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
Harry was white in the face.
Failed. How could he have FAILED?!?
The Wizengamot vote ought to have been a mere formality, a token 'uh-huh'to let him take the position that was rightfully his. In spite of all of his many titles, Dumbledore had no real excuse for denying Harry emancipation, none that were at all legally supportable anyway. Harry had every reason and then some for emancipation, all of the qualifications they asked for and more. His was better than a textbook case of 'this is when emancipation is needed.'
Yet the Geezergamot had voted to support Dumbledore anyway.
The ramifications of that were downright scary, as with malaclaw venom in his veins Dumbledore ought to be living the very personification of Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
That NOTHING went wrong for in him in that vote... meant that it couldn't.
To have failed to overturn Dumbledore's ruling in an open vote with him as unlucky as he was... what that said was that there was no possible way for Albus to have lost that vote. Anything at all chancy would be going against him now. The least probability of anything going wrong ought to be realized. What that said, for his luck to be that bad yet for him to STILL succeed...
It said that there was no way Dumbledore was losing in any political contest. There was no crack, no chink in the armor for his bad luck to exploit. The Headmaster's victory had been certain, no matter what Harry did, and in spite of all that had happened.
That brought back memories of Voldemort, acting through Lucius, and his earlier statement that Dumbledore never lost a contest in the Ministry that he did not intend to lose. And those he intentionally lost he'd always twist around to increase his power. Even NOT being the Minister of Magic fit into those plans, as that way there was always someone in authority to blame who wasn't Dumbledore, and thus someone for Albus to use as ascapegoat.
That was sobering.
It was also pathetic, in a way. Realtime, the Dursleys had just been exposed as these terrible abusive people, the most horrid guardians imaginable, and public sentiment on that was still cresting, almost but not quite yet at its peak. There was this terrible backlash of 'save our boy hero' going on. The Ministry itself, through its dementors, had been responsible for nearly killing him. An entire administration had fled the country over fear of angry mobs in the backlash of that.
Harry was never going to have more public support behind him than now, nor any more clear and obvious NEED for emancipation! The Dark Ravenclaw was as unlucky as he was ever going to get, so this contest was Harry striking with his sharpest tool at his enemy's weakest point.
Yet still the Headmaster won anyway.
That settled it. Harry just was not going to win any contest in politics when Dumbledore opposed him. That made it meaningless to try, as if he couldn't win THIS time, when Harry had everything in his favor and his foe was off balance, overworked, unlucky, and fighting against a tremendous tide of public sentiment, then no advantage was going to be enough.
If you couldn't win on those terms there was no point even to try.
The Dark Lord Voldemort really might regain a body faster than Harry could free himself from the supposed 'Light' side effectively imprisoning him. And though different, those circumstances were surprisingly equal in most ways. Voldemort could not do most things in his present state, and his minders wouldn't let Harry do anything if they could avoid it.
So both Harry and Voldemort stole what opportunities they could on the sly.
Harry had, he had to admit, grown used to a series of successes from his recent series of stabs at the Headmaster's authority and establishing a life and future for himself.
This came as a bitter reminder that he was still very much a junior player.
Harry felt so very, very much behind. He still had quite a lot of catching up to do before he could hope to match the least of his opponents in battle.
Voldemort had a large number of followers willing to die for him, people who had influence, wealth and power and were willing to use that on his behalf, while Harry had only a couple of friends his own age and one of Voldemort's followers duped to serve him instead (a fundamentally unsound relationship).
On that point, things could hardly be more unequal.
For that matter, with the magical government wholly in Dumbledore's pocket Harry was clearly in last place as far as followers or political influence were concerned. Most of the people who highly regarded 'The-Boy-Who-Lived'had loyalties first and foremost to Albus Dumbledore.
And, as the Geezergamot vote just proved, if people were forced to choose between supporting The-Boy-Who-Lived versus backing the Headmaster, they backed Dumbledore every time.
That left Harry distinctly lacking in the follower department, and in this war most of the work was done by proxies acting on orders.
Another area in which he lacked was personal power. Tom had tons of skills and devices that Harry would not, could not bring himself, to use. Getting an equal arsenal of spells and tools of a usable sort was an enormous task, and Voldemort was the junior and less educated of the two dark lords who had singled Harry out for destruction.
