Those Faded Old GlimmersAuthor: oudeteronPairing:
Albus/Gellert, or vice versaRating:
Mostly PG, later parts teetering on the edge between PG-13 and R.Word Count:
~8,400Summary: When the two of them were alone in one of their bedrooms, in Bagshot’s library, or in any intriguing place in Godric’s Hollow, Gellert held the other’s undivided attention. Together they searched, planned, debated, aware the entire time that the vision they chased was only theirs because only they were brave enough or audacious enough to believe in it.
--Albus and Gellert's one summer split into five movements.Warnings:
Nothing much - maybe an awareness of this taking place during the Victorian era, and some good old AD/GG megalomania. xD Notes:
I was dwelling on Albus and Gellert in their later years so much that I almost forgot they might have been genuinely happy together to begin with. This fic, as a result, is to explore their relationship when it first formed. (Oh, and I love comments.) Disclaimer:
Everything HP is creation and property of JKR; I make no profit and intend no copyright infringement. The "convicted Muggle writer" belongs to himself.
When Gellert woke up that morning, he felt disorientated and slightly weary. The room looked unfamiliar in the daylight, smaller than the dormitory he had shared with several other boys at school and much less lived in. A guest bedroom, he decided. There was no helping his predicament, seeing as he had only arrived late the previous night and left the unpacking of his questionable possessions for the morning, but for a moment he wished there could have been something in this room to assure him he was even in the right place.
Only for a moment.
Stretching a little, he rose from the bed and glanced around. Last night had been rainy, the light filtering through the window now stubbornly dull. His owl’s cage was standing empty in the corner, reminding him that he had let the bird go hunting almost immediately after his arrival; he opened the window, just in case. He felt a headache building up. This would not do. With an inaudible sigh, he headed for the door and some water.
The clouds had already begun to tear by the time Gellert had his new bedroom organized to his liking. There was not a lot to do with it, but he nonetheless wanted it done as fast as possible. Now, fingers curled around a cup of cooling tea prepared by his overconcerned great-aunt, he sat down at the table with a worn book open before him. He was well on his way towards unravelling the mystery outlined on the faded pages—he had chosen to move here because of it, solely because of it. He would have to visit the graveyard later today, see if the rumours were true. Although, as he mulled over the prospect of failure, his old certainty that the legend he was tracking was more than a mere fairy-tale seemed only to increase in strength.
The teasing proximity of knowledge had to take its toll.
Another modest while of poring over the ancient text he might have learned by heart behind him, Gellert set the book aside and walked to the window. His room was upstairs, providing him with a fairly unobstructed view of the street below and the meagre buildings (presumably with old, overgrown gardens attached to their opposite sides) flanking it. This town might be crucial to his plans and reportedly hosting as many wizards as it did Muggles, but such extraordinarities were evidently compensated for by the thoroughly ordinary rhythm of local life. He could hear a bell chiming in the distance—a church bell, most certainly. Perhaps now the coveted graveyard would be too busy for him to go inspecting the abandoned tombs. The bell sounded like a prelude to more fruitless waiting to be suffered through in Bathilda Bagshot’s home. Unless . . .
He had no time to finish his last scheme. A flash of red from below caught his eye when the sun’s rays lashed out through the grim tattered curtain still attempting to conceal the sky. Locating the source of the disturbance, Gellert saw a tall young man strolling down the road. His hair, as though in explanation, was an auburn mass flowing past his shoulders to his back. His face was not visible at the current angle—a pity, Gellert mused with genuine curiosity surging up in him—and he was walking far too fast for his elevated observer’s liking. And, although the unknown youth was clad in a nondescript Muggle outfit that was as unflattering to his slim figure as anything, the restless tingling of power that seized Gellert’s entire being could only lead to one conclusion: the stranger was a wizard, too.
Gellert was leaning on the sill by the time the object of his interest vanished in a small cottage farther along the street.
Scarce seconds later, he had pried himself from the window and hurried downstairs.
His first instinct was to ask whether his great-aunt knew who inhabited the house in question, which he carried out immediately, doing his best to sound casual. To his relief and slight bewilderment, Bagshot appeared sympathetic to his plight.
“Ah, then you must have seen young Albus Dumbledore,” she said cheerfully. “I have been meaning to introduce you boys, no doubt the two of you will get along splendidly! Tomorrow, we shall invite Albus for tea, how about it?”
“Good idea, Aunt,” Gellert replied politely, shoving his annoyance with the proposal aside. Firstly, he saw no reason to delay the meeting if he knew that this intriguing Albus Dumbledore lived just across the street, barely a few minutes’ walk from where he was standing. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, he wanted to confront the youth by himself in order to ask him certain questions. He would act on his own.
The solution offered itself. “I hope you don’t mind my going to see the town in the afternoon.”
He failed to notice the stare flying after him on exit.
Just after lunch, Gellert was making his way along the main street, conveniently deserted at this hour, wondering how to start. He had a vague notion of where the graveyard was, and a very precise idea of where the house Albus Dumbledore lived in was, but he found himself oddly indecisive. He hesitated for a moment more until he realized how distracted he was getting from his original plan with nobody to blame for the problem but himself, which, as always, promptly returned him to his original purpose.
