The Spoken Truth
COMPLETE - (PG) In the course of writing his autobiography, it is made known to Dumbledore that he has a chance with his deputy. Problem: How to convince her to take a chance on him?
Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling. I am only taking them out for a spin.
Albus Dumbledore sat in his office staring into the fire late one evening. Though nearly midnight, sleep was not forthcoming. His cocoa sat cooling on a table next to him. Fawkes slept soundly upon his perch. None of the portraits were in a talkative mood. His various gadgets and instruments sat mute, unused. Dumbledore this nightfelt a new affinity for his instruments for he too found himself without purpose.
The second war had been won the year before. The new Minister of Magic, Amelia Bones, was both capable and dedicated.The Wizengamot had had a radical purge thinning its ranks of the corrupt and ineffective. There were new committees and research groups; a dozen new initiatives in the planning stages led by the deputy minister of magic Kingsley Shacklebolt. Thus reinvigorated, they had turned their attentions to improving the wizarding world; a world that had sloughed off the tensions, despair and uncertainty wrought by Voldemort now ripe for change and good leadership. It was, indeed, a new world full of optimism and hope.
With every passing day, Albus noticed that he was receiving fewer owl letters asking for advice, guidance and instruction. At first he had been relieved and joyful as he saw the opportunity to devote more time to Hogwarts. But, even in Hogwarts, he had little to occupy himself with. Between the house elves, the staff and his deputy's organizational genius, the school functioned smoothly without needing any day to day interference from him. His deputy, Minerva Mcgonagallhad used the tactful term "unnecessary meddling" but it stillcame down to undesired interference on his part.
He had then thought to beginning his research endeavors once more but that idea had been short lived. Age had given him knowledge but took away the temperament and stamina needed for research work. He became bored and distracted too quickly. Academia would not be seeing a new paper from him anytime soon.
Was it any wonder then that Dumbledore, long used to being the center of the wizarding world, found himself feelingdisconnected from the rest of the world,even slightly unwanted? What does a man do after he's done everything that a man could be asked to do? He was very much alone and at loose ends, professionally speaking.
Dumbledore sighed long and loudly. He rose and left his office. Perhaps a walk about the castle would tire him enough to sleep and end the endlessly looping thoughts in his head. He found himself in the corridor of the faculty quarters. He heard a loud bang from Professor Flitwick's quarters. Knowing the charm professor's penchant for late hours, Albus decided to knock on the door.
The door opened almost immediately. Further into the room but in direct sight of the door, Filius Flitwick called out. "Oh, Albus, it's you."
"I heard a loud bang. Everything all right in here?"
Flitwick motioned to the boxes and piles of books around him. "Just sorting through books. I never knew I had so many." He placed his hands on his back and stretched. "Come in and join me for some tea will you. I think I've done enough sorting for the night."
A few minutes later they sat companionably in two wingback chairs by the fireplace. Flitwick made encouraging noises and comments eventually drawing out Albus' real concerns and the litany of things he had been doing to fill his time. Flitwick knew Albus to be the epitome of the great, inspiring leader. Unfortunately, such leaders were at their greatest when the need for them was at its zenith. The need gives the leader purpose. When that need went away, the leader is still the same leader but with no purpose aimlessly waiting for the next need to come about. In the meantime, said leaders had a tendency to drive those around them to distraction.
"Albus, why must you feel that you have to do something?"
"I have never been one to lay about, Filius."
"I meant why not wait, just wait."
"Wait? For what?"
"Opportunity, Albus, opportunity," Filius smiled at his friend's confusion. "Let your mind and body rest. Take a long leisurely look around you. Leave yourself open to possibilities."
"Hmmm." Dumbledore sipped his tea.
Flitwick saw the flicker of interest in the headmaster's eyes. He pressed on. "Waiting does not imply indolence. You may think of new projects or tasks that you have not done before. Think outside of the ordinariness of your own habits and thoughts."
