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07 August 2009 @ 05:34 pm
galatea [hp - Dumbledore/Grindelwald]  
Title: galatea
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Dumbledore/Grindelwald
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3000
Summary: A man can be locked away, but his legacy remains.
Notes: Quite a bit of Voldemort managed to sneak in, as did several literary references. (They're intellectuals, dammit.) Nonsequential like whoa, but there's a method to my madness. Maybe. Written for 31_days prompt: seven for a secret never to be told


At Durmstrang, it is understood that only with a complete and intimate understanding of the Dark Arts might one hope to stand against them.

Dumbledore has no intention of implementing such a radical philosophy at Hogwarts, but he can sympathise with the theory. It has gone wrong before, it will go wrong again, but the truly dangerous will learn no matter what restrictions are placed upon them. Tom Riddle is proof enough of that. But knowledge itself— knowledge of the terrible as well as of the beautiful, of ones failings and flaws alongside ones strength… Dumbledore may regret many, many things, but knowledge painfully gained is not among them. And thus he keeps the old tomes hidden away in the Restricted Section of the library, and when he sees the need to look through them, he does so with care. He understands seduction, the desire to surrender oneself to a beautiful ideal, no matter how rotten its core.

Eleven years.

Eleven years of slow defeat, of anticipation, of preparation. Eleven years of forging weapons of living people, of friends and former enemies, and of sending them to fight in his stead. Eleven years of thinking as a Dark wizard thinks – and it comes so easily, still so very easily all of these years later – simply to keep from being left behind in the wake of a madman’s terrible genius…

Shall this always be our legacy?

Shall I ever be free of your influence?

He runs his quill across a sheet of parchment, watches as the words spill out across the page – words he has barely allowed himself the chance to so much as think these past eleven years. Would it please you to know that another Dark Lord had risen to finish your work? I wonder. Oh, he does not care— not as you once did. For him, your ideology is nothing more than a means to an end, a tried and proven path to power. Our misbegotten child, born of my neglect and your philosophy, he would have taken your would-be wizarding empire and bled it dry.

Would you, if you were to look upon him, finally recognise the image of your own madness?

Beside him, Fawkes stumbles from his perch and onto the hardwood desk, his plumage worn and faded, mere minutes away from death. Dumbledore reaches out with his free hand and runs two fingers down the back of the bird’s head, offering what little comfort he can at such a time as this. I have never credited you with much bravery – the blind pride of a Gryffindor, you would surely laugh – but I have often wished that he too had had the courage (or simply the arrogance) to answer my challenges.

“You asked to see me, Professor Dumbledore, sir?”

Dumbledore glances up at the words and quickly rolls up the piece of parchment. The half giant’s arrival is, as is often the case, a welcome distraction. “Yes, Hagrid,” he says, setting the scroll aside. “I did. As you have probably heard by now, Voldemort—” he studiously ignores Hagrid’s exaggerated wince, “—has been… set back, if not defeated.”

“Is it true that Lily an’ James…?”

“Yes, I am afraid that it is.” He sighs, presses his fingertips together. Godric’s Hollow has far too often been the site of tragedy; when he shuts his eyes, he cannot help but now see his sister staring out at him through Lily Potter’s face. “But they will, we can hope, be his last victims.” He pauses for a moment, weighing his options, wondering how much he’s willing to delegate to another. “I must ask a favour of you, Hagrid. I would like you to go to the Potters’ home and bring their child, Harry Potter, to Privet Drive. I believe you already know where that is?”

“I do, sir. I mean, I’ll do that, sir.”

He asks no questions, demands no explanation, utterly unconcerned by the headmaster’s reluctance to go himself. For this Dumbledore is grateful; he had not yet decided what lie to tell. “Thank you, Hagrid,” he says to the man’s retreating back.

Beside him, Fawkes gives a piercing, piteous cry, and bursts into flame, burning himself to dust and cinders. Dumbledore watches in heavy silence for moment before suddenly smiling. “Yes,” he finally murmurs, reaching for his scroll. “I do believe that this is a night for rebirths.”

