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Shadows Die Twice

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There was quite a number of legends about Durmstrang. And most of them weren’t pretty or even engaging. Albus Dumbledore had been to Hogwarts for the almost entirety of his education. It was nice and sweet. Until it wasn’t anymore.

That is why he had left for his last year. Now, he was stuck here until the final exams.

Beauxbâtons didn’t want him and Ilvermorny was way too expensive for his family budget. The only school which had accepted him in Europe was this Institute, lost in the North. 

Its headmaster had stated in his letter: Your son is a brilliant mind. It would be a shame to leave him without proper education because of his deviancies. Don't worry about the latter. We will be careful and will take care of them. He will not bring more shame to your family. He will not be a burden anymore when you will have him back.

It explained why he was waiting in front of Headmaster Krall's office. The moment he had come off from the famous underwater boat, he had been led by an antipathic man in the opposite direction of his school-mates. It was probably because they wanted to warn him about the correct behaviour to adopt. His mother had done the same before he had left.

Albus felt so shameful about the whole situation. If he had been more careful, he wouldn’t be here. If Elphias hadn’t… No, he couldn’t think like this: it was his entire fault. He needed to take his responsibilities. Yet, he was quite happy, in a way, to leave Godric’s Hollow. He couldn’t bear anymore his younger brother’s disgusted glare or his mother’s stern remarks. And because of this, he couldn’t help to be irritated by his naive and innocent sister.

He knew he was taking his anger on the wrong person. Yet, she was the easiest victim and he felt desperate to have power on something – or someone. For so long, he had relieved in his golden boy’s status, and now it was gone. His brilliant future had been destroyed by a mere mistake.

Suddenly, the door in front of him opened. There was no one but he took that as an invitation to enter the office. It was probably what he had to do because he was welcomed by a tall man, drowned in luxurious black clothes.

“Mister Dumbledore, please, take a seat. I see that you managed to get your new uniform. It is great.”

Albus did what he was told to. The office was really different from the one in Hogwarts. Even Headmaster Black, who was one of the most antipathic wizards he had ever met, seemed less terrifying than the man in front of him.

Headmaster Krall, despite his sweet smile and his honeyed voice, was realising something sinister. Maybe, it was because of the environment – dark and cold – but his features seemed even more prominent. He almost appeared as a skeleton. Albus was hoping to not have a lot of interaction with him, in the future.

“You know well the situation you are in, Mister Dumbledore.”

“Yes, and I am thankful to you and your school to have accepted me, despite my… history.”

“Don’t be. It is normal for us to help a lost young man. And every illness has its remedy.”

Albus couldn’t help to notice that neither of them was putting the real words on the situation. As if not saying it explicitly made the whole thing easier or, at least, less disgusting. Albus didn’t want to know which one was the better between the two possibilities.

For some months, he hadn't been ashamed of himself anymore, but it was a nice feeling long gone, now. The reality had shown its ugly head again and the guilt was back, even more poisonous than before.

“We are not going to restrain you that much. You are considered almost like any other student, don’t worry. However, each professor had been made aware of the situation. If they see one incriminating thing, there will be sanctions. And I assure you that we don’t take punishment lightly in Durmstrang.”

The Headmaster was saying this as if he couldn't control himself. As if he hadn't done this for years. As if he had somehow attacked his best-friend because of some uncontrollable urge. But then, the reality of the "facts" struck him: it was what have said Elphias to innocent himself.

“I will do my best, Headmaster, I promise.”

"I am convinced of that, my boy. But as I said before, every illness can be cured. That is why you will have to take this."

He put some vials on the desk, just in front of him. The glass was dark green.

“This should help you. One, every evening.”

“Thank you, but… what is it?”

“Our nurse had a dear brother who had the same problem as you. So, she swore to find a remedy. And here is her latest experiment. Don’t worry: it’s tested on rats which present the same behaviour as you, before.”

Albus gulped at the comparison but conserved his neutral expression. He didn’t want to know what had happened to the brother’s nurse. Hopefully, he had had a peaceful death. Which wasn’t sure at all, with the actual situation.

"When you will have drunk them all, go to the infirmary. Nurse Crane is very nice and comprehensive: she will give you more of them."

Albus was going to take the potion, of course. He had to. But, at the bottom of his mind, he couldn’t help to think that he needed to know what was inside, the ingredients that had been used to make it. He was not that brilliant in potions (even if he was above most of his former classmates) but he knew the basic security rules.

"Yet, if the teaching staff, at least most of it, is going to be comprehensive if you show a willingness to heal, not every student is in the same mindset. That is why I would be discreet about your treatment if I was you…"

“I understand. I will not let them discover anything about my situation.”

“I am pleased to see you are a reasonable young man, Mister Dumbledore.”

Desperate to move from the current subject, Albus asked:

“And for the lessons…”

"Your results prove to be quite impressive. I am you will be able to catch up. If you have any difficulties with the language, don't hesitate to ask your classmates. And for how the school works, you can count on your roommate. He is just a fifth year but he is already quite brilliant. Mister Grindelwald had lost his former roommate, last year. A tragedy, really. I hope you two will become good friends. I am sure he will have a positive influence on you. And most important: if you don’t manage to control yourself, he will be able to defend himself. “

Albus had really the impression to be considered as a wild animal. It was terribly embarrassing and uncomfortable. Yet, he couldn't do anything but lower his head. He just had to pray to have a nice and respectful roommate. If he believed what the Headmaster had said, it was the case. But after his latest experience with Headmaster Black and the behaviour of this one, he had the diffuse impression he had to be worried.

