Dumbledore's Final Trick
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Dumbledore's Final Trick
Harry believes he has finally achieved true independence. But the Headmaster has one last trick to play - and an offer Harry would be a fool to turn down. Or would he?
Call this a satirical character study if you will. Skip it if you don't care for dialogue. This story is all about busting up cliches.
DUMBLEDORE'S FINAL TRICK
"Well, Harry," Dumbledore said with a satisfied smile. "It appears you have quite a decision to make."
Harry wondered if he was even capable of responding at that moment.
One Month Earlier
It all started with a letter, as such things often do. Sirius had sent Harry a letter, clearly anticipating his potential demise. The letter was a veritable list of "How to make Harry feel better" bullet points, including loving platitudes and assurances in Harry's capabilities, including those to defeat Voldemort. Sure, it also utilized liberal uses of the nickname "pup", which Harry wasn't exactly fond of, but he wasn't about to begrudge a dead man a silly annoyance. Besides, Sirius probably knew Harry didn't like the name; that was precisely his style of humor to use it anyway.
The letter informed Harry of an important event: the will reading of his godfather, including a Portkey to take him instantaneously to the very footsteps of Gringotts. It also included the oddly incongruous warning to "not trust Dumbledore, as he's been manipulating you all along". At first Harry was pretty dismissive of what seemed a paranoid warning of a man whose mental faculties had sadly not been entirely present, but as time went on, Harry grew more and more infuriated with all the terrible grievances he suddenly had with the Headmaster.
Why, Albus had practically done everything he could to make Harry his unthinking little puppet of death! It all seemed so obvious now that Harry had a second to think about it. He would intermittently clench his fist and growl incoherently as various memories of his past clearly inculpated the Headmaster as a man obsessed with the "Greater Good", and was willing to literally kill everyone to save them. The Goblet of Fire! The Chamber! The Sorting Hat! Etc!
There was apparently not a single good thing that Harry had ever experienced that wasn't tarnished by Dumbledore's bumbling hand, and everything bad was also clearly due to Dumbledore's insidiously brilliant evil and horrible incompetence. Harry wasn't even sure which was worse, the Headmaster's distressingly patronizing condescension or his blindness to the clear issues that Harry had suffered. He wasn't quite clear when it had happened or the precise moment, but Harry felt nearly blinded with rage over what Albus had certainly probably done to him.
Once Harry arrived at Gringotts, things began to accelerate quite a bit. It wasn't long before Harry had gotten himself emancipated as a legal adult (for which he would have had to wait literally months otherwise), began a series of angry lawsuits against Dumbledore for horrible child abuse, and even managed to pick up a new girlfriend.
That last one was probably the best part, Harry would acknowledge to himself. He just happened to bump into the girl in Diagon Alley, but their incidental contact had let to a wonderful conversation, and things just escalated from there. Harry's new lady was beautiful, brilliant, and kind. Everything he apparently had always wanted. Beautiful and vibrant eyes, a wonderful smile, and a killer body. Perfection in physical form.
Yes, sure, he had not exactly spoken to her more than a few words in the past years at Hogwarts, but that all would change soon enough.
He received training and assistance from Professor Flitwick, Nymphadora Tonks' parents (he perversely called them all Tonks just annoy Nymphadora - her dad found it pretty funny though), and even a few dropouts from the Order that had grown disillusioned with Dumbledore and his horrible crimes against humanity that no one had ever noticed before Sirius' precious letter. Of course he got loads of help from his girlfriend's family too, who taught him that magic was pretty damn cool, and gave him the familial support he had always craved.
A particularly uncharacteristically saddened and defeated Dumbledore had pleaded with Harry for forgiveness after the hearing against the Headmaster, but Harry, still furious at the Headmaster, thought Albus was trying to attack him and attacked suddenly, managing to disarm the far more experienced wizard, with the aid of all his newly acquired training and youthful reflexes. The Headmaster didn't bother to resist, and left his wand with Harry, who wondered a bit at his actions. Perhaps Dumbledore wasn't actually attempting to hurt him, but Harry still didn't trust the wily old codger. Harry wouldn't put it past Albus to fake the display of sadness.
The Headmaster's gnarled and mysterious wand, made from the wood of an Elderberry tree, somehow felt "right" to use exclusively. Harry began to use his new "Elderberry wand", which had depths of unfathomable power behind its murky origins. Even Fawkes had bonded (or at least that's how Harry understood it) with Harry after Dumbledore had clearly lost sight of the light side of magic.
It wasn't long before Dumbledore had been forced into house arrest to pay for his terrible misdeeds, and essentially forced to provide everything he knew to Harry's "New Order", which is what he decided to call his new team, in a particularly brilliant moment of creativity. Albus begrudgingly revealed shocking information he had gathered about Tom Riddle, including the knowledge of horrid things called Horcruxes, which allowed the evil wizard to survive normally lethal events.
With the help of his New Order of Wizards (NOW), Harry managed to track down and destroy four of the six remaining Horcruxes (the diary having already been quite decimated, and Nagini being a bit too difficult to access, as the vile snake spent all its time around Riddle). Unfortunately, Harry and his dynamic team of forward-thinking wizards and witches had soon realized that Harry himself was a Horcrux for the horrifying Dark Lord. Many hours and days were spent searching for a way that Harry could remove the Horcrux and still survive.
But the answer came, unexpectedly, from a children's story: The Tale of the Deathly Hallows, which Harry only happened to overhear randomly. The Thestral Wand was already in Harry's possession after conquering Dumbledore in their brief but satisfying duel of sorts, and his Silver Cloak of Hiding had been clearly accidentally given by Dumbledore due to his incompetence (the fool! It was actually shocking how simultaneously brilliant and stupid Albus had been over the years). The only remaining item was the Cadmus Stone of Undeath, which Harry stumbled across when organizing the shredded remnants of the various Horcruxes. What a wondrous surprise to discover it coincidentally in the ring of a Slytherin Gaunt.
Harry knew what he had to do, and did not reveal his secret plan to any of his New Order, although he suspected his dear girlfriend knew more than she let on. Brought together, the three Deathly Hallows made Harry the Master of Death's Grip, and the only one who could circumvent it.
Utilizing a daring and clever plan he had realized with no outside help, Harry sneaked into the secret base of the Death Eaters and killed Nagini. Harry then tricked Voldemort into casting the Killing Curse on him using his "accidentally dropped wand", which destroyed the Horcrux in his scar, but was turned back because the Eldrun Wand would never truly harm its master. Thus, the Horcrux (as it was a part of Riddle) was destroyed, but Harry survived. The Death Eaters did not last long after that, as his friends had luckily quickly showed up to clean up the followers of a now truly gone Dark Lord.
