/ insert standard disclaimer
A/N a little one-shot that grew from an idea of secret organizations that were like onions, one layer hidden behind other, with no knowledge how deep it will go; of lies and deception, and of how there must be also other people than Dumbledore who like to play their cards close to the vest
For Your Eyes Only
Dumbledore was sitting in his office at Hogwarts buried with paperwork. The last week of summer before the beginning of the term was always filled with tedious tasks like reading parents wishes about which house their offspring should be sorted, replying to them that the sorting was an ancient ritual that couldn't be tampered with. And then of course spending hours upon hours arguing with the damn hat that it would be beneficial to the school to keep the parents happy, as they were the ones that were footing the bill, and the upkeep of the millennia old castle wasn't exactly cheap.
And then there were the job of balancing the budget. On the income side there were the tuition fees, that allowed the most leeway. It was an ages old tradition that no two students paid the same amount of money for their education. The exact amount was calculated using complicated algorithms and tedious footwork and information gathering done by the Headmaster. Take for example Harry Potter, who was starting his Hogwarts career this year: he was an extremely wealthy individual, who didn't even know the extent of his wealth, and had absolutely no concept of how much an average student might pay for his schooling. So Dumbledore, like a good and loyal Headmaster he was, had charged his account at Gringots a sum that would cover the deficit caused by having all Weasley children at the castle at the same time.
The muggleborn students were a whole different cup of tea all together. There one had to take into consideration the wealth of the family, their willingness to pay for their children's education, and their openness to new concepts like a world of magic they had never heard anything about and the existence of they wouldn't be able to tell anyone. Some parents were simply deemed too unstable to even consider approaching with an offer of sending their children to Hogwarts. Luckily for the children accidental magic usually stopped happening sometime during the teens. Earlier, if they weren't particularly temperamental or had a strong grasp of logic, and thus didn't even want anything deemed unnatural to happen. I mean, who in their right mind would assume that simply wanting a, say, book to float from a shelf could actually yield results if they had no knowledge of magic?
Other matters that needed to be budgeted were cuts of profits from different shopkeepers from Diagon alley, like the vendor of pointed hats (that were mandatory, but no student actually wore those) or the bookshops and publishers. One particularly lucrative deal was made with the cauldron supplier: the pewter cauldrons required for the first years were practically guaranteed to melt over the open fire used for brewing potions, and thus a steady stream of replacements could be sold all around the year.
So this was the scene onto which a particularly unremarkable but still clearly strong, fast and well kept medium sized grey owl arrived carrying a letter for the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the Chief Warlock of Wizengamot, the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW, the holder of Order of the Merlin, First Class, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. The owl landed on Dumbledores desk after looking all around, seemingly taking into consideration every tiny detail of the richly furnished room filled to the brim with every kinds of whirling and whistling, sparkling trinkets but still being clearly unaffected by it all.
Dumbledore chuckled slightly for himself. Everything about this owl spoke clearly of its owners, as there was no mistaking that it belonged to the Unspeakables, a shady organization working deep underground of London in the Department of Mysteries of the Ministry of Magic. Dumbledore himself was of course knowledgeable of everything that was going all at the department, seeing that the highest, gamma-level security clearing for the archives of the department was part of the perks offered to the chairman of the Wizengamot.
'Hmm, what could it be that they want this time' Dumbledore thought as he reached for the letter knife he had received as a gift from an Aztec High Priest delegation that had visited England a few decades ago. It might have also been a ritual dagger used in human sacrifice, but that was not something Dumbledore wanted to think about.
The letter was short and to the point, and it was written in an artificial looking script, probably using a charmed quill:
Friday 4:30 pm, meeting room 4
Next Friday Dumbledore arrived to the Ministry of Magic using his personal floo connection from the Headmasters office. He was dressed in a flashy set of deep purple robes with silver and golden stars moving around, a pair of gold embroidered blue slippers he had owl ordered from a Persian manufacturer of charmed footwear, his standard issue half moon spectacles that had every magic detection charm ever developed and a pointed hat, that didn't seem to be at all flashy, but it too was clearly of the highest quality.
