated: 2006-09-09 - 5437 words

2Exciting
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Chapter 3

Perhaps the reason he wanted to be alone was because he had felt isolated from everybody since his talk with Dumbledore. An invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. He was - he had always been - a marked man. It was just that he had never really understood what that meant...

And yet sitting here on the edge of the lake, with the terrible weight of grief dragging at him, with the loss of Sirius so raw and fresh inside, he could not muster any great sense of fear. It was sunny and the grounds around him were full of laughing people, and even though he felt as distant from them as though he belonged to a different race, it was still very hard to believe as he sat here that his life must include, or end in, murder...

The sun had fallen before he realized that he was cold. He got up and returned to the castle, wiping his face on his sleeve as he went.

When the ticket inspector signaled to him, Ron, and Hermione that it was safe to walk through the magical barrier between platforms nine and ten, however, he found a surprise awaiting him on the other side: a group of people standing there to greet him whom he had not expected at all.

... Mad-Eye Moody... Tonks... Lupin... Mr. and Mrs. Weasley... and Fred and George...

"We'll see you soon, mate," said Ron anxiously, shaking Harry's hand.

"Really soon, Harry," said Hermione earnestly. "We promise."

Harry nodded. He somehow could not find words to tell them what it meant to him, to see them all ranged there, on his side. Instead he smiled, raised a hand in farewell, turned around, and led the way out of the station toward the sunlit street, with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley hurrying along in his wake.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 38

o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o

Summer, Day 9 (July 9, 1996), Diagon Alley

Harry stood face-to-face with his tormentor, exhaustion etched in his face, but steel in his eye.

"No. I've taken enough. No more," he said in a determined voice.

Tonks replied with a pout, "Aw, Harry, just one more store?"

Remus chimed in, "No, Tonks, he's obviously had enough shopping. Why don't we get a drink at the Cauldron, then head back?"

Realizing this meant their day would soon end, the three became a bit more subdued.

Harry was grateful beyond measure for the day they had spent together in London and Diagon Alley. While shopping for a new wardrobe was next to "attend History of Magic class" on Harry's fun list, a day of friends and mindless chatter was just what he needed. He and Remus had been a little slow to talk, given their last meeting, but eventually opened up. Tonks and Remus had made a determined effort to help Harry fight his depression, his tendency to withdraw, and his guilt at laughing and feeling good when Sirius was dead. They had helped Harry see that giving in to these feelings would lessen what Sirius fought to bring him. Giving in would give Voldemort and his cronies what they wanted. Love and life were the weapons against the Dark Lord's "Joy of Pain" Campaign.

As they walked at a leisurely pace down Diagon Alley, headed to the Leaky Cauldron, Remus brought up a new topic. "Have you heard from Hermione or the Weasleys, Harry?" he asked. "You should see all the activity at the Burrow!"

When Harry didn't reply, but just stared at the ground, Remus stopped, bringing the trio to a halt. Turning to face Harry, he said, "Whatever you do, Harry, don't waste time pushing away friends like I did. I never thought Sirius, James, or Peter really understood what I was going through. And they didn't fully understand, but they cared - not for the werewolf, but just for me. Whether I was a werewolf, a vampire, or a member of the Snape family, they would be there for me. Well, except Peter..."

After a thoughtful pause, Remus continued, "The things we did together! The Marauders' Map, Animagus transformations - we did those as a team. We never could have done those on our own. We inspired each other. Sirius and James made me realize that no one person is as strong as a team, a real team. But I couldn't see that back then. When things got dark, I... well, I withdrew a lot more into myself, became unresponsive. You-Kn - pardon me, Voldemort was calling out to dark creatures. It was becoming harder and harder to stop... to stop the voices. I knew that every day my friends were around me would be more dangerous for them, so I started isolating myself. I'm not surprised Sirius suspected me as the traitor - after everything they had done for me, everything we had done together, I pulled out. I thought I was saving them, but I killed the team before Peter got the chance."

Tonks and Harry immediately started to protest, to defend Remus against his own guilt, but he stopped them. "No, I know I'm not responsible for James' and Lily's deaths, but it was I who killed the Marauders when I isolated myself from them. It's habit-forming, though. When James and Lily were gone, Sirius was in prison, and you were left to the Dursleys, I could have - I /should/ have - stepped in. But I was so used to believing that people were better off without me, it became all too easy to listen to Dumbledore and leave you with Lily's family. I'm so sorry, Harry."

