Disclaimer: Albus Dumbledore belongs to JK Rowling.
The reveals in this chapter were inspired heavily by Josie Kearns' essay on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone at the Harry Potter Companion blog.
A/N: So I didn't realise until this chapter that Nicolas Flamel is spelt with an 'h' in the US Edition, but with no 'h' in the UK Edition. This has been corrected in the previous chapters.
Chapter 17: Snape
The Man with Two Faces
"Well, good," Professor Snape said patronisingly as he took the book. "At least we know it wasn't me, then. Chapter Seventeen: The Man with Two Faces.
"It was Quirrell."
"Which we already knew," Professor Flitwick said disappointedly.
"There, you see? Potter was delusional after all," said Umbridge.
"Don't count your owls before they're delivered, Professor Umbridge," Snape replied coolly. It was indeed Quirrell, despite Harry's belief that Snape was behind everything. "'Severus?' Quirrell laughed and it wasn't his usual quivering treble, either, but cold and sharp. 'Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn't he? So useful to have him swooping around like an…overgrown bat,'" he grumbled, to the amusement of the Gryffindors. "'Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?'"
Quirrell bound Harry in ropes and quickly cleared up his misconceptions. He had tried to kill Harry at the Quidditch match, while Snape had tried to save him (which the audience already knew). He had let the troll into the castle as a distraction, but Snape prevented him from going after the Philosopher's Stone. Snape had been trying to scare him out of the service of…
"'Tried to frighten me—as though he could, when I had…'" And he was stumped. It was unwise for a Death Eater to say the Dark Lord's name, even away from the hearing of any others. But using one of the usual euphemisms wasn't particularly appropriate either, while on the other hand, calling him the Dark Lord would draw unwanted attention and suspicion to himself that he could ill afford.
"Honestly, Severus, if I can say it…" Pomona interrupted his thoughts.
Well, that settled it. Now, it was a challenge, which gave him and opening. "Very well, Pomona," he said, "'when I had Lord…V…Voldemort—'" He barely whispered the name."'—on my side.'"
"What? What did you say?" Umbridge said.
"I said," Snape began, "the book says, in Quirrell's own words, that he was working for…Lord Voldemort."
"No. No, that's wrong."
"That is what the book says, Professor Umbridge. Once again, you are the one who gave it to us. Surely you didn't begin this exercise without reading the whole thing yourself?" he mocked her.
"I…but…that's beside the point!" she snapped. "This reading is over. Give that to me." She rose to her feet and held out her hand for Snape to hand over the book.
"Ahem, I believe you had an agreement with Mr. Potter, Dolores," Minerva spoke up.
Meanwhile, Severus started reading again: "Quirrell came back out from behind the mirror and stared hungrily into it." Of course, the Philosopher's Stone had been hidden in the Mirror of Erised, which the audience didn't know.
"I said stop that!" Umbridge snatched the book out of his hand. "We've heard enough. Aurors, arrest Potter!"
Harry stood up, but waved to the rest of the D.A. to stay seated. "We had an agreement, Professor," he called. "You have to finish the book before I'll cooperate."
"The agreement is over, Potter!"
"Actually, Professor Umbridge," Kingsley spoke up lazily, "I'd be very interested in hearing the ending of the story."
A chorus of "Yeah!" sounded from most of the students and some of the teachers.
"No!" Fudge cut in. "It's a lie. Potter was clearly delusional that whole time—probably from drinking that bad potion."
"Are you questioning my brewing skills, Minister?" Snape asked dangerously.
"I'm questioning your loyalty, Snape," Fudge growled. "Stand down before I investigate you, too. Aurors, get Potter. Call for backup if you have to, but I want him in custody!"
Dawlish jumped to his feet and approached Harry. Kingsley made a show of getting up, but hung back.
Harry made a gesture, barely noticed if you didn't know what to look for, and Dumbledore's Army stood up. There was a flash of spellfire, and a moment later, Dawlish was unconscious and tied up on the ground.
"Weasley, get help!"
Percy jumped up and ran, but he didn't get far. He was out cold.
"Sedition! Rebellion!" Fudge bellowed. "Teachers, stop them!" He drew his own wand and attacked.
Yet more spellfire was exchanged, but when the dust cleared, only Umbridge, Filch, and the new Defence teacher, Peasegood, were tied up alongside Fudge, Dawlish, and Percy.
"Croaker, why didn't you do anything?" Fudge shouted at the new Divination teacher.
"I foresaw that it wouldn't help, Minister," the Unspeakable said with a grin.
Fudge then turned to Shacklebolt, who said, "I'm not the one who violated the agreement with Potter, sir. Also, I just really want to hear the end of the story." The students laughed.
