Heinrich Grindelwald and the Tide of Darkness
Heinrich looked baffled at the small circular platform hanging above a pool of warm water. He stood within one of the corridors that directly led to the side of the platform, while the other moved forward and disappeared into what he had come to term with being the laundry room. There were no house-elves doing the jobs after all, and thus if he wanted to have his stuff cleaned he had to do so himself. The warm basin of water doubled also as a bathroom, and he could just imagine the guards making patrols high above on the circular platform when down below political prisoners washed.
He sighed in annoyance as he took his bar of soap and began to scrub his hands. His fingers, and mostly his knuckles, were hurting like hell. If Flitwick had always been fixated on being precise during wand movements, then Gellert was merely a fanatic. There simply was no other way to explain just what the man deemed 'satisfactory' as exercise in wand motion. Still, the warm water did miracles for his mood. The difference between self-study and having a teacher at hand nearly twenty-four hours a day was made manifest after the second day.
He simply had no pauses, except eating, sleeping and washing. The fact that the prison was wide and held its facilities one further away from the other even helped him. He had come to the realization that he had to run to get from one side to the other of the prison, and that was probably an all too well thought architecture. First of all, the stairs brought one above a floor, or below one, only at the end of their hallway. There wasn't a centralized flight of stairs, so the criminal who wanted to escape had to basically pass through various rooms.
First, one would have to pass the kitchen, then the exercise grounds, the small garden within the belly of the prison, the laundry room, the bathrooms and finally the security's dormitories. In the midst of it all, the final ramps of stairs were out in the open, so that anyone who would watch even for a second outside the window would see the prisoners escaping and sound the alarm.
It was interesting to hear it all from the casual banter of Gellert. Sometimes he had seen an old castle with his family on the television, and he had always wondered 'what had made the architect tick' and decided to build it in that way. Now he had the answers for at least Nurmengard. The idea had been of an ample looking prison, that wouldn't give the feeling of being constricted but at the same time would keep people in. With wizards, it strangely sufficed to merely have strong enough wards to discourage even attempting the escape.
Heinrich hadn't tried of course. He half suspected the English aurors were still monitoring everything around him, and because of that he rarely went around without being damn sure the wards could protect him. He hadn't even gone to the outside garden…which was really just a square of compressed dirt with a bench. The view during the sunset was probably breathtaking, but he'd rather be paranoid and safe than having his breath taken by the view and his freedom by the aurors.
He knew he was being paranoid. He knew that deep down he was exaggerating and that no harm could fall on him at the moment, and yet he still held doubts because, after all, he knew life apparently held it against him to be breathing. Having washed, he quickly got dried up with a simple warming charm and then headed off to where Gellert was without a doubt waiting him for his lesson. Luckily there were no pigs, but transfiguring one momentarily from a slab of stone was more than enough for testing curses.
Heinrich entered the exercising grounds to see the man smoking a pipe, a staff of wood had apparently been planted in the middle of the field and small steel-like tendrils seemed to be coiling and moving like snakes all around it.
"Well then, Heinrich," Gellert began, "Today we will learn why wizard need to be fast…your objective is to destroy that staff." The old wizard commented, "Of course the staff will lash out at you. Worry not, the whips are dull. They'll hurt but they won't saw you in half…like the spell normally would."
Heinrich shivered. He could but fathom how steel tendrils with the agility of snakes could work if sharp enough to cut through people. A staff with those things on would be a practical meat grinder…and he felt green at the thought that, without a doubt, the older wizard had already used it in battle or…experimented on it.
"Running in circles was out of…" A whip-like tendril of blunted steel came at him, forcing him to jump backwards. Jumping widely, however, he ended up being hit on the back by yet another tentacle that caught him in mid-air, before slamming him on the ground.
"Ouch!" He groaned as he shakily got back up. His legs wobbled, but his eyes narrowed at Gellert's smiling face.
"Don't look at me Heinrich: I'm not your enemy here." The older wizard spoke, "You need to dodge the barely necessary: if the enemy doesn't know if you'll succeed dodging or not, it won't follow up as fast. Of course that doesn't mean you can just dilly-dally either." Just to drive the point across, Heinrich found himself hit across the stomach by another tendril of steel, before being repeatedly whipped by half a dozen of others while trying to get away from it all.
