Chapter 27

When Harry woke, he felt like he had just emerged from a coma rather than a single night's sleep. He didn't feel rested at all. As soon as he opened his eyes, all the memories of the night before came pouring back to him. It was as if someone was stabbing him repeatedly. He immediately wished he hadn't woken up at all.

Cornelia bustled over to him and immediately checked his ear. She dabbed some more of her stinging black liquid on the wound, making Harry feel even worse. Then she summoned a tray of breakfast, but Harry had no interest in food. The mere thought made him nauseous. He looked over at his friends. Ginny was pushing her breakfast around her plate in an attempt to make it look like she had at least tried eating it. Her eyes were red and puffy from the night before and she moved her injured arm gingerly. Ron had managed to eat a whole piece of toast, but had pushed the rest aside. He was laying down again, his arms crossed over his eyes. Hermione's tray was also nearly untouched, but she had forgone it for the newest edition of the Daily Prophet. Normally Harry would have asked what the news had to say, but today he had no interest. It would simply list the names of the people killed; Dumbledore's name was likely to be the first one listed.

Harry nearly retched at the thought. Not only was he the reason Dumbledore had been distracted and killed, but he had led the students into battle; it didn't matter if they had come voluntarily, he still felt the guilt for their deaths. He would be responsible for every death until he hunted Voldemort down and killed him; or was killed in the attempt. His mind wandered to the Amorgape spell. Why had it affected Voldemort so? And why hadn't it had that reaction when they tested it in the crypt? In the past, all he had to do was ask Dumbledore and all his questions were answered. Now, however, Harry doubted he would ever understand what had happened.

Most of the students were allowed to return to their common rooms that afternoon. The younger students already knew what had happened. The common room was eerily quiet when Harry entered with the other returning Gryffindors. They had lost three of their own, and Harry knew that it was only through pure luck that it hadn't been any from his year. The usually bright common room had been shrouded in black, in honor of both the fallen students and Dumbledore. Ravenclaw had lost two students, Hufflepuff three, and Slytherin two. Harry wondered vaguely what was happening in the Slytherin Common room. Blaise and the other Slytherins that had joined Harry surely didn't expect a warm welcome, but Harry worried that there would be intra-house violence.

Dumbledore's funeral was the next day. Security was again tight, but somehow Harry knew Voldemort and the Death Eaters wouldn't try anything; not after the effects of the Amorgape spell. Everyone was wearing their best school robes, with one alteration; their house crests had been changed to Hogwarts crests, and they had all been provided with special ties in Hogwarts colors to represent house unity.

Professor McGonagall led the Gryffindors out of Gryffindor Tower and down into the dungeons. She opened a door Harry had never noticed and led them down a long stone stairway. The stairway opened into a massive underground chamber, filled with chairs and people. Harry immediately noticed a knot of redheads. Mrs. Weasley bustled over to them, dabbing her eyes with an overused handkerchief. She grabbed Ron and Ginny at the same time, pulling them into a tight hug. Then she insisted on crushing Hermione and Harry as well. The entire Weasley family was there, including a very uncomfortable looking Percy. Harry had never seen the twins look so sober.

Almost the entire Order of the Phoenix had turned out for the funeral. In addition, many other members of the wizarding community had also come out. Harry saw Neville helping his grandmother into a chair near the front. Oliver Wood, Alicia Spinnet, and Angelina Johnson were standing with Katie Bell, talking in hushed tones. Harry recognized many other former students, and even more that he didn't know. Amelia Bones, newly elected Minister of Magic, was standing with her niece, Susan, and several other ministry officials. Madam Maxime was leaning against Hagrid, who looked like he would burst into tears at any moment. Despite all the people, Harry noticed that the only Slytherins who were in attendance were those who had fought against the Death Eaters.

Harry and Hermione, along with all the Weasleys, joined the quay that would take them past Dumbledore's casket. Harry realized, as the line slowly moved forward, that there were other graves in the room. Between the huge pillars that held up the ceiling, stone sarcophagi had been set. After reading the inscriptions on several, Harry realized that this was the burial place for all the headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts.

