Harry discovers why Albus doesn't drink.
Dinnerware and conversation are the sounds of the evening. Candles float above you, their weak illumination hardly diminishing the Pegasi shimmering across the Enchanted Ceiling. Even after six years of staring at it, the magic and the mystery of the Rowena Ravenclaw's masterpiece still leaves you in awe.
At the head of the Great Hall sit the professors. There are several empty seats. Notably, McGonagall, Snape, and Dumbledore, with no indication of where they were. Just the thought of the Headmaster's name leaves a sour taste in your mouth. It's only when the welcoming feast is nearly over that Dumbledore graces everyone with his presence. Whispers spread around the Gryffindor table.
"What happened to his hand?" they wonder, at the Headmaster's blackened appendage.
Despite having known about Dumbledore's condition for weeks, your questions aren't any more developed than theirs. Your eyes go to Slughorn, who sits at the far end of the table devouring a plump, little cake. Hagrid seems interested in the man's conversation at least, his guffaws punctuating the general clamor. Caught between the two, Professor Sinistra looks as though she'd rather be anywhere else.
Dumbledore has his reasons, obviously. Who are you to question him.
Ron elbows you in the ribs; you turn, giving him your full attention. "Yeah?"
"Mate, we've been talking to you this entire time. What's the deal with Dumbledore's hand? Didn't you say that you went with him somewhere this summer?"
"I don't know." You pick at the remnants of your mash. "Never got the chance to ask. He was too busy using me to get ol' Sluggy up there to be a teacher." The words must sound more bitter than intended because Hermione's expression tightens, ready to leap to the Headmaster's defense.
You raise a hand to stop her. It's not necessary. Dumbledore stands up to give his speech.
He's frailer than when you'd seen him last. The old man's barely disguised grimace of pain is apparent to everyone. Still, he bears the dignity of nothing less than the bastion of light as if all was well.
Dumbledore pulls his robe further over the gnarled appendage and addresses the student body at large, his face contrite. You assume there's a reason he isn't using a glamor, or attempting a better job at keeping his weakness hidden. Robes and odd mannerisms aside, Dumbledore was never one to call attention to himself.
You learned that long ago.
His speech is nothing new. There are bits of stand together and bits of general rule minutiae you've heard so many times before that you begin to tune it out. You allow your eyes to roam the table.
Dennis and Colin are having a whispered conversation. They obviously can't be bothered with the speech either. Colin is gesticulating at the younger boy, whose face is red with embarrassment. Or perhaps anger? Worry winds its way through you. These boys were part of the DA; they are your responsibility, and clearly something had happened. With a slight motion, you cast an eavesdropping charm.
"I'm telling you Dennis, he's a vampire! He hasn't eaten or drinken anything yet."
"You're just fooling with me Colin. He just came in-and he's Dumbledore! He's famous. There's no way no-one else would've noticed. We're muggleborn, what do we know? I'm sure there's a reason."
"That's it exactly, brother!" Colin thrusts his fork at Dennis. "His hand's that way because of the sun. It's the only thing that makes sense. Everybody else justs respects him too much to say anything. He did defeat Grindelwald."
The younger boy speaks through grit teeth. "Exactly. He defeated Grindelwald. He's the bloody Headmaster of Hogwarts, there are more eyes on him than a couple of students. Someone would have noticed. You're making large leaps in logic here, and if you were to tell someone else, they'd just laugh at you."
Their conversation was getting louder, and it wasn't just you that was paying attention at this point. Dumbledore continued to give his speech but his eyes were on the two miscreant students. McGonagall had also noticed, and was being a bit more proactive. You could see her as she snuck cat like towards to two children.
You heard Colin say dejectedly, "There's also the fact that when I take his picture, he doesn't move. No matter what I do. I thought it was a mistake in my brew, but he never moves. I just can't think of why that would be."
Professor McGonagall managed to sneak up on the two without drawing attention to herself. She placed a hand on the eldest boys shoulder and gave them both a stern look. You couldn't hear what she said, she spoke lower than even what your spell could pick up.
