During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
I I I
Albus Dumbledore began to feel distress over something he'd observed and went to discuss it with McGonagall, who he felt could have useful insight, as she often passed on little tidbits the students had trusted her with.
Harry had, if anything, underestimated how much and how thoroughly the Headmaster had rigged the castle to be an information network. Albus had every ghost and painting spy for him, naturally, and all the staff as well. The elves reported everything to him, as did the castle's wards, and as if that were not enough he frequently roamed the halls invisibly himself, observing directly what was of the most direct and pertinent interest to him.
Dumbledore had never heard of the muggle game called Paranoia, about a dark, dystopian future where a fanatical and insane computer spied upon its human charges so thoroughly that every time they visited a toilet not only were they watched on camera, but what came out of them was carefully weighed, measured and tested as a matter of routine.
However, Albus had that 'Friend Computer' beat three ways. For one thing, the city it ruled over was in a state of terrible disrepair that created the odd blind spots, while Hogwarts was in peak condition, functioning perfectly. And he was at the nerve center for everything.
His agents, the elves, ghosts and teachers, not to mention prefects and certain students, could give their reports to paintings and Albus would hear it as though they were spoken to himself. He heard and saw what any of the portraits in the castle did, and so could almost literally be said to see and hear everything that went on inside of Hogwarts.
It almost made him feel like a god, at times, knowing that much.
No ordinary mind could possibly have processed the information load that he demanded, but where Voldemort, the Dark Slytherin, had performed rituals to grant him power, Albus Dumbledore had, true to Harry's assessment of him as a Dark Ravenclaw, performed his to increase his ability to handle and process raw information.
Every painting was his eyes, every ghost his ears, and each suit of armor his hands, if he should choose to use them. In his castle Albus felt invincible, invulnerable, and, yes, frequently invisible as well, being seen only when he chose to be so.
No spider knew more about its web than he did about Hogwarts. Within his lair his knowledge was so near absolute that he could extrapolate from what he'd learned within to know the majority of useful happenings outside the school as well, out of conversations and other things overheard or seen.
Surely no creature was half as worthy as he to control the little ants that were the rest of the wizarding world. None among them could claim even half of his knowledge, not even a hundredth part of it! He knew things so far in advance of their actual happening, from small signs observed and then extrapolated forward through his more than a century of experience, that if he wished he could easily have himself passed off as a seer.
But that could cause those little ants to busy themselves trying to extract nuggets of that knowledge from him for their own benefit, and that simply wouldn't do! They were his to command, not in any position to require favors.
Besides, he preferred not to share knowledge of any sort, as the more his ants knew, the more complicated they made things, and the more trouble they were to manipulate 'For The Greater Good.'
He'd never quite completed that phrase out in public. People always imagined the tag line 'for the greater good of the world', or 'society in general', but every time he spoke it he completed it in the privacy of his own mind the way he actually meant it, 'for the greater good of Albus Dumbledore.'
It really was only fair. To his mind, the rest of wizard-kind were nothing more than bugs, deserving of pity perhaps, for not being as magnificent as he, but certainly no empathy.
Those who distrusted him frequently suspected his lemon drops were laced with potions. In that, they were correct, but it was less to control his staff and students than it was to contain himself. For over a century he'd needed regular doses of the potions and charms laden within them to maintain that grandfatherly air he was so famous for, and not go into cackling displays of narcissism out in public and tell people what he really thought of them.
No, that wouldn't do his reputation any good at all.
Dumbledore was a monster, incapable of feeling pity, compassion or remorse. However, through a cocktail of potions including a special draught of cheering charms, he was perfectly able to fake the image of a kindly grandfather.
Thus, he encouraged the blind fools and students to trust him, as even his foes counted him as a dottering old fool, and mostly harmless. It was really one of his most brilliant ideas, and he'd had it so long ago.
More the fools they, but everyone (outside himself) was so easily deceived!
However, every so often one of his schemes began to go not completely right and had to be corrected for, and he feared one of those times was upon him right now.
Blast that boy! He should never have surrendered the Potter invisibility cloak to him! But the boy had been so meek and pliable back then, and he'd needed to know if it had any powers usable only by one with the Potter bloodline.
But this year the infernal brat had taken to wearing it often, and that made him distressingly hard to track. None of his paintings, and few of his staff or ghosts, could sense the invisible with any reliability.
Why must the boy complicate things? All Harry had to do was suffer and die according to a schedule Albus had arranged. Then everything would be fine!