Harry put a hand on Remus' shoulder, fighting his own discomfort at the physical gesture because instinct told him it was what his friend, his mentor, needed. Tonks stepped up and wrapped the two in a hug as well.

After they broke apart from the group hug, Harry finally spoke. "Ron and Hermione... they've always been there for me. Every time I've been in a scrape, I only get out of it because they were there for part of it - the parts I'm not good at, like planning, or researching, or studying. Do I... maybe... I... maybe I do something... I don't know. What do they get out of being friends with me? Besides me yelling at them, I mean. And Snape and Malfoy treating them like crap. And everyone else in the school thinking they're friends with the Heir of Slytherin. I've been thinking that... well, that maybe I should let Ron and Hermione be. I can tell he likes her - you know, /likes/ her. I thought that maybe I should give them a chance at a life. With Voldemort back, things between us... things just don't... fit... anymore. Hermione thinks I should just sit and do whatever Dumbledore says. She's wants all the elves free, but it's okay for me to be a slave. She thinks I've got a 'saving people thing'. Like I've ever had a choice! And then their arguing - isn't there a better way for a bloke to tell a girl he likes her? What're they going to think when they hear about the Prophecy, or about Voldemort possessing me...? Maybe it'd just be easier if we..." Harry's voice dropped to almost a whisper, "if we weren't friends anymore."

Tonks spoke up this time, "Harry, if you tell them about the Prophecy, they're going to think their best friend is in trouble, and they're going to stick by him, like they always do. They're your friends because they want to be. Who knows why? It's not for fame and fortune, that's for sure," she said with a snicker, earning a punch in the arm from Harry. "Ask them. Find out something about what they think and feel for a change. It'll give you a break from what Moldy-wart's thinking and feeling, right? All right, then."

As they turned to continue their trek back to the Leaky Cauldron, Remus put an arm around Harry's shoulder, and Tonks moved to Harry's other side and wrapped an arm around his waist. Harry responded by wrapping his arms around his two friends. All this "touchy" stuff was so foreign to Harry, but he was determined to take advantage of the newly discovered comfort that these simple gestures of touch could bring.

He stopped when he saw an abandoned copy of the latest Daily Prophet lying nearby. He could see part of a headline - /Black Family Mansion Destroyed/ - from where he was standing. A small, sad smile dawned on his face, noticeable only to those accustomed to Harry's guarded nature. He was glad to see Sirius' last prison disappear for good.

"Ready to go, Harry?" Remus asked softly.

"Yeah," Harry replied. "Yeah, I reckon it's time to move on."

o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o

Black Family Mansion Destroyed in Unexplained Explosion

After more than two centuries of invisibility from wizards and Muggles alike, the Black family mansion appeared at about 11:30 P.M. last night, heralded with a series of massive explosions. The initial blast rocked the neighborhood for more than a minute and nullified the spells that hid the mansion. Aurors arrived within minutes, and watched helplessly as two more blasts unraveled the magic protecting the physical structure of the house. The combined explosions left little but rubble of the Black house, and damaged several of the other estates in the area.

The team of Aurors was able to recover two survivors and three other bodies from the wreckage of the mansion. The two survivors, wealthy socialite Mrs. Narcissa Malfoy and her son Draco Malfoy, were taken to St. Mungo's, where they are currently receiving care. Aurors are still trying to determine the identities of the other three based on the scattered, charred remains found in the rubble. No injuries outside the Black estate were reported, but more than two dozen Muggles required memory modification.

The Black Mansion had been under the protection of Unplottable spells and other strong magic since the late 18th century. After the first defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Mr. Sirius Black was wrongly convicted - without trial, as the Daily Prophet recently learned - for supposedly supporting He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. While in Azkaban, Mr. Black became the sole inheritor of the Black family holdings with the death of his mother, the Lady Estrella Black. With his recent death defending the Ministry of Magic (as reported earlier this week in the Daily Prophet), the Black family holdings became the property of Mrs. Narcissa Malfoy, Mr. Black's closest eligible relative.

