Of the very few things that have ever been known to terrify Aurors en masse, Albie Welbraith's "Huh-hmm." is perhaps the best documented. The Ministry's records of the 1920s to '60s, all the way up to the legendary Mad-Eye, show a consistent petrification at this sound, a harrowing of the marrow, when this clearing of the throat, which only ever preceded the evisceration of another's report, claim or testimony, was heard.
Albrecht Welbraith is the son of a Muggle miner from County Durham and a German witch who plied her trade as a less than accurate fortune teller - a fantastic act, given her own deep well of talent for Divination and the Seer blood in her lineage. In a reversal of the tradition, somewhat, the hitherto vagabond settled down and, with a little magical legerdemain, became a pillar of the local community, her roots, other than the fact she wasn't from these parts, not something folks could quite remember the details of. On May 14, 1847 she was delivered of a son, whom she christened, in the teeth of much opposition, Albrecht, although throughout his adult life he would be known to foe and friend alike as Albie.Birgitte 'Gitty' Welbraith (née Holzenauer) did not trust the British government and its Ministry of Magic, particularly after the outbreak of the Crimean conflict ('The Russian War' as she called it, and her son does to this day), in which she believed British wizarding special interests were to blame for the insane commands of Lord Cardigan, and so she concocted a potion to suppress all magic in her son, and dosed him with it daily. As a foreign witch on British soil she should have registered with the Ministry, but never had, and thus Albrecht never received the traditional Hogwarts letter on his eleventh birthday. That day, instead, found him down the mine with his father, his mother, as an extra precaution, having denied him even a rudimentary education, and left him illiterate. Gitty, however, underestimated the raw power of the intellect possessed by her son, who befriended the colliery lift operator, an educated man by the standards of the community, who brought a newspaper to work each day. Talking to him each day, and then being allowed to be the next to have the newspaper from which the older man's information had come, in three years of hard work through what for the other men was the lunch break, Albie taught himself to read, and rapidly outstripped the newspaper, smuggling books from the library in the next village into the mine with him in his lunch box (for which he constructed a false bottom), and reading by candlelight every moment he could snatch. When Albie was fourteen, his father was killed in a cave-in, and Albie's own survival despite being in the same section as him was, in all probability, due to whatever vestige of magic his mother's potion could not fully suppress. Guilt over her treatment of him had made Gitty an unaffectionate mother, and when, for the first time in many years, she hugged her son to soothe her own feelings of loss, the man she clutched was cold, muscular and entirely unmoved. Gitty, in the view of the community, became unhinged with the loss of Arthur, her husband, ranting on about her 'fault' and hinting darkly at ways of undoing the dreadful day. She began making pronouncements about what was coming, and since rather too many of these proved accurate, and those that did were universally harmful, she was held to be possessed of an evil spirit, and driven out into the woods, her home set ablaze. Despite this, the colliery lift operator was 'allowed' to take in young Albie, 'seeing as how no one knew any harm on him', but without his mother's elixir, things rapidly began to transpire around him also. Albie, however, had not merely raided the library in the village one over, but also the church, in the annals of which he found reference to a place 'of the warts of hogs' where 'our kind may gather in peace, to learn and grow', and so, following some arcane and occasionally illegible instructions, he wrote his name on a scrap of parchment, and on the night of the full moon nearest the Spring equinox consigned it to the flames of the local watch beacon.
Even in the 19th century, the Muggle Liaison Office were shocked to find a message, or a name at least, coming in through rematerialisation in the fireplace, in the manner of ancient magics. A quick location spell, and a check of the records, showed a young wizard, heretofore unknown, but apparently almost fifteen, and never enrolled at, or even know to, Hogwarts. An Auror Squad was instantly despatched, and thus, as he stepped out of the house to complete his firewood chores for the evening, Albie Welbraith vanished forever from the mining community. Given that Obliviators followed behind the Aurors, this fact, along with his existence, was soon lost to the Muggle world.Albie arrived in Hogsmeade on the end of a Side-Along Apparition having never heard of magic, and promptly panicked, attacking the Auror who had brought him. This man, Angus McPhail, nephew of the then-Minister for Magic, was unprepared, and, having never been around Muggles, failed to reckon with the strength that shifting a couple of tons of coal a day will build in a fourteen year-old. He was knocked unconscious with a single punch, but the other Squad members, Apparating in, Stunned the boy, and took him at once to the school's Hospital wing, where he was consigned to the care of Matron. This lady kept him sedated for most of a two week period while his memories were explored and analysed, and his background ascertained. The Headmaster at the time was a liberal man, Algernon Davis, and when the fortnight was up, and a few tweaks made to Albie's recollection, took him as his houseguest for another fortnight, to give him time to get used to the idea of his new school, and, indeed, home. An arrangement was reached with the Keeper of Keys and Grounds, Silas Gutterby, to allow young Albie to be his 'apprentice' through the long hols, and the young man was then escorted into the Great Hall, before school got out, and the Sorting Hat placed upon his head. Albie proved to be a Hatstall of an unprecedented nature, being 'alien' as it were to magic, and almost four years older than normal. The Hat wavered between Gryffindor, Slytherin and Ravenclaw, the first and last being its choices, but Albie's raw drive and irresistible desire to make something of himself finally, after eight and a half minutes of 'internal debate', won through. He was a Slytherin.
