March 15, 1992, 11:30 AM, Somewhere in Austria
“What is this place, my Lord?”
“Somewhere away from prying eyes.” Gellert said and suppressed the wince threatening to appear on his face as the two men made their way down an old path. “I’m no one’s Lord, Matthias.”
Gellert’s gaze went downwards with somber purpose, seeing the sorry state of the place.
He recalled his final visit in the summer of 1936; walking down a pristine, winding road, like a silk scarf over the wild earth surrounding him. It had felt both light and deep, and Gellert could almost feel the summer Sun’s light breaking through the forest’s canopy, warming him.
And look at it now. He thought, shaking his head at all of the wear and tear, and the rampant overgrowth.
“I’m sorry. I did not wish to offend you, sir.” His companion, Matthias, said, misinterpreting the reason behind Gellert’s reaction.
“It is all right, my friend. You have made no offense.” Gellert stopped and placed his hand on Matthias’ shoulder. “It is thanks to you that I am free— we are both free of this system that binds us.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Matthias enthused. “We’re free to live our lives the way we want! Free to do as we please.”
Gellert smiled for a bit before turning his gaze to the old, rusted gate a few yards ahead.
Though he could see almost no trace of the majestic black iron underneath all of the rust and vines, the old wizard was nonetheless glad to see that it was still standing after all this time.
He gazed upon the symbol of the crescent Moon, keeping the gate locked with a firm, unyielding grasp.
“As for this place, well…” Gellert said and moved to the gate, placing his hand over the lock and muttering under his breath.
“Der Mond ist aufgegangen.”
The crescent Moon twisted as it rose, filling the air with the squeal of tortured metal as the rust flaked off of it. Reaching its zenith, the Moon spun in place once, and the lock clicked open.
Gellert wasted no time and pushed the gate— or at least, he tried to, but the metal did not budge.
Time has truly taken its toll on this place. Gellert shook his head again, feeling humbled. The world moves forward, and the old is left to rot and waste away, then?
“Allow me, sir.” Matthias said and drew his wand.
Before he could utter a single word, Gellert raised his hand. “I would advise against that, my friend. If anyone other than myself uses magic here, they will… suffer the consequence.”
Matthias’ expression shifted to a mix of unease and gratitude. “Oh. Thank you, my L— I mean, sir.”
“Would you mind lending me your arm?” Gellert continued, patting the gate as he spoke. “My physical strength is a shadow of what it once was before my captivity.”
“Of course not.” Matthias said. “It would be my honor.”
Gellert moved aside to give the man some space to work.
The young man took hold of the bars and tested the waters, giving the gate a light push.
He nodded to himself and began to push harder and harder, until Gellert could see the veins on the man’s neck straining.
Still, the gate would not open.
I had never considered that it would have fallen into such disrepair. Gellert thought. If I had not lost the Elder Wand, the spells maintaining this place would have remained intact.
Gellert shook his head and took note of the phenomenon. He had assumed that the loss of the Deathstick meant that he had to defeat his old friend to regain its allegiance. He did not expect that, on top of that, it seemed that any spells he had cast with it had all come undone, as well.
The knowledge was as interesting as it was unwelcome. There had been several hideouts of his which he’d taken care to enchant with that wand. He now had to assume that they were either lost to the elements or claimed by whatever intrepid soul managed to find them.
Hm. Perhaps any stalwart supporters of mine could be at one of those locations, still?
It was a long shot— it had been nearly fifty years, after all— but Gellert allowed himself this one delusion.
Matthias’ grunts brought the aged man back to reality.
The man had given up on using his arms and instead lay on the ground, placing his feet against the gate and pushing with all of the strength his legs could muster.
Gellert nodded to himself. If this does not work, then perhaps we will need to go and fashion ourselves a tool for leverage— oh, he’s budging it.
With a loud, final grunt, Matthias pushed the gate open, the screech of metal against metal making the older man twist his face into a mild grimace.
It was a most unpleasant noise; Gellert felt some sadness and even a little anxiety as he moved to see if his companion was all right.
Matthias continued to lie on his back, panting with the effort it took just to push the metal a few feet.
“A moment, please.” The man managed to force out.
“Of course.” Gellert allowed. It was the least he could do.
“I sure hope that…” Matthias stopped and took a breath. “There aren’t any more gates like this, sir.”
Gellert’s roiling negative thoughts lessened in intensity at that, and he extended a hand to the man. “No. This is the only one. Come. I will tell you about this place.”
