Two days later...
It was 8 a.m on Friday, July 31st, as Gellert Grindelwald and Arcturus Black sat across from each other in the Black family library. Taking a sip of the tea that Mimsy had just delivered, Arcturus broke a long silence and began speaking with his superior for the first time in well over four decades.
"I hope you are well rested, sir," he began as he placed his cup back on the table. "I can see that Cassiopeia hasn't lost her mind completely. She always had an aptitude for healing spells, after all. You look quite well."
Gellert nodded his head and smiled, his teeth now sparkling white and his beard once again a majestic flow of silver locks.
"Yes...It's a miracle what a good night's sleep can do after forty-seven years of incarceration."
As one side of Arcturus' mouth twitched into a nervous smile, he stumbled as he tried to find the right response.
"I...Yes, of course. It's just...you must understand, sir. The war, the security immediately after your capture, the constant watch-"
Holding up his hand to halt his follower from spewing a torrent of excuses, Grindelwald shook his head and smiled once again.
"Come now, my friend. I am not here to chastise you. That is the last thing I wish to do on my first day of freedom. When everything is back in order, I can assure you, Arcturus, that you and your family will be rewarded for your loyalty," Grindelwald finished as he closed his eyes and exhaled as he took a sip of his hot tea.
"Now," he continued, his smile still lingering, "on to more important matters. Unfortunately we have been delayed by some forty odd years, but you have always been an expert on political affairs within England, so tell me...who is your current minister, what are his plans, and when is he due for re-election?"
"Yes sir," Arcturus replied, now sitting back in his chair in a relaxed state. "His name is Cornelius Fudge. I have had the opportunity of working with him when he was Junior Minister of Magical Catastrophes... odd fellow really. Like any decent politician though, he has a knack for separating his personal views for what is politically correct. While he is a traditional pureblood to some degree, that certainly does not reflect his political agenda. It is well known that he relies on Dumbledore for advice, and it is of my opinion that he genuinely believes in the absolute separation of the muggle and wizarding world."
Reaching into his inside jacket pocket, Arcturus hesitated for a moment and looked up at Gellert with a pair of eyes that might have resembled a dog pleading for a bone.
"Do you... mind?"
"Have I ever?" Grindelwald responded with a chuckle.
"Of course not," Arcturus shook his head and retrieved his first cigar of the day. Putting it to his mouth, a bright ember was produced upon his first puff. "Now...Fudge. I certainly can say that he has failed to be proactive as far as his policies are concerned. He has ensured muggleborns equal rights and has kept the peace so far... Still, not much has changed since the previous administration. You might hear of a ministry inquiry into Gringotts every now and then, or a new foreign trade policy concerning broom sticks and dragon scales, but for the most part he seems content with the status quo. People are happy, and it seems his number one priority is to stay in office."
Gellert narrowed his eyes and titled his head, signaling to Arcturus that he had forgotten something.
"Oh yes..." Arcturus' brows rose as he tapped his cigar over a silver ash trey, "he will be up for election again next spring. No doubt he will be re-elected, of course."
Stroking his beard and looking off into space, Grindelwald straightened himself in his chair and peered back over at Arcturus.
"I take it you are not donating to his campaign?"
"Of course not," Arcturus replied.
"Good. You will be start donating immediately."
Arcturus stopped puffing his cigar and allowed his mouth to hang half open as he stared back at his master in bewilderment.
"I...uh...yes sir," he paused before continuing. "May I...ask why, sir?"
"You may," Grindelwald folded his hands in lap. "First, as you know, progress can only be achieved through sacrifice. If we do not support him, we will remain distant and unable to put any further plans in motion. Second, I imagine that the ICW will likely put him in charge of my search within England. If he is a politician that only wishes to stay in office, then he will not bother his favored supporters over such a matter, will he?"
Arcturus pursed his lips and nodded his head as he stared at the smoke lingering above him.
"I see..." he responded. "Then if it is your wish, I will become his most valued supporter, sir."
"Very well," Grindelwald answered. "Now you say he relies on Dumbledore. Having received the occasional text from him during my time of incarceration, I can assume he is still headmaster of Hogwarts, yes?"
"Indeed he is, sir. The youth of wizarding England has been under his tutelage for many years now."
