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
Hermione/Trelawney stared at the Headmaster's retreating back long after it had vanished, then returned her gaze to the office. 'He doesn't know!'she thought to herself, getting a bit giddy and elated. 'He just wanted Trelawney in here to make a prediction for him! He DOESN'T KNOW I replaced her!'
Somehow that made the nigh-invulnerable seeming Headmaster just a bit more human and defeatable.
Something firmed up within the girl, and her eyes narrowed as her thought processes kicked into gear and went online, having previously been almost shut down for fear of the man.
'First order of business,' she thought to herself, 'is to secure a route of escape.'
With that thought in mind, the young lady picked herself up and went over to the large window Dumbledore had behind his desk. It let in light that didn't flicker, and cast it over the shoulders of whomever was sitting at the desk. This put it on the documents that person would be reading, and also gave him a distinct psychological advantage in interviews, to have the light behind him.
To Hermione at the moment, it was nothing more than an exit. She hadn't forgotten the shrunken broom in her pocket, nor Harry's idea of jumping out a window to fly away to safety.
Unlatching the window and swinging open both panes was not hard. However, just before she got up the gumption to climb up on the sill, preparatory to jumping out, the young girl looked back at the book she'd been reading.
It was excellent.
However, the idea of keeping it and bringing it with her so she could continue reading and possibly finish it, soon exploded as she had a related thought. The Queen said that Hogwarts gave Dumbledore a unique and irreplaceable advantage, one that he couldn't get any other way. His office had to play a part in that somehow, and she would likely never be in this room again.
Steeling herself to walk casually, the young lady moved over to Dumbledore's desk and picked up a letter opener, then went back to the window, noting that if she leaned out none of the portraits could see what she was doing, and used the flat blade of the letter opener to pry out the pins on the hinges holding the panes of glass in place.
She watched both panes fall away with considerable satisfaction. She didn't doubt the window could close on the Headmaster's command, or even that the glass was unbreakable and immune to most spells. But no way was that window being closed now, so she had an avenue of escape, even if he was to come back to his office right then.
She maneuvered two chairs in front of the door that led from the stairs up from the gargoyle at the entrance, hoping he would trip on them if he came up in a rush trying to catch her. Then she went to work.
Numerous people in her small group had mentioned by now that all paintings in the castle reported to the Headmaster. So Hermione started by taking all the ones in his office down, dragging around a chair so she could reach the ones higher up, and putting them all in a wooden shipping crate transfigured out of a drink cup left over from their visit to the KFC.
Paintings couldn't report on anything they couldn't see. That much had been made clear to her by Harry's trick, treating one like a security camera. And wand use was more suspicious than any other activity, that's why she did all the removal by hand. Well, except the transfiguring.
Once she was finished packing those portraits away, the girl checked around the rest of the room and got working on those bookshelves next, doing much the same thing, packing away shelf after shelf of books in some degree of haste, rushing as there were ever so many of them around the room. And she had no idea what was going to set off his alerts and bring him back. Each one could be the last, so she constantly hurried.
Then she eyed the Headmaster's desk. She didn't dare open any of the drawers, sure that would trigger a much stronger alarm. But stacked over its top, and a great number of flat surfaces nearby as well, was a glittering assortment of delicate silver instruments.
She didn't know what they monitored, and frankly she didn't care. That they were present was enough reason to remove them. There were any number of uses for space directly around where you are working, and a mind as brilliant as Dumbledore's wouldn't put anything in the 'glance at it to check it' range if he didn't care about what information that glance gave him. The closest stuff would be the most important, but he'd want constant updates on it all.
So they had to go.
Packing all of those silver gadgets and whirling gizmos into another box was easy if you didn't care about damaging them. In fact, she'd been rather careless about all of her packing, more concerned about haste than security for the items she was moving - It was only her life on the line, after all, and he could still return at any second, prompted by alerts already given.
Nerves fraying, and her daring coming to an end, Hermione spared the room one last glance before intending to dart to the window and safety, when her eyes lit on the Sorting Hat, and a sudden smirk graced her lips.
