Chapter 24: Albus' First Strike

ICW Exam Centre

Salem Magical Institute Annex, Boston, MA

October 5th, 2001

It was eerie for Harry how close his dream matched the reality of the OWLs examination room. It was a confirmation for him that he had indeed received a true seeing – there was no other way to describe the correctness of the detail that had been in his dream otherwise. Especially as he had never been here before in his life.

Alex and Sebastien had both warned him that things would not appear exactly the same as his seeing. The vision showed only an approximation of what would transpire if the message of the vision was ignored. But for him, the level of detail was incredibly accurate.

He was feeling exhausted, yet exhilarated. He felt he had aced his DADA and Charms exams, passed his History of Magic exam with little difficulty and sailed through his Potions exams. He was concentrating on the basic core subjects as his career path in the world of goblin and non-magical finance was already carved out. Let Hermione or Fleur worry about Ancient Runes or Arithmancy – he was more concerned about Financial Investments, Advanced Auditing and Marketing.

He was very apprehensive as well – today marked the last of the big core subject exams and there still had been no sign of the old man. But Transfiguration was one of his masteries and nearly everyone connected with Harry and the family were convinced that he would make his attempt then.

At that moment, he saw a familiar face of Alex's team – the exam centre was crawling with MFBI agents, most of them disillusioned. To see Agnes visible and present, Harry knew they were sending him a message that they had all bases covered.

Harry was not sure he could ever get used to the robes wizarding people wore. The clashing colours, conflicts between fashion styles and ages, and just the robes themselves told him they were a world unto themselves.

He had grown up with the fashions of the world below as those who lived underground were not trying to keep up with the latest fashions. Clothing there had a worn, well loved look and feel and each person took to wearing clothes that they were both comfortable in and that they felt reflected their personalities and their occupations.

The purple robes with yellow shirts worn by some of the O.W.L. candidates were something else completely. Harry felt he needed to wear sunglasses or just shut his eyes to give them a rest: the colours alone were giving him eye strain.

There were 30 candidates for the O.W.L. Transfiguration exam and the quiet buzz of conversation combined with an almost palpable nervous tension was no different than any of the exams Harry had written either in high school or at CUNY. They had already completed the written portion and were now waiting to be called for the practical portion. Harry's nerves were taut as he was not sure he was prepared for this part of the test. This would be the first time he would use his new wand in public and while the goblin tutors, Fleur and Hermione had assured him he was more than capable, he had never demonstrated his magic outside of Gringotts, with his two female friends or in the safe confines of the world below.

He closed his eyes and sought his inner core, calming his nerves and feeling a sense of peace settle within. His calm however was abruptly disturbed when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up he saw an old man with the most garish set of robes he could imagine.

"Mr. Potter, I presume," the old man spoke. Bingo – it was Albus Dumbledore, exactly as the vision or seeing had projected.

Harry shook his head. "My name is Harry Wells. And you are?"

"Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland," the old man replied. "Forgive my question, but you look very much like a former student of mine and like someone I have been looking for a very long time."

This was the famous wizard who had overridden his parents' wishes and placed him with the Dursleys, Harry thought to himself. Both Fleur and Hermione had warned him that Dumbledore was a dangerous man and urged him to keep contact with him to a minimum.

"Well, I am sorry that I am not your missing person," Harry said. "Now if you will excuse me…"

"I am afraid that I will have to trouble you Mr Wells for a few moments," Dumbledore replied. "You see, the name of Harry James Potter is on the list of candidates for O.W.L Transfiguration practical exams and I have decided that I will administer this exam. Unfortunately, the name of Harry Wells does not appear on the list of candidates here today."

Getting up from his chair, Harry walked over to the wall where the list of candidates was posted. Perusing the list, he swore to himself. In place of the name of Harry Jacob Wells was the name Harry James Potter. Somehow the old man or someone connected with him had changed the name under which he was being tested.

This was not one of the events of the seeing. But he took comfort again in Alex's words that no seeing was exactly as the actual events. But he did have to marvel at the old man's gall – to somehow fool the exam centre administrators into allowing the exchange of names to take place.

He turned back to the waiting Dumbledore. "My name is not here," he said flatly.

"Perhaps your name is there and you simply refuse to accept it," Dumbledore replied.

"No, my name is Harry Jacob Wells and it reflects the family who took me in and have loved me for over eleven years," Harry said in the same flat tone.

