I don't think anyone truly knew Albus Dumbledore. Perhaps it was his brother, Aberforth, who knew him best. Or perhaps it was me, the one he claimed to be his best friend. Surely it was not one of the countless fools who placed their misguided affections at his feet... and had to pay the price.
I have known Albus for more than 140 years. He pretty much grew up at my side, and still I was blind. Blind to what he really was.
I didn't notice anything at first, only the small, scared Gryffindor first year that I had unwittingly rescued from a beating by some Slytherin thugs. But Albus Dumbledore will be Albus Dumbledore, and he had a way of finagling his way into your mind. Somehow we managed to become friends.
Friends. I scoff now, thinking just how cunning he was.
My father, in his infinite wisdom, once told me something that I have found to be quite true. "Dmitri, my boy," he said. "The hardest person to identify at all is a true Slytherin. For the true Slytherin will not be a Slytherin. No. They will be too cunning and sly to be placed in such an obvious place. The true Slytherin can be found in Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, biding his time, learning about his enemies, finding their weaknesses... from within."
Damn you father, for being right. And damn Albus Dumbledore for being a true Slytherin.
He truly did begin his conquest that day. And I am sorry to say that I was the first to fall. The day that he tricked the sixth year Slytherin prefect into trusting him, that grey dreary day in the Hospital Wing, under the ever watchful eye of Master Ediew, was the day that it all began.
I still marvel at how skillfully he played me, turning me against my own house while all the while spouting nonsense about the stupidity of inter-house rivalries. And I, foolish young man that I was, I listened and I believed.
He was very charismatic then, though not quite as charismatic as he is now. He asked me to teach him all he knew, because he already understood what was taught in the class. And I, prideful young man that I was, felt honored that the young prodigy had asked me to teach him. Now, however, I believe it might have had something to do with the fact that I was head of the class in Potions and Dark Arts.
I told him all I knew in charms, in spell binding, in the ancient magicks, in the old lore. I taught him all I was capable of in the dark arts, in transfiguration. And somehow, he convinced me to give up my greatest secret. A secret that until that point had stayed safe within the Tolaczynski line long since before we first stood at Salazar Slytherin's right hand.
I taught him Legilimency. I gave up my birthright, and Albus Dumbledore became the first Legilimens not of the Tolaczynski family in history.
If I had missed all the earlier warning signs, I should have realised then what was happening. I should have seen his unusually keen grasp of the subject and questioned. I should have listened to my family before they disowned me and questioned. I should have feared when his skill surpassed mine ten-fold.
And then I graduated, and Albus became nothing more than someone to correspond with. He sent me letters, plying for information. But he never said it outright. It was always something he had noticed in a book, or overheard in a conversation, or related to a project in some class. And I did the research for him. I found forbidden information, forbidden texts, forbidden knowledge and I passed it on.
And still I didn't notice.
And then, it was his seventh year and Headmaster Nigellus approached me with an offer to take over the position of a professor and assistant head of Slytherin House. It was a good job, with good pay, and Albus's needling and cajoling all but sealed the deal.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I saw took me completely by surprise. Albus was Head Boy, handsome, charismatic, brave, virtuous... there were not enough positive adjectives left in the world to describe him. All the girls swooned over him, all the boys admired him from a distance and whispered how much they wished to be like him. All ofHogwarts was at his beck and call. And I watched as he looked into a person's eyes, smiled, and talked in a soft, calm voice as he read their mind.... with my gift.
And though I stayed at Hogwarts after he left, I still heard of him. My colleagues would gush over receiving a letter. Unexpected visits brought cheers from the school.
He exuded an aura of understanding, of welcoming, of acceptance, forgiveness... and I'll be damned that I know exactly who gave him the information he needed for that specific spell.
After about five years, things quieted down. His visits and letters became less frequent, and that odd sense of insecurity that seemed to hang around me lessened. I heard rumors, during that time. That he was in the bowels of the ministry, looking through the old files. Ancestries, bloodlines, and such. I vaguely recall entertaining a visit in which I was grilled extensively of the Tolaczynski family's affiliations and intermarriages with the Slytherin line.
