Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling and I make no money off of this
Warnings: minor swearing
Woo, chapter 51! I know it's short, and I'm sorry about that, but I would be oh-so pleased if you'd review.
Dumbledore eyed the empty wooden perch that still sat on the edge of his desk, coated with a light layer of dust from disuse, and watched as the sun beamed through the window behind his head in such a way that it hit the exact spot where it resided- making it glow a brilliant yellow, and curtaining it in a halo of orange, if only just for a moment while the sun set.
He stifled a frown at seeing the thing that always somehow managed to mosey in his peripheral vision whenever he was tired, or grim, or had a particularly difficult decision to make.
Although, it was only fitting that the bird's perch was so eye-catching this evening.
He was tired, of course, and certainly grim.
Dare he say afraid?
And he did have a difficult decision to make. Or, more exactly, to watch.
That's right- Dumbledore rubbed at his eyes behind his half moon spectacles, pushing them away from the bridge of his crooked nose, and let them clatter to the desk with an inaudible clink- watching was the only thing he had left to do now.
Watching and waiting and seeing and sighing, and saying, "It had to be done."
That's the only part he had in this.
No, not the only part he had in this, but nonetheless: It had to be done. It has to be done.
He had merely set it up, yes, because that's the type of person he was. A chess master. A puppeteer. No regard for the little lives.
The man wrung his hands nervously into his robes, feeling some inexorable demon weighing on his chest- The Right Thing. He was doing The Right Thing. He was serving the Greater Good, and is there such a good greater than that?
Not that his old friend would agree with him.
He stood abruptly, hand wavering over the perch sitting on his desk for only a moment before knocking it off the edge. The ripe orange halo wavered and disappeared, the yellow beam instead hit the empty, dustless spot where it once had been, and the unbearable thing bashed onto the floor. He couldn't bare to look at it any more than he already had.
Oh, he knew Harry was telling the truth. Right from the moment he woke up, and those haunted green eyes stared up at him, head feverish, horror expanding in their depths like how formerly calm water ripples into concentric circles when hit with a pebble.
The boy choked again, lifting up his weak arm from his pounding forehead and recoiling at the red dripping off of it. Blood. It was blood. "Voldemort..."
"Yes?" Snape leaned forward, a colorful array of potions tucked under his arms.
"He... there's going to, to, be an attack. On Hogsmeade."
He had known it to be true along and yet, he had turned everyone against the boy. Told everyone it had just been a dream. It had been easy, of course, what with his ready supply of power and influence but- but-
It was also perhaps the most difficult decision he'd ever had to make in his life.
Albus rubbed at his forehead, squeezing the bridge of his nose to get rid of an abominable headache.
He cared for Harry, not unlike Severus, and it had hurt him more than he'd like to admit when he had regrettably been informed of the boy's home life. Yet there are some things that absolutely must be done.
The Horcrux in the boy's scar had been utterly destroyed and now was the most opportune moment that he was to defeat Voldemort. No one and nothing could get in the way of the prophesy- when the time comes, it must be between only the Dark Lord and the boy. It would risk too much if the Order Members were there to protect him, or if his friends believed him, or, Merlin forbid, The Daily Prophet believed him.
...Oh and, that power, that power that Harry possesses- it wafts through the hallway like freshly baked cookies, tickling his nose as if he hasn't eaten in two weeks. It had come on quickly, one day it wasn't there and then, after a particularly cold winter evening, he had been awoken by the sweet scent emanating just east of him. To this day, he had no idea was caused it. The raw magical talent had come on abruptly, and could disappear just as abruptly if Albus wasn't careful and timely with his decisions. And he was sure that power was meant to destroy Voldemort for once and all.
Everything was falling into place, everything was going as planned-
His friends didn't believe him. Check.
The boy felt isolated as a result. Check.
His sense of duty motivates him to take action. Check.
Harry will defeat Voldemort and, if fate necessitates it, then the boy must perish as well. Uncheck.
And if students die in the crossfire, die because they had not been warned? What then?
The old man shuddered.
It still has to be done. Voldemort has to be defeated. In the long run, it will have been The Right Thing.
Dumbledore's eyes traveled to the bird perch he had knocked on the floor and he had knelt down to it. Grasping it in his wrinkled hands, the man thought about placing it on his desk again, but immediately as it had caught the last sliver of yellow light from the window, he felt it scorch his hands and light in flames as he dropped it again.
A brilliant orange fire crisped the wood, coming right from inside the perch itself, charring it into something unrecognizable.
How curious; even on Fawkes' Burning Day, the perch had never smoldered.
Was it an omen?
Don't be silly, Albus.
Of course, that was all in the past. Now was the present and, if he did things right, a better future.
For the Greater Good.
"I'm so sorry, Harry," the man whispered to himself, jowls drooping, and examined the burns on his fingers. They were sure to blister.