Dumbledore had long ago accepted the fact that he simply couldn't blend in into the background when in public, so he had adopted a style that made him worth noticing if the people noticed him anyway. And it's not like he used much money for his garde robe: his positions had all their personal expense accounts attached to them, and his fame meant that almost every vendor gave him good prices on the goods, just to be able to say that Dumbledore used their products. The slippers were the only part of his attire he would use regardless. At the age of over hundred and fifty years his feet got cold very easily, and a good pair charmed slippers were the best way to counteract it.
Dumbledore quickly crossed the atrium, smiled at the security guard who nodded in recognition (well, it would be a little odd if he hadn't recognized Dumbledore, seeing as the man had graduated from Hogwarts only few years ago), and went to the elevators. A quick ride down with no stops or other people he arrived to the Department of Mysteries. The departments magic recognized him and a few lights lighted up on the floor shoving him the way to where ever he was scheduled to be going.
Once Dumbeldore arrived the the right meeting room he was greeted by a middle aged man dressed in a grey muggle suit which suited him exceptionally well. Dumbledore had never seen the man before, but then he could see with the aid of his glasses that the man was wearing some extremely heavy glamours and recognition obscuring charms, in fact so much that Dumbledore couldn't even be sure if he truly was male or female.
"Good evening, Mr. Dumbledore" the man said, rising from his chair and offering his hand to Dumbledore. "You can call me R".
"Good evening" replied Dumbledore. This was something he had not seen before, and that was slightly unsettling for a man who prided himself for knowing everything that was going on in the world.
"You must be wondering why we have summoned you here today, but before we can get to the actual agenda I must ask you to sign this", R said offering Dumbledore a piece of parchment and gesturing to the table where a quill was waiting for him.
Dumbledore regarded the parchment carefully. It was a non-disclosure agreement that specified that he couldn't talk to anyone, and that was truly anyone, about what he might hear, see, or otherwise learn at the Department that day. The wording was fairly standard for agreements of this type, but what surprised Dumbledore was the amount of magic contained in the parchment. It was more than anything he had felt in a contract before.
"I'm sure you know that I have already signed a more general but equally binding secrecy agreement as part of the initiation to the gamma level secrecy when I begun in my role as the Chief Warlock?" Dumbledore asked R, after reading the contract.
"Ah, yes", replied R. "But what you're going to learn is above the gamma level".
"Above?" asked Dumbledore "But I was under the impression that gamma was the highest secrecy lever used by the department?"
"Well, all gamma level operatives operate under the assumption that they are at the highest level. That's the standard procedure. But I truly can't tell you anything more before you sign the parchment" said R. "And if you don't, I'm forced to obliviate you of this conversation and the knowledge of my existence".
Dumbledore was torn. On one hand, he was angry that he had been fooled by some bureaucrates fo the ministry, and that he was being threatened of obliviation by the same bureaucrats. On the other hand, here was an opportunity to learn new things, and if the information available on the gamma level archive was of any indication, it should be truly good to be deemed more important or dangerous than that. In the end there was only one thing to do. There was nothing to lose by signing, and even though Dumbledore was relatively sure that these people couldn't come close to actually succeeding in obliviating him, it would not do any good to start fighting with unspeakables. They could make his life a lot harder, and that was not something Dumbledore would want in addition to all the stress from his various positions.
Dumbledore walked silently to the table, took the quill and signed the parchment. There was a brief flash as the magic took hold.
"Excellent!" said R. "Now I'm sorry but I must admit that I lied to you earlier. You see, my name isn't really R"
Dumbledore looked the man with an incredulous look on his face. This man couldn't truly believe that he had thought that R was his real name?
"Now we can introduce each other properly" the man said. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Dumbledore. I'm G".
Dumbledore took the offered hand again shaking his head slightly. These people truly took their security seriously.
"All right, G" Dumbledore said, accepting that it would be the best he could get about the identity of the man in front of him. "What was it that you needed me for tonight?"
"Well. We have an artefact that is crucial for the inner workings of our department. What it is or what it does is an Omega level secret, so I can't tell you that, but it was used by Merlin himself, and it needs to be recharged every few hundred years. And frankly, you, Mr. Dumbledore, are the most powerful wizard available for the job of recharging this artefact", G explained to Dumbledore.
