June 10, 1992, 1:00 PM, Main Courtyard, Remords de l’Âme, France
Dumbledore jerked the Elder Wand to the left, bisecting an orange spell in half before he thrust its tip forward, sending a Piercing Curse straight through, intent on perforating Grindelwald’s hand to put him out of commission.
Gellert merely took a step to his right, his eyes widening for a moment before they crinkled in both amusement and pleasure. The smile on his face told Albus that he was enjoying himself.
Albus felt much the same, he realized with a bit of guilt as he watched the man’s fluid movements. With a single motion of his hand, Gellert gathered no less than ten horse-sized chunks of rubble, sending them flying at Dumbledore.
Albus smiled, then, and with a small burst of will, stopped the rubble in midair, just long enough for Grindelwald to realize what was about to happen. Grindelwald’s barrier manifested just as the projectiles slammed into his position, stopping flat at the man’s translucent barrier.
Gellert spun his wand, drawing a circle with his magic, as well as its radius before stopping and thrusting through its center.
All of the rubble transformed into a fine powder which covered Grindelwald’s spherical barrier, putting him out of view for a few moments. Dumbledore felt his eyebrows go up in surprise. That had been an intriguing trick, to say the least.
As the powder began to slide down the man’s shield, Albus heard Alastor’s words from behind him.
“Just what is he playing at…?”
“I do not know.” Albus said. “But he has allowed our people to reinforce the remaining prison wing with no issue. I suggest you take this moment and—”
“Way ahead of you.” Alastor said, already moving with a few of their allies to engage the group of wizards who were still watching the events unfold with curious, but wary eyes.
The moment before Moody was able to launch a spell, the ground beneath him split open, and he was forced to step back.
“That will be quite far enough, friend.” Gellert said, and a moment later, all of the powder swirled up into the air, combining to form a spear as long as five men were tall. “You will not interfere in our fight.”
“You’ll be fine with me attacking the others, then, friend?” Alastor shot back without hesitation.
“As entertaining as it would be to watch, I am declining this offer, as well.” Gellert said, tilting his head at Alastor in curiosity. “You’re not like the others; you are not afraid.”
“What of it?” Moody replied, gesturing at his scarred and fearsome appearance. “I’ve already dealt with the worst of your kind. What’s another Dark Wizard added to the list?”
“And I believe you.” Gellert said, nodding with solemn purpose. “The… Dark Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, was it?”
“Aye.” Moody said, standing his ground. “All in jail, dead, or still running with their tails between their legs.”
“I do not doubt that they are the worst of Wizard-kind. Only a savage would inflict this sort of harm on another person.” Gellert said, acknowledging the man’s words. “But you paint us with the same brush, as well?”
“Shouldn’t I?” Alastor shot back. “With the likes of Rafiq Rahman in your group…”
The man in question puffed up, ready to interject, before Grindelwald raised a hand. With monumental effort, the man closed his eyes and turned his head to the side.
“And suppose I told you that Mr. Rahman was jailed under mysterious circumstances, and that the hunt for him is based on a mountain of lies; what then?”
“I’m sure he would be exonerated in the Egyptian courts.” Alastor said, though a hint of malaise began to set itself in the retired Auror’s demeanor. He was not as sure of his words as he should have been.
“Of course. The system of bureaucrats will take care of its subjects. If only it were true.” Gellert said in amusement before he let the long spear above drop to the ground, embedding itself deep within the earth. “You have gathered formidable disciples, Albus. They do not need to die for nothing here today.”
Albus sent Moody a look, telling the man to stand down without words, before turning his full attention to Grindelwald. “Just what are you planning?”
Grindelwald did not answer, only snapping his wand towards Dumbledore. The wizards and witches standing behind him flinched, and even Alastor put up a shield without hesitation, but Dumbledore had done nothing.
“Very good.” Gellert said, lowering his wand with a nod. “It is good to see that your senses have not waned in your old age, Albus. Your disciples, on the other hand, may need some work. They cannot sense magic as we do, can they? They would have known that I was not casting a single spell.”
