On the 17th of December 2003, Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and lifelong champion of light magic, was absolutely and completely shocked for the first time in nearly forty-five years.
He started off the day as any other. He woke up at five in the morning to the crows of his Phoenix companion Fawkes, and then spent two hours reading tomes for personal interest, followed by three dealing with paperwork from his various political duties. After he finished his last form, he headed down to his brother's bar in Hogsmeade to hold several interviews for newly-open teaching positions.
As he arrived in the bar thirty minutes before his first interview, Albus mentally prepared for his first interviewee. He remembered Severus Snape from his days as a student, where he and the group of friends known as the "Marauders" would often share his office, shooting stern glares at each other after some humorous prank or another.
He knew that at least in those days, Severus had a serious tendency to overreact, often decrying the Marauders' harmless pranks as "bullying", and spending the rest of the week skulking around and snapping at his peers when Albus wouldn't let him get his way.
Albus could never prove anything, but he had strong suspicions that Severus had dabbled in dark magic like many of the other Slytherins. Albus was suspicious ever since Severus's fourth year, where he had recovered from the broken ribs he received from a prank in a single day. Albus didn't care how hale and hearty you were, that type of healing was only possible with the darkest of self-sacrifice rituals.
Nodding at his brother as he moved down to sit down at the bar, Albus was surprised to see that his second interviewee had already arrived, and was currently nursing a bottle of sherry. He looked at Aberforth questioningly, and received only a shrug in response.
"She's been there for the past two hours, said somethin' 'bout 'the fates' tellin' her to come here early."
Albus raised a single eyebrow—a skill he had honed through years of practice—and simply stared at Aberforth, who finally failed to hold back a chuckle.
"Strangely enough I don't believe her, given that her fates are tellin' her to come here right 'round when my drinks' cabinet opens, and not a minute before."
If Albus had low expectations for Severus, then his expectations for his other interviewee were positively abysmal. He had only met Sybil Trelawney once, at a lecture on the prophecies of her many-times Great Grandmother Cassandra, but even that brief encounter was enough to sour any future interactions.
She was very clearly drunk, and had almost knocked over a book display with her stumbling, and had loudly proclaimed that she had received a horrible omen of the end of the world in the bottom of her teacup, but that grand cosmic powers were preventing her from revealing her knowledge. Needless to say, she hadn't impressed any of the seers at the event, who were used to displays of eccentricity from their colleagues, and had left an even worse impression on Albus, who wasn't.
Naturally, Albus didn't let any of this show on his face as he slid over to where Sybil was sitting. He smiled up at her, greeting her warmly. "Sybil! How wonderful to see you again!", he said. "Since you've arrived fortuitously"—he suppressed a wince as Sybil perked up—"early, why don't we start our interview now? I'm sure Severus wouldn't mind waiting an extra half-hour." If Severus's current temper bore any resemblance to the constant irritation and rage he showed at school, Albus seriously doubted this, but as little as he wanted to deal with one of Severus's tantrums, he wanted to make pleasant small talk with Sybil even less. If he remembered her correctly, she would most likely respond to a question about the nice weather by predicting his death from the cloud patterns, or something equally ridiculous.
Once they were situated in one of Aberforth's private rooms, he began the interview. Unfortunately, it seemed his memory was correct, and her responses to Albus's questions were even more ridiculous than he expected. In her answer to the very first question, she had cited the fated occurrence of "great and terrible" events at Hogwarts as her reason for applying to the position, but when pressed for details, claimed that she was cursed by the fates to forget her foreknowledge whenever she would attempt to speak of it.
However, almost halfway through her interview, when she was expositing in that irritatingly dreamy voice of hers about the virtues of wine-stains as a divinatory tool, she dramatically and very abruptly froze in place, cutting herself off in the middle of a sentence. Albus barley paid it any mind at first, expecting her to "re-awaken" in the next minute to warn him of some vision of ill omen. But suddenly, startling Albus, she began to speak in a deep, rasping voice; one fit more for demons than wizards.
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...
Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the second month dies...
And the Dark Lord will mark them as his equal,
But they will have power the Dark Lord knows not...
And either must die at the hand of the other,
For neither can live while the other survives...
