Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies. I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of the characters in the series.
Chapter 1: Unexpected Visits
Hermione Granger was not in a good mood when she returned to her home from a trip to the local library. Usually she loved visiting the libraries during the summer holidays, browsing the new books, sifting through the newspapers, catching up with the real world after months spent in rather isolated Wizarding Britain. This summer though it was different. Her best friend, Harry Potter, had spent most of the last school year worrying about surviving a barbaric tournament he had been forced to participate in. And at the very moment the tournament had ended he had been kidnapped by the murderer of his parents, tortured, and barely escaped with his life while a fellow student had been murdered in front of him. And now he was back with his relatives, who hated him, and the headmaster of her school had forbidden her from writing Harry.
She didn't know why she couldn't write Harry. Common sense said he needed all the lo… all the friends he had to deal with the traumatic experiences he had gone through. But Dumbledore was the wisest wizard of Britain, he had to know what he was doing. And yet she doubted. Wanted to disobey. It tore at her, imagining Harry alone, friendless, surrounded by his awful relatives. And yet she couldn't do anything.
Sighing, she entered her home, then blinked when she heard her mother talking with another person in the living room. It was too early for her mother's friends to come over for tea, and her father was still at their practise.
"Hermione? We have a guest." Her mother sounded a bit off. Not the same tone she used when introducing a guest she'd rather have leave, but was too polite to say so, nor the friendly tone that indicated a good friend or a family member.
Hermione stepped into their living room and saw an older man standing up and smile at her. He wore a tweed suit, rather old-fashioned but sturdy.
"Hermione, this is your great-uncle Quentin. Quentin Travers. Uncle Quentin, this is Hermione."
Her great-uncle - mother's uncle, she noted - had a firm handshake. "A pleasure. I've heard a lot of you. Best student of your year at Hogwarts, right?"
Hermione froze, then looked over at her mother. before she could say anything, Mrs Granger shook her head. "I didn't tell him. He already knew."
The young witch glanced at the man's hand, then met his eyes. He smiled, and shook his head. "I am no wizard, Hermione. But I know about the magical world. I am a Watcher."
Hermione blinked. "A Watcher?"
His smile grew wider. "Let us sit down, dear, and let me explain." Hermione sat down, barely noticing her mother filling her tea cup. Her thoughts were racing. Was this a breach of the Statute of Secrecy? A ploy from Voldemort? A trap? Or did her family have wizard roots? Or wizard in-laws? What was a Watcher? Only her good manners, drilled into her by her parents, and her mother's presence prevented her from voicing all those questions as fast as she could think of them.
Her great-uncle - if that was no ruse - took a sip from his own cup, leaned back, and smiled as if he understood just what she was thinking. "The world is older than you know…"
Hermione had forgotten about her tea and her biscuits while she had listened to 'Uncle Quentin's' mind-boggling revelations. Wizards were not the only ones who knew about magic. Not the only ones who fought against magical dangers. Muggles did that too. Had done so for millennia, to defend humanity. It shook her world view to the core. For four years she had been taught that muggles were ignorant, couldn't understand magic or wizards, and now her great-uncle told her differently. "So… Watchers are those who guide and support the chosen one, the Slayer. The one girl in the world who can fight demons and vampires and other magical dangers."
Travers nodded. "Correct. I am a Senior Watcher. It's a family tradition. My father was the Head of the Watchers Council. We train the Slayer, support her in her mission, and collect knowledge about supernatural threats she might have to fight. Our libraries date back to the time writing was invented, but our lore goes even further back." Hermione had to swallow at the thought of all that knowledge, all those books… she had thought the library in Hogwarts was great, but this? A slight touch by her mother shook her from her sudden fantasies.
"Ah. But why are you telling me this? I imagine you're sworn to secrecy, since I haven't heard about anything like this before." Hermione didn't know if her great-uncle wanted to recruit her… was she maybe the next Slayer?
"We are not exactly sworn to secrecy, but with the Wizards enforcing the Statute of Secrecy, greater discretion has become quite necessary for us to work without interference by misguided wizards. Though the various governments are quite aware of us and our mission." That was a good thing, in Hermione's opinion. "As to the reason for my visit - apart from getting to know my grandniece - the Council has questions concerning recent events." He pulled out a few newspapers from his suitcase. Magical newspapers, Hermione realized - if one could call the Daily Prophet that.