"True, certain habits are quite ingrained. But I am a man of habit, Filius. I have grown accustomed to my comforts. Are you asking me to deprive myself of them? What would be the point?"
"Comfort and, to a lesser extent, convenience are all good but they do breed complacency." Flitwick looked his friend straight. "Everything you have said tells me that you are looking for a challenge. There are no more wars, no dark lords to confront. The only challenge left is inside of you."
"You are suggesting I reinvent myself," Dumbledore laughed. "What shall I strive to be next, eh? A world explorer, perhaps."
Flitwick chuckled. "Traveling about the world I hesitate to think of what mischief you could come to."
"Fifty years ago such an adventure would have been appealing but now I can hear my tired bones protesting the mere contemplation of such an action," Albus admitted. "I do not see myself leaving my ease here in order to sleep in foreign lands and times."
"I am not suggesting that you do. Wait and see, Albus, use some of the patience on yourself that you havecounseledupon others," Flitwick poured more tea into their cups. "I am certain something will arise to capture your attention. You need only wait for that something to come to you."
"I see the merit of your advice, but I don't know what I shall do to fill the time."
"No school administrative business?"
"Minerva is at least a quarter ahead of most required business."
"Only a quarter?" The two men laughed knowing that Minerva was more likely a half year ahead. "I have it! I have just the thing."
Dumbledore prodded. "And that would be?"
"Write your story, Albus. There is no better time and no better person to do it but you. Think of it, the autobiography of Albus Dumbldore, published for the world."
Dumbledore was silent for a time seriously considering the idea. "I could finally tell the truth and set things straight that have long been shrouded in secrecy, perhapsreveala fewsecrets in the doing."
"Yes, Albus, you can and you must."
"But how ... where should I start? Do I start with my early life or with the war? In what style should I write? I want it to be entertaining as well as factual." Albus rubbed his hands together. His eyes were now lit with excitement and earnest thought.
Flitwick was pleased with himself. In mid motion to pick up his teacup, a twinge of pain in his back reminded him of the late hour. "Albus, may we continue this discussion in the morning? It is past midnight and I -"
"Of course, Filius, you have classes in the morning. I've kept you up too long," Dumbledore stood up and made his way to the door. "Thank you, old friend, for giving me much to think about."
The next few weeks were unremarkable save for the absence of the headmaster. Other than breakfast he was hardly ever seen. In fact, he was rarely even physically at the castle. When he returned he was always visibly tired yet his eyes were alert and merry. Speculation was rife among staff and faculty as to what their headmaster's new interest could be - some unknown enemy, a woman, a research project, a new job or maybe two women.
The staff debates became so heated that Professor McGonagall could no longer tolerate the volume or variety of rumor and innuendo. She decided to act. Just after dinner, she marched to the headmaster's office. She knocked and heard a cheery "Come in!"
She looked about the room for any sign of anything out of the ordinary, any hint of his current preoccupation. She found none. "Good evening, Albus."
"Minerva, what brings you here?" Dumbledore stroked his beard. "Did I forget an appointment?"
"No, you did not," Minerva took a deep breath and composed herself. "Albus, I am here on behalf of the staff."
"Do have a seat, please," Albus closed several books open on his desk. He adjusted his spectacles and looked as attentive as he could. "Now, what is this all about?"
Minerva sat down in her favorite chair. She nervously smoothed down her robes. "Before I tell you, please understand that we ... that is, I, have no wish to pry into your private affairs, none at all. I will understand if you do not wish to answer my ... our questions."
"After all this time, we have very few secrets between us. What is weighing on your mind?"
"Your absence from the castle is giving rise to rumors. You've missed meals, staff meetings and the students no longer see you in the halls." Minerva looked down on her hands folded on her lap. "They've come to me to ask where you are. I ... I have nothing to say. I, of all people, should know your general whereabouts and activities. Where have you been disappearing to, Albus?"
A small smile played upon Dumbledore's lips. "What are they saying about me?"