All this before the summer holidays had even ended.
But with only a week before Harry's sixth year would start, he wondered if he would actually bother even going. He was sitting quite comfortably in the Most Ancient Potter family flat in Hogsmeade, which wasn't much, but it was his - well, his and his girlfriend's, who had obviously moved in after Voldemort's ignominious defeat. Harry wasn't sure if Hogwarts still had anything to offer, although it would be nice to see his friends again.
"Maybe I should go back for my sixth year after all," Harry mused aloud.
"That would seem to be a laudable decision," a familiar voice replied, causing Harry's heart to leap up in surprise.
Harry instantly jumped to his feet, wielding his Deathwand, and was on the attack.
But Dumbledore (for that is of course who it was) shook his head with a calm smile, and waved his own wand, wordlessly disarming Harry and summoning the Wand of Destiny back to his grasp.
Harry gaped at this.
"Come now, Harry," Dumbledore chided. "You don't honestly think you're a match for me, do you?"
"But I already defeated you once already! I got the Wand from you! That proves it!"
Albus chuckled. "Harry, I thought you would have already realized I allowed you to win so you could wield the Elder Wand to defeat Voldemort. After that farce of a trial, it is is understandable that you didn't quite have your wits about you, but after all this time? Hardly logical, my friend."
"I'm not your bloody friend," Harry spat angrily, wishing his own original wand was nearby. Unfortunately, he had left it in his Gringotts vault for safekeeping. But wait a moment... Harry had a trump card.
"Fawkes!" Harry yelled out with a triumphant grin. The phoenix transported into the room in a blast of fire. "Get us out of here."
Fawkes looked sadly at Harry and trilled softly, a haunting song that brought tears to Harry's eyes. The phoenix flew away from Harry and perched on Albus' shoulder.
"But I don't understand," Harry asked in a quivering, heart-broken tone, quite affected by Fawkes' song. "I thought you left Dumbledore because he wasn't good or Light anymore."
Albus looked sadly at Harry and conjured a comfortable chair to sit in. "I am afraid that was all part of the plan, Harry. Fawkes never truly left me, because he knew I was still working for the right goals."
Harry felt lost. "But the Greater Good nonsense and all that manipulation! You were evil!"
Dumbledore's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Evil? I didn't think it had quite gone that far in your head. I assure you, thinking me evil was not at all my intention."
"I..." Harry stopped, feeling drained. He collapsed into his own chair and tried to go over the sudden craziness in his head.
"You seem quite flummoxed," Albus said calmly. "Perhaps it would help if I clarified the situation for you? I had not intended for you to be so out of sorts when we spoke."
"What's to clarify?" Harry shot back with a hint of anger. "You know very well you've been manipulating me this entire time! My whole life."
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, that is essentially accurate."
Harry's jaw dropped in shock. "You-you admit it? But you always proclaimed that everything was for the 'Greater Good' and I had no idea what I was talking about!"
"That much is still true as well," Dumbledore admitted. "But I never revealed the full picture to you, so you never had a chance to know what the truth could entail. It is my hope that after this conversation, there will finally be someone else who knows the truth."
Harry blinked and felt drained and bit saddened. "I don't quite follow you. You want to tell me the truth? No lies at all?" Harry's eyes narrowed in suspicion and he felt his pulse begin to race again. "I can't say I believe you in the slightest. You've lied over and over to me."
Albus chuckled wryly. "Yes, I suppose that is to be expected. But before we get off track, let me ask you a simple question: Why did you begin to stop trusting me in the first place?"
"I think you already know that," Harry retorted. "Sirius' letter of course. I didn't realize at the time how much you had screwed with my life, but it didn't take long for me to figure everything out. Well, with the help of my friends of course. At least Sirius trusted me and wanted me to more than just a damned weapon at your disposal!"
"Ah, I see." Dumbledore stroked his chin thoughtfully. "So you believe it was Sirius that sent you that letter - after he had already passed through the Veil?"
A cold feeling suddenly shot through Harry, but he ignored it. "Yes, I mean, you can delay letters. He asked the bank to send it if he died."
"Awfully considerate of the goblins, isn't it?" Albus inquired. "And it certainly showed considerable foresight for Sirius to think of such an idea, didn't it? I suppose he always was the type to think ahead, even after the effects of Azkaban."
"What are you trying to say?" Harry demanded. "Out with it!"
"Harry, my boy, it wasn't Sirius who sent you that letter. Sirius was a fine lad, but I am afraid he did not have such plans about his possible demise; I daresay he didn't believe it possible."
"If it wasn't Sirius... and I'm not saying I believe you, but then who could've sent it?"
"Why, isn't it obvious, Harry?" Dumbledore replied with a grin. "It was myself, of course."
"No!" Harry shouted in sudden rage. "Don't besmirch the name of a dead man, Dumbledore! I won't accept your lies anymore! I refuse! I stopped working for your cause a month ago!"
"Really, Harry? What do you suppose my cause is, in your opinion?""Um." Harry didn't have a ready answer for that. "Well, you know, you wanted to gain power, of course."
Dumbledore nodded. "Which of course I had none of already."
Harry winced. "Um, well, you could always use more power."
The Headmaster laughed aloud at that. "Couldn't we all, Harry?"
"And worse than that," Harry realized. "All you wanted was for me to kill Voldemort because you were too weak to do it yourself!"
"Ah, my evil plan, as it were. Tell me Harry." Dumbledore asked. "How did you manage to avoid fulfilling my secret plot to get you to kill Tom?"
Harry didn't quite like the sound of that question. "Uh, well, I did kill him, but on my terms!"
"Naturally," Dumbledore said agreeably. "And I suppose it's hardly possible that I intended for you to gain this new level of confidence and skills to defeat Tom, while having you believe you had already defeated me, so Tom would be an easy next target."
Harry frowned. That sounded entirely too plausible.
"I did easily defeat you this time around," Dumbledore reminded. "But the Elder Wand only changes Masters when someone is defeated, so it was the only easy way to give you access to the Wand. I had several other theoretical plans, of course, but this was the simplest path."
"So you just hoped I would die facing off against Voldemort?" Harry felt his anger begin to rise again. "So you would be the only remaining figure of power in the country?"