"Oh." Those were articles detailing the tournament, including the one who had denounced her as a gold digging slut. Just remembering the morning that piece of slander had arrived at Hogwarts made her angry.
Travers nodded. "When I found out that my grandniece was mentioned in some of those articles, I thought that you might be able to tell me what is currently going on in Wizarding Britain. There are rather disturbing rumors floating around."
"Oh." Hermione leaned forward and took a closer look at the Daily Prophets. There were not just the older issues, but also more recent ones. With articles about Harry... calling him a delusional liar? She looked up, anger evident on her face and in her voice. "That's not true! He's no liar!"
She stared at her great-uncle, chin raised. "Those newspapers are not worth the paper they are printed on!"
Travers smiled apologetically at her, spreading his hands in an appeasing gesture. "Can you tell me what really happened?"
Harry Potter wasn't having a good day. Or week. He was stuck at Privet Drive, stuck with a family who hated him, isolated and cut off from his friends. His nights were plagued with nightmares in which dead Cedric Diggory appeared to blame and curse him while a laughing doll was torturing him before growing into a snake-faced monster who then tortured him again.
And his days consisted of chores and boredom, and hateful glances and remarks from his aunt and her family. His relatives, not his family, despite the blood ties. He wasn't allowed to do magic - not that he would, it being illegal for an underage wizard during the vacations - nor permitted to read his magic school books. And his friends were not writing him. That hurt. At least he had his wand on him - with Voldemort resurrected, it might be his only defense. Illegal or not.
He glared at the weed he had yet to pull from Petunia's garden. Having to weed the rose bushes wasn't a big deal in itself, Harry felt. Other kids on the street did the same, some even more, though he suspected those worked to earn some money. What made him despise the chores he did was that his cousin Dudley didn't do any chores, ever.
Wiping the sweat from his brows with the back of his lower arm - his work gloves would only smear dirt all over his face, and pulling them off every few minutes was a chore in itself - he was about to resume his work when he heard a car pull into their drive. It was far too early to be Vernon. Curious, and wishing to do anything but weeding right now, he walked to the front of the house, to see who had arrived.
He saw a large Mercedes in the driveway. He wasn't up to date with car models, but it looked new and expensive. Then again, it was a Mercedes, the latter was expected. When the doors opened he forgot about the model at once.
"Hermione!" He took a step towards them, then remembered he had been weeding the garden and was both sweaty and dirty, and wearing old and worn clothes. Briefly he thought that at least this way he had an excuse for dressing in rags.
"Harry!" Hermione rushed towards him and for a moment he feared - or hoped - she'd hug him, and ruin her summer dress. Though she stopped in time, and looked him over with a smile. A smile she lost a few seconds later.
"How are you doing?" She started to bite her lower lip, some habit he knew she had when she was embarrassed or nervous. He couldn't think of a reason for her to be either though.
"Same old same old, I guess." He shrugged, and nodded towards the garden. "My time is split between chores and boredom."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Harry. I should have written, but Dumbledore said we were not allowed to contact you!" Again she almost hugged him, settling for gripping his shoulders, and he was briefly distracted from processing her words when he caught a glimpse down her dress.
"He said what?" He didn't blush, and and if he did it would be mistaken for anger or blamed on the sun and his hard work.
"He forbid me and Ron to write to you. He said you needed to be alone to deal with the effects of the tournament." The way Hermione was biting her lower lip now, almost drawing blood, she had to be thinking he was angry.
"Why would he say that?" Harry was confused. Dumbledore hadn't said anything like that to him, before he had left Hogwarts.
"I do not know." Hermione sounded so vexed, Harry briefly checked where his feet were, just in case she decided to stomp her foot. Or his, by accident.
Before they could talk further, the sound of a man clearing his throat caused both to take a step back. An older man stood there, wearing a tweed suit.
Hermione did blush. "Ah, sorry. Uncle Quentin, this is Harry Potter. Harry, this is my great-uncle Quentin Travers."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mister Potter." For an old man "Uncle Quentin" had a firm handshake, Harry found out after removing his gloves. He sent a glance at Hermione, slightly confused now.
