Chapter 5: The Reunion Notes: I'm just going to leave this here.... (Thank you so much for over 600 Kudos!!! I am really happy that my story appeals to you and I hope that this chapter will as well.) (See the end of the chapter for more notes.) Chapter Text 10th of June, Dumbledore’s prison, Near the Durmstrang Institute, Somewhere far in Northern Europe Albus slowly lifted his head to meet the brooding gaze of his daily interrogators. For one, a stern-looking Auror who reminded him aesthetically of Percival Graves: Tall, broad-shouldered and grim. The man was always dressed in a dark grey, heavy coat, held together by golden buttons. The emblem of MACUSA was stitched on the spot above his heart and he wore it proudly. Behind him stood a British Auror. He was smaller than the American, but more muscular and bulkier. A tattoo peeked out from the right sleeve of his maroon suit and he had a bushy beard and dark eyes. They had never told Albus their names so he called them just Briton and American in his mind. The room he was held in gave no indication of where they might be right now. It was plain stone, no windows. The light was provided by torches attached to the wall that illuminated automatically whenever the interrogators entered to question him and extinguished when they left. He was sitting (once more) on a hard metal-chair, though not bound to it this time. His wrists were caught in bracelets, similar to those Travers had forced on him in Hogwarts, though their purpose was not simply to admonitor him, but to suppress his magic entirely - and they did a formidable job, much to his displeasure. He wasn’t sure what kind of metal they had used but he was almost certain that it was from Egypt, cursed by a foreign spell, ancient and very, very powerful. Also, quite expensive probably but then again, Picquery hadn’t seemed as if she was taking risks anymore. There were very few things that could be truly dangerous to him and unfortunately, they were part of those. The -former- professor wasn’t sure when they had put them on his wrists but most likely when he was still at the Ministry, unconscious after being hit by multiple spells. They wouldn’t have risked his transport without the highest form of precaution and simple paralysis obviously hadn’t worked the last time - with Gellert. Gellert. He mustn’t think of him. Albus sighed inaudibly and restrained himself from tapping his fingers. A hot, seething anger had been brewing in his veins for the entire time now he was at this place - He didn’t know how long he had already been here. He also didn’t know where exactly here was. All he knew was that it was icy cold – the wizard was constantly shivering. Again, he focused on the two Aurors. They hadn’t done anything in the past few minutes and quite frankly, it gave him an anxious feeling. He hated being powerless. The door to his cell opened and his eyes widened when he saw Seraphina Picquery herself entering the room. The Madam President had not come to visit before. Neither had Travers, thank Merlin for that small mercy. He was sure that his sanity couldn’t survive one more minute close to such obnoxiousness. But having the head of MACUSA herself here couldn’t be a good thing either. American turned around: “Ma’am!” Picquery nodded: “Let me speak with him.” The two Aurors silently left, the door falling shut with a loud, crushing noise behind them. Picquery and Albus eyed each other for a few long moments, neither willing to give the other any form of insight. Finally, she started: “You have refused to drink. You denied any food that was given to you and you resisted any form of magical assault.” Dumbledore only stared coolly at her. He would never submit his body to any substance provided by any Ministry ever again and their magic wasn’t that difficult to defy. The President sighed and conjured a chair with a quick flick of her wand to settle down in front of him, now on eye-level: “I can understand, of course. The Veritaserum must have been an unpleasant experience.” He continued to stay silent, not willing to give her the satisfaction and agree. Though it definitely had been. The Madam President quickly searched his face for a reaction but failed: “I will ask one last time before I permit my Aurors to use more extreme methods.” Unforgivable curses, that is. The Madam President couldn’t say it out loud, of course, but Albus already was already aware. He almost rubbed his forehead in annoyance: “Please, Madam President, would you kindly get to the point? My cell might be quite lonely but that doesn’t mean that I’d prefer to spend my time in your company.” If she was insulted, she didn’t show and instead calmly asked: “Where is the blood pact?” He had already expected this. It was the question he was asked first, every single day since he had been taken here after all. “In a place that only emerges for those who need it the most.” The former Professor answered and enjoyed the annoyed glimmer that appeared in her eyes. “Disobliging as always. Alright. Do you have any idea where Grindelwalds’ headquarters might be?” Albus can’t help but let out a huff of laughter: “Madam President, you should have already realized by now that I, as I have already told your colleagues multiple times over the last few days, do not intend to give you any more information about Gellert Grindelwald.” “So, you do know?”, Picuery asked, ignoring his statement. He lifted an eyebrow and gave her his best expression of a teacher that is disappointed with a student’s homework: “I had the assumption that Travers was the oblivious one.” Again, Picquery’s face stayed carefully neutral but there was something flashing in the dark orbs of her eyes. “I’d consider a reduced sentence, Mr. Dumbledore, if you cooperated.”, she says after a few moments, calm and collected. Albus looks at her with disdain: “And then what, Madam President? My reputation is ruined, I will never be able to teach at Hogwarts ever again. And after your most disgusting interrogation-methods, you cannot possibly expect from me to work for the government?” The witch didn’t hesitate: “I could send you into exile instead of Azkaban. Maybe a nice little island with books and a comfortable house - Supervised, of course. If you don’t cooperate now, the interrogation will continue and I will give my Aurors the permission to intensify their methods and after British Law, Travers will authorize the transport of a Dementor to you.” To suck my soul out. He had to swallow at that thought. A brief image of his father, as he had imagined him as a young boy, with an empty gaze and fallen features flashed behind his eyelids. For a moment - full of self-loathing - he considered it. It was truly tempting to escape a fate like that. But a life in solitude on an island with the knowledge that Gellert wasn’t in the realm of the living anymore? In the end, the decision shouldn’t be so easy. He lifted his chin: “My answer stays the same as it already has in the Ministry.” Finally, the annoyed glimmer in her eyes stretched out over her face and Albus congratulated himself. She tapped