|beholder_mod (beholder_mod) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2008-04-27 16:20:00
|Entry tags:||aberforth dumbledore, albus dumbledore, fic, gellert grindelwald, slash|
FIC: 'The Antelope and the Lion' for lee_west
Title: The Antelope and the Lion
Pairings: Aberforth/Grindelwald, also: Albus/Grindelwald
Word Count: ~7000
Warnings: Unusual POV. Angst, dark humor. If you think Albus Dumbledore is perfect and wonderful, this is not the fic for you. Murder, canon character death. Oh, and I suppose Gellert would be 16 during his relationship with Albus, because that's canon, folks!
Summary: There is nothing an ambitious Chaos Spirit likes to play with more than a family as dysfunctional as the Dumbledores.
Author's Notes: (1) lee_west, this is rather experimental. Sorry. This pairing just took me there. Actually, JKR took me there with the screwed up story of the Dumbledore family. I just decided to actually go there. (2) There is no doubt the form of this fic was subtly influenced by "The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak. (3) Thank you to my betas: L for the reality check, N for the idea that made it work so much better, and B for the rest.
Here is what I know for certain.
Aberforth Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald both hated Albus Dumbledore. Despite their seemingly insurmountable differences, it was this fact alone that brought them together. That hate was the central truth in both of their lives.
I love hatred. Hate that strong can bond two souls, you know.
But stop there, I'm getting ahead of myself. When it started...well, before it started between them, they both loved Albus. I'm oversimplifying that as well. Neither of them ever stopped loving him. Not really. In the end, that was what drove them to it.
Nothing can make a person act more cruelly than love. I had not learned that yet, back then.
* * * * * *
I suppose I should introduce myself. When this story starts, my name was Merle. I was a junior Chaos Spirit with some good instincts and a few minor successes in generating trouble, but I had not yet found my niche. It does not spoil anything to confess that the events I recount here did help advance my career. Now that I have earned my Ninth-Level Imp finger-webbing, I am known as Myrthal, although I'm planning to request a name upgrade again when I achieve the Tenth-Level.
My subordinates call me Sir, or Your Chaoticness.
You do not have to call me anything. I am merely the storyteller.
* * * * * *
When I took my post with the Dumbledore family, the boys were in their late teens. Their mum had recently "passed" (that was what Albus called it, Aberforth called her "dead-dead-dead"), and the stigma of their father's crime flared like the Sign of Slothor over their home. You've heard of Percival's shame, haven't you? His false imprisonment? That was my cousin Zaxor's work. Brilliant.
Albus was an overachieving man-child wandering ghost-like through his own house, trapped and bitter. Aberforth was a messy, muscled farm boy unwilling to spend more than a few hours indoors. There was an uneasy gloom to the family, a sense that they were waiting for something horrible to happen. Something else horrible. They were rather dull, really, Albus locked in the library, Aberforth rambling the countryside, both waiting.
Ariana was another matter. I liked her immediately, but that is because I prefer the surreal and the dangerous. I never decided whether I believed her to be insane before her parents hid her away, or if all of the damage was done because they had isolated her for so long. By the time I got there, it hardly mattered. Her blue-white skin tugged over her skull, and when she smiled, you could see where she had pulled out four of her own teeth.
Here is the best thing Ariana ever said to me: "I could become you, couldn't I? I hope so. The antelope always knows the lion." She had a cruel wink. "I know you, and I know about the hole in the wall, too. I know how to get out." She always smiled and rocked and grabbed my arm when she spoke. It was very endearing.
You would have liked her, too.
* * * * * *
I had been watching Gellert Grindelwald for many years by the time he arrived in Godric's Hollow. My superior, the Great and Hideous Rylax, had been assigned to him early on. Gellert demonstrated an ability to both misuse facts and gather followers as young as age five. Rylax suggested that we all spend some time observing him, as a part of our continuing education. My first day with him, Gellert led the neighbourhood wizarding children in ostracizing a little Muggle girl, for his own enjoyment. A boy after my own heart, Gellert was.
On Rylax's suggestion, I spent three paid weeks watching Gellert at school, as he gathered his core of believers, his inner circle. He had only to glance with the right twist of his thick lips, aim his intense gaze at the right human heart, and they belonged to him. I was impressed.
I think I loved him from the start.