 

When Albus finally left the office, there was a new student in front of the door, leaned on the wall. He was probably around his own age, with dark and curly hair. He seemed to be a “laissez-faire I don’t care” kind of person.

“You are the new student? The British one, I’m right?”

“Yes… My name is Albus Dumbledore.”

“Vitali Gregorovitch. I’m one of the two students in charge of the seventh years. The Headmaster asked me to lead you to your room. Don't worry about your schedule or anything related: everything will be brought to you there.”

So, this boy had probably the charge he had when he was in Hogwarts. Albus felt his heart tightening: if he had continued his education there, he would probably have been the Head Boy.

“Thank you.” He answered anyway.

Albus intended to make his tone as neutral as possible, but his relief at seeing someone not at least a little threatening probably showed, because his new schoolmate said:

“Be careful, Dumbledore. Durmstrang isn’t Hogwarts. It would be unfortunate for you to be eaten alive…”

“What do you mean?” Albus asked while he was following Gregorovitch.

“Don’t trust easily people, here. You have less ally than you could think.”

“Not everyone can be mean or even double, here.”

Gregorovitch looked at him in silence as if he was a child, for a few seconds, then he spoke again:

“Who is your roommate? Did they put you with a first year? I know every seventh-year bedroom is taken."

"No. The Headmaster said he was a fifth-year. Gellert Grindelwald, or something similar."

Gregorovitch made a face and Albus knew it wasn’t a good sign at all. But he asked anyway:

“Is there a problem with him?”

"I told you it was a bad idea to trust people here, especially because you are new and from Hogwarts, you remember. Well, if there was a king of the "up to no good”s, in the Institute, it would be him. Don’t be mistaken by his looks or by his age. I don’t know why you came here, Dumbledore… but you seem to be a good and honest man so, don’t involve yourself with him.”

“He can’t be that bad. He must just be a boy, not Satan incarnated.”

"Satan? No, I don't think so. But Lucifer? Without a doubt."

Albus was thinking (and hoping) that Gregorovitch was just dramatic. Maybe to make fun of him, the new student who came from a nice and pretty school, while they had lived here for years. It was pretty logical. But he could make up his mind about his new roommate himself, anyway.

They met some students on the way. They were watching them with curiosity. The organisation seemed really different from Hogwarts. Less familial. As much as the school managed to be a family in the end. Gregorovitch took the time to explain to him what he deemed important about the Institute – the hours to respect, for example, or the place which were forbidden. And when it came to the subjects, the only one which was really going to change was the Defence Against the Dark Arts. There had been reduced to Dark Arts. Albus was not surprised but the idea to use some black magic was not to his liking. A mark from his British education.

When they finally arrived in front of a door, at the end of a dark corridor, dusty and decorated by terrifying gargoyles, Gregorovitch said:

"And there it is. If you want to find me, my room is a floor above this one. Ask for the direction and someone will tell you. Probably.”

“Thank you for your help.”

The other wizard simply nodded and finally declared:

“I mean what I said, you know…”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t involve yourself with Grindelwald. No matter what would happen, you wouldn’t win in the end.”

“You are speaking of him as if he was the bogeyman.” Albus couldn’t help himself to laugh. “I’m powerful enough to take care of a mere fifth year, you know…”

“If you say so… but it would be a shame if you were to finish like his former roommate.”

“What happened to him?”

“He killed himself… at least, that is what his ghost says but… who knows?”

When he opened the door, Albus didn't really notice the austere decoration, the free bed with its dark sheets or his luggage near the desk. Even the breath-taking landscape, depicted in cold tone, visible from the window, didn't matter either.

It didn’t matter because there was a blond boy laying on the other bed. His face was hidden by what it seemed to be a fairy tale book – seeing its cover. But when he put it down, Albus understood why Gregorovitch was some kind of Luciferian figure. With his mismatched eyes and his mischievous smile, Gellert Grindelwald had the beauty of a devil.

Now, the main question was: was the apple rotten inside? If he listened to Gregorovitch, it was the case. If he chose to believe Headmaster Krall, it wasn’t.

“Ah! You must be my new roommate, right? I heard about you on the boat. A transfer student from Hogwarts. Not usual, but I couldn’t find you on the ship…”

He stood up and came to him. Albus hoped he hadn't made a face too stupid and cleared his throat:

“It is because I was ill… The sea doesn’t seem to like me. I am Albus Dumbledore, by the way. Nice to meet you.”

“Gellert Grindelwald. It’s a pleasure. You speak German quite well, I see. It’s surprising… I thought that foreign languages weren’t taught in Hogwarts.”

"I had to learn it to come here. I already had some basis before, I just had to take intensive lessons this summer. Fortunately, my neighbour speaks it and she accepted to teach it to me."

The boy seemed pretty inoffensive, right now, with his golden locks and his handsome features. He didn't even release a real impression of power, least a threatening one. But it was maybe just toned down, Albus couldn't really tell. Grindelwald had a little smile and switched of language to his surprise:

“Well, it is impressive, anyway.”

“You speak English!”

It wasn't a lot and his accent was quite strong but Albus was happy to hear something familiar. The students of the Institute spoke a lot of languages – German was the official one – but he didn't have heard some English speakers.

