There is a room in the Department of Mysteries,' interrupted Dumbledore, 'that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.'
He helped himself to a handful of Chocolate Frogs from the immense pile on his bedside cabinet, threw a few to Harry, Ginny and Neville and ripped off the wrapper of his own with his teeth. There were still deep welts on his forearms where the brain's tentacles had wrapped around him. According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else, though since she had started applying copious amounts of Dr Ubbly's Oblivious Unction there seemed to have been some improvement.
He realised what it was within seconds. Sirius had given it to him just inside the front door of number twelve Grimmauld Place. 'Use it if you need me, all right?'
'Yes,' said Dumbledore.
'But you said - Neville was born at the end of July, too - and his mum and dad - '
Harry closed his eyes. If he had not gone to save Sirius, Sirius would not have died . . . More to stave off the moment when he would have to think of Sirius again, Harry asked, without caring much about the answer, The end of the prophecy . . . it was something about . . . neither can live . . .'
'It hasn't really started yet,' sighed Hermione gloomily, folding up the newspaper again. 'But it won't be long now
'Er - isn't it?' said Harry uncertainly.
Snape looked towards the giant hour-glasses on the walls and gave a sneering smile.
'Ev'ryone knows yeh've bin tellin' the truth now, Harry' said Hagrid softly and unexpectedly. He was watching Harry closely. Tha's gotta be better, hasn' it?'
The castle seemed very quiet even for a Sunday. Everybody was clearly out in the sunny grounds, enjoying the end of their exams and the prospect of a last few days of term unhampered by revision or homework. Harry walked slowly along the deserted corridor, peering out of windows as he went; he could see people messing around in the air over the Quidditch pitch and a couple of students swimming in the lake, accompanied by the giant squid.
A most peculiar expression stole over Nearly Headless Nick's face as he inserted a finger in the stiff ruff at his neck and tugged it a little straighter, apparently to give himself thinking time. He desisted only when his partially severed neck seemed about to give way completely.
'I - er - heard she's going out with someone else now,' said Hermione tentatively.
'I am not aware that it is any of your business what goes on in my house - '
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'I did,' said Dumbledore. 'On a cold, wet night sixteen years ago, in a room above the bar at the Hog's Head inn. I had gone there to see an applicant for the post of Divination teacher, though it was against my inclination to allow the subject of Divination to continue at all. The applicant, however, was the great-great-granddaughter of a very famous, very gifted Seer and I thought it common politeness to meet her. I was disappointed. It seemed to me that she had not a trace of the gift herself. I told her, courteously I hope, that I did not think she would be suitable for the post. I turned to leave.'
'Professor Dumbledore?' Harry said very quietly, for Dumbledore, still staring at the Pensieve, seemed completely lost in thought. 'It . . . did that mean . . . what did that mean?'
Hermione looked rather disapproving and asked, 'So has all the trouble stopped now Dumbledore's back?'
She walked away from him and, as he watched her go, he found that the terrible weight in his stomach seemed to have lessened slightly.
'You're going to pay,' said Malfoy, in a voice barely louder than a whisper. 'I'm going to make you pay for what you've done to my father . . .'