Questions/Fears Concerning:

Harry and the Prophecy?—Yes, Harry is still part of the prophecy. The first prophecy is still valid, and the second (concerning Voldemort's resurrection) has just been fulfilled (obviously).

Speed of Story—I understand a lot has been happening in the story in a very short amount of time (such as the last few chapters occurring within a span of a few days-plot wise), but in real life things can occur this quickly, so I don't think it's all that farfetched. However, I do apologize if I have given anyone 'reader-whiplash'. With that said, there is a calm coming (I believe the characters have earned it :P) so hopefully that will ease the pace of the plot and give everyone a moment to breathe before more chaos happens.

Voldemort and Harry's connection—It stems back to the failed curse. As Dumbledore explained in Part 18: Distraction, Voldemort's hatred for Harry touched him while it was still stemming from Voldemort (casting the AK), and, when the curse failed and returned back to Voldemort, that connection was never severed because the AK had been unable to kill Harry. It is also why Harry is particularly sensitive to whenever Voldemort is feeling any sort of hatred.

Endless Peril, Depressing Tale—Hmm, I suppose it does help being the author, knowing what is going to happen and all of that. I suppose things do seem rather dire, and it is just the beginning (of the end), but rest assured, I do not write dark stories, just shaded ones :P. Besides, what's the point of writing (and reading) a 'good vs evil' story that has no struggle? Have faith.

British Police having Guns—I only learned after I wrote the last part that British Police do not usually carry firearms. Sigh, I cannot believe that after doing research on Britain's version of SWAT I managed to miss that fact, so I apologize for the error, but will be leaving the part as it is.

Part 24: A Matter of Thought

Severus watched Pomfrey work, handing over whatever potion she requested.

"Thank you," she said, gently forcing another vial of potion down Dumbledore's throat.

Severus had to look away as he fought back a memory of the future he had left.

The memory of Dumbledore's death.

It had been less than a year before Harry had sent him to the past. Voldemort had come across another vile spell, one that turned the victim's own magic against them. In essence, it recreated the horrid phenomenon some witches and wizards, who fear their magic, occasionally exhibit. Chaotic magic. Only this was worse. Far worse. For it did not merely corrupt an individual's magic, but directed their twisted magic back upon themselves, forcing their own magic to poison and harm their minds. In the end, Albus Dumbledore had lost all sense of time, place, and self. His fate had been worse than his late sister, Arianna. Within a month, his mind was all but destroyed, and it was only through sheer strength of will and Severus' occlumencing assistance that he had lasted that long. Most lost themselves within a week.

'An old spell for an old man,' Voldemort had said.

Severus swallowed. He couldn't allow anything even remotely like that happen again.

"Poppy, are the potions working?" Pomona asked, entering the infirmary with Remus, Minerva, and Filius.

Madam Pomfrey looked up, her face grave. "I've only been able to minimize some of the damage I've detected, primarily internal bleeding. This is a serious head injury, and I fear fragments of his skull have perforated into his brain, as I've detected minute clusters of dead brain cells. Of course, I've healed the visible damage, but cannot go much beyond that, even with the potions."

"What do you mean?" Filius asked before glancing up at Fawkes who had perched himself at the foot of Albus' bed. "Couldn't Fawkes heal him?"

Pomfrey shook her head. "That would only make things worse. Sure, it would heal his skull and flesh, no problem, but in doing so it would summon the bone fragments currently resting in his brain through more brain tissue, damaging his mind further."

Filius frowned.

"It's why I opted to fuse the skull fracture rather than cast the generic healing spell. I cannot attempt anything that may move those fragments because there is nothing that can heal brain tissue. Not even phoenix tears."

Severus glanced at the recently healed area, seeing a faint 'dent' at the edge of Dumbledore's brow where the fusion had occurred just beneath.

"Are you saying he has irreparable brain damage?" Minerva asked faintly, hand on her chest. "That he'll never recover from whatever damage has been done?"

Filius stepped closer to Albus' bed, his eyes growing sorrowful as Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. This could not be happening. Meanwhile, Remus looked down at the floor, deep in thought.

"Surely something can be done to reverse what's happened," Pomona said, not willing to give in to despair just yet.

"The human mind is a fragile thing, as you all know. Magic cannot fix everything," Pomfrey sighed, causing some of their thoughts to stray to the Longbottoms.

