Disclaimer: Aw, comon' you know I didn't invent the Potter-verse and I don't own stock in it, either.
Author's note: This story was suggested by A.B. a.k.a. Aliengirl. It's angsty, to be sure, but a bit out of my normal genre. Thanks, AB for giving me a chance to stretch. As for the date of the story: remember, Dumbledore is about 150 years old at the start of the Potter series.
Albus Dumbledore stood at the top of the rocky cliff and looked down at the sea hurling itself on the sharp boulders below. Yes. this was high enough. He walked back from the cliff and sat down on some jutting rocks. Carefully he took a folded piece of parchment and a thick brown and white photograph from his robes. He looked at the woman in the picture... she was trying to be serious for the camera, as was expected, but she kept breaking into a smile. He looked at her and remembered...
"You should be pleased," Vivianne remonstrated, reigning up her horse a bit to stay even with her traveling companion, "It's quite an honor, you know."
"Indeed," sighed Albus, "I know this to be true, still..."
"Sometimes it is a bit tiring, you know, living up to it all."
"The expectations, the responsibilities. This is a perfect example, you know. No one asked me if I wanted it. Everyone assumed I would be thrilled, honored, eager. After all, anyone would be delighted to be named Head Boy"
"But you're not, are you?"
"Not in the slightest."
"Then why are you doing it?"
"Because it is my responsibility-"
"Oh, Albus, not all that nonsense from your father!" Vivianne began to speak in a self-important gruff voice, "With great gifts, Albus, come great responsibilities. They are not yours to keep, boy, they must be shared with magic-kind!"
"Yes," Albus replied heavily, "Something like that."
Vivianne implusively reached out to clasp Albus' hand, "Oh, my dear, you are entirely too serious for someone so young!" He turned a pair of unhappy eyes toward her as she continued, "You are incredibly talented, there is no use denying it. But you are more than your gifts, Albus. You aren't only talent, you're a person. Last I checked people were allowed to have dreams and desires of their own."
Albus smiled mischievously and squeezed her hand before letting go. "I'm so glad you noticed, M'lady" he said his blue eyes sparkling, a wicked grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Vivianne blushed, "Albus, really!" She then looked around to see if any of the other people riding in their party had been close enough to hear.
"What?" he asked, trying to look innocent.
"You know!" she said sternly, but she was clearly trying to swallow a smile.
Albus didn't bother to try, but simply grinned broadly remembering the kiss he had "stolen" just before they all remounted to continue their journey northward into the Highlands. Yes, he did have things he wanted, dreams and desires.
They said there were great things in store for him, a bright future. But there was a part of him that wanted simple things, not great ones. He wanted to marry the girl he loved and go live in a thatched cottage somewhere in the Scottish Wilderness. But that was not to be. For, from an early age Albus Dumbledore had shown prodigious magical talent and intelligence. Before he could even begin to dream of what he might want "to be when I grow up" he was already being told what his future held.
One so talented must devote his gifts to the service of his fellow persons - both magic and muggle. He was, after all, one for whom the magical community had been praying: a wizard with the power, magic, and intelligence to stand against the growing tide of evil in their land. He would leave Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the end of this year to take up his duties with the Parliament of Magicals. They'd probably send him straight out to chase some poor wizard who wouldn't pay his taxes.
Albus looked up from his thoughts to see Vivianne regarding him with that warm gaze that he felt could see straight into him.
"You don't have to do it, you know." She said simply
"I suppose... But it's for the best, I expect."
Vivianne looked doubtful but simply nodded. Albus knew her well enough to know that she disagreed. She, however, knew him well enough to know that it was pointless to argue. They had been around this issue too many times. He was too beholden to his sense of responsibility, she said. He would do what was expected of him, no matter the cost to himself.
As if she were reading his thoughts she said,
"You know that your responsible nature is one of the things I love about you. I just worry you'll be so responsible that you'll let them use you all up."
Albus chuckled, she did know him well, "Don't worry, I will be sure to leave some time aside for you."
It was Vivianne's turn to laugh, "Well! Just see that you do!"
There was glint in Albus' eye as a sudden inspiration hit him.
