Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling. I do not own Harry Potter.
Note: The following one-shot takes place in an alternate universe in which Albus Dumbledore has become completely insane by 1975, as Horace Slughorn discovers when he goes to tell Albus something one summer evening.
Rating: This piece is rated 'T'.
June 21st, 1975, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
"What are you doing Albus?" Horace stared in confusion.
It was now nineteen minutes past eight in the evening of June the 21st of 1975, and Professor Horace Slughorn's conscience had just gotten the better of him, after the reports, earlier in the day, of the latest casualties of the war.
He had just told Albus about a conversation he had had three decades earlier with a member of Slytherin House, and Albus had pulled a velvet bag coloured the scarlet and gold of Gryffindor out of a drawer of his desk and was tipping the contents – which looked like a selection of brightly coloured and variously shaped dice out of the bag onto the desk.
"You have just given me what appears to be very important information, Horace." Albus said. "I have to know what to do." Then Albus set the bag aside.
The Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry cleared a space on his desk, scooped up the dice in both his hands, blew on them, then parted his hands, scattering the dice with clattering rattling thuds across his desktop.
"Those are some kind of divination aids?" Horace Slughorn asked, somewhat interested.
"Only in a manner of speaking." Albus Dumbledore said, starting to inspect the dice. "They are in fact perfectly normal polyhedral dice."
"I sense a question coming, Horace: let me pre-empt it." Albus Dumbledore said. "Do you know who the Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald is?"
"Of course I do." Horace huffed. "Wizarding supremacist. Wanted to conquer the world or something such. You stopped him and defeated him in a duel in 1945. He's living out the rest of his life in that prison he built."
"Gellert Grindelwald – and this is purely between ourselves, Horace, you understand – was my first really big mistake. I decided to fall in love with him."
"Oh." said Horace, not quite sure what to do or say other than this.
Albus had started to rearrange and line up the dice.
"It went wrong of course." Albus Dumbledore continued. "Catastrophically. As have a number of other big choices and decisions which I have made since, in the worst possible way. And so, you see, I have finally learnt from experience, that I simply must not decide when it comes to anything truly important. It will go horribly wrong, if I do, in the worst possible way imaginable. Rolling dice literally cannot result in any worse possible plausible situations arising, of that I am quite certain, and so when it comes to truly important decisions, I must roll dice and let them decide and tell me what to do. Because statistically the results will almost always be better than what I would decide to do, if I chose. If I choose a bad outcome is guaranteed. If the dice decide, then it is only one of a number of possibilities."
"Does anyone else know about you doing this?" Horace asked, starting to feel uneasy. Albus had cleared the office of portraits earlier, the moment Horace indicated that this meeting concerned Tom Marvolo Riddle, and so there were no other witnesses whatsoever to this conversation.
"My brother Aberforth, but he is of course family, and agrees with me that rolling dice is better than my making decisions, or at least he has said things to me which seemed to indicate that that is his belief. Minerva and Filius have known on several occasions, but the dice advised each time that I wipe their memories of the events concerned. Pomona and Poppy know, but are sworn to secrecy."
"Umm, right…" Horace Slughorn said, looking at the headmaster and wondering if he was truly seeing him for the first time?
"This is the first time that I have had occasion to make this known to you." the headmaster said. He prodded a dice thoughtfully. "On a subsidiary note, the dice advise I permit you to retain your memory of this occasion, but caution you that I will hunt down and confund anyone whom you advise of it who comes to my attention. And I will have you interned in St. Mungo's as a raving lunatic if you persistently try to make an issue of things."
"Right, right, very good." Horace said hastily. "But what about the horcruxes? His horcruxes? Which I've just told you that he was practically planning to make back in his school-days. And which are surely going to present problems to anyone trying to fight him?"
"Oh: the dice advise that I do absolutely nothing about them." Albus Dumbledore said airily. "And so I won't, unless circumstances change in some truly major fashion or their importance diminishes sufficiently that I can safely make a decision of my own about them. And let's face it, Horace, we both know that you won't do anything about them. It's taken you more than thirty years to even tell me about them, and you're not exactly fitted out to be one of nature's great problem-solvers or fighters…"
It was that last throwaway jibe – or at least comment – which did it for Horace Slughorn, as he headed back to his quarters, fuming in indignation.
No, he might not ever going to be in the front of a battle, yelling with Gryffindor bloodlust for glory and the sight of an enemy triumphantly trampled beneath the feet, but that didn't make him a coward. Okay, well, not much of a coward, and anyway, you didn't need to be waving a wand around bellowing to the world 'Look at me: look how hard I am!' to be someone able to get things done.
And it was now uncomfortably intruding upon Horace that there probably weren't many other people he could give this information to and expect to remain safe, and that the headmaster was both (1) insane and (2) had decided not to do anything at all on the matter of horcruxes (or possibly even of fighting Lord Voldemort, if the dice told him not to do so.) So if anyone was going to do anything, it was going to be up to Horace himself to do it, issuing directions and pulling strings even if he couldn't give away the full reasons for what he was doing.
He swallowed nervously: could he do anything? Well, he knew people – and he even knew some things about the wizard who had once been Tom Marvolo Riddle – and maybe he could at least make a start of investigating this.
But he would need agents, to make enquiries for him.
And pretty much all adults would already be committed to one side or another in this war, and have duties and responsibilities – including to report – to others.
Maybe he could snap up a couple of the older pupils, to work specifically for him, before anyone else managed to get their paws on them.
Author Notes: (to be updated depending on early reviews)
Having written various pieces with various Albus Dumbledores where I was trying to make sense of some of the convoluted thought-processes that canon Albus apparently goes through (it's not completely Albus' fault; J. K. Rowling uses him to set up so many things, when said things are sometimes wildly at odds with one another), I thought I'd give a version of Albus Dumbledore a go where he makes all important decisions by rolling dice. ('Important' decisions, note; depending on his mood, and the circumstances, he is capable of making most day-to-day decisions without getting the dice out and rolling them.)
I was also interested by the possibility of Horace Slughorn bringing up the horcruxes before the end of the first Wizarding War. (Which might or might not be canon compliant, depending on what a reader wants to make of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince - but this is in any case an alternate universe, and Horace Slughorn does mention them of his own free will in 1975 here.)
This piece is a one-shot. I suppose there might be some scope for a 'Horace Slughorn goes looking for the horcruxes' theme, although he would of course leave day to day fighting of Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort to the Ministry of Magic and Magical Law Enforcement.