Chapter 3 : A Little Advice
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A Little Advice
“I am very glad to see you too,” the photograph chuckled lightly, and a bit concernedly, as it looked at the emotional Harry.
“Delighted to see you as well, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger,” the little Dumbledore nodded at them.
“And you, Professor,” Ron blurted out, a little more loudly than he intended.
“Professor?” Hermione plucked up, her curiosity getting the better of her. “How did you think to enchant a Chocolate Frog Collector’s base?” she inquired.
“Oh... Well… You see, I needed an object that would not attract attention to itself. Something that would seem commonplace amongst the possessions of someone like Harry or Ron, and...” the image smiled slightly, “I am, after all, a collector myself.”
“It’s bloody brilliant,” Ron exclaimed. “I have loads of cards and I’ll wager Harry has, too.”
Harry smiled and nodded in agreement.
“However,” the little Dumbledore cut in, his tone becoming serious. “The fact that I chose to enchant this particular object is of little concern at the moment,” he sighed slightly as he paused. “What is significant is that Fawkes has delivered this object to you at this time.”
The three breathed heavily in unison realizing that the animated trading-card-Dumbledore was coming to understand its reality.
“I can only surmise then that something terribly dramatic has happened to me,” it said.
Harry found the calm in the tiny Dumbledore’s voice a little infuriating and he knew suddenly what was coming.
“Tell me Harry...” Harry steeled himself for the question. “Have I died?”
The question, asked so matter-of-factly in Dumbledore’s own voice, hit Harry like hot wind, his face flushed, the events of that terrible night rushing back into his consciousness with a fury. Harry lost his balance, falling back from his crouching position, but was instantly caught and supported by Ron and Hermione together.
“Oh... I see,” the card continued evenly. “Well, I knew something like this might happen – obviously,” he paused in apparent thought and then continued. “Harry, eventually I will need you to tell me everything that happened. But not right this instant.”
Harry, who now realized he had been holding his breath, exhaled in relief, not wanting to tell the whole story again so soon. In the few days between attack and funeral he had recounted the events several times to several people. Professor McGonagall and key members of the teaching staff, some members of the Order of the Phoenix, the investigating Aurors from the Ministry of Magic, and, the entire story, Horcrux search and all, to Ron and Hermione alone. He was glad that the one entity that deserved the whole story didn’t feel it was so important at the moment.
“For right now,” Dumbledore forged on, “What is important is what happens next. I gather we are on the Hogwarts Express heading for King’s Cross?”
“Yes sir,” Harry responded automatically.
“Very good, then I trust you are returning to the Dursleys', Harry?” the inquiry followed.
“Yes sir.” Harry began. “Ron and Hermione are planning to accompany me for the required fortnight and then we were planning on going back to The Burrow for Bill and Fleur’s wedding.”
“I see.” There was a slight furrowing of the Dumbledore’s brow that was difficult to see in the small card. “And you have approved this with your Aunt and Uncle?” Dumbledore asked evenly.
“Well... No sir.” Harry felt a lump rise in his throat as the miniscule Dumbledore pointed out the first obvious flaw in his plan.
“Perhaps, Harry, we two should discuss this briefly... in private?” The tone was not commanding, simply a level request with a slight hint of concern. “Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, do you have some prefect duties you might attend to, or you may find some other activity to pass a few minutes?”
Harry thought he saw a brief twinkle in the eye of the miniature Headmaster, and perhaps a slight smile just at the edges of his mouth. He wondered if the little Dumbledore knew something... and how that could be possible.
“Certainly sir,” Ron responded quickly. He reached down sliding his hand along Hermione’s forearm and into her own. He stood up, tugging her along. “I think we can nip off and find something to do sir.” Ron smiled, already pulling at the compartment door.
Hermione, blushing and, giggling slightly, offered, “We’ll just… go and check the other students.” Ron was tugging at her gently but persistently. Hermione rolled her eyes, as if to say “sorry about this Harry,” but Harry just nodded and smiled.
“Very good Miss Granger, do take your time,” said Dumbledore.
