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Et si on échouait ? [eng version]

Chapter Text

PROLOGUE

 

"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.

 

            Most nights.

 

            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.

-No..."

 

            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.

-So what?

-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?

-Always....

-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?

-Always..."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 1

 

"Professor Dumbledore wants to see us.

-What?"

 

            Harry turned his eyes away from his rock in the middle of a fight with Ron's bishop and turned to Hermione and Ginny who had just entered the boys' room.

 

"Dumbledore. He wants to see us.

-It's not like top secret meetings anymore? Are we allowed to come now?

-It would seem so. You should have seen Mom's face. It looked like she had just swallowed a Acid Pop when she asked us to go get Harry.

-Me specifically? asked the interested person as he stood up and grabbed his sweatshirt so he wouldn't get out in his pajamas.

-I don't think so," replied Hermione. I think he wants to see absolutely everyone. The whole Order was gathered downstairs. Come on, hurry up! »

 

            Harry nodded and quickly left the room, following Ginny and Hermione. For once, when someone was finally going to talk to him, he wasn't going to take the risk of arriving after the action. So he encouraged Ron to speed up the pace and the four teenagers rushed down the stairs with a strange mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm.

 

            All quickly found themselves in the living room, where the Order had been gathered. Many barely familiar faces mingled with the regular inhabitants of the headquarters. Harry, accompanied by Ron and Hermione, went to sit on the couch not far from Sirius.

 

"Why does he want to see us?" Harry breathed, feeling Ron and Hermione bending over to listen too.

-No one knows that. But something is happening. Kingsley said there was something going on in the Ministry. Something related to Dumbledore. In the greatest secret. Everyone knows there is something, but no one knows exactly what.

-He's going to tell us, do you think?" Ron asked from the other end of the couch.

-Why else would he have summoned us?

-Well, it's just that it's not often Dumbledore says things. Generally, he prefers to keep them to himself.

-Professor Dumbledore tells us exactly what we need to know. »

 

            The trio jumped at the sound of Lupin's voice behind them. Harry clung a little more to Hermione to give way to the newcomer. Lupin seemed even more emaciated and exhausted than usual, his crumbled dress hanging on his arched shoulders. Harry was about to ask him for news when Dumbledore finally entered the living room, creating an authoritative silence around him. Everyone was waiting for the words of their leader.

 

"Good evening, everyone. First of all, I would like to thank you all for coming despite the very short notice it was possible to give you. Everyone was able to answer the call and that says a lot about the investment and passion you offer to this order. However... whatever desire I may have to remain on such light words, you see me tonight forced to tackle a much more delicate and obscure subject... Something happened this weekend. »

 

           Immediately, the mood dropped a notch, and Harry found himself shivering in his pajamas. He now regretted not having taken the time to put on a little more than just a sweatshirt.

 

"Those of you who knew me before 45... and unfortunately there are not many left, may know a little bit about the story that links me to the wizard Grindelwald. »

 

            Harry looked around, but everyone seemed to understand what Dumbledore was talking about. He hesitated to tap Hermione's elbow to ask her the question, but he decided to wait until the end of the meeting, too eager not to miss anything of Dumbledore's words, which were so rare these days.

 

"The others, you probably don't know that Grindelwald and I met briefly at Godric's Hollow, long before we became the men we were destined to become. If today, none of this remains in our memories, since our enemy relationship was much more important than the brief encounter decades earlier, this is not the case with physical evidence. Indeed, until yesterday, there was a picture, only one, representing both of us, from that time at Godric's Hollow. A photo that should have been harmless but unfortunately fell into the wrong hands. »

 

            A long silence followed. Harry had trouble seeing how a picture could be important enough to require a crisis meeting. To his great relief, he was obviously not the only one asking himself such a question. Everyone watched Dumbledore with a cautious look, not understanding what the old man was getting at.

 

"There are still many mysteries surrounding this story. The who, how and why are not yet resolved in any way. Of course, assumptions can be made, but at this stage I think it is healthier to stick to the facts. And the facts are as follows. Last night, late at night, two Aurors were deployed to investigate a suspicious trace of magic in a remote corner of the London countryside. And if they failed to find the perpetrator, they discovered two unconscious bodies and a blank photograph. After several examinations, it turned out that the two young men found were actually Grindelwald and myself at the time of the photo. »

 

            Again, an unbearable silence fell, but this time it was not the result of a dramatic effect created by Dumbledore, but rather of the shock and astonishment of the audience.

 

"What do you mean?" finally asked an anonymous old witch who had just vocalized everyone's thoughts.

-It seems that an extremely powerful spell has been cast on the photo to bring back to the present the memories locked in the film.

-Like Riddle’s diary?” Harry intervened.

 

            He blushed immediately, feeling all eyes on him, but Dumbledore simply continued without worrying about the intervention.

 

"The situation is very nervous in the department.

-That's for sure, commented Sirius, who seemed by far the most relaxed member of the assembly. With two Dumbledore instead of one, I can't even imagine Fudge's face when he found out. »

 

            The living room was filled with a slight laugh that made the atmosphere more bearable and Dumbledore offered a sparkling wink to Sirius. It was finally Remus who came back about concern.

 

"But do we have any idea who did this? I can hardly imagine the power it takes for such a spell...

-Do you think you-know-who can be responsible?" Professor McGonagall breathed in a white voice. Who else would be powerful enough and crazy enough?

-But what would be the interest of You-Know-Who to bring them back? He should rather flee everything related to Albus.

-Perhaps it was the Dark Wizard Grindelwald who interested him, Remus tried. Maybe he had no idea who the other person in the picture was. After all, few people know that you knew each other...

-The Dark Lord has no interest in seeing a competing Dark Wizard appear. »

 

            It was Snape's whispering and deep voice that had just spoken with a tense smile that looked nothing near amused.

 

"Even less a wizard of the magnitude and popularity of Gellert Grindelwald.

-Severus has a point," noted Moody. “Even today, the echoes of Grindelwald's words are resounding and he has many followers across the West. Grindelwald, even now, could build an army with passion equal to the one You-Know-Who could build with fear and intimidation. »

 

            A new silence was created, each one digesting Moody's words. Suddenly, their future seemed to take on an even darker hue. Harry would not have believed it possible, between Voldemort's return and his eventual dismissal from Hogwarts. And yet... This year was really not going to go easy on him

 

"What do you think, Professor?" asked Molly.

 

            The whole living room turned like one man towards the old director, waiting for his words like others for Gospel.

 

"I think it's too early to speculate on who and why. What matters right now is to get these two boys back.

-Even Grindelwald?! hiccupped an old, crumbling gentleman who seemed to come alive again in this fearful jump.

-He may be the most powerful dark wizard of all time, you are sure you want him by our side? asked Remus, more measured but just as uncomfortable.

-It is better to have him with us than against us, Snape whispered.

-That's very true," Dumbledore agreed. But even more importantly, we must be aware that the boy we are talking about is only 15 years old and we cannot judge him for crimes he has not yet committed. Keeping him with us not only ensures that he will not be on the other side but also gives us a great opportunity to make him an ally. And in the upcoming war, an ally like him could be what makes the difference between defeat and victory.

-Does he justify allying himself with a murderer? McGonagall asked.

-With a murderer, no. But with a boy whose uncertain future can change completely depending on how he is treated, yes. This justifies it. »

 

            This part of the discussion seemed to close, leaving everyone with their thoughts and fears for the future. It was finally Moody, always down to earth, who spoke again.

 

"Where are they now?

-Retained in the ministry, Albus replied. Awaiting interrogation.

-And how are we gonna get them out of there?

-I would need the help of all of you who work in the Department. The only thing to do and try to impose justice, even in the closed procedures that will be put in place to manage this case. Fudge does not yet have the status of a dictator, and he must submit like everyone else to the law and logic. Technically, nothing can be held against these two young people. It will simply be a matter of proving it.

 



 

The light.

 

Too much light.

 

Too much light.

 

            Albus had not yet opened his eyelids, but he already had the impression that he was blinded by the unbearable intensity of the light that easily crossed the thin membrane of skin that protected his overly sensitive eyes. His eyes far too used to the darkness.

 

What had happened?

 

            The second before he was with Gellert, in the night and the silence of their room. And, a heartbeat later, which now seemed to him to have stretched over several eternities, Albus found himself... there. He didn't know where "there" was. But it wasn't his room. And he didn't feel Gellert by his side.

 

Gellert.

 

Where was he?

 

            This is the thought that forced Albus to open his eyes. Painfully. But with the determination of despair. Where was Gellert?

 

            The return of his sight did not give him the slightest answer. After passing through the shock of the torrent of light, the young man discovered that he was lying on a rough bed in what looked very much like a cell. One would have thought it was just a room without furniture, but the straps Albus could feel on his chest, legs and arms informed him about the nature of his situation. Wherever he was, he was a prisoner there. Gellert was right, the revolutionaries were never well received.

 

Gellert!

 

Where was he?

 

            Albus forced himself to twist his neck to get a better look at the room where he was confined. Nothing. White everywhere. On the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and the door. Other than that, the bed on which he was restrained. White too. And his clothes, a white hospital tunic. Nothing else.

 

 

            He began to feel fear despite himself.

 

"Gellert!!! »

 

            At least that's what he would have wanted to scream. But only silence escaped from his lips. It was then that the young man realized that he had something against his mouth. Some kind of gag, probably. Enchanted to let in and out air without obstruction, but effectively suppress noise. He couldn't say anything. There was nothing he could do.

 

            Albus, ignoring everything that could make sense, began to scream in vain at his gag.

 

Someone!

 

Please!!

 

Someone!

 

Anyone!

 

Gellert!

 

GELLERT!

 

            The silence of his cries frightened Albus even more than the straps, the light, or the whiteness. He felt this horrible silence weighing against him, suffocating him, threatening him. There was something deafening in that. Albus was made deaf by the unbearable sound of his blood beating against his temples and his heart palpating. He could feel his fingers shaking and his vision blurred, resulting from his anxiety and the hypertension that went with it. His silent screams no longer made sense, no longer had a purpose either. Someone had to come! Somebody had to hear him!

 

            Fulfilling a wish with dramatic irony, the door opened and a silhouette, dressed in white, the lower part of the face hidden behind a medical mask, and the upper part of the skull hidden by a charlotte, approached the boy screaming in silence. Nothing in this newcomer was engaging or reassuring. Albus stopped trying to scream, but only because fear effectively made him dumb. He was there, completely at the mercy of the stranger, unable to defend himself, unable to shout, unable to beg. He didn't feel his magic. He didn't feel Gellert’s presence. And he had no fucking idea what the hell he was doing there.

 

            The anonymous figure approached him without a word and began to examine him with a professional coldness that was difficult to bear. Albus nevertheless noticed that the person - a man, it seemed - reduced physical contact and proximity as much as possible. Obviously, the stranger did not want to stay with Albus any longer than necessary, but the young man could not define the reasons for such behavior. Was it out of fear? Or was it one of those methods of soft torture where depriving a prisoner of human contact would inevitably drive him mad? In both cases, it was an observation that had to be kept in mind. The second thing Albus noticed was that at no time during the examination had the silhouette used its clearly visible wand at the waist. This meant that the enchantment that blocked Albus' magic - he realized it the second he woke up - also extended to the magic of others. It was probably placed on the entire surface of the cell. The most effective way to do this was through runes. If Albus could find the runes, he could probably modify them and free himself.

 

            But all this did not answer his three main questions. Where was he? Why was he there? And who was keeping him there? Nevertheless, Albus managed to calm down slowly. He still didn't know anything, but at least his brain seemed to return to a normal rhythm, pushing fear back into a remote corner of his mind.

 

            Well, what was the last memory he had. He had opened his eyes in that white cell and felt like he was waking up from a very long sleep, like those nights of 10 hours when you wake up and feel like you're being reborn. But he had to remember the condition in which he fell asleep. He knew very well, of course, that sometimes violent and brutal shocks, physical or emotional, could alter memory in the short term, but he felt that he was missing nothing. Before he lost consciousness, he remembered that he was in Gellert's room at Godric's Hollow. He was with his lover and both of them had talked about....

 

            If he had not been tied up, Albus would have suddenly straightened up in shock. Instead, the straps tightened magically around him when they felt the muscle activity underneath them. But Albus did not care at all. All his thoughts were turned towards this memory that came to him with a disconcerting clarity. Photography. They had taken pictures of themselves, and... nothing. He didn't remember casting any spells on it. No memory after the blinding flash of photography... It meant... It necessarily meant... That it was him, the photo!

 

           They had succeeded! They were the memory that was to remain! They were the second chance!

 

            As soon as this revelation was understood, all the moral and ethical fears about Albus' forbidden act of magic vanished, driven away by his victorious joy. Yes, it was dark magic, but they had succeeded! They had achieved a magical feat that no one before them had ever achieved! They had made history, definitely!

 

            Albus had to force himself to take a deep breath to calm his intoxicating satisfaction. There was a time for celebration and a time to get out of trouble. All right, let's think calmly. The big question was, who were the ones holding him in this cell. If Albus had no answer to give, he could already guess some conclusions. First, it was likely that those who were holding him were not the ones who had "taken" him out of the picture. He was indeed treated here as a highly undesirable prisoner. What reason could someone have to bring something back to life that they had no desire to have? Then, of course, there was the possibility that we might want to use him, that we might need him. But if he had been brought back to help, he would not have been treated like that, quite the contrary. No. The most likely outcome, according to Albus, was that someone had brought him back, but that he had been recovered along the way by the organization that owned the cell. So it made him two unknown, the one who held him, and the one who brought him back. For the second case, Albus assumed that this was not in any way the future version of himself. He had no proof, but he knew that nothing could steal something that Albus Dumbledore cared about. Nothing and no one. It was probably pretentious, but it was no less true. It meant that at least one person, apart from himself and Gellert, knew about the picture... And so about the extremely dark magic it was locking up...

 

            The plan with Gellert had been simple, on paper. Be innocent. Make them believed it wasn't them who bewitched the picture. The picture was ordinary. Someone had simply had to throw a powerful curse after the fact, but it was not their fault... Of course, all this was false. The reality was that it was indeed Albus and Gellert who had charmed the photo from the very beginning. The object was a time bomb, only protected enough not to be unlockable by the first one to arrive. But anyone with a minimum of common sense and a little bit of magic power was able to "recall" it to the present. That said, if they had planned the lie to be served - "it's not us, it's someone else" - they hadn't imagined a situation like that. They had planned to be recalled by their future self. Or at least, in the case where several centuries have passed, be brought back by a third party who would be there when they wake up to provide them with some explanations. They had not planned to be brought back by a person who would have vanished into thin air before they became known.

 

            Thus, a person who knew the truth, knowing that they were the guilty ones, walked around freely, able to do anything with this information. This fact represented the main danger, from Albus’ point of view. As soon as he got out of here, if he got out of here, it would be imperative to find this stranger. And convince Gellert to help him. After all, his lover had the unfortunate tendency to minimize the use of black magic as a reprehensible action...

 

            Gellert....

 

            This was not the primary question, but it was undoubtedly what Albus cared about most. Where could Gellert be? The only thing that was certain was that he had returned at the same time as Albus. The boys had made sure that one could not be recalled without the other. But after that... only the assumptions still held. The first was that he had been "recovered", like Albus. It was obvious that those who were holding him would not let them have shared cells. It was therefore very likely that Gellert would be held somewhere in the same building as him. Maybe a wall was the only thing that currently separated them. Or maybe he was as free as a bird. Maybe Albus was the only one who needed to be imprisoned. Maybe he was the villain that history had retained, and Gellert a hero...

 

            This thought painfully encircled his heart. He did not want to imagine a future where he and Gellert had not known a shared destiny.

 

            Albus wanted to shake his head from left to right to chase away that nasty thought, but the strap on his forehead reminded him of his present situation.

 

            The silhouette had disappeared as discreetly as it had arrived, without Albus noticing it especially, lost as he was in his thoughts. His cell was now as quiet and motionless as when he woke up. Unbearably silent and motionless.