I try not to intervene in matters that do not involve my assigned family, but I was intrigued by the idea of a meeting between Albus and Gellert, even while Gellert was still at Durmstrang. They were both ambitious and so very arrogant. They could have done great things together, had it gone differently.
I could not stop imagining it. I had to see what would happen between them. Without Rylax's knowledge, I left a few books open where Gellert would read the basic tenets of wizarding superiority. Gellert was hungry for it. He took it upon himself to humiliate and torture those Muggleborns shortly thereafter. Therefore, I may have been responsible, or he might have planned it anyway, without my intervention. (That is what I told the Demon Council, when I was caught acting out of my jurisdiction.)
What matters is that he did it, and he was expelled from school, and because of that he met Albus, and the rest happened, so the Council was content, either way. So was I.
* * * * * *
I didn't realise I should be afraid of Aberforth until after Ariana's death. He seemed too simple and earthy for me to concern myself with. I thought he cared too little about humanity to be of use to me. I never imagined he would be able to compete with me for Gellert's attention, not Gellert Grindelwald, my new hope for the world.
* * * * * *
I'm ahead of myself again. Apologies. I admit Aberforth gets me flustered. He was unexpected.
Where was I? Oh yes, Albus and Gellert. Well, I knew that Gellert would be able to pull Albus in with his gravity and his passion and his blonde curls. Albus's weaknesses were never well hidden. Did I tell you about his folly later, with that idiot Lockhart? Damn Albus and his bloody luck- that memory charm saved him a whole heap of trouble.
Enough of that. Back to Gellert and Albus.
I watched them together on those long afternoons, and it always went something like this:
"Let us indulge in fantasies of world peace brought about by our benevolent dictatorship."
"No. We shall shift in our chairs so that our thighs collide under the table and I feel confusing flutterings throughout my body."
"Very well. Then we will belittle Muggles as we roll about on this antique and uncomfortable sofa."
"No no. I must attend to my troubled family."
"You must devote yourself to me and only me."
"My soul is tormented!"
Et cetera. I may be not be remembering their exact words. It was quite annoying.
Albus was a remarkable intellect, but Gellert blinded him with that mind and that smile and those ridiculous blonde curls. Albus's usual passion for dissecting and analyzing the wizarding world was subverted by a new and powerful interest in Gellert's mouth. He must have been wise enough to see that he was losing his way by letting Gellert in. Gellert went through a similar dry spell, failing to come up with any twisted moral arguments for weeks. It was all very disappointing.
I watched them fuck, more than once. Sex between them was all power plays and strutting and pretending to submit. It always went something like this:
"I want you."
"No, I want you."
"I shall bend you over the arm of this sofa and take you, now."
"Er, no, I was planning to press you against this magnificent desk and take you. Let's do it that way."
"I am really more of a top."
"I'm really not in the mood for this. We all know I am the top here. After all, who was just published in Magical Reason and Thought Quarterly?"
"Academic scholarship does not make you a top. Bend over."
Et cetera. Again, my memory of their exact words might be hazy. It was agony.
I can admit now I was jealous. I did have a minor crush on Gellert, but even worse, my career was on the line. I thought bringing them together would heighten both of their tendencies towards magical world domination, but instead they had become obsessed with dominating each other. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I needed them apart. They were weakening each other. My experiment had failed.
Here is what I did.
Ariana and I were spending long afternoons together. No one could get her as agitated as me. After our time together, she would rant and hurl things and spit venom at her brothers. She was a peach.
Here is the best thing I ever heard Ariana say to Albus: "I know you wish me dead, so you would not have to stay here with us, brother. I know you dream of killing me." I told her to say that! I had such influence over her, because she wanted to be me. That gives a person power, I tell you.
The afternoon it all came together (I suppose that it was the afternoon it all came apart, to them), I had been in with Ariana for several hours. She was standing on her chest of drawers wearing her knickers and nothing else. I had encouraged her to cut off her hair ("cut close to the skin, like a pelt") and she had done about half of it when Albus came in to see her.
She screamed then. Her voice was like glass. "The lion is here!" is what I remember her saying. I don't know what Albus thought she said.
Aberforth ran in shortly after she screamed, and then Gellert followed, his hair disgustingly tousled. Nothing made me more vindictive than seeing Gellert's perfect hair with Albus's fingerprints all over it, stiff with sweat. That could only mean they had been fucking again, instead of plotting. I'd had enough.
