He walked around his desk and sat down behind it, watching Harry.
'Snape stopped giving me Occlumency lessons!' Harry snarled. 'He threw me out of his office!'
Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses.
He paused. Harry watched the sunlight, which was sliding slowly across the polished surface of Dumbledore's desk, illuminate a silver ink pot and a handsome scarlet quill. Harry could tell that the portraits all around them were awake and listening raptly to Dumbledore's explanation; he could hear the occasional rustle of robes, the slight clearing of a throat. Phineas Nigellus had still not returned . . .
'Five years ago, then,' continued Dumbledore, as though he had not paused in his story, 'you arrived at Hogwarts, neither as happy nor as well-nourished as I would have liked, perhaps, yet alive and healthy. You were not a pampered little prince, but as normal a boy as I could have hoped under the circumstances. Thus far, my plan was working well.
'And what brings you here in the early hours of the morning?' said Phineas eventually. This office is supposed to be barred to all but the rightful Headmaster. Or has Dumbledore sent you here? Oh, don't tell me . . .' He gave another shuddering yawn. 'Another message for my worthless great-great-grandson?'
Phineas Nigellus gave a long yawn, stretching his arms as he surveyed Harry out of shrewd, narrow eyes.
'Not until I have had my say,' said Dumbledore.
It was his fault Sirius had died; it was all his fault. If he, Harry, had not been stupid enough to fall for Voldemort's trick, if he had not been so convinced that what he had seen in his dream was real, if he had only opened his mind to the possibility that Voldemort was, as Hermione had said, banking on Harry's love of playing the hero . . .
Another jet of green light flew from behind the silver shield. This time it was the one-armed centaur, galloping in front of Dumbledore, that took the blast and shattered into a hundred pieces, but before the fragments had even hit the floor, Dumbledore had drawn back his wand and waved it as though brandishing a whip. A long thin flame flew from the tip; it wrapped itself around Voldemort, shield and all. For a moment, it seemed Dumbledore had won, but then the fiery rope became a serpent, which relinquished its hold on Voldemort at once and turned, hissing furiously, to face Dumbledore.
'Kreacher is what he has been made by wizards, Harry,' said Dumbledore. 'Yes, he is to be pitied. His existence has been as miserable as your friend Dobby's. He was forced to do Sirius's bidding, because Sirius was the last of the family to which he was enslaved, but he felt no true loyalty to him. And whatever Kreacher's faults, it must be admitted that Sirius did nothing to make Kreacher's lot easier - '
'And then you saw Rookwood, who worked in the Department of Mysteries before his arrest, telling Voldemort what we had known all along - that the prophecies held in the Ministry of Magic are
'I shall explain everything,' repeated Dumbledore, 'when Harry is back at school.'
The prophecy's smashed,' Harry said blankly. 'I was pulling Neville up those benches in the - the room where the archway was, and I ripped his robes and it fell . . .'
'We both know that there are other ways of destroying a man, Tom,' Dumbledore said calmly, continuing to walk towards Voldemort as though he had not a fear in the world, as though nothing had happened to interrupt his stroll up the hall. 'Merely taking your life would not satisfy me, I admit - '
'So . . . when I asked Kreacher if Sirius was there last night . . .'
'But you came out of the maze last year, having watched Cedric Diggory die, having escaped death so narrowly yourself . . . and I did not tell you, though I knew, now Voldemort had returned, I must do it soon. And now, tonight, I know you have long been ready for the knowledge I have kept from you for so long, because you have proved that I should have placed the burden upon you
'Harry you know Professor Snape had no choice but to pretend not to take you seriously in front of Dolores Umbridge,' said Dumbledore steadily, 'but as I have explained, he informed the Order as soon as possible about what you had said. It was he who deduced where you had gone when you did not return from the Forest. It was he, too, who gave Professor Umbridge fake Veritaserum when she was attempting to force you to tell her Sirius's whereabouts.'
For a few seconds Voldemort was visible only as a dark, rippling, faceless figure, shimmering and indistinct upon the plinth, clearly struggling to throw off the suffocating mass - '