When Harry finally got close enough to see Dumbledore' body, he almost tricked himself into thinking that headmaster was only sleeping. The headmaster looked so much more peaceful than he had when Harry had last knelt over his body. His long silver hair and beard had been combed out and he had been dressed in his finest robes. His glasses had been repaired. His right arm had been arranged so that it lay over his chest, clasping his wand. His left arm rested stiffly at his side.

Harry felt hot tears spring to his eyes once more. The line behind him was pushing him along. "You won't have died in vain," he whispered, his voice cracking. "I promise I will defeat Voldemort."

When everyone had taken their seats facing Dumbledore's casket the funeral began. Harry listened quietly as speakers told of Dumbledore's triumphs: his defeat of Grindelwald, his alchemy work, his discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, his promotion to Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the many awards he had received.

Harry, though, thought they had left out some rather important details, like his pride for being on a Chocolate Frog Card, his love of Lemon Drops, and his undying love for Hogwarts and its students.

The funeral ended with Dumbledore's internment into a stone sarcophagus bearing his granite likeness.

Harry moved through the throng of people leaving the crypt, trying not to think about anything. He really didn't want to go back to the Gryffindor common room and pack for the train home tomorrow. He certainly didn't want to think about having to return to the Dursley's for another summer. "I'm going to take a walk," he told Ginny, Ron, and Hermione.

"Do you want any company?" Ginny asked, touching his arm.

Harry shook his head. "I just need to be alone for a little while. I won't be gone long."

Ginny gave him a small, reassuring smile. "I'll be there when you get back." She pushed herself up on her toes to give him a soft kiss.

Harry walked away from the crowd, knowing he would get through this because of his friends. He strolled aimlessly through the castle, not really paying attention to where he was going. He found a pebble on the flagstone floor and whittled away his time by kicking it ahead of him. He was, therefore, fairly surprised when he heard the loud sound of stone grating against stone instead of the tinkle of the skipping pebble. Looking up, he found that he was outside Dumbledore's office. The stone gargoyle had leapt aside, and Harry wondered who was leaving the office. However, after a few minutes, no one appeared. Harry moved closer and looked up the motionless spiral staircase. He could see no one. Cautiously, he stepped onto the first stair and felt the familiar sensation as it began to ascend.

He stepped off at the top, hesitating at the closed door. He knocked lightly, but heard no response, so he pushed the door open slowly. Entering the office of the dead Headmaster was strange. The office looked exactly as it had the last time Harry had seen it, except that now there was a portrait of Dumbledore hanging next to the other Headmasters and Headmistresses.

"Hello, Harry."

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Dumbledore's voice. The voice had not come from the portrait. Spinning, he saw the Headmaster enter the office from a small side room. Harry stumbled backward, his knees having gone weak. Luckily he landed in a squashy chair in front of the desk. I've gone in mad with grief!

"You're not crazy, Harry," Dumbledore said with a soft smile. The candlelight glimmered in his half-moon glasses. He seemed solid, not like a ghost.

"Sir, you're dead," Harry stammered. A strange thought crossed his mind. Anyone could have plucked a bit of Dumbledore's hair at the funeral and put it into a Polyjuice potion; but what advantage was there is imitating a man everyone knew to be dead. Still, there could be no other option. "You can't be the real Dumbledore." Harry reached for his wand.

"I'm glad your first reaction is suspicion, Harry," Dumbledore replied. "But I'm afraid you are wrong this time. I can prove I am your headmaster." Dumbledore then proceeded to repeat Harry's prophecy in its entirety.

Harry shook his head in disbelief. "Sir, I don't understand."

"I must admit, this is strange for me as well, Harry." Dumbledore moved behind his desk and sat down. A baby Fawkes squawked from his perch and Dumbledore smiled fondly at the bird. The headmaster fumbled around in a drawer for a few moments before drawing out something small and setting it on the desk. Harry instantly recognized the golden time-turner.

"I thought we smashed them all in the Ministry of Magic last year."

"So did I," Dumbledore replied, "but even I have been known to be mistaken every once in a while."

"But why is this time-turner important, sir?"

"This did not come into my possession until two days ago, Harry. Not even an hour before the castle was attacked. I must admit, there have been many strange occurrences in my life, but I believe this may top the list. I was sitting here, at this desk when I appeared where you are sitting now, Harry."

