||[Nov. 20th, 2007|06:07 pm]
62days: The Albus/Gellert Fandom Challenge
Title: Inconsecutive Recollections
Word Count: 7,044
Claim: 17. "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good" L - 'For Good' from Wicked.
Author's Note: ...Am I really the first poster? Geez, a lone fanboy of this little comm.
I do hope by the time this letter finds you, Voldemort is gone.
Well, perhaps that is inappropriate wording. His death is not under debate, should you be reading this. These letters specifically cannot find you unless he has perished and you have survived. I purposefully made it that way – I may often find myself in despair, but I do try to be an optimist when I can.
Assuming that he is dead, and that you really did receive this letter, I must first congratulate you. I was never sure you would survive – as I am writing these words, I feel a tremor within my heart. I still do not know.
Time is running short for us all, Harry, and I would like to believe that you will survive and that perhaps, just perhaps the world will renew itself, free of his evil. I would like to spend my last few months of life writing these letters to you, reminding myself of this great hope and the wondrous possibility that you will survive to live a long life, with friends, the one you choose to love, and perhaps even the children you choose to bring into this world. I have little doubt that your name – and perhaps your mother’s eyes – will carry on for many years to come.
My own line is coming to an end. I suppose that must be for the best – while my family was comprised of many skilled wizards and witches, we always seemed doomed to be caught in the thick in the battle against dark magic. Not willingly, not because we asked to, but because darkness needs its antithesis. It needs light.
The last three in my line were hardly typical, however. My sister, disturbed by an earlier experience in her life, repressed her magic. She would have been a great witch, had she allowed her magic to develop naturally. My brother, rambunctious and solitary, would never use his own magic in the context of teamwork or fellowship. And then, there was me – perfect boy, perfectly charming, with a mind no less volatile than that of Tom Riddle.
Sometimes I am asked how I knew so early on, how I suspected Tom Riddle’s darker leanings. It has often been suggested that I knew Tom Riddle had the potential to become Voldemort, because I once knew Gellert Grindelwald. Those who know how close I was to Gellert believe that I could see his malevolent mind reflected in the young Tom Riddle. I admit it is a valid hypothesis. However, it is also pure poppycock.
I knew Tom Riddle would succumb to darker magic because I saw myself, not Gellert Grindelwald, reflected in his eyes.
In truth, very few people knew Gellert Grindelwald. The man is a dreamlike entity of wizard history – a nightmare long gone. Perhaps not even a nightmare, just an unpleasant passing thought. Have you found yourself oft thinking of him? Certainly not, since I know that your every waking moment is fixed on a single dark wizard, and there is no room for dark thoughts of the past. I believe that growing up as you did, as a muggle, you probably remember a much darker stigma attached to Grindelwald’s name.
Due to the minimal blow against the wizarding world as a whole, Grindelwald has only been recorded minimally in our history books, nothing more than a footnote in a long list of dark wizards. There have probably been more of them than you could imagine, even in just the past century. However, none were worse than Gellert Grindelwald in my humble opinion.
Oh, any wizard will admit that Grindelwald was one of the worst – that isn’t under debate. But was he as dangerous to wizards as Voldemort is? No. He was more heavily focused on his extermination and enslavement of mugglekind first. While he would have become a threat to us in time, he was stopped well before the war could escalate to that level. Most wizards consider it a close call, but few were lost to us.
It’s not to say that Grindelwald isn’t truly remembered, because he is, even if it is not by wizards themselves. The muggles felt the most severe blow of Grindelwald’s wrath, after all, and when they speak Hitler’s name they might as well be adding Grindelwald’s to it. The wizards rarely bothered themselves in the affairs of muggles, believing their kind to be primitive, disabled creatures only worth our utmost pity. That was probably why his little game was allowed to go on so long, and our newspapers didn’t breathe a whisper of the turmoil in muggle Germany.
Grindelwald himself was a sly man – he did most of his work through a second party in order to keep himself away from negative attention. For someone like him, it must have been incredibly difficult to stay in the shadows. He wanted recognition, he wanted greatness – but he was more patient than anyone could have guessed. By the time the wizarding world became truly aware of his involvement in the slaughter, the damage had already been done. The Nazis had been worthy tools, and Hitler a reliable scapegoat.
Hitler’s own burgeoning madness was just what Grindelwald needed to further his goals, and with the lightest push in the right direction, Hitler plunged Europe into war, clearing a way for the potential wizard dictators to come.
