Written by: John
Dumbledore sighed. "That is an impressive list of grievances, Mister Potter." He sat back in his chair and looked at the messy-haired young man. "And I find myself fascinated by your conclusion that I'm an evil old man, bent on ruining your life for my own purposes. It's impressive, the things you attribute to my plots within plots. Yet, despite all of that, I find myself asking the one question you haven't: well?"
Harry stared at Dumbledore in confusion.
"Truly, where were you going with this?" He spread his arms. "If I am, as you believe, a megalomaniac plotter, what do you expect to happen here? Do you think I will suddenly pale in shock at your learning my dark secrets? Will I shake in fear now that my plans have been unraveled? Perhaps you expect me to turn and run, maybe use Fawkes to escape and bide my time? Could you even think I would attack? To tell the truth, I'm not sure why you would want any of these outcomes.
"Were you planning to duel me and, what, defeat me and take possession of my wand? Or did you just expect the vindication of seeing me realize that my, what was your word—ah yes, 'weapon' turned against me and become the pathetic old man you think is behind the visage of powerful elder wizard?"
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "But let's take your theories at face value. Let us suppose for the moment that I am everything you think I am. If I really do think so many moves ahead, why would you think that I didn't see this coming? You feel that I have controlled every aspect of your life up until, what, this past summer? Why should I suddenly be surprised? What factor could have been introduced to this situation that I could not possibly have a contingency? Which is, perhaps, the thing that confuses me most about this encounter. What was your plan?"
Harry gaped at Dumbledore. There was a pit in the bottom of his stomach and it was growing deeper every moment.
"Let us posit, then, that you are right. Let us begin our thought experiment with a magically powerful old man who is vastly more intelligent than anyone credits him and gifted with a malevolence that is nearly unrivaled. This old man decides to for some reason, take control of the life of some boy nearly from birth. Alright, it's a little strange—what possible goal could this man have in taking this degree of effort for a child who has yet to demonstrate any value? But let's assume that the man knows something that makes this child uniquely valuable and that perhaps even only this old man knows. So the magically powerful man goes out of his way to ensure that the child is miserable his whole life so that when the man comes in and takes him away from his misery, the old man instantly becomes a savior who can do no wrong. That part, at least, sounds like a good, properly evil plan. I'm not sure what the old man's endgame is, but let us continue.
"Say this old man has somehow succeeded in making it so the child sees him as a grandfatherly savior whose every word is gospel. It's a plausible result of our posed plot so far. So he sends him back to hell why? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep the child close? But maybe he wants to make sure the boy remembers what he's being saved from? It's possible. The old man might even decide to make sure his project becomes closer with some disciples of his by making sure that their children rescue the boy from his personal hell. A bit convoluted, but let's go with it anyway. The boy spends a lovely time with people who are, like him, certain that the old man is the best thing since sliced bread. So far so good. We still haven't established this meddling old man's goal, but no matter, onward.
"The evil old man has then brought the child back to his special place. While there, he allows some sort of tragedy to strike and continue striking for some reason? What does the old man gain by this? Perhaps it's the isolation of his project by some random fear, but that requires the man knowing both the entire nature of the threat as well as that the project-child has some trait that would trigger the isolation. It also requires the old man to ensure that the tragedies happen at a time convenient for him. But perhaps the old man just lets the events slip into his overall plan and adjusts. I suppose the man could have some sort of deranged plan that assumes that random attacks on people unrelated to the project-child will somehow train the child, but I find that hard to believe, even in this rather convoluted plan. Maybe the old man just hates muggleborn, although since we will assume that the old man knew the nature of the threat and the history of it, he might have been better served in that case by just having the House Elves poison the students he wanted dead instead of relying on a method he knew for a fact had resulted in a total of one death over the course of fifty years.
