Author: Walter O'Dim
Title: Old Men's Games
Summary: The two greatest wizards of our time meet to mark the completion of the best period of their lives.
Cool night air drifted into the room through the open windows, carrying the smell of salt from the sea and the fragrance of flowers from the garden. There were no sounds except the chirping of crickets and the distant beating of waves. The two people who were meeting in the house tonight wanted privacy, and they were known for usually getting what they wanted.
The circular room was dark, with an island of light in the center. A round table set for two stood there, illuminated by a chandelier. Bottles of wine that some connoisseurs woud kill to taste stood around it on the dazzlingly white tablecloth. Silver plates and cutlery gleamed in the candlelight, as did the long white beard of the man sitting alone at the table. He was wearing magnificent blood-red robes with puffed sleeves and intricate gold embroidery. His long fingernails were carefully manicured, his waist-length white hair meticulously combed, his wrinkled face enhanced by a few well-placed subtle touches of make-up. His lips were surprisingly red for such an old man, and very full.
The man was waiting.
The candlelight flickered as the air on the other side of the table just beyond the pool of light suddenly began to swirl and thicken, coalescing slowly into a tall silhouette. The silhouette was becoming increasingly solid, and soon another man was standing there, half-shrouded in darkness. The man at the table smiled, his long moustache quivering.
"This is by far the most dramatic appearance of yours I have ever witnessed, Tom," he said to the person in the dark.
The man called Tom stepped into the circle of light cast by the candles. He was tall and skeletally thin, with stick-like arms, milky-white skin and red eyes with slit-like pupils. He was dressed in flowing dark green silk robes, complete with a green cloak with silver lining that seemed to cascade onto the floor like a waterfall and was clasped with a diamond brooch in the shape of two entwined serpents.
"I'm glad you liked it, Albus," he said, drawing the empty chair and sitting down, throwing his long cloak over the back of the chair. "I wanted to make sure I'd impress you."
"You must tell me how you did it, Tom," said Albus Dumbledore, still smiling. "That was quite extraordinary magic."
"Maybe I will," said Tom, who was better known by the name of Lord Voldemort, returning the smile. "But now is not the time for it."
"Indeed not," nodded Dumbledore.
"So," said Voldemort, uncorking one of the wine bottles with his wand and filling Dumbledore's goblet, and then his own. "You know why we are here, Albus. We are here to celebrate the completion of yet another stage of our game."
Dumbledore nodded again.
"I think you will agree with me, Albus," continued Voldemort, "that it was by far the most interesting and, most importantly, amusing period of our apparent struggle. I will always remember – as, I am sure, will you – the long hours we have spent putting our heads together, thinking up new plot twists, a pleasure only exceeded by that of seeing our story unfold before our eyes."
Dumbledore was nodding with a nostalgic smile on his lips.
"Of course, it did not always go as we planned," Voldemort went on, "and this unpredictability – again, I'm sure you'll agree with me here – was the best part. Observing people's reactions, seeing them make unexpected choices – nothing can compare to that."
"Absolutely nothing," muttered Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling.
"My first toast, therefore," said Voldemort, rasing his glass, "goes to the memory of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Has Kept Us Amused For Six Years. He was quite an extraordinary person, though perhaps not as extraordinary as you, my dear Albus, made him believe." Dumbledore chuckled at this. "He rose magnificently to the challenges we presented him with and proved to be an ideal lead in our play, his improvisations only adding to the performance, a performance that was well worth the ten years we had spent in waiting. He met all our expectations, and more. He was, without exaggeration, a hero, even if he was fighting windmills all the time. To Harry Potter, may his soul rest in peace!"
"To Harry Potter," said Dumbledore. They touched goblets and drank.
"Mmm," said Voldemort, closing his eyes and savoring the wine. "This is good. What year is it?"
"Eighteen hundred fifty-six," replied Dumbledore. "Age does matter."
"Indeed it does, and not only with wine," said Voldemort, taking another sip. "After all these years, you still keep surprising me, Albus. I certainly haven't got such wine in my stores, and I am quite an avid collector, as you well know. Where did you get it?"
