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Entry #4

Discussion in 'Q3 2019' started by Xiph0, Sep 10, 2019.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    The Last Summer of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, 1996
    -

    Dumbledore’s hand was craggy and felt like bark to the touch. Curiously, the hand still moved without restriction. The eschar that had once been his fingers could still wiggle, could still dance over a wand and tremulously scrawl out a chicken-scratch signature, but what had been lost was something finer.

    It felt like nothing so much as a hand he had fallen asleep on.

    It was sporadically, unpredictably, painful. A deep throbbing pain that could not be reproduced on demand by any movement Dumbledore tried. All this meant that he was not becoming used to it, even now, several weeks on. The ink pouring down over him was evidence of that.

    “Bugger,” said Dumbledore and this was almost acceptable because it was summer and language could always be a little less stiff when the students were not around. Fawkes chirped in concern. “I did not, in fact, mean for that to happen.”

    His robe and all the glittering stars below the level of his waist were covered in Oxford Blue Unvanquishable Ink. Worse, two drawers of the office’s ancient desk had been open and were now indelibly stained, and all their contents, too. This had happened to Dumbledore twice this week, already, although not quite so badly. Soon, he suspected, the Elder Wand might begin to protest against such banal use of its power as vanishing over-priced unvanishable ink.

    “You’re just going to have to use the drawers on the left, Headmaster,” said the portrait of Armando Dippet, “That hand isn’t getting better.”

    “Yes, I suppose not.” he said.

    Dumbledore stood, while Fawkes encouraged him and took a few turns around the vault of the study. Emptying the desk on the sides he most commonly used was more challenging a task than might be assumed, thanks to the generous and clever applications of extending charms by the office’s previous occupants. Still, there was an earnestness in doing it by hand, without magic, forcing his fingers to work as he intended. Fawkes landed on the desk while he worked, the majestic flame-red phoenix, mischievously placing small items back into the drawer when his back was turned, until a stern look from Dumbledore made him think better.

    His office was grand and never quiet. Ticking goo-gaws and the snores of old headmasters and headmistresses lent it a steady liveliness. The centrepiece, dominating the recessed part of the Headmaster’s turret, was his grand desk and chair. Filigree and fretwork, it was as wide as Hagrid was tall, which made its carved Griffin-claw feet look stubby and under-sized where they pricked into the carpet.

    Its grandiosity did mean that it had been rather impractical for all the years he had had to suffer it, the majority of its deskspace given to ornamentation rather than useful surface to work upon. This was equally true of its excessive number of drawers. Dumbledore supposed the designer expected a Headmaster of Hogwarts to summon every drawer open – or that, perhaps, teachers might progress to develop a four foot arm reach over the course of their career as a matter of professional pride – but, in practice, he had always put everything useful in the two drawers to his immediate right, which were rather wide enough.

    With his desk emptied onto itself, Dumbledore found that the matching drawer to his left-hand side would not open. With a great deal of force on its cold brass handle, he could barely make it wiggle.

    “Oh yes, that was stuck in my day, actually,” came Dippet’s voice, “Did I ever get it open?” The portrait of Dippet scratched the chin under his great silver beard. “No, you know, I don’t think I ever did.”

    A scattered chorus of exclamations and acclamations progressed through the line, his various predecessors all declaring that they, too, had never quite gotten that drawer to open, until they reached Phineas Nigellus.

    “Yes, Headmaster, I did that - or my counterpart, rather - when he was unfairly driven from the school.” And he sniffed here, looking down from his corner.

    “To what end, Phineas?” asked Dumbledore.

    “Not too sure, Headmaster. By all accounts, my counterpart had to exit stage left with haste, and I never got to tell myself what I hid in there or how to open it, and you’re not the first to ask.”

    “Very well.” And Dumbledore took up the Elder Wand. In his hand, it rested like air, floating over the currents of his tremor, almost perfectly steady.

    Alohomora Maxima, he incanted silently. A silvery flash struck the drawer, illuminating it for half a moment. An inelegant solution. He tugged firmly at the handle. And an ineffective one, too. He inspected it for a moment longer then tentatively ran one long finger over the length of its handle. What an intriguing puzzle.

    “Albus!” came a voice. It was Pomona’s head in the jade flames of his fireplace.

    “Is it that time, already?” he asked.

    “The watermelons are all secured, the carrots and parsnips are suggestively arranged, the dessert pies are all under a warming charm, and there’s quite a Hogsmeade presence already. We’re ready,” she said.

    “I will finish here and be with you, Pomona, in just a short while if that is acceptable for you and your fine competitors.”

    There was a telling pause. “Pomona?”

    “Not to worry, Professor Dumbledore. Only, Rubeus is offering his baking while we wait to push-off. He’s being quite generous. Only, there’s a lot of first-time growers here who don’t know better, mind.”

    “Well, it seems you need your master of ceremonies with some haste. I shall come, immediately, on one condition. I must have your solemn word that you can finagle me into the role of judge for tarts and treats.”

    “Gladly!” cried Professor Sprout. She pulled back from the fire as Dumbledore strode over, Fawkes swooping to join him, softly trilling.

    “One judge is perhaps sufficient, old friend, considering the mess you have left behind you.” Dumbledore raised one eyebrow in the direction of his messy desktop. Unashamed, the phoenix slowly pushed a wing against his head. “A compelling argument.” And they left the office together then, in a whirl of green fire.

    --------------------

    “Come in, Severus.”

    Dumbledore had already spent the early hours poring over ministry documents, and he had many hours ahead of him.

    “Good morning, Headmaster.” Severus swept up to the desk, dressed in his customary black Professor’s robe. Long black hair – parted evenly down the centre – lay straight, beyond the angle of his jaw and if Dumbledore were a less amiable man, he might say that Snape’s hair drew the eye to his tea-stained teeth and a Roman nose that rivalled Dumbledore’s own. A rare achievement.

    “Here.” His visitor deposited four golden potion vials, and four imperfect pearls, into the only clear space in front of Dumbledore.

    “Good morning, Severus. I hope I find you well this morning, at least,” said Dumbledore. He turned a pearl over in the light from the window, smiling as Severus glowered at him. “We must make time for the little civil rituals that allow us to be human, Severus. Listen to an old man, keen to share what scarce wisdom he has scraped together, in his final months.”

    Severus remained unmoved if his blank eyes were any measure.

    “If you wish to see more than a handful of months, Headmaster, you will also be sure to make time for the more important rituals that are attempting to keep that poison contained.” Snape reached over and took up one vial, shaking it at him. “Three minutes after you activate the matching pearl, swallow with water. Again, you must take this three times a day, at exactly the same times each day.” He placed the vial down again, with the other three.

    “Why four vials today, then?” asked Dumbledore.

    “The fourth is for when you inevitably ignore me and your worsening tremor causes you to spill the day’s final dose,” replied Snape.

    “Bravo, Severus. Very good.” Dumbledore clapped once. “Now, if that is all.”

    “I suppose you have not yet found a suitable Dark Arts master for this coming year?”

    Defense, Severus,” said Dumbledore, reprovingly.

    “Of course, but?” said Snape.

    “Hogwarts will need its potions master just as acutely as ever. How should Voldemort – it is simply a name, Severus – perceive matters if I move my loyal, turned, dark wizard to a position he must presume I would suspect he cursed. No, it will not do.” Dumbledore saw the corner of Snape’s lips curl at this, though he otherwise revealed as little as usual.

    “As you say, Headmaster,” said Snape, and he went to turn away. “There was just one thing more, actually. Higus!” he called.

    Into Dumbledore’s office came what was obviously a struggling artist. Muggle-imitating pantaloons were patched and ripped and the chest of his double-breasted upper robe worn and covered in paint. He wore a blue beret and had attempted a goatee but achieved only a wisp of fluff. Most importantly, he was struggling with a clackety wooden easel.

    “Who is this, Severus?” asked Dumbledore, quickly.

    “My gift to you, Headmaster. Higus Hughthorpe, he comes highly recommended as a portrait painter. It appears the co-ordination he sorely lacked through the seven years of my instruction he has discovered in service of a paintbrush,” he said, openly casting the last part toward the painter.

    “Ah, yes, Higus, I recognise you now. You spread your wings from these halls some nine years past, if I am correct. Welcome.”

    “May I just say what an honour it is, Professor Dumbledore, to be invited to capture your portrait. I’ll just set up, pay me no mind and compose yourself. Envision your best self in your mind’s eye, sir.”

    Dumbledore smiled at the painter, in some alarm, as the young man retreated into one corner, by which point Severus had turned to leave.

    “Hold, a moment, Severus,” said Dumbledore, calling him back and speaking in a low voice, “I remain quite capable of commissioning my portrait when I am ready. It might escape you, but it would rather give the game away to any person who visits my office that I might not intend to stay until the snitch is caught, as it were.”

    “The second war is here,” was his reply, “some might call it a reasonable contingency, considering who you are. Minerva thinks similarly and we have expensed him to the Hogwarts account. It is a fait accompli, Headmaster. Now, I have potions to brew, by your order. Good morning.”

    “I shall send him away,” said Dumbledore.

    You may be content to continue as you are, but for those of us that will need you after this year–” Snape stumbled there. “If you must keep your secrets, then keep them but at least allow us a chance to learn what to do if we need you in the future.” And Severus inclined his head then, before swooping from the office like an ungainly bat, thought Dumbledore unkindly.

    Still, for all that, there was nothing to be done. He was too busy to be painted. He had yet to find a Defense Professor, the Order was guarding key ministry personnel while also looking for suitable persons to expand their membership, and each day he would receive at least two or three articles to look over from some journal or another.

    “Mr. Hughthorpe, it is such a pleasure to see you so well.” He rose from his chair making his way toward the painter. “And, may I compliment you on your fine–” he said, gesturing at his face and his own grand beard. By this point the painter had established his hesitant easel. A large canvas sat on it, while a palette knife splattered more paint than it mixed and a half-dozen brushes danced and pirouetted seemingly at random. “Unfortunately, my schedule is such that the pleasure of a surprise is one thing I am not often able– oh!”

    He rounded the canvas and saw, already, a great deal of the office had been painted. Light streamed through the great window, frozen filaments of spun gold, while the thick red curtains on either side looked considerably less threadbare in oil than he had ever seen in reality. Fawkes looked positively renaissance, caught turned back and preening his under-wing. Gradually, his desk was being teased out, clutter reduced to symbolism for an active Headmaster who wore many hats – tastefully diminished into a lie of organisation.

    “Well, this is simply splendid, Higus,” he said.

    “Thank you, Professor. I was informed we would have limited time so I did what I could to prepare my studies in advance from old pictures and portraits of the office I could find. It’s just a matter of adjusting for the light, you see, here and just here, where it strikes.”

    “I am afraid artistic talent was always magic beyond these spindly fingers, but I can see your mastery without grasping it, certainly.”

    “The scene is almost prepared but I must paint you by hand. Would you prefer to be captured sitting or standing, Professor Dumbleore?”