"Anyway, so let's assume he incorporates the attacks to isolate his weapon. Why he wants his weapon not to form closer ties to the world the old man favors is beyond me. Perhaps he wants the child beholden only to him, but if that were true, I ask you why he doesn't step in to show how valuable he is, which would easily further endear him to his project. Moving on, the old man allows himself to be run from his school, the bastion of his power, so that he can allow his project to be tested by fighting a giant monster. A bit of a gamble, given that your evil man decides that the only aid his project needs is a Phoenix and a sword against a being able to kill with a look, smash things aside with its bulk, and kill with a drop of its venom. Apparently, the plan works, since the project-child survives.
"In fact, the project child keeps surviving. Considering some of the inventive ways the old man put his project at risk, I suppose it's an impressive achievement, although we shall assume that the old man planned for this, because planning to fail is rather pointless.
"What I'm failing to see, though, Mister Potter, is what this evil old man gets from all this effort."
"You got a weapon, old man!" snapped Harry.
"And we are back to attacking me." Dumbledore sighed again. "I am disappointed in you, Mister Potter. We were having an intellectual discussion and you've returned to personal attacks. Let us say that this old man was building a weapon. By your premises, it would make sense to train this weapon. That is what one does with weapons, after all. A weapon without an edge is a pointless thing indeed—clubs aside. So what other motive could this old man have? Let us say that he wants the opposite of a weapon. Let us assume that what he wants is someone who lives his life for others; someone who, in fact, places no value on his own life; someone whose life has so little good in it that he would cheerfully die for what little good there is." Harry's eyes widened and there was a look of disgust on his face. "My question for you is why."
"Let me put it another way: why not just kill the child off the bat?"
"If the old man wants the child dead, there are easier methods than your plan. A knife in a helpless infant's chest works quite well, I assure you. And who would be the wiser? All the old man need do is say, 'woe is me, I was too late to save them' and then no more issues.
"But again, I shall fill in the gaps in your own story with theory." Dumbledore smiled warmly. "Let us say that the old man is of the opinion that the child needs to die in a specific circumstance. Perhaps some great enemy exists that the old man cannot defeat because of the child. Either way, perhaps the child's death must be another carefully orchestrated work.
"But we come back to my earlier question: if this is true, what is your plan, Mister Potter? If I am the arch-monster you credit me as, what do you plan to do?" Dumbledore held up a hand. "Perhaps I can backtrack for a moment. In my old age, I forgot the point of my digression where I tried to help you put your story back together. If this meddling old man is really so intelligent: what makes you think he never planned for his project to learn of his treachery or at least plan for such an event as a contingency?
"Let me make this easier for you, Mister Potter; I know your grades reflect a mediocre mind. If you think I am an evil genius able to manipulate your life for all this time without a single misstep, why do you think there are no contingencies in place should you learn of my duplicity?" Dumbledore shook his head. "Unlike your proposed villain, your own plan seems rather poorly though out. Let me ask you this: if you were me, Mister Potter—rather, if you were evil me—what would your response to your crafted weapon coming to confront you with all your misdeeds?
Dumbledore held up a hand to silence Harry. "Before you answer, let us remember that you are about to embark on a task of great difficulty; you are going to try to think like someone whom you believe to be vastly more intelligent than yourself. Someone who is able to plan ahead, unlike your usual method of just attacking the problem head on and relying on luck. I realize it will be hard for you to think through your answer, but let us try just this once, for you to actually complete an assignment from a professor."
Harry glared. "Do you honestly think I didn't plan this out? You stupid, meddling old fucker."
"In all honesty, Mister Potter? Yes. You have historically shown a lack of foresight that borders on suicidal. If I were really evil, all I need do is wait for one of your 'plans' to inevitably kill you. Luck can't last forever. So perhaps you can enlighten me: how did you plan this encounter?"
Harry whipped his wand from the holster hidden on his arm and leveled it at Dumbledore. "I'm going to show you what you didn't foresee, you doddering coot."
Dumbledore leaned back and nodded. "That is a very nice wand, Mister Potter. And commendable draw-speed. If you had any skill with combat magic, you'd no doubt go far on the professional dueling circuit. Shields and stunners do not qualify as sufficient.
"Did you ever wonder why I never encouraged dueling to be taught at my school?"
"Because you want us all weak and easily controlled!"