In the end, though, the Nazis were destined to fall along with the wizards hiding amongst their ranks.
Do the wizards even remember the name Hitler anymore? Probably not, or at least not in any significant detail. The segregation of our two cultures has left little room for even basic human compassion, and the wars of muggles are almost entirely disregarded in our history. It is a truth I find more tragic than I can adequately put into words.
But I digress. Very few people knew Gellert Grindelwald. To say I knew him would be a lie – who did I think I knew? Is he the same boy I met so long ago? Of course he isn’t – I would have never guessed what kind of evil that charming child was capable of, the utter lack of empathy and compassion in his heart. It’s true that I may have felt quite taken with his brilliance, both in mind and body, but that was truly deceptive.
That is not to say I cannot be held accountable for my ignorance. After all, deception is only truly complete when the person you’re deceiving wishes it. I know you must have learned this vital truth, even in your short life. Have you not found that when you didn’t wish to believe in a lie, the truth rears its head sooner than if you’d simply ignored it? Succumbing to your whimsy rather than your mind is truly dangerous.
I did not learn that early in life, when my family believed so powerfully in secrecy, privacy. For me, learning to seek terrible truths was a difficult thing to learn. Perhaps even this late in my life, it is not something I have mastered within myself. Even after the sheer amount of betrayals I have seen in my long existence, I find my desire to trust people beyond reasonable control.
I’m certain your initial thought is of Severus Snape, but if luck is on my side, then you will come to realize that I was in the right to place my faith in that man. Love can define the entirety of a man’s life – for better or for worse.
Was his love for the better? I don’t think I can answer that. I’m not even sure that he could, either. Would he be able to look past the bitterness of love lost, and see what his pain and anguish has inspired of him? He has done more for our cause than anyone could possibly imagine, even if it was bravery wrought of bitter self-hatred and overwhelming guilt. The wizards he saved through his efforts do not care why, do not question why. They are simply grateful to his brave interference in the Dark Lord’s plans.
The most dangerous task is to be forced to lie, even to the point where we must lie to ourselves for survival.
I hope that he is still living when you read this, and perhaps you have gained respect for his endeavors. However, I am certain that his future is grim. It may even be one of us that kills him, unknowing of his true purpose. But that uncertain future is the one he chose, out of love.
I was once forced to make a similar choice, for the better, for the truly greater good.
There was a time in my life where my paths could have branched in thousands of directions, and I feel it was the only time I ever had that many options – not all of them for the better. In fact, I am more inclined to believe that a number of those paths would have led to a dark future, something far different than this, perhaps with an entirely different dark wizard than Lord Voldemort reigning supreme.
Before me, I saw a future much different than the past I look upon now. The choice to take power, and the choice to use power. Both of these choices are far too dangerous for someone like myself, and certainly dangerous for someone like Gellert Grindelwald.
Being young, and as ignorant as I was, power seemed like an obvious course. Grindelwald and I were both intelligent; both of us shared a similarly powerful connection to the current of magic. Logically, those with the most magical skill and the highest intellect should be the ones to decide the fate of the world – or so I believed.
In reality, nothing is quite so simple – indeed, the balance between control and anarchy is precarious at best, and a person of particular intelligence can envision a world that others cannot. Their struggle to find this perfection will never succeed. The people they wish to lead will not follow into a future they cannot understand.
There is so little honesty in the pursuit of reformation, so little honor. Grindelwald and I believed that the people would not have to understand to be lead – we would simply control them and force them into this fate, For The Greater Good. Someday, the people would thank us for our bravery and vision, for our ingenuity. We would have a world where wizards didn’t have to hide, where the muggles were kept under careful surveillance. Surely, it was a world for wizards, a world for power and perfection.
When I met Gellert Grindelwald, he probably found it extraordinarily easy to gain my friendship. He was indeed the one who initiated our friendship, although I was admittedly less than adverse to his overtures, even when I did underestimate how powerful the connection between us could become.
It was a casual acquaintanceship at first, nothing that I wouldn’t expect from the friends I already had. To be honest, I’m not certain I thought much of him when we first met. I had always felt a level of alienation with my peers because of my particular aptitude with magic, as well as my insolation due to my sister’s illness. However, something about him drew my attention unfailingly. I used to think it was his hair – then I realized he was just overwhelmingly charismatic.