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the second month dies...
Albus was stunned. In all his years of study, he had only heard of events such of this, a true messianic prophecy. Unlike the predictions of diviners—a category he was now completely certain Sybil was not a member of—the prophecies of an oracle were are absolute, foretelling fated events as decreed by God himself.
He had never heard of such a gift arising randomly in the population before, if he didn't see it with his own two eyes, he wouldn't have believed it was possible. Perhaps Sybil's family were famous "lost descendants" of the Prophet Obadiah? Were they related to the true magical branch of the Cohens? For a moment, Albus mourned the political implications of this prophecy: a confirmed oracle in the modern day and age would be a groundbreaking discovery for the field of divination.
It was, however, those political implications which were by far the most incredible aspect of this event. If he had not heard them from the mouth of magic, Albus would never have believed that a total victory was possible. Tom—obviously the "Dark Lord" of the prophecy, as he was one of the few dark wizards to reclaim that title for himself—was months away from a complete strategic victory; the war planners for the Light expected a Death Eater raid on the ministry within half a year.
The light populace of the country was broken, either cowering in fear, or beginning to experiment with the dark ritual magics which Tom advocated, growing sympathetic towards his cause thanks to Tom's excellent propaganda. Minister Bangold had only exacerbated this situation with her "chuck-'em-all-in-Azkaban" policies, as one Order Member had described them, turning the population against an unforgiving ministry. If the ministry didn't do the proper thing and allow those caught to seek a true, proper redemption, Tom would seduce more and more of the innocent populace of the wizarding world into experimentation with dark and dangerous ritual magics, and sympathy with the dark creatures and abominations who made up the majority of his army.
The messiah of the war seemed to be a child who would be born in February, barley two months away. The next year was to be a leap year, and so the "death" of the second month obviously referred to the 29th, an especially rare event, suitable for such a weighty destiny. Dozens of possible subjects ran through Albus's mind, most notable the Potters and the Longbottoms, both of which had due dates at the end of February. Albus considered that the child indicated could be one from a common, unremarkable couple, but quickly discarded the notion. If there was any child who would be in a position to defeat Tom, after all, it would be one raised by some of Tom's fiercest opponents.
Albus planned his next steps with incredible care and precision. He knew that the existence of this prophecy would prove invaluable in the war effort, having the ability if managed correctly to revitalize the flagging light masses into a new wave of opposition to Tom's goals. The exact details obviously couldn't be revealed, but the existence of a child who would defeat Tom? Releasing that information to the public would bolster the war effort immensely.
If he implied in his statement that the subject of the prophecy was a child, not an unborn fetus, then the existence of the prophecy itself could even be turned into a weapon. Tom would waste valuable weeks, even months, doggedly investigating the children of his enemies to find his prophesized vanquisher: weeks and months in which he would be terrified and distracted, a situation which would drastically reduce the competency of even history's greatest military commanders.
Yes, the potential loss of older children and their families in such a campaign would be tragic, but Albus had long ago hardened his will to the necessary sacrifices which came with being a leader of men; especially a leader of men dedicated to peace, justice, and unification. The lost lives would be tragic, yes, but what were the lives of an unaligned, unimportant family in the face of the light's most capable warriors, and the child who would end the war with the dark for good?
Looking to Sybil, slumping in a daze after the traumatic process of channeling the will of God, he knew that the very first thing he needed to do, even before attempting to determine the identity of the prophecy child and its parents, would be to protect the oracle in front of him at all costs.
Albus shuddered. The threat of someone, using the dark arts to invade Sybil's soulscape and find the subconscious memory of the prophecy was too great to ignore. This was especially true given Tom's own prodigal aptitude at soulscape manipulation, and the basic competency of every wizard in his employ at that branch of the dark arts. Additionally, Albus couldn't deny that he was greatly interested by the idea of a personal oracle, able to predict the actions and fates of his enemies at various turning points of the war.
The only problem was, how exactly was he to protect her? He could place her home under powerful wards, but that would practically act as a glowing signpost to the creatures in Tom's army with the ability to sense magic. The minute Albus revealed the prophecy, they would be looking high and low for a seer, especially a seer under the protection of Dumbledore. He could have used the fidelus, the most powerful ward he knew of, but absolute trust in a person was the keystone to that ward, and as far as Dumbledore could recall, Sybil didn't really have anyone in her life that really liked her all that much.
