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Looking into the future (with a black and silver stare.)

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He ran through snow, a little blond boy with fire in his eyes and bruises on his arm. “Nein,” He yelled, and grasped his mother’s wand to shoot ice blue and slate grey sparks over his shoulder blindly. The muggle boys following him threw stones, yelling “Witch! devil’s child! demon!” and he sped up, stumbling as the snow splattered red, where the stones they were throwing had landed.
His strange eyes filled with fear, staring hither and thither, desperate for a hiding place as blood dripped into his right eye, the silver lost in a film of sticky red. The field was bare, the snow unforgiving in its contrast with his dark clothes, and there was nowhere to hide. The mountains marched away into infinity to his left, and the steeply sloping fields were a blank canvas, he the only dark blot in sight. Trapped out in the open, he turned towards the three boys. Seeing his pause, one stooped and then straightened up, tossing a flint stone from hand to hand. Gellert wiped aside a traitorous tear and steeled himself.

You have to want it, that was what his mother said about magic. He held his breath for a fraction of a moment, desperately channeling his fear into a plea for the muggles to fall unconscious as blood dripped down his face. Raw magic whipped through the air around him like a blade, ice white, shadowed in swirling black, angry. “Go to sleep” He yelled.
Red bolts shot from the borrowed wand and he grinned. Walking over to the slumped boys, Gellert kicked one sharply in the ribs and turning away, tried to stem the blood pouring from his forehead. Over the bodies a thick blanket of snow was beginning to fall, and they became nothing more than lumps on the field.

Later, when the cold was truly seeping into his bones and the skies were half way to dark, he walked calmly into the kitchen, a handful of snow held to his head and came face to face with his mother. “Where have you been, you stole my wand you imp!” she started, then paused at the sight of blood. “Was it the village boys again? I’m sorry Gel.” she murmured and folded him into a hug. He dropped his brave face, lower lip trembling as tears poured from his eyes. “They say I am the devil’s child, because of my eyes, and call me Witch.” He said, each word fighting for air through his choked sobs.
His mother looked down at her precious son, concerned. He was too brilliant, to powerful to blend in, and she worried for him, for his cold grins and his icy magic, for his bruises and cuts, and the fire in his eyes.
Oblivious to the worry ageing his mother’s face, Gellert smiled through his tears. “Don’t worry mother, I showed them.” he said, and she turned to him sharply. “What did you do?” she asked, fear gripping her heart in a vice of frozen horror.
“I shot sparks at them, and then when I had to run I knocked them out.” She grabbed him by the arms, panic flashing across her face. “Did they see you use magic?” she asked, and paled dramatically when he nodded.
She uttered a faint cry, and looked deep into his eyes. “You mustn’t do that. Now we’ll have to move away, and get someone to obliviate them for us, and oh, oh-” She began. “Why?” asked Gellert, innocent in his confusion.
She tried to pull herself together, to explain the Statute Of Secrecy, tried to tell her son about the damage that he could cause. His eyes turned flinty, and for the briefest moment she swore a look of total determination flew across his features, before a repentant expression replaced it.

Gellert sat alone later, idly drawing geometric patterns in the frosted glass of his windows by the light of a single candle, lost in thought. He had been so angry, so afraid, and then magic had answered his call. He had felt it rise through him in a strange crackling tide, the air suddenly charged, wisps of silver and slate grey responding to the sheer desperation he felt. It had been beautiful, and he couldn't help but wonder why he had to hide this gift. His eyes already marked him out as odd, why not show them exactly how strange he really was. He tucked a strand of long hair behind his ear and opened his book, after all he was never truly alone, not when he had his magic and his books. He could escape his world whenever he wished, be swept up and away into another universe.

For days he lived in fear, sure that they would have to move, but he relaxed and began to stop worrying. A few more days passed without incident, and then disaster struck. He woke up the week after to the acrid smell of smoke, yelling men and his mother’s screaming. She was pulling him away, pulling clothes and papers into a bag and then she took his hand. He tried to grab his books but his mother yelled for him to come at once, and grasping his arm, forced him to leave his beloved books to the mercy of the flames. The last things he heard before all sounds faded were the cries of “Murderers!” and “You left them in the snow to die, Devil’s spawn.”

They were sucked into nothingness, appearing with a crack in the middle of a strange room. His mother was crying, and slowly he realised that he was in the living room of his uncle’s house in the city centre of Munich, a house he half remembered from when he was small, so different from their rambling home in the hills. He looked around in a daze, those three boys had died because of him. He was a killer. His mind reeled in shock, he had only meant to stop them from hurting him. He just wanted to make them go away. A snide voice in the back of his mind said that they deserved it, that they were worthless, magic hating rats, but a larger part of him was ready to cry, or throw up, anything to get away from the haunting broken cry of “Murderer.”

He wandered away from his mother, bile rising in the back of his throat as he did so. He lingered at the door of the room long enough to hear some of the conversation between his mother and uncle.
“Just couldn’t stop him…”
“Surely it was accidental…”
“All from his father’s side of course…”
“He must be brilliant though, casting a spell like that with pure intent…”
“They died Aknos, this is awful…”

 

He crept away, anger lighting his eyes with a dark glimmer. How could his mother say that? They were sitting in that room blaming him, when it was those muggles had tried to burn them. They were the ones at fault, why couldn't his mother see that? Those boys had attacked him three on one, then their parents had tried to kill him and his mother, but no, the adults in that room were trying to blame him for the whole thing, he hadn't even meant to kill them. This was wrong. He shouldn’t get the blame when they had started in on him.

He pulled himself together and wandered the house, looking for any promising looking shelf of books. He scoured every room he could find, but the only books in the house were in the kitchen, and they were all on cooking which might well have been useful, but was enough to bore him to tears. He needed a fantasy book, or a spell book, either would do. Just as long as he had interesting words to distract him from what he could overhear. there was a thick book on Arithmancy, but it was convoluted in the extreme. For a while he struggled with it, and had learnt a little of graphical arithmancy and something of using techniques for handling big numbers, for fast multiplication, a necessary skill in spell creation damage control, but ultimately remained too distracted to concentrate.