Dumbledore had been briefly removed by the Board of Governors last year for letting a monster in to terrorize the students. So he COULD be removed if the cause was bad enough! And what could be worse than losing a relic of the Founders, and an integral part of running the school?
Grabbing the Hat, she wadded it up to shove in her pocket, performed a switching spell to trade Trelawney's clothes for her own fairy garments so she could go invisible (and wished she'd thought of that earlier, as she kept imagining the Headmaster rushing up here at a run, sure she'd set off a terrible number of alarms), checked to make sure she had all the right things in her pockets still, tossed her teacher's empty clothes and glasses on the desk where his recently arrived dinner lay, shrank the boxes she'd packed things into, transfigured them into hard candies in the hopes of throwing off any tracking charms on them, climbed up on the sill and unshrunk her broom.
Gazing back into the office, Hermione then cast her strongest wandless fire spell back into the room, leaping off into the sky as the furniture went ablaze behind her.
The silver gadgets would not shrink or transfigure, so she sped on her school broom around to the back of Hagrid's cabin, where she dumped them all in a pen he had full of nifflers, magical creatures who had a predilection for anything glittery and liked to chew on precious metals to supplement their diets. They fell on them like a pack of savage hounds. Now the Headmaster could trace those devices all he wanted, and he'd be welcome to dig through niffler droppings for the torn up scraps of them.
She did not know that among those silver devices were Dumbledore's own special edition, custom time turner, and his spare. But that was just his bad luck they got destroyed along with so much else of his equipment.
Hermione herself disappeared off into the forest, dropping the Trelawney disguise once she was well off under the trees. Behind her, in the burning office of the Headmaster, written on the wall in coleslaw stuck there with a permanent sticking charm, were the words, "The Fingerlickers were here!"
I I I
As he was walking down to answer Snape's call Albus felt annoyed at himself for having left Trelawney in his office. She'd obviously reached her limits as to how much of it she could stand and gone into fits, to judge by the number of abnormal alarms he was getting from her. But no dangerous spells had been cast, nor anything broken, and he simply did not have the time to deal with her right then, not even to check those alarms in detail.
Whatever she was doing, it would have to wait. Nor was this the first time she had gotten anxious to the point of insanity in his office and moved a bunch of things about, leaving a clutter as bad as her own room.
She wasn't breaking anything, and that sufficed for now. It couldn't be bad, as she was hardly using her wand at all.
The House Elves could fix it all up in moments, he was sure. So whatever nonsense had gotten in to her otherwise empty skull was of no concern to him while dealing with the present emergency.
Priorities were the only way to live under the information load he had himself under. Otherwise everything would get interrupted and nothing would ever be done. His castle would just fill with half-completed projects.
Correctly determining those priorities, which emergency to deal with first, took a great deal of luck, or, as Dumbledore flattered himself, a perceptive mind. But he trusted his own judgment, as it had never failed him before.
Why would it have the bad luck to do so now, of all times?
Dumbledore's face smoothed as the warnings from the paintings grew fewer and fewer. Perhaps she was calming down. That was excellent, as it gave him fewer distractions for dealing with the serious matters to hand.
Severus had reported a break-in to Hogwarts - one that Albus had not planned!
Arriving with haste in his Potion Master's office, Dumbledore saw Severus standing near his cabinet of saleable wares and performing tests on some substance he'd removed from out of one of those bottles.
"I came directly on receipt of your message, Severus. What has happened?"
Professor Snape turned around to greet him, his face a mask of upset and confusion. But they trusted each other, and Snape spoke quickly. "I came in late this morning. As you know, I've been using all my spare time in attempts to identify the poison used on you. Between that and my normal classes, I've not had time for my side business. However, as I came in after the... incident in my first year class this afternoon, I noticed something odd."
He held out a small vial to the Headmaster. "Do you recognize this?"
Dumbledore peered over his glasses at the substance. "It appears to be some sort of crude, vegetable slurry."