Grindelwald assured me that he understood me, and I didn’t give his words much weight. However, if there was one thing I remember about him, it was his rather powerful sense of intuition. I rarely had to say more than a word, and he would immediately know what I was thinking of, what I felt. He used to say my eyes were a deceptively cold shade of blue, seemingly unreadable to the untrained gaze.
When I asked him how he could possibly know what I was thinking, if my eyes were so cold and deceptive, he just smiled.
To Gellert, blue simply meant transparency, like water.
Forgive me as I use his first name, but it is difficult not to when recalling the times I felt most fondly towards him.
I believed after hearing him speak of power for the first time was when I was certain I truly returned his affections. The loneliness began to lessen. Even this late in my life, I doubt I have ever felt such an utter sense of connection, of truly being part of the world, instead of just an onlooker.
I’m certain that you, Harry, feel this same sense of disconnection from reality – how could you not? As a child, you were never at home in muggle society. As a young man, you were an icon of hope and triumph. That was the way many people saw you – it’s an incredibly two-dimensional view. While I did not defeat the man considered the worst dark wizard of this century, I did defeat Grindelwald – and while I realize I shared very little with you in my life, Harry, I do know how it feels. The price you and I paid to give hope to our brethren was incredibly high – so much so that it was difficult to keep any hope for ourselves.
But I am getting a little ahead of myself, aren’t I? Truthfully, this letter was intended to be about my sister, my family, my childhood, but all of those things seem truly irrelevant now. As I approach my final days, I am more concerned with the man left alone, wasting away in the cold of Nurmengard.
While I only spent a short time with him in friendship, it feels like I have years of memories of him. I suppose at my age, you forget the parts of your life that were irrelevant, and recall in vivid detail what influenced you the most. Perhaps you recall what you loved most, in hopes of recapturing the feeling, even in the smallest degree.
When my feelings for Gellert became more zealous is when other things in my life began to slip. My time with my family, my time to care for my sister was limited. My brother was left to shoulder all responsibility – what little responsibility he accepted, that is – while I carelessly gallivanted off with my friend, freeing myself from my mother’s death and my father’s incarceration. Being with Gellert allowed me to forget of my family, while being with them only reminded me of what I had lost. The contrast of my moods between them wasn’t ambiguous. When I was with Gellert, I was blissful, excitable. When I was with my siblings – the few times I was – I was simply bitter.
I did love Ariana. That is not in dispute. I loved everyone in my family, and I do miss them. Whether it is out of guilt or a genuine desire to be with them… is more difficult to answer. I believe that I knew them as well as I know Gellert himself, at this point. It’s harder still to believe they would easily forgive my mistakes, my adolescent foolishness. I truly did want to be with Gellert more than I wanted to be with them – and even in the wisdom I’ve gained since Ariana’s death, I know that disloyalty is unforgivable.
I know you must be upset that I never told you this – any of this. Undoubtedly my life will come under close scrutiny after my death, and the ambiguous hints of my past will lead to questions, perhaps even accusations. Despite what some people would like to believe, my past is not without taint, without mistakes, and I hope that my limited time in your life will assure you that I tried – with my very human body and mind, one entirely capable of missteps and misdeeds – to help you the best I could. To help everyone.
When I began writing these letters, I believed I would start at the very beginning of my life and go forward until I reached Gellert’s defeat in 1945 – which is when I truly believe I became the man I am now. I thought perhaps it would be easier to see my life in a consecutive line, to see that long, unambiguous path that led me to this fate. However, I feel I must start from the end and work to the very beginning. Perhaps that will help you understand just how grim my beginnings were, how distorted.
Voldemort’s rise to power is well documented, and I know that the Order of the Phoenix kept reasonably clear records of our failures and victories, so I think it is appropriate to only record the information that’s not easily found – or even possible to find at all.
As you might know, Gellert has been incarcerated at Nurmengard for the past fifty years. It was once supposed to be a prison to hold his enemies captive, and I believed it would be only fitting to leave him and his followers there. It’s also quite appropriate that he is the last to survive, to cling to the wretched place he built of hatred and intolerance. Decrepit and alone, the man will die without a dream or a hope.
However, some things are simply unforgivable. But just as I pity Tom Riddle, I pity Gellert Grindelwald. His impending death in his own hellish prison is his penance for a life of hatred and murder. A fitting death.
