Three-way disclaimer: The characters to J. K. Rowling, the verses to William Shakespeare, and the lyrics to Within Temptation. Enjoy.

In this world you tried,
Not leaving me alone
There's no other way,
I pray to the gods let him stay
The memories ease the pain inside,
And now I know why.

I don't want to think of you anymore, except to curse your name. I want to hate you for what you've done to me, for trapping me in this hell. You know that this is worse than death to me. I despise Death, hate the thought of dying--but imprisonment is the only thing I really fear. This is what you want for me? To live out the rest of my miserable life, afraid?

And yet, every time I try to hate you, I can't. Why not? Because I know you don't hate me. If you hated me, you would have stepped out of that school, the school you have always loved, and struck me down before my name was so much as a whisper in England. You would have killed me, because you would think that I have no chance of repenting, that I don't deserve a second chance.

I know you, Albus.

And you know me.

You know that being trapped here, like a rat, like a filthy beast, has made me wise. I have felt the pain of isolation. I have listened, for years and years, to stupid, ignorant guards calling me a monster, a pathetic excuse for a human being. In the past few years (decades, really), their insults have dulled. I am not to be feared or hated anymore. I am just an old man, a pitiful old man stuck in this room, useless. I used to think of Muggles this way, and now I am heartily sorry for it. I don't like feeling as if I have no purpose. It hurts my feelings.

Such a childish thing to say, isn't it? It hurts my feeling. That is what your sister said, the first time she interrupted us in the study and you asked her to leave. Your words were polite, but there was impatience behind them, and, somehow, that little girl with the wide eyes saw that.

"You shouldn't throw me out so quickly, Albus," she said in that light, airy voice of hers. "It hurts my feelings."

And then she drifted away, when anyone else would have stormed out to make their point. She never asked for an apology, and she never got one, but I saw that small sparkle in your eye, that pride in your sister who, for all her innocence and inexperience, was still wiser than we were.

Would it surprise you, that I keep these memories? That is one thing I do not know. But I will be honest with you, Albus. I remember every last moment of that summer. Sometimes, I even fancy I remember my own sighs and content smiles on those night when, inexplicably, you brushed through my dreams. I know very well that I can't--in fact, I don't remember dreaming of you once. But I like imagining that I did.

Why? You may ask. (Or maybe you would not--maybe you would just look at me with those eyes that seemed to know everything, even though I knew you were blind.) It is very simple, Albus.

You are not this tower. You are not hard stone and tattered blankets, and food that is always too cold and too dry and too much like garbage. If this room were you, it would be open and light, filled with the most intriguing objects, many of which have no purpose and many of which have purpose only to you. The blankets would be soft and light in odd colors that look very much green one moment--and very white the next. The food--I confess, the food would still not be to my tastes. Fizzing Whizbees, Cockroach Clusters, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and hot chocolate. Things that older wizards like you and I would normally overlook, the sort of thing that children would eat. You would always remind me to think like a child, and the room would reflect it.

This is why I think of you, Albus. If you were to disappear, I would have no one to imagine a conversation with, to argue with, to laugh with and at, to observe with a careful eye and a wondering mind. You fascinate me. I have met many people--not recently, of course--but none of them is quite so distracting. I need a distraction from this place.

To be frank, I love distractions. Distractions have been the stuff of my life. As a child, I distracted myself from my odious father with thoughts of Durmstrang, imagined duels with dragons and wizards alike. Later, I distracted myself from the disappointment that Durmstrang turned out to be with thoughts of the Hallows. That summer, I distracted myself from my own isolation with you.

You are my distraction still.

All of my memories keep you near
In silent moments, imagine you'd be here
All of my memories keep you near,
In silent whispers, silent tears

But alas, like all my plans, its greatest strength has become its undoing. You, my distraction, are failing me. It is not the first time you have unknowingly failed me. All along, my search, my quest revolved around you, my partner, my equal, my companion. Without you, I failed. I obtained the Elder Wand--always, for me, the greatest temptation--but the other two eluded me. Sometimes I still wonder if you were ever tempted to retrieve the others. You are the Master of the Wand now, and you are a much cleverer man than I was. You would not have sought the Hallows. I think you, great man you have become, are the sort of person whom the Hallows would reveal themselves to.

I am safe, like this, if I imagine who you are now. I can picture you, with flowing robes and a long white beard (a new Merlin, perhaps--how I long to hear you chuckle at a joke like that), and those exact same eyes, leaning forward at your desk to offer a reprimanded child a lemon drop. You are a great teacher, Albus. That much I know, without having to guess or ask. Not a single student will ever understand you, but they all love you just the same.

I feel only a little bitterness when I think of you as you could be, as you are. It is when I am immersed in the past that I struggle. It never fails that, when I picture you in that glorious summer, you are with me. That is how it was. You and I, inseparable.

