Finally, the truth. Lying with his face pressed into the dusty carpet of the office where he had once thought he was learning the secrets of victory, Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into the Death's welcoming arms. Along the way, he was to dispose of Voldemort's remaining links to life, so that when at last he flung himself across Voldemort's path, and did not raise a wand to defend himself, the end would be clean, and the job that ought to have been done in Godric's Hollow would be finished: neither would live, neither could survive.
He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that, in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly, keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. How many would there be time for, as he rose and walked through the castle for the last time, out into the grounds and into the Forest?
Terror ashed over him as he lay on the floor, with that funeral drum pounding inside him. Would it hurt to die? All those times he had thought that it was about to happen and escaped, he had never really thought of the thing itself: his will to live had always been so much strongerthan his fear of death. Yet it did not occur to him now to try to escape, to outrun Voldemort. It was over, he knew it, and all that was left was the thong itself: dying.
If he could only have died, on that summer's night, when he had left number four, Privet Drive for the last time, when the noble phoenix featherwand had saved him! If he could only have died like Hedwig, so quickly, he would not have known it had happened! Or if he could have launched himself in front of a wand to save someone he loved... he envied even his parents' deaths now. This cold-blooded walk to his own destruction would require a different kind of bravery. He felt his fingers trembling slightly and made an effort to control them, although no one could see him; the portraits on the wall were empty.
Slowly, very slowly, he sat up, and as he did so felt more alive, and more aware of his own living body than ever before. Why had he never appreciated waht miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart? It would all be gone...or at least, he would be gone from it. His breath came slow and deep, and his mouth and throat were completely dry, but so were his eyes.
Dumbledore's betrayal was almost nothing. Of course there had been a bigger plan; Harry had simply been too foolish to see it, he realised that now. He had never questioned his own assumption that Dumbledore wanted him alive. Now he saw that his lifespan had always been determined by how long it took to eliminate all the Horcruxes. Dumbledore had passed of destroying them to him, and obediently he had continued to chp away at the bonds tying not only Voldemort, but himself, to life. How neat, how elegant, not to waste any more lives, but to give the dangerous task to the boy who had alredy been marked for slaughter, and whose death would not be a calamity, but another blow against Voldemort.
And Dumbledore had known that Harry would not duck out, that he would keep going to the end, even thought it was his end, because he had taken trouble to get to know him, hadn't he? Dumbledore knew, as Voldemort knew, that Harry would not let anyone else die for him now that he had discovered it was in his power to stop it. The images of Fred, Lupin and Tonks lying dead in the Great Hall forced their way back inti his mind's eye, and for a moment he could hardly breath: Death was impatient...
But Dumbledore had overestimated him. He had failed: the snake survived. One Horcrux remained to bind Voldemort to the Earth, even after Harry had been killed. True, that would mean an easier job for somebody. He wondered who would do it... Ron and Hermione would know what had to be done, of course... that would have been why Dumbledore wanted him to confide in two others... so that ifhe fulfilled his true destiny a little early, they could carry on...
Like rain on a cold window, these thoughts pattered against the hard surface of the incontrovertible truth, which was that he must die. I must die. It must end.