Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, various publishers, and Warner Brothers Incorporated. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Although I'm aware that in HBP Dumbledore became headmaster around 1955, there's still that thing in PoA where it was said he became headmaster around 1971...I'm going by the latter for the sake of this. Summary is bad. Never been very good at those. Short one-shot. This concept has been done, I think.
This is my first submission to this fandom, so if I failed pathetically (which I'm sure I have), I apologize in advance. Constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated, if someone could spare the time.
Afternoon summer breezes wafted through a flowing stream of silver hair and beard as a stranger possessing both appeared in the entrance as though from thin air. There was no warning of his arrival, but he seemed harmless. In fact, his eyes were twinkling in a way that couldn't be more contrary to ominous.
Of course, he had good reason to be so amused. His employer had just told him the latest gossip on his vacation habits.
Rumors became increasingly ludicrous with each passing year.
Contrary to the amplified fabrications among students throughout the generations, Professor Albus Dumbledore did not spend the entire summer cooped up in his private quarters at Hogwarts reading ancient recipe books, he didn't spend it categorizing loads of socks in order of most colorful and flashy to least, nor did he spend it braiding his silver beard and tying the ends off with frilly pink bows.
He had a feeling his pupils would not believe him if he told them that part of his summer consisted of living amongst Muggles. The great Albus Dumbledore, defeater of the dark wizard Grindelwald, interested in Muggle affairs?
Many would have found the activities with the pink bows more appealing.
Truth be told, he was not a Muggle fanatic; just fond of their sweets. Though most of his colleagues found them quite uninteresting and boring because they didn't cause steam to spew out of the ears or explode seven seconds after consumption, he found it refreshing from all the enchantments. His obsession with them began with a single lemon drop…
An experience he wouldn't have traded for all the Chocolate Frogs in the Magical world.
Budleigh Babberton was normally a quiet village, much more like a small town rather than a village, but today was the day of an important festival, the name of which Dumbledore could not recall. The whole village was enveloped in a blanket of excitement and ease. Merchants thrived, parents reposed, and children glowed.
Well, all except one. There was a slight shift from the corner of his eye; a small, thin boy sat huddled against the cobblestone wall, his gaze fixated on a young woman exchanging balloons for Muggle currency. A little girl in a white skirt and top cried out as the string slipped from her chubby hands. Amber eyes followed the ascent of the floating red rubber wistfully, eyes that seemed rather out of place in a face so round, babyish.
The same girl turned and eyed the boy and his secondhand clothing with a sneer and a glare, as though it was his fault she lost her balloon. There was something horribly familiar about the brief flashes on the boy's pale face as the breeze swiftly picked up speed. Hair and clothes ruffled against the wind; dead leaves fluttered frantically in slow circles. The odd phenomenon ceased quickly, nearly imperceptibly as the amber eyes widened a fraction in shock. The Muggles did not notice anything amiss, but Dumbledore was more observant.
The previous look was one the old man hadn't seen in more than twenty years. It was an expression of bitter contempt. He found it alarmingly similar to another boy he once knew so many years prior.
The chubby girl scowled as the boy no longer appeared perturbed by her disdain of him, and instead stared back, face thoroughly serene. He even forced a smile, which caused the girl to stalk away indignantly, face still scrunched.
Dumbledore watched behind his half-moon spectacles as the smile faded, and the boy continued his wistful stare at the balloons.
This was no Muggle child.
The old transfiguration professor plunged a bony hand into the pocket of his purple coat and fished out a silver sickle. With of a quick wave of the wand in his sleeve, it morphed itself into a fifty pence piece. As he approached the vender, he noticed each balloon was expertly decorated with the silhouette of a different animal. He purchased a white one, and strolled toward the boy, whom fidgeted with the hem of his faded green shirt.
"Hello," the old man said with a cheerful smile.
The lad suddenly looked slightly alarmed at being addressed. "Hi," he replied very quietly.
Dumbledore seated himself beside the boy, twisted the string around a long, wrinkled finger. "Such a beautiful afternoon should not be spent sitting on the sidelines."
The boy squirmed, but did not reply.
"Does this balloon interest you?" He tugged the string gently for emphasis. "It really is a wonderful piece of art."
An immediate stiffening of posture was his only response when the boy glanced at the balloon. A brief flash of unidentifiable emotion darted quickly across his face, then he looked down at his knees.
"You know," Dumbledore continued to the head of light brown hair, not the least bit dismayed, "I've always wondered how Muggles put these little pictures on rubber."
The mass of hair tilted a bit. "You're a wizard." The statement was blank and blunt and muffled. The boy seemed to have spoken into his collar.