her wand a few times against her knee, as if she was appealed to simply try and curse him herself, though she should know that it was fruitless. American and Briton had already tried every spell to make him talk and it had been quite amusing to see their faces when he had resisted them every time. “Tell me, Mr. Dumbledore, is he worth it?”, the clear voice of the President brought him back. Albus tilted his head, symbolizing her to go on. “You have indicated that Gellert Grindelwald has never reciprocated your feelings, even worse: Used them to his advantage.”, the President said softly, sympathetic. He pressed his jaw together, but refused to answer. “I don’t believe that you are a man who enjoys murder, neither are you someone who despises No-Maj’s. So why do you love him, as you proclaim? Are you sure that you do not simply love a shadow – the phantom of a boy you have met twenty-eight years ago? Why do you still protect him?” Oh, she isgood! But Albus already knew that and he was prepared for it. And this time, there was no poison running through his veins and conducting his tongue. “Have you by any chance ever heard of the Mirror of Erised?”, he asked her without any warmth. Unsurprisingly, she shook her head. He hadn’t expected anything different. “It is a mirror that shows one’s deepest and most desperate desires. I have asked myself these exact questions that you have just posed many times over the last few years. After Travers came to interrogate me at Hogwarts, I looked into the mirror and you can probably imagine now what I saw: Gellert. Just as he is today. Brilliant, powerful and determined. My heart’s desire hasn’t changed, but grown – from a boy to a man.” Piqcuery couldn’t prevent a slightly disgusted expression, however she didn’t give up: “But why guard his secrets when he does not care about you?” Albus decided to lecture her: “Love is a very powerful thing, I’m afraid. Much more so than any spell.” There was a flash of frustration flitting over her face before it turned once more into a cold mask: “Then I will permit my Aurors to upgrade their methods. Albus nodded politely: “And I will be ready to endure them, just as I have until now.” He leaned back in his chair and observed her thoughtfully; then he let out a quiet, dry chuckle: “You two are quite similar in some regards, actually.” Picquery narrowed her eyes and he explained: “Both of you will fight with any means necessary for what you believe is right. Both of you are talented in the art of manipulation and rhetorically skilled. And both of you are ready to overstep certain boundaries – in the name of the Greater Good.” The Presidents’ eyes lightened up with fury and Albus restrained himself from smirking. How the tables have turned. “If you are implying that I share traits of behaviourism with Gellert Grindelwald-“ “That is exactly what I am implying.”, he provoked her. The President exhaled deeply and tensed, if unintentional or on purpose is unclear to him. She blinked a few times, composing herself, and gave him a thin smile: “So, this is your true face.” Dumbledore simply folded his hands in his lap and patiently waited for her to continue. “Now I can see why you used to get along with Grindelwald so well.” He returned the same, thin smile. “Like a cauldron of fire, some would say.” Her nostrils flared and she opened her mouth to speak, but he interrupts her. “Madam President, after your little public display, I hold nothing but disdain for you or the government. You cannot have come here, seriously thinking that I would willingly cooperate?” She didn’t answer and he shook his head, almost pityingly. He tapped his fingers a few times, before he spoke more resigned: “I like to believe that, in given time, I would have been ready to face him.”, he shrugged, “I guess now we will never know.” She shook her head in disbelief, her frustration barely restrained: “Grindelwald is a murderer.” “So am I. So is Theseus Scamander. So is Jacob Kowalski, who is a better man than the two of us combined. We all fought in the War.” “And Grindelwald wants to start a new one. You can still help us defeat him.”, she urged him once more. He gave her a kind, but patronizing smile: “I will not. There are two sides in this affair, Picquery, and yours has been absolutely degrading.” She clicked her tongue: “We will find out.” A short, ironic laugh escaped him: “Go ahead and try, by all means. I am afraid that you will soon learn that it is a Sysphean task: Doomed to fail. I am much more skilled in the magical arts than every little pawn that you send in here, if I may humbly say so.” The witch shook her head: “Humbly say so. You, Dumbledore, are quite an arrogant man.” “You already stated before that you are able to see my true face now.” “Yes, and I must say that it is rather unsettling and lets me question the competence of the British Ministry.” They eye each other once more. “Watch out for the wand he wields, Madam President.”, he said cautionary and with a coldness, that would make Gellert proud. With that he folded his hands in his lap and he crossed his legs, symbolizing the end of their conversation. The President’s jaw-muscle twitched and she abruptly stood up. She called the names of his interrogators – Apparently Peters and Smith – and they entered. “Do what you must – I need to contact someone. We’ll try something else.” -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 20th of June, Nurmengard, Austrian Alps The first thing Albus feels is warmth. He is surrounded by a warmth that surrounds him like a cocoon and makes him feel boneless and his muscles too heavy to lift. The second thing is that he has the migraine of the century. His head feels like it has been most aggressively split open with an axe. He in- and exhales a few times, trying to stop his mind from rotating with a few miles per hour and starts focusing on other things. His fingertips touch something soft and he figures that he is lying on a smooth surface. Most likely a bedsheet, though not his own since it doesn’t feel like cotton, but more like a very expensive material. Perhaps silk. Not the kind of luxury a professor would have need for. Cautiously, he tries to open his eyes a crack and immediately closes them again when everything starts to spin and a soft groan escapes him. After a few seconds of in- and exhaling once more, he tries again and they immediately start to tear. The room is blurry and he has to blink a few times before the shapes get remotely clear. Slowly, very slowly and still half-dizzy, he turns his head to the right side. A small night table is positioned there, painted dark brown with golden handles, and on the surface, he can discover a long, black piece of wood. His wand. With a movement too quick (the room is tipping to the side) he reaches out and closes his fingers around it. A warm feeling spreads out from his hand through his entire body and he can hear a quiet singing in his ears, like on the first day when he had bought it in DiagonAlley. With an amazed gasp he presses his wand close to his heart, overwhelmed with joy, and