Mrs. Malfoy and her son were apparently arriving at the estate to inspect the premises when the first explosion occurred. Mrs. Malfoy received major magical burns across the upper half of her body, while the young Mr. Malfoy received serious burns across his head and shoulders. Healers at St. Mungo's have been unable to determine the exact nature and cause of the burns, but have found them to be especially resistant to magical healing. This tragedy for the Malfoy family comes on the heels of the unexpected arrest of Mrs. Malfoy's husband, wealthy philanthropist and former Hogwarts governor Lucius Malfoy. The senior Mr. Malfoy was arrested for suspected involvement with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The investigation into the cause of the destruction continues.

o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o

Remus, Harry, and Tonks entered the back of the Leaky Cauldron, laughing at a shared joke as they moved to the bar. Remus was the tallest of the three, but only just. Harry had noticed today that he stood almost eye-to-eye with his mentor; he'd probably pass Remus in height in the next year.

If I get the chance, Harry thought darkly. He didn't let this idea destroy his mood, though. In the days he'd spent with Tonks, he had learned to savor his time with his friends, and not to be so easily distracted by dark thoughts. Well, I'm trying, anyway, he thought, as a wry grin replaced the mirth on his face. His eyes were a contrast to the smile; they scanned the pub with a wariness that would make Mad-Eye Moody proud.

Harry's eyes narrowed as they settled on Dumbledore. He whispered a comment he considered Marauder-worthy to his companions, and the trio changed direction to have the inevitable meeting with the Headmaster.

"Remus, Harry, Nymphadora, it's good to see you three enjoying a day out. I trust it's been an interesting time?" the Headmaster said in greeting.

Harry nodded slightly. Remus and Tonks returned equally non-committal greetings.

"Harry, if you don't mind, and if Mr. Lupin and Miss Tonks will excuse us, I believe we're overdue for a discussion."

Remus turned to his young charge. "Harry?" he asked. Harry nodded an affirmative.

Tonks looked at Harry and asked, "Will you be okay for a few minutes without us?"

Harry leaned over and whispered something into Tonks' ear.

A flush of red and a surprised grin appeared on her face and she playfully slapped Harry's arm. "I'll take that as a 'Yes'," she said with a smirk. Harry chest filled with warmth as he thought again about the few very good things in his life.

Tonks turned to Dumbledore and said, "He's all yours." Her face darkened as she continued, "Take your time. Every minute he's away from the Dursleys' is another bright spot in his life."

With that, Tonks took Lupin's arm and the two moved to sit at a table nearby.

Dumbledore signaled to Tom the barkeep, who led the Headmaster and Harry down the hallway beside the bar. Tom took them to a private parlor near the end of the hall, coincidentally the room in which Harry had had a talk with Cornelius Fudge almost exactly three years previous. He left for a minute, reappeared with a pot of tea for Dumbledore and a bottle of butterbeer for Harry, and then left again, closing the door on his way out. Dumbledore made a few quick motions with his wand, which Harry recognized as an advanced Imperturbable charm, and then he assured Harry that they were free to talk without fear of being monitored.

Albus started the conversation by saying, "I apologize for interrupting your day without warning, Harry. Like Alastor, I have found that predictability is often the bane of safety, and I do tend to err on the side of caution."

"That's fine, Professor," Harry replied, uncertain as to why exactly he was here. "Err... what can I do for you?"

A year ago, Harry would have eaten dirt to get private time with the Headmaster. Now, he faced that time with something between anger and apathy.

"I am following up on my promise to you to be more open, and to share what information I can. Do you have any questions you would like me to answer?"

Harry took a moment to organize his thoughts, then started, "Yes, sir. I have a million questions to ask, but if I do... it might end up a lot like after... the last time I was in your office."

"I understand that our conversation may be... volatile," Dumbledore responded with the slightest of smiles, "but I ask that you be as open as you can, and I will endeavor to do the same."

"Okay, sir, then my first question is: why don't you ever just tell me things I need to know? Why do you always make me or my friends dig for it?" Harry started, his demeanor quickly going from detached to annoyed. "Like right now, don't you have information about Voldemort you could share with me? Instead of making me ask you questions to find out what his next plot to kill me or destroy the wizarding world is, why don't you just tell me? Everyone has been on my case to open up since last year; why does that only apply to me? Is this just a game for you?"

