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Shaping The Present (With a black and silver stare)

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Gellert found Vinda on the roof of a dilapidated theatre in a dress that looked almost comically out of place, the finery smeared with greasepaint that had stained the fine green brocade badly. Vinda wore her fragile smile like a suit of armour and jumped when she heard his footsteps, her wand already out in a defensive position as she turned to him. “What happened to you?” they said after a tense silence, synchronised, and Gellert offered a broken smile as he walked slowly towards her.
“There was an incident, Albus chose his family over me and so here I am.” He said, hollow eyed as the admission tore its way up his throat. “Alone.” As he said the last word something inside him cracked and he felt a tear dribble down his face, disconnected from anything he could tangibly feel. Some days he woke sure that everything that had happened was a terrible dream, only to open his eyes to discover that he was wrapped in a blanket rather than a pair of arms, and that the only blue in sight was the sky. He had spent a few days wandering through muggle London and sleeping on the sun baked cobblestones of the grey metropolis before he had suddenly remembered that he wasn’t quite alone, and as he stood looking at the last person he had left in the world he let out a shuddering breath as his chest twinged again, the bond that he had forged so confidently stinging as Albus felt a stab of guilt. Though he hadn’t felt himself begin to weaken, Gellert found himself grasped in a tight embrace as his knees buckled beneath him, and as he began to explain Vinda flung an arm around him comfortingly, the solid weight of it easy and affectionate.

Vinda smiled sadly at him as Gellert finished his tale hours later, red eyed and jittery as he recounted the final battle, lighting her cigarette with a click of her fingers and turning towards the sky to exhale a contemplative cloud of grey. The stars were obscured by Paris’ cloud of smog and dirt, and Gellert felt his muscles morph, a twisted little smile cracking the tear tracked frozen exterior that he had worn since the fight, the expression feeling painfully wrong on his face after the last few days. Breathing in the toxic fumes of the city and lighting the cigarette Vinda held out to him with a flick of his fingers, he began to laugh. There were countless stars in Godrick’s Hollow and he felt that it was only right that he’d left them behind too.

He curled up to sleep beside Vinda in the dingy cupboard that passed for her current accommodation, trying not to listen to the drunken sex that was all too audible through the thin walls. Vinda slammed her hand into the wall and yelled for quiet, to no avail, and they shared a deeply irritated look before Gellert flicked his fingers and silencing wards sprang up around them. “I knew I missed you for a reason.” Said Vinda, her laughter quiet and subdued, a shadow of the cackle he remembered, and Gellert felt the frost of rage descend on him again, wondering who had damaged his last friend, and how he would extract his revenge. He ignored the pull of the bond that distorted his vision as he closed his red-rimmed eyes at last, tricking him with a phantom pair of blue eyes and painting the flicker of candle-light a bright copper that could almost have been Albus’ hair in the sun. Vinda’s familiar Lamellar curled up between them where it was warmest and Gellert fell asleep thinking about curses as the cat’s purring grew louder in his ears. As he slept his hands clenched around the blood pact, the sharp edges of the metal digging into his skin, and blood seeped from between his clenched fingers as if the pact itself was injured. Vinda was the one who carefully prised his fingers off the metal and cleaned his cuts with a muttered spell before scowling good-naturedly at his still sleeping form and turning over to sleep herself, her pale smile reaching her eyes for the first time in months.

In the morning Vinda dragged him out of bed at a disgustingly early hour, threatening him with grievous bodily harm, and he felt a little more of his blood thaw out as he realised how much he had missed her. He felt something inside the hollow of his frozen heart click back into place, ignored the twisting pain of the bond and changed his clothes for fresh ones as Cixi screeched from her perch on the window ledge and Vinda applied a thin line of black kohl to her eyelids in front of the mirror. Gellert noticed the tell tale smudges of a glamour under Vinda’s eyes and wondered again what had damaged his friend so badly. Out of the corner of his eye Gellert spotted the remains of a letter scrunched into the bottom of an ashtray, and the Rosier family seal was unmistakable on what was left of the envelope. Vinda followed his gaze and flinched, setting her jaw as Gellert watched a mask of indifference slide down behind her eyes until he was faced with a haughty stare from his best friend. Wordless, he pulled her into a tight hug and when they broke apart he smiled, careful to keep an edge of cruelty in the expression that he wore for Vinda’s sake. She had always been brittle when she was upset like this, ready to lash out if anyone showed sympathy, and he contented himself with muttering promises of vengeance into their hug as he combed the knots out of her hair gently. She managed a smile and Gellert linked their arms as they clambered over his trunk and reached the doorway. Before Vinda could unlock the door Gellert met her eye and offered a more genuine smile, less cruel and more an offer of solidarity. “You’ve always been my family Vinda.” He said, and Vinda smiled properly, her eyes shining as she opened the door.
“I know.” She said, and Gellert smiled, glad to be back where he belonged.

They walked through narrow corridors lit at irregular intervals by pools of candlelight that served only to confuse an unwary traveler. Vinda turned the handle of a door that Gellert hadn't noticed and he blinked in the strong light of a summer morning. Gellert followed Vinda down a set of stairs that clung to the building they had come out of by only the crumbling plaster of the walls and some weak spell that Gellert could feel creaking underneath them. “Don’t trust this one.” Vinda called out from a few steps below him, and soon they were down on solid ground, Gellert’s boots shielding him from the worst of the filth that smeared the back alleys of paris as Vinda cast a protective spell at her shoes. They were fancy boots of patent leather that was dyed a soft green, but an enchantment shimmered around them and as Gellert looked more closely he began to see the faint outline of the roughly made clogs beneath the spell. He frowned at yet another reminder of his closest friend’s abrupt change in circumstances, wondering how she would be able to attend her last year at Durmstrang without her parent’s money for school fees. Deciding to bring up the delicate topic at a later date, Gellert offered her his arm and Vinda laughed, commenting on his gallantry. “Your stint in England has turned you into quite the gentleman.” She said, and Gellert bit the inside of his cheek at the casual reminder of everything he had lost.
“You wound me madam,” he said, slurring the french they were speaking with a bad english accent, “I have always been the very pink of courtesy.” Vinda cracked up laughing, the double-entendre in the reference not lost on her.
“All right Mercutio, I’ve got a plan.” she said, and Gellert felt himself smiling, unable to disguise his glee at being able to put a smile on her face despite everything that had happened.
“Come on, we can talk it through over breakfast.” he said, and Vinda protested, pointing out that they weren’t in any position to be spending extravagantly, but Gellert clinked his last few galleons together and told her not to worry about the cost.

Every draft of the excellent coffee they were sipping seemed to rejuvenate Vinda a little more, and as Gellert calculated how much he could buy with the last of his money she began to reveal her grand plan. “We need money.” she began bluntly, “And I don’t think either of us is desperate enough to sell your book collection.” Here Gellert nodded. There were many things he would do for money, but that was not even a possibility. Knowledge was power, and he wouldn’t sell his main source of strength for all the gold in Gringotts. “But I need money for school. I need my BÄZTs Gellert.”
“I’ll do anything I can to help, but Vinda what can we do? I’ve no galleons left to scam a muggle with.” He said, and Vinda began to smirk.
“You can duel.”
“What?” he asked, wondering if he had misheard her.
“You can fight. You can fight better than anyone I know. But no one else in paris knows that.” she said, eyes dancing with mirth as Gellert sat there, not connecting the dots until Vinda had opened her mouth again, probably to say something scathing.
“You want to bet on me in a duel.”Said Gellert, the beginnings of a smile playing around his mouth. She nodded and after a moment Gellert began to frown. “Vinda, the next big duelling competition isn’t till after Samhain. You won’t be able to go back to school for the start of term.” He said, worried. Vinda looked around, almost nervous, and lowered her voice to a whisper despite the empty tables all around them.
“I know a guy who can get us into the blood-wraith fight pits.” said Vinda, and Gellert felt his eyes widen. He had heard of the blood-wraiths in the news last winter, who hadn’t? A group of French mercenary wizards who sold their services to the highest bidder and ran an underground duelling circuit with the highest death count in the modern world, they had made the news when the french ministry had tried to remove them from Paris last November but they had simply vanished into the night, the bar they operated from exploding just as the aurors reached the scene. Gellert returned Vinda’s devious smirk, silently worried about the kinds of people she was involving herself with, before he pushed away the thought, trusting her judgement. He drained the last of his coffee and stood, the two of them walking back out of the café and into the sunlight as Vinda began to explain her plan in greater detail.

Gellert had to sneak back into her room as Vinda was worried that if the theatre owner found out about him she’d be charged extra for her cupboard, and he frowned, wondering why exactly Vinda had chosen to rent a pokey little dressing room in the attic of a theatre. “It’s the cheapest place in the city, and I don’t even have to walk the boards for it.” She replied when he asked, and Gellert couldn’t help but laugh a little at the thought of Vinda dancing on a stage. She was graceful enough to do it, but she would never allow herself to be sexualised the way so many dancers were, and the first lewd commenter would likely find himself leaving the dance hall without his tongue. Vinda had sent a floo message to a man called Laurie and his reply suggested that they could meet him at midnight by the Arc de Triomphe, but she was restless and cagey afterwards. Pacing back and forth before flinging open the door, Vinda beckoned him out into the dimly lit corridor once more.

“Where are we headed?” asked Gellert, but Vinda pressed on, silent, and he was left to his own thoughts. Vinda planned to let him loose on a pack of bloodthirsty mercenary wizards, winning the money they needed from the betting pool at every fight. He was less sure that their plan would work, wondering how these fighters would take it when he was better than their best. It seemed risky, winning their respect the only hope he had of living past his first fight, yet there was a smile on his face that he couldn’t dim. He was so angry, so cold, so helplessly alone that it seemed perfect. He could do with letting off some steam, relished the thought of the hot sweet taste of victory and the red that descended with every battle. Resolutely refusing to remember how his last duel had ended, Gellert let himself cling to the cold within him as he followed Vinda back out into the street. The sun was warm, the late morning lending the streets a golden sheen that melted away the dirt of the city and left behind a beautiful glossy version of Paris that shimmered in the heat, the most picturesque of lies.

Vinda ducked into muggle Paris and pulled Gellert after her, the muggles lining the street oblivious to their arrival. Gellert tapped Vinda’s cloak and it transformed into a stylishly cut jacket in a pale beige that contrasted her dark hair delightfully, not worried about his own shirt, as it was sufficiently plain to pass as a muggle garment. They walked through a loud market towards The Seine, the river a flat looking glass that reflected the golden day they were walking through, and Gellert pocketed two apples, a block of cheese and two baguettes that he had shrunk down before being spotted trying to make off with a large pastry. He stood there while the muggle yelled abuse and then smiled, imposing his will over the muggle’s thoughts and walked away with a pocket full of floury francs from the baker’s stall and the large pastry in a paper bag under his arm. Vinda was shaking her head at him but smiled when he produced the stolen lunch from his pockets, and had no objection to digging in on it as they sat down by the river.

They whiled away the afternoon and as they walked out of the fancy muggle restaurant later in the evening Gellert decided that nothing tasted as good if you had to pay for it. There was something in the act of stealing, he thought, that made food taste better, every delicate flavour more pronounced with the heady knowledge that it was forbidden to the thief. Vinda looked at him, fondly exasperated, when he voiced his theory, but couldn’t object to the truth of his statement. They had been enjoying a bottle of very fine champagne on the twilit grassy slopes of Parc Monceau when the clock of a nearby church had struck midnight, bells tolling out and Gellert leapt up. Vinda took his hand and apperated, the two of them appearing in front of the monument to muggle ego with a loud crack. Vinda smiled winningly at a short man with curling dark hair who was looking back and forth across the plaza with restless eyes, introducing Gellert as the man relaxed, sure he wasn’t being led into a trap. “Gellert this is Laurie,” she said, and Gellert smiled politely, not missing the way the older man’s eyes never left Vinda. Three more cracks rent the air in quick succession and Gellert found himself surrounded. The young men that had just appeared all stood close to his hight, their close cropped dark hair giving them a military look which Gellert assumed was supposed to be intimidating. “Good evening boys.” he said, and Vinda coughed, barely concealing her laughter at the confused expression he had managed to induce in all four of the blood-wraiths that had come to escort them to the fight pits.

Gellert looked around at the place they had been apperated to, the sheer stone walls and tiered arena much more professional in appearance than what he’d expected. Mistaking his expression for awe, one of the three fighters who’d greeted them so tersely smiled cruelly at him. Gellert pulled an expression of fear onto his face and bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself laughing at how pleased the man looked. After looking him over a burly man smiled and called out a name. “Merrick. We’ve a newbie that’ll be good for you.” he said, to the laughter of a few of the other people there. Gellert bristled at their laughter, then let it go, his irritation flowing away down a river of ice that ran through his cold veins. He waited for a few minutes, Vinda standing by his side as the stone benches filled rapidly, the news of a new-blood fight spreading through whatever communication network the wraiths used. As the betting table was set up Vinda smirked and moved away from him. Gellert would be hiding his strength completely unless the opponent was vastly better than he was currently predicting, and he smiled at the thought. Maybe he’d stick to defence completely for the first half to lengthen the odds on his victory, he thought with a smile.

As he steeped into the duelling ring the crowd broke out into jeers and shouts. He heard a few muggle slurs thrown at him and smiled, wondering how much the hecklers would like to eat their own tongues salted on toast. Something in his expression must have reached his opponent because he saw the man’s easy smile fall from his face as they stepped forwards. There would be no bows here, no formal duelling stance, and Gellert found his heart racing in anticipation, ready for the explosion of violence hanging palpably across the sand floor of the immediate future. The other man sent a tentative bone breaking curse at him which he neatly sidestepped and then the volley of curses began. Gellert wove his way between the red of stunners and sickly yellow of more bone breaking curses, ducked underneath a purple jet of light that moved too quickly to identify, and flicked his wand at the floor to the left of the other man. The jeering of the crowd echoed around the cavern and his opponent, Merrick the other man had called him, smiled, sharklike as he increased the pace of his casting. Gellert threw up a standard shield charm and began to back away, feigning fatigue as his opponent pressed in for the final victory. Making sure to look like it took the last of his strength, Gellert send a disarming charm at the man, who laughed and sidestepped. Gellert laughed then, he couldn’t help it, the mirth came bubbling up through his throat and echoed around the hall, dark and gleeful. The crowd stilled, silenced by his sudden change in posture, and the man in the ring looked at him, uncertain, then tried to move. Gellert’s spell took effect, the sand that the man was standing in rushing upwards and locking him in place. Gellert sent a blasting hex at the man to see what he would do about it, not expecting it to actually reach him unblocked, but a spray of arterial blood arced over the sand and when Gellert had blinked away his surprise Merrick’s left arm was smeared across the grey stone wall of the fight pit they were standing in and he was slumped over, the sand forcing his legs to remain upright as his unconscious torso twisted grotesquely in pain, the sand on the floor caking the bloody stump of his left arm. Medi-wizards rushed in, the crowd erupted into noise, his name was screamed by hundreds in the echoing chamber below Paris, and through it all he stood silent, allowing himself to taste the dark joy that always came in the aftermath of a fight.

Vinda made her way down into the fight pit, a smile stretching from ear to ear as she rattled a sack bulging with galleons. “We did it, you did it. There’s enough here to pay for Durmstrang.” she said, and he smiled, a thread of genuine warmth cracking some of the ice within him as he realised that he had done what they needed to do. “No one wanted to bet on you, I won more than a hundred Galleons more than what we needed. Apparently that Merrick guy was something of a prize fighter.” she said, breathlessly happy.
“That wasn’t very thoughtful of them.” he said, a smirk crawling across his face as a man walked towards him. “You’d think they’d give m a beginner, you know, just to keep things fair.”
“A duel well fought. Would you be interested in fighting here again?” said the man, offering Gellert a hand to shake as h walked up to the two of them. The tiger tattooed on his palm stretched, opened its jaws in a yawn and stalked off up his arm, growing to match the size of the skin it was on as Gellert watched in awe. He took the hand and shook it, agreeing to another fight absentmindedly as he wondered if it would be rude to ask the man about his tattoos. Gellert shook himself, looking around at the crowd and smiling as he realised that he was favoured here for something as simple as winning a fight.

Gellert was losing the warmth of the fight, losing the warmth of Vinda’s happy smile, shuddering as the ice of despair set back in as he and Vinda sat on the roof of the theatre. Vinda was too relieved about having money again to notice his sudden drop in mood, but he didn’t want to ruin the evening for her, so he forced a smile back onto his face as she turned around, two glasses of some drink he’d never tried in her hand. “To us.” she said, pushing a glass into his hand and clinking her own against it. Gellert downed his first glass of absinthe under the grey-black roof of Paris’s smoggy sky, blinking as the alcohol rushed through him and the magical wormwood’s highly potent flavour filled his mouth. As he looked up at the clouds above them flowers bloomed at his fingertips. He looked down in shock at the jasmine flowers that had grown between his hands and began to cry. He breathed in the heady scent they gave out, flooded his mouth with more of the green alcohol and laughed strangely, still crying as the jasmine turned blue around him. The blue of Albus’ eyes.

Vinda was nowhere to be found, the rooftop empty as the sky greyed into dawn and the flowers made of sapphires shattered into nothingness. He looked around, suddenly needing to see that blue again, but his magic refused to comply. The empty bottle of absinthe mocked him, the ginning fairy depicted on the side of the glass bottle asking snidely if he had even made the flowers at all or merely seen them in some strange green-drunk dream. Gellert looked over the edge of the roof and suddenly there was a bridge made of cobwebs and wreathed in blue jasmine flowers leading out into space. Albus stood at the other end of the bridge, a smile in his eyes as he offered his hand to Gellert. He stood at the edge of the bridge and blinked, ready to walk into Albus’ waiting embrace, but when he opened his eyes he there was nothing there. He glanced down at his hands and watched as they stained red and blood began to drip from them. Arianna was lying inside the empty bottle at his feet and before he could do anything about it she had drowned in his blood, the bottle filling with red that began to look greener by the second as he watched. Albus was holding him now, saying something that he couldn't hear and crying. Gellert looked on, confused, as Albus kissed him softly on the forehead before melting into a pool of liquid lapis lazuli that burnt his skin when it touched him.

The next thing Gellert remembered was waking up, his face pressed into the rough roof slates as Vinda shook him into wakefulness and prized his fingers off the blood pact that he had clutching. His right hand was lacerated with cuts, the blood coming off in flakes as he stretched his fingers. “Gellert what happened?” asked Vinda, the sound echoing in his head like a cascade of glass. He explained very clearly what had happened, describing everything in minute detail only to find Vinda looking at him expectantly. “Well? What happened?” She said, and Gellert frowned.
“I just told you. In detail.” He said, confused and wondered if Vinda was feeling all right after their drunken evening. Vinda caught sight of the empty bottle of absinthe and sighed, muttering something he didn’t catch and hauling him back to the room that they shared. Gellert protested, complaining that he liked the view, but she would have none of it.

After Gellert had downed what felt like his weight in water and three very strong cups of coffee he began to feel a headache throbbing at his temples but he could once more separate reality from his absinthe induced dreams. “Vinda I enjoyed that drink immensely. Where can we buy more of it?” He said, dispelling his headache with a nifty healing charm that he’d only just remembered.
“I’m never letting you near that stuff again. You were completely insensible.” Replied Vinda, and Gellert frowned.
“You’re no fun.” he said, and Vinda laughed.
“And neither are you when you’re babbling about jasmine plants of all things and arguing with glass bottles. I want you to relax today, while I go and spend some of my winnings on school supplies, and then I want you to meet some of my friends.

Gellert had only tried to get up at around lunch time, but the floor flew up to meet him and he found himself lying down between the bed and his case of books, so he crawled back into bed and gave it up for a lost cause, summoning bread and butter and deciding that he’d rather eat now and have to deal with Vinda’s complaints of crumbs later than starve because he couldn’t in good sense get up. By the evening, when Vinda returned, he was feeling much more himself and apologised for his strange behaviour that had probably ruined her morning. She brushed it off, smiling until she caught sight of the plate on the floor next to the bed, and then threw an absolute fit about the bread crumbs in her bed but Gellert vanished them with a wave of his wand and soon the two o them were dressed once more.

They made their way through a maze of twisting little corridors that seemed to double back on themselves and lead ever downwards once more. Gellert lit the way with a silent flick of his wand that conjured glowing lights, flickering a deep burnt orange for a split second before flaring up into the white light that he’d always produced previously and he flinched, trying not to react to the stark reminder of how much the blood pact hanging around his neck had changed him. Vinda had politely ignored his sudden hurt and Gellert smiled gratefully at her as they made their way into the back rooms of the dance-hall proper. People rushed past with armfuls of costumes and panicked expressions. Somewhere nearby a loud male voice swore viciously and a dwarf elbowed past Gellert without even stopping to apologise. Vinda threaded her way through the ever moving throng of people, Gellert hurrying to keep up with her, and knocked on the door of a dressing room. She used a complicated pattern of taps and thuds which was too fast for him to remember, and the door swung open on creaking hinges. 
Two of the most stunningly beautiful girls Gellert had ever seen were stood on the other side of the door, one with dark skin and a cloud of tightly curling hair who was half way through dressing, and the other her opposite, with pale skin and silvery hair that seemed to glow. As soon as they spotted him something changed, their features sharpening into something almost bestial before they rounded on Vinda as one. “How could you bring that here? You know what happened to Nuuamaca.” Said the pale girl, the green of her eyes flashing a catlike yellow as she defended the other woman. Gellert was thoroughly confused by now, wondering what exactly was going on, and Vinda was only making things worse. He found himself longing for Albus’ comforting touch, his hand going to the blood pact and tracing the sharp edges before he realised what he had ben thinking and felt the ice descend once more upon his soul. 
“Look at him, does he look enthralled to you?” Vinda was yelling, gesturing towards him impatiently, and though he was still very much in the dark, the two strange women seemed to give it some thought. 
“No,” said the dark skinned one, Nuuamaca, her voice filled with a sad kind of wonder, “He looks broken.” 
Gellert was still more than a bit put out by the comment when introductions had been made properly, but he bit back his sharp retort, trusting Vinda’s good judge of character. Nuuamaca had dark eyes that stared out at him with an expression torn between suspicion and fear, half hidden by a lock of the tightly spiralling hair that hung down in a cloud around her shoulders, the dark curls pulled downwards by their own weight. He held her gaze for a moment and then shifted in his seat, not expecting the flinch his movement would cause. He was quick to apologise and she seemed mollified, but Gellert was left wondering what had happened to these people. The pale girl, who had introduced herself as Soluna, seemed very defensive of her friend but as he continued to talk normally the girls began to relax. 
Vinda was smiling as Soluna began to smile at him strangely, eyes glittering with intent, and Gellert felt magic wash over him, some strange kind of inhuman force that echoed around his head before dissipating, leaving behind the mental image of Albus lying on his back in their cottage as dappled light fell through the window to caress his skin. Gellert frowned, his cold eyes glistening with tears for a heartbeat before he shut himself off, pushing away the image with gritted teeth and opening his eyes to see the two women staring at him, then at Vinda with twin looks of incredulity. “How could he resist it, that was a full allúre?” asked Soluna, and Gellert realised what had happened with a start. They were Veela. 
“I prefer the company of Al— of men.” he said, voice hitching as he tried to say Albus’ name, and tried to smile as the two Veela relaxed, politely ignoring his sudden melancholy. Vinda muttered something about being right, yet again, and Gellert laughed as Nuuamaca pushed her hair back under a vibrant yellow cloth and smiled brightly as she sat down next to him, her wariness evaporating in an instant. 

“So Vinda, how long have you been hiding Gellert from Monsieur Sunelle?”  asked Nuuamaca, her smirk reminding Gellert of Kaz from Durmstrang, and as Vinda replied he wondered how the older boy was doing. He’d forgotten to keep in contact with all of his friends from school save Vinda, swept up by the whirlwind that was Albus Dumbledore, and Gellert felt his shoulders slump, teetering on the edge of losing himself in memories once more before part of the conversation of the three women drew his attention. 
“Remember when you’d just met us and we were worried about accidentally stealing your lovers?” cackled Nuuamaca, and Gellert laughed as Vinda smiled fondly at the memory. 
“How does one accidentally steal a lover?” he asked, and then winced internally when Nuuamaca hunched in on herself. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” he said, but Soluna put a hand on Nuuamaca’s shoulder comfortingly and began to explain. 
“The allúre can be turned up or down but we can’t turn it off completely. Men don’t tend to stay faithful with us around.” She said, and played it off with a laugh, but Gellert could hear real hurt in her voice, and he couldn’t help but feel for these two strangely sad Veela. 
“I’m so sorry. It must be terrible for you.” He said, and Nuuamaca laughed harshly.
“Oh that makes it all better. You’re sorry that it’s hard for us.” She spat, and Vinda winced as Gellert reached out for her hand. To the surprise of the other two girls in the room, Gellert still had fingers a second later, Nuuamaca letting him offer the comforting contact. 
“I didn’t mean to sound like I’d solved your problems. I’d like to, but nothing has ever changed with meaningless platitudes and a simple charm.” He said, his voice as soft as he could make it, and he thought he caught a glimpse of a smile behind the guarded look Nuuamaca fixed him with.
Back in Vinda’s room, Gellert slumped onto a chair that he had transfigured as Vinda sat down on the bed, careful to move the lumpy mattress as little as possible so as to leave Lamellar undisturbed. Cixi had made herself comfortable on the bare curtain rail earlier but was nowhere to be found, the small window’s shutters flung wide by her escape, and Gellert smiled fondly at the cat curled up on the bed for a moment before remembering what had made him so angry. “How can the ministry be so cruel?” he said, his voice cold with a rage that was beginning to taste like home in his mouth. 
“Gel, changing things would require effort. Of course the ministries around the world won’t do anything about it.” replied Vinda, her voice tired, and Gellert glowered at the wall. 
“We need to take over. I wouldn’t allow that kind of thing if I were in charge.” he said, marvelling at how unsurprised Vinda seemed. Soluna had just told the two of them that Veela were classified by wizards as ‘Beast’ rather than ‘Being’ and Vinda hadn’t even looked vaguely shocked. Gellert was outraged, his magic crackling angrily as he discovered quite how twisted the French Ministry of magic was. Veela couldn’t get justice for sexual assault by wizards, couldn’t even carry wands to defend themselves, and when Soluna had threatened to kill Nuuamaca’s assailant she’d only narrowly escaped being put down like some kind of animal. He wouldn’t stand for it, these were people who had nowhere else to turn, no one who would speak out on their behalf, and he would make this right. 
“When we rule the world,” said Vinda, expression a mirror of Gellert’s determined scowl, “Thing’s will be different.” 

Chapter Text

In Gellert’s dreams two titans clashed in a field of red and white jasmine that grew out of countless graves, one wearing the sun as a circlet of white-gold fire and the other wearing a crown of blood and lightning that tore the clouds apart. The dream changed and Gellert watched as a man with silver wings fell, a meteoric blaze of light, blue flames licking his twisted silhouette as he plunged downwards. The light went dark, the flaming man put out by some great lake that shimmered in the distance, and then the sky shifted, a box closing in on him until he was trapped by the black night sky in a cell. He felt something wrench his jaw open and a jagged knife cut deep into his tongue. Blood filled his mouth, the metallic taste jerking him out of the vision as the waking world slowly trickled back into his sight. Right eye glowing, Gellert took in a great shuddering breath, tremors shaking his form in a way that hadn’t happened since Indus had died, but the shivering soon subsided into nothingness and Gellert wrote up the vision in the battered notebook that he had charmed to have endless pages so many years ago. Shifting off his end of the bed without disturbing Vinda’s sleep he crept out to the roof, some part of him longing for the endless stars of the countryside.

The sky was a dull black, freed of both clouds and stars by the lights of a thousand lives being lived all around him that crushed the night sky into a sad imitation of the stars Albus might be lying beneath in Godrick’s Hollow. Gellert knew he shouldn’t think about it, knew that he shouldn't be seeing Albus’s smile every time he closed his eyes, but every mile between them was beginning to send stabbing pains through his chest and the bond ached as if it were slowly cutting its way through him. He sat in the cool breeze as the night faded into another dawn without the man he loved, grey seeping into the sky as Gellert stared out into the night of magical Paris, blinded by memories as the street lamps were doused one by one.