"Well, it won't do you any good," Umbridge said. Despite being bound in ropes, she still wasn't giving up. "I've already vanished my copy of the book. The original is under lock and key in my office, and I won't be letting you in."
"That won't be a problem, Professor," Harry called out, and then, to her horror, he pulled out his own copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, found he place, and began to read: "'I see the Stone…I'm presenting it to my Master…but where is it?'"
"No! That's impossible!" Umbridge said. "How did you get that?"
"It pays to have friends you can count on, Professor. Harry struggled against the ropes binding him, but they didn't give. He had to keep Quirrell from giving his whole attention to the mirror."
"Stop reading! Stop reading—MMPF!" McGonagall conjured a gag over Umbridge's mouth.
"'But Snape always seemed to hate me so much,'" Harry read. "Oh, I'm sorry, Professor Snape. It's your turn, isn't it? Would you like to read?"
Snape blinked at him in surprise. "No, Mr. Potter, I would not," he said slowly. "I believe you are doing an adequate job for our purposes."
Harry suspected that Snape might just want to watch him squirm at having to read this uncomfortable private account of his life—or else was trying to make him prove himself a glory hound—that would be more Snape's style. But Harry was past complaining if this book finally got rid of Umbridge. He shrugged and kept reading: "'Oh, he does,' said Quirrell casually, 'heavens, yes. He was at school with your father, didn't you know? They loathed each other. But he never wanted you dead.'"
Quirrell continued monologuing at Harry's nudging. It was Voldemort who had threatened him in the classroom, and it was Quirrell himself who broke into Gringotts, only to find the Philosopher's Stone was already gone. But he still couldn't figure out how to get it out of the Mirror. Then, another voice told him to "use the boy".
All grew quiet. The students shuddered. Not even Malfoy dared interrupt Harry's reading.
In the story, Harry stood in from of the Mirror of Erised, and, somehow, his reflection placed the Stone in his real pocket. But before he could get away, Quirrell caught him…and took off his turban.
"Where there should have been a back to Quirrell's head, there was a face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk-white with glaring read eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake."
The younger students screamed in terror. The older ones told each other they were sure they were going to have nightmares. This was even scarier than the scene in the forest—scarier than a beast drinking the blood of a unicorn. The face of Voldemort. McGonagall and several other teachers looked like they wanted to intervene, but they were so far down this rabbit hole that it would be worse to leave it at that, and at this point, they doubted Harry would let them.
Except he was interrupted as Fred and George Weasley fell plumb out of their seats, hyperventilating.
"Oh my God," an indeterminate twin said.
"We hit You-Know-Who," the other said.
"In the face!"
"Mum's gonna kill us."
"Who cares? That's the most awesome thing we've ever done!"
People laughed at their antics, relieving some of the tension, but it didn't last long. In the story, Voldemort spoke to Harry face to face and demanded the Philosopher's Stone from him. He knew! Harry tried to run.
"'Don't be a fool,' snarled the face. 'Better save your own life and join me... or you'll meet the same end as your parents... They died begging me for mercy...'"
"LIAR!" a few people in the Hall yelled.
"Thanks, guys," Harry said aloud. He rolled his eyes and continued reading: "'LIAR! Harry shouted suddenly.'" There were some giggles despite the horror of the scene. "Quirrell was walking backwards at him, so that Voldemort could still see him. The evil face was now smiling.
"'How touching…' it hissed. 'I always value bravery…Yes, boy, your parents were brave…I killed your father first and he put up a courageous fight…but your mother needn't have died…she was trying to protect you…'"
Many of the students gasped as they made the connection: Voldemort was there to kill Harry in particular, not his parents. That made it all the more tragic, but also, perhaps more importantly, meant that he had seen a credible threat in a one-year-old baby. What power did Harry hold that would make him a threat at that age? No one could say.
When talking failed, however, Quirrell attacked, but he failed the moment he touched Harry. Indeed, Harry's touch burned him. They fought hand-to-hand, both of them in terrible pain, until Harry passed out: "He felt Quirrell's arm wrenched from his grasp, knew all was lost, and fell into blackness, down…down…down…"
He trailed off into silence, pausing to let the horror sink in. It was only fair that everyone else properly appreciate the terror he felt at Voldemort nearly killing him when he was eleven years old.
Finally, Colin Creevey broke the silence: "Bloody hell, how did you get out of that one, Harry?"
Harry gave him a tight smile. "Sheer, dumb luck, like always," he said. "Something gold was glinting just above him. The Snitch! He tried to catch it, but his arms were too heavy." That had everyone very confused, but it wasn't the Snitch at all. It was Dumbledore's glasses. That got a lot of laughs, albeit mainly out of relief.
