This is a very dark story and it is M rated for a reason.
Strong adult themes: bad language, torture, rape - both het and slash. Murder, abductions and slavery. Violence, prison and war scenes. Squeamish injuries, PTSD, drug use, infidelity and major/minor character deaths.
This fic has a variety of canon and non canon ships.
Disclaimer. I'm not JKR, I don't own HP, and I'm not making profit out of this story.
I do not endorse anything this fic portrays and it is only a work of fiction.
***Thank you so much to my betas MelodyPond77 and T3hWh1t3P4nth3r***
The full moon shone through a thick mist onto a forgotten church. It was on a small hill, overlooking a quaint Muggle town. Twinkling prinprinks of light filtered out from house windows, giving the town life and warmth. On the otherhand, the church was in darkness. Even though it seemed derelict, except for birds and rats, a Muggle looking up would've discovered a strange site.
On the roof of the church, an old wizard with a long white beard sat, as though this was a completely natural thing to do. As a breeze hit his dangling legs, he sucked on a sherbet lemon and watched an owl glide past. It was certainly a strange sight for any Muggle to witness, let alone a wizard or witch. However, Albus Dumbledore wanted to experience a bird's eye view of the little town beneath.
But, this odd expedition had its purpose.
There was a small pop to his side. A wizard, tall like Dumbledore and just as old, sat beside him. This wizard wore a crimson cloak and embroidered blue robes. He pulled down his hood, sniffing the cold air and observed the town beneath. He had a silver goatee with a pointed moustache, while his slick white hair was pulled into a ponytail. His grey eyes were bright like the stars hidden by the mist. It looked like he took great pride in his silvery appearance.
"Well hello, Albus," started the wizard with the crimson cloak. "This certainly isn't the place I would've expected to have a rendezvous. But alas…"
"Alas…" replied Dumbledore. He swung his feet a little over the edge, his robes fluttering in the breeze. But the tension was thick. This was the first time he had spoken to the wizard since his escape from Nuremgard. "Would you like a sherbet lemon, Gellert?"
Gellert Grindelwald flicked his bushy eyebrows. His eyebrows were much bushier than Dumbledore had ever managed. "So you still like them after all this time? Yes, I wouldn't mind one myself." The wizard smiled. He helped himself to a sweet from the paper bag Dumbledore held out.
Just like the old days, thought Dumbledore, and how long ago those days were.
"You've cleaned up well, you look fantastic," Dumbledore noted. Months before, Grindelwald had been a gaunt shell of a man tucked away in prison. "I hope I haven't exhausted you too much, but you seem to be having a lot of adventures lately. I'm amazed that you've managed to destroy so many Muggle towns in such a short period of time."
"Ahh yes, but my skills have rusted a little," he chortled, like it had been a fairly simple thing to do, destroying cities. Like his sixty years in prison had been a mere holiday.
"But you're starting to gain Voldemort's attention now, which is what I wanted. However, Gellert, don't get too carried away enjoying your freedom. I need your help to end this war. You know what your true mission is."
Grindelwald looked aghast. "Of course, I haven't forgotten!"
Dumbledore wasn't so sure about this.
"Why then? You have never answered me why you've helped me escape the prison I had built. Why are you helping me to gain power?" He looked at Dumbledore from the corner of his eyes.
Using Grindelwald had been a risk from the very start. There was always a chance that he would gain power without helping The Order of the Phoenix. But he had to take a chance with his once best friend and admirer. Dumbledore was not the powerful wizard he used to be, and he was not the power whom Voldemort used to fear. He was weary and tired and he wanted nothing more than for the war that had lasted twenty-eight years to end.
"Gellert, it's because you wouldn't be of any use to me if you didn't have power."
The wizard raised an eyebrow. "Is that all, Albus? It seems I'm doing the Greater Good I was put in prison for."
He looked at Grindelwald grimly through his half-moon spectacles. "I'm not asking you to terrorise Muggles, and Muggle-borns, Gellert!"
