Summary:For fifty years, since the defeat of Albus Dumbledore, Grindlewald has ruled his empire with an iron fist, his armies crushing all those who would oppose him. Harry Potter, born into a world where power is everything and true friends are few and far between finds himself caught up in an inextricable web of lies, soldiers and personal vendettas that leaves the fate of the world in his own two hands.
A/N: There's a chance that this will be the largest and most comprehensive AU you will read. It's not me blowing my own trumpet, it's a warning. Most of what happens here bares little or no relation to canon. Characters, however, hopefully fit true to form even if particular qualities have been singled out and enhanced. This will be my last warning on the subject; don't read this if you don't like hugely AU worlds.
It was the merest of faint rustles that woke him. A beautiful sound; the staccato crackle of leaves brushing together, caught by the whim of an early morning breeze.
It was the sound of freedom.
As he lay, still partially captive to the beguilement's of sleep, he found that as he listened, the sound changed. What at first had been little more than the rustle of the wind was now accompanied by the occasional bar of bird song and somewhere far off, a child's laugh.
For a moment, he thought he'd imagined it. Indeed, the sound was so faint he half believed his ears had been playing tricks on him. Yet, again he heard it, louder.
Slowly and deliberately he eased himself up from the thin mattress. His joints protested as he lifted himself from the bed, aching from their long stretch in such an uncomfortable resting place. Though he had long accepted that he was no longer young, he couldn't help but feel a slight shame in his weakness.
Death he could rationalise. Weakness was a much harder blow to his ego.
Dumbledore sat on the end of his bed, his feet, despite the length of his legs, barely touched the floor. His eyes found the barred window and he smiled slightly at the warm sunlight that spilled through and on to the floor of his cell.
Lifting his long, broken nose upward, Dumbledore sniffed appreciatively at the air. The breeze that crept through the bars of his cell brought with them the slightest aroma of honeysuckle. Summer had finally arrived, he deduced. He was glad, as it had, for some time now, been long overdue.
Finally he rose, pushing his tired feet into a pair of threadbare slippers to avoid the cold stone floor. Seeing no reason to rush, he languidly strolled to the window and peered out in interest.
Beyond the window he could see the Johanna Park as it stretched off toward the banks of the Pleisse. Rich groves dotted the vast expanse of grassland that teemed with people enjoying the Sunday sun.
For a moment, Dumbledore merely stood and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on his face, angling his bristled jaw to best catch the few rays that made it between the bars.
Today was a fine day to die.
Dumbledore allowed several minutes to pass like this before he tired of it. He turned neatly on his heels and crossed the room once more, this time to the low sink and mirror.
He sadly noted, as he did every morning, the short stubble that covered his face. It was a petty worry, he knew, but he had long ago accepted death as an inevitable end to his imprisonment. Dignity seemed such a small ask.
His blue eyes had not lost any of their lustre, he noted. They still sparkled and shone in the early morning light with as much intensity as they had when he was a boy. The rest of his face, on the other hand, was a different matter.
His imprisonment had not been kind to him, these twenty-five years. His complexion, once youthful and somewhat handsome, was now pale and gaunt. His eyes were deep set and ringed by dark skin. His skin was showing the signs of neglect; deep wrinkles had appeared where, if he had not been so neglected, there ought not to be.
He was disturbed however by the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs to his room in the top of the Neues Rathaus tower. In a moment, those footsteps would be replaced by the jangle of keys in the lock of his door.
Any moment now his jailer would enter the room with a cup of tea. It was a matter of long established routine that Dumbledore for his part despised. Uniform repetition and routine was something that Dumbledore detested in all forms. It was one of the things he hated most about his imprisonment.
The door swung open, but for once it was not the jailer that was stood in the doorway.
"Ah Gellert, do take a seat," replied Dumbledore, as though greeting an errant pupil.
The man who now called himself Emperor remained in the doorway, so Dumbledore sat on the edge of his bed instead and examined him.
The years had been kinder to Grindelwald than Dumbledore. Indeed, he had not been imprisoned for twenty-five years. Some of his golden blond hair still remained amongst patches of silver and his face still retained its old handsomeness. The life, however, that had been bursting from his every pore was absent.
Gellert Grindelwald had matured impressively.
Dumbledore allowed his eyes to drift from his old friend and to stare out of the window. He swallowed and began to hum the faintest of melodies as he sat.
"What can I do for you, old friend?" asked Dumbledore finally.
"Give me an excuse," replied Grindelwald, not unkindly.
Dumbledore turned his head and considered him for a moment, and then he smiled sadly.
"Gellert, I will never fathom how your mind works," said Dumbledore.
Grindelwald opened his mouth to speak, but Dumbledore cut across him, proving that even now, a prisoner, he was in the position of authority.
"I won't give you an excuse," he said scathingly. "For your actions are inexcusable."
Grindelwald flushed a deep puce, betraying his frustration.
"Even in the face of death you are as proud as ever, Albus," he snapped. "Can you not even concede your beliefs for one moment?"
"No," replied Dumbledore stoically.
"Not even to save your life?"
Dumbledore looked at him in astonishment. Then he laughed merrily.
"I have no fear of death," he said incredulously. "In fact, I dare say I may rather enjoy it."
Grindelwald stared at his old friend for a long time, the anger in his eyes fading to a deep sadness. Dumbledore merely peered back at him, completely unperturbed.
"Then forgive me, at least," said Grindelwald.
"You know I shall."