He closed his eyes wishing despondently that he could be anywhere but here, and felt a jolt. He opened his eye and gasped, seeing a boy his age. He was crying, standing in front of a boy and a girl, both younger than him. Behind them a man was being dragged away in chains, eyes wild and angry. Gellert watched as the boy dried his eyes hurriedly. He spoke to the other two in a soft voice, but they weren’t speaking German. Gellert sighed in frustration, if there was one thing he despised, it was not understanding something. He thought it was English, it wasn't French, which he could speak a little, and he knew it wasn't Hungarian or Russian, as his mother spoke both those languages, and taught him along with German, but he couldn't be sure. “Hello?” He tried, “Is this real?”
But no one seemed to hear him. The scene began to fade away, the colour leaching out of it, initially leaving only the sepia tones of a photograph, then a mere faint impression of silver lines and shadowed shapes before disappearing entirely.

He opened his eyes to find that he was back in the drawing room of his uncle’s house, and his right eye felt like it had been melted. Cringing in pain he rubbed his eye in an attempt to relieve it, and gasped when his hand came back red with blood. What had that strange vision meant? Was he going mad? He needed to learn English, that much he knew. He walked back into the kitchen and his mother turned towards him. “Oh gosh, what ever have you done to your eye Gellert?” she asked, by his side in an instant.
“I- I saw someone. In my head, It was a boy, h-he was speaking English I think, and crying.” He replied. She exchanged a concerned look with her brother, and bade him open his right eye for a closer look. He complied and his mother gaped in wonder. Under all the blood his eye was glowing. The silver had gone an iridescent shade, and it gleamed, throwing strange shadows across his face. It was his uncle who broke the silence.
“You’re a seer, boy, you must get that from your father, our line’s not blessed with Sight.” His mother scowled at the mention of the man, he had died before Gellert could really remember, and upon his death some incriminatingly intimate letters were discovered among his possessions addressed to another witch. He blinked repeatedly, the glow fading from his eye as he began to shiver. “Let’s get you by the fire, imp.” his mother said, and gently pushed him into the comfortable, faded red arm chair by the fireplace.

That night he tossed and turned, uncomfortable in the unfamiliar bed, his mind plagued by screams of “Murderer” and the face of a brave English boy who shielded his younger siblings from hurt while crying himself. He tried not to touch his still tender right eye, but it itched and silver lines were superimposed on his eyelid whenever he closed his eyes.
When the watery winter sun dawned at six he gave up on sleep, but with no books to occupy his mind and no desire to get out of his warm, if lumpy cocoon of blankets, his mind ran haywire, returning to the same thoughts and images that had plagued him all night. Sighing, he got out of bed and went over to the wash basin. Breaking through the thin film of ice in the water, he quickly soaped and washed, before hopping into his day clothes, and heading out into the rest of the house. Sleep forgotten, he made a mental list.
He needed a quill, ink, and paper, seeing as his notebooks were all lost in the fire. He looked into the kitchen and parlour before striking gold, his uncle’s study! He looked carefully around, not spotting any loose parchment, but there was a small leather-bound notebook lying on the floor, dusty and fallen open, on a blank first page. Quick as a flash the notebook was in his pocket and he was searching for a pen. He found no quills, but there was a pot of metal sticks with quill nibs, so he took one of those too.

Returning to his room, he opened the notebook, rubbed it clean with a corner of the bedsheets and pulled out his newly appropriated writing implement. He put the nib to paper, and watched in awe as he wrote his name with a flowing ease, the ink never running out, the writing smooth in a way that quill never achieved. He grinned, he would have to obtain a few more of these wondrous implements, just in case this one broke.
He tore out the page, and in the centre of the next one with his best script wrote 'This Notebook Is Property Of Gellert Grindelwald, Wizard & Seer.' He turned a page and wrote out his first vision, neatly labeled with his current theories on what it could mean and how he had seen it. He wrote the contents of the vision, how his eye had reacted, and perhaps most interestingly, how the vision had faded. The next page was devoted to a list of things to do, as he found that making lists calmed his racing thoughts and helped him to organise. The first order of business was to find a library and obtain both a German to English dictionary, or better yet textbook, and any books on Seer talents. He also needed new books, notebooks and clothes, and, he supposed, a new telescope too, as the fire had left his mother and him with only one trunk of worldly possessions.

He heard the soft footsteps of his mother and he hurriedly hid his new notebook as the door creaked open. “Good morning,” he said, feigning a yawn as he stretched. She smiled at him and sat down on the end of the bed.
“Hello Darling, we have a very busy day today, so I thought we could start early.” She said. He smiled and nodded, thinking of how he had productively spent his morning already.
“Mother,” he said as they walked down Vertikale Straße, “Can I have a wand?” His mother looked at him gently, and shook her head. “You must wait until next month, when you’re eleven, just like every other young wizard.” Gellert felt a brief flash of icy rage, his heterochromatic eyes flashing with deepest hatred. He wasn't like other wizards, he was better than them. Then his face smoothed over and he nodded, fingering his stolen notebook for comfort. His mother, who had been checking for carriages in the lane, had missed his outburst, and promised him an extra book instead.

Gellert had waited patiently while they bought clothes, less patiently while his mother chatted with a friend, and was desperate to get to the bookshop. He dragged his mother along at a fast pace, and turned many heads when he stopped at the bookshop, rather than the Quidditch shop further down the lane. He quickly drifted away from his mother, walking to the back of the shop. He scanned the shelves, quickly bypassed the Household Charms section and found himself in a section labeled dark. Gellert was fascinated by the titles, and he trailed a finger longingly down the spines of a few of the thicker ones, but he could never steal one of them successfully. Turning to the thinner volumes, the title “Foule Magike” Caught his eye, and he glanced around the shop to see if he was being observed. He quickly shoved the book into his coat lining (Where strategically placed rips hid deep pockets) and moved onto a different section of the shop entirely. The charms section was interesting, and he picked up a book on transfiguration in the section opposite. A book on Seer magic was the next to join his pile, and then politics drew his eye, and soon he was carrying another three.
His mother found him struggling to lift his heavy pile of books to the counter that was at an inconvenient shoulder hight for the tall ten year old. The shop assistant smirked at him, making no move to help, and was pinned under a burning glare. The books jumped from his arms to the counter, right where the assistant’s hand was, now in considerably more pain than it had been before the little boy had walked in. Gellert grinned and fixed his dark stare back on the shop boy, amused at his discomfort. His mother apologised as she was paying for their small library, and they started to leave.
Suddenly they was confronted by wizened old man.