 

            Time passed inexorably, but Albus had no way of knowing whether it was slow or fast. However, each second was so painful that Albus unconsciously began to count them. Getting lost in numbers had always been a reassuring habit, for as long as he knew how to count. This appeased him, because the realm of numbers was a mental place in which Albus felt deeply secure, where everything was predictable, and at the same time challenging enough that he would never get bored. When he had nightmares as a child, his mother would come to rock him by blowing the beginning of a logical sequence of numbers that he would always pursue until he fell asleep.

 

            Albus could not stop a tender smile from stretching his lips. He saw his mother very well, late at night, taking up her arithmetic books of her time at Hogwarts, to find tricks capable of pleasing his genius son...

 

            Albus missed his mother terribly. At the end of his Seventh Year, he was convinced that he was now an adult, that he no longer needed parents, and that he could leave childhood and everything else behind. Losing his mother had shown him how wrong he was...

 

            But Gellert had been there to ease his pain...

 

            A new noise, which was all in all of a reasonable sound level but which, in the oppressive silence of the hermetic cell, clattered with a crash, ripped Albus from his thoughts.

 

            The cell door opened to a new silhouette. The latter was less hidden than the previous one. She was a woman in her forties, with brown hair and brown eyes that shone with controlled ferocity. With a sharp and muscular step, she approached Albus, ripped off his gag in one gesture, and, with the same hand, grabbed the young man's jaw to force him to look at her.

 

"I'm warning you right now, kid. You're not going to waste my time. You will answer my questions, and don't you dare lie to me, if you don't want me to use more extreme forms of interrogation. Nod gently if you understand what you're being told..."

 

            The speech was supposed to be worrying, but Albus could not help but be relieved to finally hear a human voice. Nevertheless, he kept his smile off his face. There was no need to further annoy the woman already visibly on edge. He simply nodded, scrutinizing the reactions of his interrogator.

 

"Well, I see we're on the same page.

 

            She took her hand off Albus' jaw but did not release him any further, simply bending over him to remain in his field of vision.

 

"Your name.

-Albus Dumbledore.

 

            He did not play on insolence - that was Gellert's domain - but he answered in a clear and limpid voice that did not betray any fear or pressure, which seemed to exasperate the woman.

 

"How did you get here?

-I don't know, I just woke up here, that's all.

 

            Wrong answer. The young woman grabbed her hand around Albus' jaw again with vigor and strength, sticking her nails into the tender skin of his cheek. She leaned over him until her evil eyes were only a few centimeters away from his.

 

"Don't play that game, boy. The only possible loser is you.

 

            She waited a few seconds, pushing her claws deeper into the boy's flesh, before resuming in an overarticulated voice.

 

"How did you get to this time?

-What time? »

 

            The slap he received was resounding, but Albus forced himself to keep his resolution intact. He had to keep going. Looks innocent. Not only was his life at stake, but Gellert's too. It was out of the question that Albus would let Gellert's ideals and great projects rot in prison for a tiny act of black magic of nothing at all. Thus, he received the slap in silence, letting his eyes open innocently in reaction.

 

"I repeat, how did you get to this time?

-I swear, I don't understand the question! »

 

            He forced a little despair in his voice, but that did not prevent the second slap from flying. That said, he immediately followed. He wasn't supposed to play the smart one, he was supposed to play the victim.

 

"Please, please, I beg you! I don't know what you're talking about! You are who, you want what! I don't have any money! I have nothing to give you!”

 

            The third slap sounded, but Albus could already see a glimmer of doubt in the interrogator's eyes. Moreover, the violent action she had just made had cracked the collar of her jacket, and Albus could see a symbol hanging over her chest. A well-known symbol... the one of the Ministry of Magic. He was in the Ministry! Which meant one thing, legality still had to prevail. At least normally. Once again, other times, other morals. And Albus couldn't know what was legal and what wasn't.

 

"What year are you from?”

 

            The question line had just changed, as had the young woman's attitude. The latter, although always aggressive, seemed to be trying to understand the situation, rather than pushing Albus down.

 

"What do you mean, what year did I come from? Same as you, as far as I know!”

 

            Again, the woman grabbed her jaw.

 

"What year are you from?!

-1896, Albus muttered between his clenched teeth.”

 

            She released him and straightened up a little.

 

"And what year is it?

-1896, last I heard.

-No.

-No?

 

            The young woman was immersed in her own thoughts, her dark eyes calculating at high speed. Albus saw it as an opportunity to retrieve some crucial information.

 

"Madam? Why are you asking that? He started. We can't be in'97 already. I can't have slept for six months!

-Not six months, no.

-So how long?

-Hundred years.

-What?!"

 

            And with these words, the young woman left the cell, leaving Albus alone with himself, and the weight of a century of unknown events during which everything could have happened...

 



 

            An indefinite period of time had elapsed since this shortened interview, but if he relied on the frequency of meals, Albus thought that he was entering his second week.

 

            He had still not been freed, but someone had to take pity on him and he has been allowed to stand up. The strap table was gone. Now he was dressed in a kind of camisole that held his hands trapped in his back, but gave him the freedom to walk in the space of his cell. If, at first, he had been delighted to be able to stretch his legs, now it was a real ordeal. He was constantly exhausted and had to force himself to walk a little every day to avoid losing too much mobility, but the lack of contact was beginning to affect him seriously, especially since the only thought to keep him company was "where was Gellert?” These words ran through his head until they lost their meaning, but they were always accompanied by a heavy feeling of anguish.

 

            However, approximately nine days after his awakening, something new finally happened! A person entered the cell. She was dressed in a white Mediwizard coat, but less masked than her colleagues.  All those who had entered the cell so far had only remained long enough to deposit a liquid meal tray before retiring immediately, but this woman only had a folding chair in her hands. She was relatively tall and slender. Her ebony skin and hair stood out sharply with her pale grey eyes and, when she approached Albus, she did so with the calm gait of those who know they have nothing to fear, which changed pleasantly.

 

            Albus was lying on the padded floor, too tired and dizzy to really stand, but the woman crouched down at his height and grabbed his elbow.

 

"I'll help you sit down.

 

            She began to pull on his elbow, passing her hand over his waist to support his weight more. Albus managed to get upright long enough to sit down. The world was spinning around him, all that white blinding him, but he was relieved to have a little something new in that cell, and that someone spoke to him in such a warm voice that, although professional, soothed him gently.

 

            The woman also straightened up, throwing her hair back, and went around to put herself in the boy's back.

 

            "I'm going to have to handcuff you so I can take off your camisole.

 

            She obviously did not ask him for his opinion, but at least she had the merit of considering him enough to speak to him and inform him of her plans. So he let himself be handcuffed without a word, and the woman was able to unbutton the back of the camisole, finally freeing him from this heavy and suffocating straitjacket. Albus was able to take a long, deep breath of air for the first time since he woke up here. Finally, she removed the gag that had been given to him and which, in the absence of air and soup, filtered any sound emanating from his mouth. He was so happy to be rid of it that he could not prevent a grateful nod towards the Mediwizard.

 

            The latter squatted down in front of him and began to take his vital functions by gentle but effective gestures.

 

"What is your name?" Albus finally asked in a frighteningly castling voice.

 

            He was not really interested in the woman's name - he certainly did not forget that she was his enemy - but knowing if she had the right to talk to him and give him her name could teach him a lot about his situation.

"Eshe. I am an Mediwizard, I work for the Ministry.

-Have you been in charge of my case from the beginning?

-No, I just received your file. As you are going to be questioned, you must pass a medical examination so that I can judge your suitability for this hardship.”

 

            Albus was silent. Apparently, the first interrogation with the brunette who loved slaps had not been considered a sufficient hardship to justify a medical examination. The young man had no way of proving it, but he was willing to bet that his meeting with the fury remained off the record. A Ministry that had to undergo a medical examination certainly did not have the right to slap its prisoners.

 

"Do you feel dizzy, nauseous, headache?" Eshe finally asked as she got up and put away her stethoscope.

-A little bit of all three. It's all that white, I think...

-You're about to be moved to another cell, don't worry. This place is an isolation room. We are not allowed to keep you here for more than seventy-two hours by law.

 

            Seventy-two hours? Albus was convinced that he had been there for well over seventy-two hours. He doesn't say anything, however. He preferred to keep the information to himself. Obviously, this Ministry was subject to strict legislation. He knew he could probably use this sprain later on as a means of pressure.

 

"Do you have any other symptoms that bother you?" asked Eshe, looking at her file.

-No, not especially. Just tired?

-It's normal," said the woman, "it's isolation. But... It's strange..."

 

            She looked through the file, squinting her eyebrows, doubt shading her grey eyes.

 

"What?

-It's just... there are no charges against you. This part of the file is empty....

-What does that mean?

-It means that, technically, nothing is keeping you here.

-Except for the handcuffs, you mean..."

 

            Eshe had a slight laugh, but nothing that could illuminate her worried gaze. However, she eventually closed the file.

 

"You might want to discuss this subject with your interrogators. In the meantime, I see no reason to consider you unfit to answer questions. »

 

            She ticked something on a sheet of paper and, taking the file under her arm, she headed for the exit.

 

"Wait, madam!" Albus called out to him with an unpleasant hint of despair in his voice.

 

            Eshe turned around and looked at him.

 

"Yes?

-Does it..."

 

            He hesitated. He was already hearing Gellert's voice in his head reprimanding him for putting his plan in danger, but he didn't care. He needed to know.

 

"Is there anyone else held up here? Someone who arrived at the same time as me?

-Sorry, I can't talk about any other patients.

-But there is another one, isn't there? Another patient? »

 

            Eshe did not answer and left the cell, leaving Albus alone with his frustration.

 

            However, the wait was not as long as he had anticipated. Just a few minutes later, he had company again. Indeed, the door of his cell soon opened to let in two male silhouettes. The first was short, dressed in a dark green dress cut like a suit, a thick moustache weighing down his upper lip and doing little to reduce the developed size of her nose. The second was more imposing and muscular, bald, and dressed in a dark purple garment, finely decorated with sinuous motifs, adorned with a single circular earring that shone with a golden glow. The chairs floating docilely behind the two men stopped sharply at the entrance of the cell and one of the two newcomers, the one in the purple dress, went to get them and set them up facing Albus. Finally, everyone was able to sit down and a tense silence settled in.

 

            Albus took advantage of this moment to detail the men in more detail with a kind smile, knowing that this waiting was harder to bear for them than for him. Finally, it was the little mustached man who intervened in a sudden and nervous voice.

 

"You know what you're doing here, don't you.

 

            Albus felt that the man had almost said his last name but had held back, as if embarrassed. The young man was willing to bet that his interrogator knew the other Dumbledore by any means and therefore had some difficulty using that name for someone else. But did he know his alter ego because he was a close acquaintance or because he was well-known? Putting this information and question in a corner of his head, Albus answered in a soft and warm voice.

 

"No, actually. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

-Don't be a smartass with me," the mustache said. This is not the time for your witty lines and half answers, Dumbledore.

-I'm not here of my own free will, sir. You were the one who took me there. So it is you who can tell me why you made such a decision..."

 

            The meeting with Eshe had given him back some strength, and he now felt able to stand up to those who were facing him...

 

"I'm not asking you why you're here, here!

-Ah....

-Why are you here, now! That's what I'm asking you!!

-My bad, but admit that the question was confusing.

 

            The little man was now a ball of nerves. If, of course, Albus played a little bit of the effect of his words, he knew that he was not the only one to blame. He did not know the circumstances of this conversation, but the young man easily guessed that they were tense and prescient and that, in the minds of these people, the name Dumbledore should not be associated only with positive things. However, the other man, the one who had remained silent until now, had a much calmer and more open posture and Albus understood, just by his body language, that he was trying to make him understand that he had an ally in him. But the prisoner was not going to give his trust to the first one who came along on the sole pretext that he seemed to be calm enough.

 

"I'm sorry, but I don't have an answer to that question.

-I think you don't want to give that answer.

-No, I assure you! I'm more lost than you are. The person, there, who was there before you....

-Dr. Jelani, pointed out the bald man to his colleague.

-... No, not her. The other one. The one who didn't have the right to question me but who does it anyway..."

 

Albus immediately saw the little man stretch himself even more, his face closing with fear. Touché....

 

"She told me it was 1900-something. But it doesn't make any sense! I was at home, quietly, and all of a sudden... I'm here. But I don't understand why! I don't have any answers! But you, you must have them! You can probably tell me what happened?! »

 

            The plan was clear. Look innocent. All the way to the end. He and Gellert have no idea how they got there. This will remain a mystery for which they are absolutely not guilty. On the other hand, Albus had enough confidence in his occlumency to be sure that no one would ever be able to see through his lies.

 

"But you must have done something! It has to be your fault!!! People don't travel like that in the future, by accident.

-What is the last thing you remember? interrupted the bald man with his calm and deep voice, in contrast to his colleague's hysterical nervousness.”

 

            Albus smiled. This question allowed him to start telling the story he and Gellert had invented for themselves. It seems that the bald man had deliberately asked this to help him...

 

"I was in my room. There was my neighbour's great nephew... I don’t remember his name, we just ran into each other and Bathilda - my neighbour - asked me if I could lend him ingredients from what was left of my potion classes... We were in my room, and I showed him my skin of Boomslang and there was a flash. Then... nothing... When I opened my eyes, I was there. I had the impression that I had only blinked but... but... but it was as if several centuries had passed...

-A flash? repeated the wizard in purple.

-Yes. Kind of like a camera... Exactly like a camera.

-Was there anyone in this house other than the two of you? Someone who may have been able to take your picture?

-Come on, Shacklebolt! cut off the little moustache. You're not going to tell me that you value these stories at all!

-We have to explore every path, Mr. Fawley. Moreover, we have already submitted Professor Dumbledore to the Veritaserum, and he claims that he has no knowledge of such a spell placed on him, much less by himself. The same answer that was given to us by Mr. Grindelwald. »

 

            The nervous man frowned as he grumbled. Shacklebolt had to see the opening he was waiting for to continue.

 

"We have to face the facts, what Professor Dumbledore was saying seems to be true. It's probably someone who stole the picture and cursed it to bring it back to the present. It requires great magic, he is certainly a wizard of phenomenal power.

-If you tell me that nonsense about You-Know-Who....

-Absolutely not. All I am saying is that Professor Dumbledore could not have put in place such magic in view of the constant surveillance to which he has been subjected since June. Playing with time is a very serious crime, I want to arrest the guilty party. But Professor Dumbledore seems to me to be a victim in this story.

-I don't see anyone else who could benefit from such a situation.

-To consider him guilty would be to admit that we are not in a position to monitor him, despite the fact that all our staff have been requisitioned for this task.

-Maybe it's him!

 

            Fawley pointed his short, nervous finger at Albus' chest, who was listening very carefully to the exchange. He had just learned more about the external situation in a few seconds than in a week. So his "old self" was a kind of public enemy that the Ministry had placed under surveillance?

 

"Maybe the spell was cast on the picture long before, by him and Grindelwald!" Fawley continued.

-First, this feat is far beyond the reach of a 15-year-old child. Secondly, Professor Dumbledore never did magic outside Hogwarts until he was seventeen.

-The bureaucracy of the time was not as serious as it is today on these issues. It's possible they let it go.

-That they let a spell of this magnitude slip away? »

 

            A vexed silence followed and Shacklebolt continued.

 

"Finally, would you really be willing to consider that Dumbledore may have had anything in common with Grindelwald?

-They were both in the picture.

-Yes, by chance of fate, the Dumbledore family moved closed to Grindelwald's great aunt. But the director was very clear on the issue. During his youth, he only met the dark wizard once, and they didn't even exchange their names. The investigation reports of the time are clear. Nothing on Grindelwald and Dumbledore related to Godric's Hollow.

 

            Fawley fell back in the chair, obviously defeated. Shacklebolt, on the other hand, continued in a soft voice, as if he was trying to soften a child who was a little slow.

 

"The culprit is elsewhere. And it is our duty to find him, and not another.

-Fudge is not going to be happy.

-Probably not. But our duty is to care only about truth and justice. Nothing else. »

 

            Fawley grumbled again as he stared at the ground. Shacklebolt, on the other hand, slowly looked up at Albus' eyes and planted them just one more second beyond the natural. Just enough to say without a word, "I'm on your side”. And Albus blew deeply. He was going to be fine.