The compartment door slid back into place and clicked closed. Harry turned back to the card, still smiling just a little with the not so surprising joy he felt in the knowledge that Ron and Hermione had found their relationship in a new, and Harry felt, better place.
“Nice to see that those two have finally... come to an understanding,” Dumbledore chuckled openly. “Certainly has been steeping long enough.”
Harry smiled back at the card. “Yeah... I always felt they’d work it out though.” Harry reached over and turned the base on the ledge, then plopped himself up on the seat, next to his trunk.
“Forgive me, Harry.” The card spoke again earnestly. “I don’t want to appear to be poking into your private life. But, might I inquire about you and Miss Weasley?”
“Ginny?” The question startled Harry, pulling all his doubt and uncertainty to the surface. “Well, sir... I... Well, I broke it off sir... earlier today.”
“Oh, dear... I am sorry to hear that. Wasn’t meant to be then?” Dumbledore asked, more to himself than inquiring of Harry.
Harry was becoming a little uncomfortable with this question. What was Dumbledore getting at?
“Sir... No... That’s not it.” Harry couldn’t help but be honest, even if this wasn’t the living Dumbledore. He just wished he really knew what this was all about. “I just... I can’t make her a target... I can’t bear it... Everyone I lo–” Harry hesitated for the briefest instant, “care for… dies!” He felt a bit defeated and sank back against the seat a little deeper.
“Yes, well...” Dumbledore responded, a note of concern in his voice. “Harry, forgive me again, but I must ask. Do you love Ginny Weasley?”
Harry’s eyes widened and a rush of thoughts and feelings twisted in his brain, in unison with that creature in his chest and belly that always seemed to accompany thoughts of Ginny. He remembered first meeting the petite, boisterous, quick-witted girl at The Burrow who could handle all her big brothers with a steely gaze, but became tongue-tied in his presence. He recalled the seemingly lifeless Ginny lying on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets.
His heart skipped a beat.
He pictured the lovely smiling Ginny cheering on the Irish at the Quidditch World Cup, the beautiful graceful Ginny dancing with Neville at the Yule Ball, the flirty Ginny, dating Dean Thomas, but none-the-less the girl on the minds of half the boys in the Gryffindor tower, perhaps the whole school. Finally his mind rested upon the serene, contented and oh so strong Ginny whose hand fit perfectly in his own.
“Harry?” Dumbledore reminded gently.
“Yes,” Harry whispered the lone acknowledging word. Hearing himself speak it out loud, it was as if he were giving it permission to be… as if he were discovering some ancient truth. The creature inside him seemed to roar triumphantly. Harry, sat up, looked directly at the face of Dumbledore, and in a clear confident voice said.
“Yes sir... I love her.”
“Ah ha,” said the miniature Dumbledore, a bit more excitedly than Harry ever remembered hearing him. He was actually clapping his hands lightly. “Harry, my boy,” Dumbledore continued in a jovial tone. “All your life you have been protected by the one greatest thing that Voldemort doesn’t understand.” He chuckled lightly. “Love...” He said the word with warmth and reverence. “While it is true that people you’ve loved, and who have loved you, have died, some sacrificing themselves for your protection. It is wrong to believe that you have caused it to be,” Dumbledore paused, watching Harry closely. “Despite your unconscionable upbringing in the home of the Dursleys… Harry, you remain capable of so much love. You are surrounded by it and it flows from within you in great abundance. That is your gift, and your strength. Do not push it away.”
Harry relaxed back into his seat again, listening carefully, trying to let the words soak in.
“If, Miss Weasley returns this love, she may well represent your greater strength and your strongest weapon. Do not allow fear to rob you of anything, Harry, for fear is Voldemort’s strongest weapon.” There was a long pause. “To succumb to it is to forfeit the battle before it’s begun.”
Harry stared through the little card to the opposite side of the compartment, not saying a word. He could feel the faux Dumbledore watching him intently, searching for some indication that his words had had their desired effect. Harry recalled his own thoughts of just hours before; thoughts along these same lines. He felt slightly dizzy, as though his body and mind were out of sync. He knew the fear was not gone. But, the creature in his chest began a low contented purr. There was a long quiet.