And then, just as everything seemed to have settled back to normal, he came back.
And damn that man to hell and back -- but he was worse.
He was no longer boyishly handsome. Now he was a heart-throb. With his shoulder-length brilliantly red hair and neatly trimmed beard, sparkling blue eyes, and that god-awful aura, he was featured as 'Most Eligible Bachelor' by various magazines not once but over thirty times. Of course our current Transfiguration Professor was honored to stand down and give the position to him.
Come to think of it now, it was quite odd how it happened. Albus came by for one of his random visits and stopped by Professor Wriggly's quarters. That night at the staff meeting, he announced his resignation. The following morning, Albus came and applied for the job.
My, my, Albus. You're slipping. I actually noticed that. Now, of course, when it does nobody any good.
And then there was that most unfortunate accident with Professor Jordan, the head of Gryffindor House. Awful thing, getting mauled by werewolves in a forest where there aren't any.
And of course Albus was happy to step in and take over his duties as Gryffindor Head of House.
I think that Professor Von Torque, the Head of Slytherin, could see things a bit more clearly than I. But he had made it clear that it was to be his last year teaching, and, no matter what he feared, he could not remain. He tried to make me see. He tried to show me. But I, bullheaded as I was, refused to see. I could only see that brilliant young Gryffindor who had turned to me, of all people, to teach him.... And so I became Head of Slytherin House.
Wilheim von Torque's body was found mutilated and disfigured only a month after I assumed my new duties.
In those days before the turn of the century, house relations were nothing like what they are now. Gryffindor and Slytherin were not mortal enemies. Rather, they saw themselves more as allies, complementing each other and making themselves stronger as a whole.
But then things began to change. It was so subtle that I still have trouble believing that I was there as it happened.
The Gryffindors started to become arrogant and cold. It was slow at first. They would refuse to be partnered with the Slytherins, claiming they were fostering house unity. My Slytherins were quick to point out that the Gryffindors would still partner with the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. And then it became worse.
First came the rumors. Always about Slytherins. And all of the other houses believed them. I began to get unsettled at how I somehow managed to always trace it to potions partners or charms partners that involved a Gryffindor and a Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.
And then the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, their minds slowly being poisoned by the "righteous" Gryffindors also began their own fostering of "house unity". And I watched as my Slytherins and I became the minority, the underdog.
I do believe I went to Albus with my concerns. Twice. Actually, I know I did, because I kept a note of such things. October 19th, in the year 1897, and May 3rd of the following year. Here is the point where I started to suspect that perhaps the Albus Dumbledore, handsome, brave Gryffindor, was perhaps not who his image claimed he was.
I do not remember anything that happened in the school year of 1897-8. I can remember 1896 clearly. I can remember sitting down at the Head Table on September 1, 1898 and wondering who exactly those second years were... those students that I had no recollection of teaching.
But I had no time to think of such things. I was the Head of Slytherin House, and my students needed me. Rumors were circulating as thick as flies. When it came to a case of he-said-she-said, the Slytherin always lost. A Slytherin student was automatically evil... automatically a murderer, a torturer, a rapist....
And even I was not above such rumors. The Head of Slytherin, teaching the Dark Arts at Hogwarts? I received Howlers daily from people that I had never even heard of, students no longer trusted me, and my word became worthless. And through it all, Albus smiled and nodded and told people condescendingly, "I'm sure Dmitri would never even think of doing something like that...."
Damn that man.
Then on September 1, 1938, Lloyd Grindelwald was sorted into Slytherin.
There was always something different about Lloyd. He was an aristocratic pureblood wizard from a town near Berlin... and he was different. He didn't come to the school enamored of Albus. Rather, he seemed to be distrustful of the Head of Gryffindor.
There was always something guarded and secretive about Lloyd Grindelwald. But he was a Slytherin, and the rest of the school expected him to be that way. Yet he was more that way than any of my other students.