 



 

"I'm here to explain to you what's going to happen now. »

 

            According to the delivery of the meals, it had been half a day since Albus' official interrogation, and the man named Shacklebolt had just returned to the cell, this time without his nervous colleague.

 

            He had a dark and hostile look that vanished as soon as he closed the cell door behind him. With a quick but measured step, he approached Albus and took his place in the chair that had not moved since this morning - or was it last night? In a soft, whispering voice, he continued.

 

"I'm here to help you.

-What makes me think that?

-The day your sister was attacked by the muggles, you were by the lake reading rather than watching your sister as your father had asked you to. »

 

            Albus was so shocked that he opened and closed his mouth without saying anything. It was his greatest and most shameful guilt...

 

"How...

-You told me that. At least, you... In a way. Professor Dumbledore gave me this information that only he had to prove to you that I was on your side, of both of you.

-Professor? repeated Albus.

-Yes. Professor and Director of Hogwarts. »

 

            Albus replied nothing. Certainly, he had a gift for teaching, but with Gellert, he had imagined things a little more glorious than that...

 

"What can you do for me?" Albus ended up asking.

-You are already on the path of liberation. Professor Dumbledore took care of everything. He put the right words in the right ears. Everything will be all right. He will explain the details to you in due time.  I'm here to tell you to keep up exactly as you’re doing. Above all, to give the appearance of cooperation with the Ministry but never to give them anything they do not already have.

-Gellert?"

 

            Shacklebolt kept quiet for a moment, looking at Albus.

 

"He's fine," he finally breathed. “He is being held in a cell in Nurmengard, but he will soon be released as well. They have no charges.

-Nurmengard? Where is that?

-In the Austrian Alps. It was the fortress of Grindelwald, now transformed into a prison.

-Like Azkaban?

-Without the Dementors. It's a prison only for Grindelwald's followers.”

 

            Albus felt stunned. The room was spinning while his brain, which understood too much, was spinning at full speed in a vacuum. His ears rang on Shacklebolt's last words that resonated endlessly against his skull.

 

"Grindelwald's followers... in prison.

-Yes," Shacklebolt said without any particular emotion. “This may not have been the case in your time, but today Grindelwald is probably the greatest international criminal of the twentieth century. He was jailed for life for murder, acts of black magic, violation of the status of secrecy and call to violence. »

 

            Albus' breathing was laborious, each puff shorter and tenser than the previous one. He was starting to get too hot and too cold at the same time, causing long shivers that went up his entire spine.

 

"And that's why the Ministry put me under surveillance? I mean, have put my other self under surveillance?

-No, not at all!" Shacklebolt said in astonishment. “On the contrary. The fact that you defeated Grindelwald and freed the world from his influence is one of the reasons why, even today, you have so many allies ready to follow you to the end!

 

            There, the whole room was spinning, and Albus couldn’t bear it anymore. He vomited painfully on Shacklebolt's shoes. He had eaten almost nothing for days, so it was just a mixture of bile and saliva but he had several long minutes of heartbreak and each dismissal was more painful than the last. Shacklebolt did not get upset about it, simply squatting beside the young man and rubbing his shoulders to help him as best he could.

 

"I know, it's a lot of change. I forgot... I forgot that at that time, you were not enemies. Anyway, don't worry, my boy. You're going to get out of here very soon. »

 

            Albus spat a little more bile before sitting down again, sweating with large drops. Shacklebolt, on the other hand, went to the abandoned meal tray and took the glass of water to take him to the young man. He drunk of a small sip, slowly, not to upset his painful throat. Finally, it was Gellert's voice that soothed him a little. Their promise. "Do not retain against the other mistakes that he has not even made yet.” And he prayed with all his heart that Gellert would remember it. That they could start all over again. He hoped more than anything else in the world that Gellert would still have faith in him after that. That this time, Albus wouldn't screw it up. That he would stay by the side of his friend and lover. All the way to the end.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 2

 

"Where are you taking me?

-Uh... I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to tell you, Professor... I mean, sir. »

 

                Albus twisted his neck slightly to see the Auror behind him. The latter did not seem to be more than thirty years old and, even in semi-darkness, one could see the apprehension written on his face with hollowed out features. It should have worried him to be in the presence of a man who seemed to know him when he had no idea who he was, but after being subjected to incessant interrogation for more than a week, he was actually rather relieved to feel calm hands on his shoulders, not grabbed as if he would turn around at any moment and throw his fist in their faces. He did not lack the desire, especially when asked the exact same question for the thirteenth time in a row, but Albus was against violence, so he did not consider all the security measures and nervousness he was subjected to necessary. Moreover, after two weeks tied up in his exasperating white cell, he certainly wasn't going to complain about his improvised walk. He didn't know where he was going, but at least we let him walk.

 

"You know..."

 

                The auror had leaned behind his back, whispering something in his ear. He looked around for a moment, as if to make sure no one was around, before continuing.

 

"... They say they'll release you soon."

 

                Albus nodded gently. He knew that the Ministry would not be able to hold him for long, but hearing it from one of his jailers was reassuring.

 

"Thank you, uh...

-Anton. You probably don't remember it, but it was thanks to you that I was able to become an Auror. I didn't really have the grades, but you talked to the recruiter and they gave me a chance.

-You... seem to deserve it. »

 

                Anton did not have the opportunity to answer, since they were just arriving at their destination.

 

"They transferred me in another cell?

-Yes, you were in confinement, in the quarters under high surveillance. They transferred you near the reception desk. They keep you just waiting for your tutor to pick you up.

-My tutor?

-I don't know any more than that."

 

                On these statements, Anton opened the cell and let Albus in. After closing the door, he took off his handcuffs through the bars and, after a last embarrassed smile, withdrew. Albus, on the other hand, turned around to observe his new environment. This cell was much larger and brighter. Long benches ran along the walls, where old alcoholic wizards comatose in silence. Through the bars, he could see a desk with a uniformed supervisor, and behind a double door that seemed to face the hall of the detention center. The exit wasn't that far away, he could feel it.

 

                It had been more than a day since he met his impromptu ally named Shacklebolt, but he still felt like he was hearing the wizard's warm, deep voice telling him about Gellert. Albus suspected that he would soon have to face his lover - Shacklebolt had said they were both going to be fine - but to be honest, the young man was not in such a hurry. Of course, his best friend's absence was almost painful, but he was so afraid of his friend's reaction that he was deeply apprehensive about meeting him. What if Gellert had forgotten their promise? What if he's mad at him? He had after all the best reasons in the world to hate him. Albus himself hated himself for this act, which he had no memory of having committed. Even if Gellert, by some miracle, did not immediately disavow him, he would never forgive himself.

 

I can walk by myself, no need to push me!"

 

                Albus jumped as he recognized this voice. He immediately turned around towards the corridor that led to the depths of the prison and soon - too soon - he saw such a familiar silhouette emerging in the shifting shadows. Framed by two Aurors much older than Anton could have been, Gellert suddenly appeared, visibly morose. His two guards held him by an elbow each and dragged him to the cell where Albus was. They opened it, pushed their prisoner quickly into the gap and rushed to close it at full speed before finally removing Grindelwald’s handcuffs. The latter slowly massaged his wrists, looking furiously at the two Aurors as they walked away without a word. Finally, he turned around and noticed Albus. When his eyes fell on him, they lit up and the British boy was able to breathe again. Maybe everything would be fine after all.

 

                Gellert quickly crossed the distance between them and took him in a happy hug. Albus closed his eyes, enjoying the simplicity and warmth of the moment. But finally, the young German separated and looked at Albus in detail.

 

"I had no news. They wouldn't tell me anything about you. It was only yesterday that your... alter-ego, finally came to see me.

-Have you seen him?

-Not you?

-No... How is he?

-He's... old.

 

                Albus couldn't help but feel a squeak of perplexity and annoyance encircling his chest. Why didn't his "old self" see fit to come and talk to him? Was he too ashamed of his actions that he could not bring himself to confront his past? Albus could certainly understand it. He himself was not sure that he would ever be able to overcome this shame, which should not be his.

 

"No, Albus..."

 

                The person called out lifted his eyes to see Gellert's, worried, detailing him.

"No what?

-Your look. You think I don't know it?

-What, what's wrong with it?

-You're blaming yourself. »

 

                Albus had nothing to answer so he just looked down.

 

"I thought we had a promise, continued Gellert. Not to blame yourself for the future.

 

                The young British man felt his eyes start to sting, so he blinked several times to contain the tears.

 

"Albus," Gellert breathed in a deeply sweet voice, "please don't do this to me.

-I betrayed you, finally dropped Albus with a shortness of breath and a heavy throat. I betrayed you, Gellert. I'm so sorry! So sorry! You have no idea, Gellert! I feel so ashamed for myself! And I don't even understand how I could do that? »

 

                Gellert took Albus back into his arms, hugging him tightly to bring him back to the present and anchor him a bit.

 

"You don't have to blame yourself. We failed, but that's okay. That's what our second chance is for. You must not let your mistakes overwhelm you but learn from them.

-But I can't even begin to understand how I could do that...

-I... I must have gotten lost on the way somewhere... We both got lost on the way. But now we'll do things right. Can I count on you?

-Yes! Albus immediately cried out, driven by the force of despair. Yes, you can count on me! I promise you that!

-And I believe you. But in order for us to get out of this, you have to pull yourself together, Albus. You have to put all this behind you. You must be entirely in the present. Entirely with me."

 

                Albus reluctantly parted from the warm embrace and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

 

"I am, Gellert. Entirely with you."

 

                Slowly, Gellert touched his cheek with a smile. Albus did not have the naivety to believe that the case was really behind them. It was far too big, far too unmissable. It was certain that they would come back to this subject, that Gellert would blame him in one way or another. But not today. Today, everything was fine between them.

 

"Find yourself another cell, you fucking faggots."

 

                The two teenagers turned to one of the alcoholic wizards who, from his bench, watched them with a mixture of hatred and disgust.

 

"Why?" asked Gellert with a fake innocent smile. "Does it awaken buried feelings in you?"

 

                Albus hated it, when Gellert responded to the attacks in this way by getting into the aggressors' verbal game. The British, for his part, preferred to keep a low profile and go away, apologizing. He didn't want any trouble, but his lover seemed to have a gift for attracting them and taking away from that fact a perverted form of pleasure.

 

                However, this time things did not have the time to turn violent, while a loud voice called them behind their backs.

 

"Grindelwald, Dumbledore."

 

                The two called turned to the origin of the voice. He was an old Auror who must have been well over sixty but who kept the back straight of the experienced soldiers. It was obvious that his angry tone was carefully crafted to give him an aura of power and authority, but the fine minds of the teenagers had no trouble discerning the underlying tensions behind the cold voice. Gellert, for his part, had very quickly noticed that no one seemed able to pronounce his name without a characteristic tremolo in his voice. It seemed that he and his best friend would have to get used to this kind of attitude around them. This did not bother Gellert... on the contrary, he could not deny without bad faith the boost that his ego received every time he heard the reverence and anguish in the voices of his interlocutors.

 

"Yes?" Albus finally asked, a polite look on his face.

-Come on."

 

                Gellert had the reflex not to move but instead to throw himself into a scathing response - he was not given orders like that - but Albus took him with him. The Auror did not bother to handcuff them before opening the cell and, once he had closed it after the former prisoners had left, he left straight for where he came from without checking that the two teenagers were actually following him. But neither Albus nor Gellert had the slightest desire to stay here for too long, so of course they followed in the footsteps of the guide.

 

"Someone told me we would have a tutor... whispered Albus, making sure they were far enough behind to talk without being heard.

-It's not surprising, we're minors after all.

-Surprising, no. But binding... I think it's me. »

 

                Albus lowered his voice again, even though it was not necessary.

 

"I haven't met him yet... My old self, I mean. But I met an ally. He seemed to be working for "me". He told me that we would have a lot more information very soon

-When I met your alter-ego, he couldn't tell me anything specific. It was for my trial, he just came to defend me and disappeared right after.

-Really? Albus wondered. »

 

He had gotten away with it without a trial. After all, no charges could be laid, since the investigation could not hold them responsible for creating the photo. But it was clear that Gellert had to face more resistance on his side. But from there to being on trial....

 

"And? Albus continued. Did it go well?

-Well, I'm here, aren't I? »

 

                The two young people finally emerged into the light. The Auror had guided them out of the detention center, through a stolen service exit, which led to an absolutely deserted Muggle Alley if the two garbage cans and the big black cat stuck nearby on a roof were omitted. It was clear that the government wanted to release its two prisoners as discreetly as possible. Albus did not have time to ask the guard why they were there that the characteristic noise of the Apparition sounded.

 

                A few meters from the trio, a tall, slender man with a silver beard and a familiar blue look had just appeared, looking serene. He smiled politely at the Auror before speaking.

 

"I'm going to take over from now on, Greyson. Thank you very much."

 

                The man named Greyson stared at the old man for a moment with a mixture of apprehension and mistrust before nodding, grumbling a warning, and quickly entrenching himself inside the centre.

 

"So?" asked Gellert after turning to this familiar old man." What do we do now?"

 



 

              The passers-by of the Diagon Alley who stopped this afternoon at the terrace of Florean Fortescue to try to find an oasis within this stifling summer day could see a strange vision. If it was rare to see Professor Dumbledore on the Diagon Alley (or anywhere outside Hogwarts and the Ministry), seeing him under the glacier sign was not so surprising, his taste for sweets being of more than public notoriety. However, what surprised passers-by were, even more than man, his company. It was not uncommon to see Dumbledore side by side with other big names at receptions or official events, but it was well known to all that the old director was more of a lonely figure. The weight of the great geniuses, said certain. So seeing him with two boys who were old enough to be his students was surprising. That being said, the aura of authority that constantly surrounded this man, even in such troubled times, discouraged any curious from staying any closer to the strange trio's sunny table. And even if a more courageous (or less wise) soul had the boldness to approach, the spell of silence that the old man had put up around them would have made any attempt to spy on the conversation useless.

 

"Are we going to get some answers now? »

 

                It was the young Albus who had asked the question, a touch of annoyance in his voice. He had in his hand the raspberry cone he had ordered - because he never said no to more sugar - but nothing in his posture reflected the relaxation of someone enjoying an iced treat on a heavy afternoon vacation. His lower lip was twisted into a disapproving pout and his long, thin fingers were pounding on the edge of the table. His old self - whom he was beginning to appreciate less and less - had dragged them to this terrace without the shadow of any information, and he had been exchanging banalities for a good twenty minutes in a clear tone that the young man found quite inappropriate in the context. Gellert, for his part, a beret stuck on his head to hide his characteristic eyes in the darkness, seemed to be having a good time. He swung in balance in his chair and stared at the old man with a sparkling and sardonic look, following him willingly in his light and caustic discussions, as if he was in no hurry to have an answer to the multitude of questions that were probably jostling through his head.

 

                 Albus knew that his friend was infinitely patient and had this unfortunate tendency to seem to take the tensest subjects lightly. Albus usually loved this attitude which gave Gellert a small rebellious and nonchalant aura, but now he would have liked a minimum of support in this situation. Albus even began to wonder whether his lover was not more in the old man's camp than in his own. The young man, still a philosopher, would surely have taken the time to wonder if one could be jealous of oneself, but he was cut off by Gellert who completely ignored the previous question.

 

"What happened to your nose?

-It was broken, I'm afraid! replied the old man in a light and happy voice.

-How?

-Oh, it's a fascinating anecdote, full of drama and stakes, all it takes to keep an audience on edge, but I'm afraid this is not the time. We have more pressing business to discuss. »

 

                Albus rolled his eyes. He had been trying to bring the conversation back to the important topics for ten minutes, and it had been necessary for Gellert to ask for something else for the old man to finally decide to return to the first subject. But he had to refocus. Something had been bothering him for several days and he wanted to be sure.

 

"Did you send Shacklebolt?

-Yes, I did. Although I would be grateful if you wouldn't mention this relationship to anyone.

