A/N: This is the first chapter of the first part of a trilogy of fics on the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship. I'm calling the series Insiduous Intents. All titles are taken from the fantastic poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot. I also apologize if I've any incorrect German. I don't speak the language, so I relied on a google-found English-German dictionary and phrasebook.


Elphias stood there, forlorn, his gray overcoat and his brightly colored scarf waving in the breeze. "Are you sure you can mange on your own, Albus?"

Albus Dumbledore caught the scarf before it flew away. "I can manage."

"I wish you could come," Elphias said wistfully. "It won't be the same without you."

"Someone has to look after Ariana," Albus replied, very calmly and evenly. He refused to acknowledge his frustration, but he felt the bubbling resentment in the back of his throat. "And Aberforth has to stay in school. He's nearly literate now."

Elphias sniffed back tears. "You're so good, Albus."

"Don't cry," Albus said, with a bad attempt at hiding his impatience. "Just write to me extensively about everything you see." He flicked the tears off Elphias's cheek with his long, thin fingers.

Elphias looked up at him with a hero worship that suddenly irritated Albus to no end. He and Elphias had been friends- good friends; indeed very good friends. But there was only so much about Elphias that could interest him, or keep him interested.

He was nice and obviously cared for him and would remain loyal unto the death, but Elphias could never quite understand what it was that Albus wanted to say or wanted to do. He beamed and basked in Albus's accomplishments with a sort of simple, vicarious joy that Albus suddenly, intensely could not stand. He repressed the feeling and smiled instead.

"I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time, Elphias."

"It won't be the same," he repeated.

"I dare say it won't, but you will have a marvelous time in Greece regardless." Albus kept his smile kind and friendly. "Swim in the Mediterranean for me. I've always wanted to swim there." He checked his pocket watch. "Your Portkey goes off in five minutes. I'll leave you to it."

"Goodbye Albus," Elphias sniffed, still crying.

Albus felt a sharp twitch of resentment. Elphias was going off to Greece. Albus had to stay and take care of a mad sister who regularly blew up the house and an illiterate brother with a strange fondness for goats. There was no reason at all for Elphias to be upset in the slightest.

"I hope you have a wonderful time!" Albus lied, smiling still, waving, and then, as soon as Elphias turned away, Disapparating with a pop.

He arrived in the ramshackle little house in Godric's Hollow and suddenly, violently hated it. He hated how small it was, he hated that it smelled perpetually of goat, he hated that he had to live there making sure the loathsome thing didn't fall to pieces, he hated that while everyone else was out there doing things, he had to sit in a house he had worked so hard to leave.

"Took you long enough," Aberforth snarled, trying to reset the hinge on the run-down white gate by apparently smashing it in with a rock.

Albus hid any signs of his distemper and turned to smile at Aberforth. "I came as soon as I could." He flicked his wand at the gate, repairing it and restoring the fence to white-picketed splendor with a little spark of golden light

It served only to incense his brother yet further. Aberforth threw the rock down in vaguely Albus's direction. "Oh goodie. Saint Albus is back again. You know, you're going to have to come out of your room for more than meals now."

"I know," Albus said with a patience he certainly didn't feel. His room was his escape. He'd transfigured it and charmed it and made it Impenetrable and filled it with books bought with his hard-won prize money. It was the only place in that stark, crumbling house that he felt actually at home.

Aberforth turned to go to the side shed for the animals. "Bathilda Bagshot visited. She wants you to go see her. Probably about your latest Transfiguration article."

After a belated inquiry after Ariana ("She's eaten and she's napping, not that you care") Albus sent his luggage flying up into his rooms and trekked across the lane to Bathilda's house.

"She's not in," called a voice. Albus turned in minor surprise; the voice seemed to be coming out of the tree.

"When will she be in?" he asked, looking up at the foliage curiously.

"Shortly. She went off to buy tea cakes. She'd run out since she had an unexpected visitor."

"You, I suppose?" Albus asked, once he'd made out the shadowy figure peering at him from behind the leaves. "That or my brother Aberforth and his goats. If the former, it is a pleasure to meet you and if it is the latter, I am deeply sorry."

The branches shifted and, Albus caught a glimpse of the red binding of a book, and a flash of a darker red robe. "The former. I assume you're the Dumbledore boy my great-aunt keeps insisting I'll get along with?"

"I am Albus Dumbledore," he admitted.

"Hm," replied the figure in the tree. "Did you really write that article in Transfiguration Today?"

