Disclaimer: I didn't do it originally, but I did eventually.
A/N: Here it is at long last – the final chapter. Thanks for bearing with me. There's some major research in this chapter. And yes, April 29th, 1945 was actually a Sunday. I checked!
Chapter 23 – Moving On
The magic lantern was probably the most uniquely charmed item that Albus had ever seen. Once the candle was lit and one of seven hand-painted slides was in place, everyone in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement could see why it had been important to Grindelwald. The first slide they tried, a perfect depiction of the SIS headquarters on Saint James Street, showed the private planning offices of the British Secret Intelligence Service. A cleaning woman was sweeping the empty room at the time they tried, but they quickly understood that the lantern would let them glimpse anything within those offices that was happening at that moment. And the swishing sound of bristles against tile told them the viewer could also listen in. It was the perfect espionage device.
Albus saw them sort through the other slides one at a time. They included: the Downing Street Office of the British Prime Minister, the DGSE Office at Caserne des Tourelles in Paris, the Lubyanka KGB Headquarters in Moscow, the Primer Office in the Kremlin in Moscow, the Dwójka Bureau south of Warsaw, and the Quirinal Palace in Rome. It suddenly became clear to Albus how the Nazis had always seemed one step ahead of the other European nations.
The magic involved in making the lantern was unique and mysterious. Albus imagined that it would find its way to the department of mysteries for study. He worried slightly that it might fall into the wrong hands at some point, but decided not to think about it for now.
It was nearly noon before Albus was finally released from answering questions. At that time he promised himself that he would never again allow the Ministry of Magic to monopolize his time beyond reason. He decided to take himself to the Leaky Cauldron for a bite and to settle his wits before telling Nicholas the news.
It seemed strange that, in the end, the trap had served no purpose toward stopping Grindelwald. The mirror, which he had dispatched to Elijah with Fawkes, would answer their questions about the minister of magic and of Adolf Hitler and his Regime. Albus had sent detailed instructions on how to use it, just before he went to visit Nicholas on the previous night. Albus had briefly glimpsed Elijah at the ministry when he'd gone to talk to Magical Law Enforcement and then the Wizengamot Office, but he had been unable to approach the auror.
Tom, the bar owner, led Albus to a table in the corner. The Leaky Cauldron was unusually quiet for a Sunday, so much so that Albus picked up a newspaper to make sure he hadn't inadvertently missed a day. It was a muggle paper, not the "Daily Prophet". The date showed April 29, 1945. The front page sported the headline, "Mussolini Executed!" Albus scanned the story briefly before folding the paper and setting it back on the table. April 28th, the day he had buried Lorelei and the day he had been determined to repair the mirror, was also the day in which a ruthless dictator was hanged by his own people. It might mark the end of the war. Even now, allied troops were pressing Berlin, determined to destroy Hitler. But Lorelei had not lived to see any of it.
Tom brought a bowl of soup and several rolls to Albus, along with a mug of mulled mead. Albus thanked him, grateful that the barman did not seem aware of where he'd spent the last few hours. He began to eat quickly, his attention only on his meal. He wasn't sure when last he'd actually eaten or even why his appetite seemed to have returned so readily. It had been only a few short hours since he'd turned Grindelwald's spell against him, and Albus doubted if the image of its effects would ever leave his mind. Crouch had told Albus that the Ministry would want to reward him and that the magical community would likely deem him a hero. He didn't want that title and he didn't want any reward. The one thing he did want could not be, so it seemed foolish to wish it, though he did anyway.
"They're going to run the story on the evening edition of the 'Prophet'," a familiar voice said. Albus looked up. Elijah Huntington stood in front of him with a newspaper tucked under one arm, a weathered case in one hand, and a cane in the other. He was wearing a rain slicker that dripped intermittently. It had obviously begun to rain outside and Albus had been completely oblivious to it. "Mind if I sit?" Elijah asked.
"Of course, please join me." Albus answered hastily. "Forgive my rudeness, I'm still not myself." He stood, offering to take Elijah's case and newspaper until he got himself situated.
Elijah arranged himself in the chair across from Albus', struggling slightly over his wooden prosthetic and then over where to prop the cane. He finally stuck the latter under the table, and stretched the former out to one side. "It takes some getting used to," Elijah remarked. Albus merely nodded uncomfortably.