-And it was also you who defended Gellert..."

 

                The old man nodded his head. The above-mentioned man turned to his friend. He knew that he had something on his mind and was eager to see the reasoning.

 

"Without Shacklebolt's intervention, it is obvious that I would have ended up in prison at best. And that's not to mention Gellert's case. So you're the one who got us out of prison. But what I don't understand is why. I heard it said..."

 

                Albus hesitated for a second. He didn't like to say that out loud, especially with Gellert's eyes staring at him painfully. But he wanted answers.

 

"I heard you were the enemy of... your Gellert. I mean... the one of your time. Then why do you want us out? What could justify not wanting to see us in prison for the rest of our lives? »

 

                The old man seemed thoughtful for a moment, which greatly surprised Albus. He would have assumed that his interlocutor would have a quick answer, either because his reasons were obvious or because he had already imagined a lie to offer them. But now, the wizard seemed to be really thinking about the question for the first time. Did he really get them out of prison without even having a clear reason? It hardly seemed credible. Yet....

 

"It's a delicate question. Obvious, and yet the answer is not. I think..."

 

                He left a moment of suspension, as if he was lost in his thoughts and memories. And finally he blew, in an almost fragile voice:

 

"Yes. I think I wanted that second chance too. Maybe even more than you. »

 

                Gellert and Albus stared at him in silence, not knowing what to say or what to answer, and it was finally the old man who resumed with a smile in his voice but a melancholy in his eyes.

 

"Things between my Gellert and me, as you call him, are not as obvious as history remembers. There have been... accidents of fate, road departures, inevitable tragedies. Everything went so fast, and neither he nor I were able to get out of it. But that doesn't mean that everything has been denied and forgotten. I didn't defeat him because I didn't love him anymore. On the contrary. I defeated him despite the fact that I still loved him. And at each stage of our fall, I repeated only one thing to myself: if only I could have done things differently. For the moment, everything is fine for you. The fall hasn't started yet. And you would have to kill me before I would agree to participate in the destruction of what I have such a tender memory of. All this could be dangerous, could be destructive. But I have my reasons for trying to guide you to a path that you can both walk, rather than nip in the bud the most beautiful thing that could happen. To the world and to myself. »

 

                Although he still looked like a serene wise man, a strange inflection had come to crack his voice, painfully charging it with vivid emotions, and Gellert and Albus respectfully kept quiet in the face of this unexpected demonstration.

 

"But, let's cut to the chase. My states of mind are hardly on your list of priorities for things to consider.

-I'll tell you what's at the top of my list! cut Gellert who had recovered from the strange atmosphere. The blood pact. Where is it?

-Can't be found.

-How could this not be found? Albus worried. We came back with all our clothes on. I even have my watch, why not the blood pact?!

-Someone must have taken it... The old man answered, trying to delay the revelation. Someone must have taken it before the Aurors found you. You were unconscious for a long time. Who knows what happened in that field.

-Or it is the Ministry! Gellert protested, always ready to accuse the leaders. They keep it to themselves in the hope of using it later as a means of pressure!

-This is a possibility, the old man pointed out, always in the tone of mediation. Unfortunately, not a possibility that we have the opportunity to explore now.

-Then we will create that opportunity, Gellert groaned with a rare aggressiveness. I want that pendant! Finding it must be our priority!

-You're no longer at home now."

 

                The old man had just cut him off with a voice that he managed to make both soft and incredibly dry.

 

"You are in enemy territory," he said. "Everyone wants to see you locked up or killed. Believe me when I tell you that finding the pact is not what you need to do now. We'll find it, I promise you, but first we have other things to deal with."

 

                Gellert seemed far from agreeing, so Albus felt compelled to add with a whispered voice.

 

"And we can always make a second one..."

 

                Gellert didn't answer, but readjusted himself on the chair. It was obvious that although he was letting it go for the moment, he had not yet said his last word. Albus shifted his knee a little under the table so that he could tap Gellert's leg, but Gellert stood back on his seat, looking gloomy, although his hand slowly came to rest on Albus' concealed leg.

 

"So what are our concerns?

-The Daily Prophet edition containing the news of your arrival will be published tomorrow. In less than 24 hours, the whole of England will know, and in 48 hours, the whole world will know. You're going to have to keep a low profile this year. You will need to pose as two normal teenagers, so that the public will forget you a little. As you probably understood, I'm not in a very good place at the moment, which makes you two major targets for the enemies. You'll have to be kept safe.

-In a safe house? For a whole year?

-No, you'll go to Hogwarts. It will be a win-win situation for everyone. This strengthens your role as 15-year-old teenagers, the Ministry is reassured to keep an eye on you, and you will be protected from my enemies.

-Which enemies, exactly?" Gellert asked at last.

 

                Without answering, the old man put one hand in his pocket and took out two long cardboard boxes the size of wands and held out one in front of each of the two boys.

 

"The Ministry broke your wands before I could intervene. But I kept them after 1945. As a reminder of the time before... And by telling myself that maybe they could be useful again somedays."

 

                The two boys did not have to be asked twice and discovered in the cases their wand that they had missed so much in recent weeks. They seemed duller, more damaged too, but they responded with joy to their master, ready to serve again! The old man watched them for a moment, obviously delighted to see them happy, before the seriousness subsided and he spoke again.

 

"You have come at a very opportune time for me, but very harmful for you. You should know that you have just arrived in the middle of a war. A war that you will have to help me win, for the simple reason that it will be impossible for you to be happy or to succeed in anything in a world led by Voldemort.

-Voldewhat?"

 



 

                Lord Voldemort was getting impatient. Seriously impatient.

 

                It has been more than two weeks. It had been more than two weeks since something was stirring in the depths of the Ministry and even he, the Dark Lord, could not discern exactly what it was all about. Of course he sent his spies. In numbers even. He was no man to skimp on the means. But all of them came back empty-handed. Whatever the subject of this unrest, only very rare and indispensable elected officials were kept in confidence. Even Lucius Malfoy, who was a close ally of the minister himself, had returned looking down with nothing but empty hands.

 

                However, the Dark Lord was hopeful this time. No one other than Severus Snape had introduced himself to him, and he knew he was more effective than all those idiots who gravitated around him to gain his good graces. Severus, therefore, was currently standing in front of him in the main living room of the Lestrange mansion. Voldemort, on the other hand, was sitting in the high-backed chair, Nagini wrapped around his feet, his wand in his hand - he had used it a lot lately, with all those incompetent to punish.

 

"I'm in no mood to hear excuses, if that's what you came for, Severus.

-That's good, I don't have any to provide you with.

-Will you be the one who will finally report to me what is happening in the Ministry?"

 

                He insisted with emphasis on "finally" while giving a strong look to a Lucius Malfoy who was not hiding his fear well. Snape continued without worrying about the veiled threat, his dark, neutral face not reflecting any of the emotions or thoughts that could pass through his mind.

 

"Professor Dumbledore told me about it.

-Does this old fool know about it? How is it that he knows before me?!"

 

                A certain irritation was beginning to blow into the chest of the Dark Lord. Since the beginning of the summer, things were going according to plan, everything was going perfectly, but this Muggle worshipper that is Dumbledore always seemed to be one step ahead. Like when Tom was still a school student and the teacher could see through his game...

 

"It concerns him closely," Snape informed in a controlled voice. "He is indirectly at the origin of all the unrest.

-Explain yourself.

-A photo dating back to Professor Dumbledore's youth have fallen into the wrong hands. I don't know which ones, and it seems the director doesn't know either. But someone have used extremely dark magic to bring this photo back to life. Like a memory that have resurfaced."

 

                Voldemort remained silent, internally stunned by what he had just heard. He knew more about black magic than the old man. And he had never heard of such a spell before.

 

"This is what agitated the Ministry," Severus continued in the silence left by his Lord. “The Aurors have found a 15-year-old version of Dumbledore not far from London.

 

                How could this be possible? Could it be that there is a wizard somewhere who knows more about dark magic than he does? No. Unthinkable. There had to be another explanation to justify the fact that a rejuvenated version of Dumbledore made his way through time to come back today. Of course, Voldemort knew a way to do that. But the spell should have been cast at the time of the photo's development, not after the fact. And that it should have been cast by an infinitely powerful wizard. At least as powerful as Dumbledore's.

 

"Oh, the little liar," whispered Jedusor, without any trace of amusement.

 

                Yes, there could only be Dumbledore to be powerful enough to use a spell of this magnitude. Only Dumbledore was able to bewitch the picture. And of course, only Voldemort knew enough about black magic to know it. Dumbledore had skillfully made his move. By using a spell that no one could understand, there would be no way to charge him. But the Dark Lord was not a man to be so blinded. It was obvious that some form of Horcrux was hiding behind all this, and only the one whose soul was the target was able to create this kind of artifact. Thus, Dumbledore entertained himself by lecturing generations of students - including the Dark Lord himself - about the use of black magic and, behind their backs, by creating personal Horcruxes? What a hypocrite! Tom Jedusor had always known that.

 

"Get out. All of you. Except you, Severus."

 

                Lucius, Bellatrix and Goyle promptly left the room, leaving the Potion Master alone with his bad news.

 

                However, Voldemort had no intention of attacking the messenger. His brilliant mind was running at full speed to guess the ins and outs of such news. The first thing that came to mind was who the Professor could have killed? He saw no way that the teacher had enough audacity and ambition to be able to kill someone. Moreover, he had none of the physical stigmas characteristic of Horcrux's creation.

 

                What was clearer, however, was the reason for a return today. Voldemort was not naive enough to think that the 15-year-old would not be used as a weapon against him. He had two Dumbledore as enemies now. That was deeply upsetting to him. Yes, very deeply.

 

"Why liar?" asked Severus, interrupting the heavy silence.

 

                Voldemort could not prevent a hint of fun from being born in the middle of his annoyance. Severus was indeed the only one of his Death Eaters with the guts to interrupt the thoughts of the Dark Lord. And the Dark Lord rewarded boldness.

 

"Because there is no spell that can bring photos back to life. But there is a spell to lock life in a photo. Whatever the old man says, he's the one who's responsible for this situation. »

 

                For the first time since the conversation began, an emotion escaped Snape's control and stain his face with the colors of surprise.

 

"Did he create the picture?

-Yes. Despite what he has been telling you - and, I suppose, what he has been telling the Department - he was the one who created the photo. No one else could have done it for him.

-And you plan to use this information and your contacts to get him arrested?

-No, not at all. If the Minister sends Aurors to arrest Dumbledore, he... or rather they will disappear before they are caught. I prefer to know that Dumbledore is where I can keep an eye on him. Do you know what will happen to the younger one?

-Yes, he'll go to Hogwarts in September. He's only fifteen years old, he's not yet an adult.

-Perfect. At least he'll be out of action for ten months.

-But that's not all, my Lord. »

 

                Voldemort immediately planted his red and wrinkled eyes in Snape's dark eyes. It looked like bad news. And Voldemort hated bad news. What could be added to the fact that there were now two Dumbledore?

 

"He did not return alone, Lord. The dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was with him."

 

                Voldemort would have sat down if he wasn't already. Two Dumbledore were bad news. The old man was a powerful and intelligent enemy. But his morality and high ideals made him absolutely predictable. But Gellert Grindelwald.... Gellert Grindelwald was a completely different category of bad news.

 



 

"I see nothing worthy of admiration in this," Gellert said, his heterochromatic eyes casting outraged flashes of lightning from the shadow of his beret.

- I know it," breathed old Dumbledore gently, "I have no doubt that you greatly disapprove of Tom Riddle’s actions.

-However, you're the one who just said I was suspected of wanting to join him! Why would I want to join a coward who only serves his own interests and seeks power for his own purpose!

-I did indeed say that some people suspect you, not that I suspect you at all. Besides, you have to excuse their lack of knowledge. You are known to have been a very powerful dark wizard. From there, the link with Voldemort is quickly made.

-But I have nothing to do with him! My goal is to free the wizards, certainly not to terrorize and kill them. And I don't care about the purity of the blood, as long as a soul has been blessed with the gift of magic. Voldemort is a conservative. I'm a revolutionary! How could anyone think we could be assimilated?

-You preach to a convinced person. From my point of view, you have made your share of mistakes in the past, but none that can bring you closer to the Voldemort ideas."

 

                Gellert did not answer, but it was obvious that he was still fulminating.

 

"And this Voldemort is going to try to kill us? Albus asked.

-At Hogwarts, I don't think so. Outside, if he has the opportunity, he will not hesitate. However, I know he's scared enough of me that he will not target you directly. His goal is Harry Potter, and he will prefer to go around me to reach him, rather than confront me.

-And you would like us to protect this boy, wouldn't you?

-Your mere presence will protect him. No, first of all, I'd like you to protect each other.

-From who?

-From the Ministry in particular. From the world in general. »

 



 

                Letha had the scoop of the year. No, of the decade!!! She would never have guessed that one day her idiot brother in the Aurors would end up being useful to her. But that day had arrived, and it was Luka who offered her this golden opportunity to impress her boss.

                Since Rita Skeeter's departure from the Daily Prophet, all the apprentice journalists had shown the greatest zeal to hope to stand out and become the new darling of the editorial staff. But it was Letha who was going to succeed. With the draft she had in her hands and was now handing to the boss of the Prophet.

 

PAST IN PRESENT

ALBUS DUMBLEDORE AND GELLERT GRINDELWALD

                The news came last night, but no one really seems to believe it because the revelation is so huge. Indeed, on a date that the Ministry did not wish to communicate, two unidentified young people were found north of Cheshunt. After a thorough investigation by the Aurors, it turned out that the two young men, aged fifteen according to a source close to the case, were none other than Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald. The news made a big splash, especially considering the opposition that Albus Dumbledore, director of Hogwarts, showed to the Ministry at the beginning of the summer and the dark reputation of the greatest dark wizard of the first half of this century.

                After several interrogations, it turned out that Albus Dumbledore was removed from the list of suspects, yet his innocence did not convince everyone. A close contact of the Minister who wished to remain anonymous commented on the case as follows: "You can't help but wonder if it's not a trick. Dumbledore is suspected of wanting to carry out a coup d'état, and having an agent as loyal as himself could well help him in this regard.” However, Albus Dumbledore was reportedly subjected to the Veritaserum, without success; the culprit of the magical act that brought these two boys back remains completely unknown at the moment.

                About Gellert Grindelwald, a trial was reportedly held in Nurmengard, which led to the young man's exoneration. He and Albus Dumbledore will both be free tomorrow morning, and rumors are spreading that they will be arriving at Hogwarts soon. However, apart from the culprit, there are other mysteries surrounding the arrival of these two wizards, including the reason why they came back together. "We asked them about it. "says our anonymous contact " But no clear answer. Some wonder if Dumbledore might not have hidden an acquaintance with Grindelwald. "If Hogwarts' director was indeed known to have defeated the wizard Grindelwald in 1945, their current relationship remains strange, especially when one recalls that it was none other than Professor Dumbledore himself who, in 1946, prevented the death penalty from being imposed on his enemy.

                In any case, the investigation remains open to find the culprit, but it seems obvious that the director of Hogwarts did not give all the answers he had...

 

                The boss read the article in silence, focused on each word as his face marveled. Finally, he looked up to Letha and gave her a carnivorous smile.

 

"It goes right to the printing. »

 



 

"Do they suspect you of bringing us back?

-With haf-word. The truth is, public opinion is not ready to believe that I have anything to do with you, Gellert. Our duel has left too much of a mark on people's minds to be dismissed that easily. Besides, they have no proof. Everything the Ministry had on me and you was destroyed in 1946, as a gesture of gratitude for my service. They no longer even know that we spent a summer together in 1899, and that we made a blood pact. All they remember and have proof of is our duel. But with everything that's going on with Tom riddle, they're looking for ways to publicly discredit me. When you will arrive at Hogwarts, you will have to be very careful with those around you.

-Will we have to pretend we don't know each other?

-No, but you'll have to stick to your story. You barely met each other the summer of your 15th birthday. Nothing more than that. If you became friends, it was only after that. What you need to understand is that you will be constantly judged. On your talents, on your positions, on your decisions. Everyone has expectations of you, and it will be a matter of proving only some of them right. You will have to be beyond reproach this year. And you will have to stay safe.

