A/N: (this was written around July)
I went to Infinitus 2010! Best time of my entire life, without exaggerating…I've never met so many HP fans, and it blew my mind away! I lost my voice…too much cheering xD
Anyway, this fanfic was inspired by a particular talk that was about the power of love and choice in Dumbledore's life, and after many interesting conversations about him, I ended up getting this idea. So thank you to Infinitus and the people I spoke to about this subject. I hope you like this story. I don't actually have DH with me, since I'm sitting in the lobby of the hotel at the moment, so you must forgive anything that isn't canon-ish. Also, I hope you like the OC I created for this…her purpose is only to guide you through a third-person view of Albus' life in that time.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognize; that is all property of J.K. Rowling. I do, however, own Eliza, and she's awesome xD
"He is so full of ideas, Eliza! The most wonderful, intelligent ideas that I've ever heard! We will be the ones to put order in the world, as terrible a state as it is in at the moment, and we will set the Muggles in place, guide them in the way that wizards were always meant to! I have so many ideas for this new world…and you have no idea….we have discovered something that is more extraordinary than anything you can imagine! And I cannot tell you what it is, right now, you will have to forgive me, but I will tell you someday…someday you'll see the extent of the wonders we have planned for the world…"
They sat on the kitchen doorstep, where they had sat together every summer holiday for the past three years, hidden by the large green bushes from the view of the rest of the neighborhood. No one knew Eliza Smeek and Albus Dumbledore were friends; he was a Gryffindor and she was a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts, and they never mingled. But back at home they found each other to talk to; Eliza escaping from her Muggle father and her spiteful sister, two people who had never understood her; and Albus escaping from the chaos of a mentally unstable sister and a brother whom he could not relate to properly.
He had been forced to give up his Grand Tour to take care of his siblings after his mother died. Eliza knew that not going had hurt him more than he cared to show. It had been a great blow on the Head Boy, the best in every class, the one who everyone said was destined to greatness. Albus had had to leave it all in favor of a family he had always tried to escape. And Eliza remained at Hogwarts, wondering how Albus would cope with the responsibility.
And then, Gellert Grindewald had appeared.
She never knew exactly how they met, but either way, Gellert was there for Albus when no one else was, and when she came back for the summer holidays she found Albus a changed youth, full of new ideas that seemed too outrageous for her to process.
Eliza supposed she ought to have written, but her relationship with Albus had never been one that kept itself alive through letters. They had never written to each other, and she felt uncomfortable doing so, not knowing what he was thinking or going through. Eliza could always understand Albus when they were alone together and she was staring into his clear blue eyes, not imagining his reaction in her mind.
Albus never guessed that she was in love with him. His mind was much too occupied with other thoughts to ever really consider any kind of romantic relationships. In a way, he had been born much older than the hormonal teenager he was supposed to be at his age, and from the first moment, Eliza had accepted that. She had resigned herself to peaceful companionship with Albus, sharing books and homework in a way only a prodigious Gryffindor and an intelligent Ravenclaw could do.
But this was different. This year was much too different…he was much too different.
"I don't like this, Albus," she said.
His blue eyes were confused. "What?"
"I…I don't like this talk of setting the Muggles in place," she said. "What's that supposed to mean? That you'll be the Kings and they the servants or something? Albus, my father is a Muggle."
Albus sighed. "You don't understand, Eliza," he said. "This is for their good too…and yes, maybe things won't be the same as they are now, but look at the world! It's as chaotic as it can get, and the Muggles need someone to guide them. It's for the greater good."
She bit her lip. "I still don't like it."
He extended a hand to touch her arm, smiling at her. "Maybe now you don't understand, but I told you, someday you will see how beautiful these ideas are! Just wait…it will be wonderful."
And she let him talk to her of those things, of his and Gellert's ideas, because it made him happy and she was afraid to sadden him; his life was sad enough, his family broken enough. He needed something to cheer him up, something that could make is extraordinary mind pass the time, because there was nothing more depressing than his worn out, shabby house, and his depressing family.
