At the Burrow
With a growing feeling of impending doom Arthur slowly let his feet lead him back in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron. The nation couldn't figure out where he had gone wrong! He had been nice, polite, a regular gentlemen. Hell! He was England! His people were supposed to be born with a built in trust of him. What could have happened to make Mr. Weasley distrust his nation? If the crowds hadn't already been parting due to his curious clothes; the aura of depression that surrounded him now would have certainly deterred any attempt at contact that would have been made.
He was England, Mr. Weasley's nation. Their day together had been full of calm emotions, peaceful feelings and inspiring loyalty. Not distrust! Maybe it was because Mr. Weasley was a wizard and the wizarding world in England was almost completely seceded from the muggle world of England. Arthur sighed, both hands deep inside his pockets, his new wand in position up his sleeve. He barely resisted the overwhelming urge to kick a rock, or a puppy.
Everything had been going swimmingly until Arthur had mentioned his need to send an owl to Albus. He frowned as he felt something twist inside his chest, rising to tickle irritatingly at the back of his throat. Had something happened to Albus? Had the man done something wrong? Mr. Weasley had mentioned an announcement. With a curse Arthur wished he had been able to ask Mr. Weasley what it had been about!
As the large archway came into sight Arthur picked up his pace. Sure it was an odd coincidence that he and Mr. Weasley had become acquainted on that same day Arthur found himself needing to contact Albus. It was just another coincidence that Albus just so happened to be joining the Weasley family for supper. But that was all coincidence! Or possibly fickle fate, playing with the nation's life. Did Mr. Weasley suspect it to be something else? Something sinister?
The tavern was just as dimly lit and smoky as it had been when Arthur passed through earlier. Arthur looked sullenly about the room for the fireplace. In his depression he was finding it difficult to ignore the disturbed glances and rude whispers. Had he left the wizarding world alone too long? It didn't seem like any of these wizards felt the almost undetectable feeling of kinship they should have felt while in their nations presence. Did none of them feel the loyalty he was supposed to inspire? Their pride as Britons?
He shuffled up to the bar and signaled to capture the toothless Tom's attention. The barkeeper flicked his wand, leaving a mug and the dishcloth cleaning it floating in midair as he approached the sullen nation.
"Is 'ere somthin' I can help you with Sir? Would you like a drink? A room?"
Arthur shook his head and his spirits raised some from the barkeepers kindness. Sure, it was more the man trying to coerce him into spending money rather than ignoring his oddness. But it felt nice nonetheless.
"Unfortunately not at this time. I was looking for the fireplace. Do you charge to use the floo?"
Tom shook his head in a negative as he pointer the shorter man towards the fireplace. Ahead of him were a few of the wizards in fancy robes. They couldn't seem to decide where they wanted to go. After them was a mother and her rambunctious young son, who wasted no time and stepped directly into the fire as soon as the men were clear.
Arthur stepped up to the fireplace when his turn came. He reached up onto the top of the mantle to grab a handful of floo powder as he had seen the others do before him. He paused, just outside the range of the flickering flames, running the sooty powder between his fingers. He remembered floo travel well enough. He remembered how much he dreaded it as well.
Arthur sighed. What would be waiting for him at the other side? A cold reception? Or would Albus have already arrived? He glanced towards the door. It would be so easy to step outside and hail a taxi to take him home. To just forget this whole going back to school business. But his frown became a scowl as Denmark's laughing face crossed his mind. He threw the powder into the fire, not even blinking as the orange flames flared green. He took a deep breath and stepped into the hearth.
Arthur's world began to spin out of control. He felt himself spinning out of London and out across the countryside. His lungs were begging for air but he refused to take a breath. Choking on soot was never pleasant. He squeezed his eyes shut as he began to feel nauseous. Other wizards traveled like this all the time, Arthur could handle it! He felt the rotation slowing and the nation spread his feet slightly, to balance himself. He'd be damned if he fell out of the Weasley's fireplace like a fool.
The spinning stopped facing into a large ramshackle kitchen filled with people. Arthur stepped from the fireplace as gracefully as possible, brushing the soot from his uniform as he took a shallow breath. After a deeper breath, to compose himself as well as take in oxygen, Arthur smiled and looked up to greet Mr. Weasley and his friends. He was slightly taken aback to find himself held at wand point.
Seven witches and wizards stood in the kitchen, including Mr. Weasley and the red haired woman that could only be his wife Molly. Two other women, one younger with bright pink hair and a severe-looking older woman with her black hair pulled into a tight bun, stood beside her. Next to Mr. Weasley were three other men. A shabby looking man who's brown hair, despite his young appearance, was sprinkled with grey stood next to an shorter grizzled man covered in scars. Arthur found it hard not to stare at him, he was missing a leg as well as a large chunk from his nose. A false eye rolled madly in it's socket. Behind these two stood the third, a tall black man with broad shoulders and a small golden hoop earring in one ear. Straightening his back the nations cleared his throat, staring at the seven with an eyebrow slightly raised.