When she's done, the two looked suitably chastised. You watched as McGonagall made her way silently back to the head-table.
You put up the pretense of paying attention again, but your mind couldn't help but turn over the two's conversation. It was one thing to speculate about the professors. They were young, and they were most definitely impressionable. You wouldn't put it past one of the older students to have put the idea in their head.
You didn't think anything further. Idle, childish gossip.
Dumbledore ended the feast with the traditional call for the school song. The student body sounded subdued. The usual cheer, and jubilation is absent in their tone.
The school year progresses normally. Many things are different; many remain the same. Snape is the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, the appointment one which the general student body felt was a mistake. Most silently hope the rumor of the position being cursed is true. Outside the castle walls, the leaves start changing, the wind harbors a bite to it that caused many students to shudder, even as they walked through the corridors. It was unusually cold.
One thing of note was that the Creevie brothers' had been transferred out of Hogwarts. It had happened in the middle of the night. The boys of their dormitory had stated that their stuff was gone, like they had never even been there.
You had found it unusual, and you had investigated if only a little. According to the fourth year prefect, they had received an owl in the middle of the night. Their parents were withdrawing them, and sending them to an alternative school. The prefect didn't specify which.
You'd spent more time thinking about it than you normally would. There was something strange about the whole situation. Your mind went back to your overheard conversation between the brothers, but you had immediately dismissed it.
You knew that times were darker, maybe like Hermione's parents, they had picked up a subscription to the wizarding newspaper, and with all the recent drama decided that the wizarding world, or at least the British wizarding world wasn't for them.
You felt your heartbeat increase at that thought. Hermione's parents could do the same at any second. They were dentist. So they obviously had money. The few times you had interacted with her family, they were protective of her.
You made a note to ask Hermione what she had done to convince her parents into allowing her to stay. There were other thoughts on your mind, beside the Creevey brothers. There situation was unique, interesting. Your mind couldn't leave it alone, but the weight of other responsibilities pushed in. This year, wordless magic was a big thing, and while you had done well in some classes, you were still not up to Snape's standards.
That's why you were sitting in a secluded part of one of the many gardens surrounding Hogwarts. This was the Rose Garden. The briars and thorns provided decent cover, but the petals of the delicate flowers had long since been consumed by the early bite of winter.
Before you were defense textbooks. Snape required only one, but to understand the concepts in them better, and to make it through Snape's questioning, you felt like you needed to brush up and finesse some of the finer concepts.
Even with your limited successes, Snape refused to give you any credit. While he hadn't been so blatant in his outright dismissal of Harry this year, you couldn't help but feel like the man was setting you up for failure. He kept trying to meet your eyes at every encounter.
You refused, but on the few times he had surprised you, you'd felt him immediately knocking at the barriers of your mind. After the first time though, he didn't do it anymore.
With Sirius death, you had turned a new leaf in your studying. And while you were no expert, you had spent a great amount of effort in learning to clear your mind. It had been because of you that Sirius had died.
You could accept that now. You'd spent a majority of the summer, blaming everyone but yourself. It had been after a particularly strong dream-mind-walk, that you had decided to revisit occlumency.
That thought stream is brought to a halt as a wizened old voice speaks up beside you. You jump, hand itching for your wand before you realize who the voice belongs to. Dumbledore.
The man had an uncanny ability in sneaking up on students. There was a betting mill with several of the houses on anyone who could posit a reasonable explanation. There was obviously no way to confirm it, because everyone assumed that he would deny it.
"Oh, Headmaster, how are you.." You asked rather than answer whatever it was he might have asked, you had been too deep in thought to understand it. "Oh, I'm fine lad. I was just commenting on how peaceful the solitude is in this corner of Hogwarts."
The old wizards appearance was just as frail as it had been at the feast. "You feeling alright Headmaster?" you asked. You couldn't help but feel concern as the old man took a seat beside me on my bench.