As far as power-enhancing rituals performed, Harry was also last place, as he only knew of the fire immunity one out of Voldemort's memories, so he knew Tom had performed that one before. Whereas Dumbledore, if he'd used the Goblet to bind Fawkes to serve him as the Fairy Queen had said, then he must have known about that fire immunity ritual also.
The Queen said the Goblet of Fire could bind a phoenix to someone's service only at maximum power. Going by what Harry knew, you couldn't even USE the cup at its maximum potential without having performed the fire immunity ritual on yourself. There was no way to handle the cup when it was that fully charged without burning to death otherwise. Spells would slide off and it would melt any tools.
That was Harry's one major power enhancement ritual so far, and both of his rivals had already performed it - and done it successfully, too.
Harry had nearly killed himself, and his friends, when he'd tried it. Of course, that had its advantages, too. Being remade by the Fairy Queen had put him back into play with some unique advantages. The trouble with that was, Harry himself didn't really know what those were, aside from an absolute defense against mind probes (something he could already defend himself rather well against), and becoming a metamorph.
The only really telling advantage so far out of all that had been some advice the Fairy Queen had given them - targeting information on where to hit the Dark Ravenclaw where it would truly hurt him.
They'd struck one such blow already. Harry resolved that when they all spun back to have that discussion in the clearing around the shrine, that he bring up as their next possible mission doing that ritual with the Goblet of Fire that would free Fawkes from service to the Headmaster. That was another one of those blows the Fairy Queen had said Dumbledore could not recover from.
Taking Hogwarts itself from Albus seemed more than a little bit out of their league for now, so he'd have to be content with removing two of the three unique and irreplaceable treasures that gave Dumbledore added powers. It would have to be enough, because they couldn't do any more than that.
No, getting beaten at the Ministry that badly had shaken Harry's confidence and made him even wonder why he was in the game at all. Oh, that was right, he didn't have a choice in the matter. He could either roll over and die or stand up to fight, and even a losing battle had some chance for success, whereas surrender held none.
Depressing really, but the only way to oppose the Headmaster seemed to be the route Voldemort took - become an outlaw. There was nothing else to do when the law was unbending in support of a man that wanted you dead.
But Harry didn't want to tred that outlaw road, and hoped moving to another country was a better option. Plus, he still had one advantage in the three way war - the other two may have targeted him, but they both currently thought that he was a piece on the gameboard, not another player.
For however long that lasted, he had an advantage.
I I I
Bellatrix could not have been happier.
Her assignment to watch over the maturing vessel of her soon to be reborn Dark Lord had started out well, and smoothly. That was to be celebrated. It hopefully boded well for the whole assignment, though it was too early to tell.
Then she'd been woken that morning by the vessel of her Lord. If she'd had any doubts that he was her master (which she didn't) they would have ended on receiving that assignment: to enter the home of Amelia Bones, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, and take her alive and unharmed to where she could be properly molded and conditioned into her master's service.
That mission, too, had gone flawlessly. Sometimes the life of a Death Eater didn't get any better than this!
On that, she shortly found herself mistaken, as life soon got better yet when Headmaster Dumbledore approached her in her Filch disguise, himself in a drunken delirium, anguished over the loss of some property in his tower.
It was not in the Headmaster's normal routine to drink to excess, but today he'd had the bad luck or bad judgment to get himself plastered, and Bellatrix fought to keep a smirk off of the face she was wearing. As the man began to rant to the 'sympathetic ear' of his 'old friend' she learned someone had set fire to his office and he'd lost something precious to him in the blaze.
In the short and somewhat slurred conversation Bella made sure to keep her face averted, pretending to busy herself with a broom, while Dumbledore sought to cry on the shoulder of his old friend Filch.
She learned quite a few things doing so.
If Dumbledore had one weakness it was that he was certain of his own superiority. But there is a problem with pompous pride. It always leaves you blind and vulnerable to your attackers.
Somehow, she missed the irony of that observation.
Then her blood chilled within her as, in drunken ramblings, the Headmaster asked her opinions on his problem: How to kill her master!
Already Harry Potter and Voldemort were nearly synonymous in her mind. She felt convinced one was taking over the other, and she was right, just not in the way she'd supposed.