Severus nodded. "It is. So far I've identified it as a mixture of shredded raw cabbage, shredded carrots, some oils, and a few other ingredients Icould not imagine the purpose of. It all seems rather senseless, but Ifind that half a dozen of my potions are missing - replaced by this substance, as well as other saleable wares."
Albus took the vial and inspected it more closely. But as Severus had said, it appeared to be primarily shredded cabbage and oils. Looking over his glasses at his friend, he asked, "Have you identified any of its properties?"
Snape scowled, moving over to his desk. "I did the usual test, of course, snagging some muggleborn, a third year Hufflepuff this time, and forcing a dose down her. All she said was that it reminded her of visiting her cousin's home in the Colonies."
Neither party had to state that she'd been Obliviated afterwards, or that should some disaster have happened, she would've been handed off to Madam Pomfrey with some made-up story about how she'd been experimenting with potions unsupervised and it had gone wrong.
They had several such 'cases' a year, more when they needed a greater number of test subjects. Muggleborn testing was a priceless tool in their research, after all.
A bit messy when they exploded, but it was all for the Greater Good.
The best part was that it created an anti-muggleborn prejudice among the school officers and board, as they kept seeing so many results of careless activities no pureblood would do. And, since it was the student being blamed for what was supposedly their own fault, it caused next to no ruckus for the school in general when a few muggleborns died that way.
It was the unexplained deaths that caused so many problems, when ancient monsters roamed the halls and future dark lords painted threats on walls. When Albus was the cause, or Snape was, they always had a ready excuse to blame on the student, sealing the case with no fuss and no hassle.
No, the practice held immeasurable benefits, not the least of which was a few less muggleborns polluting the magical world. But also there were the potential research benefits. Dumbledore could not have discovered twelve uses of dragon's blood without it!
Although more than a few muggleborns had dissolved during testing, as far as he was concerned, that was just another benefit. Making McGonagall tell the parents their kids had been careless and it was all their own fault for dying still caused him to cackle into his pillow some nights.
She couldn't use those words, of course. But that was the definite spirit conveyed, "Your child screwed up doing something dangerous and killed him or herself," when the only dangerous thing they'd done was trust the Headmaster and go to Hogwarts.
No, it still had him giggling sometimes.
"So this points to the Americas, then?" Dumbledore thought of a good half dozen reasons why that might be, involving plots so esoteric that no one outside of he even knew they were going on.
"There's more," Snape hesitated, then gathered himself and plunged on."I found slight smears, traces only you understand, of another substance on the bottles and tools involved in the theft, and the cabinet door handles."
Dumbledore looked at him curiously, waiting for him to explain, and Snape did not disappoint, hesitating only a bit before answering, "It was chicken grease, Headmaster. Someone handled my tools who had been handling fried chicken before - and more, I've identified the same eleven herbs and spices in it as was used in your wound to poison you."
The Headmaster paled. "Severus, are you sure?" On receiving a nod he sat down to steady himself. "The Dark Colonel. This is grave news."
"Why?" Snape raised an eyebrow. "You've dealt with upstarts before."
Dumbledore nodded, but considering the latest prophecies... he could not keep this information from his most trusted assistant. "Severus, Ihave reason to believe that neither myself, nor Voldemort, could defeat this Colonel Sanders. You can be sure I am looking into options."
Snape considered that silently for a while. "What of the Potter brat?"
Albus shook his head. "Alas, he may not be relied upon either. The necessary treatments of him may have rendered him unable. This, also, I will look into further, as I feel there may be some way around our present restrictions."
He raised a stricken face to his old friend. "What was taken?"
The Potions Master answered in a businesslike tone. "Four doses of polyjuice, my entire collection of hairs, but strangely no Aging Potion. Then also a dose of Unctuous Unction and a bottle of Shocktox."
Albus was nodding. Aging Potion was taken along with polyjuice by the less deplorable of Snape's 'special customers' wanting a liaison with apublicly known figure to make the resulting subject of legal age - as the hairs were all gathered during school years, the resultant form was always underage, and Aging Potion was a solution to that, for those who cared about such things.