Albie, thrust into the purest purist House, and of no known lineage himself, was soon the target of a gang of four older boys, who were, immediately thereafter, keeping one another company in the Hospital Wing. Since the Headmaster, over the protests of the Head of House, proceeded to give Albie an award for 'Special Services to the School', for literally knocking on the head 'all that elitist nonsense', he was thereafter given a wide berth. Not that Slytherins needed to avoid him, as he lived every uncompelled hour in the Library. The suppression, and subsequent distortion, of his natural magics meant that Albie could, on picking up a book, feel its essential thrust, its compelling impetus, and, with time and practice, even detect the cracks and flaws in its foundation and reasoning, without cracking the spine. Books spoke to him in all but the most literal of ways, and his communion with them was his first experience of the transcendent.
The books, more of them than ever passed through the hands of a student before or since, each willingly yielded up their secrets, and Albie became a constant thorn in teachers' sides, pre-empting the discussion of a topic now with a related flaw four chapters hence, and the like. Getting him not to do the reading was a Herculean endeavour no Professor bothered with more than once - even if he hadn't read the damn book, he could somehow 'piece it together' from all the ones he had. He was assigned more special projects than had ever previously been heard of, simply to get him out of the classroom. When his OWLs rolled around, therefore, no one was in any doubts who would be picking up the prize for all Os this year.
It didn't, however, happen. Albie made - and lost - his first real friend, Susan Clarke, just before his OWLs, and this led to a reappraisal during which, for some reason, he refused to rest. Sleep deprivation made his essays rambling and frequently incoherent, and of the ten OWLs he scraped, only two were Os (DADA and Potions), two Es (Charms and Arithmancy), the rest being As. His continued studies, and especially his Auror ambitions, were now in grave jeopardy, but Headmaster Davis, having spoken to the lad, decided to let matters hang fire over the long hols, and see what September might bring.
September brought a young man who had spent August camped out in the Ministry until they retested him, and so, with retaken OWLs, now all Os, the matter, bar some grumbling from his Head of House, was resolved. The next two years were a terrific learning curve - for most of the teaching staff. Due to his lack of a teacher, and the whimsical and eclectic nature of his early reading, Albie had no interest in staying inside the box or on the subject. He would digress, pontificate, speculate, and yet without fail, the moment he was challenged, he would be able to show the absolute relevance of his last statement to the original topic broached. So, more 'personal research projects' were initiated, most of them in the Library's Restricted Section, where certain less charitable souls hoped a vicious tome might eradicate their stress. When this failed to occur, they muttered darkly about the unreliability of Dark magic, and went back to pounding precepts into their unfortunate students.As Albie's time at Hogwarts drew to a close, so did that of Angus McPhail in the Auror Office, and he was promoted to 'British Viceroy for Magic in Africa'. Looking for someone with a talent for picking up Muggle languages, and having kept an eye on Albie's progress ever since he regained consciousness from the punch, Angus decided to make the Hogwarts graduate, with all his Os at NEWT, his personal secretary, and bundled him up a Floo, the other end of which was in Nairobi. For three years, until just after his twentieth birthday, Albie travelled the continent, rapidly assimilating the local languages and dialects, and helping shape British policy in all its domains and protectorates. He made some genuine friends for the first time in any numbers, as many among the tribes and local communities as the British wizarding contingent. Then, suddenly, there was an uprising against British magical rule, Angus was murdered, and Albie was lost, presumed dead. For over a quarter of a century, no reliable report of his whereabouts, or even the discovery of his remains, reached London. His few caring acquaintances, however, included the McPhail family, who had heard much from Angus as to how often Albie's perfect phrase in the local language had restored calm when negotiations appeared about to erupt. They pressed the Ministry not to write him off, and on May 14, 1894, his forty-seventh birthday, he walked through the doors of the Consulate of Magic in Cape Town. He was stubbornly unwilling to discuss in any detail what had happened to him, and possessed layers and manners of Occlumency unknown to the Ministry's specialists, but he was able to give a comprehensive account and explanation of the uprising which had for so long endangered British dominion, and thus was soon welcomed back into the fold. He secured a position as Editor at the 'Daily Prophet' and within eighteen months was the new Editor-in-Chief. Under Albie, Ministry activities were held up to rigorous public scrutiny with regard to their morality, and several reporters at the newspaper were fired for taking even the most insignificant of possible 'bribes' on any story whatsoever. Some have even blamed this 'holier-than-thou'ness on his part for the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, since, allegedly, the Ministry had an agent in place to disrupt the cell which killed him, but was forced, by a Prophet expose, to dissolve the entire black ops section to which it belonged. What is known is that, with the declaration of peace in November 1918, Albie chose to step down as Editor-in-Chief, and to travel once more. To the consternation of his few remaining friends he undertook a world tour of 'Dark spots', places with a long, grisly and individualistic history of Dark Arts, but returned in 1924 seemingly in far better spirits than when he had left.
At this point it seemed to many that he would make a run for Minister for Magic, and was a viable candidate in the eyes of the wizarding public, his integrity proven, and his spellwork frequently unparalleled. However, the ambition which had made him a Slytherin was, seemingly, sated, and Albie instead put himself forward for Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. This, given his public standing and perception, was a no-brainer for the Ministry, who had recently struggled under a cloud of suspicion over alleged corruption. On October 31, 1924, the fatal "Huh-hmm" was first heard by his predecessor, Eamon Spavin, and the DMLE would never be the same. From that day until May 13, 1967 (the eve of his 120th birthday), men and women who tackled trolls and dispatched dragons before breakfast would quail at the proto-syllabic sound which indicated that Albie - had a question.
With the death of Einar Faris, Albie has been prevailed upon to steady the rudder of the ship of state for a short time, until another long-term helmsman can be found. At 167, Albie has no time, and less patience, for fools. His extensive Dark Arts knowledge has, in some manner, rendered him 'ineligible' for a Patronus. At the ripe old age of 171, Albie - moved on.