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If Memories Could Bleed

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Fourth year, 1994.

 

The end could very well be just the beginning, to paraphrase an old quote. Though the so-called Smartest Witch of her Age, had never put much weight in the senseless words. It was a way to console someone through grief and trying times, to get others to believe and in-still within themselves a sense of hope that had been long lost. It was a way of saying that although it was bleak and dark now, the sun would shine again and the day would start anew. That the bad times couldn't last, and the good times would prevail as they always did. It always came back to that ideology, good versus evil, dark versus light.

She had always hated such divides.

Though in order to understand her thoughts, and likewise to understand her, there are some things that need to be explained first and foremost. The main one being that her name was Hermione Jean Granger, a muggleborn witch— though neither lasted her very long. The second most important one being that her life was not a happy one, at least not presently.

There had been a few stolen moments of peace and joy in her earlier years at Hogwarts, stuck in the middle of her two best friends Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. She had laughed and cried many times throughout those first years and, she had pulled tricks and excelled in all her classes— even when she bit off a little more than she could chew. Hermione Granger even bothered herself to go and watch a few quidditch matches despite fearing the sport and her friends taking part in it. She wasn't scared of heights per say but she was scared of falling from such heights.

Hermione Granger had kissed and gossiped about cute boys in her dorm room, even adventuring out to Hogsmeade for a few dates on occasion. Though her dorm mates had never started out all too close to her and with her primary best friends being boys, she learned how to befriend girls eventually. It made her life much easier when her said best friends were in the middle of a nasty argument.

Though with the world at war and herself being pulled headlong into the centre of it, she could hardly remember such times of carelessness and joyful actives. Weekends in Hogsmeade, quick kisses in the library with Quidditch Stars, or laughing at jokes and lamenting about potions homework seemed silly to think about in such times. The joy of such memories seemed to resemble an ignited match, though with no oxygen or hope to fuel it along, the match quickly stuttered out in the world shrouded by darkness. 

Hermione could pinpoint the exact moment the world was turning cold, when the happy moments lessened and the world fell heavily on her shoulders alongside her best friends. If she truly wanted to be pessimistic she could claim it to be in her first year of Hogwarts—the year it all started and the year everything had changed—, but she had always prided herself in her logic. So logically speaking, or thinking in this case, the world was turned upside down the day Voldemort returned in her fourth year, as that was the day he came back, the day Cedric Diggory died.

It happened in a minute—no more and no less, as Cedric Diggory was dropped by her best friend in the middle of the Triwizard Tournament field lifeless and cold. Harry didn't move from his place on the ground, knelt in tattered robes, screaming and bloodied. It was a visual Hermione couldn't erase from her mind no matter how long she tried to scrub it away. She had been frozen in the stands, worried and terrified out of her wits as he screamed many things but most of all that he was dead. That Cedric was dead, gone from the world at only seventeen and that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was back to his former glory.

She was only fourteen and already it felt like the world was caving in as she eventually rushed to his side only to be shoved away. Photographers, Professors and students all holding her and Ron at bay— to stay away from the field, to not go rushing into danger, and to not comfort their friend. Then Harry had been dragged off by Professor Moody, and the students and families in attendance began to panic.

In short term, the following hours were hardly any better for anyone involved. Harry had nearly died again from their Defence Professor— thought to be Mad-Eye Moody, but was in fact Barty Crouch Jr— who had been polyjuiced and trying to kill him all year. Headmaster Dumbledore had been absent up until the last moment and just barely managed to save him along with Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall. Then there was the riots in the stands of panicked students and members of faculty who failed to keep the peace and the event quiet. There were hundreds upon hundreds of owls coming through daily as parents raged about the danger Hogwarts was in and Headmaster Dumbledore did nothing.

The Headmaster, who was admittedly powerful and an elderly man had been odd for years—both to students, the Ministry and wizards and witches of all ages for years. He always revealed far too little in the shapes of riddles and half hearted warnings to Harry and never bothered to explain himself afterwards either. Yet, Harry had held the man on pedestal for years, claiming him to be the shining example of what a good wizard ought to be like, Hermione wasn't so sure.