"My Great-Aunt lives in the British countryside and I meet her sometimes, for the fests, so… But I would prefer to speak in German if you don't mind. It's my mother tongue with Hungarian and you will have to learn it no matter what in the end."

“You are Hungarian?”

“Well, my mother is Hungarian, my father is German and I was born in Austria.”

“You are quite of a melange!”

Grindelwald had a little laugh. His smile really seemed sincere and Albus couldn’t help to be charmed. But then what he was thinking slapped him in the face: was he stupid to have thoughts like this? After what had happened? He was truly disgusting. Ashamed of himself, he turned his eyes from his new roommate. The latter was now sitting on his bed again.

Albus went to his desk, he wanted to check his schedule and his stuff in general. All the time he did it, he felt Grindelwald’s gaze on him. The other one was observing him with interest without hiding it.

"So… What is a Hogwarts student doing here? Did you come to study true magic? The Dark Arts?”

Obviously, the subject had to come up. Albus had already prepared a lie but he was never good at telling them. That is why he prayed that Grindelwald wasn’t that talented in the matter, either.

"I thought that having another school mentioned in my curriculum would give me more job opportunity. Showing that you can adapt everywhere is always good."

“Really? I thought that I would have to my room with a delinquent expelled from Hogwarts and I find myself with a golden boy student… What a shame…”

Albus froze when he heard the blond saying this but he kept his well-made mask and said:

“Sorry to disappoint you… If you wanted to find a companion of mischiefs, it’s a missed case.”

“You think so? Anyway… It means that you are powerful, right? At least, I think we will have interesting conversations…”

 

He didn't go to dinner the first evening, nor did Grindelwald who was reading his book. Albus had written a letter to inform his mother that he had arrived safely. For a moment, he hesitated to write something to his brother, asking him the news from Hogwarts but in the end, he didn't do it. He wasn't even sure that Aberforth would respond and he wasn't ready to bear this possibility. When it was the time to sleep, Albus looked discreetly at the potion the Headmaster had given him. He didn’t know what to do. Was taking it without knowing its composition a good idea? Albus decided it wasn’t.

He finally decided to settle this matter for good before taking it. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe the competency of this nurse, but maybe a little. He stood up from his chair, his wand in his pocket and kept the vial hidden in his hand. When he reached the door of the room, he heard Grindelwald calling him:

“Don’t get lost, Dumbledore! And be careful, there are things you don’t want to meet at night!”

“Is it a tradition to frighten the new student? If I was listening to you all, Durmstrang would be some kind of house of horrors.”

“Why? Gregorovitch warned you about something else?”

For a moment, Albus thought to say: “yes, about you”. But Grindelwald maybe didn’t have a big sense of humour and would take umbrage about it. That is why he decided to tell another lie:

“He said there were ghosts who could be a little frightening. But we had some in Hogwarts and Peeves, one of them is particularly mischievous."

"Where do you want to go? Do you want me to go with you?"

“No, thanks. It’s nice of you but I can manage to go to the toilettes by myself.” Albus answered. “Gregorovitch was nice enough to indicate them to me.”

“If you say so…”

And then, he came back to his reading. The way to the toilettes was solitary. No one was outside and it was almost 8 PM. It was cold and dark but he managed to find them. He didn’t waste time and entered in one of them. He took his wand and the vial in his hand. The green glass appeared more translucent at the light of a Lumos. Now, he needed to be quick.

As the teachers’ pet in Hogwarts, he had been able to learn things that weren't taught in the program. That is how he had mastered the spell that the Potion professor used when a student had failed their work. It could separate every element of it in order to see where the mistakes had been made. It was useful only if the user knew the elements which would appear as a result. Albus just had to bet that the nurse hadn’t used complicated ones.

With his wand, he made levitate the liquid for the vial. It was really liquid, with a brown colour not attractive in the slightest. Albus tried to smell it, but its odour was so vague. So, he had no choice but to whisper a smell. The potion began to lighten, revealing its part of water. The brown colour seemed to come from multiple plants. He recognised some of them: orange blossom, lemon balm, valerian, poppy and Humulus Lupulus. There were other ingredients but they were unknown to Albus.

Yet, it wasn’t important: he had understood the main objective of this potion. Making him sleep or at least, doze. It was probably the result of the same reflexion of the Headmaster: he was having urges which needed to be calmed.

But there was no reason for him to take it: he was sleeping well and it wasn’t some urges. And well, as he had already understood it before, there was no remedy for his nature. He was who he was and he knew he would never have his life back, no matter what.

The first morning of lessons went well. He stayed with some seventh years without really knowing what to do. Some had tried to speak with him but they clearly weren’t in the idea of including him to their group. Even Gregorovitch who could have been an ally had stayed behind, saying just what was strictly necessary. What they had studied in class wasn't really that difficult but the foreign language posed some problems.

That is why he was already tired when he followed the rest of the seventh years to the refectory for lunch. It wasn't like in Hogwarts, with four long tables. Here, there was many of them, round. It was how it was possible to notice every different group.

Albus didn’t really know where to go – belonging nowhere – when he heard a voice calling him:

“Hey! Dumbledore! You want to come eating with us?” Grindelwald asked.

