Disclaimer: I own neither Harry Potter nor the Dresden Files.
A/N: Another story? And a prequel to a much larger tale, no less. I'll be alternating between this and In Fire We Trust, and somewhere along the line I'll find time to finish Thunderstorm. And never worry, this entire prequel is plotted out - it's going to be six chapters long.
Story notes: This is a universe with Dresden-magic and both HP and Dresden characters. The history prior to this story is about the same for both universes, with appropriate adjustments made for the magic system. The idea has been banging around in my head for nigh-on a year, and I finally feel comfortable with my writing level to try it.
As always, read, review, and enjoy!
A swish and a gleam in the air end in a dull thunk, cutting off a brief cry. Blood sprays and spatters the walls, and the body falls to the ground, surrounded by men and women in gray cloaks. They stare at it, indifferent, and after a short moment of silence they turn away.
That is what Albus imagined when he closed his eyes, at any rate. He would never know how his father died, because he was not there. Asking one of the murdering bastards who was there would only end in bloody death, and while the grief and rage curling in his stomach longed to burst free, he had other duties now.
Aberforth. Ariana. His fingers curled on the tabletop. Dear, sweet, broken Ariana.
He sighed, and stood up from the table, pushing his chair back. The goats needed to be milked, and he was loath to do it. Aberforth was better with them, anyways. "Abe!" he called up the stairs. "Get down here!"
Aberforth came down a moment later, expression sour and arms crossed. "What?"
Albus grit his teeth and fought the urge to snap back at his rudeness. Sometimes he thought that father's death didn't hurt Aberforth at all, but he knew better. Aberforth thought that father deserved what he got, however, and Albus hated him for it. He sat on the resentment, though – it wouldn't do any good right now.
"Can you go milk the goats, Abe?" he asked, and tried to keep the bitterness out of his tone. Either he was successful or Abe didn't care, for a short nod was the only reply he received before he turned to his room.
"Albus." Aberforth had paused at the door to the pasture.
"Yes?" Albus asked, impatient. He had magic to study and work to do. Keeping the three of them afloat was no easy task, but he managed day-by-day.
"Ariana's asleep," Aberforth said. His tone was neutral, almost civil, and Albus blinked in surprise. "Somebody ought to go to the market and pick up some vegetables."
"Of course," Albus replied, still surprised, and then realized he just agreed to do it. With a parting glace to his room, he turned around and headed out of the house, checking his pockets for change. It wouldn't do to come home empty-handed, no matter how much he despised the teeming masses of flesh that inhabited the town.
Albus was quickly reminded of why he detested going to town. Dodging one overzealous merchant only lead to a stranger elbowing him in the gut, and the combined stink of horseshit and fish left too long in the sun was making it hard to breathe. Eyes watering, he brushed past the baker's stall to the end of the market and took a deep breath. The farmers with the best crops set up shop here, he knew from long experience.
Sorting through the barley, he ignored the vendor's offer of a sample of bread. The situation at home was becoming untenable, their savings depleting by the day. His job was difficult and brutish, hardly fit for a wizard, and the pay atrocious. The milk the goats gave them was hardly worth the cost of the feed. Albus wished for a moment that he could use his talents to earn some money, but he could think of no way to do so without inciting a riot.
Or, indeed, without the White Council staining his walls with blood.
He was startled out of his thoughts when somebody slammed into his side, sending him to the ground. A rock cut a gash in his palm, and he felt a sudden spike of rage at whoever dared attack him. His power leapt to his hands and the grass under them started to wither and die, until a hand on his shoulder brought him back to reality. "Let me help you up, friend," an unfamiliar voice said.
Tucking his rage in, he lifted his head to thank the stranger and grasped the proffered hand. He was shocked into silence by the tingle of magic that washed through him at the contact, and glanced at the similar expression of surprise on the blond-haired man.
"Who are you?" Albus whispered.
The man was no older than he was, Albus noticed in the pause, and seemed reluctant to meet his eyes. Finally, he responded. "Gellert. I did not know the... community, shall we say, extended this far."
"It does," Albus responded, finally getting off the ground and brushing himself off. "Just my family, however, and Madam Bagshot."
At this, Gellert smiled. "Bathilda is my great-aunt," he says. "I am here to study with her."