She had never been amicable with the elderly wizard but she had been cordial and polite— though that day had changed many things for her. He had failed her, and more importantly he had failed Harry— the man he trusted and valued most with his life. It was something she could not and would not forgive. Hermione refused to trust the man ever again with her best friend's life, despite his constant reassurances that he was fine. Even Ron thought that Harry was placing too much blind faith into the older wizard and he was about as dense as a doorknob most days.

Harry Potter was worth a thousand Albus Dumbledore's in Hermione Granger's opinion and he deserved everything that the world could offer him. He had been robbed a childhood, a family and a home and she would not allow the meddling old man to rob him of a life as well.  No matter the price of such a request.

It had been hours since Dumbledore had stolen her best friend away and to his office after the days tragic events. He had been reclusive and hidden for days following the meeting and the funerals of Cedric, and despite the school year coming to an end, Hermione couldn't chance waiting until the next term. Stiffening her upper lip and shoving all her brimming rage and anger down to the depths of her person she started her walk to the griffin statues, the concealed passage to Dumbledores office.

Very few knew the location to the Headmasters office but fortunately, or unfortunately for her, she nearly knew the pathway by heart. From being gifted a time turner in her third year—which was really a poor judgment call on their behalf— to all the havoc and mischief her best friends had gotten up to, Hermione thought it safe to say that she had been to his office far more often than she would have liked. Not that she was usually in trouble per say, but it seemed that where Harry Potter went, trouble followed.

The brass statues stood tall and foreboding as she stood there, staring grimly at the realistic half-bird half-lion's that stood guard. Previous to her excursion she had written down an entire laundry list of possible passwords to his office. She knew from Harry it usually revolved around the Headmaster's favourite sweets and so that was where she started. With a quick sigh and a glare to the brass statues she began to list off in a clear and determined voice.

"Cauldron Cakes, Fudge Flies, Chocolate Cauldrons...," She started off simply, but was unsurprised when the statues didn't so much as budge, as if they were judging her deeply with their beady stone eyes.

"...Acid Pops, Stringmints, umm," she faltered for a moment as she found herself slowly running out of options. Maybe she should have added more Muggle candies just incase, but it was too late now to turn back.

"Ah... Sherbet Lemons, Sugar Quills—," Hermione nearly jumped out of her school robes when the statues finally began to twist around and reveal a spiralling staircase. Well, better late than never she supposed, though sugar quills were an odd password choice.

In a moment of silent triumph she stuffed her parchment into her pockets with a tilted grin and began walking up the winding staircase. Every step she took farther up had her gut spooling in knots and wringing like a mop. She knew it to be against the rules to enter a teacher's office or private quarters without their permission but she simply couldn't let this go. Harry deserved better given than the hand of cards life had dealt him and after all, what was one rule ignored compared to the thousands that her best friends broke?

She had just reached the top of the last stair when she was brought from her thoughts and counter arguments, should the issue be brought up at all, by a familiar voice speaking by the large glass windows. She had always found the headmaster's quarters to be strange looking. With odd bobbles and trinkets on the shelves, and the strange wallpaper and fifty or so portraits of past headmasters. Even the ceiling was strange in the way it gleamed like the night sky, but was currently cloudy and muddled like it too was displeased at the recent tragedy's.

Hermione was rooted in her spot by the stairs, refusing to let her eyes wander about as the Headmaster spoke a simple greeting to her. His very voice, unfathomably kind and grandfather-like had her posture tight and tense as she stared at the purple robed wizard who had been filling her cauldron with rage for days on end. There had been a time she had once respected the mighty Albus Dumbledore, for his cleverness and wit, his achievements and ability to stand for those deemed less of him. Though that time had long since passed as she angrily glared at the elderly wizard with his silver hair and shining half moon spectacles.

"Miss Granger," he greeted kindly with a small grin and his blue eyes twinkling behind the thick lenses. "I must say, I wasn't expecting you this evening."

She chewed on the corner of her lower lip, a bad habit she had yet to break, as she tried to infuse as much respect into her voice as possible. It was a difficult task as her hands were balled into fists in her school robes and she wanted nothing more than to hex the Professor for all that he had and more importantly hadn't done. After all, it wouldn't be the first time she cast on an adult for being stupid.

"Professor."