"Wait, before we begin assuming the worst, why don't we call in someone who knows more about head trauma?" Remus suggested.

Madam Pomfrey looked up, slightly irked. "I am considered an expert in this area. I have been called to St. Mungos many times to assist in treating–"

"Spells affecting the mind, but not actual physical brain trauma. Let's face it, with magic, we rarely experience this sort of thing. Our innate magic usually protects us against skull fractures and the like, but this injury was caused by a high powered projectile that frankly moves faster than many, if not all, objects in our world. We need to go to a Healer who has experience in his kind of injury, and we are not going to find them in our world," Remus countered frankly.

"Remus, you cannot be suggesting—" Minerva began.

"I agree with Remus," Severus put in. "We need to take the Headmaster to someone with knowledge in this area."

"But muggles? Their methods are downright barbaric!" she continued.

"They do not have magic, so must go about things differently," Severus stated.

"They have specialized equipment to diagnose and treat these sorts of things," Remus said. "I've had some firsthand experience with their . . . 'x-ray's. They were able to produce an image of my brain and leg bones after an automobile accident. It was remarkable. I have not seen anything remotely capable of that anywhere else."

"I have a friend who has some contacts in muggle hospitals. I will see them and see if they know anyone who may be able to help," Filius chirped in.

They looked to McGonagall, waiting for her thoughts on the matter. She sighed, but nodded.

"Very well, but we are not going to allow them to do anything to him until we have thoroughly discussed it," she said.

"Of course," Filius said, before hurrying out.

O o O o O

Madam Bones could hardly believe what she was seeing.

There was a massive blob of glass in the middle of the Hall of Prophecy. The shelves on one side of the hall were all completely bare of prophecy orbs, while a number of shelves on the other side had been blasted apart and were missing a few orbs here and there. She walked around the glass mound and made her way to the area that seemed to be a point of origin.

She stepped beside the spot that seemed to be the root of the spell 'cone' that had caused the mass destruction of orbs. Looking up, her eyes scanned the large chamber, amazed by how much damage the two powerful wizards had done in less than a minute.

Shaking her head, her eyes glanced to the shelf on her left.

There was blood splatter and something. . . .

She turned to face it fully, pulling out her wand. Carefully, she extracted an odd metal object from the side panel of the shelf. It was a misshapen mass of metal no larger than the end of her pinky.

Well, she found the bullet.

"Madam," an auror called from the other side of the heap of glass.

"Yes?" she asked, placing the bullet in a small bag within her side pocket.

"I've found some blood," he said, pointing down near where he was standing.

That certainly caught her attention and she quickly made her way over. From their initial scans, they found that there were only two pairs of apparition and disapparation points entering and leaving the room, which meant that Dumbledore was not the only one who had suffered an injury.

Looking down, sure enough, there were several drops of blood trailing to the 96th shelf.

Hmm, so Voldemort has been injured. . . .

O o O o O

Filius, true to his word, got in contact with his friend, Todd, who insisted they bring Albus to the 'neurologist' (brain doctor) as soon as possible.

"How are we going to get him there?" Pomona asked, glancing at Dumbledore who was still unconscious.

"I believe a portkey would be best, after we have ensured we won't accidently jar anything further," Pomfrey said.

Severus nodded. "A Petrificus Totalus should do just that."

"I agree," Filius said before holding up a plain yellow pencil. "Todd has already arranged a room for us to arrive in at the muggle hospital in London. This is the portkey. We need to leave within the next three hours. The doctor who will be seeing Albus is a Squib, so we need not worry about hiding magic from him, but I suggest we go in muggle clothing just the same."

"Very good," Minerva said, still not completely convinced this was the best course of action, but there wasn't much of an option. She glanced at Albus in worry, before freezing. "Albus?"

That immediately caused everyone to turn, finding Dumbledore staring at them.

Pomfrey hurried toward him, the others close behind.

"Albus, how are you feeling?" she asked.

"Sore. Wha' happened?" he asked, before frowning at his poor speech; though, at least it wasn't as bad as before. There was now only a very faint trace of slurred pronunciation, as if his tongue and lips were tired. Still, Filius and the others had to force themselves not to look at each other worriedly.

"Fawkes brought you to Minerva's quarters. Do you remember?" Pomfrey asked.