“Was that wand-less magic young man?” He asked, eyes bright with interest. His mother made to steer him away from the man, but he nodded before she could stop him.
“I am Gregorovitch, wand-maker. Eleven is the normal age, but for prodigious talents exceptions can be made. Come to my shop won’t you?”
Gellert nodded eagerly before his mother could disagree and they soon found themselves in something of a laboratory. It was well lit, with grand oak shelves soaring to the ceiling, filled with glass gars of anything and everything. Gregorovitch plucked a hair from his head and asked him to write his name on a scrap of parchment. The quill he used took some of his blood, but as it was needed to get a wand he forced himself to remain calm about it.
The man dropped his hair and paper int the potion, and gasped. The potion had gone silvery and black, the silver forming an oily sheen above the black of the potion. “Silver birch wood and Thestral core to be sure, but it looks like there’s something missing. Bound in silver perhaps? ah yes, and it will be bloodroot, that binds the wand together.” He carefully ascended his ladder and pulled the required parts down off the shelves. It did not escape Gellert’s keen eye that his arms and legs seemed to stretch ever so slightly when reaching for the bloodroot. He watched as the man worked his art, and when asked, gave a jar full of blood to steep the bloodroot in. The Thestral hair was stiff and dark, but soon became hidden under a thick layer of bloodroot, followed by birch bark, solid and unyielding. The final thing Gregorovitch did was to wrap a thin layer of paper like birch bark around the wand, and bind the whole thing together with silver, He then used a Thestral hoof and blood varnish to add strength. Gellert was fascinated, slightly disgusted, but mostly fascinated. He picked up the wand and felt it’s connection to him and his magic instantly.

All at once, he clapped a hand to his right eye, and saw the wand in his hand casting a curse, purple and sickly looking, and then he reached for the other man’s wand, cackling madly with the rush of power he felt, the strange wand sang to him. It was his. This wand would not be his final one, that much he knew. He blinked and shook the vision away, concentrating on how his clothes felt against his skin, how he was resting his fingers on the smooth new wand he now owned. His breathing slowed, and he met the knowing eyes of the wand-maker. “A Seer,” the man breathed, voice filled with awe. Gellert smiled, feeling the addictive power of being held in regard. he revelled in it, in the gaze of this man who was held breathless by his talents. There and then, with all the conviction of childhood, he made himself a promise. He would feel this again, from everyone. One day, every wizard in the world would know his name. He shook himself, payed for the want and turned to his mother. She was scowling down at him, but waited until they were out of the shop to berate him. “Gellert, you know that I said you couldn't get a wand, and you know that talking to strangers is dangerous. How is it that when we go out to simply buy books, you manage to disobey both of these rules?” Her voice was heavy with worry, but he was too happy to care.

He had a wand, maybe it was not the wand from his visions, but it was his all the same, and it responded to his spells far better than his mother’s ever had. He was sitting crosslegged on the floor of his makeshift room, attempting the colour change charm. His bedspread was still green, despite his best efforts to turn it a deep royal blue, and he glared at it sullenly. He pointed his new wand at the stupid thing once more, and concentrated deeply on what he wanted the blanket to look like. A patch of blue appeared, tendrils of the shade leaping out from where his wand touched it until the whole thing was blue as a sapphire pin, much like the one that had been on the collar of a man he had seen when out today. As the thing turned blue, his mother walked into the room.
“Look mother, I’ve turned the whole bedspread blue, I looked up the charm in my new book!” he said, exited to share his new discovery. “I didn't hear you say a spell?” she replied, a question in her tone. Gellert looked up at her perplexedly. “What do you mean say a spell?” I just did it. I thought of the spell’s incantation, and how much I wanted it to turn blue.”
His mother looked at him in wonder, shaking her head faintly. “You are a very powerful boy Gellert. Normally you have to say spells like that.”

Over the next few months, Gellert continued to expand his knowledge of everything from the levitation charm to a curse that made toenails grow the wrong way, from astronomy to politics to muggle sciences and alchemy. He read voraciously and ignored everything around him that wasn't made of paper as the snows melted into spring rain and green painted its self back into the world. His mother worried that he was studying at the expense of his health, but he ignored her. He wanted to be well prepared for going to Durmstrang in the autumn.

As was often the case, one day in late April he was sitting by the window of his room, one side of his face pressed to the glass, half curled up around the notebook that was propped against his knee. The one in his hands with the blue velvet cover was dedicated entirely to questions he felt needed asking, and his research concerning the answers, however minimal, adding a point on how the new muggle idea of an atom fit fairly well with the basic concepts of alchemy, but was incorrect beyond the transmutation stage in alchemy. It was fascinating, both the content and that ideas muggles had come up with, given that they had no practice value for them, but brushed some basic alchemical topics.

He only had one problem at the moment, he could find no one who would teach him english. Wizards treated the request with confusion, why could he not use a translator charm, they asked, and the few muggles he had asked had all responded with suspicion. This mistrust had triggered horrifying visions for Gellert, visions of churned mud and barbed wire, a wasteland of corpses where the dead and the dying lay, indistinguishable and equally desolate, which had stopped Gellert from daring to venture into the muggle world for some months, afraid that he would find himself in this grey hell. He was somewhat afraid of them, after the scenes of horror, and the firing of his own home the year before. Afraid of their hatred and their willingness to enact terrible violence. He shivered at the memory, and closed his journal. Surely he would be able to learn it at school.