    “In fact…” Dumbledore paused. Clearly, it would be an excellent portrait and not too great a time imposition, and it might spare him some similar ambush in the future. “Sitting, I think. These old bones seek a chair wherever they can manage it.”

    Higus arranged him, turning him this way and that, in front of the desk, explaining that switching charms would place him behind it once it was done.

    “If I paint your legs your portrait will be able to walk to wherever else you’re hanging as it pleases.”

    “Alas,” said Dumbledore, “I have no other oil portraits, surprising as that may be. Shy, I suppose.”

    Higus blinked. “Well, to the first of many, then!”

    Dumbledore smiled a small smile. After that, it didn’t take very long at all. Several spells left the canvas dry and framed within an ornate bronze border. Hughthorpe was shown out and Dumbledore was left alone with himself.

    He looked at his likeness for a few moments. A twinkle shone perennially in its eyes, over half-moon spectacles and laced fingers and a nose broken too many times. Smiling, vapidly.

    “Oh, go stare at someone else,” he snapped. He slapped his hand against his thigh firmly and the portrait flew to adhere itself to the wall beyond his pensieve cupboard, where it would be beyond the eye-line of his desk chair. That was to be the summation of his life, then. An old man surrounded by comfort, bowing out, as the most terrific Dark Lord to ravage these Isles found his former pace. When he was gone, what value would a reputation as a kind, old Headmaster hold for him, or others? What use were seventy years of stewardship over young minds when all that teaching would be consumed in a bonfire of war, or worse, a victory for Voldemort?

    This brought one thing into sharp clarity, at least. He could no longer oppose Voldemort reactively from behind his Hogwarts desk. Time did not allow, and neither would he, his legacy to be that of a vapid old man. The Greater Good is it, once again, Albus?

    If Voldemort must be destroyed by young Harry then let him be defeated by Albus Dumbledore. Let the lion’s share of the work be done before he was.

    The portrait smiled at him, then, again. The Good, he thought, just for The Good.

    --------------------

    Dumbledore stepped out from the fireplace and strode to the Pensieve cupboard, an ‘I Love London’ mug held firmly with his other long hand placed securely over the top. Quickly, he opened a memory vial with his left before decanting the contents of his mug, stoppering it with cork.

    He rather doubted the memory would prove much use on his hunt but he had found useful tidbits on a second viewing before. Flicking his wand to hand, he drew its tip down the length of his muggle suit and cotton jacket, shirt and trousers transfigured into more conventional wear. The cold of London remained.

    He turned to the window. The whole country had been rather grey, for summer, low clouds threatening as far as he could see, but London had it worse. The dementors were abroad in the south of England today and the city had lain under a thick wash of fog.

    Where exactly they were heading, he was not as clear. He had turned the Order toward the pursuit of Voldemort’s history and his hidden horcruxes as much as he could manage under the necessary degree of secrecy. Unfortunately, this did mean that other areas of interest were now lacking.

    Still, today, he had met Eric Slow and obtained a memory of a young Riddle’s interview and then rejection of a low-level Ministry position. The fact that Riddle’s contempt for the position and, in fact, the Ministry itself had been uncharacteristically apparent was useful, in a way. He could at least be more certain that Voldemort had not been tempted to hide his horcrux under the nose of Magical Law Enforcement – as if even he would be so arrogant as to hide such a treasure in the stronghold of his enemy.

    He made his way to his chair. His afternoon antidote lay on top his work, accusingly. He flicked over his egg-timer, with a muttered ‘three minutes’, shook the vial and applied it.

    No, the memory had been a wasteful diversion of effort that could have been spent more fruitfully elsewhere. He was no closer to knowing how many Horcruxes Riddle had made to become Voldemort. Three, seven, thirteen? What depravity would he not be capable of if he thought it might offer him even a shred more power, or a minute longer bound on this good Earth, whatever the cost.

    He rested his head into his hands until the timer puffed some phantasmal sand into the air, and whistled like a chaffinch. Swallowing the vial’s contents with the pearl was an unpleasant experience. Still, his tremor settled almost entirely. This hour of normal function he would sacrifice to those written communiqués that demanded legibility.

    Two letters he quickly composed and blotted in Hogwarts emerald ink to prospective Defense Professors who would, presumably, discover compelling reasons to duck out now terms had been spelt out. For the rest, he used his customary blue and the cleverly charmed quill he had devised from one of Fawkes’ tail-feathers.

    Mundungus Fletcher and Emmeline Vance were still regularly associating with unsavoury characters in Diagon Alley, and surveilling those haunts where fine and upstanding Death Eaters might not prefer to be seen. Shacklebolt, who had persuaded Slow to visit the Auror Office just as Dumbledore appeared on an unrelated manner, had little more to offer, Scrimgeour kept him close. Elphias Doge and Benjy Fenwick were investigating the magical portion of the British Library, where Riddle had spent many months post-Hogwarts investigating the magical history of the British Empire – exhibitions glorifying brutally won trophies would once, perhaps, have appealed quite intensely – but as yet, no luck. The story was much the same with the reports of Hestia, Remus and Rubeus. What he had to write for them had little to do with his hunt for horcruxes, rather than those vital operations that the Order must still maintain.

    The Weasleys, too, had written again, asking if Harry Potter might be allowed to visit for the summer if some additional charm work was completed by July’s end. It was unlikely any charm he or they knew would be able to match the protections Harry Potter received at the Dursleys, but he was sorely tempted nonetheless.

    Amongst the scatter on his desk, I must get that drawer open soon, he reached out and took up a snitch. It was the imprinted snitch that Harry had caught in his mouth during his first quidditch match at Hogwarts. He had been of a mind to gift it to Harry on his seventeenth birthday, and watch him puzzle out how to get at whatever small token he might have hidden inside – perhaps the photo of Harry and himself and Harry’s friends from the infirmary after their defence of Nicholas’ stone – until current events conspired against him.

    The portrait of Warlock Thewlis, hanging over the main doorway, cleared his throat then.

    “Remus Lupin to see the Headmaster,” he said. Dumbledore's eyebrows rose.

    There was the characteristic sound of climbing footsteps and Dumbledore set down the snitch to dig out the recent missive he had written for his visitor.

    “Come in, Remus!” he called.

    It was a half-moon at that time if Dumbledore was correct, and Remus looked as well as he ever might. He had a bit of colour to his cheeks, stood a little taller, and looked a little less lean than at other times of the month.

    “I was just writing to you, Remus, your recent report on Greyback’s activities was exceedingly helpful to me, thank you.”

    “Thank you, Professor, but I’m here because I’m concerned about Emmeline. I haven’t heard from her today, nor has Fletcher and he says she was going to investigate Burkes this morning. She said she would contact me at midday and it’s now gone five.”

    Dumbledore frowned. “Concerning, certainly, but she has visited Borgin and Burkes many times before and will do so many times again. We must give her time if she has found a lead.”

    “No, Professor, not Borgin and Burkes. She was investigating Burkes himself. Mundungus was the distraction and she was to break into his apartment and see what she could find about the time when Voldemort worked for him.”

    “Miss Vance is an accomplished witch. We must wait, and be ready if needed.” He licked his fingers, pinching them over the top of two joss sticks in a silver holder. Fragrant silver smoke rose and intertwined to little use, he saw no immediate patterns in their movements.

    “She should have told us what she was up to. Told more of us than just Mundungus.”

    “Perhaps. Miss Vance has always been extraordinarily dedicated to the cause, for which I admire her greatly. I rather suspect she has wanted to live up to your esteem, after your years in Hogwarts, Remus. She will have her reasons for this.”

    “Your reasons, more like,” snapped Remus.

    “Excuse me, Remus?” Dumbledore sat back into his chair, raising his eyebrows. He looked into Remus’ eyes and saw himself reflected back. “You disagree with my recent focus on Voldemort’s history, his haunts, his ambitions.”

    “We need to be more aggressive. To take the fight to him in meaningful ways.”

    “And we are not?”

    “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, Dumbledore. Does Emmeline know why she has thrown herself into danger? Does she know what use any of these investigations you’ve thrown her into will be? Because I don't.”

    “She believes. She believes these investigations hold the key to Voldemort’s defeat, as I do.”

    “It’s 1996, not 1946. You’ve got the aurors doing Merlin knows what inside the Ministry, and the rest of us investigating decrepit, infirm old men – and we don’t even know what it is they’re supposed to tell us. Meanwhile, werewolves are gathering around Greyback and giants are on the move towards the channel, and we do nothing. A month ago we obstructed Malfoy-sponsored bills, we put pressure on those Death Eaters who went out recruiting. Now, we're doing nothing!”

    “These are heavy accusations indeed then, if you are quite done.” He made his voice cold there but Remus was not deterred, his face at this point quite out of sorts.

    “Tell me, Dumbledore, has it even helped yet? Whatever secret you’re looking for, at the expense of the Voldemort we have here and now, has it helped yet?”

    Dumbledore was silent as Remus spoke. His reply was stolen from him as incense turned black. Ceasing its rise to the ceiling. It fell, pouring onto the carpet. It was undeniable. Emmeline Vance was dead. He found his eyes fixed on the smoke that pooled on his carpet. His shoulders suddenly felt much heavier than before. He slumped, head falling to one hand.

    “No.” he said.

    “What?” asked Remus. He was quiet, his own eyes tracking the smoke from the joss sticks.

    “It hasn’t helped us at all,” whispered Dumbledore.

    “What’s happened? What is this–” A flash of silver shot before them from through the closed window.

    It quickly resolved into the silver figure of a Swan, wings flared wide, and Emmeline’s voice rang out clearly, ‘I have been trapped by Thorfin Rowle in the apartment over 13 Knockturn Alley. I am going to try to escape. In case I do not succeed, there is a House-elf, here, Dumbledore. Stolen from somewhere and hidden in the cellar. Hokey. Burkes’ insurance. She knows something I think you’re after. Follow Wings and she’ll show you where.’

    Dumbledore stood in a flash, filled with cold heat, wand in hand. The deluminator came from a pocket and took in Emmeline’s patronus. Remus fell back, his face paling as understanding hit him.

    “She believed Remus, as I do, that our work is the key. Fawkes!” He called. The golden creature flew to his outstretched arm. “Find your own way out, or wait for me, again. I go to honour her sacrifice.”

    Dumbledore whispered the address to his familiar. Fawkes cried out and they were gone.

    --------------------

    It had been a week since he had obtained Hokey’s memory. There had been a funeral. It was poorly attended, mostly Order members and a very small number of Hogwarts friends. The first war had taken a great deal from Emmeline, and the opening of the second yet more.

    The memory that he discovered from that poor elf, half-expired herself, revealed not one but two likely horcruxes. A locket belonging to Slytherin, fitting the description Morfin had once shared with him, and a cup claimed to have once belonged to Helga Hufflepuff. With the thrice-cursed ring and the Diary destroyed by dear Harry, this brought the total to four. This was a displeasing number, easily divisible and associated with death in Eastern numerology. This could not be the final total, and it seemed likely that he would have at least sought out an artifact from Ravenclaw, also. If Dumbledore’s suspicions regarding Nagini were correct, that would bring Voldemort’s knowing total to six. With, perhaps an artifact from Gryffindor, that would make seven – a much more likely number. However, whatever means Voldemort had used to split his soul multiple times, it was not clear if there would be an upper limit. Why not thirteen, why not twenty-one. Was there any reason to suppose a limit to Voldemort’s obsession?