"That was an awful week," Professor Sprout spoke up. "We were all afraid we'd killed Harry Potter in his first year." That got a few more laughs.
In the story, however, Harry was frantic, still worried about the Philosopher's Stone until Dumbledore explained that he was in the infirmary, surrounded by gifts from well-wishers, and that everything was alright. "'I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasley were responsible for sending you a lavatory seat.'" That got even more laughs, the loudest of all from Ginny.
Dumbledore told Harry that he'd been unconscious for three days, and he had barely reached Harry in time before "the effort involved" in keeping the Stone away from Quirrell killed him. Apparently, he had passed Hermione's owl in mid-air.
Hermione gasped at that and sat back down to scribble more questions on her parchment.
17. Why did Dumbledore fly a broom to London (the slowest method) when he knew there was danger at the castle?
18. Why did the protection that Harry had against Voldemort nearly kill him?
Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel had reached an agreement with Dumbledore to destroy the Philosopher's Stone (though Harry and his friends now suspected they had been scared into it). "'Oh, you know about Nicolas?' said Dumbledore, sounding quite delighted. 'You did do the thing properly, didn't you?'"
"What?" Hermione hissed.
"Huh?" Harry muttered.
"Do the thing properly? Was that—?"
"Never mind, keep reading."
"It'll take too long to explain. We'll talk later, okay?"
Harry agreed, but Hermione was still frantically writing questions.
19. "You did do the thing properly." What does that mean? Was it PLANNED? Was EVERYTHING planned?
Dumbledore warned Harry that Voldemort could still come back: "'He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to share…not being truly alive, he cannot be killed.'
"There, you see," he broke off to address the school. "All of you who didn't believe me when I said he was back—who didn't believe Dumbledore. You swallowed every word the book said—which as far as I can tell is all true, and Fudge and Umbridge thought so, too, until it started saying things that were inconvenient to them. Voldemort's still out there, and Fudge has been enabling him by wilfully pretending he doesn't exist. That's…" he got an idea. "Hermione, would that qualify as treason?"
Hermione looked up and thought for a moment, and her face brightened. "It might," she said. "And it would definitely fall under gross negligence, abrogation of public duty, abuse of power, violation of oath of office. And then there's the things that Umbridge has done in this school if they could get a neutral party to investigate them."
"Yeah, Harry agreed. "Hey, Auror Shacklebolt, maybe you should arrest them instead of us."
Kingsley raised an eyebrow and then turned to his hogtied superiors. "The boy has a point," he said. "If you're so eager to apply this standard of evidence to him, you should be prepared to apply it to yourselves, too."
Fudge and Umbridge produced muffled protests, which were ignored.
"Auror Shacklebolt, there are six more books," Professor McGonagall pointed out. "If they record everything as faithfully as this one does, they should point you to where to find clear evidence of criminal behaviour or at the very least serious corruption on the part of both the Minister and Professor Umbridge."
"I see…" he said. He waved his wand, and a vague, silvery shape appeared and sped through the nearest wall. "I think that's enough to act upon, Professor. I've sent a message to Amelia Bones. She should be here soon to run a fair investigation. In the meantime, why don't you finish the story, Mr. Potter?"
"Alright, then," Harry agreed. After Dumbledore finished explaining things, he agreed to answer Harry's questions if he could, but sadly, Harry's very first question—why Voldemort was after him and not his parents, he refused to answer, claiming Harry was not old enough to hear it.
Hermione was writing at lightning speed:
20. Why did Voldemort want to kill Harry in particular?
21. Why has Dumbledore still not told Harry the answer?
However, Dumbledore was forthcoming about why Quirrell couldn't touch Harry: his mother's sacrifice gave him a powerful magical protection of love against his would-be murderer, Voldemort. Many of the girls said, "Aww…" at this, but Hermione only found another loose thread:
22. What made Lily Potter's self-sacrifice different from any other mother's (or father's)?
Dumbledore informed Harry that he had given him his invisibility cloak (something that Harry obliviously hadn't figured out yet in the story) and explained was Snape's problem was: "'And then, your father did something Snape could never forgive.'
"'He saved his life.'
"What?" many of the people in the Hall echoed.
"Mr. Potter, I don't think this is appropriate—" Snape started to say.
"Ha!" McGonagall interrupted. "After all the private material Potter and others have had revealed about themselves? I don't think so, Severus. You take your lumps, like the rest of us."