The graveyard was closer than he had thought, in the end. All the anticipation he had felt upon examining his book returned, multiplying a tenfold as Gellert slunk past the kissing gate. It was like a passage into another world. The inside of the little graveyard was silent, peaceful. The moss-covered walls enclosing the area seemed to absorb any wayward sounds from their outer perimeter, so all a visitor could hear was the rustling of leaves wafting from the trees and bushes which grew wherever they had enough space, and the occasional chirp of a bird. Better yet, as far as Gellert was concerned, was the lack of any other people in the vicinity. His excitement alone was enough to start off his task.
He set out exploring the narrow paths separating the graves, the smaller ones in rows and the few large family tombs towering lonely every now and then, dutifully taking note of any peculiar details that might prove to be of importance. The newer gravestones were briefly checked before he moved on. This part soon descended into boredom as Gellert was not particularly afraid the old grave he sought had been replaced by another over time, yet he could not afford to miss his clues in case it had. Systematically he continued, until his gaze landed on a polished tombstone. It seemed to have been added recently, although the flowers on it were already withered, likely due to the current heat wave. What interested him more, however, was the engraved name Kendra Dumbledore
, beneath which the dates of the woman’s birth and demise could be read, as well as an inscription: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also
Because the date on which her life had ended fell into the ongoing year, Gellert was sure that no coincidence could be at play in this. As enthusiastically as his aunt had rambled about introducing him to ‘young Albus’, she was apparently keeping some of the more sensitive information to herself.
Gellert made a swift note on a piece of parchment he had brought with him and went on.
Afterwards, he became so immersed in his search that the sense of urgency that had accompanied him to the graveyard—and even to Godric’s Hollow—slowly evaporated. There were only the tombs in front of him, older and more unkempt as he progressed. More than once he had to peel off wild plants and grass and layers of dirt in order to decipher the words on the gravestones themselves, which slowed him down to a degree that bordered on frustration. While he had expected this kind of trouble, the inefficiency of his work was staggering.
When he finally found his goal, it hit him as a pang of irony, not the triumph he had once been convinced would come. The grave was almost untouched by nature’s habit to shroud everything in green, though it had partly crumbled at some point in the past. Even so, there was a still legible Ignotus Peverell
stamped into the stone, together with a barely distinguishable triangle encompassing a circle with a vertical line running through. This was it, surely, the final resting place of the youngest brother of the fabled trio.
Unscrupulously plopping down so as to hide himself from view, Gellert unrolled his parchment on the ground and began to sketch. He was not even convinced he would need documentation now that he had learned the grave’s precise location, but he would at least archive this accomplishment. It had cost him enough to reach this stage of his hunt.
The drawing completed, satisfaction spreading through him like sweet intoxication, Gellert picked himself up. The unforgiving July sun had come out and was beating down on his head in earnest, something he was not altogether used to from his Durmstrang years. He would have to remedy that somehow, but first, he was going to return home and ruffle through Bagshot’s expansive library. As much as his aunt’s demeanour irked him at times, he had to give her credit for her vast resources on wizarding history.
He had barely passed the nearest row of tombstones when he spotted a figure he instantly recognized standing pensively beside a grave, with a mane of long hair that glimmered red in the light. Gellert delayed briefly, then went ahead, reasoning with himself that whether he would address the intruder or not, around him was the shortest way out. Knowing why the young Dumbledore would have come here, Gellert was not keen on disturbing him.
Therefore, he was distinctly uneasy when the other boy startled as soon as Gellert had approached his spot. And he grew more unsettled still as the youth he was starting to refer to as Albus in his mind turned around, peering at him quizzically. His eyes were a piercing blue, Gellert noticed, and he had fine features, save the slightly too long nose. His height beat Gellert’s by several centimeters. He remained cautious for one awkward moment, ready to defend himself, it seemed, before a tentative smile curved his lips upwards, followed by an apology.
“I am sorry, you took me by surprise. No one usually comes by at this hour.”
Gellert nodded, deciding it was fair enough. “The same reason why I have been here. Sometimes one can’t have others around, can he?” He stole a glance at the grave behind Albus. The flowers on it were fresh.
“It would seem so,” came the other’s answer as Albus stepped away from his mother’s tombstone. “I’m Albus Dumbledore.”
They shook hands, Gellert deciding not to mention that he already knew as much. “Gellert Grindelwald,” he replied instead, catching the glint of interest in Albus’s eyes at the foreign name, even if it made him aware of the light accent that sometimes tinted his otherwise flawless English. “Before you feel like asking, I’m staying at my great-aunt’s over the summer. Bathilda Bagshot, in case you know her.”
“Oh, I do. She is very kind, though sometimes she goes a little overboard with her insistence to supply my family with bread she bakes herself every weekend. I . . . I do recall her mentioning a visitor a few days ago, in fact. So that was you she was talking about?”
Gellert had to laugh at that. “Well, I wouldn’t know. She only said she wanted to introduce me to you tomorrow. I think we had better spare her illusion.”