Its strange to see someone in pain. You knew his arm was affected, but couldn't tell if the rest of his body had been damaged, despite his lack of coverage on his arm, which looked brittle and black, his robes hid everything else.
Dumbledore chuckled at your question, a grimace on his face even then. He settled himself onto the bench, and you could see the grimace turn to relife.
"I'll be honest, Harry. I've been better." His honesty is surprising, so is his tone. Dumbledore has always affected this benevolent, and somewhat eccentric presence, even with you. Someone who had more encounters with him than the average student.
"These old bones aren't what they used to be. I feel the mistakes of my youth, and even my later years are creeping up on me. But I'll be fine."
You eyes feel on his arm again, you would hardly call that fine. But if Dumbledore said it would be, then so it would be.
"What brings you here, Headmaster?" You gesture at your surroundings. A bird lands silently in the top of the briar riddled vinces closest to you, and one of them begins to creep upwards to the bird. "Much like you Harry, I assume, I'm off looking for peace. Forgive me for laughing earlier. I appreciate your concern, but I have heard enough of it to last even my lifetime at this point."
You consider where to go with the conversation. Should you just be blunt and ask him, or should you try and dance around some more with small talk. You decide to forgo being polite, you want answers, and he's here now. Who knows when you'll be able to talk to him so candidly again.
"Headmaster.. About your arm? Might I ask what happened? Was it Voldemort?" He doesn't immediately speak, but you can tell something is going on when the briar that had been creeping up on the bird finally caught its prey. There was no sound. A privacy ward of some type?
You look at the old man, and there is only a twinkle in his eye. He nods his head, before saying "Yes, my boy. It was something I've been investigating this summer, and I stumbled across one of Tom's old projects. I underestimated its ferocity."
A million and one questions bubble to your mouth. Why? Who? What did this? How? You stuck with, "How, Headmaster. What was it?" Dumbledore goes to deflect immediately, but a grimace of pain wracked his body.
Dumbledore holds his hand up to stop you from speaking further. The pained look on his face subsides, and he gestures for you to help him up. "Take a walk with me Harry."
Whatever spell they were under follows them, because as you walk beside the old man, him leaning heavily against you, your footsteps make no sound. "I intend," he says, "to inform you of everything later this year. I have some lessons planned, and during these, I will be giving you the tools I feel are necessary for your future. But for now, suffice it to say, I was foolish to think that something left behind by Tom Riddle would have no effect against me, it is a humbling moment for this old man. I will explain no further."
His words excite you. Finally, you're going to be taught by the man himself. Defeater of Grindelwald, and the only man that Voldemort fears. You've stopped in front of a meditation pond in the garden. The reflection shows gray skies and birds flying in a V pattern in the far distance. Your hair is ruffled, and your cheeks are rosy from sitting in the cold air.
And with a slow realization, a bit of pants wetting fear creeps into you. Beside you, stands Dumbledore, his image frozen in a rictus of screaming agony. The mans image is fuzzy, and jittery. It reminds you of light experiments you did in muggle grade school.
A strobe light in front of a fan, if tuned correctly, can make the fan look like it's sitting still. Dumbledore's face, frozen as it is, reminds you of this as it gradually changes shape and form.
"He-.." You start to speak, but you stop. Dumbledore is turned away from you, his face in serene contemplation. Nothing like the horror show behind you. You look back into the pond, and the horror show from before is no longer present.
Before you can start pinching yourself, Dumbledore speaks again, "Well, Harry, I must go. I've enjoyed our time. Please continue to enjoy your solitude, and if you find yourself on my corridor, feel free to come up and enjoy some Ice Mice. They have a delightful mint flavor."
You can barely utter a response, and Dumbledore doesn't seem inclined to wait, he's said his piece. You're not sure what you just saw, but you're shook. What's going on? This wasn't some simple trick of the eyes and angle of the light. It truly looked like the man had been behind you.