"Not at all," Dumbledore retorted with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I did not wish you to die, Harry. After all, if I had wanted you dead, I had quite a number of opportunities over the years, including earlier today while you were not paying close attention to your surroundings. I could not kill Voldemort myself, as you said, although it was not due to lack of trying, I assure you."
"But... I mean surely the prophecy wasn't really all that mattered, was it?" Harry asked worriedly. "Anyone could have killed Voldemort."
"I'm afraid not," Albus replied with a sigh. "I had often wondered why it seemed that Tom was always impossible to defeat permanently, and of course it turns out that the Horcrux issue was part of the problem, but there was more than that. Only due to your unique connection with him was it even possible for you to kill him. If the twin combination of being the heir of the Deathly Hallows, in a matter of speaking, and being a Horcrux yourself was not present - then even you could not have defeated Tom."
"What, so he would have lived forever?" Harry asked disbelievingly. "I mean, sooner or later someone would just detonate a bomb near him or something."
"Tom's body would be destroyed eventually, I am sure," Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "But he would have always been able to return, although maybe future fighters would discover a way to contain such a split souled spirit. I do not personally know of any such way myself."
"Hold on a moment," Harry held his head in sudden thought. "But you just said you've been manipulating me all this time - so that I could kill Voldemort!"
"Indeed," Albus agreed. "But that hardly means I wanted you dead. There were many ways and paths you could have taken to kill Riddle, and many that would have seen you dead by his hand. Some would have required sacrificing myself, but obviously that would not be my preference. It seemed to me that after the death of your godfather and your conflict with Tom at the Ministry, you needed a push to figure things out for yourself. Well, again, in a manner of speaking."
Harry's eyes narrowed at that. "What do you mean by that?"
"I am afraid that many of your discoveries were intentionally planned. With my hidden help, you overheard the story of the Hallows, which I had subtly mentioned to Mrs. Weasley earlier so she would tell it to you."
"But this was after your house arrest!"
"Yes, but clearly that was all part of the plan as well. Manipulating people to do what they already want to do is not quite so difficult after all. But the Hallows was only one part I assisted with; obviously I ensured you would have each one. The Invisibility Cloak, as you know, I gave you quite early, and I already explained that I intentionally allowed you to win the Elder Wand from me. The Resurrection Stone was a bit trickier, as I did not know where it was myself either, but luckily it was encased in Slytherin's ring and hadn't been destroyed with the Horcrux. It was a simple matter to 'guide' you to find it."
"Um." Harry began to think over the events of the past weeks, and couldn't help but see far too many coincidences - he had thought nothing of them at the time, fully flush with confidence. But now, when put all together, they did seem far too unlikely. Harry wondered if he was just used to getting out of bad scrapes with luck, so he never questioned anything that pushed the bounds of credulity.
"And of course, your foray into Riddle's headquarters. You didn't think you survived sneaking in by your own skills, did you? I carefully monitored you, hidden nearby, taking out any Death Eaters or magical traps that would have caught your presence. And of course, I made sure your plan was "leaked" to your New Order friends so they would rescue you after Riddle was killed. After all, the Death Eaters would probably not have made it easy for you to escape after killing their Master. Or did you honestly think the New Order's sudden arrival was luck?"
"Well..." Harry didn't really want to admit that he had thought that exactly. Now that he actually considered it, it did seem a bit unusually lucky.
"And of course, it all started with the forged letter. I knew you needed some impetus to start your journey of self-discovery, and with the unfortunate death of your godfather, I had the ideal manner with which to initiate that journey."
"So you wanted him dead?" Harry accused, although his tone was not that confident.
Dumbledore looked quite disappointed at this remark. "Hardly! Why would I want Sirius to be killed?"
Harry took a deep breath and recalled all his various complaints about Dumbledore. Although as he began to think on them, he wondered if he had made a mistake. "It's not entirely clear, now that I think on it," Harry admitted. "But I suppose that perhaps you couldn't control me effectively when Sirius was alive, so you..." Harry trailed off as he realized he didn't quite know what the Headmaster had done. And come to think of it...
"Arranged for him to be cursed by Bellatrix and fall through the Veil?"
"Yes?" Harry realized this sounded stupid even to him. "I guess... I suppose that doesn't make sense. I suppose Sirius was still listening to you, since he didn't end send the letter - I guess I see that now. Why bother killing him if he was still listening to everything you asked?"
"Precisely," Dumbledore answered with a pleased expression. "And your initial misapprehension about control was understandable, if a bit misguided. His influence wasn't exactly damaging to you, despite Molly Weasley's opinion."
Harry couldn't help but snort a bit in amusement at that. "But still, the letter - you used it because he had died! There's something awfully morbid there, if even you had a good reason. You wrote a letter pretending to be a man who was dead who hadn't died yet. That takes a seriously twisted point of view."
Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow at that. "Well, Harry, points of view are quite the subjective thing. I'd rather think of myself as an opportunist that accepted the grim possibilities of life. Although I didn't want Sirius to die, I did not want his death to be for naught either. It presented a wonderful opportunity to help you with you realizing you were being helped, so I set my plan into motion. Obviously it all worked out quite well. You gained quite a bit of self-confidence, destroyed the Horcruxes, albeit with help, and finally killed Tom yourself."
"Hmm, I suppose it did work out at that." Harry scratched his head in thought. "But still, why all the manipulation? Why did you have to be so devious? Why couldn't you be straightforward and tell me everything I needed to know?"
Albus sighed. "To answer that, Harry, I must give you a bit of history. I beg your forbearance, but I assure you I am far more skilled that Binns in such instruction."
"Well that's good news at least," Harry muttered. "How far back are we talking here? I worked hard training, but I'm no Hermione. I still don't exactly enjoy lessons."
"I'm a practical man, myself, Harry," the Headmaster assured. "So I know quite how you mean. But as for your question, well, let us start well start with the beginning, from my perspective in any event, somewhere along the lines of about one hundred years ago. It even seems bizarre to say that number out loud."
A far off look appeared in Dumbledore's eyes. "Yes, my own not quite so humble beginnings. I was born into an old but humble pureblooded family, with no real significance to its name and no truly great or terrible individuals in its history. My father was a pureblood, of course, but my mother was Muggle-born, like yours. I had two siblings, a brother and a sister, both magical as well. Squibs were not a tremendous issue for my family."
"You had siblings?" Harry asked, taken aback. "I didn't know that. Are they still alive?"
A sorrowful expression came over Dumbledore's face. "My brother still lives; he is the barman at the Hog's Head. But my sister died long ago, right before me. And that horrible incident was a key moment for my life, a turning point if you will."