just savouring the feeling of holding the weathered material in his hand. His last memory of his long-time companion is it being broken apart and now, it looks like nothing ever happened to it. He furrows his brows and looks back at the table. Previously overseen, there lie his Deluminator and the book he had brought with him to his trial at the Ministry. Both things Travers had taken for himself, if he remembers correctly, his blood starting to boil at the thought of him, that imbecile of a man, that arrogant, dull wizard not even understanding its true purpose- A light shuffling on the other side catches his attention and he turns his gaze into its direction. There, on a small, cushioned bench in front of a huge window, sat a man he thought he’d never see again, posture straight as an arrow, wearing noble clothes and looking at him intensely with mis-matched eyes. The room seems to lose all its air as the former professor stares right back, eyes unblinking. Gellert Grindelwald parts his lips slightly and asks: “Albus?” His voice is deeper. It is nothing important, only a small observation, but still, it overwhelms Albus’ fuzzy mind. Gellert frowns and repeats his name, a little louder this time. He should probably say something. But it is just - hearing his voice -the mirror had only shown him the picture of Gellert, an illusion that Albus sometimes stole glances from, and then always leaving with a heavier heart. Hearing his voice makes it real. “Gellert.”, he says, not very brightly he will admit. The most wanted wizard in Europe exhales quietly, while Albus lowers his gaze to gather his thoughts. The fog in his mind is starting to clear and only now the situation seems to hit. Gellert is here. Gellert is here! Not in disguise and not with a henchman pointing their wand at him. Albus glances around Gellert and out of the window. The sun is setting but he believes he can make out the shape of snowy peaks in the far distance. He lets his eyes trail around the room they are in and comes to the conclusion, that it is too spacious and elegant to be simple hide-out, so he must be in Gellert’s headquarters. The centre of all of Grindelwald’s actions. Something hysteric is bubbling deep in his chest. Gellert built his base in the thrice-damned Alps. No wonder nobody ever found him. “Am I correct in the assumption that I am currently at Nurmengard?”, he asks, eyes still drawn to the beautiful landscape and his voice is raspy, as if he had swallowed chalk down his throat. Gellert only nods, not even asking how Albus knows. The former professor looks back at his old friend and nods in return for the lack of anything better. Erised is truly a wonder of magic, he thinks amazed. The Austrian looks exactly like his reflection in the mirror. Albus wants to sit up and prepares himself on relying on his elbows but immediately sinks back into the soft mattress of what he recognizes now as a four-poster bed, letting out a pained noise. “How are you feeling?”, Gellert inquires. “Like a giant trampled over my head”, he responds while massaging his forehead. He gathers what he knows: He is currently at Nurmengard. The last memory he recalls if of that absolute abhorrence of a cell in an unknown place. Gellert is with him. He has his wand returned in one piece, along with his other possessions. The professor looks at his too-thin wrists. The skin there is pale, almost transparent, but smooth and clean and there are fading bruises or even worse, scars and most importantly: Those horrendous shackles had been taken from him, which means that his magic is no longer bound (though he feels so weak that probably a mildly determined squirrel could knock him out at this point). “What happened in the past few days?” “You were in prison.” “I am not anymore.” “Not anymore, no.” Gellert had leaned back against back rest, legs crossed and his posture has a cat-like grace to it, which grants the dark wizard an aura of effortless superiority. “How much do you already know?”, Albus asks. Gellert tilts his head: “Whatever do you mean?” He scoffs, “I am sure that most newspapers have by now reported about - my supposed alliance with you.” His cheeks blush faintly and he sees something shifting in the depths of Gellerts’ eyes and a miniscule smirk, gone again too quick to be sure, has formed on the dark Lord’s lips. “My dear, I don’t think that there is one newspaper who hasn’t reported excessively about it: Albus Dumbledore, genius and eccentric teacher of Hogwarts, exposed for what he really is: In league with the terrible Gellert Grindelwald. Whoever will protect Britain now?” In league, not hopelessly in love, though he can’t imagine that the prophet left that out. Abeforth will be without a doubt furious. “What else?”, he asks, still clinging to the ridiculous hope that perhaps the Ministry hasn’t passed on everything to the scandal-hungry journalists. “Your father has been mentioned.” Albus’ head whips up. “The government is doing everything to make your trial seem justified, so they let it slip that Percival Dumbledore has killed three muggle-boys and that a deep-rooted urge has been passed on to you. You’ve enjoyed some popularity among the British wizard community and they didn’t count on that kind of backflash, so they decided to take a different approach.” The smile turns into a cold sneer “You were always very good at presenting yourself in a favourable light.” Albus doesn’t answer, mainly because there isn’t anything to respond to that; it is true after all. He has a talent for making people like him while pulling strings like a puppeteer, as well as finding the balance between kindness and manipulation. He rubs his forehead and recalls Gellert’s words. Your father has been mentioned. Albus had enough time in prison to brood about the Ministry’s next steps. He had almost driven himself mad, thinking about the possibilities, how they would exploit everything he had revealed. Picqurey had already talked about his father, so it was only logical that they would use that information to their advantage, which meant in turn that the entire Magical world knew now. Once again, he felt that hot fury that had never left him since the first of June burning beneath his skin. But if they had looked carefully into the crimes of his family, that would lead them to- “Has Abeforth given a statement yet?”, he asks, voice rough with anxiousness. Gellert understands what he is asking without having to say it out loud: “No, though I don’t think that is because he holds any kind of love for either of us.” No, most certainly not. The younger Dumbledore had probably tried to protect Ariana’s memory from becoming a public spectacle. Poor Abeforth. Aurors were probably overrunning his little bar and he is sure that he had been questioned by now, though he didn’t believe that his stubborn brother would cooperate. He only hopes that he is smart enough not to drink anything they offer him. The anger in him spreads. Never, never, in his entire life did he have to endure such humiliation. His fists clench. “What else?” Gellert extends his left arm