"Well, I apologize if I've arrived early. If you'd like I could leave and return at a better time."
The scarred man threw back his head with a bark of laughter. The false eye ceased it's crazed rolling and focused on Arthur with an unnerving focus.
"Well lookie here! Arthur's brought us a comedian! Sorry jester, but I'm afraid you aren't going to be able to leave until Dumbledore clears your story." The man moved forward, false eye trained on the sleeve that held Arthur's wand. "Why don't you hand over your wand and we'll all settle in for a much more comfortable wait."
Arthur's jaw clenched tightly as he pushed his shoulders back and held his head high. Who did this man think he was? Insulting him this way, as if he were an intruder to be weary of. He had been invited! As for asking him to surrender his weapon, ridiculous!
"I will do no such thing! Why I have half a mind to simply leave and send Albus an owl as I had originally intended! What is the meaning of this Mr. Weasley? Unless I've been terribly mistaken, I was invited into your home as a guest, not a prisoner!"
Mr. Weasley had the decency to flush with embarrassment, but he kept his wand steady and raised. "I am sorry for his Mr. Kirkland. You do seem like a pleasant fellow, but there's no being too careful these days. And your presence just seems to be too much of a coincidence."
Arthur frowned. There it was again, that feeling deep in his chest. He raised a hand and rubbed at it unconsciously. It felt like a sickness taking hold. The shabby man stepped forward his wand raised in position to cast any of multiple spells. Arthur met his gaze defiantly.
"I apologize Mr. Kirkland, but if you do not hand over your wand peacefully then I am going to have to take it from you by force."
He couldn't help it, Arthur laughed. Right in the shabby mans face. The nation spread his feet, placing his fists on his hips in a haughty pose. With his head slightly tilted and an old familiar cocky grin on his face Arthur could almost feel the ghost of an ostrich feather tickling at the back of his neck.
"You will take my wand from me? By force! Boy, I would like to see you try. It has been attempted before and the results have not always been pleasant for the fools who tried."
Arthur drew upon the old magics; powers that had been breathed by the land since the beginning of time. Magics that gave him and other nations their lives and human bodies. Slowly the lights of the room flickered and dimmed as a faint scent of brine filled the air. Every one of the seven, save the scarred old man, took an involuntary step back and stumbled when the room began to rock on imaginary waves.
The false eye was once again rolling madly, taking in the entire room, as it's owner raised his wand, a spell ready on his lips. Arthur was beginning to suspect that the eye had magical properties of it's own. At the barest hint of a thought the royal oak wand jumped into his hand. He could feel the eagerness pulsing, barely contained, inside the wood. The wand wanted to battle, to conquer, and Arthur wondered for a moment when it had been made. Had it been during a time that he also thirsted for conquest? If he had found this wand back then how differently would history have played out?
But the moment quickly past. Blazing red stunners shot past him as the scarred man attacked. Sidestepping the spells was easy, centuries of swordplay training his footwork to near perfection. Another spell ruffled his hair as it flew by. The others were beginning to regain their footing, both women quickly began firing spells of their own. Arthur thought quickly for a spell to use that would not damage anyone, but suitably distract them.
The spell was intended to force the victim into an insanely quick paced dance, like he had seen Feliciano and Romano perform more than once in the past. At least that was what was supposed to happen. With a shower of purple sparks a charm of finches burst from the end of Arthur's wand, chirping madly as they searched for a way out of the kitchen. Arthur and everyone else in the room paused for a moment, stunned, and Arthur's face flamed red with embarrassment.
How could that have happened? Wasn't this new wand supposed to fix that? The others quickly pulled themselves from their stupor, raising their wands again with fresh spells on their lips. Arthur, mortified, contemplated simply running back into the fireplace. Maybe if he burned himself badly enough and pretended to be dead they would toss out his corpse. Then he could simply return home and pretend that this little accident had never happened.
"My goodness, what is going on here?"
Arthur froze. The lights flared abruptly back to life as the scent and rocking motions vanished. Lowering his wand he slowly turned to look in the direction the voice had come from. It sounded familiar, though it had been near fifty years since the last time he had heard it and the man seemed to have aged considerably in those years.
Albus Dumbledore had been over one hundred years old when he had defeated Grindelwald, but in Arthur's memory he had still seemed to be in the prime of his life. The last fifty years had changed that. His beard and hair had grown long and the salt and pepper color had turned silvery-white. His skin was still pale, though his cheeks had a rosy blush. His powder blue eyes twinkled from behind the same half-moon shaped spectacles he had worn since he became a professor at Howarts. Arthur couldn't help but smile as those eyes widened slightly with shock as they settled upon him.
