Albus Dumbledore had not given much thought to what would happen if – or really, if he were honest with himself, when – he survived a confrontation with Gellert Grindlewald. If he had, he probably would have expected something very similar to what actually happened. Mass celebrations by wizards throughout Europe; accolades for his 'skill' and 'bravery'; more requests to join the Ministry, which he would pleasantly decline. The strangest and yet least surprising part was the constant attention, congratulations and questions, and seeing his face on the front page of the Daily Prophet for weeks on end. Through it all he would smile and respond with kind words and grand speeches – at times descriptive, at others philosophical, but always grand. Playing his part as the man who was now without a doubt one of the greatest wizards who had ever lived.
Not that he minded that; whatever his initial misgivings, Albus had come to accept his place as a leader. But it was a strange and bittersweet experience all the same to say the things he did to the public at a time when what he really wanted was to be alone, to take the time to think and feel all the things he couldn't talk about. Before the battle he had felt only guilt, and after the fact he felt little better. He had performed a legendary deed, saving countless people from Gellert's tyranny. Everything he said about Grindlewald and the duel was true; Albus never lied. But that act of virtue didn't ease the weight of all the things that went unsaid, and that no matter how many people he saved, he would always remember more clearly the ones he betrayed.
The guilt was something that he couldn't speak about. He would have anticipated that. Nobody was interested in it, so he kept it close, and secret. Guilt for the ones Gellert killed when Albus was still too scared to act, and for Ariana. Guilt, too, for Aberforth, who lived. There were times, wandering the castle at night in search of a toilet, when defeating the Dark Wizard Grindlewald felt like little more than the betrayal of yet another loved one.
The thing that Albus would have expected and looked forward to most of all, when he stood over Gellert – still beautiful even as he had aged, still brilliant, laughing up at Albus who stood victorious over him with the Elder Wand in his hand and wondered why it didn't feel like a victory - what he would have looked forward to the most was returning to Hogwarts and getting away from all the fuss. He particularly looked forward to the upcoming summer holidays and having plenty of time alone, left to his own guilt.
What he never would have expected was that he would end up spending the summer of 1946 in a London apartment with an American Muggle.
Albus first met Jack on the road outside the Leaky Cauldron. It was not a place that he visited often; London was a long way from Hogwarts, and he rarely had much cause to venture so far, especially with the Hog's Head or the Three Broomsticks just a short walk away. But it was the second week of the summer holidays and by now he had spent rather a long time holed up in the school; teaching, escaping from the world and, he had to admit, a lot of time moping about and punishing himself. When an owl arrived from good old Elphias Doge asking him to come to London for to 'catch up', it seemed a timely opportunity to stretch his legs a little.
Reunions with Elphias were always a little odd. Indeed, their friendship had always been a little odd in itself, as many people had been saying ever since their days at Hogwarts – why would a genius like Albus Dumbledore confide in a dimwit like Elphias Doge? In some ways, they were right. He had craved more intellectual company, and maybe that was even part of his disastrous relationship with Gellert Grindlewald. But his relationship with Elphias had never been insincere; most of Albus' happiest memories were of schooldays with Elphias, filled with fun and games and relaxing, simple pastimes when he didn't have to think. There was probably nobody who was better at cheering Albus up, and making him forget. Yet now the trouble was just that – Elphias was too eager to forget, and to ignore that which made him uncomfortable. He hardly wanted to know about how guilty Albus felt about how he had dealt with Grindlewald; he thought only of the glory of the victory. He was no longer someone Albus could confide in, determined as he was to whitewash Albus' past into happy, innocent memories. Even Mrs. Doge was more interesting to talk to than her husband, but it seemed wrong for Albus to confide in her the things he couldn't say to Elphias. There had been enough awkwardness between the three of them already in those days spent lazing about and chatting over tea and scones, reminiscing about the old days while both men carefully avoided getting too close to one another lest they also remember their less innocent childhood pastimes, the hurried adolescent fumbling, snatched moments of intimacy in those stolen moments in hidden rooms or in the dormitory when everyone else was out at a Quidditch match.