Albus shook his head, clearly confused. "Last thing I recall is Tom and fiendfyre."

"Can you tell us what happened before that? Madam Bones found evidence that you dueled him in the Department of Mysteries," Filius asked.

"Glass," Dumbledore stated, closing his eyes. They gave him a moment, as it was obviously taking him some effort to remember. He reopened his eyes and looked at McGonagall. "I always enjoy our time together, my dear. Did you know, your favorite tea cup has an uncanny 'semblance to the prophecy orbs in the Hall of Prophecy? Hmm, I wonder if the Unspeakables will be upset with how the hall looks now. Tom was quite displeased when I prevented him from hearing Trelawney." Dumbledore shook his head before blinking at them. "Forgive me. I'm finding it hard to concentrate. What was your question?"

Madam Pomfrey gave his hand a pat. "It's alright, Albus." She glanced back to the others before refocusing. Dumbledore seemed oblivious to her sudden hesitancy, although he always seemed to look someplace else whenever someone became uncomfortable for whatever reason. "Albus, because of what's happened, we feel it best we take you to a specialist."

"Oh?" Albus asked before continuing. "That's reasonable I suppose. In my youth, my mother was always on me and my brother for jumping on the bed. Said she didn't want our noggins to get bumped and jumbled."

Severus stepped forward. "Yes, which is why we believe it best for you to see a muggle doctor who specializes in head injuries, Headmaster."

"Very well. When do we go?" Albus asked, his right eye squinting slightly, as if in pain.

"Well, unless you have any aversion to it, we were thinking within the hour," Madam Pomfrey said, giving him a concerned look as he lifted his hand and placed it on his right eyebrow. "Albus?"

"Eye-ache," he stated, closing his eyes.

Remus looked at Filius and the others. "Shall we then? I believe the sooner we go the better."

Even McGonagall agreed.

O o O o O

"How is he, dear?" Perenelle asked, placing a gentle hand on the side of her husband's arm.

"Better, though I fear I was unable to block the connection as well as I had hoped," Nicholas said, turning away from Harry's room but remaining in the doorway. "He sensed pain."

Perenelle frowned. "Pain? Surely you don't mean . . . was Voldemort injured?"

They had been kept apprised of the situation in the Wizarding World, and knew of the recent attacks, as well as the break out at Azkaban and of the free wandering Dementors.

"I believe so. Any word about Albus?" Nicholas asked.

Perenelle shook her head. "Not much. Minerva simply said they were on their way to see a specialist. They are worried he may have suffered more than a mere concussion."

"Hmm, I feared as much when she told us about his injury involving a muggle gun. Wizards underestimate the power of armed and agitated muggles."

"Quite," Perenelle agreed.

O o O o O

"Dr. Price, this is Albus Dumbledore," Filius introduced.

Dr. Price smiled and stepped forward, relieved that at least some wizards knew how to dress somewhat appropriately in the muggle world, though they were still dressed . . . peculiarly.

The Headmaster, who was dressed in black slacks with a black and purple tie-dye t-shirt under a velvet vest, was seated. A man in dark clothing stood beside him and was by far the most appropriately dressed for the muggle world, although he appeared to be an adult goth. On the other side of the chair was a woman in old fashioned nurse attire and in front of her was a very short man who looked more like a child with a mustache than anything else. On the whole, they looked like a mismatched group from a circus . . . either that or escapees from a mental ward who had kidnapped a nurse.

"Good evening, sir," Price said, extending his right hand for Dumbledore to take.

He carefully observed the older man's movements, watching for anything that may show how severe the recent brain trauma was. So far, he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary as he clasped Dumbledore's hand in his own.

"How are you feeling, sir?" he asked.

"Honestly, not too bad, although I certainly feel off," Albus said, before his eyes strayed from Price's face and looked at the pictures on the wall behind him.

"Well, that's understandable," Price said before looking at the others in the room who quickly introduced themselves. With that done, Price refocused on his patient. "I'd like to carry out a few tests as the CT Scanner is being prepared. You all can either wait in the next room or sit quietly over there. These tests do not require privacy."

They did as they were told, moving to the left side of the room, although Madam Pomfrey remained the closest to watch.

Price guided Albus to the examination table and the Headmaster promptly sat himself on the edge.