This time it was Albus who chuckled in amusement. “All right. Well, what have you been doing here at the graveyard? Some relatives . . .?” The question hung ominously in the flickering air, and Albus stole a nervous, badly concealed look over his shoulder. Gellert was only too glad to intervene.
“Not exactly. I —” he caught himself. Could he hazard sharing something so precious with a boy he was speaking to for the first time in his life? The details of the Deathly Hallows, as people called those insanely powerful objects, were trailed by too much danger to be handled recklessly. On the other hand, he could already guess that Albus possessed exceptional intelligence, and that he might be of use to his research if he knew the town well. Then there was the plain truth that they were at ease in each other’s company; the fact that both of them belonged to the wizarding population had not even been stated between them, but understood regardless. The risk was worth taking, Gellert determined.
“I am seeking the Deathly Hallows.” He could almost feel the other’s incredulity, but pressed on undaunted, “Throughout the past months, I had picked up hints, and eventually I was compelled to come here, to Godric’s Hollow. This place is essential as proof of the Hallows’ existence.”
Albus was apparently doing whatever he could not to blatantly gape at him. “The Deathly Hallows? I thought they were a myth!”
“Not unless there is a different Ignotus Peverell buried barely a hundred meters away from where your mother lies. He is
here. I’ve found him.” His gaze locked on Albus; he could see the other’s disbelief waning. The prospect of gaining a collaborator was immensely appealing just then. “I can show you.”
“Surely you can do much better,” Albus said. “Convince me.” Despite the severity of the sentence, his voice was nowhere near commanding. It was a request, soft as much as it was fierce.
They were standing before the youngest Peverell’s grave within a blink of an eye. Gellert watched Albus bend down, examine the cracked, long forgotten monument, and fancied that he heard him murmur words suspiciously akin to ‘the Resurrection Stone’. When Albus straightened up, he fixed a steady gaze on Gellert and shook his head, a twinge of resignation present in the gesture. “I should have looked for it as soon as I learned —”
“Come to my aunt’s when she invites you tomorrow. We can humour her for a while, then get to work.” If only to satisfy the curiosity. Young Albus, you are more interesting than one would think.
“Yes . . .” Albus agreed almost absently. Then, more clearly, “Yes.”
Gellert was aware that something changed both for him and his newfound friend that day, but only years upon years later, when he had a nearly unlimited amount of time for reflection at his hands, would he come to realize the full extent of this change.
2.0: GELLERTGellert –
Your point about wizard dominance being FOR THE MUGGLES’ OWN GOOD—this, I think, is the crucial point. Yes, we have been given power and, yes, that power gives us the right to rule, but it also gives us responsibilities over the ruled. We must stress this point, it will be the foundation stone upon which we build. Where we are opposed, as we surely will be, this must be the basis of all our counter-arguments.
Candlelit shadows danced over the parchment as Gellert reread sentence after sentence off its creases. His reply had been swift several nights before, and a discussion had sprung up from that exchange, probing far into the early hours of the morning. Still, this letter—or this note hastily scrawled in familiar handwriting—had become his favourite from Albus, and he took it out from the topmost drawer whenever he was at a loss for worthy ideas as though it were some sort of talisman. It inspired him more often than it did not.We seize control FOR THE GREATER GOOD.
Since his first inspection of this formula, Gellert had been certain that ‘for the greater good’ was the most suitable defence of his unstoppably forming creed of power. And yet, it was Albus who had come up with the phrase, not himself. Albus, who had at the start been so cautious, who never failed to remind him of how vital it was for those who rule not to lose all capacity for mercy—Albus with his idealistic mind and blue eyes. Albus, not himself. Were they really so alike? Perhaps not in every respect, but they were well matched.And from this it follows that where we meet resistance, we must use only the force that is necessary and no more. (This was your mistake at Durmstrang! But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.)
The closure of the letter, complete with the mark of the Deathly Hallows in his friend’s signature, was especially meaningful to Gellert. It exuded a similar adoration he had experienced at school from everybody who met him, only to be ensnared by his precocious brilliance. The difference between that and Albus’s affectionate terms was the simple fact that at Durmstrang, he had been untouchable. First intensely admired, then intensely hated, but always seen and treated as superior whether he aspired to it or not, and such unquestioning worship had annoyed him.
Albus was the perfect, if complementary, opposite. He was gentler than Gellert, and the average Durmstrang student would probably have considered him too soft, but he was the first true equal Gellert had ever encountered. And Gellert wanted
to make him shine. He wanted to set Albus free, free of the burden of his damaged sister and his insufferable little brother, free to conquer the world should he so please. Should they
If Albus stood for anything that Gellert could not comprehend, it was the devotion he showed to the remains of his family. Then there was Albus’s loyalty to some faceless school friend of his who wrote occasionally, triggering deeply unappreciative and carefully masked emotions in Gellert with each unexpected letter. Nevertheless, this sympathy that had Gellert infuriated so often had once worked in his own favour—how else could Albus have listened attentively one sunny day as Gellert recounted the cause and circumstances of his expulsion from school? How else could Albus have nodded, saying it changed nothing of what they were to each other now? Knowing that the same set of ethics that made Albus so generous with common people allowed him to forgive Gellert
as well was uncomfortable.
