"What if we fail? »
For a time, only silence answered the question. Like the darkness, it filled the small congested room where it had reigned supreme for many minutes, unfazed. But, like everything in this world, it was destined to end any second now.
Albus looked down at the boy in his arms, who had just questioned him in a veiled voice. To question him, or to question the surrounding void, it was not very clear, but Albus didn't care. He took the question for himself. The other boy, then, was huddled in his friend's arms, his eyelids modestly covering his bright eyes that had the annoying habit of seeing far too far. He grabbed the arms around him with his icy hands, as if they were the last thing that would save him from drowning.
And maybe it was, Albus thought. His friend Gellert was not a big fan of nighttime anguish. Actually, of the two of them, it was rather the British boy who, haunted by the image of his mother's corpse and his sister's deadly parasite, used to wake up in sweat, in the middle of the night and in the middle of his own screams. Gellert, on the other hand, was not the type to abandon himself to such trivial and human states as anxiety, doubt, fear or regret. It was better than that.
But that night wasn't most nights.
Albus carefully and lovingly observed the puny figure against him. It was so far from the proud and untamed Gellert Grindelwald who, armed with his passion, faith and visions, was only waiting for the inevitable opportunity to seize the world in the palm of his hand. In fact, anyone who had ever laid eyes on this far too strange boy came out of it with the conviction that nothing would ever be able to stop this clairvoyant spirit.
It was surely, moreover, for this reason that Albus took advantage of the sight of his weakened lover. Of course, the suffering of his better half did not delight him in any way, and he would be willing to sacrifice everything he did not have so that Gellert would never again be prey to the slightest negative emotion. But the knowledge that the image he had of his lover, at that very moment, he was the only one who had ever had the honor of observing it, filled him with an indefinable sensation that swelled his chest. Of all those who, in their lives, had had the chance to meet Grindelwald, whether his teachers, friends, relatives, enemies, or even ordinary passers-by in the street, no one had the opportunity to see the slightest weakness, the slightest flaw, the slightest crack in the strong and dazzling figure that the ambitious young wizard presented to the world.
Now, at that moment, it was his soul, wounded and trembling, that offered itself, naked, to Albus' gaze and arm. No one else would have said the words "what if we fail? ».
To no one else.
"We will succeed."
Slowly, tenderly, Albus stroked his lover's blond hair with his fingertips. He would have liked to kiss this temple that he was gradually discovering, bit by bit, lock by lock, but he knew that Gellert was not in the mood. The outpourings of affection had never been effective in reassuring or encouraging the German boy, while nothing worked more on the British one than a gentle caress. So Albus forced himself to use words. He was not as virtuoso as Gellert with them, but he made the effort for his lover.
"With me by your side, how could it be otherwise?"
Gellert didn't seem particularly satisfied with the answer. Nevertheless, he finally let go of Albus' arms, without getting up, to the latter's great relief. He simply rolled on his back, so that his head was on his friend's lap, his eyes in his own.
"You never know what might happen tomorrow.
-Albus asked, worried by his friend's concern.
-No. Of course not. I would have told you that."
Once again serene, Albus resumed his gentle caresses, passing from the temple to Gellert's angular cheek.
"But, vision or not, anything can always happen. We don't know if we'll still be together tomorrow. We don't know if you will still believe in our visions, or if you will stand against them.
-I would kill myself with my own hands rather than stand in the way of our dreams, rather than stand up to you! Albus answered, with a very slight touch of despair under tenderness."
This was not the first time that Gellert seemed to doubt Albus' devotion and Albus despaired of ever being able to prove to his lover how much he means for him.
"Shh, I know, I know, I know..." murmured Gellert, taking Albus' hand in his and gently stroking it to calm him.
Albus remained silent, but the anguish was still latent in his heart. Gellert always seemed to want more evidences, but it became impossible for the British boy to provide them. Was it his fault that there were not enough words in the English language as in all the others to explain how he felt every time he laid his eyes on his lover?
Gellert, who seemed to consider that he had sufficiently appeased his friend, resumed in a whisper, as if not to disturb the night.
"I'm just saying that... you never know. It is by always questioning everything that we reveal and feel injustices. The doubt of established and certain things is the sine qua non condition for achieving our vision. And the consequence is..."
He did not continue. There was no way he was going to say "that I doubt you too, Albus". His lover already had enough self-esteem problems and their relationship was unequal enough so that he didn't have fun adding to it with impunity. No, he preferred to keep silent. He didn't really know what Albus was putting behind this suspension, but it must have been less violent than he had imagined, since he saw his friend relax and smile at him with tenderness.
"I know. I understand, Gellert. And if proving my full commitment to you must be the fight of my life, it is the most noble thing I can imagine."
Gellert refrained from pinching his lips. This unconscious gesture was always a sign of his frustration, and Albus knew how to read these expressions very well. However, the Germanic boy did not want his lover to think that his words did not touch him. On the contrary. It just wasn't what he needed right now.
"I... I know, Albus. I have no doubt about that. On you, anyway. But on the world.... On others... It's now that I need certainty. Not at the hour of our death when we will only have to contemplate our accomplished work. Now. Before it all begins....
-What exactly do you expect from me? I'm glad we made this blood pact. If you want a second one, I'll do it. All you have to do is ask.
Gellert unconsciously tightened his shirt, below which he could feel the heat emanating from the pendant containing their mixed blood.
"No. I don't want a second one. The one we have suits me very well.
-I... I don't know, Albus..."
This conversation, which had been born in silence, returned to silence.
