For all his years as the famous defeater of Grindelwald, the illustrious headmaster of the greatest school of Western magic, and a world-renowned Transfigurist, Albus Dumbledore still wasn’t quite sure how to respond to young, beautiful, foreign witches trying to speak to him.
Sometimes, he liked to amuse himself by playing out the truth in his head, explaining patiently to these young ladies that he was much too old, too burdened, and too attracted to men to ever form a relationship with one of them.
“You see ,” he’d tell them, “my romantic drive pretty much died out when the love of my life tried to take over the world .”
But he digressed. Albus was a mature adult and leader who was more than capable of letting down a young fan gently. He gently smiled at the woman nervously perched at the edge of her chair as he cleared his throat.
Her eyes jumped to his, wrenching away from her frequent glances at Hagrid, who had caught her on the grounds that evening and dragged her up to the tower himself. She was obviously put on edge by his presence or perhaps his size. Albus found himself hoping it was the former and not some latent specism that had taken hold of the Wizarding World of late.
“Before we begin, my dear girl, I have to congratulate you on making it so far,” Albus said, trying to put her at ease. Discomfort rolled off her in waves, practically palpable. “While I’ve had many bright minds try and reach me -- and unfortunately I cannot get to them all! -- I’ve never seen someone come so far in their dedication. It’s most impressive, Miss…?”
Her bright eyes dimmed even as she lifted her chin. “Estelle. Estelle Oliveira.”
His eyebrows shot up of their own accord. “And what is the heir to the most powerful family of Brazil and dare I say, all of South America, doing here?”
As she bit her lip, Albus hastily continued. That had sounded a tad too confrontational, especially considering her young age and lack of… narrow world views her family was so proud of blatantly displaying. “At first, you see, I thought you might have been one of my fans come here to seduce me. It just goes to show how even the wisest of us can be fooled by pride, I suppose.
Now, I realize, someone like you wouldn’t travel all this way for something as simple as that. From now on, I’ll refrain all ideas I could possibly have and simply twiddle my thumbs until you have said your piece.”
Estelle let out a strained laugh, briefly transforming her aristocratic face into something gentler. “You make it sound like a regular occurence. Do you get seduced often?”
Only the once. “Is that what you came here to ask?”
She sighed, features slipping back into melancholy. In the back of his mind, Albus noted that pureblooded faces always seemed best suited for those kinds of emotions. Pain and misery. “No. In fact, it’s rather the other way around.”
“You came here for me to seduce you?” he asked genially, rather enjoying the conversation. Despite Estelle’s worry, she made for quite an interesting partner, especially in comparison to the worries of the staff and Ministry. “I’m afraid I haven’t quite prepared for that.”
This time, his comment failed to ease her tension. Estelle once again shot another wary look at Hagrid, who had remained silent and tense throughout their talk. “Can we please speak alone?” she asked, and as quickly as desperation had coated her tone, it disappeared, replaced by forced lightness. “I promise this isn’t a seduction. We don’t need a chaperone.”
Albus hummed. He knew how dangerous the Oliveiras were from experience. Cunning, rich, and rumored to hold some veela blood in their line, the Brazilian family outshone even the Blacks when it came to status, influence, and most forebodingly, blood purism. He had encountered an uncle of Estelle’s once and received quite a nasty scar on his knee as a result.
And despite these facts, Albus didn’t see the haughtiness and cruelty her family line was so well known for. Once, he would have, but he’d like to think he was quite a bit wiser than that at this point in his life. All he saw was a girl who needed help.
Estelle, for her part, didn’t back down. She simply stared, quiet defiance fighting with the last spark of hope in her eyes. It wasn’t the look of a witch just waiting for the right opportunity to curse him.
“Please, Headmaster. I can’t tell anyone else.”
He waved his hand, motioning for Hagrid to leave the room. The man tensed even more, if possible, worry for Albus and distrust of Estelle evident even before he spoke. “Dumbledore, I don’ think-”
Albus interrupted him before something unwittingly offensive was said. “Estelle did say there was no seduction planned. We will drink no wine, and I shall keep my wits about me.”
Hagrid still stood by the door, reluctant to leave. “Sir, I-”
It seemed as if the man was destined to go without finishing a sentence this evening. “Groundskeeper,” Estelle said, rising gracefully to face him. She withdrew her wand. “Will this convince you of my trustworthiness? I swear, I’m not here to cause any trouble.”
