Title: Circe's Power
Author: Alena Fryin
Disclaimer: Alas, I own nothing.
A young man is bent over the grave of Ignotus Peverell.
Albus Dumbeldore does not recognize him.
The blonde boy is not as tall as Albus, but few people his age are. His hands, half immersed in the midnight of his robes, are attractive. They are not the hands of a boy who has been subject to physically demanding labor; the only mark they bear is a line of calluses branding the skin high on his palm.
"I haven't seen you here before," says Albus, not bothering with the formality of a true greeting.
The stranger looks over his shoulder at this, but does not start. His eyes roll up to gaze at the young man who addressed him with a mixture of caution and indifference. They are blue, like swatches of sky. "I'm visiting my aunt," he says. "I only arrived a few days ago."
"In that case, welcome," the ginger haired boy says. "I'm Albus. Albus Dumbledore."
The blonde tilts his head to one side, a cat consumed by an internal debate as to whether or not it should strike out at a less lethal creature. This image burns in Albus's mind for a moment, then dies with phoenix-like haste. He does not wish to know when it will arise again.
"Gellert Grindelwald," the young man replies. "I've heard of you."
Albus does not feign embarrassment at being recognized. "Yes, I suppose you have," he says. His affirmation is neither modest nor boastful, for he is stating the truth. He is well known, if not famous. Most of his former professors are certain he will go on to become a great wizard, placing their faith in his future deeds on the eve of his graduation from Hogwarts. He himself is more than certain he will become a great wizard.
"Was he a relative of yours?" inquiries Albus, motioning towards the headstone the other boy is stooped over.
A quicksilver smile spreads over Gellert's lips, brimming over with secrets, and suddenly Albus would give anything to know them. "No," he says cryptically. "Not at all."
They send one another dozens of letters each day which range in length from a single line to half a dozen pages, handwriting growing less and less legible as the note hurtles towards its conclusion. Albus finds it easier to put his thoughts on paper than to discuss him them face to face. The quill and parchment make him eloquent and he suspects his friend feels the same. Mastering semantics will come with age and experience; by the time the revolution comes, they will both be master orators.
Gellert's letters rarely arrive by owl. He favors folding them into complex shapes so that each is a puzzle in and of itself. He sends multilayered hexagons Albus must dissect, cranes which unfold like morning glories, boxes which can only be unlocked after the correct answer to a riddle scrawled on its top is answered correctly.
Once, he sent his response to one of Albus's theories folded in the shape of a paper dragon. It had been charmed to breathe actual fire, but in his exuberance, Gellert had forgotten to enchant it to eventually stop spouting flames. Albus's quilt had been charcoaled by the letter, and he had to insist that his friend be slightly more cautious with his gifts.
"But didn't you like it?" asks Gellert, tipping a wink in his direction.
"I did until it caught my bed on fire," Albus says sourly, and Gellert bursts out laughing.
Gellert is always touching him.
It's very telling.
Gellert doesn't touch people, nor does he enjoy being touched. He shies from physical contact, even when it is initiated casually. Ruffling his hair, clapping a hand on his shoulder and other amiable gestures...he is adverse to them all.
But he allows Albus to touch him, and he is always touching Albus.
Gellert's hand will often snake over his wrist, lodge in his free and usually tangled locks. On their last goodbye, Gellert had gone so far as to take Albus's face in his cupped palms and kiss his forehead. It was a chaste, hardly a romantic invitation, but Albus nevertheless recalls the seemingly platonic act with perfect clarity. It is as though he can feel Gellert's lips on his skin hours, days, weeks afterwards.
Albus does not know whether to be pleased by Gellert's affection.
He settles for being flattered.
Aberforth does not take to his brother's new friend.
He is polite enough to Gellert, but makes no effort to put any warmth into his mainly empty gestures of ivility. A confrontation between the two seems inevitable, and Albus is careful to avoid placing the two of them in the same room for more than a few minutes at a time.
"I can't believe he's your brother," Gellert comments as he and Albus stroll from the later's house. The noontide sun glares down at them like the extracted eye of a Cyclops and the heat it gives off is unremitting. The weather has forced most resides of Gordic's Hollow inside, but the two young men enjoy the privacy the heat affords them.
Albus turns towards his friend, brows raised. "Why do you say that?"
"He's so...dull," Gellert says after a momentary pause. He shrugs. "He's not gifted like you are. You shine in whatever you do."