Harry considered this. "I guess seeing that kind of... horrible thing can really change you. Maybe that led to all your bloody deviousness, although it's hard to say. I've seen some pretty terrible things myself after all."
"And is your history filled with no deviousness of your own, Harry?"
Harry couldn't help but redden slightly at that. "Well, no, I suppose you got me there. I thought I was outsmarting and outmaneuvering you and Riddle. Although I guess it was just Riddle I was beating the whole time."
"Don't sell yourself so short, Harry," Dumbledore said with a sudden pointedness. "After all, you are a bright boy, and you had very bright parents. It is just that sometimes truly gifted wizards or witches come along, and that is a far different matter."
"Yeah, I see what you mean," Harry said with a nod. He smirked. "I suppose you are one those gifted wizards that comes along only once a century or something?"
Dumbledore looked amused. "Not quite as rare as all that, but yes. I was a brilliant student at Hogwarts, the very top of my class. Without false humility, no one of my skills had been seen there in generations. I was so far ahead of my fellow students, I had to find outside avenues to stretch my intellect. That was how I initially sought out Nicholas Flamel, my old mentor, when I was a bit younger than you are now. He wasn't exactly what you would call a social individual, nor was his dear wife Perenelle for that matter."
Albus paused, lost in memories for a moment. "It took some fairly insanely brilliant words on my part to even get him to not dismiss me out of hand. Of course, at the time I was so self-confident I had no doubts in the matter. It would take quite a few years before my youthful brashness would be tempered by good sense."
"Flamel." Harry frowned at a sudden thought. "Well, hold on a second, that reminds me of something, now that we're getting all honest with each other. Wasn't that whole business with the Philosopher's Stone just another test for me? A way to push me down the path you wanted? You might as well admit it now, since you've claimed you'll be candid with me."
Harry actually smiled a bit. "I don't quite resent you for that part, contrary to what my girlfriend might prefer. It actually was a good experience for me to work with friends toward a larger goal, so I guess your little test worked well then too."
"Well, we're jumping ahead a bit, some eighty years or so," Albus replied with a chuckle. "But I can see you won't easily deviate from this subject. Without going into too much detail, no, Harry, the Philosopher's Stone was not meant as a test for you at all. I knew you were researching the Stone, but at the time I was merely amused by your youthful enthusiasm. I did not seriously consider the notion that you would actually seek out the Stone, even if it was to stop Quirrell from obtaining it."
"No, that's not right!" Harry protested. "Then why were the traps so easy to get through? We were first-years!" He looked slightly crossly at the Headmaster. "I just said I wasn't even mad at you about it. You needn't be dishonest with me."
The Headmaster shook his head ruefully. "Yes, I am aware how the trials appeared to you three, but the entire point of those traps was to ensnare Riddle in the first place. As you may remember, neither he nor Quirrell were able to retrieve the Stone from the Mirror of Erised, nor would they be able to unlock it before I would have time to return."
"So the Stone was never in any real danger?" Harry asked with a snort of disbelief. "You had three children go through all that just to train them? I have to give you credit, that's pretty bad, even for you."
"Harry, trust me that you did not see anything close to the full picture at the time. You have already mentioned that the trials were far too easy, considering you were able to pass through them. That is because I changed them at the last minute."
Harry blinked in surprise. "What?"
"Think of it, Harry. Allow me to elucidate, and explain the original idea. Riddle had already attempted to steal the Stone from Flamel, but his estates would not withstand another attack. He did not trust Gringotts security, rightfully so, despite what the Goblins would want you to believe. There are far too many loopholes that allow someone to break in to the vaults. Nicholas asked for my help, and I realized it also presented the perfect opportunity to uncover Riddle."
Dumbledore paused and conjured a drink. He took a long sip and breathed out in relief. "Ah, that is much better. Now, let us consider what happened, and see if you can figure out what was truly going on behind the scenes given what you know. Why would I keep the Stone at Hogwarts?"
"Well, now, let me think," Harry said, a bit intrigued. "If we assume it wasn't just a test for me, which I guess would be a bit hard to put together. Wouldn't it?"
Albus actually laughed at that. "That is an interesting question, Harry. I can't say I have honestly considered how to create a test for your skills, even recently. I daresay you need no help in finding your own impossible adventures by yourself."
Harry snorted. "Yeah, that's true. So if it wasn't for me, then the Stone must have been for Riddle. I guess it was like a trap for him?"
"Indeed, I knew that the Stone being hidden at Hogwarts would present an unstoppable possibility for Riddle, and would allow me to confront him at last. After all, he had been hidden for ten years, ever since you survived his Killing Curse. The only difficulty was that I had no idea how he would penetrate the grounds. We had ways of warding off evil spirits, but other than that..."
"I don't believe that!" Harry interjected. "Sure, I get the trap idea. But could you not immediately suspect Quirrell the moment he showed up with his silly turban and ridiculous stutter? It was so bloody obvious!"
"So obvious that even you suspected him, Harry?"
Harry winced. "Well, I mean, we were just kids. And Snape is a right bastard after all. Are you saying that you didn't know it was him?"
Dumbledore nodded. "I am afraid that Tom was always quite good at hiding his presence, as you may recall from his diary. He was careful not to overwhelm Quirrell, as that would have triggered wards to indicate his presence. I was fairly certain that Riddle would choose possession or allies to obtain the Stone, as the Imperius can be easily detected if you are looking for it, as I was of course."
"So then if you suspected possession or allies," Harry pondered. "Then you would really have to suspect, well, everyone. Professors and students alike."
"Luckily there are some protections against students," Dumbledore revealed. "And I felt Tom would be too proud to try anything less. As you say, Harry, I had no choice but to suspect everyone on my staff. There were suspicious elements of their behavior that seemed to possibly connect to Voldemort, but I could not be sure. Quirrell had been the Muggle Studies professor for years, so he wasn't precisely an unknown person either. I had to ensnare Riddle, but how?"
Harry thought for a moment. "I guess the trials were a trap. You used the Professors to set them up - I guess that probably means that Riddle would have to possess a Professor to get at it. Twisted, but pretty brilliant, I must admit."
Dumbledore beamed. "Well spotted, Harry, although as you know now, it was not quite brilliant enough. My idea was indeed to include the professors in a plan to develop lethal traps to protect the Stone. They would then know the location of the Stone, but not what the final trap was, as I hinted to them carefully that only I would know of it. I had alarms set to trigger when anyone managed to get past the trapdoor. Imagine my surprise and horror when after being altered to Quirrell's entry, the alerts went off again to indicate that three first-year children had actually gotten past Fluffy."