"Hello Albus, it's been a long time."
The victory parties were everywhere, spilling out of taverns into the streets and lighting up homes like it was Christmas time. Arthur Kirkland weaved through the revelers dancing outside of the Hogs Head pub, eyes searching for a particular figure. He had never been formally introduced to Albus Dumbledore, a man quickly becoming renowned as the most powerful wizard of the century. A few times they had acknowledged each other across a crowded room but the two had never shared more than a few, brief, words.
And that was all Arthur's doing of course. He had first met Albus Dumbledore in 1855, when the boy began his first year at Hogwarts . Even at the tender age of eleven he was showing tremendous potential. Arthur had been visiting the current headmaster at the time they met. As he was leaving he passed by young Albus in the entrance hall and, for barely a moment, their sleeves brushed. In that moment Arthur could see a vision of the future. Albus had continued on to his next class, laughing with his friends and ignoring the odd man who stopped to openly stare at him in the hallway.
Sometimes, when a nation first meets a person, they simply know that said person will go on to do great things. Will be a hero. Arthur had a vision that day and he had known that Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore would be such a hero. And now, that vision had come to pass.
For years Gelert Grindelwald had been pulling the strings behind the Nazi parties conquest of Europe. With the dark wizard defeated the Allies had already seen a drastic change in the muggle Nazi leader. Without the wizard pulling his strings Adolf Hitler's mental instability was beginning to show in his command. They were going to end the war soon and Arthur knew that it was all thanks to Albus Dumbledore.
The nation peered into the pub, searching for his hero. A man behind the counter caught his attention for a moment, but it wasn't Albus. Aberforth Dumbledore had charmed a row of mugs to float in front of the open tap as he called out that, tonight, all drinks were on the house. Arthur sighed, stepping out of the way as a pair of drunken revelers stumbled past. He turned up the path towards Hogwarts, the castle was closed for the beginning of summer term but it was as good a place to search as any.
The road to the castle was surprisingly quiet. Arthur couldn't help but smile at the tranquility of the night. For now he was aloud to celebrate, tonight he would congratulate his hero for his victory. But tomorrow he would return to the front lines, the wizards war might be over for now but the muggle war continued. Silently he slipped through the open gates, he passed the Quidditch pitch and the small shack where the young new gameskeeper lived. He walked beside the castles walls, trailing a hand over the cool and mossy stone almost as ancient as himself as he headed towards the cliffs over the lake.
And there he stood, alone, quietly thinking as he watched the moonlight reflect off the surface of the lake below. Arthur's footsteps drew his attention as he approached. Albus Dumbledore turned, looking him over with a bright smile. Arthur couldn't help but return that smile and joined the other.
"Ah, you are Mr. Kirkland correct? I'm afraid that we've never had the chance to be formally introduced."
Arthur nodded. Well, if Albus wanted a formal introduction he surely deserved one.
"That's correct, my name is Arthur Kirkland. Though it is only one that I am known by."
Albus quirked an eyebrow, his eyes watching as the giant squid raised it's tentacles to splash heavily at the surface of the water. Occasionally in the darkness of the water the flash of a mermaid's fin could be seen.
"Oh? And what other names might you go by then?"
Arthur grinned, glancing at the taller man over his shoulder.
"If I were to tell you all of the names I've answered to over my lifetime we would be here all night. You'll no doubt think me a little mad when I tell you. I hope that you won't hold that against me."
Albus chuckled. He folded his arms into the long sleeves of his robe and turned to face Arthur, moonlight flashing on his spectacles. The nation was glad to see that he appeared more amused than anything. In these days it was so easy to fall too suspicion. True Grindelwald was now locked away in a dungeon but it was unlikely that the Aurors would ever round up all of his followers. Then there were the extremely unsettling rumors on the air that the dark wizard had been training an apprentice.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing to be thought a little mad every now and then. It certainly allows one to get away with things that one could never if they were purely sane."
Both men chuckled, watching the moon, the mermaids and the giant squid dance across the water far beneath them. Arthur's laughter was overcome by a coughing fit. He hunched over, his hands on his knees feeling as if he was about to hack up a lung. He gratefully took the handkerchief Albus offered. Soon the fit passed and the handkerchief came away, covered in what appeared to be black tar. Arthur mumbled an apology, searching his pockets for his wand to clean the handkerchief. But Albus waved away his apology taking the cloth gingerly and examining it carefully for a moment before using a cleaning charm.
"Have you been to see a MediWizard for that yet?"