"Mr. Potter, if I may call you that…"

"No, you may not call me that! You lost that right when you sealed my birth parents' will, ignored their clear wishes and exiled me to nine years of hell in Little Whinging," he said, managing to keep his voice even although he felt like shouting at the old fool.

"Well, if I can call you Harry…"

"I will not accept that either. It is Mr. Wells to you and I refuse to answer to any other name."

Harry could see a hint of frustration in the old man's blue eyes. This was not going the way the Headmaster had hoped. His twinkle, however, returned as he looked again at Harry and Harry felt a light touch in his mind. Harry turned his face away and moved towards the chairs.

"Harry….Mr. Wells….I would like to invite you in for your practical examination now if you are ready."

Keeping his eyes averted from the old wizard, Harry retook his seat. "Mr. Dumbledore, if I may call you that, there is something I do not understand," he said. "Why would the Headmaster of Hogwarts come all the way to the U.S. to examine candidates for their practical transfiguration OWL exam?"

"You could call me Professor," the old man replied. "As for my presence here, I just happened to be in the neighborhood and offered to help the ICW with their Salem tests."

"I will call you what I will. You are not my professor. And let's cut to the chase here. You came here to speak with Harry Potter."

"Well it is a pleasant coincidence and most fortuitous. Especially as I have some messages and offers for young Mr. Potter." There hung an invitation for Harry to respond and ask him what messages and offers and allow Dumbledore to get to the real reason why he was there. No, Harry decided, he would not play that game.

"I appreciate your offer to examine me, Mr. Dumbledore," he replied, his tone cool and formal. "However we are to be examined by a pool of three and I do not believe the ICW would appreciate any exceptions in my case. I am sorry to disappoint you, but as Mr. Potter has been officially confirmed as dead, I must go and speak to the testing and administration officials to ensure that my correct name is restored.

He rose from the chair, but Dumbledore put a hand on his arm. "Harry….Mr. Wells," seeing Harry's face darken at the familiar use of his name. "We must speak. It is a matter of life and death."

Harry shook Dumbledore's hand from his arm. "We must not speak. You have nothing to say to me that I am interested in hearing. You lost that right when you placed me with the Dursleys, then saw my godfather kissed under your eyes, then ensured that I died under the blood ritual in 1994. You ensured that I experienced hell with my 'relatives', and that I experienced death due to an inappropriate use of magic.

"If you wish to speak to the Potter family about messages and or offers to the Potter family, then feel free to contact the current Head of House, one Ms. Hermione Granger-Potter. The Wells family has no connection to the British magical world, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or to you in particular."

The old man's hand tightened on Harry's arm. "Could you humour an old man perhaps? While you may no longer see yourself as Harry Potter, despite the wishes and prayers of an entire magical world, there are still some mementos in my possession which should go to the man whom you are now – mementos from the Potter parents. Will you at least accept these from my hand?"

Bingo. He was going to go for it anyway, Harry smirked to himself. He was back to using almost the same lines as the seeing.

He swallowed his desire to spit his anger into the old man's face. No, according to Alex and Sebastien, events had to play out as the seeing suggested. "Well, seeing that you have mementos from my birth parents, I suppose that I could welcome them from your hands."

The old man's eyes brightened and Harry swore that they actually twinkled now. "Well, then, Mr…Wells, you make the heart of an old man glad. But I am not comfortable giving you these items in this room with so many other eyes on us. I would suggest using one of the empty examination rooms next door?"

Harry rose up and followed Dumbledore into the adjoining empty exam room. He sensed that he was not alone now – this was exactly the move they expected.

The old man reached into his voluminous sleeves and reached out with a sock puppet shaped as a kangaroo. He looked apologetically at Harry, saying "Something from one of my students" before he whispered quietly, "Portus!" as he touched Harry with the sock puppet – and watched in amazement as nothing happened.

Suddenly, both Harry and Dumbledore heard a strong but calm voice behind them. "Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, you are under arrest for the attempted kidnapping of an OWLs student from this ICW exam centre."

Whatever one had to say about Albus' age, one could not fault his speed, He was reaching into his robes immediately and was withdrawing an ancient looking wand before he felt the unfamiliar pressure of a wand at his own throat.

"Withdraw your hand slowly and perhaps we can all get out of this situation alive, Albus?" Alex's voice still was calm, but now had an edge of warning to it.

Dumbledore slowly dropped his hand and then uttered one word, "Fawkes!" But no answering phoenix came.

"We knew you were coming, Albus, and we took steps to ensure that your normal means of getting out of ticklish situations no longer worked. We have set up anti-Phoenix, anti-portkey, anti-apparition, and floo wards. So I suggest that we sit down and talk about things."