Albus's cheeks burn and he bows his head in passive acceptance of the other boy's flattery. He has received similar compliments from both peers and professors over the years. There is nothing special about what the other boy has said.
What matters is that it the praise coming from his best friend.
Ariana is sitting on her bed, a figure painted blue by the approaching twilight, hair running down her face like liquid gold. She is busy with a private game of Cat's Cradle, a game he is never able to master in spite of his many other talents.
The threads choke her fingers, but he cannot call her spider-like, for she is nothing so dangerous as a spider. A faint smile hangs on her lips like an afterthought. She wants to appear happy so badly that her actual happiness has become secondary to continuing the illusion.
"That's beautiful," Albus tells her.
Ariana gazes up through her lashes, then back down at her blossoming creation. Yesterday, she did nothing but scream. Today, she seems to have difficulty conjuring a verbal response to the world around her. Terrible as it may seem, Albus prefers his sister mute to the constant stream of cries which exited her pink mouth 24 hours earlier. No silencing charms, no matter how powerful, could smother the pain he saw hiding in her eyes as she screamed.
Aberforth's response to their sister has always been one of compassion. He wants to care for Ariana, protect her, instill as much joy into her life as possible. Albus's is one born of anger. He remembers the undamaged Ariana, the Ariana who was whole, the Ariana who did not have to stay in the attic for the sake of both herself and those around her. He remembers and, in moments of weakness, in the after hours when brighter thoughts have been worn away by insomnia, wishes he could have aided his father in dealing out punishment to the Muggles who broke his sister.
"You won't have to hide for much longer," he says, embracing Ariana. His splayed fingers form a cross on at the juncture of neck and skull. "I promise."
"If we are to gain the unanimous support of the Wizarding community, we must provide them with proof that we have the right to govern the Muggles," Albus says. He and Gellert are sitting in the graveyard, faces darkened by the shadows of tomb and oak, of forefathers and legends. It seems a strange place to plot such things, for the world here is cool and green and knows nothing of bloodshed in spite of Death's lingering presence. It is however, entirely appropriate given their quest.
A bridge of freckles spans Albus's nose; Gellert follows their meandering path with his eyes as he listens to the other boy speak. His own skin is elephant ivory white. It lacks pigment which would protect it from the baleful glare of the sun, and he is quietly grateful for the shade that has overtaken the cemetery.
"Of course we have the right," Gellert replies. His accent is not ordinarily as pronounced as it is now, but it has a tendency to thicken his voice when they discuss matters of great interest and importance. "It's only logical that we are fit to rule them. We have greater abilities than they do."
"Yes, but we must provide solid evidence other than our own observations and opinions on the matter," Albus says.
"Common sense is the evidence. The Muggles have driven us underground," Gellert returns, bitterness scalding his tone. "We are constantly having to guard against them. We are bared from affecting their world but they all too easily influence ours." His noise wrinkles in unabashed distaste. "I was almost hit by an automobile yesterday when I went for a walk. An automobile. The stupid Muggle driving it didn't even stop whether I had been killed."
"Well, you weren't," says Albus. "Surely he must have seen--"
"Yes, but that's hardly the point," Gellert says, cutting him off midway through the defense. "Don't you see? The Muggles only create things capable of destroying this world. We build. They break."
How the argument begins is secondary to how it ends.
"What about Ariana?" Aberforth shouts. He pushes back from the table, overturning his chair in the process. The sound produced when it collides with the hardwood is akin to that of an explosion, but the siblings pay it no mind. "You think you can run around the country with her in tow looking for fairy tales?"
"You don't understand what we're trying to do," says Albus.
"You're right. I don't understand. What I do understand is that you are more interested in glory and a boy you just met than your own family!" his brother replies coldly.
Their eyes meet across the table and Albus can almost see the fragile red thread binding them. The links forged by blood and fate cannot be severed with angry fists or callous words.
"Do what you like, but he's mad," hisses Aberforth at last. "There's a reason they expelled him, Albus. They knew he was mad, and deep down, so do you."
Burning under the summer sun, nothing can harm them. They are impervious to the ills of the world, just as they will truly be once they obtain the Hallows.
Gellert crushes Albus's shoulders, a bone wing span, into the earth. One hand falls on the other boy's throat and he begins to diagram misshaped circles on the skin with his nail. He could easily crush the young man's windpipe should he be so inclined.
"We're going to be invincible," Gellert whispers, teeth clipping Albus's lower lip. "We're going to change the world and no one is going to stop us."