    Regardless, he advised the Order and some other contacts discreetly, setting them to also look for historical artifacts from around the time of the founders. It had come at a terrible cost, but it was a definite step forward and he believed that Emmeline would find value in that.

    “Minerva McGonagall to see the Headmaster,” came the Warlock.

    Dumbledore turned from the window then, drawing his eyes away from the great lake that lay behind the castle, far beneath him.

    “Come in, Minerva,” said Dumbledore, at the appropriate moment.

    She bustled in then, head turned down toward an open folder as she strode to his desk.

    “Good afternoon, Headmaster,” she said. She was dressed all in green, in a very proper and conservative cut. A matching witches hat was atop her head. She was the very image of a severe Deputy Headmistress. In contrast, Dumbledore was dressed today in calf-high tan abraxan-leather boots, and a flared robe of many colours, with high collar, topped by his customary flat-topped hat, with orange tassel. He had to hope that they looked quite a pair and that Minerva could look quite serious enough for the both of them.

    She looked at him then, and tutted. “I see you are taking this as seriously as always, Headmaster.”

    “Whatever do you mean, Minerva?” He asked innocently.

    “I have his application letter here, and a record of study from Ilvermony. I presume you have had a chance to look over it? On paper, he ought to be a good fit.”

    “Any history of strange twitches, ticks or bouts of madness? Or, perhaps a dancing curse on the bloodline that appears to have skipped him? Perhaps fleeing a conviction, unspent, in his homeland?”

    “No, none of that,” she said.

    “Well, that would be the first time in a long time, then. Perhaps we shall be lucky.”

    “We make our own luck, Headmaster, I receive enough of that talk from Trelawney.”

    “Well, even in summer, it appears I am blessed to learn one new thing each day.” He thought she looked at him a bit unhappily there, he continued. “Well, no time like the present, if you are ready, Minerva.”

    She snapped her fingers and Hoppy the elf, if he was not mistaken, was summoned to go and fetch Mr. Raferty up. They made small talk while they waited. Minerva did not remain at Hogwarts in the summer, returning to the lake-side Hogsmeade cottage which she had briefly inhabited with poor Elphinstone, and she had spent the past several weeks redecorating her study – which at their age was quite interesting to them both.

    Before long, Mr. Raferty was announced. Despite his paper qualifications, it was quickly apparent that the bombastic young man was entirely unsuitable. On seeing Fawkes, with an excited, “woah, man”, he was utterly distracted. It transpired that he was a thespian by vocation, whose method was ‘method’ and presently he needed several months to prepare to play a teacher in a wireless production at home.

    He was thoroughly unsuitable, and Dumbledore was thoroughly entertained. Hoppy escorted him from the office less than fifteen minutes later.

    “The nerve of that man,” said Minerva, “the nerve.”

    “I have little knowledge of use regarding aura, honestly, but I would imagine yours is far from drab, my dear, if it is any consolation.”

    “I can’t advise you hire such a nonsensical, scatter-brained and clearly irresponsible Defense professor in these times, despite the lack of sensible applicants, Professor Dumbledore. To make myself quite clear.”

    “No, no, I rather agree. I have learned my lesson with the tragedy of poor Lockhart. He would only present a danger to himself, or to our students.”

    “Well. Good.”

    “We shall have to keep looking, then,” said Dumbledore. He stood to stretch his legs.

    “There is Severus, of course. He approached me again, at the start of Summer.”

    “And then we should be looking for a potions master, Minerva. The phrase ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ comes to mind.”

    “I imagine the pool of acceptable Potions Professors is larger than for Defense Professors, at this point,” she replied.

    “No, Minerva. We will need continuity. Hogwarts will rely on yourself, and Severus, and all its long-standing Professors in the coming years.”

    “It sounds like you’re not including yourself in that number, Albus. We all rely on you.”

    Dumbledore looked at her then for a moment, considering.

    “No, but you recall the first war. I fear I may not be the hands-on Headmaster I have been these past years. Busy, busy.” The uncharacteristic phrase tasted like gritty on his tongue.

    “Very well,” said McGonagall. “Then I must present you with this.” From her attaché folder, she withdrew a letter bearing Hogwarts’ own crest. “I received this from the Governors after my most recent letter about our interviewing the dreadful Mr. Rafferty.”

    Dumbledore took the letter. He skimmed the letter and Malfoy’s preamble, reaching the meat of it. The Governors had attached recommendations for three suitable candidates who the governors felt met the high standards of the Hogwarts curriculum, and would also uphold the values of the ancient establishment.

    “Alecto and Amycus Carrow, or Walden Macnair. These are to be our Defense Against the Dark Arts candidates. We may as well invite Voldemort to our welcome feast.”

    “They are wholly unsuitable, Headmaster, but unless you have squirrelled away a better option up your sleeve, I’m not sure what we can do.” McGonagall took the letter from him again.

    Dumbledore flicked the thought at his memo pile and one of his dictation quills jotted down this item, for his to-ponder pile.

    “Leave it with me, Minerva. Prague has been making tremendous strides with automatons, I hear, if all else fails.”

    McGonagall smiled tightly. “Headmaster,” she said, and Dumbledore was left to his own devices.

    Well, there was his good mood gone.

    --------------------

    It was nearly midnight, and his office was lit dimly by a few near-spent billywig wax candles. Severus was in his office again, offering his report.

    “... with the giants across the channel, he plans to attack several southern muggle towns. He wants to undermine the ministry and strain the Statute without breaking it. Put them under pressure from the ICW, too.”

    “Which towns?” Dumbledore had open a copy of the Alchemist’s Retort, and he scratched cryptic memos in its margin. The thick yearly almanac was so dense and uninviting, he felt it was the equal of any more conspicuous privacy charm.

    “Unclear,” said Snape, “he will not tell us before he has decided.”

    “Then we must steer him to Tinworth. Its half-muggle half-magical population offend his sensibilities, surely.”

    “It would be immediate magical conflict there, and a much faster response from the Ministry and ourselves. He won’t go for it, not for the giants.”

    “Is he much worried regarding the Order - I thought you had told me that he disdained our recent activity?”

    “No, he still believes you are searching to find some clue as to a stronghold or a home that he may have constructed before the first war — in the style of Grindlewald.”

    “Excellent. Excellent.” Dumbledore flipped back a page adding an ehwaz rune to an earlier scribble. He drew out a letter from the stack of papers that lay just beyond his easy reach and slid it towards Severus. “You shall have to tell him you duplicated this when my back was turned, it should, I suspect, prove of interest to him.”

    Severus read the letter quickly, his face turning splotched and sallow.

    “He still seeks Amelia Bones, does he not?” asked Dumbledore.

    “Of course,” said Snape, “He does not feel he could ever truly subvert the Ministry while she remains alive. And he’s right, why are you giving her away?”

    “I will protect her, of course, to the best of my ability. But he must attack Tinworth and soon. I am unfortunately on a deadline and you must give him valuable information.”

    “Must I?” said Snape. “Why?”

    “We must have you as far beyond suspicions as we can, for what comes next. I have a plan, a plan to hurt him deeply. A parting gift, I suppose.”

    Dumbledore looked up at him then, closing his book, and explained what he required, now and in the future, from Severus. The man paled further as he spoke, fists tight and shaking.

    “Not content to die yourself, you throw my life away on this?”

    Dumbledore turned away on his chair, opening the almanac again, looking through its pages.

    “It is a challenge, certainly, but I believe you are up to the task, or I would not have asked you.”

    “You ask a lot of me, recently. A great deal…”

    “Are you having regrets, Severus, that you do not serve your erstwhile master in truth?”

    Severus’ wand was in his hand then, pointing to the centre of the room, before his arm dropped to his side, fists still white from tension.

    “I won’t do it,” he said, he turned, fleeing to the door.

    “You will, Severus, and in return we will strike a great blow against him, and Harry Potter will have a better chance of growing to live a life free of him. The life he should have lived, had someone not informed Voldemort of a prophecy, many years ago.”

    Snape paused at the open door.

    “Remember, Severus, Lestrange, Rowle, Nott or Malfoy. You may wish to start travelling to Diagon Alley several times a week, to make your alibi that much stronger.”

    The door slammed behind him, shaking Warlock Thewlis awake.

    --------------------

    Filius sat in the guest chair, arms crossed in front of him, legs dangling over the seat of the chair. Hoppy had served tea and disappeared, and there were scones, clotted cream and jam.

    Filius had returned that afternoon from a visit to his extended family in Switzerland. He had brought a gift.

    “It’s very thoughtful but I have no fridge, alas. Will this affect how long it lasts?” asked Dumbledore, turning over the small square picture in his hand. It showed a still image of the east riverbank and the old town of Zurich.

    “No,” squeaked Filius, “that’s the best bit. It sticks to anything metal at all.”

    Dumbledore conjured a small ferrous cube and attached the magnet to it. He cast an eye around his desk, pushing one nebulous pile of important documents a little further to the edge before placing it down.

    “Dumbledore, your hand,” said Filius, as Dumbledore palmed the Elder Wand again, “whatever has happened?”

    “War and jeopardy, I’m afraid, while you’ve been gone.”

    “I saw nothing in the papers,” said Flitwick.

    “Switzerland would not report on the goings-on over here, I expect. The Gnomes of Zurich have no interest in our troubles unless those same troubles should spill into goblin lives, and their Gringotts chapter in London.”

    “My uncle…”

    “Is a friend, of course, and he has not forgotten his homeland, but he is one goblin Gnome amongst dozens. I apologise, Filius, this has gotten rather political while I am hoping to hear more about your holiday.”

    They chattered for a brief while, about the banks of the Limmat and the goblin capital that lay beneath, but Flitwick frowned whenever the sight of Dumbledore’s ruined hand struggled to spread cream or reach for its tea.

    “Is there anything I can do to help, with the— you know,” he gestured uncomfortably at Dumbledore’s sleeve.

    “With the hand? Regretfully not,” Dumbledore chuckled. “With its ultimate cause? I suspect you could do a great deal.”

    Filius tugged at his moustache. “Oh, not this, again.”

    Dumbledore looked at him, dead on, “people remember Fast Filius. They remember the only wizard to win the ICW Duelling tournament three times, consecutively.”

    Flitwick shook his head, frowning. “Let’s be frank, Dumbledore,” he said, “I am lucky to have a wand at all. If I was an inch shorter, we would not be having this conversation, and I would never have achieved any of these victories at all. My mother’s family look to me, I represent London’s goblins, whether I want to or not.”

    Dumbledore paused. Filius was almost bouncing his chair, it seemed. Still, he let a pause of silence do its work, stretching the moment out.