There was something exquisitely bittersweet about doing shopping for Vinda’s final year of Durmstrang and watching with a fond smile as she stepped onto the Lady Durm, all the while knowing that he wouldn’t be joining her, but for her sake Gellert bit his tongue and ignored the low burn of regret and jealousy. He was all she had, and he wouldn’t allow her to feel abandoned over something so small. When he and the Veela got back to the theatre he thought he’d saw a similar glint of pain in Soluna’s eyes, but it was hidden beneath her usual smile before he could be sure. Nuuamaca spoke up as they all sat down, fixing him with a knowing stare. “You’d like to be going back.” Gellert nodded sadly in response, wondering when he’d become so easy to read.
“Where did you go to school?” He asked, searching for a less introspective topic in the desperate attempt to avoid thinking about Albus, and then winced as Nuuamaca shared a sad look with Soluna, wondering how he’d managed to offend the two veela this time.
“Veela aren’t permitted to attend wizarding schools.” Said Soluna, eyes flashing with muted rage before resignation took it’s place. Gellert blanched, feeling a little nauseous at the depth of prejudice that these two women and their people faced.
“That’s awful. You’re just like wizards, but with some additional powers. Things need to change.” Soluna let out a cynical bark of laughter.
“Our people have been trying to fight it for almost a century but the international confederation of wizards refuses to hear our side of any story.” she said, her tone curling with bitter resentment. Gellert smiled grimly, his mouth set in a hard line as he spoke again.
“I was thinking of something a little more large-scale than a legal battle. The ministries are cankered pits of corruption, the masses are too stupid to realise. What we need is a total reform.” he said, “Freedom for magical kind, education for whoever wants it, a lift on the bans put in place on dark magicks. It’s everything we want for the future.”
“We?” asked Soluna, and blue eyes and a breathtaking smile flashed across Gellert’s vision, pushing a sob up through his throat. He bit his tongue and swallowed, choking around the lump of tears before he managed to croak Vinda’s name. Nuuamaca smiled at him sadly and Soluna pulled him into a one-armed hug. “You are a very strange wizard Gellert, but it’s good of you to care.” She responded, though not without exchanging a curious glance with her friend.

That night Gellert couldn’t feel anything at all. Every person in Paris was nothing more that a paper cut-out, wizard and muggle equally insubstantial without Vinda to remind him that other people really existed. The veela were new, and and though he liked them and pitied them in equal measure they weren’t real to him yet, just a beautiful, tragic animated image. All around him lived flat things in the shape of people locked in a cycle of repeated patterns, and even the many wrongs that he could usually summon so much rage to fight against brought him nothing. Gellert could hardly swallow, his tongue dry and heavy in his mouth as he looked up at the ceiling, able to see the city around him, every life playing out against the cracked plaster in his mind’s eye. None of it felt real.

He mustered up the strength to turn his head and the window brought him no comfort, sullen clouds building up towards a storm as the night closed in, and Gellert exhaled, his lungs feeling like glass as he tried not to let his mind wonder to the only real people he knew. Vinda was three dimensional, Imari too, but it was his equal that he needed now. Albus, Albus too-many-names Dumbledore, with his charming grin and his blue blue eyes that swirled with infinite dimensions and were always sparkling with some new theory. Albus whose conversation could make his mind race, actually having to try to keep up with the startling leaps of brilliance that matched his own. Albus, who had woven his way into Gellert’s life, and whose absence had torn a hole in his heart that no amount of ice could numb. Gellert didn’t feel cold anymore, he felt empty. There was no pushing it away any longer, he had nothing left to push with. There was nothing to distract himself with, nothing between him and the crushing sense of emptiness that could act as a shield. He had been staggering on, held together by anger and loyalty to Vinda, but Vinda had gone away to school and now he had nothing that could keep the fractured pieces of his being together. The ice inside him had melted, there was nothing left to fuel his anger with, and so Gellert lay there on his side, staring out of the window into the night feeling hollow boned and desolate. He was nothing.

Hours spilled past; blood from a wound in his chest that burned and ached with the pain of everything that he’d lost, and still Gellert felt nothing. He felt a single tear drip down his face as the clock tower of Notre Dame struck one, the end of the witching hour, and he bit his tongue, longing for the distraction that physical pain would bring. In the corner of his eye he caught sight of a necktie in an inoffensive green of his that Vinda must have unpacked before leaving, and suddenly he knew how to move again. What he needed was an arithmantic problem of distracting complexity, and if none were forthcoming he would make his own. In his mind’s eye one tie became two and he felt his heart leap as he began to live again. If there were two ties in identical boxes, one a well cared for silk and the other ragged sacking, indistinguishable by either spell or sight, how would one choose? The arithmancy poured forth, variables floating before his eyes as he jerked into a sitting position. If you chose one and then were given the choice to choose again, would it be better to stay with your original choice? At first glance it looked simple, it wouldn’t matter, but as he thought about it more he became less and less sure.

Ink spilled across pages as Gellert wrote, the cuffs of his shirt stained with the black-blue of fountain pen ink as his thoughts spilled across the dry parchment. Even as he wrote a part of him railed against the inanity of his question, but he shoved that thought into a shrinking box in his head until he could continue. Right now his arithmancy didn’t have to have a point, so long as it was filling the holes in his heart. The sky greyed and lightened as his candles burnt low, his smile fading with the darkness as he reached an unsatisfactory conclusion. For any number of choices larger than two the better option would be to swap every time, however with two he couldn’t prove any kind of definitive answer. He copied out his notes and sent them to the Arithmancer’s Almanack offices, putting the proof for a non-answer down below his proofs for numbers above two as he fought the apathy pooling once more in his mind. He needed another distraction, needed breath to bloom once more in his lungs.

Gellert turned up to his next fight drunk. He watched as laughing crowds swayed around him and when he went for his wand he found it further from his hand than he expected, but he threw up a shield to block the first attack even as his throat burnt with the acrid aftertaste of fire whiskey. The vibrant orange curse that came at him next looked like a fear-based spell and Gellert laughed, catching it on the end of his wand and sending it back to the casters hazy shape with a neat flick. He felt his leg snap and looked down, confused as the bone shattering curse took effect and his left knee sent searing pain through his leg. He felt another spell coming and threw up his Euler shield without thinking about it, his mind too hazy to remember the healing spell for a broken joint as his head rang with pain. He fired a volley of curses, disarming to dismembering, and from the screams some of them must have connected, but he didn’t see the man fall, so he allowed himself to crumple, his wand tapping the floor as he muttered a fluid displacement charm. The oscillation he’d created ran towards his fuzzy opponent and knocked him down, allowing Gellert to flick his wand in a final disarming charm which connected, unlike his earlier attempt. Something pulled his gaze sharply upwards and in his pocket the blood pact seemed to jump, the pull in his chest forcing his head to turn towards the back of the amphitheatre where a blaze of copper hair was backlit against the lights trained on the fight pit. He opened his mouth to yell out Albus’ name when the figure disappeared through the swinging doors, Gellert suddenly doubling over in pain as the bond was stretched taught once more over miles of ocean. A burly mediwizard with swirling green eyes and skin the colour of cinnamon caught him as he fell, his vision whiting out as the adrenaline faded and the pain of his knee hit him in full force.

He dragged his way back through the black treacle of unconsciousness to see the same man smiling at him, and as soon as he opened his eyes the man broke into laughter. “You are back among the living, boy.” he said dryly, and then sobered, glancing at the door before he spoke again.
“I couldn’t believe the alcohol content of your blood when I checked it. Why would you fight in that condition?”
“Well it’s only fair to give the opponent a chance.” replied Gellert, his smile a calculated mixture of cocky and self assured as he looked up into the other man’s face. A laugh, a knowing shake of the head that spoke of having heard that before, and Gellert forced a smile on that came out somewhat less brittle than he thought he could manage.
“What’s you’re name boy? I can’t keep calling you The Drunkard in my head.” Asked the man with an easy grin.
“I’m Gellert Grindelwald, It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The man laughed.
“I’m Davinash, and I only wish I could say the same to you.” Gellert rolled his eyes, feigning exasperation, but he didn’t have the time to form some petty witticism in response before the man, Davinash, spoke again. “Why are you here Gellert Grindelwald.”
“Why is anyone here? To win.” he replied, a smile returning to his face, this time slyly confidant, but the man shook his head.
“No. Why are you really here? You don’t fight to win, I’ve watched you do this twice now. You could step out into that ring and decimate the competition in seconds, but you don’t. You taunt them with a show of weakness and then win with non-combative spells. Why are you here.”
“To train. To become the best fighter I can be.”
“No, I don’t think you are. There is something in your eyes, in your movements. A desperation.” he replied, and Gellert looked up sharply, wondering how anyone could tell that much from his fighting style alone.
“Fine. You’re right. I don’t come here to win, I come here to forget.” he said, filling his voice with the appropriate cocktail of bitterness and hurt that the statement called for. The man considered him for a moment and then nodded, apparently satisfied by Gellert’s half truth.

Leaving with a genuine smile a little later, Gellert walked out of the infirmary and up a gently sloping corridor hewn from stone, trying to convince himself that his high spirits were the product of nothing more than his victory and the interesting conversation that had followed. As he stepped out onto the cobblestones of the alleyway entrance to the fight pits he glanced up, the fleeting cry of a house martin wheeling above drawing his attention skywards, and he took a sharp breath in in surprise. The stars had come out again. When at last he arrived back at the theatre he crept through silent corridors, the thick dust swept into corners by the memory of a hundred feet hurrying through the honeycomb of passages that burrowed through the wooden walls of Vinda’s makeshift home. Gellert’s silent feet carried him through the winding paths that spread like veins from the stage that was the centre of this strange world and before he knew it he was sitting at the desk in Vinda’s room with a pen in his hand, staring down at words he hardly remembered writing. ‘Dearest Albus,’
With a growl he tapped the paper with his wand and the ink lifted away, coagulating in the air before flowing back into the fountain pen. He would write to Kaz and Imari, he decided, and he put his pen to the paper once more.

The letters were perfectly polite, friendly, businesslike and utterly unlike Gellert. He clenched his fist and watched as the two sheets of paper crumpled and began to smoke. They crumbled into ash before his sharp gaze and he smiled bitterly, knowing what he was going to end up doing and unable to stop himself. ‘Dearest Albus,’ he began again, and as he did so something seemed to leap in his chest.

‘I saw you there tonight. I felt you, how could I not? When the ache of our bond was suddenly nothing more than the faintest of pinpricks.’

The words poured forth like they always had, his handwriting just this side of legible as his thoughts became a torrent, ink splattering as he hurried his writing. Gellert felt something inside him begin to mend, the thought of seeing Albus again a balm to the wounds torn into his soul as he wrote, the ink staining his fingers in his hurry to say everything that he hadn't had the chance to when they’d parted.

‘Everything has changed for me and yet the world keeps on turning, today I caught a glimpse of you, and so against all reason I find myself hopeful once more. I feel like I can breathe for the first time since I left, and the world seems bright again. It’s been awful without you, but I’ve been thinking about worn ties and the probability of making the right choices, and something of the like should be appearing in the Arithmancer’s Almanac soon. It would have been thought of faster if you were here beside me, or perhaps not thought of at all, as it was only a distraction from the colourless world I find myself trapped in without your companionship. Will you come to watch me fight again?’

It took everything Gellert had to sign the end of the letter, ‘Ever yours, Gellert Grindelwald.’ Every fibre of his being longed to keep writing down his thoughts, a stream of conscience that would be sent to the only one who could possibly understand, but with the final line he managed to relax his grip on the pen in his hand and fold the letter neatly, transfiguring an envelope from a spare sheet of parchment and readying some wax to seal it with before he paused, and added one last line, the words scored into the paper with a heavy hand, their gravity clear in the desperate slant of his writing.

‘I wake thinking of your eyes and fall asleep to memories of your embrace. Do you still dream of me?’

He sealed it before any more of his desolation could ink its way into the message, pressing the seal they’d designed together into the warm wax. A clear impression of The Hallows was visible in the pool of quickly cooling beeswax that he’d let Albus charm a royal blue flecked with glittering silver what felt like a lifetime ago, and in spite of himself Gellert smiled, feeling strangely weightless and hopeful. He cast a fireproofing charm, swore as he realised that there was no fireplace in the room and conjured a fire in the empty mug resting on the sideboard. He threw in a pinch of floo powder and watched as the crackling flames danced around the rim, suddenly a ghostly green, before sending the letter through to Godrick’s Hollow and trying not to let doubts crush the flicker of hope in the hole where his heart had been ripped open.

Gellert slept easily as the toll his fight had taken on him caught up all at once, fatigue crashing down into him in a wave, and he woke well rested as the bright midday sun beamed down on Paris. He needed a floo box permanently, couldn’t bear to wait a second longer than necessary for a reply, so after a breakfast of cold sausage roll that still tasted excellent he made his way out into the streets in search of something he could repurpose as a smaller fireplace. He thought that he could probably conjure one, but with intent based magic it wasn't a good idea to charm the product, as the magic would interfere and could end up collapsing if the arithmancy broke down as repeat use wore away the spells. He didn’t want to spend any money but just to be on the safe side he would, after all it was of upmost importance.

Meandering through an open air market in muggle Paris, Gellert spotted a stall selling used bags and boxes, and walked over, too busy looking over the wares to see how the milling crowd of muggles parted before him like shadows from a struck match as he strode forwards. The box he liked most was half buried beneath a battered suitcase, the lacquered wood a deep red stained mahogany that seemed to call to him, and before he could think he’d reached out a hand and pulled with his magic, the box leaping into his hands from where it had been shoved. The stall owner crossed himself and muttered a prayer, giving Gellert an idea. He wouldn’t have to pay here, not when there was so much pure fear in the muggle’s expression. Concentrating, Gellert clicked his fingers imperceptibly and glamoured his eyes, black swallowing the whites and irises as he smiled, his spell sharpening his teeth to fangs and reddening the skin of his face. “God save us all. I’ll not give in to your temptation Demon.” said the man, and Gellert took the opportunity to disillusion his chosen box, the glamour falling away as he spun on the spot and called out for help.
“I believe this man is ill.” he called out, making sure that his accent didn’t creep through the French. “Can anyone help him?” A few muggles stepped forward and he smiled, explaining how worried he was about the stall owner who had started babbling about demons and temptations, obviously hallucinating some horrific nightmare. “Is there anything I can do to help?” He asked, his face the picture of concern, but he was waved away.
“Best not son, he’ll be alright soon enough with us looking after him.” Said one of the other market men, his easy manner of speaking strange to Gellert after spending so long with hostile fighters and wrathful Veela. He nodded sharply and walked away, his face splitting into a cruel smile. It had been far too long since he’d done something so pointlessly mean, since before he’d met Albus really, and the familiar rush of cold laughter tore its way up through his throat as he revelled in the memory of the muggle’s expression. Why hadn’t he done more of this recently? A small voice that sounded suspiciously like Albus suggested that it was childish and unnecessarily cruel but he pushed the thought away and allowed himself to enjoy the simple warmth of spite that the con had brought him.

Sitting on the bed, the desk too cluttered presently to use for this kind of delicate spellwork, Gellert dredged up everything he knew about the floo network and began to do the necessary calculations for his box. He didn’t think that he could make it safe enough to travel through himself, but letters were much easier to transport through the fire and he knew that that at least, he could manage. With a half-rueful smile he put aside his pen and checked over the arithmancy one last time before he began to carve the necessary runes onto the inside of his beautiful mahogany box. The lining was quickly taken care of by a nifty little curse that he’d modified at school over a year ago from an intestine removal spell and the paper cutting charm, and in the blink of an eye it was spellcraft ready. He traced his wand over the chalky runes, burning their likeness into the wood and leaving behind an oil-slick iridescence in the grooves he’d made as the magic sank into the surface of the box. With the inside connected to the floo network, he began to work on making sure that the boxes charms would hold if he moved it. The book he’d picked up on the way home suggested that it was an impossible feat, but then no one had believed that you could make a warding system portable until he’d done it with his coat, so he was undeterred by the claim of impossibility.

Smiling at the finished box, Gellert carefully moved it to a precarious position atop his larger travelling case, jamming it next to the case with a rotating bookshelf. It wouldn’t break, that he was sure of, his protection charms would hold against anything weaker than the Povey’s Pyre curse, a destructive fire spell he’d read about in Albus’ book collection that escaped the label ‘unforgivable’ by only a hairsbreadth, and he slumped back against the pillow with a satisfied smile. Everything seemed to click into place, his newest creation had almost assembled itself, and, he realised with a jolt, this could be massive. He could make some serious money here, and before he sent his notes anywhere he would need a patent. It was time to return to Berlin. He gripped his box tightly and disapperated, stepping out of his room in France and into the hustle and bustle of central Berlin, opening his eyes to see a familiar street and hearing the softly comforting tones of his mother tongue after what felt like far too long.

Striding into the patent office, box under his arm as the coat that he had charmed to grow with him swirled in the draft, he cut an imposing figure. “I have a new magical device that requires a patent.” He said, and was met with a few blank stares. A man laughed, pointing to a chair and indicating that Gellert would have to wait his turn. “I’m Gellert Grindelwald, if that makes my claim more likely.” He added, and one of the other people in the office turned around, expression skeptical until she spotted him.
“I remember you. My, you’ve done some serious growing since you were last here. Come on in.” She said, and Gellert grinned, viciously pleased at the expression of shock on the man’s face.

When he had the crisp embossed paper of the german ministry that gave him creative rights for the portable correspondence floo he relaxed a little, apperating back to the theatre and wondering if there was a spell he could create for eternal flames that wouldn’t eventually leech on his power. He knew the spell for bluebell flames, knew all the basic fire starting charms, could coax fire from nothing with a click of his fingers, knew Fiendfyre and Gori Detka Gori, both highly destructive pyromancy, but none of the spells he knew would conjure an eternal flame without a constant source of magic. Furrowing his brow with a smile, Gellert seized the distraction with both hands and tried not to let the silence bother him. It should be impossible, he was sure that it violated at least one of the fundamental laws of elemental charms, but he couldn’t keep a grin from his face. This was a real distraction. Hours melted past and the late evening faded to night, the grey of the morning creeping over the horizon before he had registered any time passing at all. Thumbing through an alchemy text he’d picked up the summer before meeting Albus as the sun rose, Gellert found himself remembering the glow of obsession in Albus’ eyes when he’d talked about the philosophers stone, and the memory sparked an idea. With the light of a new idea burning through him Gellert summoned all of the Alchemy books in his considerable collection as well as his notebook containing the arithmancy that had led up to his fourth dimension spellcraft and sat down on the bed to re-familiarise himself with BÄZT and mastery level alchemy before he attempted anything drastic.

At some point after the sun had once more made its way beneath the earth, Gellert smiled widely, excitement radiating off him in almost palpable waves. He pointed his wand at the inside of the box and took a deep breath. “Ignem Aeternum.” he said, the words a whisper half way between a prayer and an oath. The spell worked beautifully, the brilliant red-gold light from his wand bouncing off the vector planes he’d created in four dimensional space and then bound to the incantation, reflecting through the angles needed to to concentrate it into one point in the centre of the box. The light flared up, a miniature sun of brilliant white, before cooling to the warm orange flames of a wood fire without the fuel. The air needed for combustion was channeled through the vertices of the complex shape still visible in the glowing afterimage behind his eyelids, and the fire he’d so carefully crafted leapt and danced merrily inside its lacquered red box, hot to the touch and yet not showing any signs of burning the wood of the vessel. He had done it. He held the key to eternal fire.

Carefully closing the lid on his greatest creation to date, Gellert moved it to the floor behind his travelling cases where it wasn't likely to draw too much attention and lay back on his bed, limbs stretching as he arched his back, the satisfying clicks a testament to how long he had spent in one position. He smiled, the metallic taste of loss that he had grown so used to overwhelmed for once by the sweet flavour of success as he allowed himself to revel in the magnitude of what he hd just achieved. He, Gellert Grindelwald, had disproved the second law of elemental magic at the age of seventeen. He felt as if he could float, his mind occupied wholly by his success with a supposedly impossible problem and the elegant solution he had created, and the victory felt real. He was real, he could feel the scratch of the low grade sheets and in a fit of self-indulgence he snapped his fingers, the coarse cotton beneath him transfigured into silk in the space of a second. He could hear his heartbeat thudding in his ears, still elevated from his earlier tension, and suddenly things seemed less silent, a little less two-dimensional as he fought to keep another wide smile off his face. He swung his legs down over the edge of the bed and made as if to stand up, swaying on his feet in the grip of a sudden lightheadedness before deciding to re-evaluate the decision. It had been one of the most intense research binges he’d ever been on, the spellwork taxing before he had managed to correct it; bringing the power levels required down to a reasonable figure, and he had no idea how long it had lasted. He felt a pain lancing through his stomach and wondered how many days it had been since he had eaten, how many hours since he’d last slept. At the thought of sleep a wave of exhaustion crashed over him and he lay back down hurriedly, wondering idly if he could represent tired-ness graphically as a wave as he slid into dreamless sleep.

When Gellert woke he was wearing a lazy smile that refused to fade. For the first time since meeting Albus he’d woken up thinking about something other than him, and Gellert realised with a start that he enjoyed it. He had just disproved the second law of elemental magic and he deserved, he thought, to bask in feats of magic such as that. Albus would write back to him, he was sure of that, but it could wait. The first order of the day was to get food, preferably with coffee and in large quantities.

Gellert ate six buttered croissants and could honestly say that he didn’t feel any less hungry afterwards. He found himself longing for the rich taste of German Eintopf, the thick vegetable and meat soup of his childhood home, and apperated away without bothering to pay muggle francs for his meal. He hadn't been thinking clearly about his destination and when he opened his eyes he saw a very familiar kitchen, the scorch marks from his many pranks with Vinda still visible on the wall behind the cooker. He had unconsciously sought out his mother’s home. Almost as soon as he’d had the thought he heard footsteps, but let himself melt away before she could see him there and reappeared in the street outside a little restaurant that he remembered as doing the best Eintopf in the city. He didn’t want to chance a conversation, couldn't bear to let the fragile glow of accomplishment he felt be crushed by another confrontation with someone dear to him, and it was far easier to simply disappear. He walked into the restaurant with his smile still fixed onto his face, the expression now feeling slightly forced, but he traced his hand over the spine of his newest notebook for comfort and sat down with a small genuine smile in place. He was in the process of writing up notes on the creation of his fire spell and the notebook went with him everywhere, it’s durable cover made from layers of hardened doxy wing carapaces making it supposedly immune to wear and tear. Ordering a bowl of soup, he began to relax, feeling less hungry and homesick as he rushed thought the brilliant meal and asked for another portion.

His pockets lighter after his hearty meal, Gellert meandered towards the market entrance to Magical Munich without really thinking about it, finding himself stood before the stone dragon as his feet took him down the familiar streets of the city of his childhood. “It’s been an age since you visited Lordling, and you’ve been changed by it. Perhaps it will be Lord soon. Not quite yet. You’ve not done enough, but you’re getting there.” said the stone dragon, the guardian of the gate as cryptic as he remembered. He nodded politely and then he was through, the archway opening to reveal the sprawling streets and shimmering lamps that lit the inside of every shop of the magical sector. Gellert took a deep breath in and closed his eyes, imagining for a second that he was still the boy he had been when he was last here, a small smile gracing his lips as he let himself be lost in the smells and sounds of the familiar streets around him.

Chapter Text

“A Modern Prometheus.” The title above his proof sent a thrill of pride through him as he opened the latest issue of the arithmancer’s almanac a week later. October had arrived in Paris flanked by sudden rainstorms and a chill in the air that Gellert relished, and he had taken to walking through the city in the early mornings and letting himself observe the daily comings and goings of the muggle and wizarding communities as the leaves fell, paving the city in a carpet of gold that all too soon was washed away into an unassuming brown. The last few days had been busy, Gellert preoccupied with writing up his notes on eternal fire and then sending them off to both Arithmancy and Alchemy publications for peer review but he couldn't have helped noticing the steady amber of his eternal fire. No green had danced into being, no letters had arrived. Albus hadn’t responded. The silence was disconcerting, a bitter thing he couldn’t escape thinking about, and it had been beginning to leave bad taste in his mouth, but the proof would change that. As he comforted himself with the thought, the fire inside the box danced green and his heart rose into his throat, the hope of a reply rising like a tide within him. It was the latest issue of The New Alchemist, his name written just underneath another title proclaiming him “Today’s Prometheus, Tomorrow’s legend.” Gellert let a smirk stretch across his features and tried to ignore the stab of disappointment he felt. The letter would have to come soon.

The following day there was a knock at his door and he answered, wand in hand and completely unsure who would be behind the wood. “Imari?” he said, wondering why on earth the other boy could be here, and slightly more worryingly, how he had been found.
“Long time no see my friend.” said the boy, an easy smile gracing his lips as he looked up at Gellert.
“Not that you’re wrong about that, but why are you here?” asked Gellert, not sure how to word his question delicately and hoping that Imari still found his abrupt manner as funny as he had while they’d both been in school.
“Can I not pay my good friend a spontaneous visit?” he asked with a laugh, walking into the room that Gellert was staying in and blinking in surprise. “Cosy.” he added dryly, looking around in faint horror at Gellert’s small living space.
“I assume it’s my newest proof that brought you back. How’ve you been?” He said, Imari feigning a wounded expression as he replied, hurt colouring his tone.
“Gellert how could you suggest such a thing? I’m merely here to catch up with an old friend.”
“Of course, of course.” Said Gellert, the sarcasm thick in his voice.

Gellert had forgotten how funny Imari could be, the small man’s infectious smile lightening his own mood until he was fully involved in the easy flow of conversation, the months they had spent not talking melting away as Imari recounted his summer and Gellert teased him about his BÄZT results. “I’m a year younger and I managed to best you in everything but potions.” He taunted, and Imari laughed, then assumed a sly expression that boded ill for Gellert.
“Hey, at least I’m not living in a room the size of a shoe box with no money and no job.” he replied, and Gellert smiled, not the slightest bit self-conscious about his living situation.
“I’ve got better things to do than work for my money. Like disproving the second law of elemental magic.” he said, his tone imperious, and Imari laughed, then managed to force himself into a solum expression as he spoke again.
“Sounds like a fancy way of saying you can’t get yourself a real job.” The two of them burst into laughter almost simultaneously and Gellert realised that it was the first time he’d really laughed since Vinda left a month ago, the relief of the sensation bringing a genuine smile to his lips as they calmed down.
“Speaking of money, I think we should eat out.” He said. “And out of the goodness of your heart you should pay because I’m you’re tragically impoverished friend.” Imari laughed, shaking his head ruefully.
“Fine, fine. I can’t believe I forgot that you’re like this.”
“Like what?”
“I can’t really describe it. You’re very—” Imari paused, searching for an adequate phrase, “Unique.”
“I’m going to make that as a compliment you know.” He replied, a wide smile creasing his face as Imari began to laugh again.

The other man left the next morning, Gellert extracting a promise to stay in contact that he felt obligated to ask for before he waved Imari off at the international floo network’s nearest fireplace. They had talked through most of the night, arithmancy and alchemy the main topics of discussion, but it rang hollow and Gellert was glad to see the last of him for a while, too preoccupied to really listen after a few hours. It had been nice to see a friend but he’d overstayed his welcome. After stopping in a muggle coffee shop and confunding the waiter into thinking he’d already payed he felt a little less irritated, but the anxious energy that had woken him fitfully with the sunrise refused to dissipate.

There was still no letter.

The following night was long, every leaping amber flame a disappointment that he was pretending didn’t hurt as green failed to illuminate his room. As the sun rose once more he slammed the lid of the box down and went to see Soluna and Nuuamaca, determined to spend his day doing something fun. His knock on the door of their dressing room was an echo of the one Vinda had used to let them know that it was a friend requesting entrance and he heard a strange scraping sound before Soluna opened the door suspiciously. “Gellert.” she said, her expression brightening into a smile. “We thought you’d died a painful death. Where’ve you been?”
“I’ve been busy telling the lead wizarding academics where to stick it.” he said, cracking a smile and feeling a frisson of warmth when his acrid response elicited a laugh from the prickly Soluna. “They think that just because they can’t do something themselves it’s impossible, or dark in some way.” He added, carefully watching her responses as he pressed where he thought it might hurt. True to form the veela flinched a little, Gellert priding himself on his accurate analysis of the situation even as Soluna replied. Her accent was thick, much worse that Gellert’s was, presumably brought out by the suddenly passionate bitterness she felt. It took Gellert a moment to identify what she’d said as “j'en ai ral le cul
avec cette merde,”. ‘I’m so fucking fed up with this shit.’ He twisted his face into a sympathetic frown, wondering if she would expand on her statement, but at that moment Nuuamaca poked her head out of the back room the two of them shared to say hello.

