I I I
Dumbledore was a man with almost no soul. Having chopped it up into thirteen separate pieces, he had less than eight percent of himself in each piece, and that wasn't a whole lot.
Actually it fell below the point at which it was viable, and he knew that going into it. Other Dark Lords before him had used horcruxes, and most of them had fallen over the ages, and by and large the Department of Mysteries had obtained their journals and research, even the notes of followers who'd made records of their master's deeds, in some cases. And Dumbledore, as head of every department that mattered, had already read those thoroughly before he'd even begun his own experiments in the field of immortality.
The first few careless horcrux creators did not even know how to control how much of their soul got sliced off during each horcrux creation ritual. The records of those early dark lords would seem to indicate that some would slice their soul in half each time, creating first a half-soul horcrux, then a quarter, then an eighth, after that becoming nonviable. As spells developed for determining how much got cut off each time it became slightly random, until the modern day when it was possible to slice off precise amounts.
Enough of this body of research existed so Dumbledore knew that a man who had less than ten percent of his original soul in him was a drooling vegetable, incapable of action. He also knew that a horcrux with less than ten percent of a soul in it was incapable of acting as a horcrux should. It would be unable to serve as an anchor to this mortal realm for the rest of that soul, and was, in fact, good for nothing but a paperweight.
That would make ten seem to be an ideal number for this branch of magic, nine soul fragments stuck in horcruxes, and one in the body. However souls were not pieces of rock crystal, static and immovable. They defined the very essence of life, and life is capable of change. Souls could be injured or healed of those injuries, but the actions of a Dark Lord were typically all injuries to his soul. So a wizard who divided his soul in ten, then hid nine of those away, thinking he'd achieved perfect immortality in this style, would find the one left in his body suffering the consequences of his actions and withering away like a piece of rotted fruit getting dehydrated in a basket.
Very soon he'd find that his ten percent soul was effectively seven percent, or even less, and become a drooling vegetable, incapable of action.
Slices of fruit were a good metaphor for souls, in this case. While whole it is stable, cut up in pieces it spoils quickly. That's what a large portion of the spells on a horcrux are designed to prevent. The casual student of the dark arts never imagined how much like an ICU patient a man with a horcrux was, all rigged about with rituals and devices for sustaining his splintered self.
But then again, although Dumbledore wouldn't know to make the reference, Darth Vader was very good proof of how scary a quadriplegic on a respirator could be. Just the fact that he was on life support didn't make him any less dangerous, provided that support was properly armored and secured and his crippling debilitations somehow compensated for.
Also Albus was a genius in many ways. He'd theorized that if soul slices could become effectively smaller, they could also become effectively larger. After all, if a soul could behave like a sponge shriveling up at it dried out, acting like a piece much smaller than it was, why couldn't that also work in reverse?
Having a phoenix was what helped him there, seeing as their song was good for the soul. He conducted experiments proving to himself that phoenix song, though miserable to those with horcruxes, would still artificially inflate the miserable, severed pieces of that man's soul.
It would be miserable, painful and weakening in the extreme while it happened, as phoenix song and evil people did not agree. But it would still expand an evil soul despite all that; and, viewed as a medical procedure, being miserable and painful yet good for you could almost be taken as the norm.
And so he had done so, carefully arranging controlled circumstances around his horcrux rituals so that once divided Fawkes would be there singing, with his brother to monitor, until the miserable shred of his soul, less than eight percent, swelled to where it was acting like slightly over fifteen percent.
Fifteen percent of a soul was almost generous for a horcrux. It was not only viable, it had a significant safety margin, and could be sustained at that level by the same rituals and devices already intended to support the fragments. It could not be further divided, but left him very functional indeed.
However Dumbledore was still a man with almost no soul, and despite what many would choose to believe that still had consequences. He was incapable of love, pity or genuine compassion. He simply didn't feel them and couldn't understand them. It was like trying to explain particle physics to an ape.