Grindelwald turned to leave, but Dumbledore called after him.
Grindelwald turned, hope momentarily in his eyes, but at Dumbledore's stony expression, it faded.
"You will die," said Dumbledore quietly. "I have foreseen it."
Grindelwald's entire being changed in that instant, he stood taller and more upright, his jaw clenched and his eyes flashed menacingly.
"Oh?" he asked, fury resonating through his voice.
"Yes," replied Dumbledore, with no more ill-intent than ever. "And I hope for your sake, they kill you in your sleep and do not humiliate you as you have done to me."
Gellert Grindelwald stared at him, and then laughed heartily.
"You are not a seer," he scoffed.
"I do not have to be," replied Dumbledore. "You yourself will create your own worst enemy. You know yourself that one day; one amongst the people you oppress will stand up and strike back. It is only a matter of time."
Grindelwald took these words as a blow, almost visibly reeling from them. Then he tightened his face once more and sneered at Dumbledore.
"And I will kill them all. Each as they come to me," he said.
Dumbledore laughed again, but this time it was an icy, pitying laugh.
"I wish I had known you for the fool you are, Gellert," he chortled. "I surely would not have lost our duel."
Grindelwald pulled his wand and levelled it at Dumbledore, his irate breathing heavy. His entire body shook in unrestrained anger. For a moment Dumbledore thought he might kill him where he sat, but after a moment, Grindelwald lowered his wand and replaced it. A slight tinge reached his cheeks, embarrassment for having been so easily goaded.
"I will see you in an hour Albus," he said and turned away. He paused momentarily in the door. "I shall have some robes sent up."
With that he left, slamming and locking the door behind him. Dumbledore stared at the door for a moment, half hoping he would return. Then with a sigh, leant back on his bed and looked up at the stone ceiling.
Right now at Hogwarts, in the first days of summer, the children would be sat around the lake. Skimming enchanted stones perhaps, or maybe chasing the snitch across the water, flying low enough for their feet to trace the surface.
Dumbledore had intended to return to Hogwarts after the war. To devote his life to teaching the future of the world, to guide them, to prevent them from becoming as errant as he. He would have had the Headmaster's position in as little as three years and he'd long planned his changes to the curriculum.
"The best laid plans," he murmured aloud.
A moment later he heard the keys jangle in the lock again. Dumbledore rose, half expecting for Grindelwald to return. When the door opened, it was not Grindelwald who entered, but his jailer, carrying a large mug of tea.
"How are you today, Alphard?" he asked kindly.
"A fair sight better than you," replied Alphard cheekily, then winked at Dumbledore. "I brought you a couple of extra biscuits."
"Will you join me?"
"I always do," chortled Alphard as he handed Dumbledore the mug and sat beside him on the bed. "How's tricks?"
"Much the same as ever," replied Dumbledore, sipping his tea appreciatively. "Though I dare say Gellert plans to kill me today."
"Aye, I heard as much," said Alphard, much of his sunny disposition gone at that statement. "But you've had a long innings, eh?"
"Not quite as long as I should have liked," said Dumbledore, a smile on his lips.
Silence reigned between them for a moment then Dumbledore started slightly.
"Please, forgive my manners. How are your family?" he asked.
Alphard snorted as though Dumbledore had said something hilarious.
"Walburga is still being a miserable ole sow," he said happily. "Cygnus married Druella Rosier in the end. Oh and young Sirius starts Hogwarts in September."
"The one who set Orion on fire?" asked Dumbledore in amusement.
"Aye," replied Alphard. "He's a funny little 'un."
Alphard sat with Dumbledore a while and chatted aimlessly. Dumbledore for his part listened intently while he considered the strange little man.
There had never been any malice from Alphard, or even slight unkindness. The first day Dumbledore had been imprisoned here, Alphard had brought him a cup of tea and blathered aimlessly on and it had continued much the same ever since. Over the years they had established a firm friendship, with Alphard bringing him news of the outside world in exchange for a kind ear.
Previous to his incarceration, Dumbledore had known Alphard Black by reputation only, the young man having attended Durmstrang. But what he knew of the man told him he was not to be under estimated, a more savage or skilled wand couldn't be found for miles around.
Unless of course, the stories he'd heard of Tom Riddle were true.
Eventually Alphard and Dumbledore were joined by three other wizards, each of which Dumbledore had known well during his time here. They all wore official robes and long, grave faces. He smiled kindly around at them all and was guided down the long spiral staircase.
As each step brought him closer to his fate, a little touch of apprehension crept into Dumbledore. The slightest of fears, but it was present. Yet a smile snuck on to his face, a wide smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth until he began to chuckle.
Alphard looked at him as though he were crazy. Dumbledore shook his head in merriment.
"I am afraid," he admitted. "It seems my life was not wasted after all."
They stopped at the bottom of the staircase; it was almost pitch black at the bottom of the tower. Dumbledore could barely make out the huge oak doors that separated him from the gallows. After taking a deep breath to steel himself, Dumbledore turned to Alphard once last time and placed his hand upon his shoulder.
"Goodbye, I truly couldn't have asked for a greater friend."
His jailer scoffed but Dumbledore could see the unformed tears in his eyes.
"How about one that isn't going to hang you."
"We each owe a death, Alphard, there are no exceptions," replied Dumbledore and then he turned, his eyes gleaming in mirth. "Though I suppose I've never done very well for friends."
With that, Dumbledore pushed the doors open and stepped out into the sunlight.