And such pain. You jaw aches from where you had clenched your teeth, and the side of your tongue is sore where you had bit your tongue. You weighed the consequences of telling Hermione and Ron.
You knew their first instinct would be that there really wasn't anything wrong. It could be some lingering effects of Voldemort invading your mind, or you were hungry, or you hadn't slept well the night before.
But your scar hadn't hurt. You had slept well the previous night, lulled into submission from clearing your mind, and had no dreams that you could remember. And you wasn't hungry.
You wouldn't say anything for now.
Dust danced in the afternoon sunlight as it streamed through the windows along the top of the room. You're sitting in one of the more secluded study rooms of Hogwarts library, piles of books all around you.
You just finished reading through the last book, a dry study on the spells, potions, and enchantments that form magical portraits. With your left hand you slammed the book closed, and with your right you rubbed tiredly at your eyes.
Behind your pile of books, a snore sounded. With the thump of the book, Ron Weasley snorted and his head shooting up abruptly. Across from him, Hermione sat, hunched with her head in her own book. You couldn't tell if she was actually reading, if she was falling asleep herself.
Who would have thought that magical portraits were so boring. Who would have thought that you would be in the library researching anything that wasn't for a class, but here you where.
You'd made it a week without telling Ron and Hermione what you saw. You hadn't spoken to Dumbledore since then, but you had been accumulating strange occurrences. You noticed at dinner the man's water glass was always full, and it never wavered. You knew this because you'd spent the entire dinner staring at him, for lack of a better word, after your conversation in the Rose Garden.
You just couldn't get the image out of your head. It haunted you. In the mornings when you brushed your teeth you refused to look directly in the mirror, a fear of what might be there with you.
Sleep has been fleeting, not because of nightmares, but because you lay awake a night.
It had grown even colder outside, it took several strong warming charms from yourself and Hermione to fight back the chill in your study corner. The cold was a bookmark on how the rest of the semester continued. People were huddled in groups to fend off the cold. Charms class had focused briefly on teaching everyone how to cast a silent warming charm effectively.
It was something of a note that Dumbledore was making appearances at dinner less and less. The students were beginning to whisper about his vacated seat. Things like old-age, infirm, and ineffective the buzzwords of everyone's conversation.
You'd received an Owl from the Headmaster just the other day, stating that you would begin private tutelage soon. You were wary about spending that much alone time with the old man, especially since others around you were oblivious to the peculiarities of the situation.
You couldn't explain it correctly to Hermione and Ron either. They had asked you what had you so spooked, and you had attempted to put your encounter with Dumbledore into words. But it was nearly impossible to describe.
Hermione slams her book shut across from you, the cloud of dust from it tomes old pages mixing with the dust already in the air. Ron sneezes and glares at her.
"Well, Harry, we've looked through every book we can on magical portraits. But without more reliable information to go off of, I'm afraid I won't be much help. Why are you so interested in portraits anyways?"
You had not yet explained to Ron and Hermione what you had overheard with the Creevey brothers. You were sure that their transfer and your most recent experiences were unrelated, but you had investigated it anyway. You had to trust your gut.
"I don't know Hermione, it's just a feeling, something I felt was important. But I'm as lost as you are. I thought that reading through this something, anything, would jump out at me. But no such luck."
In his own corner of the study, Ron has come more and more aware. The fugue of warmth and sleep leaving his eyes. "Why not just tell us what we should be looking for, mate? You know Hermione has this place memorized, I'm sure if you just explain to us, she might be able to think of something."
"That's just the thing, Ron. I…" Your words taper off. You'd been circling this issue this entire time, only giving them enough information to operate on. You didn't want them to think you were looney, but there was very little you could do at this point. You had thought that maybe you were sparing them, but the more you researched, and the more information you fed them, the deeper they got into the whole situation. You would just have to tell them.
"Look. It's like this..." You waved your wand around you, trying out a new spell you had learned from your Potions book the other day, Muffliato. You didn't want more people than necessary overhearing what you were about to say.