"Uncle Quentin has invited us to spend a day in the City, browse the bookstores, go shopping a bit." Hermione beamed at him, but still looked a bit nervous. Harry's confusion had grown worse - such things didn't happen to him, he had learned that - but he trusted Hermione and wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"I'll have to change into … better … clothes." Not good clothes, of course. Only his robes qualified as that, and he couldn't wear them in muggle London. He suddenly realized they had been standing in front of the door for some minutes now. "Ah… please excuse my lapse in manners, come inside."
His aunt was buying groceries and Dudley was out with his friends - or gang - so no one was inside who'd trouble Hermione and her uncle. Harry left them in the living room and hurried upstairs for a quick shower and change of clothes.
When he came down he caught Mister Travers studying the pictures at the wall. From the way he looked at Harry without saying anything, Harry took that the man had noticed the lack of any pictures showing him. Hermione certainly seemed to have realized it with the way her eyes were blazing. She looked like she wanted to turn the living room into rubble. Hugging him seemed to calm her down some, but she was still muttering words she'd chastise Ron for when they were pulling out of the driveway.
"Thank you again, Sir, for inviting me to this outing." Harry smiled. Then he noticed Hermione flinching, and putting dents into her lip again.
"It's my pleasure, Mister Potter. But while we will spend some time shopping - for books and clothes - I must confess we also have an ulterior motive for taking you with us."
Harry tensed up, then glanded at Hermione. She smiled at him and put her hand on his shoulder. "It's ok, Harry. He's here to help you."
"Indeed, Mister Potter. Let me start at the beginning. The world is older than you know…"
Quentin Travers was smiling at the boy - the young man, young wizard, he corrected himself - sitting in his office next to his grandniece. The shopping hadn't taken much time, his niece's tales about Hermione's passion for books notwithstanding. He hadn't had to spend much of the budget for this mission yet either, a few books and some decent clothes for the young man had not cost much. And in exchange the Council had not only gained a source of information very close to one of the most powerful wizards in Britain, but two potential recruits for the Watchers as well.
Hermione… she was a chip of the old block, he could see that. Passionate, determined, ruthless. She'd be a good Watcher even if she wasn't a witch. As a witch though, and with family ties to the Council, she was priceless. The girl only needed a bit of polish and she'd be one of the greatest assets of the Council.
Mister Potter had potential as well, and seemed very close to his grandniece. He trusted her with his life, a blind man could see that. Quentin was quite certain that if Hermione became a Watcher, her friend would follow. If he survived. What he had told them from the ritual he had taken part in as a sacrifice was not promising, and that scar…
"You might have already guessed that we have a number of witches and wizards among our ranks. And a number of Watchers who can use certain rituals, but not wands." He smiled at them. Harry gaped - he hadn't suspected such a thing - but his grandniece was sharp. Chip of the old block indeed. If only her mother had not been so set on defying her family and becoming a dentist… "If you wish you can get training from them, during the summer. We've got a library with tomes I am quite sure not even your school has, and spells you're unlikely to be taught." Lethal ones.
Hermione's eyes lit up, then she bit her lips. "But the prohibition on underage magic..."
Quentin smiled. "Don't worry about that. We have a selection of wands you can pick, all without the trace." Wands from Watchers who died, usually violently, in the Council's service, but he would not tell them that yet. His grandniece beamed at him, and elbowed her friend. Quentin knew the deal had just been closed. Another step completed.
"What will you do about Voldemort, Uncle? He's out there, building up his forces."
"We've recalled the Slayer. She's on her way back to England." And with the list of Death Eaters Voldemort had named in front of Harry the Slayer had a number of targets to go after. One of them would talk, and they'd find that Dark Lord.
"The Slayer…it still feels odd knowing she's not a legend, but an actual person." Hermione sounded impressed. Quentin controlled his urge to correct the girl. The Slayer was a weapon. A weapon to be used for the protection of humanity. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea to use her against the wizards. They feared her as an unstoppable, immortal killing machine, relentlessly hunting down and exterminating wizards who crossed the line. Although as a Senior Watcher he was aware it was a bluff. It had cost the lives of three Slayers in a single year, back in the 17th century, and the extermination of an entire wizard family, to convince the wizards that the Slayer couldn't be stopped. To convince them that they could not rule humanity. That they should hide instead. Sending her against the Death Eaters now could threaten that reputation. But by all accounts Voldemort was too great a threat for Watchers to deal with.