    “In the spirit of frankness,” he said, “lives are being lost and you could be doing something to help.”

    Flitwick gasped, “that is a cheap, Albus. I am not a coward looking to save my own skin.”

    “I said nothing to say you were.”

    “And I am sorry, I am,” said Flitwick, “but I can’t risk getting caught up in whatever clandestine adventures your Order of the Phoenix gets involved in — yes I’ve heard the name — it would jeopardise the progress goblin peoples have been working towards in this country for decades. By an accident of birth, that must be the lamp to which my carpet is hitched.”

    “What may happen to those same goblins, should Voldemort win, should he capture the Ministry? Will that adversely affect goblin progress?” asked Dumbledore.

    Filius flinched at Voldemort’s name, but he was otherwise unmoved. “It will not be long before this war comes to Hogwarts, and sweeps up Ravenclaws and Slytherins alike, what shall you do then?”

    “I shall defend myself then, Dumbledore, but not a moment before!” he snapped. He jumped to his feet, eyes just visible over the lip of the desk, “give me my fridge magnet.”

    “Filius, surely not,” said Dumbledore.

    “I did not come here to be harangued but to catch up with a dear friend. As he doesn’t appear to be here any longer, I shall have to visit another time!” He held an arm out.

    “Filius, stop. I apologise. I am sorry for pushing. You are always welcome here, one of Hogwarts’ most dear and admired Professors.”

    “Well. Good.” He lowered his arm but did not sit again.

    “Will this impact that good word you had already offered?” asked Dumbledore.

    Filius sighed at the question, but answered in a much more mild tone.

    “Whatever arrangement exists between my Uncle and yourself remains between the two of you. I do believe in a world free of Voldemort, I just also happen to believe in a world where my heritage is not a stain but—” A high pitched wail rang out. In the one clear spot of Dumbledore’s desk, at the far corner, a grand sneakoscope was spinning furiously, beginning to emit a blinding light.

    Dumbledore cast a revelatory charm and above it resolved a town he recognised.

    “Voldemort attacks Tinworth. I have to go, Filius. I apologise again, and thank you for your visit. Fawkes!”

    Filius stood rock still.

    “Tinworth,” said the small man, “Tinworth Town. Chang, Boot, Ackerley, Ellesmore. At least a dozen Ravenclaws live in Tinworth.”

    Fawkes appeared as the charms professor spoke and swooped down to Dumbledore’s arm.

    “Will you come?” asked Dumbledore.

    Filius flicked his wand to hand, quicker than the eye could follow. He charmed his bright robes to dark shades of grey and green that changed by themselves.

    “Merlin’s goat,” swore Flitwick. “Merlin’s goat! Grimhook take me.”

    He reached out to clasp Dumbledore’s arm. “Come on, man, let’s go!”

    “Fawkes.” said Dumbledore, “Tinworth.”

    --------------------

    He stepped through the door of his office. There was the smell of soot on him, smokey ruin, his robe was charred at the hems and his beard singed below his chin. His lips felt raw and his throat was dry.

    He closed the door, and as he turned he caught the eye of his portrait. It sat there, twinkly-eyed and smiled, nodding its head in Dumbledore’s direction.

    His wand was in his hand again, then. He flicked it, the portrait jumped from the wall, face-first into the corner with a bang.

    He looked to his desk. Cluttered with all the detritus of a life desperate to maintain some sort of order and proper-feeling. Slash, the death stick encompassed the entire surface and quills, papers and impoverishingly expensive, useless trinkets catapulted into the wall. ‘Oh gosh!’, and ‘steady on!’ came the cry of the portraits, but not too loudly, as he turned his eyes to them.

    He stalked to his desk, climbing the single stair and rounded on the desk drawer that had for so many weeks defied him. He pulled and wrenched at the handle, almost moving the desk itself, to no use.
    Out came the Elder Wand, increasingly actinic spellwork washing over the wood, warping it, burning it, crushing it. With a vicious jab, a putrid yellow spell struck the drawer and it exploded, fine splinters everywhere, and a nasty gash torn into the wood.

    It was not enough. Still, there was a burning in his fingers and in his chest. He threw the wand down on the desktop, useless, turning to the window. He smacked his fist against the unbreakable glass and he yelled. Yelled at nothing, until his hoarse throat quickly provoked him to cough, a horrendous fit that left with nothing else to shout.

    Amelia dead and dozens more besides, because of my hubris. By his feet was an untaken vial of antidote from yesterday evening. He reached out particularly slowly, watching how his tremor built as he stretched out his arm. Touching the vial on the floor, his arm shook like a whipped dog.

    He had not been Voldemort’s match tonight. His spellwork too slow and too imprecise. For all his efforts, Voldemort had been able to slip past him – Amelia dead before he even knew Voldemort had arrived.

    The Ministry would tell the muggles that it was a hurricane, a product of climate change and this dementor caused fog that had afflicted them for weeks, that had deprived them of their loved ones and their neighbours. Then they would wait for Voldemort to strike again.

    You old fool.

    It was summer and, even at that early hour, the sun was well risen so that despite the grey clouds he could see the lake and grounds and the forest curving into view in the distance. Fawkes had also returned he could see. He was turning circles around the turret presumably, and flying grand circuits over the lake. It was his own way of dealing with the troubles of wizards he was unforgivably drawn into. He could not hear it but Fawkes would be singing, that uniquely sombre but light song of a Phoenix. Just the thought of it was a dull comfort.

    “Sybill Trelawney to see the Headmaster,” said the Warlock.

    Of course, Dumbledore sighed. He looked at his ruined office, hand twitching towards his wand. But there was little motivation, and he left his office floor as it was as he sat.

    The seconds ticked by, but she did not appear.

    “Come in, Sybill!” He called.

    She opened the door a small way and pushed her head through, large glasses magnifying her eyes as she peered around and her customary brocade headband failing to tame her bushy hair.

    “Have I come at a bad time, Professor?” she asked.

    “Not at all, not at all. What prediction has drawn you from your tower into mundanity today?” he replied.

    She scurried across the office, stepping around the scattered papers on the floor, to sit opposite him.

    “A red sky this morning, under a thick pall of clouds. There has been death tonight. Lots of it!” She peered up at him, through those ridiculous lenses.

    “I am afraid you are quite correct. I am already aware. Tinworth was attacked late last night.”

    “Tinworth, Cornwall? No. Were any students hurt?” she asked, eyebrows working furiously.

    He felt himself warm, just a little, at her concern. “No, not by the time I had left, fortunately.”

    “You were there? I should have known, there is a red spectre over your left shoulder, and a black spectre behind your right. You feel like you must involve yourself in this war.” She looked around her chair, at all the papers and stationery scattered over his carpet. “You are angry,” she said.

    “Angry? I have no time to be angry, Sybill. As always, I thank you for bringing your divinations to me, please do so again if anything else important comes up.”

    “There was just one other thing, Professor. Your Deputy has decided that my fifth-year classes are to be held in the first period on Mondays which is horribly obfuscating for any inner eye–” He cut her off with his raised good hand.

    “Sybill, you know I expect you to bring problems with Minerva to Minerva. She is my deputy and I cannot intercede for you whenever you clash,” he said.

    She stopped then, fidgeting for a few moments, and looking around the office.

    “Very well, then, Professor. My inner eye is ever at your disposal if you need puzzles puzzled out, or a glimpse at the grand secrets of the past, or the great designs of the future,”

    “I shall be sure to take you up on that, Sybill.” He stood. Inclined his head to her. From this angle, behind her, the rubies on the sword of Godric Gryffindor caught the light and shone. What could it hurt. “In fact, Sybill, there are some things that I desperately want to find and as yet have had no luck. I believe they may be hidden from me, but I don’t know who has them – if it’s a vault in Gringotts or some hidden shack on an island in the sea – would you be able to help me.” He led her to the sword and explained the types of artifact he hoped to find and that at least two might have belonged to Slytherin and Hufflepuff.

    “Seven, perhaps? That would be a boon to the inner eye. They might shine the brighter for it. But alas, if they are hidden somewhere with deep, dull magic like Gringotts, I fear all my powers may fail me. Goblins are earthy, banal creatures and all their works are terribly mundane.

    “Why, I remember years ago sorely trying to help old Silvanus figure out where his galleons had disappeared to in that bank, but it was to no avail.” She shuddered, pulling a hand under her shawl to her chest as if recalling a great blow. “It was that slimy Slughorn and his little band of sycophants that he turned to in the end. Ever crass and brash and nosey.” She sniffed.

    “Slughorn,” said Dumbledore, slowly, “and his Slug Club. Yes.”

    A potions master, and cultivator of promising students for many years, and the former head of Slytherin to boot. “Sybill, already you have proven your tremendous worth! I must ask you to keep at it. If anything else comes to you, please return to me right away.” He placed a long arm over her shoulders and gently steered her to the door.

    This was a promising lead. Perhaps directly containing Voldemort was beyond him today, but tomorrow? And armed with the knowledge of whatever tidbits young Riddle had inevitably extorted and wheedled from Slughorn…

    There was no time to waste. He reached for his wand, with a quick charm everything was back as it should be, excepting the nasty gash where the stuck drawer had once been. Whatever had been hidden inside would be a mystery he would not solve. Would that it might be the only unsolved mystery he would encounter in this final year.

    Quickly he penned as ebullient and effusive a message as he might, considering the circumstances, and whistled for Fawkes who appeared in a shock of flame.

    “Severus Snape, to see the Headmaster,” came Warlock Thewlis’ call again.

    “For Horacio Slughorn, old friend, wherever he may be. His eyes only.” Fawkes took the envelope in his beak, and Albus stroked his crest gently.

    “Come in, Severus!” Fawkes disappeared once more, warm flame washing over Dumbledore’s ruined hand.

    Severus entered. He limped and there was scarlet in the shoulder of his robe. His face was anaemic, with only the faint red spots in his cheeks separating his face from that of a waxy corpse.

    “Is it done?” asked Dumbledore.

    Snape hobbled to the desk. He threw down a small key, and a vial holding what looked like a fine hair.

    “Nott,” he said, “I must return to Spinner’s End.”

    “Thank you, Severus. Just the polyjuice now, when you can.”

    The potions master turned, as quickly as he had entered, he was gone.

    --------------------

    It was approaching the end of July and a copy of the last will and testimony of Sirius Orion Black had made its way to his desk. He had left almost everything to Harry Potter, of course, with a few small exceptions for other close persons.

    This raised the question of Grimmauld Place and its elf Kreacher’s loyalty, and whether the magic would honour the will. A tricky problem to solve, and one for another time, as he had an appointment to keep. He vanished the will, and stood, summoning a waxy travellers cloak, to protect him from the summer rain that pattered down against his window.

    Gently, he stroked Fawkes’ feathers. “Goodbye for now, old friend. If things go terribly, terribly pear-shaped, I may have to call for you, and I might possibly look rather different.”

    Fawkes pressed his head against Albus’ palm in what he rather thought was acknowledgement.

