My Heart of Hearts
Thank you to my loverly WiseDraco for beta-ing this story. She also warned me that the points of view are a bit confusing, so I thought I should warn everyone about that as well because I tried – and failed miserably – to distinguish the two POVs in a better way. This story was surprisingly hard for me to write and I would like to know what others think of it. Thanks for reading.
The world of Harry Potter does not belong to me.
I was seventeen then. Considered a man in our world, but – as I look back now – I realize I was little more than a child; wide-eyed and naïve, yet bitter at the world for what I did know.
I remember vividly every detail of that summer, the one that changed my life. I remember the scent of the air, the taste of the water that streamed through the small creek behind our home, the sound of my brother's bickering with his pets, and the sound of my sister's voice easing through the humming breeze with the grace of a butterfly.
If I listen closely enough, I can almost hear what I have lost.
That day, I sat beside the creek, wearing only a pair of my father's trousers and a light shirt for it was far too warm for robes. My back was pressed against a tree whose roots cradled my seat between them and I stared into the water before me, contemplating the lives of fish. How would it be to have such an existence? Living for nothing other than to swim upstream or downstream, not accomplishing a thing.
"Remind me of the Muggles, they do." I jolted at the statement and gaped across the creek at the man who said it. He said not another word to me; did not look at me, in fact, but stared down into the water. Had the man looked beyond the golden fringe covering half of his face, he would have seen that my own was bright red with embarrassment. I could not believe that a grown man could sit across – not even five feet – from me without me noticing.
A small smile flitted across the half of his face I could see and he reached out and dipped a hand into the clear water. A few fish fluttered around his fingers and he laughed a bit, his chuckles filling the air as my sister's music would.
"Just like Muggles," he said softly before looking to me with golden eyes through his long, golden hair. His voice held a slight accent I would have recognized had I been able to travel as planned, but it caught my curiosity. "Don't you think?"
I looked into the water at the small, scaled creatures and shrugged. "How so?"
He shrugged back and turned his golden gaze back to his hand that swam amongst the fish. "There is nothing remotely remarkable about them and yet they continue to live their unremarkable lives. Nothing but consumption, fornication, defecation, and rest. So unremarkable... but, a remarkable person, such as yourself, can do nothing but stare as if in wonder."
"Remarkable?" I asked, sure my face could be no brighter.
"You are a wizard, are you not?" he replied with a smile. He stood and shook his wet hand slightly so to get the water off, then he turned and walked away from me.
"Albus! Albus! Albus!"
I was once again knocked from my reverie of fish as my brother ran up to where I was not two hours after meeting that man. He was dashing at me, panting just slightly, and I must admit that he startled me a bit. He was not the same small boy he was only a summer ago, but a budding man, as tall as me and probably twice as wide.
I stood at his approach, as not to feel as intimidated, and greeted him with a hasty wave he did not bother returning. "What's the matter, Aberforth?"
"Albus," he panted, shading his blue eyes from the bright sun with his hand. "It's Ariana. She's crawled under the porch again and she won't come back out. I tried to get her, but she threw a jinx at my face."
I cursed softly and rolled my eyes, the epitome of an annoyed older brother, and pushed past Aberforth back towards the house. "Have Muggles seen her?"
"No. The occasional sparks would come from under there, but I cloaked her from Muggle eyes," he informed me. I nodded as we reached the porch and crouched down to search for our sister through the shadows. Bright yellow sparks suddenly shot out at me, but I avoided them quickly as I sent a simple summoning charm in the direction from which they came. I soon ended up with an armful of my sister, a giggling heap, and I realize now how beautiful she was with her bright, shining hair, and her twinkling eyes, but then I was nothing more than annoyed.
"What were you doing down there?" I barked at her, ignoring the sound of disapproval my brother made behind me.
"I've made you a song," she whispered, her smile far away and almost empty. "Let me sing it. Please, Albus?"
I sighed and nodded. She began to hum a song I heard her hum days ago. She closed her eyes and began to rock back and forth, humming with what seemed to be all the strength in her little body. I sighed again when I realized I would get nothing more from her today.
"Take her back into the house for me, Aberforth," I said quietly. He grunted behind me and reached for her. She went into his arms, my lost little sister did, with absolutely no protest. As I stood to resume my seat beside the creek, I heard through the wind that Ariana had softly begun to sing.
"Of golden eyes and golden hair."
