Chapter 13 : The Test
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“So, Harry? Enjoying a little cat-nap before your exertions later this evening?”
Harry opened his eyes and sat up. Dumbledore was smiling at him with a glint in his eye. They were sitting opposite each other and Dumbledore was behind his familiar desk.
Harry realised that he must indeed have nodded off, although he hadn’t intended to. Right then he was waiting for Hermione to freshen herself up in the bathroom before they both made their way over to see Sapien.
“Hello, Professor. Did you want to go through some more exercises? The thing is, only I don’t have much time. I’m afraid I didn’t read anything in the last book, either.”
As he spoke he realised they were in Dumbledore’s circular office rather than the usual white mist.
Harry straightened up and realised that this Dumbledore wasn’t quite the same as the memory he’d received his recent lessons from.
“You’re the second memory? The one Professor McGonagall carried?”
“I do indeed intend to place part of this memory in her. I had previously taken the liberty of transferring the bulk of the message during the times we met over this last year.”
“We are speaking now because you are now ready, Harry. You no longer need the protections I left for you at your Aunt’s home.”
“Really? I haven’t tried any of the things you taught me yet. Actually, that’s not entirely true.”
His former Headmaster smiled and nodded, apparently knowing that Harry had adapted one of Dumbledore’s trickier transfiguration spells to remove the remains of Ron’s cooking skills earlier.
“I should apologise for giving you that earlier memory, Harry. It was rather crude, but at the time I was fearful that I might not live to meet you in person. I confess I’d almost forgotten I’d left them with Professor McGonagall. However, as it happened, Voldemort’s agents were rather less brave without their leader.”
“No,” continued Dumbledore slowly. “Those lessons were not what I was referring to.”
“Well, what then, Professor?” asked Harry.
“During the last few days you spent back in Privet Drive, Harry, you should have begun to feel the effects of my wards being lifted. Interestingly, the most powerful protections were actually the first to go. Right now, only those that conceal your whereabouts remain, although I alone knew this, of course.
“For perhaps the very first time you should have begun to feel your true magical potential. Do not be concerned if you feel unable to control your emerging skills straight away. With time and a little practise, you will reach your potential I am sure.
“I am sorry to have prevented you from knowing this before now. Your marks at Hogwarts must have suffered as a result.”
“But why, Professor?”
“Well, firstly there was an effect from the wards. I knew it would happen and eleven years is a long time for a wizard to be in direct contact with such powerful magic. Indeed, it might be truer to say the magic was that powerful because of your presence. Anyway, I did consider making an adjustment to dampen the effect. The reason I did not was simply because I was convinced that your magical development needed to come second to your development as a person.”
“Aren’t they the same thing?”
“No, not at all. Harry, your entire life has been a series of struggles. Had you not struggled, you would not be the strong young man I see before me. Had magic come easy to you, you would have used it to ease that struggle.”
“Voldemort,” said Harry. “You were afraid I might turn out like him. You think I might have used magic to hurt Dudley?”
“It did cross my mind, yes.”
“I might have at that,” admitted Harry, shaking his head slowly and making Dumbledore smile.
“You are a powerful wizard, Harry. I guess it may take some months, perhaps even years, before you are finally ready to face Lord Voldemort.”
“Yeah, we still have to find the remaining Horcruxes.”
“That time will be of value to you, Harry. Your magical powers will grow stronger from now on. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that you will not be overcome by the true power you have within you. There will be times that you will be tempted to take the easy path and let that power dictate your actions. Whatever path you take, Harry, you will know that this way you at least had a choice.”
Harry looked down.
“Don’t worry, Harry. Things will work out in the end. Until they do, Tom will have to contend with the disappointment of being only the third thing you fear most.”
“Third?” said Harry, stopping himself from asking what the second was.
“Indeed. You second fear is disappointing me. I, of course, am quite overwhelmed to rank so highly.”
“I should already be a disappointment to you,” admitted Harry. “You know I’m considering actually performing a Dementor’s kiss later?”
“Come now, Harry. We both know you are planning far more than that.”
Harry looked up sharply.
“You are right to consider the things I did not. It is a rather good idea.”
“Why didn’t you use it?”
