Harry and Dumbledore said their goodbyes and stepped outside. Once Harry was safely under his invisibility cloak and Slughorn's door was shut tight behind them, Dumbledore began to speak to Harry in a low voice. "What do you think of Professor Slughorn, Harry?"

"He likes comfort," Harry said. "No, that isn't right. He likes luxury." The pair walked down toward the street and turned onto the sidewalk. "I'd say that he craved fame and power, but he doesn't, not exactly. He doesn't want the pressure or the responsibility, because then he couldn't be relax."

Dumbledore smiled. "Well put. Horace is like the moon—he would prefer to bask in reflected light rather than providing it himself. He tries to collect students with potential for fame or power in his 'Slug Club,' offering to assist them in exchange for future considerations." Dumbledore adjusted his glasses. "I have no doubt that he has set his sights on you, now that he has accepted a position at Hogwarts."

"I practically promised to join," Harry said.

They paused, standing under a streetlight. "And does the prospect concern you?" Dumbledore asked. He was searching through his pockets for something, and as he did Harry once again saw the Headmaster's blackened hand.

"Not necessarily," Harry said. "I wasn't the most popular person in the school last year. Or anywhere. After the Inquisition and lies that the Prophet was printing, I could use some help in that area."

Dumbledore nodded. "Horace is generally harmless, so I will not discourage you from that pursuit. Aha!" Dumbledore withdrew his hand from his pocket, holding what appeared to be a cigarette lighter. He snapped his wrist to open the silver contraption, then flicked it with his thumb. The light from the streetlamp disappeared with a pop, leaving Harry and Dumbledore in darkness.

Harry expected that Dumbledore would invite him to take his arm, and that they would be apparating to their next destination. Instead, Dumbledore stood quietly in the darkness, saying nothing.

"Sir?" Harry asked, after a moment.

Dumbledore blinked and looked down at Harry. "Sorry, Harry. In my old age I sometimes become lost in thought."

"And what thought was that?"

"I thought that I should thank you for your efforts with Professor Slughorn. You did us all a great service by convincing him to return to Hogwarts. And… you remind me very much of a man I knew in my youth."

"How so?" Harry asked.

"He was a very charismatic young man," Dumbledore said. "At times, it seemed that he could convince almost anybody of anything."

Harry looked away, into the night. "You're talking about Voldemort, aren't you," Harry said.

"No," Dumbledore said. "I am not." The older man cleared his through and held out his elbow. "Take my arm, please. It is time we departed."

A/N: Okay, so the preview chapter is kind of boring. But my new story is up today! Harry Potter and the Mirror of the Soul. Click through profile for a link.