"So, that probably gave a mild heart attack if you weren't expecting it," Harry smirked. "I guess you didn't want us to even get as far as the mirror, or even anywhere close, because you were trying to find out whom Voldemort was possessing?"
"Correct, Harry," Dumbledore nodded. "Luckily you made it past the Devil's Snare, but that delay gave me just enough time to cripple the remaining trials so you could survive them."
"You crippled the trials?" Harry hadn't expected that particular revelation. "What - what were they originally? I'm not even sure how bad it could have been, I suppose."
"Flitwick had charmed the keys to attack once one was picked, and they would present a most lethal challenge even to an experienced wizard. Quirrell could handle it, of course, but three children? I had to quickly transfigure the broom to give you the ability to grab the key at all, and not only that, but I had to alter the charm so that one of the keys actually worked. Originally, they were all fake."
Harry thought he had caught Dumbledore in a logical trap. "Wait a minute, sir, then how could Quirrell even get by without a key? Answer that!"
"He broke the locking charm, of course, realizing that the keys were red herrings."
"Oh." That made sense, actually. "Well now I'm glad that broom was there. Flying has always been one of my greatest abilities, and I originally figured that was part of the point. Flying for me, chess for Ron, and, I dunno, puzzles for Hermione. Although that one doesn't quite work."
"Indeed, Harry. I had limited time to create plausible possibilities for you three, and I had a bit of luck that you and Ron, at the least, had specific sets of skills. And as for those chess pieces, those were initially a line of marble statues that blocked the exit, and would merely attempt to kill you. I hastily transfigured the lot into a chess set, knowing that at least that would allow you to have an idea of how to pass."
"You transfigured everything that quickly? It must have been like only a few minutes until we'd come through the door!"
Dumbledore looked smug. "Well, transfiguration has always been easy for me. I used to teach it, if you recall, and I daresay I am the greatest practitioner alive at it. Although I will admit that transfiguring an entire chess board in under three minutes was actually a nice challenge for a change - but I was a bit too stressed at the time to enjoy it, mind, trying to stay ahead of you."
"Damn." Harry couldn't help but feel a little impressed. "The troll probably wasn't exactly a problem for you, although you probably remembered we had knocked out the troll earlier the year. I don't suppose you set that up either?"
"Not in the slightest," Albus said, looking a bit stricken. "To be honest, I was frightfully out of sorts during the whole business. You probably don't remember, but I asked all students to return to their dorms, even though Slytherin and Hufflepuff lived in the dungeons near where the troll had been spotted. I didn't realize my mistake until later, and I was in quite a hurry to track down the blasted beast."
"Hey, did Quirrell-Tom hide it from you somehow? Was that why you couldn't find it immediately?"
"You have it quite right, Harry. Unfortunately, as you discovered with the Chamber and the Basilisk the following year, when the Heir to one of the Founders tries to hide something, it can be quite difficult to find it. Quirrell knew the troll would be found eventually, I am sure, but it was just a diversion. It wouldn't have worked even if had made it to the mirror, as I would have known at the moment he had gotten that far."
"Yeah, but Snape caught him first. I don't really know where that guy stands, to be honest with you."
"An understandable position. But getting back to the trials, the troll was already knocked out by Quirrell, so no problem there. I wouldn't have to rely on sheer luck of first years knocking out a troll again. The potions were a bit more of an issue, so I had come up with a note to help you in really a matter of seconds, one that at the very least Hermione would be able to solve. I will readily admit it was not very good, but I was quite pressed for time. As you might now guess, there was no clue to help pass through the fire, you merely had to guess correctly - which Quirrell and Tom did, naturally. It was lucky that Severus had left more than one potion of protection, because if I must be frank, his Static Fiendfyre portal would have been remarkably difficult to dispel in time."
"That was Fiendfyre!" Harry was shocked. "I didn't even know you could make it stay in place. I suppose a Flame-Freezing Charm wouldn't affect that at all. I am very glad we didn't try it."
"Quite. But Severus always was a fair hand at the Dark Arts, even more than myself, to be honest with you." Albus paused and took another drink.
"I then waited, Disillusioned, in the final room for you to arrive and be completely certain that the moment Quirrell tried to harm you lethally, I could prevent it. As it turned out, I did not actually have to interfere, much to my surprise and pleasure. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction to give you full marks for that victory."
Harry felt a bit of moisture in his eyes, but he quickly rubbed them and shook his head to clear the cobwebs. "So I defeated him by myself?"
"Yes, Harry, that is what actually happened that year. You managed to not only face Voldemort but defeat him, wildly exceeding any of my plans for the year. I hardly intended you to fight him so young, but you were so strong and stalwart. I was very proud, if a bit saddened that you were growing up too quickly."
Harry felt a lump in his throat and swallowed. "That's all well and good, but still... What about - what about the Dursleys? The abuse? Why did you allow that, if not to put me in a position to trust you so readily? I can forgive almost everything else; I know the whole point was to help me defeat Riddle. But the Dursleys? Why?"
"We're getting quite off track here, but no, you are not at all correct. When your parents were killed, I knew there were several possible places you could live, but the truth was that the Dursleys, as nasty as they inevitably were, still had the safest place for you to live."
Harry shook his head. "That's not possible. Safer than Hogwarts? Than under a Fidelius?"
"Harry, you already know that the Fidelius is not foolproof. And as for the other, compare how many Death Eaters were in Hogwarts during your years there to how many were on Privet Drive."
"That's not fair," Harry protested.
"Is it not?" Albus asked. "You think it is mere coincidence no dark wizard ever bothered you at your home? Hogwarts can protect against a great deal, but it cannot protect against everything. The blood magic on your home on Privet Drive truly protected against ALL intruders. You say they mistreated you, and I will not deny that. But did they ever truly harm you?"
"They tried," Harry grumbled. "Maybe they didn't actually hit me at all, but they did everything else. Petunia swung a frying pan at me once. And Dudley hit me plenty of times."
"That may be, Harry, but you were never in any serious danger. Not only that, but the wards would not have ALLOWED anyone to harm you severely. Your scrapes with your cousin may have been unpleasant, but they were hardly deadly. You may decry the love of your family, but Petunia brought you in. That bond could only be broken by you."
"Well, how about this then? You just left me on the footstep as a baby! Anyone could have just kidnapped me! You didn't even talk to the Dursleys, you just left them a bloody note!"