"Alright, then, how about June 30, 1848. You can have me all day."
"I have to wait until the day after graduation to have some time from you this year?" she asked narrowing her eyes in suspicion
"Well, I expect I'll be able to fit you in here and there during the year."
Vivianne looked heavenward and shook her head. Turning back to Albus she said, "I see, but I shall be expected to endure knowing that you've put me on your calendar for after graduation?"
"Yes, my dear. Putting the day aside is the least I could do since I was hoping you'd marry me on it."
"Albus!" she cried out with a laugh, "You are incorrigible!"
"That's why you love me."
She gave him a look that, while stern, was surprisingly benevolent. "Very well, Albus Dumbledore, I'll put YOU on my calendar for that day providing you meet certain conditions."
Albus' eyebrows rose toward his hairline. "Those being?"
"First of all, you will dismount that beast, get on one knee, and say 'please'"
"Viv, you can't be serious!" But she just continued to look at him, a wicked smile tugging the corners of her mouth.
" We're moving," He protested. She nodded, and smiled.
" There are people all around," He said a bit desperately. Her smile just broadened.
"The ground is damp?" He offered weakly.
"I know" she countered holding out her hand for his reigns..
He laughed, then. He put his head back and let out a loud chortle of delight and pulled sharply on the reigns of his horse. Behind he could hear the sounds of people reigning up their own startled mounts. He handed Vivianne his reigns and dismounted.
A few of the riders ahead had turned at the sound of his laughter and they were now calling to their companions and pulling their horses around to see what was going on. Albus dusted off his robes and glanced up at Vivianne. She was leaning back in her saddle with amusement twinkling in her eyes and her mouth shut very tight. He knew she was working very hard not to laugh out loud. He could also see that she wasn't going to let him off the hook.
The ground made a squelching sound as he knee pressed down. The clammy water of the spongy ground immediately began to soak through his robes. Ah, well, he thought ruefully, so long as I'm down here I might as well do the thing right. If I'm lucky maybe I'll embarrass her! With a dramatic gesture he clasped his hands together over his heart and raised his voice.
"Vivianne, I am your helpless slave!" he cried, throwing his arms wide and nearly overbalancing. "I pine for you day and night!" he declared putting a pathetic hand to his brow as the group around them tittered with amusement.
"I could not bear to live in this world were you not in it. Vivianne will you marry me?" he said holding up his hand toward hers.
Vivianne's cheeks had colored but she joined in the laughter surrounding them. Looking down at him she met his eyes and smiled.
"I think I shall do just that." she said reaching down for his hand. For a moment Albus' heart seemed to fill his chest ans he felt it swell with great, slow, beats. Wreathed in grins he reached up to take Vivianne's hand intending to rise and bestow what he hoped would be a sufficiently chaste kiss for the assembled company.
Instead, he wound up pulling her toward him. She toppled, with a cry of surprise, right on top of him and they both wound up rolling over on the damp earth. The rest of their group was roaring with laughter as Vivianne leaned across the soggy ground and whispered in Albus' ear
"I do love you, Albus Dumbledore, and it's a good thing, too."
with that she kissed him to the apparent delight of their audience who clapped and whooped as Albus rose, blushing, and offered Vivianne a hand up.
They had been happy that last year at Hogwarts. They had even begun to hope that Albus might not have to take the path laid out for him by his father and other government officials. In fact, it was in spring during their final term that Albus had finally brought himself to express his own wishes...
"Did you tell them?" Vivianne asked, anxiously scanning Albus' face for some sign of his news.
"Yes, yes I did." He said heavily.
'They didn't react well, I take it." Vivianne said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.
"Well, they've had it all planned out for some time now, Viv. This meeting with the Minister, the Headmaster, and Father was intended to be something very different from that which it turned out to be."
Vivianne had raised her eyebrows. "What, exactly, were they planning?
"What we expected, actually. They told me all the wonderful plans they had made for my career and expected me to - well they at least expected me to be excited or grateful."
Vivianne gave a very short, derisive laugh
"So when I told them that I really didn't want to be an Auror, that my ambition was to teach..."
