Chapter 6 : Ghosts of the Past Continued
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Dobby pulled on his sleeve. “Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter is needing you.”
“What did he say?” Albus got to his feet.
“He isn’t saying sir, but Dobby is knowing. Harry Potter is needing comforting, sir.”
Dobby led Albus down the stairs. They paused in the hall – Albus could hear sobbing coming from the living room.
“Dobby is going, sir,” said the house-elf mournfully, before disappearing upstairs.
Albus hovered for a second, then decided.
“Harry?” he called softly. No answer. Albus turned the handle and pushed the door open.
The journal lay on the floor. Harry was kneeling in front of it, crying into his hands.
In two seconds Albus had crossed the room and knelt in front of Harry. Cautiously he reached out and peeled Harry’s hands away from his face.
Harry’s face was wet with tears. Albus gently wiped them with his sleeve. Harry instinctively tried to pull away, and nearly toppled over. Albus grasped him gently by the arms, and Harry laid his head on his shoulder, sobbing softly.
“She knew it was coming,” Harry half-whispered, half-sobbed. Albus froze. “She knew what was going to happen.”
Albus stayed still for a long time, letting Harry calm himself down. Finally, he said quietly, “Harry, when was the last time you cried?”
“Huh?” The question threw Harry completely.
“I mean,” Dumbledore continued gently, “the last time you cried properly, not just a few tears.”
“Er…” Harry cast his mind back. Before Hogwarts, definitely. The latest scenario he could think of was when he was nine, and it was after Marge’s dog Ripper had chased Harry up a tree and the Dursleys had left him there for the night. Harry had been afraid of the dark, and even though he had not cried all the while he was outside, the moment he was in his cupboard he had sobbed quietly for a long time.
“Um… not for… a few…”
“Months?” Dumbledore prompted gently.
Harry grinned sheepishly, though it was a weak effort. “Years?”
Dumbledore opened his mouth, but all he managed to do was to give Harry a half-exasperated, half-sympathetic look. Harry wondered why he had asked. It seemed a bit of an odd question.
“Harry, you need to cry more.”
Harry blinked in surprise.
“It’s not good for you to bottle everything up all the time,” Dumbledore said quietly, brushing away a stray tear from Harry’s cheek.
“But…” Harry hesitated. How could he explain – that crying made him seem weak? That he was ashamed of the fact he did it at all? How would Dumbledore understand?
Little did Harry know that he didn’t have to explain. Albus knew perfectly well what was going through his mind.
“Harry, crying is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone does it. You need to learn to use it as an outlet.”
“I don’t know about that. I might get teased a bit if I broke down in the middle of the Entrance Hall,” Harry joked feebly.
“But we’re not in the Entrance Hall now. It’s just you and me and we’ve got all the time in the world.”
Silence fell. Harry was beginning to feel uncomfortable, but he didn’t pull away. Whatever Dumbledore said, he still felt ashamed of it. The headmaster seemed to read his mind again; as Harry shifted slightly he said, “Is it a bit embarrassing crying in front of your teacher?”
“Um…” Harry rubbed his eyes, but the word “Yes!” hung unspoken in the air.
Dumbledore gave a small smile. “Harry, let me tell you a story.
A third-year at Hogwarts some years ago was in the middle of a rather bad week. He was naturally a rather shy student, although he wasn’t bad in his schoolwork. He used to get teased for wearing glasses…”
“I know how that feels,” Harry muttered.
“Yes. Anyway, he was having a rather rough time… his mother had been taken severely ill, and he was having trouble concentrating in lessons, and his classmates were being rather more… unpleasant than was strictly necessary. Then he found he’d lost his timetable and none of his class would tell him where he needed to go, and was discovered hiding in a corner of the fourth-floor corridor by his least favourite teacher. He was the Transfiguration professor, and I think I’m justified comparing him to Severus.”
“Snape? Poor kid!”
“*Professor* Snape, Harry. But you’re right – it was not a nice experience. The Transfiguration teacher was all ready with the threats of detention, and I’m afraid to say he broke down.”
“That must have been humiliating.”
Dumbledore nodded, looking at the floor. Harry couldn’t conceal the feeling that he ought to know who the boy in the story was.
“Did he get detention?”
“Fortunately not. Professor Healy realised he’d been a bit harsh after that. But that didn’t make it any the less humiliating. Transfiguration was my worst subject then, and I always thought he had it in for me.”
It took a second for Harry to realise what he’d said.
“Wait. Hold on – *you’re* the boy in the story???” Harry couldn’t have thought of a less likely candidate.
Dumbledore smiled slightly. “Yes, I am. Professor Healy and I never got on. But he retired about six months after that little episode, and my next teacher was a great deal less… malevolent.”