The three of them sat and talked for hours, Nuuamaca teaching him some veela runes from her enclave that brought up a physical barrier around the enchanter before he bid the two women goodbye and made his way back to his room. The first thing he did was open the box to see if a letter had arrived, and his heart leapt into his throat for a moment when he saw the envelope lying there at the bottom of the small chest before he registered the entirely foreign handwriting. Ignoring the latest twist of the proverbial knife in his chest, Gellert turned over the letter to have a look at the seal. It was an insignia he knew well, Albus’ many rants on the Flamel family having burnt the image onto the back of his eyelids more than once. He bit his tongue, blood filling his mouth and helping him to forget the sharply serrated edges of the bond tugging at his chest as memories threatened to drown him. He refused to be disappointed because the letter was from a world expert in alchemy, he absolutely refused to allow himself to feel that way, so he opened the letter with all the excitement he could muster and began to read. A smile spread across his face against his will as he read, the familiar glow of pride warming him when he finally reached the end of the letter.

‘I have been fascinated by your most recent breach of the laws of magic, and would like to invite you to stay with me and my wife in the Manor I keep in France for a partnership in alchemical research.
Kind Regards,
Nicolas Flamel, Professor of Alchemy and Creator of The Philosopher’s Stone.’

Gellert couldn’t feel the disappointment of a moment before, the burning joy of getting a chance like this to work with Flamel drowning out the constant ache emanating from his chest. He wrote back immediately, accepting the offer and asking what it was they would be researching. He carefully rewrote his response, leaving out all of the probably invasive questions about the effects of immortality and making sure to come across as a studious but well mannered wizard. He signed the letter with a simple ‘Gellert Grindelwald.’ resisting the urge to add any titles after the fact, after all he didn't want to come across as too pretentious. He blew on the ink and sealed the envelope with his stamp of the Hallows, then vanished it, not wanting to use someone else's symbol for correspondence with someone so renowned. He transfigured a sheaf of paper into a block of wood the length of his finger and then nicked his finger, letting the blood magic reform the wood into a plain stamp. With another drop of blood he changed the seal into a quick design of his initials and transfigured it into a silver metal stamp embossed with GG, the first initial reflected so that the spiky letters were symmetrical. With a smile he sealed the envelope with some blood red sealing wax and sent it off through the floo, hardly even glancing in as he closed the lid and then wrenching it back open, shocked at what he saw.

Gellert did a double take, heart suddenly hammering in his chest as he saw it. There was a parcel in his floo box. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, didn't want to taste the bitter disappointment he knew he would feel if it were once again from anyone but Albus, but he couldn't stop his heart from racing. He pulled the brown paper off the parcel and blinked, unsure if what he was seeing was real. All of the muggle books he had cut in half and left in the cottage beyond Godrick’s Hollow were neatly stacked in the same order he had left them in, whole once more and smelling like jasmine. He didn't know what it meant. Opening each book and half expecting a note of some sort, Gellert’s blood rushed through his ears loudly and then filled his mouth as he bit his tongue, the pain grounding him as he realised that Albus hadn’t sent a note. What Gellert didn’t understand was the point of the gesture. Did Albus want him to keep the books because he knew Gellert had liked them, or was it more symbolic. Was this Albus’ way of saying goodbye? No, It couldn’t be. Perhaps he had mended the books in an effort to show Gellert that things were still fixable. Albus had given him the books and they had meant to very much to him, he thought to himself as tears welled up in his eyes, and he was glad that he had them back regardless of what Albus had meant by returning the gifts.

He scrambled for pen and paper, questions splattering themselves across the blank sheet before him in his hurry to speak to Albus again. All thoughts of the brilliant opportunity he had just been handed pushed to the back of his mind as hope bloomed in his chest that Albus could forgive him. He threw the piece of paper into the fire with a sprinkle of floo powder, too rushed to bother with an envelope, and in his haste he sent the pile of mended muggle books to the ground. His ‘Complete Works Of Shelly’ lay open at ‘To ___.’ the famously unaddressed love poem that had been his favourite, the lure of the mystery catching his attention whenever he’d been idly reading. The first time he’d ever heard it it had been Albus speaking the poem aloud, and he’d addressed it to Gellert as they lay in the shade beneath a large sycamore tree just beyond Godrick’s Hollow. Gellert had laughed and stolen the book, writing Albus’ name where his had been spoken a moment before, and then they’d been distracted, too wrapped up in their own story to close the book. It wasn’t until later that Gellert had noticed that Albus had changed the writing back to his name, and spelled it to stay that way, for no matter what he’d tried his name refused to be removed in favour of his lover’s. Now he stared, transfixed by the sight of the page and the ivory jasmine flower that had been crushed flat against the delicate ink of the second stanza.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Could this be mere coincidence? Gellert didn’t believe that Albus could be so careless, couldn't bare to believe it. A smile grew across his face and he ran his fingers over the blue-black inscription of his name at the top of the page, reverently un-crushing the single jasmine bloom that had been left there with a tap of his wand. He conjured a solid glass octahedron around the flower to preserve it, drawing permanence and preservation runes into each face of the shape at the corners before conjuring a glass circe and adding the runes that would tie the two pieces together. The octahedron was spelled to float above the circle with a levitation rune pair he’d read about the summer before last that only required a drop of the caster’s blood applied once to work permanently. Once he had applied the charm he slid the glass circe onto the desk, then added a fiddly charm that would make the whole object unbreakable and smiled, inhaling the slightly stale smell of jasmine that had been crushed into the pages of the book. Albus would write back again soon, and then perhaps in time he could have back what he’d thought was lost forever.

Weeks flew by as he corresponded regularly with Nicolas Flamel, eventually arranging an initial meeting in Paris for late November, and before he knew it Samhain was approaching. Paris was unseasonably cold, feeling more like Gellert’s home than ever as sleet drove the multitudes inside. Gellert revelled in the cold, loving the bite the air had developed and the way frost brought a natural magic to each morning, but he was growing more concerned by the day. Albus had gone silent. No more messages came, no reply to any of the many letters he had sent, and as the autumn equinox approached Gellert decided to send Cixi, knowing that she would be much harder to ignore than a letter. She returned in two days, feathers ruffled and with no visible correspondence.

He was bitterly angry, Cixi had sent the image of a strange forcefield at him, and how the spell had made her skin itch and burn when she’d tried to get through, and it enraged him that Albus could be so cruel to his Familiar. He’d sent a letter saying so, but there wasn’t so much as a flicker of change in the strangely dulled misery he could always feel pooling on Albus’ side of the bond so he assumed that his latest letter, like so many others had gone unread. Gellert did his best to distract himself, heading down to the fight pits of the Blood Wraiths more and more frequently to blow off steam, eventually squashing the dwindling hope that Albus would show up to another of his fights after weeks of feeling the bitter taste of disappointment rise in his throat again and again.

He was standing in the ring the week before he was due to meet Nicolas Flamel, blood pouring from his arm at an alarming rate as he faced an Oriental man with a duelling style he’d been underprepared for when he caught sight of a flash of red in his vision. Copper hair. He turned to look, throwing up a strong modified shield charm as he scanned the crowd, but it was the wrong man. His shields flickered as he tried to swallow down the sob caught in his throat and another cutting curse hit him, his right hand now slick with blood, and he began to feel lightheaded. In a desperate last effort he threw aside his wand and smeared his blood through the air, leaving a trail of scarlet that quickly took the shape of a rune as he forced magic into it with sheer desperation. Before the dark haired man at the other end of the pit could move, Gellert sent his blood rune spinning towards him and smiled as it struck, opening his mouth to utter the incantation that would end things. He’d never used the destructive Egyptian glyph on a person, and vaguely wondered what would happen as his head swam, but before he could draw breath to say the words his vision faded out and darkness took him.

When he came round he spat bloodied sand and smiled darkly, watching as his opponent’s name was screamed by countless people he’d been cheered by just days ago, and the disloyalty made his blood boil. The fight wasn't over yet, he thought grimly to himself, and when he stood mutters ran around the room. The man turned away from the crowds to face him once more, the mark that would bring Gellert victory still glistening wetly on his cheek, laughing mockingly and saying something Gellert couldn't hear over the blood rush pounding through him. He smiled grimly and finally gave the runes power. “Hi Di.” He said, his voice inaudible over the yelling and stamping of the crowd but loud enough for the magic to take effect. Power rippled through him, a surge of energy that set his hair on end as the smiling fool he was facing exploded, blood and guts spinning in all directions as chunks of meat no bigger than a timepiece flew across the room. A sudden silence echoed through the high ceilinged cavern, the watchers shocked into a stunned quiet, but not for long. As pulp that had been a brain moments before soaked into the sand a solitary man began to clap, his scarred face twisted into a smile. A cacophony of yells and accusations began to rise out of the silence but Gellert couldn’t look away from the man who had begun to clap. He picked up his wand from where it had fallen and tapped his robes and skin, thinking ‘Tergeo’ and smiling slightly as the splinters of gristle and bone that had clung to him were flung to the sand and the blood that had coated his clothes and hair lifted off in a fine mist of red. He started, remembering the odd applauder in the crowd and look back up to where the man had been and saw no one.

After a few nifty healing charms Gellert made his way to the edge of the ring and found himself being given a wide berth, the people around him falling silent as he walked past, and he couldn't quite decide if he liked it or not. He inhaled and tasted fear, an uncertain smile on his face as he moved, the crowds parting for him as they scrambled over themselves to avoid his touch. The odd man who’d clapped was waiting for him by the doors with two glasses of what looked like a dark blend of firewhiskey, and jerked his head in the direction of a small door Gellert had never noticed before in the corridor outside the fight pit. With a soundless swing the thick stone door opened onto a room, the splendour of which reminded Gellert of Black Manor. The deep blue stone of the floor glimmered as if lit from within and the pale wood of the furnishings counteracted some of the oppressively dark atmosphere as lamps shaded with the light blue of a summer sky flared into light around the room.

“Have a seat.” said the man, gesturing to one of the three sofas arranged in a semi-circle around the fireplace. Gellert frowned as he sat, not quite able to place the odd accent that curled around each word the man spoke. “Drink, you must be shaken by the fight.” he added, and Gellert frowned.
“Why would I be?” he asked, not missing the flash of surprised pleasure on the man’s face at his response.
“You just killed a man. Doesn’t that bother you little Yaotlpilli?” The strange word sounded like no language Gellert had ever heard, nothing in Europe sounded anything like it. There was no common root word to work with, no latin or germanic root to any of it, and Gellert found himself smiling, the puzzle entertaining, but the man was waiting for his answer so he shook his head, the warmth of his victory melting the ice that had threatened to creep through his veins. He had only done what he’d had to, and after all, it was for the greater good.
“I won.” he said shortly, a sharp smile designed to cut crossing his face before he asked the question that had stopped him from completely relaxing. “Will there be some sort of sanction because of what I did?” The man laughed long and hard, wiping away tears of mirth before he composed himself and spoke once more.
“No, no, have no fear, after all this is no usual duelling circuit. The blood wraiths are not named so for the intimidation factor alone.” Gellert breathed a sigh of relief, worry that he hadn’t actually realised was nagging at him melting away.
“I’m Gellert—” he began, but the man cut him off.

“You are Gellert Grindelwald. You have been involved with the infamous black family and have one close friend in Paris who brought you here because she needed school fees. You’re an Ex-Durmstrang student who was expelled at the end of the last academic year for ‘twisted experiments’ after completing the curriculum a year early.” The man’s eyes were glittering, Gellert noticed, disconcerted by hearing a total stranger speak about his personal life. “Primarily an arithmancer, you have just made major changes to alchemy, fight inside my ring with runes and charms, speak five languages and yet don’t ever say spells aloud. Gellert Grindelwald, you are the very definition of an enigma.” he continued with a delighted laugh. Gellert didn’t know how to respond to the concerning amount of knowledge the man had on him, thankful that Albus at least had been left out of the list, but he was wary of the odd stranger.
“Sir you put me at a disadvantage. You clearly know a lot about me yet I do not even know your name.” he said, hoping he had not offended and internally readying himself to blast the door open and escape.
“Yes, I suppose I do.” Replied the shiny eyed man, his accent still completely foreign to Gellert. “My name is Tlaloc Cipactli. I am the master of the fight pits, the leader of the blood wraiths and currently very intrigued by you, Yaotlpilli.”

Gellert smiled and sipped his drink, surprised to find the liquid tasted like dark chocolate and burned like vodka. “What is this and where can I get more of it? It’s a thing of beauty.” he asked, liking unexpected flavour and unable to resist commenting on it.
“You will find it nowhere else on this continent Yaotlpilli.” said Tlaloc, a satisfied smile playing around his lips as Gellert drank again, trying to identify what else was in the drink.
“Why do you call me that?” he asked, the spirits allowing him to be much less formal than he otherwise would have been. “Because it suits you.” replied the man, eyes laughing at a joke Gellert couldn’t understand, speaking again before Gellert could ask what it meant. “How did you learn blood magic?” Gellert laughed, pouring himself another shot of whatever it was that he was drinking.
“I read a book.”
“That’s not possible.” Said the man, suddenly intense. “There are no books on the blood magic you used tonight outside the warded lands.” Gellert sat up straight, nerves jangling as he wondered if he had misheard.

“You’re Aztec.” He breathed, eyes shining with curiosity as he sobered up, the surprise shocking him out of the lazy ease he’d been drifting into with the help of the alcohol. The man nodded, then asked again where he’d learnt blood spells.
“It’s an interesting story really.” he began, remembering with a smile his first blood based magic. “I’ve been using blood to power spells since I was eleven. I needed more shelf space than was offered so I grew some more from the walls with my blood.”
“How did you know it would work?” asked the man sharply.
“Well the funny thing is, I’d read about it in a book written by a muggle. It was English originally, though I’d only read the german translation then, and I thought I’d give it a try.” He said, thinking fondly of his newer copy of Blake’s complete works.
“Written by a muggle? Impossible. Tell the truth little Yaotlpilli, or you won’t leave this room alive.” The man was angry now, unwilling to believe the secrets of blood magic could be so carelessly rediscovered, but Gellert narrowed his eyes and began to recite the poem that had been the first step on the road that brought him here.

“I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning, blood and tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

It’s by William Blake, muggle poet. I have no reason to deceive you Tlaloc, and no desire to die. I speak the truth.” When he had finished the poem he smiled sunnily at the man and forced himself to remain solum despite the laughter threatening to bubble up in his throat at the man’s shocked look.
“That still doesn’t explain tonight. How did you learn blood glyphs that dangerous. Surely it was no muggle poem that inspired that.” Snapped Tlaloc, and now Gellert did laugh.
“Well once I realised how powerful it was I began to explore, and that wasn’t a blood glyph, it was just an overpowered Egyptian hieroglyph for to-destroy written in blood.” The man was looking at him the way adults usually did when they realised what he was. The moment of realisation when they had to readjust how they looked at him, suddenly realising that he was an intelligent equal with real power was always sweet, and Gellert was glad to know that he was exceptional even by Aztec standards.

Tlaloc seemed eager to talk the night away and Gellert was only too happy to comply, prying information about his homeland out of him slowly throughout the night. He didn't say much, his dark eyes flashing in amusement with every leading question Gellert asked, but he seemed to enjoy Gellert’s attempts at subtle questioning so he saw no reason to stop, and he knew more by the end of the night about the Aztec capital than any other person in Europe who hadn’t seen it. As the sun rose over the frosted windows of Paris, Tlaloc came to the main point he had been edging towards all evening. “I would like to teach you more Yaotlpilli, and if by the express wishes of the high mages of Tenochtitlan I am allowed to do so, I could give you the tools you will need.” he said, his tone reverent as he invoked the name of his city. Gellert smiled, a dark smile that had grown dusty from disuse over the summer with Albus that bloomed across his face once more as he refilled his glass.
“Need for what?” he asked, and Tlaloc laughed.
“For the change you wish to bring about, and the storm it will bring. You think I’d forget to research what you want to do? I’m not sloppy Mr Grindelwald, and I don’t make mistakes that easily. Your debates are remembered fondly by several witches and wizards a little older than you.” Gellert looked at him, disconcerted all over again by the amount the man had managed to dig up about his life, but he didn’t feel up to asking about how he’d found it all, too comfortably drunk and enjoying his company too much to question him properly. He staggered out of the strangely ornate room hours later and made his way up through the twisting tunnels back to street level, walking through the door with the man’s strange goodbye ringing in his ears. Blinking in the bright cold sun of the November afternoon Gellert dizzily made his way home and fell into bed, asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow, too tired to check the floo box as he usually did before succumbing to sleep.

A few days later Gellert could hardly sleep he was so exited. He would be meeting the only known creator of the philosopher’s stone in less than three days, and he couldn’t settle to anything. He had written three lists of questions titled Historic, Alchemical and Personal, and all of them were far longer than he’d planned them to be, but at least, he thought to himself, he was prepared. Though it was only mid afternoon Gellert was exhausted, the past two nights of sleepless contemplation blurring his vision with the need to sleep but his mind wouldn’t let him rest. As he turned over in the fruitless attempt for some sort of nap he found himself wondering if Albus would be envious of him now, working with Nicolas Flamel and learning the secrets of Aztec culture. He might be exited about the alchemy, but he’d be horrified by Gellert learning blood magic. He could try to fool himself into thinking that Albus would support it all but even in his daydreams his lover wouldn’t condone something so taboo. Gellert had never understood his squeamishness when it came to the ‘dark’ arts, always biting his tongue when the subject came up, not wanting to push Albus’ incredible capacity for forgiveness too far, but it was far too late for that now. Laughing hollowly to himself at the inanity of his musings, Gellert tried to push thoughts of his lover away, but as always he fell asleep thinking of blue eyes. This time they shimmered with tears, still exquisitely beautiful in their broken misery.

He lurched awake as a horrible fear gripped him. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t escape the crushing cold of the water, couldn't reach the surface. As he blinked the sleep from his eyes the feeling faded, his lungs sucking in air and not brackish sea water, but the panic remained constant, pulsing from his chest in a sickening parody of a heartbeat as he coughed. It was the bond. Albus was drowning.

Chapter Text

Gellert wasted no time, letting the bond pull him through space towards Albus as soon as he’d grabbed his wand. He appeared on some kind of platform hanging over the sea, shed his night shirt and braced himself for the cold Albus was feeling, wand clutched tightly in his hand. He performed the bubblehead charm and then dove downwards, the seawater feeling much warmer now he was here himself than it had felt through the bond, used to the Russian winter as he was, and then he started to panic. Albus’ heartbeat, so frantically panicked a moment ago had begun to slow. Desperately he followed the pull of the bond, the pain he felt an echo of flickering in and out as Albus’ heartbeat grew ever slower and he grew closer to unconsciousness. Gellert swam down into the green depths following the ache in his chest and finally spotted Albus, pale in the murky light. He took his desperation and forced everything he felt into a pull, the water between them parting as he all but summoned Albus to his side. He quickly extended the bubblehead charm and breathed a sigh of relief as Albus’ heart rate steadied, the frightening drops and stutters gone now that he had an air supply.

When he broke the surface the bubblehead charm faded for both of them and he levitated first Albus and then himself back onto the pier, his own heart racing as he realised what had just happened. The gravity of the situation shook him, the thought that he might not have got there in time haunting his every breath as he took in the sallow state of Albus’ skin and the way his cheekbones had become almost knife sharp. Gellert struggled to his knees, Albus cradled in his arms as he wondered what had happened. There must have been some kind of struggle, but who could have overpowered someone as magically capable as his lover? He didn’t know. In the corner of his eye he caught sight of a flash of white and summoned it, thinking it might be a clue as to the assailant’s identity and finding his vision blinded by tears when he realised what it was. The crown of jasmine flowers.

There had to be another explanation. The sinking feeling in his chest didn’t mean he was right. Albus wouldn’t have done something like that to himself. The wreath didn’t mean anything. The wand so carefully placed on top of the flowers he had threaded trough Albus’ hair months ago didn’t mean what he thought it did. It couldn’t mean that. To distract himself he tried to think of something to do, somewhere he could take Albus while he recovered, and his first thought was The Study, the space they’d built together where so many of his happiest memories were made. Where he’d left his message. In the space between Albus’ heartbeats he was there, but the cottage was not. Nothing stood in the glade that they had shared so many hours of the summer in, when they had believed that they would be forever. As Gellert crunched his way through the frost that had iced a layer of shimmering crystal over the ruins of the cottage he realised that they were both cold. His drying and warming charms seemed to help a little but Albus was still shivering, unconscious and far too light in his arms without the wet layers of cloth giving him the illusion of a healthy weight. With nowhere else to go, The Dumbledore Residence too full of memories for him to trust himself to be back there, he apperated back to his cupboard room in France, shattering his way through the french ministry’s wards in his haste to get Albus somewhere warm.

He lay the cold form of his lover out on the bed and wished it were under better circumstances that they were here together, running his finger through red hair that looked like blood against the pale clammy skin beneath Gellert’s hands. “Come back to me.” He muttered, mouth close to Albus’ ear as he spoke, hope fading fast as he felt a frisson of fear shoot through him. Had he been to late? No. There, the fluttering breath that kept the world turning was still stuttering across his cheek when he bent close to make sure. “Please, please come back to me.” He murmured, and then something changed. His cough had changed. Deeper, halting and then with a shuddering gasp Albus Dumbledore was back from the dead.

“What have you done to yourself?” The question hung in the air between them, harsh and cruel and not at all what Gellert had meant to say.
“What I did? What about you. What did you do to me?” Albus’ voice was rasping and delicate, unsure, as if he hadn’t spoken much recently, and his words cut Gellert from the inside out. He had meant to be loving, had mean to say so many other things when he was finally in the same room as his other half, but everything had changed when he’d realised that no one had attacked Albus but himself. He had tried to die, he had thrown himself off that hulking muggle structure and given himself up for dead. Albus was too thin and too pale, too quiet and too resigned, but he had enough strength left to hurt Gellert. “You killed me Gellert. You killed me months ago when I had to watch vain, ignorant muggles bury my sister. I just tried to keep up.” Gellert reached for him then, pulled him close and began to cry into a shoulder that cut, too bony and almost frighteningly malleable. Once Albus would have been able to overpower Gellert physically, now he turned his face away from Gellert’s, too weak to even throw off a hug. Everything they had built together had fallen into the sea, and Gellert held what was left of his lover close, afraid that if he let go Albus would disappear like smoke, find The Seine and finish what he’d started. The cottage was gone, all that was left of it freezing under a thick frost two hundred miles away and he suddenly realised how much three months had changed them both.
“Please Al, talk to me.” It was a desperate attempt doomed to failure, but, as if by some strange magic, it worked.

“The silence…” Albus trailed off, his voice still strangely hoarse, before he tried again. “The silence was everywhere.” Gellert felt the tremor that shook Albus as he spoke, reassuring him with gently soothing motions, not knowing what he could say that could possibly help. “Every room in that house is full of memories and every time I breathe in I choke on ghosts.” continued Albus, the tortured whisper haunting as Gellert lay by his lover, silently supportive as he wished away the months they had spent apart. He never should have left. As the night wore on and morning broke they slowly relearnt how to sleep in the same bed, Albus curling into Gellert’s side like the final piece of a puzzle he hadn't realised he was trying to put together until it was already complete. It was the best night’s sleep Gellert had had since the summer.

When he woke the bed was unnaturally cold but before he had time to panic Albus rolled over, his body fragile and seeming even smaller than it had at first. Gellert was horrified by what he’d let happen, scared and angry and not sure how to deal with Albus’ newfound fragility. In all his plans and contrivances to get Albus to see things his way he’d never imagined something like this. Albus had hollows beneath his eyes that looked almost bruised, waxy skin and collarbones that jutted out alarmingly. He had probably almost starved, too busy destroying himself to eat or sleep and Gellert felt a sudden wave of anger. He should have felt this, should have felt how much weaker Albus was becoming. He should have been able to tell from the bond, should have felt the draining hunger and abject misery, which meant only one thing. Albus had been blocking the bond. That dull pain he’d felt wasn’t real emotion, just a pale echo. He had shut Gellert out.

He didn’t stop the hug he had so carefully administered, didn’t let himself get up and blow something up, didn’t go to the fight pits the way he had become accustomed to when dealing with anger, but it burnt and ached and the raw hurt echoing down the bond couldn't be good for Albus but he couldn’t help it. The knowledge that if Albus had just let him back in he could have helped, the idea that Albus had hated him that much that he would occlude to stop Gellert feeling anything through the bond, it hurt. The bond itself was warm in his chest, singing with a hot pleasure that sent electricity down his spine at the proximity of his bonded, and Gellert couldn't stop his fingers tracing the lines of Albus’ cheekbones, relearning the harsher line of his jaw and fluttering every now and then across his pulse point, reassuring himself that his lover was still alive. Even as his touch grew gentler still, his mind began to throw more fuel on the slowly burning fire of his anger. Albus had shut him out. Albus had been messing with his head, returning his books without a word. Albus had tried to kill himself.

The last thought sent a chill down Gellert’s spine as he wondered, bile rising in his throat as he thought about it, what would have happened if he hadn’t been there in time. Albus would have died, and as sickening a thought as that was on its own Gellert was struck by another. What would have happened to him? The lore surrounding blood pacts was contradicting, some sources stating that one death would soon be followed by another, others saying that colour would be leached from his sight forever, but all agreed that there would be some terrible consequence if half of a bonded pair died. They had linked their souls with the power of a stolen star, magnified the power of the bond tenfold, and Gellert thought for the first time that they might have made a terrible mistake. Albus had tried to kill himself, and there was no small chance that it might have killed Gellert too. Suddenly the room seemed too small, the walls closing in on Gellert as he began to breathe too fast, and he clutched the blood pact tightly, not caring about the cuts it tore into the flesh of his hands as rage and hurt battled for dominance behind his eyes. Albus coughed himself awake and smiled lazily at Gellert, pulling him down into a harsh kiss. As their mouths met Gellert’s anger melted away with the months they’d spent apart and in his mind summer bloomed again.

As suddenly as the kiss had begun Albus stopped it, wrenched away with guilt dancing in his eyes as Gellert met his gaze, hurt and confused. He brushed a hand along Albus’ too sharp cheekbone and leant in for another kiss. “I’m sorry.” Said Albus, turning his head to the side in a half aborted flinch, the words hanging in the air between their lips and shattering Gellert’s internal warmth.
“Why are you sorry?” He said, wincing at the hurt colouring his voice. “I hardly mind you kissing me, I love you.”
“I’m sorry,” began Albus, his voice stronger than it had been in months. “Because I can’t do this.” The words cut through Gellert like ritual knives and he looked at Albus through a shimmer of tears before anger dried his eyes and left him feeling cold and clear.
“No.” Albus looked at him, a mixture of sharp amusement and confusion pulling his mouth into a slightly cruel half-smile. “You clearly can’t be trusted to live by yourself.” Gellert’s voice was hard and cold, the ice in his tone leaving no room for argument, but all of it cracked into painful shards of hurt when Albus looked at him with that crystallised pain shining in his eyes.
“That was low, even for you.” The guilt crashed into Gellert, a wave of pity and self-loathing that almost crushed him, but he set his jaw and spoke again, driving the knife in his own chest further in with every word.
“You could have killed us both last night, or had you forgotten that our lives are bound together by this?” He said, the blood pact gripped in a hand caked with blood. He had been looking for some flicker of sorrow, but saw nothing.
“I considered it.” Albus’ voice was cold, ringing clear and horribly sincere in Gellert’s ears as the sharp edges of the blood pact sent pain lancing through his hand. Albus hadn’t tried to kill himself. He had tried to kill them both.

