Thirty-Five Owls

(being a correspondence between Albus P.W.B. Dumbledore, Grand Sorcerer, etc., and the prisoner Gellert Grindelwald, of some decades in length)

cover art by Black Adder

 

 

September 10th, 1951

 

Dumbledore--

 

Lo, it is I. Your old friend, Gellert Grindelwald. Your surprise at receiving this, believe me, is somewhat less than my surprise at writing it. Still, I go where I will, do what I will, as you well know.

I hope this finds you in good time, especially after all that bragging I've heard about England's owls. The birds do not fly easy around Nurmengard's tower. The storms pour down off the mountains like floods. I'm twenty feet under the lightning rod, and, oh, the crackles it makes when the cloud fronts break, like the whole castle's under Cruciatus. Huge anvils in the sky with the thunder hammering down from them through the night of boiling pitch, and when the clouds part it's the werewolf moons of the North coming in through the bars. It's beautiful. Though not to your taste, I assume; too uncivilized.

You're no doubt staring down your nose at this, letter and bedraggled owl both. (She likes white mice.) Are you really surprised, old friend, that I'd have the stomach to write to you, even after everything that happened? You shouldn't be. This is dear old Gellert, you should say. Bagshot's German pest. Never leaves me alone, even now that he's sitting in prison all day with nothing better to do. My much-lauded gold is going grey, Albus, imagine that! Still, I must say, as prisons go, the stonework is exquisite. Good of me to encourage the masons so, if curses could be considered encouragement, and they left the magic scars like jagged ivy in the granite, very pretty. Enjoy the irony. Old. Friend. Locked in my own prison.

You still at that school of yours? Enjoying teaching, I hope? Reading plenty? Eating well? Taking good care of It? You'd better be.

Give my regards to that mad bird of yours. Hope I didn't kill him too much.

Listen to me. Hope. Hope. With the mold gathering on the walls of my cell. Laugh at me, Albus. Go on hating me like you always have. Enjoy yourself.

 

 

 

 

October 13th, 1951

 

Dear Gellert,

 

Thank you for your letter. When I think on it, I seem to recall you commenting once that no power in the world could stop me from being--I believe your words were--"a smug bastard." I'm afraid I remain as incorrigible as ever. I've been expecting an owl ever since our duel, and was hardly surprised to receive one. Indeed, I would have begun to worry in another year or two.

I gave your owl a drying charm, a perch by Fawkes' fire, and three white mice. She's wonderfully well-tempered after such a flight. (And Fawkes himself is quite well. Not even you, adept as you are at such things, could kill him enough to be a problem, Gellert.) I am indeed still at Hogwarts, teaching Transfiguration, head of Gryffindor House, and Assistant Headmaster. I am perhaps somewhat less of an overachiever than I was when we first met. Still, I am indeed enjoying myself. The beginning of term has been quite busy, hence my slow response. It is a peculiar delight that October the 13th has been a quiet and peaceful day.

So, yes, Gellert, I am not surprised. And this might, in turn, come as a surprise to you, but I do not hate you. I have said it before, I know, during our duel, and I say it again. Nor do I look down my nose at you, nor do I laugh at you. Do you find this difficult to understand? I'm afraid I might find it difficult to explain. And it might simply be another symptom of being a smug bastard.

(Rest assured, speaking of said duel, that I am taking good care of It.)

How are you spending your hours, when not contemplating nature? You are, I hope, comfortable, and allowed books as well as correspondence. Along those lines, actually, I have enclosed a book you might enjoy. Some fascinating refinements of Transfiguration theory came out of Wales in the twenties--you might well have missed it while you were off preparing to conquer Europe.

 

Regards,

 

 

[enclosure: Of Mice and Matriculation, Gwalchmai Gwartney & Ianto ap Madog]

 

 

October 16th, 1951

 

Dumbledore--

 

My memory might be a bit weak, but I believe the exact phrase might have been something more like "smug, supercilious, INFURIATING bastard, sanctimonious git with a bloody superiority complex, like to pretend you're so humble, you hypocrite, no I don't want any candy." I wasn't even drunk.

Then again, I'm the one locked in a room for the rest of his life, wandless, slowly going mad. Can my memory really be trusted? I suppose now you'll tell me that what I console myself with at night is false--that I never slid your hair through my hands, that I never seen Dark spells crackle down your wand and set your face alight. I suppose next you'll tell me that you don't scream in the back of your throat at climax. I suppose next you'll tell me that I never took you over that old oak coffee table when Aberforth was out.

Go ahead. Mock me with Transfiguration texts, now that I can never do magic again. Look down your long nose at me. Who broke it, anyway, old friend? Someone else who attempted to empty out all the hot air you're full of?

 

 

 

 

November 12th, 1951

 

Gellert,

 

It was Aberforth. He blamed me for Ariana's death. I could not bring myself to set the bone.

I do not question either your memory or your sanity. We touched, yes; I do not deny it to you, though I keep it a secret from most. We were boys drunk on summer, and I was a fool, playing with power I did not comprehend. What else can I say, Gellert?

I enclose another book I've been enjoying, with hopes that it will not remind you overmuch of what you've lost.

 

With apologies,

 

 

[enclosure: The Waves, Virginia Woolf]

 

 

August 4th, 1952

 

Dear Gellert,

 

I know it would be better for me to wait for you to contact me. I'm afraid I'm at quite a disadvantage--Nurmengard is rather out of range for Legilimency. I can only guess at the best way to approach you now.

I remember your sulks, in those weeks we spent together. The way you'd leave abruptly if offended, cut yourself off, radiate darkness, come back a few hours later as if nothing was wrong. Hours have turned into months, I suppose? Time in isolation can stretch so, and I have experienced it only briefly, compared to you. And I do not say this to mock you. I found even your sulks intriguing--your wild flights of emotion were part of your charm.

And I know it would be better for me to leave you to it, but I cannot bring myself to simply let you be. It is one of my failings, I suppose, the tendency to over-stretch myself and meddle. And now, were we face to face, I suppose you would snap at me for mock humility and leave...

I come begging back to you, yes. Not as a famous wizard, not as a Hogwarts Professor, not as anything in which I might have pride. Merely as a man, for that is all we are in the end. You once called this old man friend. And you wrote me seeking, I can only imagine, simple correspondence. I would like that very much. And I speak in plain honesty, and you have every right to be angry with me.

I do not hate you. Could you bring yourself to believe that, to judge me fairly for it? Could you bring yourself not to hate me?

 

Regards,

 

 

 

 

September 26th, 1952

 

Albus--

 

After all the scatological ways I've considered--no, I'll have to start this letter with a simple thank you. My charming sulks, you horrid arse. I haven't laughed that hard in weeks.

