A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong,
which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.


-Alexander Pope






Chapter Twenty-Seven

Dumbledore's Answers

Harry managed to stand up without any trouble. His body and mind may have been aching seconds ago, but in the presence of his former Headmaster and the once-visited King’s Cross, Harry felt surprisingly rejuvenated. He looked at his body, expecting to see the skin of his exposed skin, but he was relieved to see that he was fully clothed.

“Have a seat, Harry,” the old man said.

Harry turned his attention back to Dumbledore. He was sitting on a bench, almost as if he was waiting for the next train to come through the station and pick him up. The old man smiled warmly at Harry and beckoned him closer.

Harry took a step through the vastly empty lobby. It was strange to have returned to this place. Even though he had stepped foot in the train station less than a year ago to drop off James and Albus, he didn’t associate this blank location with his real life version. This was, at least in Harry’s mind, the same station he had traveled to almost two decades ago. As he took the seat beside the man with the purple robes and half-moon spectacles, he felt the familiarity spread through his body.

“As I said a few moments ago, Harry, it is good to see you again,” Dumbledore said. “My only wish is that we could meet sometime under better circumstances.”

Harry nodded. “I’ve messed up big time, haven’t I?” he asked. The question was far too casual, but Harry felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Perhaps it was the locale.

“You have been a rather busy man,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. “We’ve had quite the number of adjustments around here, people checking in and out almost on a regular basis. I had to say goodbye to your lovely wife moments ago.”

Harry turned his head to meet his eyes. “Ginny?” Harry questioned. “Goodbye? Do you mean…?”

“Ginevra has returned,” Dumbledore said simply, and offered no further explanation.

Harry sat in silence with him for a few moments. No noise wafted in from outside sources, no train whistles, just silence.

“Professor,” Harry started, “have I fixed the things I destroyed?”

Dumbledore pat Harry upon the knee. “You must stop blaming yourself,” he said. “You have only entered into this story at the end. What was set in motion started before you even entered into the tale. You, Harry, have written the proverbial ‘the end’ upon the last page.”

“But it was me,” Harry countered.

“Yes,” Dumbledore said, “and no. Altering time is a precarious task. Your future self, albeit his intentions were righteous, fell victim to the most powerful human emotion we are blessed and cursed to feel.”

“Love?”

“Love, indeed,” Dumbledore replied. “He took it upon himself to discover the cause of his bride’s ailment, but could not stand idly by and watch her hurt herself. Upon doing so became the very reason he traveled back in time to begin with. Do you think less of him for wanting to protect his wife?”

Harry shook his head. “I would have done the same thing,” he said.

Dumbledore smiled. “You find me a man who would say otherwise and I’ll call him the most unfortunate soul alive,” he said. “Love has driven men to even worse things, I would say.”

Harry took his hand and slid it into his mess of hair. He pushed it back and let it return into position. “You have to understand why I feel like I do,” Harry said. “What does it matter if it’s my future self or not? It was still me.”

“The human body and the human mind are not designed for continuous time travel,” Dumbledore said, “but neither is the human soul. The moment your future self made the decision to subject himself repeatedly to this form of abuse is the moment he sealed his fate. It only takes several journeys, Harry, before you can no longer claim to be part of your own timeline.”

“Is that what I was just feeling?” Harry asked, referring to the graveyard. “My body and mind never hurt so much.”

“It was not your body or your mind that plagued you,” Dumbledore replied. “Your soul was bending. If you would have chosen to further the vicious cycle, you would have no longer been able to call yourself Harry Potter and be accurate in your declaration."

“If I chose,” Harry repeated, shaking his head. “This is where I’m confused. Do we really have choices, Professor, or is everything predestined? I mean, Gideon and Fabian seemed pretty clear that things happened they way they were supposed to happen.”

Dumbledore smiled. “Yes, I had forgotten you had the pleasure of meeting the Prewett twins,” he replied. “Charming fellows when they’re not warning of forthcoming peril, I assure you.” He cleared his throat. “But on to your question.

“It is difficult to explain the ways of the dead to the ways of the living,” he went on. “There are certain possibilities that benefit the whole, certain outcomes that should right all wrongs. The prophecy, as the most blatant example, was a way to guide you into your destiny of defeating Voldemort. Had you chosen to walk away, destiny would have been forced to redefine itself. Would Voldemort have succeeded? Would another have stepped up to take your place? For that, I do not have an answer.

“Destiny works in a way that attempts to create the best possible outcome to a situation,” Dumbledore said. “The problem is that not everyone is working for the same goal. You add human influence, and the theory is contaminated. It works the same way with politics and expecting the Cannons to win the league.”

Harry laughed. “Ron’s still hoping,” he said off-hand.

“No matter how dismal they play, Mr. Weasley still remains loyal,” Dumbledore said. “William Cronus has done the same, just on a far more unhealthily level.”

“I’m angry with him,” Harry said, “but in a way, I can relate.”

“That is because he was manipulated just as you were,” Dumbledore said. “He felt he was doing the right thing. All he wanted to do was return to his own time. He simply took a more aggressive approach than you did.”

“It’s frightening to think I was headed down the same road,” Harry said. “There were a couple times that I thought that it didn’t matter who died as long as I found my way back to my real life.”

“Do not make the mistake in thinking that it did not matter who died, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Each of these deaths were real, each of these deaths affected your mind in the same way. Any timeline you were part of was not a parallel universe, but rather the only universe.”

“What about all the Hogwartses?” Harry asked, remembering the flickering and multiple castles.