over the back rest and offers him a smirk: “Hogwarts has given a statement. It was surprisingly diplomatic, though the opinions on the matter differ. There are teachers and students who think you deserve to be locked up for your supposed cooperation with me, and others who insist that you have done a lot of good for Muggleborns. One professor, Merrythought was her name I believe, even stepped up to argue in your favour.” Grindelwalds’ eyes observe him carefully. “She was my DADA teacher when I was still a student.”, Albus comments absently while folding his hands. That his favourite professor had tried to defend him created something small and warm in his chest. He had always had great respect for the elderly witch, which had turned into genuine affection when she had tried to help him after his mother’s death during his seventh year in Hogwarts. Albus had never told her much about himself, much less about personal things, but she had always suspected something. However, he is aware that nobody will have listened to her. No, Hogwarts is closed to him. “And some of the children even support my cause and therefore, you.”, Gellert continues and Albus is pulled out of thoughts. He gives the Austrian an incredulous glance, which soon turns into resignation. He needn’t be surprised. Gellert’s message has reached far, far corners of the world and how could he judge young, influenceable minds when he himself was not immune. Especially since he should know better. He imagines the students of Hogwarts sitting at their tables in the Great Hall, bent over the Daily Prophet Article while eating breakfast and immediately writing their parents to ask If this was true: If their transfiguration professor had indeed been a double-agent the whole time. Or, his Gryffindors in the common room and eagerly discussing If Dumbledore had ever given any secret signs or behaved in a way that proves his alliance with Grindelwald. An uncomfortable feeling spreads in his gut at the thought. Perhaps the children had gotten questioned by Aurors. The teachers most definitely had. Probably everyone he knows and had more or less regular contact with, which meant Elphias, Nicolas and Perenelle, Newt- Newt Albus’ fingers clench the blanket so tightly that they pale. Oh, what must Newt think of him? And Mr. Kowalski and Auror Goldstein? He hadn’t looked up to see their reaction at the trial, too ashamed and distracted, and now he regrets it. They must be angry, no doubt. And disappointed. Newt has fought so hard against something, Albus has, partly, created. He lets go of the silken material and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Has Newt or one of his friends made some kind of comment?”, he forces himself to ask. Anger mars Gellerts’ aristocratic features, though he stays composed: “You mean that animal-loving oaf who stole our blood pact?” Albus recoils at the venom in his voice and he makes a pained grimace as the pressure behind his forehead seems to double. “If you would kindly stop insulting the people I am fond of, Gellert, that would be very kind and for Merlin’s sake stop thinking so loud.”, he exclaims while rubbing his temples. Surprisingly, Gellert’s expression smoothens again and the arrogant, little smile returns while the pain in his head lessens. “No, Scamander has not said a thing to anyone.”, Grindelwald offers and Albus exhales deeply. It doesn’t mean anything, much less that Newt is not furious at him, but at least he didn’t go to the Ministry. They sit in silence for a while, the English man looking at the beautiful landscape instead of his former lover. The sun has almost vanished now and the first stars make their appearance. “I must admit,” Gellert starts, his voice sounding like velvet,“ that I was very flattered when you proclaimed your eternal love for me in front of the entire International Magical Congress.”, Albus’ heart stops, only to immediately feel like it fell down a few floors and he stares up at Gellert. The dark wizard’s eyes are glittering and his lips form a knowing smile that could be mistaken for arrogant. He wants to say hundred things at once but all he brings out is: “You were there!” “I was.”, the blond answers and Albus gets the feeling that he had wanted to reveal that since the beginning of their conversation. “Do not mock me, Grindelwald”, Albus commands quietly, “Don’t you dare-” “I am not, Albus.” Gellert’s smile flees in an instant and his features become serious; “I would not. Never. Not when it comes to this.” Dumbledore can hardly believe that. Gellert carefully stands up and walks over to his side. Gellert had attended the trial. Gellert had sat in the same room as he had. And Gellert had done nothing. “I watched them force you to share my secrets. I saw you trying so bravely to evade their questions. I saw you fighting so cleverly against them and keeping the most precious gems of my past to yourself. I cannot even begin to describe to you how tremendously amusing it was to hear them talk about me like I was an elusive shadow. How much I enjoyed watching them admit that they sincerely don’t know how to catch me, while I sat in their midst.” “The man from the German section…”, the former professor realizes slowly. “The man who laughed.” The arrogant twinkle was joined by a mischievous smile and in that moment, Gellert has never resembled his younger self more. “You sat through the whole process.” Oh Morgana, Gellert had heard everything. “I don’t think Grindelwald regarded us as friends. Gellert used me. He didn’t have any kind of more complex feelings for me. I was easy enough to manipulate.” Oh Merlin! “Professor Dumbledore, have you been, and still are, in love with the murderer Gellert Grindelwald?” Oh Merlin! He buries his head in his hands. That…was embarrassing on a whole new level. The ground may open now. “And I wanted to stop them, believe me, but even I cannot defeat two hundred delegates at the same time and get to you. So, I waited and placed my agents close, but they lost the carriage and after that began the chase.”, Gellert continues softly. Albus’ face emerges behind his palms: “It was you who freed me.”, he states suprised Gellert nods, before he practically spits: “Durmstrang. They brought you to Durmstrang – or at least close.” Oh! Well played, Picquery, Albus thinks distracted. He doesn’t dare to look at Gellert. “Albus, what happened in there?” He didn’t want to think about it honestly. “Why, what did you diagnose?” “I found you in a cell. The prison was guarded by Dementors. You – for Faust’s sake, for a moment I thought you were kissed.” Dumbledore looks at the self-proclaimed dark lord. It is almost inaudible, but there is a very fine dissonance creeping into Gellert’s voice. “Queenie Goldstein, my Legilimens, took a look at you and then left immediately, afraid to hurt you. She said that your Occlumentic shields are completely shattered.” Albus presses his lips together: “They hired another Legilimens. I don’t know who he is now where he comes from but-“ He rubs his temples, the headache still pounding like a drum against his forehead. “He - tried to break through my barriers. When he couldn’t get in naturally, they used confusion spells and then he attacked.” Grindelwald frowns: “Confusion spells are usually harmless.” Albus gives him a sinister look: “Every spell can be used to cause damage, Gellert.” The blond raises a hand as a symbol of peace. “I am not entirely sure what happened after. I tried to think of something neutral, Hogwarts, of the classes I teach – well, used to teach.” He doesn’t want to continue. Pictures of his students, distorted and falsified, flicker behind his eyelids. The confusion spell had taken his memory and along with that vicious offense against his mind, had altered it, so he had seen them hurt and alone. He doesn’t know if it was done intentionally or not, but would like to destroy something at the sheer memory of it. He repeats his thoughts to Gellert (except the last one - Gellert didn’t need to know that). “That explains why the first thing you did was asking for your students.”, he mutters. Once more, they both fall silent again, Albus finally sitting upright and Gellert still standing next to him, his features carrying an unreadably expression. After a while, he picks up his wand again and twirls it: “Quite interesting. It seems like it has never been parted and yet I can clearly remember the sound of splintered wood.” He looks at the strangely-shaped wand that peeks out of Gellert’s pocket. “You have found the Elder Wand.” “Indeed, I have.”, Gellert says as he takes out the Wand of Destiny and lets it glide through his long, elegant fingers. There is something flaring up in Albus’ chest and he needs to restrain himself from reaching out. Apparently, his face must have given something away because the dark wizard smiles amused and brings the cursed object closer to him: “You can hold it - I don’t mind.” Albus folds his hands quickly as he stares at it. An old longing, almost forgotten and buried along with a little girl in Godric’s Hollow, is starting to make its way to the surface again. He has suspected it, of course, but to actually have it confirmed and now so boldly presented… the first hallow offered to him, like death had once offered it to the first brother, the one gift Gellert had always desired the most, is exhilarating. Breathing deeply and trying to control his voice, he says: “I always preferred the stone.” A tense moment follows in which Gellert simply stares at him and for a second, Albus is worried that this somewhat civil conversation is coming to its brutal end. But then, Gellert throws his fair head back and laughs. “Oh, Albus, I’ve missed you. ” The redhead blinks confused at the unexpected reaction. Gellert has calmed down and an honest, amused smile stretches out on his face. It isn’t as beautiful as it used to be, but then again, Albus can’t imagine that Gellert still smiles a lot nowadays. The thought makes his heart throb painfully. “Only you, my old friend, could have been presented with the most powerful wand in the world and yet ask so demanding for something else.”, Gellert says, mirth dancing in his eyes. Albus feels the edge of his lips twitch traitorously as his eyes are drawn once more to the legendary hallow. His fingers don’t feel like his own anymore, fidgeting with the desperate desire to hold that piece of power in their grip, for the first and most likely last time since Gellert would certainly never part from it again. Giving in to the temptation, his guilt quickly overruled by an ancient yearning and scientific curiosity, he carefully takes the Elder Wand and looks at it with open admiration. “Do you know what its core is?” “Thestral hair.”, Gellert responds, observing his old companion attentively. Albus’ fingers drive over the little carves and symbols in the middle: “What do you know about it?”, he asks, utterly fascinated. “It is 15 inches long. I haven’t found out what the runes mean, yet.” The former professor squints his eyes and tries to analyse them, but doesn’t recognize them. Well, his mind is still too tired to do much. “Did you kill its last possessor?”, he wants to know, remembering the horrible price a little bit too late for his contempt. To his surprise, Gellert shakes his head. “I stole it. The foolish old man didn’t even use it. He just kept it like it was some sort of collectable.” Albus nods relieved and inspects once more the wand in front of him. For a moment, a very brief moment, he thinks of raising it to point at Gellert. But it is fleeting and so very weak that he ought to feel ashamed - which he doesn’t. He should, but he is too exhausted and confused to keep the moral high ground right now. And quite frankly, too petty as well. He looks up at Gellert, his first and last love. Over the years spent in Hogwarts, he has imagined so many different scenarios about how a potential meeting could happen. A duel had been part of them. A final duel, to stop him, before he can kill Albus, but now- He gives it back and Gellert stores it safely away in his pocket once more. “So.” “So.”, Gellert repeats. “Am I to be a prisoner of war?” Gellert chuckles amused: “On the contrary. I’d like to express my wish for you to join me in our noble cause.” Albus can’t help but snort. “You’ve been planning to kill me.” Gellert doesn’t twitch an eyebrow. “And you left me exposed to torture for half a year in MACUSAs’ dungeons. Not to speak about the punishment that would have awaited me in Europe, which would have been most likely the death penalty, that is still used under special circumstances.” Albus feels his temper rising: “First of all, you have committed several crimes against the Muggle society as well as wizards, murder only one of them and probably not even the most severe. Secondly, I have written MACUSA multiple times, criticizing their treatment.” Gellert lifts his arms in the air and mocks: “Oh, ring the bells for have you heard, Albus Dumbledore knows how to use a feather. Mephisto, you are such an infuriating hypocrite. If they had decided to execute me on the spot, what would you have done, Albus? Watched it happen?” Albus presses his jaw together so tightly that it is a wonder that his teeth stay intact. Gellert gives him a cruel smile: “It would have been quite convenient for you, wouldn’t it? A murderer would have disappeared without you having to leave your comfortable castle and get your hands dirty.” He is sure that his teeth are cracking by now. “Of course. Your own sins buried along with me. So no-one would ever know what happened with Ari-“ “You would have deserved it!”, Albus almost shouts before he can hold himself back, a small face surrounded by a halo of red-golden hair on the floor flashing behind his eyelids. Immediately he bites down on his tongue and looks at Gellert with wide eyes. He doesn’t know if he is simply imagining it but he thinks that Gellert’s pale complexion has become a little bit paler. They stare at each other for what could have been centuries. Gellert stands still as a statue before he sighs and sits down at his side, one leg popped up on the bed. “We’re even then, I guess. I will not deny