Snape sat down and crossed his arms sulkily, glaring at Harry. Harry debated with himself whether it might be wiser to skip this part, but the twin smirks directed at him from Fred and George told him it would be futile. They would surely find some way of learning the truth. He kept reading: "'Yes…' said Dumbledore dreamily. 'Funny, the way people's minds work, isn't it? Professor Snape couldn't bear being in your father's debt…'" Which was a really terrible reason to hate someone, Harry thought. Although, after Dumbledore had just mentioned Malfoy, he couldn't help but think if by some miracle Malfoy saved his life from something, he might be nearly as uncomfortable about it.
Fortunately, no one tried to press Snape on just how Harry's father had saved his life. That certainly wouldn't have gone over well. And Harry's last question, how he had got the Stone out of the Mirror, was simple enough. Someone who wanted to use the Stone would see themselves using it, but someone who wanted to have the Stone without using it, would have it. That really was clever, despite backfiring.
After that, it was smooth sailing. All he had to do was read the part where he told Ron and Hermione everything, and…
Harry's brain short-circuited when he saw it. He choked when he registered what he was saying in the story and stopped to read through it silently. That was insane.
"Mr. Potter, is something wrong?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"Yes—no—I just…I was a bloody idiot when I was eleven."
"Only then, Potter?" Snape asked.
"That will do, Severus," McGonagall said. "Mr. Potter, most adults would say that. It's nothing serious."
"But just listen to this, Professor," Harry protested. "'He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It's almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…'"
Hermione stopped and shouted, "Merlin's pants! I was right! I didn't think it was possible, but I was bloody right!"
"What? Hermione?" Harry said.
"Miss Granger, what on Earth are you talking about?" McGonagall said.
"Dumbledore planned the whole thing!" More gasps rang out, albeit as much because it was Hermione who said it as because of the implications.
"What? No!" Harry said. "I was just saying how ridiculous that was."
"But don't you see, Harry? It all fits. Look at this." She thrust her parchment in Harry's face, but instead of the questions, she pointed to the bottom, where she had scrawled out a new list, very hurriedly and dissolving into incoherent speculation by the end:
Philosopher's Stone "Protections"
1. Fluffy: nominally strong defence, but weakness easily learnt from Hagrid, guessable by muggle-borns; door opened with first-year charm; no Age Line, etc. Hagrid gave Harry flute used to get past him.
2. Devil's Snare: easily identified and fought by first-years. Neville: friend of Harry, good at Herbology.
3. Keys: door protected with stronger locking charm; key stored in room; accessible to any strong Quidditch player. Harry called professional-level player in first year.
4. Chessboard: beatable by any strong chess player. Ron: friend of Harry, known as excellent chess player.
5. Troll: beatable by any wizard with good marks in Defence; single troll, not trained; security trolls work in pairs. One already beaten by HP, RW, & HG.
6. Logic puzzle: not that difficult in retrospect; no tricks, uncharacteristic of Snape. Hermione: friend of Harry, smart and good at logic puzzles.
7. Mirror: impossible for Voldemort to crack; everything else unnecessary. Why the theatre? Trap for LV? Harry (known to be?) selfless enough to get the Stone out—made things worse. Unexpected result? Would have been mostly safe (?) in confrontation. Confrontation planned? AD knew about protection? Only one person could go forward from potions. Friends kept away and safe?
"Dumbledore planned the whole thing," she insisted. "He set up protections that three first-years could get through—that he specifically knew you and your friends were capable of getting through, but where you had to go to the last room alone. He told Hagrid a bunch of important stuff knowing that Hagrid can't keep a secret. He gave you the invisibility cloak and told you how the Mirror worked so you would know what to do. He might've even had a hand in our detention—"
"Hermione, do you hear yourself?" Harry stopped her. "That's complete mental!"
"No, it's not. You figured the whole thing out right when it all happened. You just read it. Why didn't you say anything earlier?"
"Because I realised how insane a plan it was and forgot all about the idea years ago. Think about it. The Stone would be less safe that way, not more. Quirrell never could have got it out on his own, and then I did it for him, and Voldemort nearly killed me. Why would Dumbledore do that?"
"I don't know. That's the part that doesn't make sense."
"Miss Granger," McGonagall interrupted. The two of them looked around and registered that they'd been arguing in front of the entire Great Hall. That wasn't good. Umbridge and Fudge were still making muffled protests, no doubt trying to redeem themselves by discrediting Dumbledore. "I think you may be reading too much into this," she said. "A detention in the Forbidden Forest would have been impossible to foresee, even if it were a usual practice here, which it is not. It sounds to me like Professor Dumbledore placed an unbreakable protection on the Philosopher's Stone, and then, through an unfortunate string of coincidences, the three of you decided that you needed to intervene, and Mr. Potter compromised the protections by accident. To accuse Professor Dumbledore of what you are suggesting…"
Hermione shook her head: "I know it sounds mad, Professor, but in that case, why bring the Mirror of Erised up for Harry to see it? It all comes back to that mirror, doesn't it? Was the Stone in the Mirror even then? If so, why all the theatre of the other protections—and you have to admit, Professor, they were theatre. And if the Stone wasn't there, then did it have any meaningful protection at all for those three nights? If the plan was just to protect the Stone in the Mirror, there should have been no reason for Harry to ever encounter it."