-It looks like fun!" Gellert ironed with a forced smile.

 



 

"What do you think they're going to look like?"

 

                Harry closed his Transfiguration manual. He had been trying to read for three quarters of an hour in vain, it was time to give up and the question Ron had just asked had also been on his mind for days.

 

"I saw pictures of Gellert Grindelwald in the history books," Hermione murmured.

 

                The night had fallen and they were supposed to be asleep already, but knowing that any minute now, the "guests" they had been waiting for for two weeks were going to arrive and occupy the room just below theirs had not helped the trio to sleep and they had finally decided to give up.

 

"But I suppose he has changed a lot," Hermione continued. “He must have been over fifty years old in the pictures. It was at a time when... well, you know.

-And how was he? Harry asked.

-A little scary, to be honest. He had an ice face. Impenetrable. And piercing eyes.

-I didn't need to see his picture to guess the guy was creepy," Ron breathed. “This guy is the greatest tyrant you can imagine. He did some really horrible things. I can't believe he'll move into the next room.

-Is he really that well known?

-Is Grindelwald that famous? I mean, Harry, do you ever listen in History of Magic?

-Of course not."

 

                Ron puffed at Harry's obvious answer, but Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes.

 

"This year, we will really have to listen. Don't forget about the OWL. How will you learn your lessons if you haven't written them?

-Well, we'll take yours....

-Certainly not, Ron! It is important that you be aware that....

-Hermione? Tell me about Grindelwald, please..."

 

                Hermione took a few seconds to stare at Ron and Harry with the eyes of disapproval before finally deigning to answer the question.

 

"The dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald really began to make himself known shortly after the First World War although his name had already spread in Europe since he had made a revolutionary speech on..."

 

                Hermione stopped suddenly. A heavy silence followed... before being disturbed by noises of doors and footsteps.

 

"No... Do you think it's them?"

 

                Harry did not answer his friend and jumped up to the door. Hermione and Ron followed in his footsteps. They turned off the lamp in their room and quietly slipped into the hallway, trying to stay in the dark. On the landing, they found Ginny, who had already gone to the ramp to see down, and Harry could see the silhouette of the twins on the upper floor. Each of the occupants who were supposed to sleep had apparently woken up in the hope of seeing something of the famous guests.

 

"Shh, Arthur, the children are sleeping upstairs. »

 

                Harry could see Molly's silhouette in the corridor below, but it was impossible to see who was in the hall.

 

"Come in, come in, boys, don't stay in the hallway!" whispered Mrs. Weasley with tense and anxious enthusiasm. "You must be hungry, I've put a little gratin aside. Come in, at last!"

 

                Opening the way, Mrs. Weasley walked up the hallway towards the kitchen. A few rustles of tissue was heard and finally, two silhouettes emerged in the semi-darkness of the corridor. The silent witnesses all leaned over the ramps to try to discern the two new occupants they had been told so much about.

 

                One of the two silhouettes passed in front of a moonbeam, finally offering a view to Harry and his friends. He was a young man of about fifteen years of age with brown hair carefully styled in a serious and somewhat outdated fashion. He had a long, slender silhouette with fragile shoulders but assured support. Harry could not see anything on the young man's face, but he seemed to easily guess the serene expression and clear gaze that occupied him, no doubt possible. As quickly as he appeared, the boy disappeared from the ray of light to sink into the darkness as he walked towards the kitchen, but his absence was replaced by the second teenager who finally came out of the darkness. The second boy was smaller but much stronger. He had the body of naturally gifted young athletes, and it was easy to guess that he would become a proud and strong man. He had a more flexible and feline gait than the first one despite a straightness of the shoulders and head carriage. This paradox denoted a certain relaxation but exulted in a strange mixture of seduction and danger. He had blond hair that was almost white in the moonlight. His hair managed to organize themselves gracefully into an indomitable but magnificent mane, its golden glow drawing in all the light that had the audacity to land on it.

 

                Harry leaned further over the railing to try to see a little more of this boy whose name was being uttered with horror, and he felt Ron and Hermione coming forward too, obsessed with this strange and seductive silhouette. The latter stopped abruptly, like the breaths of its spectators... and slowly the boy turned around, his gaze sticking directly into Harry's, as if he was seeing through the darkness like others in broad daylight.

 

                Harry was for a moment trapped in his disharmonious and bewitching sloes of the color of ice and night. This unknown boy stared at him for a moment and then, slowly, an amused and provocative smile was played on his lips before he turned away and resume his way, leaving the hallway for the kitchen. And Harry found his breath again.

 

"Hurry, let's go," Ron breathed.

 

                Each of the silent witnesses seemed to regain composure and quickly left the scene of their misdeeds, quickly returning to their rooms to pretend to sleep.

 

                They did not whisper a word to each other about the two newcomers, but they knew that each of them was busy with questions and impressions. And Harry closed his eyes, falling asleep wondering if he was anxious or afraid to see those captivating eyes and that dangerous smile again first thing in the morning.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 3

 

            Albus felt like he was in one of those ridiculously exciting adventure novels. To be honest, Albus' life had never been ordinary. But for the most part, it had been relatively "routine". He would never have imagined that he would have become a more or less voluntary member of a secret organization, hidden in a headquarters and wanted by the ministry.

 

            Thus, it is with a strange feeling in his chest that he crossed the threshold of the dining room of 12 Grimmauld Place with his lover and an old version of himself. Apart from the three of them, around the table, there were nine other people unknown to him, except one of the men he recognized as the Shacklebolt who had questioned him.

 

            Slowly, to give Gellert time to pass in front - he had always been the most sociable of them both - Albus approached and sat at the table. One of the strangers, a little redheaded woman, placed two large plates filled to the brim with gratin in front of them, accompanying them with a kind smile behind which the young men had no trouble detecting the tension. However, Albus thanked her politely before refocusing on her colleagues. Apart from Shacklebolt, the old Dumbledore and the redheaded woman - whose name he still didn't know - he could see, on his right, another woman, dressed in a green dress with Scottish motifs and a severe bun, next to a man with a pathetic and exhausted look and a young woman with sweet pink hair and a candid face. Directly in front of Albus, sitting in the place of honor, stood a man with long hair and a steel look. The young man would not have been surprised to learn that these distinct facial features belonged to a Black. Finally, to complete this picture, three men stood back, a scrawny figure with a waxy complexion and hair forming a curtain in front of his hooked nose, what seemed to be a veteran of several wars with his jagged face and animated glass eye, and a last debonair man with a bald head who nevertheless showed a hair as red as the little woman's. This small, heterogeneous group stood in silence and detailed the newcomers with varying degrees of discretion. The old man, clearly the dean and leader of the group, enjoyed the potato gratin lightly, thus offering no support to the two young men subjected to all the intense attention of the room. Finally, it was the veteran who spoke first.

 

"What about the Order? Can we count on them to help us in our mission?

-These two young people volunteered to help us," Dumbledore gently indicated between two bites.

 

            Albus did not remember volunteering for anything, but he refrained from commenting, letting his alter-ego continue.

 

"They will have their own mission to carry out. They can help Harry and protect him from Hogwarts. This will allow them to help the Order while alleviating ministerial paranoia.

 

            Albus bit his lips, and Gellert seemed to follow the same path of thought as him. They had finished school and had no desire to go back. But they could not decently say that out loud. Apart from the old man, no one knew that they were a few years older than they looked, and that they had left school behind, so they could not reply anything and oppose the logic that they should go back to school as they did every year. However, it is not because they were forced to comply that they were forced to appreciate.

 

"In Hogwarts? the little redheaded woman hiccupped . Grindelwald too? "

 

            Gellert said nothing, but Albus recognized this slight tension in the corner of his eye that always betrayed his irritation. His lover obviously had great difficulty assimilating the decline in which his name had fallen, he who had always imagined himself as a hero of the people and leader of revolutions. Albus was so saddened for him, and had only one desire, to scream at the world how wrong they were, how blind they were, to condemn in this way the one who only wanted to free them. However, he knew that his solicitude would annoy his friend more than anything else, so he held back, contenting himself with discreetly stroking his knee under the table when no one was looking.

 

"Yes," said the old man, as if he had not heard the outrage in the woman's voice. “These young people will be invaluable to us.

-Wouldn't Grindelwald be more useful to us as a spy to Voldemort? asked the veteran in a rough but thoughtful voice.

-The Dark Lord, Waxy-Complexion whispered, would never place the slightest ounce of trust in a wizard as powerful as Mr. Grindelwald. Not to mention that their ideologies are so far apart that there is much to believe that You-Know-Who already considers him an enemy. Maybe a man to be shot at sight. It will also be the case for... Mr. Dumbledore junior. It is likely that a target has already been placed over their heads. The Dark Lord will do anything to avoid seeing these two enemies rise up against him.

-This is also how I perceived the situation," said the old man. “And that is also where the absolute necessity to send them to Hogwarts comes from. I don't think they can be safe anywhere else.

-We are more than capable of protecting ourselves.

 

            It was Gellert who had just interrupted, annoyed that people were talking about him as if he was not present. In addition, he could see very well through the old man's game. He knew full well that in addition to their protection, in addition to Harry's protection and the ministry's paranoia, the real reason to send them to Hogwarts was that they could be kept under surveillance.

 

"This Voldemort can send us any army he wants. Albus and I are more than capable of sending them back to him in pieces. There is no wizard who will be able to have the upper hand over us, with or without Hogwarts.

 

            The silence welcomed the young man's confident and sharp statement before the old man intervened.

 

"Mr. Grindelwald has a point. While you should not underestimate your enemies, it is just as dangerous to underestimate your allies. In addition, there is a good chance that the Minister will try this year to remove me from the directorial office. I don't intend to give him any opportunity for that, but if he succeeds, then the presence of these two young people at Hogwarts will be an invaluable asset.

 

            Albus could see that Gellert was holding back from grinding his teeth and understood him very well. This ability of the old man to never oppose himself but to reclaim every word to serve his interest was infuriating.

 

"Is the Minister aware of their enrolment as Hogwart's studient?" the gentleman with the bald head asked.

-Yes. This is perfect for him with the agent he managed to place at school. He thus considers keeping an eye on them, which is obviously better for him than letting them go free.

-Which agent? Albus finally asked, speaking for the first time.”

 

            He could feel the difference in treatment between him and Gellert in a palpable way. When his lover was met only with fear and tension, Albus could only see kindness and tenderness in the eyes that lay on him. He hated it, and a visceral fear was weighing on his stomach. What if Gellert starts blaming him for that? The voice of his alter-ego cut him off in his thoughts.

 

"At the beginning of the school year, our new professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts will have been placed there by the minister himself.

-It is Dolores Jane Umbridge, commented Shacklebolt. Fudge's right-hand woman. Very hostile to Harry Potter. She was there at his hearing and there is no doubt that she was strongly in favor of his expelling.

-If she is hostile to this Potter, she is also hostile to you, isn't she? asked Gellert to the old man.

-It's the least we can say," replied the man in the shabby dress. “If Harry is enemy number one, Professor Dumbledore is the object of so much anger right now. It is likely that this anger will crystallize around you as well, young man.

 

            Albus didn’t know what to answer to this last sentence addressed to him, but Gellert put his hand on his shoulder.

 

"No worries. I'll protect him from these idiots.”

 

            Albus could not contain the delighted smile. He had always felt Gellert's possessiveness towards him. If the latter didn't have much opportunity to show it at Godric's Hollow - where they were just the two of them - it would be different at Hogwarts. And Albus would have lied if he had denied feeling a gentle warmth spreading in his chest as soon as Gellert showed these feelings.

 

            Finally, the school year may have promised some memorable moments...

 



 

           The next morning, all the inhabitant of the Order's headquarter got up much more quickly than usual. As soon as he woke up, Harry was quick to jump to the bottom of his bed and get dressed in a few risky gestures. Even Ron didn't growl or try to go back to sleep, which was extraordinary enough to be noticed. It had to be said that they all had a very good motivation to go to breakfast, other than Mrs. Weasley's delicious bread rolls. So the two friends came out of their room, waited a moment for Hermione and Ginny to finish getting ready, and all four of them went down the floors. When they entered the living room, they discovered a quiet and familiar room, with no other occupants than Molly, Arthur, Sirius and Remus. The latter two were sitting sipping coffee while the Weasley father prepared for work and the mother was frantically dusting the chimney.

 

"Hello, children. Quick, sit down, the toasts are ready.

 

            Hiding their disappointment at the absence of the two mysterious guests, the teenagers all sat around the table and began to eat slowly.

 

"So? Grindelwald and teenager Dumbledore arrived?” Ginny asked with a falsely innocent look.

 

            One could almost have sworn that she didn't already know the answer...

 

"Yes," Remus said in a neutral tone that perfectly concealed his opinion on the subject. “Last night, as planned. But Professor Dumbledore wanted to talk to them until very late in the morning, so you may not see them for a while.

-And? Ron intervened, chewing laboriously. What are they like?

 

            The eyes of all the teenagers shone with interest and curiosity as they all turned to Remus to try to get his first impressions. But Mrs. Weasley cut short their interrogation.

 

"They are like any other young teenagers, and you will behave with them as you should. I don’t want to see any of you harass them with questions, is that clear?

 

            The disappointment now in their eyes, the trio and Ginny nodded and refocused on their plate to try to forget their spite.

 

"... Good morning..."

 

            Heads rose again with hope... and this time it was rewarded! No one other than Albus Dumbledore, or at least a version of Albus Dumbledore, was standing in the entrance to the living room.

 

            His youth was disturbing... Albus Dumbledore was one of those people who were easily imagined to be born old, so seeing in these aspects so young the distorted reflection of a face made to be worn caused the strangest of effects. The young man in the doorway had extremely soft features, as if barely sketched, enhanced by two clear and radiant blue pupils. They were the same color as the headmaster’s, but something else shone in them. There was no serene joy and twinkle that were so familiar to them. Instead, one could unseal a wild passion, a mixture of haughty coldness and impetuous bubbling. This gleam of determination contrasted so deeply with the young man's soft, youthful, almost nervous face, his clear, calm voice and his well-tamed wise brown curls that it produced a contrasting effect that was as frightening as it was inspiring.

 

"Oh, my boy, already up?

 

            Mrs. Weasley quickly welcomed the newcomer by forcing him to the table and laying a mountain of toast in front of him.

 

"Are you sure you've slept enough?" Molly continued. “Yesterday's meeting ended so late....

-Everything is fine, the night, although brief, was very relaxing. And I would like to thank you for your welcome and for having prepared our arrival.

 

            The little woman split herself with a dazzling and delighted smile, obviously charmed by the politeness of the young man.

 

"And your friend? Is he still asleep? Do I have to put a few pieces of brioche aside for him?

-No, he said he never eats in the morning. He has locked himself in the library on the third floor, I don't know if he'll come down for lunch, he said he found two or three interesting books.

-In the Black’s library? asked Sirius, with frowning eyebrows. It is full of books that should not be put in all hands....

-Gellert will be fine, Albus replied with a polite smile.

 

            Breakfast continued for a moment in silence, each pretending not to detail the strange newcomer out of the corner of their eyes. Albus was quietly chewing on a piece of his toast. An uninformed eye could easily have thought he was ignorant of the attention he was receiving. But, even if he could have continued this game for a long time to come - his condition of early genius having accustomed him to such looks - he decided to cut it short, both for his comfort and for that of the other young people at the table.

 

"If you have any questions, you better ask them now. It is always the easiest way to get answers.

 

            The other faces stretched out for a moment, looking at each other as if to try to define among themselves who would speak first. Finally, it was Ginny, the bravest, who led the march.

 

"How old are you?

-Do you mean how many years I have lived or how many years have passed since I was born?

-It's true that Grindelwald is your friend? Ron cut, not caring about the previous question.

-We hardly knew each other, but our common condition certainly brought us closer. You would be surprised to discover in him a most interesting and friendly young man.

-Are they going to try to find a way to take you back to your time?