"Alright, fists please," Dr. Price said after carrying out the simple things he did with every patient, such as blood pressure and pulse rate.

Dumbledore held out his hands and closed them into fists as requested.

"Try to keep them where they are as best you can," Price said, placing his hands on top of his and applying a gentle downward pressure before stopping and jotting a note down on his clipboard. He then repeated the process, pushing Dumbledore's fists upward, inward, and outward.

He nodded to himself, not really surprised by his findings. It matched with what he had been told about the man's injury.

He continued on to other strength, motor control, and hand-eye coordination tests, marking down things on his chart as the others watched in silence.

"Well, I will wait until after I review your CT Scan to share my findings with you. I like to have as much information as possible before I share anything with my patients," he said.

"I understand," Dumbledore said simply as a nurse knocked and entered, pushing a wheelchair in front of her.

"The CT scanner is ready, doctor," she said.

"Very good," Price said, taking the wheelchair from her and placing it near the exam table.

His patient's eyebrows rose.

"It's hospital policy when serious head trauma is involved," Price explained gently, unsure how the Head of the Wizengamot would respond to the somewhat demeaning position of being pushed in a wheelchair.

He needn't have worried.

Dumbledore's face broke into a wide grin and quickly sat himself in it, patting the armrests. "I've always wanted to do a wheelie in one of these!"

Dr. Price blinked, deciding this man either had suffered more brain damage than his tests had suggested or he really was as nuts as some people said. He was leaning toward the latter.

"You will do no such thing!" Pomfrey exclaimed. "You're here because you have brain damage, Albus! I will not allow you to risk receiving more!"

"Cushion charms, Poppy, cushion charms," he bantered, although it was clear he knew he had lost this fight.

She huffed, shaking her head. Severus stood by the wall, crossing his arms.

"Shall we then?" Dr. Price asked, wondering if it was safe to interrupt.

"Yes, Dr. Price," Filius said cheerfully, choosing to ignore the minor argument that had just transpired.

Price, pushing the wheelchair, led the way with Severus, Filius, and Pomfrey following closely behind.

Entering the room with the CT Scanner, Price felt those behind him stare at the contraption in front of them, while Dumbledore leaned forward, amazed.

"It's like a giant LifeSaver sweet! Marvelous!"

O o O o O

Ministry leaders and workers were each grateful when the day was considered done and they were permitted to return home to their families for dinner.

The Oblivators sighed and shook out their wand hands, trying to drive away the soreness in their wrists at having to cast so many obliviates in the past fifteen hours.

Aurors all sagged on their couches, thankful they had been able to return home and relax after the craziest day of the decade. They had dueled Death Eaters, capturing a few while driving back the rest — granted, there was little 'driving back' as the Death Eaters had usually just chosen to leave. They had made sure the muggleborn families were safe after relocating them and setting up stricter security around their new homes. They had also convinced muggle authorities in-the-know that the danger was over (for now), and that they were doing their best to ensure nothing like this happened again. The promise sounded hollow even to their ears. And finally, they began setting up maps that would hopefully help in tracking the movements of the renegade dementors.

Madam Bones closed her eyes, sinking into a chair as the sound of water filling her bathtub echoed toward her. She had just returned from the Ministry and had seen the charred remnants of the Minister's office. It was a wonder anyone left that room alive.

Bones sighed. Auror Doe had not. She had been killed by Voldemort upon his arrival, before he had used the Minister as a shield against Dumbledore. And then Dumbledore had managed to get a reaction from him, causing him to lash out, tossing the Minister aside as he unleashed a heavy dose of fiendfyre. Fudge had been beside himself when he recounted that experience.

She shook her head.

The Statute of Secrecy was still holding, but just barely. The Muggle Prime Minister was understandably livid. It was only thanks to her quick thinking of promptly providing him with all of the information they had that prevented him from doing something truly rash. And Fudge hadn't helped the situation at all. He really needed to go.

Madam Bones slowly stood up, wondering what changes the last 24 hours would bring. Everything would be out in the Daily Prophet in the morning. The Wizarding World would know Voldemort was truly back, and back with a vengeance. They would learn the risks he was willing to take, the fact he no longer cared much for the Statute of Secrecy (not that he ever really cared about it) and that he had ravaged many areas of the world, both wizard and muggle, in the span of only a few hours.