"Probably."

"I thought it was good, but you didn't focus quite so much on the ramifications of your proposal. Admittedly, it is very hard to know the effects, since it was theoretical and you'd never cast it, but if you actually used the spell you suggested-"

"-which might have been slightly difficult, as it requires partially transfiguring someone-"

"-and you couldn't secure permission from anyone else? That's silly. Just do it when they least expect it."

"A shock of that sort might kill someone, particularly if they aren't expecting it and if I'm not sure what the limits are on the spell."

"You must kill in order to create. What is anything new but the death of the old?"

"I doubt I could justify murder in the name of anything, let alone transfiguration," Albus said, a little sharply.

"You seem careful; you wouldn't have killed anyone." The book shut with a very audible snap. "There is a time to murder and to create and they are often only a millisecond apart. If you really have such scruples getting in the way of progress, then transfigure yourself."

"That would make it very difficult to chart the results." Despite his alarm at the trend of the conversation, Albus couldn't help but admit that he was enjoying it. People rarely debated him on his findings. They preferred to ask him questions and get glazed looks in their eyes when he tried to explain.

"You didn't have anyone you could trust to take accurate notes?"

Albus thought of Elphias, dull, kind, faithful Elphias. "No. No one who could understand what I was trying to accomplish by such an experiment."

The tree branches rustled. "Oh, there's my great-aunt, coming up behind you. I've got to get in." Albus caught a glimpse of a curly mop of blond hair and a flash of a deep, blood-red robe that jumped nimbly from the branch to the open window-sill.

"Albus!" trilled Bathilda Bagshot, trotting up the lane, paper bags trailing behind her I the air. 'How are you? I was so sorry to hear about your poor mother."

"Thank you, that's very kind," Albus said automatically. "How are you, Mrs. Bagshot?"

"Oh please, call me Bathilda!"

It was the sort of awkward exclamation that Albus dealt with by smiling pleasantly and projecting a sense of kindly intelligence that bordered on the condescending.

Bathilda cleared her throat. "Yes, well, I am glad to see you. You latest article was really quite fascinating, and- oh! My grand nephew is here. Gellert Grindelwald. He's been lonely, poor lamb. No one his age around, after all. I'm sure you'll like him. He's such a sweet, charming thing. He has a spot of trouble with his English so if you talk too long in English he just sort of stares at you blankly, but his speech is excellent and I'm sure you speak German, so you ought to get along splendidly. He's staying with me for the summer to work on his English. Gellert was expelled from Durmstrang, which is all for the best, really, since most wizards from Durmstrang go bad in the end. His parents were really quite upset, though, so he has to go about educating himself now and he chose to come over here. I'm something of an expert in magical history and he is really quite the good student. Always reading and asking questions. I don't see why they expelled him. He's such a good-natured and sweet-tempered boy, always dresses well, in such cheery colors, and he's brilliant, actually. Aside from you, I think he must be one of the most brilliant young minds out there. If he'd only gone to Hogwarts like I suggested, then what a future he'd have ahead of him!" She finally paused to draw breath and, having found her keys during her long monologue, opened the door and ushered Albus inside.

"Gellert! Geeeeeeeeeeeeellert! Come down! We have a visitor!"

After a brief thundering on the stairs, the blond from the tree appeared in the sitting room. "Ja, tante?"

Gellert was an extraordinarily handsome boy, with blond hair curling down to his shoulders, bright blue eyes, and a positively infectious grin. He wore slightly altered Muggle clothes under his blood-red robe, as was the current fashion. Gellert was lithe and not quite as tall as Albus, but he crackled with intelligence and energy. Albus liked him immediately, which he found very strange, because Albus never liked anyone immediately. He always took his time to think about people, to reflect on their attributes and whether or not he wanted to spend time with them.

"This is Albus Dumbledore, Gellert. He lives across the lane."

"Ich freue mich, Sie kennenzulernen," Albus said, with a little bow.

"Your accent is very good!" Gellert exclaimed in German, with a brilliant smile. "A pleasure to meet you, too."

"See? I knew you'd get along wonderfully." Bathilda beamed at the two of them. "Lovely. Now, I'll just go make tea." She bustled out, her paper bags trailing after her like the body of a long, fat snake with an enormous head.

Gellert watched her leave then turned to Albus. "Sorry," he said, in unaccented English. "Sometimes I have to pretend I don't understand English when she's around. It's the only way for her to let me be. She goes out to the library and looks things up in the German-to-English dictionary and leaves me alone in my bedroom."