Gellert forced his anger to one side, forced himself to remember the man he’d bound himself to as he had been then, with the summer light casting a halo around his red hair as they laughed together. That man was still inside Albus somewhere. This Albus was colder, harsher and thin in a way he never had been before, but it was still Albus, and even with every hurtful thing that they had tried to wound each other by saying hanging between them Gellert still loved him. He didn’t know if he was capable of not loving Albus. In the cold half-light of the evening it didn’t seem likely. “I love you.” He murmured, knowing Albus would hear it but unable to keep the words locked behind his teeth. The man he had tied himself to sat up, wincing and putting Gellert in mind of when such an action would have meant a night well spent and not the bone deep ache of nearly drowning. Gellert watched as he pulled on his many layers but stopped him when he reached for the door. “Where will you go?”
“Home.” Replied Albus shortly, his eyes going dull as he said it, and Gellert laughed, the sound cruel.
“Home? Back to the house full of ghosts and memories that almost killed you? I think not. Stay here for a few days, I won’t touch you, not if you don’t want me to. I won’t even talk to you if you’d prefer that, but don’t go back there. Please.” His voice had started out harsh but by the time he had finished speaking there was a softness lacing every word that he hadn't meant to reveal. He saw the decision in Albus’ eyes before he spoke and breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’ll stay,” Albus’ voice was whispery again, as if the thought of the house had sent him back into his almost voiceless grief. “But please don’t touch me.” he finished, still barely audible.
“Ok. That’s ok. I can do that.” Replied Gellert, tone still helplessly caring as he met Albus’ eye and tried not to let his lover see how much the request had hurt, even though he had known what was coming when Albus agreed to stay.

Gellert couldn’t get the arithmancy to work out. He had spent a chilly night on the floor, exhausted from the magic he had used up shattering through the french border wards, and horribly aware of how careful he was having to be with Albus. Gellert was up before him, trying in vain to distract himself from his emotions by throwing himself at another intellectual problem. It was a transfiguration based curse that Gellert ended up trying to modify for healing as a distraction from the salted wounds Albus had left him with, and he didn’t quite know how to change his current formula so that it would work. He could probably figure it out, he thought to himself bitterly, but it would take time, and since Albus was awake by now he might as well ask. “Could you have a look at this Al?” He asked, unable to hide the undiluted compassion in his tone as he spoke.
“What is it?” replied Albus, his tone stiff and too polite, barely audible from where Gellert was sitting at the desk.
“A transfiguration problem. I think you’ll like it.”
“Ok. Pass it here.” Gellert got up and made as if to hand his papers to Albus directly, then thought that he might be uncomfortable with that and placed them gently on the covers of the bed. Albus looked up at him sharply, unspoken thanks written across his features that warmed Gellert, the bond humming with a gleeful sparking power as the small silent interaction took place. Albus broke his gaze and rubbed his chest absently, clearly not used to feeling so much from the bond, and picked up the papers Gellert had offered as a sort of peace offering.

After a few minutes when the only sound in the room was Gellert’s pen in Albus’ hands, the subtle sound of it drawing across the paper as he worked. Gellert watched, transfixed by the sight that was so strikingly familiar and yet alien that he couldn’t look away. “There.” said Albus, the pen that Gellert had left him years ago in a cottage that was no more hitting the bedsheets as he offered the finished formula to Gellert. The blue-black ink that Gellert preferred began to stain the blankets, a growing pool of shadow as the nib oozed colour and Gellert took the papers back with a hand that he hoped Albus couldn’t tell was shaking. Looking over what Albus had done Gellert smiled, shaking his head and muttering about how he should have seen it himself and trying to disguise what seeing that looping script was doing to him. It hurt, to have Albus so close and yet so far out of reach, but seeing that handwriting amending his work once more felt life the beginnings of forgiveness. He shook away the thought, focusing on the proof at hand and smiled, offering Albus a quiet thank you and a small smile. Everything had changed.

Gellert pulled out the floo box in an effort to distract himself from everything he felt and saw a letter that could only be from Nicolas Flamel. Gellert flicked his wand and a glowing blue clock face appeared showing the time as a quarter past twelve. Swearing bitterly, he grabbed his coat and shrugged it on, opening the door and then turning to face Albus. “I forgot all about a meeting I’m having. I really can’t miss it, it’s a great opportunity. Please don’t leave while I’m gone.” He said, and had almost closed the door when he heard it. Albus had murmured a goodbye.

With a helpless smile Gellert apperated away to the restaurant he had agreed to meet Flamel in, spotting what could only be the alchemist sitting in a window booth with a frown on his strangely drawn features. “So sorry I’m late.” He said, his tone apologetic as he offered a hand to shake, then realised his mistake in offering the english greeting.
“I thought we were in France boy.” Said Nicolas Flamel.
“Too much time among english wizards I’m afraid. I spent the summer there with my great aunt.” he replied, and sat down. As the conversation flowed Gellert found his footing, soon back into the groove of being deep in academic discussion with a true master of his field, and he could almost forget that Albus was close by.
“You know,” said Flamel, pulling Gellert out of his reverie, “You are rather similar to an english wizard I met the year before last.” Gellert raised an eyebrow, not sure where the man was going with this odd comment. “Yes, you remind me very much of him. I think the two of you would get along famously, he’s about your age too, and brilliant.” With a sinking feeling Gellert wondered if Flamel was talking about who he thought he was, and sure enough, the alchemist continued with “Young Albus Dumbledore. A brilliant mind that one.”
“We’ve met.” Gellert managed, thankfully able to keep the flicker of pain off his face as he tried to ignore the twisted sense of pride and yawning void of loss that the comment had created. “And yes, he is rather brilliant.”

They agreed that Gellert would help work on a set of papers to be published in the summer of next year about the uses and differences of his eternal flame spell, and that he would be given free access to the Flamel Manor in southern France starting in the new year, and just as he was bidding the strange old alchemist goodbye he doubled up in pain, the bond’s warm glow replaced by the searing ache he had grown so used to before he had rescued Albus. He was gone. His vision swam in and out and distantly he could hear Flamel asking him what was wrong. In his pain his french fled and he found himself crying, begging for his mother in German though he knew there was no way she could hear him, no way she would come if she did. He was alone again. Aware that he was probably embarrassing Nicolas Flamel, Gellert sat up as straight as he could and took a shuddering breath in. He took the pain of the bond and cooled it, forged it into iron that laced his spine and finally raised his head up, meeting Flamel’s eye and apologising for his moment of distress with no tremor of pain in his voice. Flamel looked concerned, and frowned before speaking. “I didn’t want an apology Grindelwald, I asked if you were alright.”
“I am sir.” Gellert said, then turned the conversation back to the schedule for their papers’ publication. Flamel seemed to realise that he would rather not discuss the fit he’d had, and graciously allowed the change of topic to go unmentioned, Gellert soon leaving after a moderately fond farewell.

As soon as he was out of sight he apperated, trusting his magic to get him to wherever Albus had gone to. When he blinked away the darkness that hung between Here and There he saw Albus walking away, London swallowing him up as he turned a corner and Gellert lost sight of him once more. He could find Albus anywhere, didn’t need to see him to follow the pull of the bond, but as his heart began to beat with a mixture of anger and misery that was not his own he paused. Should he let Albus go? No. The instinctual answer thrummed through him, echoing down the bond as resentment swirled in his blood at the way he had been treated. He had saved Albus’ life but it meant nothing, the other man still scorning him at the first opportunity. Tears welled in his eyes and began to run down his face as he walked, unseeing, through the city that rang with Albus’ voice as another’s heartbeat echoed in his ears. He hadn’t noticed where he was going, hadn't realised where his feet had taken him until he was staring up at it. Tower Bridge loomed above him, wreathed in mist and burning in his vision, a monument to what he was realising all over again that he had lost.

It had been cruel, he thought suddenly, to get his hopes up the way Albus had. He’d given insight to his transfiguration question, slept in Gellert’s bed and acted for all the world as if the experience was good for him, but it hadn’t been enough to let him see past their differences. It was cruel to give him such hope and then rip it away. He turned away from the bridge, turned away from the memories that were jagged enough to lacerate his mind when he tried to hold on to what he loved, and turned away from the hope that had flared in his chest that morning. When he apperated away it was almost silent, and as his chest burned with fresh pain he let one last sob escape him as he turned away from the past.

He went back to Godrick’s Hollow first, dry eyed with the flavour of blood flooding his mouth, and made his way to the graveyard. Putting one hand on Arianna’s crisply white headstone he began to talk, apologising for what had happened and opening the book he had brought with him. He wasn’t sure what happened after death, no true answer lay within the reach of wizards yet, but if even a fraction of Arianna lingered by her grave he knew she would appreciate the goodbye he had decided on. “There was once a handsome, talented and rich young warlock, who observed that his friends grew foolish when they fell in love…” he began, and found himself smiling sadly as he read Arianna’s favourite tale out loud for her one last time. The first time he had smiled at her it had been with this book clutched in her hands, and when he thought of her it was always in his mind. As he finished the story he found himself choking up, but the tears froze before they could fall and when he had swallowed the regret he felt he lay the book gently against the headstone. His first copy of The Tales Of Beedle The Bard, preserved against the elements by a spell that Albus had modified that summer soon lay under a wreath of white flowers protected by the same charm. White roses for mourning, elderflower because Arianna had loved the smell and jasmine because the headstone in front of him marked the death of the summer they had shared as well as the girl lying cold beneath the ground.

When he apperated to the second graveyard he had a different wreath of flowers. There were black roses and softly blue forget me nots, rosemary and thyme woven into the circlet to signify remembrance and the time that Gellert had been given. The grave looked just as it had in the vision he’d had so long ago, and Gellert smiled, finally letting go of the guilt he had carried for years. He summoned the painting that had been so lovingly created and had brought him so much pain when he’d first seen it. He lay the wreath on top of the half finished oil painting on the grave, underneath the simple inscription, turning away before he was gripped with a need to add something else. With his wand held carefully he added two simple lines to the headstone and smiled. That first truly horrific vision he’d ever had hadn’t been exactly right after all. The grave now read ‘Indus Black, of the ancient and most noble house of black, 1882 to 1897. A brilliant artist who loved with everything he had, he was beloved by all who knew him.’ Gellert walked through the wards surrounding the Black Family graveyard and back out into the pleasantly cool english night before he disappeared once more.

He apperated to the London floo connection, wary of exhausting himself by breaking anymore international wards, and was soon brushing ashes from his coat on the German side of the fireplace. He blinked away the green afterimage of the flames and apperated to the kitchen of the house he had grown up in. His mother wasn’t there, but that had been his plan, and with a determined set to his jaw he summoned paper and began to write a letter. ‘Dearest Mother,’ he began, his handwriting as smooth and legible as he could manage as his side of everything she blamed him for came pouring out of him in a torrent. What had begun as an apology and and explanation morphed into a lengthy refrain about his plans for the future, and he finished the letter with a question. ‘Knowing now what you do, do you still condemn me for the terrible events of last summer? Whatever your answer might be, I remain your loving son, Gellert.’ He left it on the table where he knew it would be seen and apperated away with a sound close enough to silence that it faded away under the distant sounds of the muggle city that surrounded the house.

Back in Paris, Gellert was cold, as cold as he had been after that summer when he had caused the lakeside problem, but with a clear conscience. He had laid all of the skeletons in his closet to rest, paved the way for healing his relationship with his mother and let go. Gellert walked through Paris and the air around him dropped ten degrees. Clouds rushed in and a freezing rainstorm struck the city, but Gellert merely turned up the collar of his coat and walked on, hair plastered to his skull with the cold rain. His eyes were red rimmed, his chest hurt with every breath, but he refused to let it show. He would not be forced to feel, he thought grimly, and as ice crept through his veins he realised that this was love, and he wanted no more part in it. He was Gellert Grindelwald, Seer and Arithmancer, and he would cry for no man. The blood pact felt warm in his top pocket but he ignored it. He no longer needed the warmth it could provide. He had finally let go of his past, and as he looked back on it pensively, rain lashing the pavement and driving the muggles indoors, Gellert realised with a jolt how much guilt he’d been living with. He loved Albus, and he always would, but he’d loved, hurt and dreamed before they met, and he could build the future that they both dreamed of on his own.

When he got back to his room in the theatre he pointedly ignored the letter stamped with the hallows seal that had been left on the desk and tapped a pile of blank parchment, binding it into a notebook and adding a heavy leather cover embossed with his initials, the first G once more reversed for the sake of symmetry. On the first page he carefully wrote ‘The Aims Of The Revolution’ and below it ‘Property of Gellert Grindelwald’ then he turned the page and began to write.

Chapter Text

As candlelight replaced the sun Gellert put aside the rapidly filling notebook detailing what he wanted for the future and penned a letter to Vinda. After sending it he wrote another letter, this one unaddressed as of yet, asking to reunite the core of the debate club he’d started at Durmstrang. A get together of sorts, and an invitation for drinks in Berlin at new year, and a rough outline of what he wanted to do with the future they shared. He tapped the finished letter and one became four. One by one he addressed them: Kaz, Imari, Hans, and Franz. As an afterthought he wrote another, slightly more intimate letter inviting his cousin Sasha along too, wanting to catch up with what his cousin had been up to generally as well as talk to him about the future.
 Putting the letters aside he neatly removed a few loose pages that had been resting inside the notebook, which he’d had to enlarge once he realised the magnitude of what he would have to do. Gellert smiled grimly, reviewing what he’d written earlier that day and amending the wording a little to improve the pacing of what he was hoping would become a speech.

‘When did the history of wizarding society begin to fade away? When did we start putting stock into the skewed morals of the muggle world? The bans on ritual magic across Western Europe are nothing less than a modern witch hunt, only now we have turned on our own kind. Historically important branches of magic are being labelled dark, forcing stigma onto respectable modern wizards and witches for the innocent wish to partake in traditional magics. The disgrace of having to have this argument is enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth, immoral is the kindest thing I can call this latest slew of legislation, but I am in no mood to be kind. It is nothing less than the greatest threat we face in modern times.’

Who would hear it? He didn't know, but it had to be said. He exhaled a cloud of grey smoke and took another absent minded drag on his cigarette, relishing the acrid burn of the smoke as it filled as his lungs and tapping the ashes away on the edge of his desk before vanishing them as they fell. A grim smile in place, he willed the ink to dry and tucked the finished papers inside the cover of his notebook in the sudden dark of his candles’ flickering death, the flame snuffed out by a sudden gust of wind. With a snap of his fingers the room was lit once more, a silvery glow emanating from the ceiling that faded away, replaced by the more familiar glow of flames as the candle stubs grew back towards the ceiling and a spark dancing from his fingertips lit them once more. Opening the notebook to the essay he’d started earlier on the future of muggle war he picked up the pen and began to add to it, dredging up every horrible vision he could remember to try to paint a complete picture. After the essay had spilled over pages eight pages Gellert realised that he didn’t have all the information. He needed to look into what the muggles were up to a lot more closely.

Thick fog swirled around the silent figure in a trench coat as he approached the muggle military base in the half light of dawn, a slight smile curling across his mouth as he opened locked door after locked door. Gellert was back on British soil, his knowledge of muggle history suggesting that the most dangerous weaponry would be found here, and he hadn’t been disappointed so far. The sketches he’d found in the muggle war office of ‘Landships’ matched the strange giant metal beetles he’d seen years ago in a vision, undeveloped and still in their infancy in terms of design, but it was undeniably the same machine and that was all the proof Gellert needed that what he had seen would come to pass. He stole the sketches, wishing that he had the time to find out who they belonged to and obliviate them, and carefully tucked them into his stolen military coat. He turned to leave and caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye, the printed essay pinned to the wall incongruous in a place like this. He walked over to it and began to read, a frown marring his features as he turned the page. He didn’t understand. The title of the work was ‘In Defence Of The Use Of Expanding Bullets’ and Gellert couldn’t understand why it had been written. Could the muggles really have had the sense to ban something this horrific? The paper spoke out vehemently against the 1899 Hague Declaration concerning the same type of weapon. Gellert frowned, unsure how the muggles could have come to the right conclusion and enforced a ban, given their track record of poor decision making. With a smile he cast a silent summoning charm and a copy of the Hague Declaration flew towards him, and he duplicated the angry response with a tap of his wand, putting the original back where he had found it.

He apperated back to the international floo port and readied himself for the sudden pain that stretching the bond would bring. Part of him hoped that it would hurt Albus too, the separation of geography that he had forced between them, but Gellert was striving for indifference, apathy. It would hurt, stepping through the floo, but he clenched his jaw and let the green fire spin him away. When he reached the french side of the floo he didn’t crumple to the floor in pain, but it was a near thing. His mind went white, pain echoing through the bond as he felt his own burning hurt and Albus’, the two feeding on each other and growing, but he stood tall through the deluge, his teeth gritted to stop himself voicing a scream that was building in his throat. Forcing himself to smile, he walked away from the fireplace with haste and turned his feet homewards as his breathing levelled out at last. When he returned there was a glow of fire issuing from his floo connection box and he picked up the letters with a smile, seeing Vinda’s distinctive handwriting on the top of the pile.

Gellert couldn’t stop himself smiling. All six of the friends he’d invited had agreed to come, both Kaz and Sasha writing back with ideas of their own on the subject of things that needed to change, and Gellert couldn’t wait. Vinda was the only one who was still in school, but he would never suggest a meeting without her so it would be roughly a month before he saw all of them. With a sigh he reached for a loose piece of paper and began to reply to Vinda’s long letter. He sent the letter off with a warm glow of fondness, asking after the teachers and gossip, but focusing on Vinda. With her absence grating on him daily he had been immeasurably glad to hear from her, and as he huddled into the comfortable muggle military coat that he’d decided to keep he wondered if she would approve of the style. He liked it, the ivory tone working well with his pale hair and skin in contrast to the black he had chosen underneath, and after a minute of contemplation he spelled an image of himself in the morning light onto a fresh sheaf of paper and added that to the envelope with ‘New coat, thoughts?’ written on the back of the picture. With a short laugh he sent the fat envelope off and had sat back on the bed, not tired in the slighted despite his sleepless night and wondering what he could do with his day, but the fire flared green once more and Gellert looked up sharply, surprised. He looked into the box and let out a bark of laughter. Vinda had returned the picture of the new coat with just three words written below his own message. ‘I want one’. With a shake of his head Gellert decided to relax for the rest of the day, opening up the case that contained his books and rotating the shelf until he found his copy of the Complete Works Of Shakespeare, eventually settling into the familiar beauty of Henry V.

He looked up at a knock on the door, the cannon blasts of the battlefield of Agincourt ringing in his ears as the small room took shape around him, the fields running red with french blood melting away as the knock came again, louder this time. “Come in.” He said, and the door burst open.
“Just as I thought.” The red faced man was flanked by two men dressed in black who Gellert thought might be meant to be intimidating. “Vinda’s sublet the room. I’ll have her guts for garters I will, the little whore.” Gellert saw red, heard the blood singing in his veins as the torrent of filth left the imbecile’s mouth.
“Keep your profanities to yourself sir. Vinda is fortunate enough to have sources of income beyond your rather crass suggestion, and will be suffering no punishment for letting me stay.” He replied, voice completely level as rage swirled inside him.
“Who’s going to do anything to stop me? You? I’ve dealt with more than one protective lover before, and she’s got it coming to her.” said the man, his lacklustre hair hanging in lank strings around his sweating face. Gellert didn't register thinking a spell but the two guards were suddenly slumped, bodies twitching as whatever his magic had done took effect. The man drew his own wand and Gellert smiled at him, his eyes glittering with hatred.

“We’re just friends.” he said, and then sent his stinging expelliarmus, catching the other man’s wand with ease and following up with a curse that he’d learnt from a mute Mongolian in the fight pits that inverted every joint bone in a human body. Gellert belatedly set up a silencing ward and then returned to the man who had insulted Vinda. “I respect Vinda. She’s my closest friend, and you, you insult her, threaten her?” He continued, ignoring the grunts of pain and grinding sounds of bone as the man’s knees collapsed. It wasn’t enough. Running through the mental list of pain curses he knew, Gellert took in a shuddering breath and prepared to cast a circular spell for the first time. “Crucio.” He crooned the spell, his voice barely a whisper in the stale smell of sweat that the other man reeked of, but it was enough. He felt sparks dancing up and down his spine as his eyelids fluttered to the sounds of agony. A sickly sweet warmth flooded his mouth and left behind the taste of rot, the sunlight spilling through the windows taking on a strange dark hue as Gellert began to laugh without quite knowing why. He lost track of time, the thrill of the battle spell humming in his blood as he fell back against the bed, completely out of it, when a sudden silence echoed through the room. The man had stilled. The magic dispelled with a click of his fingers, Gellert blinked away the haze of the spell and took in the fruit of his labours.

It had completely broken the man before him, the deep scratches on his arms where he’d tried to rip off his skin covered in a slick of drool, bile and tears. Gellert grimaced in disgust, blinking the strange dark light out of his vision as he licked his lips, trying to decide if the sickly sweet rotten flavour coating his mouth was a good one. He vanished the body, too shaken by the strange effect the spell had had on him to examine the corpse. Seeing the way the neural and circulatory systems had reacted under such extreme conditions could have been useful, might even have given insight into reversing the long term damage for living patients, but he was too drained by the spell to bother. He clapped his hands and vanished the traces of bodily fluid that the man had left behind, wondering if anyone would ask after the missing wizard. Gellert didn’t think he would be missed, after all the land lord obviously wasn’t magically talented enough to do something worthwhile with his life, and he had never heard the Veela mention anything about a family. Either way, he thought with a grin, it wouldn’t be his problem. There was no creeping cold edging its way through his veins now, nothing seemed wrong, which in and of itself should have been a cause for concern, but he was sprawled on the bed asleep before he could give his lack of guilt more than a moment’s thought.

Gellert couldn’t tell if he was falling or flying in the vision. Lightning crackled through the air around him and he felt completely weightless, as if time had trapped him in a single moment, and then the dream changed and he was standing in front of a crowd. He drank in the applause, waited for it to abate and then, once the room was holding its breath, afraid to crack the eggshell silence, he spoke “I do not ask you listen to mere hateful vitriol. I do not ask you to listen out of fear for the future. I do not ask you to trust me. All I ask is that you hear my argument for the greater good, and listen. Your hearts shall answer as they will.” His voice echoed in the crowded hall, the high ceilings of minutely carved marble throwing his voice far and wide. The vision shifted once more, applause ringing in his ears as his dream changed. A brown eyed girl was sitting in the corner of a library. He blinked and she was replaced with Albus, then flickered into a boy with dark hair and a cold stare before returning to the strange girl. Her wildly curling brown hair was untamed, her eyes intently focused on the book in her lap as she turned the page before making a note of something on a piece of parchment. She faded into a faint impression before he woke, eye glowing.

Days seemed to pass like smoke, intangible and orderless, as Gellert lost himself in research. He read political texts from ancient Greece and Rome, modern Italy and Russia, and absorbed the different ideologies of different eras into his own. Different power structures swirled behind his eyes as he gave up on finding a competently run magical society that would work on as large scale as was needed. Desperate, he turned to muggle texts, rereading Discourses On Livy by Machiavelli and taking a look at The Federalist Papers written the century before when The United States of America became an independent nation. He didn’t quite know what would work on a large scale for the integration of magical and muggle people, but was sure what would not work. Having separate governments comprised of all wizards and all muggles would be impossible to maintain due to conflicting ideals and the dangers of internal warfare, but neither would direct control by one governing body over two such different groups be possible. It was a strange paradox of a question but someone needed to solve it, and soon.

Yule was fast approaching, the thought filling Gellert with a strange mixture of melancholy and excitement. He couldn’t wait to see his friends again, hoped that it would lead to change on a larger scale, but it would be the first Yule he’d spent without family. He pushed the strange sense of loss he felt away and smiled, catching sight of Soluna as he walked through the twisting corridors towards the street. “Hey,” he called after her, half thinking of inviting her to his gathering later before thinking about the common view of Veela as subhuman and reconsidering. She flinched and turned, hands transforming into claws wreathed in fire before she saw who had called out to her. She smiled at him and smoothed down her dress, her hands once more resembling those of a human as she asked what he’d been busy with this time. With a wry smile he began to explain.

Vinda leapt at him, all but running down the gangplank of The Lady Durm a week before midwinter, throwing her arms wide and rushing into a hug. Gellert laughed and clicked his fingers, summoning her bags from the floor and apperating them both back to the room in the theatre that they had shared over the summer. Snow melted off Gellert’s boots as they were enveloped in the warmth of the place that Gellert had come to see as home over the last few months. “What have you done to the place?” said VInda, looking around at the cramped room.
“What do you mean?” he asked, a smile on his face as Vinda clicked back into the place by his side that he needed her in.
“What do I mean? Look at it.” Gellert gave the room a cursory glance and blinked in shock. He hadn’t realised quite how messy it had become. Papers were suspended in the air around the desk by runes carved into the surface, books were scattered across the floor and piled up in corners. There were letters on the bed and the notebook he had started on politics was propped open against the tall stack of his other notebooks that dominated the desk. He laughed ruefully and flicked his wand in the general vicinity of the centre of the room, his books leaping back into the smaller of the two trunks still propped against the wall under the window, the shelf within revolving at speed as his books shot back into their proper place.
“Ok,” he admitted, “Perhaps I did let things slide a little.”
“I’ll say.” said Vinda, her laughter clear in her voice as she tapped the sheets, her wand removing the ink stains that had been scattered across the now pristine white bedding. Gellert grinned and pointed out that it wasn’t likely to be infected, the incredulous look he received in answer drawing an outraged gasp from him.
“Hey, I’m not afflicted by anything of that kind thank you.” he said, his expression offended for a moment longer before they both began to laugh.

The following evening Gellert had gone out for food while Vinda settled back into being at home, but when he got back she met him at the door with uncharacteristic worry dancing in her eyes. “What?” he asked, and she said nothing, just offering a hug. “What is it Vinds? You’re scaring me here.” He asked again, his tone still lighthearted.
“Albus’ letter.” The words sent a spike of hurt through him but he bit his tongue, studiously ignoring the fiery ache that hearing Albus’ name lit in his chest. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise what it was until I’d opened it. You didn’t deserve—”
“Please, don’t.” Cut in Gellert, his chest burning as he began to speak again. “He has consigned himself to my past, that was made abundantly clear in November. I haven't read it.”
“I’m so so sorry Gel—”
“It’s alright, we should be concentrating on changing things.” He said, then smiled as her eyes lit up. “The future is here Vinds, if we don’t act now we never will. It’s the dawn of a new century.”
“I know.” She said, her voice light and surprised. “I’m just shocked you realised it too.”
“Didn’t I once promise you Paris?” He said, magnanimously letting the dig slide. He hadn’t realised quite how much he’d missed her over the last few months, and as they sat down together at opposite ends of the bed, maps and papers spread out between them, they began to plan.

Yule fast approached, Gellert sneaking out in the snow one night, heading deep underground into the stone warren of craftsman's guilds to get Vinda a beautiful necklace, stolen Galleons clutched tight in a hand deep inside one of his pockets. The gift was gold, fashioned to look like the outline of a flattened and withered rose, a delicate tracery of golden metalwork that unclasped and folded out into a rose in bloom. He had added a charm that played her favourite song when it was folded open, and added in several minute runes for protection and warmth before wrapping it up in a velvet cloth and putting it deep into one of the inner pockets of his coat for safety. Over the next few days he had sent out a few other gifts to old school acquaintances, picked out books for Nuuamaca and Soluna and sent a fine Whiskey to the Aztec mage who ran the blood pits in thanks for his shared secret before trying to find something for his mother. In the end he chose a simple watch and recoloured the soft leather strap into a highly detailed copy of the March sky under which she had been born, and had sent it through the floo with a short note asking how she was attached.

He hadn’t meant to send a second gift to Godrick’s Hollow, his Great Aunt the only one there left that he cared for, but on the eve of yule his will crumpled. He carefully wrapped one of the mirrors that Indus had given him up and sent it through the floo. He hadn’t said who it was from, hadn't sent it with a note at all, but Albus would probably know. He tended to be annoying like that; very difficult to surprise and irritatingly good at guessing Gellert’s motives. He honestly hadn't intended to send him anything, but as Yule slipped into being and the sun began to rise he couldn’t quite muster up anything as strong as regret for his actions. He got up late, his preoccupied and wakeful witching hour leaving him more than a little tired, and he wiled away the day reading some of the books he had been given. His mother wrote back when the weak yule sun had half-decided on setting. Gellert had been about to leave the room, oak and poplar branches in his arms for the bonfire the veela had organised, and when he saw the floo box flare green he dropped the wood without a thought and summoned the note with a click of his shaking fingers. His mother had wished him happy yule, and the thought of it tasted like a victory on his lips, so he put the note to one side and headed out for the festivities.