Thus his rather large reliance on dosed lemon drops to give him a bit of cheer - it might have been artificial, but that was all he was capable of. In point of fact, he used a rather large assortment of devices, amulets and potions to cancel out of worst effects of him being effectively soulless, with the final wrinkles in his performance evened out through having drama coaches to guide his actions. Ronald Weasley, despite having the emotional range of a teaspoon, still far outstripped the Headbastard's ability in this department.
In truth, Dumbledore was only able to cast a patronus due to a magical artifact he'd crafted long ago. Nor was that the only amulet he had patching his up his inabilities to do acts a man without a soul could no longer do.
And yet it was not perfect. It has often been said of those unable to enjoy art or music that they "have no soul" and it turned out this had a basis in actual fact. Albus was unable to appreciate any form of art. At best he could smile and nod along, all uncomprehending; but it was like he was colorblind to any kind of beauty - it was the same as ugliness to him, he simply couldn't tell the difference. So those start of term feasts where students all sang the Hogwarts song to tunes of their own choosing, ending up in a great big tuneless mass, was the same as fine orchestra to him. If asked, he would be unable to tell it from the finest performances of great professional ensembles like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Name the field of your choice, painting, dancing, sculpture, song, and he'd be unable to tell any difference between the most accomplished professionals and the lamest amateurs, new or old, classical or modern. Dumbledore was "fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing" and couldn't comprehend the difference between a joke about a man tripped tying his shoelaces or one where a man who was being raped and murdered had his eyeballs popped and his attackers drank the fluid flowing down his face - and he'd laugh at both of them, but only the second would he find funny.
Dumbledore listed a love of chamber music on his chocolate frog card as a distraction, a bluff, a way to draw attention away from the fact that he couldn't tell fine opera from a mass of singing, tone-deaf drunks.
To him, paint vomited onto a page was indistinguishable from fine art. He literally could not tell any difference in aesthetics between a three year old's splashing about in an unattended paint can and the works of Old Masters.
If someone were to spread plaster over a pile of elephant dung and contrast it one of the great Greek sculptures, then ask Albus for comment, he'd be completely unable to pick out which one was superior.
(And, in that, perhaps he shared a great deal in common with modern artists. Certainly a great deal with modern art critics.)
He could pick Hagrid out of a line of beauty pageant winners, just as he could tell an elephant from elephant dung, but he couldn't tell you which one was prettier in either case. He COULD NOT comprehend that basic, fundamental difference! Beauty was a language of the soul, and he no longer had one of those, so he could no longer speak it and its message was gibberish to him.
To him, Halloween decorations would be far more authentic and cheerful if they used real bodies of tortured students instead of pumpkins, and flayed someone alive at the Great Feast. And, to keep him from doing exactly that, he'd needed drama coaches telling him it was a bad idea, because he'd never come to that conclusion himself.
Tortured screams held information content which he could understand, and thus preferred to fine orchestra, which did not. Beauty was a facet of life that was completely incomprehensible to anyone with such a drastically reduced soul. Fortunately for him damage to the soul came from a wide number of dark activities and thus there were enough people with withered souls in this world that he was far from alone in this handicap - and enough of those held posts in government that he fit right in.
Dumbledore was also careful to avoid mirrors, having eliminated the ones that once hung as vampire deterrent around the halls of Hogwarts and other places he'd frequented, because the original explanation for vampires having no reflection was they had no soul, and he was not far removed from that state himself. Any reflection he cast was thin and wispy, as reduced as his soul was, and frankly he didn't enjoy other people having that information, as it drew out curiosity and led to all sorts of awkward situations as he'd eventually have to kill them for asking uncomfortable questions.
The only exception seemed to be the Mirror of Erised, but the magic of that device was based entirely around something else. It even stated on its frame that it showed not the reflection, but your desires. One of the few things Albus still desired was a way to disguise his lack of a normal reflection, as it was one of the few telltales that he wasn't just a kindly old grandfather.
Another weakness of having virtually no soul is a tendency to lose all ability to relate to others on a personal basis. To someone without a whole soul, other people are merely objects, unworthy of consideration. Social skills rot when empathy is gone. Without his drama coaching, Dumbledore would swiftly make Snape seem warm, tender and caring.