Matthias stared at him for a moment before grasping the offered hand and pulling himself up.
Gellert walked through the threshold first, followed by a still panting Matthias.
“When I was young, I traveled the world far and wide.” Gellert began to explain as they took slow steps through the overgrowth covering the worn and cracked paved path to the large mansion ahead. “Of the many places I’ve been to, only two have captured my interest. The first one, you already know of. Or, knew of, I suppose now.”
“Nurmengard Castle.” Matthias said in realization. “And the second is this tract of land?”
“Indeed, it is.” Gellert said. “Moon’s Rest, it is called.”
“Moon’s Rest.” Matthias repeated the words as the two stood in front of the old, dilapidated mansion.
He gestured towards the faded and cracked icons of the Moon. “I take it that this location was to be… where you would have eventually retired?”
Gellert nodded in confirmation, glad that his companion was possessed of a modicum of intellect.
“You are right.” He said, looking at the home’s sorry state. “Of course, you know what happened, instead.”
Silence hung in the air for a moment before the aged wizard moved forward. “Come.”
The front door fell off the moment he touched it, clattering against the floor with loud clacks and sending a small cloud of dust up into the air.
The two men slowed their breathing and backed away, waiting for everything to settle before proceeding.
Gellert nodded to himself and passed his former home-to-be’s threshold, feeling a light tingle come over his skin.
He felt a small smile come over his face.
The building was in dire need of repair, but the presence of a threshold told him that some of the protective Charms he had cast over it were still active.
It was a good sign.
His confidence took a hit a moment later, as he took in his surroundings.
It was clear that the enchantments keeping this place together had waned over the decades, and nature had already begun to claim the floor and the walls, spreading its thorny grasp wherever it could find purchase.
Making sure to keep his steps careful, Gellert led the way, with Matthias following behind him.
“Watch your step.” The young man said. “The floor could be just as rotten and damaged as the front door.”
The two made their way up the stairs, forced to skip a few rotted old steps, and took a left, entering a long, grimy hallway. Gellert walked past three doors before stopping at the fourth one.
If memory serves, this is the place.
Gellert nodded to himself before turning the doorknob. Unlike the rest of this place, the door didn’t fall apart the moment he touched it, and so he hoped that he would find something promising.
He gave the door a gentle push, eyes widening at the sight before him.
“This room is completely preserved.” Matthias’ surprised voice came from behind him. The young man peeked over his shoulder to try and get a better look.
“Yes.” Grindelwald said, taking a few steps into his study and smiling when the floor didn’t even creak. “It has been waiting here, this whole time.”
“Waiting? What has?” Matthias said, growing confused. “An old familiar of yours, perhaps?”
“No.” Gellert whispered and stopped in front of his desk. Reaching down, he popped open the top drawer and smiled.
He first spied two vials filled with a bright red liquid which he recognized in an instant, but he ignored them in favor of his true target.
It was a long, thin piece of wood that he had not used since he’d gained the allegiance of another.
“Thirteen inches.” He murmured, reaching his hand forward with deliberate slowness. “Willow, with a Dragon’s heartstring.”
“This is…” Matthias said, eyes widening with realization.
“Yes, it is.” The old man confirmed, taking his first wand in hand and exulting in the rush of warmth coursing through his body. He already felt decades younger. “I missed you, too, old friend.”
Gellert smiled and eyed the remaining contents of the drawer before closing it with a resolute expression. Moon’s Rest shall rise, once again.
There was much work to be done.
Same Time, Room of Requirement…
I felt the sunlight licking my skin like a fiery snake hungering for its next victim and shifted myself to the left, avoiding the window.
Maybe requiring a room with a window wasn’t my best decision. I thought. It’s getting in the way.
“Protego!” I incanted, watching a translucent shield of moonlight silver appear in the air before me.
I hadn’t put everything I had into it, preferring to keep the spell nice and small for now. It was more efficient for testing purposes.
Too much energy, and I won’t be able to keep it active for long— and I want some time to give this thing a closer look. I thought as I took control of the spell with my left hand and moved it around.
“Heh. This is actually kind of nice.” I raised the shield, hearing a low hum in the wake of its movement.
I smiled; it was almost like I was using Dresden’s shield bracelet.
My smile faded as I wondered, not for the first time, if this world was the canon Harry Potter one.
Could I be in a crossover universe and not realize it?
I’d never heard of genius loci from the book or movie canon before. For all I knew, it was certainly possible for this phenomenon to occur in nature.