“How are you Gellert?” asked Imari as the last few hours of the old century slipped away, his easy smile a familiar sight as he arrived in the pub Gellert had suggested, the last one to get there.
“It’s the end of the century my good sir,” he said, knocking back another shot of billywig and lime infused vodka and licking his lips as the strange giddiness of the magical drink too hold. “And the future is here to meet us. The year 1900. I can’t believe it really.”
“None of that,” pointed out Sasha, his arm tossed over Gellert’s shoulders as he took a swig of his firewhiskey, “Answered the question the man asked you.”
“Shut up Sasha, this is Imari. Be nice.” Cut in Vinda, and she had been about to add more when Kaz spoke up.
“Imari Draftson? The one who got rid of Professor Horn?” asked Kaz, and Gellert turned on his friend, an expression of pure surprise on his face.
“You killed a teacher?” he prompted, intrigued. Imari burst out laughing and shook his head, saying something about a typical lack of contextual awareness, and Gellert elbowed him fondly. Just as he had been about to reply, the bell of Notre Dame struck twelve and the first witching hour of a whole new century began.

As the tolling died away Gellert got up onto the table, swallowing the aftertaste of his vodka and clearing his throat before he began. “Ladies, Gentlemen, those not deserving of either title,” he began, shooting a friendly glare at Imari who replied with a stinging hex that Gellert was just sober enough to duck. “It is the start of a new age in the world. The birth of a century. It is both of these things, but it could be so much more. With the seven of us here at this table, it could be the dawn of a revolution.” He paused to look around at them, not expecting the raised glasses of his friends to meet him in a toast.
“To the revolution.” Said Franz, his pale skin flushed with the whiskey he had been drinking but his voice not yet slurring as he spoke and Gellert smiled. He should have known that they would accept his idea.
“To the revolution.” echoed the others around the table.

Chapter Text

Three weeks after Vinda had returned to school Gellert checked the last page of printed text and added it to one of the three small piles, tapping the typewriter to stop it’s bespelled motions. It had been Vinda who’d found the strange muggle contraption and realised it’s potential, stopping Gellert in his tracks as they walked through muggle Paris and pointing out the object with a gleam in her eye that in their school days would have suggested some devious prank. They had worked on charming the thing for the rest of Vinda’s holiday and finally succeeded the day before she had to go back to Durmstrang. Now Gellert was smiling, the last pamphlet printed in a legible, regular font that could with one ingenious spell become readable by thousands. Holding his wand over the english copy of the pamphlet on Veela rights that he had written with Soluna’s exasperated help, Gellert cleared his throat and spoke. “Duplicare centum.” The single english pamphlet on his desk replicated until another stack of bound papers almost a yard tall joined the other two dominating the floor space of the room. Gellert grinned, double checking the leaflet at the top of the pile to ensure that the spell had worked properly. Satisfied that the leaflets were identical, Gellert took one in each language off the top of their respective piles and levitated the rest of the three stacks into a charmed knapsack Vinda had got him for Yule which had extension and protection charms woven into the fabric. He apperated to Notre Dame, the french international floo port, already considering the different places he could put the pamphlets before stopping short to reconsider his appearance. He was publishing this idea anonymously, sure that he was not politically powerful enough for his name to add any weight to his argument and slightly worried that with the growing national animosity of Germany and England his identity would hinder support in Britain if it were known. He would need a disguise.

In a heartbeat he was back in his room, putting his distinctive warded coat back on the bed and pulling out the trench coat he had stolen in London. He pulled on an unassuming navy waistcoat and tapped his grey trousers, changing their colour to match before leaving by way of the stage door. As he approached the international floo network he realised that he might very well be recognised in the town he had spent so much of his childhood wondering, even with a disguise, and ducked into an alley to apply some glamours. He concentrated hard and muttered “kryć.” The polish word for mask concentrating his magical efforts. His eyes transformed into a vivid grass green, his hair darkening towards brown falling in straight strands that grew past his shoulders down to his mid back until he was hardly recognisable. As a final touch he rounded out the appearance of his jaw, making the harsh angles of his thin face seem softer. Stepping through the fire to Munich stretched the bond that tethered him to Albus, but he could almost ignore the throbbing pain, and distracted himself somewhat successfully with the walk to the other end of Vertikale Straße.

After he had put twenty of his German pamphlets around Munich Magical Library he ducked into the One Of Three’s shop, glamours peeled away by the alien magic of the place as he wondered if anything had changed, having to contain a gasp at what he saw. There was a little girl in the shop, maybe six or seven. Her long dirty blond hair looked unkempt and the style of dress she wore was like nothing Gellert had ever seen, except in some of his less coherent visions. She whirled around at the sound of the bell, her unearthly pale blue eyes marking her out as a seer of some sort, and Gellert softened his guarded expression into a friendly smile. “Grüße kleiner Seher” He tried the German greeting first, and was met with a blank look. French got a glimmer of recognition but still didn’t garner a reply, so he tried English. The language curled headily on his tongue, a velvety reminder of the summer that he was doing his best to leave behind, but the little girl beamed, finally able to understand, and Gellert felt some of his pain at the reminder fade away.
“Hello. When are you from?” She said, her gaze drifting to a point above his left ear as her words sent a shiver through Gellert.
“1900.” he said, deeply troubled. This seerling was strange, less like a normal child than he had ever been, and somehow ethereal. Her clothes suggested that she was from his future, and he let a small part of himself feel a stab of glee at seeing this strong proof of his theory that the shop existed outside of time, even as he wondered what had caused this girl’s seer sight to manifest so oddly.
“Did you know that you’re rather badly infested with Gulping Plimpys? I’m sorry for your loss.” she said, then smiled sunnily at him. Gellert backed away, strangely unnerved by the mad child, but as her face crumpled and she began to look like she might cry he found himself apologising.
“I’m sorry. I’m not used to the language of your time, it is strange to me.” He said, his voice soothing, “You have my thanks, I will admit that of late I have found myself in need of consolation but I do not seek it here.” As he spoke the One Of Three appeared, a look of fearful shock twisting it’s face into something grotesque.
“Out. Begone Lord, for this child is of a time long after yours when the light lives under a different shadow, and you shall not interfere.” It’s voice was a low crackle of anger, and Gellert found himself flung from the shop by some invisible force. It felt nothing like any magic that he had experienced before. Gellert tasted something like ozone in the back of his throat, getting up off the pavement as gracefully as could be managed and, fixing a smile onto his face, he reapplied his glamour charms and continued on his way.

He apperated to Berlin and put more of the pamphlets in both the law and magical creatures sections of the magical library and the patent office before turning back towards France. Though he hadn’t spent as much time there, he added a few to the french magical library before flooing to London. His lashes fluttered as pleasure hummed through the bond, the warmth of an intangible embrace welcoming him into England, but Gellert didn’t let himself relish the feeling for long before heading into Diagon Alley. His first stop was Flourish And Blots, where he left three on the counter where they would be conspicuous and another ten of his booklets in both the relevant sections before heading back out into the street. After leaving another pile in the Third Of Three’s bookshop in Knockturn Alley he had been about to turn back towards the floo station when he thought of The Raven’s Nest. It would be the perfect place to leave a few of these pamphlets, an international academic hub would attract just the right kind of attention for the Veela’s cause. Gellert turned on his heel and headed towards The Raven’s Nest, resolutely squashing the small hope that Albus would be there and checking the strength of his glamours as he approached his favourite corner of magical Britain. He strode into the main room of the nest and tapped a blackboard, thinking a swift cleaning spell and waiting a split second for the chalk smudges to disappear before writing his question across the top of the board: ‘Veela, Beast Or Being? Is the ministry’s current classification justified?’ It was, of course, written in nothing like his usual handwriting. He summoned a small desk from across the room and stacked the last of his english leaflets there before putting down a few french pamphlets as well.

Letting his glamour shift as he tapped his foot impatiently on the cobbles just out of sight of The Raven Nest’s front door, he smiled, his disguise falling away as he re-coloured his clothes to suit his real appearance, blue trousers fading into a dull red and the waistcoat disappearing as he created embroidery on the shirt that depicted roses in the same colour thread as his trousers. He’d been ready to leave London when in a flash of inspiration he had decided to pose another question to the denizens of The Raven’s Nest, but he felt that the two ideas shouldn’t be connected in anyone’s mind. One after all, was a basic argument that sentient magical beings should have rights, and the other was a much more serious question, and a monumentally divisive issue in the UK. Walking to a board not too near to the other one, but not far enough away to be conspicuous, Gellert took up his wand and levitated some more chalk. ‘The “Evils” Of Ritual Magic, Should It Have Been Banned?’ This time the script was his, his slanted handwriting obvious if someone had seen enough of it. Satisfied smile in place, Gellert left hurriedly and made his way back to Paris, the bond’s familiar shooting pain his only welcome back to the city he was living in. He tried to talk himself into believing that he’d used his own handwriting because it was so different from the other style he’d used, and not to let Albus know he’d been there, but it was a vain attempt doomed to failure. In the end it was futile, but he didn’t let himself wallow in anything, instead focussing on distributing the rest of his Pamphlets.

Back in his room he wrote a short letter to Sasha asking him to put a few of the leaflets around in both of Moscow’s magical libraries and his workplace before writing a Russian pamphlet on the same topic as the ones he’d just left across magical London. His swiftly conjured Russian letter keys on the typewriter served their purpose before he vanished them, not wanting to waste his magic on making them permanent and secure in the knowledge that they would be back at his fingertips whenever he would require them in future. He emphasised the financial and military benefits that could come of moving Veela to Being Class, knowing that the militant Russian Ministry of Magic would respond best tho those arguments, so he would have less of an uphill battle to fight in regards to Veela rights with that slant to the writing. After duplicating his Russian Pamphlet and tying the stack of them together, Gellert pinned his note to the top and flooed the whole stack of papers through to Sasha’s new place in the outskirts of Moscow. Taking the last of the German leaflets out of the knapsack, he bundled them up and added a note to Vinda asking her to put them in Durmstrang’s library, as well as the usual questions about how her last spring term at school had started and what the latest gossip was. Gellert changed into a soft grey jumper Bathilda had knitted him for yule and casual trousers and finally let himself relax. He slumped back into bed and picked up his latest copy of Magick Moste Evil with a smile on his face. He’d found a copy of it in it’s original Armenian that predated the twelfth and fourteenth century witch burnings and had bought it as a late Yule present for himself a few days before, using his best translation charms to create a perfect german copy from the original. Turning to the third chapter he settled into reading about the skin and spells derived from it’s structural properties, feeling a soft glow of accomplishment at the thought of what he’d managed that morning.

Just as chapter three had been getting interesting the flames in Gellert’s floo box leapt upwards in a roar of green, the letter shooting across the room to him at a flick of his fingers. He broke the Flamel seal and scanned down the letter, his excitement rising as he realised that this was a proper invitation at last. He would get to work in a professional alchemy lab. He could hardly wait for the next day to arrive, his mind jumping from idea to idea as a gleeful smile stretched across his face. Too fired up to settle back into reading up on the different methods one could use to flay a muggle, Gellert decided to continue with his latest project.

After their landlord’s timely demise Soluna had pointed out that Gellert ought to have a kitchen and another bedroom, which he’d been working on magically installing in free moments ever since. The north wall of Vinda’s room now had a door close to the window which led into the room next door, now a kitchen of sorts that sat between the room Gellert was living in currently and the one he would occupy in a few month time when Vinda moved back to Paris permanently. He’d vanished a wall so that the kitchen was twice the size of either bedroom, and had carefully added to and twisted around the plumbing of the building until he had hot and cold water available at a moment’s notice a few days before. Standing in the room he'd half finished creating, Gellert summoned a kitchen range from a nearby muggle shop and moved Vinda’s coffee pot to the new stove from where it had been precariously sitting atop a pile of books in the room they had shared. It was the work of a moment to acquire a kettle from the muggle house down the street for the tea that Vinda still liked to pretend she didn’t enjoy, and pots and pans soon followed in the same manner. With the kitchen more or less finished, Gellert enlarged a small money box he no longer needed and charmed the interior to stay cool to keep food fresh in and moved through to the next room with a smile. Turning in the doorway, he levitated the box over to the side of the room with a flick of his wand and passed through to the bedroom he would soon occupy.

Smearing his blood across the south wall as he had done so many years ago at Durmstrang, Gellert focused on coaxing the wood back into life and watched as a set of shelves grew out of the panelling. With a smile he summoned his clothes from the room that was to become Vinda’s once more and began rearranging things. Summoning a couple of floorboards from somewhere else in the dilapidated building, Gellert cut his hand once more and watched as the wood warped and twisted into the shape of a desk that grew until it fitted its self perfectly to the width of the room directly below the window, then again as the second board became a bed frame and the third became a wardrobe. A moment more’s concentration produced draws in the desk and wardrobe, as well as a pole to hang his shirts on, but Gellert found himself exhausted by the heavy use of blood magic. He unpacked his books from the smaller of the two trunks and snapped his fingers, expecting them to leap up to the shelves at his bidding, and realised when they did nothing that he was too magically drained. Feeling a little ridiculous, Gellert picked up his wand and paused for a moment, trying to remember the actual incantation for the levitation spell. After a worryingly long time the incantation came back to him and he muttered a resentful “Wingardium Leviosa.” The books floated up to their respective places on his new shelves and Gellert smiled tiredly. The room was only half finished but Gellert was famished, the blood magic he had done leaving him feeling oddly hollow, as if he hadn't eaten in a week, and he knew better than to push himself further that he should when so little was at stake.

That night Gellert slept soundly in Vinda’s room, his visions strange. He saw a clockwork child drawing as cogs and levers whirred within it’s metal frame, the lines and circles it traced across the page forming an intricate and senseless pattern that he somehow understood. It was his story. The centre of the page was a celtic knot, the threads that formed it reaching out to different points around the spiral that was time, arching over jagged lines and strange sigils that invoked power in Gellert as he looked on, the machine drawing his life into being before his eyes. As he watched the cogs began to grind to a halt, the mechanical child slumping forward over the scroll pinned before it and revealing a heart shaped hole in the sheet of metal that formed it’s back. Panicked, Gellert tapped the machine with the first hallow, the red haze of the elder wand’s repairing spell doing nothing to change the clockwork’s broken state. Laughter rang around the small room that sent spikes of longing through him. He looked up and his vision was filled with Albus’ smile, copper hair fanning out to frame his face from beneath a blue hat as he picked his way through cogs and pulleys that sprung up through the floor, the guts of some larger clock that they were standing inside. There was a key dangling from Albus’ fingers on a long red ribbon, the end of it shaped in the likeness of a heart. Gellert lunged forwards, grasping for the key that would give him the rest of his life, but Albus met his eye and smiled, allowing it slip through his fingers and down, down through the warmly glowing golden light of the room they were in and between the bars and gears that made up the floor, into the darkness beyond the clock. As the key disappeared through the crack, crimson ribbon trailing after it, the whole structure began to shake. The clockwork child fell to pieces, rusting before his very eyes as the cogs that made up the room shook apart and fell away in splinters into the abyss. The floor that Gellert was standing on crumbled and he fell through the glittering remains of the clock that had protected them and down into the cold.

He woke with tears streaming down his face, frozen fingers clumsy as he wiped away the display of his weakness angrily. He refused to feel like this. He had made himself a promise that he would focus on the future, but he found himself bourn back to his lover every night. Albus haunted his dreams. Part of him wanted to believe that it meant that their paths had not yet diverged forever, but he ruthlessly smothered that particular argument as best he could. He had to move on. Knowing he wouldn't be able to sleep again, Gellert carefully added two more sets of shelves with another smear of his blood above the desk on either side of the window. He paced back and forth, wondering with each sharp turn how he could distract himself from the gnawing pain that his dream had brought back to the surface. Looking around at the almost complete room he had made for himself, he could see what was missing easily. He needed a mattress for the bed, and some sort of storage for all the loose sheets of parchment cluttering Vinda’s desk in the other room. His notebooks were moved to the shelves above the right hand side of the desk, the sheets of parchment were soon sorted into topics and put into different draws, and his completed pamphlets slid onto the first of the empty shelves to the left of the window without hindrance, but he still itched with the need to do something.

He needed a mattress. Duplication spells only lasted for so long, thought Gellert, finally finding something to fully occupy his mind. He thought that he could probably apply his fourth dimension strengthening method to the spell, which would render the duplicate permanent and reduce the power needed for the enchantment and it would take some wrangling. Happily pulling a fresh sheet of parchment towards him, Gellert flicked through his old fourth dimension arithmancy notebook to refresh himself on the theory and began.

Lying back against his newly bespelled pillows as the sky was streaked a blood red by the encroaching dawn, Gellert couldn’t help but mull over the idea of a general set of rules that could govern improving a spell by translating it to the fourth dimension. One of the key ideas in muggle mathematics was abstraction, the idea that any method used in mathematics could be given in general terms, and applied readily to any problem of the same nature. He might be able to do it, but not in the time he had before he was expected at Flamel Manor so he regretfully put the thought to one side. He looked around somewhat desperately for something to do, and after a silent pause that grated on his nerves carefully moved the sleeping Cixi from her perch in Vinda’s room to his shoulder. Gellert shook his head fondly, carried her latest ornate perch through to his new room where he fixed it to the side of the wardrobe with a permanent sticking charm and gently ruffled her glossy white feathers so as not to wake her, wondering all the while how Vinda’s familiar Lamellar was doing with no-one to bring him freshly caught rats. He nudged Cixi back onto her perch and made soothing noises in the back of his throat with a smile on his face, not wanting to disturb her rest. That task done, he looked around again for something to do and eventually settled on busying himself with making sure he packed what he would need into a satchel. Gellert rifled through his alchemy notes, wondering if any of it would be useful while he was in a world class lab. In the end he decided to take his notes on the creation process of the ‘Ignem Aeternum’ and the notebook dedicated to some of the more advanced alchemy he’d come across as well as his list of questions to ask the immortal couple.

Once he had re-checked if he had anything for the third time Gellert admitted to himself that he was being ridiculous, and after a very early breakfast he managed to calm himself down enough to focus on what he had left to read of chapter three of Magick Moste Evil. The morning melted into being and before he knew it Gellert was scrambling to get to the nearest floo point to arrive on time. Grinning, Gellert unfolded the piece of paper he had been sent containing the key to the confounding system of wards around Flamel Manor and began the chant. A smile playing around his eyes, he couldn’t help but wonder if each word would unlock part of the wards, and if without each part it would be useless. That’s how he would have designed a warding system this complicated, but maybe there was something else to it. Making a mental note to develop a warning system that would work on those principles for the flat, he spoke the final word and threw a handful of floo powder into the fireplace of the box office on the ground floor of the theatre. As it flared green he stepped into the flames and was whisked away towards a world renowned alchemist and his laboratory with a smile that couldn’t be stolen by anything. Even the pain that rippled through him as he stepped out of the fireplace on the other side seemed inconsequential in comparison to his jittery excitement.

Nicolas Flamel beamed at Gellert as he looked around in awe, taking in the pale walls inlaid with golden alchemical symbols which he assumed were protective. “This place is incredible.”
“Yes,” replied the old wizard, his voice still strong despite the wizened appearance of his frame, “It is. If you would follow me young Grindelwald, I’ll show you around the manor.” Gellert followed the alchemist through an arched door into the corridor beyond and slowed his pace, not wanting to seem unappreciative of anything he was shown. Schooling his expression into one of well mannered awe, Gellert had been about to ask where the labs were situated when a woman came around the corner at a run. Her windswept silver hair lent her a slightly frazzled look despite the neatly pressed white alchemist’s over-robe she wore, her expression agitated as she rushed towards them.
“There’s some kind of breach in the wards Nick, I can’t close—” she panted, then stopped short at the sight of Gellert. “Oh,” she continued, smoothing down her robes and smiling at him kindly, “You must be the famous Grindelwald.”
“I can hardly claim fame in your illustrious presence.” He replied, his expression kind as his mind silently whirred, busy wondering what could possibly cause a breach in these wards.
“You created eternal fire did you not? We’re alchemists my dear, that’s quite famous enough for us.” said the woman with a smile, though her eyes continued to flicker back and forth, panicked.
“What’s this about the wards dear?” asked Nicolas with a worried half-frown.
“It’s as if there’s a tunnel. A magical tie of some sort that is stronger than our wards. I didn’t think it was possible.” replied the pale woman.

Gellert felt a horrible sinking sensation he took in the full meaning of her words. The breach in the wards was him. His soul bond to Albus must allow them to pass through ward systems if the other person was inside them. It was fascinating, and Gellert itched to examine the magic behind this latest strange manifestation of the bond’s power, but he had to say something to the Flamel couple before they began to suspect him. His mind raced, his pulse thundering in his ears as he wondered what he could possibly say to explain himself. It wouldn't do to feign ignorance; they would find out before long and it would lose him any trust he might have built with the prestigious couple. Taking a deep steadying breath, Gellert ran through a few possible platitudes that he could start with in his mind and discarded them, not wanting to seem too grovelling or too proud. In the end, he decided on simply giving them the truth, or a part of it. “It’s a soul bond. That’s what is keeping the wards open.”
“What on earth—” began Nicolas, but Gellert cut him off before he had the chance to work himself up over the whole affair.
“Don’t worry. I’m connected to a fellow wizard by some highly complicated ritual magic we invented together, but it doesn’t matter.”
“Doesn’t matter?” spluttered Nicolas’ wife, an expression of outrage on her face, and Gellert nodded, smiling sadly.
“He won’t come through the wards. I’m pretty sure he isn’t aware that he would be able to even if he did want to see me.” he replied. Something in his voice must have betrayed how hurt he was because the pale woman offered him a small smile and summoned a tray of what looked like biscuits. Nicolas led the way into a comfortable looking sitting room, gesturing for Gellert to take a seat with a frown on his face. Gellert smiled and had been about to begin speaking once again when he was interrupted.
“Coffee?” asked the pale old man, and Gellert nodded quickly, his movements jerky and unsure.

Hands wrapped around the warm china of the coffee cup, Gellert dunked one of the offered biscuits into his coffee and took a bite, realising a second too late what he had been dosed with as an eerily familiar flavour exploded on his tongue. “You gave me veritaserum?” he asked, an expression of forced neutrality taking all of his strength to maintain even as his offended tone revealed how he actually felt.
“Security is a serious matter when the only known philosopher’s stone and all of the notes on how to create one are at stake young man.”
“I never said a thing that wasn’t true.” he said, his voice pulled from him against his will.
“What is this bond? How can it be more powerful than the Fidelius Charm?” The question’s serrated hooks dug into Gellert’s magic, the veritaserum compelling him into an answer, but he couldn’t bear to tell a stranger everything. He took a deep breath and scowled before swallowing.
“We pushed the boundaries of soul magic, tried something completely new and tied ourselves together, magic and soul.” There. That had to be enough to satisfy this vile potion. He shuddered and hunched in on himself, managing to throw off the compulsion to pour out the whole process that had created the bond. “I would greatly appreciate it if now that you know your security has not been breached in any way that will affect you you would administer the antidote.” he said, each word spat through gritted teeth.
“You’re hiding something Grindelwald.”
“Yes.” he managed, though it was taking everything he had not to curse the alchemist, world class laboratory or not. “But my secrets are my own. They will not endanger you, do not concern you and therefore will not be revealed to you.”
“I think that I’d better ask you a few more—” began Nicolas, but he was interrupter by his wife.
“Very well child. Keep your silence.”

If the house had impressed him, the lab blew Gellert away. Every surface gleamed spotlessly, the underground room lit with a strange white glow emanating from the ceiling. Next to the door a strange contraption that held thirty-six obsidian crucible’s which were held in three concentric circles that oscillated at different speeds was sitting next to a stack of parchments that were being written on by a charmed quill. On a workbench nearby an icosahedron with a clock embedded on each of its twenty faces ticked away, each clock showing a different time, the rattle of miniature cogs within the clockwork echoing through Gellert’s mind. He blinked away the mental image of the clockwork child from his dreams and looked around for something else to focus on. Across the room other strange machines whirred and emitted smoke, glowed and let out odd sounds, and Gellert looked around in wonder, the anger that surged within him at being tricked into drinking veritaserum fading as he took in by far the most advanced alchemy laboratory he had ever seen. Nicolas had been looking suitably chastised for drugging Gellert’s coffee, his wife Perenelle having talked him into offering an antidote as quickly as possible, but the look of open admiration with which Gellert was surveying his laboratory seemed to lighten his mood. Before they moved further into the cavernous room, Gellert was given a stiffly starched white over-robe to wear in the lab that he could tell had been treated with a combination of protective potions. Tapping the robe to button himself in with the many round bone coloured buttons that fell in a straight line down the left hand side of , Gellert couldn’t help but feel as if he looked a little like a ghost, his blond hair and pale face washed out more than usual by the white robe until his reflection looked as if it were hardly there at all, and shivered at the thought.

After making himself at home in the lab and showing Nicolas Flamel his notes on Eternal flame, as well as performing the spell several times while standing inside a strange glass box that showed Nicolas how the charm affected his magic, Gellert was leaning against the clean metallic surface of a workbench and reading over what Nicolas’ strange glass box had told him. Looking up, a question dancing in his eyes at one of the comments written in the wide margin to the right of the main body of text, Gellert raised an eyebrow, wondering what his spell had to do with a question that he’d been idly wondering about for months. “What’s the difference between pyromancy and fire based alchemy?” Nicolas looked up sharply and fixed him with a strangely intense look.
“Pyromancy is dark magic. Alchemy is not.” he said shortly, then turned back to his own copy of the glass box’s readings. So the difference was political. Interesting. Gellert had used all of the fire magic he knew to create the eternal flame spell, as limiting himself to one discipline would have been foolish, but he couldn’t help but wonder how the Flamels would react when they discovered the ‘dark’ components of the magic that had helped him create his spell.

Hours slipped past and Gellert only narrowly escaped a second opportunity for the Flamels to dose him with another unknown substance, saying that he was expected back in Paris for supper and had to regretfully decline their invitation. As a result he spun safely back in the old theatre box office’s fire place without having been put under the influence of any untoward potions and made his way upstairs to his rooms peacefully enough and relaxed with a book for the rest of the evening, relishing his solitude.

As February dawned the following week Gellert shook off the cobwebs of sleep to the sound of Cixi’s screeching and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he felt for his wand on the bedside table. With a wave of his wand and a thought the bacon rinds still lying on the draining board morphed into a fat pigeon which fluttered towards the window before being struck down by the pale blur that was Cixi during a hunt. Gellert smiled as he felt an echo of the primal glee Cixi felt tearing into the soft flesh of the plump pigeon he had transfigured, a thud and the sharp cry of her prey heralding the end of her graceful flight through the doorway; though a mere shadow of how beautiful she was under an open sky it still left Gellert a little breathless with the joy of fast flight. He ambled after her, pulled the bowl of strawberries out of his charmed cold-box and tucked in, the tart flavour of the fruit clashing with the aftertaste of meat lying on the edge of his senses.

Pulling the notes on his first healing spell towards him, fingers sticky with the residue of strawberry juice before he realised his mistake and cleaned them with a thought, Gellert frowned. He had refused to even look at the additions to his ideas Albus had made that horrible morning after Gellert had saved his life for months, then completed the study in transforming a curse into its cure in a fit of nostalgia the week before, but it was only now that he was beginning to appreciate what they had achieved. The transfiguration curse had been particularly challenging to break down into it’s arithmantic components, the final stage requiring Albus’ brilliant mind to slot the last puzzle piece into place, and as much as he resented it Gellert still felt his traitorous heart speed up at the memory of Albus’ eyes alight with a new idea because of him. Forcing his smile away, Gellert reviewed the healing charm he’d crafted based on their joint efforts and decided to take it for a test drive.

Sending a quick note to the Flamels that he wouldn’t be coming to the lab that day, Gellert made his way to La Maison Des Livres Magiques, the french magical library, to look for books on french history, wanting to read up on what Nicolas Flamel had been up to for the past six hundred years. He whiled away the afternoon tricking muggles into giving him fresh produce and reading up on the way french magical history had been impacted by catholicism throughout the ages, but by the time twilight had arrived he was practically vibrating with anticipation at testing out his new charm. Needing a muggle to experiment on, he headed up onto the lawless arches that played foundation to the bustling railway track running around the city centre. The foul underbelly of the 'Petite Ceinture’ was the well known home of vagrants and twisted degenerates that no one would miss. As a result Gellert felt fairly safe in the assumption that his use of magic would go undetected, and it was only that tantalising freedom to test his spells however he wanted to that drew him towards the cesspit of muggle poverty at all. Boots charmed against the omnipresent layer of filth that discoloured the cracked bricks arching high overhead and paved the splintering boards that lay in shifting stasis in the bog of churned mud with black smears, he strode confidently into the wasteland.