"Omega level? How deep your security goes?" asked Dumbledore, dumbfounded by the depth of unknown secrets housed at the Department of Mysteries.
"When you signed that parchment, you received limited epsilon level clearance, and the existence of the omega level is highest you are allowed to know of" answered G.
"I must say I'm rather worried about all this. I mean, I've been trough the gamma level archive, and there is some truly unbelievable information on that level alone. And now you're saying that there are people who think that the knowledge of for example a forgotten ritual about how to create the Black Death that plagued Europe in the middle ages is something that is not so secret?" asked Dumbledore "And that these people are not controlled or even known about by any governmental organization that answers to the people?"
"Ah, yes, the gamma-archive..." said G, now looking, surprisingly, a little ashamed. "You have went through it completely, now have you?"
"Yes" answered Dumbledore simply. Of course he had! That was the biggest and most comprehensive library of esoteric magics and rituals in the world. Of course Dumbledore had had to go through it, spending countless hours wading trough ancient tomes, in hopes that he could have found something that could have been of help against Voldemort. Truth to be said, there hadn't been all that much useful information in the archive, or the information had been about rituals so dark and repulsive that Dumbledore wouldn't even consider using it himself. There had also been some legends about ancient relics that were rumoured to hold great power that Dumbledore had spent some time trying to find after learning that Voldemort too was after them, but none of those searches had yielded anything.
"I was afraid that might be the case", said G slowly.
"You see, the gamma-archive is perhaps the greatest work of the department. It's one of the primary ways we influence the world outside our own walls. It has existed for centuries, and the knowledge of its existence and rumours of information contained within are circulating all around the scholastic world", G started his explanation. "But in truth, gamma-archive is mostly a hoax", he finished, looking at Dumbledore expectingly.
"A hoax?" asked Dumbledore, now more confused than ever.
"Yes, a hoax", replied G. "Most of everything contained in the gamma-archive is complete fabrication, designed to for one part mask the existence of deeper secrets, and one part to lure certain unsavoury types into a trap of our design", he continued. "Most people, seeing 'information' as dark as contained in the gamma-archive are completely certain that there couldn't be anything more secret than that, and in addition to that, we can carefully monitor who exactly is reading the books that describe the darkest rituals and magics, and thus create a list of potentially dangerous people".
At this point a conspiratory smile grew on G:s face "You couldn't believe how many people sneak in to the gamma-archive for forbidden information. Of course we cant take them in at the archive itself, as that might force us to reveal our hand, but when they leave, we drop hints at certain people, and more often than not the aspiring dark wizards and witches find themselves in Azkaban not too long after 'successfully' breaking into the gamma-archive."
Dumbledore was shocked and amazed. He was in the presence of a master manipulator even greater than he himself!
"So you're telling me that nothing in the archive works?"
"Of course it does, but not necessarily the way people think it might" G explained. "And there is a lot of completely relevant information, too. Gamma-level security is a level of security, after all, even though it's not all that tight. A majority of the dark spells listed in the archive work, as they are something that can be easily tested. Some of the rituals work too, but then there are some special goodies designed by our department, that work, but in a ways that benefit us directly", G continued.
"Can you give me an example?"
"Of course, you have read through the gamma-archive, after all. You deserve to know how much bullshit you have read" G said with a grin. "Are you familiar with horcruxes?"
"Yes", was Dumbledores simple reply. He had long ago came to suspect that Voldemort might have used the horcrux ritual to render himself immortal, and he had heard some unsettling rumours that hinted that Voldemort might in fact have succeeded in that goal.
"They are one of our departments most successful creations. The promise of eternal life is something that attracts almost all Dark Lords and Ladies. There have been at least twelve people in last hundred years alone that have created horcruxes. The fact that the ritual needs human sacrifice gives credence to the authenticity and singles out the truly evil bastards from the lot, but including it in the ritual is something we regret every time one is made. But the results are none the less indisputable. The ritual is said to create an anchor for the soul to cling to in case of physical death of the body, but in fact it only opens a connection between the horcrux and the creator. A side effect that is not listed in the ritual description is that an another connection is made, and the other end of that connection is here at the department. We can then use that connection to spy on the creator of the horcrux and use the information to capture him or her. It has nothing to do with immortality."