“And you seem extraordinarily fit for a man who’s been languishing in a cell for fifty years.” Albus said, ignoring the dig made at his allies with a change of subject.
“One does what one can.” Gellert replied, opening his arms a little as a gesture of false humility.
“Though one wonders how you’ve come to look so young.” Albus continued, sending the man a disappointed shake of the head. He was having none of it. “Even after all of this time, you’ve had some secrets squirreled away in the dark.”
“Of course. The secret of youth is one not so easily discerned.” Gellert said, raising his free hand to his face and staring at it for a moment before he turned an amused look towards Dumbledore. “Perhaps you wish to join me and reap the benefits?”
But Dumbledore shook his head in disappointment once again. Gellert had, in fact, not changed at all during his time in prison. Albus had hoped that, deep down, something might have turned the man around, but he seemed to be the selfsame power-hungry wizard that he had always been.
I have had access to the Stone for nearly a year now, Gellert. Dumbledore thought to himself. I could have reaped the benefits at any time. I know the formulas and am well versed in Nicolas’ processes.
He had not, of course. Albus believed that it took great wisdom and humility for someone to accept their place in the natural world. This included a person’s eventual, inevitable death.
Tom had never been able to accept this way of thinking, and now it seemed that Gellert was in the same boat. Albus shuddered to think what would happen if his old friend and Tom ever managed to become allies.
It would mean the end for all of us. Albus thought before preparing himself to re-engage in the fight. “I have no need to reap the benefits, as you say. I have seen where this path leads; to long suffering and a slow, lonely death. Surely you would have learned this in your long years of solitude and contemplation?”
“A forced solitude.” Gellert said, a hint of anger rising in his tone of voice. “But you are right about one thing; I have indeed learned much in my forced imprisonment, Albus.”
The statement would have been mysterious if Albus had not already investigated the circumstances behind Grindelwald’s escape.
“Of the Muggles and their ways.” Albus said, understanding as much.
“So you do know what I’m capable of. Or, at the very least, a sliver of it.” Gellert took a step forward, forcing Dumbledore to raise his wand again. “Then you also know that, even with that particular wand in your hand, I cannot be stopped any more.”
Dumbledore frowned at that. “Bold words.”
“But not ones spoken in jest, old friend.” Gellert said, pursing his lips. “In light of our previous friendship, I am going to give you one last warning to leave. The affairs of the French have nothing to do with you in Britain. Go, and take your friends home. They do not have to die today.”
Dumbledore stared at him for a long moment before shaking his head. “I cannot allow you to harm anyone else.”
Gellert nodded, looking disappointed but not surprised. “I had expected as much of you. Perhaps I will convince you and your friends to leave another way.”
“You speak as if you can defeat us all at once.”
Gellert only replied by swishing his hand forward. The long spear, which had been embedded in the ground the whole time, ripped itself out and flew towards Dumbledore as dust was kicked up in the air.
Albus grunted and held his wand with both hands, casting his next spell. The spear was stopped an inch from Dumbledore’s heart, and when the dust cleared, Grindelwald finally saw what had stopped it.
It was massive; a fifteen foot-tall guardian made from stone, metal and other materials, holding the long-spear like it was born for it. The earthen golem opened its not-mouth with a loud rumble and it brandished the weapon towards its creator.
“Impressive.” Grindelwald said and began to engage the creature. A snap of his wand blew off its left foot, and another one tore a chunk out of its not-face, making the golem roar as it drove the spear down at him.
Still, Grindelwald was not perturbed, even as he deflected the thrust with a swift cast of the Shield Charm. With another spell, the spear flew out of the golem’s hand and drove itself through its chest, sending the rock creature flying off to the side, where it struggled to move for a few moments before the charm holding it together failed.
Grindelwald started to move when he realized that his legs were pinned. Looking down, he saw that a set of plant-like tendrils had already weaved their way around his legs, tightening hard enough to make the man grimace.
The dust finally cleared, and Gellert’s eyes widened at the sight. From both sides, he stared down two more, smaller Golems— one in the shape of a griffin, while the other was a lion. He chanced a look behind him and saw that his compatriots were also surrounded on all sides by more of the Golems.