He and his numbers had emptied Azkaban, convinced the dementors to rebel (not that that was hard), destroyed seven muggleborn homes, broke through the Ministry Wards (she suspected at least one traitor in the Ministry ranks), broke into the Hall of Prophecy, and utterly ruined the Minister's office. Five muggleborn families, seven aurors and over twenty muggles (police and pedestrians) had been killed, while fifteen aurors and nearly a hundred muggles had been injured.

Was the Ministry ready for a war against this monster? Was the world?

O o O o O

Dr. Price motioned them to sit. Dumbledore had fallen asleep and was blissfully resting in the room next door with a nurse who would wake him every two hours, as was protocol. Severus, Filius, and Poppy sat down, glancing anxiously at the folder on Price's lap.

"So?" Pomfrey asked, getting a little impatient. She was used to being the Healer, not the concerned and worried party.

Dr. Price straightened and turned the folder around to face them before opening it.

"Considering the initial damage of his injury, he is doing very well. Your Blood Vessel Repairing and Blood Replenishing potions helped prevent more serious conditions from cropping up, such as subarachnoid hemorrhaging and subdural hematomas," Dr. Price began.

"I am sensing a 'however'," Severus stated.

"Yes." Price flipped a page over, revealing a brain scan image. "As you can see, there are fragments of bone that pierced into the right side of his frontal lobe. These four—" He pointed to 4 tiny shards near the point of entry. "—Do not worry me much, but these two—" He moved the end of his pen and tapped the page. "—Are a different story. The piece behind and above his right eye has me the most concerned. Despite the assistance the potions have provided, this bone fragment has caused substantial pressure due to swelling to build behind his eye and down onto the optic nerve. If left untreated, it may cause irreparable vision problems in his right eye, not to mention damage brain tissue around the immediate area. As for the other, it is of concern because of how deeply it has penetrated into the frontal lobe. Now, after examining him, I do not believe the damage this piece caused is severe, but minor to moderate—which frankly astounds me. I don't know if it was because of the immediate treatment he received from you, his innate magic, or what, but the overall damage he has suffered would barely be classified as a moderate traumatic brain injury. He is a very fortunate man."

"Okay, but what does the damage he has mean, exactly?" Filius chirped.

"I will be frank with you all, as it's nearly impossible to provide a gentle explanation where this is concerned. As the bone fragment entered his brain and traveled, it disturbed the tissue around and behind it, pulling tiny portions of brain matter along as it went. Now, in this instance, it is not as catastrophic as it sounds, as the bone fragments were thin and sharp instead of blunt and coarse, but I would be lying if I said this did not have serious consequences that must be addressed."

"Alright, what are we facing?" Pomfrey asked. "How can we help him; what can we expect?"

"The frontal lobe is primarily responsible for conscious thought, voluntary movement, and individual personality characteristics. Now, after my examination of him, I found the left side of his body is noticeably weaker than his right; granted, he's still the strongest and fastest man I have ever seen his age, as his reactions and fine motor skills rival most middle aged men, but the fact remains that his left side has noticeably suffered. Primarily, his movements on the left side are slower and less fluid than his right, enough that it has impacted his pronunciation."

"Can this be fixed?" Filius asked worriedly.

"It should be through physical therapy, speech therapy, and exercise. Though frail, the mind is a very resilient thing," Price assured. "But his physical condition is only part of it. Due to the nature of his injury, I need to caution you all of the psychological and mental effects this may have on him. In fact, I have already seen some signs of it, although it is not nearly as severe as other cases I have handled before. As you have no doubt noticed, his attention span has decreased a great deal and he is easily distracted. This problem may resolve itself in time, but there are also some mental exercises he can do to help him regain at least some of his previous focus; so, for now, just be patient with him."

Pomfrey and Filius nodded seriously, promising to do as the doctor said.

Dr. Price fought down a sigh and turned his eyes back to the folder before him.

"Before we go on to treatment options, I need to caution you of possible . . . outbursts Mr. Dumbledore may exhibit. Due to the damage to the inferior orbital surface of the frontal lobe here—" he pointed to the mentioned region that resided at the bottom of the frontal lobe near his right eye, "—he may experience sudden bouts of aggression and rage."

"How sudden? Would they not have a trigger?" Pomfrey asked.