Dumbledore's twinkle had long left his eyes and he moved towards a chair in the room. Alex sat directly across from him with Harry to one side.

"Alex Mackenzie, this is not what it appears to be," the old Headmaster began. "I was simply trying to reunite the child of former students with things that belonged to him."

"Then you could produce them right now – rather than an international portkey disguised as a sock puppet. Nice effect by the way – a kangaroo?"

Dumbledore smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. "A gift from the Australian representative to the ICW – he knew of my love of socks."

"Still, Albus, you said you have some mementos for Mr. Wells here?" Alex was persistent.

"Yes, they are right….Merlin, I thought I had brought them. They must still be at Hogwarts. If Mr. Wells would accommodate an old man, perhaps I could go back and get them?"

"No, Albus. We know why you are here and it was not to give Mr. Wells some mementos from his birth parents. No, you were here to kidnap Mr. Wells and bring him back to Hogwarts where you would have begun the process of turning back into your vision of who he should be."

Dumbledore's eyes flashed for a moment – he did not like being second guessed nor found out. But he was a politician at heart and felt perhaps he could appeal to Harry Potter's conscience – no Mr. Wells' conscience.

"Can you forgive an old man at feeling excited at the news that despite his foolish action of seven years ago that you, Mr. Wells, are still alive? I have had to live with that guilt for a long time – but I also need you to understand your importance in the difficulties back in Britain," he began.

Harry felt he knew where Dumbledore was coming from – now he would begin to speak about the 'greater good' and how he was the hope for all of wizarding Britain. Alex, however, had little patience for the sophistry of Albus Dumbledore.

"Albus, we are all familiar with your expression 'the greater good' and suspect that we know what your goal for Mr. Wells would be. He would be a symbol for your side in your conflict with the Minister of Magic, a sign that you are the one with the correct path to resolving the conflict with Voldemort – all the while you would be encouraging and 'conditioning' Mr. Wells to eschew his identity and take up your vision of Harry Potter, all the while being moulded to face the Dark Lord and die." As he was speaking, he signed with his hand and five other MFBI agents disillusioned themselves or removed their invisibility cloaks.

Harry next spoke. "If you had rescued me from my 'loving relatives' at the age of 9, I might have listened to you, old man. I might have seen you as the grandfather who cared for me and wanted me to succeed. But I only discovered magic a year and a half ago and shortly after discovered that you were the person who placed me with my 'relatives' in the first place, after ignoring my parents' wills – wills that you were a witness to and should have honoured.

"All for your greater good. Well, I sent a message back with Mr. Lupin, your spy, that I was not interested and now you attempt to kidnap me here – don't you ever listen when someone tells you no?"

Their discussion was interrupted when Halverson of the ICW opened the door with a slam. "Albus, what are you doing here? I didn't believe it when I heard it the first time and even now, seeing you here with that ridiculous portkey, I have difficulty in believing it now. Just what in Merlin were you trying to do with one of our examinees? You can't simply replace his name with one of your own choosing; you can't just walk in here and abscond with Mr. Wells – you are threatening to perform the first kidnapping since we instituted OWL and NEWT exams for the international community.

"I don't care if you are the Supreme Mugwump and if you believe this is for 'your greater good.' Not here and not on my watch." Halverson turned to Alex and the other agents in the room. "Please escort him from this room – we are engaged in serious work here and I find our 'Supreme Mugwump' to be a bit of a distraction.

Dumbledore looked ready to say more, but it was clear that Halverson's attack was more of a tongue lashing than he had expected. Halverson took Dumbledore's silence as his signal to take Harry by the arm. "Mr. Wells, your examiners await." In a slightly louder voice, he continued. "You can take pride in your results – on DADA, Potions, and Charms, you scored Outstanding. On the History of Magic, you scored excellent. The only result we are still waiting for is Transfiguration and we can tell you that you already scored well on your theory portion from this morning.

"You are well on your way to posting consistently high scores and if I may so, you are a testimonial of what goblin education can do with young wizards. Please convey back to your instructors at Gringotts my personal word of recognition in a job well done."

Alex as well as Dumbledore were stunned by Halverson's praise. To suggest that goblins could train wizards or witches as thoroughly as established magical schools dealt a major blow to those bigots in wizarding circles who suggested that goblins were lower forms of life and should continue to have their rights restricted. But Alex realized as well that Halverson, a person notoriously stingy in giving out praise, wanted to see Dumbledore a clear message. His attempt to grab Harry before he had completed his OWLs was doomed to failure – and he wanted Dumbledore to realize the calibre of the young man in question.