    He set off, down the various staircases to the Entry Hall, through the vestibule and out into the rain. His beard was sopping wet before he made it halfway down the long drive to Hogwarts’ gate, but he found he didn’t mind.

    It felt like a terribly long time since he had left the office and walked anywhere. It was a pleasure to ignore the complicated and focus on the simple, like rain dripping from his nose.

    He followed the road along the lakeside before it curved towards the dark forest that bordered the crest that hid Hogsmeade from Hogwarts’ view. Before long the first houses came into view. He waved at Mr. and Mrs. Egerton, who were sensibly pruning their tentaculas while the plants recoiled from the rain and then he was at the Hog’s Head — the great, dingy timber establishment sitting squat with its gruesome sign slapping in the wind, lowering the house prices of the surrounding homes.

    “ ‘lo Albus,” greeted Aberforth, “one of yours in the back,” he said, jerking his head to the right of the bar. He was cleaning a pint glass with a rag that looked older than them both.

    “Thank you, Aberforth,” said Dumbledore, tentatively, quickly charming his robes dry, “are you well?”

    “Minding my own business, as all good sorts ‘ought,” replied his brother.

    Dumbledore grimaced, but made no further comment, heading to the bathroom hidden in the corner within which Snape was skulking.

    “Severus,” said Dumbledore, “fancy finding you here. Were no private rooms available?”

    “Not for me, I was told.” Snape scowled.

    “Ah,” said Dumbledore.

    “I have a private room to apparate into at the Leaky Cauldron.” Snape withdrew a vial of Polyjuice Potion from his robe pocket, holding it carefully. He unstoppered the bottle and placed a hair into the mixture. It bubbled violently then turned a dark, intemperate sanguine. Dumbledore reached for it but Snape drew it back.

    “If I was not absolutely sure of my assessment, when that curse was sustained, I would suspect that the poison in your hand had already reached your head.”

    “Come now, Pomfrey, don’t be coy.” Dumbledore flashed a brief smile and reached slightly again, but Snape was unmoved.

    “This hare-brained plan of yours is ludicrous. You are throwing your life away.”

    “Not my life,” admonished Dumbledore, “merely my reputation, and I hardly think that will help us in this war. You are quite clear on your role?”

    “Regrettably. When attention turns to Gringotts I shall signal the Order. They will assault Death Eater homes and we shall hope for the best.” He grimaced. “At least let me go with you, I can activate the Dark Mark in the bank as easily as elsewhere, and you will survive. Some of us, at least, still feel that might be worthwhile.”

    “No, Severus! It is vital that you draw those Death Eaters that respond to the bank, and remind the Order that they must penetrate any vault, any hidden space in those homes that are then exposed. They must take any objects closely guarded, as quickly as possible. Secrets, Silver and Gold. This is how we hurt him. Now, give me the potion, I am not looking for further objections.”

    Dumbledore reached out again for the vial, shaking as he took it.

    “At the least, tell me you have taken your antidote today,” said Snape.

    Dumbledore said nothing and downed the potion in one quick slug. It tasted like sweated onions left two months in the sun, with bits.

    He closed his eyes, insides already writhing. His skin bubbled and a burning spread over almost his whole body, excepting his numb hand. He gasped, shrunk and swelled, twisted and stretched and suddenly he was fifty years younger. His cursed hand had changed shape and size, but it remained as ruined as expected. He caught his breath, then cast layered charms and transfigurations, disguising his arm until it almost matched the opposite side.

    “Quality?” asked Dumbledore.

    “It is my work,” said Snape, “I expect you will have almost four hours, at least.”

    “Let us be off, then,” said Dumbledore. He reached out for Severus’ arm, they turned and with a crack were vanished.

    There was the familiar tightness and they reappeared in a small room with a table for four and chairs, and a horrible vomit green wall-paper. The last thing Dumbledore wanted to see after a tight side-along apparition.

    “You first, then me. Hold to your purpose, Severus, I shall signal you before too long.”

    Snape scowled once more, then swept from the room. Dumbledore waited a few moments more before leaving. He emerged into a dark corridor, with the pub's staircase to his left and the light of the common area creeping in around a familiar silhouette. Drat.

    He slowly walked to where Severus had been obstructed in the passage, catching sight of a young man talking animatedly, waiting for Severus to move through but ending up hovering almost directly behind him.

    “... how grateful I am. I always thought you were jolly tough on all of us, even us Slytherins really, but you were excellent and I realise that now, that you were just trying to instill in us the skills we needed to survive in the competitive world outside Hogwarts. The apothecary owner puts great store in me, you know, and I always say, always, it’s all thanks to Snape! Sorry, Professor Snape.”

    “Delightful,” said Snape.

    The young man waved a rolled-up news-paper in Snape’s direction. He was an inch shorter than Snape, with short messy black hair and glasses. With even as little as that, it was quite clear to Dumbledore why Severus had been ‘jolly tough’ on a Slytherin. It provoked Dumbledore to feel quite the opposite.

    “Well, even more so now, I guess. You’ve seen the paper? Rotten, just rotten, all-round, but I have to say how grateful I am for Hogwarts and yourself. I would be afraid to show my head in Diagon Alley if I didn’t know Hogwarts was still standing, and Professor Dumbledore, of course.”

    The young man waved his paper under Snape’s nose again. “If it wasn’t for Professor Dumbledore, I feel the whole country would go mad. Whenever I read one of his letters in the Prophet, or see him on the cover. I believe it’ll all work out.”

    “Peakes, you supply more and more evidence it’s mad already,” said Snape. With that, he pushed past him brusquely into the main room.

    Peakes’ staggered but turned. “Lovely to see you, Professor Snape,” he called.

    Dumbledore slipped past a touch more gently with a quiet ‘Excuse me’, while the young man headed to the stairs. There was a touch of something in his stomach now. Perhaps the polyjuice? Or, even at his advanced age, a hint of nerves at an impending violent bank robbery. Perhaps, thought Dumbledore. Perhaps.

    Through the arch and into the alley. Dumbledore walked with a measured step, looking into the shop fronts he passed. Madame Malkins and Ollivanders, and the exorbitantly overpriced, but much loved, Flourish and Blotts. It was perhaps the last time he would be able to walk this street and see the wizards and witches of Britain, innocently going about their business, without a profuse degree of disguise.

    Along the cobbled street, past hawkers, till the end. He reached the spiralled columns of Gringotts, and the white stairs to its open bronze doors. The goblin guards leered at him, clutching pole-arms and dressed in the scarlet uniforms of their warrior-caste. Habitually, he cast his eye at the first half of the inscription on the silver doors of the antechamber,

    Enter, stranger, but take heed
    Of what awaits the sin of greed
    For those who take, but do not earn,
    Must pay most dearly in their turn…

    My turn is coming, worry not. He pushed at the warded door, making sure not to flinch as the honesty charm sent a shock up his arm and progressed towards the tellers' desks.

    He was endlessly fascinated by the secret workings of the goblins, and for a moment he lost himself in the splendour of the hall. Polished marble floor, to vaulted ceiling. Masterwork devices sorting more wealth than he had ever possessed in his life. The quiet hush of supplicants, queuing under the eye of the goblin overseers, possessing that quality of silence One really only otherwise found in churches, or libraries. Despite Professor Binns continuing lessons to the contrary, who had truly won that most recent goblin rebellion of 1914? A face in the crowd, Dumbledore quietly joined the nearest long queue.

    It was a curious thing, feeling the the carved elderberries along the length of his ghoulish wand as he waited. His right hand – his ruined hand – was tingling, sweating and warm. It was the first feeling he had had in it in several weeks.

    He kept his eye on queue and on the teller that would prove his adversary. There was something of Flitwick in her face, he thought, perhaps a cousin? Not the skin or the teeth, of course, but the shape of her face and the hairline maybe…

    The queue pressed on. There were only two ahead of him now, while several more had joined behind him.

    To his left, a little girl, no older than four, was walking up and down the line just beside the queue, running her hand over the loops of plush velvet cordon that divided him from the rest of the hall. As she passed him again, she looked up at him and smiled and he found himself smiling back at her, which felt quite unnatural on Notts’ face.

    It was quite a simple logic that had brought him to this point, Fawkes having been sent back by Slughorn unanswered. Voldemort’s diary had been left with a loyal follower, Malfoy, to be guarded in his home – one of the wealthiest and grandest manor estates in Britain – and Voldemort would want his horcruxes to be guarded in places of great significance to him and to society both. The wizarding bank Gringotts, and its oldest, deepest vaults would appeal greatly. If he had been willing to entrust one to Malfoy, perhaps he had entrusted others similarly. Nott, Lestrange, Rowle, Malfoy. From one vault he could dive to the others, and better to strike now than risk never succeeding at all. Depriving Voldemort of capital, too, would strike a blow – but loss of money could never prove fatal to Riddle who had dragged himself up from nothing.

    Dumbledore found he was rocking on the balls of his foot and he forced himself still. There was just one person ahead of him now.

    He noted that the teller was wearing a little brass badge above her name, with TRAINEE embossed onto it. Watching her, from the wall behind her, was an old goblin overseer with dark, beady eyes.

    And then it was his turn.

    “Key, please,” she asked.

    “The Nott Vault, one-hundred and two, thank you,” said Dumbledore, presenting it on the counter.

    “Certainly,” she said, after a moment, and drew one long, knotty finger along the key. “I shall summon a goblin. Forthwith. May I ask, Mr. Nott, the sum you wish to withdraw today?”

    Dumbledore frowned. “Is this normal practice at Gringotts now, to enquire after the personal matters of its customers?”

    She looked back at her overseer then who looked back impassively with dark, glittering eyes.

    “Gringotts offers a range of services for the discerning customer–”

    Dumbledore clicked his fingers in front of her face and she met his eyes in shock. He looked and in the black of her large pupils, a scene played out.

    She stood in the corner of a small office, intimate but extravagant. Gold covered the candlesticks, the quills, the cupboard tracings. Gold was even stitched into the pattern that repeated on the carpet underfoot.

    Behind the desk, her mentor, Overseer Ripbarb looked over steepled fingers at a young wizard. Human faces were opaque, constantly moving and changing colour, but tears; tears, she understood.

    ‘My father has passed in mysterious circumstances several days after he was found attacked. Robbed, in Tinworth. I have searched my home but the key isn’t there, I can’t find it anywhere. I must ask you, Ripbarb, to freeze the account while this is investigated, and to change the lock.’

    Ripbarb was silent for a good moment. He nodded slowly before he flicked a hand at the wizard and the young man left.

    Ripbarb turned in his chair to face her, meeting her eye.

    ‘Trainee, inform the ledger-keepers.’ She nodded to him, but he was not done. ‘Look, trainee, how they turn to us in misery, as in joy. They depend on us. Our gold. Our security. Do not forget it. It is the most valuable treasure of this bank.’

    Dumbledore stepped back.

    Severus’ robbery had regrettably become manslaughter. A murder, even. And poor Theodore Nott, the Slytherin who had long hidden from his year-mates, who had little interest in his father’s politics of purity was an orphan for Dumbledore’s efforts.

