Albus Dumbledore and the Wizard's Ruse
Book Three of the Albus Dumbledore at Hogwarts Series
Disclaimer: this is a work of fan fiction based on the worlds created by JK Rowling. The story is written for entertainment and not for profit.
Author's Note: Greetings to all my old readers. Here is your much awaited sequel to "Albus Dumbledore and the Phoenix Feather" (book one) and "Albus Dumbledore and the Everlasting Flame" (book two). For those of you who have read neither of these, I recommend you go to the first chapter of "Phoenix Feather" and start there. "Phoenix Feather" tells the story of Albus Dumbledore's first year at Hogwarts, while "Everlasting Flame" tells the story of his second year. This book, "Albus Dumbledore and the Wizard's Ruse", is about Albus' third year at Hogwarts. So this chapter contains many spoilers for the previous two books and you might not enjoy this story unless you have read the first two.
"As the sun rises and sets each day, we too must move on from the past"
Chapter 1 – The Labyrinth
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was perplexed. He found himself standing in front of the same mirror as he had ten minutes ago and ten minutes before that. Albus was in a labyrinth constructed by his father Archaeon Dumbledore to test his magical abilities. That's because Albus was a wizard, and a right good one at that. At the end of his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus' father had promised to instruct him in some of the finer points of magic over the summer holidays. This left Albus standing in front of a mirror for the third time, having been befuddled by the enchanted labyrinth to end up exactly where he had started.
It was nearly the end of August, 1854, which meant that Albus had been studying under his father for almost the entire holidays already. Yet he continued to struggle with the tasks his father set for him. This was doubly frustrating to the young Dumbledore, because he normally mastered spells and enchantments with careless ease. But something had been troubling Albus from the outset of the summer holidays, and it had everything to do with the events that had occurred at the end of Albus' second year at Hogwarts.
Albus stared at his own reflection in the mirror. He had always been a scrawny little boy, but over the summer he had added a good two inches to his height, giving the impression that he was even thinner than before. His legs were now best described as gangly. He had scruffy auburn hair that grew to his shoulders. His arms dangled beside his waist, one in possession of Albus' beloved 12 ½ inch willow wand endowed with a unique phoenix feather and unicorn tail core. It was arguably one of the most powerful wands in existence, and Albus was lucky to have it. He looked at himself with startling blue eyes over the rims of half-moon glasses. He'd been having trouble with his eyesight throughout the last year, and had finally been taken to Diagon Alley by his mother Lubo to purchase a pair of spectacles. He'd chosen the half-moon design to honour Professor Ryan Rolleston, the man who had saved his father's life at the end of the last school year.
The thought brought back all the tumultuous and painful memories of the dramatic ending to the Triwizard Tournament that had been held at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during Albus' second year at the magical school. The Tournament had brought together the best wizards and witches from three of Europe's top schools. The Black Forest School of Magical Arts, in the Germanic provinces, had been represented in the competition by Jannes Grundelwald, a dark and menacing figure. Grundelwald's younger brother, a rat-faced creature with terrifying white eyes and a violent temperament, Grindelwald Grundelwald, had made firm enemies with Albus last year. The third school in the competition had been the Moskva Academy from the Russian Empire. Their Champion, Anastacia Volkova, had proved to be as shifty as her German opponent, famously backstabbing the Hogwarts Champion during the final task. That Champion was none other than the new Head Prefect of Hogwarts, Albus' friend Thomas Jones.
The final task had been a race to find the Everlasting Flame of Isis in the Temple of Ast, a beam of light that offered the bearer eternal life and protection. Little did everyone know, but Archaeon Dumbledore had concealed the Flame inside his son's head. The only reason Albus had been involved in the final stages of the Tournament had been because he had been sent to help Thomas with the third task. In a fatal error of judgement, Albus had let his friend, Mars McGonagal, and his girlfriend, Victoria Moody, come with him. In a terrifying climax in the sixth chamber of the Temple of Ast, the Grindelwald brothers, the Black Forest School's Headmaster Admiral Scholtz and Hogwarts' ex-Headmaster Phineas Nigellus had apparated behind Thomas, Mars, Victoria and Albus and cast killing spells on the four of them. Unknown to Albus at the time, he'd been protected by the Everlasting Flame. Mars had in his possession a protective emerald ankh, and Thomas was in possession of a locket called the Eye of Horus. But Victoria Moody had been unprotected and had died instantly.