Harry could see Dumbledore's expression go from its usual slight amusement, pass briefly through surprise, then settle on puzzled. In spite of the worlds of mystery Dumbledore could access, he had no answer for Harry's simple question. Finally, the Professor responded quietly, "I suppose I never properly considered that scenario from your point-of-view, Harry."

"You see, when I realized this, Professor, it made me wonder," Harry started. All the unanswered questions that had plagued him since Sirius' death were coming to the surface, a stampede of anger, fear, hurt, and loss starting to constrict Harry's chest, to trap the breath in his throat and cloud his vision with unshed tears. But Harry drew the feelings together into a cold calm, focused them, and overlaid them with thoughts of Tonks and Remus, and how they'd been together. He thought of Ron and the twins and Quidditch in the field behind the Burrow, breakfasts around the table with Ron, Ginny, Hermione. Christmas with Sirius, decorated elf heads, and rounds of /God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs/. Harry looked up and met Dumbledore's blue eyes with his own.

"Professor, if I hadn't been ready to snuff it, would you have told me the Prophecy?" he finally asked, his voice echoing the anger and resentment he felt. "Your timing was perfect, really. I was so stunned, you never had to answer any of my other questions. Not a one. What's more, given my 'saving people thing', as Hermione calls it, you knew I wouldn't give in if everyone else's lives were on the line. You took away my choice to give up," Harry finished, looking into space now, as if seeing his former life.

Harry heard Dumbledore sigh, then answer, "Harry, I told you that I had made quite a few mistakes, many of which contributed to the confrontation that cost Sirius his life. I did not time the revelation of the Prophecy to quell your arguments. It was a bad time to tell you, but it was too long overdue to postpone any more. I had spent years waiting for 'the right time', and it had led to disaster, so I chose to get it over with right away rather than wait any longer."

Harry looked back at the Headmaster (though not in his eyes), and answered, "Okay, I can understand that. I have another question. Why did you chose Snape -"

"Professor Snape, Harry."

Harry's anger quickly returned back to life. He could feel the power behind it now, the surge of /strength/ that his hate and anger gave him. He rose to his feet and looked down into Dumbledore's eyes again. His hand reached out slowly, quivering with his anger, almost burning with the power Harry felt. It would be so easy to reach out, to just...

No. This isn't right, Harry thought, sitting down and letting out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. He quelled the anger, extinguishing it again with a flow of thoughts about his friends and the bright spots in his life. Harry's mind quickly returned to the present, and to Dumbledore's interruption.

"Why? Why should I call that greasy git 'Professor'?" Harry asked. "Isn't that title reserved for people who teach? What kind of teacher purposely destroys a student's work and gives that student a failing grade for it? What kind of Head of House rewards his students for lying and cheating? I know you think this is just my dislike for him talking, but this is how he treats all Gryffindors. How many students have failed Potions simply because he didn't like them? How many people had their career choices - their life choices - limited because of his hatred?"

Harry paused to catch his breath, but continued before Dumbledore could respond. "Snape was supposed to help me learn to block my mind from Voldemort, but he never once actually told me how to do it. 'Clear your mind, Potter', he said, leering over me, anxious to get in and screw up my mind. Yeah, like that's going to help!"

"Do you know when the dreams were the strongest?" Harry yelled now, looking up, but not into Dumbledore's eyes. "After Snape's stupid 'teaching sessions', that's when! But that's okay, isn't it? I'm the one with the attitude problem, not him!"

"Harry, Professor Snape's history and situation is something I can share with you in part -"

"With all due respect, sir," Harry said in a slightly more controlled voice, "I didn't ask for any personal information about Mr. Snape. In all honesty, I don't care to know any more about him. I would just like to know why rules that apply to everyone else don't apply to him."

"The only path to that answer, Harry, travels through his past and into our present, and not all the story is mine to tell."

Harry shot to his feet again. "So because of his 'story'," he said, making quote marks with both hands, "Mr. Snape is perfectly justified in treating everyone else like dirt? Every bit of filth that comes out of his mouth is holy! But if I don't call him 'Professor', I'm being disrespectful. It was the same with Sirius. You were quick to point out how wrong Sirius was for his attitude toward Kreacher. Snape, on the other hand, TRIED HIS BEST TO FEED SIRIUS TO THE DEMENTORS! Did you even notice? Snape was willing to kill Remus - an innocent man - to do it! DID YOU CARE! NO! What came of it? Snape got Professor Lupin sacked, then everything was back to normal - Sirius was a criminal, Remus was out of a job, and Snape was rewarded for doing his best to make everyone else's life a living HELL!"