The Wizarding World had things like the Hallows, the Arch, the Room of Love, and so on. A castle developing a sentience of its own after nearly a millennium of absorbing the magic of young wizards and witches was not outside of the realm of what was possible, here.
There’s no point trying to figure out what should and shouldn’t be possible in this world. The sly part of me thought. If this universe shared space with the Dresden Files or any other fandom which has a genius loci in its lore, then we would have found a lot of information that isn’t consistent with the original story’s lore. And since we haven’t…
I let that nugget of logic simmer in my head, ignoring how I was referring to myself in the first person plural for a moment. It made some sense.
If this really was a crossover, then none of the big names of whatever fandom I was stuck with would have ever allowed Grindelwald to go as far as he did.
Unless the different societies have some kind of mutual agreement in which they ignore each other’s existence and deal with their own, internal matters. I countered. Plus, if this place really is the canon version of events, then how do I exist here? Furthermore, how can I use the void? It was never in the original story.
The sly voice had no answer to that. I supposed I should have expected that; there was no way to explore any of these questions.
Isn’t there? I thought. There is a spell I’ve read about, from the Dresden fandom. All I would have to do is say the word Apartu—
I stopped my train of thought right there and shook my head. “No. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.”
If I was right, then trying to use that spell would bring me so much trouble that I would be dead within minutes, if not seconds.
In terms of combat, I was nowhere near ready. That duel with the late Auror Turner proved it more than anything. I had only escaped due to pure dumb luck, and the incompetence of others.
If any of the reinforcements had thought to use detection spells, I would have been done for.
No. It was better to focus on my magical training. Once I was more powerful, I would begin entertaining such ideas.
With that said… I focused my attention onto the Shield Charm hovering just above the back of my left hand. There is something that I haven’t had the time to check recently.
Holding my wand over it, I closed my eyes. “Inspicere Empiricus.”
I frowned, feeling the unpleasant flood of information entering my mind.
The seconds continued to pass as I sorted through the data, zeroing in on what I was looking for.
“It exists in a solid state, but… also not quite?” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “What the Hell does that mean?”
That threw a wrench into my list of classifications. I undid the Shield, watching it fade into nothing before getting to work.
I moved to the desk to my side, where my notebooks were sitting.
After news of my involuntary manslaughter— and yes, that was exactly what I was going to call it— had come out, I’d gone full on paranoid and burned any of the notes I had concerning Disillusionment, the Shield Charm, and so on.
The problem was: Those had been some damn good notes. They hadn’t been nearly as clean as Mira’s, but as far as I was concerned, that girl was a freak of nature when it came to taking notes.
At any rate, with the Room fixed, I could just store any incriminating information in Alef Ard’s Sanctum.
Since no one knew of its existence, it was the ideal place to hide things. I’d even considered hiding myself away there for the summer, but my absence would cause far too many questions.
The very thought of three months without access to magic was enough to get me to start writing.
“Need to rethink my state system.” I murmured as I put ink to paper. “Previously, I wrote the definition that spells exist at certain states, which I numbered as three for convenience: solid, liquid and gaseous.”
I bit my lower lip before continuing. I was aware that the number of states were likely to be infinite, but there was no point trying to create an infinite number of categories, which brings me to my scan of the Protego spell.
There have been instances where the spell has behaved outside of what I would have generally expected from it.
The first time had been when Professor Quirrell caused a crack in the shield and I managed to mend the spell, somewhat. The second, well, I found it out after my… daring adventure.
I swallowed; that was all I was going to write in terms of details. Mentioning that bits of the Shield broke off and latched onto the Auror’s wound was as good as admitting guilt.
Even if my hiding place couldn’t be found by anyone, it would be stupid to write anything incriminating. An ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, after all.
Besides, my notes didn’t need to be extensive for me to get the gist of them.
I went back to writing.
The scan has confirmed my suspicions. The Shield Charm exists in all states, switching between them when the situation calls for it. I stopped for a moment to order my thoughts. It could even be possible that all spells share this same exact behavior. Rigorous testing will be needed.
I set the pen down and thought about it some more. It made sense.
No wonder I couldn’t split off any part of it. My desire and intent had been so focused on keeping the Shield solid that breaking off a piece ended up shattering the whole thing entirely.
I stood up and moved back to the practice section. “Alef Ard?”
The spirit buzzed in greeting. It had been watching me with rapt interest the entire time.
“Could you watch me while I cast the Shield Charm?” I said, holding my wand at the ready. “I want to know what you think about it— a second opinion, if you will. Call Helena if you have to.”
