July 30, 1992, 7:30 PM, Grindelwald’s Solar, Phoenix’ Roost, England
Today was a good day.
He sat by the window, gazing out at the sunset as the orange and pink hues of the sky blended seamlessly into each other. The last rays of the sun cast long shadows across the landscape, while the distant trees silhouetted against the colorful backdrop added a touch of mystique to the scene. Gellert felt a sense of tranquility wash over him as he watched the sun slowly disappear over the horizon.
Holding the glass of deep burgundy, Gellert admired its rich color and aroma. Swirling it gently, he took a sip, savoring the complex flavors that burst on his palate.
The wine had a full-bodied taste, with hints of blackberry, chocolate, and oak. He closed his eyes and let out a satisfied sigh, enjoying the lingering finish of the fine vintage.
Yes. Today was a good day indeed. The French Ministry was now a laughing stock, his organization was receiving more goodwill from the people, and all of his plans were coming together nicely.
A knock came on the door, and Gellert smiled. “Come.”
The door opened and he turned away from his window view, seeing his right hand, Matthias Auer. The man was practically glowing as he entered the office, giving Grindelwald a nod of deference and a smile. “Mr. Grindelwald. You wanted to see me?”
“I did, but it is nothing urgent.” Grindelwald said as the guard closed the door, leaving the two together. “You look quite well.”
Matthias’ thread danced with happiness as he replied. “Eleanor and I— we…”
He trailed off, but Gellert knew well enough what he was trying to say. He smiled; oh, to be young and eager to enjoy all that life had to offer. He remembered such days himself.
“It’s good to see you so well recovered and thriving, my friend.” Gellert said, and he found that he actually meant it.
He had grown quite close with the man during his incarceration and subsequent escape. Gellert was happy he’d found a companion.
He thought of Albus for only one moment before shaking the thought away— an old set of memories better left buried.
“I’m happy for you.” He added as he gestured at the alcohol cabinet with his free hand. “Care for a drink?”
“Oh, yes. Thank you.” Matthias said and so Gellert drew his wand.
Matthias only nodded in reply and so Gellert prepared the man’s drink with a quick wave of his wand, sending the glass of rosé to him even as it was being filled.
Matthias took the glass in hand. “Thank you.”
He took a quick whiff, swirled the liquid before taking a sip, moving to stand by the man without a word.
The two enjoyed each other’s presence for some time before Gellert spoke again, leading the man to a seat.
“To business.” Gellert said, sitting opposite of his second in command. “The dropoff.”
“A complete success.” Matthias said. “As you predicted, the families of the hostages we saved are keen on repaying their debt to you.”
Grindelwald nodded, prompting Matthias to continue. “They’ve supplied us with quite a bit of information concerning the state of the French Ministry itself and they will quite happily support our order as thanks for what we’ve done for them. Surreptitiously, of course.”
“Of course.” Gellert said, shaking his head. “It’s impressive how far a few good acts can go, is it not?”
He smiled in the agreeable silence that followed and then nodded. “Good, very good. And what of the troops? The ones sent to Spain, I hear, did not fare very well.”
“True that they did not, but the mission was accomplished nonetheless.” Matthias said, tapping the bottom of the glass against his lap in a show of mild concern. “They’ve all made full recoveries, of course, but their injuries had been concerning. The Spanish outlaws were far more vicious than anticipated.”
“Is that so?” Grindelwald said, scratching his chin. “Any casualties?”
“Thankfully, no.” Matthias said, assuaging the man’s concerns with a peaceable look. “I actually just went to see them myself in the Hospital Wing. They are physically fine, if somewhat shaken from the experience.”
“Apparently the enemy decided to use their own allies as shields— even going so far as to attack both their allies and us in the hopes of hurting our people.” Matthias explained, shaking his head. “Their debriefing will take place in the morning, and I’ll be taking charge of it, myself. It could be that some of the newer officers in that squad may need some help.”