"Minerva," Albus entered his deputy's office with a slight knock on her door. "I was just getting back to my duties after my convalescence, and have only just overheard a most distressing rumor that I hope you could lay to rest. Is it true that Harry and Miss Granger are seeing each other in a romantic sense? I'd previously understood they were just study partners."
McGonagall looked up from reading a copy of Teen Witch Weekly she'd confiscated earlier that day, and, blushing slightly, hid it under her desk while Albus pretended not to notice.
She smiled for him. "Oh, Albus, Miss Granger explained that to me yesterday. No, they are not seeing each other. That was an excuse. Harry thought it up so they would not seem suspicious slipping off together to use their Time Turners to visit their extra classes. I thought it was really quite ingenious, actually, and awarded them twenty points for their original thinking."
Dumbledore's face had gone grave. "I wish you had brought this to me earlier, Minerva."
Sliding her purloined magazine discretely into a drawer, Minerva looked up to him, puzzled, "But Albus, whatever could be the matter? They are doing well in all of their classes, and behaving responsibly with the items entrusted to them. They were even quite imaginative in finding an excuse that no one could question. I should think you'd be pleased with them."
Inwardly, Dumbledore was seething. However, as always the potions overrode his natural urges to curse and rave over their disobedience, and he answered his deputy in soft and kindly tones. "Ah, Minerva. No, that is not my concern. What frightens me is the possibility of their ruse becoming real. Affection, except in the rarest cases, cannot be faked for long before it rises in truth."
Albus knew he himself was one of those rare exceptions, Tom Riddle another.
McGonagall was shaking her head. "I still fail to see the trouble, Albus. What should it matter that two friends may eventually marry? They rather remind me of James and Lily. To be honest, I am rather looking forward to them discovering affection for each other."
Albus shook his head gravely. "But Minerva, I fear you fail to understand the extent to which they are already taking it. Hogwarts informs me they are already sharing a set of rooms together."
"And Miss Granger explained that as well, Albus," Minerva took out astack of homework and put on her reading glasses. "She repeated an argument Harry had given her, in which he pointed out that to compensate for the extra time they are working, they must also catch a proportionate amount of extra sleep and down time, which out of necessity they must take away from the regular dormitories. I found her logic reasonable, and agreed with them both on their decision. She invited me to look over their rooms, a set of former VIP quarters near the greenhouses, and I placed a set of protective charms around her suite identical to the charms warding the girls dormitories. Really, Albus, I've rarely met a pair of third years so responsible, and fail to see what you are making yourself so upset over."
Then his Deputy Headmistress began reading homework, her way of telling him she did not agree with him, and effectively closing their little interview.
It was rare she was so bold. Something would have to be done to humble her.
The Headmaster could see where this was going, and nodded, speaking in sad tones, "I do hope your trust in them is not misplaced, Minerva."
Then he left, smirking inside as she glanced up in apprehension.
There, a seed of doubt had been planted. Now, whatever catastrophe he arranged to break up the budding relationship could also be used to bolster his deputy's trust in him, as she'd see that he'd been right all along. He'd done this enough times that it was rare anymore that she showed signs of thinking on her own. But it was best to nip that in the bud, as it were.
Harry was far too powerful, but could be kept ignorant so long as he was properly isolated and neglected. That he had saved young Granger's life was unfortunate, as from that day they'd become friends, in spite of all the work done to keep them separate.
The Headmaster reached his office and called for a House Elf to fetch down Trelawney from her tower. The gifts of an oracle were unpredictable and vague but the priests at Delphi had long ago perfected magic for prompting their rare skills to be provoked at need.
Spells he naturally knew, was quite accomplished at actually.
He let her keep a couple of junk prophecies in her head, falsies to distract. The rest had to be erased, for secrecy. It damaged her gift substantially to have her mind adjusted regularly like that, but Albus wasn't going to pass up any resource so useful as his own pocket oracle!
One of the chief vulnerabilities of one able to see the future was an inability to see their own, so the young lady had fallen into his trap nicely, thinking she was merely interviewing at a school for a job to pass on her ability, when nothing could have been further from Dumbledore's mind.
No, he had been consulting with her for years over every important issue, ever since that day he'd granted her an interview right there, in his office at Hogwarts, where he did all of his interviewing.
It had been she who'd warned him in that interview that the child of Lily and James Potter would surpass him, if they were alive to raise it. It had been Trelawney who'd told him that Harry could lead the entire magical world into a golden age of peace and prosperity... something that had to be stopped if Albus wanted to preserve his own power and position in it, not just because of Harry's star eclipsing Dumbledore's own, but because his manipulations could not survive in such an environment.