Gellert had a problem but no solution. He could not expect his lover to know the darkness of his conscience and the visceral doubts that beset him. At least he suspected that Albus knew them, but he could not expect him to appease them, to succeed in one summer the only feat that Gellert had not accomplished in sixteen years.
But Albus Dumbledore was a genius who was inspired by nothing more than Gellert Grindelwald.
"In times of doubt, and uncertainty, when the temptation will be felt in me to stand in opposition, all I would have to do is remember this summer. Remember that night. A memory is all it takes to fight anxiety.”
Gellert didn't answer. He knew the stupid passion his lover had for barstool poetry. If he had to identify all the naiveties he was capable of debiting, he would never get out.
"Gellert, please, pay attention to me."
The boy immediately complied. He recognized this tone, this clarity in the voice. It always foreshadowed a reminder of her friend and lover's real brilliance.
"A memory," Albus continued, weighing each word calmly. “This memory. That we can remind ourselves in times of uncertainty. Like a second chance. »
The German boy straightened up. He had the impression that he was beginning to see the dazzling idea of Albus, but he was afraid that if he tried to name it he would lose it. Then he kept quiet, all the intensity of the world in his eyes resting on his lover.
"We lock up this memory. Tonight. Like a drawing. Unalterable. And when the need arises, all that remains is to make this image present. So that it can insure our souls. And becomes our second chance. And then, failure is no longer to be feared, since it will only become the key step in a future victory."
The silence resumed for a few moments. Gellert put the words back in order, retraced the idea in his head. And the confident smile came back to him.
"You propose... That we lock up a memory of ourselves, today. Which can be reinvoked if we ever fail a first time?"
Albus did not answer. This idea was the darkest magic he could imagine. He, originally, would have preferred to confine his feelings and certainties and remember them when they fail him. Of course, he suspected that Gellert would understand it differently. But seeing the delighted and reassured smile of his lover, he did not have the heart to defend his own point of view. So he simply followed Gellert's. Things were always simpler that way.
Gellert jumped up, without any consideration for his great great aunt who was sleeping on the ground floor, in the room just below his own. With a brisk pace, he began to walk back and forth in the room, trying in vain to keep pace with his thoughts. Albus lit a candle from his wand, not without sighing discreetly. He would have preferred that his lover come back against him and that they could fall asleep like that. But it was impossible to get Gellert to give up on an idea, especially one as crucial as the one he was working on right now.
"What is important, Gellert said both to himself and to Albus, is that this memory should have no connection with its living replicas, but rather that it should be absolutely hermetic to the passing of time. Not only must the object not age, because we do not know how many years or even centuries it will take before we are recalled, but the essence of remembrance, namely us, must also be absolutely beyond the reach of the outside world, so that the defects that may have developed in the hearts of our elders do not tarnish our second chance. So when we come back, without memory of the future, without resentment, without precedent, without precedent, absolutely virgin, we can pick up where we left off.
-If we need to come back! The British boy couldn't help but correct, now leaning against the top of the bed.
-...If we need to come back. We will also have to make a promise today. The one of not judging our past mistakes. Of course, we must learn from them, but wherever fate may have taken us, we must not blame the mistakes of a past that has never been really experienced on the other. You know what I mean?
-Thus, we must create an image of ourselves at fifteen years old, that we add to it...
-Fifteen years? »
Gellert stopped as he walked and stared at Albus for a second. He seemed to be waiting to see if his lover would understand on his own, but he didn't seem to want to make it any easier.
"Yes, it's... I mean, I already told you about it. I have... a file. In Germany. A revolution is never without troubles. When we are summoned, we will probably have many enemies. I don't know what the political and judicial system will be in place at the time, but I might as well take away as much of their weapons as possible. If my return is known by the governments - in case they are still in place, of course - to be able to claim that, from my point of view, I have never done what I am accused of doing in Germany... It could be a plus..."
Gellert almost expected Albus to sigh or look down, disappointed. The British always had a sharp moral sense and he hated anything that reminded him that Gellert did not have the same one. However, this time Albus only nodded.
"An image of our fifteen years...
-Yes, that's right. Our own feeling, now, absolutely sealed until it awakens. And the promise to forgive the past, and to stay united for the future. »
Gellert was exalted.
He felt his magic and enthusiasm boiling in his body, making each of his hairs stand up. The intelligence of the idea, the perspectives it offered, filled him with the most intense satisfaction and excitement.
But Albus was far from following him in this wild joy. He had a gloomy face and something similar to sadness could be seen in his eyes. Gellert knew this expression all too well; his lover displayed it as soon as he mentioned the less shining sides of the Greatest Good. Necessary and unavoidable aspects.
But Gellert loved this great naive boy too much. Despite all the advantages that Albus presented for him, he managed to love him sincerely. His great weakness according to him. He didn't really want to admit it, but he promised himself to spare Albus as much as possible. Not only to keep his devotion, but also not to see the same sad look that now haunted these features made to be bright and happy. If, to calm this trouble, Gellert had to do the dirty work himself and fix the truth a little so that it would not be too hard to face, it was a modest price to pay.
The German boy slowly approached the bed until he sat down next to Albus. Gently, he leaned over and kissed his lips tenderly. He knew that he had the gift of making his lover forget absolutely anything. He savored the sweet taste against his mouth for a few moments before leaving it. Just enough to cross Albus' azure gaze, but not enough to give his poor victim the opportunity to come to his senses.
"If this is the only way I can be sure that you can get absolutely everything you deserve in life, Albus, I would even do it against your own will..."
The boy did not answer, his eyes lost on the lips that he wanted to take back. He stepped forward, hesitant, and Gellert did not have the heart to refuse him this small favor. He let him kiss him for a long time before moving further away.
"Are you following me, Albus?