Minerva straightened. "I cannot repeat many of the rumors. Suffice it to say everything from an increased, er, social life to a new enemy out in the wilds has been mentioned."
Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow at her. "What did you think I was doing?"
"I just assumed that you were ... were away ... to ... be with ... see to ... personal matters," Minerva replied. "Is that so?"
"The matter is highly personal to me, very much so." Albus said firmly.
"Very personal then."
Albus nodded. "It has required a surprisingly substantial investment of time and effort on my behalf."
Minerva pursed her lips. "Do you expect this ... this involvement to continue? Is it serious?"
"Oh, very," Dumbledore was thoughtful. He knew that involvement was one of Minerva's euphemisms for romantic attachments. "You see, Minerva, I've made a commitment."
Head down, Minerva flicked at a non-existent piece of lint on her robes. "Do I know her?"
"I do not believe so."
Minerva looked up and cleared her throat before speaking. "I hope she makes you happy, Albus."
"As one who knows me well, what advice on pleasing me would you have for her?" Albus looked earnestly at his deputy. "My habits, good and bad, you know them all."
Minerva narrowed her eyes at her long time friend. Something is not right here. "I would say that she ought to rethink her decision, any decision, where you are concerned." She saw the barest twitch at the corners of his mouth; a sure sign of a smile barely suppressed. "Must you always tease me, Albus Dumbledore!"
"I cannot resist, Minerva, truly I cannot." Albus chuckled. "You looked so serious as if the castle were about to collapse."
"I ought to collapse the castle about your ears. It is too late in the evening for such foolishness." She stood up and crossed her arms. "Now, tell me true. What mischief are you up to?"
"Your lack of faith in me is touching," Albus replied.
"It stems from experience. I know how you are when you are bored and out of sorts. Now out with it."
"It's a new project of mine. It's, ah, still at the thinking stage and I've been doing research and taking many, many notes." Dumbledore held up several scrolls. "I feel quite in the academic mode again."
Minerva studied the books and scrolls littering his desk. "The staff will be disappointed."
"Would you like me to invent something more exotic? A tempestuous affair with a wood nymph? A new muggle candy I cannot live without, perhaps?"
Minerva smiled. "You would, too, invent something, wouldn't you."
"If it may help staff morale, then gladly," Albus leaned back into his chair. He found talking with Minerva relaxing. He could be himself with no thought of betrayal or miscommunication. He watched as Minerva peered at his notes. "That piece there is the Hogwarts section. My years as a professor is there to the right."
Dumbledore grinned. "I am writing my autobiography, Minerva. I have made a commitment with a publisher."
Minerva's eyes shined with surprise and happiness. "What a wonderful idea!"
"It was Filius' suggestion." He walked to the front of his desk to stand beside her. His right hand rose subconsciously to rest lightly on her back. With his left he pointed out the other piles of notes and things. "Over there is my alchemy research. That pile there is research on Grindelwald. And here in this empty spot will go my headmaster notes when I get to that time period."
Minerva was bewildered. Her eyes roamed over his desk. "It's so organized, all of it."
"You did not think I had it in me," Dumbledore said. "Admit it now!"
She turned her head and laughed. "Well, honestly, no."
"With the school running so efficiently and very few inquiries from the Ministry these days, I have the time to be organized. I have a very tight deadline with the publisher so I must make good progress in the time I have."
"When is your deadline?"
"The publisher would like the first draft of the overall outline in two weeks."
"Two weeks! That is very short. Can they not be reasonable?"
"I meant that it is due in two weeks. I've had a month and a half for the outline. I have a year to complete the book entirely."
Minerva straightened a tall teetering pile of notes. "Do you need help?"