"What might I do for you?" He asked with a nod towards his sitting desk in invitation, where he stepped his way over to comfortably converse with the young witch. "As it is after curfew and it seems you have come alone, I assume the inquiry is both pressing, personal and troubling."

Hermione nodded in agreement to his claims but did not sit down at the chair offered to her. A chair that was wooden and worn, with red cushions like that of Gryffindor's banners and filled with golden accents around the legs. Sitting felt like defeat and she was not going to be defeated in a battle of wits—not even with her Headmaster who likely knew thousands of more things than she. Instead, Hermione stood proudly and stared at the man as if daring him to break eye contact with her chocolate brown eyes.

"Indeed," She agreed and half heartedly tacked on an apology at the end. "—though I must apologize about curfew, I hadn't noticed the time."

"But not for visiting my quarters without permission?" He asked with a bemused expression, though it quickly faded at her sharp and cynical reply.

"No, sir."

Albus Dumbledore hummed at her in a noncommittal way and raised a brow at her two sided answer. He could tell the young witch was angered with him but for what he could not hope to guess. Though many doubted the great wizards mind and way of teaching he never forgot his students, and Hermione Granger was one he doubted he could forget even if he had wanted too.

She was brilliant, much more so than the average witch—clever with a cauldron over-filled with logic and knowledge. Though her temper was a fickle thing, much like a viper ready to attack instead of the lion she was meant to be. He knew the sorting hat was pushing for Ravenclaw, but her bravery and temper had outshone more clearly. A pity for Filius he assumed but a gift for Minerva. So with knowing this about the young witch, Albus let her air her temper willingly and stayed unmoved by her blatant rudeness.

"Honesty is an admirable trait to be given, though my question still stands." He leaned forward slightly, as he curved his hands onto his lap in a relaxed manner and repeated his words from earlier with twinkling blue eyes. "What can I help you with, Miss Granger?"

The elderly wizard waited for many moments as a mirage of looks passed over her face, all varying in severity from one to the next before she finally spoke plainly. It went from anger to grief, from rage to pity, from disgust to worry, and back to a bland and almost bored expression. Albus Dumbledore knew in that instant why the sorting hat chose to ignore her ambitiousness and cleverness that was an immediate tally to Slytherin. The young witch was painfully open with her emotions, carelessly wearing them upon her sleeves for all to see. Though the statement she left him with was not at all what the Headmaster had expected from her.

"It's about Harry."

He raised a brow at her words, confused at her meaning but slowly began to regale what he knew of her best friend and his current conditions. He had hoped the boy was just as well as he had been the last time they had spoke, nearly a night or so ago about Lord Voldemort.

"Last I had been told Mr. Potter has been doing well. Swiftly recovering from the fortnights tragic events." He said simply, not offering much besides the facts and basics that he knew. Though admittedly there was much that he suspected to be wrong with Harry Potter at the moment. The Headmaster knew grief to linger at the best of times but fade ever so slowly. Harry would just need time, he presumed.

"... Madame Pomfrey has even stated him to be much more resilient to her treatments, which are brutal and painstakingly slow at best, than expected."

Hermione's face went red with righteous anger as she seethed through clenched teeth and burning brown eyes like liquid molasses. "Those 'tragic events' should have never happened in the first place! But because of your negligence and arrogance—!"

"Arrogance?" Dumbledore slipped into her argument with both amusement and a slight tickling of annoyance in the back of his throat. He had been slandered many times in the papers and even more so by the general public as many things, but never had they called him arrogant. Perhaps foolish and reckless, barmy and a nutter, even on one memorable occasion the equivalent of a mad-hatter, but never, ever, arrogant.

"He is fourteen, Professor!" She snapped at him, preferring to ignore his disagreement outrightly as she straightened up and continued her bottled up rage at the elderly wizard. Dumbledore simply sat back and let her get all that she needed to off her chest in the safe confines of his office. No matter how much her comments burned and bit at his hardened skin, he didn't make any move to stop her otherwise.

"—A fourteen year old up against seventeen year olds in the most dangerous of Wizarding sporting events in history! And you made him compete," She paused for a second at most before steeling another glare at the blue eyed wizard.

"Harry didn't even want to compete, did you know? He was hoping you'd find a way for him to get out of it— he's been drowning in fear all year because of it! And. You. Did. Nothing!"

