August 20, 1992, 6:30 AM, Grindelwald’s Solar, Phoenix’ Roost, England
As the sun rose over the horizon, slowly painting the sky in hues of oranges, reds and yellow, a sense of tranquility enveloped his solar. The morning mists danced lazily through the surrounding forest and over the hill, lending an ethereal quality to the scene before him.
Gellert Grindelwald stood in front of his window, looking down at the many people working under him as they began their morning routines.
Already, he could hear the faraway sound of Mr. Rafiq, veritable slave driver that he was, shouting at the souls unfortunate enough to have earned his ire in the training field.
Gellert knew that he would not like to be subjected to that whip-like spell of his, even with all of the torture he’d already endured; not that he would let himself be caught alive by his enemies, ever again.
No, the next time he found himself trapped, he did not aim to be taken alive.
This campaign… The thought came from deep within his very soul. Is likely to be my last.
His piercing blue eyes, framed by arched eyebrows, narrowed slightly before he calmed himself. Gellert turned away from the window and had a seat by the hearth, alight with blue fire. Though the flickering blue flames gave off no heat, they still cast a faint glow upon his features, highlighting the few lines remaining on his face after he’d taken the Elixir.
With but a simple gesture, Gellert Summoned a teapot, its polished surface glinting under the gentle morning light. Fragrant steam wafted upwards, carrying the intoxicating scent of Earl Grey, which he favored above all others. A fine porcelain cup, adorned with intricate golden patterns, was carefully placed before him.
Grindelwald’s eyes roved over the selection of freshly baked crumpets. Their golden exteriors glistened with a thin layer of butter, while the soft insides offered a delightful contrast of textures. He reached for the tongs to help himself, their rhythmic clinking against the ceramic plate creating a delicate melody, harmonizing with the rustling leaves outside.
As he raised the cup to his lips, Grindelwald savored the first sip of the fragrant tea. The flavors danced upon his tongue, a symphony of bergamot and warmth, awakening his senses. His eyes momentarily closed, indulging in the moment of pure bliss. The world around him seemed to fade away, leaving only the simple pleasure of this morning ritual.
Thoughts of his long-time close friend and even closer adversary, Albus Dumbledore, crept into Gellert’s mind.
The world was truly a strange place, he thought. Despite everything that had happened, they’d succeeded in their endeavors, if he looked at it a certain way.
For better or worse, their intertwined destinies had indeed shaped the wizarding world, and their clash of ideologies, instead of burning the bridge between them, had instead reinforced it, even in the absence of physical proximity. A subtle smile curled upon his lips as he pondered the complexities of their relationship, the past echoing through the deep chambers of his memory.
Lost in introspection, Grindelwald absentmindedly swirled the liquid in his teacup, his gaze fixed on the flames. In that moment, the wizard appeared almost serene, and yet somehow exuded an air of obsessive desperation as well as wild power.
His calm demeanor belied the vast depths of his ambitions, and the fire that had rekindled within his soul.
It was then that a knock on the door pulled Gellert out of his reverie and into the real world.
He let a small smile cross his face. I suppose the moment was never going to last.
He set aside his teacup, and with it, his brief respite from the world. His thoughts turned once again to the grand stage of wizarding politics, where he would leave another indelible mark. “Come in.”
The door opened, revealing Matthias Auer. With deep bags under his eyes, the man looked like he was three seconds away from passing out on the spot.
“Still not a morning person, I take it.” Gellert said by way of greeting, keeping his voice low for the benefit of his friend.
“Don’t think I ever will be.” Matthias murmured as he sat down opposite of the man.
Gellert chuckled before gesturing at his cup. “Tea?”
“Yes, please. Much appreciated.”
With another negligent motion of his fingers, he had another steaming cup ready. He watched as Matthias took it, letting the aroma of the brew fill his nose for a few moments before taking a sip. Almost immediately, Gellert saw the man’s face shift into one of relief.
Matthias took a few more sips before setting his cup down and helping himself to one of the crumpets.
“Just what I needed.” He said, enjoying a few more moments of bliss before pulling a small stack of parchment from one of his many voluminous pockets. “These are—”
“It can wait a few minutes, my friend.” Gellert said, still completely at ease, sending the parchment flying towards his desk. “Enjoy this moment, for now. You never know if this is the last time, after all.”