However, sending her away to live in anonymity with only discrete monitoring would be perhaps even more dangerous. An Oracle's prophecies could emerge randomly at any time, and it would only take one report to the ministry of an unknown seer to bring Tom's investigation, which Albus would be powerless to stop due to his self-imposed distance.
No, it seemed virtually impossible to deflect suspicion from Sybil, as even the most cursory of examinations by the Hogwarts Board (controlled by the Death Eater Lucius Malfoy) into Dumbledore's schedule would see him meeting with a supposed diviner several days before he releases news of a major prophecy. Instead, Albus would need to take precautions with the assumption of Sybil's discovery already in place.
Rapidly, the easiest and most secure option dawned on him, as his mouth began to pinch in an irritated scowl. The one place in which Sybil would be most secure, and already have a legitimate, unquestionable reason for remaining there, would be inside the wards of Hogwarts itself, serving as the divination instructor.
Even for an elective course such as divination, meant to be taken by only those who possessed the sight by creature magic or luck of birth, Albus was loath to hire such an obvious incompetent into his school. Despite the necessity of at least some degree of political motives in every decision of the staff of Hogwarts, Albus was an academic at heart, and truly valued Hogwarts' function as a place of learning above any other, despite the necessity of its function as the so-called "Bastion of Integrationism", the unassailable political stronghold of the Light.
Suddenly, Albus perked up, straightening from the slouch he hadn't even realized he had entered. When one ignored the educational travesty of Trelawney's hiring, Albus could resurrect one of his discarded plans for the empty position, and turn that hiring into s a devastating, yet subtle political blow against the forces of dark magic. After all, numerology—the basis of ritual magic, the foundation of every dark discipline—was only taught as a portion of the Divination class thanks to the efforts of various Light headmasters over the centuries.
While a change in teacher may not lower the users of dark magics in the present—especially with Tom attempting to raise sympathy for those foul arts as "misunderstood"—by having the teacher for the foundations of dark magic, however inadvertent, be barely worthy of the role she was hired for, he could turn the interest of unaligned students away from dangerous and corrupting magics, and discredit the dark arts in the eyes of students from dark families, perhaps even turning them away from their families' chosen sins entirely.
Yes, Albus concluded, he would immediately hire Sybil Trelawney as the new Hogwarts Divination professor, and then immediately schedule a meeting with the Potters and Longbottoms, telling them of the existence of the prophecy, and its possible subjects in their children. Then, after careful consultation and revision, he would announce a modified form of the prophecy by early January at the latest, both bolstering the beaten-down forces of the light, and deflecting Tom's suspicions onto older children.
As Albus reached his final decision, Sybil, finally coherent, began to apologize profusely. "Oh I am so terribly sorry Albus dear, but the inner eye cannot be put on schedule!
She babbled on about some awful tragedy at the school or other, complimenting her monologue with suitably grand and mysterious hand motions, and a series of rapid blinks behind her large glasses.
Albus smiled indulgently. "Oh that's perfectly alright Sybil. In fact, I believe that our time is just about up!", he said, rising slowly from his uncomfortable wooden chair. "You've most certainly convinced me of your gifts", he said. He clapped excitedly, and continued: "I believe that you're by far the most fit candidate for the position. The job is yours!". Sybil began to moan and swoon in a manner Albus interpret as indicative of excitement, waving her arms wildly and sending her shawls flying into Albus's face.
Even as Sybil apologized, Albus's gleeful planning continued behind his slightly vacant expression. Perhaps because of the joyful news he had received, or her part in imparting that news, but Albus found that even Sybil's irritating antics couldn't put a damper on his happiness.
As she exited the room, and brushed passed the lurking form of his next interviewee standing in the hallway—apparently Severus was still just as impatient as he was in his Hogwarts days—Albus began to feel the ever-present tension in his shoulders slowly begin to relax. For the first time in years, he truly had hope for the light's victory, and that brought him an almost improper amount of relief. After all, Albus mused, there is a certain freedom to be found in servitude, and doubly so in servitude to fate.
