After fifty years alone in his cell, Gellert finds himself hardly surprised at anything. His life consists of sitting in a prison cell with the occasional meal. There are only two guards left in Nurmenguard, both too young to really hate him for his crimes. They don't understand why their grandparents find him intimidating and frightening - they find him a curious creature. After all, there's nothing intimidating and frightening about an old man locked in his cell.
He has no visitors. Gellert isn't even certain he's allowed visitors.
With this mindset, Gellert is more than slightly surprised when his guard actually speaks to him that morning. He fumbles with the door to the bars of the cell, glaring with what Gellert assumes is supposed to be an intimidating look. "You have a visitor, Mr. Grindelwald." His voice is filled with distaste and it is evident the guard does not approve of his visitor. Gellert sits up a bit, wishing for the first time in years that he had a wand. Incarcerated though he may be, he always wishes to look his best for guests.
The door opens and Gellert tilts his head to peek around the guard. A quiet voice answers, "There is no need to stand guard. I doubt he is much of a threat; especially to me." The words are spoken in German, but the voice is foreign. The guard scowls, but stands aside.
"You have one hour. Should you need something, please feel free to call for assistance."
The guest sounds amused. "Certainly."
The guard steps away and Gellert receives his first look. His heart stops. Though it has been almost fifty years since their last meeting, Gellert would recognize the tall, thin frame of Albus anywhere. The older man doesn't move at first, his blue eyes moving up and down over Gellert. Albus has changed, even from 1945. He holds himself differently - no longer the awkward eighteen-year-old boy he had first met, nor the conflicted schoolteacher who defeated him. Albus carries himself with the grace of someone who is confident with who he is and his abilities.
Gellert knows that grace and confidence. He carried it once.
Albus says nothing as he enters Gellert's cell, but gives him a wide smile. Finally, he speaks. "You look better than I expected."
Gellert resists the urge to strangle the man before him. He doesn't move from his chair by the window, but simply gestures toward Albus. "Forgive me for not standing. It is cold and my body is not what it used to be."
"No matter." Albus strides across the room and takes Gellert's hand, giving it a firm shake. He smiles brightly (dear God, is the man twinkling?) and steps back. "It is good to see you, Gellert. It has been far too long since we last corresponded. I have missed your letters."
Gellert can't restrain the snort of contempt. "Really, Albus, you used to be a much more convincing liar."
Albus blinks at him and he has the nerve to look offended and hurt. "I am not lying, Gellert. I have always enjoyed corresponding with you. We have our differences, but-"
He doesn't want to hear the end of that sentence and he raises his hand to stop him. "Stop. You don't want to say it and I don't want to hear it. Save your breath on useless drabble and tell me why you're here."
Albus doesn't reply immediately, but he pulls a bag from beneath his robes. As he unlatches the clasps, he begins to speak. "I have something to show you. Something I have no doubt you'll be highly interested in."
Gellert simply raises an eyebrow and stares at the bag. He refuses to move from his chair. He watches with vague interest as Albus pulls a robe from the bag and gives Gellert a bright smile. He holds it gently in his hands before unfolding it. Gellert is completely unimpressed.
"You traveled hundreds of miles to show me robes?"
"A cloak, actually."
"This still makes no sense."
Albus frowns, his face losing a bit of enthusiasm. It's amusing, really, for a man of his age to look so much like a child. "I thought you of all people would be impressed, Gellert. Perhaps you're beginning to feel the effects of old age?"
"You're older than I, Albus. I am not in the mood for your games. Tell me."
A flash of disappointment crosses Albus' face, but he makes no comment. Instead, he holds out the cloak for Gellert to take. Gellert grasps it and brings it closer to him, examining it as Albus continues to speak. "It is a very old cloak and well made, I believe you'll find. Put it on."
It is a sturdy build and gorgeous, Gellert has to admit. It's delicate, but strong in his fingers. Gellert drapes it over his arm and watches as said arm disappears. He blinks.
It's a cloak.
It has made his arm disappear.
Everything suddenly clicks.
"Mein Gott!" he exclaims and Albus chuckles. Gellert looks up at him with eyes he knows have to be crazy. "Is this? . . . This can't be. Albus, this can't be what I think it is!"
"I almost did not believe it myself," Albus says quietly, watching Gellert take in the situation. "Judging by your reaction, you have come to the same conclusion as I."
"Where did you get this?"
