Dumbledore's Plan

1st of August, 1944

Albus Dumbledore walked towards the staff room, but stopped before he could open the door. He winced with pain and raised a hand to his chest. After a few moments, Dumbledore took a deep breath and opened the door, managing to smile as he entered.

"Good morning Headmaster," said Dumbledore to the wizard in the red armchair.

The usually cheerful Headmaster Dippet grunted and gave Dumbledore a nod. Dumbledore looked at the gray hair wizard over his half-moon spectacles.

"Is something the matter Armando?" asked Dumbledore gently.

Dippet nodded and buried his face in his hands.

"Galatea is retiring," he muttered, "and I am short a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

Dumbledore gave Dippet a sympathetic look. Good teachers were hard to find.

"Professor Merrythought has been here for quite a while," he said. "In fact, I think that she even taught me at some point."

Dumbledore sat down in an armchair opposite Dippet but was unable to hide another wince as he did so. Dippet raised his head from his hands and looked at Dumbledore in alarm.

"Are you alright Albus?" asked a very worried Dippet. "Please don't retire…I don't think I can handle it."

Dumbledore shook his head

"This is merely the result of one of my wanderings going a little foul…nothing serious," he said lightly. "I have no intention of retiring. I am not nearly as elderly as Galatea yet."

When Dippet was sure Dumbledore was all right, he looked over at an old, moth-eaten, green armchair in the corner of the staff with regret. The chair was just as old as its owner and the staff room seemed bare and boring without Professor Merrythought's quirky voice bouncing around the walls. Dippet hauled himself out of his own chair and started to pace around the staff room.

"I know she's not getting any younger," said Dippet exasperatedly. "But for Merlin's sake…term is going to start soon and I don't have a replacement!"

Dumbledore stroked his beard and frowned thoughtfully.

"I think I can help you-"

Dippet stopped pacing abruptly and starred at Dumbledore in alarm.

"Not your brother again!" cried Dippet before he could stop himself.

Dippet mumbled something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like the word 'goat'. Dumbledore winced again but this time at the memory of when his brother took the position of substitute teacher for a day.

"Ah…I did not have Aberforth in mind," said Dumbledore with a small grimace. "I do not believe he took to teaching very well."

Dippet continued pacing and sighed with relief.

"Who do you have in mind?"

Dippet's question was met by silence. He frowned at Dumbledore. He was fidgeting his out-putter. Dumbledore seemed uncharacteristically uncertain…and a little guilty?

"Albus?" he said a little louder. "Who do you have in mind?"

Dumbledore took a deep breath before he looked up and spoke to Dippet.

"I am not certain," said Dumbledore hesitantly, "but I think I have found a suitable replacement. Do you remember Miss Minerva McGonagall… one of the Gryffindor prefects?"

Dippet stopped again and his jaw dropped. Judging by the look on his face he remembered Minerva McGonagall very clearly.

"A dropout?" he cried incredulously. "Albus, you can't be serious!"

"She's a very capable witch," said Dumbledore with a sigh.

Dippet made a small noise in his throat and ran his finger's through his graying hair.

"Albus, she is only a year older than the seventh years," he said whilst shaking his head. "I do not think the boys will be paying much attention if…well…"

Dippet trailed off and gave Dumbledore a meaningful look. Dumbledore nodded his head in agreement.

"I will take the seventh classes if that is what you're concerned about," he said.

Dippet bit his lip as though struggling to come up with a reason not to hire Minerva. After at least a minute, he looked up at Dumbledore in resignation. There was simply no other choice.

"When can she start?" he said lamely.

Dumbledore looked away from Dippet, uncertainty etched on his features once more. It made Dippet very nervous when he did this. Dumbledore had always been firm and confident in his decisions and Dumbledore was Dippet's right-hand man. If he was unsure about something…then Dippet was in trouble.

"I am yet to…" Dumbledore swallowed and his hand went to his chest again. "…convince her to take the post."

Dippet slumped into his chair and rubbed his temples with his hands.

"I do hope you can convince her in time Albus…" muttered Dippet.

When Dippet looked at Dumbledore again he saw something other than uncertainly in the Transfiguration teacher's face. For the first time, Dippet realized that there was no twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes and that Dumbledore had not sincerely smiled in weeks. Dippet had never seen Dumbledore this unhappy in years.

"So do I," said Dumbledore gravely. "So do I."

McGonagall had spent hours talking and her voice was a little hoarse. The candle that hovered above their heads was barely a stub and was producing only a very faint light. McGonagall produced an orb of light from her wand and now could see Snape very clearly. He seemed to have gotten over his initial shock and was frowning at her.

"Dumbledore was still injured from your curse at the start of the uprising?" he asked, his frown deepening.

McGonagall nodded, avoiding Snape's eyes.

"He still has…I mean…He still had the scar," whispered McGonagall.

Snape raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"It takes an exceptionally powerful cruciatus curse to leave a scar," said Snape as he gave McGonagall a very calculating look.

McGonagall grimaced.

"Surely there are Death Eaters who are more than able?" she asked coldly.

Snape shook his head.

"None that I know of," said Snape. "I was under the impression that only the Dark Lord could make the curse that powerful."

McGonagall let out a small and very forced laugh. Snape recognized it as the same laugh he had given Dumbledore when the headmaster had praised him for the work one of his more sinister potions.

"Then I guess I have a knack for dark magic," said McGonagall. "Grindelwald certainly thought so."