    Importantly, also, Dumbledore was made. It appeared he would have to deprive the goblins of their most important treasure today, too, and he let his wand drop surreptitiously into his hand.

    Now he looked, he could not see the guards at their usual post by the door. Further afield, tellers were whispering amongst themselves, stepping back from their desks.

    Theodore was not the only student to have suffered by his hand this summer. Young Hannah Bones would also have had her own trip to Ripbarb’s office this summer. He thought of Su Li then, the young Ravenclaw holding her bleeding mother close, half-in half-out a collapsed home, and of Filius, too, comforting her, charming her mother from the rubble in dignity – a true example of a Hogwarts Professor – this was sure to astound the small man, and ruin him. Perhaps Hogwarts would also need a Charms Master this autumn. And a new Headmaster, of course.

    The teller was still waiting for him to speak, after rudely clicking, he realised.

    He would cast a protective charm on her, and banish her to the wall, and the little girl, too. Then a blast of questing fire towards the door, to seek out the guards.

    ‘Fight fire with fire’, came an old voice, treacherously. Even now, he could recall that pale face and blue eyes in perfect clarity, and the soft voice that accompanied them, barely a hint of germanic harshness when they spoke in private. ‘Tear it all down, all their rubbish and build it up again. Build it right and they will thank us for the tribulation. To have overcome it and reached salvation. The Greater Good.’

    “The Greater Good,” he whispered, and it was his own voice he heard. There was a pricking in his eyes. He had thought himself grown, but he was the same man he had always been.

    “Pardon, Mr. Nott?”

    In his hand, his wand was trembling. He was certain it was not his tremor.

    “I shall no longer need to make a withdrawal today after all, thank you,” Albus said.

    “Please wait! I need to tell you about our low interest rates!” she cried.

    Reaching for the vault key, he pushed it firmly across the desk with his left hand. “Please make sure this is returned to Mr. Nott.”

    He turned with a cry, slashing his wand above his head. A riotous bang and a great roar of cold light flashed across the room, brighter than the midday sun, ten times over. Faster than thought, he summoned his Patronus, a phoenix not dissimilar to Fawkes. ‘Stop. Cancel. I have changed my mind.’ He tapped his wand to the floor and the earth shook, those few still standing falling to their bottoms, and then he was gone. Fleeing through the doors he cast open.

    His only regret was that Notts’ short beard precluded its flapping in the wind.

    --------------------

    He was in the office again, sat, facing the window. There was a single beam of sunlight piercing the morning cloud, a thick, golden beam falling across the lake and the grounds of Hogwarts, and he was humming.

    One knee was crossed over the over and he tapped a foot off-time with his tuneless melody. In one hand, he turned a snitch over and over, watching how it caught the light.

    He turned to his desk. On top of it was the resurrection stone, a great crack riven through the middle. He did not hold that one, had learned his lesson and that that hallow was beyond him. In truth, he could not be sure that its magic would still work. He was certain he would not attempt to find out.

    He flicked the first hallow at the second and it flew into his drawer on the left side of the desk. A tidy desk led to a tidy mind, it seemed. He had transfigured a new drawer for the gouge in his ancient desk and repaired it as best he could. If you looked closely, it was obvious the grain did not match, but it was extended and easy to move and now all his mess was confined to one out-of-sight drawer, which was as he preferred.

    His egg-timer chirped at him then. From his breast pocket, he took a vial of antidote and a pearl, mixing them the appropriate way. He turned the timer again, setting it down and waiting.

    While he waited, he thought. He flicked his wand and conjured Sirius’ will. He would need to contact Harry soon, and advise him regarding Kreacher. He would need to ask him if the Order might continue to use Grimmauld Place as a headquarters. Sirius’ will would be a difficult topic for young Harry, certainly, not best discussed by letter. Before the summer, Harry had destroyed Dumbledore’s office in a rage, in his grief, more effectively than Dumbledore himself had, later.

    Dumbledore turned the snitch over in his hand, over and over. He looked at the will. He looked at his closed drawer. Of course.

    The egg-time screamed. He swallowed his bitter medicine and then he reached for a blank scrap of parchment and a quill and inkpot.

    Minerva, I’ve had one of my rare but excellent ideas. I shall have to pop out for the rest of the day. Please hold down the castle, as you often do.

    Please tell Snape he has got the job.


    -A.D

    He tapped it with his wand and it folded itself into a plane then flew out the window.

    Throwing on an over-cloak, he stood and strode towards the day. As he passed the Pensieve cupboard, his portrait caught his eye. It smiled at him warmly and he paused at the door.

    “Armando,” called Dumbledore, “I shall have to trouble you to make way for a younger fellow, on my return.”

    “Right you are, Headmaster,” said the portrait of Dippet, “right you are.”

    -----

    Please place all reviews in spoiler tags ~Sorrows
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2019
  2. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    Of the entries I've read so far (that being 1 'til 4) this is my favorite.

    I like how you provide details for how things went in canon - when Dumbledore stumbled on the idea of hiring Slughorn, what Emmeline Vance was investigating, why Dumbledore had the snitch. I also think that you've gotten the core of Dumbledore's thoughts and speech pretty well, both in public and in private.

    However, I think you have a few threads too many. The desk doesn't get opened even at the end, and I have mixed feelings about that. Sure, on one hand it's unlikely that that would've provided a neat ending to the issues Dumbledore is facing, but on the other hand it leaves the whole thing feeling a bit unfinished. Dumbledore sets up the attack on Tinworth for reasons not entirely clear to me, but apparently is not able enough to protect it? I feel like he wouldn't have gambled with lives that easily.

    Also, all sorts of minor technical errors are littered throughout this entry. There's multiple times you end dialogue with a '." said' fragment, which isn't correct English, and there's other errors like missing periods and whatnot.

    Score: 3.5/5.
     
  3. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Plot & Pacing: 4/5
    I'm at a loss for what to say on this. There is plenty to say when there are problems but I find a distinct lack of issue with this story. Its comprehensive. Its evocative, the pacing is on point. I like the bits of canon peppered throughout, and the plot is like a fine cheese paired with a nice wine (and I fucking hate wine).

    Characters: 4/5
    Dumbledore is very Dumbledore. I mean, what more can I say? You took something that is difficult for 90 percent of the fandom to do and made it your bitch. Snape in his on screen time is very Snape.

    Prompt Use: 4/5
    Very solid use of the prompt. I can't think of a more poignant moment in which something like this could be utilized. It was very canon similar in its execution so that's points for attempt and I just generally liked it.

    Other: 5/5
    Technical issues aside, like I've already said, this is a very comprehensive piece. You've built a multi-layered story with each scene -- made it work with canon elements -- and you've nailed one of the harder characters to write. I read this twice just to see if I could find something that I disliked about it, and there was nothing there.

    Most that try for this same thing makes it feel like they're ripping off canon, and instead of doing that you embraced it. You took a moment in which we have no context of and made it a very telling adventure, and glimpse into the life of a very complicated man.

    Thank you for submitting.

    17/20
     
  4. valrie

    valrie Fifth Year

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    I'm reading the entries in the order they're numbered and this one is my favorite so far. At first I thought you didn't really catch Dumbledore's spirit but as it progressed I realized that we mostly saw him on occasions where he was in control and prepared. The only time we see him in a true moment of weakness was when he drank the potion and I think that this entry gives a good look into Dumbledore's thoughts during his last summer. It shows the desperation and his mistakes. It shows how his age and the curse impaired him and put him on a worse and worse footing compared to Voldemort. I liked it a lot.

    Score: 4.5/5
     
  5. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    This is very impressive. A basically excellent grasp of Dumbledore, which is always tricky - the only real niggle I'd put there is him swearing at the start; somewhat understandable under the circumstances (specific and wider), but I just have a had time imagining him doing it. Other than that personal preference, the only other thing I'd perhaps highlight as a negative is the bit with Gringotts; while it's undoubtedly an effective scene, and explained well enough, it doesn't quite seem like something I can see Dumbledore doing (or, rather, planning to do) without some heavier AU elements. I do particularly like the, I guess, benevolent manipulation he engages in, it's handled sensitively eough that it never felt too cliched. All the other characters felt fine as well, although that's harder to judge with Flitwick, I suppose - he felt true to probable canon, shall we say.

    I've got a rarely indulged soft spot for fics that intelligently fill in the blanks on canon without straying too far into rehash, and this definitely ticks that box. You maybe stumble into the trap of Dumbledore being involved in too many off-page moments of significance, but then, so does Rowling...the triple motivation for pushing Voldemort to Tinworth is nicely handled though. It does suggest that an awful lot of the research done on Voldemort's history and the horcruxes was only done in a few weeks, which...works, I suppose. I'd always rather assumed that it was a slow gathering of information over the years, once Dumbledore realises Voldemort is using horcruxes in CoS. Again, that's personal preference, not an actual problem with the story.

    I also liked some of the nice little touches, like the Hogsmead vegetable competition, and the friendly relationship with Fawkes. On the matter of little details though, it probably isn't impossible that Malfoy would be writing from the governors post-Azkaban breakout, given the corruption in the Wizarding world, but I suspect this is an error more than anything else. Given the significance the locked drawer has in the early stages, it seems a little odd that nothing comes of it, but it's hard to imagine what could be in there of any special relevance, so...

    All in all, an impressive entry. I am leaning more towards 4 than full marks, but I'm not sure if I'm being a bit harsh there. Maybe I'll edit once I've mulled it over a bit.
     
  6. darklordmike

    darklordmike Headmaster

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    Brilliant. An all-around excellent characterization of Dumbledore. He's competent and powerful, but also short-sighted and too proud for his own good. It's hard to write a good fic that goes deeply into a character's background while sticking to canon. This one does a good job of filling in the gaps.

    And it's an important gap to fill. One of the reasons Dumbledore constantly gets cast as manipulative or worse is that we didn't get to see what he was doing behind the scenes in canon. Harry's POV often made it seem like he never left his office and just let Voldemort run roughshod over everyone. I think you did a great job of humanizing him here while also letting people like Remus put into words how bad a job he's doing at countering Voldemort.

    Characterization is excellent all the way around, particularly of Flitwick and Snape. There are a few minor typo issues like the one below, but the writing is very fine from a technical perspective.
    I don't have any major complaints at all. In fact, I'd like to see this expanded to cover the entire summer and go into more detail about what Dumbledore and the Order were doing behind the scenes. You've already imagined a lot. Keep at it and this could become a very accomplished story. It's lacking in Dumbledore's thoughts toward Harry and his fate. We already see some of them in canon, but it would be nice to get more insight into his thinking. Likewise his thoughts on the Draco Malfoy situation, if he knew about that during the summer.

    Also, what's the deal with the locked drawer? It's a Chekhov's gun that doesn't fire.