"An old student of mine." Albus brushes off a spot on the bed and takes a seat, his purple robes billowing around his legs. "He mentioned it to me a few weeks ago that he owned a cloak of invisibility. It certainly explained many of the wrong doings of his years at Hogwarts and naturally I was curious. I did not think much of it until he mentioned he had inherited the possession from his father, who had received it from his father. I know cloaks are similar, but I have never seen one that had not diminished with time. I knew almost immediately what I was looking at. Still, I wanted another expert opinion."
Gellert can't take his eyes from it. The Cloak had always been his last priority; the one he thought would be the least useful. In his days with Albus, they had thought it useful to hide Ariana, should she inevitably come with them. In his days alone, it had been something he thought would hide himself. It was cruel, really, to have a Hallow firmly within his grasp and no way to use it.
"What do you plan to do with it?"
"I plan to return it to its rightful owner," Albus says, lifting a shoulder in a casual shrug.
"You can't be serious, Dumbledore!" Gellert exclaims before he can stop himself. He tightens his grip on the Cloak and shakes it. "Do you even realize what you have, Albus? Two Hallows! Two! I'm not an idiot and I still remember my old plans. I had leads on the ring. You could have them. We could have them."
"No, Gellert." Albus voice is firm.
"Two, Albus! Two -"
"Insanely dangerous objects," Albus finishes for him, fixing a now steady gaze upon him. Gellert shrinks back slightly. He had forgotten the intensity of those blue eyes. "They are dangerous objects. I am an old man now and so are you. What good cold come of owning them now?"
A million things ran through Gellert's mind - his dreams of glory and power. A different world that could have been perfect, if only Albus hadn't let them die. He had been seconds, seconds from attaining his goal. And he stands here now, two Hallows in his cell and Albus looking a little more frail in his old age than he had fifty years ago . . .
Gellert drops the Cloak and notices his hands are shaking. He looks up to see Albus standing, his wand out and pointing at Gellert's chest. He takes a deep breath and backs away from them both, watching as Albus bends to pick up the Cloak. He never once lowers his wand or takes his eyes away from Gellert's face.
"When did we get old, Albus?"
Albus focuses on safely tucking the Cloak back into his bag before answering. "A question I often wonder myself, old friend." He still has his wand to Gellert, but his grip isn't as firm. Albus studies Gellert for a moment, and odd look crossing his face. Sighing, he lowers his wand and gives Gellert a small smile.
Gellert knows that look and he doesn't give him the chance to speak. He saw it far too often as a teenager. "You plan to return the Cloak to its owner? Does the boy even know what he holds?"
"No. He, like most of the population, simply believes the Three Brothers to be nothing more than a fairy tale. I will not enlighten him. He has enough of a burden on his shoulders."
Gellert just nods in reply. He wants to ask Albus questions; how is he? How is the war with Britain's Dark Lord coming? But the words won't come out of his mouth and Albus doesn't look like he is in the mood to discuss them. Albus has come here for one reason and that was to show him the Cloak. Neither wants to discuss the past. At least, Gellert knows he certainly doesn't.
They still disagree on too much. Gellert isn't ever sure if he'll get over what he still deems as a betrayal.
Albus turns as he exits the cell and gives one almost sad smile toward Gellert. "I fear, old friend, that this may be the last time we see each other."
Frowning, Gellert nods. "It well may be."
The stand only feet apart and Albus opens his mouth to speak, but closes it instead. He gives Gellert one last sad smile. "Goodbye, Gellert."
Gellert doesn't even find it within him to reply.
Elphias comes in the aftermath of his sister's death. He's a constant in Albus' life, he is familiar, and he is welcome. After the chaos of the past few months, Albus is glad he still has one person he knows he can turn to and trust. It is an awkward few days after Ariana's funeral and Aberforth does everything he can to avoid the two older boys, choosing to spend his last two days in Godric's Hallow locked in his room. He has already informed Albus he will be spending the Christmas and Easter holidays at Hogwarts and has no intention of returning home after school ends.
Albus doesn't blame him. He has done a major injustice toward Aberforth and that's a rift that could possibly never mend. He sees his brother off at Kings Cross and returns to an empty home. There is a note from Elphias, letting him know he ran out for a few hours and Albus is surprised to find this doesn't bother him too much. He is grateful for the few brief moments of silence - especially after the last few days. Ms. Bagshot has been over, Albus notices, and she's left him a little basket of bread. He doesn't want to think about Ms. Bagshot and he certainly doesn't want to think about her great-nephew.
He passes Ariana's bedroom on the way upstairs. He should begin to clean it out, but that is a project for another day. Right now, Albus can do and think of little more than returning to his bedroom and locking himself away from the word for a few hours. As soon as he hits the top step, he hears the door open and the familiar voice of Elphias call out for him.