Eliza often frequented Albus' house after his mother died, and it had become habit to enter with only a knock on the kitchen door before swinging it wide. It was a cloudy afternoon, quickly approaching dusk. She knocked the door once and placed her hand on the handle, pulling it.
But the door did not open. It was locked. Startled at this change, for Albus had never locked their kitchen door for as long as she could remember, she knocked harder.
"Who is it?" It was Aberforth's voice coming through the wood.
"It's me, Eliza," she said. "What's going on? Why is the door locked?"
She could almost see his scowl in her mind's eye. She had never become friends with Aberforth, prone as he was to violent outbursts and quick offenses, and he had never found particular interest in her, nor she in him. Still, she knew him well enough to hear the anger in his voice when he spoke.
"We're locked in. Albus locked us in."
"What? Albus locked you in? Is Ariana there?"
She knew Ariana, of course. Not very well, though, because she kept to herself and the brothers did not encourage anyone to talk to her; Albus out of a kind of embarrassment and worry that she would hurt someone, and Aberforth out of over protectiveness.
"Yeah, she's here. He locked all the doors this morning and left with that idiot, I'm-so-smart-Gellert to go Merlin knows where."
"Good grief, I can't believe he'd do that!" Eliza let escape a growl of frustration as she pulled at the handle. The door did not budge.
Pulling out her wand, she preformed the Alohomora charm and entered the shabby home. It was more the outrage and the humiliation of being locked in the house that had Aberforth in a rage, rather than the fact that he could not go out.
She stayed in the house with him, Ariana safely asleep in the room that was specially kept for her. It was seldom that Eliza saw her, and for that she was grateful; there was something disturbing about the frail, blonde little girl.
It was dusk when Albus finally appeared. Aberforth was upstairs, alone in his room doing whatever it was that he did when he was alone. Eliza sat in the kitchen, silent and angry.
"Where have you been?" she said coldly, walking out to meet him at the foot of the stairs.
Albus looked at her, laughter still dancing in his eyes. It was evident that he had been having fun for the past hours, and confusion set into his expression as he met her gaze.
"I have been out," he replied. "What are you doing here, Eliza?"
She glared. "I had to come and watch over your brother and your sister while you were out. I had to break into your house to keep them company after you locked them in. I never thought you would be so irresponsible-"
She stopped as someone entered the room, and her eyes moved from Albus' to the blonde, tall boy who stood in the doorway.
Gellert's eyes were bright, grinning, his fair hair windswept as he leaned against the doorframe. He was handsome -there was no arguing that- but there was also something about him that scared her from the moment she met him. His smile was a bit too strong, his look almost hungry as he watched everything and everyone.
"Hello Eliza," he said politely.
"Grindewald," she replied bitingly, before turning back to Albus. "I suggest that you go and check on your sister, Albus, since you were so strangely absent for the past hours. This is your job, after all." Eliza had no patience to exercise tact, and Albus frowned a bit before leaving the room. He was not happy, she could feel, but was kind enough to do as she said, despite thinking the contrary.
As soon as he left, she turned to the blonde young man that stood in front of her.
"Get out," she told him, glaring.
"Excuse me?" his courtesy only angered her further. She wanted him to get angry at her; she felt she would not be so scared of him if he lost his temper: it would make him a bit more human.
"I said GET OUT. Get out of this house this moment. Go home, to wherever it is you belong, and don't come back."
He smiled at her, ever the patient gentleman. "Eliza, you cannot tell me what to do. This is Albus' house, not yours. In fact, I think he would not be pleased if he discovered that you are trying to order me about."
"I don't care," she said. "You're ruining this family; you're breaking it apart and you don't even seem to mind."
Gellert sighed. "I am his friend; I understand him and he understands me…if anything, I am making this family better."
Eliza snorted. "You're a two-faced idiot and anyone can see that, except for Albus, blinded as he is because he cares for you."
"And I don't care what you think," said Gellert, his smile leaving his face, but eyes still bright. "But I understand…you were his best friend before I came, sitting and talking with him for many hours in his school holidays. I understand what jealousy is, Eliza, but do not give into it."