August brought school shopping to the forefront of his mother’s mind, as he had receiver his Durmstrang letter in the post on his birthday, and he found himself forced outside on days that would otherwise have been spent productively reading. There was the uniform to buy, red tunic and cloak, black trousers, dragonhide boots and gloves, and the staff he needed for school ceremonies, booklists to add to and other equipment to buy. Life was turning out to be irritatingly hectic.
The trunks he had bought were unwieldy, but the brown two-set of cases were tied together with some very complex magics. The smaller of the two was a library, with a rotating shelf that held a very large number of books (even his considerable collection was nothing near it’s capacity) while the larger held his clothes, staff and potions cauldron, along with his telescope and stationary. He looked around the room, checking to see if he had left anything behind, and flicked his wand at the luggage. It rose obediently, and he grabbed the smaller case, while charming the other to follow him. He was to catch a train to Lake Starnberg from the station in Muggle Munich, and from there board the Durmstrang ship. He sat uncomfortably with his mother, shying away from the muggles he found himself surrounded by, afraid of another vision. A stuffy half hour later, the two got off the train and found themselves at the shore of a beautiful lake, deserted save the other wizarding families surrounding them. Many of the other students were bidding a tearful goodbye to their parents, much to the bemusement of Gellert. He was so exited to be attending a formal magical school that there was no room in his mind for grief or worry.
He kissed him mother on the cheek, and ran onto the long gangplank, his suitcase following behind him and narrowly avoiding knocking over a girl about his age. He quickly found a cabin for himself with a wide porthole, and was out of his day clothes and into the thick red tunic and heavy waxed cloak of the uniform. Time seemed to crawl along at the pace of a flobberworm, every tick of the clock an age apart, but finally there was an announcement telling everyone to go below, as they were sailing. The wind picked up, and he heard the heavy snap of canvas as the sails caught the wind, then with a lurch the ship skimmed across the waves, before beginning the decent into the under-sea, the ocean that connected all the waters of the world, a magical combination of change and forgotten legends that Durmstrang kept as closely guarded as possible. By the porthole a kelpie swam, intelligent eyes old, cruel and hungry, for they were in her domain now, but the ship was familiar to the creatures of the deep, and though they eyed the mortals within hungrily, none would attack. He had read extensively about the rituals to the sea that the founders had done, in the wee hours of the morning when he pulled out his stolen books and read with relish of sacrifice and strength. He nodded to the creature, ignoring the many bumps of the ship and yells of his future classmates. He would have this time alone, to read and perhaps sleep, but making friends could wait another twelve hours. He drifted in and out of consciousness, head lolling against the cool porthole, and jerked suddenly awake, feeling the telling upsurge that mean they had arrived at Durmstrang.

Chapter Text

As they piled out of the boat onto a rocky stretch of shingle, his trunk still bobbing along behind him, he gazed up at the building that was to be his new home. It was roughly the hight of the four story manor houses in the better parts of Munich, but there were strange rooms growing out of the sides, the geometry non-euclidian and confusing. A six sided spire scraped the skies above, its top lost in clouds, and above the entrance arch were runes that read “Reign and Ritual” in what appeared to be Elder Futhark. The irrational angles and sharp planes gave the building an austere look, and it appeared to grow naturally out of the baltic rock on which it was built, and Gellert smiled. He was lead with some of the other first years to the north wing, where they were told they would be living for the duration of their education. Down winding corridors and up a tightly spiralling stair they went, eventually reaching a long corridor. “These are the dorms, you will each see your name on a door. Please proceed to your rooms, and down to dinner at one pm sharp.” said a severely dressed witch in a dark robe patterned with stars.”
Gellert walked down the corridor slowly, peering at each door until he found his own, and cautiously pushed it open.

To his immense relief he saw only one bed, which meant that he wouldn't be forced to interact for all hours of the day. He unpacked his clothes and hung the red cloak on the back of the door, pulling out his cauldron with a grunt to stand by the desk in the corner, where light poured into the room through an west-facing window. He stretched up to open the window and grinned in delight when he saw the roof of another building about three foot below. There would be no stopping him now, he could climb out at any time to avoid curfew rules. Not that he planned to break the rules, but it payed to consider all of his options.

Carefully, he placed all of his notebooks in the draw set built into the desk, and set up his telescope in the window. He was just putting out some of his less questionable books when there was a bang on his wall followed by a yell in a language he didn't recognise. He opened the door curiously and knocked on his neighbour’s door. A boy stood there, grey eyes peering out from bushy black eyebrows suspiciously. “Sorry.” he said, in accented German. Gellert was quick to assure him that he wasn't annoyed, only curious and soon found himself inviting the boy to see his room, post introductions. “Look,” he was saying. “There is a roof we can jump out onto to sneak out, and from here I can see a corner of the tower.” The other boy grinned, all doubts seemingly evaporating at the thought of mischief.
“Where are you from?” asked Gellert, now lounging on his bed while his companion took the chair by the desk. “I heard you yelling in a foreign language.” Indus looked a bit sheepish, and Gellert would have bet money that the boy’s mother would have hexed him for the language he used. “Well I am Scion to the Ancient and Most Noble house of Black, we’re an English family, but I grew up partly in France too.” He said, nose in the air. Gellert looked up sharply. He spoke English? “Can you teach me English? You know, so I can actually speak it, not just with a spell.” He asked eagerly, and Indus responded with a bemused nod.
“Why?” he asked. What could he say, certainly not ‘it doesn't work in Seer visions, so I need to learn it properly.' Luckily, he had thought of this question, and had an excuse ready.
“Well, to begin with I want a firm grasp of the lingual structure, translator spells are often grammatically incorrect,” he began, “And also I already know three languages, so learning another one is statistically easier for me.”
Indus blinked at him, grinned and shook his head. “You’re one strange wizard Gellert. What’s you're last name anyway, who’re your people?”
“I am Gellert Grindelwald, and if you haven’t heard the name now, rest assured that you will never be able to forget it.” He grinned and Indus smiled back. “Well as long as you’re not a mudblood we’re sure to get along famously.” replied the dark haired boy, and Gellert made a disgusted face in return. This was uncharted territory,and he was unfamiliar with the foreign word, but the intent behind it was clear, and he was happy to play along with the influential boy’s mannerisms. After all, Chapter five of his “Politics, the Art of Persuasion” had been very informative on alliances, and he had picked it up with the same speed he did everything else.

At dinner they had a delicious Spätzle, and were soon organised into groups, each following a teacher for orientation. He was half paying attention, half looking around in wonder. Coloured fire leapt from the grates of the alchemy classroom, the duelling ring was ancient and the potions laboratory was lined with cupboards to the ceiling, reminding him eerily of Gregorovitch’s wand shop. He caught a glimpse of books as they walked past the second floor, but he was dragged away for a tour of the grounds before seeing it properly. Despicable really, the grounds would be useless for half of the year, so why should they bother? A huge cliff face loomed out of the mist ahead, and Professor Veridius explained their natural climbing wall, and the reasoning behind it. “In a duel,” she said, her voice protecting effortlessly over the wind, “Almost all wizards rely on shield charms. Agility can save you magic, and thereby win you the duel.We offer a wide range of sports here, and though some of you may be dubious, they are to your benefit.” Gellert was forced to reevaluate his initial views of the grounds, this looked acceptable at least. The courtyard too looked promising, octagonal when inside it, but rectangular when viewed from the first floor windows, and then there was the library. It wasn’t to be admitted, but after they had left the library Gellert had stopped paying attention all together, his mind occupied with the swirling possibilities that such a repository of knowledge could offer him. It was cavernous, taking up the whole second flaw and he strained his eyes trying to take in all the different things he could be reading. Subjects that he had never heard of beckoned, desks in far flung corners begged to become research stations, books that he had never read called to him, a personal siren song, and he could have it all.