Albus trailed off, trying to find the words to explain.
"They were disappointed, I'm sure," noted Vivianne, "Were they angry, too?"
"No. You're right about them being disappointed but they weren't angry at all. It seems that someone, my guess would be it was the Headmaster, anticipated this. They were ready for me."
"What do you mean 'ready for you'?"
"They told me that they certainly understood - but that a teaching position wasn't likely to be available for some time. Then the Headmaster suggested that, after a few years as a Auror, I would certainly be a candidate for the Defense Against the Dark Arts job."
Vivianne was shaking her head slowly.
"They don't' care, do they? I mean they really don't care what you want or even what's best for the school... if they did they'd offer you Transfiguration - that's your best subject. They just want to make sure you do what they want... even your father" she finished with disgust.
"Father wants to be sure I fulfill my destiny. He loves me, I know, but he is convinced I was born for some greater purpose and he's determined to see that I live up to it." Albus said with a sigh.
Albus had been moving sharply back and forth in their quiet corner of the common room. Now, however, he sank heavily into a chair. Vivianne got up and squeezed in beside him, putting her head against his shoulder.
"I think I may hate them." she said quietly.
"Oh Vivianne," Albus breathed leaning his head onto hers. "What would be the point?"
Perhaps, he thought later, it was because she had so many older brothers. But, whatever the reason, Vivianne had always known how to chose her battles. She was terribly angry and disappointed, but she had held her peace and, instead, focused on beginning her life with him...
On June 30th their friends and family climbed one of the foothills above Hogsmeade to see them married in a quiet glade. Albus felt, for just a moment that day, that there was no one else in the world. Vivianne's eyes were alight with joy and affection as she looked up into his. This, he thought, was the true gift of his life... not magical power.
The festivities at the HogsHead pub afterward went on for quite some time. Finally, Albus and Vivianne slipped away from the revelries to sneak away to a place known only to them for a honeymoon. Vivianne had found a small crofters cottage on the edge of a deserted moor. They spent more than a week enjoying the desolate beauty of the place and savoring the time alone together.
Neither of them said so, but each knew that when they returned to London, the Parliament would keep Albus very busy. Still, they had the promise of an eventual teaching job at Hogwarts to look forward to. This wouldn't last forever. After Albus had put in a suitable amount of time he would be free to do what he truly wanted to do.
In spite of Albus' schedule and frequent absences for days at a time, they managed somehow for Vivianne to get pregnant a few months after the wedding. Albus was nearly beside himself at the prospect of fatherhood. Vivianne was alight with joy and more full of life than he had ever seen her.
He knew that, in the years to come, he might often remember her laughing face in those Autumn days after she told him. He would remember the lurch his stomach gave the first time Vivianne put his hand to her stomach to feel the baby move. He would remember many things, about those months during the rest of the life that stretched pointlessly before him. He used to regard memories as a blessing. Now, as even the sweetest brought sharp pains, they were a curse. How foolish he had been to assume they would stay as happy as they were in those halcyon days...
When Albus entered their modest flat that day in late May the first thing he saw was Vivianne sitting in a wing chair with her feet upon a settee. She was fast asleep one hand resting protectively over her growing stomach. He regarded her for a moment, her face relaxed in sleep. It was hard to believe that soon they would have been married a year... and soon after that they would become parents. These days were supposed to be the sweetest days, but he was missing more and more of them. He hadn't realized he had sighed aloud until Vivianne opened her eyes and looked at him, trying not to yawn.
She smiled a sleepy smile, "Albus, you're home. Did you lose your way?"
Albus was confused, and it showed on his face
"It's been so long since you left, darling, that I thought perhaps you had become lost." she said with a smile... but he could see the hurt and frustration in her eyes. Normally she made a good show of at least trying to be long-suffering, but in unguarded moments she often revealed her true feelings.
"I wonder sometimes if I haven't lost my way" he said kneeling down to kiss her. At first his kiss was tender, but he found himself kissing her harder. He pulled her out of the chair and down next to him on the floor, drawing her close and holding on as if she'd fly away.