His smile seemed to be sincere but Albus still perceived something else behind it. He couldn’t say one but there was something. It was as if only his mouth was smiling, not his eyes. He hesitated for a few seconds: was it really a good idea to part himself from the seventh year group? Wouldn’t it be boring to be with fifth years? Yet, it was probably the best thing to do if he wanted some social interactions quickly.

But when he would have given a positive answer, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"No need to invite him, Grindelwald. He stays with us… After all, he is a seventh-year. And you aren't last time I checked."

It was Gregorovitch who had decided to step in. His expression was neutral, at the opposite of Grindelwald’s one which was now cold and almost antagonistic toward the newcomer. Gregorovitch’s problem’s with him was maybe just that they didn’t get on with each other.

“Gregorovitch… Isn’t Headmaster Krall encouraging interaction between students of different years? And Kovalevski doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, and stay with us…”

"True, but I'm sure Dumbledore has better tastes in the matter of company than Kovalevski. Now, if you would excuse us…”

And on this, he dragged Albus away who was too undecided to protest about it. He saw Grindelwald stood there for a few seconds before turning around and walking away. But not before giving them a displeased glare.

“I told you not to involve yourself more than necessary with him. Did you listen to me?”

“He doesn’t seem really threatening and had even been quite welcoming with me.”

“I will not warn you – nor save you – again, Dumbledore: don’t throw yourself into the lion’s mouth. Given how he is looking at you, you will get there fast enough, anyway.”

It had been a few days since his arrival in Durmstrang and everything was going fine, in general. The courses weren't that difficult except maybe the Dark Arts. However, it was more a matter of perspective about the understanding of the lesson in itself than a real problem. He hadn't grown closed with any student except his roommate – and maybe Gregorovitch. But the latter was more trying to prevent him from entering Grindelwald little court. The blond boy was a true queen bee here, Albus could see it.

Yet, he could understand why: the fifth year had an aura that drew everyone to him. It was subtle, but it was here. But it wasn’t an aggressive attraction, Grindelwald had a smile for everyone and the one honoured by it were almost beaming, every time.

It was late and he had stayed a lot of time in the library. He needed it as much as it reassured him. The library had always been his domain. And it was as well-stocked as the Hogwarts’ one. The only problem was that it was written in old German for some of them and the translation wasn’t easy.

He was slowly coming back to his bedroom, the sun was setting and the air was fresh. Suddenly, he heard some screeches. He stopped and looked around him. When he found nothing, he began to walk again but the sound rang out again, louder. He went on the grass and looked near the trees. Intrigued, he searched for its origin.

And it was in a simple bush, that he found a little creature.

 

“What is it?” Grindelwald asked.

He had raised his head from his textbook which announced something about Magic History. It was an English book and Albus was going to ask why he had a book written by Bathilda Bagshot to study this class when the tiny nestling chirped again. He was probably hungry but Albus didn’t know what to give it. It was probably not eating the same thing as his owl, for sure.

“I found it outside… It was alone and there was no nest visible so… I thought that bringing him here was a good idea…”

“You already have an animal, you will not be allowed to have another one… Especially if it's some wild bird.”

Albus looked for a second at the poor little thing. If he took it back outside, it would die, it was a certitude. And he felt strangely protective of it as if it was something important he needed to keep safe. That is why he proposed after a moment of silence:

“I could keep it here until it would be able to take care of itself… It could be… a secret?”

It wasn’t his habit to break the rules. He had been a prefect after all, and he would have been a Head Boy if everything hadn't happened. But here, it was an exceptional circumstance so he told himself that it was a good solution.

He just needed to have Grindelwald’s complicity, now. The latter stood up and sat next to him on the bed, the bird between them. He was so close that Albus could notice his blond eyelashes. The light was caught in them and Albus couldn’t help to stare at it. Suddenly, his lips felt dry and he had no choice but to wet them, his tongue quickly passing over. Grindelwald caught the movement but didn’t say anything. He simply came even more closed and whispered:

“Oh my my… So you are quite of a delinquent, in the end, Albus Dumbledore…"

Albus had the impression that the eyes of the other wizard were trying to hypnotise him but he found himself eager to follow this lure. And he would have probably done something he would have regret if the nestling hadn't screeched again. He moved backward abruptly and stumbled:

“We can’t let it die…”

“And why not? It is just an animal after all.”

“There is no need for cruelty when we can avoiding it.”

“If you say so…”

“Are you going to denounce me?”

Grindelwald laid down on his bed and looked at the bird. He tried to touch it, but it was too frightened and tried to pinch him. A knowing smile illuminated his face and he declared:

“It depends… what would I gain from this deal, huh?”

Albus cogitated for a minute, then, he remembered Grindelwald’s multiple books written by the old Bathilda. He didn’t really think about it and proposed:

“I could get you a signed book from Bathilda Bagshot. I may have understood that you like them very much, right?”

“How would you do that?” The blond boy asked, seeming curious.

“I know her, she is my neighbour, in Godric’s Hollow.”

And at these words, Grindelwald chuckled. It took Albus by surprise. What was so funny about his proposition?

“So you know the old Bathy? What a coincidence! She is my great-aunt. It’s why I have all of her books. They are really boring, but every time I see her, she offers me one and she always asks what I thought about it. That’s why I read them. Not for my pleasure.”

This was a surprise and Albus didn’t know how to answer. He had no other idea to help his case.

“So? You are going to denounce me?”