Harry lowered his volume to normal, but still laced it with his anger. "How much time and energy did you spend to redeem Snape's name after Voldemort's fall? Did you spend any time at all trying to clear Sirius' name? If it was so obvious to you that Snape was innocent, how could you not know Sirius was innocent too?"

Dumbledore answered slowly, "I must ask you to keep this between us, Harry. I have a certain connection to Severus that I do not with most others, yourself and Sirius included. You have connections to two other people, although these are different in nature than the connection I share with Severus."

Harry looked Dumbledore in the eye this time, steeled himself for what he had to say, and responded quietly, "Sir, I respectfully submit that your connection with Mr. Snape makes you unqualified to oversee him in any manner. You are too willing to sacrifice others lives and well-being because of your 'connection' to him. I say this not for my own sake, but for the sake of people like Neville Longbottom, who have been persecuted mercilessly without reason since the day he met Mr. Snape."

Dumbledore looked intensely at Harry, and asked him, "Have I truly destroyed all the trust you had in me?"

Harry, in control but still angry, responded, "First, Professor, I commend your attempt to change the topic. I'll take that as a sign that you intend to ignore the Snape problem as you have up to this point. Second, as for my lack of trust, after all I did my first four years, no one except Sirius trusted me enough to tell me what was happening to me. I had to fumble around on my own, I messed up, and Sirius died because of it. I don't think it's fair to blame me for being unable to trust those in power over me."

"I was not blaming you, Harry. I was lamenting my mistakes, not yours. You shouldn't blame yourself for what hap-"

"Professor, I'm not a baby. Stop trying to tell me how to think and feel. When you live in a cupboard for a decade, with the only people around you wishing every day that you were dead, then you can tell me how to feel. I was fooled, and Sirius died because of it. It doesn't matter whose fault it is. Blame won't bring Sirius back."

Dumbledore gave a small, grim nod. "You are correct, Harry. The truth is that Sirius is gone, and we are all diminished by his loss." After a moment of silence, the Headmaster continued, "To answer your earlier concerns: I promise you, I understand your concerns regarding Professor Snape's... demeanor, and I will work to determine what we can do to address it."

A chirping sounded from one of Dumbledore's pockets, and he reached in and withdrew a device vaguely resembling a pocket watch. He looked at it briefly, and then replaced it in his pocket.

"My apologies, Harry," he said, "but I have another obligation to fulfill soon. I want to emphasize that I take your concerns seriously, and that you can come to me with any other issues or ideas you have."

Harry responded simply, "Thank you, sir."

"Before I depart, I need to give you this," Dumbledore said as he pulled two thick envelopes from a pocket in his robes and handed it to Harry, "this was one of the primary reasons I had come to speak with you."

Harry took the envelopes and turned them over in his hands. "Are these...?"

"Your O.W.L. results, and your Hogwarts letter. I know this may not mean very much to you now, considering how difficult the events of this year have been, but the examiners seemed very excited about your work, very excited indeed," Dumbledore replied, a sad smile now reflected on his face.

Harry looked at the envelopes as though they were foreign objects.

"I had also thought to discuss these with you," Dumbledore said, dropping two badges onto the table. "By the way, all initiatives put in place by Ms. Umbridge - including your Quidditch ban - have been rescinded."

Harry looked at the badges, and then dropped the envelopes next to them on the table.

"Just a few weeks ago, my life was centered around this stuff - grades, Quidditch... That's what I thought, anyway. Truth is, I stopped having a life the day Voldemort marked me. I stopped having a childhood the day I moved in with the Dursleys." Harry looked to Dumbledore again, and continued with conviction, "My only chance at regaining a life is to destroy Voldemort. Pretending any different just rubs my face in what I will never have. I'm ready to move on. I have a lot of work to do, and the sooner I get to it, the more people we can save."