"But Mr. Potter is right too, Miss Granger," McGonagall countered. "Including him in the plan only made things worse and nearly got him killed, to boot. Your theory doesn't explain that."
"No, it doesn't," Hermione muttered to herself. She bit her lip in concentration. "Nothing Dumbledore did with the Mirror made sense. Why show it to Harry? Not to get the Stone out—not if he were sensible. Not to warn him if he came upon it again. That's what he said, but there was no reason for that to happen. Just to show him his parents? No, too dangerous—Wait—That's it! Harry, you saw your parents in the Mirror the first time."
"…Yeah, so?" Harry said.
"That explains everything! Dumbledore didn't underestimate Quirrell; he underestimated you. He wasn't expecting you to get the Stone out of the Mirror. He wasn't expecting you to be so selfless; what eleven-year-old is? He was expecting you to see your parents again. When you did get it out, you threw a spanner in it."
"Huh? But why? Why would he do that?" he demanded.
"Professor McGonagall," Hermione said, "you said Dumbledore already knew about the protection on Harry from his Mum. That explains it. He already knew that Voldemort couldn't hurt Harry. But Harry could hurt Voldemort. We just heard it. He manoeuvred Harry into a one-on-one confrontation with Voldemort using the Philosopher's Stone as bait—bait that he didn't think either of them could get hold of—because he believed Harry might be able to get rid of Voldemort for good."
"What…?" McGonagall had suddenly gone very pale as she tried to process this. "But that's…that's…" She tried to find an easy place to refute her, but she couldn't seem to do it.
"Hermione that was brilliant," Luna Lovegood said suddenly. "Could I interest you in writing it up for The Quibbler?"
Hermione paled and slumped down in her seat, covering her face. "Oh, God, I've become a conspiracy theorist," she said.
"Well," McGonagall said, collecting herself. "Miss Granger, I think this has gone much too far already. Frankly, your claims do make a disturbing amount of sense, but I am sure there is a rational explanation for what happened. Regardless, I will be sure to discuss this thoroughly with Professor Dumbledore the next time I see him, as it is clear that many mistakes were made that year. Mr. Potter, perhaps you should finish reading the chapter to ensure that there are no more massively disruptive revelations coming?"
There was silence for a minute. This latest argument had called Dumbledore's entire reputation into question even for his fans. Harry still couldn't believe the massive conspiracy Hermione had constructed seemingly out of nowhere, but he had to admit he saw no obvious place to refute it aside from how mad it sounded. There weren't any more bombshells, though. Hagrid was distraught over the whole affair, which was another mark against Dumbledore if the conspiracy were true, but anyway, Hagrid gave Harry a photo album of his parents. Then, the Leaving Feast came, and Dumbledore returned the hundred and fifty points Harry and his friends had lost to Gryffindor plus twenty more so that they would win the House Cup.
"Which in retrospect was kind of a mean thing to do at the last minute," Hermione pointed out.
"Maybe a little," Ron said, "but they'd won like seven years in a row because of Snape, so we were kinda getting them back."
Finally, the summer holidays came, and Harry was stuck going back to his awful relatives. But there was a silver lining this time.
"'Hope you have—er—a good holiday,' said Hermione, looking uncertainly after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant.
"'Oh, I will,' said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. 'They don't know we're not allowed to use magic at home. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer…'"
Harry's friends laughed as he finally put the book down. If only that could have lasted the whole summer, and preferably the subsequent summers, too.
Now, however, the real trouble got started.
A few minutes after Harry finished the reading, Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, walked into the Great Hall with a half dozen Aurors, saw multiple high-ranking Ministry officials trussed up like Christmas geese, and immediately demanded answers. Kingsley and Unspeakable Croaker gave her an explanation of the book reading (which she already knew about from her niece), what had happened that morning, and McGonagall's claim that the complete set of books would provide evidence of wrongdoing by Fudge and Umbridge and of Voldemort's return.
Upon hearing this, Madam Bones called McGonagall and Snape into a private conference with her and Kingsley while lunch was served to the students. A few minutes later, Croaker was shown Umbridge's copy of the book. Almost immediately, Croaker pulled Bones into a private, one-on-one conference.
"He probably saw it was from the future," Hermione whispered.