She pressed the rod into his hand and something in her eyes, of her manner, seemed to convince the half-giant. He nodded briefly, fingers curling around the stick reverently, before shoving it into his robes and hastily exiting the room.
Estelle didn’t sit back down. Instead, she took off her robe, still facing the door.
“You do remember that this isn’t a seduction?” Albus asked, more puzzled than ever. Despite his promise of thumb-twiddling, he had been turning over possible reasons for her sudden arrival at Hogwarts, from the odd but reasonable (she wanted to teach Defense) to the fanciful (she was actually a Polyjuiced auror freshy-escaped from the Oliveiran dungeons, who took the face of its mistress to survive the trip home).
“I know,” she said, spine straightening. “This is about one.”
She turned, revealing a swollen stomach. Her hand rested protectively over it. She was far along, perhaps at eight months already.
“Why do you need my help?” he asked cautiously.
“Because I don’t know who else can help,” Estelle said simply. “I am disowned in all but name and without the protection of my family, I don’t know if I can keep my child away from its father. Biological father.”
Albus’s mind raced faster than his thoughts themselves, a combination of intuition and half heard rumors putting the pieces together faster than his slow conscious reasoning could. He could see a picture forming, and suddenly, it made sense why she would come to him.
The only one he ever feared…
“And who is the father?”
Estelle glowed fiercely. “The father will be Jim Jackson. My fiance. He’ll raise our baby with me because he loves me. And I love him.”
“That’s not what I asked, and it’s not why you came, dear,” he said softly.
She sighed and began to tell her story.
In some ways, it was worse than he expected, and in others, better. Albus listened in silence as she spoke of what she had been taught as a child, her firm foundation rooted in the fact that she was an Oliveira and thus superior. Her sheltered life and lack of other opinion. The cruel things she had allowed to happen, the huntings she had once participated in, and the mysterious older man she had met some months before.
“At the time, I thought he was just perfect,” she had said. “He was there to cement some political ties to our family. They loved him. We loved him, especially me. His ideas fit perfectly into the box of things I was told to think, and they were made more appealing by the handsome face putting those words out there.”
To anyone else, Estelle would have sounded wistful, but Albus could hear the loathing in her voice, her scorn for her previous actions. “I’m twenty-two now, and when we met, I was twenty-one. He was just old enough to seem worldly, and our shared age and ideals meant we spent much of our time together. Eventually, we fell into bed together, and I was thrilled at the prospect of a fling with an older gentleman, my foray into adulthood. He was thrilled at the chance to solidify an alliance with my family.”
She had continued, describing their faked fall courtship and the amusement they both took in knowing they were using each other. Then came the winter and his departure, to which she said she’d felt-
“Not much of anything at all. I didn’t know what love really was, had never seen it before. The show I had put on was what I expected to eventually find, once I was married off to the highest bidder. Who knows? Maybe, if things had gone differently, it would have ended up being him.”
“What did go differently?” Albus had asked.
Estelle Oliveira had done what no one in her family had ever done before. High off the fun of her first relationship, she had snuck out into the Muggle world to make some fun of her own. There, she had met Jim Jackson, an American photographer with no money, no title, and no magic. They fell in love. They got caught, and they fled.
She had realized she was pregnant long before that, yet hadn’t been worried. Even as she ran from Brazil and her family, she hadn’t worried, knowing Jim would accept her child as his own. Knowing he loved the magic she revealed to him as he loved her, that he was different in every way from the stories of primitive and backwards Muggles.
Estelle had only worried when she heard the rumors of a rising dark lord, from a cousin desperate to entice her back into the fold. She had decided to come to him only minutes after reading the headline.
She finished her story. “I’m not stupid. As soon as I heard, I knew exactly who Lord Voldemort was. And this time, instead of feeling the wonder I had not a year ago, I felt horror. At what I was, at what I allowed to thrive, and what I could have done to innocent people just like Jim.
And worst of all, I probably wouldn’t have come forward if I hadn’t known I would need help. I live in America now, can't even rely on my own magic. And with my baby being his baby as well, he’ll always be a threat. I don’t know if he’d kill her or use her, and I know he’d kill Jim and I. Just as my family will.”