"I honestly don't know. I've had patients who have these emotions randomly and seemingly with no reason, while others have triggers. For example, they are annoyed by something, and instead of reacting the way they normally would have, they lash out. It goes hand-in-hand with the next possible consequence of this." He tapped the aforementioned damaged portion once more. "His ability to discern what is socially acceptable and what is not may have become impaired."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "You mean the Headmaster may occasionally spew a curse word?"

"That is a possibility, but I mean his social graces, perceptions regarding risk-taking and rule-breaking in general may be skewed now." Price quickly lifted a hand to stop them from voicing their concerns. "Understand, I am merely laying out what may happen so you will all be prepared for any problems."

"I'll say they're problems! He's the Headmaster of a school with well over two hundred students, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump of the ICW! If his judgment has been impaired by any degree . . . it would be disastrous!" Madam Pomfrey cried.

"Madam," Dr. Price said, his voice very serious. "Every case of brain injury is different, and it is impossible to predict how someone will be affected exactly. All we can do is look at previous cases and discern what they have in common to help us with similar and current cases. As it has been barely a day since Mr. Dumbledore gained these injuries, we need to consider what may come. The next 24 hours will be very telling to the kinds of long term consequences he will have. However, with that said, after personally examining him and seeing the extent of his injuries and his current state of mind, I do not believe his ability to continue his current roles is in serious jeopardy; but I think it would be irresponsible to simply assume everything will be or should remain as it was. Also, let me remind you, he is very fortunate and he is doing extremely well. I would go as far as labeling this as a miracle. Most people with an open head wound like Mr. Dumbledore's would have received more serious brain trauma from the bone fragments, not to mention life threatening bleeding and swelling of the brain that would cause further brain damage." Dr. Price shook his head, clearly amazed by Dumbledore's prognosis.

"Thank you, Doctor," Filius said.

"I'm just telling you the truth," Dr. Price said, before refocusing. "Now, treatment and recovery. . . ."

O o O o O

Dumbledore blinked, staring at the tiled ceiling above him. Where was he? Oh, yes! In the muggle hospital. Severus and the others had taken him there to try and help him with his apparent brain injury.

Well, as he had told Dr. Price, he didn't feel all that bad, but he did feel off, though, after that night's rest, he felt much improved. Hmm, perhaps it would be alright for him to return to Hogwarts now? Fudge was bound to need some reining in soon, especially as he had just lost his office to fiendfyre. The pathetic man was no doubt blubbering about it right this moment, if his memory concerning Cornelius was right, which it unfortunately was.

He glanced at his IV and the other bizarre wires taped to him.

Ah, muggle technology, so wondrous!

"Mr. Dumbledore, good morning," a nurse said, walking over to his bed and checking the machines beside him.

"Hello—" he squinted at her nametag. "—Nurse Dorothy."

She was an older nurse, her hair nearly completely white and her face full of kind wrinkles. She was the same nurse who had stayed with him the night before, waking him up periodically and asking him super easy questions. Unfortunately, he had been too sleepy at the time to ask why she was interrupting his sleep.

"Madam, why were you waking me up last night and asking me the same questions over and over again?" he asked suddenly.

"Oh, it's procedure to do so after any sort of head injury. It helps us diagnose the severity of the damage."

"Oh, alright. Did I answer them all alright?" he asked, curious now.

"Considering your recent trauma, you answered them remarkably well," she said with a smile before heading out after briefly stating his vitals looked quite good.

He blinked.

Had she just . . . flirted with him?

He shook himself.

Soon after she left, Dr. Price, Severus, Minerva, and Madam Pomfrey came in.

Hmm, they look really serious.

"Good morning, Headmaster," Severus stated.

"How are you feeling, Albus?" Minerva asked as Poppy came up and seemed to scan for anything wrong.

Dumbledore looked at Poppy. "Hmm, well, I thought I was feeling splendid, but, with how you are looking at me, I'm not so sure now."

"Oh! We're just concerned about you, is all, Albus," Pomfrey said hurriedly.

Suddenly wishing he had his half moon spectacles to look over, he pierced them with a serious stare. "Is there something you all wish to tell me?"

Severus and the others all looked to Dr. Price, who took their stares quite well. Apparently, he had much practice in this sort of thing.