Grindelwald visibly recoiled. "Yes, yes, I know, Albus, however Lord Voldemort's followers need to notice that I too, seem to care about the purity of our world and thus get them interested in my little group."
Dumbledore pondered this for a moment. It was a horrible tactic, but he had to admit, it was one which will prove fruitful. "You need to stay in England now… that's the only way Voldemort will realise the challenge you pose."
He outspread his arms, displaying a cheeky smile. "I am already here at your service. I've been hiding in Cork for days with my followers and my resources."
"Excellent! But make sure you don't kill Muggles and innocents."
Grindelwald sniffed loudly, but did not press further with the details. Instead, Dumbledore knew this wizard was itching to ask him something that had been on his mind since his escape.
"Albus, do you still have it?"
"Why is the Elder Wand again of interest to you?" He knew the wizard longed to see it. Perhaps it would give him an edge if he had it within his grasp.
"I've heard rumours that you lost the wand to Tom Riddle."
Dumbledore didn't answer for awhile. "I lost it at my defeat… before Hogwarts closed."
Grindelwald's eyes lit up. "You survived? I've heard things, horrible things. Will you explain to me what's happened here and to Hogwarts?"
"I survived, yes, luckily. I kept him out of Hogwarts for as long as I could. But, by then the Muggle-borns were dwindling in numbers. Then the Chamber of Secrets opened and the rest of them were murdered by the basilisk that lived there. I lost over one hundred students that night." The shock of it still froze Dumbledore's heart.
"Is it true that Harry Potter had opened the Chamber of Secrets? My supporters have told me this rumour."
"It wasn't the boy's doing." Dumbledore had not believed this at first, believing the boy when he had denied it, but since Harry had murdered his brother and maimed his sister, Dumbledore needed to weigh up the evidence. Even though the boy had been imprisoned in Azkaban for four months now, a niggling feeling crept into his mind.
He knew there were still missing pieces to the Harry Potter puzzle. He wanted the truth on how his protégé had become so evil and bent, though he knew that part of Harry Potter's downfall, if not, in fact all of it, had been his own fault. Fledgling Mages did have a habit of distorting their souls, if they absorbed the power around them to quickly. They all go through a Dark phase before their power is complete, but if they do not pass this phase they remain bent forever.
However, his investigations into the matter had been put on hold for now as he dealt with bigger things, and Gellert Grindelwald was one of those bigger things.
"Hogwarts is the Dark Lord's hiding place." He said this calmly, though the bitterness still seeped through every pore in his body. "Voldemort took over the school soon after its closing with the Elder Wand. I wasn't there when it happened, I was recovering."
Since Tom nearly killed me, I've been too weak to fight, he thought, though he would never say it out loud, especially to Gellert.
Grindelwald fiddled with his goatee. "I knew that not all the truth about Hogwarts had made it out. The Ministry of Magic has an iron fist here. What else should I know? Tell me more about life here? There are too many rumours in Europe and this mist, this dreadful Dementor mist has lasted decades. Did you know it's spreading to France?"
Dumbledore nodded. "The mist has baffled the Muggles for years. Half the Muggles blame it on climate change, the other half think its terrorists causing it. Only their government knows the truth."
"The Death Eaters?" guessed Grindelwald.
"The Muggles call them the Green Skulls. I don't need to tell you why... but I will say that Voldemort has been creating havoc and destruction for the Muggles for the last twenty-eight years."
"Why hasn't the Ministry done anything about this?"
"The British Ministry have been helping somewhat. The Aurors and Muggle forces work together at times. But the Ministry is still a farce. They are too embroiled between themselves; morals and ethics have been destroyed in the last two decades in order to fight Voldemort.