Returning to the dorms, they found their timetables pinned to their doors, and Gellert looked down at his. He had Arithmancy, Warding, Charms, Transfiguration and Potions on his schedule for tomorrow. Grinning in excitement, he pulled out his textbooks for Arithmancy and Warding and struggled out of his outer cloak. He hung it up by the leather baldrick, leaving him with slightly freer movement, dressed only in his red tunic and trousers, to move around his room in an exited rush. He flung open the window, and was swiftly climbing down onto the roof below, only to shimmy up the drainpipe to the roof over his room, books clutched under an elbow. He stood on the crest of the roof, turned to face the dying sun, and felt a rush of wind blow through him. He was alone, and he brushed his hand along his wand, wishing for warmth, and feeling his magic rush to respond. He gazed out at the amber skies and basked in the view, his hair flicking into his eyes in the wind as he did so. “It’s amazing,” he breathed softly, his eyes lighting up with awe, liquid gold in the evening’s slanting light. He sat down, new dragonhide boots finding easy purchase on the slates. twirling his wand he closed his eyes, allowing magic to surround him in its pure form, curling on his breath and painting the air around him, before directing it at his feet in an effort to warm them up. He opened Riddling out Runes: Basic Protective Wards. and quickly became lost in the theory and history of the Relectus Runic circle, reading as the sun dressed all of his edges in gold and deep purple.
The sun dipped further into the landscape shadows lengthening into twilit half-dark, and he turned back, sliding down the pipe and quickly jumping back into his room as the first stars appeared, so as to organise his books and his thoughts. He quickly filled the shelves to the left of the desk with school related books, and was busy trying to figure out how to fit his extensive fiction collection onto the one measly shelf above his bed, when there was a knock at the door. He opened it to find Indus and a girl he didn't know barging in without so much as an if you please. Honestly, for an aristocratic English pureblood, Indus was very rude. “What is all this?” the girl was asking.
“Good God, I think a bookshop threw up in here Irina.” the dark boy grinned, and then yelped as Gellert threw a stinging hex at him. “Wow, you’ve got a stinging hex like Mother’s, Sorry about that Gel, it was just the shock.” Gellert almost scowled at the unwarranted familiarity of the nickname, but managed a smile instead.
“Yes well, I have no siblings and being alone so much, I’ve learned to love to read.” He said, somewhat unsuccessfully trying to appear sheepish. The girl smiled at him, and introduced herself as Irina Richter, looking for a place to sit that wasn't covered in books. Gellert kissed her hand and pointed to a sturdy pile, at which she cackled and muttered “Of course” slyly. He smirked, and introduced himself.
“Oh I know who you are,” she interrupted, “Indus hasn't been able to stop talking about you since we met. You are a climber and a lover of mischief, with big plans for the future.” Gellert shot a strange look at Indus, but nodded graciously. He couldn't help but play along if that was the impression that preceded him.
“Yes, but he may not have mentioned my love of books and a good warming charm as of yet.” He replied with a laugh, but felt slightly uncomfortable when he caught the other two staring at him. “What?” he asked defensively.
“You can already cast the warming charm?” asked Indus, incredulous. Gellert nodded, confused. He hadn't learnt a charm but he wasn't just going to go around getting cold in winter was he, that’s what magic was for.
Conversation soon turned towards Irina, as Gellert knew nothing about her. When she mentioned her Russian heritage, he switched to her native language with a grin. “Hello, my mother taught me Russian, are you using a Translator charm or do you know German without one.” He asked. She smiled back, eyes filled with relief. “I learnt it the real way, but I’m much more comfortable in Russian. It’s so nice to hear it again.” He smiled at her, with a feeling that he had just made another fast friend, and pulled out a Russian book on the history of Transfiguration. She squealed in a very girlish way and snatched the book. “Ooh thanks, my reading in German’s horrible.”
“Be sure to bring it back unharmed, or I’ll have to curse your skin blue.” he warned and was startled when his threat was met with laughter. He paused for a moment, unsure how to react, then joined the laughing of the other two.

Sleeping in his new bed was a little strange, and with so much to think over he was finding sleep evasive, but eventually he drifted off. His dreams were strange, blue eyes blinked from inside a triangle, voices faded in and out, filled with snippets of things he couldn't understand “Morse…” The image of some strange machine, crawling over the land like a beetle and sending fire from a wand-like protrusion. A strange symbol and words muttered softly in his ears, words he could not understand. Then a harsh voice calling “No, that could never work, fighters in the air.” in the grey light of an evening, followed by shrieking hulking things rising off the ground, raining fire across cities in the night. His fingers linked with another hand, notes scattered across a table and a bed. A crack of light, a curse, and then pain. He woke, feverish and sweating from the nightmare, blood all over his pillow and face. He stumbled over to the wash basin in the corner, scrubbing at his right side. He looked into the small mirror over the desk to check for traces of blood, and rubbed at his eyes tiredly, unwilling to go back to sleep and risk another vision. He pulled out his wand and flicked it, focusing on the time, and watched as a ghostly grey clock face appeared before him. 20 minutes past 4, that was acceptable. He sighed and removed his pillowcase, now stained red, flinging it into a corner by the wardrobe. He pulled off his sleep clothes and put on the same trousers as yesterday, a thick woollen shirt and a fresh tunic, determined that now he was up he was going to go exploring.

He carried his boots in hand until the stairs, then softly put them on, careful not to wake any other students. Pushing his magic towards his feet, he pulled the sounds from his shoes and trod on, silent as a ghost, into the school proper. Racing giddily down the tightly winding stair, he soon became dizzy, and stumbled on reaching the second floor. He was going to start in the most obvious place of all; the Library.

