It is almost impossible for me to write an account of what transpired the following day. Lack of courage is not the sole reason that I am unable to describe the events in detail. Largely I cannot provide an accurate narrative because it was all so unexpected and ended almost as quickly as it began. If you read the story in the newspapers of that date or in the brief summaries of the events in histories of that period, you will know as much as I do.
Four passionate youngsters with differing opinions found themselves caught in sudden heated argument, not unlike in subject matter or even in degree from numerous others that had already transpired among them that summer. Three wands were engaged and the wild magic of an unstable young girl. My blindness and irresponsibility created the perfect environment for the conflagration. If Ariana was the dry timber, Gellert was the spark, and Aberforth the oil.
I do remember deciding to dress quickly and go downstairs when I heard the clangor of pans against the surface of the old iron cooker in the kitchen. Ariana's and Gellert's voices drifted up the stairs.
"We still have enough coffee left for two people," Gellert said, without a hint of the usual acerbic layers of almost anything he said. "Do you think Albus would like some?"
"I am sure he would. Make the coffee for you and Albus. Aberforth prefers tea and I am not addicted to it the way that you are. How many eggs do you think?" The trivia of an ordinary morning, terrible in retrospect.
The coffee was a godsend. Gellert and I had stayed up far too late. Aberforth complimented Ariana on the scrambled eggs. Finally, as Gellert and Ariana, who had been playing the role of hosts, began to clear up, I decided to raise the question of the trip before I lost my nerve.
"So, we are thinking of leaving for Germany the beginning of next week and after a lot of thought, I have decided to take Ariana with me."
"That's impossible," Aberforth yelled at me. "Have you lost your mind? Yes. She has been better this summer. Do you want to undo all of that before we have even had a chance to see if she can continue to improve?"
Gellert, dropped the plates he had been holding into the dish pan with a clatter, soapy water sloshing over the brim and onto the floor. "Don't speak to your brother in that tone of voice. Surely you have known we have been considering leaving and taking her with us for the last two months."
"Liar!" Aberforth shouted. "Liars, filthy liars and cowards, both of you. You've deliberately told me nothing. Waiting to present it as an accomplished fact."
"Aberforth," I said, reaching out to grasp his arm. He wrenched loose from my grip and the next thing I knew his wand rested at my throat. In my peripheral vision I saw Gellert reached for his wand. Ariana threw herself against Aberforth and I pulled my wand. I turned and pointed to Gellert. I do not recall casting a spell or hearing him cast one. My intent was to block Gellert if he tried. I could hear Aberforth and Ariana screaming at one another and then there was a huge explosion of sparks and smoke. As the air cleared I found myself wandless. Gellert had landed on his arse, on the ground, looking stunned. Aberforth was shrieking hysterically and Ariana sprawled flat on her back, eyes closed, motionless between Aberforth and me.
I could not look at Gellert or talk to him. I caught a partial view of his face as he ran out of the cottage, a look of disbelief, shadowed by horror and disappointment. When I tried to find him the following day, I learned that he had left Godric's Hollow within the hour after the incident.
The day after Gellert left I woke up feeling more than one hundred years old, eyes scratchy and throat raw, head pounding with the physical residue of fear and grief. Only the previous morning I had awakened in the same bed, to the warmth of Gellert's smooth skin, the scent of him in my nostrils and his legs entangled with mine. The memory of the next two or three months are still so darkly depressing, I do not intend to visit them in a memoir.
Yet, young and brokenhearted as I was, I would be forced to live through an excruciating two years before I would even reach the ripe old age of twenty. Looking back now, I see that life had far more to offer me than I could have imagined during that desolate interlude of my youth. I had, all in one catastrophic afternoon, lost my baby sister, after failing utterly and completely in my duty to nurture and protect her, as well as the love of my life. Loss of innocence does not begin to describe what I experienced.
My brother may still love me, he almost certainly does. He is a bigger man than I am, more tied to this mortal clay of which we are composed. My idealistic attempts at reaching for great heights have left me face down in the mud more often than not. While Aberforth, simpler and more rooted, has never fallen so low. Yet he has never regained the respect he had for me before that tragedy and I cannot blame him. Having worked with young people for decades, I am better able now to forgive my eighteen-year-old self than I was at that time. I would have far less respect for myself if that entire experience had been any less shattering to me than it was.
I had dreamed that Gellert and I would be together forever, that our lives could be one endless round of shared ideals, satisfying work and making love. Whether in my comfortable bedroom surrounded by all of the accoutrements of my boyhood and school days, or in the dying candlelight of the tiny attic room at the top of old lady Bagshot's cottage, we had played out our relationship cozily disconnected from the larger world. For all my claims to have known the world through study, Gellert's belief that he had traveled, and our shared desire for change, our universe that summer had consisted of only Gellert and Albus. We were merely two bright young men, healthy, fit and full of themselves and one another.
