A/N: Credit for the characters and basic plot goes to J.K. Rowling, who overuses adverbs far more gracefully than I, and to Isaac Deutscher for the title. Feel free to leave a note if you come across any grammar mistakes, misspellings, or typos that I missed.
09/07/11: this chapter was going to be the epilogue, but I like it much better at the beginning.
"Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
- George Orwell, 1984
Gellert sat alone in the back of the pub, listening to the rain and the quiet, distant hum of conversation, drinking nothing, and waiting. In the rest of London, the Muggles were merry and raucous and alive with celebration, but here among his own kind, hardly anyone cared. It was Monday night no different than the previous Monday or the next Monday, and all of the drunkards drank themselves to death as they did on any other day. Half-an-hour passed. An hour. Two. Shortly before midnight, most of the patrons had begun to empty their glasses and bottles and tankards, mumble their goodbyes, and stumble off into the night, bleary-eyed and stinking richly of booze. The barmaid, a plump, freckled red-head, came over to his table and said:
"We close in an hour. I don't know who you're waiting for, but I don't think he's going to show up."
"Oh, he'll come," said Gellert.
He came striding in eventually, the midnight-blue colour of his robes brilliant even in the dim, dirty light of the pub, and slid into the side of the booth opposite Gellert, crossing his hands on the table before him. He was slim, tall, and regal, oddly incongruous in this miserable, half-empty little hole-in-wall. Gellert was suddenly conscious of how in-place he looked, scrawny and shabby as any other shiftless Bohemian sort, dressed in threadbare robes, his hair lank and receding slightly beneath his cap despite his relative youth.
"Good evening, Gellert," he said. The light glinted off the golden rims of his glasses and transformed the lenses into flat, impenetrable disks of white.
"Why Albus," said Gellert cheerfully. "You've grown a beard. I liked you better clean-shaven."
"I see you haven't lost any of your charm," said Albus. "How are you on this fine Armistice Day?"
"Armistice Day? Is that what the Muggles are calling it now?" Gellert asked. "Bah. Fifteen years from now, they'll be at war again. How are you? You're teaching now, aren't you?"
"I am," said Albus. "And I take it you're still fomenting revolution? Don't answer that; of course you are. May I ask you've returned to England, and why you've asked me out for a drink? Speaking of which –" He called the barmaid over and ordered a bottle of firewhiskey for the two of them. She looked mildly annoyed, as if she were itching to go home and crawl in into bed at this hour.
"I have it," said Gellert, glancing around to make sure no one was listening, leaning forward, and lowering his voice so that it was hardly more than a whisper. "The Elder Wand."
"There's no need to clarify what you meant by 'it'; I know exactly what you meant," said Albus. The barmaid set a dusty bottle and two glasses before them; when she had left, Albus drew his wand and, with a quick and effortless arc of his hand, poured the firewhiskey for the both of them, saying, "And I wouldn't boast – don't you remember the nursery story? The brother who found it had his throat slit for parading it around. Was it with the wandmaker in Lvov?" He drank, though his eyes, large and luminously blue, remained on Gellert.
"Yes," said Gellert. "Thank you very much – I never would have found it if not for your help."
"You've come an awfully long way to brag."
"You know that isn't why I'm here. I want to extend an offer: come and fight with me again. It would be an honour to have someone as talented and powerful as you by my side."
"No," said Albus.
"You aren't a Muggle-lover now, I hope."
"As a matter of fact, I am. I'm disappointed, Gellert; I thought you would have abandoned that line of thought by now. It's awfully illogical, don't you agree?"
"Your brother was right: you are a condescending arse, if you'll pardon my language. Vainglory is an unattractive quality in a man, Albus."
"As is an unbridled lust for power. Go back to Petrograd, or whatever the Muggles call it now. I'm afraid you've wasted your time."
"Very well," said Gellert. "Should you change your mind, I'll be in Berlin."
"You've given up on Russia?"
"Haven't you heard? The Muggles have had a revolution. It's become difficult for me to operate there. The War has left Germany destitute; I'm sure I'll find supporters in the Wizarding community there. I'm sure the Muggles there will be looking for someone to lift them from the rubble, too."
"I hope you aren't planning on interfering with Muggle politics. You know how poorly that ended for that Russian fellow who tried to bed the Tsarina."
"I'm not that stupid. You know as well as I that any grand plan involving sex goes poorly."
Albus stared coldly out at Gellert over the rim of his glass. There was no anger in his gaze, no regret or grief or hatred, only an inscrutable iciness. "If you think that's why I refuse to take up arms in your service, you are wrong. I will never fight alongside a bigot and a murderer – "
"Murderer? It was you who – "
Albus cut him off: "No. This has gone on long enough." His voice was stern and clear, but beneath the schoolmasterish facade of his voice, something had broken, and Gellert, unable to help himself, smirked. Albus, half-stumbling, rose from the booth and departed without so much as another word, leaving Gellert alone in the dim light and the silence. Gellert fumbled in his pocket for a few sickles, which he laid on the table, and rushed out into the rain after Albus, catching him hardly feet away from the door and jerking him around.
"What is it about you and good-byes? Why do you never say them?"
Albus' face was pale, his mouth a thin, paler line cut across it. Gellert's hand was still on Albus' shoulder, but he made no attempt to remove it. "How rude of me. Good-bye, Gellert. Now, kindly let go of me; I can't Disapparate with you holding on to me."
"Until we meet again, Albus." Still clutching his shoulder, Gellert leaned forward and kissed his cheek; Albus pushed him away and disappeared from sight.