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Disclaimer: I do not own anything that you recognize in this chapter. No copyright infringement is intended, and no harm is meant. A/N: Man am I nervous about posting this... People will either love it or hate it, so lets hope it's the former, shall we? If you're interested in joining the mailing list, leave your e-mail in a review. This is a one part chapter. Chapter Four: A Matter of Trust Harry was too stunned to say anything, so he just stood and stared at Dumbledore. The old wizard was staring down his crooked nose at Harry, and the glint which was forever in his eye seemed duller than it ever had before. Apparently the coming war was taking its toll on Albus Dumbledore already. "Sit, Harry," he instructed again. Harry followed the order, still too shell shocked to think properly. "Nymphadora and Kingsley know how to take care of themselves, I'm sure that they are perfectly safe." This snapped Harry's attention back to the current situation at Azkaban. He had hundreds of questions that he needed to have answers for. For the time being he had even forgotten the vision that he'd had just earlier that night. "But others died! Why didn't the Order fight? Why didn't you fight?" the contents of Harry's stomach were starting to churn, and he could feel his face growing hot. If he didn't get some answers he figured he might explode in anger. Dumbledore's face never wavered, and his voice remained as calm as his exterior when he opened his mouth to speak, further upsetting Harry. "The job of the Order of the Phoenix is to fight and defeat Voldemort," he said softly, holding up a hand to ward off another volley of questions from Harry. "We are not an invincible force, Harry. Were Order members to have shown up at Azkaban, they could have died tonight just as easily as the Aurors that were there." "But-" "We cannot afford to lose people this early in the game Harry. When we have a better idea of what Voldemort's plans and capabilities are we can afford to take more risks." "SO THAT'S ALL THIS IS?" roared Harry, "A GAME?" Dumbledore dropped his head slightly and his eyes grew darker. He put down the parchment and started to rub his left temple with his free hand. "No, Harry," he began, his speech slower than it had been before, "War is not a game. It does, however, have winners and losers, strategies, risks, rewards... it is not a game, but we must play by the rules or face defeat. It was not in our best interests to be at Azkaban tonight. We would have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of Death Eaters and Dementors present." Harry realized that there was a certain amount of sense in this, but that hardly changed the fact that there were several people who had died, including the Minister of Magic. Harry really didn't like him, but surely he was worth protecting. "So you're saying that the people who died tonight - died for no reason? They should have just left Azkaban and let the Death Eaters waltz right out?" he asked. "No life that is given to our cause is given in vain. Each life has a-" Dumbledore looked as though he were trying to find the right word to use, "a purpose. I have a purpose, you have a purpose, the Order has a purpose, just as every Death Eater and Dementor has a purpose." Harry was instantly reminded of the prophecy he'd heard for the first time just after Sirius's death. "You mean my purpose - to, er, fight Voldemort." It wasn't a question. "Yes, and my purpose is to place you into a position where you can do so. No matter what the costs." Harry's eyes widened. Did Dumbledore mean what Harry thought he meant? "You'd be willing to let hundreds of others die, to die yourself, just so that I can - fight him?" "As terrible as it may seem, that is precisely what I - what the Order of the Phoenix - exist to do. Your safety is more important than anything else. Without you, the Wizarding World would cease to exist. Voldemort would destroy everything." Harry nearly fell out of the chair Dumbledore had summoned. His fingers had gone numb from squeezing the armrests so hard, and he had a terrible headache from the constant prickling of his scar that had started just after the attack on Azkaban. Dumbledore noticed this. "Are you all right, Harry?" he asked, a note of concern in his voice. His brow furrowed and he leaned forward over the desk as though to get a better look. "Yeah, it's just a - it's nothing," Harry concluded. If Dumbledore expected him to do all of that, he probably didn't want to know that he was just feeling a little sick. Harry found himself worrying over whether he'd ever be allowed to be normal again when his thoughts were interrupted by Dumbledore. "It is a tall task in front of you Harry, you will not be able to succeed alone. The love and support of your friends will be vitally important to your ability to defeat Voldemort." Dumbledore straightened up and pushed his chair back from the desk as if to stand. "Therefore, I must ask that you learn to share your feelings with them. This is not your burden to bear alone. There are those who