He turned his gaze forward again. Flanking Dumbledore were both Alastor Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt. The two men stood tall, their wands extended as Dumbledore directed his creations to close in on them.
“It’s over, Gellert.” Dumbledore said, but Gellert only seemed amused by this.
The man leaned his head back and gave a loud chuckle, even going so far as to clap his hands thrice. “Very good, Dumbledore; very good, indeed.”
Dumbledore felt a shiver crawl up his spine.
Something was not right.
His blue eyes scanned his surroundings for a few moments before he felt it. He increased his focus and zoned in on this feeling, grasping onto it and stiffening with shock.
“This is…!” Dumbledore said, the alarm he felt bleeding into his voice. “When did you…”
“It pays to come prepared, old friend.” Gellert said, his eyes narrowing with deadly intent. “Your move.”
“Albus?” Kingsley said from beside him, sounding confused. “What’s going on?”
“Just stun them and be done with it.” Alastor cut in, getting ready to step forward and bring an end to the charade.
“No.” Dumbledore said without thinking, placing a hand over Moody’s shoulder. “We cannot.”
“What do you mean?” Moody said before his artificial eye started moving every which way, delving deeper into the true nature of the world around him before it fixed itself towards the ground in front of him. “That… How… How did I not see that?”
“How, indeed…” Gellert said in amusement. “Perhaps I should show your other friends, so that they at least know what kills them, in the end?”
Dumbledore said nothing as Grindelwald raised his wand high in the air and gave it a quick swish.
“What…” Kingsley said as he took in the large, blue circle around them all. “What am I looking at?”
Moody’s eye went to the center of the circle, between Albus and the others behind him. A weak, purple spark hovered above something— a small speck with silver coloring. It looked harmless, but Dumbledore felt his stomach drop.
“Do not move. Do not try to snuff that spark out. Do absolutely nothing.” Moody barked at one of their cohorts in the back. “There were reports of massive, purple explosions at the prison. Who knows what’ll set this off?”
Albus swallowed, still unable to fully process what had happened.
“When?” Albus said, turning back to the man with furious eyes. If he was going to die, he would at least want to know how it was that this happened.
“When?” Gellert smiled at his erstwhile companion, relishing the moment. “When… What? You’re going to have to be a little more specific, old friend.”
“When did you set all of this up?”
“Oh, my dear friend…” Gellert shook his head. “What makes you think it hasn’t been here this whole time?”
“…” Dumbledore said nothing, the reality of this situation dawning on him. Gellert could have killed them at any time throughout this entire altercation. “You cannot have expected—”
“True, I did not expect you to come.” Gellert said as he undid his bindings and demolished all of the Golems Albus had created. “I assumed that the French Aurors would muster in time for my grand display. This has been a pleasant surprise, all things considered.”
From the moment they would have arrived, they would already be dead. Albus thought. He has defeated me because of my own foolhardy wish to stop him before it was too late.
Albus stifled the urge to grimace.
Breaking people out of this prison would have cemented Gellert’s reputation and authority as a big player on the world stage of wizards, but defeating Dumbledore was sure to turn a lot more heads than it had, before.
Whatever will come of this is my fault. Albus thought, feeling the anguish overcome him in his last moments. I am sorry, everyone.
Albus lowered his head and sent a prayer to whatever deity was out there. But he did not pray for himself, no.
He prayed for the children in his school. He prayed for the innocents who were going to suffer from this, in the future. And most of all, he prayed for those two poor boys, whose near future was looking bleaker by the moment.
Bad enough that Harry had to die for the Horcrux in his head to be destroyed, but it seemed that, with Dumbledore dead, the boy would likely not even get to enjoy a childhood, at this rate.
And Adam— he was a prodigy on a higher level than Albus ever was. Would he even live to see adulthood? With Albus gone, he did not know.
I’m sorry, Harry, Adam. I’m so sorry… Albus thought, closing his eyes for a moment so he could collect himself. It was not how he would have expected his next great adventure to begin, but the time had come.
Albus opened his eyes, reading to embrace death like an old friend— much like Ignotus Peverell, the man he respected from the old legends.