He watched the comings and goings of the muggle filth for around an hour, a glamour disguising his appearance as muddily unkempt at best, before he spotted his target. A thin muggle man wearing a dress with high cheekbones and dead eyes, bruises blooming across his left cheek and a deep cut above his right eyebrow that still had rough gravel embedded in the oozing mess of blood and flesh, cracked lips that were rouged with blood and what looked like cracked ribs through the rips in his shirt. Gellert moved towards him with a purpose and greeted the man with a guarded smile. “I’m not in business today.” said the man, his tone flat as he gestured to the mess of his face. Gellert’s smile widened and he looked deep into the muggle’s eyes, compelling him into follow the instructions Gellert gave.
“Follow.” he said, not wanting to deal with the confusion which would be sure to slow him down if he gave a more specific order.

Back in his room he released his hold on the man’s mind and threw up a silencing ward. “Where the fuck? How?” began the muggle, panicked for a moment before a scowl tried to make an appearance on his face. “I told you I’m not working today. You could pay me triple and I still wouldn’t let you have me.” He said, wincing at the pain generated from moving his face. Gellert laughed, unable to conceal his amusement at the foolish muggle, who was thinking along the wrong lines entirely.
“Don’t worry. I just need a muggle test subject. It will all be fine if the healing charm I’m trying works.” replied Gellert, binding the muggle’s arms before he cast several healing charms. The muggle’s expression went from one of pain fuelled anger to one of awe as the healing magic took hold and his surface wounds melted away, fading one by one until only the cracked ribs remained. Another muttered spell healed his bones and unmade the mottled bruising until only a memory of pain remained. “Thank you, thank you. H-how did you do that?” stuttered the muggle, and Gellert frowned before throwing caution to the winds. He would be obliviating the man soon enough, he might as well know the truth temporarily.
“I used magic.” he said shortly, before pointing his wand at the muggle once more. “Don’t take this personally, but I need to curse you. I’m testing a counter spell, so it shouldn’t be permanent.” He said, and the muggle looked at him, dazed by the strange truth, and Gellert couldn’t help but pity the poor creature. One day they would all know, he vowed to himself as he thought the transfiguration curse’s incantation and watched as the spell took hold. The muggle contorted in pain as tendons that had been turned to razor wire lacerated his muscles and blood bloomed into dark bruises under his pale skin as his heart fragmented into three useless lumps of meat. Taking a moment to breathe before he tried his counter curse, Gellert looked at the man more closely. His eyes were ringed in kohl and his lips painted with blood in a mockery of rouge, but it was his oddly disjointed movements that had attracted Gellert’s attention initially. What was it about this strange muggle that seemed so off?

Shaking himself, Gellert performed his counter curse and beamed as the razor wire relaxed back into organic matter and the deep internal cuts healed away to nothing, the muggle’s heart re-forming and lurching back into a steady beat as he slowly became aware. “That was horrible. What tipped you off about me?” he said, voice rough.
“What are you talking about?” asked Gellert, bemused at the strange workings of the muggle mind.
“You know what I am, that’s why you tried out your torture witchcraft on me, isn’t it?”
“What you are?” echoed Gellert, the picture of confusion.
“Hermaphrodite. You know, Fake woman.”
“Sorry?”
“I’m not, not right.” began the muggle, and Gellert smiled, hoping to coax more of an explanation forth. “I’m not a man. Rather I’d very much like to not be one I mean. I was meant to be a woman. It’s aberrant.” The man — no, woman — sighed and curled in on herself a little. Gellert sat down, quite unsure how to continue. He hadn’t really meant to have a conversation with his test subject, but she had proved too intriguing to silence immediately, and he was curious about this novel phenomenon of a muggle that was born the wrong sex.
“I really am sorry about the curse, but on the bright side my healing charm worked very well so there’s no real harm done.” he said, a long silence broken by his words. The muggle let out a vaguely horrified laugh, then shot him an almost considering look.
“Could you, that is to say, is it possible to transform one thing into another with your sorcery?” she asked, and Gellert nodded. “Can you change me? So that I have the right body?” It was a very good question, the desperate hope in his test subject’s voice easily pushed to one side, unimportant as his mind raced with the possibilities of theoretical transfiguration.

Pulling down his sixth and seventh year transfiguration textbooks from their shelf, Gellert flicked to the relevant pages and scanned them both to make sure he hadn’t forgotten any key elements of the spells that would be required. Spinning on his heel, Gellert pointed his wand at the woman once more and began the complicated process of weaving the total bodily transfiguration that would give her the right body. As his magic pulled at the fabric of her body and began to unravel and re-weave it into a female form he wondered if any of the magical people he knew had undergone this spell. He hadn’t really conceptualised what these spells would be used for before now, but he could see that as the woman looked down at herself as she should be for the first time with an expression of almost religious awe that it was a spell that was obviously of the upmost importance to those it affected. He hadn’t known if it would work on a muggle but it’s obvious success just fuelled his certainty that the statute of secrecy needed to be discarded. How could the magical world sit by complacently as muggles suffered, trapped in bodies they hated that could be fixed with the wave of a wand and some relatively simple transfiguration everyone learnt at school? Gellert suddenly found himself being squeezed tightly by the muggle, her eyes shining. Hugged by a muggle, he certainly hadn’t foreseen this, but he was grudgingly happy to help a woman so desperately wronged by the world she lived in, and after all he had checked that his healing spell worked, which could only be described as a great success.

Gellert carefully deposited Eli on a bench in the Gare du Nord with a roll of muggle bank notes he had conjured tucked into her jacket pocket, her stunned form unwieldy as he got up the nerve to change a memory. “Obliviate.” he said, carefully erasing his name and address from her mind and any stray details of magic that he couldn’t get away with leaving there. He removed the trial of the healing spell, leaving her memory of both his appearance and the sex change spells intact. After adding a complicated little seal on the information that stopped her from divulging it by any means but kept her remaining memories intact, Gellert smiled, and summoning all the courage he could, he managed to fabricate the memory of a single extra word as a precautionary misdirection. ‘Lazarus.’ Hebrew for ‘God has helped.’ It was an inside joke on Gellert’s part, he wasn’t quite egotistical enough to think himself a god, but he had changed Eli’s life and given her a new world. Arguably the fictitious christian god had done the same for the converted, so he indulged himself with the word choice and tried his best not to get distracted from his spellwork. With a smile he cast a warming charm over Eli’s sleeping form that would fade as she woke, took one last look at the clothes he’d transfigured, running a critical eye over them to catch any obvious imperfections and finding none, and walked calmly away. “Rennervate.” he said, his words curling with power as his footsteps echoed through the deserted streets, and across the city a woman woke in a train station where the shadows pooled thick under every seat and column in the half light of dawn, remembering the unearthly power of the magic that had fixed her.

“Two Rising Stars Of Arithmancy and Transfiguration Break Into Healing In A Bold Co-Created Spell That Counter’s The Dark Transfiguration based Curse Vergiqenoir” The headline left much to be desired, Gellert could admit, but a smile had made it’s way onto his face regardless and refused to fade. Coffee in hand, he scanned down the page and noted happily that his name had been placed above his partners, as he could truthfully say that he had done most of the work on the counter-spell. Not able to resist a satisfied smile as he partook in the sweet fruits of his most recent labours, Gellert continued to read through the article. He had credited Albus when writing up his findings for a German medical journal, wanting to leave him unnamed but not quite able to bring himself to cheat him like that. Without him it would have taken far longer to create the haling spell, might even have remained out of reach forever, and Albus deserved recognition for that. It sent a thrill through him to see their names side by side in print, but Gellert resolutely ignored his feelings in favour of reading through the rest of the article. He had’t expected to see anything about it in the general newspaper, but there it was on page six of the latest issue of ‘Bewitched Berlin’ the leading newspaper in Magical Germany.

He was busy writing a letter to Vinda about the whole affair that had already sprawled across several pages when the door to his room burst open, the soft light of the morning falling through the window to frame a thin face that had haunted his dreams since last summer in the gold hues of the sun. Gellert subtly pinched himself, not sure if he was really awake, but it was him. It was Albus, the bond sending burning pleasure through both of them at their proximity as he stood in the doorway holding out a newspaper, a question falling from his lips to hang in the air between them. “What is the meaning of this?”

Chapter Text

“The meaning of what Albus?” Gellert managed, his voice measured and almost managing to sound casual. The door slammed shut behind Albus as he made his way into the room, expression wavering between rage and confusion.
“This article, this, this lie. I never helped you on this spell, so why would you credit me on it?” Albus’ words cut deeply but Gellert found himself smiling, happy that his voice was strong, his hands, clenched in anger though they were, were not shaking, and there was anger echoing down the bond, which meant that he had stopped occluding. Albus had begun to heal. “Are you that desperate for my attention?” That time it hurt. Gellert swallowed his rage, knowing that he had to keep a level head to win this argument and trying desperately to control his urge to gut Albus with biting responses that would sting with unwelcome truth.
“A lie? You did help.”
“What are you talking about?” Gellert leapt to his feet at the question, moving towards Albus, who was still standing near the door as if afraid to come any closer. He suddenly found himself almost painfully angry, and he spat his next phrase at Albus, standing so close to him that another few inches would make it an embrace.
“Your transfiguration corrections? The day you left?” His voice shook with anger as he remembered the sudden burning pain of the stretching bond that had coloured his first meeting with Nicolas Flamel so drastically. As he spoke Albus met his eye and Gellert saw something like recollection dawning in the blue that was somehow so much deeper than his memories of the colour that he thought he knew so well.
“Oh.” Said Albus, voice small and expression suddenly unsure as he lost himself in memories.

“You—” began Gellert, voice choked with emotion as he tried to put everything he felt aside to focus on the actual argument at hand, “You deserve the recognition.” That wasn’t what he’d meant to say. He had meant to accuse, to return some of the viciously painful experiences of what Albus had done to him, but instead he was complimenting the man who had broken his heart. Albus’ expression took on an unidentifiable edge, Gellert’s kind words causing the smallest of flinches as he processed what he’d said. Suddenly realising why, Gellert continued. “I never would have managed to bridge that key gap without you Albus, it was your proof as much as it was mine.” Albus swallowed, the sound harsh and loud in the six inches of air between their bodies, and Gellert sensed what was coming in a flash of understanding. The kiss was headily intoxicating, their bond singing in pleasure as they fell back through time to the summer, when every proof had been a joint effort and every moment felt like this.

Albus spun them so that Gellert’s back was pressed uncomfortably into the wood of the door and recaptured his mouth in another heat filled, claiming kiss. Gellert moaned, sadness and anger draining out of him as his head fell back against the door, Albus’ mouth now focused on the very visible underside of his jaw. Gellert gasped as Albus bit down, harsher than he usually was, and felt Albus stiffen against him. More biting marks followed, a patchwork of bruises sucked into Gellert’s pale skin from his jaw the the top of his left collarbone, just accessible above the fabric of his shirt. “Please,” begged Gellert, though his lust addled mind couldn’t quite remember what he was begging for, and Albus responded with another open mouthed kiss that went straight to Gellert’s groin. His hand moved to return the embrace, knocking over a book as he wrapped an arm around Albus’ waist and deepened the kiss. Reluctantly pulling away from the kiss to breathe, Gellert stumbled towards his bed, still entangled with Albus, lips red and swollen from the harsh kiss as he fought for breath. He pulled Albus down towards him, arching up into the taller man but Albus was suddenly backing away, eyes brimming with tears as he looked at something on the floor by the bed. Gellert followed his condemning gaze to the book that he had so carelessly knocked over and winced.

“You’re reading Magick Moste Evil?” Albus’ voice trembled with something like fear. “I don’t understand, it’s black magic. Why are you doing this?”
“Haven’t you always understood?” Gellert’s voice was still a little hazy, the arousal coursing through his veins slowing down how he processed the abrupt change of topic.
“Always understood? What do you mean? I would never condone this kind of dark magic.”
“Dark magic? Don’t make me laugh, ‘dark’ is a matter of political stance Albus, you know this. What were your views on ritual magic again? And what about soul magic, it’s named the ‘darkest’ art there is?”
“Soul magic is not inherently dark, that’s what you told me! I didn’t know that you were a—”
“A what? A monster?”
“Don’t—” Albus began, then stopped and tried again. “This has nothing to do with—” He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, the action so achingly familiar that Gellert thought he might cry. “Dark magic is harmful. What you’re learning to do is harmful. How could you do this?”
“‘Use only the force necessary’ Those were your words Albus. This is the necessary force.” spat Gellert bitterly, and Albus’ eyes flashed with something that hurt to look at, a mixture of hatred and longing that did nothing to snap Gellert out of his state of arousal. “Whatever happened to the greater good?” Gellert was yelling now, both of them on the verge of tears before he clicked his fingers and summoned the note. “Here. Tell me you didn’t write that Albus. Tell me you didn’t know exactly what our vision of the future would hold for the both of us.” Albus blanched, grabbing the note and trying to light it on fire, but spell did nothing but warm his hands. Gellert smiled grimly, his jaw clenched as the raw magic protecting the note fought against Albus’ shame fuelled flames.
“That’s not—”
“Not what Albus? Not what you meant? Did you think that changing the world would be easy? That you could talk to the european ministry of magic and they’d just agree to hand over control peacefully? This is the only way to create change.” He laughed bitterly, opening his mouth to speak again. Albus shoved the note deep into his pocket, picked up his wand and apperated away, the last Gellert saw of him a broken expression that scarred itself into his mind’s eye.

Gellert didn’t know how much time passed while he was lying on his side, staring blankly at the wall. The bond was painful, the metal of the physical pact itself cutting into his upper arm where it was lying against bare skin while the magic burnt his chest as the distance between them stretched over miles of land and sea once more. He absently brought a hand up to the bruises Albus had sucked into his skin, pressing his thumb into one and feeling a spike of pain which reassured him that the whole thing had been real and not some terrible nightmare. Slowly, as if he were made of glass, Gellert rose and went back to his coffee, finding it stone cold and too bitter. He made his way back into his room from the kitchen, a glass of water in hand as he sat down at the desk to finish his letter to Vinda, but when he put the glass down onto the edge of the desk, his hands shaking, he used too much force and it shattered. Not thinking, he swept the shards off the table with his hand, intending to vanish them once he’d clear up the water, and then had to muffle a cry of pain as a fragment lodged in the base of his palm where it met his wrist.

Knowledge from his healing textbook flashed across his mind. He tried to flex his fingers but only the thumb, index finger and middle finger moved and dark blood welled up around the glass. The Ulnar Nerve was badly damaged then, probably severed all together, and at least one vein had been cut. He had to leave the glass where it was for now to stem the blood flow as best he could until he had his wand. He couldn’t do healing magic this advanced wandlessly, it would be foolish, and he could end up making things worse. Calling up his memories of nerve repairing charms, Gellert lunged across the room towards his wand on the bedside table, blood loss stealing away his vision in black spots that moved across what he could see of the room around him like sunlight through dappled leaves; ever shifting in senseless, patternless motion that made his feel vaguely sick. Missing the bed, Gellert crumpled to the floor and felt blindly for his wand. A moment later he held his wand in a sticky red hand and summoned the glass from his wrist wordlessly before speaking the healing spell out loud as clearly as he could. He needed the spell to work on the first try, because now that the glass was out of his hand the blood was pulsing out of the cut at a frightening rate. “Heilende sanandum.” The nerve mended well, he could bend all of his fingers now, but the blood kept welling up and running down beneath his hand to pool on the floor. When had he ended up on the floor? Blearily Gellert muttered healing charms that knitted muscle and tendon back together, the vein that had been slashed growing over the opening and finally slowing the the sickeningly fast spread of the pooling blood that had stained his floorboards. Finally muttering a skin repairing charm that had been inspired by the skin peeling curse he’d tried, to great effect, on a sixth year what felt like a lifetime ago, he felt the adrenaline coursing through his system begin to fade away.

He flexed his wrist, wincing as a sickening grinding noise was accompanied by the very strange feeling of his bones moving against each other in a vaguely disgusting manner, and tried to remember what could cause that. He furrowed his brow but his mind was blank, hazy and slow due to the blood loss, and he needed a blood replenishing potion to focus. He whistled, the note mournful and drawn out as he called for Cixi desperately, and tore the blank page out of the back of Magick Moste Evil, not wanting to waste what magic he had left on a summoning charm for proper parchment. Putting the parchment on a dry patch of the floor Gellert planned out a letter to Franz asking for a blood replenishing draft, then careful daubed a finger of his good hand into the pool of blood and began to write. Cixi arrived, winging her way through the open window and screeching her alarm at his state. “Franz.” He said, his voice shallow and weakly imploring. “Franz can help.” Sending her a mental image of the human he meant he smiled tiredly, then watched in total shock as Cixi picked up the note and dove not for the window but the floo box. She clawed the lid open and Gellert took a shuddering breath in, using the tiniest scrap of magic to flick a heap of floo powder into the flame before Cixi could dive through. As the flame danced green she hopped forwards and disappeared, Gellert hoping against hope that she would get to the right place as he faded into unconsciousness.

When Gellert floated back into a vague awareness of his surroundings he laughed in relief. Cixi had made it through the floo and back, now resting fairly contentedly on Franz’ shoulder, only a little singed from her misadventures through the fireplace. Looking around, he blanched in horror as he registered the fact that he was lying in a puddle of blood that had spread over half the visible floor space. It looked like there was more blood on the floor than inside him, and Franz quickly uncorked the fourth of his blood replenishing drafts, glad he had brought so many. “Drink up Grindelwald. It tastes like shit but there you are. At least you’ll stay alive.” He said, and Gellert pulled a face, downing the potion before mustering up the strength to reply.
“Never go into healing my friend, your abysmal bedside manner would be your downfall.”
“I might have just saved your life you know.” said the man, and Gellert laughed.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” he asked slyly, and Franz shook his head, their familiar jokes falling oddly flat as they each dealt with what had almost happened.
“Nothing at all Grindelwald, nothing at all.”

When he had recovered some of his colour, looking less like a corpse than someone who had merely never seen the sun, Franz offered one last potion and cracked a smile. This draft returned Gellert to his usual appearance, and he smirked as Franz visibly relaxed. “Would you have missed me?” He joked, and Franz shot him a halfhearted glare.
“Were it not for the fact that I’ve just poured a rather high number of very valuable potions down your throat to keep you alive,” he said, pausing for effect before finishing his sentence, “I’d kill you just for that.” They both broke into giggles at the same moment, giddy with relief that they could make a joke of what might have been a much more serious situation. “At any rate I wouldn’t have missed you as much as whoever marked you up with those.” added the stockier man, gesturing toward’s Gellert’s throat. Gellert paused for a moment before remembering the blooming bruises discolouring his neck, the ardent display of Albus’ claim to him that was written across all of the visible skin between his shirt collar and jaw. His face closed down and he forced himself to open his eyes before tears could smear his vision, fixing Franz with a dark look.
“I’m afraid you’re wrong there Franz. I’d appreciate it if that wasn’t mentioned again.” His voice was cold, his tone clipped and forcefully polite. Something in his eyes must have been appropriately threatening, because Franz shot him a nervous look and changed the subject.

“Of course the real question here is are you still entering?” said the other boy, and Gellert forced the necessary puzzled smile onto his face.
“Entering what?” He asked, his voice the picture of cheerful bemusement even as he fought to keep his temper in check. It had been none of Franz’ business, why had he felt the need to—.
“Holy Mother Magic, you don’t even know about it?” asked Franz, incredulous, breaking through his swiftly darkening train of thought. “It’s only the German national duelling championships.”
“Well I’m entering now.” said Gellert, excitement rising as he realised that he’d be going home to Germany for more than just nostalgia's sake as Franz’ laughter echoed in his ears. He had to do this and he had to win. Perhaps he had judged Franz a little too harshly for his earlier comments.
“I thought you might. I’m fairly out of practice with that sort of thing, too busy brewing to get much duelling in at the moment, so I’ll just be watching this year.” The other boy didn’t seem too put out by that, and Gellert managed a smile and pointed out that he was rather glad that Franz had been brewing so much, as it just might have saved his life. “I suppose that it might have had its benefits, yes.” conceded Franz, and Gellert felt a frisson of real amusement at his companion as he laughed.
“After all,” pointed out Gellert as the hilarity of the situation struck him once more, “It’s not every day you end up with a life debt from the greatest Arithmancer and most powerful duellist of your generation.” He said, tone ostentatiously full of himself before he broke into giggles, his dark mood lifting properly as he cracked the joke. Franz laughed along and the conversation soon drifted from the brewing of healing drafts to the applications of alchemy in said potions, the light fading from the sky as they caught up properly. 

The shock of the what had happened with the glass and Franz’ subsequent visit had given him no time to process what had happened with Albus. Gellert knew that he should be feeling resentful, angry even, but he wasn’t. A bitter tear tracked down his cheek as he began to feel the fresh salt of betrayal in his wounds that forced tears to well up in his eyes and spill over, no frozen anger present to stop the grief from flowing. He had always accepted Albus unconditionally, for all his fits of sudden anger and endearingly irritating idiosyncrasies. Albus had forgiven him for murdering his classmates, had shared with Gellert the darker side of his personality that was hidden from the world, and Gellert had thought he would understand. Why couldn’t Albus understand? He had done nothing but try to help Albus, to help his family, because he loved him. Why couldn’t Albus do the same for him? He had been so afraid of hurting his lover that he had bound their souls together for fear of what he might be forced to do at some point in the future, had protected him from everything he could. When Albus had been in physical pain that felt life threatening Gellert had saved him without a thought because they were in love. A quiet voice at the back of his mind was beginning to wonder why Albus hadn’t done the same for him. He had slit his wrist open, accidentally he would admit, but he still could have died. The only thing that had saved him had been his own ingenuity and Franz’ help, and Albus hadn’t come to his aid. Did Albus even care? He pushed the thought aside. It was stupid, of course he did. He probably just thought it was another duel. After all, he knew about Gellert’s fights in the blood pits and he had no reason to think he would lose one, so he wouldn’t worry. Of course, that must be it. With a slight smile making itself at home on his face, Gellert flexed his wrist again and wondered what was missing from his healing spell, the bones still feeling oddly out of place when he tried to move.

Summoning his supplementary healing essay on the workings of the skeletal system from last year, Gellert began to read, and on the third page of his barely legible essay he found it. The pain was coming from the metacarpal bones in his hand which had started to rub against his wrist bones. The glass must have removed a layer of protective cartilage when it sliced through his carpal tunnel ligament. Gellert’s smile faded. He didn’t know the spell to reverse this damage. It hadn’t been on the healing curriculum so Professor Synap hadn’t bothered to teach it, a choice that Gellert had grudgingly understood at the time but was now looking like an egregious oversight. He needed to get to a library.

The french magical library was shut when he got there, but Gellert neatly sliced his way through the wards after finding their weak spot and opened the door with the simple unlocking charm ‘Kinyit' They had protected against the blindingly obvious ‘Alohamora’, but the lesser known Hungarian charm had escaped their rather lax protections and Gellert shook his head at the stupidity of it all. Whenever there were protections developed against a specific charm there would always be alternatives created to get around the problem, and by the time people had become familiar enough with those to prevent them working there would already be others in use. It was cyclical and pointless. Gellert thought that he could probably develop a locking charm that would be unbreakable, but then again he might need to get into places in the future that were charmed to keep people out so he would take advantage of the inane stupidity of those around him.

Gellert smiled lazily from where he was lying in bed, his room looking brighter in the candlelight without the worry about his oddly painful wrist. Vinda would probably say that he should have gone to a proper healer, but his wrist was back to normal now so he didn’t see the point, and he was rather proud of how he had handled the injury without professional help. He would have liked to keep the copy of the book that he’d got the healing spell from but he hadn't quite managed to shake his healthy respect for librarians and their wrath that Durmstrang’s resident book keeper had instilled in him, so it had remained within the library where he had found it. He had been about to douse his candles and go to sleep when a worryingly red letter shot through the fireplace and Vinda’s voice began to ring through the apartment. “Gellert Grindelwald why on earth did you credit that boy in your proof? All he’s done is make you feel awful over the past few months and he doesn't deserve it. Even if he did help you it would be quite within your rights to take all the credit. I would be saying this in person if it counted as a personal emergency, but I asked and the headmaster refused to let me leave as soon as he remembered that I’m your friend. Have a good evening and try not to waste any more time or ink on the past. With love, Vinda.” Gellert blinked and began to laugh. It was that or cry, and he’d already spent enough of the day doing that. What had Vinda been thinking, putting that kind of thing into a howler? What if he’d had company? It would have been unspeakably embarrassing. Smiling at the ridiculous actions of his friend, he sat up and summoned his half finished letter and a pen to reply.

‘I think you will find my reasons for crediting Albus quite understandable if I get the chance to explain them to you. It is far better to credit him, not doing so would have marked me as vain and untrustworthy in academic circles if it had come to light, and after all he did deserve some credit. What he added was a breakthrough that I really hadn’t thought of. I would have had it in another few weeks but there’s something about the way his mind works that I—’

He hadn’t meant to add those last few sentences. He clicked his fingers and the parchment began to burn, flames curling over his foolish statement until ash floated down onto the pristine sheets around him. He blinked harshly, wondering why his eyes were wandering as he gritted his teeth and summoned more parchment. He had been a fool, but it was nothing more than a mote of ash that must have been caught in his eye. Beginning his letter once more, he grit his teeth and rewrote his account of the last few days, adding a short note explaining that it would sully his academic reputation to take all the credit at the end and saying nothing else about the incident. He flicked his fingers in the general direction of the floo and watched as the letter was wreathed in green flame before disappearing before outing his candles at long last in the attempt to sleep.

Standing in the considerable queue that snaked around the outside of the duelling competition headquarters Gellert sized up his competition. Most of the other duellers looked as if they had ten years of experience on him, and some were rather badly scarred, but all of them looked almost peaceful in comparison to the people he’d faced off against in the fight pits and he began to smile. This might be a lot easier to win than he’d thought. Patience wearing thin, Gellert had to force down the urge to blast his way to the front of the queue. It would be satisfying, but sadly he would have to keep to more conventional rules in this duelling ring so he might as well get some practice in doing so now. Smiling, Gellert unclenched his glamoured jaw and began to recite what he could remember of the Aztec dictionary Tlaloc had given him in his head to distract himself from the incredibly boring wait. At least winning a duelling competition so woefully bogged down in paperwork was the seven thousand galleon prize money

The weeks passed, sleet ridden February giving way to the bitterly chill storm winds of March, and Gellert was falling into a comfortable routine. He would wake, spent the morning taking part in preliminary duels that he could and did win without much thought, then go to Flamel Manor to work on his latest alchemy paper. Though Flamel didn’t realise it, Gellert had been using his lab to alchemically prove that Pyromancy was just a more offensive application of fire based alchemy but he would have to be very careful publishing this kind of thing. It was the fate of too many brilliant wizards to be consigned to the label ‘dark’ for having real insight. He had begun to learn Italian in his spare moments, picking up the basics of the language fairly quickly due to the latinate roots familiar to him from his spellwork. He had had too many evenings of solitude in which to contemplate his past and it had sufficed as a distraction as well as a useful skill to be developing over the past month. The evening before his first second-tier fight Gellert had very familiar vision.

In the half light of a full moon Gellert watched himself leap from a window, the first hallow clutched in his hand as he put his original wand in the inside pocket of his robes, a manic glee shining in his eyes as the scene faded to mist. As the image faded into grey and silver Gellert noticed something he hadn't seen the first time. There was something a little familiar about the building. Swearing bitterly, Gellert tried to bring back the vision, sure he could have remembered why the shop looked so eerily reminiscent of somewhere he was sure he’d been before if only he could see it properly. Jerking awake Gellert slammed his hand into the wall by the bed in frustration, then swore again as his recently healed wrist was jarred by the pointlessly violent externalisation for his feelings. He needed to get a grip on himself. He took several deep breaths and checked the time. With his rage back in check Gellert unfolded his copy of the rules and regulations of the duelling competition, not wanting to change being disqualified over some petty spell that was deemed to dark for the squeamish duel regulators. Before he knew it the sun was rising and he could justify arriving at the duelling ring without it seeming too ridiculous. He apperated directly from the floo port to the duelling ring in Berlin, wondering if his mother would be feeling amiable enough towards him to actually meet up for coffee after his imminent victory.

