Originally Posted 9/7/16, last revised 10/27/16.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, and while I've never met her and am not one of her subjects, I have nothing but respect for the Queen. Information about British law and letters to and from the Queen comes from online research and is accurate to the best of my knowledge.

Epilogue 6: Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk as Headmaster for the very last time. School had been out for a week now, and today would be the day he stepped down and handed the reins of his beloved Hogwarts to someone else. The fact that he still didn't know who that someone else was bothered him, but he'd had to live with that for nearly a year now, so he'd at least gotten used to being bothered by it.

The one thing he did know was that it wouldn't be his choice of successor; Minerva McGonagall had made it clear on several occasions that while she would be honored to take over as Headmistress, she had been told that it wasn't going to be her who replaced him. While she hadn't said it outright, she had hinted several times that she did know who it was going to be, but she wasn't telling anyone. And while not knowing was killing him inside, he knew better than to pry any further. A year ago he wouldn't have had any second thoughts about doing so, but after his total dismantling at the hands of Her Majesty he had finally learned his lesson.

It had been a rather hard lesson to learn, but in the end the overwhelming amount of evidence presented to him had finally overcome his own mental inertia. The fact that he had been so wrong, about so many things, still weighed on him though he was slowly learning to let them go. His interpretation of the prophecy; his placement of Harry with his relatives; his treatment of Harry, along with many other students over the years; his failure to try to push a friendlier agenda towards non-Magicals (not Muggles - he was still getting used to that one too). All things that he had resisted admitting to himself, but in hindsight were true.

And then there was his greatest mistake, one he'd never fully admitted to anyone lest he be damned even more than he was. He had been certain the Voldemort had made Horcruxes, up until the moment when the Queen had told him the the prophecy had been fulfilled. Even then, it wasn't until Mister Adlington had provided him with Croaker's explanation for the diary that he was willing to let it go, despite his relief in being able to do so. But the worst part was that he had begun to wonder if Harry's scar might also be a Horcrux, and that the only way to defeat Voldemort forever would have been for Harry to die. No, he would never admit it to anyone else, even as he could finally admit to himself how glad he was to be wrong in this case.

Shaking himself from his reverie, he took one last look around the Headmaster's office, taking in the portraits and other things that would remain after he left. He'd still get to see them on occasion, as he was remaining on staff as Professor Emeritus, but all of the things that had made this his office were now gone, never to return. "Perhaps it's for the best," he mused, but didn't get any further as there was a knock at the door.

"Enter," he called out, as he sat back and watched the door in anticipation.

The door opened to reveal Professor McGonagall, followed by a rather familiar face. While not someone he could call a friend, he'd seen them quite a bit over the past year as changes were made to Magical Britain, including Hogwarts.

"Headmaster Dumbledore," said McGonagall, "may I present the new Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Sir Charles Adlington."

Dumbledore raised one eyebrow as he stood and extended a hand. "Welcome, Sir Charles, I must admit you're not who I expected. Congratulations on your appointment as Headmaster, and if I may add, your recent knighthood." He knew it had to be recent, as he'd last seen him three weeks ago and there had been no mention of "Sir" at the time.

"Thank you, Professor," replied Sir Charles. "I must admit I was surprised by both, though I've known about the former for a few months now. And while I think we both agree it's time for a change here, I'm very glad you've agreed to stay on both to mentor me and to teach. As much as we may disagree on politics, I've never questioned your wealth of knowledge or skill as a teacher. I think it's safe to say that as long as you keep the politics to a minimum, you're welcome to keep teaching as long as you like."

Dumbledore nodded and said, "Thank you," accepting the both compliment and warning for what they were. "Please, have a seat, we have much to discuss so I can hand control over to you properly. Minerva, will you be retaining Deputy Headmistress duties?"

McGonagall looked at Sir Charles, who nodded and said, "I have no problem with that. If you wish to give them up, I'll try to find someone else. Otherwise, they're still yours."

"Thank you," she said, "I think I'd like that. It will also give the students some more continuity, given all the other changes that are happening here."