Granger was one of those gathered, as they could say with a certain amount of confidence that with her drive and abilities she would be famous someday and now, in school, was the only opportunity to gather hairs. Most Slytherins had enough ambition to obtain some office. But Harry Potter was already Snape's best seller. Only witches generally wanted to age him a bit.
Albus himself couldn't see what the problem was, and preferred his little boys little, before they got unpleasantly hairy. That was back in the day when such things mattered, of course. He no longer had such appetites.
"That would point to someone who wanted to subdue a person, make them their friend, and then possibly impersonate them, or have them impersonate someone else out of your collection of hairs. Interesting." Albus rubbed his beard in thought.
"But Albus, why wasn't I notified? The customer alarm did nothing."
Dumbledore was nodding, having already reviewed that information. "The portraits I had along that access route saw nothing, so our intruders must have been invisible. Fear not, however, as I have a rare and difficult to obtain device covering this area that is able to detect and record even that. Sadly, this type does not interface well with others, so I could not have it alert me to this intrusion in real time. However, we may check the recordings."
The pair of men moved out into the corridor, out along the route set up so customers could gain access to Snape's services. There, in a dingy part of the castle that was heavily shadowed, Albus stopped.
Conjuring a stepladder, Dumbledore scaled high up an otherwise dank and narrow wall, reached into a secret cubby, and climbed down, holding a bare skull like it was some form of treasure.
Snape raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
Both men knew what it was. A skull of a wizard who died with his eyes open could be enchanted to serve as a guardian of sorts - a Watch Skull. However doing that was supremely illegal in spite of its effectiveness, as using a man's mortal remains in a necromantic ritual of that sort always caused his spirit to rest uneasy.
That didn't stop Dumbledore from doing it. In fact, he was responsible for the ghost population being so high in recent years, as uneasy spirits often rose as ghosts, and most of them came to Hogwarts where he found use for them as additional eyes and ears.
Watch skulls were prized by dark wizards as guardians, being able to sense the invisible, as well as spirits. But using them was supremely illegal, as well as risky. Ghosts could scent them, and would seek them out to expose them so they could be destroyed and the spirits tied to them put to rest. So Albus could not fill the castle with them. In fact he must have warded this section of corridor against any ghosts entering - not something he was willing to do for large areas of Hogwarts.
But, for the occasional watch post, useful all the same.
Albus stroked the skull and whispered a few spells, then the empty sockets glowed and projected a scene that both wizards watched in silence, seeing two invisible and anonymous people enter, then pass.
The two thought nothing of the clothes the images were wearing. Invisibility-anything was rare. Cloaks were the most common garments that offered it, but people would take it in whatever form they could obtain regardless of shape, style or fashion.
Besides, to them, the clothes could even be trendy. They were certainly nice looking enough, and wizards didn't care about dated styles.
"I don't recognize them," Snape declared once the image was over. "Were they before my time? Or did they not go to school here?" He was expecting to hear the intruders names, along with detailed histories.
He got disappointed.
Albus was slowly shaking his head. "No Severus, I do not know them. It is even possible they may have been muggles."
"Muggles?" the Head of Slytherin scoffed. "Impossible!"
"Ah! But see. This stone here, Severus, is the alarm stone. It registers the magical strength of any witch or wizard passing over it, and sounds an alert for you to be ready to receive customers, and yet looking here at what it has recorded, it shows nothing, not even at the exact time the skull shows our intruders passed. No one with a human magical core in their bodies entered despite what our bony friend has shown us."
"Then how did that cabbage mess get into my potion cabinet?"
"Ah, Severus," Albus breathed with a twinkle in his eye at the sleuthing he loved so much. "I believe we may have been invaded by a pair of muggles, which should be impossible. But it is clear they have no human magical core in their bodies. So either they are muggles, or some form of magical beast that had taken the form of humans. Both are tremendously implausible, yet one or the other seems to have occurred. Yet the skull does not show them leaving, which I find odd. Come, let us check the skull in your office."