Motioning for them all to get comfortable, Dr. Price took a seat beside Dumbledore's bed. "I've brought your case to the neurological team of the hospital and discussed what the best course of action to take would be. Several shards of bone entered your frontal lobe, but the bone fragment that has us the most concerned, and is why we are proposing this, is the one just above your right optic nerve. We strongly believe this will become a problem and prevent you from using your right eye properly. Added to that, there is a risk that a sharp edge of the bone fragment may later cut the surrounding tissues and cause bleeding that would go unnoticed until grave symptoms cropped up. Also, although the other shards do not concern us as much, removing them would be in your best interests to prevent complications in the future."

"So you're telling me I'm going to need to have surgery," Dumbledore said.

"Yes, sir."

"I admit, my right eye does seem to be having some trouble. There is an odd ache just behind it and it feels rather stiff. I don't know how else to describe it."

"That is likely due to the pressure the fragment is creating on the nerve," Price calmly explained.

"Then I agree to the surgery. Is there anything specific about it I should know?"

"I will not go into the particulars unless you wish me to, but, I will not lie to you, this procedure will be dangerous."

"I have my affairs in order. Gringotts has my Will and other documents, should the worst happen," Albus said simply.

"Very well. There are some other things I need to talk to you about concerning your condition before we proceed further, though," Price said, before covering everything he had told the others the night before.

"Hmm, explains why I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on one thing for an extended period," Dumbledore mused.

"This problem may alleviate in time, so don't dwell on it too much," Price advised.

"My difficulty in focusing is not my main concern right now, doctor. What is is the sudden bouts of anger or emotional frailty you mentioned I could experience, and I certainly do not want to begin questioning my ability to recognize consequences or be unable to make plans," Dumbledore said with a frown. "I would need to resign from all of my posts in the wizarding world."

"Well, the fact that you are concerned about it is a good sign in my book, not to mention how you just displayed you are foreseeing the choices that may need to be made if you were unable to carry out your responsibilities."

"Dr. Price is right, Albus. Besides, if problems like that do arise — and that is if — I would step in and help you, even if I had to force you," Minerva said with a smile.

"That is a comfort, Minerva, but what if this occurred while I was in a state of rage? I don't believe you have ever seen me truly angry, my dear."

Severus stepped up, his sudden strength of presence causing Albus' eyes to shoot to his.

"I would back her up, as would the rest of the staff," Severus stated. "Have no doubt, if need be, we would take care of things."

Pomfrey and McGonagall turned and nearly gaped at Severus, utterly amazed by his tone. They had never heard him speak with such force before, and to the Headmaster, no less. Dr. Price looked at him in obvious approval as Dumbledore continued to stare at him.

Albus had the strangest feeling Severus' statement was more than mere words of comfort; they were words of absolute certainty. Fact. Experience? The Potion Master's eyes gazing back at him were sharper than anything he could ever remember seeing. They held a strength he had never seen in the young man before, holding a power he hadn't ever known the younger man even possessed.

It was an energy that rivaled any anger, any vengeance, and any hate. It was of compassion, confident care, and, dare he label it? Agápe. Love.

He wasn't sure if it was the 'emotional frailty' Dr. Price had mentioned, or his own natural tendency to react to such deep signs of warmth, but, to his shame, his eyes welled with tears and he was forced to pinch the bridge of his nose to hold back the rest.

"Thank you, Severus," he said, barely managing to keep his voice steady with the sudden lump in his throat.

O o O o O

"Well, Harry, why don't we go check on Norberta?" Nicholas asked. "There is something I want to discuss."

Harry smiled and nodded. The pain in his scar had finally fallen to a barely noticeable ache earlier that morning, but his mind still felt a bit muddled. It was the same sort of haziness one gets when they finally begin getting over a rough cold, when things don't seem to register in perfect clarity yet. He supposed it was because of whatever Nicholas had done, but as it had dulled the horrible connection to Voldemort, he wasn't about to complain.

The night before last had been rough, even with Nicholas' help.

He had seen things, heard things, and felt things.

They had only been flashes and short blips of conversations, but the feelings . . . those had been the most vivid.

He told Nicholas and Perenelle everything he could remember, though much of it had been hard to describe.

Someone named 'Bellatrix' had been there, speaking in a soft but frightened tone. There was blood. Everywhere it seemed. There had been flashes of spells. Harry believed they were of the healing sort, but they didn't seem to be working the way Voldemort wished, and apparently needed—if Harry had discerned his emotions correctly. Furious rage, pain and outrage, all with an underlying trickle of fear. . . .