No matter. When the two of them were alone in one of their bedrooms, in Bagshot’s library, or in any intriguing place in Godric’s Hollow, Gellert held the other’s undivided attention. Together they searched, planned, debated, aware the entire time that the vision they chased was only theirs because only they were brave enough or audacious enough to believe in it.
Yes, Gellert had disclosed some of his secrets, but in return, he had already learned quite a lot about his companion during those few weeks. For the moment, tracing the outline of his favourite letter, he had to admit he was unsatisfied. He would study Albus more closely; fill in the blank spaces. It would prove interesting yet . . .
Across the street, a light went out.
“I tell you, Albus, too much of your great morality and we won’t be able to stay in power for a year, with or without the Hallows. We will need to subdue those who oppose us, but your concept of that is as insane as encouraging them outright. We will need respect at all times —”
“Respect coming out of fear is not real, and not the kind that lasts,” Albus interrupted calmly. “We would only manage to make people hate us by mindless oppression. Riots would break out, surely, attempts to overthrow our rule at any opportunity, and what then?”
Gellert retained his infectious smile. “Such worries, Albus. But you do have a point. All we need is to fool the Muggles into thinking they have rights equal to wizards, and the wizards into thinking that we are actually very liberal and not manipulating them in the slightest—how hard could that be?” The smile grew more impish as Albus sighed.
“We have been here before,” he said a little too grimly, looking at Gellert sideways. They were walking the dusty road leading from the village, lined with old trees and windswept fields. Albus liked it because his daily routine turned into pure nothing out here, and also because it was close to impossible for anybody to listen in on their conversation in the open landscape (although why anyone would spy on them was beyond him). When it came down to it, he just liked being outside with Gellert.
The faintly accented voice that had become more familiar to Albus than his own snapped him out of his contemplation. “Change of subject, then?”
He always felt slightly out of check giving into Gellert’s suggestions, but he could be cool and collected everywhere except
with Gellert, so this was, in a way, a welcome relief. “I suppose so.”
But then they were silent.
Silent, until they reached a slight curve in the road. Gellert halted his steps—Albus could see him squinting into the distance—and asked, “Do you see a pond over there?”
“Because it’s bloody hot and I fancy a swim,” Gellert replied nonchalantly. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Well . . .” Albus began, but the expression of you-are
that passed over the other’s face made him reconsider. “Of course not.”
Gellert threw him a smile that dazzled more than the blazing sky. It made him look wild, and somewhat younger than Albus whereas usually they seemed to be the same age, before the exhilaration subsided and left them both strangely flushed. Then Gellert jumped off the parched road. “Let’s not keep standing here. Come on!” And with that, he took off running, even as invisible energy crackled around him in the dry air. The robe he was wearing swished behind him like a trail of smoke, the lower hem of it constantly caught on yellowed grass.
Before Albus knew it, he had mimicked his friend and darted across the meadow.
They were both out of breath when they broke into the pond’s sanctuary. The water shimmered invitingly under the sun’s glare—just looking at it was almost torture for Albus, who became acutely aware of the way his clothes stuck to him after the impromptu race. But one pleasant thing Albus had to admit: nobody was idling about here, either. The pond was practically a hideout, far enough from the road not to be observed easily and situated slightly below the level of the surrounding terrain, with trees clustering close to it. The place was, all in all, a cosy private haven.
Beside him, Gellert let out a little laugh as he scanned the vicinity with appreciation identical to Albus’s own. “We should have found this here much earlier,” came his rasped conclusion as he wiped some of his unruly hair off his forehead. The motion was altogether mundane, but done with such indulgent slowness that Albus had to wonder if he couldn’t be teasing him.
He caught himself, quickly. “We most definitely should have. What are the odds anybody would come here?”
“I don’t think it matters,” Gellert retorted before he spun on his heel and reached into his pocket. There was no need to guess. He paced around the perimeter of the area, obviously performing a sequence of protective spells; Albus could hear him muttering, “Protego totalum . . . Repello Muggletum . . .
“You feel threatened by Muggles dropping by?” he said, barely keeping tender sarcasm from his tone. Finished with the enchantments, Gellert gave him a scathing look.
“They have a talent for meddling into things, especially when said things are none of their concern.” Crisply, he walked up to the water’s edge. There was a large weathered rock protruding from the ground just where the surface started to unfold, onto which Gellert climbed and proceeded to divest himself of his shoes. He glanced in Albus’s direction. “I prefer to swim without having to worry about clueless strangers.”
Albus stared. He had almost forgotten why they had run towards the pond in the first place, but now that his rare lack of wits was lifting, he did not feel up to watching Gellert undress. In truth, he was indeed up to the spectacle—too much so—but admitting that would help even less than denial, so he did all he could to derail that particular train of thought. It still proved disturbingly resilient.
