Chocolate frog cards

Albus once said that he didn't care what the ministry did to him, as long as they didn't take him off the Chocolate Frog cards ... What's so special about those cards, I wonder? Characters belong to Rowling.

"You know, that sucks," Sirius understandingly said, neatly summing up the current political situation of the British wizarding society. Albus nodded.

"Yes, I'm afraid that a certain sucking quality indeed seems to be present in our present predicament. Unfortunately, since we currently are unable to influence the minister's attitude towards the educational situation at Hogwarts - or for that matter towards our own juridical situation - we will have to act accordingly."

"Yeah, but at least now we're two in this shit... hey, since we're both dangerous criminals on the run, now we'll run together, right?" he added hopefully. Albus gave him a sad, fatherly, look.

"I'm afraid not, Sirus," he sighed. "For the moment it would be too great a risk for you to leave the security of your family home, with both ministerial personal as well as death eaters on the watch for you. Thus, I regretfully must ask you to bear with the current state of things for yet some time."

"Oh..." the younger man answered, disappointment showing in his entire face. "Well... but what about you? Fudge's making all hell out there to catch you, you know. Maybe you should stay put as well?"

"With me it will be a different matter altogether," Albus firmly answered, and his tone of voice told Sirius that that was final. He stood up from the sofa.

"Suit yourself," he muttered, and then did an extravagant gesture with his hands.

"But please know, dear fellow criminal, that my home is yours and that you're welcome to this shitpit anytime you wish. If you need a bed, or a meal, or a glass, or perhaps sometimes could find it in your heart to spill a few, insignificant crumbs of the tales of your glorious adventures or plans, then you know where to find me."

"Thank you very much," Albus gravely answered. "Your offer is very much appreciated. For the moment, if it wouldn't give you any inconvenience, I would like to retain the use of this room for yet awhile."

"Sure, whatever," Sirius shrugged. "The ancient dining hall of Black is all yours, headmaster... Would you like some grub," he added as an afterthought. "I still have some pork to fry up."

"Pity, no," Albus answered with a slight shake on his head. "I'm afraid that my arrival here was preceded by a visit at my brother's, and that our exchange took place over a dinner. Instead, I think I will go directly to the desert." And from his robe pockets, he produced two chocolate frogs. He handed one to Sirius.

"Cheers," the host responded, and together they opened their wrapping and took a bite each of the chocolate below. Sirius picked up the included card and gave it a glance. He chuckled.

"It's you," he stated and tossed to his guest. "Well, they may have thrown you out from Wizengamot and Hogwarts, but you're still on the chocolate frog cards."

"Then I won't complain," Albus stated, an honest trace of gratitude in his voice. He gave his own card a scrutinizing glance and sighed.

"Alas, Cliodna again. I'm getting quite a collection of this particular card, I'm afraid."

"I'll swap you for her," Sirius quickly said, eyeing the beautiful witch on the card with interest. Albus chuckled.

"I would say that you overrate me, Sirius, but I would be only too happy to oblige. I'm sure that you will give dear Cliodna far more of the attention she deserves than I would."

"Hmmmm?" Sirius answered, still with his eyes on the card. The witch gave him a flirting look and disappeared out of view. "Hey, come back," he cried.

"A short demonstration, however mundane it might be, of the importance of appreciating beauty in the fleeing moment we encounter it," Albus noted. Sirius sighed.

"Oh well, easy come, I guess. You care for some tea to go with that frog?"

"I would be in your debt," Albus answered. Sirius arched an eyebrow and smiled a meaningful little smile.

"Or, perhaps you would like something... stronger? I have access to the noble and most ancient wine cellar of Black, you know..."

"Tea would be much preferable, thank you," Albus repeated. Sirius shrugged.

"All right. I'll be back in a sec. Don't drop dead out of boredom in the meanwhile."

And with a last, hopeful look at the still empty card, Sirius walked out through the door and down the staircase, towards the kitchen, leaving the old man to his chocolate frog, alone in the dark, dusty room of dark arts and bad memories.

Albus waited for a few moments until he was certain that Sirius was busy in the kitchen, then he picked up the card he had traded and smiled at himself.

Albus had a little ritual for these moments. Rituals gives stability and security, and at the current situation, that was qualities Albus felt the need for.

First he would hold the card in both hands. He would look at the picture, and smile. The smile would be answered, and a twinkle would be exchanged.

Then he would put the card down on the table and lean over it. He would clear the table so that anything that might distract him from the card would be on a safe distance.

Then he would read the text. He knew it by heart, of course, but he still never grew tired of it.

Albus Dumbledore, Currently Headmaster of Hogwarts...

It hurt. He was a bit surprised, actually, to realize how much his removal from the school that had been his home for half of his life had distressed him. Albus knew, of course, that he was not headmaster any more, but to read it so bluntly put made the seriousness of the situation all the clearer to him. He could only wish that the cards wouldn't have to be edited permanently.

Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945...

Grindelwald... A frown formed in his forehead. Those were dark times indeed, for wizards and muggles alike. Yes, he had defeated that mad, horribly powerful wizard in the end, but the prize had been dire, and Albus himself had only paid the tiniest part of it.

...for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel.