“No, of course not. It’s more exciting to hide something so scandalous, don’t you think?” He laughed and winked at Albus.

The young man couldn’t help himself and blushed.

“Thank you…”

“Bah… It’s not that much… But good luck to feed it. Pretty sure it eats pre-chewed maggots or something like this…”

 

It was only when he went to bed, that Albus understood he had made a mistake: by revealing his link with Bathilda – Grindelwald’s great-aunt – he had opened the door of his British life and the ugly secrets which were in it. Now he had no choice but to pray for Grindelwald’s lack of curiosity.

It was Sunday afternoon when he chose to go to the infirmary. He had tried to avoid it for the longest time but now, he couldn't do anything about it. He hadn't drunk any of the vials but he needed them. He was going to give them back to the nurse: it would be proof of his commitment to his treatment.

Nobody needed to know that he had thrown the potion to waste every evening. He didn’t need to doze, in general. Having his mind clear was a necessity. Even if what had said Gregorovitch to him when he had arrived seemed to be greatly exaggerated, he still was in a foreign territory, without a real friend. Grindelwald could maybe be one, the time would tell, but for now…

Nurse Crane was a quite tall woman, given she was of Albus’ height. She had a strong constitution and had probably no problem to held unconscious students in her arms if needed. When she saw him, a polite smile appeared on her face.

“Mister Dumbledore, it’s a pleasure for me to finally meet you. Still, you should have come sooner. I like to see my patient in flesh and bones.”

“Sorry, Miss… This first week was a lot and I didn’t manage to find a little time to meet you.”

“If you say so…” She wasn’t convinced, Albus could see it. Either way, she continued to speak: "Well, how have you been, this week? Did anything noticeable happen? The report of your teachers shows nothing to worry about…”

“No, everything went fine on this aspect.”

“No unwanted urge?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Did you take some physical interest in your fellow-schoolmate? Did you feel the urge to touch them?”

For a brief moment, Albus remembered when Grindelwald had come on his bed, so close to him. But he shook his head and said:

“No, no. Nothing.”

“To touch yourself while thinking about them?”

“No!” Albus answered, mortified. Why did she have to say things like this?

"Are you certain about this? I know you are ashamed of your condition – as you should be: it's one of the ways to prevent you to succumb – but I am here to help you. You have to be honest with me."

Albus couldn’t help to think that in this case, she was the only with that humiliated him. Not what he could have done or what he could be. But he shut down his anger – as he was always doing it since the beginning of all his problems – and said instead:

“I am. I didn’t. I buried myself in the work.”

She seemed pretty pleased by his explanation and her smile felt more sincere.

“Yes, it is not a bad idea. Canalising your energy in something productive can do good. But don’t try to lie to me, Mister Dumbledore. I would know.”

“I wouldn’t dare, I want to go better.”

If there was one thing Albus Dumbledore could do, it was saying what everyone around wanted to hear. That is why the wake had been so brutal after what had happened with Elphias. It was an example for them that nobody was perfect but the backlash had been even worst because of this.

"And you will, my boy. If you follow my instruction. Did you take your remedy?"

“Yes.”

He took from his pocket the vials and give them to her. When she had them in hand, she went to one of the cupboards. When she came back she handed him new ones, full.

“Did you feel secondary effects?”

It had been a good idea to look at its composition before throwing the potion away. Now, he knew what he could say as a lie.

“I feel a bit tired after I drink it, but it is maybe just because I am a bit stressed by this new environment.”

“Hum… It can’t be a bad thing. If you are tired, your urges will be less important.”

And my will and attention weaker, but he didn’t tell her. If I stay low the entire year, it will be good. And after this… After this, I don’t know but I will leave. Maybe I will go to the United States where no one knows me? Everything was so complicated and thinking about what had happened made him sick. In a way, he felt so much anger but on the other hand, he had the impression that he could blame nobody but himself. Being lost between both was the worst.

Yet something was certain: he didn't like Nurse Crane and would be careful to have minimal interaction with her. Did she really think that making him sleep would somehow change?

“Your situation is not a fatality, I assure you. It’s going to get better, don’t worry.”

"Thank you," Albus said with a hollow voice. "I will do my best to follow your instructions."

"You are a good boy, Dumbledore. I'm sure you will do. If you have any problems with the treatment, if something happens, don't think about it twice. Come to me and I will help you."

“Thank you,” he repeated, trying to sound convincing.

He didn’t want to stay here, he wanted to leave. That’s why he said goodbye, the more politely he could and flee from the nurse to go to the opposite part of the room, far away from her.

But when he was going to reach the door, the latter opened before him. It revealed a handsome young man he knew well: Grindelwald. He seemed surprised to find him here and said:

“Dumbledore! I didn’t think I would find you here!”

For a second, Albus was too startled to answer anything. He finally resumed his words while the blond boy was looking at him, with what he interpreted as worry.

“Hum… I wanted to know if Nurse Crane had something to help me to sleep.”

“Really? You didn’t seem to have any problems to drop off every evening…”

“How would you know? You don't look at me all night, Grindelwald, don’t you?”

Barely had he pronounced these words that Albus bit his tongue: he shouldn't have said that especially so close to the Nurse. Fortunately, nobody seemed to mind, especially Grindelwald who just answered:

“You are an interesting one, but not that interesting!”

“And you, what are you doing here?”