However, this is only a part of why I made the decision. In all honesty, I could not bear the thought of leaving Gellert in Azkaban. The thought of the Dementors praying upon his mind, killing the very soul of the person I once adored was unbearable. Men go mad in Azkaban, driven into a downward spiral of depression with no relief. In comparison to muggle prisons in similar countries, we are quite vicious in our punishments. However, great power must be returned in equal punishment, and it is difficult to create prisons that can contain a magical being without being torturous.
But I digress – Azkaban is by far the worst of them, and I could not leave him there, despite the many people who urged me to do so. Indeed, I was the one that steadfastly insisted that he be kept at Nurmengard, not Azkaban. After all, it was in his homeland, and under the jurisdiction of the German government, not our own – thankfully. The very thought that he may have been doomed to Azkaban still chills me, even after so long.
That is not to say that Nurmengard is much better than Azkaban, I’m afraid.
It’s incredibly cold there. I only went once – and that was when I left him there. Magic is utterly forbidden there. There are barriers no wand can cross, and not even in the in direst of need could even I conjure a spell. It isn’t to say that these protective spells cannot be dismantled, but it would take an extraordinary amount of skill and time to do so. Certainly, a wizard as powerful as myself could take the barriers away and allow magic to invade that fragile bubble of emptiness.
Usually, I try not to think of such contingencies. Grindelwald will certainly die within the confines of his cell.
Despite it being such a long time ago, I still recall the short time I was there. The air was dry and thin, and left an incredible thirst. Thirst for power, lost magic. You see, once you enter Nurmengard, it begins to take a small bit of your magic. The emptiness devours it. I wondered if perhaps one day it would take all of Gellert’s magic, and he would be nothing but a muggle. Even though there is just irony in the thought, I felt a terrible bitterness towards his fate.
It is a terrible memory. Even in my eagerness to relive my last moments with him, I have never had the strength to place the memory within a pensive. I could not bear the thought of feeling such a thirst again, seeing my breath turn silver in the cold, as if my magical soul was being sucked away into the night. The emptiness, the blankness of Nurmengard is something I simply cannot describe. And horrible silence. Terrible silence.
Grindelwald was frightened when I left him. Grinning and cursing me, laughing and crying. It is a ghost of my past I will never escape.
The final battle between us is vague to me now. I have been forced to retell it many times, many times… and I know many of those times, I omitted truths and details and emotions. I simply spoke of spells and clever blows, the driest recounting that I could possibly manage. I recounted the story so many times that I cannot wholly remember what is true and what is false.
Did I truly feel victorious? Did I feel accomplished? Righteous? Satisfied? There are words I parroted back to the interviewers, smiling tearlessly, laughing with them in light of a new future. I defeated Grindelwald for justice, for the people he killed, the lands he stole. I killed his dark dream in the pursuit of new hope.
Those are all very strong words, words that inspire. And at the time, I wanted to inspire those who were hurt by his reign, to inspire a better future for those still alive. But those words, in my ears, sounded hallow and sad. I felt none of them. I felt no hope.
Our battle is another memory I refuse to reexamine in the pensive, for it is the moment in my life I felt weakest. I never want to see myself in such a state again. You have seen death, you have felt loss – looking back on Gellert’s defeat would be no different than you looking back upon the loss of your Godfather. It’s not something either of us can do, or even comprehend doing.
I will tell you what I do remember, the few moments of clarity I do have.
I remember how easy it was to reach Grindelwald. As a man, I am victim to my mind’s impulses, and at the time I was terribly numb. My adrenaline was not pumping as one would expect, my body was not reacting in the least to those around me. If I had been hit in the back by a curse, I would have never anticipated it.
I didn’t have a thought, I didn’t have a worry. I felt nothing but a dreamlike surrealism, a disbelief for the actions I was taking. Despite what I planned to do, I felt like the greatest evil, the most heinous sin – I was going to destroy the one person I cared about above all.
I knew that it was the right course, but my heart twisted painfully. Despite the wars, the deaths, the bloodshed, my only concern was for him, and what I must do to him. My hearing was tunneled and my vision was dark. I simply walked that long road to him.
It felt like I spent forever walking. Waiting for him to come to me from the darkness, laughing and – in my mind – still a young boy. I had not seen him since he left me, not even in pictures. Walking that road felt like walking towards the past, and in some distant way, it felt like coming home. And that, Harry, scares me immensely to think about now. Did I truly believe, in that moment, that I would succumb to the dreams he offered me?