A wave of accidental magic broke free, as an antique vase on one of his many cluttered shelves exploded in glass fragments. Dumbledore didn't even bat an eye as he sent a reparo towards it, though it seemed the witch had finally gotten some of her anger cleared as she muttered in disdain towards him. Her eyes were still burning brown pits, but no longer did she scream at him as she seethed.

"You should have pulled him from the tournament at the start, like any sane person would have. He could have died." When a moment of silence passed between them, Albus slowly unfurled his clasped hands and spoke in a measured a tone.

"It was a magical binding contract—," He didn't get any farther than that, as Hermione Granger fired up once more.

"A contract that could have been broken since he was not of age and his parents or guardians consent was not given!" She fumed, as she let her one heel slightly stop to the floor in what Dumbledore could only think of as a child tantrum-like response. "If you had simply asked Sirius he would have broken it off instantly!"

Now it was Albus's turn to stare at her in shock, as he took in the witch for all that she was. Hermione Granger had always been a gifted witch, known to be both powerful and clever. Perhaps he could have taken Harry out of the tournament, he did know it was quite plausible with his age as a factor, but in the end it would have caused more of a fuss than anything. He had full support and faith in Harry to survive the tournament.

"You really are quite clever Miss Granger. More clever than I had ever anticipated from a witch your age." He complimented simply, watching as the witch's brows raised slightly in disdain. It was almost as if any praise from him was worth nothing more than the mud on her shoes. Which he supposed was fair to the way their entire interaction was panning out.

With a sigh, he added thoughtfully while smoothing out his long silvery beard. "I concede to your argument however, there a things are work that I cannot divulge into at the moment as to why his actions and participation were necessary."

It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't exactly the truth either. Harry living and competing in the tournament had managed to eliminate the wait of Voldemort's resurrection and also solidify his needs to use Severus once more. With Voldemort back and the rest of the world ignorant it gave him much time to plan and reach out to old alliances. He needed trust to bring in his ranks of the Order, and frankly Dumbledore needed time to ready Harry for his final play on the chessboard. He had been playing chess for over a hundred years now, and he would be damned if Voldemort managed to out manoeuvre his knights once more.

"His actions!" She snapped coldly, bringing the elderly man swiftly from his wandering thoughts.

With a sigh Albus attempted to make peace with the witch, recalling a fool hardly plan he had implemented in the beginning before knowing the boy. Before knowing that Harry was able to be primed and coaxed into the pawn Albus desperately needed him to be. Severus had stated that all his plans were long shots and unlikely to amount to anything but the world in tatters and himself at the centre of the collapse. Though Severus had never been all too great at chess so perhaps it was a good thing he thought Dumbledore to be playing with fire.

"I am aware you do not think highly of my lack of interest in your friends life—," A easy lie, much like all the following words were as they fell from his tongue like honey. "—how you think I allowed him to battle Quirrel on his own, that I allowed the basilisk to roam the school and for Harry to face it alone. I must say it was never my intention for him to come to harm."

Only the last had been a truth. Dumbledore had never wanted Harry to be harmed— it was why he sent Fawkes and the sword to him in the Chamber, and forced Severus to keep an eye on him during his first year. No, Albus Dumbledore was many things but he was not a fool, not in this. Harry Potter would not be harmed until the time was right, until he was faced with the final truth and making the last move on the chessboard. The ultimate play.

"He's only fourteen and you offer him up to that maniac on a silver platter year after year, Professor." She tacked on his title like a curse and Albus could not help the cold fury that began to spew in his chest. She knew, somehow someway Hermione Granger had become subject to his carefully constructed and concealed plans.

"What will next years grand scheme be? Will my best friend finally achieve the means to your ends— the end result being his death!"

He played the part, much like Severus played his and swallowed the sharp and splintering words like poison that spewed along his tongue. Albus flinched at her tone but not at her words because they were the truth and he had always valued honesty even when he could not submit to such a trait himself.

"It's for the greater good."

Another lie, it's always another lie.

Hermione Granger looked like she had been dosed in cold water. Her eyes beginning to look glassy and red as the anger faded to be filled with tears and pain at what will eventually come to an end. Albus knew right then and there he had to get her to listen, to persuade her to keep quiet of such matters— but it seemed impossible. Even with adding such an insane risk to his game of chess now he could not guarantee anything, nothing but a chance but perhaps that would suffice.