"Harry, you mustn't succumb to the belief this burden is yours alone -"

"Not my burden?" Harry interrupted. "Did I hear the Prophecy wrong, sir? Either must die at the hand of the other... Every day I'm not ready is another day Voldemort has to prepare. Every person he kills is someone sacrificed because I haven't defeated him yet. How can you expect me to go on with everyday life when it's my job - mine - to kill him?"

Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes, letting the anger wash through him. Harry continued, in a normal tone. "You see, sir, Sirius gave his life for mine in more than one way. His sacrifice opened my eyes. I don't have a choice in facing Voldemort, just a choice of how well I'm going to do, how many people I can save. Bumbling around won't cut it if I'm going to prevent anyone else from losing their Sirius." He stopped for a moment to let his voice and vision clear.

After a moment, he continued, "None of this is relevant, anyway. I won't be returning to Hogwarts next year."

Dumbledore's eyes went wide, and he started to reply, but was cut off by Harry.

"Sir, I know you'll want to change my mind, but you have other things to do today, and so do I. Why don't we meet when you're available to discuss it again?"

"That sounds reasonable, Harry. I'll contact you next week, if that is all right."

Harry nodded, then thought to ask, "Professor, why is a prefect badge available? Did something happen to Ron or Hermione?"

"That is a question you'll have to ask the youngest Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore replied. "He asked that we not consider him for the position of prefect this year."

"Really? I wonder why?" Harry mused aloud. "Who else did you have in mind, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Actually, if you are not interested in the role, I believe it would be a good time to allow Mr. Longbottom a go."

"Really? You know, that actually sounds like a good idea. He showed a lot of initiative in the D.A., and I was shocked at his insistence on going to the Ministry with us. And he stood next to me 'til the end... Yes, I think he's a good choice."

"Why, thank you, Harry," Dumbledore said with a more sincere, if wry, smile.

Dumbledore picked up the two badges and said, "I'll mention your decision regarding Quidditch captain to Professor McGonagall right away. Also, please keep the prefect decision a secret for now, until we've had time to announce it. Lastly, though they may understandably carry less weight with you now, you might still want to take a peek at your O.W.L. results when you get a chance. Trust me."

"I will, sir" Harry said, and picked up the envelope.

Without that, the two shook hands and left.

o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o

Summer, Day 10 (July 10, 1996)

He was standing in a dimly lit room with walls of carved stone. The glowing embers in a large fireplace on the wall he was facing gave off the only light in the room. His view was slightly blurry, as though his eyes were not up to the task of collecting the details around him. The smells, though - those he could identify and classify in all their wondrous diversity. The cloying moisture in the air, the faintly metallic odor soaked into the floor stones, the stale sweat and fear of the only other occupant of the room-these scents tickled his tongue and danced through his nostrils, mapping the room in his mind.

"It's confirmed," the other croaked hoarsely. "We lost Goyle and two others in the explosion. With Malfoy and the others captured at the Ministry, Dumbledore's trap has left us-"

"Fool!" the first hissed. "You are blind! Our losses are trivial compared to what we have gained."

The first paused, allowing his audience to absorb the full meaning of his revelation.

"Dumbledore did not set this trap. It is not his way to trap and kill his foe. Dumbledore shields his flock. He watches for predators, he disables them or chases them away. He does not trap and kill them. One or more of his people did this."

"One of his people?" the other said with some surprise. "Without his leave? Surely Dumbledore would know-"

"If Dumbledore knew," the first interrupted, savoring the thought, "he would not have allowed it. No, as always, the hopeless optimism that binds the old man also blinds him. Human nature - the desire for power, the power to ensure one's dominance, to protect one's territory - guarantees our victory. Dumbledore's handpicked team has a critical flaw, one that begs to be exploited."

He smiled and stepped closer to the fire, basking in its warmth.

"Lord Voldemort will be pleased to fulfill that request."

o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o O o

Author notes: What did you think? Was it unbelievably good? Abysmal? I'd be grateful for your feedback.

This story was originally posted at FanFiction (dot) net, Checkmated (dot) com, and FictionAlley (dot) org. I have removed the version from Checkmated, and will leave the version at FictionAlley as is for now. The revised version will be posted at FanFiction (dot) net and FicWad (dot) com.

- ZanyMuggle

Originally posted 2004/09/20

Revised and posted at FicWad 2006/09/09
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