Harry must have looked incredibly perplexed, because Dumbledore smiled briefly before continuing. "I found myself facing myself from the future, Harry. My older self proceeded to inform me of the imminent attack. But that is not the reason he had come. He proposed an incredible idea to me, one which I never would have thought of on my own. He would take my place in the battle, the battle that he knew I was to die in."

"But why?" Harry blurted. "I mean, sir, what is the point? Everyone thinks you are dead."

"That, Harry, is exactly the point. There are many advantages to having the entire world believe you are dead. Voldemort certainly used it to his advantage. I hope to do the same. Voldemort believes I am dead, and except for you, Harry, so does everyone else. An unexpected resurrection on my part will certainly throw Voldemort off guard, and if at a critical moment, may even help us to defeat him."

"But what will you do until then, sir?"

"I am leaving Hogwarts tonight, and will travel to a place I know I will not be discovered. There I plan to immerse myself in study in hopes of finding ways to weaken Voldemort so that you may more easily kill him, Harry. My older self, unfortunately, could give me only tantalizing hints about the future of the war. However, I know there will come a time where I will use this time-turner to do the exact thing my older self did."

"Come back in time and die for real?"

Dumbledore nodded. "None of us can live forever, Harry."

Harry was feeling as thought tons of weight had been lifted off him. Dumbledore wasn't really dead, at least not his Dumbledore. "Sir, I have a question about…"

"The Amorgape spell, right?"

Harry nodded.

Dumbledore chuckled softly. "We really need to begin teaching Latin and Greek in depth. Amorgape, Harry, is an ancient spell, rooted in both Latin and Greek. It is a love spell."

"A love spell?"

"Yes, a love spell. That is why you felt so very tired after having performed it. It takes every ounce of love you possess and turns it into pure light, when performed under the right conditions. Alone, it would not have done much, but when performed together it is immensely powerful. Pure love, Harry, is like poison to Voldemort. Enough love was poured into that spell to cover the entire castle and force Voldemort out."

"So it was the solution to saving Hogwarts," Harry mumbled.

"It was, indeed."

"Sir, may I ask one more question?"

"I believe that was a question, Harry," Dumbledore mused with a wry smile. "But I will allow a second question."

"Sir, I ran into Sna…I mean, Professor Snape in the dungeons and he told me he was loyal to whichever side served his best interest at the time…"

Dumbledore held up his to silence Harry. "You must trust me, Harry, when I tell you Professor Snape is on our side."

"But I never saw him at the battle. And come to think of it, I haven't seen him since."

"That is because he was forced to flee the castle."

"What?"

Dumbledore sighed lightly. "Professor Snape has consented to play a double agent for many years, a very dangerous job that placed his life at risk. This past year, however, was even more risky because Voldemort was becoming suspicious, as were other Death Eaters. You have been told all the inside information we had Harry. Professor Snape could no longer help us, Voldemort was too suspicious. So, when Peter Pettigrew appeared at his office two days ago, he was forced to make a choice. After you left, he cornered a group of Death Eaters who had escaped the tunnels. He killed several, but was forced to run before he was killed as well. Voldemort has no doubt learned of his treachery by now, and will not rest until he is dead. Therefore, Professor McGonagall sent Severus to take cover at headquarters. It is the only place he will be safe, though I'm sure he will not be content to stay there for long."

"So then we are cut off from all information from Voldemort?"

"Except for what we could glean from the captured Death Eaters, we no longer have a spy feeding us inside information.

"And what about Pettigrew…"

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "I'm surprised you don't know yet," he replied with just the hint of a smile. "Peter was one of the Death Eaters we captured." He flipped open a copy of the Daily Prophet that was sitting on the desk. The headline screamed: PETTIGREW LIVES: BLACK CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES.

Harry leaned back in his chair and sighed. "I wish Sirius could have lived to see this."

"Who says he can't see it?" Dumbledore replied cryptically.

Harry looked up at the headmaster with moist eyes; all the emotions of the last few days were threatening to spill over again. "If only I could have killed Voldemort instead of just driving him out of the castle. This whole war would be close to over."