When I remember you, I see you moving closer, reaching over to pluck the quill from my hand and correcting my errors. I am annoyed, but you only chuckle and explain the predicament with a gentle word and a smile, and suddenly the only thing I can think of is how lucky I am to have found such an equal.

But you are not with me now.

Can you imagine how these memories taunt me? I know how you cope with emotions like these, Albus. You regard them with sadness, but pack them away and deal with the situation at hand, and never again think of them until someone forces you to, with a word or an action. Even then, you deal with that person thoroughly and efficiently, never letting on that you are disturbed. You shut the door on them very politely, and are left alone with your own misery. When it gets to be too much, you pack them away once again.

This is not me. It has never been me. I am immersed in every problem, and I cannot rest until it is resolved. My problem right now, Albus, is you. You, as you used to be. Tall, slender, so confident and damnably charming. You are so difficult to know. With those eyes--those sparkling, delightful blue eyes, you seem as if you stare through everyone, understand everything.

Yet, in the same moment you reveal much of yourself through small, insignificant things. The tiniest curve of a smile, your thoughtful reveries, the penchant for sweets. It is as if you are trying to impress upon everyone the idea that they already know you, that there is no need to struggle for more. In this, your openness, you protect yourself, at the same time disarming anyone who has been in your presence too long.

It is working, Albus. You are not even here, and yet I am disarmed. When you disappear I am left, tender emotions exposed in this small room. It is hell--unlike those beguiling summer days, you are not here to care to my raw wounds.

Made me promise I'd try,
To find my way back in this life
I hope there is a way,
To give me a sign you're okay
Remind me again it's worth it all,
So I can go home.

However much of your present life remains a mystery to me, I can venture this one opinion with certainty: if you had one mistake to undo, you would return to that summer. You would look me in the eye, the moment we met, and say, "Do not search for the Hallows."

I cannot quite imagine my own reaction. I would have been astounded, of course, and haughty and distant. But, in truth, Albus, I think you would have won me over eventually. Quite simply, I was already fascinated with you. You were different than anyone I had known before. Those fools at Durmstrang, they stood firmly and immovably, like rock, their minds like rock, but you--you, graceful and comfortable like air, with a mind that flowed from one idea to another with ease and thoughtfulness.

That very day, I unpacked my belongings in the room that was to be mine. I didn't bother with clothes or any of that nonsense. Instead, I unpacked articles snipped from Transfiguration Today and Practical Potioneer. My great-aunt had translated them and sent them to me at Durmstrang, hoping to influence me. She had thought that seeing what an impact a young boy could make would help guide me.

Perhaps they did. Instead, I focused on the work, not the idea of a man behind it. I found copies of the original English articles, and learned English, and learned the magic. Like many others, I was astounded at the brilliance of young Albus Dumbledore. Unlike everyone else, I wanted to meet Albus Dumbledore in order to criticize him. His theories, while impressive, were not possible in my mind. No, I wanted a good solid debate, and you gave me that when we met.

I was impressed, though I did not show it. Instead, I drew you into my quest for the Hallows, and therein lies both our follies.

Can you imagine, dear Albus, what a summer it could have been, were it not for the Hallows? It pains me to even think of it, because it is unlike my life now as could be. Instead of wild imaginings, arrogant schemes to control the world, each day could have been filled with lazy intellectual discourse, experimentation, joint writings of the most profound thoughts of the day.

You would never have spared a moment of jealousy for Doge, had it been the summer it should have been. I would have seen your true thoughts, your each and every longing, and been only too eager to fulfill whatever role you had required. I could have fallen in love properly, like you did. Instead, the revelation of my own feelings came jerkily, in unsatisfying fragments of ideas that were not put together until long after I had fled and Ariana lay dying on the floor.

I know you love me, Albus. I know you are the sort of man who never forgets love, and I feel like crying out to you, though I know you can't hear me, to tell you that I do not forget either. Even as you defeated me, as I lay wounded on the ground, the Elder Wand lost, I knew that we were bound together as surely and as tragically as that foolish Muggle couple in the play you read down by the old willow tree, the play I scorned because I wanted your attention all to myself.

You bent down, and I saw the pain in your eyes--suddenly they were not blue anymore, but a dark, stormy color I may have imagined. You whispered, "I am sorry, Gellert, and you should be as well. But surely--surely you must understand?"

Your voice broke, but you composed yourself, and your voice was louder when you spoke again, loud enough for the twisted sort of audience to hear.

"This is the greater good."

I am sure that quote has gone down in many history books. In that moment, I was broken. Quietly--too quietly for anyone to hear, perhaps even you, I hissed, "I hate you."