He pushed at the door and willed it to open. It resisted. He pushed it again, throwing waves of the destructive magic that came so easily to him through the lock. It shattered with a bang, echoing though the empty corridors, Gellert winced and fled inside. He quickly went to the charms section, looking for a book on mending things. There was repairo, but that was a non permanent fix, and he went back to the shelves, increasingly desperate. He had a sudden flash of inspiration, what he needed was a rune, they were much easier to make permanent as the took a physical form of sorts, it was basic enchantment. He flicked through a rune guide, and then settled on an Egyptian basic hieroglyph. He walked back over to the door, determination written in every line of his body, and focused. He carved the glyph into the shattered door, above and below the remains of the lock, and spoke. The words leapt off his tongue rich with power, the first spoken magic he had ever tried. “Hi-Nem.” he intoned, and watched in satisfaction as the lock flew back together, rust retreating away and the handle polished as new. He sighed in relief, unaware of the librarian looming behind him.
“And what were you doing to my door young man?” came a voice. He whirled around and came nose to nose with a steely looking man with wire-rimmed glasses and a serious set of dress robes. “Um sorry sir, but I accidentally broke the lock and had to fix it.” he said, scared that his exploration would be ended before it had begun.
“Why not use reparo boy, that’s what you youngsters are so fond of today, no?” asked the man.
“Well Reparo is used for small fixes mostly, and if put under strain or repeat wear can break down completely. I had to use a rune to lock the enchantment into the physical plane, and the first one I found was an Egyptian one Sir.” He said, thinking for a minute and then adding “I hope I put the books back in the right section, I assumed that they were sorted by subject and Author Name?” The librarian blinked down at him for a long moment, then said
“You’re very small, not more than second year, how did you think of that so fast. The non-permeant/permanent distinction isn't taught until fourth year.”
“I’m a first year sir, that was my first spoken spell.” replied Gellert, unsure. The Librarian’s gaze narrowed, trying to sense a lie, but he seemed to feel that there was no falsehood because after a moment of intense eye-contact, he took off his glasses and rubbed at them, muttering “Remarkable, simply remarkable.”

Gellert smiled, and then decided that now was the right time to pose question that had been preying on his mind for a while. “Why does an incantation make a spell stronger Sir?”
“Stronger?” echoed the man, “Why, outside of accidental magic incantations are necessary to shape the magic, giving it the detailed form required for higher spells.”
Gellert frowned, unable to reconcile what he was hearing and his own experience. “I didn't know. Can I show you something Sir?” At the man’s nod he smiled, and pointed his wand at a nearby chair, willing it into the shade of blue he so loved. The librarian gave a shout and fell off the desk he was sitting on. “Why this is incredible, If I hadn't seen it with my own to eyes.” he exclaimed from the floor, and then let out a sharp cackle, sounding for all the world like he had never been happier. “You are fascinating my boy, and isn't it ironic that it was your ignorance of what is possible that allowed you to achieve the impossible. My my, I’ve never enjoyed a first day back more.” And then, Gellert watching him strangely, he crawled over to the chair and stood, casting diagnostic charms left right and centre. He muttered several exclamations, and whirled around to stare Gellert in the eye, eyes sparkling with the fire of a scholar’s interest. “It reads as raw magic, but you clearly exhibit intent.”he exclaimed. He sat down on the recently redecorated chair and summoned a desk and a second chair. Gellert took a seat, and they began to talk. They discussed everything from Arithmancy to wand-lore and warding, and for the first time in his life, Gellert found himself talking to an adult who treated him as an intellectual equal. He learned more over the next two hours about magic and its limitations from Professor Sagacion than he had from the extensive number of the books he had found on the subject.

They spoke though breakfast, and Gellert was forced to run helter skelter back to his dorm for his bag and textbooks to make it to Arithmancy on time. He sidled into the class and breathed a sigh of relief when there was no teacher present, opening his textbook and taking out a new leather-bound black notebook, along with his trusty everlasting fountain pen, ready for the lesson. The door flew open with a bang, and a dark skinned wizard in rich orange trimmed robes walked into the classroom, twirled his wand at the blackboard and began to speak. “My name is Professor Mansuro, and I will be teaching you the wonderful subject of Arithmancy. One of the most difficult branches of magic, but almost universally acknowledged as one of the most powerful, as it is the basis for spell modification and creation. Today we will be looking at how different graphs represent different types of spell, and how to write these lines as equations. Does anyone have any questions before we begin?”
He looked around, and seemed fairly shocked when he saw a hand in the air.
“Professor what is the arithmetical difference between Raw magic and a crafted spell?” asked Gellert. Many students looked confused, however the professor’s eyes lit up. “I’m very impressed that you asked, however we will begin with a more simplistic application of graphical Arithmancy, the arithmetical difference between a jinx and a counter jinx. If you wish to know the answer to your question Mr ?”
“Grindelwald, Sir.”
“Well, Mr Grindelwald, you may come back to my classroom at break for your answers.”

The lesson was very interesting, and Gellert found that he had a growing love for the field of Arithmancy. It was the purest form of magical theory, and being in a room with a Master of the art was entirely different, and much more entertaining that his textbook on the subject. The idea that every jinx could be represented by a straight line on a graph was fascinating, however the idea that a counter jinx had a gradient that was it’s negative reciprocal had immense implications. Could this be applied to curses? To charms? His list of research topics seemed to be growing by the minute. As for the theory in the lesson, he picked it up fast. So much so that by the end of the hour Professor Mansuro was telling him that he had a mathematical mind, whatever that was supposed to mean, still, he took it in the complimentary spirit it was meant, and told the professor that he would be back for answers at his next opportunity.

Warding class was brilliant, and Gellert was already formulating interesting theories about the application of Arithmancy and Runes in regards to their troublesome project. They had to ward their rooms over the next four weeks, after which their teacher would attempt to break through the wards, and points were being awarded based on how long it took. He was thinking of a circle, as it was the most powerful arithmantic shape, with perhaps some form of tie to his magic, and a hex for anyone who tested his warding with a foreign magical signature. He pulled out his private notebook and began to draw, but time was against him and no sooner had he opened the first book had the bell rung out, signalling the end of break.