"This is Albus, dear. The boy I told you about," my insistent Grand Auntie informed me as she thrust me into the direction of the auburn haired man with the dazzling blue eyes. I smiled and nodded my head.
"Yes, yes," I replied, patting my aunt on the back as I continued to stare at the man. "Albus... I met him at the creek out back only yesterday."
"Yes," Albus said. "We had a very interesting conversation."
Bathilda Bagshot swelled with the pride at her achievement of finding me a friend. "Well then, excuse me for assuming that you two geniuses hadn't already gravitated to one another before now."
"Gravitated is a good word, Aunt Bathilda," I complimented, earning a flush from the woman and a slight one from the man I was openly staring at. "I'm Gellert."
"Hello Gellert," Albus said and I smiled.
I was hanging upside-down from a tree branch like a bat the next time I saw him. He was once again on the other side of the creek, looking into the water as if the fish threatened to turn into mermaids instead of staying as boring and normal as Muggles. I was torn between wanting to call out to him, feel his eyes upon me, or wanting to just watch him instead. His face was fascinating. His jaw was not that strong, his nose was too large, and his eyes were brilliant, yet weak; his glass assistance glinted back at me. His hair was like... copper, shining sometimes gold, sometimes bronze, but most of the time red. He was all together interesting and his power made him all the more attractive. At times, it seemed to roll off him in waves – when his lout of a brother was around him, baiting him and yipping like a puppy starved for any kind of attention, good or bad – but other times, it would emanate in soft ripples, inviting in such a way that I wanted to become that puppy as well.
Finally, I decided it was time to let my presence known, so I fell from the tree and straight onto my back. He was there in mere seconds, worrying and fussing about the nature of my fall, making sure I was well and checking that I had not hurt myself on the rock that had torn my shirt. I dazzled him with my smile and his brilliant eyes narrowed for a moment before smiling with his lips.
"Let me see your back," he ordered softly, helping me into a sitting position and crawling on his knees behind me. "You're bleeding."
"Am I?" I asked nonchalantly, even as a warm breeze blew across the wound and stung.
"I'll fix it," he announced, leaning past me and dipping his fingers into the cool stream. His fingers were so long and slender; paler and more graceful than the water that slid against them. When they touched my back, I closed my eyes and a strange sound left the back of my throat, one he took for a sign of pain, and smiled as he apologized profusely in my ear. He crawled away from me suddenly, over to the small palate he had been sitting before my fall, to a collection of books and things and he reached into his bag and pulled out a long slither of wood. As soon as his hand touched it, I felt a pulse of energy go through him and everything around him and I grew immediately intrigued.
"What is that wand's history?" I asked as he moved behind me once more. He merely smiled, I could feel it even without seeing it, and he healed my wound.
"What was Hogwarts like?"
I looked up from my book to see golden eyes staring intently for the answer and I shrugged. "It was a school. I'm sure it was no different from Durmstrang."
"Every school is different from Durmstrang," Gellert replied, stretching his arms over his head and falling back against a large pile of hay. Against my better judgment, I allowed him to lead me into one of the Muggle barns just a short walk away from our small village to talk and laugh and cast spells just as we had been doing for the past week or so. He gave the excuse that it was no fun sitting by the stream in the rain, but the flitting summer shower had long since past; he wanted to be away from the eyes of my brother. He yawned loudly and I snuck another peek over my book in his direction. His arms were long, as were the legs stretched out before him, and the fingers threaded into the golden hair that appeared more and more wild with our every meeting. "Should I cut it?"
"My hair? Should I cut it?" he asked again and I blushed for being caught staring.
"No," I answered with a shake of my head. "I like it."
He chuckled and I hastily tried to turn my attention to the book in my hands. It was soon snatched away and dangled above my head with teasing fingers and smile.
"Tell me of Hogwarts. Was it fun?"
"It was an experience."
"What did you learn? Or what did the school specialize in? Durmstrang is supposedly specialized in the teaching of the Dark Arts," he said with a roll of his eyes.
"Why do you say 'supposedly'?"
"I'll tell you later, but first tell me of Hogwarts."
"Well... it's an enchanted castle... a maze really. I think it would be impossible for one person to know every inch of it without being one of the founders."
"The founders?" Gellert dropped my book and sunk onto the floor beside me. "Ravenclaw seems interesting. That's the school known for those with great knowledge, right?"
