Chapter III - The Headmaster Explains


It was barely six o'clock in the morning. The Headmaster received them in his office and, after expressing surprise at the early hour, invited them to sit down.

Severus reported the unexpected and extremely unwelcome appearance of Sirius Black in his scrying mirror. He didn't even try to hide from the Headmaster the fact that Harry was in his rooms that early in the morning. Severus was tired of hypocrisy, and also very annoyed.

The Headmaster stroked his long beard with his good hand. "How peculiar. I could never have foreseen this turn of events. Your mirror established a contact with another mirror, in possession of Sirius Black."

"To my knowledge, Sirius Black is dead."

The Headmaster ignored Severus's statement. "Harry, do you know if your godfather had a scrying mirror?"

"Sirius? A scrying... Oh. He gave me a small mirror, so that we could communicate when he was in Grimmauld Place. He gave me a mirror and kept its twin himself. But I don't think it was a mirror like Severus's."

"How interesting! The scrying mirror that belonged to Grindelwald must be able to communicate with other mirrors! Yes, it makes sense. I confess I hadn't thought of checking these less important effects when I studied its properties."

"Less important effects? But Headmaster..." Harry's body was trembling "... what's happening? Is Sirius alive?"

Severus rested his hand over Harry's shoulder and squeezed it warmly.

The Headmaster shook his head. "I'm sorry, Harry. I know how hard it was for you. It was hard for me too, having to remove your godfather from your life."

Harry stood up, fists clenched in rage. "Are you saying that Sirius is alive? That his death was just one of your acts? Another move in your chess game?"

Severus also stood up, more worried than angry and not knowing what to do. Harry seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

"Please, Harry, sit down. It's a long story," said the Headmaster.

Severus pulled Harry back to his chair and sat in his own chair, beside Harry.

"As you certainly recall, Sirius spent almost a year hiding in Grimmauld Place. And you must remember that he was not happy with the situation."

Severus snorted, but seeing Harry clenching his fist again, he tried to control his own reactions and calm down.

The Headmaster went on. "A year ago, in May, a few weeks before the end of the term, Sirius asked to talk to me. He told me he couldn't stand staying there and not doing anything, that he wanted to do something to help the Order of the Phoenix. I pondered the subject and proposed to him the only practicable alternative. I told him that if he were already dead, no one would look for him. I also told him I was undertaking important investigations to which he would be able to contribute, if he were dead. Sirius wanted to help me, and when I revealed to him the details of those investigations, he agreed with my plan."

"And what investigations would those be, Headmaster?" asked Severus.

"We will talk about it later, Severus."

"But what was your plan, exactly?" asked Harry.

"The plan was that Sirius would simulate his own death on the first occasion when the Death Eaters organized an attack which was significant enough to attract the attention of the press. This occasion presented itself when the Death Eaters invaded the Department of Mysteries."

"So Sirius only pretended to fall through the Veil?" Harry asked, his voice trembling.

"Precisely. He cast a non-verbal spell to Apparate to Lupin's house, which we had already put under the Fidelius Charm. Obviously he didn't want to let you and your friends face the Death Eaters alone, but I assured him I would arrive on time."

"A perfect plan." Severus snarled. "Except for the fact that you broke Harry's heart, but I'm sure you consider this a minor detail in the process. I can't help wondering why you have deemed it necessary to hide the plan from Harry."

"Oh, Severus, you know very well that Harry was being targeted by Riddle, who was trying to possess him. And your Occlumency lessons were not producing any results."

Severus felt blood boiling in his veins. "If you had told Harry exactly what was happening, things would have been different."

"I have already apologised to Harry for my mistake. It's no use blaming each other for what has gone wrong in the past. The fact is that Harry hadn't learnt Occlumency, and Riddle could possess his mind easily. We couldn't run the risk."

Harry shook his head in utter bewilderment. Severus knelt by his side. "Harry? Are you all right?"

"Yeah. And I'm happy that Sirius is alive. But I don't know if I'll be able to forgive them for this. Especially him," said Harry, nodding at Dumbledore.

"It was my idea. Don't blame Sirius. He suffered terribly at having to be separated from you, and he only did it because he wanted to help you."

"Very well, Albus, so what investigations are these that you and Black have been undertaking?"

"This is another long story, and not a pleasant one."

"We have an hour until classes start," said Severus.

"Then I suggest we have our breakfast here," said Dumbledore.