Albus smiled at the remembrance of his old friend and partner, but this time it was with a bitter sting in his heart. He had always been so sure that Nicholas would outlive him. Alas, he knew now that it had been a futile hope.

Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.

Ah, there at least were happy memories, of a youth - or at least relative youth - in a time more innocent and more filled by happiness than the present. It was also a reminder that, however dark the times, the joys of chamber music and tenpin bowling would last.

Albus was a remarkable fast reader. He had finished entire books in less than an hour, when he devoted himself to it. But it would take him a long time to read his chocolate frog card.

After he had read it he would produce his wand and he would tap the cold surface of the card three times. Then he would put the wand away.

The picture of himself, who would have waited patiently during the time Albus read the card, would stand to attention when he was tapped with the wand. When Albus spoke to him, he would answer.

"Good day to you, Albus," Albus would say, and "Good day to you, Albus," the card would answer. It was there little joke. Sometimes they would exchange a few more pleasantries, sometimes they would feel the need to go directly to the business at hand. This was one of those times.

"What can you tell me about the current state of things at Hogwarts, Albus?" he asked.

"Young Mcmillian ate a frog earlier today to comfort himself down," the card answered. "He left the card lying on a table in Hufflepuff common room. The children are scared, Albus, even if they try to keep their spirits up. They fear what the High Inquisitor will do to them and Hogwarts now when you are gone."

"And with good reasons, I'm sad to say," Albus sighed. "So, is the situation the same in the other student houses as well?"

"Graver, as much as it hurt me to say it," the card answered. "Miss Edgecombe still keep her collection of cards in her top drawer, and even if the closed drawer deprived me of sight, I could still hear the exchange that took place between her and Miss Chang."

"They are still on friendly terms, I trust," the former headmaster anxiously asked. The card nodded.

"Miss Edgecombe is highly regretful of her deed, and the consequences Miss Granger crafted pains her greatly. Miss Chang supports her, even if she is demoralized by the abrupt end to the defence study group, and its implications for her ongoing relationship with Mr Potter."

"That's a comfort at least," Albus said, breathing out. "Miss Edgecombe is already harmed greatly by the High Inquisitor's scheme to annihilate this student group. She needs a friend by her side."

"The Slytherins are excited by their new position of power," the card went on. "Mr Crabbe was obliging enough to keep the card from his latest frog in his pocket, why I was given the opportunity to hear rather a lot of their conversation. They will abuse the power given them by their new headmistress, and the rest of the school will turn against them even more."

"To the delight of Riddle, no doubt," Albus answered. "And what have you to tell me about Harry?" he asked with just a slight moment hesitation. The card gave him a pitying look.

"Mr Potter keeps your card on his bedside table. He seems to take a certain comfort in it. He is angry. He feels betrayed. He is likely to lash out soon enough."

"And I have placed myself in a position where I can't help or advice him, not with Riddle behind his eyes," the former headmaster bitterly said. "At least he has his friends with him."

"Yes, he has his friends," the card agreed. Albus sat silent for a moment, his thoughts far away. It was some seconds before he talked again.

"I trust Fudge is enjoying his current illusionary advantage. What can you tell me about the current situation at the ministry?"

The picture gave him a short nod and walked out of view. After a second the image of Albus Dumbledore entered from the other direction.

"Good day to you, Albus," Albus said. "Good day to you, Albus," the card answered. Then it scratched its beard thoughtfully.

"Young Mr Weasley still keeps his collection of cards," he said, and smiled sadly. "In my opinion, it serves as a reminder of his family, since many of the cards served as a gift from his older brother. At any rate, it has given me a good insight in current rumours at the ministry. Fudge is developing a paranoia that would serve him well, were it targeted against his true enemy, rather than you, Albus."

"I have conceded my attempts to make Fudge see the true events of things," Albus answered. "At least our current situation will make the need for a well working auror force clear for him."

"A raid will be performed within a few days, against the homes of your known supporters," the card continued. Albus nodded. "Inconvenient, yet expected," he commented. "What more can you tell me?"

And the card went on. Ministerial rumours, official and unofficial orders, small titbits of information that had been overheard. After Percy's card, Albus talked to the images of himself from cards belonging to other ministerial personals, to Gringott workers, to his friends and his enemies, learning the tidings of the wizarding world. He hesitated.

"And Peter?" he asked. "Does he still keep his collection?"

"Just our card," the image answered, a more worn and dirty picture this time. "It seems to give him something of a relief in his fear. Of course, he keeps it well hidden from his master, so I have not been able to overhear much. But I can tell you so much, that Riddle is not planning to stay idle long. He is gathering his strength and his allies. He prepares for war."

"And war will come," Albus said, and he tapped the card with his wand again.

Card after card, image after image. Alone in the dusty living room, Albus sat bent over his card like an old seer over his crystal ball. Albus had never studied divination, but in this particular single-card spread he read his fortune clear enough. His own voice talked to him, again and again, about fear, about mistrust and about his enemy gaining power. The chocolate frog cards had spread his image all around the wizarding world. Every day another witch or wizard would search the comfort of chocolate and of the token of the great hero Albus Dumbledore. He wowed not to let that trust be in vain.