"I rather thought you'd be celebrating," Elijah stated after a long and pregnant pause.
"Perhaps I should be," Albus replied. "However, I am unable to find the enthusiasm one needs for such an undertaking."
"Ahh," Elijah responded, shooting a sympathetic look at Albus. "Sometimes, while pursuing evil wizards, great sacrifices are inevitable." He looked at his wooden leg. "They tell us that in auror training, but I don't think I understood the full scope of it before."
Albus didn't know what to say to that. Part of him wanted to scream at Elijah that he would give both his own legs to have Lorelei and their child back. But he also understood that Elijah had not meant that the loss of his leg was equal to the loss of a lover and best friend; merely that both were painful consequences to the fight. Ultimately, Albus said nothing. He just nodded and took a long swig of mead.
"The trap did work, and we were able to ascertain that Hitler colluded with Grindelwald – no mind control. Hitler was apparently a wizard, though not very powerful. He must have had some powerful friends though, able to hide his magic effectively," Elijah explained.
Albus sat back in his chair, stunned. "Do you believe that Grindelwald performed that magic?"
"It's possible," Elijah replied. "Although I think someone would have remembered Hitler from his school days if that were the case. I think perhaps it goes back further than that – or else he simply didn't go to a wizarding school."
"And Minister Starkey?" Albus asked.
"Spelled – though I imagine he will resign anyway. No one will want him holding the head office when he was so easily controlled." Elijah wore a very sour expression as he said it.
"There's nothing easy about it, Elijah, and very few can actually break free of that spell. Don't draw parallels to yourself. It is an unfortunate situation, but it is probably best for Starkey to step down. People like to have their illusions of safety, after all."
Tom approached, delivering food to Elijah this time. He then discreetly moved back behind the bar. Neither Elijah nor Albus spoke at all while he was present.
"You realize that you will probably be asked to take his place," Elijah suggested with a shrewd expression, picking up the thread of the conversation once Tom was at a safe distance.
Albus stared, dumbstruck. "Why me?"
Elijah chuckled slightly. "Only you would ask that, Dumbledore."
"But it's nothing I want. I'm happy where I am – or well, I will be again, someday." He sighed heavily and added, "I should have stayed out of it in the first place. If I had..."
"If you had," Elijah interrupted, "She would still have been killed and he would still be alive and running our world. You certainly tried to back off. Circumstances put you squarely in the middle of things, just as they did Lorelei Figg. He needed her sister and she was honor-bound to stand in the way as much as possible. I admit that I didn't understand everything before, but I do now. Sadly, I doubt history will remember all the players. Someday all they will remember is that Grindelwald was evil and that you defeated him. But some of us will know the rest of the story. I shall never forget."
After that sobering declaration, not much was said. Albus watched Elijah eat, though his own appetite had vanished. He still had to tell Nicholas what had happened, still owed the story to Minerva, Nate and Howard, and still needed to find something to say to Arabella. And then what? There were students to prepare for O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, lessons to construct, muggle-borns to contact, and a school to operate. Hagrid was growing fast, but he still needed someone in the role of parent occasionally.
"You never asked me what's in the case," Elijah prompted once he'd finished his lunch. He wiped his face with a napkin, and then his hands, as though polishing himself.
Albus raised an eyebrow. "Well then, perhaps you should tell me."
"Something I'd like you to drop in the lake beside Hogwarts. If you could have some of your water friends bury it, I'd be most grateful. You may look inside, but I ask you not to do it here." With that, Elijah struggled to his feet, pulling the cane as an afterthought. "Take care, Albus Dumbledore. I'll see you around, I'm sure." Elijah then paid for his meal and exited the building.
Tom almost immediately approached. "Have you heard? They're saying Grindelwald has been killed! One of the most evil wizards of our times is dead!"
Not wanting to have the inevitable conversation, Albus tried to look surprised. "Is that so?" he remarked. "I imagine it will be in the 'Prophet' soon enough if it's true. Sorry to rush out on you, Tom, but I have somewhere to be." He paid the barkeeper for his lunch, stepped outside and disapparated.
Delivering the news to Arabella that she was now a widow was much easier than expected. The young woman thanked him repeatedly, hugged everyone in the room, and then ran to pack her things.