Perhaps his plan would go unsoiled like it should, even if he added a new pawn to his board. For the greater good, he thought simply and tired as ever, it was always for the greater good. A world without tyranny and dark magic, a world without sides and without pain. It was why he spoke at all as the witch looked seconds from running from the room. For the greater good.

"Miss Granger—,"

"He trusted you!" She yelled at him, her voice cracking in the middle as she began to scream at him as tears welled in her brown eyes and her pale cheeks went a bright red from the stress of holding them back. "I trusted you, Ron trusted you!"

"What would you have me do, Miss Granger?" Albus remarked tiredly, though he felt anything but. He was knowingly playing on her weaknesses, to use her sympathy and logic against her, to make her stay and listen at least for the moment while he multitasked behind his mental shields.

"Hide him away as young witches and wizards die in the fight? Lock him up in some safe house for years, to have him live a life in solitude and on the run from Lord Voldemort?" He exhaled loudly, as if to reinforce his tired state, to which he used as a front. Albus knew he would need to call Severus later that evening to keep him up to date with the new developments at hand. "I doubt he would agree to such a cowardly motion."

"You could do something other than send him on a death quest year after year." She said matter of factly, as a lone tear streaked down her face but was quickly wiped away with her robe sleeve. He knew instantly he was gaining ground as she spat out the following statement. "Something that wouldn't kill my best friend before he turns twenty."

Albus heaved a sigh as he gestured to the chair once more, thinking the witch had finally aired out all her anger if the tears were anything to go by. "Sit down, Miss Granger."

Her eyes snapped to his, with defiance radiating off her in waves. "I don't—,"

"Sit," he ordered sternly, having been quite annoyed with the drawn out execution of her defiance and anger. It would have been so much simpler if it had been the Weasley boy who had confronted him. He at least could be counted on to agree to most things without thoughts, to easily follow others and be manipulated into being obedient.

Biting his tongue to hold himself together, he held out the bowl of Sugar Quills politely and fell into the routine of offering sweets to any student that graced his office. It made working with children much simpler when they took from the bowl for them they felt at ease and confided almost earnestly.

"Would you like a—?"

She sneered at him, almost an exact replica of the one he had seen one to many times on the young Malfoy heir. It nearly made him chuckle at the mental comparison, at least until she opened her mouth.

"You can shove your Vertiserum laced sweets up—,"

He quickly pulled the bowl back and settled her with a cold and icy glare. He was pleased when she dropped her head in shame and began to worry her lower lip between her teeth. Albus knew she had issues disrespecting elders and people in authority—a common effect of teacher pets and those seeking validation. So her reaction had been strange at best, but then again he had been pressing her and sooner or later she would crack under the pressure. If enough force was extorted, of course.

"Miss Granger...," He prompted pointedly, and slowly the witch raised her head to meet his eyes as he spoke. He carefully measured his words and levelled his tone to that of exhaustion and began to confide small truths and hidden lies to her in the plenty. "I was going to wait until next term before offering this to you but, seeing as you lack not only trust but faith in my skills I shall offer my aid now."

She frowned and began to speak, only for him to interrupt her swiftly yet again. He was tiring of interruptions and was beginning to understand Severus' ire with her. She was loud mouthed and impatient. Perhaps, he owed his spy an apology.

"I don't—,"

"For Harry then." He remedied easily, as the following words tasted bitter like acid in an adequate attempt of genuineness and compassion. "I agree with your view point, I have been negligent and perhaps arrogant towards young Mr. Potter and his pinnacle for finding trouble."

He willed the frown from his face, and let his eyes meet the brown eyed witches sincerely as he offered in kindness to appeal to her. "He is lucky and I am grateful that he has such loyal friends. For this makes a number of things much simpler on my part."

She stared at him in curiosity, as if trying to piece together what he was getting at before asking in prompt. "Sir?"

It was at this moment he was thankful to be not only be a skilled liar—having been friends of liars and resulted from a not so light filled upbringing, but an adept Occlumens.

