A Pair of Kingdoms
Although Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was well into its first month, no new information had surfaced about the Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore, save for the few meager details he had let slip himself, and the massive stockpile of impersonal articles that were either authored by him or about him. Other than knowing that he was a regular but not committed writer for Transfiguration Today, former prefect and head boy, winner of the Barnabus Finkly Prize for exceptional spell casting, erstwhile British Youth Representative to the Wizengamot, Gold Medal-Winner for Ground-Breaking Contribution to the International Alchemical Conference in Cairo, friendly correspondent of Nicholas Flamel and Bathilda Bagshot, and the youngest teacher that Hogwarts has had in a good, long time, nobody knew anything about the mysterious Professor Dumbledore.
When spoken to, Professor Dumbledore would half smile, answering politely but only adequately, unless he was asked about one of the subjects that must have been particularly touchy for him, like his family; which was odd, since the history of Professor Dumbledore's father, of his maiming of the three muggle boys and subsequent imprisonment, was common knowledge around the school. He must not like talking about it, the other teachers concluded, unless he has other family members kept secret. But of course, he was not telling.
Another subject Professor Dumbledore would not touch upon was his love life. His silence was not too strange though, many of the teachers there were mute on the issue, but since he was the youngest staff member at Hogwarts, the older teachers could not help but ask if he had a girlfriend or a wife, as so many young people do. Again he would smile, saying something about how he planned to devote his life entirely to the shaping of young minds, which was a noble but boring answer.
Wild assumptions were often made when the conversation had switched to Professor Dumbledore, regardless of whether he was absent or present:
"I've heard tell, my dear boy, that you once explored the African Savannah in search of the elusive red-winged Flibberjet. I knew people say that they do not exist, but I happen to be in possession of an egg. How about you take a look at it?"
"I have read an article about you attempting to transfigure an ordinary house cat into a sphinx. I'm curious, did you manage to get the feline to riddle? Or was it ever only a normal, but mutated cat?"
"It was once rumored that you were seeking the Deathly Hallows. Surely you know that they are only fairytale objects?"
To which he would patiently respond:
"No, I have not; they don't exist; but I will examine the egg in question if that is your wish."
"It was only ever cat, although I do think the procedure intensified its vanity and sense of self-importance."
"The Deathly Hallows are not real."
They must derive so much amusement from speaking to me, Albus Dumbledore thought, feeling quite nettled. Professor Binns, the age-old History of Magic professor, had just returned from a long-winded tangent about how alchemy had both bettered and worsened the world by introducing lifesaving antidotes as well lethal poisons into the realm of potioneering, and was droning once more about Nicholas Flamel. For a seconds worth of entertainment, Albus transformed his breakfast spoon into a tuning fork, which, if hit, would ring musically.
". . . Of course he's shown it to you, Albus?" Professor Binns inquired, yearning in his wheezy voice.
"Beg your pardon?" The younger man asked, "I don't think I heard you correctly." Of course he did not, because Albus's mind was elsewhere.
"The Stone! The Sorcerer's Stone!" Professor Binns exclaimed with gusto. "Flamel's magnum opus, the artifact capable of granting wealth and immortality to its holder! Every man's dream," a decidedly sheepish look past over the old man's wizened face, "my own dream I must confess."
"Oh," Albus acknowledged, "no, he hasn't shown it to me. " The conversation was straying into the topic of immortality and deathlessness, a topic that Albus had learned not to tamper with. Poor Binns, Albus reflected, he must be terrified of dying, being as old as he is.
"Well, he must!" Professor Binns said insistently. "Surely he'll let you see it, if you ask."
"Surely Nicholas considers the matter to be a private one," Albus said, hoping to mollify but discourage Binns from pursuing the issue, "and I wish not to overstep my bounds."
"Pishposh," Professor Binns muttered, "but that is so like you. I'm warning you though, if you don't ever step on some toes, you'll never live, Albus. I mean look at me," his voice became quiet and resigned, "someday I'll wake up to not waking at all, and that will be my life."
"And you would've lived a wonderful, fulfilling life." Albus said, and this time he was fully focused on Professor Binns, "Acquiring fame, fortune, and longevity is secondary to the enrichment of others, which you have spent many years doing."
"Again, just like you." Professor Binns said affectionately, patting blindly at Albus's hand. "You're a saint, after all. But honestly, Albus, be selfish for once."
Albus declined his head slightly, demurring. Before him was his untouched breakfast of jam and toast; he found that he could never eat on Saturdays, when the post was particularly important to him.
"Ah, there's your owl, Albus." Binns motioned to a large, earthy bird nipping delicately through the air towards the teachers' table. "I suppose that is the reason you've kept a tiresome old man's company for so long a time?"
"I keep your company," Albus unfastened a scroll from his owl's leg, "because I enjoy your company. But I must be off. Thank you, Mr. Binns, for you advice about toe-stepping and the like."
"Please, Albus, call me Cuthbert, Mr. Binns makes me sound so old. I am only one-hundred and sixty-seven, after all."