Vivianne was breathless when he finally drew his head back, her eyes alarmed.
"What's happened, what's wrong?" she asked urgently.
In reply Albus pulled her to him again and held her tightly. After a few moments he noticed she was trembling and he loosened his hold so he could pull back a bit and look at her.
"Are you alright? You're shaking."
"Albus, you're scaring me. Please tell me what's going on.
There was some silence as he tried to decide how best to break the news. Finally he realized that there was nothing to do but say it.
"Vivianne, they're sending me after some of the Dementors," he said, hearing her sharp intake of breath, "You know the things they've been doing lately... they've got to be stopped."
"But why do you have to be the one to stop them?"
"It's not just me, and I'd rather not. But I haven't really been given a choice in the matter, Viv. Besides," he continued carefully, "even if I had been given one I'm not sure I would've said no, even though I don't want to go."
"Why?" she asked, hurt and anger struggling for dominance in her voice
"Because they're hurting a lot of people, destroying lives, families. They're out of control and you and I both know that I'm one of the best equipped to help. How can I refuse?"
"How about because you have a wife, because you're going to be a father in a few weeks? Those seem like very good reasons to me."
"Cassandra's Ghost, Viv," he cried, "I'd give anything... but I just... I can't say no, I can't"
She began to weep then, tears of fear, frustration, & anger. Albus just held her and rocked back and forth, murmuring comfort, and silently adding tears of his own.
He wished now that he had listened to her... not just that day but in all the days prior when she had insisted he need not be so beholden to the sense of responsibility. She had been so right.
As he was to be gone two weeks or more Albus convinced Vivianne to stay with two of their best friends from Hogwarts: Robert and Jayne Carroll. Albus didn't want her to be alone while he was gone, especially with the baby so close. Besides, he had argued, the Carrolls had a small cottage in the countryside outside of London. Getting away from the city was probably just what she needed, he'd argued. For her part, Jayne was thrilled at the prospect of Vivianne's visit. She found the country life to be a bit dull and was eager for the company. Robert had given his old school chum assurances that they would take good care of Vivianne. Still, as he left Albus felt uneasy. He dismissed this as the by-product of guilt and of his own anxiety about facing the Dementors.
Over the next weeks Albus had little time to think as he and his fellow Aurors tracked Dementors and routed them from villages and towns. It was hard work and, more often than not, Albus would fall directly to sleep when the day was over. Each morning when he woke his first thought was of Vivianne. His second was of the Dementors. The group they'd been tracking in Yorkshire was particularly stubborn, even ruthless.
Albus feared that soon someone might die. And he was not wrong.
Within two days time a Dementor lay dead... and all hell broke loose.
Enraged, the other Dementors went screaming off in several directions and the Aurors were forced to separate to track them and bring them down before they preformed "The Dementor's Kiss" on any more innocent people. The thought of the completely empty expression of someone who has had their soul sucked out by the kiss, spurred Albus on.
He remembered the day he had doomed his family as if it were yesterday. If only he had known then. If only he had know what the cost of his actions would be...
The Dementor he had been hunting for a week faced him and began to glide forward, decaying hands reaching for it's hood.
"Expecto Patronum!" Dumbledore shouted and a silvery figure erupted from his wand, forcing the Dementor back. But the Dementor came again... and again... and again. In the end the Dementor was dead and Albus wasn't sure he was sorry.
One by one the Dementors were tracked down by Aurors who forced them into exile. After three more Dementors were killed, those who remained became more clever and more vicious. Soon an Auror was robbed of his soul, and the community of witches and wizards were in a near panic from fear.
Time became a meaningless blur for Albus until one day he realized that it was June 30, his wedding anniversary. For all he knew he might even be a father by now. He insisted on taking the day, heading toward the Carrolls to surprise Vivianne.
He, however, was the one who was given a surprise, or rather the shock of his lifetime...
Nothing before or since had been as terrible to him as what he had seen when he arrived at the tiny cottage. The first thing he noticed was the unnatural quiet as he approached the house. No bird song, no insects buzzing, even the wind in the trees was silent. Then he noticed the front door was standing open. Something about that made him move more swiftly.