will gladly share it with you." Harry nodded glumly. Sure Ron and Hermione were great friends, but did he really want to share this with them? Would they still want to be around him after they learned his purpose? "I see that you have had a long night, and indeed the sun is about to rise," said Dumbledore in a somewhat fatherly tone. "We need to find you a place to sleep." Harry was suddenly reminded of he reason why he was even in this situation. "I can't go back to the Dursleys'," he said quietly. He felt terrible. Dumbledore had only recently told him why it was so important that he stay on Privet Drive, and now he had gone and got himself kicked out. "I know, Harry," said Dumbledore simply. "I received a rather frantic message from Arabella Figg. It seems she just missed you before you flooed to Grimmauld Place, she was, I'm afraid, having kittens." For the briefest of moments Harry could see the twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes return to full strength, and even under these dire circumstances he was forced to smile. "I'm er - sorry," he said, growing suddenly serious again. "I know that it was important for me to stay at the Dursleys' house, for my own protection, but I couldn't stand around and listen to my Uncle talk that way about Sirius." Dumbledore removed his long fingers from the arms of the great golden chair he was sitting in and pulled it back closer to the desk. "I know that Sirius Black meant a lot to you Harry," he took his glasses off and rubbed his nose, "and I cannot fault you for defending his honor. He was a good man and his memory deserves to have someone like you protecting it. Your parents were ri-" But Harry lost the rest of what Dumbledore was saying. The mention of his parents has caused him to remember the vision, and all of the questions about Dumbledore's involvement in their deaths. He fixed the Headmaster in his gaze and interrupted him. "I saw their deaths," he said loudly enough to be sure the man sitting across the desk heard him. Dumbledore stopped talking and frowned. "I had a dream - a vision - earlier tonight. Voldemort went back to his memory of it in a Pensieve." Dumbledore remained strangely quiet for several seconds. He had placed his elbows on the desk in front of him and he was bringing his fingers together then taking them apart again in sequence. Harry was just about to speak again when the fingers stopped moving. "I'm sorry that you had to see that, Harry." Dumbledore again pushed his chair back from the desk and was on the verge of standing up. Harry couldn't help but feel that his Headmaster was avoiding something. "Wait!" Dumbledore simply held out Harry's wand, offering it to him. Harry shook his head. "I won't take it unless you let me ask you about that night," he said. A furrow appeared in between Dumbledore's shaggy white eyebrows, and he pursed his lips together. "Very well then," he said. "I did tell you that I would tell you the whole truth. Just know that there are some things it is better not to know." Harry's heart skipped a beat. He was finally going to get his answers. But why was Dumbledore looking so troubled? "Why did Wor- er - Peter Pettigrew - alert my parents after he had already betrayed their location to Voldemort?" Harry watched Dumbledore's reaction in amazement. The wizened wizard slumped over, and it appeared as though a good bit of life drained out of him at that very moment. Harry couldn't stop himself from asking if he was all right. "Yes," breathed Dumbledore, a grim expression on his face. "I just had hoped that you would never find out what had really happened that night." Harry began to get angry again. He couldn't believe that Albus Dumbledore, the man he had trusted most, was capable of keeping more truths about his past from him. "I want to know what happened," he said firmly. Dumbledore nodded and stood up. "What you must understand Harry is that I would have done it another way if I could. We simply did not have another alternative. We - I - knew the whole contents of the prophecy," Harry's stomach did a flip at its mention, "and I knew that Voldemort did not. I therefore had to act quickly before he was able to learn the contents of the remainder of the prophecy." "What did you do?" growled Harry. "Please just let me tell the story Harry, it pains me to tell you this, and I would like for it to go quickly." Harry nodded sharply. "Very well, I decided that what we had to do was trap Voldemort into fulfilling the portion of the prophecy he did not know, or else he would simply kill both you and Neville Longbottom and be done with it. You were, being a child, defenseless against anything he could have thrown at you. There was, in my opinion, only one way to prevent Voldemort from killing the both of you before you had ever had the chance to fight him." "What did you do?" repeated Harry more insistently. It appeared that Dumbledore was withering under his glare. "I asked both your parents and Neville's parents if they'd be willing to sacrifice themselves." Harry's eyes burned and his scar prickled. He could feel his hair begin