He presses the tip of the Elder Wand to the edge of the parchment and watches as it crinkles and burns. Once nothing remains but ash, he rises to his feet and sets off to meet Professor McGonagall.


“Will you give me to the dementors then, Albus?”

The words are bitter, hostile, but there’s a slight crease between his eyebrows, a hint of apprehension that nobody but Albus Dumbledore would have been able to recognise. The question is somewhat encouraging; even after everything, he is still relieved to find that Grindelwald fears more for his soul than his life.

This is not remorse. This is nothing like remorse, but Albus Dumbledore has learned how to live on small, fragile hopes.

“Oh no, Gellert. I do not think that I shall.”

He slips the Elder Wand into a pocket in his robe; Grindelwald watches but makes no attempt to stop him. Even if he could break free of the spells Dumbledore has woven around him, the wand has already changed hands though both still live. This is unusual but not entirely unexpected—(“The error,” he remembers Gellert having decided, a lifetime ago, “has always been to win it by blood. Those who have acquired it through the traditional means have always been conquered by it. We shall have to obtain it differently. Bloodlessly. Through theft, perhaps.”)

Dumbledore forces the memory away. “I would not wish such a fate upon my worst enemy,” he finally says, “which is, indeed, most fortunate for you.”

Of course, the choice of punishment ultimately belongs to the Wizengamot. It will be months, however, before they have recovered the nerve to deny any request that Dumbledore makes. If he acts quickly, the trial should be concluded before a thirst for vengeance replaces relief as the driving emotion among the wizards of Europe, and then…

Azkaban? Certainly not, Dumbledore decides, carefully not thinking about his long dead father. Azkaban could never hope to hold a wizard such as Grindelwald.

“Then… why?” Grindelwald demands. It is more a challenge than a question.

“Why did I not kill you?” Dumbledore asks quietly. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, runs unbidden through his mind, words from a half forgotten play. “I think, Gellert, that there has been enough death as it is.”

“Then you would… what? Lock me away?” The idea, impossibly, seems to have just occurred to him. Disbelief becomes horror, and then fades into stunned comprehension. “But then that is your answer to everything, is it not?” he spits. “Do me no favours, Dumbledore.”

Dumbledore smiles sadly. “There is a difference,” he says, “between kindness and mercy.”


The sword of Gryffindor might come to the brave of heart, but it is said that a phoenix will bond only to those who have been truly forged in fire, those who have plumbed the depths of their own possibilities and risen, victorious, above even themselves. A creature of rebirth, the phoenix serves to show that nothing is insurmountable, that no experience fully defines who a person is.

Sometimes Albus Dumbledore wonders if it is true, but most often he simply suspects that the old saying has got it backwards.


“Merely taking your life would not satisfy me, I admit —”

And not simply because he suspects that another death would not yet finish Voldemort… not simply that at all. There is a special kind of hatred that he reserves for this particular Dark Lord, and he would gladly hand him to the dementors if enough of his soul remained to be taken. Another duel after all these years, more than a decade after he had expected this confrontation, and Dumbledore is finally forced to recognise what he has long suspected…

He can show mercy to the worst that humanity has to offer, but standing here in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic, he realises once and for all that there is nothing left to pity, nothing more to save. And it is a horrifying thought, but it is also something of a relief.

As low as you fell, old friend, there is so much further that you could have fallen.

Like day and night, Gellert Grindelwald and Tom Riddle, like fire and ice. There are infinite ways in which a person might be good and noble, kind or righteous – Sirius and Severus spring to mind: poor, brave, dead Sirius, ultimately as blind as the rest of his pureblood family, and Severus, who has failed every test but the one that matters – but that there might be more than one form of evil in the world…

That one reality might allow for both a Grindelwald and a Voldemort…

“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” Riddle snarls, and Dumbledore marvels again at the thin line that separates the heights of mercy from the depths of cruelty. He wonders that a single fate could offer both a chance for salvation and for eternal damnation. And would I seal you too in a tower at the edge of the world, out of hatred instead of misplaced love? Would I seal you alone with your hatred and your madness and your fears, fuelled by the magic of your Horcruxes, until the end of time? It would mean nothing to you; you have not even the strength to consider turning back from your chosen path.