"Ravenclaw? I thought you would be more interested in Slytherin."
He smiled then, wide and white and perfect. "Everyone thinks that."
"Show me the spell for the enchanted ceiling, again," he suggested one day as he lay back in hay, gazing at the tall, dark ceiling of the barn.
"I want to see the sky."
"Then go outside."
"No... that sky is for everyone else, wizard and animal and Muggle alike. I want a sky I don't have to share with anyone else but you."
"That's sounds unbelievably selfish."
"Hmm... I was hoping it would sound another way," he said and I was glad he was looking up at the dark ceiling and not the dark blush that was clouding my face. "Come on, Alby, do it."
I murmured the enchantment and it seemed as if a small hole had developed in the corner of the barn's top; the soft blue and white of the sky smile down at us through that little hole and Gellert smiled back. "Make it bigger."
"That would take too much time," I told him.
"The first time, you enchanted the entire ceiling."
"The first time, I was trying to impress you."
"You no longer try to impress me? That's sad; I still try to astound you to the best of my abilities."
I did not reply.
"Albus, are you blushing?" he asked without taking his eyes from the ceiling.
"No," I lied at once.
"I'm not defending Muggles, but... it is beyond their control to be born without the powers wizards hold, just as a worm cannot help but be anything but a worm no matter how strong it wants to become," Albus said and I frowned.
"Alby, the analogy of the worm is apt, but Muggles are far too aware of their strength. Why is it that we must hide, lest our people be ridiculed, goggled, harmed, punished, and burned? Muggles gain the sympathies of wizards with what they lack, but what they gain is a strength that some are too cowardly to extinguish." He looked away from me then and fisted his hand in hay. I kneeled beside him and lifted the hand between my own, straw and all. "You cannot deny that Muggles rightfully know that it is the strong that must rule. Muggles follow... science and... the man that termed 'survival of the fittest,' do you know, Alby?"
"Charles Darwin," he replied, glancing at my eyes briefly before staring back at our joined hands.
"Yes," I agreed. "Even some of their own acknowledge that the stronger of the species has rightful rule over the weak. We are the strong and they are the weak, holding us down with the need to protect them, but they don't need protection, Alby. They need guidance."
"I agree," he said softly.
"How do you suppose we do that? By hiding forever?"
"Of golden eyes and golden hair
and face so bright and fair;
A smile so wide and white
gives him a roguish air..."
I watched my sister sing, just as I had often watched my mother sing.
When I was younger, in the summertime, my mother would take my brother and I to the porch that faced not the village we had left behind, but a hill filled with flowers. Ariana had yet to be born, but her presence was shown within the curve of the stomach my mother patted and my brother's head rested upon. Aberforth would sleep, his tiny body curled up against my mother's side, his plump baby cheeks almost as red as the shining bow of his lips. I do not remember my mother's words, I was so young then, but her voice... was my sister's voice.
She sung with pure abandon, as if she really was not aware of the words leaving her lips, the music soaring from her heart. Her bright eyes were closed and her light hair fluttered in a summer breeze that seemed only cooling to her. I could feel the individual drops of sweat sliding down the line of my spine and I turned to face my brother. He was sitting beside my sister, holding her hand as she sang, but I doubt she was aware.
"He comes with the sunrise
amongst the butterflies
and he'll profess his love
until the sun will die..."
The song ended abruptly and my sister rose and walked into the house, leaving my brother and I on the porch alone. I stared at my hands instead of the eyes I knew were trained on me.
My brother huffed and rose, walking away with a muttered curse.
I was standing over the grave when the brother stepped beside me.
I lifted my head and stared at him; he glared back.
Finally, I sighed and allowed a small smile to grace my face. "Where's your brother?"
"You know where he is. You always know," the boy snapped. How remarkable it was to look at this boy, my age or younger, and not see his brother at all, despite the eyes... Where Albus' eyes were filled with the bitterness of the chains preventing his ascension into power, this boy's eyes were glittering with a different yearning... and an anger Albus' lacked... and needed. "Why are you here?"
"I'm visiting my aunt, Bathilda Ba –"
"I don't give a damn who your aunt is. Tell me why you are here."
"Albus knows," I replied, turning my gaze back to that faithful grave and the name that was the answer to the question. "That's all that's important right now... to both myself and Albus."
The boy spat at my feet.
"What was Durmstrang like?"