I didn't. That was a lie, Albus, a damned lie. You were giving me a chance, and I loved you for it, though it took me years to admit it. You asked me to change, and I have. I have, and I saw in your face that, even though you asked it, you never expected I would. If I were not trapped in here like a bird in a cage, I would fly to England and call for you, trumpeting my change of heart all along the way.

I beg of you to come to Nurmengard someday, just once, before I die. I am dying, and I know it. I still despise Death, because it would keep me from you, Albus. You must understand--I need you to know that I have changed. Please, bring life to this place, just for a moment, and let me die in peace.

All of my memories keep you near
In silent moments, imagine you'd be here
All of my memories keep you near
In silent whispers, silent tears.

I think I am going insane, Albus. You are here. You are here in the dead of night, and you have come through the door, and none of the lazy, stupid guards have seen you. You are not a new Merlin, and your eyes are not clouded with pain. They flash in the light of the moon, which is impossible because the moon is only a crescent, and nothing but full moonlight will fit through that scratch they call a window.

Ridiculously, I am ashamed of my rags and filth. I know you do not care for appearances, have never cared for what other people appear to be, but it bothers me nonetheless. I look away, and your quiet laugh breaks the silence.

Have I forgotten your laugh? I think I must have, because there is no other explanation for the joy it brings. You sit next to me, and even in the darkness I can see the color of your hair. I used to tease you about that--you get enough attention as it is without such a scarlet mane.

Your smile is gentle, your eyes are fond. You are asking me to tease you, Albus, but I can't. I do not understand why you are here, after so long, and I cannot find the words. "I'm sorry," springs to mind, but you would only brush that away and insist that I am not the only one who must apologize. I don't want you to apologize to me.

"I have changed," I could say. You would only smile wider and say that you knew I would, and that would make me feel so much better than I am.

"Very hospitable, this place--thanks for recommending it," is always an option. Gruff words, with a small grin so you know I understand? But there is a possibility bitterness might seep in to my voice, and you would feel responsible again.

Blast--I'm crying, Albus, crying because you are too confusing now. You look like the boy I knew--know, I correct myself silently--but I am not the boy I was. You sit there, unscarred from these wretched, wretched years, and I would give anything to be like you. I can never be as good as you.

You move closer and cup my face. A few tears are brushed aside, but not all of them. I can imagine you saying something wise, something the real Albus Dumbledore--the old man, the Headmaster and hero--would know, but instead you just stare at me with those infuriating, disarming eyes.

For a brief moment, I forget that I am not young and unspoiled as you are. You are too close to me, and I am sixteen, foolish and ridiculously, grudgingly in love. The brush of your lips is almost too light to be real. I want more, I want reality--but even my imagination cannot give me that.

For all your Gryffindor bravery, and my supposed daring, neither of us ever summoned the courage for something real. That summer, that kiss, is as good as a dream.

I open my eyes again. Another dream.

But for my tears and this cold, empty, hard, dirty, godforsaken room, all is a dream.

Together in all these memories,
I see your smile
All of the memories I hold dear
Darling, you know I'll love you,
Til the end of time.

Damned dreams. I'm sick of them, Albus. Once again I am trying my very best to hate you. If it were anyone else, I would. Why can't I hate you? I have heard so many stories, murders being committed and lives broken from love turned into hate. I know it is possible, but I cannot do it.

A memory floats by, you insisting that an ape Transfigured into a human could, if sustained long enough, possess a soul and function as a real person. I laughed, and I will never forget your response--"Just because I am inferior, does not mean the theory is inferior." The idea of being inferior never occurred to us much that summer. It was unsettling to me, but you smiled, and I accepted it.

Is that it? The source of my weakness? That smile?

I have lived a long time (I have been dead a long time as well), but I have never found a smile like yours. The tender curl of your lips, pressed together as if you are constantly a moment from laughter, the soft creases around your eyes, the play of your brows over those impenetrable, indescribable eyes. I have many memories, Albus, but your smile is the strongest.

I have seen photos of myself, when I was young. My smile was manic. It haunts me, even now, because it lacks something from yours. The one thing I am not, and will never be, no matter how much I may regret my actions, is gentle, and you are so gentle I cannot believe I ever thought to persuade you to harm people.

Perhaps, if I had more time to live, more time to be free with you, I could learn tenderness, and the words kind and weakness would not mean the same thing. In time, perhaps the wild, deadened look in my eyes could fade. But even then, I could not smile like you.

Albus. Dear, dear Albus. My love, though I have never had the courage to say the word. We do not have the time. I am dying in here and, as much as it pains me to think, you are dying out there. We are not Masters of Death. Those boyhood dreams, that foolish quest is finished, and we have lost.