Dumbledore smiled in remembrance. "Yes, Minerva didn't understand that bit either. First of all, let me assure you I was watching quite closely. I would not have allowed anyone else near you, and had Petunia refused you, I would have immediately gone to a different plan for your living arrangements. But that note was needed, in point of fact. Petunia needed to make the choice, without being magically convinced in any way, to bring you over the threshold of her home. That decision to carry you inside her home sealed the wards and made them impregnable. That decision kept you all safe from any evil on those grounds."
Harry thought back, wondering if this changed his perception of his Aunt after so many years of misery. Probably not, but perhaps someday. "But why couldn't you just do some magic to make them decent to me? You're willing to push boundaries for the Greater Good, after all."
Dumbledore winced. "I don't think you truly understand the connotations of that phrase, so I shall ignore it for now. But suffice it to say that magically influencing your family in any way would have invalidated the bond. This is old magic we're talking about, and quite particular. I still left contingencies, as you may have realized by now."
"Ah, you mean Mrs. Figg?"
"Yes, exactly. I had Arabella Figg there to keep an eye out for anything truly horrific, and to make sure you yourself weren't turning into a sociopath. After all, I did not want a repeat of the mistakes made with Tom."
"Or Snape?" Harry asked pointedly.
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Snape? What mistakes do you think were made about him, other than the ones he himself has made, of course?"
"You let him become a Death Eater!" Harry accused. "You could have prevented that, I am certain. Even though I still don't know if he's on your side even now."
The Headmaster looked quite sad suddenly. "Harry, a great many of my students became Death Eaters. I did my best to help, but there are limits to even my influence. I had to focus my time and energies on more important students, and contrary to what both you and Severus may think, he had only become pivotal to the effort by chance, not by any merit. He was a brilliant young wizard, of course, but there were others even more brilliant. Your parents, for one, as well as Remus and even Sirius, although he never really applied himself. Sirius was a far greater threat than Snape, had he been expelled after the horrible prank against Severus, the odds were not good that Sirius would end up well.
"In that circumstance, I had no choice but to choose the lesser of evils and allow Sirius to stay at Hogwarts, even if that meant alienating Severus still more. He had his chances, and he spurned the vast majority of them. I have always been quite disappointed in his choices."
"Huh." Well, Harry didn't care for Snape much either, so at least Dumbledore was in good company, right? "So what is the deal with Snape, anyway? Why is he such a sniveling bastard - if you'll excuse the language?"
"Well, Harry, to be perfectly frank, I would rather you figured it out for yourself. I am going to provide you with a few salient facts and then see if you can puzzle through it."
"Snape is what you would call a true half-blood; his mother was a witch, and his father was a Muggle. Much like Riddle, actually, although I don't believe there were any love potions involved with the Snapes. He grew up in a place called Mill Town, which was primarily a Muggle community. And he was neighbors with a family called Evans. Finally, years later, I received a letter from your aunt pleading for entry into Hogwarts. I had to turn her away, of course, as she had no magic, but I never heard back from her."
"Wait a minute, Petunia wanted to go to Hogwarts?" Harry was stunned.
"Correct, Harry. Now, can you figure out precisely why Snape treats you so badly?"
"The better question is why you let him treat me and everyone else so badly," Harry muttered spitefully, still angry at the Potions Professor for all his overly punitive measures
"I think you already know the answer," Albus replied. "Considering what you already know about him. Contrary to popular belief, Snape isn't a bad teacher, but more a bad person - he has strict requirements for his NEWT classes, but nearly all of his NEWT students score very highly. He treats Slytherin better because everyone else treats them badly. His position was critical to the war effort, and I didn't trust him in the Defense position, which he wanted badly. He was quite good there - too good, I would venture."
"You didn't trust him?" Harry couldn't believe his ears.
"Another bit of data for you then," Dumbledore said with a smile.
"So you had to keep him at Hogwarts? And Potions was a good fit, then."
Albus shrugged. "He was quite brilliant at it. And the previous Professor had retired, leaving a short string of well-meaning but not very effectual Potions professors. He needed a safe haven, Hogwarts needed a Potions Professor who knew what he was doing. I would have far preferred your mother, of course, had she lived, but such is life."
Harry blinked. "My mother was good in Potions." He then quickly threw up a hand to forestall any reply. "No, I get it, another 'fact' to keep in mind. So let's see here, my mum was good at Potions, and so was Snape. They grew up in the same neighborhood, and probably knew each other then. Actually if Snape's mother was a witch, then he'd already know about magic."
He realized something with a start. "That means he could recognize it in other people. Other people like my mother! But his dad was a Muggle... I'm not sure what that means, unless..." Harry felt oddly sympathetic to Snape all of a sudden. "Sir, was Snape... ill treated?" Harry was quite sure how to phrase it.
Dumbledore sighed. "Full marks, Harry. Your mother and Severus were quite close, but then there was an incident, one that you already know well about."
"I already know?" Harry wondered about that remark. What incidents involving his mother and Snape did he already know about? Nothing really, except from Snape's Pensieve. Hold on a moment then...
"He called her mudblood?" Harry felt this couldn't be it. It seemed too petty. "That's the reason he hates me?"
"My word, but you are very close to the truth. I really cannot contain myself anymore, if you will forgive me?"
Harry nodded his assent, craving the facts of the matter at that moment.
"Severus befriended Lily before they went to Hogwarts, and were very close friends. As you may recall from the Pensieve memory, she wasn't initially a fan of James at all. But as Snape became increasingly mired in Dark magic and the Death Eaters' cause, even if only to find someone else with similar interests, he became more distant with your mother. The mudblood invective was the last straw for Lily; she knew then that Severus was far gone."
Albus sighed. "And when James realized that Severus was no longer in the picture, it truly gave him the push to mature and become a better person. It wasn't long before Lily wasn't so repulsed by his presence. But Severus never lost his feelings for Lily, even if he pretended otherwise."
"So all this time," Harry began slowly. "Snape has hated me because he..." Harry swallowed some sudden bile. "Loved my mother? That's awful."
"I didn't say I approved of his hatred," Dumbledore reminded. "In fact I specifically told him myself how disappointed I was that he only cared enough to spare her life, not yours or James'. It was one of the most singularly selfish acts I had ever witnessed in my long life."
"And Aunt Petunia wanted to be magical too," Harry realized. "So she hated me because she wasn't magical like her sister?"
"And because she hated that magic had killed her sister, in a manner of speaking, from her limited perspective. A mix of hatred and love; all too human, I would say."