“No need.” Her voice came from above.
I looked up to see her forehead and eyes poking out from the ceiling.
“Just how long have you been there?”
You know what? I thought, resisting the urge to grimace. She is beyond creepy. This is who the Bloody Baron was obsessed with? Old times were fucked up.
“Right.” I said. “Are you coming down?”
My lips thinned as I grew tired of the exchange. “Suit yourself.”
I was about to cast the spell when Helena interrupted. “Alef Ard is asking what he’s supposed to be looking for.”
“Basically, I want to see if my two shields start off as two shields, or one.” I said, pausing for a moment. “Wait. He?”
“He says he wants to be a boy.” Helena continued, floating down into the room proper, though she remained upside down. “Says he doesn’t want you calling him an ‘it’, that it makes him sad.”
“Oh.” I winced. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just thought that’s what you wanted to be called, Alef.”
Alef Ard appeared as a mote of blue light and made a series of excited buzzes.
“You are forgiven.” Helena relayed the message.
Somehow I felt that he said a little more than that, but I shrugged and went back to my work with a smile.
I got a single, quick buzz for an affirmative answer.
All right. Here goes. I snapped my wand up and drew my will forth. “Protego!”
The two shields formed into existence— one in front of me, the other from behind.
The floating blue light gave a continuous buzz.
I looked at Helena with a quizzical look.
“He is humming.” Her expression was one of amusement.
“Right.” I let out an exhale before closing my eyes, taking control of the big shield with my left hand and holding my wand over it. “Inspicere Empiricus.”
The rush of information made me sway in place, this time. I planted my feet and steadied myself before working on isolating the data I was looking for.
Two locations, but not really. I thought, noting the very, very faint strand hanging between the Shields. “The link is giving the impression that there are two shields, when in reality, this is only one. The link is some middle stage between liquid and gaseous, and the… ‘two’ shields are solid.”.
Alef Ard went into a long tirade of buzzes.
“It is one single spell, stretched and morphed but still one entity.” Helena began to relay the message, her eyes a picture of delight. “He agrees with your assessment but tells you that he’s seen something like this before.”
“Oh?” I asked. “Tell me if my conclusion is wrong, then.”
I paused for a second to take a breath before continuing. “It’s like a tree. I should be treating this spell as one entity— like a tree trunk with many branches which link to fruit— not my best analogy, there. Maybe an octopus with its limbs.”
The Spirit of Hogwarts went into another series of buzzes.
“Both are functional analogues. There is no need to overcomplicate things, however…” Helena said. “The spell has a limited range, as well. Past that point, and it will begin to fail and take on odd behaviors.”
“Behaviors like… losing cohesion and latching onto the closest thing to keep itself active?”
The blue light buzzed once.
“Yes.” Helena said. “That is one distinct possibility.”
I canceled the spell and stowed my wand away, moving towards the window.
I stared out at the description of greenery coming up for a while, using the time to get my thoughts in some semblance of working order.
The Shield Charm loses its cohesion when it’s no longer linked to what it’s meant to protect— in this case, me.
“This means that I am essentially the spell’s anchor, keeping it strong and immovable.” I mused, pushing the window open and leaning forward on the windowsill.
I felt the cool breeze hit my face, refreshing me in an instant.
“Alef, you said you’ve seen something like this before?”
The Spirit gave an affirmative buzz.
“Who was it?” I asked and got my answer in an instant.
“Grindelwald.” Helena answered, before raising her hand to her chin. “It was not too long ago that he paid the school a visit.”
Not too long ago could go anywhere from five days to a hundred years for these two.
“Him again?” I suppressed the urge to sigh. Everyone and their mother was still talking about the Dark wizard’s daring and vicious escape from prison. “What the Hell was he doing here at Hogwarts? He studied at Durmstrang Institute, didn’t he?”
Before Alef Ard could answer, Helena spoke. “I believe he had come with an offer for the Headmaster— then Transfiguration teacher— Albus Dumbledore. I believe an altercation took place.”
I narrowed my eyes. Was the blood pact not a thing in this world? Or were the circumstances different?
I supposed it didn’t matter, either way. Blood pact or not, something happened that required Grindelwald’s usage of the Shield Charm in these halls.
I let out a breath and got ready to resume my practice.
With Voldemort on one side, Grindelwald on another and the looming mystery behind the nature of this world on the third, I knew I had my hands full.
But, if there was one thing that could help me with all three of these questions, it was getting better at magic.