Albus rummaged about in his armoire. "Since you brought up the concerns of the staff, I believe it is time I explained my actions to them." He took out a small box filled with small scrolls. "Here is something that I will need your help with." Albus placed the box on his desk careful not to shift his notes. "Each one of these scrolls has a name. Each scroll represents a person that I've had contact with through the years. I have distributed the majority of them already hence my frequent trips. The rest are for the staff here or for people in England. We have a staff meeting tomorrow and I would appreciate it if you could distribute these at the meeting."
"Of course, Albus," Minerva eyed the scrolls curiously. She could feel a sense of strong magic about them. "What are they for?"
"My publisher suggested that I interview people for the book. I know quite a large number of people. I could not possibly interview all of them. I have instead devised this manner of eliciting information. Each scroll has a list of questions pertaining to any relationship or activity that I shared with the recipient of the scroll. The scroll is charmed to reveal the absolute truthful answer to every question."
Minerva swallowed. "What kind of questions, Albus?"
"Simple ones. For example, when they worked with me and on what. My memory is not what it once was. Or, how do they feel about me. Questions that were I interviewing someone about me, I would ask." Albus held out a scroll to her. "This one is yours, Minerva."
Minerva slowly let out the breath she had been holding in. She made no move to take it. Her hesitation was clear.
"It won't bite," Dumbledore teased.
"I hope not," Minerva replied. He continued to hold it out leaving her no choice but to take it. The scroll gave off a quick spark when her fingers touched it. That spark was a certain sign of a charm being activated. "Did you mean that the recipient would be compelled to answer truthfully?"
"It is more accurate to say that you could not put down a lie," Dumbledore explained. "Lies including evasions or empty flattery would be erased and possibly replaced by a clearer phrase or word closer to the recipients' intent."
"What if the person refused to answer?"
"They cannot refuse. Once given to the recipient, the scroll remains visible on or near the person or that person's possessions until all the questions are answered and the recipient orders it to be sent back."
"I see. A nuisance condition, how very inventive." The words "absolute truth" echoed repeatedly in her thoughts.
"How else can I guarantee a response. I am looking forward to responses from certain individuals." Albus smiled.
"Severus, for one, should prove very entertaining." Minerva looked helplessly at the scroll in her hand. She resisted the urge to fling it out of the nearest window. "Wh- when do you need the responses returned?"
"As soon as they are filled out I would think. I have a list here that will coordinate the responses as I receive them. I believe two weeks is sufficient time to expect a response."
"Two weeks." Minerva said softly.
"It's not a test is it? A few minutes of time is all I ask." Dumbledore said airily as he pulled out the scrolls for the staff.
Minerva tucked the scroll in her robe pocket. "I ... I will say good night then, Albus."
"Pleasant dreams, my dear."
Dumbledore went back to his notes as Minerva left his office. How she had managed the spiral staircase on suchunsteady legs, she never knew.
The next day saw the faculty and staff in high spirits at dinner. Albus' scrolls were entertaining the recipients to no end. Albus fielded many questions from his eager colleagues.
"I tried to put down 'barmy, old codger' and do you know what it did? Do you?" Professor Hooch was heard to remark to Professor Vector. "It said back 'do you mean barmy in the good sense?' Honestly, that is what it said."
Professor Snape scowled more fearsomely than ever. His own house had borne the brunt of his foul mood losing fifty points altogether. At first, he had tried to burn and tear the scroll but to no avail. Destructive spells and potions had no effect at all. He had gone as far as burying the wretched thing in the Forbidden Forest after lunchtime. It had materialized without a speck of dirt on his desk just before dinner time. There the scroll had lain, a mockery of his every attempt.
Snape muttered under his breath, "If he thinks I am going to answer his questions, he will have a long, long wait indeed."
Hagrid had carried his scroll everywhere he went. At odd moments he would take it out and redo an answer. Students had noticed the groundskeeper dabbing at his eyes as he wrote down an answer or two.
Another staff member was equally emotional about the scroll but for entirely different reasons. Professor Minerva McGonagall ate her dinner quietly and left the hall as soon as it was polite to do so. She mentioned the scroll not at all.