"You might meet her, if you spend more time here, training." He smiled at Hermione and Mister Potter, dangling another carrot in front of them. "Maybe you could help us out even, Hermione." Her eyes lit up again - the girl wanted to help, and wanted to feel needed even more. So much like her grandmother.
"How can I help, uncle?" She all but bounced on her seat.
"We've got a small potion lab here, but… we don't have any good brewers among our ranks." Most of the magical Watchers were muggleborn wizards, and those didn't fare well in Potions at Hogwarts. Not since Snape had taken over.
"Of course! What potions do you need?"
"Veritaserum, mainly. Many of the other useful ones we can buy." Judging by her expression when she nodded she understood and approved.
"I can brew that. It'll take me a month, but I can do that. My parents will have to change their plans." She didn't sound like there was any doubt that her parents would do exactly that. Quentin approved of her priorities.
"We can fetch both of you in the mornings, and drive you back in the evenings. To keep your cover you could tell your relatives that you've taken a summer job." Quentin took care not to let any pity for the young man's situation show. A young man had his pride, after all.
"Thank you, sir. I can change some of my galleons into pounds, and tell them it's money earned." From the look the young wizard shot him he had not missed the gesture. He was sharper than Quentin had assumed then.
"There's no need for that. If you help us like you just did, we'll certainly compensate you for your troubles." And let you grow accustomed to working for us.
Harry Potter was enjoying the best summer in his life. He had fitting clothes, no more chores, and even was earning money. He only slept at Privet Drive these days, and ignored his relatives. They had accepted his tale of having found a summer job without any question other than what money he'd earn - and then demanded most of it as payment for "room and board". Harry had expected that, and had lied about his wage.
Each morning a car came to fetch him. They'd stop on the way to London for breakfast, and then he'd spend the morning in the Council's headquarters, training with Watchers and Hermione when his friend wasn't brewing. He wished she'd spend more time with him and the Watchers, but he didn't complain - her work was important and he still saw far more of her than during any other summer, and enjoyed her company at lunch and dinner.
Currently John Fitzburg was teaching him an incendiary spell created to set vampires ablaze at a distance. John was a muggleborn wizard who had joined the Council after spending a few years as a clerk in a shop in Diagon Alley making minimum wages despite his excellent grades at Hogwart. He wore casual clothes, unlike most other Watchers Harry had seen. Probably due to his training though - cheaper to replace in case something got damaged.
The spell required less aiming than Incendio, but caused more collateral damage. John swore by it though. "Those leeches are too fast for your usual aimed spells. You need spells that hit the space they are in and the space they are moving into to torch them."
Harry pointed his wand at the targets set up at the now blackened wall again, and went through the wand movements a few times, then cast again. This time a cone of fire erupted from the tip of his wand, engulfing the entire wall. "Wow."
John blinked, then smiled. "Excellent work, Harry!" He clapped Harry on the shoulder hard enough to stagger him. "If that had been a vampire he'd be ashes now. I bet even a master vampire wouldn't have been able to evade that."
Harry nodded. He remembered Remus' lessons about vampires in his third year, but the werewolf had not gone into half the details he was learning at the Council. "Why don't we learn this spell at Hogwarts if it's the best defense against vampires?"
John took a deep breath, and handed him a bottle of cola. "I don't know, you understand. I can only speculate." Harry nodded, prodding him to go on. "But I think the spell is a bit too lethal for the school there. They don't want the students to learn such spells."
"But wouldn't that leave them vulnerable to vampires?" Harry didn't understand that reasoning. As he had learned from John and Uncle Quentin, vampires were a plague on mankind. Anyone able to should learn how to destroy them.
"Vampires tend not to go after wizards. They can escape too easily with apparition and might get lucky with a spell. Wards repel them even if they were invited, and the aurors hunt them down should they appear in a Wizard enclave. For a fledgling, going after a wizard is akin to suicide. And master vampires usually go after easier prey.
"Ah. Do the aurors kill a lot of vampires?"
John frowned. "No. They only act if wizards are in danger." His expression dissuaded Harry from asking a follow-up question. He had quickly learned that just about every Watcher had lost a friend or loved one to vampires or other demons.
John smiled. "Now… the next spell is a variation of the Cutting Curse. It decapitates a target. Many demons die if they lose their head, so it's quite useful, but you need good aim."