After this, there was another conference between Bones, Croaker, and McGonagall, which was punctuated intermittently with epithets about Dumbledore, which Harry guessed were caused by McGonagall telling them Hermione's theory. He had no idea what they were discussing most of the time, but after a good, long while, they broke it off, and Bones said loudly enough for him to hear, "No, no, you're right. If You-Know-Who is back, we'll need him."
Bones stepped to the front of the Great Hall and said, "May I have your attention, please? I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, but I wish to make the following announcements. First, Dolores Umbridge is hereby removed from all of her positions here at Hogwarts—"
The cacophony of cheers made it clear to her that she had made the right decision. Once the school had quieted down, she continued, "Minerva McGonagall is reinstated as Acting Headmistress effective immediately. Furthermore, the arrest warrant for Albus Dumbledore is hereby cancelled, and he will receive legal immunity regarding all of his alleged actions that have been revealed here at Hogwarts this week. Likewise, the arrest warrant for Rubeus Hagrid is also cancelled. Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter, and Hermione Granger will all receive legal immunity for their actions in the 1991 to 1992 school year as revealed this week. All revelations made in the book reading with week will be fully investigated and fact-checked as a DMLE matter without interference from the Minister's Office." She glared at Fudge, and Harry got the impression she was on their side.
Hermione noted the very specific wording of the immunity granted in each case and pointed this out to Harry. He supposed it made sense. Who knew what other stuff they might have got up to? It was also pretty clear that they weren't charging Dumbledore because they needed him for the fight against Voldemort, but he could see that she was right; the mismanagement and outright misconduct going around the school that year meant that all the teachers could potentially be in trouble. Indeed, after Bones stepped down, Professor McGonagall got up with an announcement of her own.
"In light of the ongoing investigation," she said, "all classes are cancelled for the remainder of the day. Furthermore, an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors will be called to do a full review of all staff members at earliest convenience. This is the standard procedure by which Hogwarts has always managed herself, and it will not in any way be influenced by the reviews made by the High Inquisitor. And thank Merlin, there will be no book reading tomorrow. Any questions?"
"Will you look at the other books, too?" Harry called out. "Because there's some very important stuff in third year that you ought to know about."
Madam Bones fixed her gaze on him: "I assure you, Mr. Potter, that I will investigate the matter fully and uphold the law wherever it may lead."
"Good enough," he said.
Professor McGonagall wasn't available that afternoon for Hermione to ask her all her questions, but honestly, if her theory about Dumbledore's actions was right, most of them had already been answered. A few still remained: Why did Dumbledore allow Harry to be exposed to the Mirror for so long, and where was it now? Why didn't Dumbledore find a safer way to tip Harry off that Voldemort was in the castle? Why did Dumbledore allow Voldemort in the castle?! Why did the rest of the teachers go along with his security theatre? Why did Voldemort want to kill Harry in particular, and what made Lily Potter's sacrifice special? That really covered everything that was left. Unfortunately, the teachers weren't available to talk—probably because of that review McGonagall had mentioned—so she would just have to wait.
"Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore!" Minerva shrieked. "Do you meant to tell me that that cockamamie conspiracy theory Miss Granger charged you with is true?!"
Albus winced, but nodded: "I must admit, I am very impressed. That was a surprisingly good leap of logic even by Miss Granger's standards. For better or worse, she has hit the nail quite on the head, as they say."
"WHY, Albus? Why on Earth could you possibly do something so reckless?"
"Minerva, you know about the prophecy," he said calmly.
Minerva froze and paled rapidly. "The prophecy?" she said.
"Perhaps I should have told you this years ago, but I think it is time you heard the exact wording."
"Oh…well, okay, Albus…Honestly, you're right. You should have told me ages ago, just as I wonder if you should have told Mr. Potter as well."
"Not the exact wording," he cautioned. "The boy must learn Occlumency first, but perhaps you're right. You, however, have so such restriction, so yes, I think it is time."
He told her.
"I need a drink," she said.
Albus called for a bottle of brandy from the kitchens.
"Thank you," Minerva said absently. "So…you arranged the whole thing?"
"Yes, I did, Minerva."
"You arranged for Harry to face You-Know-Who one-one-one, believing You-Know-Who was incapable of harming Harry?"
"And because of the prophecy, you believed Harry was capable of killing You-Know-Who?"
"I believed it was worth a try, with little risk if it failed."
"So Miss Granger was also correct that you believed Harry couldn't get that damned Stone out of the Mirror?"
"Of course. I wouldn't have taken such a risk if I hadn't."