Harry was smiling broadly at Halverson's words. "Thank you, thank you, Director Halverson. I will be sure to pass on your comments."

He turned to Alex. "Do you need me here any longer? As the director has said, I need to do my practical now."

Alex smiled at the young man, and then turned back to Dumbledore, a clearly predatory smile on his face. "Oh, everything is under control for the moment, Harry. We'll take care of this old man from here."

Halverson and Harry left and seconds later, Alex turned back to Dumbledore. "By rights I should clap you in magical suppression manacles and have you escorted to court immediately, Dumbledore. You broke several laws today – against the ICW, against our own sovereignty, and against one of our own citizens."

"But Harry is not an American citizen – he was born in Britain and thus falls under the jurisdiction of the British Ministry of Magic," Dumbledore began to protest in his most outraged voice.

"He renounced his British citizenship at the age of 13," Alex began and when he saw Dumbledore raise his hand in objection, he continued. "And he repeated the ceremony last year an adult and his declaration, as such, has been accepted by the ICW, our own Department of Magic and the US Immigration Service.

"That's why we asked him to repeat the ceremony – so that you would not have another point of leverage.

"So, you see old man, we have made sure that all the points have been covered. Thus, we are now faced with a decision of what to do with you. I am inclined to let you off – with a very strong warning.

"Leave Mr. Wells alone. Mr. Potter is dead – magically and physically by your own hand. Whatever purpose Mr. Potter played in your prophecy or in your war, your actions of sending to a home where he received abuse and of killing him when your magic could not force him to Hogwarts has negated that. All of our divination experts are agreed – your actions killed Harry in regards to your prophecy.

"So go back to Britain and realize that Harry Potter is lost to you. If you stay on your side of the pond, then eventually these charges will be dropped. However, if you persist….

"As well, we will be informing your Ministry of your actions here today."

Dumbledore said nothing, his face now a mask. Instead, picking up his sock puppet portkey, with a swish of his robes, he made a silent but dignified exit from the ICW centre.

Alex's subordinate looked at him as the door closed behind Dumbledore. "Do you think he's got it?" she asked.

Alex sadly shook his head. "Dumbledore will only get it when he's been hexed into oblivion. No, he left because he had lost the advantage of surprise and Albus Dumbledore is nothing if canny in regards to attracting attention. This was his best shot – unfortunately, he is a true believer in his own wisdom and thus it will not be his last shot."

Shaking himself, he turned to the team. "Well done, I'll leave two of you here just in case our Headmaster friend decides to make a return visit. The rest of us, let's wrap up and get back to headquarters.

"I've got a letter to send to a British Minister."

Office of the British Minister of Magic,

October 10, 2001

Amelia was having another one of those days. Another three raids with four civilian casualties, six Death Eaters and three Aurors – the war was still unfortunately a bloody stalemate. At least, however, Dumbledore had not snagged the Boy Who Lived – yet.

As if to confirm her thoughts, a diplomatic letter buzzed into her "In" tray. The handwriting was the now familiar scrawl of Alex Mackenzie. She didn't wait for her secretary – diplomatic letters were her domain if she wanted it. And she really wanted to keep Alex's letters close to her chest.

Slitting the envelope open, she opened it and drew out a thin page of muggle stationery. She could understand the willingness of the American Department of Magic to use muggle writing tools – it was another sign of their willingness to integrate with the larger society surrounding them, unlike their counterparts in Britain.

She started at the top of the letter and read quickly about the events at the ICW examination centre. Bloody fool, she thought to herself. Dumbledore was a bloody fool. It had happened almost exactly as Mr. Potter, no Mr. Wells had foreseen. Reading about how things had progressed and remembering the pensieve memory, a chill ran down her back – it had been a near run thing. She needed to send a note to Dumbledore and also send an official response to Mr. Wells, congratulating him on claiming the Black family inheritance.

Then she read the last paragraph and felt both a shiver of apprehension and a giggle fight for expression. Alex had a real gift of summarizing issues and yet finding the light moments in things.

My dear Madame Bones, I cannot think that this will not be the last attempt our old friend will make in regards to Mr. Wells. This one attempt represented the most secure for Albus – any other way risks more exposure to outside interests and to the public in general. But he is a true believer and I believe he does not appreciate the gravity of the charges that we have stayed in his regard here in the Magical U S. Stayed and not erased. If and when he does something further in regards to Mr. Wells on American soil, he inches closer to finding his liberty severely contained – as a permanent resident of Fort Leavenworth.