"That's quite alright. I understand the necessity of having a room of one's own. What were you reading?"

Gellert brightened further. "A Treatise on Two Societies, or Why Magical and Muggle Societies Evolved as They Did. Have you read it?"

"It's a bit dry," Albus commented mildly, sitting down in a cushy armchair. "But I found it to be a very worthwhile and thought-provoking text."

Almost dancing in excitement, Gellert tore up the stairs and raced back down, clutching the book. "Here. What did you think of this passage, on the possibility of fusing the two together?"

"A bit idealistic, but it seemed feasible given the proper circumstances."

Gellert crowed in triumph. "Finally! I finally found someone else who agrees with me! Everyone else said… you have a charming phrase for it, oh yes, I was nutty as squirrel poo for thinking it."

The two fell into a heated discussion, switching easily to German whenever Bathilda entered the room (Gellert liked fooling his great-aunt and Albus was happy to oblige, since it made Gellert happy). After hearing the two of them roar with laughter over some of the books they had both read and found immeasurably stupid and hearing Gellert's long-winded answers in German to the question, "What's so funny?", Bathilda left them be and merely went back to her study to edit a book she was writing.

Albus couldn't describe the feeling of talking to Gellert. They understood each other perfectly. Gellert would race to conclusions Albus had also reached, and never had the chance to explain to anyone who would understand. It was sort of a cerebral infatuation, and he admired the mind that could understand his, and possibly exceed it. He couldn't quite explain the feeling of competition, of finally, actually belonging, of finding a mind that could meld with and understand his. It was wonderful, it was elating- it made living in Godric's Hollow again suddenly seem more bearable.

Gellert had this wild recklessness to him that Albus found intriguing. He glittered alluringly, dangerously, like a wildfire just about to blaze out of control, or like the sea, tossing, and crashing up just before a storm. His thoughts raced along, and Albus raced with them, suddenly, fiercely free and happy again.

They talked until sunset, when Albus belatedly realized that he had to feed Ariana.

"I have to go."

"Where?"

"Home."

"Let me come. We can keep talking."

Albus couldn't think of a reason to say 'no'.

From that point on, they were utterly inseparable.

Ariana lurked in her second-floor room, suspiciously quiet, refusing to come out. Aberforth dealt with her then, because she refused to see Albus. Albus could feel Aberforth's resentment rolling off him in waves, but Albus found he couldn't help spending more time with Gellert than with him. Gellert was fascinating. Their conversations were fascinating. They pulled him in like an undertow. As every day passed, he became more and more infatuated with Gellert, more drawn to his presence, to his ideas, to his smiles and melodious voice. Albus had never before met anyone who could understand him so fully. He knew he ought to have been taking care of Ariana, he ought to have been watching her and playing music for her when she was upset, and repairing the house when she blew part of it up, but the damage would be there when he and Gellert returned and the two of them could fix it much more quickly than just Albus himself.

As a result, he didn't see much of Ariana, and saw even less of irate, sulky Aberforth. That summer, it was all Gellert.

The summer passed by, bright, sweet, sharp. Later, Dumbledore found memories to be like long strands of silver taffy, but then everything was like a candle just after you lit it- flaring up with an unexpected brilliance, if only for the moment. That summer was made up of those candle-flare moments, some which burned eternally in his mind, and others that faded as the years progressed. There were three in particular that flared in his mind, warming him against the bleak winter of increasing age.

The first:

"Why do you lock up your sister?" Gellert asked. They lounged in what passed for the library of the house. They had known each other two weeks, but it felt like years. Already, they could finish each others' sentences and, for the most part, anticipate the other. It was strange and wonderful and new for both of them, because Albus was so contained and channeled and controlled that few people ever knew what he was thinking, and Gellert was so quick and so brilliantly unorthodox that no one could follow his well-calculated leaps from one idea to another. As usual, Albus sat behind the desk, and Gellert sat on it, holding onto the edge, swinging his legs.

Albus was very still, eyes not moving from his copy of Nietzsche. "Why would you think that?"

"It's fairly obvious, Albus. She looks like a blond version of you and she never leaves the house. Why?"

"It upsets her to do so," Albus said evenly, every moment calm and controlled and nonthreatening as he stuck a bookmark into Beyond Good and Evil.