Albus had been too stricken by grief to pay much attention to what followed, but the Egyptian God Horus had borne down on their attackers and put an end to the life of Jannes Grundelwald. Thomas and Mars had dragged Albus into the seventh chamber, the chamber of the Everlasting Flame, while a battle erupted between British Ministry Wizards, the Germans, and the Russians. The political disputes were of no interest to Albus in his state of despair. In a further twist, one of the Hogwarts' Professors, Januar Solstice, had been seduced by the power of the great Egyptian Dark Lord Imhotep, whom Albus had helped defeat in his first year. Solstice had tried to steal the Everlasting Flame and bring Imhotep back to life. Fortunately Albus' cool thinking under pressure had allowed him to summon Horus, who put an end to Imhotep once and for all.
In the carnage happening out in the sixth chamber, ex-Headmaster Nigellus had been killed, a fitting end for a man treacherous enough to sell out British interests for the sake of power. This same man had been involved in the first plot to raise Imhotep back to life in Albus' first year, which Albus had foiled and was the reason why the man had harboured a grudge against the little schoolboy. In all, Albus felt he had been involved in far too many near-death experiences for one as young as he. But the worst part was that no amount of wishing would bring back the first girl he had ever loved. Victoria Moody was dead partly as a result of his own actions, and Albus had struggled to stop blaming himself all summer long.
And so, here he was in front of the mirror again, thoughts of Victoria Moody floating through his head even as he knew he was supposed to be concentrating on his task.
'You are to navigate your way through the labyrinth,' Archaeon had told him that morning, 'taking care to avoid any of the dangers lurking therein. At every turn you will come across a new clue to guide you to the next. You will need all your powers of deduction as well as swiftness of wand-work to succeed. Good luck.'
Thus Archaeon had set Albus off through a labyrinth created out of hedges in the vast back garden of the Dumbledore mansion. It was a trick that Albus would remember for many years, and would subsequently use to create one of the Tasks in a Triwizard Tournament almost 150 years into the future. But right now Albus was a frustrated young man, on the cusp of his thirteenth birthday, staring into a mirror that refused to offer up any clues as to how he was to get to the next task.
Eventually Albus became frustrated to the point of eruption.
'You insolent mirror, tell me what I ought to do next!' he cried.
To Albus' intense surprise, the mirror replied.
'Take the next two right turns, and then a left, followed by one more right turn and you will arrive at the next clue.'
Albus did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Sometimes his father could deceive him with tricks that were infuriatingly simple. Being as talented as he was, Albus tended to expect things to be more difficult than they actually were. Sometimes in searching for a complicated answer, Albus missed the easy answer right underneath his nose. And a crooked nose it was, as Albus noticed with some regret before he glanced away from the mirror. A falling rock had permanently dented his nose in his first year showdown with Imhotep in an Egyptian crypt, and Albus had never had it straightened. It somehow felt appropriate to keep the scars of his battles; it lent him a certain sense of credibility.
That's because Albus Dumbledore had not been recognized for any of his heroics the past two years. In fact, the Minister for Magic, Lionel Wilberforce, actually viewed him as an attention seeking troublemaker, who had done nothing more than sour relations between British wizards and their German and Russian rivals. Wilberforce was blind to the fact that German and Russian imperial aspirations were the reason why relations had been soured, but it was easy to blame a twelve year-old who kept on showing up wherever there was trouble. Albus had to wonder why he attracted trouble. He knew it had to do with his father's profound influence in the wizarding world, but there had to be more to it than that. Perhaps he was just unlucky.