"You understand you'd be already dead had he been armed to kill." Gellert commented offhandedly, "And the more you get hit the more tendrils attack ferociously: even if you do get hit by a curse after all, it is rarely lethal in the immediate circumstances." More than training to dodge, Heinrich was now being busy not getting lashed to the bones, rolling on the ground to avoid the snaps the transfigurated construct seemed to enjoy sending at him.
"In the end however, it's exponential: as soon as you get hit eventually you will tire, you will feel pain and you will undoubtedly…die." Gellert finished his speech quietly, his eyes staring deeply into those of Heinrich, who was clawing at his throat in an attempt to get the staff's steel whips away.
He was lacking air to breathe and as he could feel blood gushing to his head, or probably just staying there, he couldn't help but wonder: why wasn't he using his wand?
"We're done for today on physical activities." Gellert snapped his fingers, and the thing just dropped him down on the ground unceremoniously. "The mind is always the best tool to train." Another snap of his fingers, and just like that a set of chess was transfigured from the ground upwards, while the staff splintered and resumed being just an ensemble of rocks and ropes.
"Well Heinrich? What are you waiting for?" Gellert raised an eyebrow, as Heinrich shook himself back into the fray. "An invitation? I've already given you one." The old wizard's fingers pointed at the chessboard with its pieces.
Heinrich flinched slightly as he wobbled over to the other side of the board, where the black pieces stood in wait for his order, the first move having already been made by the white pawn of Gellert's. Heinrich knew chess of course, he hadn't ever played it as nothing more than a pastime, and of course he had never won against his father, but he still knew how the pieces moved.
"Why chess?" Heinrich asked, making his own move.
"To let you catch your breath." Gellert retorted, "The bullshit on this," he pointed at the board game, "Being of any use in battle? Too wrong and too much idiotic to even fathom why people still believe that knowing chess is equivalent to knowing how to win in a skirmish."
"Then why are we playing this?" Heinrich queried, moving yet another pawn as he realized that Gellert seemed to be mirroring his own moves. "Shouldn't we read something?"
"No." Gellert replied, "You are learning, albeit what you are taught and what you grab for yourself is different."
He scrunched his nose for a second, not understanding the man's words, but deciding to let them fall off as he concentrated on at least trying to win the game.
"Not following me?"
"You…You're hard to understand." He mumbled, his eyes warily moving for a bit of a second towards the wizard's face before lowering back down on the chessboard. Was he already missing a pawn? He was already losing then? He'd get it back soon enough though, but it would result in Gellert moving the rook and he could eat that with the horse.
"Fire is hot." Gellert spoke, "You have fire in your hands, what do you do with it?"
"Burn something." He replied quickly, as if it was the easiest thing to say.
"Cook something." Gellert retorted, "Warm something. Melt something and many more…do you understand now? I can teach you that fire is hot, but what you do with that knowledge…that is up to you."
"And how does chess comes into the equation?" Heinrich asked, raising an eyebrow but stilling midway. "It doesn't." He muttered.
"Good enough." Gellert nodded, "You're right, it doesn't. Comparing strategies with chess is stupid, and yet some people still do. Do you know why?"
"Because…they'd do it even without chess?"
"To the point Heinrich, to the point." The wizard smiled, taking a deep breath as he quietly fumbled with his king, letting it fall. "Who claims that the destruction of the king marks the end of his troops? Does history say it true?"
"No." Heinrich found himself answering immediately, "There are hundreds of cases of men and women who fought even after their lord had passed that come to my mind, and many more are certainly...you're saying what I did wasn't for nothing?"
"You see Heinrich," Gellert stood up slowly, the chessboard slowly morphing back into a mound of dirt and then compressing itself into the ground, "Every action has a consequence."
He stood up in turn, walking behind the man who appeared old, as old as he could possibly be for being one hundred and eleven years old. He resembled nothing like Basileus and yet at the same time he had that kind of air around him, the very same that had probably brought the other Ravenclaws to flock around him.
"I have seen your spells." Gellert began, "You always start with Trudo, and then proceed with wasting time on the 'Cuspis Terrae' whereas 'Ico' would be far quicker. Why is it?"