Gellert plucked the book out of Albus's hands, examined it, and handed him another from a stack on the floor. "If you must read Nietzsche, read Also Sprach ZarathustraI want to hear your take on the idea of the Übermensch. It is the idea of overcoming oneself and the laws of one's society to create a new society and new system of morality. But you have distracted me." He flipped idly through Beyond Good and Evil and put it aside. "Why does it upset Ariana to be outside?"

Albus wished he had his book again, so he wouldn't have to look at Gellert. "She always hated being outside, ever since she was young. We don't know why."

"Liar," Gellert said affectionately, falling back onto the table and pillowing his head in his hands. "You do know. You just don't want to tell me."

"It's her affair, not mine, and thus not my place to tell."

Gellert reached up and pushed Albus's hair back behind his ear. Gellert did not quite grasp the concept of 'personal space', or, if he ever had, had ceased to apply it to Albus. "Your hair is always very messy." He met Albus's eyes with a cheeky sort of grin.

Albus looked deliberately at the ceiling and twiddled his thumbs. "No, I'm not letting you use Legilimency to see into my mind."

"You're no fun."

"You're not very good at it, anyways."

"Why not let me practice?" Gellert asked, and Albus heard the smile in his voice. Albus avoided looking at him, because when Gellert smiled like that, Gellert always got his way.

"Because some things ought to remain private, I suppose," Albus said, idly, gently. He stared up at the ceiling and that was why he noticed that it had begun to crack. With a sharp, "Move, Gellert!" Albus grabbed Gellert and they tumbled over the desk and Ariana blew a hole in the floor of her bedroom.

Gellert swore in German, then in Hungarian, and then possibly in Polish. "What was that?"

"Ariana," Albus snapped, dusting plaster out of his auburn hair.

"Why?" Gellert asked.

"I don't know." It was hard to keep the defeated tone of voice from overwhelming him. They were still tangled together on the floor, in a muddle of robes and arms and legs. Gellert reached up and flung his arms around Albus's neck.

"It's alright if you don't know," Gellert said placidly, "but you do know and you just don't like lying to me and that's why you're upset."

"You don't need Legilimency," Albus retorted, though he relaxed into Gellert's embrace. He was tense and stressed and he hated dealing with Ariana and Gellert was warm and comfortable and smelled like pine and sweat and shaving soap. (After that day, Albus could never smell shaving soap without thinking of Gellert; perhaps, however unconsciously, it was one reason why he started growing a beard when Gellert left.)

Ariana started to scream.

Albus and Gellert struggled up and, after shooting a quick 'reparo' at the ceiling, Albus took Gellert by the hand and led him upstairs.

He knocked on the door. "Ariana? It's me. It's Albus. Will you let me in?"

"Mama and Papa shut the door, shut the door, don't let anyone in Percival! For God's sake keep the boys out!"

Gellert raised a blond eyebrow. Albus unlocked the door to find Ariana sitting bolt upright in bed, her nightgown slipping off and her hands in her hair, as she rocked back and forth.

"Ariana, everything's all right. Father dealt with the boys." Albus let go of Gellert's hand and walked over very slowly, showing her that he had a wand and he wasn't some Muggle set on punishing her.

"Danger, danger, danger, danger," Ariana whispered.

"There is no danger. Aberforth is asleep right next door and Gellert and I were right below you in the study. No one can get in, Ariana. Go to sleep."

Albus wasn't sure how much of a comfort Gellert was. He always had a certain dangerous edge to him, a quality that sparked and crackled like lightening. Even as he leaned in the doorway, with his merry, ever-present little grin, his stillness seemed somehow unnatural and terrible. Gellert needed to be running or pacing or thinking or doing. It was like watching the too-calm surface of the sea- you knew that something was going on and it was probably going to be very dangerous indeed.

"Fräulein, do you want a story?" Gellert asked, tipping his head to the side, his blond curls cascading over his shoulders.

"No stories!" Ariana shrieked, sitting bolt upright and clutching her covers to her chest. "No stories! Stories are lies! Lies are bad! Tell me Ariana, you cannot lie! You must tell me what those boys did!"

Albus sat down on the edge of Ariana's bed and gently took her by the arms. "Ariana, you are safe. You are a good girl for telling the truth."

"The truth, the truth, the truth makes daddy mad," she babbled. "Papa's gone, Papa's done."

"Papa would want you to go to sleep."

"He saw the blood and that made him angry. What did they do, Ariana, what did they do? It hurt, it hurt!" She shrieked and sobbed and Albus put his arms around her, rocking her gently. Gellert Disapparated and Apparated in the blink of an eye. He sat on the edge of the bed, holding an old, leather-bound book written in runes.