-That's enough, now! Mrs. Weasley interrupted to the great dissatisfaction of most of the teenagers. This boy has had to answer enough questions lately. If you've finished lunch, the living room on the second floor needs a good cleaning!

 

            A little down, Harry and the others stood up, leaving their plates in the sink and walking up the stairs with a heavy step that announced their disappointment to everyone.

            Albus, for his part, quietly finishes his toast, detailing the old motifs of the tapestry.

 

"The question was worth asking, though.

 

            It was the man with long hair who spoke with his deep voice, his gray gaze in the young man's blue eyes. Albus did not answer, chewing his toast without looking away. After a while, the man - a Black? - abdicated and formulated his thought.

 

"Hermione's question. Are they going to try to send you back to your time?

-They who?

-Dumbledore. The other Dumbledore.

-I don't have a time. I'm barely a copy of a memory.

 

            With these words, Albus quickly finished his cup of tea and got up.

 

"It was very good. Thank you very much for this breakfast, ma'am.

 

            He snapped his fingers and the plates washed themselves before going to their respective places. Albus left the living room after a last polite smile to the three adults who were still there.

 

            The Black’s library was most impressive. With a two-story ceiling height, it offered the viewer a labyrinth of shelves that were full to bursting and were going on as far as the eye could see. It was difficult to define the precise dimensions of the room. Albus guessed that it must not be so big, but that the layout of the shelves masked its real proportions.

 

            The young man wandered for a moment, feeling at home in the middle of the books, letting his fingers run down the shelves that the humidity had made curl up. Sometimes a few pieces of wood and paint crumbled under his fingers and fell into fine dust on the squeaking floor. It was so sad to see such a place in this state of deterioration. Most books had to have the pages glued by mold and the covers moth-eaten. But it was still a library and Albus felt comfortable there despite the musty smell.

 

"Gellert?"

 

            His voice echoed for a long time between the shelves without finding a place to lay. And no answer interrupted it. However, Albus was sure that his friend had gone up there and the piece was probably not big enough that his voice could not cover the whole space. So he continued to wander between the shelves, this time with his full attention turned to where Gellert might be. Finally, he saw a black mass on one of the displays stand. He went there and, once he got close enough, he recognized the black sweater that the Ministry had given Gellert for his release. So he couldn't be far away.

 

            Albus looked around unsuccessfully for a moment but, looking up, he discovered that a deep but slightly smaller shelf than its neighbours formed a wooden alcove above it, isolated from the rest of the library. Typically the kind of place where Gellert would come to lock himself up to read.

 

"Gellert, come down. You know I don't have your climbing skills.

 

            No answer, but Albus heard a squeak, proof if it was necessary that his lover was there. Sighing, the young man took a few steps back. Fortunately, he was no longer registered in any register and could do magic as he pleased, because if he had to climb this shelf "the muggle way", he would have been sure to break his neck. So he took his wand out of his pocket and pointed it toward the shelf, transforming the wood into a natural ladder that he could then climb without damage.

 

            Once he was up, he could finally see Gellert, leaning against a wall, his legs stretched out in front of him, a large volume with a greyish cover on his lap. Albus stepped forward slowly and sat on his heels. He usually didn't object that Gellert didn't answer him. The latter was often so immersed in his thoughts that he forgot the world. But as Gellert's justified anger against Albus hovered over them, Albus was a little more hesitant when he tried to approach his silent lover.

 

"Do you want me to leave you alone?

 

            Gellert did not answer, still focused on reading his book.

 

"Well, I won't bother you, I'll...

-I wanted to see if Aunt Bathilda had published any other books.

 

            His voice was cold, unemotional. It was always a very bad sign....

 

"She has published some on modern and contemporary history.

-And so? asked Albus, anxious, who was beginning to see where things were going.

-It's about me.

 

            Without adding anything else, Gellert handed the book to Albus. He had no desire to read it. He would have preferred to close it immediately and burn it with a snap of his finger. But he knew that Gellert would be deeply displeased with this. Then, with sweaty hands, he grabbed the book and brought it back to him.

 

            He read the page diagonally. He had never wanted to finish a chapter so quickly. Whether it was descriptions of massacres, popular manipulations, the consequences on the Muggle World, from false speeches to death camps, from political imprisonment to inhuman torture, Albus may have barely touched them with his eyes, they still found a way to inscribe themselves in his mind. Finally, with trembling hands and watery eyes, he closed the book.

 

           His throat was so tight that he was not sure he was able to breathe, let alone talk. He put the book on the ground, between Gellert and himself, as if it were an artifact full of  the darkest magic there is. And that was probably the case....

 

            Gellert, on the other hand, was not looking at Albus or the book. His eyes were riveted to the distance, his eyebrows frowned as if in the middle of a reflection. But Albus knew how to read this face more surely than others read books. He knew Gellert wasn't thinking. He was dwelling on it.

 

"You did the right thing by arresting me.

 

            It had barely been blown into a murmur that echoed painfully in the silence of the library. And one could hear a huge pain in that breath. Slowly, Albus set aside the book, pushing it back into a corner, and he approached Gellert until he could grab one of his icy hands. Finally, Gellert deigned to look at him.

 

"You did the right thing by arresting me. I had lost myself.

-I didn't stop you. And you didn't get lost. Others have done so. Not us.

 

            The idea was clear. Once again, they had to go back to that promise. Do not feel guilty of something you have not done at all. Gellert looked down for a moment, closing his eyes, receiving his friend's sentence. And, finally, a smile was born on his lips in spite of himself. He had nothing of the victorious or imperious grin that often sublimated his angular features. No, this one had something more fragile, more hesitant. Like a little boy who's barely comforted.

 

"Aren't you mad at me?

 

            With a sigh of relief and tenderness, Albus let go of Gellert's hand to caress his cheek.

 

"Of course not! It's not you. All these things, this has nothing to do with you.

-What if... what if there was a little bit of me in all this. What if all this was just the fruit of a seed already planted here?"

 

            He gently tapped his chest with the tip of a hesitant finger. Albus took his hand back and gently hugged their fingers together before coming closer to kiss his lover's phalanges.

 

"There is no destiny or nature in terms of evil, Gellert. Only choices. Only choices and nothing else. You didn't make any of these choices. You are not guilty of any of these crimes.

-And if I made those choices again. By mistake.

-It won't happen.

-Why?

-Because it won't be your choices. That will be our choice. This time, Gellert, I won't leave you. I'll stay here, by your side. And I'll help you build the world you dream of.

 

            And, after these words and a new kiss, Gellert made love to him right here, in this isolated alcove, the book of his misdeeds forgotten a few centimetres away.

 



 

            Surprisingly, despite the strange general situation, the days went by slowly at Grimmauld Place. For Harry and his friends, their hours were split between housework and laziness, going from one to the other according to Mrs. Weasley's wishes. In the end, they didn't have that much opportunity to see their two mysterious guests. Albus was the most visible. If he didn't help with the housework, he didn't miss a single meal and could often be seen with Mrs. Weasley, helping her in the kitchen.

 

            It had to be said that the young man had charmed everyone. Of great politeness, he seemed to be the perfect teenager, concerned about others and almost docile in his obedience. He spent a lot of time locked in his room with Grindelwald (of whom he seemed to have become a close friend quite quickly), but as soon as he went out and made himself visible, not a minute went by without Molly and the other adults making some comments over this mature and well-behaved boy.

 

            As for Gellert, that was a different story. He was even less present than Albus. He spent his days locked in his room, and only went out for one meal out of three. The rest of the time, he would not hesitate to ask his friend to get him something for him in the kitchen. It was difficult to say what he could do with his days, but it obviously absorbed him completely. And it wasn't for the worse considering the tension that was tangible every time Gellert was in the presence of the adults. It had to be said that he was almost the opposite of Albus. Far from being docile and obedient, he always had on his lips that little mocking smile and his disharmonious eyes shouted provocation. It was not uncommon for the meals he attended to end up in large collective debates on one political topic or another, debates that Gellert invariably ended up winning thanks to passionate arguments and rhetorical bashing. However, if adults didn't like him, Gellert was much more pleasant with other young people of his age. Unlike Albus, who remained quite distant, Gellert had taken the time to talk to each of the occupants of the house, asking about their names, passions and philosophies. He was the first to sympathize with Harry's outrage when he was sidelined from the Order's decisions, to help the boys who were sent to clean all day with a few discreet spells, to discuss at length with the twins their professional project in which no one but them believed. All in all, Harry realized it well, Gellert was someone who was very easy to appreciate. He seemed to have answers and solutions to all things, and he had such a capacity for empathy that it was easy to share one’s problems and anxieties with him.

 

            All in all, and even if he condemned Gellert's verbal violence towards adults and authority figures, Harry found the petulant but sensitive Gellert Grindelwald much more appreciable and impressive than the perfect and cold Albus Dumbledore. It was at such a point that he could not reconcile in his mind what he had been told about wizard’s History with what he had before him, a teenager invested and sensitive, patron of good causes and furious against the lethargy and injustice of society. How could a young man who had protested so much when he learned of Harry's trial and the way Rita Skeeter had treated him turn out to be the greatest tyrant of the 20th century and a figure similar to Hitler?

 

            Anyway, it was during one of their few discussions - which had become one of Harry's favorite moments - that Gellert finally brought up the subject of Hogwarts, just a few days before the start of the school year. Harry, Ron and Hermione had been sent to the kitchen to help clean the supplies, while Gellert spent time sitting on the counter, busying himself with watching Albus, who was very absorbed in making a clafoutis.

 

"There are four houses in Hogwarts, right?

 

            Albus only answered with a slight nod, but Ron was surprised by the question.

 

"Didn't you know that?

-Why would I know that?

-Well, you're in fifth year aren’t you?

-Gellert was at school in Durmstrang, Ron," Hermione breathed.

 

            From the trio, she was the one who had the most trouble with Gellert. Surely knowing as much as she did about the History of Magic must prevent her from feeling comfortable in any way in the presence of Grindelwald.

 

"There are no houses in Durmstrang?

-No. No sorting of any kind. Fortunately.

-Why is that fortunate? Ron asked himself.

-The sorting in the house favors communitarianism and the pride of one’s colors. It is a fertile ground for nationalism. Durmstrang had its flaws, especially with its excessive militarization, but at least it spared us that. If the point system Albus told me about is still in place, then I strongly condemn it. This unites students against each other, not according to who they truly are, but according to the category to which they belong. Moreover, wanting to summarize a human being to a single kind of quality is profoundly reductive and completely eclipses all the complexity and depth of the human soul. Not to mention that it predetermines you to act in a certain way and to aspire to a certain kind of ideals. During childhood in addition, namely the period when a mind is most susceptible to influence.”

 

            Gellert had hardly been there a week, but the trio had already gotten used to this kind of harangue that seemed so dear to the Germanic. Over-analyzing everything and using it to support a revolutionary point of view was Gellert's idea of a healthy and friendly hobby.

 

"You'll have to be sorted if you start Hogwarts this year, Albus said from the work surface where he was hulling the cherries.

-I know. I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon at Hogwarts to organize my transition from the Durmstrang program to Hogwarts. I guess I'll be sorted then. How exactly does it work?

-It's easy! explained Ron. It's just a hat. You put it on your head, and pouf, you have your house.

-And what are the four houses? I know there's Gryffindor, it's Albus'. But the others....

-You have Hufflepuff for the good guys, Slytherin for the bad guys and Ravenclaw for the nerds.

-It's... Manichean, Gellert couldn't help but comment.

-It's a little more complex than that, Albus pointed out. But yes, these are the reputations of these houses.

-Charming.

 



 

Oh, I see a bold mind! Very bold! There is no lack of ambition, too. I see a great desire for success. But driven by a deep sense of... justice. More than anything, you're unable to bear the injustice, aren't you? You absolutely must act, you must fight all this. You want to be admired, it is certain. But you are ready to sacrifice everything, including your own person for a just and good world. A perfect world as you imagine it, where wizards, the oppressed minority, will finally be free to be themselves. There is no doubt, in the face of danger, you have only one thought: fight and resist. I see a lot of quality in your head, yes, a lot of quality. But you want to define yourself by the noblest of all, don't you?  You are a warrior ready for battle. You want to mark the world, but you want it to remember you as their savior, the one who stood up to evil. The one who lit them up in the night. Yes, I'm more and more certain of that. Despite your many qualities, your cleverness, your sense of self-importance, there is one quality that is more important to you than anything else and makes you proud of what you could become. I have no doubt now. You are a pure and noble... GRYFFINDOR."

 



 

"I went to the Knockturn Alley this morning.

 

            Albus, lying against Gellert, gently stroked the naked skin of his belly and chest, enjoying the thrill he could create under his icy fingers. He knew he should have protested against Gellert's statement. After all, his lover had left the house in secret, without him, without even warning him, leaving him behind. But Albus was deliciously immersed in the blissful post-orgasmic fog and forgave his lover for his little secret before he even started to resent him. He probably should have asked him what he thought it would be good to do in that mischievous alley, but Albus didn't want to talk, he just wanted to snuggle up in the warmth of the boy who shared his bed.

 

"Basically, I just went there to complete our potion ingredients, in case we wanted to do a little more interesting experiments once we got to Hogwarts.

 

            See ? Nothing serious! No reason to worry, as usual.

 

"But I met someone.

 

            Albus looked up this time. It was dark in the room, but the brightness of a streetlight in the other side of the window lit up Gellert's face with a yellowish light. The latter fixed the ceiling with a thoughtful and soft air.

 

"I didn't know her. She was a very old woman. But she knew me. She came to talk to me. I thought she was crazy at first. She spoke very quickly, crying half to herself. She was all red and sweaty and she stammered at every word. It wasn't glorious. But I finally understood. She recognized me from before. I mean, not before for me. But before for... the other me. I mean, you know what I mean. She was... one of my followers.

-Followers?

 

            This time, Albus had straightened up on an elbow, to better fix Gellert, but he was still immersed in his memory and thoughts.

 

"Yes, she told me that she always knew I would come back eventually. That everything couldn't stop the way it had stopped.

-But... she's wrong, isn't she? It's all over now. You’re not going to go back to being the man you were, right?

 

            There was a long moment of silence during which Albus could gradually feel his belly tightening before, finally, Gellert laid his eyes on him and burst out with a clear laugh.

 

"Of course not! What are you thinking?!

 

            Gellert wrapped his arms around Albus who lay down against his lover's warm chest.

 

"Of course not," Gellert breathed this time more for himself than for Albus. “But it's still an army.

-What do you mean?

-She told me there were many of them. Like… really a lot. Ready to follow me wherever I go.

-They want the massacres back.

-They just want to obey me. Whatever I ask them. Or rather, whatever we ask them.

-They are dangerous fools.

-They are convinced people. And it is a resource like any other. Neither bad nor good. It depends on what we decide to do with it.

-I don't think doing anything with it is a good idea...

-I didn't say we were going to do anything about it," Gellert finally stalled.” Simply, this army exists, and it is good that we know about it. That's all. The rest we'll talk about later.

 

            For the time being, Albus dropped the subject, shrugged his shoulders and closed his eyes, to breathe in the wild smell of his lover. Yes, they'll talk about it later. For the time being, only the silence of the night mattered.

 

"I wonder if I have many followers among Hogwarts' students..."

 



 

"Wake up, boys! Wake up!!!

 

            Albus opened his eyes painfully. He would have wanted to ignore the drumming on the door. After all, he had spent almost all night discussing everything and nothing with Gellert, fomenting plans of all kinds and planning for the future. But the piercing voice that resounded from the other side of the door made it impossible to fall asleep again.

 

"Wake up, boys! Hurry down to lunch! You probably don't want to be late for Hogwarts Express!

 

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 4

 

                Albus was used to be the center of attention. Being an early genius capable to apparate at 9 years old, being published in Transfiguration Today for an article written at 12 years old, being prefaced on occasion by Nicolas Flamel, receiving an Order of Merlin 2nd class at 14 years old for his discoveries in Charms, all this had accustomed him to the hidden looks, public opinion and rumors about him. And yet, he had never felt an oppression similar to the one he was feeling now.