"I have encountered a spell, darker than any magic I have found in quite some time from one of the few dark tomes I hold in my private collection. Normally," He paused here as if to give her a moment to process his words. Like he had given her valuable information towards his secrets. That even the face of the light magic campaign dabbled in the dark arts from time to time. "—I wouldn't even think about casting it, but perhaps you are correct. If I cannot be the one to help Mr. Potter, then perhaps he could trust in you to always do what's right— as you have no difficulty to see between the lines of light and dark."

The words tasted bitter sweet, like acid that burned his tongue. He had lied very little, as the witch was quite morally grey in his compass of light and dark wizards but if everything went well, the witch wouldn't even remember the conversation. It didn't matter that he wouldn't hold up his end of the bargain to allow her to help Harry. Perhaps, the spell he would use on her would be enacted, as it was exactly what he was claiming it be— a possibility for Harry to be safe. But he wasn't about to let Hermione Granger be the only influence to his sacrificial pawn. Harry Potter needed his guidance and he wasn't about to let some Muggle-born upstart ruin his chess match.

"The whole basis of dark wizards and light wizards is codswallop," She stated with a roll of her eyes and a downward turn of her lips, though she quickly added on as an afterthought. "...sir."

Dumbledore chuckled with a grin, and gave the witch her allowance to familiarity. It was good she was letting him in, even if it was cautiously. It meant she was being persuaded to listen which was what he needed most from her at the moment. "That it may be, Miss Granger, but it is not a mindset even I can change overnight."

Hermione didn't offer anything more than a raised brow at his words to which he took as a silent nudge to continue. To pull her further into his grasp of attention he let his previous teaching methods channel through him. It was not something he was particularly skilled at, children had never been his forte, but something he had used as a stepping stone to gain access and power amongst the generations to follow his own.

'Fear in the absence of respect is not power. Power is power.' It was a quote he hardly pondered on any longer, since the wizard who once spoke it, the wizard who had once been his most dearest friend— was no longer with the world of the living. Nothing more than a shade of what he once was, a hallowed husk of a man in the deepest and darkest cellars of Azkaban. 

"This spell is one that would be classified as black magic, I assume you are familiar with the term?" He questioned with a quirked brow and was quick to observe how she tensed at the term. He allowed her unease at the change of topic to pull him away from the darker tangents his mind had begun to unravel.

"Of course, sir."

He watched her carefully as he slowly measured his words once more. He could see her interest piqued but also her caution and fear growing with every passing second. "Then you understand the ramifications I would be under should anyone know of it's existence and uses..." he paused for a moment as he struggled to word it properly. "—namely those of dark intent and wishes. There is a reason black magic is so heavily dealt with in the face of crimes committed."

She nodded, likely thinking off all the named wizards and witches that had dabbled in such Dark Arts. Or maybe she was thinking of the consequences and laws against Black Magic—Dumbledore didn't exactly want to ask which she occupied her clever mind with. It all came down to the same reply, the wizards and witches were dead as that was the law of magical beings who dabbled in such. Black Magic was a sin in and of itself and to wield it was a crime that even Grindelwald and Voldemort knew better than to dabble in.

"I will not go into details about the nature of the spell, as the book itself was vague in explanation, most of it written in runes and riddles." Albus stated simply, as he let his hands clasp on top of the desk in ease and sighed slightly to play the act of being tired far beyond his years. Though the witch didn't seem fooled by his pretence entirely as she stayed stiff as a board and let a frown mar her plain features.

Without prompting he continued onward. "It does however, offer an opportunity that is both timely and unique to our situation."

The silence that fell in between the two was uncanny. For half a moment Albus Dumbledore was worried he had prodded too far, that he had not measured the witch properly and that at any second she would call him on his half truths and hidden lies, but thankfully he was wrong. As the curly haired witch chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, with a thousand expressions flicking across her face before she worriedly glanced up with a peculiar and unusual expression.

"Would it help Harry?" She asked timidly, her previous grief and anger now subdued and gone from her thoughts. Albus was pleased to note that he had in fact calculated that equation correctly. Hermione Granger would always seek knowledge for her answers rather than follow her emotions. She added on shortly with glimmering irises of mud brown. "Would it keep him safe?"