"Albus? Are you home?"
Resisting the urge to sigh, Albus pads back downstairs and poke his head around the wall to let Elphias know he is indeed in the house. "You're home much earlier than I expected."
"I attempted to go by the market, but what I wanted was gone," Elphias says, removing his shoes and placing them by the doorstep. It's a small gesture, and one Albus doesn't miss. The younger boy looks up at him with a bright, hopeful smile. "Is Aberforth on his way to Hogwarts?"
"He is," Albus says, walking down the last few steps to the kitchen where he leans against the sink. "He wished to inform me he has no intention of returning to the house again. I do not blame him, although I do wonder what we will do with the goats."
Elphias makes a noise as though he isn't sure if he should laugh or not. Instead, he chooses to rest against the wall opposite Albus. He hates the look Elphias is giving him, that one that says pity. Albus doesn't want his pity; he doesn't deserve his pity. He deserves every bit of silence Aberforth gives him. He deserves the large lump that now appears in his once straight nose. He deserves that and so much more.
"He'll come around eventually," Elphias says, lifting one of his shoulders in a light shrug. "He's young and he isn't as strong as you are. He's mad right now, but eventually he'll come to see that none of this was your fault."
Albus says nothing and hates himself a little more.
He can tell Elphias wants to say something, with the way a concerned look passes over his face and the way he keeps opening and closing his mouth. Albus stares at him for a few moments before turning his back to Elphias and focusing on the scattered dishes in the sink. Elphias clears his throat as Albus turns on the water and he hears the boy nervously shift from side to side. In the few days he has been here, neither one of them have actually talked. Albus keeps waiting for the inevitable questions, but he hopes he can hold them off.
It seems like he won't be able to do it much longer.
Elphias clears his throat again. "Do . . . Do you want to talk about it, Albus?"
"No." It isn't a lie. The entire ordeal is something Albus would much rather simply forget.
"Albus. You can't just bottle this up forever. You have to talk with someone about it eventually. Otherwise . . ." Elphias seems to know he's treading on thin ground. It would be impossible not to, with the way Albus is now washing the dishes - it is only a miracle he hasn't broken the plate with the way he is gripping it. Nevertheless, Elphias pushes forward. "Otherwise, it's just going to get worse and eat you alive."
Albus pretends he hasn't heard a word Elphias says and continues scrubbing the dishes, focused completely on getting this one plate clean. If only this damn spot would just lift.
He hears Elphias sigh behind him. "You've changed, Albus."
This provokes a reaction, but Albus still doesn't turn around. "Changed? I haven't changed."
"Yes, you have," his friend states, obviously choosing to stand his ground no matter what the cost may be. Later, Albus will honestly admire the courage and nerve it took to stand up to him in this moment. Elphias draws a deep breath and barrels forward. "You've always been quiet, but you're even more so than normal. You're not talking at all. You avoid me at all possibilities and I don't think I've ever seen you row with someone like you did with Aberforth at Ariana's funeral. You lock yourself in that bedroom and hide from the world."
Albus has stilled completely. He knows every word of what Elphias is saying is true, yet he doesn't want to admit it. He swallows. "I'm fine, Elphias. It's just been a hard few . . . Months."
"I know it has," Elphias says and his voice softens. "Anyone would be falling apart over what has happened to you. You've lost both your mother and sister within three months of one another. You're strong, Albus, but you're not invincible."
His hands are shaking, Albus notices. He takes a few deep breaths and turns to face his best friend. His face is calm as he addresses Elphias, and he speaks in a tone that he hopes will make Elphias drop it.
"You don't know what I am going through," he grits out, doing his best to keep his voice even. Albus presses his hands to the counter behind his back and wills them to quit shaking. This is ridiculous. He is Albus Dumbledore, the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen outside of the Founders themselves. He is the winner of dozens of prizes and has never had an issue speaking before. Why is it so hard to address Elphias - Elphias, who has known him since he was eleven? Elphias, who has watched him go through every awkward moment in his life? But this is different. This is different because Elphias is right, and Albus doesn't want to hear it. He struggles to maintain his cool. "You don't know what I've been through. You come here to help me, but instead you harass me to tell you things you can't even imagine. I don't want to hear your words of pity, or for you to tell me I did everything I could. I don't want you to help me, and I don't want you to keep asking me questions!"
He doesn't wait for Elphias to answer before he stalks back upstairs, slamming his bedroom door shut with all of his might. He leans against the door, breathing heavily. As he opens his yes, a piece of paper on his desk catches his eye. Albus doesn't have to pick up the paper to know they're plans he and Gellert had made. Plans for Muggle domination and the society both were so involved in creating.