Hermione's eyes widen at the casual display of silent magic she's not familiar with, but your look stopped her from asking any further questions. There would be time for that later. You felt that those in your group could benefit greatly from the teachings of the Half-blood Prince.
However, here and now, there were items of more import.
Outside the afternoon sun in the cold, cold air changed from bright to dim. You could tell the passage of time as you spoke. You told them of your fears, what you had witnessed and what you thought it meant.
You spoke to them about the conversation you had overheard from the brothers, and their subsequent transferral, and how you felt they were connected. You spoke of your fears about them also being similarly affected. You wanted to protect them. They were your allies, your center. Without them, you were nothing.
".. and that's why I think there is something wrong with Dumbledore. You didn't see the face in the reflection like I did. It was terrible. There was so much pain, unaccountable pain. But when I looked behind me, he was just standing there, calm as could be. Like nothing was happening. I don't know if its something I'm meant to discover or if he's just slipped up. Revealed more than he intended."
Your story and theories had started slow, but the more you talked about it the faster your words came. When you were done, you were out of breath, and your hair was wild. You had ran your fingers through it several times. It was something you did when you were stressed.
Hermione was the first to speak, Ron had remained quiet the whole time, while Hermione had chosen to ask pointed questions to keep you on track. They both realized how much this had been bothering you.
"You know you could have come to us Harry, we're your friends."
"I know Hermione, I just didn't want to sound like a ramblin fool. There are too many inconsistencies, I don't even know where to look, or why I should. I've been keeping an eye on him, whenever he comes down for dinner. I've got a tutoring session with him later this week, and I was hoping to have more to go off of than what I have. It's just strange."
Ron chose to speak then, and his words make you feel better. "We don't think you're looney, mate. Like Hermione said, we're your friends, and we will help you. Especially if you feel like this is important." He turned to Hermione then. "Does anything he said ring any bells with you? Anything at all?"
Hermione's face looks constipated, she's deep in thought. You feel better having at least shared with someone, and who better than your friends?
"I have a couple things I can look into. I just want to clarify some things first, Harry. You said he doesn't drink anything? No water, no pumpkin juice?"
"No. Just those stupid lemon drops he's always pushing off on everyone." He doesn't even eat his food anymore. I figured the pain from his arm had caused him to lose his appetite. But that's the only thing I've seen him eat."
"Good," says Hermione, that gives me a place to start. We know it's got to be something magical to cause this, and that its probably either some sickness or curse of some sort. We've got class in twenty minutes so I think we should wrap up here, I'll look to see what I can find in my next free period."
Her words did little to put you at ease, because your next fear reared its ugly face. "Don't tell anyone about this." You said eyeing Hermione and Ron. "Anyone. I can't have people thinking I'm off my head like they did last year. People have only now started listening to me when I say Voldemort's back."
The two echoed each other, "Don't worry, Harry. We won't say a thing."
You would have to leave it at that. Together, the three of you packed your books and left the study.
You were standing just beside Dumbledore's gargoyle, your meeting with Dumbledore was in five minutes, but you had arrived early. You had given the gargoyle the password, but it hasn't budged once. You assumed that mean the Headmaster was out of the office.
That was a bit unusual, because that had never been the case before, but the Headmaster was also prone to changing his password frequently. You hadn't talked to him since the Rose Garden, that had been a month.
Lots of things happened in a month. Snape continued to be a pain during Defense Against the Dark Arts. His lessons were taught with relish, but you were learning. You had finally told Hermione and Ron about the Half-blood Prince, or atleast the book you had found. Slughorn considered you the second coming of Lily Potter, and Draco Malfoy was up to something. There were too many plots going about for you to keep your mind focused.
Progress on the Dumbledore investigation had stalled, however. With Hermione researching and Ron for moral support, there had still been no breakthroughs. You had resolved yourself to just asking him today, the worst that could happen was that he tell you nothing or answer in his typical fashion; which was giving you an answer, but not the answer to your question.