But Muggle literature? Honestly, Albus. Send me the Compendium of Inoffensive Things--then I might refrain from a sulk. This Woolf woman--very strange.

And Legilimency? Don't bother. Stay out of my head. The days stretch, oh yes, like that furlough-string taffy you used to suck on as we talked, stringing it endlessly between your fingers and your teeth. Downright distracting, that. Made my pen slip on the parchment more than once. But it did explode so delightfully when we hexed it, remember? Green and smoking?

You were always absolute rubbish at begging. Remember when I hexed your legs to the bedstead and made you wait? Utterly pathetic, you couldn't even manage to be polite. I was in such a snit I could've beaten you bloody...

And my life. This life you reduced me to. Taffy days and memories.

Morning: the guards come round, scan all my papers for dangerous Arithmancy. They used to rough me up, sometimes, when I was first here, no spells, just fists. There was one woman--you killed my husband, she would scream, you killed my husband. They stopped after a few years because I would always laugh at them. I take as much idiotic, endless pride in my talents as you, Albus. The talent of laughing through broken teeth while kneeling on a stone floor clutching your bruised gut, laughing with blood down your throat at people who want to torture you? A good talent to have in prison. Worth far more than wits or magic.

The food tastes like dirt. I've lost a good bit of weight. The window's old and wavery glass, and I can't see my reflection clearly, but I'd imagine I look rather like a skeleton. Hard to imagine a handsome British genius once made love to me on riverbanks, eh?

Taffy days. I read until my eyes blur, stop, re-read, make notes. Perhaps I should bequeath you my library--but no, you would be disgusted, no doubt. My magic is still Dark, even if I cannot practice it. I rummage aimless through old lore. Tell me, old friend, did you ever find the Hallows? Did you achieve our dream without me? Will you master Death, now that you've shucked your partner off to ignobility and prison?

Ah. I remember writing essays at Durmstrang like this, rambling on like an old dodderer, writing with half an eye on the page and half an eye in Moste Potente Potions. Dipping my pen in the newt blood by mistake.

I wear smooth spots on the floor where I pace. Three rats I caught hang from shackle brackets in the corners--I stamped on their tails as they ran past, snapped their necks, and skinned them with my teeth. They've rotted slowly and horrible over the years. A sacrifice, to discourage the others--no rats have bothered me since. And you'd be amazed what stenches you can get used to.

Evening--certain months of the winter I can see the sun go down out my narrow window. Cold yellow winter sun splintering pale over the icy mountains. I want to gather the gray magic of the wind and sprinkle three dots of blood over the clouds and fly free like a banshee up to the summit. Just fly, like I used to. I'd even come quietly back to my cell after. Fly like I did from old Gregorovitch's house with It in my hand, laughing, joyous. I seem to recall dancing about the room with you when I scared up that spell from the old Dark tomes. Essential tool for the Dark Lord, really, to wing about looking intimidating. But also--joyous.

Night, and the windowpane is icy, and the moon rolls behind roiling dark clouds. I love the North. Better to live out my life here in the highest tower, looking down over the rocky crags and the wild land, then somewhere in the potted fields of England. Once I traced the path of the Volga with my wand on your bare back, drawing in ice crystals on your skin. They would bloom, feather, soften at the edges, bead, slide down along your spine, and you would moan, so soft.

The same on my windowpane when my warm hand touches it, the melting, but silent. No other human voice. Not ever.

Taffy days, Albus. You threw me over and locked me up in here. Now leave me in peace with your Neville and your Jinny.

 

Sulkingly yours,

 

 

 

 

October 13th, 1952

 

Dear Gellert,

 

Again the thirteenth is peaceful, however much the superstitious fear it. These have been good years for England. Very quiet. Thank you for your letter, however sulky. You retain, I see, that talent for poetry that so sparkled your conversation in your youth.

Yes, I know full well what I have done to you. I will not apologize for what was necessary. You had to be removed from power, kept from harming the world, because--well, for the greater good. And seeing as I am a self-righteous old dingbat, as a student most memorably dubbed me a few weeks ago, I would not have murdered you. (I'm even getting some gray hair myself, to properly look the part.) And yet it saddens me, to think of a mind and talent as brilliant as yours wasting away in taffy days; and it saddens me to hear of your suffering. I hope I can provide at least some small joys.

I think you deserve to know, Gellert, in confidence, of my intentions for what I won from you in that duel. (I admit that I agree with your habit of circumspect wording, given the nature of it.) I intend to take it with me to my grave. If I can succeed in breaking its bloody history...well, as it's been said, I'm a dingbat. But I believe, with all that I've now seen, that the world is better off without it.

This is one of those peculiar cases in which I'm unable to anticipate your reaction, I must admit.

I must make one more apology, though--if your intent, that time with the ice, was indeed to teach me Russian geography, I'm afraid you quite failed, as I was far too distracted at the time to pay proper attention. I find it odd, though--we knew each other for perhaps two months, and I admit the passion was intriguing, yet you write on it so often. Was that brief time, which you threw away when you left, really so important to you?

I wish you had told me earlier, what those guards were doing to you. I would have had them removed at once, if only through chains of favors. Believe me when I say I had no wish for such degradations to be a part of your sentence; your words left me burning hot with outrage.

I must to work.

 

With thanks,

 

 

 

 

November 19th, 1952

 

Albus--

 

You would truly do that? Break Its power?

I suppose I shouldn't even bother to ask.

It is peculiar, though, how much the idea distresses me. Breaking and violating Its entire history...you've held It, Albus. You've felt It tugging at your heart and soul, power as tremendous and inviolate as Death itself. To imagine that power--phenomenal, unique, ancient--destroyed forever...

I do not even know my own reaction. But, Albus, I thought you did not kill.

As for your little moment of combustion--there are no dementors in Nurmengard, Albus. The guards are only human--and, no, you shouldn't begrudge them a little sport with me. I have gone too far down the path of the Dark for pain to be anything but an inconvenience. Didn't you, too, rant endlessly about my sins when you finally came to vanquish me? Wouldn't you have me tossed in prison for taking the life of a single Muggle, after your saintly change of heart, no matter what it means for our Greater Good? Who are you to dictate my Hell?

There are no dementors, yet still, every night as I sleep, there are screams. And do you really think I'd prefer to hear the screams of wizards falling in battle, or of Muggles at labor or under torture, or even my own when I heard of your betrayal to our cause, when instead I might hear your screams of pleasure at my hands all those years ago? Of course I have been thinking of that. Of course I have been writing on it. You were beautiful once, you miserable dingbat.