Isolated as I was in Godric's Hollow, I might have lived some years longer as sexually uninitiated if I had not met Gellert. I never asked and he never told me what his past experiences had been, but I am sure now he allowed me to believe that he was nearly as innocent as I was. At the time, I had determined that if he did not initiate a physical relationship with me, then I would reach out and touch him. Conscious decision making had no place in my considerations. Tomorrow would be soon enough to think about tomorrow. Whatever the cost to me might be, I thought it would be a bargain price to pay for whatever Gellert was willing to give me, almost as though I realized that the fire of desire I felt for him would be short-lived and never repeated with another.
How could I have believed that late-adolescent hormones and a traitorous hopefulness had made me see the best in everything and look beyond the dreary reality of my immediate future? I thrust the idea aside that this new experience, unbridled indulgence in sex, could cloud the sharpest intellect. I refused to consider that Gellert wanted anything different from what I wanted and needed, a friend, a lover, and a collaborator. And the greater good? When did his concept of the good and my own diverge? Or were they ever even close?
As director of Hogwarts, I have been sympathetic to our students' ill-starred love affairs which I have encountered with some predictable regularity. Others among my colleagues may scoff at their earnestness or the perceived depth of their misery with remarks like, 'Oh, he'll grow out of it,' or, 'She has no idea of what real suffering feels like.' But I will never dismiss the torments of young love lightly. The admission pains me still that I have never loved, will never love again, as I loved him. I am able to call before me with the absolute clarity of a pensieve-held memory a vision of the day that I first saw him, replete with the sounds, smells and awareness of my original responses.
I remember thinking that I should be thankful for Gellert's lack of innocence. If we had both been as ignorant and unworldly as I had been when we first met, that glorious and tragic summer might have come and gone and Gellert moved on, along with the long days and warm nights, without us ever having come together. Despite everything that happened, I would not want to have never experienced Gellert. Even Ariana had three months of friendship and a sense of normalcy that she would not have otherwise experienced. I cannot imagine what Ariana's life might have been like. If Gellert and I had taken her abroad, I suspect that also would have been a disaster. Aberforth and I should have had guidance and assistance in caring for Ariana.
Finally, many people over the years have speculated that Gellert never loved me. Or that I was his young and innocent dupe. I was the elder by almost two years. At that age, every half year is significant. With my family history, no one can claim I was entirely unfamiliar with the world's darkness. Yet, still I like to think that Gellert Grindelwald might have loved me.
In 2007 J.K. Rowling rocked the world of blockbuster children's publishing by announcing at an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, shortly after the publication of her last of the Harry Potter series, The Deathly Hallows, that our beloved Professor Dumbledore is gay. There was a lot of discussion at the time ranging from opinions that she gave us too little too late or that if she had the courage of her convictions that she might have written him as a homosexual man throughout the series. Back story is a funny thing for a writer of fiction. I know for myself that it cannot be underestimated and its very existence colors everything one writes about the person, place or thing. I do not doubt that Rowling saw Dumbledore as gay and never contradicted her personal view in his characterization.
I disagree with those who wish she had made Dumbledore's sexuality a greater focus in her novels. She did not choose the novels as her bully pulpit. I might have admired her had she done so. However, I do not require that of someone who is telling me a story in which one aspect or another of a supporting character is not explicitly developed, as long as it is not contradicted.
I write a lot of male/male romance. I enjoy telling these stories, in part because they are a minority viewpoint. But they are not political for me. Although, I presume my underlying world view will always bleed through. I do not necessarily have a major female character in all of those. I hope I represent the women who are present in those stories as convincing, real and worthy of interest on the part of the reader. I chose not to place the woman question front and center in every story. Doesn't mean I do not support women's rights. Write those stories! I will love you and applaud you.
Anyway, my point, returning to J.K. Rowling, is the one thing I did not like very much and might have wished she had done differently was that when she spoke of Dumbledore's preference for the same sex, she had to present it as essentially an enduring tragedy within the history of his long life. Other characters find love, but not the one and only character that the author reveals to her readers to be gay. He is allowed to love only once, given a beautiful brilliant young man who later becomes the greatest dark lord of the modern era until Voldemort. (Did the darkest Wizard of modern times until Voldemort really have to be gay?) Albus Dumbledore is devastated. He is forced to defeat his one true love in a Wizarding duel and then disarm and imprison him for the rest of his life. When asked if Dumbledore had ever been in love, she answered:
My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But, he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that's how i always saw Dumbledore.
In the book The Deathly Hallows, Grindelwald is slain by Voldemort when the dark lord interrogates him in his prison cell while trying to locate the Elder Wand. Grindelwald refuses to tell Voldemort that it was Dumbledore who has the Elder Wand. It always appeared to this reader that this was a final act of redemption of Grindelwald and an act of loyalty to his friend which cost him his life. I found it romantic and moving. The film shows Grindelwald tell Voldemort where to find the wand and his life is spared. Dramatic difference for me. I'll stick with the book version as my personal canon.