"I have headaches sometimes and the nurse tries to cure them. Between you and me, it doesn't work. She is quite skilled in healing spells but in position? She is totally useless, in my opinion…"

“So why do you keep coming?”

“Because she likes me and she sometimes gives me sweets. It’s enough to buy me, you know?”

Grindelwald winked and Albus chuckled:

“I will keep that in mind for the next time the nestling does something bad…”

“Ah! No way! If this creature claws again my books, I will roast it and eat it, mark my words!”

“I will never let you do this! Such a cruel boy, you are…”

“Instead of whining over my affection for this bird, you should find it a name, given you are probably going to keep it for some time.”

And with this, he went to Nurse Crane. But what he had said stayed in Albus’ mind. A name for the little one? It was a good idea. Now, he just needed to find one.

Albus,

I'm glad to learn that your arrival in Durmstrang went well. I hope you have followed our advice and be discreet. Study hard. Don't do any more reproved things. Listen to your teachers. If you don't forget about these three rules, everything should be fine.

Send regularly of your news. Ariana says she misses you.

Mother

Albus had hoped for some news about Hogwarts. Of course, he had none.

Who could have talked about the school without mentioning the scandal involving the golden boy and his former best friend? Nobody wanted to remember. Especially his mother.

Albus wanted to cry but he hadn't managed to do it for months now. He had stopped when he had understood that tears didn't change anything. And he was a man, now anyway. He couldn't be weak. He had to be manly and crying was the weapon of women. It was, at least, what the boys were saying in Hogwarts.

He looked up from the letter and his eyes fell on Gellert Grindelwald. There was something different about him. Albus hadn't known him for a long time, almost two weeks. Yet, he didn't change the fact that he was a particularity in himself. A teenager of fifteen who had eyes which were so much older. Albus knew he was brilliant but even him was attracted by him – only his mind, he continued to tell himself.

Probably noticing that he was observed, Grindelwald let go of his reading. Fawkes – the name he had found for the little bird – was twittering in his cage.

“What do you want?”

“What are you reading?”

“The tale of the Three Brothers.”

“The British one?”

"Yes. But it's a Hungarian version. Do you have an English one, Albus? I have checked my Great-Aunt's once, but I didn't have one for myself."

It was always Grindelwald who was going on his bed, never the opposite. Albus didn't dare to do it. For multiple reasons. But the blond one had no problem to do so. And he had been the one to ask him to call him by his first name – Gellert. He had to admit it, Albus had eagerly agreed.

“Maybe at home, but not here. It’s a story for children, after all.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, of course. My mother told it to me when I was one.”

“Then you are a fool.”

Before Albus could answer something, Gellert put his book aside and pull something from his pocket:

“Cigarette?”

Albus declined quickly. Gellert had a little smile then when to the window and opened it. It was probably his former prefect position that made him point out:

“Isn’t it forbidden? Where did you find them?”

“I have my ways…”

“You are a little young to smoke, aren’t you?”

“You are a little young to be a killjoy, aren’t you?” Gellert replied with a little smirk. “But you know, you should try, it’s fun.”

“And how is it fun? Last time I tried, I coughed for minutes!”

“Ah! So you tried! But, it’s not what I like in smoking… It’s this.”

He took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled way more smoke than he should have with just one puff. The next moment, images appeared on the makeshift screen. It was the illustrations from Gellert’s book.

“How are you doing this?” Albus asked, surprised.

“It’s a little trick I learnt this summer, in some dark alley, in Magical Vienna. An odd old man taught it to me, he said that it would impress the ladies!"

“And does it work?”

“Don’t know, I never felt the need to try in front of them…”

A little voice in Albus’ mind suddenly whispered: yet, he feels the need to do it in front of you… Embarrassed by his own treacherous thoughts, he replied:

“Well… I’m sure it would work. It reminds me of this thing… the cinematograph.”

“The muggle invention? Did you ever watch one of its representation?”

“Yes… Once, in London. It was not that incredible but every Muggle there was truly impressed.”

“Is it really surprising coming from Muggles?”

Albus didn’t answer but internally agreed. Muggles seemed so simple most of the time, their world dull. And because of this, because they were considered almost as children by the Ministry, their crimes against Wizards went unpunished. As it had happened for his sister. But the moment it was the opposite… But Albus didn’t say anything because he didn’t really know Gellert’s opinion on them and in Great Britain, his was rather controversial.

“I thought Durmstrang would be harder, you know?” Albus said while he was looking at the images in the smoke – Gellert was replicating the pictures from the book, the story of the three brothers. “There was a lot of rumours, back in Britain… Durmstrang, the Institute for future dark wizards… Only the bad seeds go there. That’s what they said in Hogwarts.”

“Guess you are one, now…”

“And when I arrived, there was Gregorovitch and…”

"Gregorovitch… What a loser! What did he say? That I was a bad frequentation?”

“How do you know he would warn me about you?”

“Because he hates me since he met me. He was the Teachers’ pet before my arrival and, I guess I kind of steal his place. Not my fault if I’m better than him.”

“You? You are the Teachers’ pet? You seem more like the rebellious type.”

“I know to choose my fight. Do you?”

For a second, Albus came back to the moment he had had to choose between letting Elphias lie or fighting for the truth. This day, he had chosen to be some kind of martyr. But was it really a good choice? It was still haunting him, even if he tried to not think about it. Because it was too late. 