that I intended to use Credence Barebone to- dispose of the problem that you represented.” Albus knows this of course, but it still hurts his heart more than he’d ever admit to himself. Represented. Not represent. He thinks very long about whether he should speak the next words. Gellert already knows too much about him, about his feelings, his heart and mind, thanks to the Veritaserum but he has nothing to lose anymore. He can’t go back to Hogwarts, nor any other country where he has some kind of influence. “I wouldn’t have let them execute you.”, he says softly and very quiet. Gellert’s mismatched eyes turn towards him, so familiar and mysterious. “Imprison you? Yes. Torture you? I would have tried to fight it. Perhaps not to your liking, yet still. But kill you?”, Albus looks at him sadly, “I would have found a way to get you out. I would have felt ashamed to no end but no-one deserves to die like this. And that includes the Muggles.” He sighs and gives Gellert the shadow of a smile: “Besides, I had a feeling that you would manage to escape.” With that he folds his hands in his lap and twiddles his thumps as he looks once more out of the window at the night sky, where the moon illuminates the mountains in a magical glow, relieved and anxious at the same time. Gellert doesn’t say anything for a long time but at one point, he feels one of his hands being enclosed in two others. He looks down at their entwined fingers and then at the wizard holding them. “I don’t think Grindelwald regarded us as friends. He is, and has always been, drawn to power first and foremost and I happen to have enough of that. Gellert used me. He didn’t have any kind of more complex feelings for me. I was easy enough to manipulate.”, Grindelwald recites and Albus can feel his cheeks turning so red, that it must have the same colour as his hair by now,” You, my dear, can be very stupid for a genius.”, Gellert comments tenderly. He releases his hand and stands up, his features once more impassive: “I offer you asylum in Nurmengard for as long as you want but I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t wish for any kind of revenge against those who tormented you. For long enough, you have stood at the side-lines. You still have a place at my side. You always had.”, he hesitates before he continues, “And for what it’s worth: I don’t think that Credence would have managed to kill you.” Albus looks at him surprised, understanding the secret meaning behind his last sentence. He waits a long moment before replying: “I will think about it.” His old friend nods: “That is all I ask for.” He opens the door to leave: “Gellert, how did you get my wand?”, Albus asks quickly, before he is gone. Gellert turns around for the final time and smirks: “I paid Travers a little visit shortly before your rescue.” With that he leaves. Albus stares at the closed door for a long time, before murmurs: “Thank you.” He doesn’t know if he means the return of his wand, that Gellert came for him or what exactly but it doesn’t matter right now. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 24th of June, Nurmengard, Austrian Alps He is visited by three people before he sees Gellert again. Queenie Goldstein is the first one and, without a doubt, one of the loveliest people he ever had the honour to meet. In a rosé-coloured dress, she practically floats into his room, golden curls whipping up and down and with a smile that speaks of a deep, genuine kindness. He can see why Jacob is so enamoured with her. They are a good match and he feels a sting of regret that they are separated for now (though he is convinced that they will meet again). “Oh, Professor, I am so glad to see that you’re better again.”, she says, her American accent prominent. “Miss Goldstein, I presume.”, he says, a bit overwhelmed by the sudden cheerfulness in his usually quiet room. “Yes, indeed, Professor Dumbledore, and I already know who you are.” She waves her wand and plate with heavenly smelling French toast flies in and settles elegantly in his lap. Albus had managed to eat more and especially solid food in the last few days and luckily, he had started to gain weight again, but it was nothing compared to the delicious looking meal that is now in front of him. “Thank you, this smells delicious. And not a professor anymore, I am afraid.”, the witch sits down on the bench that Gellert had occupied a few days ago and he picks up his fork, when he can suddenly feel a warm sensation in his head, almost as if a cloud had wrapped itself around his mind. A foreign mind He looks at her surprised and she smiles at him, a bit apologetic: “I am really sorry Mr. Dumbledore, I can’t really control it and I haven’t learned proper Occlumency yet.” Albus shakes his head, partly to find out if her mental presence would hurt, but when it doesn’t he looks at her intrigued. “It is alright. You have, could we say, a sympathetic mind? How fascinating, I have never met a natural Legilimens before?” The witch beams at the compliment and the former teacher feels strongly reminded of his students. It is a pleasant feeling. “I left your room immediately after I saw the state of your mind when you arrived – I think I would have hurt you because your Occlumentic barriers were really broken and needed time to heal, but now they’re better I think, so I figured I could come and visit you.”, she babbles and looks at him with doe-shaped eyes. “That is very kind of you.”, he says warmly and returns her smile. They are silent for a while after that, Albus eating his French Toast (which tasted heavenly) and contemplating. He had felt Queenie’s mind immediately, so others would probably too. It was true, what she had said. He had been working on rebuilding his mental shields, previously oversensitive to any kind of foreign thought (fortunately, he was quite isolated in his room) and he realizes that Gellert must have used Occlumency with an iron will the whole time he had been here. Except for one little slip where he had gotten angry at Newt. “Oh, yes, that is true. Mr. Grindelwald’s Occlumency skills are very impressive.” Confused for a moment, Albus looks at the witch before he realizes that she must have listened to his inner monologue. On one hand, it is good that he hadn’t felt her presence which means that his shields are becoming stronger again, but on the other, it is a bit concerning that he hasn’t noticed someone foreign analysing his thoughts. “Indeed. Is he the one who teaches you?”, he answers to distract her. She nods excited: “Yes, he and Madame Rosier. In return, I teach him Legilimency.” That surprises Albus. Gellert has some natural talent for it, though it had never seemed especially strong and he had been unaware that one could train it. “Well, we try what we can.”, Queenie says cheerfully. Albus nods and cuts another piece of his toast, while the American witch chews nervously on her lip. He lets her take her time and after a few moments, he can suddenly hear a voice ringing in his head: “How are Jacob and Teenie?” He doesn’t answer her but shows her mental pictures instead: Jacob and Auror Goldstein at Hogwarts, after the rally and missing her terribly. Tears well up in her eyes. “I miss ‘em too.”, she sniffles, “Thank you.”, she says out loud and rises from her chair. With a flick of her wand, the empty plate is gone. “I am really glad you are here, Mr. Dumbledore. And he is, too.”, the smile she gives him is a bit blurry but honest. With that she leaves the room. And he is, too. A warn feeling hollows in his chest. Oh, damn you Gellert He starts making a list in his head. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 27th of June, Nurmengard, Austrian Alps The second person is a woman as well, though he doesn’t recognize her, much to her displeasure. “I am Vinda Rosier.”, she explains curt, sharp and with a French accent, as if her name is the only explanation one might need. And of course, Albus knows the name. Everyone who grew up in the Magical World probably did: Descendant of one of the 28 sacred families, of most noble and pure blood and probably one of the richest witches in Europe. Also, Gellert’s first lieutenant, most loyal follower according to his sources and, perhaps, even considered a friend. He prepares himself for an unpleasant time: “How can I help you?” She looks down at him, her gaze dismissive: “I require information.” “I will see if I can answer your question.”, he decides to reply after a moment. That woman was an important person and it wouldn’t do any good to antagonize her. She straightens and there is something flaring in her eyes that makes him honestly curious: “Where is my Master’s pendant?” The curiosity vanishes instantly and he lets out an involuntary, frustrated noise. Merlin, how many times had he been asked this exact question during the last few weeks? He rubs his forehead to get some time to think: “Why?” “Because I was charged with the return of it and I wasn’t able to do so.” Albus shakes his head: “You won’t get it, no matter what you do.” “You underestimate my abilities.”, she simply replies and he wants to groan at her over-confidence. No wonder Gellert likes her. “It’s in Hogwarts.” “I know it is in Hogwarts, Dumbledore, I want to know where exactly.” “What do you know about it?” She purses her painted lips, obviously starting to lose her patience as well: “It is a blood pact, that you and Grindelwald have created together in the year of 1899. It is quite important to him for I’ve seen him wearing it since our first meeting.” “You won’t get into Hogwarts and you don’t need to. It is safe there. The Aurors can look until they go mad, they won’t find it. And when did you meet, exactly?” Not very subtle, but he wanted to know. “1904” 1904 And Gellert had always carried it with him? Deciding to delay the entanglement of the confusing mix of feelings that arose through that statement to later, he asks her: “And why do you think you failed? It was taken and immediately brought to me. You couldn’t have done anything.” Her eyes turn to slits and she stares at him with suspicion, before she lets out a short “hm” and turns around to leave the room. Albus looks after her with open confusion on his face. He isn’t entirely sure if he made an enemy or a new ally today. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1st of July, Nurmengard, Austrian Alps Being on bedrest is incredibly boring. Even he can read only a limited amount of books. He rereads “L’historie des magiciens à Lyon” for the second time (his French is rusty but tolerable) when the door opens slowly and a head with dark hair peeks through the door. Surprised, Albus puts his book away and rests his hands on the sheets. His third visitor is Credence Barebone. The boy prances nervously a little bit closer, shy and curious at the same time. He comes to halt in front of the professor and examines him intensely. Albus lets him and eyes the boy in return. He looks quite healthy, certainly better than in New York (or at least the pictures he had seen of it) and his posture is almost straight. His own blue eyes finally find the dark ones of Credence and he sees something shifting in them, that surprises him: disappointment. “I assume that you were expecting something else?”, he says with a kind voice. The boy looks a bit spooked: “How do you know?” Albus chuckles: “I had a lot of time to learn reading young adolescents’ expressions, Mr. Barebone.” The Obscurial flinches, barely visible and his fingers fidget. The former professor conjures a chair with his wand (and every time it is a joy to use it again) and points at it: “Please, you look like you need to sit down.” The poor lad practically collapses on it and Albus feels compassion bubbling in his stomach. Determined to let the boy set his own terms and speak first, he stays silent. It is quiet for a long time until Credence suddenly blurts out: “He wanted to use me to – to get rid of you.” He being Grindelwald. Albus sighs: “I am aware.” The Obsucrial looks at him distrustfully: “You are not afraid of me.” “I don’t think that you really want to kill me, am I correct?” Credence doesn’t respond immediately and avoids eye contact. “It depends.”, he finally replies. “On what?” “If what he said is true.” “What do you think?”, the former professor decides to ask after a few moments of silence. The American boy contemplates before he says carefully: “I think that Mr. Grindelwald can take the truth and twist it so many times that it serves his own benefit in the end.” Dumbledore nods, humming: “An accurate description, I would say.” Again, a long silence “I am not who he says I am. Am I not?”Credence finally asks, resigned. Albus sighs and curses Gellert in his mind: “I don’t know but, no, probably not.” The boy clenches his fists, something wild and dark entering his gaze. He takes out his wand (a wand) and holds to it like one would to a lifeline. Afraid of what could very likely happen, Albus quickly grabs the Obscurial’s hand and he almost jumps. “I don’t know what Gellert told you but you can always leave.” “I can’t.”, the boy croaks out, his limbs shaking. Albus swallows. All this looks way too familiar. “He wouldn’t let me.” The former teacher shakes his head and curses Gellert some more: “He will, that I swear. If not, I will personally see to it that he does. And he won’t like my methods.” Credence doesn’t laugh but instead examines him again: “They say you are a powerful wizard. That you are an equal to Grindelwald, and with that a threat.” Albus nods with a smile, having heard that compliment too often already to feel really flattered but wanting to reassure the young Obscurial. His eyes fall on the dark wand in the pale, still slightly trembling hands. “If you don’t believe me that you can leave, look at your wand.” Credence gazes down at the beautifully shaped wood. “What of it?” Albus leans forward, a secretive smile on his lips: “It belonged to Grindelwald, once.” -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 9th of July, Gardens of Nurmengard, Austrian Alps When Albus sees Gellert again, it is in Nurmengards’ beautiful gardens. Weeks have passed and he is finally strong enough to walk and to not