    Not perfect, but still easily a 5/5
     
  7. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Supreme Mugwump

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    I really liked this story. The writing was very well done stylistically. You showed a good grasp of vocabulary and rhythm, and your prose was a good fit for a whimsical man like Dumbledore. It flew by smoothly, was evocative, and the little details here and there made it come alive. For example, a minor thing that I loved was his scribbling secret information into a yearly publication which looks so dull that it proves a better form of secrecy than a charm ever could. Having just fought through tons of publications for my final thesis, that part resonated strongly with me.

    The only thing that took me momentarily out of it was giving up Tinworth to Voldemort. Maybe I'm being naive, but the scene with Fililus made it seem such a cold-hearted decision that I can't really believe canon-Dumbledore would do it. And neither, for that matter, can I believe Filius having to be teased into helping against Voldemort like that. It's an important character moment for sure, setting up Dumbledore's decision in Gringotts, but it's also the only thing that really jarred me out of the narrative, because it seemed like such an abrupt switch from jovial/whimsical to manipulative which imo didn't quite fit the frame of the narrative so far.

    On a side note, I'm also quite sad that we never got to learn what secret was hidden in the drawer. Still, the inner workings of Dumbledore, the characterization of Snape and Minerva, and also the occasional OC cameo were spot on and a treat to read.
     
  8. Barzûl

    Barzûl Seventh Year DLP Supporter

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    Great little piece.
    Dumbledore really felt like Dumbledore behind closed doors, weighted down by his age and the curse.
    He seemed reluctant and regretful to throw away lives for the cause.
    The small bit with him smiling back at the little girl despite being in disguise was a touching moment.

    I did find Filius a bit off-putting, but I have not seen much of him and Goblin's might be a touchy subject for him, so I can't complain too much.

    The pacing was even throughout, and the technical aspects of writing were great.

    While I liked the part about the drawer I really am not sure it should be in the story if we don't get a resolution to the mystery or if it hasn't got plot significance.

    My favourite entry so far (#1-#4).

    Good job
     
  9. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    It’s not easy to write Dumbledore. His voice has to be intelligent and genuinely funny, but also have an undercurrent of melancholy. It's not really something you can fake. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this author captures him perfectly. This is Dumbledore.

    Before I continue gushing about all the things I loved in this story, let's take a second to talk about the drawer. It's one of the main arcs in this short story, and it doesn't quite make sense in my head. I might be missing something. So, the drawer gives Dumbledore the idea for "I open at the close," right? Does it also give him the idea to place the Resurrection Stone inside the Snitch? And will the drawer open when Dumbledore dies (I assume not)? I really, really want this arc to work. You're so close. I just think a few more details are needed to effectively connect why the drawer would give Dumbledore the idea to have something "open at the close." I also think Arianna needs to be mentioned at least once. I think that she would inspire Dumbledore's decision to give Harry the Stone.

    Now, onto the gushing.

    There are so many subtle details about this story that I loved. I was impressed with the writing from beginning to end. As I (kind of) said before, Dumbledore needs to be bright, energetic, wise, funny, light-hearted and heart-breaking, and there are countless examples of these characteristics shining through in this story:

    • Polyjuiced Dumbledore realizing that he should stop rocking on the balls of his feet.
    • "He was thoroughly unsuitable, and Dumbledore was thoroughly entertained." Perfect choice in attire for this scene, too, lol.
    • The subtle power of Dumbledore looking at Minerva for a moment, "considering," after she points out that he doesn't mention himself as being part of the continuity Hogwarts needs.
    • "That was to be the summation of his life, then. An old man surrounded by comfort, bowing out, as the most terrific Dark Lord to ravage these Isles found his former pace. ... What use were seventy years of stewardship over young minds when all that teaching would be consumed in a bonfire of war?"

    I was really impressed with all the magical ideas this author thought up. Having the incense turn black and fall to the carpet was exactly the image that that moment needed. I loved that Dumbledore knew there wouldn't be four Horcruxes: "This was a displeasing number, easily divisible and associated with death." Dumbledore capturing Emmeline Vance's Patronus in the deluminator was also a nice idea.

    I really appreciated that Dumbledore trashed his office and shouted, just as Harry had. For this reason, I would cut this line: “Before the summer, Harry had destroyed Dumbledore’s office in a rage, in his grief, more effectively than Dumbledore himself had, later.” The majority of readers will make the connection, and It’s better if it’s not explicitly pointed out. Also, this sentence would’ve had a stronger effect if the structure and word choice weren't so strange: “Slash, the death stick encompassed the entire surface and quills, papers and impoverishingly expensive, useless trinkets catapulted into the wall.”

    I can't wait to add this story to my favorites. It's just so good, thank you for writing it. I had such a good time reading it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2019
  10. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator

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    This an example of writing that matures as it goes along, or prehaps a writer a little out of practice, settling into really nice style. I think there is a roughness to the opening. You have a tendency to get lost in the dictionary and sentences end up a little clunky and unclear. However this really smooths out as the piece goes on and by the end it has a lovely grown up style that is still accessable and easy to be swept along by.

    Snippets that I loved:

    This is lovely.
    This is a elegant change of perspective and a beautifully structured sentence. Well done.

    Charecters

    The charecterisation of Dumbledore is excellent. You have a clear, coherent grasp on who he is to you, his motivations are sympathetic and understandable. You really nail his voice which is a damn rare thing. I would like to hear more from this charecter. I do feel at times he lacks an intensity of emotion, this is in part due to your slightly detached writing style, but you save it up for one excellent explosion which works really well. (I don't think you need to explicitly tie it to Harry's tantrum, it's a clear parallel.) I loved the interview for the new teacher, it is very Dumbledore. I do think he lacks self reflection on his own ruthlessness and the way he uses people to win this war.

    Flitwick, I think I like what you did here even more than Dumbledore. You added depth to his character, makeing a really excellent case for why he didn't actively join the war (that we see) I wish you had had more time to explore this thread more, or that you had done a bit more with his complex relationship with his heritage. Personally I think I would have had Flitwick come back from the fight enraged enough that Dumbledore using the tragedy to push Flitwick into divulging insider knowledge to plan the break in to Gringotts, a massive betrayal in the eyes of Goblin kind. But that is just me spitballing.

    This does not sound like Dumbledore at all. That might be the point, but then the uncertainty should be remarked upon.
    Snape I felt spoke a bit too much like Dumbledore in their early conversation. He lacked a distinct voice and used all the same complex vocabulary that Dumbledore did.

    Example:

    Content

    I love where you decided to go with the prompt, picking out a pocket of the canon and expanding it into a story that made sense. Dumbledores final summer is an excellent thing to explore and it is really enjoyable to explore why he might of chosen to leave the path he did for Harry and Co. You don't deify or demonise him.

    I don't quite buy the use of the portrait as the reason he decided on this course of action in the time he had left. Particularly as you did not really set up his mindset prior to this revelation. It seems a bit weak sauce and while you refuted back to the portrait at the end, I don't think it quite worked as a pair of thematic bookends.

    Similarly, the arc with the draw is set up, reiterated, destroyed in a moment of catharsis and the inspiration to a point of canon. All technically sound, however it does not quite satisfy, I think because while the draw is given meaning at the end (of sorts) it's not given any thematic meaning at the beginning, it is just a draw. I think 'I Open at the Close' could have had weight to it, but you might have been just a bit to vague here.

    I'm not sure why Tinworth needed to be the place attacked, if it was simply to control where the attack would take place then why choose the place Ameila Bones actually was and not a decoy location?

    You do seem to shy away from conflict and action scenes. You choose not to show us the attack on Tinworth, a Gringotts break in or rescuing the House elf. We see the aftermath of a lot of events without experinceing them. Now that might be an uncomfortableness with writing these or a stylistic choice. It is certainly effective in the case of Tinworth, but it does add to the detached feel to the writing and to Dumbledore.

    I love the little touches you add to the world. In canon we see the magical world though the eyes of an ill-informed teenager. You have really used Dumbledores perspective to add maturity and complexity to the worldbuilding in a really organic way. Well done.

    I also enjoyed the descriptions of the people, even the really indulgent ones. They were really fun and nicely crafted.


    Technical

    I'm not going to have much to say here, I've already gushed about how well it develops in my opening paragraph. If I have one complaint, I do think you have a tendency to over explain at times. You should trust the audience to make the connections.


    Over all this is without a doubt one of my favourites. It's technically very good, despite needing a going over by a decent editor for minor errors. The voice and style or the author is lovely to read and develop noticeably the story progresses. the charecterizations are excellent, particularly Dumbledore who is almost never done justice. This is really really good, and while it does not need a second draft, I almost wish you would do one anyway, it would not take much to push this into true greatness.
     
  11. Microwave

    Microwave Professor

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    Your Dumbledore was wonderful, not that many people are able to characterise him well, and you did it perfectly. You managed to capture pretty well the whimsical nature of his personality, and the little details you put in really highlight the utter nonsense of the world around him, which is quite charming in itself.

    There's not really a single looming narrative to follow, and that's perfectly fine, the story works pretty well without it. The writing just sweeps along and ends quite nicely, which is pretty refreshing.

    I think what I liked the most about Dumbledore's characterisation was his perceived detachment. It sort of gave the sense that he was already dead in spirit before his physical death, which felt really fitting. There's that looming implication that Dumbledore's on borrowed time, and he's already far gone from everything he knows.

    I guess my one gripe with the story is how impersonal Dumbledore's interactions seem to be. Maybe it's just the fact that the voice of the narration doesn't really match with Dumbledore's, but I don't feel like the bond he forms with the other characters really sticks out. Dumbledore is detached from events, that's wonderful, but his compassion doesn't really jump out to me.

    That being said, your characterisation of Dumbledore is still one of the best I've ever read, and it really is quite a wonderful story. It's got a few minor grammatical errors, but that can be fixed with some slight editing, and it's really been a treat to read your entry.

    4.5/5
     
  12. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    This is I think my favorite entry. It fits this neat little slice in between the books, working well with the details it might have been an unpublished sidestory to the original seven. I'm reminded of The Mysterious Disappearance of Sally-Anne Perks. The mysteries you tackle---Slughorn's hiring, Vance's death, the snitch, provide this seamless transition between book 6 and 7. You also manage to capture Dumbledore's tone (in both thought and speech) well. One of the best characterizations of Dumbledore I've seen to date.

    It feels you do get caught up in using dictionary / thesaurus words in places and it disrupts the flow of the narrative, but that's a minor one at best. Another small nitpick is that you mix up speech tags in a few places such as:

    “Whatever do you mean, Minerva?” He asked innocently.

    He should be lower case. Even though this ends in a ?, it's still a speech tag. not an action beat, so are treated as if the same sentence.
     
  13. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    [​IMG]
    Looking at what I would consider the most complete stories of this round, #2, #4, #6, #7, #9, this is the Mario in Mario Kart entry. It's the safe-bet, the risk-averse option. Where all the other entries pushed themselves and did something in particular excellently, sometimes at the cost of other aspects of the story in the name of experimentation and trying to wring out the most from their premise, what we get from you is that Mario option. Nothing super strong, but nothing particularly weak. Truthfully, and I appreciate this isn't entirely on its own merits, considering this is currently the forerunner on the votes, I'm left unimpressed.