 

                He had first imagined that he would be relatively incognito. After all, no picture of him had been taken, let alone published since his "awakening" in August. However, the second he crossed the barrier of platform 9 ¾, he understood how wrong he had been. It was first a grandfather who was probably here to accompany his grandson. Then it was a young man with a prefect's badge who stared at him for a little too long. Then a student's mother, who hugged her child a little more when he passed in front of them. Finally, less than two minutes later, the word had spread from word of mouth, and the whole platform seemed to have noticed that Albus Dumbledore had joined them. He heard his name in conversations, he saw fingers pointing at him in the crowd, he felt the children putting themselves on tiptoes to better see him.

 

                Gellert, on the other hand, his beret stuck on his skull remained relatively anonymous. No one seemed to have recognized him, nor did anyone seem to suppose that it was possible that the boy standing next to Dumbledore could be Grindelwald.

 

Don't pay attention to them.

-Easy to say. They're not staring at you. I feel like I'm in my first year, when I had to take Hogwarts Express a week after my father was incarcerated.

-Look on the bright side.

-Which one?

-I haven't found it yet, but as soon as I know, I promise I'll tell you.

 

                Albus couldn't help but smile. He could rely on Gellert to always de-dramatize the situations in which they might find themselves. The two young men looked at each other for a moment, and kept themselves from laughing. Since his mother's death, Albus had forgotten what it was like to have such a light heart. No responsibility, no constraints, and the world in his hand. Gellert had often made him feel this way, but his sister's shadow was still hanging over his head. From now on, and even if he certainly would not admit it aloud, he was free and deeply delighted. Sometimes he wondered what had happened to Ariana and Aberforth, but then he saw Gellert's wink or heard his characteristic laugh and completely forgot about it. That probably made him a bad brother, but he couldn't be unhappy about it.

 

                For the time being, the two boys were standing a little apart from the group, while their companions poured into the "goodbye" and last-minute instructions. Although they had spent almost two weeks in Grimmaurd Place, none of them had really bonded closely with the members of the Order, and they therefore felt a little outside the collective embrace that was standing in front of them.

 

The dog, he is Black? Gellert asked after seeing Harry hugging the animal from afar.

-Yes, I think so. He must be an animagus.

-Why didn't you ever try to become an animagus?

-Who says I've never tried?

-Me. If you had tried, you would have succeeded.

 

                Albus had a delighted smile. He was very used to compliments, but Gellert's always managed to create their own little effect.

 

I've never seen the point.

-Yes, from the point of view...

 

                Finally, the goodbyes were cut short by a controller's whistle and, armed with their large suitcases, the two young teenagers joined Ron, Hermione, Ginny and the twins who were getting into the nearest car. A few hand greetings later, the train shook and finally set off in a cloud of steam.

 

Good! one of the two twins exclaimed at last. That's not all, but we have a lot to do. We're going to meet Lee at the front of the train. See you later!

                The twins quickly moved away, leaving the others alone in the middle of the corridor.

 

Shall we go and find a compartment, then ? Harry asked after a long silence

-Er…

-We’re… well… Ron and I are supposed to go into the prefect carriage, Hermione completed with embarrassment.

-Oh. Right. Fine.

 

Albus said nothing but a simple glance at Gellert's face made him understand that they were on the same page. Clearly, Harry had not yet digested the fact that he had been dismissed in this way and this underlying tension was gangrening the fusional bond between him, Ron and Hermione.

 

                Ron tried again to explain for a moment, stammering how boring and painful all this seemed to him, but Harry only answered a new "Right. Fine." which obviously was nothing near sincere. Finally, Ron and Hermione added a small “see you” and they moved towards the front of the train.

 

Come on, Ginny finally said, if we got a move on we’ll be able to save them places.

 

                The small group set off but it didn't take long for Gellert to speak his mind.

 

If I were you, Harry, I wouldn't worry too much about this whole prefect thing.

-I don't worry at all! Harry exclaimed on the defensive. I'm happy for Ron. He deserves it.

-Of course not, he doesn't deserve it! Gellert replied with an amused laugh. It was obviously you who deserved this title. You have done more for Hogwarts and Dumbledore - sorry Albus you know who I mean - for the headmaster than anyone else in this school. It was you who should have been given that title. But first, it is obvious that the headmaster saw it more as a burden. So, he didn't want to punish you, he wanted to spare you. Second, and much more importantly, you shouldn't worry about a stupid title. What's it going to do for you in concrete terms? Proof of the recognition of a bunch of old fossils? What's the point? Who cares, right? We're better than that! The whole prefect thing is nothing but a carrot to force you to behave a certain way. Don’t make a big deal out of it.

 

                Harry answered only with a shrug, but Albus could clearly see that, despite his detachment, the young man took Gellert's words to heart. They continued the rest of the walk in silence, until they reached the end of the train, without finding any free compartments. In the last car, they met a boy with a round and nervous face. Obviously, Ginny and Harry seemed to know him.

 

Hi Harry! he exclaimed out of breath, pulling his big suitcase behind him. Hi Ginny and uh…

 

                He turned to Albus and Gellert, squinting in a silent question. Albus politely reached out his hand, which the boy grabbed by reflex.

 

I’m Albus Dumbledore. And this is Gellert.

 

                The boy opened his big, bewildered eyes and detailed them nervously. However, he held back from any comment, it was obvious to Albus that the boy was too uncertain and shy to even dare to ask a question or hold a stare.

 

I-It's a pleasure to meet you....

-Me too, uh...

-Neville. Neville Longbottom.

-Nice to meet you too, Neville Longbottom.

-What are you doing in the hallway, Neville? Ginny asked, interrupting the akwardness that was beginning to settle in.

-Everything is full... I can't find a place.

-What are you talking about? There’s room in this one, there's only Luna Lovegood in here.

 

                Albus bent over to see the inside of the last compartment and immediately understood why the boy named Neville had not even considered the idea of going in there. The only person occupying it did not give him any particular desire to approach her. With her long, tangled blond hair and globular eyes, the young girl give out an impression of insane absurdity. She stared at the air in front of her without blinking, as if a fascinating but invisible spectacle was unfolding in front of her. It was very slowly that she turned her head towards the entrance of the compartment when Ginny opened the door. Cautiously, Albus let Ginny, Harry, Neville and Gellert pass in front of him with their huge suitcases before entering the confined space himself. Seeing Neville fighting with his luggage, Albus took out his wand with a soft gesture and, after a slightly circular movement, he had all the belongings flying so that they would tidy up on the rack.

 

Whoa…

 

                It was the one called Luna who had just exclaimed in a white and softly articulated voice.

 

You're good at magic.

-That's what I was told.

-Who are you, you?

-Albus.

-Like Albus Dumbledore?

-It would seem so.

 -My father published an article about you. He doesn't think Professor Dumbledore is responsible. He says it's a scheme of Ambrosius Flume, Honeyduckes' manager, to promote his new collection of cards of famous witches and wizards.

 

                Albus did not answer but sat opposite to Luna, putting Gellert between them as extra protection, but that was not necessary, Luna now focusing all her attention on Harry from who she did not take her eyes off.

 

                The discussions slowly began to flow and soon the atmosphere was soft and fluid within the compartment. Luna and Ginny were talking about their respective holidays, while Neville was ecstatic in front of Harry about the new plant he had had for his birthday. Albus even began to feel a little more comfortable, taking an interest in Neville's vast and passionate knowledge of Herbology. It was his attention to the conversation that allowed him to see the drama coming and to conjure a protective bubble around the plant the second Neville had the stupide idea of pricking it with the tip of a feather. The plant immediately exploded into a green liquid but, thanks to Albus' promptness, the secretions remained enclosed within the bubble and all were spared.

 

It's a very interesting experience, Neville. But I don't think anyone here wants to be bathed in Stinksap.

-S-sorry, I didn't think it would react like this.

 

                After Albus had made the green product disappear, the journey proceeded slowly, punctuated by a few visits. First a dark-haired young woman who seemed to have come all the way here just to say hello to Harry. Then Ron and Hermione who returned from their appointment more than an hour after the train left. But it was the last visit that was the most eventful. The door opened on a group of three boys. One of them, obviously the chief, with blond hair slicked back and grey and cold eyes, had a bad grin on his face that didn't bode well.

 

What?” Harry asked immediately in an aggressive tone.

 

                It was obvious that there was a passive between them and Albus guessed that the green and silver tie that the newcomer wore was no stranger to all this. The age-old enmity between Gryffindor and Slytherin was not unknown to anyone, and it had to be assumed that ten decades later, nothing had changed about that.

 

Manners, Potter, or I’ll have to give you a detention. You see, I, unlike you, have been made a prefect, which means that I, unlike you, have the power to hand out punishments.

-Yeah, but you, unlike me, are a git, so get out and leave us alone.

 

                Despite the insult, the newcomer remained stuck in the entrance, his nasty eyes quickly passing over Albus to crash on Gellert.

 

Grindelwald, right?

 

                Gellert did not answer, waiting for the next step with a slight warning sneer.

 

Draco Malfoy. And this is Crabbe and Goyle. I guess after all this time... things are a little fuzzy. But when you're ready to find your own people, the real wizards I mean, you'll know in which house you can find us.

 

                And with those words, he gave Harry one last ferocious glance and leave the compartment.

 

He seems very nice to me, this boy! Gellert irked after a long moment of silence.

-He is the son of Lucius Malfoy. A purist moron who thinks that only pure blood should rule over others.

-What Malfoy just said is not surprising, Hermione explained. There's a good chance they want to get close to Gellert Grindelwald. Your reputation must make them want to.

-Why? asked Gellert, who didn't see what he had to do with that.

-Your ideology serves pure blood.

-Certainly not! I'm in favor of ending the status of secrecy! But all souls blessed by magic have the same value in my eyes.

-This is not what History remembers, Hermione added nervously.

-Well, history is wrong. I don't even come from a wizard family, why would I want to promote such a laughable notion as the purity of blood?

 

                Neville, Hermione, Ron and Ginny stared for a moment at Gellert, incredulous. Finally, it was Ginny who vocalized their surprise.

 

You don’t come from a wizard family?

-No! Gellert said, slowly beginning to feel annoyed. Why is everyone convinced that I'm of pure blood? You are defending the children of the muggles but with such a preconceived idea about me you reinforce prejudices.

-It's just that, your ideology...

-Stop talking to me about my so-called ideology. First of all, I'm not the person from your history books. Then, obviously you didn't understand anything about my ideas. Then stop using it as an argument against me. I was born of a muggle father and a squib mother, but that does not mean that I am not capable of fully embracing my condition as a wizard and possessing one of the most powerful powers of this century.

 

                The silence welcomed Gellert's annoyed tirade and everyone looked down, ashamed of their mistake. Only Albus was relatively amused by the effect his lover’s speech had just made. He was one of the only people in the world to know Gellert's past and origins, and he was delighted to see his friend use it to silence slander about him.

 

So, Neville, what else can your plant do? Ginny asked in a falsely innocent voice.”

 

                Discussions resumed slowly as the train ran through the summer landscapes, becoming increasingly dark as the sun set lazily on the horizon.

 

I always hated uniforms, Gellert grumbled to Albus when the time came to change, as a moonless night and heavy rain hit the windows.

-You had a uniform in Durmstrang.

-Yes, but at least they spared us the ties!

 

                Gellert was busy fighting against his tie knot and looked like he was losing miserably.

 

You give me a hand?" he finally asked when he saw Albus' simple but impeccable knot.

-I... I don't know.

 

                Albus looked nervously around, noting with relief that no one had listened to their exchange. It was one thing to do this kind of thing in the privacy of their room, but in front of everyone, that was a whole other matter.

 

You're still there? asked Gellert, rolling his eyes.

-No, that's not that, Albus quickly replied, lamentably trying to find an excuse. It's just, we can justify a rapid friendship, but this... it's something else. You know what I mean.

-As you wish, Gellert sight with a venomous look.”

 

                He passed in front of Albus without a word, clearly showing him his dissatisfaction before going out after the other students.

 

                The walk took place in a harsh silence for Albus. He had managed to slip into Harry's group, but Gellert had left without a word, and had already disappeared in the dark night. Albus therefore abandoned the idea of catching up with him and was content to integrate himself into the group as they climbed into the carriage.

 

It’s all right. You’re not going mad or anything. I can see them too.

 

Albus turned his attention to Luna, who, a little far away, had just murmured this to Harry.

 

Can you?

 

Albus then noticed for the first time the winged, skeletal and black as night horses pulling the carriage. He had never seen them before, but he immediately understood what they were. Thestrals, those mysterious creatures that only appeared in the eyes of those who had already seen death. It seems that the loss of his mother must have changed something deep inside him.

 

Oh yes, I’ve been able to see them ever since my first day here. They’ve always pulled the carriages. Don’t worry. You’re just as sane as I am.

- It's not so much a matter of sanity, Albus explained to a confused Harry. These are called Thestrals. Creatures that can only be seen by those who have already witnessed someone's death.

 

Harry's face immediately darkened and Albus could not help but wonder who the young man had seen die for the wound to be so fresh...

 



 

How old are you?

-Are you really Dumbledore?

-How did you manage to travel to the future?

-How was the past?

-Can you read the mind of the real Dumbledore?

-How come you took a picture with Grindelwald?

-Are you going to send him back to prison, like last time?

-Can you give me private tutoring in Transfiguration? I've never been able to get even an P....

-What does it feel like to be a picture?

-Is that true what the Prophet says? Are you part of a plan to overthrow the Minister?

 

                Albus closed his eyes and gently stroked his forehead, trying to control his migraine as questions flowed around him. Since the meal had begun, he had been the target of all conversations, everyone trying to get some information out of him and getting to know the famous young Dumbledore. He would have liked Gellert to be at his side to help him a little, but he was still sulking, a few places away, leaving Albus alone in front of all the attention. Actually, Grindelwald's name was scary enough that no one dared to speak to him. The name, or the fierce look he displayed as he stabbed his purée with his knife.

 

Leave him alone, at last! Hermione exclaimed, trying in vain to use her power as a prefect to calm the situation. He cannot answer all the questions.

 

                With much effort, she finally managed to calm the younger ones who returned to their own conversation, finally leaving Albus alone.

 

Thank you, he said politely.

-You’re welcome. It can't be easy, there's no point in your own Gryffindor comrades making things even more difficult.

-I think it's only a temporary lull, but it's nevertheless appreciable.

-It will settle, I'm sure. Then, as a fifth year, we have so much to do that I think the minds will very quickly be busy with something else.

-What do you mean?

-Well, the OWL! It's going to be a tough year.

 

Ah, the OWL. Albus remembered perfectly the day he spent his own. And his NEWTs. Optimal for each of them. It had not been a great challenge for him, especially since he had had a Seventh Year level as early as his Third Year. Today, he was even more relaxed about the exams than he had ever been before. Because, not only was he sure to succeed, but he also knew that they meant nothing. As if failing his exams meant anything. Gellert was a perfect example. He proved to the world that you could be the most brilliant wizard without having any ASPIC to his credit. However, Hermione already seemed tense and nervous at the thought of future exams, and Albus gave her a smile that he tried to make compassionate.

 

I'm sure we'll be fine. There is no reason why we should fail more than previous generations.

-Yes, it must be easy for you, Hermione breathed. People say you were the brightest student Hogwarts has ever seen. Is that true?

-I don't know all the students Hogwarts has seen. But it's true that they say so, yes....

 

                Albus could see a worried wrinkle on Hermione's forehead and he immediately recognized the look on her face. It was the air of school geniuses, who subscribed to the first places, who saw in Albus a living insult to their success. He was willing to bet that Hermione would be able to make every effort to try to keep her role as top of the class. Albus was almost sorry for her....

 

                However, he remembered that more important things were currently on his mind.

 

The other... Professor Dumbledore... He told Gellert and me a little bit about the situation, Albus started, lowering his voice so that no one else but Hermione could hear him. With Voldemort. He told us Harry was safe at Hogwarts.

-Relatively, Hermione muttered. Every year, he manages to get into trouble and put himself in the most dangerous situations.

-And last year too? Is that why he saw the Thestrals for the first time today?

-Thestrals? Where?

-And so? Last year?