"Rufus Scrimgeour has been the Minister for Magic for the last decade. He is ruthless and growing more paranoid by the day. Thomas MacCloud, Head of the Auror department is a merciless wizard, imbalanced and cruel. Dolores Umbridge is the Senior Undersecretary and Head of Interrogation and the Prevention of Crime and Sedition squad. She allows the Aurors to use the Unforgivables. She's given them power to search and violate people's privacy and to interrogate any way possible. They enjoy their power."
"My word, indeed… There are witch hunts. Say one word against the Ministry and they'll label you a Death Eater and they will cart you away to Azkaban. Then, they'll brainwash your family. If your family don't comply, they're imprisoned as well."
"It is worse than I thought. When my supporters had told me they were scared of the Ministry, I thought they were exaggerating."
Dumbledore nodded. "In order to protect us, Scrimgeour says, we must change our ways. Match up to Voldemort with the same use of Dark magic. 'The only way we will win is to fight the Dark with the Dark.' I've since cut most ties with them. I don't interfere with them. I have the Order now, with thousands of members and still growing. We are the Light against the weight of both enemies." He waited for the wizard to digest his words. A winter breeze whooshed past them.
"Gellert, we must remain between the chaos here. You must remain between them: Between Voldemort and the Ministry."
"But you want me to destroy-"
"But I don't want you to kill and torture. You need to give Voldemort the right illusion."
"You've grown strange in your old years."
Dumbledore curved his lips into a thin smile. "Perhaps..."
"It like the last sixty years has been a wisp of smoke."
"The past is the past, and now times have grown more desperate."
"Yes, it seems so desperate that you had to pluck me out from the darkest of dungeons, eh?" Grindelwald chortled.
"I can't battle him." He felt so frail. "I cannot die until there is someone strong enough to fight him... stronger than me… working for the Light."
"Now, now, you know that is utter nonsense!"
However Dumbledore looked away, as though it was shameful and humiliating to be talking about his power.
"Would you like me to kill him?" Grindwelwald asked.
"Please try to avoid it. It'll backfire on you."
"How interesting… after all the trouble he's caused? Then why these far fetched ideas?"
"I'm worried that you do not have the skills to match up to Lord Voldemort," he answered with a frown.
"Oh I wasn't talking about him. I was talking about the boy!"
Pausing for a second or two, Dumbledore scratched the point of his crooked long nose. "No."
"There's something you're not telling me about Harry Potter is there? Is he the boy who is meant to kill—?"
"There are plenty of things which you do not need to know about Harry Potter, besides the fact that he is a dangerous Death Eater in Azkaban. You will know more in time."
"Hmmm, yes, but what about the prophecy then?" Grindelwald pressed on.
"What about it?" Dumbledore asked curtly.
"Is there more than one?"
"Our conversation should end here, Gellert." He stared into the wizard's grey eyes, remembering how much in common they had. He remembered their youth together, their fun and adventures, their thirst for power and answers. Dumbledore wanted to know how on earth Gellert knew that another prophecy existed.
Grindelwald looked disappointed. "All right then, until the next time we meet." With a pop he vanished, leaving Albus alone on the church roof again.
Albus Dumbledore sighed, staring at the very spot Grindelwald had sat. He saw something glittering on a broken slate and snatched it up. He chuckled to himself as his eyes raked over Grindelwald's gold calling card. A black 'G" was scrolled upon it. It swirled as though it were alive and writhing.
Satisfied with the evening's events and perhaps with a twinge of doubt twisting in his stomach, Dumbledore pocketed the calling card and pulled out a tattered old note from the same pocket. The note had looked as though it had been opened, folded, or flattened a thousand times. Dumbledore had read it often, making sure that before the fruition of whatever far fetched plan he had, the words in this note would always ground him firmly in reality. He read it again.
I did what you asked me to do, but you still betrayed me.
Dumbledore closed the letter he had treasured for long. He treasured the words for its meaning, for its silent threat. He traced out the boy's tear stains. The boy he had trained. He was the very boy who had fallen spectacularly from grace. Dumbledore knew his day would come. But until then, he had plenty of work to do.