Harry chuckled ruefully. "I guess that's true. But you know, didn't my parents say explicitly not to leave me at the Dursleys?"
Dumbldore looked honestly confused by the question. "No, why would they say that? Lily still loved her sister after all, even if they had become estranged. I don't believe she thought you would be mistreated, although I feel she underestimated the lingering jealousy of Petunia - she wanted to go to Hogwarts, after all.
"Besides, they never completed their will - I suppose it never occurred to them. Standard practices were followed instead, which meant that you could go nearly anywhere to live. The only laws were that family was preferable and safety was paramount - with the blood wards, the Dursleys truly were the best option"
Harry frowned, considering this. "Huh". He then remembered a related grievance regarding the Dursleys. "Well, hold a moment then. You know how my Hogwarts letter was addressed to the 'Cupboard Under the Stairs', right? How could you just let that pass?"
The Headmaster sighed heavily. "Harry, that is a complicated question. The letters for children with magical parents are actually automatically created and sent; the muggleborns are spoken to personally. It was an oversight I had not considered, because I did not truly think the Dursleys would have kept you in the dark about it. When we received no reply from you, I investigated and was horrified by the address. The way the spell works is that it uses whatever you would have considered your home there; it was designed as kind of a fun thing for most children. You can imagine the delight of a random magical child getting a letter to his or her room, feeling quite special."
Harry nodded, conceding the point.
"And you clearly must have considered it 'home', or the spell would not would have worked. You probably weren't even aware that I had cast a cushioning spell on the floor of your room, were you?"
Harry's jaw dropped. "N-no, I didn't. But I guess it was far more comfortable than a wood floor ought to be. And, um, all those letters after?"
"The letter system is actually highly independent after a fashion, which is why it kept sending multiple letters to get your attention. I had to manually disable it before sending out Hagrid."
"That's another thing, though," Harry said, although there was really no malice in it by this point, only curiosity. "Why Hagrid instead of someone else?"
"I am not sure whom you think would be preferable. Severus would hardly be welcome by anyone, nor would he particularly be likely to behave himself. McGonnagal usually handled muggleborns, but she was too busy to go herself in your case. And to be honest, I was worried about retaliation, and Hagrid is very difficult to hurt, even with Muggle firearms. I permitted him to use his wand fragments temporarily; although obviously he never should have lost his wand in the first place."
"Okay, that's pretty reasonable," Harry allowed. "But here's an interesting point: Hagrid never told me how to get on to the Platform, so I had to wait for the Weasleys, a family loyal to you, to show up and 'coincidentally' forget where the entrance was located. Seems a bit fishy, doesn't it?"
Albus sat back in his chair with a bit of surprise in his expression. "Harry, I am honestly shocked at your memory of such a minute circumstance. But I can certainly address your concerns: first of all, I am surprised Hagrid did not mention how to get to the train. It must have slipped his mind, but I will be sure to remind him if he needs to escort another new student. And I don't really know why the Weasleys forgot the entrance, as I was not there at the time. I suppose that perhaps with all the chaos of so many children, even Arthur or Molly might be a bit lost, although I wouldn't expect it of Arthur so readily."
"Well, it was Mrs. Weasley actually," Harry pointed out.
Albus shook his head. "Once again, Harry, I am astounded at your excellent memory. I certainly do not have such perfect recollections of my own first Express ride, although it was many decades earlier. But there we are, I suppose." His mouth quirked a bit. "Is your curiosity sufficiently satiated?"
"Mostly," Harry said with a shrug. "I guess I thought it was all part of the plan to control me better by putting me in Gryffindor."
Dumbledore laughed at loud. "My word, Harry, but your theories of my evil plans have certainly become quite creatively ridiculous. Harry, I was the Headmaster of Hogwarts. The entire school, that is. Why would Gryffindor be easier to control? Do you think McGonagall is easier to manipulate than Flitwick or Snape? Sprout is quite stubborn in her own way as well - and I would have been happy with any house you would be sorted to - I had contingencies for all houses. I would be a very poor planner otherwise, after all."
Harry couldn't help but laugh himself at the reply. "Yes, I see your point."
"Anything else horrible I have done that I must answer for?"
Harry snickered and stretched out. "Yeah, maybe two or three things, just to be clear, I guess. About mail - wouldn't I have gotten mail from fans over the years? Well wishes."
"Well, Harry, awfully humble all of the sudden, aren't you?"
Harry's face reddened, and he felt a bit embarrassed.
"No," Albus said. "All such mail was forwarded to the Ministry, as is policy, as your location was not known publicly intentionally. They probably destroyed most of it, if not all of it. I am afraid that as a child you would only have been confused by it all. The ministry sent out a standard 'Harry Potter is too busy to respond' note to any of them. Other the years, I believe the letters trickled off to very few. I still have your letters that were sent to you at Hogwarts, but I have not had time to filter through them for traps or curses - and I know there are some contained. But if you would like to spend some time going through about three thousand letters and parcels, I would be happy to assist you. I expect it to take quite some time, though."
Harry shook his head and looked disgusted. "No thanks. I don't care for all that, anyway. And why did you ask everyone not to send me mail this summer?"
"Actually, Harry," Dumbledore said with a bit of stern tone. "You are mistaken. I did ask your friends not to bother you until you mailed them first - but you may remember that you did not actually try that. Perhaps you were not thinking of them either."
"Oh." Harry slumped, feeling bad about that, and realizing that the Headmaster was exactly right.
"Harry, I hate to end our conversation on such a low note, but really, I suppose I can always answer more of your questions about my evil plans at a later date."
"Oh, we have been talking for a while, haven't we?" Harry realized. He felt drained, but strangely pleased in a cathartic sense. "I'm glad we've been able to talk honestly. I'll be honest with you now, I really kind of missed our talks."
Albus smiled. "As did I, Harry, but now I must present you with a most difficult quandary. When I first decided to come today, I did not know how the conversation would unfold. Either you would be a petulant child about it, depressingly defeated, or you would try to figure things out for yourself. I am very pleased it was the last one, which is what I honestly hoped for. You proved to be quite clever today."
Harry couldn't help but feel very pleased at the compliment. "Thank you, Professor. I appreciate the chance to figure things out for my part."
Dumbledore tapped his wand against the side of the chair thoughtfully. "Harry, if you had not proven to be mature and intelligent about this, I would have Obliviated you and moved on."
"WHAT?" Harry yelled, jumping up. "Why would you do that?"