Albus took two right turns, a left and then another right, and arrived in front of none other than Archaeon Dumbledore himself. The great man did not tower over his son quite as much as before; Albus now reached up to his father's armpits. But Archaeon remained a great figure with a vast auburn beard tumbling down his chest, a face lined by years of working as an Archaeowizard in the Egyptian desert, and clear blue eyes with a magisterial gaze to them.
'Congratulations on getting this far,' Archaeon said. 'You took far too long with that last clue. I suspect you are still letting your thoughts be clouded by the past. It is vital that you put it behind you. Your final obstacle is, well, me. You have to apparate past me in a duel to reach the finish line.'
Albus snorted, convinced that this was well beneath him. He had been apparating since he was an infant; quite unintentionally of course, but it was still a mark of how naturally talented a wizard he was. Albus apparated to a point behind where his father stood, expecting to emerge triumphant. To his surprise, Archaeon had already apparated so that he still obstructed his son from the finish line. Archaeon then cast a stunning spell, sending Albus flying backwards into the hedge. Albus apparated again, but his father was too quick for him. For a second time he was stunned backwards. He apparated a third time but it was to no avail. Archaeon stunned him, disarmed him and bound him with invisible rope with three rapid slashes of his wand.
'That is entirely unfair,' Albus moaned. Archaeon gave a deep throaty chuckle, the same one that always warmed Albus to the core.
'It will take a few years before I permit you to beat me in any sort of duel, my boy,' Archaeon said. 'It is my strong belief that a young wizard must always have a challenge to aspire to; a target to attain. If you start beating your father at too young an age, arrogance will overcome you.'
Albus knew that he should heed his father's words but the bitterness of defeat was too sharp a taste in his throat at that moment. In addition to his ongoing feelings of guilt over Victoria's death, Albus had also found it increasingly difficult to accept that his father was better than he was. When Archaeon had promised to start teaching Albus the difficult arts of Legilimency and Occlumency that summer, he had expected to master them within days like he seemingly did with every other spell he attempted. But these were difficult beyond even Albus' grasp.
When Albus had voiced his exasperation one afternoon of having his thoughts repeatedly intruded upon by his father's Legilimency, Archaeon had tried to reason with him.
'I'm sick of this nonsence,' Albus had yelled. 'I cannot do this, I cannot stop you getting in, and I am tired of you seeing everything inside my head.'
'My boy, these are difficult skills to learn,' Archaeon had said. 'It takes time to guard the mind using Occlumency, and time to read more than just a whisper of your opponent's thoughts with Legilimency. Most wizards or witches can only learn these arts when they have left school, so I did not expect you to make any significant progress at the age of twelve. It will take a whole year of practice before you even show a hint of proficiency.'
'In that case, are you going to come to school every day to teach me?' Albus had said; a distinctly sullen tone in his voice.
'No,' Archaeon said, seemingly oblivious to his son's rudeness, 'but there are a lot of teachers at your school, and I'm certain I'll be able to arrange somebody brave enough to give you lessons in these arts.'
Now Albus lay prostrate on the grass in the labyrinth, bound by Archaeon's spells, and his temper was no less than it had been on the day when he'd lost his cool with Occlumency.
'Unleash me from these bindings,' Albus snapped. 'I have had enough of losing to you and I do not see the point in continuing.'
Perhaps sensing that it was time to put Albus in his place, Archaeon ignored his son and started performing vanishing spells on the hedges that had comprised the walls of the labyrinth. Albus tried wriggling free, but there was no resisting the power of Archaeon's spell. When Archaeon was finished he came to stand over his son's restrained body, a grim expression on his noble face.
'Are you ready to demonstrate some humility?' Archaeon asked.
Albus had to bite his tongue because he very nearly started yelling at his father and throwing a tantrum. The strain of dealing with Victoria's death the past few months had taken its toll on Albus' normally serene temperament. In fact, he had not felt like he'd truly had a holiday. The summer had felt like one continuous lesson from his father and he'd not had the opportunity to be alone with his thoughts. Archaeon must have known all this; in Legilimensing his son numerous times he'd had access to all of Albus' most personal thoughts and feelings; including those of resentment towards his father for being so good at everything.