“I had a couple of reasons. I knew Sapien would never willingly reveal their secrets to me, but in truth the main reason was that I didn’t think I could trust myself. You’ll learn to know a person’s worth by the light of their aura, for want of a better word. If I had the ability to judge a person so absolutely and then have the ability to remove them of their soul, I’m not sure I could restrain myself. You, on the other hand, have never yielded away from the path of right. Sapien’s voices know this.”
“Well, yes,” said Dumbledore thoughtfully. “I imagine the Sapien you met was rather different from my acquaintance. He seems to change with every generation, but I suspect that even his capacity to absorb life essences is reaching his limit.”
“So, he’s really a collection of minds,” reasoned Harry. “I wondered, because sometimes there’s an echo in his voice, and sometimes not all the voices are saying the same thing.”
“Do you think we could recruit him?” asked Harry. “His knowledge must be tremendous.”
“Formidable,” agreed Dumbledore.
“But you don’t think so?”
“No, I do not. I tend to agree with you.”
Harry flushed a little that Dumbledore could read his thoughts so easily.
“Um, Professor? What is it about this memory that needed to be given over such a long period of time?”
Dumbledore smiled mischievously.
“All in good time, Harry. In time you will know. For now, though, let’s say that I’ve been adding a few memories here and there. Your knowledge will be richer in parts and you will enjoy quicker recollections and connections.”
“That’s started to happen already.”
“So, what else?”
The image of him seeing Dumbledore walking towards him at the Ministry of Magic came into Harry’s mind. He recalled how unconcerned Dumbledore looked and remembered how scared he had been for his Headmaster.
“Ah, yes,” said Dumbledore, clearly able to share the memory. “Well, there it is. I was not always so confident, but Tom’s duelling prowess is not something I feared. I suspect that that when you are ready to face him, you too will find him a disappointingly predictable opponent.”
Harry nodded in understanding but not really believing that.
“An interesting predicament,” agreed Dumbledore, again reading his thoughts. “Sapien is unlikely to be fooled.”
“I’ll manage,” said Harry, although he knew Sapien too could read his thoughts very well by now.
Harry looked up into Dumbledore’s blue eyes. Somehow he knew this would be their very last chance to talk like this, face to face.
“That is correct, Harry. I have been removing the last of my implanted memories over the last few hours.”
“Oh, is that why?” began Harry, prompting Dumbledore to shake his head no.
“No, Harry. You have only yourself to blame for that. I hope you live to regret it.”
“I’m surprised you’re not more critical,” admitted Harry.
“There isn’t much of me left, Harry. These thoughts are more yours than mine.”
“I wondered, you see? Ron’s behaviour was so strange.”
“His behaviour? You should concern yourself with your own behaviour, Harry. Sapien will never yield his final legacy to you if he realises. Of course, I have an advantage right now when it comes to reading your mind. You never know, you might be lucky.”
Harry snorted knowing that Dumbledore must really be going if he was repeating Harry’s own hopes ahead of his logic.
“Ah, well,” said Dumbledore gently. “You have your own to live and mine is over. I just wanted this last opportunity to say how truly proud I have been of you. You have a fine mind, Harry. I’ve enjoyed my short stay here.”
“There’s something I want to tell you,” said Harry. “I know you won’t have an answer for me. It’s just that if I don’t tell someone I’ll just go mad. I must control this.”
Dumbledore nodded, his smile slipping from his face.
Harry was silent as he and Hermione walked over to Mrs Figg’s house once again. Hermione had shaken him back into consciousness just as he and Dumbledore had stood to shake hands and bid themselves goodbye for the final time.
He opened the garden gate and moved aside for Hermione but saw that she was still looking at him apprehensively.
Harry smiled at her and said, “Let’s just get this over with, shall we?”
Hermione didn’t answer but went ahead and entered through the open door.
“Moody?” asked Harry, once he was alone.
“I’m here, Potter,” said a familiar disembodied voice.
“Where is Professor McGonagall?”
“Paris. She’s due to be back here tomorrow.”
“You know about Hermione’s parents?”
“I’m not supposed to, actually. I overheard a few things at the Weasley’s reception. I wouldn’t have suspected a thing except someone warned me not to tell Molly anything. After that I made it my business to ask a few questions.”
Harry turned to face an empty street, but guessed Mad-Eye was only a few feet away.