Dumbledore was impressed. It truly was a brilliant ploy. A horcrux was everything a Dark Lord would want from a ritual: evil as hell, dark as starless night and promising eternal life. And to think that the same ritual would basically reveal even their most secret plans directly to the Department of Mysteries! But there was still something that troubled Dumbledore about them.
"Can you tell me, did Voldemort create a Horcrux? I've researched the matter rather closely, and I suspect he might have."
"Yes, he did" G answered. "Voldemort in fact ignored the 'safety warning' included with the ritual and made several"
"Yes, he made five of them, and it seems he tried to make sixth when he was at the Potters, but that one went wrong somehow, as it didn't open the connection to us"
"Couldn't that be simply because he died that night?" asked Dumbledore hopefully.
"No, because the connections are still active" said G. "And we are aware that you have also deduced that he didn't truly die then."
"Do you know then, what he is up to?"
"No, it seems that whatever happened to him that night affected the connections to the horcruxes, and we don't have clear picture what he is doing" G explained. "But the connection has gotten stronger lately, and we have gotten glimpses of his plans. He seems to be after the philosophers stone."
Dumbledore nodded his head pensively. He had thought that it might be the case, and had therefore secured the stone at the castle.
"Why are you telling me all this, by the way?" he asked.
"To be honest, we fucked up the last war rather grandly" G answered. "Our modus operandi is to covertly inject information to people in key positions to make sure they act the right way. But Voldemort is rather clever as far as Dark Lords go, and was able to gather very influential group of followers, both politically and financially. He was basically controlling the ministry via his supporters and thralls, and when ever we hinted some Auror about his plans someone always managed to warn him that his plans were compromised, and he managed to avoid all traps we tried to get set up for him", he continued. "You and your little group were the only ones that were able to do anything against him, and we didn't have any workable contacts with you.
"And if Voldemort is trying to get back up, as we believe he is, with the current government with Fudge in the lead and Malfoy holding his strings behind the scenes we are in even worse position to fight a war than last time. So in addition to the actual task of recharging the artefact, we decided to establish connection between our department and you, so that you can act on the information we will be able to provide", G finished his explanation.
"Thank you. Well, hopefully we don't ever need to use this connection, but it's good to know that there are others that can be counted to be on your side, if it ever comes to that point", replied Dumbledore. "And I would appreciate if you could tell me what parts of the gamma-archive are fabrication. I've used quite a while studying there, and I hate to know that most of it has been in vain..."
"Well of course. Now that you are aware of the fabrications, we can teach you the secret markings that identify the genuine articles among the manure, so to speak"
"Thank you again" said Dumbledore. "Now I believe we had some real business to do here, in addition to small talk."
"Yes, let's go see the real Department of Mysteries" said G as he rose from his chair and led Dumbledore to the door.
The two men walked quietly through the hallway and arrived to the famous revolving room that held entrance to the various sub-departments of the Department of Mysteries. Dumbledore was rather familiar with this room, and was able to recognise the door G was walking toward.
"Your department is beyond the 'Ever-Locked Door of Love'?", he asked incredulously.
"Yes, well, love is one of the unbreakable mysteries that we have given up hope of ever cracking" G said while tracing a complicated security rune on the door with his wand. "There has been some advancement on the fields of behaviour psychology and applied biology, but those fields are distancing from the actual feeling so much that they can't really be called 'love' any more", he completed at the same time as the door finally opened.
"But 'Door of Love' is quite a nice story to hide our entrance behind, isn't it?" he said, holding the door open for Dumbledore to enter.
"Yes, that it indeed is", said Dumbledore, feeling an excitement he hadn't felt for a long time while entering the room.