It was too much. Her rage at him and everything he represented filled her, and she slapped him hard against the face. He looked up at her, cheek red and smarting, scowling at her in a way that suggested that at any moment he would pull out his wand and hurt her as much as he could. She pushed away the fear she felt.
"Don't you dare say something like that about me. Get. Out."
And even as she spoke those words, Albus returned to see her lowering her hand, the side of Gellert's pale face marked red by the blow.
"What are you doing?" he asked her. "Don't take this out on Gellert. I understand that you are angry…if anything I am responsible for this, but why have you slapped him? This is not his fault."
"Are you mad?" she asked incredulously. "Don't you see what he has done to you? You used to care about this family, Albus, you would never have left them like you did today! And this is just a first…will I have to return in a few days and see that you have locked them up for more than just a day? This can't go on, you and your mad ideas about wizard dominance. I put up with it because it made you happy…I thought they were just strange fantasies, but now I see they're much more serious than that."
"It will not happen again," he answered exasperated, glancing at Gellert as he spoke. "And you do not understand the importance of what we will do…this will change the world forever. The magical world will no longer have to live in secrecy! Imagine the power that would bring to us, the thrill of not having to hide our true selves! This is the way it was always meant to be, Eliza, can't you see that?"
"No, Albus, I cannot!" she said. "I see nothing nice in keeping the Muggles subordinate, keep the under us, as if they do not have the same rights as we do! It is a crazed enterprise…it's just wrong on so many levels!"
Albus sighed, rubbing his forehead, and Gellert came to stand by his side.
"Eliza-" he began.
"Don't talk to me," she said, glaring at him.
"And do not be so unkind to Gellert," said Albus, frowning at her. "This is for the greater good, all of this. As we seize control, we will help the wizarding world, and ultimately that will lead to a better life for all Muggles."
"It's just…not like you, Albus," she said, and tears welled up in her eyes. "My father is a Muggle, and many of our friends at Hogwarts were Muggle-born. This isn't the way the world is supposed to be…some standing above others."
"You don't understand, Eliza."
"That's what you've been telling me Albus, and no, I do not understand. This is him speaking," she pointed at Gellert, who looked startled. "This is him, and he's invaded your mind and put all this rubbish in it. And I can't…I can't take it, and neither can they."
For a second, she thought it was Grindewald speaking, and prepared to give him a heart-quelling glare; but then she realized that it was not him, but the auburn-haired wizard that had once been her friend.
"What?" she asked, and her voice was like a faint gasp.
Albus looked uncomfortable, but firm and decided. "I'm sorry, Eliza. We've been friends for years, but if you can't come to terms with this then you'll just keep hurting yourself and us. This is my family, and this is my life. So just…just leave."
And that was that.
She glanced at Gellert, and the blonde boy was watching her expressionlessly. Eliza wanted to punch him, draw blood, anything that made him look human, that made him look less demonic. But she couldn't, and she didn't, silently reaching for her handbag and glancing at Albus one last time.
Then she left the house.
Life went on, just like it always had, without Albus. She traveled to Germany and began to work there, returning few times to check on her father, who was now in 's with a disease that would inevitably end her life. She tried not to think of Albus, or Gellert, or Aberforth and Ariana…but the thoughts would come, sometimes, late at night just before she fell asleep, or as she washed her hands before a meal. It was there. It always would be.
The news of Ariana's funeral came to her ears just as she reached Godric's Hollow to complete the sale of her old house. By the time she reached there it was already late, and the ceremony had ended, and through the bushes she had crept behind on her way to the Dumbledore's house she could hear the clink of glasses and the voices of many people.
The house looked just as she remembered it, but in her mind she thought it looked uncomfortable. The doors were open wide, and the lawn was dotted with people walking about; mostly old family and friends of the Dumbledore's, quite a few neighbors, teachers and classmates and other friends of Albus who looked rather out of place in the shabby home. None of them really knew the family well…it was all mostly formality. None of those she wanted to see were in sight.