to stand on end. "YOU WHAT?" he shouted, nearly coming to his feet. Dumbledore began to pace on the far side of the desk. "The only way to protect you was to use an ancient magic which Voldemort would never be able to understand, the magic of the heart. So I asked your parents and Neville's to -" "TO GO GET THEMSELVES KILLED! YOU KILLED MY PARENTS!" "Voldemort killed your parents, Harry," Dumbledore's normally calm voice was beginning to crack. "There was no other way Harry. If we had done nothing, he could have killed you both easily, and the world as we know it wouldn't exist. Both your parents and Neville's agreed to go along with the plan. We set up two separate safe houses for them, with two separate Secret Keepers." A light went on inside Harry's head, though he was already seeing red. "Wait, Sirius once said that he was supposed to be the Secret Keeper, but he persuaded my parents to use Wormtail," he said mainly to himself, trying to prove the nightmare he'd just been made privy to was a lie. "Sirius was mistaken. Lily and James wished for no one to know about their sacrifice, they thought you'd think less of them for doing what they were going to do, so they agreed to the plan only if it was kept an absolute secret. Peter Pettigrew had been working as a double agent for the previous year, and he had intimate contact with Voldemort. He was always going to be the Secret Keeper. James merely asked Sirius to do it to keep up the appearance that it was not a trap." Harry was shaking in his seat. He wasn't sure what to think. "Unfortunately, after that night, Peter was so wracked with guilt over what he'd done to his best friends, he shunned all that was good within him and began to work exclusively for Voldemort. There are some things that just cannot be helped. He never did, however, give up the secret out of respect for you, Harry." Dumbledore appeared to be crying, but Harry had had enough. "NO!" he shouted, "WAS THAT MY PARENTS' PURPOSE? DID THEY EXIST JUST SO THEY COULD DIE? ARE WE ALL JUST PAWNS IN SOME STUPID CHESS MATCH?" "Emotion is what makes you strong Harry, but it is also your weakness. I'm afraid that what you have just learned may eventually be your downfall, and that is why I sought to keep it from you. You must realize that there is something greater than you, greater than me, greater than any of us at stake here." Dumbledore wiped his cheek and appeared to steel himself. "What's done is done," he said softly. Harry sprang to his feet and pointed an accusatory finger at Dumbledore. "You murdered my parents. You're the cause of Sirius going to Azkaban. You placed me with the Dursleys. You - everything bad in my life can be traced back to you." "I have done it only to keep you safe." "AT TOO GREAT A COST!" Harry reached out his hand to take back his wand, and Dumbledore offered no resistance. Harry was so angry that as soon as he touched the wand it shot off sparks. "Harry, you must -" But Harry never gave him the chance to finish. "NO!" Harry turned towards the double doors that led into the office's reception area, but couldn't resist a parting shot. "Their blood is on your hands," he said coldly, and left without looking back. In the reception area of the Minister's office (Harry briefly wondered who was Minister at the moment) Percy Weasley was sitting on the floor with his back to the wall staring at a piece of parchment identical to the one that Dumbledore had been holding. "I can't believe it," Harry heard him mumble over and over. Harry wasn't certain that he believed it either, any of it. He hoped that this was all nothing more than a dream, that tomorrow he'd wake up back in the cupboard. But he knew that it would have to remain wishful thinking. Fudge was dead, Dumbledore had orchestrated his parents' deaths, and he was now willing to let people die pointlessly so long as Harry was safe. It just didn't make sense. Harry didn't know where his feet were leading him, but they found there way into one of the elevators that ran the length of the Ministry of Magic, and he punched a random number. He had nowhere to go. He couldn't go back to the Dursleys, he couldn't go to the Burrow, it wasn't safe for Ron and his family for him to be there. He couldn't go to Hermione's for the same reason, and 12 Grimmauld Place was no longer in the possession of the Order. He thought briefly of going to the Leaky Cauldron, but that would just be inviting an attack on Diagon Alley. The only place he was safe anymore was at Hogwarts, and he had no way of getting there. Harry realised with a start that his trunk was still in the Drawing Room of Grimmauld Place. When Harry got out of the elevator, he recognized the corridor that he found himself on. Mr. Weasley's office was just down there, and his feet led him the rest of the way down the corridor, just as the sun rose in the enchanted windows. Vowing to himself not to think about it anymore, he slumped down against the door to the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office, and almost instantly fell asleep.

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