collapse immediately when he faces a person who is not able to perform Occlumency. So, he enjoys the sunshine and the exotic flowers that are planted on both sides of a small path until it is blocked by Gellert who is suddenly standing right in front of him. They look at each other before Albus resumes his route, Gellert at his side: “Where have you been?” The Austrian’s face doesn’t give anything away: “Preparing a safe house in the next city I want to visit.” His old companion is tempted to ask him where it is but he knows that Gellert won’t tell him, so they walk in silence for a while. “Should I leave you alone?”, the dark wizard asks eventually. Albus hesitates, but overcomes it quickly: “No I wanted to speak to you anyways.” They find a small garden table from which you can see over the castle wall directly into the valley far beneath them at the bottom of the mountain. They are above the clouds, so fog is obscuring their sight every now and then. Gellert lets two cups of tea appear and while it is not as good as freshly brewed, Albus accepts happily. “So, what is your decision?”, he asks straight forward after they have both taken a sip. Dumbledore takes some time with his answer, looking at the area instead. He had underestimated how much he would enjoy seeing something else than the Scottish Highlands or the cities of England. “I have decided to join you once more.”, he finally replies. Gellert inhales deeply but otherwise doesn’t show any reaction: “Why?” Albus looks at him: “I have nowhere to go. Hogwarts; the United Kingdom, the Continent, Canada, The United States…everywhere I am a fugitive. Of course, I could go to Asia or Africa, I could finally travel and actually see something but it would be without purpose. I have no friends there, and no home.” He makes a quick pause to take another sip and prepare himself for his next words: “And I want justice. I want retribution for what happened at the Ministry. I consider myself a tolerant man but that went too far. That surpassed my limits.” It should be alarming how easily those words were said. He doesn’t add and I missed you or I still love you – He can’t say those words yet but Gellert knows it anyways. He was at the trial after all. The Austrian is quiet for a long time. Albus observes him carefully and sees his expressions shifting until he finally states: “I am glad.” It sounds a little bit too triumphant, so Albus quickly continues: “But I have conditions and they are not negotiable.” Gellert looks at him, ready to hear him out but not agreeing yet: “Let me guess: They involve Credence Barebone? My Acolytes told me that he has disappeared. I assume you had something to do with that?” The former teacher looks at him determined: “Yes.” Gellerts’ nostrils widen in anger: “He took my old wand.” Albus doesn’t twitch an eyebrow: “He deserved it after what you did to him. That and so much more. But yes, he is my first condition. You will let him leave and neither you, nor your followers will hunt him down. “He will want revenge against me.” “Then that is your own fault. You will let him escape and you will write him a letter in which you tell him everything you know about his real family, if you actually, honestly know something.” Gellerts’ lips form a very thin line but he tilts his head to symbolise the other to continue. “Queenie as well is allowed to leave the moments she wants to.” Which might be sooner than they both think, he presumes. “Not surprising.”, Gellert says, “Further conditions?” Albus feels more settled: “You will release the prisoners; Graves and whoever you are holding. Obliviate them if you must but send them home. All of them. You will not go after Newt, Tina Goldstein, Jacob Kowalski, Yusuf Kama, Nagini, my friend Nicolas and his wife, or” – he hesitates briefly – “or Theseus Scamander, am I clear? Neither will your Acolytes.” Gellert looks quite unhappy at that, most likely because of the Scamander brothers. “Then: You will respect my opinions and you will sincerely think about them.” The dark Lord frowns: “When have I not done that?” Albus ignores his question and already continues: “The Muggles.”, he can practically see Gellert’s wish to argue, “We will discuss your policy on that. No excessive violence anymore. I can agree that it will be unavoidable if we go against the Ministries, but there needs to be another way. And finally-“, he says before Gellert can interrupt, “Finally, and most importantly, I decide when murder is necessary. That is my last condition.” Gellert pushes his finger-tips against each other in a contemplating gesture while letting his gaze float over the beautiful nature surrounding them. Albus gives him some time to think about his demands and busies himself with finishing his tea. In the end, Gellert has seems to have come to a conclusion: “Those are a lot of conditions and most of them not very agreeable with my previous course. What do I get in return?” Albus is already prepared for that question: “My loyalty to you and only you. My renewed devotion to the Greater Good, my magical skills, my mind and ideas, and my council should you want it.” Gellert let his hands fall on the armrests of his chair and his fingers slowly tap the wood. “Before I agree or disagree, I want an honest answer to following question: Where is the pendant?” Albus groans and does something he hasn’t done in a very long time: He palms his face rather childishly: “Merlin, I ought to get a sickle whenever someone asks me, really! I would be richer than you!” He looks at this old friend: “It is in Hogwarts, more precisely in the Room of Requirement. A room that appears when you wish for or are in need of something. I required a safe hiding place, so the room provided one and I wished that no other person than me could enter it. Even if somebody knew, it would be useless.” Gellert looks impressed: “That sounds useful.” “It is! I found it when I was looking for the bathroom.”, Albus nods. The Austrian doesn’t comment on that, but rises from his chair and extends a hand to help him up. He takes a very close step towards his old companion when they both stand, too close to be considered proper, and Albus’ breath hitches slightly. Gellert offers him a tiny smirk and says: “We can get our pact on the way. Do you need your conditions written down with my signature beneath it?” The former professor shakes his head, hands twitching at his sides. For a moment, he feels like an eighteen-year old again: “No, your word will be enough.” Gellert takes his face in his hands: “I swear on our Blood Troth.” Albus nods: “So do I.” He can feel the blond’s warm breath on his lips. “Then we have a bargain.”, Gellert whispers. Notes: So, finally! It took some time to get there, but Grindelwald and Dumbledore are finally reunited. For those of you think everything all is well now: Not quite. For them being together, another price must be paid. The next chapter is the final chapter (except for the bonus chapter which will be Dumbledore's trial from Grindelwald's POV) , in which Newt and some others will make an appearance. Thanks for reading!