"Ariana, please." That was Albus, trying to coax her down, averting his eyes from her nakedness. "We are here now, take this blanket and wrap yourself up. You'll catch cold." Aberforth stared, empty-eyed. Gellert looked around at the scene like a child in a toy shop, his eyes bright and alert. Ariana laughed.
"Don't do this to me, Ariana." That was Albus again.
"She isn't doing this to you, Albus. Just let her be," snarled Aberforth, aroused from his blank stare. "Are you all right, Ariana?" Aberforth stepped towards his sister with a dirty hand outstretched. He had been out with the animals again.
"No. She is doing this to all of us, everyday," snapped Albus, and the brothers faced each other, eyes (so similar, so blue) narrowed. A challenge had been thrown.
In the quiet pause, Ariana remembered I was there. Her dark gaze fixed upon my face, pierced into me, and she grinned. "You! You'll help me to get out! He'll do it now, he'll free me! The hole in the wall is opening," she said cheerfully. I knew she was talking to me. No one else had noticed I was there.
I nodded to her, and smiled. "Do it." She winked. Her last wink.
"This is your sister? She is not sane." Gellert said it to himself, his voice with a hint of marvel in it. Both brothers spun to glare at Gellert, united suddenly against the common enemy.
"She's better than sane." That was Aberforth. Those may have been the first words he ever said to Gellert.
"This is a family matter, Gellert, please leave us." Albus sounded tired. He should have been tired, he had been up all night. Then, so had Gellert, but he looked fresh and rested.
"What has happened to her?" Gellert stared at Ariana like she was an interesting insect specimen he had caught.
I watched Ariana while the bickering between the three boys escalated. She crouched on the chest of drawers, picking at her hair. Her eyes were alert and shining, waiting for the moment she could finally be freed. I felt it coming too, like the first gust of breeze before the hurricane.
"...not your concern, and she can be dangerous, so let's please take this conversation out of the room." Wasn't that so like Albus, to still try to reason with Gellert, even after all he knew his dark thoughts, his passion, his drive to dominate?
"When shall I do it?" Ariana whispered to me, and I held up a finger. Wait. He was almost ready.
Gellert tried to touch Ariana, and Aberforth threw himself at him. Albus was trying in vain to separate them, and he shoved at Gellert, and Gellert kicked back.
"Now?" asked Ariana.
"Almost," I said.
Now Gellert had Aberforth pinned to the floor, wand pointed at his throat, and then Aberforth spat in Gellert's face and Gellert shouted Crucio. Albus had fallen back, frozen, staring at the tussle before him. He was alone, and vulnerable, while the other two were locked in combat and unable to stop him.
"Now," I said, and Ariana squeezed her eyes closed and a jolt of current came off of her and ricocheted through the room, a dangerous little spark. It hit Aberforth in the shoulder and burned him. He yelped and Gellert released him. Ariana laughed. Albus's eyes turned on her and flared in anger and panic.
And love of course. He loved her, very much.
"NO. No more of this! No more! Stop hurting us!" Albus shrieked. Ariana's eyes met mine, and I could see the hole open behind her. She looked up in utter rapture, and a flood of magical energy poured off of her body as Albus lifted his wand and said those words, Avada Kedavra, and green light blasted into her, and he finally, finally, set her poor soul free.
I watched her gleefully soar back through her hole in the wall, to her freedom, and then the hole healed itself. And the boys were left alone.
Isn't this a wonderful story?
* * * * * *
Aberforth's hatred for Albus started the moment that spell hit Ariana's chest. I watched his eyes cloud over and his jaw set. When his fist hit Albus's face a week later, then everyone knew. His was a public hatred.
It took Gellert a few more weeks to realize that Albus really was going to shut him out, blame him for his sister's death, and suppress the truth, deep inside himself. Even better, he was going to twist Gellert's beliefs, which had been Albus's beliefs too, and use them against him, to hurt him. I made sure that Albus was loud and cruel in his rants against Gellert whenever Gellert could overhear. Gellert's hatred took hold, and the two lovers never spoke privately again.
I was overjoyed. It had worked. I thought I would have what I wanted, the two boys apart, back on the path to chaos.
I was wrong.