"So…just to review, you attempted to manipulate an eleven-year-old boy into killing a man, including sending him and three other students into the Forbidden Forest at night. You nearly got said boy killed twice. You manipulated Hagrid, a good friend who was nothing but earnest the whole way, into thinking he'd nearly got Harry killed with his loose lips."
Albus's face fell. That assessment seemed to be hitting him close to home. Good.
"Bones was right, Albus," Minerva continued. "You're very lucky we need you. And as much as I hate to admit it—and I really, really do—that Umbridge woman was right, too. You shouldn't be Headmaster if that's the calibre of ideas you come up with these days. And now, you've got me and the entire staff under review alongside you for going along with your mad scheme. And I admit I made some other mistakes and mismanagement on my own, but this mess is undermining the entire school."
Albus nodded solemnly. It saddened him that things had gone this far, but he was humble enough to admit that this was a badly-needed wake-up call for him. "We will offer what concessions we can," he said. "That should mollify the Board, especially in these troubled times, and still leave us with some control. To begin with, I will need to remain here to protect the students," he said, "but I will not necessarily need to remain as Headmaster."
"What?" Minerva said.
"I think you will make a fine Headmistress, Minerva. You have made a few mistakes, to be sure, but then, so does every teacher. You are well-liked and well-respected. Doing both is not easy. You are more than capable, and more to the point, it is imperative that we retain several Order members here in the castle."
"But I can't be Headmistress and a teacher," she said. "That was one of the things I messed up so badly before."
"I hardly think you would do a bad job, but you are right; someone to take up the slack would be helpful. And there are all the other new teaching vacancies to consider as well." All of the Ministry appointees had been ousted by now, so the staffroom was getting very empty.
"Too many. What are we going to do, Albus?" she asked.
"I have a plan," he said. "You're going to hate me, though."
"What is it?"
He told her.
"You're right, Albus, I hate you."
On Thursday morning, Dumbledore was back at the High Table, much to Harry's relief, but he wasn't in the Heasmaster's chair. In fact, the Head's seat was vacant. Classes were cancelled again, too.
The Daily Prophet reported that "You-Know-Who" was back. Umbridge was ousted from her position at the Ministry and was under arrest for a laundry list of charges. Fudge was hanging on, but only in the nominal sense that he called for an election rather than resign. No one expected him to win. And even he was admitting Voldemort was back. Garrick Ollivander made a public statement verifying certain facts about Voldemort and his wand to back up the Ministry's new position. The book reading at Hogwarts was barely mentioned at all.
On Thursday night, Dumbledore pulled Harry out of the Common Room, and the two of them left the castle for unspecified reasons. On his return, Harry reported they were recruiting a new professor, but he wasn't sure why he had been needed.
On Friday morning, Professor Dumbledore was still at the High Table, but Professor McGonagall was the one sitting in the Head's chair. Speculation ran rampant about what was going on, centred around the management concerns that had been raised in the book, until Dumbledore stood up and made the announcement.
"Your attention, please," he said. "I know we have all experienced a great tumult of surprises and revelations this week, and many of you will no doubt be concerned about the future of this school and your level of protection here. Let me start by assuring you that Hogwarts remains the most secure place in Britain against any form attack. Hogwarts will always be a safe refuge.
"Now, I am aware that there have been many accusations against me and a few against other teachers and staff members about mismanagement, negligence, and unprofessional behaviour here at Hogwarts. Many of these accusations are unfortunately true, and I accept the blame for the greatest number of them." Nervous murmurs ran around the Great Hall at that. "I have behaved in ways that did not best benefit my students on multiple occasions, and for that, I apologise. In light of the recent revelations, I, in conjunction with the Board of Governors and the teaching staff, have decided that it would be best if I step down as Headmaster of Hogwarts."
Horrified gasps sounded. Half the school only thought Hogwarts was the safest place around because of Dumbledore. Dumbledore raised his hands for silence, though, and he continued, "I will not, however, be leaving Hogwarts. I will remain in the castle as Professor Emeritus of Alchemy. This will allow me to remain in the castle, continue teaching, and defend the school if need be, but I will not be involved in most of the school's normal operations.
"As for the headship of the school, I leave you in the capable hands of Professor McGonagall. I am aware that there have been a few specific concerns about her this week, but her service record has been exemplary over many years, and I am confident that she is more than equal to the task. Professor McGonagall will also continue to teach the N.E.W.T. Transfiguration classes for the time being."
McGonagall stood up to considerable applause from her students. Harry and his friends bore no ill will towards her, even with the fiasco in first year, since she had been a good ally to them since.
"Finally," Dumbledore continued, "It has come to our attention that the position of Deputy Headmaster is, in fact, rather difficult to do well when one is also teacher. Therefore Hogwarts' new Deputy Headmaster will be giving up his teaching post to perform his duties full time. I am pleased to announce that our new Deputy Headmaster will be…Professor Snape."