Charms had been a huge disappointment. Not only was the professor fonder of lecturing tonelessly than of interacting with pupils, but even Gellert couldn’t escape his eagle eyed gaze. He was firmly told that Charms was’t the lesson to be playing with numbers in, and the Professor had confiscated his notebook for the lesson He scowled, but complied, only to finish his practical work in minutes. The teacher had then added insult to injury by demanding he display his charm, as the man refused to believe that it wasn't some clever trick until it was done in front of him.
Gellert decided then and there that he hated Charms with a passion, useful as it was, and that he would do especially well in it to spite his initially doubtful Professor, and spent the rest of the lesson disparaging the worthless man with Irina, to whom the teacher had been rude earlier. The two of them were still angry about him later, and were overheard by another girl, who introduced herself as Vinda Rosier. She had a french accent, and informed him rather snootily that she would have been going to Beauxbatons had it not been for the school being so hostile in regards to her uncle, who had killed three muggles when they stumbled through his skin peeling ward. Other than her slightly superior attitude, she was good company and he felt that he could find a friend in her.

The three of them found a corner of the hall to eat lunch in after transfiguration, in which Gellert had begun to notice a pattern. He was better at magic than his year-mates. Much better. In arithmancy he was leagues ahead, in Charms and Transfiguration he didn't even have to speak and his results were formidable. He was not one to brag, yet he felt that at this moment it was his due, how could he not? He sat with his two female friends and chatted with them, internally puzzling over his strange ability in all things magical. He couldn't be this strange, not here as well? He had spent enough time isolated during the years before, and he had never forgotten that brutal attack he faced when his home was burned. Was this his destiny, to be alone forever? He blinked and a pair of blue eyes was superimposed over his view of the hall, eyes that poured with compassion and kindness. “Where are you, who are you? he murmured, drawing a strange look from the girls, but he smiled reassuringly at them, and pointed to the book in his hands. “There’s a mysterious character, just ignore my blathering,” Irina laughed. After chatting for a bit with the two girls, who were getting along so well that it was rather difficult for him to get a word in edgeways, he left in search of Professor Mansuro, and his answers. He hurried along the corridors and up to the third flaw, where all of the theoretical subjects were based.

He knocked and entered, met with the wide smile of his arithmancy teacher. “Back again so soon young Grindelwald?” he asked, and laughed gently at Gellert’s fervent nod, watching as his long blond tresses were forced into disarray. Gellert scowled and tucked them behind an ear, forcing his hair back to its soft waves absentmindedly with magic, unaware of how his professor’s eyes widened at the casual use of silent magic. “I’ve thought of something else Sir, besides the raw magic question.” he began, pulling out his tattered blue notebook, the velvet worn smooth and shiny from use, and flicked to his latest page. “What happens when a spell is graphically circular? There’s no negative reciprocal, so how would they be stopped?” his Professor looked at him darkly, with both worry and fear in his eyes.
“How did you know about that boy? That is dark knowledge.” he said, voice low and angry.
“I didn’t Sir. It just makes sense, given the lesson we had this morning I’m sorry I asked, if it was wrong, I was just curious.” replied Gellert, pulling up a quiver for his voice, and allowing his eyes to go wide with fear. He had to resist externalising his smirk when the man crumbled before his guilelessly apologetic face.
“Ah forgive an old man, I was afraid for a second because, well, thats another story entirely. Essentially there are very few spells that have a circular structure, and they can’t be blocked at all. They are truly horrific, however and are not up for discussion today.” He said with finality, and Gellert made a mental note to look them up in the library. The discussion soon turned to his initial question. The professor began by drawing two waves, almost identical.
“This is a raw wave, they produce accidental magic. We can tell this because they go through the origin point of the graph. Magically, this represents pure intent, however it’s low hight shows us that it is done unconsciously.” Gellert nodded, and copied the sine wave down into his notebook, labelling appropriate points with explanations.
“Now this one,” continued Professor Mansuro, pointing to the wave that started at the top of his vertical line “Is refined magic. It begins at the top of the graph (point one, if you will) and follows the same pattern as raw magic, half a wave behind. This is because it comes from the mind, and thus there is a lag as we direct the magic.” Gellert smiled, and copied down the second wave, of what would be understood by a muggle as cosine, labelling with the explanations he had heard. “Thank you sir.” he replied, and the conversation soon turned to general Arithmancy, and he smiled uncontrollably as the Professor began to see how much he had really read about the subject, and how advanced he was. “My young friend,you are particularly knowledgable in arithmancy, was your father an Arithmancer?”
Gellert shook his head, and the Professor stared at him, shaking his his own. “Then you have a truly prodigious skill. I think you would be comfortable in my fourth year classes, with the intuitive understanding you seem to have, however here at Durmstrang you must, as a rule, remain with your year-mates.” Gellert sighed, wondering how many classes he would have to sit through before he learnt anything new at all. The Professor smiled, and gave him a knowing look. “There is, however, no rule that tells me I cannot teach you separate things while you sit in your regular classes. I refuse to let a mind so brilliant waste away repeating things. Not in My class, I tell you!” and with that, waved him out of the room with a grin.

Gellert waved his wand and his customary grey clock face appeared. It was almost the end of lunch, and he needed to fetch his potions equipment. He walked up the spiralling stairs to the next floor and into the dorms, where he ran into a sweaty Indus dragging his cauldron across the floor. “What are you doing?” he asked, confused, “Just use a levitation spell.” Indus blushed red and muttered something. “Can you not do a levitation charm?” laughed Gellert, but he stopped abruptly at the boy’s dark look. “I’m sorry, here, let me.” he said, and flicked his wand at Indus’s cauldron so that it would follow after him. He pulled his own from his room, potions text flying over as well, with a tendril of magic, and he was soon waving his wand again impatiently for the cauldron to follow him before they were off, down to the ground floor.
On the way down the stairs Indus seemed to have decided that now was the right time for an interrogation. “How can you possibly do a silent summoning charm? That is literally not possible for a first year, and what is this weird spell that makes the cauldron follow us? I demand answers Gellert!” he was ranting, but luckily they had reached the foot of the stairs by this point, so Gellert just shot him a sly grin and walked into the classroom. He felt a small sting on the back of his neck, obviously an attempted stinging spell, but brushed it off and sat down, ready for the lesson to start.