"An excellent point, Minerva," said Dumbledore, "and one I agree with. Since you will be continuing as Deputy Headmistress, I think you should remain here both to witness the changeover and to help me in case I miss anything."

At Sir Charles's agreement, they both took seats opposite Dumbledore's desk. She was surprised when he conjured a third chair in front of the desk and sat there, rather than returning to behind it, but didn't say anything.

"Sir Charles," said Dumbledore, "may I ask you a question before we begin the transition?" When Sir Charles nodded, Dumbledore continued, "Why did you accept the appointment as Headmaster? I would think it's a step down from being Her Majesty's Chief Wizard."

McGonagall looked concerned at Dumbledore's question, but Sir Charles just smiled. "It is, in some ways, but in others it's quite a step up. And I understand your concern, Albus; you want to make sure I'm here for the children and not just for myself. Am I right?"

Dumbledore nodded. He knew it had the potential to be taken the wrong way, and was glad to see that Sir Charles hadn't.

"It's a fair question," said Sir Charles, "and one that even I'm not one hundred percent clear on the answer. At its simplest, it just felt right. I've spent the better part of the last year helping Governor General Bones get Magical Britain back on track politically, and while I'm thrilled that I got to be a part of it, I'm also tired of dealing with it. There's something exhausting about dealing with grown men and women who act like children any time you bring up something they don't want to deal with. Something I'm sure you've dealt with for longer than I have, come to think of it."

Dumbledore chuckled, thinking back to his time in politics. "Yes, I have, though I have to admit you've probably pushed them a lot harder than I ever did."

Sir Charles nodded to acknowledge Dumbledore's admission, but didn't mention it further. "Anyways, when Her Majesty first approached me about taking over as Headmaster, I wasn't sure I wanted it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while I'd still be dealing with people acting like children, at least these would be actual children. Plus, this would give me a chance to try and guide them to be adults who won't act like children under similar circumstances when they grow up. My other concern was whether Andrew was ready to take over as Chief Wizard, but Her Majesty convinced me to give him the chance if he wanted it, and he did. I think the fact that there are now much closer ties to the Magical World gave him the confidence that he'd be able to get help if he needed it."

Dumbledore smiled and nodded. "Thank you for indulging an old man's curiosity. And for what it's worth, I think Her Majesty has made a good choice. Even if you decide this isn't the place for you in the long term, right now I think you're just what Hogwarts needs to help teach our Magical children about our new world. Shall we get down to business?"

"I think that's all we have time for today, but we can pick up this discussion next week. Enjoy your weekend!" said Albus Dumbledore, Professor Emeritus, to his seventh-year Alchemy class. He was rewarded with several moans of, "Aww..." before someone lamented, "just as it was getting good!" He chuckled at his students' interest, and replied, "Have patience, Mister Belby, I promise that there will be plenty of time throughout the year to explore both the subject at hand and these side stories you seem to enjoy so much. Now, off with you all or you'll be late for your next class!"

He waited patiently as the students left his last class of the week, sitting back down behind his desk as the door to the classroom closed. "What a difference a year makes," he thought to himself, reflecting on the changes in his life. A year ago he'd still been Headmaster, but in many ways in name only. There were changes being forced upon both him and Hogwarts by the newly reestablished Queen, and while he had grudgingly accepted them, he still hadn't truly embraced them at the time.

Now, however, he was no longer Headmaster, and while he was still getting used to the changes, the fact that they were no longer his problem had been truly freeing with regards to accepting them. Or, he mused to himself, perhaps the fact that he wasn't in charge any more made it easy to just let go and not worry about them. Either way, stepping down as Headmaster had allowed him to rediscover the joy of teaching, and after only four weeks of classes he was certain he had made the right decision.

When he was first asked to step down, he had assumed that Minerva would be promoted in his place, as she had been his deputy for many years. Thus he had been surprised and dismayed to find out that she was not even in consideration, even if she herself had accepted it gracefully. That surprise had turned to shock when he was first asked to stay on as Professor Emeritus; he had reasonably assumed that he was being forced out, and would not be allowed to remain at Hogwarts after he had stepped down. But after some discussion, he had agreed to remain and teach N.E.W.T. Transfiguration, along with a new Alchemy elective for which there was no N.E.W.T. test yet. At the same time, he would be available to the new Headmaster should they have any questions, passing on his institutional knowledge as it came up.