Will your government support the due process of law in this country should that final step be necessary? My superiors would like to have written confirmation of what we discussed in Ireland a few weeks ago – and if you decide to let affairs fall as they will, we might be much more disposed to render assistance to your government in your dispute with the so-called Dark Lord.

One last thing that I found objectionable in this visit of Dumbledore's – his choice of robes and portkeys. Rubber Ducks the last time – a sock puppet Kangaroo this time – what next – a plush pelican? Has anyone ever talked with him in regards to fashion sense?

Let's work to keep these lines of communication open.

Alex Mackenzie

Special Agent MFBI

New York City, USA

She chuckled at Dumbledore's choice of portkeys and realized anew just how ridiculous some of her countrymen's fashion choices were in light of changes in the parent society around them. Her ongoing work, first as an auror and then as Director and Minister had forced her to relate to muggles – no – non-magicals on a regular basis and she had overcome much of her own society's prejudice in viewing them as inferior to magicals. Her society had to do a better job in understanding and taking into account the changes in the non-magical society surrounding them.

Still, Alex was asking her and by extension, her Ministry to make a choice. While she had been disgusted to learn about Albus' plans in regards to young Mr. Wells, she realized that she had not yet committed her government on paper to stand with the American MFBI should charges be laid. Well, she was already in too deep to stop now – she would advise Albus that she was aware of the existence of Mr. Wells at the same time as informing Alex that she would honour her word to him.

It was time to write some letters.

Hedmaster's Office, Hogwarts Castle, Inverness

October 11, 2001

October was rapidly becoming one of Albus Dumbledore's not so favourite months. 1994 had seen the ultimately foolish decision to attempt to summon Harry Potter by the Merlin cursed Blood Summoning Ritual. He knew that it had been an act of desperation and he regretted it now more than ever – it appeared to have definitely placed the fragment of Tom's soul in control of the Potter child.

Even now, he refused to believe the evidence that Mackenzie had attempted to give him in regards to Mr. Wells. It was so like Tom to hide the truth and twist people into supporting them. Mr. 'Wells' was no Potter now – no, he was full of anger and mistrust, so unlike his parents. No, unfortunately for Mr. Wells and for Alex Mackenzie, he had to stay the course and do the job that it appeared no other wanted to do. He had to bring Harry Potter out of Mr. Wells and get him to accept his destiny.

However, he was not only upset at having his carefully thought out plan in regards to Mr. Wells disrupted. He was also upset with the letter he had received from Amelia Bones. The tone was scathing and brutal – she was aware that Mr. Potter had been found, where he was staying, and of his attempt to 'bring' him home to Britain. She had minced no words – if he was caught breaking American magical law in regards to Mr. Wells, she would cooperate fully with any efforts the American MFBI and the American magical authorities would undertake against him. It was he realized a simple message – let things well enough alone.

But what would Tom gain by failing to come to Britain and join his master, he wondered. Why would the soul fragment in Harry be so resistant to returning back home – he could be a real morale booster for the Dark if he, the physical shell of the Boy who Lived, stood shoulder to shoulder with the Dark Lord. Unless, of course, he meant to expand the empire of the Dark and even now was working to infiltrate American magical society.

The image of Harry with Fleur Delacour and Hermione Granger flashed before his mind's eye – but he instantly rejected it. Tom could be a real charmer when he wanted to be – and any strategy to infiltrate the American heartland would involve charm and subtlety. No, he had to lure the physical shell of Harry Potter here to liberate him from the soul fragment and return him to his destiny.

Now, how could he do that? Perhaps by taking advantage of one of Mr. Wells' associate's gifts – yes, he thought to himself, that was it. The Mirror of Erised – either Mr. Wells or Miss Granger could be enticed and then with a proximity portkey, one or the other would be brought here and then his plans would get back on track.

He rose up, new strength in his body. He had work to do.

A/N: It should be said here that we do not believe that Albus is inherently evil. Albus is simply an extreme example of a man who is used to keeping his own counsel and seeing the world from his own point of view. Harry died, therefore the only magical presence left in Harry must be the soul fragment. And who better than he to ensure that the soul fragment is exorcised than he.

Our penalty to Dumbledore in this fic is much stronger than in Nothing to Lose – Albus here learns that there are consequences for messing with people's lives. Stay tuned for our next episode – Albus' plans go awry again – and the Triad continues to grow in the use of their magic.