In Lloyd's fifth year at Hogwarts, the current headmaster, Armando Dippet, suddenly grew ill and passed away in the middle of the night. That morning, Lloyd pulled me to the side and said, "Professor Tolaczynski... it was Dumbledore who did it."
I froze and asked him if he had any proof. "No, sir," he replied. "Not physical proof... but I can just feel it in my bones."
I informed him that unless he had physical proof, such slander and speculation was not to be heard within the halls of Hogwarts. And as I walked away from him, down the corridor, he called after me, "Mark my words, Professor. By noon tomorrow Albus Dumbledore will be Headmaster of Hogwarts. Mark my words."
I could feel Lloyd's gaze upon me as Albus announced to the school that he had been chosen to be Professor Dippet's replacement.
Lloyd began to visit me regularly between classes and meals. His best friend, an extremely intelligent young man who was in fact my protégé, accompanied him. The topic of conversation was Albus Dumbledore, more often than not.
After a few weeks, the two young men grew angry that I would not move against Albus. While I found their arguments fascinating and rather logical, I truly was blind then. The meetings stopped flat-out after Lloyd confronted me and demanded that I do something... a demand that I could not fulfill.
The Chamber of Secrets was opened the following year. Dumbledore expelled a student -- a Gryffindor half-giant.
Lloyd's seventh year began without incident. And then the pranking on Slytherin students grew worse.
All of the teachers, other than myself, seemed to be naturally biased against Slytherin House. They seldom awarded points and, more often than not, belittled the Slytherins efforts and deducted points.
By the end of the year, Slytherin was in the worst standing in Hogwarts history -- with -5708 points.
I should have spent more time with my Slytherins, but vampires had started trespassing on Hogwarts territory and there had simply not been enough time. Vampires, trolls, and several werewolves made attacks upon the school... and I simply did not have the time.
On the evening of June 21, 1945, I was grading papers in my office when an urgent knock interrupted my work. It was Lloyd Grindelwald. He was alone and he looked terrified.
"Professor Tolaczynski," he said eyes darting nervously. "You must do something. Dumbledore -- it's Dumbledore, he's --"
I got him to calm down and start over.
"You don't understand," he whispered. "Dumbledore has powers that I do not understand. He reads peoples' minds, takes what they believe in, and warps it. I can't block this power, I don't understand it."
"It's Legilimency," I told him. "That's what he uses to read peoples' minds."
Lloyd's eyes widened. "Legilimency!" he breathed. "No! It can't be. It is the birthright of the right hand of Slytherin." He paused and his eyes locked with mine. "The birthright of the Tolaczynski line."
I do believe I had the decency to look ashamed. "I was a fool in my youth," I told him sadly. "I gave up my birthright and all claims to my family."
We sat in silence for a while before Lloyd began to speak again. "I know Dumbledore's master plan," he said slowly. "I heard him talking to the portrait of Kairo Lobo."
Kairo Lobo ... Salazar Slytherin's most trusted assassin. He had a painting near the kitchens that the Ministry was going to remove because of his bad influence upon the students.
I must have looked interested enough for Lloyd to continue. "He said, 'It has almost come to pass. Britain is nearly entirely within my grasp,'" he said, lost in the memory. "And Kairo replied, 'First Britain, then the world.' And Dumbledore said, 'There are those who doubt me. Here within the school. Students. They will have to be dealt with.' And Kairo replied, 'Eliminate them.' And Dumbledore grinned and said, 'And make it look as though another problem student committed the crime.'"
I do believe I was gaping at the white-faced seventh year. Before I could say anything, he said, "It gets worse. After that Kairo said, 'You have the power, the stolen birthright, to make them believe the crime was actually theirs.' And then Dumbledore.... Dumbledore said, 'My only fear, is that they have already corrupted their very house.' And Kairo said, 'A chain is as strong as the weakest link. Eliminate the house.' And Dumbledore said, 'That is the only solution. All of Slytherin House must die.'"
