Two miles out of the village in midsummer, Godric's Hollow is hot and green and golden in the late evening, with gnats buzzing harmless in the shadows and the setting sun pouring strange colors through the leaves. The boys walk almost in lockstep, almost hand in hand, robes tugged open round their throats--and there's a bruise in the hollow of Albus' neck, hidden by long hair glowing lurid in the late light.
"Are you," he asks quietly, "afraid of Death?"
"Not particularly," says Gellert, flippant. He's squinting into the setting sun, all golden. "I don't see the point."
"It was something in one of the old poems I was reading this morning--that those who seek the Hallows do so out of a fear of Death and should be pitied."
"Ahh, I see where your point lies. But...no, not particularly. Not more than is natural for a living thing. A wall looms to cut off my existence, surely, the sun always sets. Yes, the thought of ending with my work undone is aggravating--but do I fear what is part of the very fabric of reality? Pointless struggling, that."
"There are those who say it is more like a ragged veil, tantalizingly thin, drawn across." Albus' voice is calm and a little cold; there has, after all, been more death in his past than in Gellert's.
"A fine metaphor, but such rarely alter my sentiments." Gellert flashes a very sharp grin. "The inherent logic would seem to be that those who wish to master Death do so because they are afraid of it and what it can do to themselves or their own, yes? And that those who do not overly fear it would leave well enough alone?"
"That would seem to be the case, yes."
They walk on. Gellert kicks stones with his pointed German shoes; Albus is chewing on a blade of grass. The sun is blood-red between the hills.
"But," Gellert says after a long while, and touches his friend's elbow, halting his step and drawing him close. "But, Albus--" and he grabs a thick handful of Albus' hair, no warning, and tugs, sending him stumbling to his knees in the dirt. Gellert smiles, murmurs, "I don't need to be afraid of something in order to master it."
There's naked, tender shock on Albus' face, breaking through his usual reserve, and the grass slips unheeded from his lips. Gellert strokes his cheek, gently, even as he holds his head tight by the hair, and slowly slips off his glasses and watches his eyes unfocus--half-blinded without them, and with the narrow muscles of his throat bare and straining.
"I'm not particularly afraid of you, either," he whispers, standing closer, until Albus is plastered up against his legs, face to his groin. "But what about you, fellow-seeker? Do you fear Death?"
"As the moth fears the flame," Albus breathes.