"Dark, entertaining for a bit..."
"Why did you leave?" I asked and he smiled at me. His back was against the barn wall with his long legs stretched out before him, but he moved to lie beside me on the hay. I felt myself warm when he came within a foot of me.
"I left because they made me."
"They made you... What did you do?"
He shrugged easily, his face content and angelic. "I thought out loud a bit too often, I suppose."
"About what? Dark Arts?" My voice, I knew, was small... but he was so close.
"I shared my thoughts with those who found me too dark... but magic... is magic; there's no light or darkness... Just magic... Remember the fairy tales we spoke of?"
"You left because of fairy tales?"
"Yes." I felt his reply brush warm against my face. "I'll tell you more after."
His kiss was warm... so incredibly warm.
I wished to devour his innocence. Even as a child, I was amazingly selfish.
But his skin felt so right when clamped between my teeth.
He began by taking my shirt away. I was embarrassed... I was amazingly slender, almost to the point where I feared others would think me ill. His lips pressed against mine once more. His hands traced down my sides. He kissed me again. His teeth brushed against my shoulder... bit into it, and my hips levered up into the air.
His kisses pressed down until his lips settled below my navel.
My eyes opened when I was not even aware of closing them and I looked up to the ceiling to see stars and stars and stars and was amazed.
He was as awkward as I thought he would be. He panted as if drowning, jerked and whined as if in pain, and clawed at my back as if it were attacking him.
I pushed and the mind behind his twinkling blue eyes momentarily flew away. I kissed him until he managed to kiss back. I heard my name, a curse, a praise... I kissed the words from his mouth once more before bringing my mouth to his cheek and his ear and lower.
"What are you doing?" I whispered into his neck.
"I... I-I don't know..."
"Hmm?" I hummed into a kiss. He sighed and I pushed and he gasped.
"I don't... I don't know..."
"Hmm? What don't you know?" I purred into his ear, believing myself a sex god with the scant knowledge my fifteen years of life had given me. Regardless, I had managed the shivering mass of boy... man beneath me and I found myself hungering for more. "Tell me."
"Where do my hands go?" he cried out and I laughed before pinning the offending things above his head.
"They go here."
He sighed and I pushed and he gasped.
I was not sure whether to be mortified and ashamed or elated and prideful of what we had just done. I had long since pulled on my trousers and my father's light summer shirt and I held my arms tightly around my middle. He seemed content enough, lying naked and golden on the hay, staring up at the barn's ceiling of stars with a smile on his face. Occasionally, he would grant me with a smile or a kiss I was ignorant as to how to return. I wanted to kiss him as much as I wanted to run.
"I feel equal to you, Albus." My head snapped up at the comment and my eyes met a serious gaze of gold. "At times... I feel less than you... What do you think that means?"
I stared at the legs my short trousers revealed; they were pale and dirty from the barn floor. One glance at his nude skin and I knew he would be completely spotless, but I refused to glance. "I think... I do not want to answer that question."
"Alright," he replied, standing and reaching for his pile of clothing. "But just consider this... I find that no one in this world deserves... No one but you deserves everything this world can give. Only you... would know what to do with... everything."
I stared up at him, a question in my eyes and at the tip of my tongue, but he shook his head. "Never mind, Alby. Let's just go."
My life had never had so much meaning than it had in those short months.
I was important. I had the potential to have power over some portion of my life. I was capable of getting everything I wanted. Every single thing promised to be mine.
With only him.
I walked slowly up the stairs, determined not to hesitate in the least. My head was held high and, as always, I was sure to exude every air of confidence, despite the current lack of audience to witness it. The wood of the porch creaked beneath my feet, loudly. I raised my hand to the door and knocked.
I wanted to talk to Albus.
I do not know why. The subject could have been a number of reasons; our fairy tales, our secrets, our other things...
When the door opened, I was affronted by blue eyes filled with anger. Not my Albus' gaze at all. The boy glared up at me, his mouth merely a thin line twisted into a strained grimace and his fingers turning white as they clutched the wood of the door. His greeting was the expected snap of "What?" and I managed a smile when I wanted nothing more than to lose one of my tightly clenched fists in his face.
"I need to see Albus."
"Why are you doing this?"
"I've read the letters you've written him in the scarce hours you two aren't together. Why are you trying to take him away with your stupid stories and promises? Can't you see he already has obligations?"