    Part of the reason for that is the frequent technical mistakes throughout the piece, some of which are really rather distracting. You get speech tags wrong all the time. There are missed spaces between paragraphs. There are continuity errors. There are some pretty funny typos, to be honest:
    It just lends to this overall impression of carelessness on reading this story.

    Plot & Pacing:

    So let's be clear. I did enjoy it overall, but on a second and third reading and on peeking at the reviews for this one after seeing the voting thread feedback I really struggled. I appreciated the story but there was this deep sense of dissatisfaction, too. I love Dumbledore, by survey he's most of the sites' favourite character (and this is another reason for why I feel this was to an extent a paint-by-numbers affair targeted at the audience rather than any particular inspiration for the story) but this story clearly captures his voice well and his characterisation well and it squanders it in a story about Dumbledore sat in his office. Almost everything that he does is off-screen. Even when we finally travel to Gringotts he bottles it before the bank-robbery rather than during.

    To be honest, I felt cheated. I appreciate that at every point you could've over-extended yourself. But nothing ventured, nothing gained right?

    Anyway, onto the specifics:

    • The drawer. I had to look for this which is a sin, considering how much you weight you gave to it throughout the story otherwise. I admit, on my first read I missed that he'd actually destroyed the drawer. But then, it hardly matters because in the finale it turns out that one quick throwaway line is all we get about it. This was the point of the opening scene and the final scene - what was the point of the mystery of the drawer. But then, I read the other reviews and I realised it was all in service to a metaphor for 'I open at the close'. So I re-read it a last time, and I realised that the whole thing was a metaphor for his state of mind within whichever scene he was in - a sort of litmus symbol. And I admit I rolled my eyes. Subtext works when it's sub-text. Making a whole scene sit on it, while a good opportunity for jokes around parsnips, was entirely overweighted towards this drawer and it set up this action line that turned out to be symbolism the whole time (and I admit I'm showing my prejudice here, and residual scars from A-level English Lit and stupid books with stupid overt symbolism).
    • I did feel that each scene materially altered Dumbledore's situation, but I don't always feel that it was particularly germane or well-done.
      • So, in this scene for example - Voldemort is going to attack several muggle towns with the giants but he doesn't want to tell Snape until it's go time. Infosec. Sure, makes sense. Dumbledore offers up a magical population as it'll be one location and more easily defended - ok. But then he gives up Amelia Bones' location and doesn't protect her or doesn't move her? Too cold.
    • This is present in a few scenes. It's unclear if he's aware that Tinworth is to be attacked when Flitwick is in his office but either way it's a pretty cold play on Flitwick. The whole scene with Remus and explaining Emmeline Vance's death for Hokey's memory (who was convicted of manslaughter in the 50s or whenever so why's she there) was just a bit odd and it felt like events were just being tugged into place to comply with a canon event, however you could do it. It's these sorts of things that lead me to say there just wasn't that sense of creativity as with the other fics in this round.
    • I think there's a genuine continuity error with Lucius Malfoy and you just forgot that he's an open Death Eater who's been imprisoned at that point.
    Considering the office was pretty much the location of the entire story, I never felt we got much description of it. If it wasn't for canon I wouldn't be able to well visualise it.

    I felt the pacing built up well to the climax and then dropped down maybe a hair too fast, but not really a significant issue. It did feel, throughout the whole story, that characters were being tugged this way and that to serve Dumbledore's inner conflict. It never felt terribly organic. It felt like this was very mechanically constructed and the characters would do what you want regardless of any other consideration, to make sure you hit all the right buttons for the audience. And sure, in a certain light that's great - keeping your audience in mind throughout - but I'm a bit cynical and it felt uninspired.

    Characters:
    I really enjoy Dumbledore, and I do feel some of the turns of phrase and things like that were good and Dumbledore-esque. That wasn't the case for all the characters. Snape's felt off until his final interaction with that random chap in a corridor (who just so conveniently emphasised how needed Dumbledore was in society [same criticism with that final line from Ripbarb, it was just too transparent]). Trelawney I enjoyed, but her voice wasn't quite right. Flitwick I thought was good but his emotional lability wasn't quite right. He escalated too quickly. McGonagall was just a place-holder, compared to entry #2 we didn't really see any personality.

    I enjoyed Fawkes, I felt he had personality and I did like that you only called Dumbledore 'Albus' when Fawkes was involved or in the moments of highest emotion for him, it felt like it added weight and vulnerability to his first name.

    Prompt Use:
    Yeah, I've said already that this felt like a bit of a cynical construction. But still, this occurs in summer - perhaps the most important summer of canon. It stuck firmly to canon, and tried to be compliant which I respected. It wasn't always successful and I think if it'd been willing to extend itself a bit more and try and loosen it up a bit or just extend in an AU direction the story would've been stronger for it. You could've really explored the extremes of what you were going for a bit more.

    Stylistic:
    I've been trying to give one piece of advice to each story as I go along, and a lot of what I've discussed already I can see has had some place in this. Theme and moral lesson - sure, rather a bit too much as regards symbolism, as discussed above. Levels of conflict - to an extent yes, mainly personal and societal but some personal with Snape too. Each scene turns on a value, a revelation or an event, great.

    What I suppose I'd recommend for you, and what I don't feel really came across- and perhaps explains why I think some of the secondary characterisations were sacrificed in favour of the plot - is that secondary characters need goals. They need to reflect the dilemma of the main character with alternate contexts, alternate goals/methodologies in dealing with it, and alternate resolutions. In a short story that can be tough to pack in sure, but it should certainly be attempted. If you had been willing to give the secondary characters a bit more time and latitude I reckon you could've squeezed it in. This video from LFTS discusses the concept in the context of american beauty and is a two-parter. Also, particularly when you're dealing so much with one man's ignoring then spiting then working through his death, this video on the psychology of internal conflict should be watched. I never got the sense that Dumbledore was displaying alternate behaviours as he drilled down towards this inevitable crisis and climax, which I really should've.

    Hope this is useful.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  14. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

    Joined:
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    234
    Location:
    Behind you
    Times presses, thus you must forgive me for the somewhat disorganised review.

    I will begin by stating that your punctuation is all over the place. Commas where there should be full stops, commas followed by upper cases, speech tags ending incorrectly.... it's madness, madness and stupidity (that’s a GOT reference not an insult). I caught a few of them which I add in the Spoiler tag below, but really there are far too many for an otherwise well-written piece.

    Next is Dumbledore. Now, you have portrayed him well; very well in fact (you captured his voice most excellently), but unfortunately, only as well as he can be when we see things from his perspective. A key aspect of Dumbledore’s character is his inscrutability, less charitably; his contradictions (‘I care about Harry’s safety but only sometimes’). By seeing his thoughts, you remove all mystery however, and force yourself to choose one interpretation. But what happens when this interpretation clashes with Canon?

    This. So many troubling implications in such short a sentence. Dumbledore admits to himself that he has been passive in dealing with Voldemort (we do not receive a reason why). He sets out to change his ways, which presumably go back to the first war (for again - no given reason) and then thoroughly proceeds not to, both in this story and in the rest of the series. I mean… surely you see a problem with it.

    [Small aside: The way you have presented the story does not help with this either. Only once does Dumbledore leave his office, and that is to fail at what he sets out to do. I’m sure this is intended, I’m just not sure that you realise its effect on the reader.]

    It would be one thing if Dumbledore prioritised Voldemort’s Horcruxes over anything else. After all, this seems what is the case in Canon and makes sense in an ironically Greater Good kind of way. But then you undermine this with the Tinworth excursion and the last scene at Gringotts. It’s just… contradictory, and unlike in Canon we don’t have the excuse of not seeing things from his perspective. And also holy shit but does Dumbledore not give a single fuck about Vance or what? I mean he led her to her death and is mildly angered for like two seconds. What is this meant to say about his character? But then he does kind of loose his shit over Amelia, so I guess that’s alright, if again, contradictory.

    This is the greatest weakness in your story as far as I could tell. The thing is that I don’t have a solution for it, and that sucks for me.

    Other bits and pieces:

    You have this tendency to interject descriptions of characters that we already know in the middle of the narrative. I mean, I know Snape hasn’t made an appearance in this particular story, but I already know how he looks like, and so does Dumbledore.

    I understood you wanted to make this joke and I respect it, hell I even chuckled at it, but imagine J.K Rowling describing Snape out of nowhere in the middle of book six. A bit jarring no? Unless there was a reason for it, of course (like Snape looking particularly sexy that day). Otherwise it's a character introduction moment for an audience already familiar with said character.

    Which leads me to another point. At least twice you describe Dumbledore’s robes. What is the purpose of this? There is no flavour to be added because we already know that Dumbledore dresses garishly from Canon, and details such as this only bog down the flow the story. Consider removing them, as most people will skim over them anyways.

    Also what up with the desk though? I too was confused.

    Finishing up:

    Seeing Dumbledore set out to find the stone could have solved some of the narrative issues pertaining to his self-aware reactiveness, but maybe not. This reminds me. Dumbledore knew where to find one of the horcruxes, which implies that his research goes far further than just that summer, whereas your story sort of implies most of the work was done over that summer. Perhaps you could clarify?

    Anyways, this is likely making it to my podium, by which I mean to say that despite perhaps sounding negative (in my humble opinion a review of an unfinished work should focus on the parts to be improved, rather than in the parts that are already fine), I enjoyed reading it. The fact that you wrote a story that is both canon compliant and compelling is commendable. The flaws keep it from being a truly good story though, which it very well could be. I will be back to edit in the rating. I must ponder on it for a while.

    EDIT: I'm back! Yeah it's a four. Or rather almost. Just fix up that grammar sonny.

    It's the opening paragraph and already you are making me dive for the dictionary. I may be an uncultured swine, but you should not be reminding me of it so soon, if you want me to enjoy your story.


    Equanimity of words.

    I like the sentiment. But shouldn’t it be ‘as banisher of over-priced unvanishable ink?’ (comes with a free pun too)

    That’s an oopsie.

    Oopsie doopsie.

    This is a bit of an odd phrase. Fawkes encouraged him to stand? Fawkes encouraged him as he stood? (to do what) What is the mental picture we are meant to have here? Standing doesn’t take much time and is hardly difficult - and if you want to imply otherwise I think there are clearer ways to do so.


    Minor stuff, but if not relevant, I lean into not including these sorts of details. They bog down the narrative without adding all that flavour (considering that many people will skim over them).

    Oopsie, doopsie, poopsie.

    8949e7c16ff5d2fb251a4aff5e7df050.png
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  15. H_A_Greene

    H_A_Greene Auror –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2009
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    4,492
    Just wanted to say that this has been the best thing I have read all year. Better than Joe's death story with the older Harry a while ago, better than anything. You start off a tad loose but gradually tighten everything up as you go along, nailing the voices of the cast. You picked the perfect summer for this setting, the break between Fifth and Sixth year. I am eager to read more. I do wish something more had come of the unopenable drawer on Albus' desk, however. Otherwise, fantastic job, keep it coming please.
     
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