"An easy answer and also fascinatingly wrong. It comes from the fact that dueling is only useful for one thing: dueling. Filius was, as you may know, a champion duelist in his day and was utterly useless during the first war. Dueling has rules and forms and spells that are forbidden and techniques people are not allowed to use. I prefer my students not get silly ideas about magical combat from a glorified play. Better that they learn on their own than have such misconceptions; I like my students not dead, thank you.
"To judge from your expression, Mister Potter, you had extensive dueling experience this summer. I would wager from . . . Herr Gregorius, judging from your stance. That grip is unique to his style and unless you are even stupider than I believe, you would not try holding your wand that way without being taught how to make use of it. I commend you for your choice in teacher. In terms of dueling, he is possibly the best in the world and the fact that he was expelled from the professional circuit for his use of prohibited attacks bodes well for your potential.
"I would admit to being impressed that you managed to get your training in Austria without anyone being the wiser, but that would require that Nymphadora not have followed you the entire time. Still, you did an admirable job of evading border patrol.
"The thing is, you would have been far better off getting trained by Severus or Mad-Eye. Both of them would have drilled out of you the biggest mistake you've made so far. You've drawn your wand and pointed it at someone you know to be incredibly powerful and skilled beyond your abilities," Dumbledore waved his hand and Harry's wand snapped. "and not fired several spells of a borderline illegal nature the moment it was pointed at me. Under their tutelage, such an unforgivably stupid action would have been thoroughly drilled out of you. I grant it wouldn't have worked, but it would have been less embarrassing." Another wave of his hand showed the flickering magical field between them.
Harry stared at the broken wand in his hand.
"You did act with impressive speed, if it's any consolation. If I weren't in the habit of making sure that angry young men with grudges have a shield between them and me, you might have caused me a great deal of trouble with that draw.
"And do stop trying to use those wandless tricks, Mister Potter. It's just demeaning the skill to see you fail to wield them like that. Really. Who did you learn it from? Was it Jiago-san's book? While he was a brilliant Wizard in his own right, he really did not know anything about wandless magic." Dumbledore sighed dramatically.
Harry glowered, his fingers flexing at his side, his other hand clutching his destroyed wand.
"And that spare in your pocket really is not going to work any better. For one thing," Dumbledore held up a hand, "it's here. And even if it weren't, you are not well matched with Basilisk fang, even if you have the venom in your blood. Why is it that you seem to think that literal connections have anything to do with mystical ones?
"The listening spell was an interesting touch. It shows a good deal better planning than you normally display. Of course, since the stairway to my office modifies those spells and devices to reflect a more harmless discussion, I doubt it will do you much good. Now, let us return to our earlier question: if you were me and faced with the collapse of your plans because of a willful project, what would you do?"
"Kill it?" snapped Harry.
"Ah. No need to be rude." Dumbledore smiled benevolently. "In fact, since you are beginning to end your usefulness to me, it's time to make use of my failsafe. Phoenix Lives Again, I am Dumbledore, hear and obey."
Harry's face went blank.
"You know, it amuses me to realize that you think your resistance to the Imperius comes from some innate power instead of operating under its effects since you were born, cast by the Elder Wand no less. You aired your grievances and realized that you were wrong.
"Go and tell your allies it's time for the big one. Then go challenge Voldemort to a fight in the middle of London. You don't need to win, and make sure there are casualties on both sides. He needs to hit you with a Killing Curse, so make sure to dodge into it. That will be all." Dumbledore snapped his fingers and Harry came alive.
"Sorry for the trouble, Professor. I apologize for saying those things."
Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Not at all, my boy. Now go, I'm sure you have a long life ahead of you."
(A/N – John)
So, this story came about because Spoon was telling me about yet another Dumbledore-bashing fic. Specifically, one where he's an evil genius and gets outsmarted and overpowered by Harry. For some reason, I found myself wondering why it should be in all those fics, some of which I've read, that Dumbledore has never planned for such an event. If he's really a master manipulator, he surely would have expected that things might come undone.
One part of this fic I credit to Seventh Horcux by Emerald Ashes—which you should definitely read—specifically, the idea of the Imperius warding off other castings of it.