She nearly hexed the drunken fool right there, but allowed him to mumble on, knowing that he might well have servants who'd carry this on in his stead and to know his plans would better enable her to thwart them.
The inebriated loon told her, in many stumbling phrases, that he didn't want to be the one to do the deed directly, although he mumbled too badly for her to understand why. But, although lacking details, the old fool did bring up what he wanted to accomplish in this plan.
In the first place, he wanted to destroy Hermione Granger so he could keep Harry isolated, weak and ineffectual. Seeing as how her master had already proposed converting the girl to his side, Bellatrix felt any plan to destroy her was something that had to be averted. Her Lord had use for the young witch, therefore he would have her, and no doddering old fool would call that fact into question!
But that was the baseline of Dumbledore's plan. First, the Granger girl must be destroyed. Everything else was gravy. While he would try to destroy Harry at the same time, he would accept it as a success if only the girl died.
That caused Bellatrix to become doubly protective of the girl. Anything the Headmaster wanted so desperately, it was a good idea to deny him.
After some further drunken mumblings, which Bellatrix was not quite sure, but sounded oddly like 'ungrateful son' and 'unite the schools', Dumbledore ranted for a while on how unfair Snape was being to deny him sex before he got back on topic. The key points seemed to be a detention, the acromantula menace out in the forest, a glass tower, a possibility of a creature 'following them back' from a detention in the forbidden forest- and how, if he got lucky, the spiders might destroy them without his help, as the students in question were out there playing in the forest already.
Unfortunately, in his drunken ramblings mention of a glass tower got him to start a rant on the greenhouses of Hogwarts and how unfair Sprout was being in not letting him grow some decent weed out there.
In a moment of lucidity, seeming to realize that he'd already said too much, Dumbledore surged to his feet and blasted the false Filch with an Obliviate before falling down on her pile of cleaning supplies and starting to snore.
Unluckily for Dumbledore, a proper Obliviate requires a great deal of mental focus, something he didn't have when he was falling down drunk. Normally that wouldn't make the slightest difference on Filch, but it was enough to cancel out the advantage the Elder Wand gave him, and the spell skittered harmlessly off Bellatrix LeStrange's Occlumency shields.
She left immediately to go warn Harry, purpose shining in her eyes.
I I I
Though no one there had any immediate way of knowing it, that vote in the Wizengamot that day was the most costly victory Albus had ever won.
There was a reason that he chose to lose fights there periodically, and that was to conceal the full extent of his political power base and influence. The old man had agreements with practically every faction, secret treaties and so on such that unless an equally powerful interest was pushing from the other side (and there were none, Voldemort had only ever come close) then his victory was assured on every issue.
Dumbledore had different lies for different ears. To some, among the darker camp particularly, he was the grudging apologist who gave in on some points to preserve other issues. To others, he was the embattled champion bravely standing up to fight for their rights against impossible odds, to others he was the secret confidant and friend, and to still more he was the sole voice of reason.
They were all wrong, but they all served his purposes so long as they labored under those illusions.
Really, Albus had learned long ago that to control every move of a chess game you had to play both sides. He was both white and black in wizarding politics, acting through agents most of the time, as he so often did, but all agents were working towards his interests all the same.
Most of those who'd backed him as their 'champion against oppression'could only be disgusted by him if ever they realized he was the one orchestrating the oppression, as well.
It suited his purposes to create a magical underclass. Members of any sort of underclass were dissatisfied, and dissatisfied people were needy, reaching out for answers and eager for champions. By promising to give them those answers and be their champion, he gained their unswerving loyalty.
Really, it was the same pattern he'd pulled with Harry so successfully for so long, to create an intolerable situation (in Harry's case, the Dursleys)then appear as the savior and resolution to that problem, the rescuer.
Dumbledore had several sources to his power in the wizarding world. One was his carefully cultivated reputation, of course. People believed in heroes. They even needed them, and they were certainly all too willing to follow them. The perfect image the Headmaster cultivated allowed him to take advantage of that fact. But it was more than just his perceived heroism, he was also taken as being enormously wise - indeed, almost prescient.
Being virtually all-knowing had contributed more than anything to the nigh-worshipful regard people held him in.
But he was no hermit living on an obscure mountaintop either, Dumbledore did not flaunt it, but it was whispered in certain circles, rumors of the man's absolutely fantastic wealth - he could create a family fortune in a single gift. Indeed, it was said that he'd created the Malfoy's that way, nor were they alone in being recipients of his largess.