He was through the door in a flash calling for Vivianne, for Jayne, for Robert. His only answer was silence. Around him was chaos. It looked as if the entire cottage had been turned upside-down and shaken. Albus' breath was ragged as he rushed from room to room seeing only destruction. Frantic he began to claw and tear at the debris looking for something, anything.
He found Jayne cowering in a closet, eyes glazed with fear and shock. He shook her sharply and she began to blink and shake her head, then she began to cry.
"Where is Vivianne!?" Albus asked desperately, but Jayne did not answer her weeping growing louder instead.
"Jayne, please! Where is Vivianne?!" Albus shouted, but still his only answer was weeping.
"DAMMIT, JAYNE, LISTEN TO ME" he shouted shaking her sharply so that she shook like a rag doll, "TELL ME WHERE VIVIANNE IS!"
Finally Jayne managed to stammer, "I...don't... know..."
Heart in his throat Albus left the weeping Jayne and continued to tear through the debris of the house, looking for something, anything, that would tell him where Viv was.
He found her in the living room under a tangle of fallen drapes. Her expression was a blank as that of a corpse, but she was still breathing. With a disbelieving horror, Albus recognized the signs of the Dementor's Kiss. Vivianne's heart still beat, her lungs still filled, but she was an empty shell. Her soul, her thoughts, her feelings, her self... everything had been taken by the Dementors.
No one knew how the kiss would affect the baby. They would have to wait for the child to be born to know.
As it turned out, Jayne was alright physically. The Dementors, it seemed, had not been after her for surely they would have found her. Closet doors would be meaningless to them. Albus could imagine why they targeted his wife, but he had a hard time imagining how they knew where to find her. He looked at Bob, who had not been at home, and at Jayne who was shaken but would be just fine... and horrible feelings would rise up within him... feelings of anger and loathing... and a terrible suspicion. It seemed odd to Albus, somehow, that Jayne escaped unharmed and Bob was not even at home but Vivianne...
Albus began to wonder if his "old friend" Bob hadn't told the Dementors where to find her. It made perfect sense, after all. Bob had likely struck a deal with them, no doubt stipulating that HIS wife be unharmed. Then, on the pre-arranged day, Bob made sure he wasn't home. Yes, the more he thought about it the more Albus was convinced Bob had betrayed them.
Vivianne's body went into labor two days after Albus found her in the Carroll's house. She lay in her bed at St. Mungo's perfectly still and expressionless. Even the pain of labor produced no spark no sign of life of thought, of feeling. Albus felt the sick chill of certain knowledge at this. Vivianne was gone from him forever. His did not dare hope that his child would be alright, but a small part of him hoped and prayed that the Dementor's kiss had not affected it.
His son was stillborn and grief crashed down around Albus with a force he had not imagined possible. It was as if he were pulled out of the normal course of time and place to a space of white-hot light and razor-edged pain.
Soon, anger was boiling up inside him as well. He wanted to kill every Dementor he could find... and he wanted to make Bob pay for betraying them.
Robert Carroll was arrested and put on trial. Thanks in no small part to Albus' testimony, he was sent to the Island fortress of Azkaban which was guarded by trained hit wizards, a few odd mercenaries, and the occasional ex-Auror.
Robert was dead inside a week.
The investigation into the incident at the prison was unable to draw any meaningful conclusions, but Albus didn't really care. That is, until a few months later. A fellow Auror was arrested for espionage and eventually confessed that it had been he, not Robert, who had told the Dementors where to find Vivianne Dumbledore.
Albus put his head in his hands and tried to shut out the thoughts that told him it was all his fault. His wife was gone... an empty shell. Her body would go on breathing for decades at St. Mungo's hospital, but she was worse than dead. His son was dead before he'd had a chance to live. Why? Because he insisted on doing what everyone but he and Viv wanted him to do. Despite her fears, he had insisted on walking a path that lead to her death. And Bob? Merlin, help him, Albus had been so concerned with his own feelings of grief, he wanted to blame someone beside himself. He hadn't been concerned with the truth. His vengeance had killed Bob, too.