"All I see," I hissed, "Is a boy far too old to be overwhelmed by his brother's shadow. Can't you see what Albus is meant to become? Why must you hold him back with your... obligations?"
His eyes widened at the disgust he heard in my voice when I snarled the word, but in my eyes, the only obligations Albus needed to uphold were to me.
"Get away from here."
"No," I replied. "No."
The spell hurtled towards me was easily shielded against, but he had far less luck than I did when my curse hit him in the chest. He flew away from the doorway and further into the house. I slowly followed him with his groans of pain as my invitation inside. I was towering above him, a quip at the ready to leave my lips when I heard another voice...
"... and he'll profess his love
until the sun will die.
Pursuer of the heart,
it ends before it starts.
They burn and feud like lovers do
before they fall apart."
The girl stared directly at me as she sung the words, her blue gaze hazy and clear all at once, her bright hair shining as if she had found a way to capture rays of sunlight.
"Who..." I began to ask her, but the curse that pierced my back prevented me from saying anything further.
When I saw him standing over my brother, his hand clenched tightly around his wand, with his eyes trained on my sister, my dreams finally shattered into nothing; it was like the melting of icicles, a slow drip until it all cracked and fell. A weight lifted from my chest and my eyes once again had sight. I thought I saw what he was, but then... I really saw what he was.
"Not them!" I cried out. "Not them! Me!"
He pushed himself back up to his feet with a vicious growl and, for a moment, his eyes held a look of betrayal before his golden gaze dulled and his face became stoic as he reciprocated my curse. I flew into my father's bookshelf, volumes upon volumes of works falling upon me until I froze them in the air and threw them into his direction. Some books, he merely dodged, but others were reduced to nothing but piles of charred scraps of paper when they faced his wand. His face was indifferent and cold... I was not sure if it was a mask... Tears formed in my eyes when I could not distinguish the mask from his real face. I ignored my sister's cries and my brother's shouts and, through my blurry gaze, I threw curse after curse in his direction, but his wand answered my in kind and soon I was sobbing with both inner and outer pain. I wildly waved my wand, a spell for the sole reason of pain leaving my wand and for a moment, I saw nothing but bright light... And for a moment, I heard nothing until I could hear nothing but my sister's cries.
"No, love, don't go. Don't leave me," I begged and – this disgusts even myself – I know not whether I was speaking to Gellert or poor Ariana as she lay dying in my arms. I felt the bile catch in my throat and I pulled her closer to me, to my chest, to my heart. Aberforth sat beside me on the floor, cooing and running shaking fingers down our sister's sweat-slickened face. Tears fell from her eyes as they faded, but a song had begun low in her throat – her song of which she had been singing for months now – and, amazingly, it seemed to grow stronger as she, herself, weakened. It was as if the wretched song was stealing her life away... She reached out to me... to me. I was shocked; why would she do such a thing? What brother have I been to her these past months and yet, there I was, clutching that limp hand in my own. I could feel my brother's glare upon me and I knew Gellert was watching as well, but, being the coward I was... am, I refused to look for fear of my brother's hatred or worse, the lack of remorse in Gellert's expression.
Her hand had long been cold and lifeless when I finally looked up. My brother was on his knees beside me, his face pressed into the hard wooden floor and his hands cradling his shaking head as he sobbed. I could faintly hear his screams of pain, but they seemed to me as faded as my sister's song. I looked to where I saw Gellert last, he was gone. He was gone.
I stood slowly and walked to the kitchen. The door that led outside was open and I dashed out of it. I ran and ran until I reached that creek and I collapsed to my knees before I jumped over it and chased my false dreams any further. I do not remember crying out, but I remember how sore my throat was afterwards... how dry my eyes were when I finally opened them once more.
And, when I finally opened my dry eyes once more, I peered into the creek and did not blink at the shiny scales of the fish glinting above the surface as they floated, dead, on their sides.
Each and every one of them.
A century, I've ached to feel those lips pressed against mine once more. A century, I've feared to see those eyes. A century, I've cried an infinite sum of tears.
I want nothing more than to take that damned century back.
But I can't, so I smile at the fool with the crimson gaze asking me questions of subjects I've long since lacked the concern for.
And he does.
When I was seventeen, I thought I knew the world I had yet to see.
I thought I knew my place and the place of others.
I... thought I knew love...
I thought many thoughts, but...
Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes.
- End -