“Of course.” Grindelwald said. “Some time away from assignments followed by a slow reacclimation to the order through more mundane missions.”
“My thoughts exactly— ease them back into their roles.” Matthias said and the two shared a smile. “Some of them were too young to have had to deal with such things. I— I know all joiners are of age, of course, but I can’t help but think… It’s silly.”
“No, I would have you air your thoughts out, my friend.” Grindelwald said with an insistent tone.
Matthias hesitated, placing his glass on the table between them and scratching his forearm in a sign of clear anxiousness. “Could we perhaps be doing the wrong thing? Inflicting this sort of pain on others— we weren’t the ones who did that to the squad, I know that, but we’re the ones who sent them on the mission in the first place. Maybe if we hadn’t, then…”
“I see.” Grindelwald said, nodding in understanding. “You feel you need to take responsibility for this.”
“You do.” Gellert said with a nod, surprising Matthias and making him jolt in his chair. “And so do I. Though we are not truly to blame— we do not control the actions of others, only our own— we are the leaders of our people. We share in their successes as well as their losses. I will attend the debriefing with you tomorrow, as well.”
That seemed to calm the man a great deal, judging by the sigh of relief and the way he picked his glass back up. The two shared a quick, silent toast before taking another sip.
“Anything else?” Gellert asked.
“No, actually.” Matthias said, smiling. The expression was still somewhat brittle, but the knowledge of his leader’s support in the previous matter was slowly strengthening it. “Aside from that one mission, everything is as it should be.”
“That’s good.” Grindelwald said. “Very good.”
“Well.” Matthias said as he mused. “There was one thing, but it’s probably not important.”
“Oh?” Grindelwald said in mild interest.
Matthias shook his head, as if he was reprimanding himself for even bringing it up. “Well, there was a bit of a snake infestation some time ago.”
“I remember.” Gellert said. “Though that was taken care of, was it not?”
“Yes, it was.” Matthias nodded in confirmation before taking another sip of his wine. “But I’m starting to wonder if there was something a little more to it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well…” Matthias said, trying to string the next sentence together. “We found the snakes, some dead and some alive; their positions more or less placed them in the general area of your solar.”
Gellert’s mismatched eyes narrowed. “An attempt at penetrating into my workspace?”
“Truthfully, I have no idea.” Matthias said. “It could be that this was where these snakes congregate in the summer? An old abandoned building is sure to be quite warm in the summertime— the ideal nesting grounds.”
Grindelwald couldn’t find fault in that logic, but Matthias continued to speak. “The snakes were not conjurations, either. They were indeed quite alive; if this were the work of a wizard or witch, then would conjurations have not served them better? Perhaps even a different animal like a mouse or rat.”
“That would indeed be the better choice, since rodents are smaller and attract far less notice than a snake.” Gellert said. “Still, perhaps it’s as you said— a simple infestation which seems to have already been resolved.”
“Yes.” Matthias said and didn’t add anything more.
“Well, thank you for the update, my friend.” Gellert said, getting off of his seat.
Matthias frowned a bit at the abruptness of the statement. “Mr. Grindelwald?”
Gellert smiled in reply as he gestured outside, where the beautiful night sky was forming. “I’ve kept you quite long enough. I’m sure Miss Eleanor is looking forward to seeing you tonight. Go and enjoy yourself, won’t you?”
At that, the two men exchanged a smile before Matthias bid his goodbye, exiting the room and closing the door behind him.
Very interesting. Gellert thought as he went back to the window, staring out into the grounds. The sun had completely disappeared behind the horizon, with the sky darkening quite well. It was going to be a beautiful night, that was for sure.
Matthias’ suggestion wasn’t quite right; while mice would certainly attract less attention, they weren’t as good as snakes at finding their marks. Still, the man’s supposition could be right. He hadn’t been in Phoenix’ Roost in decades, and for all he knew, his office could have been the focal point of these snakes’ gatherings.
Except. He thought. I or Matthias would have noticed the droppings, or even a small sign of them having lived here, such as animal bones. No, this place has never housed anything more than rats and the odd vole or owl.