But then Grindelwald did something that Albus had not expected. He turned from them and began to address his people. “Let us be off.”
What? Dumbledore thought, confused.
“What about Dumbledore?” Rafiq said, pulling his wand out. “Would you like for me to do the honors?”
Gellert shook his head. “There is no need. I have not come here to eradicate wizards, merely free them. Our goal is peace among all wizards, not to further any strife.”
“I…” Rafiq said, almost contradicting the man before taking a deep breath and backing down. “Of course, Mr. Grindelwald.”
“I understand your frustration, my friend.” Gellert said, placing his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I, myself, have been wronged by the society which binds us all down. We cannot behave as they do. We must rise above them and show wizards and witches everywhere just how much more they could be.”
“And how can we show this if we are killing them all?” A man with an Austrian accent said. Albus recognized him as one of Nurmengard Castle’s previous guards.
“Just so, Matthias.” Gellert said, throwing Albus one last look. “If I were you, I would not make a single move until the purple spark disappears. Otherwise…”
Gellert looked off to his right, towards the west wall. Albus and the others turned their eyes just in time for them to be blinded by a powerful, purple flash of light, radiating like the very Sun above them.
A second later, Albus and his allies were blown off their feet, crumpling into the ground as the shock-wave of the explosion hit them. Albus got to his feet as fast as he could manage, ignoring the ringing in his ears and trying to get his vision to clear.
Moments later, he managed to do so, and stopped to stare at the destruction, forgetting about Gellert for the moment. The western wall had been annihilated by the blast, leaving a massive crater and a large, mushroom shaped cloud in its wake.
Still, Albus mused even as he took in the sight, this explosion was nothing like he’d imagined.
“I see you’re wondering why the explosion was so small.” Gellert said, bringing the man’s attention back to him. “For the sake of our old friendship, I’ll tell you one thing.”
“That was small?” Emmeline Vance said from behind Albus, but the old man ignored it, instead focusing on Grindelwald.
“The energy released is still the same.” Gellert said, smiling before he turned again and left. “Come, everyone. We have accomplished what we came for.”
Albus could only stare at their retreating figures, realizing what his words signified and getting another chill down his spine for the trouble.
“Are we just going to let them escape?” Moody growled. “After what they did?”
“We do not have a choice, I fear.” Dumbledore said, feeling a headache forming from all the ringing in his ears. “I do not have a true understanding of the magic Gellert is using, and so I do not dare fiddle with his elaborate trap. I could set it off prematurely, and then we all die for nothing.”
And so they waited, and waited and waited some more, before the spark of purple disappeared from view. Everyone involved breathed a loud sigh of relief.
The crisis, for now, had been averted.
Just then, cracks began to sound everywhere around them. Albus realized that the Prison’s Anti-Apparition Charm had begun to fail in the wake of such magical power being thrown around inside of its bounds.
“Took their sweet time.” Alastor growled as he called out for the French Ministry Aurors to come here. “I’ll deal with them, Albus.”
“Thank you.” Dumbledore said, grateful to have an extra few moments away from the French officials, as well as the eventual dealings he would need to have with the press.
While the crisis itself had been averted, he would now have to deal with something far worse; the aftermath.
“Albus?” Kingsley said, getting the man’s attention.
“Yes, my friend?”
“What did he mean when Grindelwald said that the… ‘energy is the same’?” Kingsley said, sounding wary.
Dumbledore exhaled through his nose, trying to figure out an adequate enough way to explain the concept to the man. “It means that all of the power from his… variant of the Blasting Curse is concentrated into a smaller region, thus causing far more damage than normal.”
“…I see.” Kingsley said, swallowing. “A blast of such proportions, confined to such a small space; we are lucky to be alive.”
“Yes.” Dumbledore said, turning his eyes to where he’d last seen Grindelwald. “Lucky, indeed…”
Perhaps he should have triggered the trap and had them all die, there and then. Dumbledore did not know what his hesitation today would end up costing the world.
He had only felt this defeated a few times in his long life, and the sensation never ceased to make his blood curdle.
I’m sorry, everyone.