"So that it would be easy for me to fall back into the mentor role again, although that was a last resort. I could not have you thinking so badly of me in the future if you were immature, but luckily that was not the case. And now I have a twisted choice for you. You can choose to be Obliviated of our conversation, and the status quo will return."
Harry swallowed, his throat feeling suddenly dry. "Or?"
"Or you can choose to work with me - to become my apprentice in not just magic, but the methods of manipulation and subtlety, which I believe after this conversation, you are quite capable of reaching mastery of. I do not wish to live forever, but I have often wanted someone to pass on my responsibilities and knowledge. To understand the dangers of the 'Greater Good' but the importance of choice. That is what I would prefer, but if you do not wish to go that path, I will regretfully understand."
"But is there no other choice? You can't just let me know about all this?"
Albus shook his head. "No, and we do not have the time to get into it now. If you choose to retain your memories and learn from me, I shall explain later. Otherwise..."
Harry's mind raced frantically. "Let's say I take this choice. What if I manage to outmaneuver and defeat you for real?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Why, Harry, that will just mean you have learned your lessons well indeed."
"And what if I become an apprentice, but really don't exactly like you. Because that's kind of how I'm thinking now; I respect you, but I don't really like you anymore."
Albus looked a bit sad. "I have made many sacrifices for others, and I would make that one as well."
"Damn, sir. I mean, sorry, but... can you give me some time to think about this?"
"Of course, my boy," Dumbledore answered. "I can give you twenty four hours to decide. I have warded the room to prevent intrusion, so although you won't be able to leave, no one will disturb you either. Do you want to discuss things with your lady friend?"
"Um, yes, if it's not too much trouble. I guess you'd just Obliviate her if I don't decide to follow you, then?"
"Yes, quite. She is merely Stunned in the other room, so it would be easy enough to revive her so you talk things over. I will go do just that, and I will see you in exactly one day from now.""Right," Harry slumped over in his chair, waiting for Albus to leave. After a minute, his girlfriend stormed into the room.
"Harry, what the bloody hell just happened?"
That was quite a question.
Over the next hour, Harry explained everything that had occurred, although his girlfriend made many angry and shocked interruptions.
"What are you going to do?" She asked finally.
"I don't really know," Harry confessed. "I don't entirely want to be Dumbledore's apprentice, but I kind of really DO also. And although ignorance would be bliss, I guess, I don't really want to forget everything I've learned. It feels so good to know the truth."
"I don't think you could stand to lose your memories," his girlfriend smirked. "I know what I would do in your place."
"Yeah, so do I," Harry said sardonically. "Learn from him, then take his place. I already mentioned that to him, but he just said that would make him proud that I had learned properly."
She looked a bit put out. "Oh, I suppose that makes sense. I'll be honest, I'm bloody annoyed he's smarter than either of us realized."
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
They were both silent for a minute or so.
"I don't know," she said suddenly. "But I still think I'd prefer to train with him - although you and I don't really have the same perspective, so I don't know if that's what you'd want, in the long run."
"I don't either," Harry said with a sigh. "But I suppose I'll decide something by tomorrow."
"Well, Harry," Dumbledore said with a satisfied smile. "It appears you have quite a decision to make."
Harry wondered if he was even capable of responding at that moment.
But he realized he knew exactly what he wanted to say.
"Sir, I have just two words for you," Harry said with a grin.
I would like to address a few of the comments I've received.
Was the emotional mistreatment a form of abuse? Yes, I think you could make that argument.
Was Harry starved or physically abused? There is no clear evidence of that, only conjecture. We know Dudley hit Harry a lot, although bullies are still a terrible thing, it's not the same as adults abusing children - although obviously it's not a good thing that the Dursleys encouraged that sort of behavior. If you look at the first book, you will see this quote:
"The Dursleys had never exactly starved Harry, but he'd never been allowed to eat as much as he liked. Dudley had always taken anything that Harry really wanted, even if it made him sick. Harry piled his plate with a bit of everything except the peppermints and began to eat. It was all delicious."
So he wasn't starved, but he was certainly not treated well. You say he wasn't surprised about dodging frying pans, but that doesn't mean he was ever hit by one - also, if you recall, that frying pan incident was right after Harry was teasing Dudley by threatening him with fake magic, so it wasn't like Harry was entirely innocent (although a frying pan is obviously way too crazy a reaction). As for spanking or anything like that - why assume Vernon did that?
A minor point about Mrs. Figg, she was on Wisteria Walk, not Privet Drive, although it was the same neighborhood, they weren't next door neighbors.
Now, as for Dumbledore's "dark and difficult years" comment, that's a far more interesting point. I'm of the opinion that Dumbledore didn't really think Harry would be abused, but later realized that the compromise of Harry staying with the Dursleys would leave Harry not treated well.
I think the interesting thing about Dumbledore is how often he screwed up - and sometimes really quite badly. He basically killed himself by touching the Horcrux, and I doubt he'd force Harry into sacrificing himself if he was still alive. He certainly screwed up the Elder Wand business, but Harry of course managed to get past that.
Dumbledore didn't know about the Horcrux until Harry's 2nd year, there's no reason he'd think the scar would be a Horcrux when Harry was a baby - so at THAT point, he wasn't planning Harry to sacrifice himself. That came later, in my opinion - and after Dumbledore saw that Harry was capable of such an act already. And as for the power? If you remember, that was Dumbledore's greatest fear - misusing his power, which is why he stayed away from the spotlight and allowed (by inaction) Grindelwald to run rampant.
But as we know, Dumbledore screwed up - again and again.
The truth is, my real point of writing this story was to try to get this sort of discussion going. My main issue with the Manipulative!Dumbledore stories is that they all tend to screw up his characterization - he's flat and inconsistent. Is he evil or senile or what? In the original canon, he has good and bad parts of his character, which to me, is far more interesting.
Think about it: The "wise old wizard" trope is actually subverted quite cleverly by the series, because the reader starts at the beginning thinking Albus is the typical, knows all, sees all, does the right thing, etc, wizard character. But as it turns out, his history is gray indeed. Realizing that the character we cared about is actually a human being that's screwed up, even though he's intelligent and powerful - that makes me appreciate the series more. And I'll be honest with you - fanfiction never hits the notes of the original (in my opinion) - yes, I'm saying no fanfiction at all.
But hopefully I've given you something to think about.
Dumbledore ain't perfect - he admits that himself, that he knew he wasn't the best person. But what if he decided to embrace the manipulative side while retaining his ideals? That's what I explored here.