* * * * * *
I missed the first time Gellert and Aberforth met up. I was spending most of my time with Albus, and I've never forgiven myself for missing this part of the tale. I had to hear about it in a briefing by Clytham the Succinct, one of my minions, and Clytham is not known for his detailed exposition. I've had to imagine most of the meeting. Here is what I like to think happened:
They meet at a museum, somewhere anonymous and public. They have nothing to say to each other. They have never spoken before, but both know they are forever bound by what happened that afternoon in Ariana's bedroom.
They walk together at a slow pace. Observers would think they were school chums. After all, they are both only sixteen.
Perhaps the thing that starts the conversation is Aberforth asking after Mrs. Bagshot (she has sent Gellert away, and he has run to one of his cohorts in London). Perhaps Gellert asks where Aberforth is living now (he has been taken in by the family of his friend Jonah Fletcher). Perhaps they never even mention Albus or Ariana. Or maybe that is all they talk about.
Somehow, by the time this conversation ends, they both realize that as a pair, they hold power over Albus that neither of them can wield alone. They both know him to be a murderer, two against one, and they both hate him.
And love him too of course. Never forget that.
One of them (I've always imagined it to be Aberforth) suggests that they stick together, find a place to live. They are both at loose ends, need somewhere to stay where they can plan, decide what to do next, how to use their power. They shake hands and part, set to meet again in a week...
Or maybe it was nothing like that.
When I found them again a few years later, they were living together in the dingy rooms over the Hog's Head tavern, Gellert writing all day, pacing and planning all night, Aberforth tending the garden and the bees, goats, and cow out behind the bar all day, howling with nightmares all night. They were not friends, they hardly spoke to each other, but the bond between them, sealed by hatred, was tenacious and growing.
* * * * * *
This is where I come into the story again. This situation was too rife with potential pain for me to let it lie. I was up for promotion, and my CV was sorely lacking in initiating turmoil and generating general discord.
More importantly, this was Gellert Grindelwald. I was tired of him wasting away in obscurity.
I had been at Albus's elbow over the years, watching as he rose in prominence, becoming more and more convinced of his own innocence and moral superiority, and of Gellert's evil. Albus escaped from the disaster of Ariana's death rather too easily. I wanted him to hurt. Wouldn't you?
Here is what I did.
Aberforth had never, as far as I could tell, shown a romantic inclination towards anyone. Gellert's celibacy since Albus had been intentional and controlled.
I lurked around the Hog's Head and started opening locks. That was all. Not evil, in the grand scope of the evil wrought upon humanity, but effective.
Bedroom door locks, locks to the bathroom, locks to the garden shed, locks to chests and drawers and cupboards. It was a subtle lowering of the guard Gellert and Aberforth had put up against each other. After only a few weeks, they had watched each other sleeping, seen each other's private spaces, come across various secret stashes, seen each other naked.
Finding the door open, Gellert had spent one long morning going through Aberforth's possessions, more books and memorabilia than he expected from the farm boy I'm sure, including the family portrait and the painting of Ariana he kept turned against the wall.
Sneaking them out of his desk one night, Aberforth had read all of the letters Albus had written to Gellert, his face red and flushed.
I knew I was on to something the day Gellert walked into the unlocked bathroom and found Aberforth just emerging from the tub. Aberforth had Albus's same long, lean body, but on him it was sinewy, tanned, and hard from the manual labor and long days outdoors. Gellert stared a second too long before shutting the door and rushing to his own room.
I admit I watched Gellert bring himself off after that encounter, and the name he moaned as he came was Aberforth, not Albus.
Aberforth both heard and saw Gellert pleasuring himself that day, standing by my side in the doorway. As usual, I had unlocked the door, and removed Gellert's silencing spell.
Aberforth saw, and then he dashed to his own room. I didn't have to spy to know what he was doing then.
* * * * * *
The first time they fucked was a real highlight in my career, cited by Tolgar as one of the five events that earned me my ear points.
Here is what happened.
Aberforth was in the garden, planting bulbs.
I had knocked a book of medicinal and magical plants off the shelf the night before, where I was sure Gellert would find it. I was setting up these little interactions between them whenever I could. They would sit in silence for days otherwise.
"What do you plant?" Gellert had come out to watch, holding the book. I was watching from the low branch of Aberforth's plum tree.