"A shield is useful in battle." Heinrich replied, "I can mold the earth around me, to…"
"But in doing so, you weaken the spell itself."
He blinked before comprehension dawned on him. "The spell is made to launch rock lances, not to protect me."
"Precisely." Gellert nodded sharply, "Protego means to protect, and is the basic shield available. If executed correctly and in a timely manner, it can also deflect the spell back at the attacker. However it is a waste. Why?"
"It deflects spells that require to hit the target, not elementals ones or transfigurations that mold the terrain. Furthermore it only blocks forward or where you hold your wand: it is not omni-directional." Heinrich replied quickly, "Henry used to tell me that in his time, they used a different type of shield charm."
"Uhm? Whoever this Henry is, he knew his charms at the very least." Gellert supplied, flicking his wand out of his sleeve, "Now listen and watch carefully."
The wand didn't seem to be moving at first, but as Heinrich kept his eyes on it he realized it wasn't the tip for one thing that had to move…but the base of the wand itself. With clear voice, Gellert then roared, "Tego!"
A light shimmer surrounded the man's figure, giving him a faint ethereal hue that spread through his body as soon as the spell's pronunciation was cleared. "Consider this the ancestor of Protego. It's a full body shield which also deadens the blows received from blunt trauma…but it does not fully stop them! Keep an eye out in case you start bleeding internally." The old man explained, "It's a bit longer to cast than Protego, concerning the wand movements it is also more complicated, but it's also far more effective and can be a lifesaver in dire circumstances."
"Cast it and forget it?" Heinrich supplied carefully, taking his own wand out.
"Precisely. Now remember to keep your movement fluid. Precision and sharp turns are used for attacking spells, while softness and circles are usually related to protective ones. Curses require flourishes and generally the movements of the wand are to deliver symbols that somehow reinforce the hex, jinx or curse in question." Gellert explained calmly as Heinrich found himself nodding to his every word. Going from nodding to actually doing the spell however, that proved to be more difficult.
"Tricky wand you have." The old wizard, having sat down on a nearby bench, commented after a few minutes of him trying to get to the shield spell to work, "It will not tolerate idiocy or second guessing…and you are not fully committed to your course of action after all."
He opened his mouth ready to retort, but closed it a few seconds later. After all it wasn't as if the old wizard was wrong: he didn't really think he could make it. Sure, he was training, but to what effect? This wasn't like some sort of Rocky movie where a montage with music could solve problems. This wasn't like some sort of film where a shade to black effect brought back a change of months and a stronger hero. This wasn't like writing on a book 'he trained for six months and came out stronger'. This was more like having to grit his teeth and hope that frustration didn't take the toll on him. It was more and more reminding him of the first year of Hogwarts: an uphill slope and battle for at the very least recognition, a battle that had ended with him broken and flighty at the minimum twitch. Yet here he was, actively fighting, actively seeking vengeance.
How in the bloody world was he going to make it out alive? He didn't even care about his birthday to come, gifts and presents seemed so insignificant in the face of the things to come. Playing around, toying with the computer, having Dungeons and Dragons sessions or the likes meant nothing when he was learning from the Magical First Reich Fuhrer himself how to gut an opponent or protect himself from shrapnel. Was this how the soldier kids of Africa and Middle-east countries learned? The only difference was that they were forced into their position by an unkind fate and handed a gun or some explosive.
He had been given, as it was his right to receive, a wand at his eleventh year of life. Just who had decided it was a smart thing to hand over wands to eleven years old? Wands with the power to destroy and annihilate, with enough power to level cities and kill dozens and hundreds at the same time? Who was the genius that had woken up one day and said: give weapons of mass destruction to the kids! They'll love you for it!
Heinrich bit his lips as he realized some words he had all but forgotten.
"The greatest enemy is oneself, young Raven."
He blinked as the memory hit him with the strength of a sledgehammer. He gasped and groaned as his brain hurt and a massive headache plummeted against his forehead, making him feel as if he had just gotten down with flu. He felt that something stir and move within himself, and he knew deep down that he had never been decisive. He had always second guessed himself, he had always wondered, questioned, queried. Was he really the best? Was he really the useful one? Was he really needed? Why did the prophecy have to target him? Why not someone else? Why, why, why? Asking oneself said questions and not coming up with answers worthy of being called such seemed to be his curse.