“So, all these wedding rehearsals?”
“That’s right, Potter. They were nothing but an attempt to provoke the Death Eaters from attacking. The Order has been desperate to capture one or two of them. Unfortunately, they’ve gone to ground.”
“I’m not alone in thinking the Grangers are still alive, then?”
“No, but it has to be said hopes are fading. It’s been too long.”
“Why didn’t they tell us everything from the start? Well, tell you at least.”
“It seems Shacklebolt and McGonagall both agreed my priority should be keeping an eye on you. Miss Granger was intent on not telling anyone, so they went along with it.”
“That was a mistake.”
“Yes, but an understandable one. They were afraid you’d go off and do something stupid. Were they wrong?”
“No,” admitted Harry. “No, they weren’t.”
“Well, it’s done now.”
“Who else is on duty tonight?”
“I’m on my own until eleven.”
“What? Is that wise?”
“Well, Dumbledore’s protections haven’t been breached yet, have they? The risk will be at midnight when you come of age. By then there’ll be over a dozen of us here, and that’s not even counting the Weasleys.”
“Alright,” said Harry. “I want you to go back to the Burrow now and get Mr Weasley to tell you everything he can.”
“Arthur won’t like going against McGonagall’s orders.”
“Tough. Didn’t Hermione tell me that you were the only Auror to secure the release of a kidnap victim alive during Voldemort’s last attempt to seize power? They need your experience, Moody.”
“I was lucky, that time,” admitted Moody modestly.
“So, be lucky again,” said Harry in a threatening voice that was quite unlike his own. “Just promise me that you’ll get back here as soon as you can? I’ve an awful feeling that Hermione’s parents are being kept for a special birthday treat just for me.”
Moody swore quietly before Harry heard a sharp Crack!
Harry stood at the gate a moment longer and pondered his decision regarding Sapien. As he did so a large ginger cat jumped lightly up onto next door’s garden wall.
Harry smiled and said, “Hello, Crookshanks. You on duty too?”
He offered out his hand, giving the cat every opportunity to scratch him again.
“I know it was my fault,” he said quietly.
Crookshanks moved forward to close the gap between them and muzzled Harry’s hand.
Harry stepped back into the magically enlarged back room of Mrs Figg’s home. They had arrived a little earlier than the last time, so Harry walked all the way over to the window in the far wall.
It was farther away than he thought.
He opened the window and looked out at the tiny unkempt garden and then up into the reddening sky.
Harry turned back and saw that his long shadow stretched back across the linoleum and almost reached Hermione as she stood patiently waiting for him.
He walked slowly back to her.
“You know what Sapien is planning for us to do this evening?”
“Yes, of course.”
“How comfortable are you about it?”
“I’m not going to deprive anyone but Voldemort of their soul, Hermione. Sapien seemed to think it would be a release, but I’m not so sure. How about you? I was sure you’d object too.”
“Well, yes. Actually, I’d pretty much decided to keep quiet. I mean, if you decided this was necessary, then I’d accept it.”
“No, Hermione,” said Harry firmly. “Let’s get this straight right now. I need you to tell me what you really think. If you think something is wrong I need you to shout about it, just like always.”
Hermione smiled at him, looking relieved.
“You always seemed so annoyed when I argued with you.”
“I didn’t say you weren’t annoying,” he replied at once with a flash of a grin. Then his face grew serious again. “It’s important, Hermione. I’m going to make mistakes. I have already.”
“What is it, Harry?”
Harry sighed deeply.
“It was before you arrived. Something happened a few days ago. I went for a walk as usual, but that time something darted out from the bushes as I went through the park. I thought it was an Animagus.”
“I killed it. It was all over before I knew it, but when I fired I was absolutely convinced a witch or wizard was trying to attack me. If that animal had been another person, I’d be a murderer now.”
“Gosh,” she said softly. “You are sure it was only an animal?”
“Yes, pretty sure.”
“Anyway, I wanted to ask you if you really believed what Sapien said. You know, that a person can really start again after a Kiss has been performed on them. Surely if a lifetime of experiences is wiped away, what’s left to live on?”