And if you are ashamed, humiliated, that you were once the confidant and lover of the Dark terror of the century--well, I must get my revenge somehow. Go teach your children, eat your candy, preen your bird and bury me. But we were brilliant together, Albus, and not even you can change history.

 

 

 

 

January 1st, 1953

 

Dear Gellert,

 

You do seem to realize that you will not talk me out of my plans for the object in question, for which I am glad. It would be a shame to wear the wings off owls arguing over this for the rest of our lives.

Of course I have felt it, the temptation of it, as you have. But do you realize the danger of it, old friend? Surely the old history of Ilmarinen has spread to your corners of the North. There are some things that must be destroyed. And it is not, Gellert, alive. This is crucial. It has no memory, no soul, no life within it. It is not murder to end it, to prevent it from drowning future generations in blood as it has ours.

One of its powers, I fear, is that the wizards that bond to it do so with an obsessive passion that borders on twisted love. I am saddened to see you affected by this. But I will not apologize for what must be done for--yes--the greater good. The future will be better off without the temptations this thing offers. Breaking its blood inheritance will turn over a new leaf in the relations between the powerful wizards who are steeped in the mysteries...oh, dear. New leaves. I'm afraid that writing on New Year's Day makes me maudlin.

But, yet, again, I am sorry for the condition I must leave you in.

Yet you are correct. Cruel as it is to say, it is the truth--I am ashamed, to have been your lover, if 'lover' is even the word for such as us. Yet it is a small pleasure that I am able to provide you with some comfort through those memories. I thought, though, that you liked hearing the screams of Muggles?

It is a bad habit of mine to distract people with sweets. In lieu of that, perhaps, more books? I think Gertrude's grammatical eccentricities might provide you with some entertainment.

I admit, Gellert, that I've been thinking overlong myself on our boyhood time together. It has been so long since I was so intimate with another, without fear, without withholding. You are correct again: I cannot change history. And it is difficult to deny the joy of those months spent in abandoned pleasure and ambition, when I thought that you and your brilliance would save me. But the cost, Gellert. The cost! You left me burying my sister and forever uncertain of my own decency. You left me with parts of myself I must ever hide.

Ah, here is the dawn, coming up cold and misty over the Scottish hills. No potted fields here around Hogwarts--wild enough for you, I dare say. The clouds are thick round the dark forest near the grounds, and I have not slept tonight, and I...

Enjoy your books, Gellert.

 

 

[enclosure: Everybody's Autobiography, Gertrude Stein]

 

 

April 18th, 1956

 

Dear Gellert,

 

It would seem I have upset you again. I can only ask your forgiveness. It was truly not my intent to do so.

England remains at peace and well-potted. Old Headmaster Dippett has announced his retirement, and I'll be filling his position--immensely preferable employment to everything our Ministry keeps badgering me into. We'll have to start the search for a new Transfiguration teacher soon, I suppose. I've seen a few excellent Quidditch games these past few years, including one which ended in a proposal of marriage, and even the Muggles are doing well.

I suppose you would only laugh at me if I asked for your news.

Shall we go in circles like this forever? I mis-step, apologize, resume contact...

I hope you at least enjoyed Gertrude.

 

Regards,

 

 

 

 

July 11th, 1956

 

Mister Supreme Mugwump Sir, and of course I heard about that particular commendation--

 

The rest of our lives, you say? Forever, you say? Are we wedded by owl, then? Am I bound to your sanctimonious pronouncements as permanently as the lichen on my walls? The orange spot is becoming particularly magnificent. There is green like scales, green like little leaves. They grow unimaginably slowly. My whole life has become glacial. It's been more than ten years, hasn't it? More than ten years in one single little room. I thought I'd go mad. Maybe I have.

Headmaster. Bollocks. Schweinhund. Look at you. Look at you, the great Albus Dumbledore, International Mugwump of the Grand Posh Scheisse-Swarm, hunching over your New Year's ale because you fucked a German boy decades ago and can never love again or some nonsense--and you still blame me for her death, don't you, Albus? It was an accident, you drunken idiot, an accident, it wasn't me, I swear, I only fled in fear--

And look at me. Gellert Grindelwald. There was a time when every child in Wizarding Europe cheered for my name or shrunk from it. There was a time when I cast curses that stripped the leaves from every tree for thirty feet with the mere wind of their passing--there was a time when I was on the verge of establishing, truly establishing, a new world order, a bright new future, and I would have done it for you and me--and here I am, rotting, lonely enough to care what some poncy old British git thinks of me. You must have enjoyed the thought, yes, that I might be haunted by the screams of my victims? Does that fit your idea of how things work, that I lie awake at night tossing and turning from the ghosts of my past? And do you, Albus? Little Ariana held you back from hunting me down for years, didn't she?

News. NEWS, Dumbledore? News from this oubliette you left me in? Four years without a letter--the charms on my watch are holding perfectly well, thank you, I know how long it's been--and then only to brag that you're Headmaster? [a dark, indecipherable blotch of ink]

It's sweet, really, your bewilderment. You can't understand how I could possibly be angry at you, can you? Because you mean well, because you approach me in friendship, I couldn't really be upset, now could I? Just sulking again, right?

Gertrude is a crazy bitch. What lesson are you trying to teach me? What game of yours am I playing in now? We already finished one, the one where you spend every day with me, give me your body and your mind, and then blame me for an accident and betray me and leave me to do our work alone? And then the next, where you set me upon my path, share my plans, hunt the Hallows with me, give me the very words by which I forged my philosophy, and then, at your leisure, when you've watched enough, wander over from England in the name of truth and justice and bat me out of the sky?

You forged me, Dumbledore. You forged me and formed me and let me loose in the world. And I think your little brother would agree that you have a habit of ignoring uncomfortable truths.

But enough about you. Let's talk about me, your haunted and broken pet Dark Lord, your misbegotten experiment, who used to spin sweet spells round your body and smile as you begged him to bugger you? And who, I wonder, knows that? Is that one of those things you must ever hide? Poor Albus.

Yes, we go around in circles. Here I am back to mocking you until I can barely breathe for anger.

I have a new pen pal, Professor Dumbledore, aren't you proud? Never think that you're the only one I write to--god knows if you were, I would've bashed my head out on the wall years ago. And it's lovely, sometimes, to talk to somebody who doesn't disapprove of everything one is, a fellow Dark wizard, ambitious with abandon. British boy, very clever, a little stiff, silly made-up name--owled me out of the blue a few years ago looking to talk shop, as you'd say. Great mind, but no sense of humor. He seemed rather startled when I mentioned that I knew you.