The Dark Lord Voldemort, formerly known as Thomas Marvolo Riddle, was having a very, very irritating day.
First, Lucius had told him of Bagnold's increased suspicion of his supporters in the Wizengamot, forcing several Lords who secretly served in his Knight of Walpurgis to be seen openly voting against measures which would make Voldemort's fight easier.
Then, on top of those setbacks, Peter Pettigrew, his spy in the Order of the Phoenix, began to madly bow in front of him and beg forgiveness for some minor transgression in the presence of dozens of other Knights, disgusting both him and them with the pathetic sniveling cowardice of one of the Knights who had sworn themselves to the protection of magic.
Needless to say, this compendium of bad news, coupled with the distinct lack of reports on any victories, set Voldemort's handsome face into a minor, but intense scowl before the day was even half over, not that any but his inner circle would notice such a thing.
This was quite disturbing, because—contrary to the beliefs of many of the sheep of the magical world—he was not normally an angry person. No, in fact, he was known by his close followers to be coldly pragmatic, at times overly so. He often laughed and smiled, yes, but that was borne out of a mocking amusement at those weaker than himself. He did, of course, deeply value and care for his closest followers, but he was too dedicated to his cause to allow for sentiment to influence his reason. Nothing was more important than the preservation of magic, nothing.
He quite honestly had no idea of how the character of the "rabid and angry Lord Voldemort" came to be, when many of his public battles gave the sheep ample evidence of his mocking, darkly amused attitude towards his enemies. He was unsure if it was some myth the public told themselves to make their political enemies sound less legitimate, the carrying over of their prejudices towards mages of other races onto his serpentine public appearance, or some other affectation of weaker minds which he was unable to comprehend. Regardless of its origin, it was the cause of no small amount of laughter among his inner circle, as they tried to reconcile the dedicated, calculating revolutionary they knew with the omnicidal berserker of Dumbledore's propaganda.
However, just as much as the stereotype of an intemperate, rage-filled Voldemort was a bit of a running joke in the Knights of Walpurgis, the whispered stories of the few times he became truly angry were the things of terrifying legend. The last time had been during his failed assassination attempt on head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, Harold Bletchley. Dumbledore and his order had secreted the Bletchleys and their young son away, and turned their house into a death-trap. Voldemort had lost twelve Knights to the Order's Gubrathian Fire Pits, while he was trapped outside by a duel with Dumbledore. Only a few especially lucky or talented mages had ended up escaping, protected by Voldemort as they fled.
After fleeing from the trap in a towering, grief-fueled rage, Voldemort personally obliterated the wards around Forbidden Forest with the ritual sacrifice of several political prisoners, and kidnapped Pherousa, the Hogwarts Divination teacher and one of Dumbledore's staunchest supports on the staff. Three days later he left the body at the site of the trap, brutally tortured and killed over the process of days with an esoteric blood/acid transformation spell.
This event, which had happened only a few months prior, was close on the mind of one Euphemia Ziegler, recent recruit to the Knights of Walpurgis and deliverer of the Dark Lord's daily newspaper. Just by glancing at the title, Euphemia knew that the Dark Lord would not be pleased in the least by this revelation, and while she knew that the Dark Lord would never turn his wand on his own Knights, just being in the very presence of his icy fury was a terrifying concept. She should know, she was one of the escapees from the Bletchley house.
"My Lord," she said, knocking on the door to Voldemort's study, "I believe I have some news that will greatly interest you."
As the anxious Knight handed the Dark Lord the newspaper, she could see the absent, neutral expression on his face morph into one of complete fury on seeing the headline. It would be a fascinating process to watch, she thought, if it didn't feel so much like standing in the den of an angry lion. She exited the room as the Dark Lord began to read the article, he pitied the poor fool who had published the piece, knowing exactly who the Knights' next target would be. She was a proud Naiad, and knew that he most likely had no care for her rights, but even so, he most likely didn't deserve the excruciating torture of an enraged Lord Voldemort.
Hope Returned: Dumbledore Reveals Prophecy of You-Know-Who's Defeat!
