(December 12th, 2017: Minor revisions to main text and slight expansion of Author Notes)
Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling. I do not own Harry Potter.
The following scene takes place at some point round about lunch-time on the first of August, 1980, and concerns Albus Dumbledore, who has been summoned to meet with the Minister for Magic, Millicent Bagnold.
This piece is rated 'M'.
There were times, Albus had to admit, when his fellow witches and wizards failed to act in what he could consider a rational, sensible, manner. This was usually not a problem when he could predict such behaviour – and even when he did not see something coming, as often as not it often constituted something either which he could turn to his advantage or at least manage the detrimental effects of. Indeed, once in a while an unforeseen situation even proved actually a rather pleasant surprise, such as that day when he had discovered that James and a couple of his friends were animagi.
Until today, his greatest failings resulting from a failure on his part to anticipate the eccentricities of his fellow witches and wizards had consisted solely of two great disasters – first, the death of his beloved sister and the circumstances surrounding that, and secondly his failure to correctly anticipate that Tom Marvolo Riddle would actually go so far as to set himself up as a dark lord and then to go further to fight against his fellow witches and wizards.
Any other lapses of judgement that Albus had had had paled in terms of consequences, as compared to these. Even the chaos at the end of the school year in the summer of 1976 had been several orders of magnitude lower than the Ariana and Tom Marvolo Riddle catastrophes.
Now it was the first of August, 1980, and a third great disaster was overtaking him.
Millicent Bagnold, the relatively new Minister for Magic, had summoned Albus to her office. Albus did not find himself in the Ministry as often as he had been before the summer of 1976, nor asked for advice so often, and he missed it; his initial hope upon receiving today's summons had been that perhaps his term in political 'exile' was starting to come to an end at last. The past four years had been at times lonely, much of the first twelve months spent writing with advice to Minerva at every hour of the day, because there had been no way that she could run Hogwarts properly in his absence without his guidance. He had several times had to ease off on the mail to her though when Fawkes had started giving him funny looks, although once he had returned to Hogwarts after the break that the Hat had forced him to take, he had been able to at least personally supervise things there again full-time. But even back at Hogwarts, he had never had quite the same feeling as before of being in command of just the school as in previous times. Something which he had never been able to put his finger on or to identify had changed.
And his Ministry influence had shown no signs at all of recovery.
It had been obvious to Albus, when summoned to the Minister's office today with no advance warning, that this would be about the war.
He had not however expected the first words out of the Minister's mouth, once the door was closed and it was just the two of them, to be a rather anxious question about what influence he had with the goblins?
Albus of course had no influence with the goblins; why would he? He had cordial relations with the occupants of the lake adjacent to Hogwarts, and Hagrid was (sort of) friends with the acromantula in the forest, but the goblins were completely outside of Albus' purview. The goblins objected to the way in which the Hogwarts curriculum made no attempt to accurately represent (to their minds) even what they considered the most justified of their grievances in its coverage of the Goblin Rebellions, and refused any contacts with him on that basis.
Albus explained as much to the Minister.
This was a problem, the Minister said, looking deeply unhappy. The goblins had just announced that they were tired of the fighting taking place in the British part of the Wizarding World, and that they would 'support the government' in bringing an end to the strife. Since there were two organizations (the Ministry and the Death Eaters) which to the goblins' minds were laying claim to be the government, they had sent what amounted to a list of demands to each, accompanied by a note that obviously the legitimate government of Wizarding Britain, who would have their support, was the body which would more convincingly undertake to fulfil items on the list.
"I just want this war over, Albus." the Minister told him. "I want the population to be able to celebrate and to feel good, and to have reason to be pleased about something that the Ministry has done for them, instead of feeling anxious and scared about the ongoing fighting and aurors using Unforgiveable Curses, and rumours about the dementors. And this wretched war finally seemed to be winding down, with the giants being beaten and the Death Eaters getting more and more desperate in their attacks and You-Know-Who having apparently gone into hiding. I don't want the goblins deciding to throw in with You-Know-Who and everything flaring up again, with a goblin rebellion getting going."