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard," Gellert read aloud, off the cover the small, stained book. To Albus's surprise, Ariana calmed down somewhat. Gellert did have a very gentle, mellow voice, entrancing and oddly commanding. At the end of the tale (the familiar 'Tale of the Three Brothers'; it had been Albus's favorite as a child), Ariana was calm and breathed normally and wasn't screaming.

Gellert looked thoughtful, as if trying to determine just how much control he had over people with his voice. Then, with his special, charming smile, when he wanted something: "Ariana. Will you go to sleep now? Sein gutes MädchenDu bist ein ungemein hübsches Mädchen. All beautiful girls ought to be good." He hummed a bit until Ariana let go of Albus and fell back against the pillows.

Albus left the fire-less lamp on, since, if it was dark, Ariana often mistook things and blew them up out of fear. Gellert said he understood the need to just blow something up, which equally amused and alarmed Albus.

"You haven't felt the need to blow anything up since coming here?" Albus inquired, because he really wanted to be sure. He sat back down and peered curiously at The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

"I like it here," Gellert explained, perching on the arm of Albus's chair. "You've been wonderful. Back home, people can't keep up, so I get frustrated and I have to go off on my own for a few hours before everything's alright again if no one interrupts me. I don't have to, here." Then, with Gellert's particular brand of endearing quasi-innocence: "I like you. I like being around you. It's never dull. Your hair is all messy." He ran his fingers through Albus's hair, the strands sliding through easily, like water through his cupped hand. "Imagine, though, what we can do together! We are the only people who will be able to truly understand one another, the only people who have realized just what we can accomplish. What's that?" Gellert pointed at a stack of papers poking out from the drawer of Albus's desk.

"Nothing," Albus said quickly, trying to shut it.

Gellert was too quick. "Knitting patterns?"

"I like knitting patterns," Albus insisted, too mortified to admit to the brutalizing fact that he was poor. His prize money had gone to paying for school, for paying for food. There wasn't any left over for clothing and he had no way of getting a job, not with Ariana needing constant surveillance. He could always go for prizes, again, but it took too much time and effort to make sure that Ariana wasn't setting fire to herself. Again.

"You like knitting?" Gellert asked gleefully.

"Yes. It's very relaxing. You ought to try it."

"I'd rather go to London," Gellert announced. "I want to go to London to see a play. Can we go see a play?"

"It's late at night, Gellert."

"That's when Muggles have their plays, Albus. Pretend things always look real when it's dark out." He hummed a section of a dark, booming, bellicose sort of song. "I've been to Muggle plays before, and Muggle operas. I want to take you to see Wagner's operas. It's strange, but Muggles understand this sort of thing- art and music and literature- much better than we do. Without magic, they must rely on their imaginations and so they create these things. Astonishing, isn't it? And this." Still humming, Gellert grabbed Albus and forced him into a slightly awkward three-step dance. "This is called a waltz. They dance like this. I'm sure we've got something similar, or will get something similar, but they created this. Marvelous, isn't it? They're so fascinating. It's so strange what they invent to entertain and educate themselves. Just think of what they could do with their energy correctly channeled!" He twirled Albus out of the waltz pose and bowed, with an elaborate hand flourish. "Let's go to an opera, you and me. Or a dance, or a play! I want to see Wilde. I've heard he is your best British playwright."

Albus could not help but be swept off by Gellert's enthusiasm. "I've always held a fondness for Shakespeare."

"Him too! Let's go to London!"

Albus thought about telling him 'no', but the idea was too tempting. Gellert knew just how much Albus hated staying in the house in Godric's Hollow, understood just how desperately Albus longed for an escape of any kind.

"It's only for an evening," Gellert said, tilting his head to the side and smiling so charmingly it was very easy to see how Gellert always got his way. "You're tired. You need the escape. Besides, we're learning about what Muggles think."

Albus made a few protests for the sake of form, but allowed Gellert to smile at him until he gave in. "Alright, Gellert. You win. We'll go. How much does it cost to see Muggle plays?"

Gellert's grin seemed to split his face in two. "I'll take care of it. Here, transfigure your robe into an overcoat. It looks like this." Gellert swept his wand across his chest diagonally, his robe turning into a fairly respectable black overcoat, and revealing the modified Muggle clothes he wore underneath. Albus followed suit and the two Apparatus out of the house (that prison of a house) into a side-street of London.