This opponent had been just as underwhelming to beat as the last three, but Gellert wasn’t surprised. There was no sense of either life hanging in the balance, no threat in all the bowing and pompous ceremony of an official duel. His opponent had even wished him good luck before the duel, and it was all so civilised that it made his skin crawl. A bone breaking curse had been on the tip of his tongue when the man had attempted his final attack but he’d managed to restrain himself to transfiguring the other man’s shoes to lead and disarming him. It had taken no small amount of self control to achieve, and Gellert felt that he deserved the applause of the spectators. Money exchanged hands and Gellert spotted Yagana in the front row, who shot him a smile from where she was leaning against the rail, a sizeable bag of winnings propped against the wooden panelling of the arena beside her. He grinned and nodded at her before excusing himself, applause ringing in his ears as he apperated to Munich.

Breathing shaky, Gellert walked up to the porch of a place that he no longer thought of as his home and rang the doorbell. When his mother answered she looked almost frightened for a moment, and that was somehow worse than any reaction he could have dreamed up. Gellert watched as that sickening flash of fear was replaced by a wary smile, and when his mother had pulled up a slightly softer smile and invited him in, he walked through rooms that were both achingly familiar and strange to him as if in a dream. “So how have you been?” He asked, the ruptured silence deafening as they both sipped their drinks, Gellert taking the time to relish that half-remembered flavour of his mother’s coffee, something neither he nor Vinda could quite replicate.
“I’ve had a promotion at work. I’m the senior witch on the team now.” she said, and Gellert winced. Had they really been reduced to the kind of awkward small talk exchanged by strangers? “What about you and that boy you were with when I… Well, when we saw each other in Godrick’s Hollow. You seemed happy.”
“Yes. I was. We’re…” Gellert couldn’t bear to go into the sordid details here, when his mother had only just accepted speaking to him again and he was feeling so positive about patching things over with her. “We’re both rather busy. I’m living in France at the moment because I have a partnership with Nicolas Flamel in alchemical research. Albus is working on some work of genius in transfiguration circles, I haven’t caught up on how it’s going for a while actually.” His mother smiled at his stilted speech, the expression almost fond before she distracted herself by taking another sip of coffee.

Their conversation happened in fits and bursts, the long silences in between them smothering and strangely heavy. It was all too reminiscent of the calm before the storm, and Gellert watched anxiously for the anger he had last seen in his mother’s eyes in Bathilda’s living room but it never came. “Well,” he said, able to bear the tension no longer, “I’m afraid I’m wanted back in Paris soon so I’d better be off.”
“Of course dear,” replied his mother, the endearment seeming a little forced. “Give my regards to Vinda won’t you?” He nodded and bid her a final goodbye before fleeing the house. Too wound up to return home immediately, Gellert found himself wandering the streets of muggle Munich until he found himself standing by the granite coils of the stone guardian of the magical world.
“Good afternoon.” he said pleasantly, and the dragon hissed it’s laughter.
“I offer you my greetings for the last time, lordling.” Gellert frowned, wondering why it would be for the last time. It sounded ominous and Gellert had never been one to disregard the dragon’s strange warnings, but he pushed aside his concern and stepped through the arch after bidding the statue a final good day.

He had spent a few happy hours in the library and was feeling perfectly calm when he made his way out as it closed for the night, inhaling the fresh spring air and feeling more positive about his mother. The benefit of hindsight had smoothed away the panic he had felt, allowing a clearer judgement of how the talk had gone, and he felt the beginnings of a genuinely pleased smile curling across his face when of the corner of his eye, he saw it. The corner of a shop window that looked somehow familiar. Gellert glanced up at the sky with bated breath and sure enough a heavy full moon lit the night with silver radiance just as it had in his vision. It was the right place.

He shouldn’t even be considering this without a solid plan, he though to himself, and it would be downright idiotic to rush in and try to simply steal the most powerful magical object in existence, but a strange sense of certainty was emanating from his right eye, seeping through his skull and settling down in winding coils of unshakable knowledge around his other bones as he took a deep breath and walked up to the window. This was going to work. He felt it in every fibre of his being. His point of entry was a second floor window but a short climb later he was sitting on the windowsill with an easy smile and dismantling the anti-thievery wards. When he finally got a good look at the room that he’d just broken into he began to laugh. It was Gregorovitch’s wand shop. He heard someone stirring and bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself laughing again, instead creeping forward and then closing his eyes. “Who’s there.” said Gregorovitch, his voice still saturated with sleep, and Gellert continued to move forward, a disillusionment charm sliding into place as the light of the moon glanced in through the open window. Gellert moved with a strange sense of being both trapped in the moment and watching the way things unfolded in a totally detached manner, as if from a distance.
“Lumos Maxima.” speaking the spell out loud had been another spur of the moment decision, but Gellert had no real plan here, gut instinct the only thing guiding his decisions. He scrunched his eyes as tightly shut as possible as the powerful light began to glow brighter and brighter, smiling as Gregorovitch screamed in pain. The white light had blinded him temporarily, and Gellert readied himself for a returning shot before realising with a smile that he didn’t have to. He had read several different theories on how the elder wand it’s allegiance was transferred, and after all, he had seen what would happen here the night before.

He flicked his wand in a disarming charm and just like that the first hallow was his. He had raised the powerful new wand in his dominant hand, ready to strike the killing blow, switching his thestral and birch wand to his left hand, but before he could the floo flared green and a figure appeared. Gellert felt his disillusionment charm snap, the shock of so unexpected a variable coming into play cancelling the charm as he shot a reactive killing curse towards the fireplace, green light blending with the crackling emerald of the flames. Shaking, Gellert realised with shock how easy the spell had come to him, and wondered if that was the influence of the hallow or just his desperation. Gregorovitch stood stock still for a split second and then lurched into action. Gellert lunged for the window as Gregorovitch’s arm shot out to grab him, but Gellert was away, the night swallowing him up as mad laughter rose in his throat. He had done it. The elder wand was his.

Chapter Text

Gellert was still giddy with it the next morning, the power radiating from him whipping up a thunderstorm that plunged the whole of Paris into a strange twilight, the heavy black clouds swallowing the city until every streetlamp had to be re-lit in the middle of the morning. Gellert felt as if he were coming apart at the seams, too busy trying to keep his magic inside his skin to feel anything from the bond for the first time since they had made it, and then gave up. With a laugh Gellert ducked into an alley and twirled the elder wand in a circle around him. The cobblestones wrenched themselves out of place and began to float, carrying him up to roof level until he could see over the whole city. He stepped off the cobbles onto the slates of the roof’s shallow incline and carelessly let them fall back to street level, not hearing the cracking of rough stone far below. He was wrapped in magic, his pulse jumping in his veins as his shoes sent sparks raining down off the edge of the roof with every step he took. Something had to shift. Three streets away a church steeple glinted, the metal warmed by the reflection of the thousands of gold windows of the city, and Gellert grinned. Was it a Sunday? He didn’t know. With a laugh he realised that it didn’t matter if it was, because he didn’t care.

A memory rose unbidden in his mind. “Which is worse, ignorance or apathy?” Albus had been lying in the sun, hair tangled into a red halo and sticking up every which way when he’d asked Gellert that last summer.
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” he’d shot back, unable to resist the joke, and Albus had kissed him senseless, laughing in the stolen moments when they’d had to part for breath.
“I think it’s apathy.” Albus had said later, the debate rekindled when they were sitting in his kitchen sharing a bottle of firewhiskey. Gellert had disagreed.

The memory faded, Gellert laughing quietly in the midday air because it was all he could do not to cry. He took a deep breath in and tasted the promise of the storm in every molecule around him. He brought the most powerful hallow down in a steep arc, tracing the path the lighting would take down from the sky. Gellert laughed, a twisted sound that was lost in the wind as the storm finally broke, lightning renting the storm-dark skies in two in a flash of brilliant white that hit the church. The roof cracked like an eggshell, the white light of the storm replaced by the merry amber of a hearth fire as the rain began to fall. An almost unearthly hissing filled Gellert’s ears as the fire burned through the rain, the strength of the heat pouring from the cracked roof of the church evaporating the water before it could put out the flames. Somewhere else in the city bells began to toll but Gellert couldn’t hear them through the tortured screams echoing from the burning building. It was a Sunday then. He jumped from the roof back down to the alley below, a silent ‘Arresto Momentum’ ensuring his safety. Wondering how the muggles had felt being burnt for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as so many magical people had during the witch hunts before floo powder and flame freezing charms had been invented, Gellert ultimately decided that he’d rather not know and apperated back to the rooms at the theatre that had become home to him.

The following day the fire was all over the French muggle news, having consumed the church entirely without burning so much as a brick of the buildings on either side. The muggle newspapers argued if it were the work of God or the Devil, the wizarding news attributing the storm to “Some dark ritual.” which Gellert laughed at until tears ran down his face. Whoever had written the article clearly had only the vaguest understanding of what ritual magic entailed, he thought scornfully, and then turned the page, hoping to find something a little more illuminating to read. It was a continuation of the same article, but before he could shut the paper in disgust a name he knew well leapt out at him. Flamel? He furrowed his brow and began to read the article properly, the paper shaking, his hands curling into fists as he read before sparks began to dace and the paper was transformed into white-hot flames, crumbling to ash in a matter of seconds. Nicolas Flamel, esteemed alchemist and discoverer of the philosophers stone, had spent six-hundred years donating money to churches, advocating for muggle religion in France and betraying his own kind by fraternising with the very muggles who had sought to destroy them all. Gellert was disgusted. No, he was beyond disgusted. He was enraged. How could any self respecting wizard ally himself with the church? He could not for the life of him fathom such a thing.

It was his second fight of the evening, and he was trying to keep to defensive spells, doubting that even the blood wraiths would take kindly to having to banish body parts of his opponent twice in one night. His first fight had been cathartic, Gellert laughing as he cast tightly controlled destructive fire spells for the whole fight, limiting himself to pyromancy for the sake of revelling in a type of magic that Flamel condemned. His opponent had eventually given up the ghost to “Coquere Corde.” a heart burning curse that he remembered in great detail from the Black Family Grimoire which slow-roasted the heart inside the body until it was cooked through and ready to eat. There had even been a recipe for a preferred sauce to accompany the rather questionable delicacy, he remembered with a slight smile, but cooking wasn’t quite how he’d intended to spend the evening. He had come to rely on lethal curses a little too much during his initial stint in the blood pits and had almost cast one in the official duelling ring that risked his place in the national competition, which was entirely unacceptable, and besides, he wanted to prove a point.

A curse that would have stopped his blood from clotting by vanishing the platelets that would help close the wound spun towards Gellert as he grinned, sweat pouring down his face as he dodged the curse. He was trying to win this fight using purely non-violent magic, just to even the playing field for his hapless opponent, and it was helping to break his habit of reactively casting bone-breaking curses. Gellert felt the elder wand humming in his hand, his magic rising in a mist of power around him as he did nothing, wondering how long he could resist going on the offensive. They danced back and forth across the sand, Gellert weaving between spells that came thick and fast until he was forced to put up a shield. The Euler shield that formed around him blossomed past the usual elliptic barrier into a sphere which encased him, a bubble of sorts that protected him from the barrage of spells being thrown his way. Bursting across the shield in a brilliant light show of iridescence, his combatant’s spellfire did nothing to Gellert as he looked down at the elder wand with awe. It was a thing of beauty, what he could do to the limits of magic with the wand he now held. Tiring of the fight, Gellert flicked his wand at the other man in a simple summoning charm, conjuring a floating stone that hung in the air between them. His simple combination of spells knocked the man out as he hurtled through space towards Gellert, who laughed as the unconscious body fell to the floor. Dusting himself down, he vanished his sweat and ran an absent hand through his hair to recreate the perfect wave he had left the house with as the cheering of the crowd swelled to a crescendo. With an abrupt jolt Gellert realised the opportunity he had been wasting for months. All those speeches that had languished in two dimensions could have been spoken here, where he had the ear of the singularly wide reaching audience in the heart of the underside of magical France. He put a finger to his lips, laughing as the crowd cheered again and taking a bow before they quietened down enough for him to speak. Willing his voice to become louder, he began to weave his version of the truth.

“Thank you, Thank you, gentles all. Did any of you happen to see both my duels?” He began, and at the roar of assent he inclined his head, waiting for relative quiet before he continued. “They were both quite effective, if I may say so myself, but I kept to two different magical disciplines that are widely regarded as polar opposite. Battle magic, pyromancy and black artes of the darkest kind achieved the same result as a purely defensive set of ‘light’ spells, yet one is condemned as evil, forbidden by law and vilified as if a levitation charm isn’t just as lethal as the killing curse if applied correctly.” The crowd had been silent, hanging on his every word with bated breath, but now mutterings of assent echoed around the cavernous hall, voices blending together until all Gellert could hear was a rush of formless sound. “What if we could change that? Would you want to see a future where so called dark magic is no longer seen as the product of moral insanity?” As he asked the question he felt the mood of the crowd shift, resentment being erased in the face of hope, a fevered kind of excitement taking hold in the expressions of the denizens of the magical underworld. “What would you be willing to do to create a future like that?” He asked, a smile painting itself onto his face as he drank in the reactions of the crowd. “That is what I stand for. That is the vision of the future I have. Would you help me fight for it?” His final question hung in the air, suspended in the silence for a moment before the crowd began to respond. There was determination, the faces of ageing scarred warriors and rebellious young wizards displaying the same tense set of the jaw that suggested their unwavering support. There was concern too, the more reserved members of the audience unsure in the face of his bold promises, but perhaps most dauntingly of all, shining in every pair of eyes there was an overwhelming, crushing sense of hope.

“What are you going to do about—”
“How do you plan to—”
“What can you—”
“Would this extend to the restrictions on—”
Dozens of questions were thrown from the crowd, Gellert’s head spinning with half formed answers as the next question pushed his responses aside in favour of a new topic. A broad smile grew across his features as he took on the challenge of fielding the flurry of enquiries that his succinct speech had inspired. It had worked. He felt his heart miss a beat as he began to answer the questions one at a time, a thrill of pride alight in his blood as he looked out at the storm of thoughts and hopes that his words had created.

He talked through the afternoon, forgetting all about his appointment at the Flamel lab as he talked round the initially doubtful and expanded on his vision of the future in the fight pits deep below the city centre. It was almost completely dark by the time he got back to his rooms in the theatre and there was a small stack of letters lying in wait for him in the bottom of the floo box. He shuffled through them, smiling at Vinda and Imari’s familiar handwriting as well as a letter from Bathilda that looked promisingly thick and a short note from his mother before he tossed them aside in favour of remembering the roar of the crowd. They had loved his ideas. Gellert had known that the world should change for years, but he’d just assumed that no one else could see what was wrong with it because no one was trying to do anything about it, but he’d been wrong. The veela living on the ground floor were ready to wage a war for the rights they should already have, the spectators in the blood pits could see how corrupt the french ministry’s restrictions were, and he could finally see the first few sparks of his ideas catching alight in other people’s minds. It was intoxicating.

Humming a lilting tune he remembered his cousin singing when they’d first met, Gellert walked into the kitchen and let out an unmanly screech he would deny later, the elder wand crackling with power as he prepared to hurl an offensive spell at the figure sitting in his kitchen. After laughing himself hoarse at Gellert’s reaction, Kaz offered a more civilised greeting and Gellert mustered up the grace to return his easy grin.
“Such a polite hello Kaz, I might be fooled into thinking you’d grown up into a responsible adult in the years you’ve had to kick around outside Durmstrang if you hadn't just broken into my house.”
“Good thing I did then, after all we wouldn't want you to get the wrong impression.” The man replied, and Gellert shook his head fondly before trying to direct the conversation in a more serious direction. 
“Have you had a breakthrough on your research on the political application of weather witchery in sub-saharan Africa then?” He asked, thinking back to what Kaz had been talking about when they’d last met.
“Not all of us can get earth shattering research completed in a few weeks Gellert. I’m still in the historical research phase.” He said, his rich voice ringing with laughter.
“Well there’s no need to flaunt your brilliant ideas if you haven’t written them up yet.” He teased. “I’ve been looking forward to reading your paper Kaz, and I’d like to do so at some point before we’re both old and grey.” There was more laughter and the conversation drifted out of academic waters and towards his recent stint in a legitimate duelling ring, Gellert unable to keep a smile off his face as he began to remember how much fun it could be to spend time with Kazadi.
“You’re doing well in the German nationals.” There was no trace of envy in his friend’s voice as he spoke, the calm acknowledgement a surprise as the evening wore on. Gellert hadn’t expected the older man to be keeping up with the tournament to that extent, but as Kaz spoke Gellert found himself wearing a small genuine smile.
“Of course I am.” He replied, and Kaz laughed loudly at him, his own smile wide and easy as Gellert handed him a beer. Gellert didn’t personally like the stuff, preferring something a lot stronger if he was going to drink anything, but Franz had informed him in no uncertain terms that he ought to keep some less girly drink in the house, whatever that meant, and had brought round a case of the weak excuse for alcohol that Gellert was now offering Kaz. The other man took a sip and hummed appreciatively at the flavour —week old ditchwater in Gellert’s opinion, but there was no accounting for taste— laughing again at his very obviously disgusted glance.

“It will be glorious.” Said Gellert as the witching hour ticked past, gesturing wildly with his half empty glass of firewhiskey, “And our names will never be forgotten.” Kaz whooped, pointing his wand at the almost empty glass bottle he was holding and muttered a charm, refilling it with frothing amber liquid for the sixth time.
“We will go down in history my friend. We’re the children of the revolution.” replied Kaz, but Gellert didn’t react beyond a nod, too fascinated by the feeling of a sudden rush of tingling that poured down his spine like embers from some ghostly fire that Kaz’s words had conjured.
“Children of the revolution. I like that.” He muttered, and conjured a pen to write it down. He couldn't be bothered to find paper but the wall was close enough to reach, and he scribbled it across the lumpy wall, the blue-black ink starkly contrasting on the white of the paint as he fought the drunken scrawl to manage something a little more legible before taking another long draft of his whiskey.

Gellert woke up with the taste of stale liquor in his mouth, his head still foggy as the last vestiges of his drunkenness faded away. Peering groggily at the window to judge the time, he winced and got up, stumbling his way towards the kitchen and a glass of water. Kaz was nowhere to be found, but as Gellert reached the sink he spotted a note floating above the cold tap and after he had washed the burning aftertaste of firewhiskey from his mouth he pulled it out of the air and began to read. ‘Didn’t want to suffer whatever heinous punishment you’ve devised for interruptors of your sleep. Headed back to Germany. Hope you haven’t given yourself alcohol poisoning. —Kaz’ Gellert vanished the note with a laugh, his mood somewhat restored before he conjured a clock face, swearing when he saw the time. It was later than he’d thought. He had only half an hour to get to the Flamel Mansion. Rushing to and fro, Gellert managed to get dressed, pick up his notes, force his hair into something vaguely presentable and make a strong black coffee before apperating down to the office he had taken to thinking of as ‘the floo room’ twenty-eight minutes later, and breathed a sigh of relief as he checked the time. He wasn’t late.

His write-up of the unique aspects of his eternal flame spell could have been described as almost complete, but Gellert was unwilling to stop coming to the lab before his more clandestine research into the similarities of pyromancy to alchemy was complete and he had made at least one copy of all of Flamel’s rare Alchemy texts. As a result, he had taken to combing his research for errors and repeating his experiments in an effort to prolong his working relationship with the Flamels, and it was working. He just needed to keep his temper. The fact that Flamel —Gellert could no longer think of the traitorous alchemist by his first name— had spent the last four centuries financing genocidal muggles didn’t require immediate action. Gellert forcibly reminded himself that he still had to complete his alchemical research before he could pick any political fights as he stepped out of the laboratory for a belated dinner in the half-light of the encroaching dusk. Sitting down to the meal, Gellert cast an invisible potion-revealing charm on his food, only bringing a mouthful to his lips once he had assured himself that it was free of any kind of magical manipulation, and politely commented on the quality of the french dish. Given that he’d had coffee and a hangover potion for breakfast, the food could have tasted like Skele-Gro or Bubotuber Pus and Gellert was so famished that he still would have cleared his plate, but appearances had to be kept up after all, and polite small talk was an art he had mastered long ago.

In the small hours of the following morning Gellert jerked awake to the tell tale crash of breaking glass, his latest fitful attempt at sleep torn away by the sounds of shattering glass. Instead of calling out any kind of stupid question that would let the intruder know he was there, he gripped the elder wand and silently ran through a list of curses he’d been meaning to test out on a proper wizard with a smile. He leapt up from the bed and was in the doorway of his room in one motion, wand raised to cast an interesting little curse that compressed the victim’s lungs which would induce an extremely painful death by suffocation until he got a good look at the trespasser. It was a child. A boy who could be no more than nine, clutching someone else’s wand with blue tinged fingertips, eyes brimming with horrified tears. Gellert disarmed the child and flicked his wand, thinking a quick ‘Petrificus Totalus’ as he examined the wand that he had caught. It seemed familiar, though he couldn’t place where he had seen it before, and he loosened the petrifying spell around the child’s throat muscles to get some answers. “Please sir, please don’t ‘urt me. I only did it for the money.” began the child, the high pitched babble of a strong London accented street rat grating on Gellert’s already frayed nerves.
“Did what?” he growled, biting the inside of his cheek as he fought to control his anger.
“Why, came here o’course. Some french lady’s payin’ me big to snoop around and steal ya letters. I reckoned it for a past lover Sir, jealous like, wanting to check up on you.” Gellert began to laugh. A french woman had payed a small foreign child to steal his love letters? He could come up with a better cover story in his sleep.
“Well that certainly isn’t the truth.”
“It is too—” began the boy, but Gellert’s laughter seemed to have thrown him off, fear and uncertainly dancing in his eyes.

“Ok, fine.” said the boy, slipping out of his english accent into German as Gellert removed the spell on his vocal chords. “It’s not true. None of it is. I’m from Berlin, and Stefan Relictus gave me a hundred and fifty galleons to put this on your wand.” Said Wolfgang, pulling a small grey metal band out of the breast pocket of his robes. After Gellert had threatened to use legilimency, then changed tack and offered the boy a hearty breakfast, Wolfgang had co-operated easily enough, and was soon chatting amiably with the very man he had ben payed so much to ruin. A messily modified diagnostic charm revealed the metal band to be some sort of magical damper that would sap his magic, leaching away the power of his spells and lending the stolen power to the creator of the ingenious little object. Even as Gellert marvelled at the intricate designs he felt ice dripping into his veins as his magic began to crackle with the need for vengeance. Relictus was to be his next opponent in the duelling championships, the fight deciding who moved forward to the semi-final, and he has attempted to cheat his way to victory. Gellert would have to do something about that.
“Very interesting. Your candour is appreciated Wolfgang. I’ll be keeping this,” he said, sliding the strange magic damper into his trouser pocket as he offered the small boy a smile, “But I’m curious about how you came to be involved.”
“Well sir, I’m a kleptomancer, so it’s just business for the likes of me.”
“You are in the business of stealing magic?” Asked Gellert, half wondering if magic could be stolen with a spell that wouldn’t simply destroy the body’s magic system.
“No no, you were a special case sir. It was the only way out from between a rock and a hard place. I had your man Stefan Relictus on one side saying I owed him double, and the aurors on the other going after dad for trading stolen goods, not knowing it was me that stole them goods in the first place.”
“I don’t follow.” said Gellert, and the boy grinned cheekily.
“Well our mutual friend Stefan made all them aurors disappear, and all I had to do in return was slip that thing onto your wand before the nineteenth of the month. I’m just a thief really.”

Gellert mulled over the strange encounter as spring rain lashed the kitchen windows. Wolfgang had left his floo address and offered to provide Gellert with some very useful information on the Parisian trade in illicit magical goods in return for Gellert’s lessons on basic explosives one could easily make with nothing more than a trip to the apothecary, which Gellert felt was more than fair. The boy had been scruffy, talented and reminded him of Franz, the pale boys sharing more than looks. There was a quiet intensity about the child that Franz had always had, and neither of them blinked very often, but that was an idle curiosity for another day. Gellert had things to organise. Snapping his fingers, he summoned a loose sheet of parchment and began to write out a list of possible ways to revenge himself against Relictus’ malicious attempt to sabotage his fight. His first order of business was to find a way to nullify the magical damper, the idea of being that vulnerable not sitting right with him, and he would need to control himself in the duelling ring too. Making a note on the edge of the parchment he smiled and stretched, cracking his back and heading back into his room to get dressed.

Weeks melted past and Gellert found himself spending his days sitting in the sun, the beguiling warmth of a french spring coaxing him out of doors into the strange rooftop world of the city, suspended between the endless silence of the spring sky and the hustle and bustle of the muggle and magical cities spreading out below him. There was a strange sense of solitude above the world, the lamenting cries of the birds his only company when the endless stream of pointless chatter couldn’t be heard and the filthy smog coating the city seemed far away. Gellert had began some research into the arithmancy of secrecy spells, spending less time at the flamel manor to prevent any of his more extreme views from surfacing in front of the zealous couple. The magic of secrecy was an enthralling topic that had caught his attention when he’d found out about Relictus’ plot against him so easily. Misplaced trust could spill a secret, ruin a life, and once shared a secret was impossible to control. It was a terrible oversight to have so little choice in the way of secrecy spells, and though there was the unbreakable vow it carried too much stigma to be wielded by a magical court or government due to it’s dark components, but Gellert thought that he might be able to change that. At the very least, it would be interesting to try.

His nights were spent duelling below the city in an almost frenzied manner and drinking with his many acquaintances, snatching a few hours of sleep here and there and creating his own pseudo laboratory. It was in Switzerland, a tumbledown house high in the mountains which he had warded against muggles, and anyone else that might come wondering past, before making some changes. He had ripped out the floor above the basement and replaced it with an indestructible glass threaded through with an invisible net of stasis spells that would keep any alchemy projects or potions from degenerating over time, while allowing him to ensure that nothing had turned toxic in his absence. If he had used his old wand it would have taken him the better part of a week to add the charmed glass, but with the first hallow everything had been accomplished in a single afternoon, the sheer power dancing at his fingertips eager to be used for something truly complicated. The kitchen had been left mostly the same, the most modern plumbing installed with a flick of his wand in a spare moment the week previously but otherwise left alone. The other rooms on the ground floor to which he allocated transfiguration, arithmancy and charms research, now housed two walls that had been transfigured into big blackboards. The other two walls were left wood, and two days before his next official duel there was only the attic left to change, but it would serve his purpose well enough. Pinning up his scattered notes on secrecy spells on the wooden half of the charms room, Gellert took a final look around, satisfied with what he saw, and apperated away without a sound.

The day before the duel Gellert put his anger aside, wanting to examine the dampening device at the Flamel Laboratory and start work on a protection against such instruments, and when he dusted himself off after the floo journey he was too distracted by his musings to fell the usual stab of anger at the sight of Flamel. They made their way down to the lab and hours seemed to melt past as Gellert cast every diagnostic charm he could think of on the odd ring of metal. It seemed to be connected directly to it’s creator’s magic, as it held a magical signature when activated on a wand transfigured from some spare parchment, but Gellert couldn’t figure out how it had been connected. He had grudgingly asked Flamel for a second opinion and discovered, to his horror, that the magical dampener only took effect if his magical signature was on the ‘wand’, Flamel’s transfigured fake electing no reaction whatsoever, and after that alarming discovery the alchemist had suggested they take a break to have lunch and talk things through upstairs.

“It is strange Gellert, that the device was specific to you.” said Flamel over a light lunch of Bouillabaisse, and Gellert inclined his head, dipping his spoon into the rich soup and taking another sip to avoid having to voice his thoughts. It was the only way anyone would be able to beat him in a duel, and in a way it was a perfectly understandable plan, and a fairly intelligent one as cheating schemes went. If it had been used against any other wizard Gellert would have been intrigued by the magic required to create such a thing, however as it was he was struggling to let the vile little man life long enough to face him in the duelling ring. “But is it not worrying that people are perverting magic in this manner? We are living in dark times.” Flamel’s voice was papery and frail as he continued, and Gellert swallowed back a twisted laugh. This turncoat, this traitorous worm of the church, dared speak of sick perversions? Gellert had found his anger once more, ice flooding his veins as he felt the sting of the many deficiencies of the people he was surrounded by.
“Well I suppose you’d be the expert on that Nicolas.” He managed, his lighthearted joke a desperate attempt to turn the conversation back towards alchemy.
“Yes, and these certainly qualify. This terrible magical stealing ring, the rising crime rates in Paris, the attacks on muggles.”
“Attacks, sir?” Gellert asked, a sinking feeling in his chest as he hoped that they were not straying into the territory he thought they were.
“Didn’t you hear about that church that got struck by lightening?” Replied the ageless man, and Gellert felt his smile calcify on his face, remaining perfectly natural in appearance as hatred crystallised behind it.
“I don’t really follow the muggle news, and I’ve been busy, so I’m afraid I’ll have to admit ignorance here.” he said, his tone appropriately curious.
“A dark wizard conjured a storm, and a church steeple was struck by lightning. Forty-seven muggles died.” Said Flamel, his expression grave, and Gellert swallowed, horror painting itself onto his expression as he fought back the laughter threatening to ruin his act. “It’s a terrible thing Grindelwald. An act of unprovoked violence that the ministry should have been more guarded against.”