By: Avery Jugson
For a long while, my dear readers, I am ashamed to admit I had been planning to leave the country entirely. I had grown saddened by the continual successes of You-Know-Who's evil armies, and worried it was only a matter of time before his hordes of creatures overran our Ministry, killing off any wizard or witch in sight. I had already sent my children to foreign relatives, worrying that their Hogwarts education would soon start teaching the theory of dark rituals instead of the theory of transfiguration.
However, my friends, in the past few days, I have unpacked my bags, re-leased my flat, and cancelled my tickets at the International Portkey Office. Why, you may ask? Because, despite how increasingly unlikely the prospect of a victory might seem, this war is almost won!
This morning, the esteemed Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, British Delegate to the ICW, and bastion of the light, secretly contacted me about a most startling and joyous revelation, which has assured the victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil: a prophecy!
You might not know this, readers, but a prophecy, spoken from magic itself, is a certain prediction of the future. Unlike the speculations and readings of diviners, the words of true oracles are words borne of powerful, little-understood magics, which are channeled through the seer to describe coming events. And thankfully, to my immense relief, one of these prophecies has been given about the war!
This prophecy, delivered to Dumbledore himself by an unnamed seer, tells us of a child who is destined to vanquish He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who is currently hidden, and growing into his powers. This prophecy states that in the near future, this child will come into their own, and gain a mysterious weapon which will win this war for the light.
The unspeakables have confirmed the presence of a new prophecy, delivered to Dumbledore, and…
The article continued on for quite a while in the same vein, loudly extolling the virtues of resistance to the Knights until the chosen one arise and end the war, but Voldemort had read enough. He had to give that old, self-righteous dustbag some credit, this was a brilliant move.
He had, of course, heard the prophecy from Severus the very day it was given, and had immediately sent out several agents to discover the identities of all pregnant families with due dates in late February. He had to admit, if he had not heard the prophecy firsthand, he most likely would have fallen into the old cretin's trap, and spent months searching for the powerful wards the subject of the prophecy would be protected under.
He knew well enough that truly fighting fate was impossible, yes, but that didn't mean that it couldn't be worked around. He would have dedicated his efforts in the coming months to finding and recruiting this chosen one to his side, and perhaps changing the meaning of "vanquish" to something much more amenable to his plans. Losing a mock duel, perhaps?
His distraction, coupled with the new surge of resistance and hope the news of this prophecy would bring, would set his campaign back months, perhaps even years, and while as an immortal, that was less of an issue than his enemy might have predicted, it was still a potentially devastating setback, and one that would require a great deal of energy to even begin to rectify.
Yes, Voldemort mused to himself, he had very rarely been as impressed with his old Headmaster as he was now. As much as Dumbledore, seeking to cater to the whims of vile muggle beasts, would despise any comparison to a "goblin", a move like this would fit right in with the Coblynau, or some of the other more ruthless-minded magical races.
Unfortunately for Dumbledore, Voldemort had heard the prophecy, and as such, knew that his destined "foe" was currently a fetus gestating in its mothers womb. Right as he began to chuckle to himself at Dumbledore's awful fortune, though, he paused in thought. Even if this "chosen one" was a mere child, a prophecy was a prophecy, and as such could not be ignored. But that raised the question: how to circumvent fate, and provide the prophecy child with an avenue to "vanquish" him that wouldn't hinder his plans?
After a few minutes of deliberation, Voldemort could think of only two options. He could either kidnap the child from its parents, and then allow it to defeat him in a practice duel as soon as it was old enough, or he could attempt the "vanquishing" when it was still a child, letting it win a game of tug-of-war, or something equally simple. While Voldemort would admit to himself that the first option presented a slightly safer interpretation of "vanquishing", as well as having a certain kind of karmically retributive appeal, he was loath to leave a potential opponent alive for any longer than he strictly had to.
In the decade and a half it would take to teach the child to properly duel, any number of opportunities for "vanquishing" could arise for the child, especially if they spend a significant amount of time around Voldemort. He could see now in his minds eye a training session between the two, where a miscast piercing hex would somehow manage to penetrate his guard, and completely liquify the inside of his head. Again, as an immortal, this was far less of a concern than most would think, the horcrux resurrection ritual was a complex one, and there was always the chance that his safeguards to inform his most trusted Knights of the steps would fail, or one of those Knights would somehow botch the preparation.