I told him that you were a user and a hypocrite, and to stay well away from you. Of course, he was already frightened of you. You might want to keep an eye out for him though. He could be a dangerous lad. And how could you possibly handle a Dark Lord who isn't your lapdog?

Be well uncertain of your decency, Albus Dumbledore. And Gertrude is a crazy bitch.

 

 

 

 

August 2nd, 1956

 

Gellert,

 

One of the perils of teaching for long is that one becomes accustomed to presenting, as one must to children, the illusion that one is entirely knowledgeable and confident in one's path through life, even when one may, in fact, be a fool and lost.

I never considered you my lapdog, old friend. If anything, I often thought of myself as yours for those few months, I caught up in your dreams of glory, I the one who felt betrayed when I realized the full implications of those dreams and the broken backs they would climb upon. But when teaching long, too, one learns to recognize when a dispute is simply--did not--did too.

Hate me, then, if it will make your remaining years easier. I had hoped, childish hopes, that you wouldn't, even after--but I am nothing but a lost old fool anyway. But, whatever you think of me, I must ask after this British fellow you mentioned. This made-up name wouldn't happen to be Voldemort, would it? I would leave you well enough alone, as you wish, but there have been ominous rumors round that name as of late, and I am compelled to ask.

That aside, be well.

 

 

 

 

September 27th, 1956

 

Dumbledore,

 

The peculiar thing is that you've given me no particular reason to want to help you with this Voldemort bloke. (That would be the correct British term, yes? Bloke?) It was mostly technical. Obsessed with death, that one, even for a Dark wizard. Terrified of it, even as he nursed delusions of grandeur. Unhealthy attitude. But you probably knew that already. He was not on the path of the Hallows. Probably just as well. The fewer upstarts after that sort of thing, the better.

He was mostly on about his crackpot theory to improve the Killing Curse--won't work out, I think. That and Horcruxes. Woolly business. I like all my bits in one place where they belong, and if somebody's good enough to take me out I'd rather die properly, none of this floating about half-alive nonsense.

I don't hate you, Albus. I never have, and at this point there's nothing worse you can do to me, so I never will. That's the problem.

 

 

P.S. Getrude says, "And identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself."

 

 

February 28th, 1957

 

Gellert,

 

I suppose it might give you great pleasure to know that you can still make me burst out laughing. A woolly business they are indeed, and I think (for everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something) that Gertrude would agree. Unlike her, however revel in my commas.

Voldemort visited me a few days ago, here at Hogwarts. I had been prepared to write off the dark rumors I'd been hearing as just that, but his entire demeanor and every word he spoke confirmed my fears. England may indeed have a genuine Dark Lord on its hands. 

I realize you have no particular reason to listen to me, but I would suggest breaking off contact. Voldemort may be a whippersnapper compared to you, but he is impetuous, ambitious, and, as you deduced, obsessed with death. Then again, he might be just your sort of bloke.

As for the rest--I cannot untangle your heart, Gellert. I can barely keep measure of my own.

 

With thanks for your help,

 

 

 

 

March 15th, 1957

 

Albus--

 

So you've got yourself a baby Dark Lord on the fair Isles of Alba? Then it would seem you should beware the Ides of March.

I wonder--will you go after Voldemort now, as a vigilante, in the good ten years or so before the officials will have any idea what's going on, or will you play it safe, bide your time, and watch the first deaths? Either way I'm sure that inflamed conscience of yours will suffer. Give it a sherbet lemon and spare us.

The boy has a lot of power and little imagination. You and I, at least, never lacked in the latter department. Part of why we were magnificent.

The more I read these Muggle books of yours, the more I am bewildered. All this time they spend on their cultural conceits, their literature and arts, their social niceties, their limited, supposedly scientific ways of understanding the world without magic. I suppose it is what people do when they do not have magic? Yet without magic, what is the point of it? A wizard with a violin can alter reality itself, but a Muggle with the same is limited to simply affecting the emotions of his fellow-kind. And two Muggles arguing over commas change nothing, but two wizards revising a spell structure can change the world.

Is this your lesson, Albus, when you sent me these books? To teach me to pity them in their small worlds? How ineffective they are?

My heart was untangled with--It--in my hand. Without It now, without the surety of magic--

How?

How does one live?

The landscape out my window has changed in twelve years, though how much I cannot say. My thoughts slip and slide away from me. One would think they would have nowhere to go, with shield charms thick as goblin steel through my walls. You always used to say you'd get a Pensieve one day--

My Nurmengard will not break me, Albus, and neither shall you. Go, deal with your whippersnapper of a Dark Lord. I'm just a rotting--am I really an old man now? I suppose I am. Well, in my day we had to go up hill both ways in the snow to conquer countries.

 

Crochetily yours,

 

 

 

 

May 17th, 1957

 

Gellert,

 

I'm afraid he's a little out of the infantile Dark Lord stage. We may be into skulking and temperamental early adolescence, a phase of Dark development I know well from my time with you. Unfortunately he has no friend to spend that troubled time with, and I have stretched this hapless metaphor to its snapping point.

As for the choice you mention--it weighs on me heavily, yes. My Pensieve has been invaluable. And--at times my heart proves difficult to untangle as well.

One can think almost endlessly on that question, that of Muggles. Though they've answered some of your wonders themselves--the further you look into Muggle artistic criticism, the more you realize that there are valid criteria for judging creative output beyond its practical-magical usefulness. I'm enclosing a text that's been particularly helpful with that, if also dry. One thing I've found particularly difficult to realize, as a wizard, that to a Muggle a life of the mind does, in fact, entail losing any ability to affect reality directly. Yet, for that, it is often surprising how many of them choose such a life, and those who don't, who choose professions of battle and labor where they can change physical reality through their own natural means, are generally considered to be a second class. I'd heard it proposed that they're unconsciously mimicking wizarding society. I think perhaps the cause and effect there is off.

But, I beg your pardon, I ramble. This topic has been my pet hobby as of late. And, as you've pointed out, I have a Dark Lord to attend to.

 

 

[enclosure: Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism]

 

 

June 30th, 1957

 

Albus--

 

Oh, that last was unusually brusque for you. Do I detect a hint of annoyance at me? Have I upset you in turn? Or is it fear at these choices you must make? Such a bother it must be, after all, to be the self-appointed leader of the free wizarding world. Or fear of Voldemort? Or fear that I hit your nail on the head?

But never mind that. I want to tell you a story, Albus.

When I lie awake at night on my thin mattress, as I so often do, until the moon sinks behind the horizon or out of sight of my narrow window, until the witching-hour chill creeps along the floor of my cell like a living thing, I swim through memories. I have no Pensieve, of course--nothing magical in here but my trusty old watch--but I still have my mind. Often, of course, it is the little things that come up first--my old wand, before I found It, or the woodwork in the walls of a Muggle house I sacked years ago, or the toads I kept as a child. And often I relive particular things, to console myself.