There were congratulations from Nicholas, Perenelle, Howard and Nate. Minerva pulled Albus aside to make sure he was coping with everything all right and then urged him to return to Hogwarts where he felt at home. "It's probably helpful to stay busy," she added, with a cautious smile.
"I'm sure you are right," he replied. "What will you do now that hiding is no longer necessary?"
"I'm not sure," Minerva answered. "I might work for Gringotts awhile. I'd like to see some far away places. Perhaps I'll first go volunteer with the muggle cleanup forces to see to it that Hitler is no longer a threat. The only thing I'm sure of is that I have family and friends I've not seen in ages, and I'm like Arabella in that I can't wait to get started. I feel like my life was put on hold by that man. Merlin's beard! I'm glad he's dead!"
Albus smiled at her. "If you ever want to pursue a teaching career, I'll put in a good word for you."
"When you're headmaster, I'll definitely consider it," she returned with a saucy grin he'd never seen on her face before.
"Will you keep in touch, either way?" he asked.
"Absolutely," she answered. Very suddenly she hugged him. "Thank you so much, Professor. You've earned my lifelong respect. When I came to you for help, you never questioned my integrity. You found me a place to hide, helped me fight back, and here you are, still looking out for me."
Speechless, he only smiled at her and mumbled his own thanks. When he looked up, Arabella stood before him with a suitcase in her hand and Lolly at her heel. "Arabella, are you really departing so hastily?" he asked.
"I have family who are no longer under his spell. To them, Lorelei's passing will be news, as will Liam's, and I don't want them to face it alone. She wouldn't want that either. I may be a squib, but I'm also a Figg, and they'll need me, whether they like it or not." Her jaw was set in determination.
"May I write to you?" he asked.
"I'll be insulted if you don't," she answered. "But address those letters to Mrs. Arabella Figg, not Grindelwald. If I never see that name again, it will be too soon." She turned back to look at the house elf. "Lolly, I'm going to give my thanks to Perenelle and Nicholas, and then we should depart." She walked briskly toward the sitting room.
Albus turned to Lolly. "Will you watch out for her?" he asked the elf.
"I's gonna' take good care of her, sir," Lolly replied.
"If you need anything, if she needs anything, please contact me," Albus instructed. Lolly nodded.
Within an hour, Nicholas' house had emptied and Albus was saying his own goodbyes. He didn't know when he'd next see Nicholas, but they planned to get together soon. Albus nearly forgot the case Elijah had given him as he started to leave, but Nicholas pointed it out. "You're leaving your parcel."
"Dear me, I'm getting absentminded in my old age," he joked lightly.
Nicholas chuckled. "Tell me that again when you pass 400. To me you're just an upstart."
"Hear! Hear!" Perenelle agreed.
Albus laughed and kissed Perenelle's cheek. "I won't have an excuse to spend every weekend in your company now," Albus told them.
"You've never needed an excuse. Just the drop by any time," Perenelle replied.
"Don't be a stranger," the older man agreed. Albus promised to return again soon, then departed.
Once Albus was back at Hogwarts, he went immediately to the lake to keep his promise. He first knelt at the water's edge and called to the merpeople, using a spell to carry the sound. As he waiting, he decided to open the case, though he thought he knew what was inside. Just as he had suspected, it was the magic lantern. There was a note from Elijah, though it was unnecessary too.
As long as it exists, others will hunt for it. We don't need another World War.
Albus wholeheartedly agreed, though no one was there to hear him say so. When the chieftess of the merpeople arrived, Albus explained only that the item needed to be placed where no human would find it and that it possessed magic. The merpeople were fearful enough of magic that Albus doubted it would ever turn up again.
Albus walked back toward the school just as the sun was setting. He wasn't sure what the future would bring, but he did know a few things he'd never forget: There was a price for each time good triumphed over evil. There was never a shortage of dark wizards waiting to take their turn at lording over the world. Always, there were people willing to sacrifice everything for what was right, even if it was hard. And that some people were so good and so bright that they burned through their days like shooting stars, and left the world dimmer for their passing. Lorelei had been one of those, and Albus had loved her more than any other person in his life.
A/N: A little note on the history that follows:
Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, two days after his friend Mussolini was executed. Allied forces were left to clean up the battle with Japan, despite the fact that some people wonder whether Hitler was actually dead, or if it was one of his many look-alikes. Some say that Hitler moved to South America, while others say that is simply preposterous.