The clock struck five minutes past your meeting time and the gargoyle had yet to move. You were about to go find a professor to see if they could let you in, and just as you were about to walk away the statue jumped aside.
You didn't consider this odd, maybe Dumbledore had been in the loo. The man always had a prenatural sense of who was standing at his stoop. You had always assumed it was some kind of spell.
When you reached the top of the revolving staircase, the door to the headmasters office stood ajar. There were no sounds emanating, and in the evening light, the room was dim. Dark shadows cast over portraits that were covered, "odd" you thought.
The fireplace was empty, and the room was chilly. You were still working on getting the fire charm down silently so you cast a whispered incendio, and the fireplace roared to life.
The flame light did little make the office more inviting, but it did fight back some of the chill. The office appeared to be the same, with the exception of the portraits, the old man's trinkets glimmer in their places on bookshelves and his desk.
Fawkes perch is notably empty. The sorting hat sat on its perch at the back of the room, and the firelight dances across the sharp blade of the Sword of Gryffindor. Never one to sit and wait, you busy yourself with being nosy. You walk up to the sword and you hand grazes off the rough leather hilt, a small smile on your face, out of the corner of your eye you see a book, open on the headmaster's desk.
Curious as to what the headmaster could be reading, you go over to it to take a peak, but before your eyes can focus on the words, the sound of a clearing throat startles you.
"Harry, my boy, I apologize for being late. Peeves decided to flood the second floor bathrooms and one of the prefects needed my assistance in clearing up the mess."
His voice had caused you to jump back away from his desk, you had the decency to show some embarrassment at being caught prying into things that wasn't your own, but you took it in stride. Dumbledore would expect no less from you anyways.
"Sorry Headmaster," you spoke, as you made your way around the desk, taking the first empty seat. "The door was open. I had trouble with the gargoyle, it didn't like the password, but it decided to let me in."
"Don't worry my boy. It does that to even me. I think it finds humor in frustrating the best of us."
Dumbledore had taken his seat behind his desk, he goes to steeple his hands, but can't because of the blackened appendage that is his right hand. The ever present twinkle that was normally in his eyes is absent, replaced by chagrin.
"Tell me how you are, Harry? We speak so infrequently, and I find myself curious as to how you're faring in your sixth year."
"Good Headmaster. My classes have been challenging, but I feel like I'm adapting well. It could be worse."
"Worse indeed," Dumbledore said. "The professors all have good things to say about you my boy, Professor Slughorn himself is suitably impressed with your skill in Potions. I must say I'm surprised myself."
"Well with Sn-" You caught yourself, "Professors Snape's teaching style is just so different. I find that I work better with Professor Slughorn's tutelage."
Dumbledore had the decency to chuckle a little at your comment. "Yes, many of your fellow students have had the same sentiment. Maybe putting him as the Defense professor was a good decision after all. Anything else?"
You realized his casual conversation had more of an agenda. He was fishing for information. He'd put you off your guard, and you'd allowed yourself to make eye contact with him. Like Snape, you knew that Dumbledore knew how to read minds, and he was much more subtle about it. You didn't want to let him know that you knew anything before getting your chance to ask him. You hadn't anticipated the conversation progressing so rapidly.
"No, nothing else, Headmaster," you say, consciously aware now at the amount of eye contact you're making. Dumbledore notices anyways, and instead of prying, he compliments you. "Good job, Harry. I see you've kept up in your other studies as well. That makes what I'm about to show you much easier."
"And what is that, Headmaster?" Your voice is curious. You were expecting arcane magics, world hopping, and ancient tombs. You were disappointed however, when Dumbledore brought out his pensive and a case full of silver memories.
"I intend to teach you about Tom Riddle. The man that you know as Lord Voldemort. I feel that with an extra set of eyes, we may glean some insight into how he came to be."