He was no longer Harry to begin with! How could Harry know the answers, if Heinrich didn't? Evil wasn't evil and good wasn't good, but then if the world was filled with shades of grey, which grey was the one worth fighting for? Then again…why was he even fighting to begin with? Wasn't battle a thing for the adults? Shouldn't an adult be the one to enter Azkaban, shouldn't an adult be the prophesized one? All these questions were what was weighing him down, and that much…that much Heinrich understood.
His wand could help him, but the only way for it to help him was for him to let it go, to stop querying and to merely act. To stop thinking and do. To stop…to stop being himself and become something else, something that he felt and knew was within him and that deep down wished to be freed. He knew who could enter Azkaban and he knew who could defeat Dumbledore…
He was within himself after all, a mere figment of his imagination locked down and hidden, demolished and left to rubble and sparks…but still there, menacing and ever present. He didn't know if it was the wand that brought him out and he didn't know if the wand had a conscience of its own, but he did know that he would go nowhere, if he did not find a reason he wholeheartedly agreed with.
"Who am I fighting for? What am I fighting for?" He mumbled, looking at his wand as if he was seeing a monster, "This…this is all wrong." He whispered, "This isn't me. This is…this is someone else." He shook his head slowly, looking down at the ground, "I'm not a hero. I'm not…a protagonist of a story. I'm…I'm me. I don't want to have the fate of the world on my shoulders, I just want to…"
"You're afraid." Gellert spoke slowly, "Scared witless isn't it?" The old wizard added with an awry smile. "I think that fear…fear is a great thing to have, Heinrich. It is not a weakness, but a virtue not to be underestimated: I was fearless in youth and look at where I am now." He chuckled grimly, "Fear is good and all, but it shouldn't stop you from doing what you have to do."
"Stop asking yourself that question, Heinrich!" Gellert yelled at him, his face red. "Asking yourself 'Why' or crying your way out is not going to help you. You're deep in hell and you've got to man up or curl up and die. You don't have another option; you will probably never have it! Don't you understand? Why do you think I hate prophecies so much!? You have no free will and all that you do will guide you towards it: the more you fight it the worse it will become! Accept and move forward! Stop looking back! Stop looking at what you were!"
His eyes menaced to start tearing up again, but he clenched his wand tightly and slowly nodded, before resuming at trying the spell with his wand. The result was the same as before: nothing. He couldn't just stop thinking on command, could he?
"We're done here." Gellert commented, "Until you get your mind in the right state, we can't do much else. Maybe it's a good thing: lay low, let the waters calm down, leave innocents in prison and dead people not avenged. Let's maybe have a group hug, uh? Would you like that Heinrich? A nice cup of chocolate maybe, so you can keep up moping about being in hell?"
"What the hell do you know about me!?" Heinrich yelled back, "Stop spewing your nonsense! You can't ask me all of this! You can't ask me to march to war and accept it like it's the norm!"
"The last couple of days you seemed to have no problems." Gellert retorted.
"I was in shock! I'd like you to tell me what you'd do in my shoes: you've just been kidnapped by magical Adolf and he told you that Mussolini killed your parents!"
Gellert raised an eyebrow, and then chuckled. His chuckle slowly turned into a howl of laughter as the old wizard bent in two, wiping away the tears from his eyes.
"It's not funny." Heinrich muttered, "Not funny at all."
"You know, people always said that the duel between me and Albus lasted three hours." Gellert began quietly, "But do you know where it happened?" Heinrich did not reply, instead eying him with a look of curiosity…as if the location of the duel could have been important. "It happened in Berlin. Among ruins and civilians screaming for life." Gellert whispered, "It happened all across the capital, with thunders and hails of snow, with fire crackling and the screams, the shrieks…the cries…do you know that I flung burning corpses at Albus during those three hours? Do you know that I collapsed cellars hoping to trap him in? Do you know we apparated one in front of the other in the most populated places, in order to avoid risking a first shot?"