"Indeed?" Albus asked, and looked through his bag. He was almost done shopping, and he could always pick up the grain later. "Let me show you the way, then."
Albus knocked on the door and stepped back to wait. He was always impressed by the subtle wards woven around Bathilda's house – lean, springy, and with little curls at the edges that would set an intruder's curiosity aflame to keep them occupied. They were all the more impressive for the fact that Bathilda lived alone, and had a correspondingly weaker threshold. He could feel himself grow more curious just examining them, so he tore his gaze away and looked at his companion.
Gellert was strong in magic, as strong as Albus himself or nearly so, and he was no slouch at all when it came to power. Albus wondered what he was doing here. He doubted it was to be trained, as Gellert had claimed. Bathilda was a competent practitioner, true, but she was nowhere near strong enough to cast and thus teach the magic that was suited for somebody of Gellert's power. He knew, from when his mother had still been alive, and Bathilda came to visit regularly, that it had taken her over a year to weave her wards.
Still, he would reserve judgment until he was more familiar with Gellert.
The door opened, and Bathilda looked out. "Hello, Albus, and – oh! Gellert! Come in, come in!" Gellert walked in with a smile and Albus followed, feeling the wards part around him like the softest brush of silk.
Bathilda gave Gellert a hug before stepping back. "I see you've already met Albus. How was your journey, dear?"
"Just fine," Gellert replied, "if a bit cramped." A brief wrinkle of distaste crossed his features before smoothing out into a pleasant grin. "Still, nothing to worry about."
"Excellent," said Bathilda as she motioned them into her kitchen. "Sit down, let me get you a cup of tea."
They watched in silence for a moment while she bustled around the kitchen. Gellert broke it first. "So," he began, leaning forward with a secretive smile that Albus found himself returning. "What sort of magic do you know? As much as I wish otherwise, there's not much my aunt can teach me. Nothing useful, at any rate. I thought I was going to have to learn alone from books, but I met you..." He gave a shrug.
Albus nodded, his earlier assessment confirmed. "Well, I've learned a fair bit of thaumaturgy, and some air evocations. A few potions, too..."
"You're good, Albus," Gellert said, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"I've had a little practice," Albus demurred, fingering his staff.
Without warning, Gellert swept his rod in a wide arc. "Forare!"
Albus brought his staff close to his body and whispered, "Duramus." The wave of force that Gellert summoned splashed harmlessly over Albus.
"That's an interesting spell," Gellert said with an admiring gaze. "Though I don't think it would stand up too well against fire."
"It wouldn't at that," Albus replied, sitting down on the soft grass. "But it's easier to cast than a shield."
Gellert flopped down onto the ground, hair spread in shimmering waves. Albus admired the sight for a moment listening to what Gellert said. "Would a shield even be effective against a fire spell?"
Albus frowned. "Why ever not? It would have to be attuned to fire specifically, but that's not too difficult to do."
Gellert waved his hand. "True, but the heat would still bleed though. If the fire was hot enough..." He gave Albus a significant glance.
Albus ignored the double-entente and bit his lip. "It's a shame there's no way to test it," he murmured.
"No legal way," Gellert corrected.
Albus made an indistinct noise in response, the reminder of the Council causing a frown to crease his face.
"Bathilda told me what the Council did," Gellert whispered.
Albus turned to face him, and saw that his expression was hard, as though he was angry on Albus' behalf.
"They should not have done that," Gellert continued, growing impassioned. "Those without magic are animals – less than animals! They deserved to be punished for what they did!"
Albus felt his lips pull back in a silent snarl, and stood up, hefting his staff. "Again, Gellert," he said, hearing himself speak as if from a distance. "And do not hold back this time."
Gellert rose, answering with a vicious smile, and jabbed his rod forward. A whistling wind blasted forward, tearing the grass to shreds in its wake, but Albus stood calmly in its path. "Ire ventus."
A light breeze blew from behind him and met the razor-edged gale, rebounding it back upon Gellert with twice the force.
Slashing his rod to the side, Gellert yelled, "Extrudo!" The wind was shunted to the side and dissipated on the grass. Pointing his rod at the ground under Albus' feet, he whispered, "Forare, Ferire."