“Not much,” agreed Hermione. “But, remember the Kiss doesn’t actually kill. Whatever the Kiss removes, it isn’t life nor can it be the instinctive parts of our nature. I imagine they are much like a newborn baby in that respect. They’ll know how to breathe and that they need food to survive, but probably all their learned skilled would have to be re-learned.”
Harry pulled a face.
“Should we have brought nappies?”
“Harry! That’s awful,” said Hermione, laughing despite herself.
“It may be true,” he said chucking.
“Let’s be serious for a moment. We don’t know who Sapien is bringing here, do we? It could be anyone.”
“I suppose,” agreed Harry, looking down.
“Are we really going to go through with this?”
Harry didn’t answer.
“Harry?” she prompted him.
“I think we, well I mean, I’m going to end up going through with it.”
Hermione frowned at him.
“You know? You know who Sapien is bringing?”
“No, not for sure. But I think I can guess.”
Before Harry could answer, the window curtains billowed inwards and Sapien swept into the room.
“Hello, Sapien,” said Harry. “We were just discussing your little test.”
“We assumed you would be,” replied the Dementor, gliding towards them. “Before we begin, do you have any further questions?”
“Erm, we’re still not happy about this,” said Harry.
“Granted, but I was thinking more general questions.”
Harry and Hermione both shook their heads. Sapien drifted over towards Hermione and appeared to consider her a moment.
“I know,” she said with a touch of annoyance, and Harry realised they must have been communicating in private.
Sapien slid sideways until he faced Harry.
Sapien froze and the air suddenly grew much colder.
Harry stepped forward, holding his hands out.
“I didn’t even try to hide it,” said Harry. “I knew you’d read it in my mind.”
Sapien moved back a couple of feet.
“What is this?” asked Sapien.
“Wasn’t it inevitable?” asked Harry. “Go ahead and look.”
“This cannot be. You even have a plan. A plan!”
“Well, kind of,” admitted Harry. “You gave me the idea, you know? It was when-”
“Do not speak it aloud!”
“Sapien, please. Wasn’t this inevitable? Hasn’t this always been with me? The only difference is that I understand a little better now.”
“I did not see this in you,” said Sapien, the echoes now strong. Some of his voices sounded alarmed. “I felt your emotions. You used them to shield the truth from me. You deceived me! Will you betray us all?”
“No,” said Harry firmly. “Look deeper,” he pleaded.
Sapien grew silent and Harry felt himself being probed, not for memories but for feelings.
“Dangerous!” said Sapien. “No mere human can resist temptation. What if Voldemort reads your mind and learns this?”
“So? This is one thing I wish he would read. Don’t you see? Voldemort’s the one individual who could never use this knowledge. He is fuelled by hatred.”
“SAY NO MORE!”
The voices yelled in complete unison this time and Sapien’s robes billowed out as he jerked violently in his agitation.
Harry decided to calm his mind and wait.
“The Dementor clans will be banished!”
“That isn’t what you are afraid of,” said Harry quietly, looking around to see Hermione looking at him and wondering what they were talking about. He gave a quick shake of his head to warn her not to say anything.
Harry turned back to Sapien, and reasoned that he might as well bring things to a head.
“Look, I’ve decided what I’m going to do. You’ve seen this in my mind and the knowledge and understanding that may just make it a reality. So there are only two things you need concern yourself with.”
Sapien stopped and came a little lower to the floor.
“The last time a human came close to this, the Dementors were nearly driven to extinction!”
Harry was tempted to ask which of Sapien’s voices used to be that very human. He was sure they were in there somewhere.
Sapien glided around the large room, apparently thinking deeply. Harry discretely withdrew his wand and indicated for Hermione to do the same. She looked at him with some alarm but did not voice an objection.
The Dementor came back over to them.
“I now see you have realised the ultimate knowledge of how to perform destruction of the soul, Harry Potter. I trust you will use that knowledge wisely. I have little choice now but to give you my trust.”
“I will try, Sapien. I promise.”
“You are perhaps the only living Wizard I could ever entrust my knowledge to. You have never once been tempted to follow the dark path. Even so, you will need the guidance of others. Trust in your friends, Harry Potter. Trust in each other.”
Sapien glided backwards into the centre of the room.
“Now, are you ready?” asked Sapien.
Neither Harry nor Hermione moved.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” said Harry. “You expect us to perform the equivalent of a Kiss on you.”