Snape stood up to stunned silence followed by cheers from Slytherin and polite applause from everyone else. Harry was shocked. He wasn't sure whether to be appalled that Snape was getting a promotion or overjoyed that he wouldn't be teaching Potions anymore.
"They did that because they know he's a terrible teacher, I'm sure of it," Neville whispered.
"Probably, yes," Hermione admitted. "I doubt he'd even be a teacher except for the Order," she whispered to Ron and Harry.
Dumbledore and Snape sat down, but McGonagall remained standing. She moved to stand in front of the Headmistress's chair to make the next announcement. "As we have many vacancies on our staff now, we've had to make significant changes very quickly," she said. "Those changes are as follows: the Potions Master and Head of Slytherin will be Professor Horace Slughorn, who has graciously agreed to come out of retirement for the remainder of this school year." The short, fat man Harry had helped recruit last night stood and smiled self-importantly.
"The new Head of Gryffindor will be Professor Sinistra, who will be moving her personal quarters closer to Gryffindor Tower," McGonagall continued. "Defence Against the Dark Arts will be taught by Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Transfiguration up to O.W.L.-level will be taught by Auror Tonks, who together will be providing additional security to the school. And for History of Magic, allow me to introduce our first living Professor in far too many years, Professor Sage Bragnam, formerly of the Department for the Regulation and Control of magical creatures, and before that a well-travelled scholar of artifacts and runes.
A large-ish wizard with a bushy, brown beard, a tan trench coat, and a scarf stood and nodded genially to the students.
"Oh, no," Harry grumbled. "Another Ministry guy?"
"Actually, I think we might be okay with this one, Harry," Hermione said.
"I can't see any ally of Fudge or Umbridge wearing a Tom Baker-style scarf."
Harry looked at him again and considered this. "Hmm, we'll ask him if he has any jelly babies. That'll prove it."
"Okay, seriously, what it a jelly baby, and what's the big deal about them?" Ron said.
Harry and Hermione just looked at each other and laughed.
"As for returning faces," McGonagall continued. "Professor Trelawney has been reinstated as Professor of Divination. Unfortunately, Hagrid has had to step down from his teaching role until such time as he is fully qualified. However, he will remain here as Groundskeeper, while Professor Grubbly-Plank will take up the role of Care of Magical Creatures Professor full-time.
"And finally, with Mr. Filch's departure, we have reviewed the position of Caretaker…and determined that it is not needed." That was a big surprise. There had always been a Caretaker at Hogwarts since its founding. "Truthfully, Filch did nothing that a full-time Deputy Head and a few house elves could not," she explained, "and there hasn't been a Caretaker in living memory who really added anything productive to the school. All caretaking duties shall henceforth be delegated to the Head Elf, Flory, under the supervision of Professor Snape. You may see an increased visible house elf presence maintaining the school in the future. This should be considered normal.
"Also, in light of certain revelations, non-teaching staff members will no longer be allowed to assign detentions unilaterally. Except for an emergency situation, they will now take any serious disciplinary concerns to the student's Head of House." That wasn't exactly the problem with the detention in the Forest, but given Filch's behaviour, even though he was gone, it was still a welcome change.
When it was all said an done, only five teachers—Flitwick, Sprout, Vector, Babbling, and Burbage—were completely untouched by the changes, and barely more than half were still teaching the same class they were on Monday. It was the biggest shake-up Hogwarts had had in generations.
"Well," Harry concluded, "one good thing has come out of this mess so far. I think the rest of our time at Hogwarts will be a lot more pleasant."
A/N: Yes, I marked it Complete. It's been fun, and I'm sorry to disappoint those of you who wanted this to continue, but this is the end for now. I think I've reached a good place to conclude—the end of the first book with Harry vindicated, Fudge and Umbridge ousted, and Sirius on the inevitable path to freedom. Under the circumstances, it would be a stretch even by the standards of this story to continue the reading in public rather than Dumbledore (or Bones or perhaps the Order) speed-reading the rest of the books and acting on them unilaterally, and besides all that, I think I've worked the urge to write a reading-the-books story out of my system for the time being.
I may pick this up again with Book 2 later on, but I have no definite plans to do so. Conversely, if anyone wants to adopt this story and continue it in the same style—strictly controlling both the amount of material quoted and the length of the story—please PM me.
For reference, the current reading lineup is as follows: McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore, Slughorn, Flitwick, Sprout, Sinistra, Vector, Babbling, Trelawney, Burbage, Grubbly-Plank, Shacklebolt, Tonks, and Bragnam.