Gellert allowed a crude smile to curl his lips at hearing this.
"Yes... Clever old food he is. He knows as I do, he who sows the seed reaps the harvest."
Squinting his eyes and peering past Arcturus, Grindelwald scanned the Black family tree until his eyes rested on their most recent heir.
"I wasn't entirely coherent when I arrived yesterday, but I do remember you mentioning something about your heir. Perseus is it? Constellation of the northern skies..." he murmured as he continued to gaze at the family tree. "Son of Regulus Black and Annabella Gamp. I'm afraid I've missed a few births, my friend...but no matter. I presume you intend on enrolling him in Hogwarts?"
"That," Arcturus hesitated as he exhaled a deep breath, "hasn't quite been decided as of yet. But... I think there is something you ought to know of young Perseus, sir."
Gellert raised an eyebrow.
Thinking of how to approach the topic as he took another deep breath, Arcturus decided to be blunt.
"Regulus never married, sir. Nor do we believe that he ever produced a child. It is only because the Gamp line is now extinct due to Annabella's murder during the war that she was deemed to be the appropriate fit. Perseus is my nephew, sir...my grand-nephew. His name was Harry Potter, child of James Potter and Lily Evans. He was the boy responsible for the Dark... er...Voldemort's downfall."
Frozen still, Grindelwald's eyes remained narrowed and squinted as his head rested on his thumb, his index finger extending to his temple. Nearly a full minute had passed before he took a sip of his tea and issued a response.
"I have heard of this child," he stated. "The man who broke me free...the one who sacrificed his life for me. He had informed me of Tom's death, that there was a prophecy of sorts. He also told me that the boy was dead."
Taking a long puff of his cigar, Arcturus allowed the expelled smoke to curl in front of him before answering.
"That is what everyone believes."
Grindelwald began to stroke his chin as he too stared at the rising cloud of smoke in front of him.
"Evans..." he began as if he were thinking to himself, "I do not recall this surname. Am I right to assume he is half-blood?"
Sighing, Arcturus reached forward and found room to smother his cigar in his ash trey.
"That depends on your point of view..."
"My dear Arcturus," Gellert smiled, "you know I believe every pureblood to be halfblood or less. My views are unchanged. Blood purity is of vital importance to wizarding kind going forward, but we both know only mudbloods can weaken us further. I only ask because I remember your family being a bit more...traditional."
"Yes...well, unfortunately that has not changed much, sir" Arcturus responded. "It is only because Lily Evans has no ministry record, and because she is known for having fought off Voldemort on three separate occasions, that my family refuses to believe that she was of muggle birth. The fact that Voldemort chose a half-blood as the prophesied child in the first place isn't at all convenient for them either. So as you might expect, she is now pureblood only because they say so."
At this, Arcturus and Grindelwald sat back and shared a laugh together, unable to restrain their grins as they sipped their tea.
"Perseus and I, on the other hand," Arcturus continued, "prefer to be governed by reason. While he has wisely rejected his biological father as a blood traitor and embraced us as family, he still privately clings to the Potter name. I am not sure you are aware, sir, but they were the direct descendants of the Peverells...who kept their bloodline pure to the very end. And since James Potter is the first known descendant to have broken that tradition, we are both proud to know that he is likely as pure as any witch or wizard."
Gellert had begun to stroke his beard again, looking directly into Arcturus' eyes for several seconds before responding.
"The Peverells you say? Very interesting... I think I should like to meet this child. Where is he now?"
A smirk spread across Arcturus' lips as he reached into his jacket and opened a golden pocket watch.
"Hmmm...he should be done with his etiquette lesson by now, Walburga normally keeps him on a tight schedule," Arcturus furrowed his brows as he closed his pocket watch. "No matter, I have asked him to meet me here in the library. He should be here any moment. After all, today is his birthday. He will be looking forward to his first present."
As Arcturus patted a small rectangular box covered in emerald wrapping on his desk, three soft knocks were heard at the door before a young boy walked in.
The child stood with a straight back and wore the Black family crest patched over his heart as if it were a badge of honor, along with a dark green tie that ran down the center of his white button down and black robes. His raven hair was neatly combed and parted to one side; his vibrant emerald eyes appeared piercing and observant as they rested on the two men sitting across from each other. He looked more like a young scholar than an ordinary nine year old boy.