Albus felt an intense wave of guilt rushing over him under the steadfast gaze of his father. He knew that he was being headstrong, but the teenage hormones rushing through his veins made him irrational at the best of times. Albus was just a week shy of his thirteenth birthday, on September the first, the same day he'd be returning to Hogwarts for his third year. For some reason, the thought didn't appeal to him at that moment.
'I'm sorry, father,' Albus said quietly. 'It's… it's simply that… that I…'
The words wouldn't come. Archaeon unbound Albus and crouched down to embrace him. Suddenly the emotions that he'd been straining to control all summer came rushing back to overwhelm him. He felt tears soaking his father's beard as he wept into the great man's chest.
'I know, my boy, I know,' Archaeon said, stroking Albus' back. 'Let me tell you what is going on in that head of yours, because I think I might actually know better than you do. The benefit of being a bystander is that one can make sense of the maelstrom. You will never truly erase the feeling of guilt over Victoria's death, but the truth is that there is more anger inside you than anything. Anger; that you let her come with you. Anger; that I put you in such a perilous situation. Anger; that Grundelwald killed her. Anger; that you weren't able to avenge her in some way. Anger; that for all your efforts, nobody within the Ministry has stopped to acknowledge your important role in the defeat of Imhotep and his agents of evil. There is a strain of bitterness there, too. You are bitter because you will never get to see Victoria grow into the woman you knew she would become. Furthermore, you are hurting because a part of you; a very large part, I might add, is ready to move on. You feel a mixture of hurt and pain that you are ready to let life go on, when Victoria will never again be a part of it.'
Archaeon paused, and Albus wondered if he was finished, but it was apparently only to collect his thoughts further, because his father continued.
'Throughout this summer you have been using these lessons with me as an outlet for all your pain and frustration. You want very badly to become a great wizard so that the forces of evil can never again hurt you in such a fashion. But I am here to tell you, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, that the greater you become, the more evil will find you, and the more hurt you will feel. Let me tell you, my boy; I have been the target of dark and evil witches and wizards for longer than you have been alive. When you shine like a beacon for the entire world to see, it brings the darkness to you like a well-cast Accio spell. Nevertheless, Albus, while you try to become a great wizard you are becoming increasingly frustrated when you feel like you are not achieving anything.'
Albus could not believe that his father could see him so well, with such profound and wise understanding. He was filled with another wave of respect for this amazing man. It seemed appropriate for him to speak at this point, so he did.
'It is simply that I do not feel like I am making any progress, father,' Albus said. 'You deceive me at every turn with your spells. You use Legilimency to delve deep into my mind and I am unable to use it in return, for your Occlumency is too powerful for me. I feel hopeless.'
'My son,' Archaeon said, pulling Albus even further into his embrace. 'You forget that I am one of the world's most powerful wizards, if I may lose the modesty for a moment. Part of the reason why I continue to defeat you is because you do not concentrate entirely on the task at hand, but most of the reason is that I am simply too strong for you. I do, however, have the benefit of being able to measure you against myself. Take my word for it, Albus Dumbledore; you have made significant gains this summer. I assure you, that with devoted practice at school this year, you will learn to perform both Legilimency and Occlumency before the year is out.'
Albus permitted himself a smile for the first time in weeks. He felt all the resentment of the past weeks dropping away. Even the thought of Victoria's death seemed a little less painful in that moment, but he was reminded that it was ever present in his thoughts.
'Father, how am I to forget about Victoria?' Albus asked sincerely. 'I know I can never forget her completely, but if I am to move on, then I have to stop feeling this way all the time.'
'It is not easy,' Archaeon admitted, 'and I am no expert in matters of the heart such as this one. That is why I recommended that you take the subjects of Divination and Care of Magical Creatures this year. Both will give you some respite from the darkness in your heart. However, it remains for you to make that step yourself. At some point you must say to yourself that Victoria is gone, she is never coming back, and you must simply move on.'