And, unluckily for him, he'd lost his drama coaches.
Incidentally, this lack of feeling would have rendered him completely incapable of casting a great many spells if it were not for the fact that he'd foreseen that very difficulty beforehand, having read of it in those notes of those who had performed horcrux rituals before him, and crafted amulets containing the necessary feelings for him to draw on - an amulet his good friend Severus had asked for a copy of so he could cast those spells too.
A patronus was, after all, quite necessary to cast from time to time. Nor was that the only example. But it had given him his start. It was truly quite simple to create, he'd just caught an example of someone else's patronus in crystal, much like a fly caught in amber, and used that as his base to spark the spell off of instead of a happy memory of his own. The missing patronus was never noticed as, being a spell, it could simply be cast over again.
Severus had, of course, insisted that he get Lily's patronus this way, and that had been easily arranged. However, what with how frequently they'd been robbed of late it should not be surprising that both men lost those amulets - and their patronus casting ability with them.
But some truly odd things came from the fact that one of those amulets fell into the hands of the Weasley Twins. Actually, rather a lot of Harry's spoils of war had been finding their way that direction, as Dumbledore had been busy accumulating power and obscure trinkets over most of his lifetime, and it was as much as the Fairy Champions could do to steal most of it. They'd had no time to identify all they'd taken, much less analyze and inspect it to learn what those various oddball tidbits did.
So increasingly they'd been dumping all of that onto the Weasley Twins.
As much as they'd begun to rely on that duo for, it'd also become inevitable that they needed to give the twins more time to do all the trio of champions were requiring of them, so the twins had also gotten their own time turner - after being brought up to speed on all of the Headmaster's wickedness.
The twins took that information with surprising aplomb. They did, however, get tremendously excited by the possibilities their new benefactors were presenting (along with boxes of the Headbastard's stuff).
Hermione had been intending to put Fred and George on the same three-day program the fairy champions were pursuing, but that quickly expanded to a week for every day. It hadn't started that way, but it was just too beautiful an opportunity for those pranksters to resist!
They needed the time. For one thing, that meant they always had a perfect alibi when performing pranks around the school (and so much better than just using Percy's badge and polyjuicing as him to perform their mischief).
But that was far from their only responsibility. The twins were so busy their pranks at school had fallen off to practically nothing. And really, what good was it to prank the Hufflepuff table at breakfast when you could instead prank their parents at home and get paid five galleons a head to do it?
The pattern Hermione had suggested for them to pursue was thus: one day for pure research, studying new and old things, designing new pranks as well as trying to understand all of what they'd pulled out of Dumbledore's vaults, one day for pranking the residents of their new towns so as to teach them to use their security features, and one day for normal schoolwork, leading the private student study club Harry had arranged and taking care of all of their classes and coursework, hopefully to a better standard than before.
Well, that was all tremendously fun to do, so the twins wanted more of it! So now, in addition to a day for normal school they had taken on additional days of study, pranking and researching, starting out with her three day schedule, then expanding on it.
In fact, they doubled it, then replaced the extra school day with more study on new pranks and those nifty artifacts, then decided they needed two of those, so gave themselves two days of study for every day of pranking, and ran through that three day schedule twice before returning to a normal one at school. Although with all of the ingredients to be gathered, shopping to be done and pranks performed to keep up with that level of activity, one muggle car turned into a large, furry catbus was getting to be hardly enough to cover all their needs for transportation!
Although luckily they did have the newly returned Weasley Manor (orange as it was, it was spacious) to use for their workshops away from school. And they found soon after going into this the days days did tend to run together a bit, as pranking gave them experience and new ideas that had to be studied and researched, while any fascinating thing the twins turned up looking into Dumbledore's toys had to be immediately applied to new designs for pranks!