“It may not have been reality, but they still existed, one way or another to you,” Dumbledore answered. “When your wands reacted as they did, a rip was created, allowing you to jump instantaneously into a world that no longer existed. When elements of Time travel were introduced, your destination could have been the future or the past of any world that existed to you.”

“And where did I find myself this last time?” Harry asked. “Other than Godric’s Hollow. Did I find my way back?”

Dumbledore nodded and smiled. “What’s more, Harry, is that during your battle with Cronus, you were able to warn yourself to stop,” Dumbledore replied. “Coincidently, you listened to yourself. All tragedy has been averted.”

Harry felt positive emotions swelling upside.

“Your past self has returned to the same world he left,” Dumbledore replied. “And thanks to your decision in the graveyard, you have taken the essential elements needed out of the cycle. Without the journals, Hermione will not create another Time-Turner.”

“And Ginny is fine?”

And you can take your place as a Hogwarts professor without any trouble at all,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “Maybe one day we can share the wall together as former headmasters.”

Harry smiled, sitting back in his chair. The most important questions had been answered. A few more still bothered him. “Professor,” he said, “why does it all work the way it does? Why must people suffer in order for there to be a better world?”

Dumbledore nodded. “I know you expect me to have all the answers, Harry, but this is a question in which I don‘t. All I can say is that once you’ve crossed over and finally joined me for the last time, the question no longer matters. No one is concerned with such things anymore.”

“But…”

“Harry, the real problem you have to deal with is the guilt you have been feeling,” Dumbledore replied. “You have been on this adventure, claiming you were doing this for Ginny and Teddy, but what is the real reason? Think, Harry.”

Harry bit his lip in thought. The truth was hard to identify, but in this location, the answer seemed to be much easier. “I still blame myself for their pain,” Harry said softly. “I’m terrified that they’ll realize it’s my fault someday, that they’ll finally see the light and decide that I’m not that hero everyone thinks I am… and then I’ll be alone.”

“Your wife may have been right when she said you should get some help,” Dumbledore said. “You’ve been told multiple times, but it couldn’t hurt to hear it once more.”

“No one blames me?” Harry suggested.

“Precisely,” Dumbledore replied. “And what’s more, the ones you take credit for killing, do not blame you either. They all wanted to be the one here today to explain your troubles. I felt it was only proper that it was me who handled it. I’m selfish that way, but I make no apologies for it.”

Harry smiled. He could think of no one better to explain his life and why it was the way it was.

“I feel that I owe you another explanation,” Dumbledore replied. “In your travels, you uncovered a great many things that you thought would never be possible.”

Harry agreed. “Like Draco in love with Ginny? And Hermione and me married?” He paused, searching Dumbledore’s face. “Yeah, and you, Professor. I discovered a lot of things about you. Did you really suppress Dudley’s magical ability?”

“In the altered timeline, I suppose I did,” Dumbledore replied, hanging his head low.

“And the original one?”

“I‘m willing to take blame for Dudley not being magical,” Dumbledore admitted, “but not in the way you would think. Did your Aunt and Uncle refuse to take you unless I could guarantee them Dudley would turn not out the same way you were sure to?“ Dumbledore nodded. “And so I suggested that stress upon a wizard’s life could trigger magical abilities and to tread carefully around Dudley. Rest assured, Harry, I did no magic to help the process.”

“Could Dudley learn magic now?” Harry asked.

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t be possible,” Dumbledore answered. “There are several ways a wizard can lose their abilities. Vernon and Petunia’s influence suppressed the possibility in Dudley. There would be no chance at redeeming it.”

Harry shook his head, not believing that Dudley could have gone to Hogwarts just as he had. Harry paused again and looked at Dumbledore for another question.

“The answer is no, Harry,” Dumbledore replied.

Harry frowned. “You know the question?”

“I’ve been watching patiently,” Dumbledore said. “I’ve even read Draco’s book. It’s an excellent read, by the way, you should purchase a copy when it’s released.” He adjusted his glasses. “Draco is right in thinking I pulled too many strings in my days, but he makes the same mistake you have always made, Harry.”

“What’s that?” Harry asked.

“He idealizes me,” Dumbledore answered. “With the risk of sounding arrogant, I am a gifted wizard, but I am merely a human being. Nothing more, nothing less. I knew a great deal while I was alive, but everything was not one of them.”

Harry allowed his words to sink in. This is what he had hoped to hear.

“It is time for you to return, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “You have worried your wife and children enough as it is.”

“How long have I been gone?” Harry asked.

“Oh, you’re already back,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “Ginny found you at the graveyard. You are being monitored in St. Mungo’s as we speak.”

“Should I tell them what happened?” Harry asked.

“That is your choice,” Dumbledore replied. “Although it may be best if you just let the past go this time.” He winked at Harry. “There may even come a time that you yourself may doubt what happened to you. If that helps you forget it, you may explain it to yourself as merely a dream.”

“But it’s not, is it?” Harry asked.

Dumbledore shook his head. “No, it certainly is not.”

“Then is this goodbye?” Harry asked, standing up.

“For now,” Dumbledore replied to Harry’s curious look. “Well, every time I think we have parted for good, you visit again. Let us hope that the next time we meet, it is after a long and happy life.”

“Sounds good to me,” Harry replied.

“Do me a favor, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Keep an eye out on your second born son. He’s going to do extraordinary things with his life, just like his father.”

Harry felt himself growing lighter and lighter. “Will do, Professor.”

“And Harry…” Dumbledore called as Harry felt he was leaving, “Albus Severus? Honestly!” Dumbledore chuckled.

Harry Potter had left King’s Cross.

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