In the end, they simply had nothing left to say to one another - or at the least, Albus had nothing to say that Elphias wanted to hear - and he found himself looking for excuses to return to Hogwarts before his stay was supposed to end. One muggy Wednesday evening he finally announced to Elphias that he must return to Hogwarts at once, and to his relief Elphias understood, or at least accepted it, immediately, with no further explanation required. So accepting, in fact, that Albus found his bags packed and on the doorstep within the hour, somewhat earlier than he would have expected.
That was how Albus Dumbledore found himself on a London street holding a large carpet bag. He looked thoughtfully at the evening sky; well after tea-time, and yet the sun was only barely inching towards the horizon. He could easily Apparate straight back to Hogsmeade this moment, and be back in his office in twenty minutes. But a stuffy castle suddenly seemed far less appealing than the fresh, warm evening breeze ruffling his light summer robes, and after all, he was in London, a city with far more stories to tell right now than the empty school castle or the drowsy magical village did. It was time he sought out some different company. As he cast a few quick charms to make himself unnoticeable to the Muggles and made the familiar turn on the spot, he felt more adventurous than he had in many, many years.
For safety's sake, he had Apparated to an alleyway a few doors down from the Leaky Cauldron on the opposite side of the road, but he needn't have worried about being seen; the street seemed to be deserted. He could have Apparated straight into Diagon Alley, of course, but that would have been so much less fun, and he always found it interesting to do anything at all that entailed the possibility of meeting Muggles. Feeling both pleased with himself and disappointed to find the street empty, Dumbledore removed the charms he had made to disguise himself, strode confidently out of the alley and walked straight into a man who was wearing a heavy military coat and suspenders.
"Damn. Sorry about that," said the other man, stumbling back a step or two, and looked over his shoulder towards the Leaky Cauldron very quickly before turning his attention back to Dumbledore. An American, Dumbledore noted, not that it was of any importance.
"The fault was all mine," Albus replied, mildly. He was somewhat put off by the way the man kept jerking his head to look across the road. "I ought to have looked before rushing out so eagerly – though I must say I did not expect to find anyone here. Rather unusual for people to be rushing up and down the streets at London at this time of night."
At the word 'unusual', the other man stopped whipping his head around and fixed Albus with a sceptical stare and a raised eyebrow. His gaze ranged from Albus' exceptionally long hair and beard – still red, but fading and starting to show a few grey hairs – to his billowy purple summer robes, to his high-heeled boots, and cracked a smile at the last of them. "I'm unusual?"
"You are wearing a heavy coat on a rather warm night."
The man burst out laughing. "Right you are. It is a bit hot for all this," he said, slipping out of the coat and handing it to Albus. "Mind taking care of it for a moment?"
Albus took the coat and watched as the man threw another quick glance in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron and then began dashing back and forth short distances along the road, occasionally stopping and taking a few steps onto the road, then quickly hopping back again. It wasn't often that Albus Dumbledore felt defeated by bizarre circumstances, but this was one occasion on which he was rather perplexed.
"I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing?" the man said at one point as he jogged past the wizard.
"It had crossed my mind, yes."
"Well, you see," he said, stopping for a moment to catch his breath, "There's something hidden on the other side of the road."