As if deciphering Albus’s inner struggle (and could he be sure that Legilimency hadn’t just been used on him?), Gellert stood up again, facing the other way. Trying with increasing desperation to distract himself, Albus focused on undoing his own shirt, but succeeded only in mapping out the exact spot on the ground where he could watch his companion’s distorted shadow, which bent down and straightened again. He looked up once more, surrendering—in the precise second when Gellert discarded his last piece of clothing and leapt off the boulder with ease, leaving nothing but crystal droplets in his wake as the water received him with a loud splash
That did away with Albus’s stupor. By the time Gellert’s head broke the surface, fortunately quite far from the bank, he had disposed of all his garments himself and was immersed in the water up to his waist. Gellert beamed at him and swam closer.
“Gellert, this is cold
,” Albus grumbled unabashedly, though he was secretly thanking Merlin and every patron figure his dazed mind could invoke for the fact. In a similar vein, he was glad the pond went deep quickly, explaining Gellert’s dive from before all too well. He took a few more steps and kicked off the floor to swim. He barely remembered how to do it.
“Cold, Albus? It’s warm compared to the lake at Durmstrang. You should have seen that, it was great.” He spoke with the kind of enthusiasm that had seemed reserved for talk of the Hallows and various plots to secure wizard domination, but Albus was not opposed to hearing the tone now. He considered it quite endearing.
“So Durmstrang does have a lake? I read about it somewhere, but that said it was pure speculation.”
“Well, we—they keep it hidden,” Gellert responded as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, although his mistaken pronoun remained ringing in the air a bit too long for comfort. “Like the entire school, of course.” He did a graceful half-turn in the water, at last getting even the top of Albus’s hair wet. In a cheeky tone to match his jest, he added, “I hear old Hogwarts has a lake, too, but there’s some sort of monstrous creature living in it so that the poor students have absolutely no chance of frolicking in the waves when the weather gets them hot.”
Albus retaliated by splashing some more of the bright water—liquid sky, the simile struck him—right in the other’s face, but did not deprive Gellert of a verbal response, either. “Don’t remind me!”
“Then stop complaining. It’s not that cold,” Gellert remarked, voice playful. All the glitters encompassing the world right then were mirrored in his gaze when he fixed it on Albus, daring him to make a contradiction.
Albus smirked and lunged at him.
Back on the bank later, the sun was not scorching anymore. The two drenched figures hid themselves under the trees regardless, Albus ducking straight for his clothes. He returned already half-dressed, only to find Gellert lounging on the grass, his robes spread beneath him. He was resting on his back, the leg closer to Albus drawn up (although Albus had the creeping suspicion it was more for the youth’s own comfort than out of modesty). His eyes were closed, his fringe still dripping. Albus was positive that Gellert could not be asleep, restless as he always was—and in any case, the rise and fall of his chest was irregular. Irregular indeed. The sunlight streaked his skin with gold, forming dizzy patterns as it fell through a tapestry of leaves fluttering in the breeze. The world had gone suddenly very quiet.
Albus threw his own shirt on the ground and seated himself on it (feeling rather like a cheap imitation), but his inspection of Gellert’s glistening body never ceased. His own hunger for the sight intrigued him: no defying it, no use looking away. He had long since been drawn to the other’s mind—as much as to his image, he belatedly realized, as if a slow burn had gradually transformed into a conflagration that threatened to consume him. Albus would have called the sensation pain, if only it did not come closer to ecstasy than anything else ever had. With his gaze intent upon his companion, examining, almost touching him with it, Albus understood for the first glorious time that Gellert was beautiful
He noticed the smirk only when his eyes returned to focus. The ensuing question, although softly spoken, froze him from the inside with shock. “What is on your mind, my friend?”
Albus thanked his once impeccable self-discipline for still allowing him to flop onto his back and feign indifference to the best of his ability. “Our discussion from earlier. That is, before we were distracted from our plans to redefine society by swimming in a pond about the size of your great-aunt’s garden. Which was entirely your doing, as you surely know.”
“Before we redefine society, Albus, I’ll take it as my duty to our cause to make you accept that you are a terrible liar,” Gellert quipped effortlessly. He had raised himself on one elbow and was surveying Albus with an evident expression of glee. “Now tell me.”
A quirk of an eyebrow. “Since when am I your servant?” Albus was careful to keep his voice as mellow as the other’s was, but such a task was becoming downright unfeasible when he was hoping with all his might to skirt the impending topic. He doubted Gellert’s ignorance as it were.
“Good point.” Here, Gellert paused. “But it gets us nowhere.”
In a fleeting moment of relief, Albus folded his arms under his head and his eyelids drooped against the heaven’s cerulean as he exhaled deeply. “Where would you like it to get us?”
Shifting, a rustle of grass, a shadow suddenly covering him, the touch of water-wrinkled fingers on his cheek. It was a fast progress, and before Albus had any chance to react, Gellert’s lips had come to cover his lightly, smooth and cool from the water, an antithesis to the harsh summer day. The kiss ended—had it even been a kiss, a contact his short?—and Albus finally opened his eyes.
The sky, the sunshine, all of it made Gellert incandescent. “Here,” he said with satisfaction. “I would like it to get us here.”