Harry grinned, and paid close attention to the demonstration. Hermione would join them soon, and he liked to help teach her the spells.
Hermione was impressed by the Slayer, India Cohen. A girl not much older than herself, but she had done so much already since she had been called in 1993. She had saved so many people. Apart from that, the Slayer had a presence that was impossible to miss or dismiss and moved with effortless grace, like a predator. After a few seconds watching her Hermione knew with certainty that she was the deadliest person she had ever met. She understood now, at least in part, why wizards feared the Slayer. India wore simple clothes - pullover, jeans, boots. A leather jacket. Sturdy, easy to replace.
India was so focused on her mission, as if nothing could ever stop her. The young witch admired that dedication. That sense of purpose. If Harry was more like that… she frowned at the thought. Maybe not quite like that. India didn't seem to have any friends, only her Watcher, Christopher Botwell, seemed close to her, and a Slayer's Watcher was more a guardian than a friend. Uncle Quentin had told her that. Too bad Harry had already gone back to his relatives when India and Botwell had arrived at Headquarters. She was sure he would have loved to talk with another person who had been chosen, of sorts.
"And here's the cauldron I am brewing veritaserum in. It has to stay at the exact temperature for a moon cycle as it matures, getting stirred at precise intervals. Most of the ingredients have already been put in, so most of the work is done but for the waiting." She was showing them the potion lab she was using to brew veritaserum, explaining the different tools and ingredients. It was quite different from the lab at Hogwarts. Better lights, better ventilation, better furniture she thought. It didn't look like it was a few hundred years old, just a few decades.
"Very impressive. Three drops will suffice to make a human spill his innermost secrets?" Botwell, young for a Slayer's Watcher, but handsome, smiled at her. Hermione smiled back - it felt good to be appreciated.
"That's correct. It might even work on some demons who can interbreed with humans, but that hasn't been tested." They hadn't had enough to use for such test, yet. That would change with the amount Hermione was brewing right now.
Botwell whistled. "I can tell that this will help us immensely. To be able to interrogate people quickly and easily will be a boon for the fight against Voldemort."
Hermione was about to show him her notes when she caught a glare from India that froze her for a moment. She didn't know what she had done to earn such sudden animosity. Before she could decide how to react though they were interrupted by Uncle Quentin.
"Watcher Fitzburg just called. There has been an attack at Privet Drive, demons it seems." Her uncle sounded terse, but composed, not a hint of the panic that filled Hermione. Taking him as an example, she steeled herself, and calmly - relatively at least - asked "Is Harry alright?"
Quentin nodded, and relief filled her. "They attacked him when he stepped out of the car, but he drove them off with a spell according to Fitzburg. We'll be leaving for Little Whinging in a minute, Fitzburg will be coming back and side-apparate us."
Hermione nodded and followed her great-uncle, grabbing her jacket as she reached the door. She patted her wrist-holster to make sure her borrowed wand was there. Who knew what other dangers threatened Harry. India and Botwell fell in behind her without a word.
They found Harry in his relatives' house, in the living room, next to the bodies of his aunt and uncle. Their empty eyes stared at the ceiling, but they still breathed. The work of dementors, Hermione realized. She hugged Harry, and felt him return the hug. "You're safe." she whispered, fighting tears of relief.
"Yes, but they… Dudley is upstairs, the same…" Harry sounded like he wanted to cry but couldn't.
"Dementors?" Her uncle sounded angrier than she had ever seen him.
"Yes, Sir." Harry stepped back from her, visibly collecting himself as he answered. "Two of them, came straight at me when I stepped out of the car. I drove them away with a Patronus Charm."
"Dementors on British soil. That's a flagrant violation of the Treaty of 1692. Whoever is responsible for that crime has forfeited his life." Quentin took a few deep breaths and then clenched his teeth.
"There were dozens of them around Hogwarts a year ago." Hermione was confused and concerned.
"Whether Wizard enclaves are British soil is in dispute." Quentin's voice left no doubt that he considered them British.
The Slayer was suddenly there, kneeling at the bodies. Hermione hadn't seen her arrive - John must have gone back for her, and her Watcher. The girl studied the soulless husks, then looked up at her Botwell.
"Can you sense them?" Botwell sounded far different. Gone was the humor and warmth, replaced by cold fury. India nodded, her face not showing any expression. "Hunt them down," the Watcher ordered, and the Slayer was gone in the blink of an eye, the creaky sound of the back door swinging back and forth the only sign of her passage.