Always have something for anyone to admire, was one of his mottoes. Many revered bravery, some regarded wisdom, but most admired wealth. He aimed to have a quality that appealed to each one, and for the most part he'd succeeded.
But for his games in politics he carefully orchestrated moves to appear bewildering to some, yet let false patterns appear to others, keeping them from suspecting the real puppet master behind the scenes. And, if he won too many battles, that secret could be compromised.
At that vote turning down Harry's emancipation, Dumbledore had not been present to direct his usual brilliant facade of dozens of plots and sub plots concealing the real motives underneath. The arguments and counterpoints had been conspicuously absent. No one had had their script to play. Typical switching of sides and changing allegiances of power plays between factions had all been absent.
The cost for that was that in one unvarnished moment everyone saw that they all stood up, united and almost unanimous, to support Dumbledore in what they all knew to be a blatantly illegal act.
The usual stage magic had been missing, the brilliant genius of orchestration gone. The topic and vote had appeared so close together, and Dumbledore so busy with other issues, that no scripts had been handed out beforehand. No one had known what their roles were, so they had gone with simple loyalty to previous allegiances, as all had been rewarded for supporting him before.
In other words, without him telling them to vote against him, indirectly of course, they'd all voted to support him, and in that instant seen that they were not, as they'd always been told, the precious few whom he'd relied on to provide the key difference in a close vote against hostile party influence.
No, they'd seen instead that Dumbledore owned far more support than any member of that body had ever suspected before. For one, precious moment none of the smoke and mirrors had been functioning and everyone saw a brief glimpse of things as they really were.
Nothing could have been more scary.
Harry was not the only one to realize, 'Hey, wait a minute. This should have been a sure thing the OTHER way! Yet it wasn't. Dumbledore has got a lot of power - much more than we'd realized.' What's worse, they not only realized it, they also realized that others there were seeing it for the first time. That was not a secret, it was open knowledge.
Worse still, people began to talk to one another, to carefully and coached in hedged terms and phrases, feel out one another's relationships to the Grand Sorcerer, and they began to discover that people they'd always thought of as political enemies also thought they were close friends of the Headmaster. And many of them also felt they'd been supporting him. In spite of their votes cast having nothing in common, people began to share, in difficult and often suspicious conversations, that they'd cast those contrary votes on the Supreme Mugwump's suggestions.
It was still very superficial and suspicious at first, but people had begun to realize that something stunk; that more was going on than appeared. Most of those that had been keenly focused on 'defeating the OTHER side'began to wake up and realize they'd all been played as puppets all along.
That realization would be a long time in coming for most, unfortunately; and the Master Manipulator still had enough skill in his game to come rushing in and soothe ruffled feathers, easing such suspicions and gently put them all back to sleep before they did anything concerning those realizations so he could regain his control, distracting them with pretty baubles or petty rivals once more so they could all be lulled into ignoring the real issues of just who he was and what he was up to.
He was not in control of the magical world for nothing.
To be sure, this hurt him, but it was not anything close to a mortal blow. No one blow, or even a small series of them, was going to do anything to shake his mastery of servants he had been playing as fools for so very long.
Still, he did get VERY unlucky about one thing. Several of those unknowing servants had been holding on to tiny pieces out of a very large pie, but had the ill luck to get together and share what they'd felt were inconsequential secrets that added up to a very frightening picture.
This was a common tool for Albus Dumbledore. He liked to splash in the pool to create waves that he could then bravely stand up against, sometimes failing, others succeeding. But it never did to have people know that he was the one making those waves in the first place - they had to appear to come out of nowhere, or as part of some enemy action.
No, it would never to do to let anyone know he spent most of his time in the courts and public scene resisting his own oppression.
In this particular case the plot had centered around the Dursleys. They had been a priceless resource in controlling Harry for so long, and Dumbledore was not quite done with them. They had been exposed as the most brutal sort of unfeeling monsters the wizarding world had seen in some time, and the scandal of their actions had inspired more rage against muggles than had been seen by decent, upstanding folk in the longest time. Many upstanding magical citizens had feelings that would not have been out of place in Death Eaters during Voldemort's first rise.