Matthias looked a little conflicted before nodding to himself. That was a good sign; he’d been working himself a little too hard, as of late. Honestly, the reason he probably looked so tired right now was that he worked the papers all night.
It wasn’t to say that passion, dedication and determination were bad qualities. In fact, they were the traits which set the mediocre wizards and witches apart from those who would achieve greatness in their lives.
With all of that said, however, no amount of determination would be enough to reach one’s goals if one was not also resting when one needed.
Rest was an integral part in a magical person’s growth; Gellert would even go as far to say that it was just as important as learning and training.
The body needed time to recuperate, so that it would build its reserves up to better handle the magic being channeled through the body. The mind needed that same time to absorb the lessons imparted upon it, to let the new mental pathways imprint themselves on the person’s soul.
Even Muggles have a saying for this concept. What was it... He thought. Ah, yes. ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.
It was a simple statement, yet also deep and layered.
“Thank you.” Matthias said in gratitude, favoring Gellert with a smile. “I needed that.”
“Hmph. You need to take better care of yourself.” Gellert said, smirking. “I’m of a mind to send you back to your quarters with express orders to do nothing for a few days.”
“Would that I could, but these matters simply couldn’t wait.” Matthias said, wincing as he thought of something else. “I will take you up on the time off soon, though. I fear Eleanor is losing her patience with me.”
“Can’t imagine why.” Gellert said dryly as he finished his tea before wiping his mouth with a napkin and standing up. “Shall we?”
A few moments later, he was at his desk, looking over the curated reports.
“Very good.” Gellert said, rifling through a couple before focusing on one in particular. “It seems Rafiq has gained much ground in Egypt, even gaining support from a few groups in the neighboring countries…”
“Oh yes.” Matthias said. “Good news all around that particular front— Morocco, Lebanon, Syria… Well, for the most part, anyway. There has been word of an upcoming meeting which will be taking place near the end of the month; no official reason, but we believe it will be an emergency hearing to change the leadership— or at the very least, the general aims of the ruling body.”
“Is that so…” Gellert said, considering the matter. “The Arab League of Wizards has never been the most transparent of organizations.”
“It’s gotten even worse, ever since magic carpets and other forms of enchanted items were recently banned in the European mainland.” Matthias said. “The exact details are in the report, but essentially, some Muggle protection initiative which started in one of the British Ministry’s departments ended up being proliferated by the ICW.”
“Banning a perfectly good method of transportation… yet still finding nothing wrong with flying brooms?” Gellert shook his head. “Pointless busywork, trying to look like they’re doing something while outlawing everything in sight. The sheer lunacy of it is astounding, and yet this plays to our advantage. Doubtless, the League’s finances have taken several hits?”
“Precisely my point.” Matthias said as he gestured for Gellert to keep reading. “You’ll see further in that there is to be—”
“Oh yes, I see it.” Gellert said, smiling and giving Matthias an appreciative nod. “An offer of wealth and plunder to entice the greedy and aggrieved parties, as well as a challenge to entice those with a general lust for blood and violence— the League citizens have always been hot blooded at the best of times. I’ve said this before, my friend, but you’ve taken to your lessons very well.”
“Thank you.” Matthias said, chuckling. “I had a good teacher.”
“So you did.” Gellert said before moving onto another report. “And this is…? A report on the state of the MACUSA and its surroundings?”
“Oh yes.” Matthias said, gaining an eager look in his eyes. “I think you’ll find the contents of that highly interesting.”
“Oh? So it’s confirmed?” Gellert said and began to go through the report meticulously, his eyebrows slowly ascending into his hairline. “My, my, it is. An alliance of this magnitude…”
“I imagined you would appreciate the gravity of their situation, as you were once quite well placed within their ranks in the past.” Matthias said.
Gellert gave a nod. He remembered those days well. Imprisoning that fool Graves and assuming his identity as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had been one of his better moves, even if he’d ended up thwarted by Scamander in the end.
“When I’d infiltrated them, the MACUSA could scarcely deal with each individual faction engaging in random acts of violence and committing petty crimes.” Gellert said, placing the parchment down and leaning forward as he gestured at his report, closing his fist as he spoke. “But with all of them unified under a singular banner, coordinating assaults over multiple fronts? That is not a foe the Americans have ever had to deal with.”