"Well as I said, I'm afraid I have no immediate influence with the goblins, Minister." Albus told her. "If you give me a couple of weeks to explore things and to exert pressure behind the scenes…"
"I'm on a deadline, Albus. I had twenty-four hours to respond, and four of them are gone already. I have an emergency Wizengamot session to attend in forty-five minutes. If you can't help, then all I can do is push you under the graphorn, since one of the demands on the goblins' list is that you be immediately 'retired' from all current official and advisory positions, stripped of all honours – except those received for defeating Gellert Grindelwald; they'll let you keep those for some reason – and to be employed as the caretaker of the graveyard in Godric's Hollow – but to basically disappear otherwise from any other kind of public life or participation therein. They want to be allowed to carry wands too, but they did at least provide alternative options they might be prepared to accept for that particular demand which seem fairly harmless concerning Ministry budget reforms and trade with the muggle financial markets. There aren't any alternatives to their demands about you, though – they want you reduced to the role of a glorified grave-digger and gardener, and if you don't actually have any influence you can use over them, then I may as well give that to them. No two ways about it, you're going to have to be sacrificed for the greater good, Albus."
Godric's Hollow… that was where Ariana was buried. A lump came to Albus' throat. Did the goblins know that? Was that why they had selected this – that he be thrust into a role where he would have to daily be confronted by his greatest failure? That he would have to look at her grave on a regular basis, and be responsible for the maintenance of it?
"Please Millicent…" he was vaguely aware that he heard himself pleading. "Not Godric's Hollow. Anywhere… anything… but not that and there."
"I'm sorry Albus. You're yesterday's news, and what you want doesn't matter any more with the end of this war at stake. If the goblins are going to stick their ugly faces into this, I'd rather have them killing Death Eaters and plundering their assets than throw in with the other side."
My enthusiasm for writing this story ebbed away some time ago, and dealing with this final update has left me feeling - like Bilbo Baggins - like butter which has been spread over too much bread. In hindsight, I probably should have left it as a one-shot, or a one-two, as was my original intention.
Albus has been left alive at the end because going down as a 'martyr' would quite possibly appeal to him, and might certainly give his name and legend more cachet than being stripped of most honours and offices and demoted to caretaker of a graveyard. And Ariana is one of the few topics on which I get the impression that canon Albus Dumbledore is genuinely emotionally vulnerable and capable of actually feeling something (rather than saying that he thinks he feels something). Ariana – and a need to see her (for whatever reasons) – is what does for him in canon, despite all his pride and cleverness, when confronted with the Resurrection Stone, heavily cursed and as part of the Gaunt family ring. Someone in this universe (possibly Gnaeus and/or Lily) is assumed to have been digging around in Albus' past sufficiently to have unearthed stories about Albus' youth; a decade and a half less time has passed than when canon Rita Skeeter manages to dig up some of canon Albus' family skeletons, with memories being perhaps a touch clearer and more people who were around at the time perhaps being alive and in possession of their faculties. And there is always Aberforth...
As after-notes, concerning 'what happens next', the goblins are assumed to be sufficiently persuaded by the efforts the Ministry makes to declare that they are recognising them as the government - by which point most of the Death Eaters, guessing the way the wind was likely to blow, have already cleared out of the country. A few Death Eaters, led by Voldemort (possessing Barty Crouch junior) attack the Potter family home in one final raid, and a number of heavily disguised witch and wizard allies of the goblins show up to save James and his house-guest, Remus Lupin. Lily kills Barty Crouch junior, much to Voldemort's surprise, saving James and Remus, because they're employees of the Ministry. Voldemort flees to somewhere abroad where he left Bellatrix looking after his own body, to discover himself in a state of partial undress with a near-naked Bellatrix on his lap, screaming ecstatically. Ooops (and say hello to little Delphini nine months down the line). Gnaeus Prince probably ends up as headmaster of Hogwarts, and the Ministry of Magic grudgingly follows through on various promises to make life more tolerable for sentient inhabitants of the Wizarding World such as goblins and centaurs. Lily becomes a noted and prominent rising figure in the Wizengamot. Lily and Severus' first child is a girl and (at least as far as first name goes) is called 'Lucy'.
But I'll draw a line under this piece there, and write Finis.