“You are quite wrong,” is all that he says, for there is horror even in that final attempt at mercy. Dumbledore has seldom set foot in Nurmengard in fifty years, but the tower looms often enough at the edge of his thoughts, burned into his memory. His nightmares keep him from forgetting exactly what he has done. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.”

Would that I could visit all of them upon you.

For he hates him; he hates Voldemort with every fibre of his being. He hates this serpentine monster, this would-be champion of a pureblood world, this ignorant killer who drowns himself in the Dark Arts because he cannot bear to face his own fears. He hates this Dark Lord, and he hates his Arts, and he’s all too glad of it, because it proves that it was never the Darkness, never the madness, never the power…

(for he has never fully stopped loving Gellert Grindelwald.)


It is early afternoon, and the midday sun is gleaming through the branches overhead, glinting like lightning off the gold of Gellert’s hair.

Albus shifts against the bole of the old oak tree, smiles at the other boy’s soft murmur of protest. “I’m not your pillow, Gellert,” he laughs, even as he trails his fingers across his friend’s collarbone, across the bruise blossoming purple at the base of his throat. Swift as a shadow, short as any dream, he remembers Ariana having whispered, once upon a time, and he likes the imagery too much to consider the connotations.

Gellert stretches out against him, wild as a lynx. After half a moment’s thought, he undoes several more buttons so that Albus’s hand can dip lower. “I hadn’t noticed,” he replies, smiling, his eyes sliding shut as if to prove the point. “We could return inside, if you wish. Loath as I am to face your scowling brother just yet, I did want another look at that Transfiguration tome Marchbanks gave you.”

His English is, like everything else, perfect. It holds the slightest trace of an Austrian accent— a deliberate flaw, Albus suspects. He believes that Gellert actually prefers to sound somewhat foreign. Exotic. Distinctive. Unknowable.

“There isn’t any hurry,” Albus admits, reaching for a pumpkin pasty with his free hand. He’d try another chocolate frog, but the last one had leapt free and, unfortunately, into Gellert’s hair. The resulting black eye had been easily mended, but Albus doesn’t want to risk startling him again. “The books will stay. The sun, on the other hand, is rare enough as it is.”

Gellert laughs. “You English wizards ought to do something about your weather,” he chides, though they both know that he’s rather fond of even the rainstorms.

Albus takes a bite of his pasty and doesn’t reply.

A torn bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans lies discarded on the ground beside them, its contents now scattered throughout the grass. Albus has already picked out and consumed the yellow ones – only three proved to be lemon – and watches in amusement as Gellert begins to juggle a dozen more, keeping them afloat with the slightest whish of his wand and a silent levitation charm. Blood red, sea green, a particularly unappetizing shade of muddy brown…

It’s this last one that seems to have caught his attention.

“Here,” Gellert finally says, handing the piece of candy to Albus. “Try this one.”

Albus accepts it automatically, shoves it into his mouth without thinking. It is – quite easily – the most disgusting thing he’s ever tasted. Gagging, he spits it out into the grass and manages to knock Gellert out of his lap. “That…” he sputters, wiping a sleeve across his mouth, “you… Merlin! You are sadistic.”

Gellert laughs, loud, joyous, infective. Suddenly fighting not to smile himself, Albus transfigures a blade of grass into a goblet and murmurs, “Aguamenti.” He’s purposely careless with the spell; the water splatters over the brim of the glass and drenches Gellert, who only laughs the harder for it. His smile is easy, natural, with just a hint of smugness, and looking at it, Albus has already half forgotten the prank with the candy.