Albus was stunned—but more than that, overjoyed. It was hard for him to recall ever being as happy as he felt, lying in this forgotten little retreat with his skin tingling all over. Gellert was perched beside him, leaning over at what had to be an uncomfortable angle, so Albus nodded wordlessly and tried to pull him down. Not inhibited by his nudity in the slightest, Gellert went right to straddle Albus’s hips, grinning victoriously as Albus’s eyes grew wide and almost immediately half-lidded. When he leaned in close, Albus silently berated himself for his complete lack of resistance, but that mattered no longer—Gellert regarded him with such unguarded lust that for the time being it was enough.
Later Albus would maintain they had spent barely a few seconds studying each other in this way, but now the stillness resembled an eternity with all the added foolishness of such a thought. And this realization freed Albus from the crushing weight of the moment, and soon his hand flew upwards, tangling in Gellert’s limp hair, tugging him down for their second kiss.
There was more enthusiasm this time around, a more aggressive meshing of lips, more intoxicating taste that was not really a taste on Albus’s tongue. Somewhat encouraged and already thoroughly seduced, he relaxed his grip and allowed his hand to slide lower, to play with the fine hairs on the back of Gellert’s neck, to glide along his spine lightly. He heard a soft moan as the other’s mouth parted from his. Gellert flashed him a private sort of smile and made sure their bodies were in as close an alignment as the laws of physics would permit. It gave Albus the overwhelming wish to get rid of his trousers, along with his common persona and incorrigible modesty: he could have no secrets to keep from Gellert anymore. He wondered if he’d ever had.
Another kiss, then Gellert’s voice. “We will go on to become great, Albus, you and I.” He sounded awestruck for the very first time Albus could remember, as though the prospect of unlimited power at their disposal aroused him to the point of madness in combination with their blooming intimacy. “Greater than any leaders this world has ever seen. And it will be ours forever, with nobody who could tarnish our names alive. Forever.”
He was whispering, but the passion of his tone, the way his very skin seemed to radiate glory was terrible and beautiful at once. It reminded Albus of phoenix flame, although he had never witnessed its splendour for himself. Like that fire, Gellert was majestic, unbridled—and thus, irresistible. He dipped his head and Albus closed his eyes, relishing the surprisingly gentle work of Gellert’s mouth on his neck.
He closed his eyes, and believed.
Shadows were once again swirling about the walls. Only this time the room belonged to Albus, the door was warded and blocked from sound, and two people were moving in it instead of one. The large desk in the centre of the bedroom overflowed with scribbled-over papers, maps, old books both opened and unopened—it had the air of a recently abandoned headquarters that would be busy again as soon as its usual occupants returned from a much deserved period of rest. It was also by a miracle that the dwindling candle on top of one such pile was balanced, albeit precariously, since neither of those who could relocate it to a more secure position seemed to care.
Albus relinquished his hold on Gellert’s hips and caressed the spots that appeared sore already, just as Gellert collapsed on the bed, shuddering a little. Wiping his lips, Albus looked up to watch him in a rare state of near limbo, sweaty and panting and sprawled out on the sheets, as close to helplessness as he could ever be.
Smiling more to himself than for Gellert to take note, Albus made himself somewhat comfortable and laid his head on the other’s belly. One of his arms wound itself around Gellert’s torso in a gesture that implied the two of them had been lovers since the beginning of time, not just over this summer.
Soon enough, he felt Gellert’s fingers in his hair, combing the knotted strands that spilled around Albus’s head in long auburn coils. “Are we quite finished?” he heard him ask shakily.
His answer stretched across the space between delight and exasperation. “We’ll never
finish that manifesto if you keep distracting me. I thought you would have picked up on that by now.” He would rather write about Gellert, about the way his hands had gripped the covers, but that was apparently not to be. He let out a sigh and pulled him closer.
Infuriatingly, this only lent Gellert more confidence. “Well, you are asking for it. You and your messy hair.”
Albus chuckled against the other’s skin, almost laughing aloud when Gellert twitched. “And my messy bed. You forget that,” and he sat up, dug up his wand in a heap of discarded robes, and cleaned the less pleasant remainder of the night’s activities with a discreet spell. He noticed that Gellert had propped himself on an elbow and was regarding him expectantly.
“You aren’t leaving, are you?” Albus queried. They had first crossed the bridge from the status of ‘friends’ to one of ‘friends and lovers’ a good while ago, but not once in all of those days had he managed to persuade Gellert to stay overnight. He himself had to be at home from dusk to dawn due to Ariana and an increasingly spiteful Aberforth, so staying at the Bagshot house together was automatically ruled out—and yet Gellert seemed reluctant to resolve the issue in the only manner that remained. This sort of detached hesitation, if anything, on occasion had Albus disturbed.
It was also why Gellert’s new response took him by surprise. “Give me a good reason to stay and I will.” The look he was giving Albus was downright commanding now, but there was a twinge of playfulness in it still. Somehow, that made his proposal all the more difficult to dismiss as a joke.