“Maybe… I don’t know. Nothing is easy, in my life.”

“It’s what makes it interesting, don’t you think?”

“You say that because your only problem is to get caught with cigarettes.”

Gellert didn’t answer anything. He continued to produce pretty pictures. And Albus looked at them distractedly until he realised that it wasn’t the tale anymore. The three brothers had been replaced by a boy with golden curls who had the cloak on his shoulders, the wand in his hand and the ring at his finger. Albus finally understood: Gellert was showing him why he was so interested in this story for children. He truly believed in it and, probably, desired the precious artifacts. 

“What do you want? To be the Master of Death? What would you do with this power? Conquer the world?”

“And you, what would you do with the Hallows?”

“I don’t know…” Albus whispered.

It was a lie of course. There was so much he would be able to do if he had this power. Months ago, he would have said something like: curing his sister's illness or help people in general. He would have said that not really because it was what he wanted but because it was what people were waiting.

Today, if he was honest with himself, if he had the power to do everything he wanted, he would let his feelings go.

He would make them pay for what they have done to him.

Hearing this, Gellert had an impish laugh and he felt himself blush, his inside slowly melting at the charming sound.

“Oh my… You really are a bad liar, Albus Dumbledore.”

It was almost sleeping hour when he saw the ghost for the first time. He came from the Headmaster’s office who wanted to know about his impression and his progress. He had done his best to please him but it was every time almost unbearable. He was eager to join his bed – and his talk with Gellert, as they were doing as much as they could.

And suddenly, he saw a boy with brown hair who was levitating above the floor. He was a ghost, Albus had seen enough of them in Hogwarts to recognise it. He knew he had to make an effort. If he was some kind of Peeves, better have him on his side. But the ghost looked more desperate than anything. That is why Albus asked in a nice tone to gain his trust:  

“What’s your name?”

“It’s you…”

The ghost turned his head in his direction and seemed even more distressed as if Albus was the origin of his misfortune.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s you… you are the one he is with now? You are the one he wants.”

The boy seemed so distressed that he didn’t seem to mind him anymore. He was holding his head in his hands.

“No, no, no… I shouldn’t say that. I shouldn’t. He is a good person. He wouldn’t do anything bad to me. I was just so depressed…”

Suddenly, Albus understood who was the ghost in front of him was: Gellert’s former roommate. The one who had killed himself by jumping out of a window, last year. The students didn't really talk about it, but he had heard some scratches of information.

“I’m not a liability! I swear, I’m not! It’s not my fault if I love you!” The dead boy continued to weep.

And before Albus could reach to him, the ghost disappeared. The British wizard was dumbstruck, frozen by the situation. What had he just witnessed?

“Albus?”

The British wizard turned around and his eyes fell on Gellert. What was he doing outside at this hour, Albus couldn't tell, but he still was in his uniform. For a second he wanted to ask him where he was but more important subjects were in his mind. The first one being the ghost of the boy. There was something which made him really uncomfortable in the whole affair, yet he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“I…”

“You saw him, didn’t you?”

“Your… your former roommate?”

“Yes, it was him. Antonio was a sweet boy, but unfortunately, he had never been very stable… I have tried to help him as much as I could but…”

“It is not your fault. Don’t put this on your own shoulders.” Albus answered by automatic reflex. He didn’t want Gellert to feel bad.

“I lied to you, you know…” The latter finally said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“If Gregorovitch hates me as much, it’s not really because I’m better than him. In reality, it is because he was close to Antonio and he considers I'm responsible for his death."

“But why would he think this?”

“In his opinion, I didn’t do enough for Antonio. I was his roommate but I hadn’t been present for him when he really needed it, and it came to this tragedy.”

“But it is not your fault!” Albus protested in all honesty. “It is unfair to blame you for this.”

“I dislike Gregorovitch, it is true. But I can’t hold a grudge against him about this. I think he feels a lot of guilt about the whole situation and he tries to cope as he can. It is unfair but it can be understood."

Albus looked at him with kind eyes. Gregorovitch shouldn’t treat the other boy like this. He felt the need to hug the blond. Yet, if he was honest with himself, it was not just because of the situation. It was how he felt in general. But now, he couldn’t let himself use the tragic situation for his own gains.

“I am really sorry. It must have been hard.”

Gellert gave him a little smile and turned his head to the window. The light of the moon was reflecting strangely on his features, making him as angelic as demonic. It was really peculiar, a materialisation of his mismatched eyes.

“It is the past now, Albus. I am not going to let myself devour by some shadows. I will master them.”

It has been almost one month since he had met Albus Dumbledore, but a thing was certain: he wanted him. He had visions about them, visions of glory, blood and death. He just needed to find the right way to put him under his hold. Durmstrang was a hell of its own, but for the moment, Albus hadn’t really experimented it. It was all thanks to Gellert who had clearly sent the message he was his.

And no one wanted to make the king angry. Even Gregorovitch.

But it was time to verify something. He had sent a letter to his great-aunt. Bathilda had always liked him. He hadn’t managed to learn why Albus had been expelled – because it was what had happened – but the old woman had said it would be better for him not to come close to the British. She hadn’t wanted to tell him more – probably still having affection for Albus, no matter what he had done.

Yet, since this moment, Gellert had only wanted one thing: breaking through Krall' office and steal his new "friend" school record. He was sure that he would find enough to blackmail him, in order to make him fall. But, he had to admit it, he was still a little surprised, except the bird episode, Albus hadn’t the temperament of a delinquent.