Snakes quietly attempting to pierce through his defenses and reach into his office… Could they have been planted by Lucius Malfoy? He was a known follower of the previous British Dark Lord and the only one to have had access to this place.
An inventive cast of the Imperius Curse on said animals— it could conceivably bypass the magical agreement that the man and his cohort signed. Gellert mused as he finished his wine, sending his glass towards the liquor cabinet with a thought and a negligent hand gesture. But it’s a little hard to believe that he would do such a thing. Besides, the only Parselmouth in this country has already been killed, except… I wonder…
He quickly moved to his desk, taking a seat as he leafed through the various reports stacked on top of his desk. “There we are…”
It was the report compiled together by Officer Strontel concerning his squad’s recent mission alongside Mr. Rafiq. Grindelwald read it twice over, making sure he had all the details correct.
“Snakes found dead in the general vicinity of my office.” Gellert murmured. “Mr. Marco able to easily find his way through an escape tunnel meant to distract and confuse chasers…”
That wasn’t even considering the state of Marco’s soul thread. Grindelwald had recognized what it meant the moment he’d seen it. A rent soul, split in twain.
Marco had created a Horcrux— likely by using his companion’s death in the forests of Albania. He couldn’t be truly sure, of course, because he’d actually never met the man in person when he’d broken him out of the French Prison. There had been far too many wizards and witches out there.
Then again, the rumors concerning Albania pointed towards a certain Dark presence defending some kind of treasure, so maybe Marco hadn’t created a Horcrux, after all? Gellert closed his eyes, doing his best to recall every single detail concerning Marco’s soul thread.
He saw it in his mind’s eye, along with the man who owned it. The deformed thread seemed to sway back and forth, back and forth against its own will, as if it was being influenced or controlled in some way.
So that’s what it is. It all makes sense now. Whatever Marco found in that forest— it killed Andre and him, though he just doesn’t know it yet. Grindelwald thought with a sort of dark amusement. A full possession…
That realization, however, begged the question: just who was hiding behind Marco’s face, and why hadn’t it shown any sign of hostility towards his order beyond some attempts to sneak into his office?
Real snakes— so, a Parselmouth. One capable of full body possession and displaying great skill with a wand not his own. Gellert thought as he pieced it all together. It can only be one wizard: the so-called Dark Lord Voldemort lives under my roof, and for some reason, he’s playing nice… What to do, what to do…
Any other wizard would have wilted under the stress brought from such a realization, but Grindelwald only smiled. Perhaps he could use this situation to his advantage.
Yes, he had just the idea.
July 31, 1992, 5:30 PM, Harry’s Room, Grimmauld Place, London
Harry sat at his study in his bedroom at Twelve Grimmauld Place, wondering not for the first time how he came to be here.
Oh, he knew the literal answer to that question, of course. It would take a person to truly be lost in their own mind if they couldn’t even recognize their own position and the method with which they arrived.
But Harry was thinking about an entirely different position than that in the physical world. A year ago, Harry would have been holed up in the cupboard under the stairs at Vernon’s house. It was quite strange how it hadn’t even been a full year, and Harry’s life had changed in so many ways.
A year ago, he would have never even considered the possibility of him having seen all that he had. Potions, flying broomsticks, magic wands, spells, creatures both wondrous and terrifying, ghosts, wizards and witches and all manner of other curiosities within Hogwarts Castle— it had been the sort of escape he’d always dreamed of when he was younger but pushed away as being stupid and unrealistic.
He remembered the first time he’d seen the Castle itself; it had easily been the most breathtaking structure he’d seen in his entire life.
It wasn’t like he’d seen much of the Muggle world, but he highly doubted anything created by them could conceivably match the sheer majesty of the castle. Even Diagon Alley, despite it being quite the magical, chaotically charming place, didn’t hold a candle to the school.