"But… you cannot kill dementors. Even the Patronus Charm can only drive them away." Hermione stated, still surprised by how quickly the girl had moved.
"The Slayer can kill any demon. It's her gift." Quentin sounded so certain, Hermione wanted to believe him, even though she had been taught differently. She wanted to believe that those monsters, that any monster could be destroyed.
She felt Harry hug her and felt ashamed. He had lost his last relatives, and yet he managed to comfort her. She didn't want him to stop though.
"They were after you." Voldemort must have sent them, she realized.
"Yes." Harry took a deep breath. "If I had been there…"
"It's not your fault." She pulled him closer. He couldn't blame himself. "It's not your fault!" He didn't answer her. Didn't agree with her.
"My grandniece is correct, Mister Potter. This was not your fault. Nevertheless, we need to leave the premises. Whoever sent those monsters after you might strike again. You will be safe in the Council's house. Its protections have withstood far greater dangers than dementors."
Hermione would have offered to take Harry to her family's home, but she knew her uncle was correct - he'd be safe at headquarters. Then she had a chilling sound. What if those monsters came after her parents, and herself? It was well known that she was one of Harry's closest friends. Some even believed she was his girl friend. "My family…"
"Will be taken care of, Hermione. We look after our own."
"I'll stay at headquarters too. The veritaserum will be soon reaching maturity." And she wanted to stay with Harry. Her uncle no doubt knew that, but did not comment, he only smiled indulgently.
They collected Harry's meager possessions from his room and left the house in the Council's car. Botwell left as well, but didn't join them - his Slayer was hunting and he would be needed.
Albus Dumbledore frowned at the report he had received from Kingsley. Harry's home had been attacked, his family kissed by dementors. Mundungus Fletcher, who had been guarding the house for the Order of the Phoenix that day, had been kissed as well, in the bush he had been hiding in. Harry hadn't been there - unfortunately. The boy might have been able to deal with the dementors, and with his relatives gone like that he would not be able to renew the blood protection next year. Although Dumbledore had had his doubts about the effectiveness of those protections after Voldemort had revived himself using Harry's own blood.
What really irked him was the news that Harry was staying with Miss Granger at an undisclosed location, presumably another house of her family. While it made sense for the girl and her family to move in order to throw off anyone who might come after her, not even the headmaster himself knew her current address - and he needed to check up on Harry, to see how the horrible experience of losing his last family had affected the boy. It would show him if Harry was influenced by the connection to Voldemort. The boy hadn't displayed violent tendencies so far, according to his Order guards, despite the isolation he had been placed in. That was a good sign. But Tom was cunning, as befitted a Slytherin. The Dark Lord had fooled Dumbledore before, after all, had committed horrible crimes at Hogwarts right under Dumbledore's nose.
It was frustrating. Harry was crucial for the defeat of Voldemort, but with his scar linking the two together, Dumbledore couldn't trust the boy, couldn't be sure that Voldemort would not use the boy's eyes to spy on him. And now even Miss Granger might be compromised. Dumbledore knew how powerful horcruxes were, how they corrupted what they touched. And Harry was a horcrux, with only Lily's blood protection keeping the soul shard from possessing the boy. If that was still the case, now that Tom shared Harry's blood. Miss Granger had apparently been spending a lot of time with the boy, privately. They might even be intimate - it would certainly not be the first time such close contact resulted in a sordid relationship.
The old wizard sighed. He had no choice - he would have to test the boy further, once he was at Sirius' place, or later at Hogwarts. He had to know just how strong Voldemort's influence was before he could make further plans to defeat the returned Dark Lord.
Not for the first time he wished someone else could take over, could shoulder the burden of this struggle. He was not getting younger, he knew. He had made quite the number of mistakes in the last few years mistakes he would never have made when he was younger. To miss Barty Crouch Jr. masquerading as one of his oldest living friends, for a year! To see the likes of Fudge and Malfoy outmaneuver him in the Wizengamot! He was losing his touch. And yet he could not trust anyone else with the defeat of Voldemort. Even as old as he had grown, he remained the best, the only choice to oppose Voldemort.
No one knew the Dark Lord as well as he did. Not even Voldemort himself.