Gellert Grindelwald, weight on one leg, gaze focused, glowing golden in the sunlight- there was nothing more beautiful.
Aberforth was crouched in the garden, skin dark with soil, long hair pulled back, casually comfortable with the task at hand, muscles contracting under his tanned skin with each effort. His eyes were framed in dark; his nightmares had been particularly violent over the last few nights, and he had been awake at odd hours. Aberforth was not a beautiful man, but he was a part of the earth that afternoon, dark and solid, and I saw why Gellert fell.
"Dahlias," said Aberforth, not looking up.
"Dahlias? Why?" asked Gellert.
"Beauty." Aberforth's voice had a calm, assertive quality that I admired.
"I believed you only grew magical or medicinal plants," Gellert replied, looking over at the goats, who were watching the scene unfold from their pen. "I found a book out..."
"Medicinals are there," Aberforth said, rubbing his filthy hand under his nose and pointing to the far corner, "and they are all magical." He indicated the entire garden.
"Dahlias are not magical," said Gellert.
Aberforth looked at him. "They are plants."
Gellert looked around the garden with a critical eye. He flipped open his book and was walking towards the patch of medicinal plants.
"What are you looking for?" Aberforth asked, standing up and wiping his hands on his trousers. His robe was loosened at the collar, revealing his sweat and dirt streaked chest, ribs visible.
"Do you grow asphodel?" asked Gellert. Aberforth followed him to the far corner.
"Would you like to collect some?" Standing next to Gellert, all gold and light, Aberforth looked like a dark, sturdy elm. "It is there."
"What other poisons do you raise?" Gellert crouched down to see the plants more closely.
"A few. You could help me plant some more. If you are interested in poisonous plants, I have aconite and belladonna seedlings ready to plant in the back here, where they will not be a temptation for the goats. I'll get them." Aberforth strode away towards the cellar, as Gellert looked up, his eyes wide.
"I do not wish to dig in dirt..." Gellert started, but Aberforth had walked away too quickly. I watched him consider his options, kneeling there in the grass, and decide to stay. When Aberforth returned with the tray of small plants, he did not repeat his refusal.
They spent an hour in the garden, getting the seedlings in. Gellert protected his hands at first, until Aberforth crouched behind him, grabbed Gellert's delicate hands in his coarse ones, and guided his digging, plunging his hands into the soft, dark soil. "Like this, Gellert," he said, and then moved away.
I was sitting above them in the plum tree, but even I could sense the jolt of arousal that touch gave both of them.
The goats also watched, chewing steadily.
Gellert dug in then, and managed to get himself quite filthy. No competition with Aberforth, on whom a layer of dirt was permanently embedded, but more dirty than I had ever seen Gellert allow himself to become. He loosened his collar, and a fine sheen of sweat appeared on his brow. They did not speak, but I counted nine moments they managed to touch each other.
I was tingling in anticipation of the chaos their relationship had the potential to create. It was too good.
The last task Aberforth suggested was to weed the nettle patch. They had to work together, Aberforth pulling weeds, with Gellert, in thick gloves, holding the nettles out of the way.
Then, finally, it started.
Gellert let a nettle escape from his grasp, and it snapped up and brushed Aberforth's bare arm. He sucked in his breath and stood, not looking at Gellert, and moved quickly into a shadowy corner of the garden. Gellert pulled off his gloves and rushed after him.
"Are you hurt?"
Aberforth had plucked several fern fronds and was rubbing them against the affected part of his arm, which was red and puffy. "I've had worse," he replied.
"I can help." Gellert grabbed more fern, grasped Aberforth's arm, and began to rub the fronds against his skin. "Is this an improvement?" His hands moved along Aberforth's arm in swift strokes.
Aberforth placed his hand on top of Gellert's. Gellert stopped, and their eyes met.
"It helps," said Aberforth, and then he leaned down, and kissed Gellert on the lips.
They stood still for a moment after that, faces like stone. Gellert said, "The last person to kiss me was your brother."
"I don't have a brother," said Aberforth, still holding the fern against his arm, as he leaned in again.
There was appealing spite in Aberforth's words, and Gellert's filthy hands grabbed at his hair and pulled his down to him. I could see their collision of mouths and teeth, sense the desperate need to get this right, to exact some revenge. I had to stop myself from jumping down and knocking them over so that they would take each other right there in the garden.