I would like to think I have a good memory. But it is nothing compared to a Pensieve. Here we are again--all those little conveniences of the wizarding world, and how to do without them. There are some memories I sometimes imagine must be worn thin in my mind--and yet they say that constant reminders strengthen a memory. True, perhaps. And yet--I've forgotten something.

It is late June, here in this worn-out memory. Aberforth is inside with Ariana. We amble back out along the mill stream that the Muggles of Godric's Hollow use, ducking under the windows of our wizarding elders, deep in conversation about singlehandedly revising the conservation laws of blood magic. We sit side by side and strip off our boots and dangle our feet in the water, and you turn a silver knife over in your hand--beautiful hands, you have--and you mutter that we'll find the Stone, we have to.

How much magical power, we wonder, can we milk out of one drop of blood? You prick your thumb, and it beads, terrible rich red in the sunlight. The sight of it excites me. I let it stain the tip of my wand, and it wicks into the wood and vanishes and the thrum of power sets my hair on end. Scheisse--even more than the convenience, even more than the proper ways of controlling one's reality and destiny, none of this impotent Muggle nonsense, that's what I miss about magic. The visceral thrums and thrills of it. You, you must still have it, and you were always so strong, talent so bright. Magic burning in every fiber of your body, transcending flesh--do you still notice it after all these long years, the simple primal exhilaration of it?

But--the memory. We were there, with your blood in my wand, and I sliced a hollow log to ribbons with a flick of my wrist, so easy, so powerful. And then you went to hand me the knife, but I forced it back into your hand, leaned very close as you slid the blade across the pad of my thumb--must try it in reverse, after all.

You lit the water on fire with my blood. You were magnificent.

We laugh and take notes, then, and slowly tamp down the fire. I am already imagining that glorious amplification applied to the Darkest spells; I hum incantations under my breath. We are partners, after all, and we had never thought until now to tap into the massive resource of power latent within each other--blood, willingly given to another, you know what that can do.

We lie panting together on the riverbank. My head is in your lap, and you scruff my hair absentmindedly with one hand, twirling strands around your fingers. The sun is bright, the brush green and wild, the bloodstained knife glimmering on the turf. We patter on, vainglorious, and when I mention looking for the Hallows--

"The Stone first," you say.

I shift and look up at you, curious. "Why?"

"Because once we have that...even the shadow of them, even just the shadow."

I bat at dangling strands of your hair like a kitten. "Albus, you're not making sense."

You didn't explain. I suppose, thinking about it, that you wanted your parents back, to take care of Aberforth and Ariana, so you could run off with me?

How thoughtful. For once, I think, I'm not being sarcastic.

We spoke for a while after that, about nothing important. It's not why I think of that day. I think of it because you stood, suddenly, rolling me out of your lap, and paced a circle of concealing charms.

It seems so much longer and darker when one has to sit and write it out in full, doesn't it?

We had groped at each other like schoolchildren before then, if memory serves, but it was there by the stream, cloaked by magic, with the insects buzzing in the undergrowth and the sun making your hair like fire, that we first came together. I remember with perfect clarity, though find it difficult to describe, the sly half-smile you wore as you slipped off your little gold reading glasses, dragging one earpiece unconscious over your lips as you stared at me, beckoning and hungry. And then you were sliding off your robes, peeling back white cotton undershirt and drawers, and I remember laughing, startled and gleeful, and telling you it was too shallow for swimming.

You were beautiful then. So was I--I watched you drinking in the sight of me. We're both old and withered and unforgivable now, I suppose.

We fumbled idyllically near the rushes, laid out on our robes as the ants picked bewildered at their hems. You shook with joy, like you'd fly apart, when I touched you. We're both pale creatures, and flushed easy and hot with pleasure, and I remember holding your face very tight in my hands and staring as ecstatic arousal overwhelmed you, and feeling my heart banging like a banshee's against my ribs, because you were mine.

I took you in hand, do you remember? I tugged your head back by the hair with one hand and took you in the other, and you were perfectly, absolutely hard for me. I made you scream. Do you remember? Or are you still too ashamed?

You panted and rolled over and scrubbed the seed off in the grass, and came up green spattered and loose-limbed and laughing, and never did things by halves. I remember tumbling back amongst our robes into some sort of delicious oblivion as you bent over me, hair on my skin, ring of your fingers clamped down tight round the base of my prick as you slid your lips round--

Afterwards, sweaty and sun-kissed and seed-stained, we laughed and demurred and boggled like children. But there was this one moment--we were lying together, side by side on our backs, your head pillowed on my outstretched arm, and I said, "That cloud looks like a drunken hippogriff, and dear heavens am I glad Bagshot can't see us right now," and then you said--

I forget.

This keeps me up, Albus. This haunts me, naggles me. I seem to recall hearing a story once, of a ghost who forgot the last line of his favorite poem, could only be put to rest when a traveling scholar recited it. And you, old friend, have a Penseive.

I told you what I knew of the Voldemort lad. You owe me.

 

Regards,

 

 

 

 

December 5th, 1957

 

Gellert,

 

You've hit more than one nail on the head, I'm afraid. Hammered them in, even. There is so much that I fear, in the end. And--and I do not know what. The more I think on it all, on our history--decades of it by now, startlingly enough--the more I cannot untangle myself.

I first made my Pensieve, you realize, to sort through every memory I had of our time together. To look, with an objective eye, as best as I could, at who you were, what you were doing, how you were acting. To see if I should have been able to predict your actions, if I was as short-sighted and blinded to your darkness as everybody around me thought I was. So, yes, what you seek is there, well-preserved. "Yes," I said, "she might drop dead at the sight. Though of us or the blood magic, I'm not sure." I then went on with that ultimately doomed theory of mine about Transfiguration-based amplification of the latter.

I am sorry for the delay. It was a little thing, and fair to ask. But--no, I am still inexcusably tangled.

I must go, I am afraid.

 

 

 

 

December 25th, 1957

 

Albus--

 

That's odd. Fallibility of memory, I suppose? I assumed that you made it to find out who killed Ariana. And I keep thinking that you might have said that you loved me.

 

 

 

 

July 12th, 1965

 

Dumbledore--

 

--well. Here we are again. Eight years now?

The Voldemort brat wrote me declaring his oncoming glorious rule, soon to be Lord of All, Supreme Deathwump, etcetera, ad nauseum. I told him that casting too many Unforgivables at once shrinks one's wand. He'll go in circles for a while trying to figure that one out. Entertaining, I'm sure.