The words of comfort offered by his father and the minister had been meaningless to him. Now, that it was too late, he turned his back and walked away from their words of what was right, what was needed. What he needed was to end this pointless charade. He had nothing left to offer anyone, least of all himself. The incredibly long life span of a typical wizard seemed like a cruel joke, a curse, a sentence.
Albus looked at the parchment he had brought with him. The words were simple and few. "It is too much to bear." He rose and placed the parchment where he had been sitting, weighting it with another rock. He tucked Viviannes picture in his robes, walked to the edge, and stepped over.
He closed he eyes and put his arms out as he fell waiting for the instant he would hit the rocks and fall into sweet oblivion.
But he did not. Albus opened his eyes and found himself hovering mere feet from the surf-dashed boulders. Looking around, desperately to see what was going on he spied a grumpy looking merwoman.
"You ought to be more careful," she said, "You could kill yourself doing that."
"That's the idea!" Albus said angrily
"Well, not here, wizard, not here." the merwoman said waving her hands at him. Albus felt himself being lowered to the damp boulder beneath him. He scrambled to find his feet and stood, clenching his fists.
"You have no right!" he shouted
"Neither do you." She retorted
"You don't have the right to mess up my home, but more importantly, you don't have the right to take your own life, wizard."
"Oh, and how do you figure that, merwoman?"
"Murcus" she replied calmly.
"My name is Murcus, not 'merwoman'."
"Well, my name isn't 'wizard.'"
"I didn't think so, but you don't seem inclined toward polite introductions, wizard."
"Albus," he said, feeling suddenly weary. He lowered himself to sit on the large boulder and Murcus swam over. She rested her upper body on the edge while leaving her lower body in the water - occasionally flicking her tail.
"So, Albus," she said, "Why do you want to kill yourself a good 150 years before the end of your natural life span?"
"Because life is a sentence, not a gift."
Murcus scowled, "Mercy, that's a bit strong, isn't it?"
"No. No, it's not." he replied flatly
He didn't know why, maybe it was because she was a stranger, maybe it was because this whole situation was strange. Perhaps it was because he intended to fling himself over the nearest cliff not guarded by a mer-person as soon as he left her. Whatever the reason he told her why, with a bitter voice and even more bitter tears.
Murcus listened quietly. When Albus was done she threw her head back and cried out in a voice so high he couldn't hear it. Her keening with grief went on for some moments before she turned back to him.
"Life is sacred, Albus the wizard," she said, "Have not enough persons been murdered already? Must you add to the death toll?"
"I haven't the strength to live."
"You underestimate yourself. In fact, it seems clear that you always have."
"Don't. Don't tell me what I must do, don't tell me what I owe the world."
"You don't need me to." she said. Then she dropped into the water and out of sight.
Albus watched the spot where the Murcus had been for a time, then took out his wand and apparated back to the top of the cliff. Slowly he walked over to the rock upon which he had sat earlier and removed the stone from his suicide note. He sat with it and took out he photograph of Vivianne. She had made it so much easier to live in a world which contained creatures like the Dementors. She had made it easier to be who he was. He didn't want to live in a world without her... without the child he had lost.
"But what about all the other children, Albus?" he heard her voice in his head.
As much as she had hated being separated from him, as much as she hated to see him doing something he didn't want to do, Vivianne still wanted them both to make a difference, to make things better, to make them right. She just hadn't wanted him to lose his soul in the process.
Now she had been robbed of her soul for eternity and he was alone. Forever.
She hadn't deserved what happened to her... no one did.
"Not even you" he could hear her saying.
"Oh, Vivianne I don't think I can do it," he said aloud
Her reply, seemed to echo on the wind, instead of in his head, "My love isn't gone, it's with you. If you die, the last part of me will too."
Albus sat perfectly still the wind tugging at the paper in his hands. He was sure he must have imagined actually hearing his beloved's voice, but a chill went through him nonetheless. He listened hard to the wind, but it only whistled without a word. He looked at the note, edges flapping wildly with the breeze. For a moment he regarded the paper, thought about what it said, and opened his hand to let it go in the wind.