She hadn't put it in those words, of course. The interpretation was his own, but what else was he to expect on hearing the greatest wizard of the age was about to be born?
The greatest was HIM! Dumbledore had to remain on top to perform what he did, and could not afford any rivals!
No, she'd proven so useful he'd hired her on the spot. But even so, he hadn't been able to resist planting a trap with her as the bait, and arranged for a second interview down at Hogsmead, in a tavern he knew was frequented by Death Eaters, knowing one of them could be fooled into listening in so that Voldemort would become interested in destroying Dumbledore's rival for him.
Trelawney had been such an eager and able young thing, back then. At times he almost regretted the damage his meddling was doing to her mind and gift, as she was getting increasingly vague over the years. But really, it was for the Greater Good. True Divination was too dangerous a science to be allowed in any hands but his!
After all, who could keep secrets from an oracle?
No, Albus relied upon lies and secrets too dearly for anyone to be permitted to see through them. So the magical art of Divination had to disappear, and what better way to discredit it than to have it taught incompetently by a lady whose gift he had very nearly destroyed?
Harry would never know how much of his misery had been caused by Albus trying to avert Trelawney's prophecies concerning him. Things like 'The son of a flower could never bloom if kept in the dark' had caused his ignorance, and other prophecies had led to the Dursleys, and the abuse.
No, the boy could never be allowed to know how much of his misery could be traced directly back to Dumbledore. He would long ago have destroyed the boy himself, save for the fact that she had warned that the hand that held the weapon to slay him would die of the wound it had dealt him.
Thus, Albus encouraged Voldemort to kill Harry for him. Encouraged, but never ordered, never commanded, never blocked away quite all of the other options, avoiding any possibility of being 'the hand that held the weapon.'
He could point the way, but did not want to be caught holding it himself, not even metaphorically, with 'the weapon' seen as his servant who'd done the deed for him.
Ideally, Snape should have killed the boy already on his own initiative, or the Dursleys before him, but that hadn't happened in spite of Albus having arranged near every opportunity, and now he was being forced to deal with another prophecy, one that involved Harry's recovery.
Albus had been feeling quite confident about his campaign to destroy the boy ever since Trelawney had declared, when Harry was eight years old, that 'only the kiss of death can fully awaken his potential now.'
Well, dead it didn't matter what the blasted rat's potential was, now did it?
Still, every prophecy had loopholes. There were conditions under which Lily's child could be healed. Albus did not know if being healed could also unlock the boy's potential or not, but wasn't willing to take any chances. That was why he'd worked so hard to isolate him from any possible person who might fulfill that prophesied healing.
One of those was a twice golden watcher, who could wash away Harry's wounds with love.
Obscure, as her prophecies were nowadays, but not impenetrable. However a bit troublesome to counter. Ever since Albus had heard it he'd considered the dangers of the boy associating with Gryffindors, as any member of that House could be considered 'once' golden. Then, of course, the brat had to be sorted into that House, greatly complicating things.
Slytherin would have been so much easier, as with Snape the Head of House it would have been a trivial effort to marginalize and isolate the boy, continuing his program of abuse until it culminated in his final destruction. Why had the hat disregarded Dumbledore's command to place Harry among the snakes? He would've been much more easily killed. And Severus would've enjoyed brutalizing the child in the privacy of their common room.
After that Sorting disaster making him a Gryffindor, there were any number of possible ways for his housemates to qualify. Any blonde could be the boy's dreaded cure, as could any number of people with alarming last names, like Goldstein. There were also metaphorical potentials, like'friendship is golden'.
So Dumbledore had activated his backup agent. Ron was a pure Slytherin, but the hat had sorted him into Gryffindor on his command, putting Ron in with Harry, where the ginger snake could use the trivial contact of having shared a compartment on the train together to be 'friends' with Harry, and by his obnoxious personality, assure that no one else could stand the pair of them!
It had worked out so well at first, too.
But then that troll incident he'd permitted Quirrel to arrange, hoping it might destroy Harry, had turned against him.
Really, what was he paying Ron for? The boy'd befriended Harry on the train, as desired, then teased and bullied away all other children that might have tried approaching the Boy-Who-Lived, as required of him. But a part of that plan had backfired, as getting Granger into that mess that nearly killed her had caused her to latch onto the Boy-Who-Lived, and nothing Ronald could do could drive her away! Even despite of years of trying, doing everything that did not stand out too badly (and thus warn Harry of Ron's false friendship).