"Terminus," Albus intoned, slamming his staff into the ground. A wave of magic rippled from him, disrupting the spell before it could form. He sagged to one knee, exhausted from the difficult casting.
Gellert sat down on the ground again, letting his head fall back to the sky. "You're too good at this, Albus," he complimented. "I wish I'd had a better teacher."
Albus mopped up the sweat beading on his forehead with his shirt, and let the wind play across his skin for a moment before letting it drop back down. "I wish for many things," he whispered.
"Albus," Aberforth said, startling him out of his daydreams.
Albus looked around. "What?"
"Are you just going to sit around smiling all day?" Aberforth questioned, dropping a plate of food onto the table. "I thought you had better things to do."
A prickle of irritation crawled up his spine, but a surge of guilt washed over it just as quickly. It was true, he did have better things to do than daydream.
"I do," he muttered, and pulled the plate of food to himself. "I've been thinking," he continued in between bites, "that we should sell the goats. They're not doing us much good."
Aberforth looked up at him from across the table, lips pinched with an expression of displeasure. No contradiction, though. Albus knew he would win whatever argument would come later.
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment, each picking at their food, until Aberforth spoke again. "I don't trust that Grindelwald fellow, Albus. He smells."
Albus paused with a bite of food half-way to his mouth. "Come again?"
Aberforth frowned. "Have you looked at him, Albus? I mean... actually looked at him?"
Albus put his fork down and sighed. He hadn't used his Sight to look upon Gellert. But then again, why would he? "Why are you so suspicious, Abe? He's been nothing but kind so far."
"He smells," Aberforth insisted, stubbornness set on his face. "And you'd be best off staying away from him."
"Don't tell me what to do," Albus snapped. "You've no right." Tearing himself away from the precipitating argument, Albus stormed out of the kitchen. There was just no dealing with Abe when he got like this, he knew.
Stalking out of the house, he made his way through the shadowed grove behind his house to exit onto the thoroughfare that led to Bathilda's house. A moment later, he realized he had forgotten his staff, and considered going to back to get it, but decided against doing so.
Walking up to the front of the house, Albus saw Gellert sitting on the front porch, deep in thought. Gellert must have sensed his approach, however, as he opened his eyes and waved. "Come around back, Albus," he called.
Albus nodded and circled around the house to the garden, where Gellert had opened the fence for him.
"Something on your mind?" his friend asked. Gellert's tone was light, but it was clear he knew something was wrong.
Albus shrugged, feeling self-conscious. It wasn't like he could talk about Abe's suspicions to Gellert himself. "Just thinking about the Council," he said, supplying a vague half-truth.
"The Council," Gellert muttered, an expression of distaste crossing his appearance. "High and mighty fools, one and all."
"What did they ever do to you?" Albus asked, now curious as to the source of his friend's antipathy for the White Council.
"Nothing they ever did to me," Gellert responded, settling his back against a tree. "What they would do to me if they knew half the things I'd done." A dry note entered his voice. "Nothing wrong with prodding around in some fool's head after he tries to gyp you, after all."
Albus shrugged and turned away, uneasy. He wasn't sure he would have done that, even had the situation been important. It was something his father had impressed onto him from an early age. No mind magic under any circumstances. It was immoral, dangerous, and it would get your head chopped off.
But if Gellert had felt he had a good reason... and he didn't seem to be a warlock.
Abe's words flashed through his head. He smells.
Albus pushed the thoughts aside.
"Anyways," Gellert said, drawing Albus' attention back to himself. "I came across something rather interesting in my great-aunt's library yesterday."
"Oh?" Albus asked, interest piqued. He didn't have many opportunities to read books outside of his families library.
"It was in one of her older history books," Gellert continued. "In the thirteenth century, there were three brothers – the Peverells. Have you ever heard of them?"
"The name sounds familiar," Albus replied, motioning for Gellert to continue.
"At any rate, there were these three brothers. Powerful wizards – apparently, they even sat on the Senior Council. Shortly before their deaths, they created a set of powerful magical artifacts, the Deathly Hallows. One was an invisibility cloak so powerful that it could hide even from the Sight. Another was a stone that reached through the veil between life and death." Albus gasped, but Gellert continued, now with a fire burning in his eyes. "And the last was a wand, the Elder Wand, the most powerful combat focus ever made."