“Agreed— as far as I’ve learned on the matter, anyway.” Matthias said. “To that extent, I’ve already taken the liberty to dispatch a group to discreetly make contact with them. It’s likely that we won’t even get an answer, but—”
“It’s certainly worth a try. Good to have more allies wherever we can find them— reasonable ones, at any rate.” Gellert finished for him, and the two shared a nod of agreement before he pointed at the rest of the stack. “And these?”
“Different events occurring all over the globe.” Matthias said, taking a breath to center himself. “Some seem meaningless, others so obvious that they couldn’t be ignored.”
“I take it the reading is very dry.”
“You have no idea.” Matthias said and was about to continue when he was interrupted by three sharp knocks on the door.
The two men shared a look. “Come in.”
The door opened, revealing their newest guard, Marco. Gellert gave him a nod, making sure his expression and soul thread remained unmoved by his presence. “Ah, Mr. Marco. Can I help you, today?”
“Your morning news, sir.” Marco said in a tone so perfectly polite that it would have fooled just about anyone in the world— but he knew better.
“Ah, yes, of course. Come in.” Gellert said as he got up to meet the man halfway. He took the offered newspaper, eyes momentarily fixed on the headline before focusing back on the wizard before him. “I’ve neglected to ask this of you, Mr. Marco, but how are you faring with your new assignment?”
Mr. Marco considered his words for exactly two seconds before he spoke. “It has been most rewarding, sir.”
A fake response if there has ever been one. Gellert said, getting a small smirk on his face. “And your real thoughts on the matter?”
Marco hesitated, his soul thread momentarily revealing the parasitic string wound around the poor host’s. “It has been… somewhat dull. Sir.”
Matthias chuckled at that, looking up from the various reports on the table.
“I suppose your reaction is to be expected.” Matthias said, giving Marco a nod of sympathy before sharing a look with Gellert, who gave him the go ahead. “But don’t worry; even with your position as a guard, you will still be called in to complete missions from time to time.”
“Of course.” Marco said, bowing his head to the two slightly and offering them another false, but supremely pleasant smile. “I had assumed as much when I was appointed, so I did not think to raise any concerns, as of yet.”
If Gellert were any other man, he would have felt his skin crawl at the sight. Was this what he would have become, had he let himself descend into hatred?
Questions for later.
“Very good.” Matthias said, giving the man a nod of appreciation. “Thank you for your understanding, Mr. Marco. That will be all.”
“Sirs.” Marco bowed his head, before exiting the room, closing the door behind him with a click.
Gellert moved towards the window again, his mind preoccupied while Matthias continued to go through the reports, organizing them by importance.
Creating a Horcrux was considered to be a magic most foul and dark, and yet he could not judge the man standing guard outside of his room too harshly for it.
It takes a certain strength of will and determination to achieve a feat such as this. Gellert thought. Judging his actions through the lens of morality takes away from the achievement itself.
It took a certain coldness to justify that sort of thing. Playing calculus with people’s lives in order to bolster your own, it had a purpose. It was not a purpose which would lead to the target’s good, but the good of the one committing the act.
He shook his head. Gellert did not wish to think on this matter, just yet. He was content to let Marco do as he pleased, as long as his actions did not threaten the workings of his Order in any way.
It was an arrangement that he felt the other man was well aware of, at this point, and so he did not want to fiddle with this tentative, unspoken peace of theirs.
Not until the time is right. Grindelwald thought, shaking off his hesitation and heading towards the fireplace once again, the Daily Herald in his hand most certainly not forgotten.
Comfortable in his seat, he began to read:
BRITAIN TO HOLD UNPRECEDENTED INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT
By Amy Broduk
In an astounding revelation by Minister Cornelius Fudge, Wizarding Britain is now poised to host a momentous tournament that promises to go down in the annals of magical history.
Dubbed the “United Wizarding League,” this unprecedented event is a celebration of the magical arts and aims to showcase the extraordinary skills possessed by all of our prospective wizards and witches.
The tournament, which is the brainchild of esteemed magical authorities and the International Confederation Of Wizards, is promised to be the “biggest event of the century”.
It is too early to know of the specifics, but what is known is that the event is to take place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with students from eight other schools over the globe participating as well.