Dumbledore could feel the magic at work as he walked through the real department of mysteries with G. There were laboratories with definitely muggle looking equipment, there were absolutely huge, obviously magically expanded halls with artificial skies and suns shining and strange looking plants growing and animals wandering around. There was a reinforced metal door with low rumbling sound coming through with a warning sign on it advising people to stay out unless they were absolutely sure that they knew what they were doing. There were people walking around wearing muggle lab coats and comfortable looking robes, all with similar glamours that G wore.
Finally they arrived to a relatively small room with little furniture. The walls were made of grey metal that looked more durable than nice, there was a small metal table in the middle of the room, a few chairs around the walls and a single lamp in the ceiling emitting cold and stable light. Before Dumbledore could ask anything, an another door at the opposing wall opened, and a man with a similar suit that G wore came in carrying a nondescript box. He laid the box at the table, and left without saying a word.
When the door closed again G spoke. "In that box is the artefact we need your help with", he said. "What you need to do is simply hit it with the strongest spells you can, and it will absorb the energy in itself. It should recognize you as a wizard powerful enough to co-operate, a less powerful one will simply get no reaction from it. We believe that it has some kind of consciousness and simply enjoys the presence of strong wizards, and is annoyed if someone it doesn't feel is up to its level tries to play with it"
Dumbledore approached the table and the box on it carefully but curiously. He lifted the lid of the box slowly and looked inside. There was a sphere approximately six inches in diameter that seemed to be made of some kind of crystal, or at least it was faceted like one. It was gloving faintly with dull blue light. Dumbledore prodded it carefully with his wand, hoping to get some kind of peaceful reaction from it. He didn't really expect anything dangerous to happen, but then G didn't seem to know all that much about this thing, and one didn't live over hundred years by charging to unknown situations without some careful contemplation.
Dumbledore was rewarded with a little brighter flash of light as the tip of his wand touched the sphere. He felt a slight tingle across his occlumency barriers that was somewhat similar to the feeling when he sometimes talked with the sorting hat at his office back in Hogwarts. He could feel the thing was curious, and wanted more. Dumbledore reached into the box and lifted the sphere out from it. It started gloving more brightly with the touch, and the colour seemed to shift from dull blue to a warmer turquoise.
Dumbledore turned the box the thing had been in around and gently positioned the sphere on top of it, and hit it with a careful cheering charm, hoping to show the thing he wasn't an enemy. The room flashed deep green as the charm hit the sphere, and it started gloving brighter. Dumbledore could feel the anticipation from the sphere with a slight encouragement to hit it all he got. Dumbledore started gathering more power and conjured some fire at it. The small ball seemed to hum with joy and the feeling of the magic it was emitting was something Dumbledore had previously felt only when he had received the position of the Headmaster of Hogwarts and the castle had come to greet its new master. It was intoxicating.
Dumbledore was quickly getting into the flow of magic. The spells were flying faster and stronger, the glow and flashes from the sphere were getting more powerful, and the feel of magic was permeating every cubic inch of the room. Soon the box the sphere had been in was gone as was the table, consumed by the force of magic, but the sphere seemed to simply float mid-air in the middle of the room. G had left the room shortly after the start feeling a strong compulsion from the ball, and the old mage and the ancient artefact were the only ones present at this unique show of magical power and skill.
As the flow of magic was getting stronger the air itself was gloving in every colour of the rainbow and the magic permeating the room seemed to sing in joy. Pure magic was swirling wildly around the small sphere as dumbledore had abandoned formalistic spell casting in favour of simply letting the magic flow through him without structure of defined purpose. He was feeling great, as if some kind of positive feedback loop had formed between the ball and the old man, and like he could have continued the strange game forever.
Every good thing must come to an end, however, and so the sphere finally let Dumbledore know that it had had enough for this time. There was some kind of promise of a repeat in the future though, that Dumbledore wasn't quite able to decipher, as all he knew about the thing was that it needed to be recharged every few hundred years or so.
These were the thoughts Dumbledore was in when G entered the room, The sight meeting him was a strange one indeed. In the middle of the small room were molten remains of the metal table slowly cooling on the floor, and a bit to the side were a floating ball gloving with powerful white light and a pensive looking old wizard with happy twinkle in his eyes and a gently smoking pointed hat on his head, a wand on his hand.