I'm still not sure whether I remember, to be fair. What you said that day. Whether you said that, exactly. Though I am sure that you lied, when you answered, one way or another.

Continuing to explore Muggle literature. Romantic poets dull. Tolkien entertaining. Lichen flourishing. Now know what you were getting at, comparing It to that Sampo-One-Ring idiotic myth complex. You are a right bastard, but I'd rather go back to marriage by owl than never hear from you again.

 

 

 

 

September 5th, 1965

 

Gellert,

 

Voldemort--that proved both alarming and most useful. I am not precisely sure how to thank you. We hadn't seen a peep of him for years--he's been operating so far underground--but I started watching the signs again--

But did you ever forget at all, I wonder? Or were you setting me up to lie to you, as you guessed so well I might?

I was young, and foolish, and affectionate, caught up in your brilliance, and very much in lust. I cannot say whether I spoke the truth then either.

I cannot think what else to say to you. The Voldemort situation may become crucial--fatal--soon, and I do not know how much time I might have. But, Gellert, please believe you are free to owl me at any time.

 

 

 

 

December 25th, 1968

 

Albus--

 

Happy Christmas, again. Busy with Voldemort, I would imagine?

I admit that it doesn't much appeal to me to write and never receive a response. Or to never know what's true and what isn't. But old Natalia Fedotyeva just fell afoul of a rogue giant, and I had an owl a day from her until then...

I'm getting old, Albus, and tired of mocking you. I suppose you are too. Still lonely? Still hiding?

Don't die over there. You're too clever to be killed by somebody with no sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

December 25th, 1970

 

Albus--

 

Even here in the wastes it's reached me. News of the disappearances. Voldemort's making his move, isn't he? I know the pattern. I used such a one myself. Wizarding Britain will be at open war in, what, six months?

Owl me when you're through with him. I can't imagine he'll give you any more trouble than I did.

 

 

 

 

November 13th, 1981

 

Dear Gellert,

 

You did, I recall, some time ago, ask me to owl you when I was through with Voldemort. This owl is perhaps a decade later than you expected, old friend? And I am not yet sure that I am through with him, per se. But I did appreciate your optimism many times during the war, even though he actually gave me a good deal more trouble than you did. Not to insult your Dark Lordliness, but he had a few specific advantages, particularly a natural talent for Legilimency which rivaled my own, and which I was unable to predict until far too late in the game...

But I digress. Through a very interesting turn of events, Voldemort is--not defeated for good, certainly, though most would like to think so. I believe, though, that he is staved off, set back, for years, most likely, and when he returns, he shall be very weak.

I agree as to the disappointment involved in owling an unresponsive correspondent. But, Gellert, the battle against Voldemort was tooth and nail, and I organized the front force while maintaining Hogwarts. I have grown unfamiliar as of late with my bed-curtains, and particularly in the past year, I feel as if I have seen new-carved headstones more often. There has been so little time...

Even now, more than a month after his defeat, I battle exhaustion. But I do not wish to abandon you, old friend, even though I have done so for years. Sherbet lemons for my conscience, you said once, but they never seem to do any good.

I am sorry to hear of your friend's death. I am sorry for so much.

There have been some peculiar rumors spreading about you, amongst the Dark wizards and the underground of Europe--as I'd been working about that area quite a bit, trying to stem Voldemort's control of the werewolves and giants. They say old Grindelwald has shown remorse in his moldering cell. They say he cries in grief for his victims. A decade ago I would have thought this nonsense, but it has been a very, very long ten years, battering and changing the whole face of Britain. I have seen men and women whose hearts and souls I thought I knew altered, scarred, changed forever. So it is too easy for me to imagine that all this terrible change could have spread across the channel, over the continent, up the mountains to Nurmengard.

And it has been so long since we truly corresponded. So long since I knew your heart. So let me ask you, just this once, in all sincerity, no mockery--how are you, old friend?

 

 

 

 

December 25th, 1981

 

Dumbledore--

 

I seem to be acquiring a habit of writing at Christmas. Very well, merrymaking and festivities for all, twine the holly and the ivy, etcetera, etcetera. Are people making that oh-so-common mistake of confusing good cheer with goodness?

I've heard wild stories. Apparently your Dark Lord was defeated by a one-year-old baby? I think you dragged your feet on this one, Albus, and you didn't even have a dead sister for an excuse.

But there I go again. After all these years, I thought I'd grown tired of mocking you. But you invite it so obligingly! And I will never quite cease to be angry at you. You seem to have confused that with hatred more than once.

The Voldemort boy--no, but I suppose he isn't a boy anymore, is he? He must be, what, at least forty by now? Not dead yet? Go off & finish the job, Dumbledore. Isn't that what you do?

As to remorse? That is between myself and myself. Or what's left of myself. Wavy shadow of Gellert in the grimy narrow window, faded eyes, faded face, faded will--that's his concern. Just as your own burden of guilt is your business.

How on earth did your fair island spawn its own Dark Lord anyway? We come from the wilds of the North, as a general rule.

Don't waste your sincerity, seeing as it's so rare. I'm the same as always. How could I be anything else?

 

 

 

 

February 2nd, 1982

 

Gellert,

 

My sincerity is mine, to do with as I will; if I spend it on an old, angry friend, that is my choice. And--I have more of it than you think, I swear, somehow I do. I always try to be better.

As for England spawning a Dark Lord--

I'd had my suspicions, ever since I first met him. He was eleven; I was sent to contact him, in the Muggle world, inform him of his acceptance into Hogwarts and a world he'd never known. Even then, he was hungry, suspicious, cruel just under the surface. Off-putting. Sorted into Slytherin, and I wondered; and I thought of keeping an eye on him. But I was such a meddling, sanctimonious old bastard, wasn't I? Always poking my long broken nose into other people's business, always making things worse when I did.

He learned, he grew, into what he was to become, at Hogwarts, even as I taught. He made his first Horcrux right under my selfsame nose, and I wasn't paying attention. Because Europe was groaning under your yoke; because I wrestled with the necessity of challenging you; because I didn't want to meddle in yet another child's life.

Oh, I tell myself it wouldn't have made a difference if I had. Or that it would have made things worse. But my country fell to a Dark Lord until--yes, stopped by an infant--because I didn't stop him soon enough, because I didn't stay his hand when he was still a child, still learning his ways. Because I was trying to be better.

In a way, it seems the thing I miss the most about those months we had together, however selfishly, is how I could let you command me. Abdicate responsibility to one I trusted--however mad I may have been to trust you. Abdicate responsibility at all; it's not a choice I have anymore. And you've been left with no responsibilities whatsoever.