"I am very dirty," said Gellert at last, breathless, and he pulled on Aberforth's arm, leading him in the back entrance to the pub and up the stairs to their rooms.
I imagine he intended that they should clean up before proceeding with further intimacies, but Aberforth had other ideas, and as soon as they entered the tiny sitting room they shared, Aberforth had Gellert pressed up against the wall, his big, sturdy hands pinning him down.
"I watched you together," Aberforth admitted between hard, long kisses. That should have alerted me right away that Aberforth was a cunning adversary. In all of those months at Godric's Hollow, I'd never noticed him watching, too.
He pressed his thigh against the growing bulge in Gellert's robes, and Gellert moaned, and then I moaned as well. Gellert said, "I know. I saw you," and then everything happened very quickly.
Gellert swung Aberforth around to face the wall, lifted his robes, and with very little ceremony ripped down his pants, muttered preparation, and slammed into him, mercilessly pounding him into the wall. Gellert's beautiful face was contorted with pleasure, Aberforth's long face was pressed into the ancient wood of the wall, his nails digging into the plaster. The room smelled of their sweat and the soil, mingled with the faint tang of arse and cock and Gellert's hair lotion.
I think that time may have been the only time their fucking was really about punishing Albus. After that, I'm not so sure, as you will see. But it was a beautiful sight to behold.
It was not long before Gellert's grunts turned into a long moan and Aberforth's lanky frame was pressing back into him with aggressive thrusts. I'd seen my Gellert come before, but this time his climax rolled through his entire body and into Aberforth's, and it was perfect. They slumped against the wall and the room was quiet.
Then, I was surprised. I expected horror at what they had done, but there was none. They did not start back from each other, or bellow accusations. They did not awkwardly part to lick their wounds. They did not argue, or glare, or slap.
Instead, Aberforth turned around and leaned back against the wall, and Gellert leaned into him, breathing hard. Aberforth's long arm wrapped around him and held him up and he stroked that golden hair, and said, "We should clean up."
Gellert smiled and said, "Yes."
Aberforth drew a bath in the inn's ancient tub, and Gellert got in, and Aberforth scrubbed him, scrubbed off the soil and the sex, and perhaps scrubbed away a layer of Albus as well. He sparkled. Then Gellert drew Aberforth into the tub with him, and Aberforth let himself be washed and rinsed and wiped clean as well.
There in the tub, Gellert let Aberforth take him, slowly, teasingly, until the water was splashing and the patrons in the bar downstairs noticed drips of water seeping through the ceiling.
After, when they were both wet and clean, they lay awake in bed together for a long time, in silence. Finally, Gellert said, "When he and I..."
Aberforth cut him off. "I do not want to talk about him. Ever again."
As far as I know, until the end, they never did.
* * * * * *
My mistake was that I still thought they were fucking each other to get back at Albus, even when they refused to talk about it. I should have known better. Albus was off in London winning awards and making friends, growing a god-awful beard, and hiding the blood on his hands behind a damn twinkle in his eye. (He really was the best actor I have ever known.) He had no idea that his radical lover and his estranged brother were falling into bed together every night, shouting out each other's names in pleasure. They should have been trying to tell him, in some cruel and public way. Wasn't that why they were doing it?
However, Aberforth and Gellert continued on together, and seemed to have no dastardly plans to tell Albus, no plot to reveal his murderous history to the wizarding population. In fact, Gellert started to become slack in his drive to study the Hallows, in his efforts to persuade others of the importance of blood-purity. He began to sleep in late, curled around Aberforth's long body. They ate their meals together. Gellert appeared to enjoy combing his fingers through Aberforth's hair. One day, I caught Gellert feeding the goats! Something had to be done.
Gellert's little publication, The Greater Good, was starting to gain a bit of a following amongst the wealthiest pure-bloods and the poorest half-bloods. I felt a swell of paternalistic pride with each new subscription. He printed them himself in his room above the Hog's Head, wrote most of the articles himself, or invited submissions.
One day, a small article was left tacked to his door. He knew the scrawled handwriting well, and the paper was streaked with filth. The article was called, "A Brother's Betrayal", and was signed A. Goatherd. It was a brief account of Ariana's death. The last line of the article said this. "In recent weeks, the younger Dumbledore has found happiness with the publisher of this very pamphlet, so all hope was not lost with Ariana's murder."