For example, that very stone amulet that allowed the soulless Dumbledore to cast a patronus charm (in spite of having fewer light and happy feelings than your average bug did stock investments on Wall Street). Pulling that object out from the tumbled junk that was all prizes seized from Dumbledore, they did some tests and discovered what he'd done: basically caught a Patronus charm in amber, freezing the protector spirit in place to use as a source of emotions so he could cast his own despite having virtually no soul.
Well, wasn't a magic broom more or less a levitation charm caught in place? A patronus frozen in crystal was an entirely new application of magic!
Oh, the twins could do something with THAT! In fact, they did several things with that concept. The very first was design a lantern whose crystal faces for amplifying the light of the small fire inside were all patronus stones, and they'd no sooner done so than they'd discovered the light it cast was such as to cause pain to ghosts, dementors, and other such things.
Well, the Headmaster used ghosts, dementors, and other such things. So, the idea was if every house in Godric's Hollow used these as porch lamps, you wouldn't have to worry about those coming to call. Take that a step further and use them as street lamps, and suddenly entire categories of magical pests would not be able to bear coming by your towns to visit!
The twins were just testing out the first of these new street lamps when the initial assault on Godric's Hollow came. And, while the dwarves did not leave much, they did learn these lamps caused vampires to smoke real good too, which led to the second step of innovation: those giant crosses being built into the houses and walls of the new cities could be modified so they were inset and faced with more clear patronus stones, then backlit by fires within. The theory was these giant crosses would then cast out beams of light that would cause injury even to blind vampires unable to even see crosses.
Of course, the people having these ideas were the Weasley Twins, not able to be completely serious to save their lives. So this had to be tried out in prank items as well. One item, a patronus candy made upon finding that a patronus could be caught in all sorts of crystals, including sugar crystals, was simply one made into hard candies of various looks and flavors. It was an okay prank as the burst of positive emotions came on as quite surprising, so it had some shock value, but while surprising it wasn't particularly embarrassing or scary or anything. So its prank value was moderate at best.
They also tried a variant of the popular Jack-In-The-Box concept, working crystals into boxes and other containers so that when opened they broke and released a fully corporeal patronus to leap out and startle one. But again, the positive emotional effect ruined most of the joke, as the person being 'pranked' felt too good about the experience for it to count.
Still, they stocked both items on their shelves for the more mild audience. They also played around with incorporating patronus crystals into their fake wands, and got one to cast patronus charms. It only cast patronus charms, and cast them no matter what spell the wizard was trying to use, even if he didn't know how to cast a patronus, so the perplexity involved classified it as funny enough to stock on their shelves of their brand new shop as well.
However, when dropping by Sirius Black got ahold of some of these items and from this second, the patronus in a box, he created a new personal defense item: patronus cufflinks and collar buttons. Despite having a changed past wherein he'd never gone to Azkaban, he still knew what would've occurred to him, so he had reason to dislike dementors and so made these as a sort of last-ditch defense. And he made them like a muggle fire sprinkler system in that they could be activated on purpose, or they would go off automatically if things they'd work against got too near; so even if a wizard were out on holiday, uncovered by any other defenses, these would still activate to serve as a last ditch effort to drive off certain types of attacking dark creatures.
The invention went rather well with another of the twin's prank items: the shielding hat. At first the twins had created these as a joke item: Prank your friends by letting them cast jinxes at you that don't strike target, because you've got a shield up without even drawing your wand. But in a climate of war, and given the fact that very few witches or wizards were competent enough to cast their own shielding charm, these became a vital war material, as useful as body armor was to troops (because, in a way, that's what it was). So research got curtailed as they found themselves producing this item for everyone in all of Harry's towns, some fifteen thousand people.
Still, they weren't about to complain. Working on this made the twins a boatload of money, and everyone who got one felt much safer.
Accumulate enough items like that, and suddenly your average witch or wizard could actually be worth something in a fight. More than a few of these magical refugees would also start to pack a patronus wand as a back up, because they couldn't cast that vital defensive spell without one, and the dark side was known to use those beasts to devour their enemies.
