Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter, nor am I making any money from writing in these fandoms, more's the pity.
‘You must go to her, she needs your help.’
It was a very rare thing indeed to see the aged and wise Headmaster of Hogwarts plead for anything, let alone from a man who was barely twenty-five years old. But this particular whippersnapper was Harry Potter, and Harry Potter achieved the impossible every day of the week and twice on Sundays, so a mere rarity stood no chance. The Headmaster’s usual tactics of twinkling eyes and sherbet lemons had no effect on Harry, who, having known Dumbledore since the tender age of eleven, had long since become accustomed to his ways and wiles. And he wasn’t having any of it.
‘What she needs
is a therapist.’
‘Don’t be like this, Harry. She needs someone who understands what she’s been through.’
‘And of course I know exactly
what it’s like to try to induce the apocalypse in my grief after the murder of my lesbian lover.’
‘Don’t be facetious, Harry, please.’
‘Then what should I be, Headmaster? Obedient? Dutiful?’
‘I merely wish for you to be yourself. You are not this hard-hearted, Harry, surely?’
Harry sighed and slumped in his chair. He looked up at Dumbledore, feeling a hundred years old.
‘I’ve done everything you’ve ever asked of me. Everything. You told me I had to go back to the Dursleys, and I went. You told me I was destined to destroy Voldemort, and I did. I won’t pretend I was happy about it, but I did it anyway.’
‘Can you not do this one, last thing for me, Harry?’
Harry didn’t seem to hear him.
‘Everything you’ve asked, I’ve done. And now I want it to stop.'
‘I know you do,’ Dumbledore replied sadly, ‘and you have every right to. You have been so brave and so strong for such a long time. But you must do this for me.’
‘Why? Why must it be me? There’s not been another prophecy, has there?’
‘No, not another prophecy, but-’
‘Well then. Why must it be me? There are hundreds of people who are better qualified to deal with this kind of thing. Hermione-’
‘Hermione cannot. She is a very good witch, but she has not experienced what you have experienced.’
‘Just because I happen to have had some dealings with Dark wizards doesn’t mean I’m an expert on the subject.’
‘I know. But you know what it is to have everyone’s expectations heaped upon you, and what it feels like when you can’t meet them.’
Harry’s slow, tired manner changed abruptly.
‘And whose fault is that, hmm?’
Dumbledore looked at Harry, and his face was so old and his expression so defeated that Harry immediately wished that he hadn’t made such a cruel accusation.
‘Mine. I admit it has been largely my fault. I didn’t do enough to help you, and I will always regret it.
‘But don’t you see, Harry, this is exactly what Watcher Giles is feeling. His charge has lost herself to her magic, she may never recover, and he fears it is all his fault. You cannot understand what he is feeling, Harry. You don’t know what it’s like to have someone you have trained and cared for go so dangerously off the rails. You don’t know what it’s like to ask yourself if there was anything you could have done to prevent it: any advice or warning that you didn’t give, or even just a kind word at the right moment that you didn’t utter. To ask yourself if you could have done more and to find the answer is yes!’
Harry had never seen the Headmaster so upset. Whenever Harry had confronted Dumbledore about the sheer loneliness and crushing inadequacy he had experienced before Voldemort’s death, the Headmaster had made excuses. They were good excuses; good, but never quite good enough. For years Harry had harboured a deep resentment towards the Headmaster, the full extent of which he only now realised, as he felt it drift away. He had known, better than most, the burden of people’s expectations, but he had never grasped the fact that the Headmaster knew that burden far more intimately than he ever had. How long had he been told that Albus Dumbledore was the greatest wizard who ever lived? Harry wasn’t sure, but he thought he remembered Hagrid saying something of the sort the first night they had met, in the hut on the rock by the sea. So, ever since he had been eleven years old, he had looked at Dumbledore and seen some kind of omniscient, omnipotent being that could solve all the problems of the world with a twinkle of his eyes.
But the Headmaster hadn’t just been referring to him when he spoke of a student he felt he had failed, had he? Tom Riddle had been one of Dumbledore’s students, and from what Harry had learned, the Headmaster had known what he would turn out to be almost since he had met the young Tom. But even after seven years under Dumbledore’s care, that little boy had still gone on to become Lord Voldemort.
‘Headmaster,’ Harry said, waves of sympathy rolling out from him. ‘I accept that someone must go, but why me? I’m so content now, everything is so peaceful. Voldemort’s gone and I’m left, my life’s work is done. I spent my childhood fighting him, now I have what I’ve always wanted, everything is so calm. You’ve never been to my home, but it’s beautiful. The silence is so beautiful. I’m left alone there. I don’t want to go to America. I completed my mission five years ago; someone else can take care of this one.’
Dumbledore reflected on Harry’s words. It wasn’t that long ago that Harry would have summed up all he had ever wanted in just two words… But there was no point thinking about that now. Ginevra Weasley was long dead. But Dumbledore was convinced that however much Harry might protest that he loved his solitary existence, deep down he knew that he was deluding himself, numbing himself in an illusion of contentment just to stop the pain of her loss. How many times in years gone by had Remus Lupin declared that he was perfectly content to be alone, with three of his best friends dead and the fourth in Azkaban for their murders?
‘Harry,’ he said quietly, ‘I need you to do this for me. You’re right, there are others whom I could send, but I want it to be you. You will understand what the poor girl is feeling far better than anyone else.’
‘Please don’t make do this,’ Harry whispered, his eyes shut. ‘I don’t want to leave my home. I’m happy there, in the peace and quiet. Please don’t make me.’
‘I can’t make you do anything, Harry. Not after everything you’ve done for me, for the entire wizarding world. No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. But please Harry, will you do this for me?’