Albus took a deep, steadying breath before opening up the scroll. Unraveled, it was revealed to be a short letter, with careless, black scrawls written over the paper's grubby surface.
I got your letter. I always get your letters, even if I don't write back. You're the Transfiguration teacher, you have a student who acts up, Becky or Betty I don't know, you're learning how to knit for some reason or other, you're life is "relatively pleasant" as you said yourself. I am relatively pleased.
P.S. Your letters are too long.
And that was it. The climax of Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore's week. He rolled the letter up and placed it deep into his robe pocket. Back in his office, Albus already had a slim collection of letters just like that one, along with other scattered remnants of his past.
Honestly, Albus, be selfish for once.
The Professor smirked ironically. Binns really had no idea.
Two days had past since Albus Dumbledore had been introduced to Gellert Grindelwald, and they had yet to see each other again. It was mainly due to Albus's distrust of things that he did not understand, and Gellert Grindelwald could be categorized as one of those such things. He was, there just was not another word for it, he was a boy. Not a man/boy like Albus was, nor a boy/dunce like his younger brother, Aberforth. Gellert was a boy who helped his Great Aunt Bathilda in her garden (actually having a relative to care for and have take care of him), a boy who went for long and aimless walk (not having any obligations to a broken family and a house in serious need of repairs), a boy who explored graveyards just for the fun of it (and not having to leave any flowers behind whenever he visited). He was an enigma to Albus, who, ever since he had shown his magical merits, was thrust into the adult world, expected to keep up with the Wizarding World's most brilliant. He had done a fair job of it as well, until at seventeen, nearly eighteen-years-old, he had the burden of a family to care for, a lost brother and sister to parent.
Albus never had the chance to be a boy, which was why Gellert intrigued him so much. Which was why he had been spying on him for the past two days.
Not spying, Albus chastised himself whilst ducking in an overgrown herb garden, observing, as any worthy researcher would when presented with an incomprehensible conundrum. Anyway, said conundrum should be out and about by now, I wonder where he is?
High in the sky, the summer sun had reached its zenith, the hot air marinating around Albus, rich with the aroma of thyme and basil. Herb gardens really were the best hiding place.
"Anything of interest in there?" Said an unmistakably accented voice. Albus nearly died when he heard it, his insides shriveling and turning into dust, trickling away. I am not spying, Albus reminded himself mulishly, I have every right to be in my own herb garden.
"Yes, basil actually. I'm gathering some to make dinner with later on." Albus offered up as a shallow explanation, not bothering to turn around. The aforementioned basil leaves continued to reside unharmed on the plant; surely Gellert must have noticed this.
"Oh, all right." Said the voice. A good handful of seconds pasted by, but Albus could still feel the searing presence of the voice and its owner behind him. It was rather bothersome.
"Excuse me," Albus began to rigidly pluck herb leaves at random, "but can I help you?"
"Yes, I think so."
"What?" Albus abruptly said.
"Why were you watching me, instead of preparing dinner like you said you were?"
The older boy's face started to burn. "I resent that. I would--" he stopped, realizing lying would be stupid. He tried a different approach, "How would you know that I was watching you, unless you were watching me as well?"
"Godric's Hollow has the greenest foliage, and you have the reddest hair--"
"My, that's poetic."
"-- it makes you stick out more obviously than a wizard in muggle clothing."
The two paused, identical, knowing smirks on their faces.
"Wizards do wear horrible muggle attire." Albus acknowledged.
"Nothing but ill fitting suits, and clashing styles." Gellert concurred. "Why were you watching me? I am just being curious."
Finally, Albus faced the other boy. The sun was breaking past his loose, blond hair in many splendid spires, his shadowy face amused and bemused. Albus did not know what to say.
"It's just that--" Albus floundered, "It's-- You're just so young!"
Gellert looked highly affronted.
"And you make me feel so old! So old. . ." Albus had so much more to say than that, but something made him falter. "I'm not making any sense, am I?"
Gellert shook his head. "But you don't need to. I am very used to being spied upon, and I was merely wondering what your reason was. This is the first time someone has told me it was because I was young, usually the perpetrators remark that I am simply good to look at." He grinned, dashingly.
"I'm sure." Albus said, wryly. He got to his feet, smacking garden soil from his knees. "I think I should go now, I've wasted enough time here and dinner is not going to cook itself."
He only managed a few paces before Gellert called him back.
"Albus! You forgot your basil." Even though he could have easily levitated the herbs over to Albus, Gellert brought them over himself and placed them in the other boy's upturned palm.
"Take care of yourself, Albus," Gellert said genuinely, "and don't be afraid of me anymore. You'll come see me, yes?"
"I think so, yes. When I find the time, of course." Albus added quickly. It was a bad habit of his, setting unneeded reservations, but he preferred being the one in control in any situation.
Gellert seemed to understand. He nodded, then sauntered off in the general direction of his Aunt's house. Eventually, he would arrive there.
Even with the last word, Albus still felt oddly disoriented.
A/N Thanks much, for reading this far. -- Remmy