Albus had to do something. His first impulse drove him to sit down beside Gellert—almost touching him, but not quite—and ask, “What constitutes ‘good reason’ to you?” He tried to keep his voice lighthearted, although he was not sure he was succeeding.
Gellert was still staring at him, his lips a mischievous smirk. That was decidedly not helping Albus’s resolution to speak calmly. In fact, his tone betrayed him just as he reached out and cupped the side of Gellert’s face in his hand, becoming almost flirtatious. “If I lock us up here, will you stay?”
Gellert snorted indignantly. “It would take a little more to stop me getting out of somewhere.” He caught Albus’s hand in his. Albus could feel the vein in his wrist beating frantically, and his breath hitched. From the arch of Gellert’s eyebrows, he could tell that his sensitivity had not gone unnoticed.
“I’d rather not guess what I would have to resort to, then.” He bowed his head as if to pronounce the argument finished, and clarified his intent further by planting a kiss on Gellert’s collarbone. He could make out a groan as his own hand fell from Gellert’s loosened clutch. Albus smiled. Gellert might have been unpredictable, but he
could surprise too.
“I have an idea.”
Albus couldn’t restrain his amusement at that. “When don’t you?” He looked up as Gellert slapped him lightly on the arm. “Well, sorry. What is it?”
“You can—what silly phrase do you use for it again?—make love to me for the rest of the night. Keep me entertained. Then
I won’t leave.”
That’s it, Albus thought, Gellert is more surprising that I can ever dream of being. All the same, much as he loathed to admit it, the suggestion unsettled him. They had been intimate for some time, and Albus could safely say he had enjoyed even the shortest stolen moment since their revelation by the pond that smouldering afternoon, but none of their sexual escapades so far had involved one of them being inside the other. That did not mean Albus had never considered it—he had done so more than once, wondering what the act many termed forbidden was like, if it could possibly deserve the bad reputation it had—but therein lay the problem. He was curious, undecided, and somewhat afraid. Perhaps irrationally so.
“Don’t dwell on consequences all the time,” came Gellert’s voice. Albus gave him a stern look.
“Will you stop shuffling through my mind when I least expect it?”
Gellert shook his dishevelled head. “I’m not.” As Albus shot another disapproving glare at him, he continued, “You are just being obvious. You know, Albus, this is precisely why you ought to stop with that Muggle-defending of yours. According to their laws here, we are already criminals. And there you go, giving them more sympathy than they deserve, thinking of them too much, and their pitiful morality
has rubbed off on you.” His hands slid into Albus’s hair as if to soothe him with a very amateurish massage. They held each other in silence until Gellert spoke up again, softer than before. “You’re so tense. Always are. Do you even notice?”
A sigh escaped Albus before he could answer. “Right now, yes.” He pressed himself closer to the other’s warm, always tempting body, trying to relax. It was much more difficult when he knew that Gellert was right, that he really had
been worrying on some subconscious level that interfered with neither the Hallows nor those feelings had for his friend until it was articulated. And it was only now that Albus saw that he valued those emotions far too much, that he had wanted to isolate them, protect them from any sort of desecration. Through control and through self-denial, he had managed the exact opposite. The irony of it, once acknowledged, was scalding.
Even more ironic was the fact that only with Gellert, who was so bold and careless and would most likely hex anybody who dared to threaten him on sight, had Albus ever felt anything strong enough to inspire such worry.
“Well, what are you afraid of?” Gellert asked him, direct as always. “That someone will find out and blackmail you with evidence? Shut you up in prison? Really, Albus, that’s what could happen to a Muggle, or to some lowly wizard disgrace who can’t cast a spell properly to save his life. You have the skills to get out of anything if you ever need to. And yet you are ashamed of having them at all.”
Albus ignored the more militant aspects of this statement and digested it for a moment, unwillingly recalling a trial he had vaguely heard about, involving a famous Muggle writer who had been convicted of crimes everybody pretended to know but nobody dared to name out loud. It had been such a scandal that its echoes had reached him even at Hogwarts, though already so jumbled that he had barely known what to make of them. Still, Gellert was right—Muggle laws had no authority over him, and Albus was sure he could evade the slightly less damning wizard laws as well should the need arise. But the prospect sickened him nonetheless.
Gellert’s ability to chime in at the most inconvenient of times was irritating, to top it off. “Admit it, we could be as one in any way we fancied. If you did, that is. Can’t you stand the thought of your precious self-control failing for a while?”
Despite his mood and despite his grudging admission that Gellert did indeed have a point, Albus had the urge to roll his eyes. “One of us must have some
self-control. You know how things end when there is none at all.”
“So everything you do is really for the greater good, O saint Albus,” Gellert rejoined with more sarcasm than Albus had ever heard from him. There was something in that tone, some barely covered hint of evil, that nearly prompted Albus to jump up and get as far from Gellert as he could in the room. But then again, it had not been very fair to bring up the Durmstrang incident, albeit in a coded form, so Albus remained where he was and said nothing. Pleasant or not, Gellert was a comfort and, pleasant or not, Albus trusted him.