Harry frowned. “Transfiguration was your worst subject? I thought you were the Transfiguration teacher. That’s what Tom Riddle said in the Chamber.”
“It *was* my worst subject, until Professor Healy left. I was pretty scared of him, which tainted my work. The teacher can make a big difference on grades.”
“Tell me about it,” Harry mumbled, thinking of Potions. Dumbledore, obviously realizing what he was referring to, couldn’t suppress a small smile.
Silence fell. Harry thought about his OWLs. He was positive he hadn’t got top marks in Potions, which meant he could probably kiss goodbye any hopes of getting into Advanced Potions, and therefore his Auror career. He’d probably failed Divination and Astronomy, thanks to Umbridge trying to sack Hagrid. He hoped he’d got an O in Defence. It was the subject he most wanted to do well in.
Thinking about Defence Against the Dark Arts made him think of his old mentor.
“How’s Professor Lupin?” he asked Dumbledore, remembering it had been him on the other end of the phone conversation back at Heather Louise’s.
Dumbledore sighed. “Better than I expected; he’s distracting himself with Order work. I’m worried that he’s overdoing it. I think the will upset him.”
“Firstly, because Remus is not one to accept money easily. I believe he and Sirius argued about the contents when it was made.”
“I know what that’s like,” Harry muttered, thinking of the Weasleys, especially Ron.
“And, I think because he knew Sirius too well, he was hoping to get around the law.”
Harry blinked, confused. “What law?”
“The law that states werewolves aren’t allowed to be guardians.”
“I didn’t know there was one like that…” Harry trailed off, realizing what Dumbledore was talking about.
“Sirius knew about the law, but I think Remus was hoping that, if Sirius stated it, the Ministry would allow him to have custody of you.”
Harry frowned. “Did it not work, or did Sirius not do it?”
“Sirius didn’t do it. I think he was afraid of who might get custody if the Ministry overruled Remus’ claim, which was likely. If the stated guardian was ‘unsuitable’, the Ministry are perfectly well-placed to take up guardianship themselves.”
“Fortunately, Sirius knew the risks, so it hasn’t come to that.”
Harry’s mind was whirling. The idea of being under the Ministry’s thumb was too disturbing to think about.
“So… who *does* have custody now?”
“Well,” Dumbledore began, “in the Muggle world, the Dursleys are your legal guardians, which does interfere slightly with the wizarding law. However, if you desire – and I’m sure you do – we can transfer it so the Dursleys have no claim whatsoever.”
Harry felt his heart soar. “Really? Does that mean I’ll never have to come back here?”
“It does, as long as we can arrange an alternative accommodation – I do have a few ideas, but it depends what happens now – I have a feeling the Weasleys may be building a case to get custody themselves.”
Harry frowned. “So, who has my guardianship at the moment?”
Harry gave a soft hiccough of surprise. This wasn’t what he had been expecting.
He also had a feeling Dumbledore had been dodging the question for the last few minutes.
“Sirius named you, or…?”
“Yes, he named me. I was surprised when he told me, actually. I was expecting him to name the Weasleys, but I don’t think he felt he knew them well enough to do that.”
Well, it explained why the will’s details were owled to Dumbledore instead of him.
“So, you knew it was you before the will was found?”
“Not for sure. After I’d spoken with Sirius, he spoke with Remus about the subject, and I didn’t know what he had decided to do in the end. I assumed he wouldn’t have taken the risk though, and I was right.”
Harry wasn’t sure how he felt about the whole situation. As much as he loved the Weasleys, he couldn’t help feeling he’d be better off in a smaller family. He felt it was selfish, but he didn’t want to be forgotten or left out, and the more people there were, the more likely it was. He’d expected Sirius to leave him in Lupin’s care, but he hadn’t. Harry was partly glad – after last year, he didn’t think his relationship with his once-Professor would be the same. There were just too many scars.
Still sore over the past months, Harry didn’t know how he felt. A year ago, he would have been surprised, but relatively happy. Dumbledore had been more than a teacher to him – a close mentor, and Harry had even counted him as a friend. But now, he still felt partly betrayed by Dumbledore’s actions of the last year.
Harry’s conscience spoke up. *Dumbledore felt he was acting for the best at the time. He had your best interests at heart. And he said he was sorry. Besides, if you counted him as a friend, you should forgive him. That’s what friends are supposed to do.*
Maybe… just maybe he should give Dumbledore another chance.
Maybe if he did that, he would, in time, be able to forgive him.
Maybe the hole that Sirius had left behind could be filled.