"Perhaps it was not time for that yet," said Dumbledore. "But you found a very effective spell that you can use against him. You must have realized that the power you possess that he knows not is love, Harry."

Harry nodded. "But you can't kill someone with love."

"Don't underestimate its power."

Harry gave Dumbledore a questioning look, but Dumbledore said nothing more. Harry knew it was time for him to go back to the common room.

"Will I be seeing you again?" Harry asked tentatively as he reached for the door.

"Oh, I think there is quite a strong possibility of that," Dumbledore returned with a smile. "In the mean time, I will send you letters, especially if I find anything that may be of value to the war." The headmaster looked as if he was preparing to leave as well. He fastened his traveling cloak around his neck and gently scooped up the fledgling phoenix.

"Won't it look suspicious if Fawkes is gone?" Harry blurted.

"Not at all, Harry. Phoenixes almost always leave when their master's die. They will live in the wild until they pick someone new to be their master. It would be far more suspicious if I left Fawkes here."

Harry nodded. "Goodbye, sir."

"Goodbye, Harry."

Harry didn't look back as he left the headmaster's office. An enormous weight had been lifted off his shoulders, with the knowledge that Dumbledore wasn't dead, but it was replaced by the immense responsibility of keeping the secret. Even though the headmaster lived secretly, there were still the ten dead students who had died for real. And Harry felt no more confident about defeating Voldemort than he had before the battle; he could see no end to the war.

The common room was crowded but quiet. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were all sitting in front of the fire, quietly discussing something. Harry sat down beside Ginny and immediately pulled her into his arms. Just the feel of her warm body close to him was a comfort.

"What were you talking about?" he asked quietly once he had finally let Ginny go.

"I saw Blaise after the funeral," Hermione whispered softly. "And I asked him how things were going in Slytherin. He said that most of the children whose parents are Death Eaters have gone home already. Malfoy left first, of course, seeing as he actually had a hand in everything that happened, and the rest followed. Blaise doesn't suspect any of them plan on returning next year."

"Well none of us may be returning next year," Ron added gloomily.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked again.

"The Daily Prophet is reporting that the Ministry and the school administrators are talking about closing Hogwarts. They are afraid that there could be an attack again next year, and the Ministry's defenses are stretched so thin already that they can't really afford to keep sending Aurors to protect the school."

"But we're safer here, in numbers, than we are at home," Harry argued.

"You don't have to tell us that," Ginny reminded him. "McGonagall feels the same way, but she just doesn't have the power behind her that Dumbledore had with the Ministry. What she says should happen to the school doesn't mean anything."

Harry put his head in his hands. "Well, Hogwarts or not, as soon as I turn seventeen I'm leaving the Dursley's."

"Why wait that long?" Ron commented. "Ignore them and come straight to HQ off the train."

"I can't," Harry replied. "I don't want to, but I have to go back. There are protections I have at the Dursley's that I don't even have at headquarters."

"And if Hogwarts closes, what do we do?" Ginny asked.

"I've talked to several teachers," Hermione replied, "who have promised to hold lessons at their own homes if Hogwarts closes. That way the older students can be prepared for O.W.L.'s and N.E.W.T.'s, while the younger students can continue learning basic magic."

The next morning Harry lugged his packed trunk down the common room steps, well aware that it might be the last time he did so. He loved Hogwarts, but knew that if it didn't reopen, he would simply become more active with the Order. He joined Hermione, Ron, and Ginny, who were waiting for him before they all headed down to the entrance to catch a carriage to the train. Dumbledore's words about love, "don't underestimate its power," kept popping into his mind. He looked at his friends and knew he was loved. He knew, somewhere, there had to be the power to fully defeat Voldemort; he would spend his lifetime searching for it, if that's what it took.

The End

A/N: I wasn't really happy with this ending, but I couldn't come up with anything better, so I hope its not too disappointing. I probably forgot to tie up a few loose ends, so if there is something I forgot send me a signed review and I'll reply to it with the explanation. Thanks to everyone who reviewed. Add me to your author alert so you will be notified when I post new stories. I have a few in the works that should be up soon. Thanks!