And the presence of his new roommate was also the reason to stop his usual nocturnal activities. Hopefully, it would come back quickly. And with a new powerful lackey. Gellert didn't know what he would do with Dumbledore. The young man was intelligent and talented but his apparent lack of darkness was maybe only making him good at following his orders.

That is why he had planned everything for this night. Usually, Albus was either eating alone or with Gregorovitch – and the other seventh years – or with him. Today, he had insisted to have Albus just next to him. It had been way easier to put the potion in his drink.

Gellert didn’t know why the other was taking this medication but he was sure of two things: Albus didn’t have any problem to sleep and he didn’t drink the potion. So why, each week, did he go to the infirmary when he clearly didn’t want to? Another strange thing about the newcomer.

Either way, the potion was really effective because Albus was now sleeping soundlessly on the opposite side of the room. He wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night. With a satisfied smirk, Gellert got up and put his clothes on. Fawkes looked at him from his place in the little cage but made no sound. He hadn’t grown since Albus had taken him in, yet he seemed healthy.

It was finally last year that he had managed to break into the Headmaster's office. It had taken time to put down the defenses without being taken or noticed. Gellert was maybe Krall's favourite but he was sure that it wouldn’t be enough if he was to be found there.

After about fifteen minutes of efforts, he made his way in the office. It was now time to take a look in the files. He knew where to search because he had already rummaged through the nasty secrets of his friends. His wand between his teeth, he began to browse the documents.

Finally, his eyes fell over the right name: Albus Perceval Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. A lot of names for one man, Gellert thought with amusement. And then, he began to read.

Aberforth,

I guess you are not interested in having some news about me and you will be even unhappy to receive a letter from me, but please, take time to answer me. I would like some news from Hogwarts and from Godric’s Hollow. Mother doesn’t seem eager to give some to me and you are my only hope about this.

I know it had never really worked between us – and now, it is even worse. But I’m still your brother and I will always be.

Affectionally,

Albus

Albus had had a good day, this Friday. His lessons were going well and he was slowly adapting to Durmstrang. When he entered his bedroom, he was going to take care of Fawkes when he found Gellert lying on his bed. He would have made a reflexion about not putting his boots on the sheets when he saw what the blond boy had in hands, he froze.

Gellert looked up from the file. He had a sweet smile on his face. Perfectly innocent. And yet, Albus felt a shiver coursing along his spin. From there, he knew it was going to go down.

“Did you know that they had detailed your entire case in this little thing? Almost your entire life is compiled there. In particular the most interesting parts of it. And even if I’m fairly impressed by your results, it is not what I’m talking about.”

"Gellert, I can explain you everything…" He stumbled, losing his capacity to think clearly.

“Oh, I’m sure you can, but between you and me, you are a bad liar.”

There was a moment of silence when Albus tried to come up with a defense but he didn't find anything. He felt as in a dream. No, a nightmare.

“Who could have said that the former prefect and star student of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, was a sodomite, hum? I’m sure they were as surprised as I was. I understand now why Great-Aunt Bathy didn’t want to speak about it clearly. A respectable lady like her… Guess she had found your ways unnatural but had still enough affection for you to not disclose me anything.”

“How did you put your hands on my school record? It should have been confidential.” Albus asked with a little voice.

What Gellert was saying was hurting him so much. It was like he knew exactly where to place his blows. Albus tried to search in the blond boy’s expression something sympathetic but find nothing. There was only a smug content about the whole thing. How was it possible? He seemed so different from the young man who was stealing sweets in the infirmary. And yet, when he thought about it more in depts, he began to notice some weird elements about the other’s behaviour.

But now, it was too late.

“I stole it, obviously. Dumbledore, Durmstrang is my territory. You couldn’t keep your secret forever. From me, at least. Because you know, I’m not that cruel. If your nature was to be revealed you would have so much problem, I guess… It would be a true shame. You are so talented after all. And it’s because I really like you, despite your vice, that I would be happy to keep my mouth shut. At a cost, of course.”

Gellert was going to blackmail him. Of course, he was.

“I thought you were my friend…”

"Oh… Given how you were looking at me sometimes, I understand now that you didn't want me as your friend. More like your good friend. It’s disgusting, but I guess you can’t help yourself, right? Like you did to your little friend? A pity really.”

The words humiliated him so much. He wanted to curl into himself and disappear. Because it was true: he had daydreamed about Gellert’s golden locks and long lashes. But who wouldn't have? The boy was charming everyone on his way. It wasn't fair to ask him to resist something so tantalizing. But now, Albus had no choice but to play along.

If the reason why he was now in Durmstrang came to the public, it would be his end. Without return.

“What do you want from me? I have nothing. I’m no one anymore.”

Albus felt tears forming at the corners of his eyes. Another time again, he was feeling despair in his heart. Because of Gellert’s betrayal, because he should have known better. Because even when he was saying so venomous things, Albus couldn’t help to think that these words were coming from the prettiest lips he had ever lay his eyes upon.

Gellert’s smirk was like a dagger which went through his heart.

“Oh, my dear Albus, don’t worry… I have already a lot of uses for you in mind…”

Gregorovitch had been right from the beginning: Gellert Grindelwald was Lucifer incarnated, a demon in an angel’s body.