Abruptly, his idyllic, mental image of Hogwarts was replaced with the bloodied, dangling arm hanging off of the lamp post that haunted his dreams. Feelings of comfort were washed away by a sense of horror, disgust, despair, anger and grief. They festered within his soul, making him grimace and push off of the table, the chair grinding against the wooden floor beneath.
Harry winced and shook the image away, finding himself in his room again.
No matter how hard he tried, that particular memory kept coming back to him.
The floating photos, the blood dripping slowly down. Harry thought with a shudder at the memory.
He wasn’t foolish; he knew in his mind that these feelings would eventually pass. Adam had told him as much, after all, and his friend’s judgment was one he had grown to trust over the course of the year.
Harry’s heart, however, seemed adamant on keeping him under the yoke of his own negativity for as long as it was capable. Still, he pushed past it as well as he could, remembering the events afterward.
He remembered the night at the beach when he’d lost full control of himself, destroying his meticulously built fortress and sighed with a feeling of regret. He hadn’t wanted to do that, but it had been the closest and easiest target to take his frustrations out on.
Harry had been weak. He’d barely been able to save Fleur that day— in fact, he had failed.
Adam had to bail me out, yet again. Harry thought with no small amount of anger. He couldn’t live with himself for the first few days after the fact, constantly beating himself up over the matter.
Adam, for his part, was handling everything remarkably well. He always had the answer to everything, and Harry couldn’t help but feel a little resentment towards his new brother for being so adaptable.
What’s the difference between me and him? Harry allowed himself this thought, huffing as he paced around the room to work off his restlessness. Why is it that he can do all that he does and barely bat an eye, but I have to feel this way? Am I being held back by my own mind?
Harry sighed, remembering their conversation that night at the beach and pushing the resentment away. Adam had been there for him.
‘It’s not a bad thing to blame yourself for the mistakes you’ve made’. The boy had told him then. ‘As long as you measure out the blame accordingly and own up to it.’
Harry shook his head. He had expected the boy to completely console him— that’s what most of the others had done, after all. Adam hadn’t. He’d given the truth to him, and nothing but the truth.
Sirius had helped quite a bit as well by keeping him busy with activities that Harry found to be genuinely fun. His new father-figure clearly was trying to make Harry feel better, which the boy appreciated a great deal. Deep in his soul, Harry thought that this was probably how James would have consoled him, had he still been alive.
He smiled at the thought of his parents, heading towards his trunk and retrieving the many photographs he’d received over the course of the year after Adam had first shared his mother’s image with him.
He went through them, getting lost in lives that weren’t his own and imagining just how things would have turned out had his parents not died. Would he have made friends with Ron and Hermione? Adam, Su and Tony? He knew he probably wouldn’t have become Adam’s new brother, that was for sure.
Why am I thinking about this? A dark part of him reared its ugly head, bringing Harry’s mood back down in a matter of seconds. They’re dead. Dust to dust.
But Harry didn’t answer the thought, instead pulling the moving photograph of his mother as she worked in The Three Broomsticks. She paused, smiled up at him for a moment before going about her business.
Harry closed his eyes, put the photo on his bed with a sigh and moved towards the window, staring at nothing in particular.
“Would you be proud, mum? I did my best.” He murmured and got no answer.
He never expected one, of course, but it still hurt. He could almost see her face, as well as that of his father in the weak reflection projected back to him by the transparent glass.
Harry scoffed and looked away. Even now, months after the fact, he still sometimes saw the reflection of his parents that the Mirror of Erised had shown him during Christmas of the previous year.
The mirror is as cursed as it is seductive. Yet again, Adam was right. Harry thought, wondering if he’d be able to destroy it if he were to be faced with it again.
Of course, he knew he could resist the allure of wasting away in front of it— that much had been hammered home from Professor Dumbledore’s warnings as well as Adam’s sheer hate of the ancient artifact.
But could I really destroy it?
Harry found that he couldn’t answer that question. Was he scared that his answer would be ‘no’? So much for his supposed bravery.
