Story Title: Simple Math

Author: Anaphalis

Story Summary: Albus Dumbledore. A hallucinated Hermione Granger. No holds barred. "Coffee Spoons" Universe One Shot.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowlings.

Warning: Rated PG-13 for language.

Simple Math

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

-T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

She was just another necessary sacrifice in an unnecessary war.

One hero plus one tragic loss equals victory spurred on by vengeance.

Simple math, really. It had been easy enough to tweak the Malfoy boy's mind to push him over the edge. Who, after all, had revolutionized the fields of occlumency and legilimency?

One killing curse plus one hero- complex equals one dead bookworm.

There had been no other way to convince the Potter boy that it was necessary to kill, that the evil wouldn't stop until he faced Voldemort.

"That's bullshit."

She's sitting on his desk swinging her long, white legs back and forth. He can't ever recall her wearing a skirt that short when she was alive. He's also fairly sure that she always buttoned her blouse the entire way up.

"You're dead."

"Thirty points to the Headmaster."

She pulls a pack of cigarettes out of the breast pocket on her blouse.

"If you were a ghost you'd have shown up long ago. What are you?"

"I'd call myself your guilty conscience, except that genuine sociopaths don't feel guilt. If you lived in the muggle world they'd have institutionalized you years ago."

She puts one of the cigarettes in her mouth and lights it, taking a long drag as her eyes close in pleasure.

"Smoking is bad for you, Miss Granger."

"I'm dead. What's it going to do- kill me?"

He wonders why, of all the deaths he has been responsible for directly or indirectly, he has to deal with what Severus aptly called 'the insufferable know-it-all'.

"It's your perverted fantasy. You figure it out. I'm just going to light another fag."

Apparently he has to deal with a sarcastic, chain-smoking 'insufferable know-it-all'.

"Despite what self-centered notions you may entertain, your death has really not caused long-lasting problems for anyone else. Your death was regrettable but key to our ultimate victory. Everything that I've done has ultimately bettered the future of wizards and witches throughout the world. "

She watches him for a long moment, her face unreadable.

"Malfoy's been catatonic since he cast the curse, Remus is a shell that moves and Harry's mind snapped the instant he avada'd Voldemort. Virtually every bright and ambitious wizard under the age of a hundred tragically died in the war, and strangely enough, shortly after the war. The Wizarding World is a directionless mess and you seem to be the only person who holds any kind of control."

"I did what was necessary. I have no regrets."

Very briefly, he sees something that may have been sorrow flash in her eyes. "Very well then."

For the first time in his nearly two hundred years of life, Albus Dumbledore feels true fear. None of his many abilities seem able to prevent him from bringing the knife that has appeared on his desk up to his chest.

"What's happening to me?"

She sits on the edge of his cabinet, a faint column of smoke rising from her mouth. "One sociopathic headmaster plus one mind-reading hallucination equals a sudden desire to end it all. Atonement for past sins and all that."

She smiles, a curiously grim expression, as she hot-boxes a cigarette. "It's simple math, really."