Speculation on the identities of these schools is rampant, but the consensus so far is thus; the invited schools will be: the Beauxbatons Academy in France, the Durmstrang Institute from Bulgaria, the School of Ilvermorny in the United States, the School of Mahoutokoro in Japan, Castelobruxo from Brazil, the School of Uagadou in Uganda, the Longling Academy from China, and the Jannah Institute of Sorcery from Egypt.
Though the Minister has said there may be more than nine schools competing when all was said and done, we at the Herald are fairly certain that the schools mentioned in the list will occupy a majority of the final list.
“Today, as we stand on the precipice of a new era filled with its own unique challenges, we must harness the power of unity once again.” Minister Fudge went on to add. “We must recognize that our strength lies in our ability to come together as a nation— no, as a global community, and tackle the issues that affect us all.”
For more information on the possible participants and further reports concerning the upcoming tournament…
He reread the article once more, absorbing all of the information given.
“Is that…?” Matthias’ voice came from behind him.
“Oh, yes.” Gellert said, handing the paper to the man and letting him read through it without a word.
“…Strange.” Was all he said at the end.
“Strange, you say?” Gellert asked, shifting in his seat as his eyes lit up with mild interest. “How so?”
“Minister Fudge is behaving differently to what I would expect of him.” Matthias said, eyes narrowing as he frowned in confusion. “The reports I have received paint a man who is easily swayed by the luxuries of life— it was the main reason why we chose to contact Mr. Malfoy, instead of him, as Lucius and his fellows seem to be the ones holding the reins which guide their nation’s affairs. To have Minister Fudge do this… Why?”
Matthias stopped, seeing Grindelwald’s small smile. “I see. You know something of his motivations.”
“Oh, yes. You are perceptive, as always.” Grindelwald said with a nod of approval. “I wonder if I should tell you, or allow you to figure it out on your own.”
Matthias looked at his friend for a moment before shaking his head. His eyes, usually sharp and alert, now seemed distant and detached, as though he was peering into another realm.
Matthias’ world faded into a blur, his vision consumed by the inner workings of his own mind. The flickering, blue light from the fireplace and the increasing bustle of people outside became mere background noise to the man’s introspection.
As his lips moved almost imperceptibly, he released a series of whispered words, fragments of a thread of thoughts which only he could follow. Each syllable carried a weight, an essence that he tried to capture and convey to himself. His voice, barely audible, held a certain rhythm, as if his murmurs followed a hidden melody.
And then Matthias’ eyes went wide with realization. “His father? Near when we first met, I read up on your exploits in the war. The name Fudge was mentioned there, once or twice, but I didn’t think much of it.”
“And so you shouldn’t have.” Gellert said, dipping his head slightly. “You are correct, however. The man was one of the many wizards and witches opposed to me during my previous campaign.”
Gellert waited a moment, and then confirmed Matthias’ words with a nod. “Cornelius Fudge’s father never dipped too deeply into his nation’s politics, merely content with his lot in life as an accomplished duelist— I believe he was declared Champion at several tournaments, back then. He did not join the war effort because he cared for his fellow wizard, but for a far simpler reason… He merely wanted to duel.”
“I see…” Matthias said, nodding as an anticipatory look came to his face. “Was he good?”
Flashes of an old fight came to Grindelwald’s mind: roaring thunder, explosions, fiery lines all over his body, and the sight of an entire building being dropped onto him.
“Oh, yes.” Grindelwald said, smiling in remembrance. “He was very good.”
“And Cornelius wishes to honor his father’s sacrifice by hosting an international dueling tournament…” Matthias said slowly, smiling a little. “If nothing else, you have to admire the man’s ability to turn a situation into a successful, positive campaign for public relations, however callous the gesture may be. In one stroke, he’s essentially forced attention away from all of the failing governments in the region.”
“True. The people want their entertainment, after all.” Gellert said, mirroring his friend’s smile. “Besides, with an event of this magnitude, it offers us opportunities we would not have had, otherwise.”
“Indeed.” Grindelwald said in an almost self-indulgent tone. “How would you and Eleanor feel about a long term infiltration mission?”
Oh, yes. Today was going to be a good day, indeed.
August 20, 1992, 11:30 AM, Grimmauld Place, London
My heart pounded in my chest as I got to my feet and faced my opponent again. I tightened my grip on my wand, my palms slick with sweat. The air crackled with anticipation as I prepared myself for the next barrage to come my way.