Albus didn't hesitate in his reply, despite it being more of a presumption than a promise on his end. Magic was never a fail safe, and he could never guarantee Harry Potter's likelihood of survival. Not with the prophecy and the world resting on his shoulders to handle the situation properly. Sacrifices were a given in war, for the betterment of others—as he preached, for the greater good.

"Most certainly."

She chewed on her lower lip, a habit that Albus Dumbledore couldn't help but notice was a frequent one with the young witch. It was a telling sign to her unease and distrust in him, but likewise one that easily showed how her mind scrambled for answers. He had given her little information, as was to be expected, but enough that it subdued her curiosities and had her positioned in a corner with only one reply at her disposal. Albus had known she would agree even before he offered, or speculated at the least. It was a risk on her part to take it, but looked favourably on her values that surmounted others. It was a pity the clever witch was so easily fooled. He had half hoped she would call his bluff and prove that he had mistaken her faults.

After a moments thought, she ceased her fretting and raised her head just a smidge higher in determination to meet his half concealed bright blue eyes. She spoke clearly and without a single waver in tone—the embodiment of her Hogwarts house shining through like a beacon.

"What do you need me to do?" Smiling inwardly, he re-clasped his wrinkled and weathered hands in a loose and approachable manner as he spoke.

"I need your permission to cast the enchantment on your person, to enable the spell not only within your mind but your magical core," He paused here as he let his eyes wander along the young witches tensed stature. He was relieved to notice that she seemed familiar with how invasive and dark the spell would effect her. To ease her mind he added on the only reassurance that he could offer in the nature of the spell. "It will lay dormant and hidden unless it should ever be needed."

"And if it isn't," She interrupted swiftly before adding on hastily in clarification. "—needed that is."

"It will live with you and it will die with you," Albus concluded simply, letting his words wash in reassurance over the young witch. He watched content for moment as her posture lots it's rigidity for just half a second more as he added on, until it washed away just as quick. "—offering no lasting effect otherwise."

With her posture once again tense and ready like a knocked arrow in a bow to be released at any second, she haughtily asked, "And what's the catch?"

He knew it was too good to be true that the so-called smartest witch of her age would take such a spell lying down with no further poking and prodding into the mechanics of it. Once more that evening he had wished it was Ronald Weasley who came into his office to be offered such a chance instead. He sighed both in exasperation and exhaustion before further going into the castings complexities.

"To do this magic," he started slowly, trying his damnedest to keep a cool and collected head about such things. He knew when he started this fools errand with the witch he'd need to be both truthful and dishonest and unfortunately the time came for honesty in which he would need to do next. A memory charm was the only way such a spell could be enacted properly and the only reason he would condone such magic. "—I need to lock away the memory of this entire conversation afterwards."

He could see the woman's lips tighten and her eyes narrow but before she could fire a rebuttal he added on, "You cannot be aware of the spell, or of the words we spoke this evening for it to truly work."

"How can I trust that you will do the spell and not just obliviate me?" Hermione Granger prodded with a hardened amber gaze and her lips pinching around the corners tightly. Albus Dumbledore was truly hating how clever the witch was turning out to be.

"You can't," he remarked calmly, his lips down turning ever so slightly in betrayal to his grievance of how quick witted the young girl was. He added on in the hopes to placate her worries and aggression towards him, "I am not asking you to trust me, in fact I recommend you don't at all, but this magic will ensure that Harry is safe— that he will always be safe, no matter the danger."

Lies. All of it was lies. Every single word in that last phrase from his manipulating mouth was just a another piece sculpted for his chessboard of wits.

Magic was not a fail safe and both he and many other established witches and wizards knew such things but hope-filled young girls didn't. Young witches always looking for the best in situations and constantly putting their hearts and loved ones in others hands couldn't. Hermione Granger likely presumed herself to know best, as her pride in knowledge and all-knowingness was both her greatest strength and greatest flaw. She called him arrogant but it was like calling a pot kettle black. Hence why when she let her gaze flicker from his eyes and back to her lap for just a moment he knew right than that he had been correct in his assumptions to her loyalties. Hermione Granger may not be loyal to him, but she was to Harry Potter.

"I agree," She spoke unwavering into the tension filled air of his office. While the old Wizarding Headmaster nodded to her in civility all he could hear resounding in his head was one simple word…

Checkmate.