The silence mounted and shattered at last when Gellert sighed and reached around to caress Albus’s back as if in apology. Albus nuzzled the other’s neck, feeling it was as good a reply as any. Gellert’s hands raced upwards until they reached the position to tilt his face up—and even as Albus allowed himself to be manipulated in this way, he was certain of what would happen once his own eyes had met Gellert’s this time. He had no desire to prevent it. It took only a second, one unflinching gaze aimed at him, a tug that might as well have been his imagination, and his own vision went blank.
He was temporarily stripped of sight, but not of sensation. He felt his own mind wrap itself around Gellert’s like devoted arms, and laughter reverberated inside his skull in response, delightful and familiar. Assorted scraps of the summer rushed past in a whirlwind of images—Gellert running across a meadow, Ariana sitting on the couch humming a tune, Gellert and himself with their foreheads near each other as they examined some ancient tome, Aberforth shouting something incomprehensibly angry at dinner, Gellert jumping into the pond they had been swimming in together, Gellert lying naked on the grass, ethereal in shade and sunshine, Gellert kissing him and pulling at his clothes in the darkness one night, and Albus himself pushing against Gellert, murmuring some passionate words —
A wave of heat melted the last memory, and Albus absently recalled from whatever his theoretical knowledge of Legilimency was that Gellert had already penetrated so far into his mind that he was nearing access to his soul and all the untamed emotions that dwelled there, rather than mere thoughts. Even more detachedly, he realized that it ought to make him feel violated, but did not. On the contrary, Gellert’s presence had him feeling elated, and that searing bliss was made even greater by the fact that he was not alone in the experience. What he had come to identify as the connection of his and Gellert’s mind pulsed as if it were a living entity—it cooled, heated, and cooled again . . .
Albus had no sense of time or space left when his companion drew away and his eyesight returned, slowly adjusting to present him the image of Gellert’s flushed face. Both of them were panting heavily. As soon as Albus regained feeling in his whole body instead of having it all caged in his head, he realized he was sweaty to boot, shivering, and unbearably hard.
Gellert sent a triumphant grin his way. “Well,” he breathed, leaning back against the pillows and the rumpled sheets, displaying that he was no better off than Albus himself. He licked his fingers provocatively, the implication in the gesture clear. “Your turn.”
It was simply too late to refuse. Not that Albus would have done it. He concluded he truly should have known, right from his first encounter with Gellert at the graveyard, that he would not be able—or willing?—to deny him anything. Now all he had to do was translate the joining that had just occurred between their minds into flesh. With a sort of doomed fascination, his eyes followed Gellert’s now slick hand as it performed the necessary work. He saw Gellert wriggle and arch off the bed, then throw his head back in that specifically sharp fashion that characterized most of his movements, a near growl emanating from his throat. That was when Albus felt the last few strings of his restraint stretch briefly and break.
He reached out, slowly at first so as not to hurt, aware only of the luxurious warmth of his friend’s body as he sank into it. The sensation, the beautiful closeness he had never thought he would achieve with anyone, enveloped and inflamed him. He could feel Gellert everywhere, caressing and touching him in a myriad of ways—with his hands, his lips, his mesmerizing skin, his thighs. And over that all, like sky over a rugged landscape, reigned the wondrous intimacy of their union. If Albus had still possessed any presence of reason, he would have conceded that Gellert had been right again. He felt no shame to mar the experience, only a wild, bone-deep pleasure that seemed to multiply itself the longer and the more fervently they clung to each other. Albus was more than happy to let his control go.
They kissed languidly in the aftermath, the synchronized fluidity of their motions replaced by a sudden awkwardness; they laughed when their noses collided ungracefully. The candle on the table had finally burned out, but neither of them took any heed. Albus ran his fingers over the other’s face in the silvery darkness, along Gellert’s jawline, then down his neck and shoulder and arm, until he found his lover’s hand. The fact that Gellert laced their fingers firmly together made him so happy that he felt simultaneously ridiculous. But even that was welcome.
It took him longer than usual to succumb to sleep that night. Normally, Gellert could stay up in a flurry of activity as late as he needed to, and then he would fall asleep fast. Now he was indeed tired enough, but that was all. His inexplicable inability to rest properly was becoming more ominous on top of being a source of irritation the more he concentrated on it.
Maybe there was just the bed at fault.
What filled him with a whole another kind of agitation was the startling certainty with which he knew that he was here
. He ran it through his head, very nearly incredulous and absolutely ecstatic. Location: the British Isles, Godric’s Hollow, the Dumbledore cottage, Albus Dumbledore’s bed. Albus Dumbledore’s arms. It should not have amazed him so much—wasn’t he the one who had started this? or was he?—but there he was, ready to write poetry of lovestruck gibberish in the middle of the night. He was alive, he was young, he was possibly happiest he had been since he mastered his first real spell. It was pathetic, truly.
With a sigh, he rearranged himself beside Albus who was long unconscious, letting his gaze flicker over him before he closed his eyes. There was nothing for it. Perhaps, as immense as he estimated his own influence over Albus to be, the effect was not just one-sided.
Strangely warmed by the idea, Gellert laid his free hand on his companion’s chest. Over the heart that in barely ten days he would break.