Eventually, I did reach him. It was… deeply startling. I awoke from the numb acceptance of my nightmare, and suddenly felt… I felt everything. Everything I’d ever felt, pain and joy and terror.
He was beautiful. Different, but beautiful. He was the person I saw hidden within that young boy so many years ago, dark and untouchable. His eyes – his eyes were the same, though, but I found myself wondering… how did I not see that hatred before? That madness? Were those the eyes he saw when he looked at me those years ago, when we spoke of The Greater Good? I shudder to think of it.
I remember I did not weep, out of fear. Tears prickled at my eyes, though, enough to hurt.
After that, my memory is far less reliable. Sometimes, late at night when I awake from my nightmares, I remember everything. But these dreams quickly slip away, and by the morning sunrise I find that Gellert has once again disappeared into a dark obscurity. And every sunrise after those dreams, I feel like I have lost him all over again. It’s unbearable.
Now, I only remember small details. I remember vague, strange thoughts I had in the midst of battle. His hair was shorter and swept back, but still wild and pure. His body was thinner, his face more angular. I remember pondering over his changes, and the details that remained the same. His hands were still elegant, his smile still magnificent.
Sometimes, I hear the sounds too. His mocking laugh. The soft whoosh of his cloak as he moved. The storm-like crackle of magic. The screams of pain.
The then it disappears, and I cannot remember anymore.
‘We could have been great,’ Gellert told me. ‘We could have had everything.’
I’m afraid this letter was supposed to become before the last, and I apologize for again confusing my rationale. I will continue backwards from this point on – but this was much harder to write than the last. This is something I do recall with startling clarity, simply because it was the moment that hurt the most.
When I left Nurmengard, I was beginning to feel better. There was a sense of completion to the tale of The Greater Good. That I was finally letting go of my friend, my past, and the family I lost. Even if the story was tragic, leaving me without a hope or a dream, it had finally ended.
However, when I entered Nurmengard, I felt quite the opposite. I felt like I wanted to die.
I brought Gellert there alone. He was a proud man, and he stood on his own two feet as I led him. His arm was around my shoulders, his body sagging against my own. I wept silently as I walked that road and entered into the dry, empty atmosphere. The Elder wand was with me, but it would have done no more good there than any other. The wand was mine now – and he did not try to take it back.
I remember a cold tightness splattered across my flesh. Gellert’s blood was on me. When you do not intend to kill you opponent, then you are forced to draw blood. If you wish to take down a great opponent, you also need to use an unforgivable.
You must believe that I tried to avoid the worst, but in the end, I had no other choice than to use crucio. I realized much later that I probably almost killed him, as if all my anger and my betrayal were poured into that single spell. It was the last spell I had to use before he conceded defeat. I said I do not clearly recall the battle, but I know for certain that I was the first – and last – to utter an unforgivable.
When we crossed the border, he asked me to let go. He was shaken, exhausted, bleeding… I knew he could not run without me catching him. I also knew he would not try to run at all – when he realized his defeat, his willpower disappeared entirely. His mind was defeated, just as his body was.
I allowed him his dignity, and we walked together in silence towards his prison. When he began to stumble, I took his hand in my own, and held tight. I felt him tremble.
We did not talk until he was within his cell. I had to let him go for a short time, when he was checked in by the new prison staff, my fellow victorious. When I saw him again, he was more animated, giggling and weeping. I know they hurt him, tortured him, interrogated him – I could hear distant sounds echo through the silent prison while I waited for him. They had laughed at him as he curled up on the floor and cried out, as he sobbed and trembled. Sometimes, even those who fight for what is right cannot reconcile justice with petty revenge.
I said nothing against their actions, however. He was not mine to protect – he never was.
Gellert paced his cell, despite his pain. His cell was so small, so pathetic, and even in his exhaustion and his pain… he was radiant. I remember thinking of how brilliant he looked, like a phoenix trapped in a dismal cage, forced into captivity until his wings weakened and no longer willed him to fly. It’s a cliché of a thought, but you would understand if you saw what I saw.
Gellert had once intended to give his enemies only minimal comforts, and now he was experiencing his intended torture.
He asked me if I would continue to search for the Hallows. I never answered. In my agonized despair, I didn’t know for sure. I believe that the Hallows have always been in my blood, and as you must know by now, I did find them all – at one time or another. However, it was an empty accomplishment.