I suppose we each envy the other. And I suppose we have nothing left to say to each other but denials and rejections. I--wish it were otherwise, at times.

 

 

 

 

March 16th, 1982

 

Darling Albus--

 

You really are a contemptible bitch, do you know that? I mean, that's magnificent. That really is. Over the top. Beyond the pale. When in all nine hells are you going to learn that it isn't all about your guilt? Verdammter Schweinhund, don't you even remember why you won our duel?

I know more of you than anyone else in the world, Albus P.W.B. Dumbledore. Go kill your Dark Lord and get it over with. Stop blaming yourself and be brilliant, like you used to be, fly free, let the world tremble before you--except that would mean cruelty, wouldn't it? But every moment of your life is cruelty. Set down truth for once and admit it!

You don't have to lie to me, old friend. Oh, I'm laughing so hard at you right now. I've had you stripped and bound and begging me to bugger you--well, as much as you ever begged anyone in your life, you vain fool--of all people, you don't have to lie to me.

Do away with Voldemort. Tell me why you won. Admit what you are. Or bloody well stop this nonsense and save your owls the trouble.

 

 

 

 

June 27th, 1982

 

Grindelwald,

 

The truth, as you asked: I do not know what you mean--why I won the duel? I do not know. It should not have happened. I cannot do as you say. And I am tired of opening letters full of knives. Tired of feeling vises about my chest when your owls arrive.

I miss our earlier correspondence. I truly do. I miss--you, even, the moments of kindness you used to show, all those years ago, before you left down the dark path entirely. The way you touched me, in consolation, when you first met my sister. But now, perhaps, there is nothing left but this.

My apologies, but I do not think I shall be writing again.

 

 

 

 

July 10th, 1982

 

Dumbledore--

 

You're still lying, damn you. Schwanzlutscher.

 

 

 

 

August 9th, 1989

 

Dumbledore--

 

I've started too many letters and crumpled them unsent. I'm sorry. Write to me?

Lonely.

 

 

 

 

[sealed with a charm which opens only to a drop of Gellert Grindelwald's blood]

 

December 25th, 1995

 

Gellert,

 

A Christmas letter, after all this time. I must confess that I have not held to your wishes. Voldemort remains undefeated, and he has recently returned in full health, after his brush with what he so feared, and begun to gather followers. Horcruxes, old friend. Horcruxes and dozens of other defenses. And, on my word, I do not lie. I do not know why I won, in the end. I do not know what you want me to say.

And I know--that I said I would not write again. And I accept your apology, of course, years ago. But I cannot think what else to do. I beg of you patience...

I suppose by now you must have heard of Harry Potter.

I send this to you in the deepest confidence. As I remember writing long ago, I have no true intimates. Peculiar as it is, after all the years of silence and all the anger, you are the man whom I trust most with--this. With a matter of no consequence to the war, to England, to Voldemort--

Harry Potter started at Hogwarts five years ago. He was Sorted into Gryffindor House, which I doubt surprises you. His academics are on the upper side of average, his teacher relations generally neutral, and his friendships unbreakable as diamonds. He was raised by an abusive, neglectful Muggle family, utterly miserable until he came to Hogwarts, and that was my will, for it was necessary to protect him. Necessary to condemn him to a horrible childhood. His entire life is bound up in old magic, wild philomency, things Voldemort refuses to acknowledge and which even you and I barely plumbed the existence of. He is both ordinary and extraordinary at once, and it strains my wit to describe him.

He has suffered so, so much for a boy so young. And so much of it at my hands, even if indirectly. And--he does not know. He has not even the faintest clue of the true weight of it.

His fate is entwined with Voldemort's. Magic beyond logic or reason--

Gellert, I must send him to his death.

I had tried for so many years not to see it. A shred of Voldemort's soul, so torn from the creation of his Horcruxes, dislodged when the Killing Curse backfired and stuck in an innocent boy. There is a prophecy. Twin serpents in the smoke of the pathfinder. Old, old, antediluvian magic--

I cannot tell him. How could I? He must realize it himself--

He is a good boy, Gellert. He is tough and brave and mostly clever, and he deserves better. He deserves to grow up and grow old and fall in love and herd about children and write crochety letters. He deserves to bury Voldemort and move on to his own life, free of fates and scars and nonsense, and I would give my life to make it so, but I cannot, not ever, because that is not how things are.

I feared you, when I realized the extent of your plans, the terror of your rule, the Muggle-torture. When you fled from Ariana's body like a common cut-throat. And I was angry, yes, of course. So very angry. But I never hated you. I never wished upon you the worst thing in the world. And hence you wake and sleep and eat and breathe, and do not burn in the everlasting furnace of phoenix fire into which I would cast Voldemort--no, Tom Riddle, that is his name, the rest is affectation--into which I would cast the man who bound Harry to his fate, I hate him so, I hate him to the marrow of my bones--

You do not cling to life like a canker. That is remorse enough for me, no matter what you may think. And for a Dark wizard, you have a surprisingly healthy relationship with death--

Listen to me. I am sorry. I write to you in despair and burden you with an old man's insoluble worries, after we both said there was nothing left between us but bitterness. But, Gellert. I send him to his death. For the greater good.

You claim Nurmengard and I will not break you. And perhaps they have not. But, Gellert, Tom and Harry have broken me. You're stronger than me in the end, I suppose.

Oh, but there is a chance! a faint glimmer of a chance that he might just survive. That Harry might live--damaged, no doubt, shell-shocked as the Muggles would say, but alive.

But sometimes hope is more painful than surrender.

Ignore me. Laugh at me. I send an innocent boy to war and torture and death, because I must do what is necessary, because I must not apologize for what is necessary. Look over your door, Gellert--I still live by those bloody, cursed words--

Only you could possibly appreciate what this means. The full irony of it. Only you, old friend, after everything we've done and all this time we've spent hurting each other.

I never knew the way. For all that I am a sanctimonious old bastard, I never knew the way. I only tried to help, to do what I thought would be right, would be successful. And this is where it ends, sending a child to die--everything I touch, everyone I love, turning to dust--I admit what I am, Gellert, I am a monster--

I--must stop this. I'm sorry.

 

 

P.S. for both of us

 

[enclosure: a package of sherbet lemons]

 

 

January of 1996, perhaps--

 

Albus--

 

Fifty years. I have been here fifty shit-scraping years. And in all that time, you--you of all people--never sent me sweets. Just the smell of them made me shake with joy. It was the most glorious thing I've tasted in my life.

