No one understood the perfume
of the shadow magnolia of your belly.
No one knew you crushed completely
a humming-bird of love between your teeth.
It’s the first full moon of summer when he comes to you in the night, curls sinfully aglow, Rhenish elf wine and is that firewhiskey on his breath, come with me and it’s what you want, I can smell it on you in his throat, lyrical with that accent that flows and ebbs like the tides, like he’s forgotten which is his first language, or maybe he never had one, thundercloud eyes, no you can’t see his eyes in silhouette-shadow and without your glasses, you can only see enough to know that moonlight ill becomes him or it would if he allowed it, but no, he only burns a brighter gold in its quicksilver cast, and you think you finally might understand shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, thou art more lovely and far less temperate, but you are no Shakespeare and he is no Fair Youth, he’s the itching beneath your skin you didn’t know was there, the hitch in your impeccable handwriting, three drops of dragon’s blood in your cauldron, and you go with him before he or you can draw breath.
“You’re not afraid,” he says once you are well and truly alone, alone with the night and the forest and thirteen spells for concealment and safety, and still he burns.
“Deathly afraid,” you contradict with the half-smile you’ve already been practicing for seven years, the smile that knows without saying, the smile onto which most anything can be projected, and it doesn’t work on him for a second but then you couldn’t love him for a second if it did.
Deathly, he whispers into the hollow of your neck, deathly, and his wand plucks open the clasp of your cloak and the buttons of your robes one by one, and you can feel the magic crackling just beneath the surface, lightning, and you look down and bite your lip because you are too many bones and sickly-white skin, but he only laughs a mockery of mockery and won’t let you look away, a kind of violence you never thought to want, want, yes, oh, if you thought the sight of him scorched your eyes that’s nothing compared to the brush of his fingertips over your sternum, the ghost of his lips above your collarbone, and when he tells you take me, hard, Albus, will that stop you looking at me with your heart in your eyes, you barely know how beyond the simple dull meaningless mechanics of it, but you know even less how to refuse.
You whimper his name some time later, and this time his laugh is wings unfolding, ripples in a still pond, your undoing.
There slept a thousand little persian horses
in the moonlight plaza of your forehead,
while, for four nights, I embraced there
your waist, the enemy of snowfall.
Kendra’s grave sits pristine through the bright and dark of the moon, through storms that roll in off the sea, through the nights when you break (there’s never just one breaking point, never one tempest that finally pours itself out and yields to clear skies, just some nights when it’s bearable and some nights when it’s not) and leave Aberforth with an unconscious Ariana and what will curdle into a lifetime’s bitterness, no you’re far from proud of that but what else can be done when hysteria takes over and the wild magic follows, creeping in through the cracks in Ariana’s skull, filling in the bruises in her mind, until she screams herself hoarse not with panic or pain but with power, and just before you subdue her (it hurts worse every time, in every way) you always swear you can see great shadows towering from her shoulder blades, the black hollows behind her eyes and nose, the hinge of her jaw, claws of bone tearing at your throat, and then she’s just a girl again with nothing stirring beneath those thin eyelids, your baby sister who deserves none of this but you can never think that without adding a neither do I, and your mother’s grave is far from a sanctuary but it’s a place of stone and dust and there you can smolder and smolder and never fear that anything else will catch fire.
Until. Until who should be there but him, and my what a fortuitous happenstance this is, he smiles up at you from his perch on a headstone as old and worn as the books you hide beneath your floorboard, as your heart since coming home, now there’s a sentimental simile for you.
“Taken to haunting cemeteries, Gellert?” you pretend-sneer, pretend being the best you can do now or ever but you haven’t got one more placid smile left in you at the moment, “how very passé.”
“Taken to weeping at your mother’s grave, Albus?” he counters, angelic, “how very…oh, where do I even begin.”
“I was not weeping,” you snap indignantly, but then something snaps in a different sense, and you are, and you crumple at his feet pathetically because there was a part of you that wanted this all along, wanted him to see everything broken in you because he’d have seen it anyway and you’d at least rather show it to him freely although you can’t be free, won’t ever be free, and he smooths your hair and spins you a story of a world where the only graves to weep at are ones you’ve made yourselves, cloak and wand and stone in hand, mein Liebling, and you daren’t look up into his face for fear of what you might find there.