You sat a little straighter in your chair, this would be interesting. While it wasn't learning powerful spells, you were interested to seem what had been accumulated on Voldemort. That bastard was notoriously hard to track down. Maybe he might even tell you what happened to his hand.
This must have been what Dumbledore was working on all summer. You licked your lips in excitement, eager to start now, but not wanting to rush. There was a vitality to Dumbledore today that had been absent in your previous encounter. His frail body showing a bit of life.
Dumbledore dumped one of the memories into the pensive and poked it with his wand. He gestured for you to lean in, and you did so, familiar with how the process worked.
Minutes later, you came out, your earlier questions pushed far to the back of your mind. You had just seen a child, Tom Riddle, Voldemort, as a child. This was new. You remember that look of anger on his face when Dumbledore chastised him for bullying the other boys in the Orphanage.
If you expected a discussion to happen afterwards, Dumbledore didn't. He dumped another memory into the pensive and gestured for you to lean in. This one was different. It showed a magical census worker, and he was ran off by a family with the name of Gaunt. The most interesting thing was that they spoke Parseltongue. You didn't realize it until the end, but the wizards confusion about what they were saying when you clearly understood them, and the fact that they talked about their ancestry to Salazar Slytherin himself, it was a dead give away.
There was some more information, Merope, had ran off with a Muggle. Morfin the deranged man that ran the census worker off couldn't stop talking about it.
You came out of the memory ready for the next, but it looked like Dumbledore wanted to speak some more. "What did the man at the end say Harry, I find myself unable to speak Parseltongue, and I'm sure you realized that was what he was speaking."
"He was talking about someone named Merope, Headmaster."
"Ahh," said the wizard. "That illuminates the earlier memory much more clearly. Merope was Tom Riddle's mother. You'll notice that Riddle isn't a name associated with a magical family. In fact, it belonged to a rather well to do muggle family up the road from Morfin Gaunt's house."
"So that means.."
"Yes, exactly my boy, Tom Riddle was a half-blood himself. His father was the youngest son of the Riddle family. I wasn't able to secure a memory from them because there are no surviving members of the family. It seems young Tom holds many grudges. I was able to interview the family groundskeeper, an old man that resides on the property, and he was able to give me the history of the area. IT was quite the scandal."
"Now, we have one more memory I wanted to show you, it pertains to what I was discovered this summer."
'Finally,' you thought. You were going to find out what Dumbledore was doing this summer. Maybe you would get some clues as to what hurt him so.
When you're sucked in to the memory, you find yourself in a familiar setting. The same run down shack is present, and if possible, it looks worse. Dumbledore makes his way up to the front door with a purpose. The man stands there, wand in his hand. His mutters are too quiet for you to hear. You try to get closer, but just as you approach the door creaks open.
Inside, there's more wand waving from Dumbledore, he points his wand at the four corners of the room, and with a downward motion, there's the sound of breaking glass. On the floor in front of the both of you, there rests a ring.
It looks like its been thrown without a care.
This ring looks familiar, it's the same one you spied in the office earlier, but the memory one is pristine. The one in the office was blackened and cracked, it had seen better days. A clue.
Memory Dumbledore is cautious, he approaches the ring with great care, wand at ready in his hands.
You see him gesture at the ring repeatedly with his wand, his muttering a mantra. You assume he's running every counter-curse and detection spell he could think of. You're not sure why he's so cautious. It's just a ring right?
Finally, the man seems satisfied with the results of his wand waving. Dumbledore leans down to pick up the ring, and as soon as he hand makes contact with it, he falls forward. Like a puppet with its strings cut.
You expected the memory to end here, but it doesn't.
You wonder how that's possible, you know very little about pensives, but know that the memory is usually from an observer's perspective. You don't see anyone else around thought. There is only Dumbledore. Maybe he's not unconscious like you thought.
With a start, Dumbledore shoots up from the floor, his eyes are wide with what you perceive as fear. He tries to remove the ring from his hand, but it doesn't come off. He gestures at it with his wand, and still, nothing happens.