“Yes, Harry Potter.”
“Why?” asked Hermione.
“You know why. Both of you know,” said Sapien, rising up to the high ceiling. “I performed a Kiss on a great wizard, many hundreds of years ago. It should have killed me, but somehow I survived. I learned many things, including an understanding of the human world and its fragile, vain and proud inhabitants. Not only that, it awoke the voices of my past victims in me too.
“The wisdom I have was not mine by right. I did not earn it, so I can lose it so very easily. Another Dementor, for example, might easily rob me of my consciousness.
“It is my consciousness that has survived all this time, not this body. As a Dementor I have allowed the Kiss to be performed on us several times in order to cling onto life.
“The risk, of course, is that a Dementor loyal to Voldemort may steal my knowledge in the same way. I have read both your minds, remember. I know all your deepest secrets. I could betray so much.”
“If you are afraid, we can protect you,” said Hermione, although Harry knew he had little choice now.
“Afraid? If I was still a true Dementor I would have no fear. As it is I do indeed fear what I have become.”
“Please,” pleaded Hermione, looking to Harry for support but hesitated when he looked away.
“What is it?” she asked.
“He had no intention of allowing me to leave,” said Sapien with barely a single echo. “He was going to kill us anyway.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Hermione earnestly.
“Yes, it does. I have enjoyed sharing your lives and feelings, but that time is over now. I will attack you shortly. Please remember, when it is over no part of me will remain. Only a reborn Dementor will survive. That Dementor will be tempted by both your life-forces. You may need to conjure a Patronus to encourage it to move on.”
Sapien did one slow majestic flight around the perimeter of the room while Harry and Hermione raised their wands.
“I don’t think I can do this,” whispered Hermione.
“Concentrate,” advised Harry.
Suddenly Sapien turned and dashed diagonally across the room directly towards Harry. He dived and fired a stunner, but it had no effect whatever on Sapien.
Harry suddenly felt a coldness eat into him.
He raised his wand, knowing his Patronus would have no effect but unable to think of anything else.
Sapien charged at him once more, his black robes billowing out behind him.
Suddenly Sapien froze and twisted around in agony. Hermione was pointing her wand at the Dementor.
Harry looked back and saw a flickering light emerge from Sapien’s mouth.
There was an agonising scream of hundreds of voices crying out in agony and Hermione lost her concentration. Harry could see the flickering light slowly returning to Sapien.
Hermione tried again, but with no success. Harry could see the Dementor’s effects were beginning to overpower her.
“Again!” he demanded. “Come on, Hermione! Try again!”
Harry threw his left arm around her back to steady her and lifted her wand arm to encourage her to try just once more.
Hermione pointed her wand up at Sapien.
Harry lowered his hand and blanked everything out except Sapien. He no longer saw a raging Dementor. Instead, there were hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of tortured souls trapped inside.
“Yes!” breathed Hermione, as a much brighter glimmering light emerged from the Dementor’s mouth. This time, they weren’t screaming or resisting.
Harry stepped aside, making sure Hermione would be safely apart from him when he performed the final stage.
He lowered his wand and summoned the collection of souls towards him. In an instant they were within touching distance of his mind.
As Sapien felt his presence, the Dementor again began to flail around in a desperate attempt to keep hold of the life essence, but as Harry’s mind engaged in a final, ruthless act of determination, the flickering lights lost their cohesion and were extinguished.
“Sapien?” he asked.
The Dementor did not reply. Instead it hovered a few feet away, clearly considering what to do.
Finally, it decided and they both felt the extreme coldness descend over the room. The Dementor hurried over towards them.
A blindingly white stag erupted from the end of Harry’s wand. It immediately lowered its massive antlers and charged the Dementor which gave up and flew straight for the open window.
The Stag slowed and cantered over to the window, but did not return to Harry as it usually did.
Instead it lowered its head down to a white otter. At the instant their noses touched, they both vanished into thin air.
They walked back over to Privet Drive in silence. Harry had expected Hermione to demand that he finally listen to her properly, particularly as Ron would be out of the way for one more night.
However, she remained deep in thought.
Harry himself was in a contemplative mood.
He was troubled, although not by the demise of Sapien; which is what he suspected was preoccupying Hermione so much.