"Professional secret, Tom," said Dumbledore with a wink. Voldemort scowled playfully.
"I will find out," he said, waving his finger at Dumbledore.
"I'm looking forward to seeing you try. Food, Tom?"
The silver plates had filled with some kind of elaborate salad containing what looked like tentacles.
"Thaifish, a known aphrodisiac," pronounced Voldemort, spearing a tentacle on his fork and holding it up.
"Quite right. You know your magical creatures, I see."
"I know everything that has to do with magic, Albus," said Voldemort, putting the tentacle in his mouth. "Mmm, delicious!"
"You won't die of modesty, Tom," chuckled Dumbledore.
"Or of anything else, for that matter. Oh, it has unicorn brains, as well? An unusual combination."
"One of my grandmother's recipes. She was quite an extraordinary witch."
"I don't doubt it," smiled Voldemort. They ate in silence for a while.
"Allow me to propose a second toast," Voldemort said finally, taking up his goblet.
"I'm all ears, Tom."
"My second toast, Albus, goes to you, the man who taught me to play the Great Game that is life, and whose intelligence, imagination, sense of humour and magical powers are only matched by my own." Dumledore grinned slyly, giving Voldemort an ironic you-don't-say-so look. "The man, furthermore, who came up with the idea of the Boy Who Lived and, thanks to his uncanny intuition, managed to pick a suitable candidate who made these past six years so unforgettable. The man whom, after more than half a century together, I feel I have but begun to know, and whose company never tires me. I drink your good health, my friend and mentor."
"Thank you, Tom," said Dumbledore, touching goblets with Voldemort. "I'm very moved. I haven't blushed this much since Professor McGonagall told me I was too noble to use the powers you do."
"She really told you that?" said Voldemort with a giggle. "Bless her."
"And I, in return," said Dumbledore, "would like to drink your health, my dear Tom. You, a delightfully evil (not to mention handsome) boy who grew up to be such a great wizard and partner in the greatest of all games, are, without a doubt, the finest person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I thank fate, gods, or whatever it is that controls and directs the apparent chaos that is life, that it let our paths cross. Without you, my life would have been incomplete."
"You flatter me even more than I flatter you, Albus," chuckled Voldemort as they touched goblets once again. They drank up the wine and sat for a while in contentment, staring into space.
"Fancy a dance, Tom?" Dumbledore asked finally, breaking the silence.
"I thought you'd never ask, Albus," said Voldemort with a grin.
They stood up. Voldemort unclasped his cloak and hung it over the back of the chair. Dumbledore extended his hand, and Voldemort took it. They stepped away from the table; Dumbledore put his hands around Voldemort's waist (it was so thin that his fingers almost overlapped), Voldemort twining his arms around Dumbledore's neck, and the two tall figures, red and green, glided around the room, robes swirling, as music poured from the dark.
When you smile to me,
I hear gypsy violins,
When you dance with me,
I'm in heaven when the music begins.
I can see the sun when it's raining,
Hiding every cloud from my view,
And why do I see rainbows when you're in my arms?
I know why, and so do you.
"I feel like I'm in the forties again," murmured Voldemort. "The good old times when everything started."
"I've always said music is a magic unlike any other," said Dumbledore.
"You're right. It's wonderful, Albus."
"I'm glad you like it, Tom."
"Shall we go to bed?" asked Voldemort when the music finally stopped.
"I think so," nodded Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. "Today we shall recall the forties in more ways than one, Tom."
"Does this mean you've brought some youth potion?"
"Smart as ever, my dear Tom."
They stepped back from each other and turned to leave, Dumbledore extinguishing the candles on the table with a careless flick of his wand.
"By the way, Albus," said Voldemort as they left the room, holding hands, "before we indulge in carnal pleasures, I've been dying to know…have you figured out how to present your miraculous return from the dead to the public in a way that is not completely implausible? Because I'm stumped."
"I have," said Dumbledore, the corners of his moustache quivering.
"You have? But – how – "
"Let this torment you while we make love, Tom."
"You are incorrigible, Albus," grumbled Voldemort as they walked toward the bedroom.