The old wizard's face tugged its lips up in a bitter smile, "Do not speak of shock to me, Heinrich. If you do nothing then maybe no war will happen, but tell me…would you let Hitler get away with his final solution, blaming ignorance? Would you let innocents be condemned to death because you refused to act?" Gellert spoke quietly, "I am not going to make you into a force of good, a paladin or anything like that, kid." The architect of Nurmengard spoke, "But know this: your course is set. The only question is if you prefer to walk over rock or quicksand to reach your destination."
Heinrich closed his eyes, biting his tongue from replying once more on the unfairness of it all. He hadn't given his name to this cause and yet here he was. Maybe it was cowardly to try and backpedal away from it all…had he known this would be his destiny, he would have snapped his wand the moment he had taken it in his hands and…
No. He wouldn't have. Power was in the wand, and the wand was all that made him special…no. It was the blood. The blood made him a wizard, the blood marked him and his destiny was foretold. Yet he wondered, as he quietly began to try and cast the spell once more, if free will really existed…and if it did, and prophecies had the power to remove it, then he just hoped that once that prophecy was done he'd be able to return to make his own choices.
"You won't get anywhere if you don't resolve your inner conflicts, Heinrich." Gellert commented, slightly angered at his lack of results probably, as the sun had begun to set over the horizon, coloring the blue sky of a rosy hue. "Maybe we should try another method." The old wizard spoke, "One that is sure to make you understand."
"Eh?" Heinrich had barely exclaimed that single word that his axis of gravity shifted, as he found himself being brought up in the air before left to crash on the ground. "Ow." He could briefly see Gellert Grindelwald do it again, flicking his wand up and down and forcing him both up against the ceiling and then letting him fall on the ground.
"You see, I'm soon going to start adding pikes to the floor." The wizard said offhandedly. "Eventually…you'd best know the spell or suffer a bad death."
"You can't do…" The ground impacted against his body again, his chest constricting from the weight applied, before he gasped for air as soon as he was lifted again by the strength of the magic. "You said…" Once more he was slammed on the ground hard.
"Use the damn spell Heinrich! Use that spell or suffer the consequences!" Gellert roared as small rotund mounds began to appear on the ground, hitting him and making him feel the coppery taste of blood on his tongue as he was slammed against the ground again and again, every time harder.
"It's but a word, Heinrich! Say it! Mean it! Do you want to die child!? Then I was wrong and I'll look again! Then maybe someone else will come in your place! Come on, say it!" The mounds became spikes, and just as Heinrich's hand clenched his wand tightly to his body, his wrist sore and his thoughts drifting away, there was but one thought in his mind at the end of it all.
And then the pikes impacted against his entire frame as he closed his eyes, expecting the feeling of flesh being punctured and blood gushing out.
"Good job." Gellert grumbled, "So I need to put you in near death situations then. Good to know." The feeling of the pikes turned softer, as Heinrich realized that indeed, he was surrounded by the light gleam of the Tego shield while the ground resumed its normal appearance.
"Are you frigging nuts you senile old fool!?" Heinrich yelled, standing back up, "What is it, trying to kill me?!"
"Of course not." Gellert retorted rolling his eyes, "But maybe, just maybe, we can make something out of you by the end of summer."
Heinrich grumbled, before turning and walking away slightly pissed off. Just what was with people and trying to put him in dangerous or deadly situations? He needed time to get the spells right! He had mastered the Wingardium Leviosa after days of trying it! Gellert couldn't truly expect him to master everything in so little time, right? The man was after all a veritable pool of knowledge, without a doubt dark, but still…it was preposterous to expect him to shine in less than two months.
Yet that was the day the thing inside of him stirred again. This time, however, it latched on firmly.
"Lillian! Come on out please!" Her father's voice came in a pleading tone from outside the door of her room, and yet she just huffed and placed her head deep against her books. She had started her work the moment she had gone back home. She had a lot of stuff to catch up to, and she didn't doubt for even a second that she would need every single scrap of knowledge. Harry had been so knowledgeable and if he had managed to escape Hogwarts, then he was without a doubt dangerous too.
She would need to be at the very least twice as strong as him, to be able to capture him and bring him back to be saved from the Imperius curse. If only her father understood it and stopped trying to get her to play Quidditch out in the garden… How could he even think she had time for Quidditch after what had happened this year!? She hated having to let her father down, but she didn't have any doubts on what was more important between playing and having her family back together.