Arthur shook his head, grimacing slightly at the bile taste left behind in his mouth. He would be happy when this damnable war was finally over.
"No, I'm afraid not even a MediWizard would be able to help me. I am not ailed by an illness per say. When the Allies finally defeat the Axis powers and this war we have been fighting is truly settled, then I will be begin to heal."
Albus watched him, eyes twinkling madly. Arthur turned, finally regaining his composure, and made a half bow from the waist.
"Albus Dumbledore, my formal name is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However I prefer to be known simply as England. I'm am here to personally express my gratitude to you for what you have done for the Allied forces. You may not realize it now, but by your actions we should have the Muggle war ended soon. Hopefully by the end of this year."
Arthur glanced up into his saviors face. He didn't expect Albus to believe him. If the wizard pressed the issue Arthur would be able to prove his identity beyond a shadow of a doubt, but he didn't believe Albus would press him for such proof.
"I see! Well I can definitely see why some people might believe you to be a little mad. Who in their right mind would want to take responsibility for a whole nation, let alone a kingdom."
Arthur nodded, rising from the bow with a half cocked smirk on his lips.
"Yes, no one in their right mind would accept this job. Thankfully Nations are not given a choice, we are born into this position as our civilizations are born. We live until our civilization and people die and during our lifetimes we try to govern them to the best of our abilities."
Albus nodded, chuckling lightly.
"Headmaster Dippet complains all the time to the staff about how difficult it is to manage a school filled with children. I can only imagine that governing a nation full of people would be similar, though on a much grander scale."
Arthur chuckled at the understatement for a few moments, but it was once again time to be serious.
"You sacrificed a great many things to do what you did Albus Dumbledore."
Albus only sighed, his eyes once again trained on the surface of the lake.
"All over England, all over Europe, they are hailing you as the greatest wizard of the century. You'll probably never have more than a few moments peace for the rest of your life. Everything you do, everything you say will be analyzed by friends and enemies alike."
Arthur could see Albus' shoulders tensing and sighed. He hadn't even reached the kicker yet.
"But not even that compares to what else you have sacrificed. The what could have been."
The muscles along the jaw tensed, grinding pearly white teeth together. Arthur could see the fabric of a gaudy purple sleeve ripple as Albus clenched a hand around his wand.
"I'm sorry that you had to face Gindelwald. I know that it is never easy to face a loved one on the field of combat. Especially when you stand on opposite sides."
Albus Dumbledore finally lost control of his finely crafted and honed patience. His wand ripped out of his robe and the moonlight was obscured by the brilliant red aura surrounding the wizard. Despite this being the outcome he had been prodding at Arthur suffered a twinge of uncertainty.
He had been killed by wizards in the past. When he was still small. But none of them had anywhere near the caliber of power of Albus Dumbledore. It was possible that if Albus Dumbledore wanted him dead, he might just stay that way. But when the wizard lashed out it was not at the nation beside him.
A blazing bolt of red lighting sped across the lake in the blink of an eye. It struck a tree on the opposite shore with a crack like thunder as the wood splintered into millions of pieces. Smoke rose from the charred remains of the stump. Arthur fought to keep his relief from showing on his face. It would have been dreadfully painful to come back to live as a smoking pile of charred flesh.
"You say that you are here to express the gratitude of the Allied nations for what I've done?"
Arthur nodded, drawing his own handkerchief to wipe away the tears freely flowing down the others face.
"I left the front lines so that I could come see you and offer my condolences as well. Tomorrow afternoon I am stationed to return to the front lines, but until then I am at your disposal. England owes you a great deal and I will do my best to accomplish anything that you ask of me."
Albus caught him by the wrist, lowering their hands slowly as he looked his nation in the eye.
"I do not know if I believe that you are who you say you are. But I will be grateful in turn, if you could help me forget. If only for tonight."
Arthur smiled kindly and used his captured wrist to draw the other close.
"That Sir, is something I can most definitely do."
A/N: For those of you who believe Albus to be OOC towards the end of the flashback. Allow me to explain why I wrote him that way. It is my believe that during their younger years while living in Godric's Hollow, Albus and Gelert Grindelwald were lovers. I don't believe that Grindelwald loved Albus, he was probably just seducing him to have all that power on his side. But I believe that Albus really loved Grindelwald, despite his betrayal. Albus was putting on a brave face for the wizarding world while holding in his own personal grief. When Arthur poked him it just burst out and it needed an outlet (or a bandage) that Arthur was happy to be.
Also I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed. Every time I see a new review in my inbox I do a little dance for joy. I'd like to assure everyone that I have no intention of letting this fic die. I just write very, very slowly. And for that I apologize. I hope that everyone enjoyed this chapter! I know I did.