Gellert didn’t know how the conversation had swerved so suddenly from a personal attack on him to the church fire he had caused, but he resented it. Flamel evidently didn’t care abut his wellbeing all that much, if he could so easily dismiss what Relictus had attempted to do to him as a product of the ‘Terrible times’ they were reportedly living in, and Gellert found that he quite resented the casual display of apathy. He made his excuses and retrieved the metal magic binder from the laboratory, only half listening to his own words as he bid Flamel and his wife as fond a farewell as he could manage, and stepped through the fireplace and back into Paris. The afternoon seemed to melt away as Gellert reread his latest research on secrecy spells, darkness enveloping the spring evening as the night unfolded her lengthening cloak of shadows as he made amendments to his notes, the margins densely packed with more of his theories inked in his distinctive spiky hand.

As the duel began it took everything Gellert had to stop himself from inverting the man’s lungs, peeling back his skin and casting the Hela Wasting Curse. Instead he forced himself to transfigure the robes Relictus was wearing to stone, disarming him in less than a heartbeat and offering a tight smile as the crowd cheered his advancement to the semi-finals of the German national championships. With a flick of his wand he reversed all of the cloth to stone transfiguration save for a single fold of the other man’s shirt that the crowd couldn’t see, and offered his hand. He tightened his grip imperceptibly on the shorter man’s hand and let some of the sheer rage he felt leak into his eyes as he ground bones together with the force of his grip. “Congratulations.” said the man, his eyes glittering with pain.
“I know what you tried to do Relictus.” He said, releasing the hand he had gripped with a smile, dark promise swirling in his eyes. “And I do not forgive it.”

Chapter Text

Tlaloc materialised at Gellert’s elbow as soon as he walked through the doors of the fight pits, offered him a beaming smile and ushered him straight into the ornate room Gellert had frequented least in the subterranean complex of the blood wraiths. “You’ve created quite a stir Little Yaotlpilli.”
“I’m pleased to hear it.”
“Yes indeed, I can hardly walk the corridors here without the echoes of your speech reaching my ear. It’s an incredible thing, the hope you have managed to inspire.” At this Gellert found heat rising in his cheeks, and he had been on the verge of replying with something palatably polite when he remembered the question he had hoped to ask the Aztec mage this evening.
“Is there a way to turn the power of blood against the wizard it belongs to?” Instead of the smile he had hoped to pull from the older man, Gellert watched as Tlaloc’s face shut down completely.
“It would go against magic itself to try such a thing. The blood makes the wizard, Yaotlpilli, and it is a sick thing to invert the natural order in such a way.” Said the suddenly cold mage, his black eyes emotionless pits as he spoke, and Gellert quickly apologised for his lack of knowledge, aware that if he didn’t fix the situation that his idle curiosity had created he risked his only link to the warded lands of the Aztec blood mages. Gellert couldn’t help but disagree with the odd moral code of not turning a person’s blood against them, as it seemed like it could be one of the most influential branches of blood magic, but he would have to keep that opinion close to his chest for now, not willing to jeopardise the opportunity he had been given.
“I’m sorry for the offence I caused. I lack the knowledge of your customs that would allow me to understand Aztec tradition, so I hadn’t understood the cultural significance of asking a question like that.” To Gellert’s relief, Tlaloc visibly calmed, a small smile gracing his features as he sliced his wand through the air in the tightly controlled half turn of a summoning charm. Gellert felt the magic strike out, something separating it slightly from the summoning charm he usually used, and taking a closer look at the wand in Tlaloc’s hand revealed a glamoured blade. Of course, Gellert found himself thinking, the magical conduit would affect the spell.

The objects that Tlaloc had summoned flew into his outstretched hands and Gellert caught sight of strange runic script before the books were shoved unceremoniously into his arms. He began to thank the Aztec wizard, but his half spoken gratitude was waved away before he could finish, the older man’s scars stretching around a wide smile. “There’s a Nahuatl to French dictionary I created on the top of the pile, and a few history books, but they are all in Nahuatl and I’m afraid that’s all the help you’ll get from me for the time being.”
“Well I’ve always loved a challenge.” said Gellert, his voice carefully modulated to sound enthusiastic but a little biting, despite the rush of sheer joy he really felt.
“The high mages of Tenochtitlan do not wish the road you walk as an outsider learning our blood-secrets to be an easy one, so I am bound to say nothing more.” replied the enigmatic mage.
“Thank you Tlaloc, I’ll tell you how I get on with it.” He said, and after another few minutes of exchanging lighthearted barbs with the other man Gellert found himself on his way once more, the books shrunk down and secreted in the innermost pocket of his coat. Breathing a sigh of relief, Gellert let a grin split apart the polite expression he had been wearing as he allowed himself to display the muted adrenaline rush that came with a properly challenging intellectual problem. He apperated back to his rooms and happily resized the books, putting them reverently on the left hand side of his desk, heavily warding the shelf before he cracked open the dictionary and began to study.

Tracing the blood rune he had just read about for invisibility in the air before him, Gellert apperated to Frankfurt and let the elder wand spin, suspended horizontally in the air above his palm for a moment before it stopped dead, the ‘point me’ spell that Sasha had taught him recently taking effect as his magic found it’s way to Relictus. Gellert set off, following his wand and soon caught sight of the underhanded pathetic excuse for a wizard walking calmly down the main street of the magical district. Speeding up, Gellert strode towards him until they were nose to nose, Gellert taking a second to perfect mirroring the other man’s pace while walking backwards before clicking his fingers and rippling into visibility. Relictus screamed, fright marring his pale features as Gellert fought to control his laughter. “So nice to run into an old friend. How’ve you been Re?” He said, and the few people who had stopped to watch the confrontation continued on their way, laughing or shaking their heads at the antics of the two men, clearly close friends. Gellert grinned and slung an arm around the terrified man’s shoulders. He forced the other man’s face to assume a jovial expression, the glamour sliding into place before he pulled them both towards a pub. When they had both drunk a little and he felt Relictus grow comfortable enough that he would likely make a break for it soon, Gellert smiled and appeared the two of them through the night to the cellar of what he was hoping would become his research facility in Switzerland.

The first thing he did was disarm Relictus, and he had been on the cusp of snapping the other man’s wand before thinking better of it and putting the ugly blackthorn stick to one side. “How did you make that metal band specific to my magic?” He said, and Relictus looked at him, more confused than anything else.
“Don’t you want to know how I came up with it?” he asked, and Gellert twirled his wand lazily, watching as the blood in Relictus’ hand began to boil.
“No. Now answer the question.” He said, making sure to speak slowly, no wanting Relictus to miss anything on account of the unbearable pain he was inflicting. As Gellert bore Relictus’ screams with a dispassionate sigh, his eyes lit up, a brilliant idea forming as he watched the man begin to writhe in pain on the floor of his cellar. He hadn’t had the chance to examine the last person he’d tried the cruciatus curse on, but he’d been meaning to reverse engineer a spell that would reduce the physical effects of long term exposure to the curse for ages, and now was as good a time as any to begin his research.
“Please.” moaned the man, and Gellert healed his hand with a thoughtless ‘finite incantatem’. Before he could curse himself for using a charm that was far too simplistic the crying stopped and Gellert blinked, surprised. That charm was only really meant for reversing simple spells, and certainly wouldn’t remove any prior damage, but the vastly overpowered charm had been elevated by the elder wand to something that acted like a fairly advanced anti-burn-damage healing charm. The power he had was incredible, he thought to himself as he began to appreciate how the strange mixture of intent, unstoppable power and thoughtlessness had just warped a household charm everyone knew into something far more powerful.

Graphs floated around him in the dark of the cellar, the strange effect of his simple charm represented in a mixture of lines and equations whose glowing light threw sharp shadows across the room. Relictus was now babbling questions, looking mutinous and probably planning an escape attempt, but Gellert was sure that a man as weak minded as Relictus couldn’t successfully break through his ward system, so he wasn’t too worried, tuning out the irrelevant noise as he examined the graph of the mutated Finite Incantatem. It was fascinating. Wondering if the same strange results could be achieved with his old wand, he pulled it from an inner pocket in the lining of his waistcoat recast the blood boiling charm. Tired of the noise Relictus was making, Gellert almost cast a silencing charm before realising that it could have unforeseen outcomes on the experimental data he was gathering, and resigned himself to the screams of pain with a put upon sigh. Taking a deep breath and steadying his racing heart, he cast Finite again, and slumped in disappointment when it didn’t have the same effect. Swearing, he jotted down his conclusion and sketched out some perfectly ordinary spell graphs. It was irritating, the way the results he achieved with the elder wand weren’t repeatable by others. It meant he would have to be a lot more careful when doing academic research in future.

Glad that he had got that cleared up, Gellert glanced over the now unconscious Relictus towards the stairs, where the light of dawn seemed to be seeping into his cellar. “Well you’re not going anywhere I suppose.” he said to the slumped figure, but to just to make sure Gellert muttered “Tas.”, sketching the hieroglyph with the elder wand and watching as ropes twisted into existence and secured the unconscious man to a loop of metal he had grown out of the rock wall of the cellar. With a final glance around the room Gellert shot a powerful sedative charm at the unconscious figure as an extra precaution against escape, picked up his notebooks and left. The door slammed behind him, an extra set of containment wards glowing for a moment as he activated them, and Gellert turned, silhouetted by the first rays of dawn for a moment as he stood in the doorway before he apperated back to his flat in France with a crack he couldn’t be bothered to silence, wearily grateful for the Swiss-French alliance of the past four years that had meant that they now had no stringent border controls. No powerful wards stood in between him and his bed, and just then, sleep preying at his heels as he moved through the nowhere between Here and There, for that simple fact alone he was inordinately pleased about the treaty. He hadn’t got around to his actual research, too distracted by the numerous possibilities that the elder wand brought, but the hows and whys of the magic suppressor seemed unimportant now that he had the opportunity to advance the field of healing once more with what he hoped could reverse the effects of the cruciatus curse. He had admittedly got rather off topic even on that research tangent alone over the last few hours but who could blame him? He was in possession of the most powerful Hallow, it stood to reason that he would be curious. Back in his rooms in Paris, he made a few notes on how magic changed when using the most powerful hallow, then summoned a book on the effects of the cruciatus curse on the circulatory system. It was one of the mastery healing textbooks he had bought a few months ago, and he had made his way through the better part of a chapter before wondering if he had any food left in the house for breakfast.

Not finding anything in the cupboards, Gellert rubbed his face tiredly and applied a glamour to the dark circles smudged under his eyes, not wanting to appear as if he had been up all night. Gellert closed his eyes and apperated to a street corner not too far from the nicest breakfast place Vinda had ever found, pulling the loud crack from his apparition with a brief thought. He had just sat down when a glance at the muggle newspaper had him shivering, a deep set fear that had haunted him since childhood taking hold once more as his right eye began to burn with terrible certainty. ‘Delcassé Secures British Alliance For France.’ The words swam before him and he began to shake, his mouth filling with the bitter metallic flavour of blood as corpses bloomed before him and trenches cut jagged lines through Europe, landships crawling across the horizon to spit fire out at the world. Drifting back into awareness, Gellert realised that he had failed. Whatever war was coming that he had been so busy shoring up support to prevent would come. He had seen it for as long as he could remember, had always known that the muggles would try to kill each other at some point, but he hadn't realised how little time he had. He had thought it would be further away from the present, had thought he had years to change the course of history, but somehow the french muggle Delcassé had locked the events of the future into motion, and now there was only the chance to mitigate the damage it would cause. Feeling sick, Gellert stumbled from the cafe without ordering, sparing only the barest of glances for the fearfully staring muggle customers as he left.

When he had at last reached the sanctuary of their rooms, Gellert’s first thought had been to write to Vinda, but before he could do more than address the letter, the floo flared green and a letter shot towards him. He cracked the seal with shaking hands, wondering how and when he and Vinda had become so in tune with each other that they synchronised their correspondence as he began to read. The tone of the letter was warm and fairly happy, but the cramped slant of her handwriting told a different story. Vinda was highly distressed and trying to hide it, but the press of the pen belied a stiff hand, probably from some sort of duelling injury, and her thin spiked handwriting was both angry and fearful. When Gellert reached the end of the letter he put it down onto the table with a worried frown, wondering what his friend was hiding from him and how much she was really suffering.

He knew the summer had been hard for her, and school couldn’t be easy when everyone knew her best friend had experimented on another student with fatal consequences, but he didn’t know how to help. Gellert put his head in his hands and rubbed at his temples, wondering if he should have pressed Vinda more to speak about her problems and how he could help her when he had no access to the school. Albus would have been better at this, the emotional side of a friendship. The thought hit him at a vulnerable moment, the bond twisting in his chest for a fraction too long for Albus not to notice on the other end of their connection as he tried to put the discomfort from his mind, biting his tongue and forcing the idea away. He was perfectly capable on his own. Ignoring the bile rising in his throat, Gellert pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment and began his response. Despite his mounting horror at the day’s events, he kept his tone light and reminded Vinda frequently that he would always be there for her, and of their plans for the future. After a second’s deliberation, he left out the dark vision that had coloured his morning, not wanting to worry his friend, instead ending the letter on his plans for research into the cruciatus curse and how a theoretical healing spell he was working on could potentially reverse some of the worst damage.

After sending the letter Gellert felt much better, despite the fact that he hadn’t really addressed any of his worries, or found a subtle way to solve Vinda’s. As he felt something in his chest relax, he realised quite how much he had been missing Vinda. Cixi kept bringing him dead rats, and as much as he appreciated the gesture Gellert felt that Lamellar would think the gifts much more considerate than he did, and Vinda sounded as if she was barely holding it together. Worry scraped at the inside of his skull, but against all odds he found himself drifting off at his desk and when he jerked into a wakeful state once more the sun was hanging low in the sky. It took a moment for Gellert to reorientate himself and figure out what had woken him, but when he had rubbed the sleep from his eyes and taken a second look around the room he spotted it. A newspaper, balanced precariously on the lip of the floo box. Gellert picked it up with mounting trepidation. It was in English. Gellert’s heart soared, hope flooding his mouth before he could stop it as he flicked through the paper in search of the slanted looping handwriting that had etched itself across his soul. When he found it his pulse seemed to roar in his veins, the thumping of blood through his body deafening as he fought to process what it said. A pale rendition of fire flickered and leapt up towards the sepia storm inside the photograph. ‘Extremist Anti-muggle Faction Grows Bolder On The Continent.’ the headline was damning, and in the wide margin Albus had written three words that tore a hole through Gellert’s chest.

‘Was it you?’

Gellert crumpled up the paper, sparks dancing at his fingertips before he forced himself to dissipate the destructive magic, leaving the paper undamaged. With a tap of his wand the newspaper was ironed flat once more, and Gellert got up with a heavy heart to put it with the rest of his collection. He had been collecting newspaper cuttings of interest for years, and had a section of the rotating library case dedicated to them, but somehow this seemed different. Before he had quite realised what he was doing, he had tapped a sheaf of papers and he watched, removed from his own actions by a wall of transparent ice. Crystals of brilliant blue the same shade as Albus’ eyes grew out of the thick black leather his magic had conjured as a binding. Gellert closed his eyes and tapped the newly bound book once, hoping that the sheer power of the elder wand would modify the copying spell properly based on his intent. He put the thick book he had just created under a corner of his mattress without checking if his charm had worked, not able to bring himself to wonder if all of the notes he had from Albus had transferred themselves into the book or not.

He couldn’t reply to the question Albus had sent him. He wouldn’t let himself. After what must have been hundreds of letters Albus sent him three words, an accusation. He couldn’t honestly be expecting a response. Brushing aside a tear, Gellert readied himself for bed and did his best to ignore the guilt-inducing cocktail of suspicion and hurt echoing down the bond from Albus’ side. That night he dreamed of a phoenix made of paper and starlight and woke as the sun rose with the bitter flavour of regret thick on his tongue.

He needed to get hold of a time turner. Days had blurred together as the semi-final duel date approached, Gellert dividing his free time between the blood pits and his books fairly equally. Fitting in semi-regular research sessions at the Flamel lab when he could manage it, sleep seemed to be a distant memory as April drifted into May and overblown blooms appeared in every window box in the city. It was five days before Gellert remembered that he did in fact have a tim sensitive private research project currently wasting away in Switzerland. He didn’t want Relictus to starve to death before he had the chance for further research, and it had been a shock to discover that in his absent-mindedness he had almost let that happen. A time turner would solve all of those problems. Too often Gellert found himself seriously close to losing a duel in the blood pits due to sheer exhaustion, and he couldn’t afford for the same thing to happen in the semi-final of the German Nationals. After downing a pepper-up potion late that night, Gellert began to formulate a plan.

Time turners proved much more elusive than Gellert had expected. He had assumed that any suitably highly ranked ministry official would be issued with one to maximise their productivity, but it was apparently more complicated than that. If Gellert were in charge he would give one to anyone who was expected to work more than a set amount of hours a day, as well as any academics that applied for one given their research was government facilitated, but the current method made far less sense. The use of time turners was a highly regulated affair, the Time Office guarding the thirty they had with a zealous fervour that Gellert couldn’t deduce a logical reason for, and he found himself growing steadily more irritated by ministry bureaucracy as he applied for one in France, and then Germany without success. He disliked having to steal one when there was a paper trail connecting him to the potential crime with a clear motive, but it looked as if it were the only option he had left. He had been on the point of trying his luck with an overpowered summoning charm despite the incriminating magical residue it would leave behind when he remembered Wolfgang, the strange little thief he had met before his duel with Relictus. If anyone in Paris could get him a black-market time turner, Gellert was willing to bet a considerable sum of galleons that that child would know.

“A time turner? Off the books?” repeated the irreverent child the following afternoon, eyes as wide as saucers, “Not possible. No one can get one of them.” Gellert swore bitterly in Russian before thanking the boy and apperating back to France. It had taken a surprisingly long time to find the child in Germany, as the address he’d given Gellert had turned out to be false, and Gellert didn’t want to remain in close proximity to the source of his irritation when he quite liked the boy. Deciding that he could do with some quiet time for research and relaxation, Gellert donned his shabbier robes, slung a few relevant notebooks and reference books into his satchel and apperated from France to the house he had renovated in Switzerland.

Before Gellert began his spellwork he cast several diagnostic charms on Relictus, who was coming round after Gellert’s roughly administered nutrient potion. He had owled Franz for three, not sure of the dosage he could safely give the odious little man but not quite caring enough to ask. After healing the rope burns the idiot had twisted into his own skin in an escape attempt, Gellert was satisfied that he was in good enough health to participate in Gellert’s healing project. “Cru—” before he could even say the second syllable Gellert was interrupted.
“You’re sick you know” The conversational tone the other man had achieved was fairly impressive under the circumstances, and Gellert had almost offered a compliment on his acting skills before he shook away the tangential thought and attempted to return to the task at hand before being interrupted again. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because you tried to cheat me of the national duelling champion’s status. Seven thousand galleons, acclaim and a public platform. I told you when you lost. I do not forgive.”
“But why like this? Why some sick experiment?” Asked Relictus, his playing for time growing desperate.
“For the greater good.” The phrase hung in the air for a moment, Gellert forcing down a pang of hurt and relishing the fearful expression on Relictus’ face.

“Crucio.” The incantation was soft, the word falling from his lips easily with an easy familiarity as he focused his mind on the task at hand as echoes of the previous summer bloomed behind his eyelids.
Wasting no time, Gellert cast a modified version of the diagnostic charm he had used on Ladislav the summer previously that would create a replica of the patient’s nervous system and watched the shifting play of light caused by the torture curse. The rot-sweet flavour of the dark curse threatened to send Gellert into a soporific trance, but he forced himself back towards total awareness by extracting three graphs from the spell displaying Relictus’ nervous system. The first showed basic pain levels, the second extrapolating permanent damage over time from the first. The final graph showed his heart rate, brain function and blood pressure compared to a normal wizard’s readings, and Gellert watched in fascination as the three graphs snaked up and down in tandem, the pain levels directly proportional to both permanent damage and heart rate, and inversely proportional to brain function. Too busy jotting down a copy of the floating graph with the next five minutes accounted for with projected changes in Relictus’ state, Gellert didn’t notice until readings on all of his graphs dropped to zero that Relictus had been quietly dying as he studied the trends in the data he had gathered. Putting a powerful statuses charm on the corpse, Gellert cast a general cleaning charm at the spot on the floor where the body had been slumped and made his way upstairs, his notebooks floating up after him as he pocketed the elder wand, the body stored in a cold box until Gellert had time to perform a full autopsy.

Gellert had a smear of chalk on his forehead where he’d rubbed the beginnings of a headache away with a dusty hand and a wide smile on his face. He had worked through the night and most of the next day, but he had it. He finally had it. The key to representing his curves graphically had been to plot each component against time, then rearrange the two equations for one larger one. This process was repeated until he was satisfied that he had a general equation for the effects of the cruciatus curse, as well as one for each of the individual effects. Unlike the spell graph, each individual component effect on the victim was represented by a non-circular formula, meaning that a reciprocal could be found. Gellert was giddy with the knowledge that he had just played the foundations for once more achieving the impossible. It was thought that because there was no way to block the graphically circular ‘unforgivable’ curses there wouldn’t be any way to reverse their effects, sufferers being forced to wait until the symptoms of over-exposure faded with time, but that would no longer be the case. There was only one problem. He had no way to test how well his healing charm would work. In hindsight Gellert could see that he should have kept Relictus alive, but it shouldn’t be too much trouble to trial his spells in a healing centre somewhere, and he was around ninety-eight percent sure that his arithmancy would work in practice. Closing his notebook with a satisfied smile, Gellert felt a sudden wave of exhaustion and could barely muster up the strength to apperate home.

Without thinking he let his magic pull him through space, and as a consequence when he opened his eyes he was in his mother’s sitting room, not his rooms in Paris. Brow furrowed, Gellert wondered how he had avoided the Swiss-German border wards without shattering through them, but before he could come up with a plausible explanation he caught a deliciously gingery aroma wafting its way out of the kitchen. Following his nose, Gellert didn’t think to announce himself and he had quietly sat down at the kitchen table before Bathilda or his mother turned round. After his mother’s shocked screeching had died down and Gellert had got his slightly manic laughter back under control after she had eventually spotted him, he apologised and found himself wrapped in a cautious hug. It hurt how fragilely his mother was treating their relationship, but as Gellert relaxed into the familiar comfort of his mother’s arms he realised that it didn’t matter. He would rather have his mother’s tentative hug than nothing at all, and however uneasy their relationship had become, it was still far better than the Rosier’s, and he was grateful for the fact that they had got back to this point. Bathilda’s hug was much more robust, but the strikingly familiar smell of Bagshot Cottage made the bond in his chest twist painfully and he had to pull away far sooner than he’d have preferred.

“How have you been Gellert? We’ve missed you in Godrick’s Hollow.” Asked Bathilda.
“Excellent thank you.” It took all of Gellert’s willpower not to ask for clarification on Bathilda’s use of ‘we’, but he managed to bite down on the question, explaining the premise of his current research project at the Flamel Lab to distract himself from the burning questions that that horribly uncertain plural had invoked.
“That sounds absolutely fascinating Gellert,” remarked his mother, and then took him entirely by surprise by asking a few very well informed questions about some of the advanced alchemy he’d been using to study his eternal flame spell.
“How do you—”
“I do have an alchemy mastery. I know you’re wrapped up in you’re own genius most of the time, but the rest of us aren’t entirely stupid you know.” She said, expression smug as she completely wrong-footed Gellert.
“You have an mastery in alchemy? When did this happen? Why didn’t I know about it?”
“Well I did have a life before you came along you see, and during those years I did many wonderful and interesting things, of which was the study for an alchemy mastery was one.” His expression must have shown his utter shock because his mother covered her face with her hands, shoulders shaking with ill-suppressed laughter.
“Close your mouth dear,” added Bathilda with a wry smile as Gellert’s mother began to laugh in earnest, “You’ll catch flies.”

After eating what felt like his weight in food and peppering his mother with questions concerning the part of her life she nostalgically referred to as ‘pre-Grindelwald’, Gellert apperated back to his flat in Paris, too tired to even change his clothes before falling into bed, exhausted. That night he dreamed of a road twisting through the sky and a girl’s laughter. He found himself flying and then tumbling downwards, the dream shifting as he landed on the wet stone cobbles of a Parisian alley. LAZARUS. The word had been painted white against the soot-blacked brick of the railway arches, and a young boy turned to him, a plea in his eyes. Gellert’s vision faded in and out, sepia tones overlaying the already muted colours of his vision before melting away again as the short boy reached out a hand towards the cracked brick arch, his hope sending his pulse roaring through Gellert’s mind at double time. “Lazarus, please help me.” Four words, spoked in a voice that didn’t match the boy at all, the high pitch a dead giveaway of what he was, and what he wasn’t. Gellert felt an immense wave of sadness for the muggle boy, but before he could pinpoint what part of the 'Petite Ceinture’ he was underneath the vision began to fade away into insubstantiality.

When Gellert arrived at the official duelling ground in Berlin he couldn’t help but smile. Imari, Yagana and Sasha had turned up, as well as a few of Sasha’s friends that Gellert vaguely recognised from his infrequent visits to his cousin’s place in Moscow. He made his way towards them, hoping to talk a little before the duel started, but he accidentally set foot on the violently red competition sands of the semi-final arena and as his opponent was already there, the duel had effectively commenced. He walked confidently towards the centre of the arena and smiled as his opponent mirrored his actions. She was a fair skinned witch, her riotous dark curls framing a pretty face that she seemed to be utilising as a second weapon. Luckily, Gellert was immune to that kind of attack. He shot a silent stunning charm towards her and she frowned before attempting another beguiling expression.
“Sorry,” said Gellert, his amusement clear in his voice even as the crowd wolf-whistled and cheered, “I’m just not stunned by you’re beauty.” As he made the joke her face twisted into a flinty expression that only half-disguised her slighted pride.
“Degenerate Sodomite.” That was an interesting response, it was really quite atypical for a witch. He let his features curl into a cruel grin as the crowd fell quiet, anxious for the fight to start.
“Thats me sweetheart, but at least I’m not a mudblood.” He said, his voice pitched so that only she could hear, and then ducked a spell he couldn’t identify before tapping his wand against the floor. The sand wave he had created once before in the blood pits rose again, but he hadn’t accounted for the extra power the elder wand would provide, so he was as surprised as anyone else when a wall of sand six feet high raced across the duelling ground.

His opponent wasn’t down for long, back on her feet, spitting red sand and looking murderous a few short moments later, but Gellert was ready. He had used his time wisely to draw a rough rune circle in the sand around him which would return whatever spell she threw at him to her while he went on the offensive. A hex that was barely legal on official duelling sands whistled past his head and Gellert laughed, watching with glee as it was turned against her. The reflection forced her to throw up a shield charm, and Gellert couldn't quite suppress his laughter. Hardly able to believe that a fully grown witch had only used the standard shield charm, he smiled and sent a stunning spell at her head, followed by a rapid-fire triad of disarming charms. One was aimed purposely at the shield, the other went high the same way the stunner had, and his opponent’s shield absorbed both, but the third disarming charm found its mark, hitting her right kneecap and sending her wand spinning into his hand. It was over. He had won. The cheering of the crowds was deafening, not the echoing cry of the blood wraiths in the very bowels of Paris but a thunderous roar of sound from thousands of German witches and wizards that could be heard far above, the wide blue skies of late spring vibrating with the sound. Gellert swallowed back the urge to make some sort of speech, closing his eyes as the addictive feeling of recognition flooded his veins and the commentator announced his progression to the final.