-Yes, sorry. There was the Triwizard Tournament and Harry... Harry got involved in all this against his will. In the end... In the end Cedric, a boy from Hufflepuff. He died, killed by You-Know-Who. In front of Harry's eyes. It was horrible.

 

                The remark left Albus thinking for a moment. Something was wrong with the whole thing.

 

So Voldemort went into Hogwarts to kill this Cedric boy?

-No. A follower of You-Know-Who was infiltrated into Hogwarts and he managed to set up a whole scheme to send Harry outside.

-He seems particularly motivated to see Harry die... But why?

-What do you mean?

-Why Harry? Why is it so important to see him die? What's so special about him?

-Well, he's the only one who survived the death spell. And it was he who destroyed the Dark Lord.

-Yes, when he was a baby. I read that. But why did Voldemort try to kill a baby? Why him in particular.

-I don't know... Maybe he wanted to kill his parents and Harry was just there in the wrong place.

-Mmh....

 

                Albus said nothing more. There was something strange about this story. Something was wrong without Albus being able to put his finger on it. Why Harry? Why had he been targeted, and why had he survived? He felt that there were some underlying issues that were not yet understood by him. He immediately saw that Dumbledore had not been completely honest with them. Moreover, since meeting him, he had been wondering a lot about what in life had pushed him to start becoming so secretive and manipulative. It seemed to offer only certain selected pieces of truth and to play with the lives of others as if they were pawns on a chessboard. After all, he had lied to Schaklebolt about the true story of the photo but had still sent him to the Ministry to save his alter-ego. Then he misused the truth in front of the members of the Order when he argued that the boys' presence at Hogwarts would be positive for Harry's safety. Certainly, this was true, but Albus felt very well that the main reason was that they would be properly monitored to prevent Gellert - and himself? - to follow the same path as his old alter-ego. All this presented Albus with the portrait of a Dumbledore skillful in his manipulations and lies, who led his soldiers on a spider's web from which he knew very well which wires to pull to achieve which effect.

 

                The meal ended with these thoughts and the dishes soon disappeared from the tables to make way for the headmaster’s speech. This tradition, at least, had not changed. But Albus could feel a little embarrassed by the looks that went back and forth between him and the old man who stood in front of the silent room.

 

Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices, First years ought to know that the forest in the grounds is out of bounds to students — and a few of our older students ought to know by now too.

                Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the four hundred and sixty-second time, to remind you all that magic is not permitted in corridors between classes, nor are a number of other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr. Filch’s office door.

                There is also a situation that needs to be addressed this year.

 

The silence was heavy in the room as all attention was turned to the headmaster’s speech. Obviously, the whole audience was waiting for this fateful moment.

 

For those of you who read the newspapers, this is not a surprise, but I think it is nevertheless necessary to address the situation in a collegial way. Indeed, it is true that this year Hogwarts will welcome two new students from the Fifth Year, Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore.

 

                The murmurs resumed, each student commenting to his neighbor on his thoughts about the announcement.

 

The situation is indeed delicate, but it is up to you not to make it any stranger than it already is. These young people have no cause in the situation in which they are victims, so they will not have answers to the questions that may well be on your mind. So I am counting on you to show them the full extent of Hogwarts hospitality by showing you as friends and allies rather than interrogators in a configuration that is not simple for anyone.

 

                Dumbledore paused in his speech, and Albus could feel that the looks toward him had changed. From fearful and suspicious, they had become brilliant with conviction and sympathy. Instead of lecturing them, Dumbledore had simply charged the students with a mission, that of welcoming and even protecting the two newcomers. In other words, with a few words alone, Dumbledore had succeeded in changing the mindset of nearly the entire Gryffindor table by creating a strong sense of community. Albus could feel Gellert's dissatisfaction without seeing him, but at least now they would spare them a lot of questions.

 

We have had two changes in staffing this year, Dumbledore continued as if he had just announced tomorrow's weather. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

                Tryouts for the House Quidditch teams will take place on the…

-Hem, hem.

 

                The headmaster stopped and Albus focused all his attention on the little woman with the toad's face who had interrupted his alter ego.

 

Thank you, Headmaster, for those kind words of welcome.

 

                The woman had a horrible girlish voice that made Albus' hair stand out. He did not know this person but, already, he was certain that he would not like her at all. Yet, educated as he was, he left nothing to appear and continued to display an air of polite listening.

 

Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say! And to see such happy little faces looking back at me! I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all, and I’m sure we’ll be very good friends!

 

                The further she progressed in her speech, the more obvious it became that she was wrong. Albus was not the type to have many friends, and he was sure he would never count this woman on his already limited list. However, this excessive infantilization of the audience, this false and meticulous attitude, set the tone for the kind of person that this Umbridge could be. Albus took a look at Gellert and could see that he was slightly leaning forward and staring at the little woman with a fascinated look. He who loved to dismantle the processes of manipulation in speeches must have been at the height of joy at the moment...

 

The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the Wizarding community must be passed down through the generations lest we lose them forever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished, and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.

                Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation must be found and conserved.

                Because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognized as errors of judgment. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness, and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited."

 

                Gellert was now so bent forward that he was beginning to encroach on his neighbor’s space. With Hermione and Albus, he seemed to be the only one who paid the slightest attention to the speech. But where Hermione showed only contempt and revulsion for Umbridge's words, Gellert seemed amazed. Albus knew him well enough to know that he did not agree with the idea that the Ministry could interfere in this way and censor knowledge - which was in simple words the subject of the speech - but obviously the giving of such a speech here, in the great hall of one of the most famous wizard schools in the world, was exalting him. Or rather, it must have been the spectacle offered by the passive audience, who received these words without understanding anything about them. To see how easily such a speech could be applauded must have fascinated Gellert. Albus could see very clearly the mental machinery shaking behind these mismatched eyes and he guessed that Gellert could easily imagine himself in the place of Umbridge, exciting this audience so easily manipulated with his own words.

 

                After that, the evening ended quickly, and it was a battle to get out of the Great Hall and into the various Common Room. Albus had been living in this castle for seven years and was able to walk around with his eyes closed. He would have liked to have been able to show Gellert all these places that had welcomed his childhood, but the silhouette of his lover quickly disappeared into the crowd. Obviously, Gellert was still mad at him. It was then that Dumbledore got up, ignoring the faces that still detailed him, and walked with a heavy step towards the seventh floor. He snuck behind the portrait of the Fat Lady following an older student who looked like he had the password and walked through this Common Room that he knew so well without a look for anyone. Exhausted by the attention he was receiving, he did not linger at all and simply climbed the stairs four at a time until he arrived in front of the Fifth Year dormitory. He pushed the door to see that the place was already inhabited by two boys.

 

                One of them, who had until now been busy hanging posters of a Muggle sport that Albus recognized as football on the wall, rushed up to him, enthusiastic.

 

Ah! So it's you, Dumbledore. I'm Dean Thomas. And this is Seamus Finnigan. Nice to meet you!

 

                Albus greeted him back with a tense smile, but he had no desire to start any conversation. However, this should not be Thomas' opinion on the matter.

 

It's crazy, though! Sharing your dormitory with Albus Dumbledore! Will you help us with our homework? I heard you got Optimal at all your OWLs.

 

                Albus smiled forcibly and took a look around. He obviously knew what Gryffindor's dormitories looked like, but he had already said goodbye to them and didn't expect to see them ever again.

 

Your bed is here! Dean informed. We gave you the bed next to Grindelwald, because...

 

                He didn't finish but the anxiety audible in his voice spoke for him. The boy named Seamus, for his part, had still not opened his mouth and an attitude of defiance and mistrust darkened his features.

 

I get it.

 

                Albus didn't feel like making any comments and simply went to sit on his bed. It had been a very long day and it was time for it to end. He nevertheless took the time to empty his suitcase and tidy up his belongings. However, the delicate peace that had settled in was interrupted by the arrival of Neville and Harry, who was obviously in a moody mood.

 

                The discussion began lightly but quickly escalated.

 

Me mam didn’t want me to come back.

-What?

-She didn’t want me to come back to Hogwarts

 

                Seamus' sentence resonated for a moment in the silence of the room. Albus was beginning to understand Seamus' angry look. And he cursed Harry to ask the question when the answer was so obvious.

 

But… why?

-Well, I suppose… because of you.

 

                Obviously.

 

What d’you mean?

-Well she… er… well, it’s not just you, it’s Dumbledore too…

 

                Albus straightened himself up to these words. He was beginning to be particularly annoyed because of people who thought they had the right to use this family name as if it didn't belong to him.

 

She believes the Daily Prophet? Harry asked. She thinks I’m a liar and Dumbledore’s plotting against the Ministry?

-Yeah, something like that.

 

                The atmosphere in the room became tense and Harry turned away from the conversation and put himself in his pajamas with big furious gestures. But Albus was not done.

 

You are mistaken, on my account, he said in a serene voice that did not reflect his inner bubbling. I've never been greedy for power.

-You, maybe not. But he, I mean the headmaster, you don't know him. I mean, not really.

-And your mother knows him better?

-Don't talk about your mother.

-You're the one who started this topic. You're telling me your mother thinks we're just some power-hungry conspirators. It seems normal to me to have a right of reply.

-You weren't there last year. What do you know about anything?

-It seems obvious to me that there is only an intellectually limited person to believe that if I had wanted power, I would not have had it.

-Is that my mother you treat like that?!

-That's what she seems to be, from my perspective.

 

                It was unnecessarily aggressive, but Albus was getting tired of everyone thinking they had the right to know him, to judge his actions and to criticize them all the more. Within a month, he had gone from the young prodigy that everyone acclaims to the power-hungry old fool. He had not made as much effort to come out of his father's shadow if it was to rush into his alter-ego's. He had done so much to be admired and respected and that was his reward?

 

                Seamus, for his part, obviously did not take well the comments about his mother and clenched his fists so tightly that Albus thought he was going to jump on him. He slipped his hand into his pocket to grab his wand, and things would probably have gotten out of hand if Ron hadn't come in at that precise moment.

 

What's going on here?

-Dumbledore insulted my mother.

-I only established a fact. Someone who really believes what the Daily Prophet can write is necessarily inherently stupid.

 

                Seamus almost jumped at Albus' throat but Ron stood between them. Obviously, he was beginning to understand how the situation had become what it is, and the fact that Harry was staring at Seamus with a dark look from his bed did nothing to help.

 

Seamus, calm down! exclaimed Ron. Don't be an idiot!

-Me? An idiot? So, you're going to tell me that you believe them, maybe. About Voldemort, and the fact that they had nothing to do with their own reappearance!

 

                And Seamus nodded to Albus. He was beginning to feel a cold and creaking hatred in his chest.

 

Yeah, I believe them! Ron said with determination.”

 

                Seamus looked astonished for a moment, then finally took a venomous look at the assembly around him.

 

Right, yeah. Pretend you're not saying exactly the same thing to yourself as I am!

-What do you mean? asked Albus.

-Yeah, what do you mean? Ron added, quite unnecessarily.”

 

                Seamus looked at them both with contempt and finally exploded.

 

How could he come back with Grindelwald, huh? These two knew each other?! Everyone's like, Dumbledore's a hero because he beat Grindelwald. But no one talks about the fact that they knew each other! That they grew up in the same village!

-Grindelwald didn't grow up in my village.

-That's right, yeah! That's what you keep saying, but everyone knows that’s not the truth.

-Oh, Albus said, imitating an exemplary calm. And what is it then, the truth?

-You're a traitor! That's what you are! You knew Grindelwald! You're friends with this monster! This homicidal maniac!

 

                Albus did not need to take out his wand. Taken by his momentum, he stretched out his hand in front of him and animated the curtains of the bed behind Seamus. They wrapped themselves around him in a split second, tightening him without difficulty and gagging him at the same time. Soon, Seamus found himself hanging ridiculously from the curtains of his own four-poster bed.

 

If I were you, Albus said in a frosty voice, I would choose my enemies more wisely, and I would especially avoid attacking those who could make a fool of me with the snap of their finger.

 

                He knew he was stupid to react like that, that he was only proving Seamus right. But he couldn't hold back. He couldn't stand it when Gellert was being insulted in front of him. And it was time for the word to spread. Let everyone know that anyone who would attack Gellert should be held accountable to him.

 

Albus, release him…

 

                It was only then that Albus realized the attention he was receiving. Everyone was staring at him in the face of this burst of pure magic. But Albus was too angry with this Seamus boy and himself to start a de-escalation of the situation.

 

                He closed his suitcase in a loud noise before heading for the exit, snapping his fingers at the last moment to free Seamus. He went down the steps at all speeds and took refuge in the crowded Common Room. He sat in the most secluded chair, which faced the window and the large black mass that the lake formed at night, and he began to regain his calm. How could he have acted so stupidly?

 

                He was used to having more control over himself. He was even the definition of control. From his first year, faced with mockery and harassment, to his last year as the perfect example of the studious and popular head boy, he had let control rule his life. At the time, his father could have been insulted right in front of his face and he would not have reacted in any way. And then, it only took one idiot shouting some stupide insults for Albus to cast a spell on him.

 

                It was all Gellert's fault. Since he entered his life, each of his landmarks had been overwhelmed. When he was calm and thoughtful before, now he found a strange beauty to passion. When before evil and good were drawn in monochrome colors in his mind, today the boundaries were dangerously blurred. While all his life he had seen his magic as a dangerous companion to be wary of, Gellert had taught him how to embrace it and what pleasure one could have in being overwhelmed. A month with Gellert. A month with Gellert was all it took for him to go from the bastion of temperance to an individual barely able to control himself when it came to insulting someone close to him.

 

                He cursed himself and cursed Gellert, but he ended up getting lost in the contemplation of the starry sky that offered itself entirely naked to his eyes, so much that he did not notice the Common Room emptying itself. He jumped violently when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around, he met Gellert's worried face.

 

What are you doing here?

-You’re done sulking?

 

                Gellert had a slight grin between amusement and irritation and sat on the armrest of the chair. Albus checked that no one was there to see them and finally sighed.

 

I'm sorry about earlier. Look... that has nothing to do with you. I'm just... I'm not ready to publicly assume this kind of relationship right now.

-You mean a homosexual relationship.

 

                Albus often hated Gellert's direct frankness and this time was no exception.

 

Don't say that like that. Like I’m being a horrible person for saying it. It's easy for you....

-How is it easy?

-It's easy because you, if you want, you can go see girls. You could fit into the mold anytime you want. I do not. I'll always be like this. I could never be normal. I mean, like the other boys. Besides, we're not the same. You're... you, and I'm not.

-What's that supposed to mean?

-You have this ability to feed on contempt, and hatred. For you, it only proves that you are better and different. That kind of thing destroys me.

-We'll have to make enemies if we want to change the world, Albus.

-Yes, to change the world, I’m willing to. But I don't see how shouting our relationship to the world will do anyone any good.

-It will do some good to all those who are hiding in the shadows.

-But I don't care about them. Everyone has their own problems. I... I don't know how to explain it to you, Gellert. I'm just... I'm just too scared.

 

                Gellert took a deep breath, but the sneer disappeared from his face. He didn't agree, but it was obvious that he understood.

 

However... Albus continued. I have no difficulty in assuming our friendship. Actually, I'd have a hard time not doing so.

-What do you mean?

-I'm not saying it's true... but it's possible that I may have cast a spell on one of our classmates because he was a little rude to you.

 

                Gellert laughed sincerely, obviously any conflict already forgotten.

 

If I had known you were here to defend my honor, I would have thrown myself into more conflicts.

-It's not funny, Gellert!

-Yes, it's very funny! I can already imagine you running all over Hogwarts to find everyone who dares to say bad things about me and chase them with your spells.

-That would be a good occupation. We may get bored this year.

-Not necessarily....

-What do you mean? Are you going to study for your OWLs?

-No, but I talked to two or three Slytherins...

-Don't talk to them, they probably have bad intentions.

-I thought you were against preconceptions.

 

                Albus cursed for himself but let Gellert continue.

 

In short, I have spoken with two or three students... and I think I have some supporters among the students...

-And what are you going to do with that?

-Well, build an army, of course.