There's a sizzling sound from his hand where the ring now rests on his finger. His spell casting grows loud, and more vocal.
The room flashes and fills with smoke. Dumbledore is coughing. He falls to his knees, his struggles growing weaker.
You feel fear. You know the mans alright, but just like before when you saw the mans reflection, his pained gaze staring back at you, you felt it there too. This time it's stronger, it seeps into your bones, your mouth is dry and you try and wet your lips. You struggle to say something but you can't. You settle for silently urging the man to get up in your head. There's nothing you can do.
You know this is a memory. The man is obviously alright, its the only way you're able to see this memory now.
The man lays prone on the floor, and you lean in close to see that his chest is still rising. You can tell that his breathing is labored, and that with the way his eyes move, there's some greater struggle happening that you're not witness too.
You lean in closer to get a look at the ring. As you do, Dumbledore sits up again, this time, his eyes are red.
The memory fades, and comes into focus again. This time you're in the Forbidden Forest.
Dumbledore's walking, and he looks normal, all except for his arm, which is all puffed up and painful looking. It reminds you of the time you were cooking breakfast for the Dursleys and some of the oil popped from the pan and landed on your arm.
In front of you the tree's move, and a Unicorn steps through. Dumbledore's wand flashes up, and the Unicorn screams. It falls to the ground instantly, its throat cut from a silent spell.
Dumbledore falls on the unicorn like a feral animal, supping at the silvery blood flowing from the creatures neck.
Your fear has turned to horror. You realize now that you should have been more cautious. That gut feeling, the wrongness, and all the clues fall into place.
Dumbledore isn't who you think he is. Your mind flashes back to your second year, when you encountered Ginny in the chamber of secrets, her eyes hadn't been red, but her mannerism had been different, they had been that of Voldemort.
With a sudden lurch, you're jerked from the memory.
Dumbledore sits across from you, calmly, but his demeanor is entirely changed. He looks relieved, anticipatory, on the cusp of movement. He's watching your every action, reading you like a book.
You make eye contact with him, and you feel the intrusion immediately. There is nothing you can do to clear your mind, you're adrift in a sea of panic, of fear. You're trapped. You're right where he wants you to be. Alone, with only Ron and Hermione knowing that you're meeting him.
You're not staring into the eyes of Dumbledore, but instead, Voldemort.
He, not you, is the first to break eye contact. And he speaks. His grandfatherly tone gone. "I see you've been nosing about like always Potter. Of course you would be the first to discover something. I had hoped that when I got rid of the Creevey's that would have been that. But, there you go, putting your nose where it doesn't belong."
Words are hard to form, your brain feels like it's trying to rip itself free from your skull. The man's intrusion had all the finesse of Dumbledore, but was stronger than when you had received instruction from Snape. There was an animal ferocity to it, a tearing as the man sought and ripped the information from your mind.
"You're.. You're…" you struggle to say, but Dumbledore finishes it for you. Just like before, he writes his name in the air with his wand, 'I Am Lord Voldemort.'
I would expect no less, Potter. You've always had a penchant for figuring things out you shouldn't. But that won't be a worry for too long. I like my place here. And when I'm done with you, I'll finish with your little friends as well. They're on their way to my office for an urgent meeting, it seems you've taken ill and will need to be escorted back to your dorm.
He's standing now, his eyes gleaming and red. There's an uncharacteristic snarl on Dumbledore's face that belongs wholly to Voldemort.
He sighs, I'll have to be more cautious in the future, who would have thought some stupid muggle-borns would have noticed that I stopped drinking and eating. A side effect of the unicorns blood. Everything tastes like dirt. There are more far reaching consequences to my actions, but when I can restore myself to my own body, I will no longer have need of it.
There's a knock at the door, and you go to scream, but your mouth doesn't work.
"Ah, ah, ah," the man tuts. "I can't have you giving up the game, when its just started. Obliviate, you've fallen ill due to the stress of my tutelage. Stupefy."
Your world goes black.