Eventually, my dispassionate responses caused him to lose control entirely. For what seemed like forever, I stood and endured his verbal abuse, his taunts, his accusations. As the time drew on, I could tell the reality of his imprisonment was fueling his speech. Anger turned to desperate fear. Accusations turned to pleas. Eventually, exhausted, he slumped against the cell door and wept.
I, too, was frightened. Even with the bars between us, I was terribly frightened of him. Not that he would harm me – at least, not physically – but that he would answer my question.
Gellert had answers I never wished to hear. Answers about my sister’s death.
Nonetheless, I attempted to console him. It was the last time I ever touched him. My hand touched his face, tear-streaked. There were rough patches were splatters of blood had dried upon his cheek. He was hot to the touch – fever is a natural reaction to crucio.
For the briefest time, he seemed to allow the awkward comfort. Through cold bars, the comfort was entirely inadequate. It was the most I could possibly offer him, and as always, it was never nearly enough.
With a sound, inhuman and angry and tired, Gellert stumbled back into the furthest confines of his cage. I have never repeated his words until now. The paid I endured in those moments was insurmountable. The loss of family, friends, dreams could not compare to the devastation.
‘It was you.’
I remember the door softly shuddering against the doorframe when Gellert ran. I don’t remember seeing him leave. Is it selfish to so long regret not seeing his face one last time, rather than seeing my sister’s eyes in her last moments of life?
The duel had no real reason, other than anger, hatred. My brother had wanted my loyalty to my family, to my sister, and I had resisted him. Perhaps he saw in Gellert what I could not. Perhaps he was angry at my repeated attempts to detach myself from the family. Whatever it was, his attempts to make me stay sparked an unimaginable anger in Gellert.
No, perhaps not anger. Fear is far more likely.
Even though I needed to know the truth about Gellert’s darker leanings, a part of me wishes that he had kept his fear in check. I would have undoubtedly gone with him, in that event. My brother’s fevered accusations, and even my own guilt was not enough to make me stay.
Seeing Gellert cast crucio upon my brother was.
I felt a terrible sadness, a terrible betrayal. I knew he had crossed a line that even I could not ignore. Horrified, I tried to protect Aberforth, and the duel had started. There were no sides, no goal. Spells were cast haphazardly, the room broken apart, and then Ariana died.
Ariana’s death was not instantaneous. It was also not the killing curse – while Gellert may have been capable of such a thing, I know he had not quite reached that level of human disregard. His focus was on me, and even in his latter years he was not able to cast the killing curse towards me. Certainly not towards Ariana, who he often felt was the tragic heroine in his campaign against Muggles.
Ariana was killed with magical force. Simple, powerfully malevolent force.
Gellert and I had long grown past our need for spoken spells. It’s a rare skill, something both of us had haphazardly used. There’s no real reason for it – a spoken spell is more accurate, safer to use, and infinitely more useful in a duel. But silent magic, a magic that is triggered by raw emotion, is dangerous. It’s faster, but also something utterly beyond the caster’s control. It’s strongly discouraged for most wizards at a very young age, but in our foolishness we had disregarded longstanding warnings and succumbed to it.
With my sister’s history, I should have known better than any other how emotions can distort magic.
Most spells in our duel were spoken, in the beginning. But as we carried on, frightened and betrayed, the spells were merely a whimsical reaction to our feelings. Before we could gain some semblance of control, Ariana became involved. Before we could realize the danger we subjected her to, she was already dead.
I didn’t know who killed her. I never suspected my brother, not even for a moment. Selfishly, I never told him this. I never told him it had to be either Gellert’s fault, or mine. How many long nights did he lie awake and wonder if he had killed her? How much pain did I cause him in my silence?
When Gellert finally told me her killer, I knew he was not lying.
Perhaps I knew the truth all along, but did not allow myself to believe it. Gellert’s words were inarguable, however, and I only felt terrible sadness.
I would like to think that Gellert did not mean me harm. When he spoke those words, he had no spite in his voice, no cruelty. It was a simple, genuine answer. Even if they were words I never wished to hear, he knew as well as I that they were words I desperately needed to hear. Dark magic and hatred have terrible consequences. My sister’s life was the price I paid to learn that lesson.
It’s odd to think how happy I was the time before my sister’s death. My hopes, my selfish dreams were thriving powerfully a mere day before the terrible event. My joy had reached its peak, and the end of summer was at hand – soon, Gellert and I would begin our journey to find the Hallows. At the time, in my foolish optimism, it seemed my future with Gellert was set in stone – together, we would bring a new generation of leadership, a new world. I was content in the idea that, yes, there would be a war – but also content with the knowledge that we would surely be victorious.