It is only now that I realize how deeply I feel for you. I stare at these blank, black walls, and my head is full of summer days and long hours spent in study, books open among willow trees and ridiculous British sweets. I am in love with the boy you were and the man you are, though I fear that I cannot fully appreciate either.

I tell you this because I want you to know that you were right. Love is the strongest thing in the world. At first, you said it as if it were a disadvantage, only used to urge me to be less violent so that the families of those we rose over would not detest us. Grudgingly, I allowed that weaker minds might be swayed by love.

I was wrong. You were right. My love, you were always right. It is quite possible that I am going mad, and soon we will meet in another life, as different people with a different fate, and possibly we will love like we were meant to that summer, without our own follies getting in the way.

Until then--know that when I moan and sob and curse you in my solitude, it means no more and no less than I love you.

All of my memories keep you near
In silent moments, imagine you'd be here
All of my memories keep you near,
In silent whispers, silent tears.

It was early morning, and Gellert was looking for Albus. He had checked the Dumbledores' house; Ariana and Aberforth were sleeping soundly, but Albus was gone. The cemetery was empty, so there was only one other place he could be.

There were very few trees in Godric's Hollow, but the old willow at the end of the street was magnificent. Gellert approached it confidently, and sure enough, Albus was sitting there, leaning against the trunk with a thin volume in his hand.

"What are you reading?" he asked. He was partially hoping that Albus would jump, but the other boy only looked up with a small smile.

"Romeo and Juliet."

"I have never heard of it."

"Pity. It's a very tragic play, one of the most compelling love stories ever written."

"That does not mean much," he said disdainfully, sitting next to Albus under the tree. Albus looked down at the book again. "Most love stories are nothing of note."

"True. You should read it--the author is a very famous Muggle, William Shakespeare. A beast of a man, very unfaithful, quite vulgar at times, but he had a way with words, nonetheless."

The conversation lapsed as Gellert read a passage over Albus' shoulder. He was sure that his friend, with a much better grasp of English, had finished with the page, but Albus was patient.

"I do not understand," he says finally. "Honey--that is a sweetener, yes? Aunt Bathilda takes it with her tea. Why is it used this way?"

"It's a metaphor, Gellert. Poetry."

"I have never had much time for poetry. What does it mean?"

"It is--it is a metaphor for beauty, for liveliness. Friar Lawrence is a wizard--few know it, but this story was inspired by a true event--the playwright merely sculpted a romantic tale out of a simple tax fraud. In the story, Friar Lawrence brewed a potion so Juliet could appear dead, so she will be taken from her relatives and reunited with her husband. Romeo missed the letter and was unaware of the plan, and he notes that she looks as beautiful as if she were alive. It is ironic, because she really--"

"I understand irony, Albus," he snaps. "I still do not understand. Perhaps if you would translate it--in a more familiar language, I may interpret it better."

"No, no, no," Albus said, and his voice was jokingly pompous. "Shakespeare cannot be translated. It is simply not right in anything but English. You must comprehend, Gellert--it is not so much the meaning of the word, but the sound of it. Listen." He cleared his throat, and began to read. There was a richness, a rhythm to his voice that Gellert had never heard.

"How oft when men are at the point of death
Have they been merry! which their keepers call
A lightning before death: O, how may I
Call this a lightning? O my love! my wife!
Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death's pale flag is not advanced there."

Gellert was entranced. Albus' eyes were deeper than they had ever been, shining in the early morning sunlight. The wind played with his long hair, brushed against his face. He looked… peaceful. It came to him suddenly, that any amount of struggle was worth it, if he can rid Albus of all his troublesome worries and responsibilities. It would all be worth it, to make space in the world for poetry on a warm summer morning.

"Read those lines again," he requested, once Albus paused, seeking his opinion. They both knew which lines he was speaking of.

"Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer'd."

"I think understand," he said slowly.

"It is not like the Hallows," Albus said. "It's a different sort of conquered."

"Yes. More peaceful, certainly… but there is not quite so much hope."

"You don't think?" Albus closed the book, and they had turned just a little bit to face each other. He looked very solemn. "It is a nice thought that, even if we fail, there is yet some chance that we remain on Earth… in some way."

"We will not fail," he said confidently. "And besides, you said the girl was not really dead."

"No."

"And neither are we."

"No," Albus chuckled. "No, we are certainly not dead."

Their eyes met, and for a moment it seemed that Albus was deeply disappointed. But he reached up with one hand and very lightly cupped Gellert's cheek, and guided him into a kiss as sweet and insubstantial as the golden sunlight. Gellert smiled into the kiss, and felt Albus smile too, and suddenly it was no longer a kiss, but the two of them sitting under the tree smiling at each other.

In a summer where nothing seemed to go right, and good was never good enough, that moment was perfect.

All of my memories...