Dumbledore had spoken to Ron quite sternly on that failure, as the last thing he wanted was for Harry's power to be matched to Granger's genius, which was why he'd refused to allow Harry to share too many elective classes with her. Only now Albus was being forced to consider another danger she posed.
The name Granger hearkened back to a medieval office, the one charged with watching over the grain stores - and grain was often called the gold you can eat. A watcher of grain, or the dreaded 'watcher of gold'. Being a Gryffindor, that girl, he was sure, accomplished the second so she was almost surely the 'twice golden watcher' he had feared healing Harry.
Dumbledore had wounded Harry for a purpose. If those wounds should be healed, then all of his work to destroy Harry could come to nothing! That could not be permitted, for any number of reasons.
But, while Harry had prophetic protection, the girl did not. It always made such a fuss to have students dropping dead during the school year, not that that had ever prevented him from arranging it in the past, of course. But it was probably time to arrange another of his murder attempts.
And, should it be a suitably dramatic catastrophe, he could again convince Minerva to abandon her dangerous habit of thinking, and return to trusting him absolutely, as she ought.
Dumbledore had to be circumspect when trying to murder Harry, doing things obliquely so he could never be held directly responsible, lest the prophecy of being slain with the same wound come upon him. Tricking the boy to enter death traps was still the boy's choice, after all, and having his teachers set the actual deadly traps put in another vital layer of buffer.
However, with Granger he had no such restrictions. It would be a trifle inelegant to enter her rooms during the night when she was asleep and hit her with a killing curse, but Dumbledore could do it that way if he so chose.
He would have to delay that option until his arm was healed, however.
No, now might actually be an excellent time to arrange another circumstance that turned out to be a deadly trap, as, with any good fortune, he might get Harry destroyed at the same time as his 'twice golden watcher.'
And he even had a convenient werewolf to blame things on!
Albus chuckled. Yes, things were looking up indeed.
Then his face slackened, as his web informed him of something going wrong with a routine mind-rape by Snape, where his Potions Professor was actually the one distressed, then began screaming.
Seconds later his Potions Master had died shrieking in horrible madness.
That was going to cause complications.
I I I
Albus arrived at the Potions classroom in the dungeons after a brisk and speedy walk, yet was already behind the bulk of gawkers and early arrivals. Half of Slytherin House was present, no, make that three-quarters, as some had been pressed back around a corner of one hall. The other Houses were more than adequately represented, with everyone straining to see.
Luckily, Professor Flitwick and Madam Hooch had taken charge, and forced the audience back, permitting none to enter the actual classroom.
Albus arrived just in time to see Madam Pomfrey burst out of the room and be messily sick on the floor, throwing up her lunch in great, disgusted heaves. Flitwick took pity on her and cast a charm cleaning up the mess.
It was clear from Flitwick's eyes that he had seen inside. Hooch too.
A minor complication at best.
There came relief to the faces of his staff as Albus hove into view, and the students were gently encouraged to let him pass through the press of bodies until he reached the cleared zone around the entrance.
Flitwick motioned him inside with a grave motion of his tiny head. Albus did so, and heaved a sigh upon sighting the body of his old friend, laying there headless in a spray of his own gore.
It was really quite messy.
Nevertheless, Albus schooled his features into the kindly grandfather mask, one bearing good news, and poked his head back out the door to announce,"So good of you to show concern, my friends. But it was really quite small of an accident. Despite whatever wild exaggerations rumor may have told you, Professor Snape is still quite well, and shall be rejoining us momentarily. I fear whatever sprays of blood you may have heard of were merely the professor having broken his nose. Classes will resume tomorrow."
Flitwick and Hooch were staring at Albus as if he were the one missing his head, and so they missed it when his wand waved below their eye levels(meaning he had to cast it quite low to avoid Flitwick's gaze) as Dumbledore wordlessly cast as memory-modifying charm, making them believe his story.
Then he did the same to Pomfrey, who was also looking up at him in disbelief. Although, in her case, he added the addendum that her violent reaction was to the smell of a poorly-brewed potion.
One from near the Gryffindor side of the classroom. Albus would have made it belong to Harry Potter, but did not know which seat the boy had occupied, as portraits did not tend to survive the many accidents in that room, and ghosts grew bored so quickly when stationed in one place as to be completely useless, their attention wandering until they could notice nothing.