“Oh dear...” came Dumbledore’s voice seemingly a bit distressed. It shook Harry out of his momentary malaise. He glanced over to see the little Dumbledore patting the front of his robes. “I do wish the manufacturers of these cards had thought to take my photo with a tin of lemon drops.”
Harry chuckled a little in spite of himself. He wasn’t sure if it was a genuine desire, or just a carefully calculated segue, but it worked, bringing Harry’s mind back to the moment.
“Now, Harry, tell me what you have been planning.”
“Well sir, I was planning to go back to the Dursleys' for the shortest time possible, then to the wedding and The Burrow to await my birthday. After that I was thinking to go to Godric’s Hollow and from there, who knows where, to find the remaining Horcruxes. But with you here now... Well sort of.” The little figure of Dumbledore bowed slightly in recognition of the last remark. “I imagine I should re-think everything.”
“Well, no Harry... and yes perhaps,” came the oddly contradictory response of the former Headmaster. “You are obviously following your heart, and that is most certainly a good place to begin. But, I imagine together we could... tweak... the particulars.”
Harry smiled deeply, understanding then for the first time that even though Dumbledore was... gone... he had neither abandoned nor stopped protecting him. He felt a pressing burden lifted from his heart, as though he need not carry the weight of the world alone. He felt now… that there were… possibilities!
Harry’s thoughts turned back to Ginny and he wished she had come on the train. He had been so cruel, not meaning to be, but he was... And she had been so understanding, ready to stoically abide by whatever decision he thought he must make.
A fear suddenly gripped him. What if she would not take him back? The creature inside him panicked momentarily causing Harry to sit bolt upright and clutch his chest. But, he knew in his heart that that would not be the case. The creature settled reluctantly. He looked down at the image of Dumbledore, who was regarding him thoughtfully from the small card.
“Harry...” Dumbledore spoke calmly and purposefully. “Am I correct in assuming that you are now distracted by thoughts of Miss Weasley?” Harry nodded, blushing slightly. Dumbledore continued, “I believe, Harry, that matter, while important, will be quite easily resolved. Now however, we should consider other things.”
“Right Professor...” Harry forced thoughts of Ginny out of his head with the contentment that they could soon return.
“Now, about the Dursleys...” Dumbledore began again.
Harry and the Dumbledore card discussed immediate plans for some time, working together a slightly altered plan for the next few weeks. After about a half hour, having determined a course of action for the immediate future, Harry realized that he was quite fatigued by the many events of the day and the excitement of discovering that he would have the continuing council of his greatest protector. Dumbledore, seeing this, suggested that they resume their discussions once Harry was back in his room at number four Privet Drive and Harry readily agreed.
With a smile and a sly wink, the little Dumbledore had turned and stepped out of the frame. With a simple, “talk to you soon then,” Harry had plucked the card from the base. It immediately ceased to be anything other than one of Ron’s Chocolate Frog cards.
Harry tucked the card in Ron’s tin, retrieved the lid from the seat, and settled the tin in Ron’s trunk. He quickly gathered the many scattered possessions, shoving everything back in, and clasped down the lid. He remembered then, to pick up Hermione’s clothes from the carriage aisle, and placed them neatly into her meticulously arranged trunk. Harry hoisted all three trunks up into the luggage rack one at a time.
Still standing on the seat to secure his trunk, he reached over and lifted the cloth of Hedwig’s cage to check on her. She cooed softly and nipped his finger gently in what seemed an almost maternal, reassuring way. He stroked her beak a couple times before letting the cloth drop back.
Harry stepped off the seat and picked up the pewter card base, where it stood still on the little drink ledge. He thought to slip it into his jeans pocket and remembered with a start the false Horcrux that already resided there. For an instant he wondered if he should retrieve the Dumbledore card so he could tell him about the locket and the mysterious R.A.B. But then he thought that there would, after all, be time yet for that discussion.
He shoved the card base into his other front pocket, slipped off his glasses, setting them on the drink ledge, stretched out across the bench seat of the compartment, and easily slipped into a peaceful slumber.
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