Snape had long since given up on achieving any degree of privacy in this castle run by a man obsessed with spying on everything, but even he found it slightly off-putting to know that the Headmaster checked his moves that closely.
After replacing that skull, they went back into the office where Dumbledore retrieved another, similarly hidden. Through its projected ghostly images they saw the pair of presumed muggles enter, inspect the cabinet, steal polyjuice and hairs, drink it to become two students, then enter the castle proper.
Albus, noticing what Snape did not, and possessing a keen eye for detail, had seen a face of a white bearded muggle, along with the letters 'KFC'on the package they'd used to transport that cabbage mess.
"Don't tell me that was Potter and Granger?" Snape snarled.
Albus shook his head, grinning in full grandfather mode even as he suppressed awareness of a damage alarm occurring in his office. "No. That's just what they want us to think. Did you not see them drink your polyjuice, Severus?Do you not have hairs collected from Harry and Miss Granger? No, they needed access to our school, and chose two students to get it. Two students, Imight add, that I have been having unusual difficulties tracking of late. They could have gone almost anywhere, and I not been aware of it."
Anywhere, that is, except certain sensitive places. But Snape did not need to be aware of that.
His eyes twinkled as he further inspected his wards. He had another alarm stone, set to keep Snape's customers from entering the school proper, and it registered the familiar magical cores of two of his students. Amazing. He had not previously experimented with the use of polyjuice on muggles. Perhaps it was now time to start?
The duplication was flawless on the surface of it. Quite remarkable.
Suddenly the accounts of damage to his office became too great to ignore. Albus sent an elf to go send Trelawney back to her tower, but the creature popped back in moments, burned and cringing, weeping as it informed him that it could not find her there, or anywhere.
Shocked, Dumbledore had to excuse himself to go check on this himself and discover what was up with so many alarms going off in an office no one had been permitted to enter but his oracle.
What he found when he got there was an office ablaze, and words written on the wall in charred cabbage slurry spelling out an obscure yet threatening message, that his enemies (for what else could they be?) had penetrated even to this very sanctuary!
Dumbledore'd had no need to fear the fire, standing unharmed amidst the blaze, as he'd made himself immune to that long ago using a ritual starring a certain forgotten goblet in the basement.
Fawkes flamed in and caught him, getting the old man out of there before the burning timbers of his office roof came down and crushed him.
I I I
Ok, I had to admit I had fun with that. A bit difficult to pull off, but worth it in my opinion.
Oh, and I forgot to say this in a previous author's notes, so I will here. If Dumbledore hadn't gotten greedy, and in his haste grabbed incautiously for a prized magical artifact he'd long coveted, and doing so fell into a deadly trap, he would not have needed to activate his escape plan of having Snape kill him, and would have been around to see Harry's death and personally benefit from that grand final sacrifice of Harry's life Dumbledore spent so long arranging, and gotten hold of Lily's gift of protection himself while it was distributed to those at Hogwarts - including Harry's enemies (like Snape and Draco).
So those fan predictions about Dumbledore planning to sacrifice Harry to increase his own fame and power were bang on the money, and he was going to steal Lily's gift for himself and his cronies (oddly including a rather large number of people who'd hated and abused Harry for years) in the bargain.
To take something without consent is stealing, and Albus never asked. And don't joke about Harry having a choice in that matter. By the time he was even aware of what was going on he'd already been backed into acorner by the Master Manipulator, who'd done his best to close off all other options.
No, Rowling started out with a hero, and turned him into a patsy, one who was messed up enough in the head to name his children after his worst abusers. It's enough to make ya sick.
So Dumbledore can either be seen as a little evil, or a lot, and as I'm sure you've noticed in this story he is leaning toward a lot. But evil, like it or not, is often a package deal, and those who give in to one aspect of it often find themselves acquiring others.
And I don't think it needs repeating, but I will anyway, the only reason they are succeeding in any operations against him at all are that he was caught unprepared by their blitzkrieg. As a prepared opponent, Dumbledore is all but unstoppable.