While Harry was battling with himself inside, Dumbledore seemed to sense the conflicting emotions and chipped in. He knelt down so he and Harry were at eye-level with each other. Gently he took Harry’s hand in his, and said quietly, “Harry, all I have ever wanted was for you to be happy. I’ve failed miserably – it seems all I can ever bring you is pain. Sirius shouldn’t have left me your guardianship… I don’t deserve it. If you don’t want to give me a second chance, then I completely understand. All you have to do is say.”
“Professor, I…” Harry didn’t know what to say.
“Harry, I just wish I could be the father you need.” He lifted his hand and briefly stroked Harry’s cheek. Harry shifted nervously forwards a little, and Dumbledore reached out his arms. Harry leaned forwards and the headmaster pulled Harry into a fierce hug. Harry suddenly became aware of his tears flowing thick and fast down his face. Dumbledore lifted a hand and began to softly stroke his hair, murmuring, “I’m sorry Harry… I’m sorry for everything.”
Harry realised he wasn’t the only one leaking tears. He pulled away a little and saw Dumbledore’s face was wet too. For some reason it unnerved him. He reached out a hand and carefully wiped the old wizard’s cheek. “Shh. Don’t cry, Professor.”
Dumbledore let out a noise that could have been a laugh or a sob.
Neither of them said anything more, and silent tears leaked down their faces as the sun finally disappeared behind the trees.
When Dobby entered the living-room, he saw Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter fast asleep in each other’s arms on the sofa. They looked so peaceful; Dobby didn’t have the heart to disturb them. Instead, he conjured a warm blanket and laid it over them, making sure to tuck in the corners. He tiptoed to the door and turned off the light.
“Goodnight, Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter,” Dobby whispered, and left the room, closing the door softly behind him.
Albus woke suddenly. It was still dark, and for a moment he wondered what had disturbed him. The next minute the mystery was explained as Harry shifted again. He had very sharp elbows.
The memories of the conversation earlier came to him. He smiled as he realized the two of them were still on the sofa.
“Harry?” he said quietly, shaking him gently.
After a couple of minutes, Dumbledore surmised that Harry wasn’t going to wake properly. He gathered the boy carefully in his arms and slowly made his way upstairs, laying Harry down on the bed. As he pulled away, Harry stirred and clutched Dumbledore’s robes. After a moment’s hesitation, the headmaster slipped in beside him.
“Professor?” Harry asked groggily.
“Go back to sleep, Harry.”
“’Kay.” Albus smiled as Harry rolled over. However, twenty minutes later Harry stirred again.
“Where are we?”
“Oh. How did we get here?”
“I brought you up. You were asleep.”
“Was I? Oh. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. I fell asleep too.”
“Oh.” Harry quietened again for a few minutes, then said, “What’s the time, Professor?”
“Late. And, Harry…”
“You don’t have to keep calling me Professor.”
“Oh.” Silence fell for a minute, then Harry said, “What can I call you then?”
“Well… if you’re comfortable with it, I have no objections to Albus.”
“Oh… okay.” There was a pause before Harry said, “I take it I still have to call you ‘Professor’ round other people?”
“If it’s a school-related situation, then I’d say yes. But socially, no.”
“Okay.” Harry thought for a moment. “Do the other Professors know you’re my guardian now?”
“Some do. Minerva does. Er… Severus doesn’t know yet.”
Harry chuckled quietly. “I can’t wait to see his reaction.”
“Well, I most certainly can.”
Harry stifled a yawn.
“Harry, did you post your letter to your friends?”
“Huh…? Oh, yes.”
“I was just checking you hadn’t forgotten. Goodnight, Harry.”
“Goodnight – er… Albus.”
The rest of the night wasn’t quite as peaceful. Harry half-woke from another nightmare, crying. Dumbledore took him into his arms to try and calm him. Harry rested his head on Albus’ shoulder, still trembling and giving dry sobs. Dumbledore began to hum on instinct, rocking Harry gently, as one might rock a small child. Harry grew calmer, and Albus abandoned the humming and sang the words softly.
“Sleep tight now, little angel
May God bless you…”
It seemed to be working. Harry was still trembling, but he had stopped crying and just lay in Albus’ arms with his eyes shut.
“…sing a sweet lullaby
For the tears that you cried,
Kiss your fears away…”
Harry mumbled something indistinctly. Dumbledore paused mid-note.
“I said I’ve heard that before.”
Harry yawned. “I dunno. But it’s familiar.”
Albus stayed silent, simply staring at the boy in his arms. Harry didn’t seem to notice the lack of lullaby and drifted back to sleep. It was a long time before Albus finally eased him back into bed.
AN: I was originally going to write my own lullaby for the sake of this fic, but my songwriting skills kinda went kaput so I ‘borrowed’ the lyrics from Kym Marsh’s “Because of You”.
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