"You can not be serious," I whispered. "Do you have proof -- a... a recording of some kind? Some kind of ... of concrete evidence?"
Lloyd said that the only evidence existed within his head... and within the mind of the portrait of Kairo Lobo. "But sir, you must do something!" he exclaimed. "Please, sir. You must. You heard what he said, that he was going to eliminate the entire Slytherin House."
I told him I would confront Dumbledore in the morning. Lloyd rose from his chair and argued that it wasn't enough. I pointed out that without concrete evidence, it was merely hearsay... and Dumbledore's word in court was more precious than platinum.
Lloyd stormed from the room upon hearing this. But before he closed the door, he turned back and told me, "Sir, I admire you greatly. But sometimes, I swear to you, you can be as blind as a Hufflepuff. I will protect Slytherin House myself."
I should have gone after him. I should have believed him. I should have had that blasted talk with Albus in the morning like I had said I would.
But I didn't.
I didn't realize anything was amiss until well into the first period class. My 7th year NEWT level advanced Dark Arts class was comprised of five students -- all Slytherin. One was my protégé, and Lloyd Grindelwald's best friend.
I had heard some odd noises coming from outside the castle at the beginning of the period, but had dismissed them as the normal sounds of the outside. It was only when Professor Jenkins, pale and breathless stumbled into the room that I realized something was amiss.
Gathering my students we raced outside... only to find madness.
With their backs to the Dark Forest, my Slytherins stood tall and proud, wands drawn, Lloyd Grindelwald at their head. Assembled across the green, Albus Dumbledore stood in front of a conglomeration of professors, Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, along with the occasional Ravenclaw.
I could practically smell a confrontation coming. But before I could do anything, Albus stepped forward. "Lloyd Grindelwald," he called across the battlefield in what was, in fact, a very mighty-sounding voice. "I expected great things from you, my dear boy. But not this. Not these reckless attacks from these magical beasts. The vampires, werewolves, banshees, that you command with a ruthless vengeance. But now, to stoop so low as to corrupt the youth--!"
Lloyd let out a bitter laugh. "No, Dumbledore," he called back, in a strong, assured voice. "It is not I that corrupts the youth, but you!"
And he raised his wand.
My mind was racing. Lloyd had been right. Everything he had said to me last night had come true. Everything. It was Dumbledore behind the madness.
And even as my mind finally grasped what Lloyd had been trying to get me to understand all along, Albus raised his wand and cast the first curse.
It was a bloody battle ... but I did not participate. I could not be a part of the slaughter of the children under my protection. Along with my five students, I stood upon the sidelines and watched as my students fell, one-by-one, to the greatly outnumbering force. They did well. A good number of Gryffindors fell that day. But Slytherin was decimated. Entirely.
To this day, no one knows what truly happened in that final battle between Lloyd Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. Only Dumbledore knows, and I don't buy that super-hero tale of his for a second. I can still remember Lloyd begging me for help, those haunting purple-grey eyes of his boring into my soul as he tried to get me to understand that he wasn't the enemy. Those eyes. They haunt me still. And they make me wonder why exactly Dumbledore's phoenix has the exact same eyes, those sorrowful, haunting eyes.....
No. It couldn't be. Truly, it couldn't. Tell me it can't be.
But now it adds up. Albus Dumbledore's "triumphant return" from his heroic, brave, Gryffindor defeat of the horribly evil, nasty, cruel, Slytherin Dark Lord Grindelwald. I can still see him as he trudged back across the bloody battlefield, bloodied sword in one hand, and that brilliant, beautiful phoenix wheeling around the sky about his head.
I can never forget what happened that day. It will forever be engraved into my mind, though forever might be quite soon in ending.
I can still see him approach me, where I stand with my colleagues and my few remaining Slytherins. That bird of his, it swooped down and landed on his shoulder and locked that gaze on me. And I saw something in that gaze, something that tipped me off, something that told me that this was more than a congratulatory meeting.