He was more concerned that he didn’t feel more for the loss. Even now he was unsure what he ought to be feeling. Sapien was an intelligent creature that had helped them. He knew he should care.
It was true, Harry reminded himself, that the Dementor hadn’t intended to pass on the full legacy. He had only intended to give him just enough to destroy the Horcuxes.
Harry frowned to himself. That was a cruel thing to think. Given the anguish Harry had seen in Sapien at the moment of his release, it was little wonder that the poor creature hadn’t been able to control and restrict the knowledge better.
It was a moment before Harry realised he was drifting away. He looked down with only mild interest at himself and Hermione standing just inside the garden gate. He had come to a complete halt.
Harry watched indifferently as Hermione grabbed his arm and shook him.
Harry blinked and shook his head, realising that he had returned to himself. He looked up and found his vision was darkening.
“What is it?” asked Hermione, sounding concerned.
“Something’s wrong,” Harry heard himself say, although his voice sounded remote.
Harry felt himself being guided along the path to the front door. An instant later, or so it seemed, he was in the kitchen.
He reached up and clumsily wiped his face, feeling neither his hand nor his face properly.
“Wet,” he said simply, looking down at his hand.
Hermione was refilling a glass of cold water, clearly intending to throw it over Harry again.
Harry smiled at her weakly, seeing her concerned look.
“I’m okay,” he said quietly.
“You’re shaking, Harry,” said Hermione. “Sit down a moment.”
Harry sat down at once and was pleased to discover that a chair had been placed right behind him. He closed his eyes, feeling the towel Hermione was gently pressing to his face.
“I think it was Sapien. Seeing those souls being released. I think that part of me wanted to go with them. I felt their joy at being released.”
Hermione stopped dabbing his face abruptly.
“You’re scaring me, Harry.”
He opened his eyes and reached out for his glasses. Hermione placed them in his hand but his fingers failed to grab hold of them. Hermione unfolded the arms and put them on him.
“You know you said I was only pretending to care?” Harry asked, feeling better but sounding a little shaky.
“I didn’t mean that, Harry. I’ve been kicking myself all day for saying such a horrible thing. Of course you care. I don’t know anyone who cares as much as you.”
Harry shook his head slowly.
“It’s hard to explain,” said Harry. “Something’s different. Something’s gone.”
“Look, when we spent most of yesterday together, I felt nothing but compassion for you. I had no idea what was wrong, but I don’t think I could have felt any worse.”
Hermione looked down and nodded.
“Well, right now, I can’t feel that. In fact, I can’t even remember what it did feel like. I only said compassion, because that’s what I think I ought to feel.”
Hermione looked up, a slight frown on her face.
“That’s nonsense, Harry. How could you suddenly not care?”
“I don’t know.”
“Could this be something to do with the wards that are about to fail?” she suggested. “There’s only hours to go now, after all.”
“I don’t think so,” said Harry. “I said goodbye to Dumbledore’s memory earlier. He said the blood protections were already down. Only the secrecy protections will be in place for a little longer.”
“Yes. He’s gone now. For good this time.”
“How do you feel about that? Won’t you miss him?”
“It was what he wanted. I’m glad we had a chance to speak though.”
“I asked you how you felt,” Hermione reminded him. “You said goodbye to someone who has not only protected you since you were an infant, but has guided you and ultimately gave his life so you could go on. Are you seriously telling me that you feel nothing?”
“I’m sure I did feel something,” said Harry. “It’s just that right now I can’t remember what it felt like.”
“I think we’d better tell someone about this,” said Hermione seriously.
“Moody promised to come by later. Actually, it sounded like there’ll be a small army with him.”
“Where is he now?”
“At the Burrow, I expect. I think I’ll go and change my shirt,” he said with a smile. “For some reason I seem to be all wet.”
Hermione gave half a laugh and said, “Well, you shouldn’t have gone all weird on me. It’ll be quicker if I dried you with my wand.”
“True, but I feel like a change of shirt.”
“Alright, I’ll make us some tea.”
“No, Hermione. I’m not angry. I’m not anything.”
Harry struggles with his unfamiliar unfeeling state as the hour of his birth approaches. Hedwig returns and wants to show him something.
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