No, that sort of feeling lay too close to his own interests for Dumbledore to just throw it aside. He had to make use of it while it lasted, and better still if he could have his cake and eat it too - use the Dursleys to control Harry still, despite those revelations, yet also expose them yet again to create more of that wonderful anti-muggle sentiment that proved so useful.
With even a bit more anti-muggle sentiment he could secretly push forward his agenda by decades, at the very least! Bills so unfair and bigoted no one would tolerate them under normal circumstances could be presented by the very people who had opposed them before!
Albus had always believed wizards were destined to control muggles. With a few more bills in place, carried forward on this happy burst of anti-muggle sentiment, that agenda could be shoved forward by an entire generation's worth of work! More anti-muggleborn sentiment could be raised in the shadow of those Dursleys. More restrictive legislation proposed and voted into place, creating more oppression and a stronger underclass that he could then turn around and champion to increase his power and control!
There was no way he could possibly lose, riding such a platform!
However, unluckily for him, several of those people, shocked in the wake of so complete and total a victory for him over such a blatantly illegal and open misuse of power, got together and, in the midst of feeling each other out to discern their real loyalties to Dumbledore, compared what they thought were inconsequential actions that added up to one of those waves Albus got so much political clout out of resisting.
The exposure of the Dursleys anti-magic bigotry and abuse of the Boy-Who-Lived had created a huge public outcry. However, instead of having mobs appear outside their house in Surrey, stern-faced Aurors had taken them into custody to await trial for those crimes.
What followed was not unlike one of those French mystery/comedies with people running in and out of doors in a bewildering array of brothers in law, guests, cousins, cheating wives, sisters and maternal aunts that lead up to a body and two hours of investigating who did what with whom and why is there a dead man in the middle of it all.
But what it all amounted to was the Dursley family getting transferred out of one office to another, to a different kind of custody, to something akin to a witness protection program, then into a convict laborer system that put them to work productively (or so the logic went), with a different drama appearing at the other end of the Ministry where the Boy-Who-Lived had his future getting determined by a bunch of people who'd never met him, then handed off to a committee of people who felt they had his best interests at heart, and would wind up pawning him off to a brand new program that just happened to be run by the Dursleys.
Yes, that's right. Two apparently unrelated schemes that wound up with things exactly as they started, the Dursleys having escaped all blame in a court mess that no one could ever truly untangle, once again guardians of the Savior of the Wizarding World, and trying to beat the magic out of him so Dumbledore could cash in points as his rescuer again next school year.
It was, sadly, a scheme all too typical of Dumbledore when he was at his best.
Worse still, in ordinary cases he would've gotten considerable political pull by standing up to lead the outcry against this travesty of justice. Unfortunately for him, all of the people with whom he'd arranged to create all the little pieces of that puzzle got together and compared notes, creating a road map that led right to his being the culprit behind this crime.
No one who'd put this puzzle together could believe it. Each felt sure of their own little piece, and couldn't help but suspect all the other parties involved as trying to blame Dumbledore for something none of them could believe him responsible for. Each also suspected the others of lying when they confessed to believing the same great man to be their patron, when they'd all disagreed on what that support was supposed to mean and what his aims were.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Rita Skeeter had gotten wind of the bizarre vote earlier that day and had been hanging around in bug form as they all compared notes afterward. By a particular stroke of bad luck, she'd overheard as they'd put that puzzle together, and went buzzing off to publish her latest scoop even as the parties involved turned on each other as obvious liars trying to implicate Dumbledore in some wrongdoing each felt sure he couldn't be capable of.
I I I
Many fics CLAIM to have Dumbledore as a Master Manipulator, but how many come as close as this, huh?
I mean, really!
If you want someone to be a secret political mastermind orchestrating oodles of evil, then by all means don't hold back!
Strangely, Dumbledore the super villain was NOT what I'd originally set out to do with this fic. I had other plans in mind, but I needed an opposing force and Old Voldy-Burger and his merry band of fries just weren't going to cut it, with the memories Harry gained through his scar. Still, Rowling has given us PLENTY of canon ammunition - pun intended, to use against Dumbles. And the facts remain that he is in charge of virtually everything, and everything sucks. So either he is incompetent, or he is evil.
I LOVE reading a good 'incompetent Dumbles' fic. But this story wouldn't let me write it that way.