"Lillian?" The voice this time around changed, belonging to her mother who softly knocked at the door. "It's time for lunch dear." She groaned as she slammed the book close. She had barely understood the third chapter! How was she going to get everything done during the summer with all these interruptions!?
"Mom! Bring the food in! I've got to study!" She yelled, reaching for the door and unlocking it before opening it.
"Now listen here!" Lily Potter huffed, her hands against both sides of her body. "Food is eaten at the table with the family!"
She groaned back at her mother, shaking her head. "I've got to study mom! I…I need to measure up to Harry to…"
"Nonsense." Lily snapped, "You will do nothing of the sort young lady!" The red haired woman fiercely exclaimed, "You will catch up your missed year, do your homework and then be done! You won't go even a mile near…near him." The last few words were merely muttered, before the green eyes narrowed hard on her own, "Swear it, Lillian. Swear you won't do anything of the sorts. Let Dumbledore and us take care of everything, all right?"
"Dumbledore is evil." Her brother had said that with so much conviction, that she had just been about to blurt it out. She barely held the worlds back in her mouth, as her mother went on to rant again.
"Well then young miss? What is it going to be?" Her mother huffed, tapping her right foot against the wooden floor. "Do I have to take away your wand?"
"No!" She exclaimed out quickly, "I…I won't do anything rash mom! But please…I thought you'd be happy I'm studying this hard!"
Lily rolled her eyes, a small smile appearing on her face.
"Of course I am." She nodded, "But…" She sighed, her face becoming slightly weary, "You need to understand you're just a kid Lillian. Let the grown-ups do their job all right? Study hard and have a good summer: that's all you have to do, understood?"
She nodded back to her mother, before moving forward to engulf her in a tight hug.
"Love you too." Her mother replied, "Now go wash your hands. Lunch's on the table already."
She beamed a smile at her mother, before heading off to the bathroom to wash her hands. Once she closed the door behind her, however, she began to look at her reflection in the mirror. She puckered her lips before letting them distend back, and then wistfully began to play with a lock of her hair, red once more. Her hazel eyes settled on her reflection that seemed to sport a sad face and a grim demeanor.
"No use moping." Lillian muttered trying to put some cheerfulness in her voice, "And she forgot to make me swear after all." She winked at her reflection then, and then swiftly washed her hands and left the bathroom. She'd get some more hours of study and then maybe fly a bit with the broom. It was really nice to feel the air compress against the face after all.
Another chapter, this time we see a lot of Heinrich and a bit of Lillian. I always found it kind of nonsensical how people expect young kids to suddenly become heroes and fighters. I mean, had I been a normal eleven year old at Hogwarts, I would have ran from the troll, not stuck my wand in his nose…or I would have run again and again because damn it, lots of things were bloody scary in that place! I think Harry portrayed as a 'Always go straight, never goes backwards' is a bit of wishful thinking.
Doubt is a natural part of the human processing brainpower. We naturally put doubt in all things we want to do that aren't part of a routine after all. Like going right instead of left at a turn and starting to say 'But is it the same? Shouldn't I turn back? I know the map says it's fine, but what if it isn't?' of course these types of thoughts happen extremely fast and are usually not so much put forward, but in Harry's…sorry, Heinrich case they are quite needed.
The kid's got a hefty prophecy on his head after all.
I realize I should try and make some sort of syllabus of the spells Harry is using, or that I have affectionately called 'Warfare' spells.
They are variation of normal ones, albeit with shorter names.
'Tego' for example means cover, hide, cloak, conceal, bury, protect is the last of its meaning, while 'cover' is the first. Considering all of them together, Tego is a full body shield against small jinxes and blunt force trauma.
'Trudo' means push and thrust (Hence the concussive/piercing effect)
'Ico' means wound and pierce.
'Cuspis Terrae' means spike of earth.
'Custodio' means watch over/defend
'Cingo' means gird, circle and surround but also 'prepare oneself' (hence the wand floating in direction of attack)
For the 'coursework' explained to Bellatrix in a previous chapter, it is actually stuff I saw on the wiki. There is an 'earth course' for 'people who like to dig'… and a ghoul studies that centers on ghosts and the likes (probably ghouls and inferi too) And you know the saying 'if there's one there's the other too'