No, the second option seemed much more tempting, if carrying a slightly greater risk. After killing the parents, Voldemort would, as absurdly juvenile as it seemed, enter into a match of tug-of-war with the child, and, after losing, kill them. This was the far safer option, given that unlike a teenager trained in dueling, no amount of prophecy-granted luck would allow a baby to pose a threat to a fully-grown mage, especially one of Voldemort's own considerable power and skill.
Turning back to his papers, the Dark Lord further contemplated how he would approach this delicate issue. He would need to discover who exactly the subject of this prophecy was, first of all, and then make his preparations for his "vanquishing". Afterwards, he thought, he might even be able to turn this into a blow against the "light", revealing the full contents of the prophecy, and exactly what methods he had taken to defeat it. That would certainly crush this newfound hope that Dumbledore had inspired.
Perhaps, he mused, he could even use the child's death as the sacrifice for his most recent planned Horcrux ritual. There wouldn't even be any risk of rebound from a rejection of the sacrifice, because unlike most rituals, the creation of a Horcrux actually required the consumption of the sacrifice— in this case the child's life—before the ritual's start. He already had six of his seven planned horcruxes—seven symbolizing beneficial magical enhancements in this case—and the defeat of the "prophecy child" would act as a symbologically powerful fuel for the final horcrux.
However, the creation of a new horcrux would require an attack on Beltane, the only day in which he could perform the horcrux ritual, and if he wasn't sure if he wanted to wait until May to confront his destined foe.
Crossing out a line in the legislation about loosening the regulations for the use of veritaserum, Voldemort decided on his course. He would discover the identity of the "chosen one", and use a simple game to allow them to fulfill the prophecy. Then he would kill the child, using its death to create a sixth horcrux, and then reveal the whole contents of the prophecy, and his circumvention of it, to the Daily Prophet. This may have been an exceptionally clever ploy by the decrepit old windbag and his Order of the Phoenix, but apparently, magic herself had come to the aid of her champion, giving him the tools necessary to turn Dumbledore's ploy against him, and perhaps even win the war once and for all. Yes, he mused, if crushing the hope of this prophecy child finally quelled the wizarding populace enough for him to take the ministry, this prophecy could be a very good thing. He could finally expel the muggle rot that infested his society, and build the kingdom of mages—ALL mages—which would last for as long as he lived. And "as long as he lived", he mused, was quite a long time indeed.
AN: Chapter title is the English name of the first of the Norns, Urðr, the beginning of all things and the spinner of the weave of destiny. The Norns are the North Germanic (a.k.a. Viking) version of the concept of "The Fates": three women who spin a tapestry which controls the path of human life, a prominent motif in Indo-European religion. For example, Urðr can be seen to mirror Clotho of the Greek Morai, or Nona of the Roman Parcæ.
Chapter title was formerly "Chanting Vultures", which was a reference to The Chant of the Vultures by Edwin Markham, a poem about generals and politicians cruelly sending young soldiers to die for their personal gain.
A few clarifications to make about some of the potentially confusing elements of this fic. These will most likely be expanded upon in later chapters.
In this universe, Snape was never caught by Aberforth, and hears the full prophecy.
Please take the terms "light magic" and "dark magic" (and in general, any of Dumbledore's opinions) with a grain of salt. I promise, there's a lot more nuance there that you aren't seeing, that will come up in the next few chapters.
The terms "wizard" or "witch" and "wizarding" here do not refer to nearly all magic practitioners. Wizards and witches, are people like Voldemort, Dumbledore, and the Potters. I can't say anything more specific, because how exactly one racially classifies wizards and witches is one of the main axes for political conflict in this story.
Dumbledore, and most of the wizards of his political sect, ARE Christians in this fic. They're Catholics specifically, because thanks to the Statute of Secrecy, the Protestant Reformation didn't affect the magical world. Dumbledore himself is quite devout, while more "modern" wizards like James go to church when they can, and put religion as much less important in their lives. I myself am not a Christian, so I apologize if you are, and you feel I misrepresent any aspect of your faith.