The one thing that had been made very clear to him was that he would have no say in setting policy, enforcing discipline outside of his classes, or in any way making decisions about what happened at the school. He'd been worried it would be hard at first, but between his Emeritus status and not being invited to most of the staff meetings had made it much easier than he'd expected. And so, he'd effectively been pushed off to the side, allowed to do nothing but teach and interact with the students in public settings.

Fortunately, to his immense joy, he'd found that teaching more than filled the void he'd experienced when he first stepped down. In his role as Headmaster, not to mention the Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump positions he'd held for many years after the defeat of Grindelwald, he'd rarely had much interaction with the students outside of disciplinary situations, and he'd forgotten how much fun it was to just teach young minds eager to learn. And so he'd quickly embraced it, his few classes quickly becoming a favorite among his students. And now, less than a month later, he could honestly say to anyone, himself included, that he was happier than he'd ever expected he would be.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by a knock on the door, before it opened and the new Headmaster came in. "Good afternoon, Headmaster," he said as he organized the few scattered papers on his desk. "What can I do for you?"

"Good afternoon, Albus," responded Sir Charles. "I figured I'd see how your classes were going, now that you have almost a month under your belt. From what I've heard, they certainly seem to be going well."

"I was just thinking about that, and I can honestly say that I had forgotten how much I enjoyed teaching rather than administrating. It really is a privilege to shape young minds towards their future."

Sir Charles gave him a pointed look and said, "I do hope you're sticking to the class material, and not venturing into areas we'd agreed to avoid."

Dumbledore raised his hands in surrender. "No, nothing like that. I'm talking about how the children in my classes are here because they want to be. They want to learn the subjects I'm teaching, rather than having to learn it because it's core curriculum. I will admit to going off on the occasional tangent here and there, but it's all related to the topic at hand, and in some cases makes the subject that much more interesting for all of us. Why, we just had a most enjoyable discussion about how Golpalott discovered his laws this last period, to the point that several students were disappointed when the period was over. I'm sure some more difficult topics will come up at some point or another, but I have no intention of raising them myself. The past four weeks has shown me that despite all the changes over the past year, there's still a place for me at Hogwarts if I want it, and I most certainly do."

Sir Charles relaxed and nodded. From what he'd heard, Dumbledore's classes were possibly the most well liked by any of the sixth and seventh years, and he really did have a wealth of knowledge to share with those interested in the subjects he taught. "I'm glad to hear it," he said when Dumbledore finished speaking. "I will admit to having had my concerns about you remaining in the castle, but thus far they've been proven unfounded."

"Truthfully, I shared those concerns, but not anymore. Between the steps you've taken to minimize my ability to overstep my authority, and my newly rediscovered love of teaching, I think I'm learning to just let it go and not worry about all the changes that are happening around me. I may never truly embrace them, but I think I can at least keep out of the way and let them happen."

Sir Charles smiled, and said, "And I would be more than satisfied with that. Change is hard, and the older we get the harder it is to change. The fact that you're willing to try is good enough for me, and Her Majesty. I wasn't going to even raise this for another month or so, but given your attitude I think I'm willing to take the chance and do it a bit sooner. I still think it best for you to skip the bi-weekly staff meetings in general, but I'd like you to come once a month as an observer and share your insight on the students in your classes if appropriate. Let's start with the meeting on the 12th, and every four weeks thereafter. Will that work for you?"

Dumbledore nodded, his eyes shining as he was unable to come up with any words to express his surprise and gratitude. He finally stood and extended his hand to Sir Charles. "I'd like that very much, Headmaster. Thank you."

Sir Charles shook Dumbledore's hand and smiled. Maybe you couldn't teach an old dog new tricks, but if you could convince the old dog to teach others, he wouldn't mind them so much.