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Strength

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"I understand what you go through. I too have magic I cannot control. But I also know this: we are both incredibly strong, Ariana. We can learn to harness these curses that have been bestowed upon us to our advantage, not just keep them in check. We can change the way people view our magic. That is what your brother and I hope to accomplish… and, of course, we would like to bring you along."

Ariana closed her eyes, listening to the exchange of three voices. The words Gellert had spoken to her rose to her consciousness as she stood out of view on the stairs.

“When you are both making your grand speeches and building a following, where will be safe for her?” Aberforth had shouted, obviously frustrated that neither of the two seemed to grasp his concern, “You can’t move her, she is in no fit state!”

Ariana flinched slightly, as though those last words had stung her ears.

She knew that the words her brother spoke came from a place of concern, of love.

But at the same time, she believed-

“Don’t you understand, but then again what can be expected from a stupid little boy.“ Gellert began, not at all hiding the disdainful tone, “She won’t have to hide once we’ve changed the world.”

This man, practically a stranger, had offered her freedom. He offered her words of understanding.

And she was not alone-

 “If you want to help her than piss off.” Aberforth spat, completely done with the false pleasant attitude he had shown this other man, “You have no idea what she needs, you have no idea what Albus needs. You’re a selfish git who has played his way into this family. Don’t think you know us after a short two months of exchanging letters and discussing world views over tea.”

Ariana had been watching over her eldest brother, keeping more an eye on him than he did on her. If Gellert had offered her freedom and understanding, she knew he had offered Albus so much more.

“Oh, but I believe I do have an understanding. In fact, I believe I have a much more… intimate understanding than you think.” Gellert’s voice held a teasing quality. It was apparent that he was not at all concerned for the other’s growing irritation toward him.

“Gellert.” Albus’s voice was warning.

Something Aberforth picked up on much to his chagrin, “I would watch what you imply about my sister, Grindelwald.” He growled.

“I was not referring to your s-“

She heard the scuffle of feat across the wooded floors, and the harsh contact of skin.

Aberforth had always been a scrapper, “I swear if you say anything more.”

Even without seeing anything, Ariana could feel the tension begin to build, making it hard for her to breathe.

Three voices fired at one another, melting into one loud sound within her mind.

She took deep breaths as her mother had taught her, remembered the fanciful stories of places far away that Albus would read to her, and thought on the times Aberforth had spent with her and the animals. And-

We are both incredibly strong.

That new voice of hope was cut off by a scream.

Ab-

She opened her eyes, dropping down the last few steps, and for the first time saw the three.

Aberforth, the owner of that pained cry, catching his breath and clutching his body on the ground. Gellert standing still with Albus in front of him,  guiding the other’s wand downward.

“Stop.” She heard her eldest brother say firmly, “You are better than this.”

“He is worse than this.” Aberforth coughed out as he tried to sit upright, “If this is what he chooses to show now, when he is still trying to persuade you, what will it be like when he shows you his all?”

“He knows my all.” Gellert would have found his way to the incapacitated man had Albus not held him back.

All three caught up in their own worlds to notice Ariana’s small frame standing in the doorway.

“You know he is trying to stop us.” Gellert turned his attention to Albus, “You would listen to him?”

And though his arms were partially around the other, Albus spoke more distantly than he had ever since their meeting, “Maybe… he has a point.”

“A point? And what point is that?” Gellert scoffed, no longer struggling to free himself from those arms, “You can’t mean to tell me that you’ve changed your mind.”

“Not exactly.” Albus considered, moving carefully to his brother’s side, helping him to his feet, “I just think-”

Gellert looked between the two, at a complete loss.

It was Aberforth who first saw her, cutting his brother off to say, “Ariana. Please go away. Everything is alright.” He lied.

Lies.

They had all lied.

Was there anyone who hadn’t lied to her?

Was there anyone who hadn’t underestimated her?

Was there anyone…

Gellert turned, meeting her gaze, “Ariana. Yes, why don’t we ask what she wants.”

“She is not the one who will be making the decision.”

And it did not matter which of her brother’s had said those words, because Ariana had already decided for herself, “But I can.” She attempted to say in a steadied voice.

Gellert turned from her, placing his attention on the response the brothers would give their own sister.

“No. You can’t.” Aberforth proclaimed, taking a stance in fear Albus may not.

“You treat her like an invalid.”

And Aberforth had had enough of Gellert’s words, “Don’t you understand that she is in a dangerous state? She could kill again!” He instantly covered his mouth, it had not meant to come out in such a way, “She will be in harm’s way. We only mean to protect her.”

“What you mean is that others can be in harms way.” Gellert skillfully took the words, using them as he liked.

Aberforth pushed away from his brother’s support, moving closer to the blond, he would not be intimidated nor back down, “That is not at all what I meant, and you know it!”

Albus tried to keep them apart, “Both of you stop.” He had seen anger like this only once before. And the result of that had led to imprisonment. It would not happen again, could not happen again, Albus refused to lose any more of his family.

Ariana watched as Aberforth drew his wand… and Gellert was not far behind.

“Please, you both are speaking reason.” Albus begged in a desperate attempt to keep the family together, though he too had a hand hovering over his pocket.

“You really believe he has reason?!”

“How can you even begin to say that?!”

Two voices shouted in unison, perhaps the first time the two had been in harmony, anger and confusion directed at the same person.

They would not listen to her…

Ariana felt her vision falter, as though she had closed her eyes as before, but she was quite sure she hadn’t.

Screams filled her ears-

“Please, don’t hurt them. Hurt me instead!”

“Albus!”

“Don’t you hurt her!”

-the very last things she understood.