Suddenly, Albus is furious. He rips the paper from the desk and tears it into shreds. Soon, he is grabbing anything and everything that might remind him of Gellert. Books, pictures, and papers - so many papers. Papers and essays he had drawn up, hoping to impress Gellert with his logic. The hardest were the letters. Letters that promised him everything. He grabs a handful of them and rips them to shreds, throwing them in the general direction of the trashcan. He's angry, so horribly, horribly angry.
The last thing he finds is the book Gellert gave him for his birthday - an original copy, written in runes, of the Tales of Beedle the Bard. Albus wraps his hands around the cover and intends to rip it in half . . . But he can't. He drops the book and it falls to the floor with a loud thud. The noise is his undoing and Albus falls to the floor and curls in a ball, burying his head in his knees. And for the first time since Ariana's death, Albus allows himself to cry.
One Hundred Thirteen
Twenty years since I last spoke with you, Albus. Twenty years and only now do you decided to tell me what is going on. I have been keeping up with your country and the mess it is in. You could keep them safe from Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald, but not from his haphazard knock-off. It's disgusting really. Only weeks ago, I read of a wizard who compared the brat to me. Here, I believed I could no longer be offended by such things.
I shall address your letter in order.
Congratulations on finding the ring. I realize I shouldn't hate you for that, but a small part of me can't help it. I hope you learned your lesson about sticking your hands where they don't belong.
Sometimes humor is the only thing I have left. Forgive me.
I have indeed heard of Harry Potter. Your local paper seems to jump between praising the boy and believing he is disturbed. Perhaps it is a little of both? Those that jump between seem to be the best stock, as far as I am concerned. You speak of this boy fondly and I was right to assume he is one of your pet pupils. This, Albus, is why you do not become attached. When a boy is simply an ends to a means, you can not become attached. It's a lesson you've learned the hard way.
So, you've raised the boy to die? There are no chances for them then? It is a pity. There does a indeed need to be a little more happiness in this world. Let me give you a short insight into my mind, Albus. There is no easy way to do this. Yes, I killed. Yes, I sent people to their deaths. You think me heartless, but it was quite the opposite. The difference between me and the Riddle boy was that I had a purpose. Every death, ever city I conquered, I had a goal. I believed and always will believe that I was doing the right thing. While that thought helped, it never made the killing easier.
No, Albus, sending people to their deaths is never easy and it never will be. Especially the innocents.
This is truly a disgusting world.
Voldemort's searching for the Elder Wand, is he? Bring him up there! I would love to meet the little upstart that thinks he can take my place! He won't go well with It. It never does seem to like those that abuse It's power and we know that for a fact. Though it pains me to say, I believe it would be better to break the wand's power than to let It fall into the hands of someone like Voldemort and his ilk.
Look, Albus, I have matured.
I also can not keep on topic.
For a man as brilliant as yourself, you are still the most short-sighted person I have ever met. Don't you realize why you won, Albus? I couldn't kill you anymore than you could have killed me. I wasn't using you, you stubborn fool. I thought I was. You thought I was. But at the end of the day, I loved you. You have been everything to me; my friend, my lover, my enemy and my defeater. You have been the very best and the very worst of this tragic life I've lived.
Maybe we'll meet on the other side, should God see fit to give me one.
Albus is ten when Aberforth crawls into his bed and shakes him awake. It takes him a moment to completely regain consciousness, but when he does, he finds himself staring into the terrified eyes of his younger brother. He sits up quickly and runs a hand through his hair. Aberforth backs off slightly and takes a deep breath.
"Papa's been gone since last night, Albus," he says, his voice shaking a little. "Mama's worried and no one around town has seen him. Do you think everything is okay?"
A brief moment of annoyance passes over Albus and he wonders why his brother had woken him in such a panic. Yet, the look of worry on Aberforth's face causes him pause and reassess the situation. It was unusual for his father to be out late; Percival Dumbledore was rarely out past dark, lest he worry his wife. This fact alone causes Albus to share a little of Aberforth's panic.
It has been two days since Papa brought little Ariana home wrapped in a bundle of sheets. Two days since Albus lost sight of her in the garden. He knows Mama and Papa must be furious with him - it was his responsibility to make sure she didn't wander off. They haven't said a word to Albus since the attack and the boy knows they won't actively seek a punishment. The sight of his small sister wrapped in blankets, shaking and covered in blood is punishment enough for Albus. It's a sight that will never leave the back of his mind. Never. Not even if he lives to be one hundred and twenty.