Harry shook his head and exited the room, deciding to go downstairs for a snack. Maybe it would keep his mind off of things until Sirius and Remus could start his not-so-stealthy birthday celebration.
The two thought that they could keep it a secret, but they’d been back at the house for days now. Harry had heard them talking about it when they thought he wasn’t there to listen. He’d seen the cake ingredients. The day beforehand, he’d even seen the small trail of flour leading back to Adam’s room.
It was the most pitiful attempt at being covert he’d ever seen, but Harry accepted it just the same.
Part of him was pleased that no one would be invited to his birthday; he didn’t feel like he could look Ron or Hermione in the eye as he was.
Not yet, anyway. He needed time and space to recover from the events in France.
He took the first few steps down the stairs when he heard Adam yelping, followed by the sound of a thud. And then another thud, and another.
Fear and unease racing up his spine, Harry rushed back up the stairs. “Adam!”
He reached the boy’s room and flung the door open, ignoring his fears of what lay on the other side. He just hoped it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.
As soon as he entered, Harry was immediately struck by the clutter and disorder. Books, paper and bits of parchment were stacked haphazardly on every available surface, with no clear system of organization apparent. The room’s walls were adorned with charts, diagrams, and notes scrawled in messy handwriting, giving the space a distinct aura of intellectual inquiry.
Either that or madness.
At the very epicenter of the chaos, Harry saw the source of the noise: it was Adam, but he’d been tangled up in a rug.
Correction. Harry thought as he did his very best to suppress the grin that threatened to break out on his face. He’s rolled up in it.
“Harry!” Adam said as the rug floated an inch off the floor before falling, drawing an ‘oof’ from the boy. “Thank God you’re here. Think you can get me out?”
“What…” Harry said and stopped himself from laughing, his previous concerns washed away by the humor of the situation. “What happened?”
“I was trying to— oof!” Adam said, taking a quick breath as he attempted to sum up the scenario. “I tried to make the rug harden and roll like a treadmill and— oof!— it didn’t go so well. I’m kind of stuck.”
“I can see that.”
“Come on!” Adam said as the rug began to roll left and right. “Help me get out!”
Harry started laughing. “You look like a sausage roll!”
“It’s not funny!” Adam said, the embarrassment showing in the red on his cheeks and further strengthening the comparison. “C’mon, get me out! Please?”
But Harry only laughed harder in response.
6:30 PM, Honeydukes Sweet Shop, Hogsmeade Village
“Will that be all, Minerva?” Ambrosius Flume, the proprietor of Honeydukes, said as he took stock of what she had selected. He smiled. “A special occasion today, is it?”
Minerva nodded, giving the man a mildly pleasant look. “Yes. It is.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy yourself, Minerva!” Amber Flume chimed in from the side as she replenished the store’s stock of cockroach clusters. “It’s been a while since you’ve done anything other than just work.”
Minerva opened her mouth to answer with an argument before closing it as she realized that the woman was probably right. It has been quite some time since she’d ‘let her hair down’, so to speak.
Instead, she gave the two another nod, her expression turning more genuine. “Thank you, Amber. I will do my best.”
She just hoped that things didn’t go as poorly as she feared they might. The Headmaster had told her to put her best foot forward and hope for the best, but Minerva found that she couldn’t ignore the sheer apprehension and fear that crept up her spine whenever she thought on the matter.
“That’ll be six Sickles.” Ambrosius said.
Minerva supplied him with the requested amount and, with a final nod to the two shopkeepers, left the premises and was met with the welcome noise of the idyllic village.
The streets were bustling with activity, with witches and wizards weaving in and out of the throngs of people, eager to explore all that Hogsmeade had to offer. The scent of fresh baked goods and warm butterbeer wafted through the air, mingling with the sweet fragrance of wildflowers and freshly mowed grass— all of it accentuated by the sounds of laughter and conversation.
Minerva passed through the streets of the beautiful village, exchanging pleasant greetings with the residents as she made her way to the Apparition point. Once there, she pictured where she needed to be before hesitating.