The situation outside taken care of, students departing as they discussed the news, Dumbledore went inside the classroom, shutting and locking the door behind him.
He went over to Snape's body, levitated it, then took the route through the man's office before turning his steps onto secret courses that led further down, below the dungeons, to one of Hogwarts more hidden vaults. There, he opened up a secure door and went inside, his Potion teacher's corpse floating in after.
Dumbledore wasted no time. They'd not had to do this often, but this was not the first time his Potions Professor had so offended someone as to provoke murder. Quickly putting the body in one of those 'boil a missionary'sized cauldrons, he began mixing the other needed ingredients.
Elixir of Life, from Flamel's Stone he'd failed to destroy. Phoenix tears from his very own companion. Unicorn blood, the body to be regenerated, and, of course, Snape's horcrux.
The only problem was Dumbledore's arm exploded partway into the ritual, and the old man had to clutch his own bleeding wound, cauterize the stump, and start it over again, this time holding his wand in his off hand.
Snape emerged, screaming incoherently and thrashing about in madness moments later, almost oversetting the great cast iron pot he sat in.
Dumbledore frowned. He'd been afraid of this complication. The madness was evidently quite strongly rooted in Snape's psyche, to have survived his death, as it were.
The Headmaster sighed. He'd been afraid this might have happened when Hogwarts had informed him of this teacher's death. Being driven mad before dying always complicated the issue, and deprived him the ability to question his subordinate as to how his demise had happened. Even a legilimency probe revealed a ruined mind too shattered to offer him any clues.
Sadly, Dumbledore could see no choice, so performed the necessary Obliviate to erase the traumatic experience that had driven Snape mad. In seconds, the man was looking about himself rationally and putting together clues.
"I perceive that, by my presence within this device, I met an unfortunate end, Albus? Since I have no recollection of it, can I assume I was ambushed?I'd thought I had most of my Slytherins too well in hand for that."
"Alas, we do not know." Albus was shaking his head in remorse over lost clues. "The wards informed me that you'd started screaming while with your third year class of Gryffindors and Slytherins. Shortly afterwards your head exploded. Since you revived clearly insane, I had to Obliviate the experience in order to recover you."
Snape calculated a bit, then nodded.
Dumbledore smiled as he continued. "Still, as it was all I could do to contain the news, I fear it shall be a small problem to recover the memories of some student who witnessed your demise. That should be enough to learn the method your murderer employed."
The Potions Professor climbed out of the pot and began to head for the door, only to be interrupted.
"Ah, Severus. If you please?"
Snape looked back to see the Headmaster indicating his own bloody sleeve, then nodded. "Yes, of course, Albus. How forgetful of me." Turning, the man came back into the room.
Smiling, the Headmaster replaced Snape's horcrux amulet on its heavily warded shelf in a heavily warded box that opened only on two conditions: Snape saying a password known to no one else (except Albus, of course, but Severus did not know the Headmaster knew it, as that ran contrary to their agreement - but one simply does not keep secrets from Dumbledore in his own castle!), and the death of Severus Snape.
Then, rather awkwardly since he was reduced to using one arm, Dumbledore climbed into the massive cauldron himself.
That was when Snape noticed that he was missing his wand. Sheepishly, he took one of the replacements stocked on a nearby shelf, stored for in case they had to perform one of these rituals, having lost their own, and cast a killing curse into Dumbledore's smiling face.
The Headmaster slumped down, dead, inside of the massive cauldron and a heavily warded box on a heavily warded shelf popped open. Snape reached inside to remove the Headmaster's own horcrux, added the same ingredients previously used (and noted while he did so that the mandrake root was getting a little low - have to get Albus to order Sprout to grow more. Their last batch had been flagrantly wasted unpetrifying those students last year)and moments later the restored Albus Dumbledore was crawling out of the massive cauldron, using both arms.
"Ah, thank you, Severus. That is really quite rejuvenating. I had begun losing some of my teeth." Albus joked, quite calmly.
"Perhaps it's because of the many sweets you eat," Snape offered back.
"Indeed," Dumbledore chuckled, slapping his compatriot on his back as the two of them walked the path back out of the under-dungeon areas.
I I I
Well, two people magically bound by unbreakable oaths to restore the other is the only sensible way to use a horcrux, now isn't it?
Actually, one MAJOR reason for keeping one's pet dark wizard around is he can be of use in performing any dark rituals that need doing, things that you could never ask a light wizard to do for you.
And Dumbledore TRUSTS Snape. Have you ever wondered why?