Albus made his way home in a daze. Take down the White Council? Madness, utter madness, even with a powerful focus. No wizard could stand in direct combat against all the Wardens, let alone the Senior Council as well. But the Resurrection Stone...
Hunger gnawed at his gut, but not for food. A chance to see his father again – a chance for closure – yes, that was something he wanted. Something he would give much for, should the opportunity present itself. And Albus was never one to wait around for such things to fall in his lap.
Come morning, he would do what he had to do to secure his brother's and sister's comfort and safety in this town. Then he would leave with Gellert to search out the Deathly Hallows.
A crash woke Albus from his sleep, and a scream from below had him bolting out of bed, still in his nightclothes. Pausing only to grab his staff from beside the drawer, he rushed down the stairs to a tableau that forced him fully awake.
A chair, knocked over. Aberforth, lying on the ground, curled up on pain. Ariana, out of her room, crouched over her brother, crying. And Gellert, standing near the front door, rod in his hand, looking down upon them with a contemptuous expression on his face.
"What has happened here?" Albus asked, voice faint.
Gellert looked at him, and his expression softened. "Ah, Albus. Your fool of a brother decided that you wouldn't be going anywhere today, and I had to correct him." He let out a mocking chuckle. "Are you packed up, Albus? We do have a journey to depart on, you know."
Horror prickled up his spine and Albus let out a breath, senses swimming. Closing his eyes, he shook his head. "I think you should leave, Gellert." His brother had been right all along, and fool that he had been, Albus had not seen it.
Opening his eyes, he saw that the look Gellert was giving him was one of shock mixed with betrayal. At this, a sudden surge of rage tore through him, and the air around him began to whisper. Gellert had no right to feel betrayal, he who had attacked his family!
"Leave!" Albus barked, shoving his hand forward.
Gellert was born back by the wind that had come alive, but he kept his feet. The look on his face turned ugly. "It seems you have something keeping you here, dear Albus. Perhaps you'll come with me if I take it away?"
Slashing his rod to the side, Gellert spat something unrecognizable and a bolt of gleaming silver shot at Aberforth.
Pointing his staff at the chair, Albus shot a blast of wind at it, causing it to tumble in the way of the spell. It shattered, causing bits of wood to fly out and strike both Aberforth and Ariana, who let out a sharp cry. Magic crackled in the air around her, but Albus had no attention to spare as he dodged another bolt of silver that Gellert shot at him.
Words and magic flowing through him, Albus swept his staff in a wide arc. "Forare, ferire!"
Air rushed from around the house to bind Gellert, but he just slashed his rod downward, grounding the magic.
"Using my own magic against me, Albus?" he sneered.
Albus' only response was to summon a gale, hoping to drive him out the door and past the threshold.
Gellert countered it, as Albus had once done to him, and began to get creative.
Albus struggled to keep up, acquiring a few nicks and scratches. With an ironic smile, he remembered how he'd thought himself the better of the two in combat. It seemed that Gellert simply hadn't wanted him dead.
Destruction flying about the room, Albus brought up a shield and wiped the sweat from his brow. He was tiring, and he had to think of something soon.
Glancing to the side, he saw Ariana lying in a heap on the ground, dress torn, blood spilled. Eyes glassy. Not breathing.
His heart stopped cold.
And then his blood ran hot, hot with fire and rage, and he wanted Gellert to burn.
Jabbing his staff forward, he screamed, a mindless thing. In his mind and body, his magic burned through him and left the staff as a pillar of white-hot fire.
Gellert brought up a shield, but it was not enough, nowhere near enough to stop the torrent of anger that Albus had unleashed upon him, and he was blasted through the open doorway and out onto the front lawn, signed and smoking.
Albus dropped to his knees, faint tremors shaking him. His magic burned him in its intensity, leaving him scorched inside. He looked at Ariana, and his rage felt hollow.
He fell forward, and felt nothing at all.
"And what about my brother? Where will he go?" Albus asked, his tone wooden.
The gray-cloaked Warden clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, lad. We'll find a place for your brother. And for you, if you check out. And if not... it'll be for the greater good."
Albus smiled a bitter smile.
He would find Gellert Grindelwald, in time.
For the Greater Good.