So Eliza was silent, and did not know what to do. She began to walk up the steps of the porch of the house, towards its interior. And then there was a footstep to her left, and she turned to see Aberforth.
He was leaning against the railing with the air of a young man who is gazing at his home for the last time. His eyes were dark, nearly murderous, and she bit back a sharp breath and stifled a desire to step away from him. He wasn't even looking at her, really, but he was aware of her presence.
He scowled. "It's all over, now," he said. "Just like he would have liked it. It's over, and she's dead. Ariana is dead."
Eliza didn't know what to say, and she stood there and stared at him. She wasn't sure which person she meant when he said he. And she was frightened of the answer.
"I'm leaving, now, you know," said Aberforth. "I know why you left…it wasn't just because he told you to."
It wasn't a question. It was a fact; a cold, sore one that she never wanted to admit to herself. She would have left anyway, even if Albus hadn't ordered her out. Sooner or later, she would have left.
And then the boy turned to look at her, and even though his gaze was dark and terrible, it wasn't directed at her.
"He's in the kitchen."
It was then that she realized that his right hand was dirty with what looked like dry blood…and it wasn't his. He saw where she was looking and fisted it, turning back to the railing.
Eliza felt a surge of foreboding as she stepped into the kitchen.
And he was there. Albus Dumbledore, sitting on the step that led to the kitchen, which stood slightly higher than everything else…she had never seen him look so lost, so utterly lost.
When his blue eyes moved to look up from the floor to her, he didn't look surprised. He simply glanced away and continued to stare at the floor.
She stood silently, fingering the scarf around her neck, her heart breaking for the boy who had had his broken, and she waited for the words that she knew were going to come.
And the words were broken, and torn, and horrible even to her ears, worn out by the times she knew he had repeated them to himself, trying to assimilate the terrible truth. Gellert Grindewald was gone.
And then he was crushing his face against his knees and shaking and sobbing uncontrollably, a small, pitiful figure on the step…
She hurried forward and kneeled in front of him, and he pressed his face into her shoulder and cried, cried, cried inconsolably…and she held him in her arms and felt his hair under her fingers and just wanted to absorb all his pain and guilt and everything if he could just be all right again, and everything could be like it was before Gellert came. He cried the entire story into her shoulder, and she knew everything that had happened…And she had tears in her eyes too, falling onto his shoulder. She had always been weak when it came to Albus.
Five minutes later, it was over. He drew away, avoiding her eyes. Eliza stood up silently and watched him as he said nothing, knowing that the moment was gone, and that…well, there had never been much hope for her and Albus.
Her words came stumbling over each other, a knowledge she knew he had to have. "I'm moving to Munich tomorrow. Permanently."
Albus said nothing, but she knew he had heard her. After a pause, he turned and looked at her, and the raw pain was gone, replaced by a kind of cold acceptance.
"Are you happy?" he asked.
She looked at the ground and back at him again. "I will be."
And you will be too. Despite the guilt.
He nodded. And that was their goodbye, really, because from there on they would probably never see each other again, and he had his goals and she had hers, and after everything she knew and he had gone through…life was pulling them apart. In truth, Eliza wasn't sure if that was a bad thing or a good thing.
"Good luck," he whispered.
"You too," she answered, and there was nothing to say. She began to walk away.
Her name had never sounded so sad, so broken. Eliza turned at the doorway.
She knew what he was asking. She made her promise.
"Of course not."
And it was many, many decades later that she moved to Ireland and read the news of Albus Dumbledore's funeral. She went, and was a shadow before the entire group, someone who few knew and few recognized. She watched as they buried the man with the long white beard, and wondered, briefly, if anyone had ever known him as well as she did.
When Rita Skeeter approached her with questions and a suspicious looking cup of wine, she declined firmly, and never mentioned his name again. His past had been buried long ago, on that kitchen step in Godric's Hollow, in the eyes of a young, auburn haired man whose heart had been broken for the first time, in the tears spilled on her shoulder. His secrets, though, she had buried within her.
A/N: What do you think? It's always encouraging to know if somebody is reading what I write…reviews much appreciated!