With a flick of his wrist, Sirius Black unleashed a rapid series of spells, his movements fluid and precise. I reacted instinctively, my body moving in a desperate dance to avoid the onslaught. I sidestepped a bolt of purple energy, my footwork still not as good as I would have liked, as I countered with a burst of blue sparks from the tip of my ebony wand.
Sirius deftly deflected the attack, his wand whirling through the air in an elegant arc. He retaliated with a Stunning Charm, a jet of crimson light streaking towards me. I moved swiftly, conjuring a Shield of shimmering silver and deflecting the spell just inches from my face.
The spell splashed against the wall of the kitchen, doing nothing but rattling the many pots and pans stacked on the shelves. The makeshift dueling arena echoed with the reverberations of our magical clash.
Spells collided, creating dazzling explosions of light and sound. I weaved through the chaos, my mind sharp as it tried to take apart my opponent’s every move. I sought an opening, a vulnerability in Sirius’s defense that I could exploit.
Alas, it would not be that easy. Sirius was a formidable adversary, his movements a strange blend of grace and power. His spells were cast with a precision that seemed effortless, each incantation flowing seamlessly into the next.
Before long, I once again found myself on the defensive, my body reacting purely on instinct as Sirius upped the ante, his spellcasting nearly doubling in speed as I narrowly dodged another barrage of spells.
A blast of fire erupted from Sirius’s wand, engulfing the immediate vicinity in an inferno of heat and flames. Feeling the searing heat licking at my heels, I leaped backwards, shocked that he would use such a move in an enclosed space. But the distraction proved costly, as Sirius capitalized on my momentary vulnerability.
A simple bit of rope shot forth from Sirius’s wand, wrapping around my leg and yanking me off balance before I could so much as think. I crashed to the ground, my body hitting the cold stone floor with a thud. I fought to regain my footing, but before I could cast a Shield Charm, Sirius’ wand was already a few inches from my face, its tip glowing red.
The man gave me a smirk before uttering an incantation. “Rictusempra.”
Red shifted to silver before bursting from the tip of his wand and crashing into me.
I seized up, wheezing with laughter as I felt every inch of my skin being stimulated to the point where I was laughing uncontrollably. I continued to squirm for a few seconds longer before Sirius released the spell, giving me a reprieve from the impromptu tickling torture.
“Had enough yet…?” Sirius’ stern, but mildly concerned voice reached my ears, and I struggled to get back to my feet once again.
“I… Have not.” I ground out.
“Come on, Adam.” Sirius said, finally having enough of my attitude. “We’ve been at this for an hour and a half. I’m happy that you’re taking your training more seriously and trying not to rely too much on your chains, but you can’t keep pushing yourself like this.”
“Because I’ll burn out?” I snapped at him without realizing it. “You think I’m weak minded like that?”
Sirius exhaled through his nose, giving me the most amused look I saw in my life.
“Weak minded.” Sirius repeated, shaking his head as he smiled, throwing me off long enough for him to pull me back up to my feet. “No, kid. If anything, I’d say the you’re one of most resilient people I’ve ever met— alongside Harry, of course.”
“Then you know I can take it.” I argued, unconsciously moving to the starting line to recommence the dueling practice.
“Yes, you can take it, and much more.” Sirius said, though he shook his head. “But just because you can take it doesn’t mean that you should. You don’t need me to tell you that not giving yourself any time to recover is a terrible idea. You’re a smart kid.”
“You’re just buttering me up to spare my feelings.” I said in an accusatory tone.
“Is it working?”
“No.” I said, though I felt a smile trying to creep its way into my face. “Well, okay, maybe a little. To be honest, it just makes me want to fight you more.”
“Fight me?” Sirius said and laughed. “With your chains, I can definitely call those fights. But without them… might as well call me a bully with how many times I’ve introduced you to the floor.”
“Right.” I said, feeling myself calm down as Sirius came closer and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“You’ll get there.” Sirius said. “Nothing worth doing—”
“Is ever easy.” I finished for him, perking up as I felt a lot lighter than I had not five seconds prior. “Thank you, Sirius.”
“Thank me by taking a shower.” He said as he waved his wand, removing the training area and putting everything back where it was supposed to be. “You stink.”
“Thanks, Sirius.” I said and sniffed around my pits. He was right: I reeked.
A shower it is…