"Ah! Perseus, my boy! We were wondering when you'd arrive. I take it you've had a fine birthday so far?"
"Of course, uncle," the boy responded with a refined tone and a smile on his face. "Aunt Walburga just kept me late. She said my handwriting needs sharpening or I'll end up writing chicken scratch like you."
"O nonsense!" Arcturus waved his hand in the air. "Always nitpicking isn't she? Daft old bat...Not to worry though, no more lessons. The rest of the day is yours. And I think you'll be quite excited about the present I have for you. However... I have someone rather special I'd like you to meet first."
Standing up and walking over towards his grand-nephew, he gestured a hand towards Grindelwald.
"Perseus, this is the man you have heard so much about over the past few years - Gellert Grindelwald."
Just as Perseus opened his mouth to greet the old wizard, Grindelwald interrupted as his eyes darted towards Arcturus.
Arcturus appeared bewildered at these words, looking as though he wanted to object for a moment. Nevertheless, he tilted his head towards his master and left the library at once, not making a sound on his way out.
As the door shut, Grindelwald faced forward towards the wall painting of the Black family tree while sipping his tea, not bothering to look over at the boy.
"Take a seat," he said.
After a moment, Perseus sauntered towards the seat vacated by his uncle, studying the man as he approached him - hesitant in each step he took. It wasn't but a few seconds after sitting down that he began to feel exactly as his uncle must have.
He was in the grand seat of power behind an elegant mahogany desk, elevated by a single step and looking down upon Grindelwald in his simple wooden chair. The setting produced a strange but relaxed atmosphere for the boy, which made him feel at liberty to be himself. Yet, behind the facade of the casual ambience, he felt powerless and vulnerable as the man smiled at him as if he were a kitten purring at his leg.
Swallowing a knot in his throat, Perseus sat up straight, folded his hands in front of him, and looked at the old wizard straight in the eyes.
"There is no need to fear me, child," Grindelwald broke the silence, breaking down the barrier of confidence that Perseus had attempted to construct with one statement.
"I'm not scared," Perseus responded, his tone resembling that of a child lying to his father about taking out his broom stick late at night.
"Very well," Gellert widened his smile even more. "Tell me boy, what do you know about me?"
Breaking eye contact, Perseus looked to the side in thought before looking back at him with another studious gaze.
"My uncle says you're the most powerful wizard alive."
At this, Gellert let out a hoarse chortle.
"I think you will find differing opinions on that, my boy."
"But are you?" Perseus inquired with a touch of excitement in his voice, unwilling to accept an indirect answer.
Gellert's smile vanished at a snail's pace.
"I learned long ago, Perseus, that there is a difference between power and skill. But tell me... I wish to know of your studies. What else do you know of me? Something that doesn't concern my abilities with a wand."
Looking over at pile of books on pureblood etiquette and muggle warfare that Arcturus had laid out for him, Perseus paused for several moments before answering.
"Arty says that...during the first wizarding war, you wished to create a new world order. To put muggles in their place, sir."
Gellert raised an eyebrow.
"And do you know why?"
"Because muggles are weak," Perseus shrugged, his comment sounding more like a question than a statement. "That's what my Aunt Bella says, anyway."
Grindelwald let out a deep sigh at this.
"I see you have much to learn then."
Taking out his wand, he summoned a globe from across the room. It was encapsulated by a glass ceil, protecting the moving currents of water and the variety of terrains that made up the continents, which revolved in unison.
"You are the first child I have seen in quite some time," Grindelwald began. "And from what I can see, you will be head of this family sooner than you may prefer. So allow me to teach you a little lesson, from which you will better understand my perspective."
Perseus sat back in his chair with a smirk on his face, looking as though he had already heard whatever the wizard had to say. Out of the corner of his eyes, he began to peer back and forth from Grindelwald to the large wrapped present on the desk.
"Ill tell you what," Grindelwald said. "If I think you thoroughly understand the lesson, we will open your uncle's present. Does that sound like a deal?"
Perseus narrowed his eyes at Grindelwald upon hearing the proposition.