After Gellert dragged him around to see all posters for the different plays playing that evening, they went and saw a play by Wilde called Lady Windermere's Fan. Albus enjoyed it immensely. Gellert had managed to get them a box (Albus was sure Gellert had enchanted the Muggles into giving it to them, whether through the sheer force of his personality, or through magic Albus preferred not to know). The box was decorated with plush red velvet, and Dumbledore soon saw the appeal of going to the theatre. It was wonderful to relax into the plushy cushions and to lose yourself in someone else's life for a few hours. Wilde was wonderful too- he was a fantastic playwright, who deftly mixed comedy and tragedy for a thoroughly witty look at Muggle life. Albus adored it. Gellert pronounced himself unsatisfied and dragged Albus to Oslo, where they watched a play called A Doll's House, written by the Norwegian playwright, Ibsen. Ibsen was almost a darker version of Wilde. They dealt with the same issues, but Ibsen took a more serious approach and his characters did not have Wilde's happy endings.

Gellert infinitely preferred Ibsen, as he said when he decided he wanted to see what Muggles drank and they sat in a little coffee shop that overlooked the empty, tree-lined streets.

"Wilde seems unrealistic," Gellert said, trying to figure out how he was supposed to drink coffee. "His endings are all happy."

"So you find the ending of Ibsen's play, where the wife leaves her family, to be much more realistic than Wilde's, where the wife stays?" Albus had watched the Muggles out of the corner of his eye. He dumped sugar-cubes into his cup and stirred them around.

Gellert followed suit. "Of course! Muggles have a much laxer view of love than we do."

"Wilde seemed to propose that only love can save us." Albus tapped his spoon on the side of his cup, as he'd seen the Muggles do, and placed it on his saucer. "In the third act, Lady Windermere left her husband, on the suspicion that he has been having an affair with a woman named Mrs. Erlynne and no longer loves her. She decides to run off with Lord Darlington, a friend who at least loves her, when Mrs. Erlynne herself comes in to show her that Lord Windermere loved her after all and that he and Mrs. Erlynne didn't have an affair. Mrs. Erlynne saves her. Why? Maternal love. Mrs. Erlynne was Lady Windermere's mother."

"Ah, but there are no mothers in Ibsen except for Dora, our delightful main character, and even then!" Gellert tried to drink his coffee down very quickly before realizing it was hot and spitting it back out. "Ow. Even then, she is more child than mother. She was the one in trouble; her husband certainly wouldn't stand by her and since she had no mother to help her right her wrong, she left at the end. These Muggles are all mother-less. Don't you find that to be so?"

"All Muggles are children, you mean, Gellert?"

"Yes. And we must exercise that benevolent parental influence. They certainly don't have it."

"Mrs. Erlynne is a sort of wish fulfillment, I suppose? A mother who comes in and makes everything better?"

Gellert pursed his lips. "Magic obviously can't do all of that, but Mrs. Erlynne wasn't perfect, either. She originally abandoned her daughter to go off with a lover, remember?

"So obviously, we cannot abandon our responsibilities towards the Muggles but, since we have done so- or, at least, they think we have done so-"

"-we must then act as the long-lost parent they so obviously long for. This is why you ought to have read Also Sprach Zarathustra," Gellert replied, dumping milk into his coffee. He blew on it, took a sip, and made a face. "Ugh. How can Muggles drink this stuff? But, regardless, the book is one long cry from some sort of savior."

"And we can be that savior?"

Gellert set his cup down in a state of such animated excitement that his coffee drowned the tabletop in a deluge of mostly milk and brown foam and coffee grinds. "Why not? Albus, why not? Obviously we can't solve all of their problems, and they must be relieved of that delusion."

Albus made sure none of the Muggles were looking and Vanished the spill. "I suppose… but what you're proposing, Gellert, is to make Muggles second-class citizens, without the freedoms they now enjoy."

"What freedoms?" Gellert demanded dismissively. "They live trapped within prisons of their own limitations, with only their imaginings to give them comfort against the harsh brutalities of existence. If we ruled, if wizards established a society, there would be no need for us to hide, or for them to suffer quite as much as they have. If they are hurt, we can heal them, if they are hungry, we can feed them. Imagine a world where pain exists only until it is your turn to see the Healer!"

"But how do we achieve that?" Albus asked. His hand lay open on the table, so Gellert reached over and traced a little design on his palm.

"By any means necessary. It is for the greater good." He traced the symbol over and over, his smile bright and dangerous and electric as sheet lightening.

"For the greater good," mused Albus.