Of course, I’ll be traversing the Muggle world for a bit. She thought in realization, drawing her wand and waving it over her clothes. Immediately, her robes began to morph, the previous flowing clothes growing slightly more rigid and angular as they morphed into a dark, neatly pressed suit. She checked her handiwork for a moment before nodding to herself. Good enough.
And then she Apparated.
She took a second to reorient herself; the chaotically cobbled paths of Hogsmeade were replaced with the homogenous pavements of London. Minerva grimaced slightly at the sight as she stepped off of the Apparition point, moving forward into the streets of the capital on her way to Grimmauld Place.
She couldn’t blame the Muggles for using concrete for their pavements and asphalt for their roads; as a people which did not possess the magic she did, they needed every advantage they could get, such as the ease of travel and transport of goods— arguably the lifeblood of civilization.
Still, even knowing this, she found that she preferred the older roads and architectures from her youth. There was something more human to them, more natural and far richer in culture and history. Muggles had sacrificed that part of them— part of their very humanity if one would excuse her slight melodrama— for efficiency, and it was a thought that irked Minerva.
She could not reconcile it, and so she discarded it with a sigh.
There was nothing to be done, at the end of the day. Progress did not wait for anyone’s approval, after all.
Time passed as her legs took her to her destination, and Minerva did her best not to think about the near future. She failed.
What if he says he hates me and wants me to leave? Minerva thought to herself, feeling a small tremor go through her as she got closer and closer. How would I be able to live with myself, then?
With difficulty and hardship. Albus’ voice echoed in her mind. But at least you will know; you will have closure.
Those words kept her going right until she reached the house in question. Minerva stood in front of Twelve Grimmauld Place, feeling uncertain about what she was doing here. Albus’ words of comfort and encouragement no longer reached her.
She’d been to this house once before, for a meeting with Sirius Black’s mother concerning his behavior at school. Her hosts had been polite enough, but Minerva could tell that Walburga had not wanted her to even set foot in the house, let alone speak with her.
A supremely unpleasant woman, as I recall. Minerva thought as she stalled for time while she slowly walked to the door. It’s a wonder that Sirius turned out the way he did— but then I betrayed him despite all of this. I was quite satisfied believing that he was guilty, that he was just like the rest of his family.
She paused in front of the entrance, losing track of time as a war raged inside of her. She hugged herself a little, taking a shuddering breath as she tried to work up the nerve.
She could do this; she could.
Almost as if her hand had been transfigured into lead, Minerva struggled to lift it to the brass door knocker. She hesitated a thousand and one times in her mind before gathering herself.
You are the Head of Gryffindor House! The fierce part of her raged against her own fear and despair. Act like it!
It worked; Minerva lifted the brass piece and knocked on the door thrice with solemn purpose before letting go. There was no immediate answer.
She stood there, every fiber in her being telling her that this was wrong. I can still turn back; I don’t have to go through this. I can— No. I have to do this. I must.
The door opened, and Minerva shrunk almost instinctively from the bright light coming from within. A laughing, black haired man appeared in the doorway, his smile fading as soon as he got a good look at her.
“Professor McGonagall?” Sirius Black said hoarsely.
Minerva swallowed with great difficulty, forcing herself to speak. “Mr. Black.”
The man blinked in some confusion at the way she had said the name before looking around to see if she’d been accompanied by anyone. “What brings you here, Professor…? You’re a long way from Hogwarts.”
Every ounce of self confidence that Minerva had worked so hard to muster up before this moment seemed to have slipped from her. She raised the bag in her other hand with a jerky motion, drawing attention to it. “I thought maybe— maybe I could come for a visit, and congratulate Mr—Mr. Potter on his birthday.”
Sirius stared at the woman for a single moment, almost as if he understood the real reason hidden between her near-frightened words.
“My door.” He said with a smile as he stepped aside to welcome her in. “Is always open to you, Professor.”
Minerva could have cried with relief.