There was a bloody hole in his side. Harry had seen a glimpse of it when Voldemort had looked down in casting some sort of pain relieving charm. The dark wizard had been shot, and Harry was certain it had not been a simple, in-and-out wound. If the pain that had trickled over the bond was any indication, the bullet had made quite a mess in his chest.

Harry shuddered, recalling a few of the pages in those medical books he had borrowed from the library detailing similar injuries and necessary treatments.

Come to think of it. . . .

His eyes widened.

Where had his library book gone?

He stopped, making Nicholas turn back and look at him questioningly.

"Something wrong, child?" he asked.

"My library book! I had dropped it when. . . . What will the library do when I don't return the book?" he asked, stunned he hadn't thought about it until just that moment.

Nicholas tilted his head, as if remembering something.

"If I remember correctly, Dumbledore has taken care of that. He asked Mrs. Figg to send a message to the library and inform them the book was lost due to circumstances beyond your control and to send the cost of the book to him so he could purchase a new one for them."

Harry blinked. Nicholas must have a fine memory to be able to confidently rattle all that information so quickly.

"Oh. I'll need to thank Professor Dumbledore the next time I see him then," Harry said.

Nicholas nodded, though he seemed to be pained by something.

"Sir?" Harry asked, noticing the way Nicholas' face had saddened.

He didn't say anything, just motioned him to follow. When they came under a tree near the stables, Nicholas finally turned and faced him as he sat down on the grass. Harry sat cross-legged in the grass as well, allowing Coral to slither from his wrist and investigate the brush nearby.

"As you know, Harry, some things happened the other night. I won't go deeply into it, because things are still being investigated, but many people got hurt. Both wizards and muggles," Nicholas said.

"People died as well," Harry said softly. "I didn't quite see it, but . . . I could feel it, sense his . . . glee."

Nicholas gave a sad sigh. "I had hoped I had been able to shield you more, but I see this bond is stronger than I had initially anticipated. Hate really is the poison of humanity."

Harry bowed his head, trying not to think about the other things he had felt, particularly the 'positive' emotions he had felt from the monster.

"How many?" Harry asked, lifting his eyes.

"I don't know the numbers, Harry, and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you. You should not have to hear such things."

"Did you know any who were?"

Nicholas wasn't sure if the questioned concerned people who had been murdered or injured.

"Personally, I didn't know any who were killed," he said, deciding that was a safe answer.

"And hurt?" Harry asked.

Hm, the boy was certainly a perceptive one. Well, he was going to tell him anyway.

"Albus Dumbledore has been taken to a specialist for a head wound and is currently being treated. They expect him to recover well enough to return to Hogwarts and his other responsibilities by the time term begins."

:'Well enough'?: Coral hissed by his knee. :I do not like the sound of that, Harry:

:Neither do I, but it's not like we can help . . . unless. . . .: Harry answered before looking back to Nicholas. "Is there something I can do? Does he need healing?"

If Nicholas was surprised by the question, he didn't show it.

"At this time, no, or at least not the healing you can provide."

"What happened to him?" Harry couldn't help but ask.

"Harry, it's not my place to say, but know that he is in capable hands and they will heal him to the best of their ability."

Harry nodded, grudgingly understanding he couldn't fix, or even try to fix, everything.

"Now, I haven't taken you to the stables to inform you of Albus, but to discuss something else entirely. I have been giving this a lot of thought, and, after sharing my thoughts with my wife, she agrees with my decision. However, it is not quite my decision to make, but yours."

Harry didn't say anything, waiting for Nicholas to continue.

"It concerns your magic, specifically your lock."

Harry perked up, very interested now. Coral had risen her head as well.

"I believe I can help you begin unlocking it, and, if you wish, we can begin today."

O o O o O

A/N: Much of the medical and brain information I included in this part came from www. brainandspinalcord .org. It is a very informative and helpful website. As odd as it sounds, I enjoyed researching the brain and the effects of certain injuries in my quest to make Dumbledore's injuries as realistic as possible. However, let me state I am not a doctor and do not claim to be extremely knowledgeable in such things-meaning, this is just a story, don't nitpick :P

Next part, Cause and Effect, is under construction.