These people were also leaping into the newly established adult education programs, often overcoming years of neglect on disused skills trying to hone them up to where they could defend themselves. Every witch or wizard had to take Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, only most had never thought of those subjects again once the tests had been taken.
Now circumstances had forced them to rediscover those lost skills, as all of a sudden knowing curses and hexes, shields and the specific habits of dark creatures could literally save their lives!
This was how you truly help people: help them to help themselves. So even working like slaves to produce these items, of which it would be ages before they had anywhere close to enough (and which were being treated as vital war materials), the twins felt better and more useful than ever.
That's because they were.
Actually, for all of his well-intended generosity in those Boy-Who-Lived books, the real Harry had come much closer to the true meaning of charity with these towns he was building. Rather than pouring coins on a person who then promises to do good with them, after deducting what it takes to pay for his organization's expenses, Harry had applied his wealth toward fixing problems and bettering people's lives.
Legally, to qualify as a charitable organization only required that five percent of its income be spent on helping the needy. And very few spent more than required. The few who directed as much as ten percent of their income to helping those in distress boasted over how twice as much of offerings given to them got spent on the poor and helpless as compared to their major competitors. And, of course, none of those numbers accounted for the odd five hundred billion or so lost out of this or that disaster relief.
Where did it go? Gosh. I have no idea. Just give us more to make up the difference. After all, there are suffering people in need out there.
Add to that the fact that charitable organizations are tax-exempt, and they became the favorite tool of criminal characters and corrupt politicians to filter their ill-gotten gains through. Give it all to charity - but own the charity so you've nicely dodged all of those little rules about taxes and things. Then when the charity you own decides as its latest project to build you a lavish town house and buy you a luxury car, well, are you going to complain?
Not if you don't think you are going to get caught. Most of those bribes to Minister Fudge were just Lucius or some other wealthy pureblood making large donations to his favorite charity, which he happened to own and be the sole employee of, so no one else was around to question why the only charity that organization did was to buy things for their beloved Cornelius Fudge.
Only the best, naturally. Paying for his country club membership was one of the most charitable things that organization ever did! Couldn't you see how this benefited the needy?
He did build himself a lavish park that a homeless person had slept in once. But most of the time the guards that charity paid for kept all of that riffraff out. Can't have them spoiling our environment, and all of that.
Behavior like this was not an aberration, it was sadly common even among muggle aid organizations. That was just one of the ways the world worked. No, charity was a big business that supported mainly itself, not the poor. So Harry's construction of these towns and arranging for adult education had accomplished more good than all of the magical charities together had done over the past hundred years or so, and done it for less cost, as well.
I I I
In a house in Godric's Hollow, a crystal egg hatched.
In the desperate press of cascading emergencies, everyone had forgotten about this formerly humble family dwelling. But it long predated the present form of the town. It had, in fact, been the seat of the Dumbledore family for generations. In a bedroom on the ground floor next to the kitchen was still a collection of girls toys that predated Ariana's beating to brain damage, and the clothes she wore prior to her death still hung in that closet.
Aberforth even kept spare sets of clothes in his old bedroom there, just in case he should ever be ordered back to monitor processes or use it as a safehouse. Albus' old room was also unchanged, kept as a memorial to his happy, heady days with Grindelwald the last time he'd stayed there.
It was in the basement that the worst of the changes had been made. What had formerly been a root cellar and cold room for storing supplies the family might need, keeping food fresh through the summer (with the help of a few well chosen charms) had been reworked entirely into a mad wizard's lab, and the centerpiece of the new design was an egg-shaped coffin whose lid had just cracked open, spilling pungent smelling steam throughout the chamber.
A hand emerged and grasped an edge, then a figure arose, stepping out of the crystal egg and reaching for a robe laid over a handy surface. There was no mirror in that room, as the designer knew he cast less than eight percent of a reflection. Instead the figure felt his own smooth, unlined face, took up a familiar elder wand from the same convenient surface and cast several medical charms to ascertain his condition.
Perfect, as expected.
I I I
Once more we have a Dumbledore in the fray, appearing while things are hot for his enemies this time.