Albus had no answer for this, but he knew his father was right. It had actually taken little convincing to get Albus to take Care of Magical Creatures. He had met the teacher of this subject in his second year. Professor Equus, also nicknamed the Horse Man, was an ancient human being who existed as a young and immortal horse when not in human form. He was older than almost anything Albus had ever heard of, and he was keen to learn from this source of immense and timeless wisdom. Divination had been another matter, and Albus had favoured the study of Arithmancy. When Archaeon had informed Albus that Arithmancy was nothing more than Divination masquerading as a proper art, Albus had relented and gone with the subject taught by the celebrated Seer, Cassandra Trelawney.
'Come now, it is time you went inside and prepared for dinner,' Archaeon said. 'Your mother will not be impressed if you attend tonight's meal with dirt all over your arms and legs.'
Albus happily went indoors to take a hot bath drawn for him by the Dumbledore's house elf, Nibs. He allowed himself to feel excited at the prospect of tonight's dinner. The Dumbledore's had invited the Jones family over to celebrate all the good news that had just recently arrived in the mail. Their oldest son, Thomas was, of course, the new Head Prefect of Hogwarts after his triumph in the Triwizard Tournament. That; and he continued to act as Gryffindor's Quidditch Captain. Albus was faintly aware of a promise Thomas had made about making him Seeker in his third year, and he wanted to drop that into conversation tonight in the hope that Thomas remembered. In addition, the second brother Gareth had been appointed a Prefect. Gareth was a Ravenclaw going into his fifth year. Albus' own brother Aberforth had not been made a Prefect, but that was no surprise given that Aberforth was one of the school's leading pranksters. Albus was actually the school's premier prankster, being the founder and leader of a Gryffindor organization known as the Guardians of Gryffindor, of Justice and Victory, Defenders of Truth and Pirates of Points Undeserved, or more commonly, the Pirates. However, this brought more painful thoughts to mind, because the Pirates had lost one of their number; in Victoria Moody.
The Dumbledore family had cause to celebrate because Albus had returned some excellent examination results despite the grief that had threatened to derail him. He had narrowly fended off Ravenclaw's Jenning Ranger for first place among the second years. Furthermore, Aberforth had exceeded his parents' expectations by passing everything and winning a place in fifth year, where he would be sitting his OWL qualifications. Needless to say, the Joneses and the Dumbledores had plenty to celebrate, and it promised to be a pleasant dinner.
So it was with the lightest spirits Albus had felt in months that he welcomed his blonde, blue-eyed friends the Jones brothers into their mansion that evening. Aberforth wore a glint in his eye that suggested he planned to spike all four adults' drinks with Firewhisky, as he had done one memorable Christmas. Thomas was looking mighty formal in a dress robe; and the titles of Triwizard Champion and Head Prefect of Hogwarts seemed to have given him an added aura. For once, Albus felt intimidated by this tall and handsome young man. Gareth, too, had grown during the summer. He quickly ingratiated himself with Aberforth and the pair went to the kitchen to enact their mischief. Thomas sat down with the adults to discuss matters that went above Albus' head, so he was left in the company of Davey, the youngest of the Joneses. Davey was in Albus' year, in Hufflepuff. He had always been a slightly shy boy, but now that he was thirteen and starting to grow tall, like his brothers, his confidence had risen. He regaled Albus with enthusiastic tales about the seaside adventures he and his family and been on.
Albus liked Davey, but did not consider them very close friends. He realised that he missed his best friend, Mars McGonagal, as he had done all summer. Normally Mars came home with Albus for the holidays, but after the scandal at the Temple of Ast, Mars' parents had taken an unusual level of interest in their son for the first time in his life, and promised him a rare holiday. Archaeon had actually expressed a concern that the McGonagals might have been demonstrating a newfound distrust of the Dumbledores. Archaeon had not won many friends at the Ministry for Magic by exposing the Germans, Russians, and indeed, some of the Ministry's own as complicit in the dark and evil plot to steal the Everlasting Flame. Albus really hoped that his friendship with Mars would not be tarnished by politics.