And then I saw them. The aurors. They had us surrounded. And in that split second, when I saw the look in Albus's eyes I understood. And even as he told the aurors that I was the Dark Lord's right hand man, and those students about me were my devoted followers, I finally saw the truth. The truth of it all.
At that point in time, I do believe Albus Dumbledore overestimated himself for the first and last time. He thought he was invincible, that I could do nothing to resist him.
But I was still a Slytherin. I knew that there would be no hope for us once we were in the auror's custody. It only took one look at my students -- huddled in a group, clutching at each other -- to get me to make up my mind. And even as the aurors laid their hands upon me, I thrust the emergency portkey into my protégé's hands... and he, being almost as cunning as Albus himself, understood. Thus I went to Azkaban with a life sentence... and Tom Riddle went free.
I do not regret my actions of that day. No, not at all. I am proud to have stood against Albus Dumbledore. I am proud to have saved Tom Riddle, the current scourge of the wizarding world. Because only I know the truth... the truth that Albus has so cunningly hidden from the rest of the world.
Tom only wants to kill Albus Dumbledore. And I support him entirely.
The rest of the world has fallen to Albus. They are blind to the darkness that has grabbed hold of them. They cannot see that Albus Dumbledore is, in fact, what he claims that Tom Marvolo Riddle wants to be. Even Harry Potter, their "savior," is blind... but that can be forgiven. After all, he tricked me into believing in him too.
My story does not end here. After I was sent to Azkaban without a trial, along with an incredible number of other wizards and witches, a small group not under Albus's influence launched an investigation into these damnations. They brought a good number of cases to the courts, proving the innocence of some of the condemned prisoners.
The Ministry, taking heat from the public, reopened investigation into each and every supposed "Dark Wizard" that they had sentenced to Azkaban without a trial. Albus, however, was always one step ahead. He knew what was going to happen if they ever investigated me -- I would tell them what Albus had done. I would tell them about who Lloyd Grindelwald really was.
And in the middle of those investigations, my file was accidentally misplaced. The nice young Ministry witch who had already come to interview me suffered in an accident of some sort and was stricken with almost total amnesia. Albus even went as far as coming to visit.... A visit in which he calmly informed me that my official ministry file had been update to say that I had died upon that bloody battlefield.
Thus I sat down here in the lowest level of Azkaban for fifty years. Fifty years. No one questions who we are down here. No one can remember. The aurors never come down here. Sometimes I doubt that the Ministry even knows that this level even exists.
That changed about a week ago. When the rumors came in. They brought a new prisoner down here, because they had apparently run out of room upstairs. Hah! Funny thing, that.
He was a Death Eater. Lucius Malfoy. I had taught his father, and his grandfather, and had gone to school with his great-grandfather.
He told me that Tom was going to come. He told me that Tom had found my old file, that he had discovered what Dumbledore had done, and he told me that Tom was going to take Azkaban by force.
Now, Albus... he couldn't let this happen. Oh no... I knew his secrets. I knew his weaknesses. I knew the truth.
Two days after Lucius had arrived, the aurors came to take me away. Apparently my file had been "found" and some "new evidence" had been uncovered... and I was to be executed for treason, murder, terrorism, and for being an all-around evil git.
And now, as I stand here, on the platform, surrounded by jeering people, I can't help but think about how utterly Slytherin Albus Dumbledore had proven himself to be. He played the Ministry, he played the courts, he played me. And now, because of him, I stand here about to lose my soul. I was his best friend, his confidant, his brother in all but blood. I was blind, I was bullheaded, I was a fool. And still I was betrayed.
Because Albus Dumbledore wasn't on the side of the Light. He was on his own side. And you were damned if you got in his way.
And still it took me 147 years to figure that out.
But it won't matter after tomorrow, won't it? I am the only one who knows. I was the first victim... his first puppet... and now he will cut my strings for a final time. And the knowledge of who he really is will be sucked out of my body... along with my very soul.