Gellert thought Aberforth wrote the article, of course, and published it.
Aberforth would never have written such cheap drivel. I wrote the article myself.
Albus read it, and was outraged and hurt, but his anger did not give me the pleasure I sought. Gellert read that last line of the article to himself almost every day, and pulled Aberforth into his bed after that with a kindness and a consideration that he had never shown anyone before. He slowed production of the pamphlet. He and Aberforth took to rambling together into the mountains outside of Hogsmeade. Gellert helped harvest honey. I saw them holding hands. Gellert wrote essays that had nothing to do with Muggle inferiority. He sometimes looked completely at peace, the manic chaos of his soul soothed by Aberforth's calm.
I felt that bubble of jealousy grow in me again. I had misjudged this Aberforth Dumbledore. I was in trouble.
* * * * * *
Albus to the rescue. His revenge against them was harsh.
Remember, nothing makes a person act more cruelly than love, and Albus still loved both Aberforth and Gellert. And he feared them. So.
Albus was printing his own pamphlet at the time, called The White Phoenix, and he used it to spread his own tales. Labeling Aberforth an illiterate joke was not too difficult, considering his country ways. The rumors of goat fucking were laughable at first, until they started to stick. Albus's claims that Gellert was a vicious dictator seeking world domination may have been close to the truth, but were certainly exaggerated.
If I could have written such vitriol, I would have. Albus was better at it than me. He was more motivated.
Albus's written and verbal rants against them both were like sweet music. At last I could see the road to utter chaos appearing straight in front of me to the horizon. Enough waiting. I was ready for war. Too much of my time was being spent listening in at bedroom doors. This was beneath me.
Albus was primed for a fight. I just had to get Gellert there too. Between them, they could bring the world apart. That meant getting Gellert away from Aberforth.
* * * * * *
In the end, it was easier than I thought.
I sent Albus a note. It said, "Hog's Head Tavern, Hogmeade, tomorrow, 8:00." I left it unsigned.
Aberforth and Gellert had taken to having a late supper in the pub, so I knew they would both be there to greet the enemy.
When Albus walked in, carrying his air of superiority and wearing crisp lavender robes, Aberforth and Gellert were curled in a booth, sitting across from each other, sipping their soup and talking quietly.
Facing the door, Gellert noticed Albus first and froze. Everything that Albus meant to him, all the passion and intellectual fire and anger, flared up in his eyes in an instant.
Aberforth turned his head and saw his only family, and his jaw set. I had forgotten how similar the brothers looked, with those blue, blue eyes.
I had so much riding on the events of this meeting. I had done what I could, but it was up to them now to make the final mistakes. I was tense, sitting at the bar, watching. Much depended on these first words between them.
"I received your note," Albus said, to both of them, or either of them.
I held my breath. Aberforth looked at Gellert, and Gellert at Aberforth and their eyes were suddenly shielded from each other. I could almost see their thoughts. You sent Albus a note? And with that the seed of discord was thrown between them. The war might as well have started right then. I grinned.
"What do you want?" Albus continued.
Neither Gellert nor Aberforth spoke.
"May I sit down?" Albus continued, and Aberforth and I both noticed that Gellert slid over in his seat to invite Albus to sit by him. Albus had turned and pulled up a chair to the end of the booth. He took a seat. "So, I hear you are in love?"
Aberforth swallowed hard, and opened his mouth to speak, but Gellert was faster. "Love? Is that what you call it? Jealous, I see. That is flattering."
"No, just curious," said Albus. He had reached into his pocket and pulled out a sweet, which he casually popped into his mouth. "I thought you believed in something, Gellert. I thought you had a cause, a mission. And now I find out you are hiding here, passing the days eating soup with my brother in a worn down pub, when you could be changing the world. I thought I knew you better than that." I can only hope those words burned in Albus's throat for the next 30 years, as he watched Gellert act out his mission.
"Yes, and I thought you loved your sister, so I suppose we all make mistakes," replied Gellert.
I practically jumped out of my skin in excitement! There he was, Gellert! Back to his old self at last. Aberforth's face had turned a dusty pale as he listened to this exchange.
"Gellert, let's go," Aberforth said, and he gently touched Gellert's arm. I think that may have been their last touch.