Dinner was served by Nibs, and true to Aberforth's obvious intentions, the four adults were soon giggling their heads off, as drunk as babies on butterbeer. Aberforth and Gareth laughed hysterically, before excusing themselves to go and secretly drink an entire bottle of Firewhisky together in Aberforth's room. With Davey looking decidedly sleepy after six helpings of blueberry tart, Albus finally had the ear of Thomas to himself.
'Er, Thomas,' Albus said, hardly believing that he could feel so nervous talking to the boy he helped win last year's Tournament, 'do you remember how you said that when Jonathan Glastonbury left Hogwarts you'd need a new Seeker for the Quidditch Team?'
Albus had spoken very rapidly. He had to take a deep breath. In the pause, Thomas grinned and ruffled Albus' hair very lightly.
'No, Albus, I have not forgotten my promise to you,' he said. 'Of course I plan to use your talents on a broomstick. I trust you have been taking good care of your Cleansweep Two with that Broom Polishing Kit I gave you.'
'Yes, sir,' Albus said.
'I am not "sir",' Thomas chuckled. 'I'm still indebted to you for the way you gave everything to help me win the Triwizard Tournament. And I still feel dreadful for the way it ended. Have you… are you…?'
Albus decided that it was time to put on a brave face and let bygones be bygones.
'Yes, I am starting to move past it,' Albus said. 'It has not been the best of summers, but I feel that maybe a new year at Hogwarts will help me to move forward. It would be especially helpful if I had something like Quidditch to keep me busy.'
'Of course,' Thomas said, sounding relieved to hear that Albus was okay. 'Naturally, I shall have to have trials, and other people will try out for the post of Seeker. But if you can perform as you have done in the past, you should be a shoe-in for the job. You have been practicing, I hope?'
'A little,' Albus said sheepishly. He had only managed a few forays into the field with Aberforth, but it had been difficult not having the Jones brothers around to practice with.
'Do not worry,' Thomas said, 'I am a tad out of practice myself. We have a week before school starts, so how about the five of us get together every afternoon and play a few games?'
'Yeah,' Davey added enthusiastically. 'I want to try out for Hufflepuff this year.'
'That would be great,' Albus said, 'but it depends on whether Gareth and Aberforth are able after they have downed a whole bottle of Firewhisky together.'
'They can fly drunk,' Thomas said whimsically. The three boys laughed in merriment.
So it was that the Jones brothers joined the Dumbledore brothers over the next week out in a field surrounded by tall trees, hidden from the curious eyes of muggles. They engaged in several thrilling games of Quidditch, and Albus soon regained the confidence he'd had on broomstick in his first year at Hogwarts. Then, he'd helped Gryffindor gain a memorable victory over their vicious rivals in Slytherin. Now, he hoped he could become fit enough and fast enough to hold down a permanent place on the Gryffindor team. Seekers were normally small and compact, and the longer Albus' legs and arms grew, the less likely he'd be able to be a successful Seeker. So Albus knew that this could be his last year as a Seeker, and made every effort to practice hard with Aberforth and the Joneses.
And for the first time since Victoria Moody had died in the Temple of Ast almost three months prior, Albus started to feel like a whole person again. It was a heady feeling, using his facial muscles to smile again and feeling happy inside. It also happened that Albus stopped waking up in the middle of the night sweating and remembering the moment Jannes Grundelwald had said 'Avada Kedavra' and sent Victoria Moody's body crashing to the floor. The dark memories were slowly leaving him. Albus was starting to get on with his life.
Author's Note: And thus begins the much anticipated third story in Albus' time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I have literally received dozens of reviews requesting that I write all seven stories over the past months, and I cannot refuse when you all ask so nicely. I do hope you enjoy this latest instalment. Enjoy, read and review! Your loyal Grandson of Dumbledore.