G cleared his throat to get Dumbledores attention. Dumbledore was startled from his introspection and turned to look the man at the door.
"I take it the procedure went well?" asked G, still a bit fazed from the scene in front of him.
"Well, yes, as far as I can tell" replied Dumbledore with a slight smile on his lips. "At least the ball seemed to be satisfied with it".
"Great", said G, still a bit confused with it all. True, there wasn't all that much information about the ball, other than that the glow of it seemed to fade to almost nothingness in a few hundred years and that hitting it with spells was the only known method to get it gloving again. The personal notebooks of Merlin seemed to hint that the globe had been some kind of companion to the great wizard, but then the language had changed during centuries and maybe they had misunderstood the meaning of the words.
"So, what can you say about this remarkable little thing?" said Dumbledore, gesturing the little ball fondly.
"Well, as I told you before, that is an omega level secret, but seeing that you just got a reaction from it not previously recorded, I might as well tell you that those secrets don't add up to much nothing. We have evidence that Merlin used the thing to keep his tea warm, but other than that we have no idea what it is or what it does"
"Well, I can add to that that it apparently likes magic, a lot. And it has some legillimency abilities to projects some kind of feelings to other people" said Dumbledore. "And from what I can understand, it truly wishes to be 'recharged' a lot more often than every few hundred years."
"Really?" asked G, looking at the ball confused. It was one of the only surviving relics from Merlin, and as such it had been stored securely away so as not to wear it out or accidentally break it. And as the early studies of the thing had revealed little else than the dimming of the glow after a few hundred years, it had not been brought to open other than for that sole reason.
"Really. In fact, I can feel it wants to stay with me, if I'm reading it correctly" Dumbledore said.
G looked from the ball to the old man and back, as if trying to find the truth of what Dumbledore was saying, when suddenly he felt a strong affirmative from the ball. G took a step back from the force of the magic, and turned to look Dumbledore again.
"Well, we truly don't have any information to work with here, so maybe we could lend the ball to you for a while and see if could learn something new about it" G said slowly. "I believe I don't need to tell you to be careful with it, though? It is a irreplaceable magical and historical artefact after all."
"Yes, of course", replied Dumbledore. "It will be quite safe at the castle."
The little ball seed to glow brighter from joy, and it flew a little victory lap circling around G and slowing down to a steady orbit over Dumbledores head.
"Well, there doesn't seem to be any objections from the ball either, so I guess we can call it a day, yes?" said G.
"Yes. We shall be in contact if anything new appears about the Voldemort situation, am I correct?"
"Yes, of course. We can contact you with secure owls if we learn anything new"
"Thank you. It has been a most enlightening evening"
"Thank you too. I'll show you back to the public side of the department"
With that the two men and a little ball that had found a new home after spending more than a thousand years at the department of mysteries left the room, engaged in inconsequential small talk.
As Dumbledore finally arrived back to his office at the castle, he was able to look back at the day. He would have to change his plans about the Voldemort situation, but on the other hand he had discovered new allies that could provide important inside information in case he managed to return. He had learned that much of what he thought he knew was simply fabrication made during millennia by a group of people that quite frankly seemed to be a bit eccentric, but in exchange he had learned a lot about world in general. He had also managed to coerce G to extend his limited epsilon level clearance to study the notebooks of Merlin stored at the department. He might have promised to open some of the manuscripts stored at the Headmasters personal library containing discoveries made by headmasters dating back all the way to the founders to the unspeakables, but it seemed to be a fair exchange.
All in all, Dumbledore was happy. This is what Magic should be like: feeling of joy and happiness as raw power flowed through you connecting you to the fabric of world itself; ancient, mysterious artefacts with quirky personalities; secrets so deep that there were always something more to discover. This was the thing that had convinced Dumbledore to start teaching in the first place: the feeling of discovery, the beauty and mystery of Magic. He was feeling almost young again.
Maybe he should start actually teaching the students again, perhaps something to do with only the most flashy types of magic, with some more philosophical aspects of general magical theory mixed in for some more substance...?
A/N Thank you for reading!