Severus was going to protest, but he remembered Harry would need to eat before going to his classes. Not that Harry looked more enthusiastic about the idea than himself.

Dumbledore waved his wand and his desk turned into a table with plates for three, cornflakes, orange juice, scrambled eggs, porridge, rolls, toast, jam, milk and, naturally, tea.

"Help yourselves. It's not healthy to have so many emotions before breakfast."

Visibly upset, Harry took a piece of toast, and Severus poured a cup of tea for himself.

"We are all ears, Albus," said Severus.

"Do you remember when Harry destroyed Riddle's diary? That was the first sign that led me to suspect a terrible, hidden secret: Riddle had managed to encase a piece of his soul in the diary. That was an inconceivably powerful and dark magic. In other words: the diary was a Horcrux."

Severus almost choked on his tea. "A Horcrux?"


"What's a Hor... What's one of those?" asked Harry.

"It's a magical object that can only be created if the wizard or witch commits the supreme act of evil: murder. By means of a dark spell, the wizard or witch splits his or her own soul and encases a piece of it in an object. The fragment of soul concealed inside it is kept safe and prevents the death of its owner," Dumbledore explained. "The existence of this diary-Horcrux, and the careless way Riddle regarded it, made me wonder if Riddle could have created more Horcruxes. After all, murder never was an obstacle for him, and the idea of splitting his soul repeatedly wouldn't frighten him. I started to investigate Riddle's life to verify this possibility. Do you remember your old Potions teacher, Slughorn?" the Headmaster asked Severus.

"Of course I do."

"He was also Riddle's teacher here. Well, after a long quest, I finally found him."

"Ah," said Severus, without a trace of enthusiasm. Slughorn wasn't a bad teacher, but he let himself be seduced by people's fame, reputation and money. As Severus was poor, ugly, Half-Blood and the son of unknown parents, Slughorn had always ignored him. "And what did he tell you?"

"With a lot of effort, I was able to extract from him the information I was looking for: that Riddle had once asked him about the possibility of dividing his soul in seven parts."

"Seven?" Severus shivered.

"A magical number," said the Headmaster.

"This is a catastrophe!" Severus exclaimed. "Are you telling me the Dark Lord created seven Horcruxes? We will never be able to destroy him!"

Dumbledore looked straight at Harry, who seemed overcome. "That was the reason why I needed Sirius's help. He has been working hard, and thanks to him I found the Slytherin ring in the ruin of the house of the Gaunts, Riddle's maternal grandparents. I have managed to destroy it. Which means we have already destroyed two of the six Horcruxes."

"Six or seven?" Harry asked.

"The seventh piece of soul is inside Voldemort himself."

"And where are the other four?" Severus asked.

"We don't know yet. We have solid clues about two other Horcruxes, but we can only speculate about the remaining two. Sirius has all the information about this subject, and now that you know that Sirius is alive, I would suggest you to talk directly with him. Moreover, I have some other important news to share with you."

Severus sighed and felt Harry shuddering. None of them said anything, though.

"This must be kept an absolute secret: I will have to close Hogwarts in two weeks. Severus warned us that Riddle is planning to attack Hogwarts on the second week of June. Your exams will be held in the first week of June, and then we will send all children home. I was seriously injured, and can't grant my students adequate protection."

Severus lowered his head. It was sad, but they had to face the truth. Dumbledore was doing the right thing.

"And where are we going to stay?" asked Harry, in a concerned tone.

"The students will go home; a group of members of the Order, I among them, will stay in Grimmauld Place in a state of alert. I would like to have Severus in Grimmauld Place too. As for you, Harry, I suspect you would like to stay with your godfather, at Lupin's?"

Severus searched for Harry's eyes. A thousand emotions seemed to pass over the boy's face in a few seconds.

"Yeah, I would like to see my godfather." Harry stared back at Severus. "But I would like to stay with Severus too."

"Indeed, I think you should continue your practice together. If Severus agrees, I can talk to Professor Lupin and your godfather about the possibility of Severus staying there too."

"I, at Lupin's? I don't think so."

"Severus..." Harry was nearly pleading.

Severus sighed. "You saw how Black treated me, didn't you?"

"I will talk to him, Severus," said Dumbledore, in his most confident and paternal tone. "There's no need to be concerned."

Severus shook his head, dismayed. This would be hell on earth.

(Story Index)

Ptyx, September 2005