"But that's Arty's present," he protested half heartedly.
"Well...yes. But I have a feeling he wouldn't mind. If you'd rather not though..."
"No! I mean... I don't think he'd mind. I'm sure this isn't his only one..."
"Excellent," Gellert concluded.
Tapping the chair beneath him with his wand, he apparated next to Perseus, who seemed startled by his sudden appearance. Nevertheless, he scooted forward to get a better view of the globe that now sat on the desk.
"Now...lets keep this simple, shall we?" Grindelwald began as he spotted England on the globe with his finger. Upon touching it, the country lit up as transparent clouds formed above it. On the very northern tip of Scotland, dark clouds were cast above as rain and lightning stormed down upon it, waves crashing against the rocky cliffs of its sea line.
"Tough day for Scotland, eh?" Grindelwald smiled.
Only seeing an impatient expression from the boy, he moved on.
"Anyway, here is where we are," he touched England with his finger once again before spinning the globe with a wave of his hand. "And this is the world we live on. Upon it, nature has placed animal, man, and wizard. Among every species, there is a primal struggle that each and every one of us have in common. Can you tell me what that struggle is?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Perseus only shook his head in response.
"It is survival, Perseus. However," Grindelwald raised an eyebrow, "in this struggle we meet conflict, both within nature and with each other. Now...nature inevitably selects those who will prosper and those who will parish, and those who will ultimately endure conflict with one another. It is the manifestation of absolute justice. And it is this justice, my boy, that the weak cannot accept. That only the strong deserve to live."
Looking over at the boy, Gellert saw that he was now at the edge of his seat and starting to pay attention, still staring at the spinning globe.
"Yet, the process of elimination is on going," Grindelwald went on. "As nature continues to spare the worthy in our struggle for survival, man and wizard become the rulers of nature, and thus the masters of justice. How do we rule over nature? How do we rule over one another? Essentially...how do we coexist? These are the questions that separates animal from man and wizard, and they are the questions that quickly become our conflicts."
Flicking his hand toward his tea cup from across the table, Grindelwald summoned the cup towards him and finished the tea off before continuing.
"In this," he said, "we learn that it is not our struggles or the resulting conflicts that reveal our nature, but how we strive to answer these conflicts. Man, for their part, chooses war, genocide, slavery, and destruction of the natural world to to solve their problems. Their history is written in blood...often dictated by greed. Wizarding kind, on the other hand, has endured two wars during the course of its history, along with a couple of rather insignificant Goblin uprisings," Grindelwald restrained himself from rolling his eyes at this. "A political revolution during my time, and an unfortunate slaughter ignited by a mad man ten years ago. Both of these wars, however, were due to the growing muggle population."
Stopping the globe from its continual spin with another flick of his hand, Grindelwald looked at Perseus.
"You will be the head of the Black family before you know it. If your understanding of this world does not exceed your age, you will be duped into lies and fallacies. So understand this if you do not understand anything else child. Muggles are not weak, they are simply godless. They are not stewards of this world as we are, but barbarians in need of guidance. By themselves, their answers to their conflicts only rise so far above the animals. This is why they are not meant to rule over nature, it is a perversion of world order. They are meant to be looked after...ruled over. Not only for us, but for themselves."
Perseus, who had never heard a man speak with such passion or depth, gathered his thoughts. After a couple of moments, he responded in the only way he knew how.
"For the greater good, right? That's what Arty always says...What does it mean, anyway? For everyone?"
Grindelwald's eyes looked down upon the boy while he reached for the present on the desk.
"For now, only know that it means to believe in something larger than yourself, my boy. Your uncle knows this, and so must you...sooner rather than later."
"And thats what it means when he says a new world order, isn't it? To look after the muggles? To set them right?" Perseus' pride swelled in his voice, his uncle's sayings over the years beginning to make more sense.
"Precisely," Grindelwald's smile returned as he handed the boy the present.
Abandoning any further curiosity on the subject, Perseus took the present and felt its weight collapse onto his lap. Just as he was about to tear the wrapping open, however, he noticed a small tag on its side. Ripping it off, he read...
Your wish for a brother and sister have never fallen on deaf ears. But since you have always been rather fond of this creature, hopefully he will make for a half way suitable companion.