Dumbledore nodded. "I am. In a few years, I daresay you will be as well."
The hair shook. "You have to be powerful to be any good," murmured the boy, unsure of his own proclamation.
'You have to be powerful to be any good.' Such was the idealistic phrase of a promising young student barely beginning his second year.
"Power comes in many forms," was the answer to both the boy and the memory.
The shoulders shrugged noncommitably. "It does," he said sagely, aberrantly. "But what kind of power I've got won't make a difference. The headmaster isn't going to let me go."
At this, Dumbledore was taken aback, but for all the surprise he felt, only a slight dim in his cheerful blue eyes betrayed it. "He accepts anyone that has the talent."
"Not if he knew."
Dumbledore did not pursue it. "Where would you go, then?"
"Home-school. Muggle school. Either one."
"What about your magic?"
Silence, then a nonchalant shrug. "Haven't figured that yet."
"Why are you so sure of this?" There was no need to define 'this'.
"Gut feeling. He won't."
"I don't see why not."
He almost expected a defiant "you wouldn't" response, but the words that came were pained, but not bitter, yet uncharacteristically acceptant for one so young. It was unnerving. "I'm not--the…kind…he would want, what anyone would want."
The flinches at the balloon's particular creature, the reluctant venturing into uncharted subject matter…In that instant, Dumbledore knew. Never let it be said the man wasn't perceptive. He did not feel pity upon realization. Sympathy was reserved for later, but in that moment, he felt extremely lost as to what to do or say. Every gesture, every word flitting through his mind gave the impression of being too inadequate. Uncertainty was difficult to feel after crossing the one hundred years old age point. Few won disputes with him, but having a boy that was approximately seventeen times younger than himself silence him with twelve words…The simplicity of it struck him dumb.
Not even the boy in his past ever had that effect. To him, he always knew what to say, whether encouraging or admonishing or philosophical…This was not the same. He was not speaking to a student whom had half their values set, but a mere boy.
A boy that happened to tug his sleeve tentatively, suddenly reverting to eager child mode.
"I don't have any money, so I can't pay you for it…But if there was a way I could…You know, see it fly…Just--Just before--I have to go…" The pale face nodded at a confused couple that appeared out from behind a corner.
Apparently, the boy had no idea he had actually rendered one of the most wisest and respected wizards in the history of the Magical world utterly speechless. Better yet, perhaps he simply didn't care. The balloon was his target, and nothing short of his parents retrieving him could deter that simple want.
Oddly enough, it was the thought of the balloon that restored Dumbledore's voice. The jovial smile returned. "Power isn't an exact entity. It--as well as various other things--is in the eye of the beholder," he said pleasantly as he untwisted the string off his finger. "You see, one could be lean or tall, short or fat, broad or handsome, ugly or ill-tempered, beautiful or good-natured, yellow or gray, blind as a bat--that isn't of importance."
He held it a couple seconds longer, and let go. Both watched the white balloon and it's wolf silhouette float higher into the sky, a canvas for the colors of the setting sun, until it was nothing but a minute speck against a blaze of scarlet and lilac.
"…It is the substance inside that truly makes one rise."
Dumbledore placed a hand on the mess of light brown hair and beamed. His efforts earned the smallest of smiles in return, a true smile laced with content. He watched the boy amble to his parents, and chuckled as they stared in his direction, completely aghast, as though unable to believe that the great Albus Dumbledore was actually sitting against a cobblestone wall in a Muggle village, enjoying the festivities. That proved his earlier point. They left as he stood, the adults still confounded and the child alight with the shred of hidden hope he'd been given.
Memories stirred unpleasantly deep within the depths of his aged brain.
He was reminded of the demanding orphan that collected petty trophies, the silent, seemingly pitiable boy that earned the hearts and minds of his colleagues the moment he stepped through the grand doors, the lonely teenager with minions and an almighty ambition, the arrogant prodigal that was sure to take both the Magical and the Muggle worlds by storm.
It was only a matter of when.
The elderly professor was not one to ask for a great deal, but he desired for the day's events to not have been carried out in vain, that the hope he bestowed was veritable, for the boy's sake, and to a certain degree, his own sake. He could not bear watching another Tom Riddle, the young man whom rose so exceedingly high above all others…
…only to rise too far beyond reach.
A/N: There is a difference between writing fics on a book and fics on anime (which is much easier to me) as I found out by constantly editing this. I finished a month ago…and have been changing things around ever since. Coming up with a very simple thing a kid would want took a long time...It's even worse than I thought, trying to write a child-version of a full-grown adult in a book. Trying to keep the essential traits, then mollifying them because they have to be child-like…Characterization was difficult, and I think I failed. Again, sorry.