Between the plaster and the jasmines,
your gaze was a pale branch, seeding.
I tried to give you, in my breastbone,
the ivory letters that say ever.
It’s not the promises that intrigue you (immortality and empire and liberation, sweeping and grand oh yes but they’re not what keeps you awake at night, Gellert sees to it that you don’t sleep in varied and sundry other ways though) so much as the ideas, the abstract intellectual rightness of the pure and lovely meritocracy you two envision, but its rightness is in the abstract only which bothers you because you never could account for why theory should differ from practice, and what’s more you cannot ever quite reconcile that part of you that thrills to The Picture of Dorian Gray and Twelfth Night and Edward II (oh no, not a drop of magical blood in the veins of any of those authors, much as some may have wished it otherwise) with the part of you that thrills to Gellert’s harsh and utilitarian philosophy, nor the part of you that remembers that your own dearly departed mother was of the blood of Spanish merchants, nor the part of you that is of the blood of a man who killed three Muggle boys without a second thought, or so he said, so Kendra said, so the Prophet said, and the few times you’ve wondered if that’s really how it went you’ve then wondered if it’s possible to use Occlumency on yourself because that way lies only ruin, secrets that could tear the family apart even now when you think there’s nothing left to be torn, even now after Percival, after Kendra, but all your doubts and inconsistencies melt away anyway in Gellert’s knifing stare, the flat of his palm, the arc of his hipbone, and so that is how you must live out your days, now and forever, content to be a curling cinder in his blaze.
One night (moon a waxing crescent), emboldened by vodka and the starscape reflected in Gellert’s eyes, declarations of love lining your mouth, you pull him close and murmur, promise me, Gellert—but what? What could you ask him for that hasn’t already been promised in the way he talks of the future, the way the pronouns have shifted from I to we, the way his teeth curve over your neck and his nails drag down your spine?
He only smiles, sings in your ear a verse from the Kalevala, soft, and you think he understands anyway.
There are whispers running through Godric’s Hollow among the Muggle and magical alike, and sometimes you think to worry but then he runs a finger over your bottom lip, murmurs, let them talk, their time is coming, and you believe him, so your sheets stain red and there’s golden laughter in the dark, always laughter, and it’s only a little more fearful than Ariana’s shrieks and much less so than silence, and Aberforth glares blunt daggers whenever he looks at you but you are perfectly impervious with your armor of fresh bruises and for the Greater Good.
Ever, ever: garden of my torture,
your body, flies from me forever,
the blood of your veins is in my mouth now,
already light-free for my death.
It’s the third full moon of summer and there’s a new grave in the cemetery beside Kendra’s, curse marks all over the house, and all your wishes for a life without Ariana have come true, and the worst of it is you only grieve because it’s your fault, you don’t grieve purely because she’s gone, you never had it in you to love her, and the worst of it is that Aberforth knows, he thinks it every time he looks at you, and the worst of it is you will never know who or what it was that killed her, your wand hand trembles every time you even think the words Priori Incantatem (and this is when you learn to press your wand to your temple and withdraw a silver thread although it’s years before you acquire your Pensieve, as you have no wish to do anything but cast the memory of Ariana’s moment of death into the sea) and now there’s another phrase for the longings in you, dare not speak its name is only the beginning, there should be a never again and a take this from me, please in there somewhere as well, sometimes you start wondering if there’s a spell for people like you, an elixir that can cure you of this dreadful illness, don’t be absurd Albus you know as well as anyone that love and death are the two things modern magic can’t touch although now you also understand why so many fools keep on bloody trying.
“I’m not fucking going back there,” Aberforth says on August 31st, “Why should I? You’ve got more than enough N.E.W.T.s for all thr—” He goes white, then runs outside, and the sound of the door slamming is as final as the toll of a bell.
You depart for a nondescript Ministry job the next day, and that’s the last time you speak to him for nine years.
Years fade into decades and you fade into nothing, Transfiguration papers and alchemy all you have left, and Gellert’s claws slowly sink into Eastern Europe much as they once sunk into you, and forty-six years after the summer of 1899 when Flamel sends you out into the Krakow battlefield you don’t wonder, what if I had been with him for all this, and when he finally bows those golden curls to you, choking I yield through a mouthful of blood and ash, you don’t think of the three different times you screamed the same to him, you don’t think of, you don’t think, you don’t.