Estelle met his eyes for the first time since she had begun. “Albus Dumbledore, I need you to keep my child safe, and in return, I’ll tell you everything I know about Tom Riddle.”
He took her up on her offer.
Five years later, Jim and Estelle Jackson got on a plane and never got off. He never could figure out if it had been at attack, and if it was, if it had targeted Estelle specifically. Four years after that, Voldemort emerged from the shadows, prompting a thirteen year war of pureblood mania and blood supremacy that brought most of Europe to its knees, until a baby defeated him.
Even though the wise woman Albus had only gotten to speak to once, on a June night in 1982, was long gone, he continued to uphold his promise. He imbued the magicless Sally Jackson with protection and tracking charms, praying they would uphold in the wildness of America’s magical environment.
He watched to the best of his ability, as she grew from a kind young girl to a kind young woman. Albus was relieved to see that Sally was like her mother, for Estelle and in a dark part of himself, for Tom Riddle. Not everything the man created would be monstrous.
And then one day, Sally Jackson disappeared. No charms, no spells, no wards of any kind revealed her existence, and so, Albus Dumbledore lived on with the knowledge that two brave women Voldemort never deserved to know were gone.
Now, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts and greatest wizard of his age, stared in confusion and a great deal of apprehension. His mind raced as he stared at the three simple words gleaming in ink, freshly arrived into the book of newly born witches and wizards who would one day be destined to walk the halls of Hogwarts.
Turmoil, worry, and fear churned as he studied the name as if it would suddenly twist up and transform into someone else’s entirely. He had made many mistakes throughout his long life and had even more regrets for the mistakes he did not make, all the occasions his lack of action had caused more harm than good. And out of all his regrets, it always seemed this particular family line would come back to haunt him the most…
Albus let out a long, shaky sigh, resisting the urge to bury his head in his hands. He didn’t have the luxury to fall apart; he was sure that if anyone were to walk in, they would be more than startled at his loss of composure, minds immediately jumping to the official return of Voldemort to the Wizarding World and the alarming events at the Ministry of Magic that had occurred just three days prior.
His heart clenched at the loss of Sirius Black and the devastation it wrought on young Harry Potter. Young . That’s what his mind whispered to him every time he looked upon the brave Gryffindor, so close to becoming a man yet doomed to fall short, to die before that time came.
He was all too aware he was planning on sending the boy to his grave, and while the guilt would be something he’d carry his whole life, Albus had long since grown used to it. It wouldn’t be the first child he’d killed, from his sister to the teenagers drafted to fight within the ranks of the Order of the Phoenix.
And for so long, the loss of the Jacksons had joined the weight pulling at his conscience. They had been different from the start and especially at the end. Despite the murkiness of their fates, their deaths had not been at his orders or his wand. They had been a rare family he had saved, not doomed.
Back when the charms first failed and her presence faded, Albus had blamed himself for failing to save Sally, failing to keep his promise to her mother, and he certainly still keenly felt the sharpness of that broken oath. But it is was bearable now, compared to the pain of Marlene McKinnon’s slaughter, Alice and Frank Longbottom‘s insanity, the Potters’ betrayal and death.
Yes, he had sent many teenagers to die. And for what? For Tom Riddle to once more rise from the dead, for a new set of the young and idealistic to throw themselves in the line of fire, while men like him survived to treat war as a game a chess?
His mind circled back to Harry Potter, back to Tom Riddle. It seemed it was all his mind was capable of doing, remembering the times Albus failed to keep Tom from becoming a monster, the times he’d failed to keep others safe from him, and his continued failure to protect Harry Potter. And now-- he traced his fingers over the elegant cursive letters once more -- he had yet another person’s fate to worry and wonder over.
Much like her father, Sally Jackson apparently had a way of coming back from the dead at the most inopportune times. Albus mouthed the proof to himself, half relief and half something else entirely.
Estelle Blofis-Jackson . She had, most ironically, been born the day of the Battle at the Department of Mysteries.
Unlike Tom Riddle, he had absolutely no idea how Sally Jackson lived, what had happened those years she was gone, or how she could have given birth to a magical child in America of all places. Most worryingly of all, Albus, for once, didn’t know what to do.