Fifty years. My body is a skeleton pecked with sores, I can barely remember how I could have been beautiful once. I'm the only inmate alive. The guards have left. An ancient house elf shoves the food between the bars. Even the charms on my watch are fading. The hands waver, the calendar's nearly dead. I think an owl takes three days or so to get from Hogwarts to here? More, perhaps, these days? Is the world expanding beneath me? Is that why I've become so distant? So it must be sometimes in January, the sun's in about the right place.

But I am nothing to you anymore but an ear. Writing ancient lovers tearful letters in your Christmas sherry again, Albus? Back & forth we go, back & forth. Your hand hasn't even changed. I'm running out of parchment. Most of my correspondents are dead. I've read every book in this room a dozen times. I suppose Fawkes is still there? Everything as it always was?

I don't bother to sleep anymore. If I read Gertrude in delirium, she almost makes sense. Words of one, two syllables. Listen to me.

Poor Albus. I'm barely even angry with you anymore. Scheisse, I almost feel sorry for you. You never had children, did you? Never married, never settled down? You'll just die and take It and the Potter boy with you, leaving nothing but pretty birdsong & a bag of candy.

But this means you have something in common with me. You and I--we fall in love with people better than us, and we do it badly. I let you win that duel because I thought you would save me, you betraying bastard, and you left me to rot instead. You don't care about anyone but the boy anymore, I know. But you will not break me. You will not break me.

We're getting too old. We belong a century ago by the millstream, Albus, not rotting away in our towers caught on the horns of the world. We belong at the beginning, where our brilliance is not weighted by responsibility, our beauty not marred by age. Before the consequences start breaking us.

I've stopped thinking of you, those times in the past. I've tried to stop thinking of anything, really. Just back & forth across my cell. Words over the door. Triangles and circles and lines.

You're right. One boy, at least, should walk away with a good life. Ours are long, long destroyed.

 

 

 

 

June 9th, 1997

 

Gellert--

 

V researching wands--shares cores with H's, Priori Incantatem incident--he is seeking an alternative to his chosen wand--

Gellert, if he realizes of Its existence--if he traces It to Gr.--Legilimency--he will come for you--he will do to you what he fears the most--he will kill you--it may be inevitable--

Sorry to be brusque. Am running out of time. You deserve a warning.

 

Farewell,

 

 

 

 

Albus--

 

My watch is broken entirely. I don't know the date anymore. I don't care. The little upstart's coming for me? Delightful! Best news all decade. & I simply love how you don't even bother telling me to lie. You know I'll do it for you, don't you?

FIFTY YEARS, ALBUS. FIFTY [illegible scrawl] How am I supposed to stand it if you're gone? If you're broken, if you're finally as mad as you've always liked to pretend to be? Bad enough when you didn't write. Bad enough when you went silent for this or for that, because you were too busy to bother, because you thought I wanted you to why would I want you to, because you had no time.

Always no time. Even now you say you're running out. STOP LYING TO ME. TURN AROUND AND FACE ME.

Voldemort? Send him up here. SEND THE LITTLE SERPENT UP HERE. You taught me Occlumency, I'll lie through my broken teeth and laugh in his face--oh, it's been too long since I've had a good face-laughing, way too long, I haven't even seen a face in years--& he'll make it quick and clean, won't he, because I'm supposed to be afraid of Death? Death who we sought to master? Death who would be our third partner in hallowing this world? Do you think he'd be ashamed to be caught red-handed in a simple mercy-killing? I want to laugh & laugh & laugh at him--

You taught me Occlumency, in Godric's Hollow, a millennia ago. Your mind was red gold and restoring fire. It was agony to have to block it out. Your fingers were long and slender on your wand. We were together, the world was good, the water ran clear, and then she died--

His mind won't taste good, will it? I'll not swoon simply from seeing another human being? I'll do right by you for once? & you'll take It to your grave years from now when you finally bother to shuffle on & change the world yet again, you pompous, beautiful arse.

I can laugh even under torture, remember? He'll never get It. Look at me, Albus, I've given up & gone mad. Sob into your sherry all you want now. I'd always faintly hoped you'd have the guts to own up to me--

You ask after remorse. Well, I've gone mad now, so it's quite all right to tell you. Decades, Albus, decades sick with guilt. Muggle shrieks in my sleep. Thoughts of the lines of the dead I sent forth, the huddles of their families I left behind. Bodies turned under for mulch. There was a girl with a red shawl who wouldn't stop screaming. She's been dead fifty years and she won't stop screaming. Why do you think I clung to you so? You were better than me, more or less.

Of course, you knew that all along. That I regret, hate myself, hate what I did. Just like you knew that I would die for your idiot plans for It. Just like you knew that I'd write back when you wanted me to. Just like you knew that I've loved you since the day we met.

& you must kill the boy & you mustn't care about me. Potter & I your sacrificial lambs, burnt offerings to Voldemort & the greater good.

But what am I saying? You are a charming old man, good-hearted, even sweet. & I am a lonely, repenting old sinner. There were Muggles marched to my outstretched wand, Muggles lined up before It, bare feet scuffing panic marks in the earth until I smiled, cold, raised It, sent green light sheeting like the aurora. Beautiful. Thrilling. Something rips in my gut every time I think of it.

These are my last few sheets of parchment. I'll write on the walls. I hope the Voldemort brat comes before that house elf dies and leaves me to starve, it'll be a better death. In one room for fifty years, in one room forever, I scrape my fingers raw on the inscription over the door &--

Tell me what's going on. Get a bloody transcription quill if you have to, if you don't have time to write, tell me what in hell is going on, just don't leave me here. I let you win DON'T LEAVE ME HERE--

Isn't remorse how you reintegrate a Horcrux? Is that why you asked? Why else would you care? What other use is the emotion that cripples you? Remorse. Caution. I would beg you to ride the wind with me, Albus, but we're far, far too old and broken.

ANSWER ME ALBUS DON'T LEAVE ME HERE IF I WRITE IT IN MY BLOOD AND BEG WILL YOU NOTICE?

But I've never quite known what you think of me, have I? Only that you do not hate me. Albus Dumbledore, do you even know what you do to people?

But you must...

My hair's a ragged, tangled mess. The rats have crept back in--well, they did that some-odd years ago, but they've gotten bolder, chewing up my books. I have their blood in my teeth. No, Mr. Voldemort, I never had It, piss off & die already, it's not too bad after all, see, I'll do it right now for somebody I love. Die for you.

But I suppose you think Dark wizards can't love, don't you?

Maybe you're wrong.

Out of parchment. Not using another sheet. Send more? Don't leave me here.

 

 

 

 

August 21st, 1997

 

Return owl to sender. Recipient, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, deceased.

 

Our condolences,

 

The Owlery Office

Ministry of Magic

 

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