Aberforth shifts in his bed and gives him a look that is asking for comfort. Albus takes a deep breath and does his best to explain the situation. It would help if he was sure what the situation was. "Papa probably went to speak with the Muggle's parents. We don't know exactly where they live. They could have even been travelers through the village. He'll come home soon and everything will be okay. There isn't a need to panic."
His brother is on the verge of believing him when there is a loud noise from downstairs. Both boys jump and scurry out of the bed, eager to listen to what's happening. They stare at one another in excitement as Papa's voice floats through the door. Albus opens the door slightly and hears Mama's voice from downstairs.
"Percival!" she's saying, her voice sounding equal parts worried and outraged. "You've been gone since yesterday evening with no word of where you've gone. Did you ever think to let your wife know you were even alive?"
"I'm sorry Kendra." Papa's voice is soft and there's a rustling sound - the sound of him drawing Mama into his arms. "I had to take care of something. Where are the boys?"
"Upstairs. They're still asleep."
Aberforth is out the door before Albus can stop him, flying down the stairs with a cry of "No, we're not Papa!" He comes to a halt before his father and wraps his arms around Papa's waist. "We're awake and we were worried and Albus was trying to tell me everything would be okay, but I didn't believe him. We were scared, Papa."
Papa takes the opportunity to speak when Aberforth takes a gasp for breath. He bends down to his son's eye level and looks up toward the stairs. "Albus, are you awake also?"
Albus opens the door further and appears at the top of the stairs. "Yes, sir."
"Come down. I need to speak with you."
Mama's eyeing all of them with warily when Albus stands before his father, who let's go of Aberforth and turns to Albus. Identical blue eyes meet one another and Papa reaches up to grasp Albus' face in his hands. "Albus, you bright and brilliant little man. You have no idea how proud I am of you."
Something isn't right, Albus knows. Papa doesn't speak like this. He says nothing and chooses to let his father talk.
"You're ten and you're already growing into someone I know I will be incredibly proud of. And I want you to swear you'll do everything within your power and mind to protect your Mama and siblings." Papa's eyes are boring into his own, trying to make his point known. Albus swallows the lump that's growing in his throat and he can't break Papa's gaze. He can't speak. Instead, he nods numbly. Papa gives him a small little smile and pulls both Albus and Aberforth into hugs. "I love you both."
Mama's cuts in. "Percival, what is going on?"
Papa stands and wraps his arms around her, but whatever he intends to say is drowned out by a large banging at the door. Mama jumps and looks around widely, her wand clutched in her hand. Papa gives her one sad look and flicks his wand toward to door. It opens, revealing two strange men at their door. They're dressed in dark robes, obviously wizards, and they step hesitantly into the Dumbledore household.
One of the men nods. "Do you know why we are here?"
Papa swallows and nods. "I have a feeling, yes."
"Come forward, please," the man says and draws his wand from his coat. Papa does as he's asked and with a crack, there are ropes around Papa's wrists. Mama cries out and starts toward him but a raised hand from one of the gentlemen stops her. "Mrs. Dumbledore, we apologize. Your husband has been charged with the murder of three Muggle teenagers and we are here to take him in."
Mama blinks. " . . . What?"
Aberforth isn't quiet as quiet. "They deserved it!" he cries out and is only stopped when Albus pulls his brother to him and places a hand over his mouth. Aberforth struggles a little and Albus can feel hot tears running across his fingers. He feels himself shaking as well. Papa's being led by the other man now, with his head bowed, looking both defeated and glorious at the same time. Later, Albus would truly understand how incredibly brave his father had been in that moment. Percival Dumbledore's name might have forever been tarnished, but Albus would always remember him as a hero.
Papa's trial is held the next day. He refuses to give an answer to why he murdered the boys - Albus knows if he had, Ariana would possibly be locked in St. Mungos for the rest of her life. Papa is sentenced to life in Azkaban with no possibility of parole. He accepts this with his head held high and the last memory Albus has of his father is Papa turning and giving him one little wink.
Mama can't stand to stay in Mould-on-the-Wold further and she moves the family to a small village called Godric's Hallow. Albus hates it there. He hates the way his mother hides their entire family and doesn't allow her children to play with the locals. He hates the way his baby sister can no longer control her magic and causes havoc on whatever she touches. He hates his father for allowing himself to be thrown in prison.
Most of all, he hates the Muggles. They were unforgivably stupid in their day-to-day business. Albus can never forgive them for what they have done to his family - he never can, and he never will.
Someday, Albus thinks to himself, he will make them pay.