We spent the day together, speaking of the Hallows. That morning, when the sunlight turned the town a brilliant gold, he stood at my door and beckoned me. We walked together through the square, smiling, my nose buried into a book while he spoke of the three brothers and the Hallows. It was a usual sight to the townspeople, I’m sure. I could barely go a day without seeing him; there was a sense of persistent anxiety, urgency to see him, to be with him. Even at night my thoughts were with Gellert, regardless of the time we spent together that day, or the time we would spend together the next. It seemed we’d send owls to one another every night, still exchanging our ideas on the Hallows well after dark. If not that, then we spoke of whatever whimsical subject came upon us.
My brother generally kept away from us. Truly, most of his time was with my sister. While she could be burdensome to care for, he always took a measure of pride in his ability to calm her. No one else quite had the same affect on her that he did – perhaps because they were closer in age, perhaps because he had been with her more often than myself. Perhaps it was because he didn’t see her as a burden, like I did.
But I digress. My last day with Gellert was as happy as any other day I’d spent with him in the previous months. We were joyful, arrogant, carefree children enjoying the last lingering days of summer in each other’s company. For me, the time between joy and despair was so distressingly close it’s chilling – to think, in the shortest of moments that you can have your love, your hope, your future stolen away. Torn away. It was so fast that I felt winded. My dreams shattered, as fragile as my poor sister lying dead before me.
It saddens me to think that one of the happiest times in my life was the time I was most corrupt, most arrogant. My years as a student in Hogwarts hadn’t been terribly enlightening as to the ways of the world – almost everything I wished for came to me with extraordinary ease. I worked for little.
My charm and cleverness only worked against me, in the end – it took me many years to truly grow up. Similarly, Gellert’s proficiency at magic and his charisma made it impossible for him to ever truly act his age. I do imagine that at some time in his life he humbled himself and truly examined the ramifications of his actions. I know he has shown regret, and has expressed a desire to see me – one last time.
While I cannot deny that the very idea of facing him fills me with excitable dread, I know I will never see him again. When I left Nurmengard, I became a free man – free from him, free from his vice. Forty-five years I yearned for him, for his company, his compassion, his affection. Forty-five passionless years spent regretting him, and missing him terribly.
Forty-five years was far too long a time – I was indeed a lovesick fool to allow myself to be so entirely stolen away in a mere two months of childish adoration.
For many years, I was haunted by the idea that what I missed was our dreams, the future we could have had. When Gellert began to make those dreams a reality, I stayed away – not only for fear that I would have to kill him, but the fear that I would want to become a part of it. I feared that when I saw him again, my better self would succumb to my childish desires.
It was an unfounded fear. When I did see Gellert again, I knew that I had no desire to become what he was. However, I also knew one thing. My love for Gellert was pure, and innocent, but it was in the past.
To say I don’t love him now would be a lie, but it is still love for that young boy I met at the turn of the century. It is not the man, broken and alone in the confines of his own prison. It will never be him.
I am glad I met Gellert Grindelwald. This late in my life, it is difficult to hold onto past hurts. I went years at a time without giving him more than the smallest passing thought. I had loves, I had friends. I know that this letter gives the impression that somehow, every part of my life was influenced by that boy, and that I am still a lovelorn old fool. Right now, it does feel a little bit like that, but it honestly isn’t the truth.
Before I die, Harry, I wanted to give you some small truth about myself that no one else in the world truly knows. I’m sure my closer friends knew that I once loved Gellert, knew how deep my affection for him was… however, I have never told them as much as I am telling you now. In many ways, I have never been brave enough to tell every truth without fearing abandonment.
I suppose even this is cowardice, waiting until long after my death to impart this knowledge unto you. However, I do trust you, Harry… even if it didn’t quite seem like I did at times. I always tried to do what was best for you, even if it meant to lie.
Well, that’s it, my friend. This is the truth, the most honest I’ve ever been about my past, the most truth I could possibly give. It wasn’t easy, but I am glad that I wrote this. I am glad to think that when I die, at least one person will truly know me beyond the splendor and the magic, someone who knows who I am, simply as a human being, just as vulnerable and fallible as anyone else in this world.
Farewell, Harry Potter – know that in some measure, in some way, I will always be with you. My time is short, and soon I will be moving on with my friends, and my family.
All the best,