"You probably think I'm mad for running up and down like this, but I'm trying to catch sight of it. I'm not talking about money hidden in a trashcan, mind you, I mean something BIG is over there. Maybe as big as a building. And it's cloaked – I can see something, or sense it, just flashes of it, out of the corners of my eyes, so I keep trying to… catch it." He looked down briefly at a chunky device strapped to his left wrist, tapped it, and then gestured to it. "I could just be imagining it, but there was an energy signature that turned up on my radar. Though it might just be an error. I haven't met anyone who could repair this hunk of junk in years. Anyway, I keep seeing things myself, but the question is what. Or rather how it's hidden. It's definitely not a standard cloaking device, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to get sight of it at all, but it's too strong for an ordinary perception filter. The logical answer is a Somebody Else's Problem field, but that seems highly unlikely since that technology won't be invented for…"
He trailed off in a manner that suggested that he wasn't supposed to be divulging such information and that he just became aware that what he was saying sounded like complete nonsense. Even though he didn't understand half of it, though, Albus knew that it wasn't total gibberish – it was clear that this man was looking for the Leaky Cauldron, even if he didn't know what it was. What didn't make sense was the fact that this man could partly sense the presence of the pub. If he were a wizard, he should be able to see it clearly, and if he were a Muggle, he shouldn't be able to see a thing.
"Are you by any chance a wizard?" Albus asked, politely, unsure of how it was best to broach this subject.
"At what?" he replied, with a smirk.
"Magic, of course. What else do wizards do?"
"Depends what you mean by 'magic'," the man said, with a sly grin, "But if you're talking about casting spells and mixing potions, I'm sure they do a hell of a lot more than just that. Magic or no, it'd be a pretty damn boring life otherwise."
"Then you're not…" Albus was unsure of where to go from here – this stranger, despite his oddities, didn't appear to be a wizard at all, and yet he could hardly just leave him here snooping around a wizarding area.
"No, I'm not a wizard," he said, stepping out onto the road again for a moment, and then turning around with arms outspread. "I'm nothing more or less than Captain Jack Harkness. And who, might I ask, are you?"
But Albus Dumbledore was speechless as he realised, belatedly, that even on a quiet night like this, Jack really should have looked before he stepped out onto the road and he definitely should have heard the car in time to get out of the way. He did hear it; he turned to look as it careened around the corner and he should have had time to avoid it. And yet all he did was look at for a moment, smile, and then open his mouth to laugh.
The driver didn't stop and left behind a crumpled heap of Jack on the ground. When Albus was finally jerked out of his shock he dashed onto the road to roll Jack's body over and then reached to pull out his wand. Statute of secrecy be damned - this man was a mystery he was going to get to the bottom of, and if he had to break a law or two to keep him alive then so be it... no matter how futile it seemed when Jack was so still, too still, and perhaps he was already dead. Was he even breathing? Albus was frantic, reckless and too desperate to wait, lest any hesitation prove fatal, that he didn't dare to examine the body in the slightest. He just took the briefest glance, tried to ignore the growing sense of despair and raised his wand, only to have Jack suddenly grip him tightly as he opened his mouth and gasped for another breath.
Albus could only stare.
"Sorry to scare you," Jack said, with a grin, still panting a little. "I can't seem get out of the habit of showing off every now and again."
"Showing off what?" Albus demanded. "Courage? Do you believe getting hit by a car is brave, Captain?"
Jack ignored him and stared at his wand, which was still raised as though about to cast a spell. "What were you planning to do with that?"
Albus' realisation that he was still holding his wand lead to the realisation that he was still crouched over Jack in the middle of the road and he hastily stood up, taking a few steps backwards and brushing himself down. "I was about to heal you," he said, "After an accident like that…" He trailed off as Jack likewise picked himself up the ground and brushed himself up, apparently unharmed. "… You… you ought to have serious injuries. You ought to be dead."
"I was dead," Jack replied, "And at the same time I can't die. What do you make of that, Mister Wizard?"
Albus looked at him thoughtfully. In situations where a Muggle discovers or comes close to discovering information about the magical world, the Ministry would normally advise performing a Memory Charm and probably relocating the aforementioned Muggle for good measure. But there was no protocol for a Muggle like this. It would be such a waste to lose this man.
Besides, Albus had never been too fond of the Ministry.
"I believe I rudely neglected to introduce myself," he said, at last. "My name is Albus Dumbledore. I'd be most honoured if you'd allow me to buy you a drink."