"You know about his mission, don't you brother?" Albus asked, his eyes on Gellert. "He wants to cleanse the world of Muggle filth, and then become an immortal." He glanced at Aberforth. "Did he tell you?"
Aberforth was shaking, staring at Albus. "You don't know anything." He held out his hand to Gellert. "Let's go." He stood.
"Rid the world of Muggle filth? I'd never thought of it in quite such clear terms before, Albus. Brilliant." Gellert's hands remained folded on the table. "You always did give me the best ideas." He grinned, his perfect, straight teeth glowed white in the gloomy pub. "I have been impressed by your ability to fool people. How many know what you did Albus? Just the three of us? Does it keep you awake at night, listening to Ariana's screams?" Gellert's voice had a sharp edge. "It does Aberforth."
"Stop, Gellert," said Aberforth. "Stop it." He had drawn his hand away. I think he had forgotten who he was dealing with.
"You hate him as much as I do, Aberforth," Gellert said lightly. The expression on Aberforth's face was so raw and hurt, I almost had the urge to comfort him. Almost.
"He's my brother. You could never hate him as much as I do," Aberforth replied. He held out his hand one last time. I don't know what Aberforth was thinking at that moment, but I was remembering Gellert rubbing the fern fronds against his wounded skin. Perhaps he was too.
"Are you telling me you are considering spending your life here, living in this pub with my brother?" Albus asked Gellert, brows raised.
"He is," said Aberforth, but we all saw Gellert's face stiffen in that moment. His diversion with Aberforth was over before he opened his mouth.
"I have many plans for my life," he said. "None of them are your business, Albus."
Aberforth stood up then, and gave each of the other men a hard look, and walked out. Remember, he loved them both. He had lost Albus years before, and now he had lost Gellert to his pride and his insane dreams and his hatred.
Gellert and Albus were left alone, and without the balance of Aberforth between them, their words spiraled out of control, becoming cold and clinical and impersonal in a few short minutes. The first steps towards war had been taken before Albus stood up and strode out of the pub.
* * * * * *
The rest was easy. There were years of build-up, of course, and then a long war, full of horror and evil.
Then, one lovely summer day, Albus disarmed Gellert and captured him, and then left him behind to rot in prison. Albus was a hero, and Aberforth and Ariana and even Gellert were forgotten in the haze of his glory. Albus's story is what the history books and wireless specials and commemorative war statues (and chocolate frog cards) will tell you.
What I am telling you is that the war was started between these three men alone, and could have been over on that day in the Hog's Head, long ago, if they had decided to admit that they all loved each other, rather than commit to their hatred. The rest that came after was just excess. The rest was just show, to hide their humiliation.
What a wonderful waste.
* * * * * *
Here is why this is my favorite story: In the end, everyone lives! They lived extremely long lives, tortured by their mistakes. They lived each day knowing they had been betrayed and maligned. They lived with murder, lived with being the Goat-Fucker, the Most Evil Wizard Who Ever Lived, or the Paragon of Virtue, when they were really just three men, flawed in their own ways. Human.
This is also my favorite story because it resulted in my promotion to Imp, and to my subsequent successes in war mongering and genocide. Think of the many atrocities wrought in the world over the last decades! I know I am responsible, directly or indirectly, for many of them. Oh yes, I do love my job. I will never forget the day Rylax called me Myrthal the Subtle for the first time.
Enough of that. Back to our tale.
Albus thought he had a second chance when he met young Tom Riddle, but he was so determined to stay aloof from the boy, to not make the same mistakes, that he managed to make even more. He took a great many good men and women down with him in the process, didn't he? Trying to keep himself apart from evil, he let us in. You know, thinking about it all again, Albus Dumbledore was a great asset to me while he lived. I owe him much.
Aberforth tried to forgive Albus once, long after Gellert was imprisoned. He joined his fight against evil, but it did not take. They were better as strangers.
Then there was Gellert, that dear boy. All of that potential, all of that hope! To have it fall apart over love. I can only shake my head in sorrow. Wasting away in prison, so many lost years, never a letter or a sign from either brother. Punishment indeed.
I mourn for you now, Gellert, but, as I do try to keep a professional demeanor, I won't mourn for long. I am up for promotion again next month, and am in need of a new challenge.
I'm sure I will not have to search for long.