“Sadistic,” he repeats with mock severity, but he’s already leaning forward, his fingers brushing against the side of Gellert’s face. He pulls back slightly, waiting until the ease and smugness fade from that smile, until the smile itself fades entirely, and then he decides, “I daresay you should taste it as well.”

“Gladly,” Gellert breathes against his lips, and Albus spends the next few moments discovering that Every Flavour Beans leave very little aftertaste at all. Gellert tastes like nothing definable, and Albus finds himself thinking – absurdly – of summer storms and wild magic, of a terrible, yawning need he hadn’t even noticed until it was finally met.

What would I do – what would I be – without you? A lifeless thing of stone, no doubt.

His aborted expedition is the furthest thing from his mind as he lies there in the grass, a tangle of limbs and clothing, Gellert’s fingertips digging into his shoulder. There isn’t a wonder in the world that could compare to such a day as this.


It is, in the end, not the worse of memories but the best of them that is hardest to live with.

Perhaps there is, after all this time, no distinction.


He cannot apologise, not for this.

“You have used me,” Severus says, in a tone that echoes the death of all beautiful things, of trust and confidence and the ability to believe. His words bespeak the miserable emptiness that remains when the illusion is stripped away, when one must face the truth of things, the horror of trust misplaced, and it pains Dumbledore to watch Severus come to this terrible conclusion. And thus am I revealed.

He cannot apologise. He may regret it, he may despise himself for it, but he would take none of it back. Love may be beautiful – beautiful beyond belief – but its power is terrifying, unimaginable. To employ such a thing as a weapon, time and again…

I have used you, Severus? he thinks humourlessly. I have used everyone – myself included. I have made of myself a weapon, forged in the Dark Arts, consecrated to the Greater Good, and if I can only live with myself by knowing that I have done what I must, then that shall have to be enough.

He says almost nothing. Severus – Severus, who loved more wisely, more purely than he ever did – deserves the truth, but Dumbledore will not burden him with it. You are, in the end, a better man than I.

And Severus leaves him. He leaves him to his bird, to his clawed hand, to his creeping death, to his memories. And when the silence becomes too much, Dumbledore pulls a quill out of his desk and quietly enchants it. He stares at the instrument for a long moment, thoughts and doubts running through his mind, and then, bowing his head, he finally begins to speak.

“Oh, Pygmalion,” he murmurs with a soft chuckle, “what would you say if you were to see anew that which you have crafted? If a weapon forged in the Dark Arts is the only strength that can stand against them, if I have been brought to terrible life for this purpose – to stare into the face of evil and to know it, to know it too well to ever back down – then so be it. All I am, I am because of you.”

He pauses, watches as the quill slowly catches up to his dictation, and then quietly admits, “I can no longer remember which of us truly won that duel.”

He smiles mirthlessly and falls silent for a long moment. “And here am I, Albus Dumbledore, standing on top of the world, the Elder Wand in my hand. Its power is not yet broken, you must understand, whatever we might have thought. It still demands blood, even if I will not feed it myself. And so I send forth my Army, those loyal, trusting children who shall serve as my sacrifice to the Greater Good. It was, after all, mine before it was yours.

“And you, Gellert… you, sealed in your tower, learning – if rumours can be trusted – remorse. Learning at last the shame and regret that you long ago taught me…”

He trails off and looks away, as if by not watching the words appear upon the sheet of parchment, he might be able to take them back. He knows already that he will not burn this letter, as he has burned so many in the past. “You would enjoy the irony, I think,” he concludes, his eyes tightly shut, “but I, alas, cannot.”

ranuelranuel on August 9th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
Beautifully done. I especially liked the descriptions in the scene in the woods with Grindelwald.
Rhaella: after all this time?rhaella on August 9th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you-- especially for your comments on that scene, since it's the one I'm still working a little bit on before cross-posting tomorrow. :) Glad you enjoyed.