Potions was a challenge, he had to admit. With little to no spell casting involved at this stage, Gellert was discovering that he had no inborn talent. Despite enjoying the novelty of not being laughably far ahead of everyone, it was slightly concerning that he might not be the best at something. He swore to himself that he would become great at potions, but this would require work, and he would need somewhere to work without distractions. He spent the hour furiously checking and rechecking his work, and eventually had a potion he was satisfied with, but he couldn't help but wonder. What would happen if three Billywig stings were added, rather than two, what about the flobberworm music to pond weed ratio. How potions ingredients affected each other and why might be another avenue of research he could pursue. As they walked out of the laboratory, he heard someone he didn't know saying his name.
“That Grindelwald guy didn't look too happy in there did he?” said one of the west dorm boys, to which another replied
“Yeah, I reckon he cant figure out how to cheat at potions like he did in every other subject.” Gellert narrowed his eyes, committing the two boy’s faces to memory. How dare they slander him like that, he couldn't help but know the answers when the magic based lessons asked such easy questions.

He would have his revenge, of that he was sure, but he was not going to prioritise it over his many avenues of interesting research. He made his way up the four flights of stairs slowly, and arrived at his dorm door without really remembering how he got there. He stepped inside and felt a wave of exhaustion come over him. he weighed the pros and cons of attending supper, deciding that he would much rather sleep and collapsed into bed fully clothed, barely awake enough to remove his shoes and cloak.

Chapter Text

That night he had no dreams, prophetic or otherwise, and slept soundly from three in the afternoon, when his head had first touched the pillow, until four the following morning. He woke slowly, warm, content and not feeling at all like moving. Lazily he summoned a warding book from one of the piles he still had no room for on his shelves and turned to basic weaving techniques, looking for something interesting to add to the warding project that they had been set. Half an hour later, he was deep in the arithmantic theory behind creating a simple ward, and was learning how to use the formula for circular ward systems.
He had decided to apply both arithmancy and a rune chain to create it, and with any luck he could learn this “long exposure imaging” spell, and weave in a deterrent defence. Circles were a strong magical shape, with no easy negative reciprocal and with no weak points for an easy shattering pulse. He would need to create a barrier ward, and could lock it to the physical realm with a protection based rune chain, and then weave in his counter attack. He felt under his pillow for the most precious of all his notebooks, and began to draw a diagram. With a circle, he he would have the advantage of no shatter-able points, butt this made his counter spell harder to integrate properly. He scrawled some hurried runes, a basic chain of seven, arguably the most important number in Arithmancy, for protection, blocking the way and impenetrability, and drew a fast cross across the centre of the circle for the focal point of his counter spell.

Crawling out of bed, he hopped across the icy floor to his door to measure the hight. He returned to the bed shivering, but with all the things he needed to prepare for his runic project. He thought weaving twofold could be managed, he was sure he had read about it somewhere, and decided to add another defence spell.
He needed to decide on what to use, and was considering a nausea jinx combined with a notice-me-not charm when he had a sudden thought. How was he going to get through his own wards? He would have to tie them to his magical signature somehow. He tapped his fountain pen, willing the ink to turn blue, and scrawled the note in his margin, after all, that was the first order of business, it wouldn't do to have to get into his room through Indus’s window and via the roof, after all rain could be harsh at this time of year, not to mention the indignity of it all. Pulling the top blanket from his bed, he got up again, pacing the room in a makeshift fluffy cloak. He would have to look in the library before breakfast, and he had to prepare for his lessons for the day as well. He took one last regretful look at the warm bed he had left, before hurriedly exchanging his blanket for proper robes, pulling on a fresh tunic and wrapping himself snugly in his outer cloak as he left the dorm on silent feet.

He reached the library quickly, and walked in unhindered, to his surprise. “Ah, young Mr Grindelwald,” said The Librarian cheerfully, “Just the door-destroyer I was hoping for.” Gellert groaned, wishing that he hadn't made such a strong impression the day before. “Hoping for, Sir?” he asked, hoping to distract the man from his teasing. “Ah yes, Well I thought you might like to see how the library really worked this morning.”
Gellert looked at him in confusion, how different could the library really be from a normal one? Surely it worked the same way. Some of what he was thinking must have shown on his face, because The Librarian smiled ruefully, and beckoned before turning away. He took Gellert down the corridor past the desk and turned the corner with a flourish. Gellert’s eyes grew to the size of saucers, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. Instead of the long corridors that formed a quadrangle overlooking the courtyard, there was a wide corridor lined with books, the shelves going up at least two floors worth in hight, but this was by far the least impressive sight. On every other floor Gellert had been on plain doors opened into plain classrooms, but this was a work of art. Arches of stone tracery that suggested, at least to Gellert, the swirling power of raw magic in the air opened onto a crisscrossing network of stone bridges that spanned the courtyard below. He knew for a fact that all of this was invisible from both the courtyard and the first few rows of books, the ones into which he had ventured for a charm’s text only the day before. “It’s incredible.” he murmured, and The Librarian smiled down at him. “That is not the fun part Grindelwald, you can ask for the bridge you are on to connect any two sections, making research of dual topics easy. This feature, and the bridges were added relatively recently, however they have become indispensable to every student for generations now.” Gellert nodded, half listening as he stood there, marvelling at the feat of magic and passion that he was standing in, unable to tear his eyes away. He must have stayed there, spellbound for an age, because he was only pulled out of his reverie by a tap on the shoulder from The Librarian.
“Much as I like to see a young man so appreciative of my library, I think that we are both rather late for breakfast.”
They hurried down to the main hall and Gellert was immediately hailed over by a cheerful Indus.
“So are you sneaking off to the library in the mornings then, because I waited for you this morning for ages before abandoning you in favour of food.” He asked as Gellert drew closer, and laughed at his offended face.

Gellert, Irina and Indus were soon joined by a neatly turned out Vinda, who had arrived separately from the others, having come from her east corridor room, unlike her North corridor companions, and greeted them slightly grumpily, only brightening up at the sight of a rumpled girl walking in with her shoes turned an ugly green. Gellert looked at her questioningly, and she nodded. Of course it was her work, after all the girl had been downright rude about Irina yesterday, and she wasn't one to let little things like that slide.
They had charms first, much to Gellert’s distaste, followed by Duelling, which was taught by a small, fierce looking witch with black hair that hung down her back in a plait reminiscent of a scorpion’s sting. The duelling circle was massive, taking up a whole corridor, with a small infirmary at one end, but the student’s collective excitement dimmed when they were told that it would be at least two months before they set even one toe in there. Some of the taller boys were already close to the Professor in hight, but what she lacked in stature she made up for in the powerful air of a battle mage, and she commanded the respect of the room like she was born for it. “Now,” she said sharply, “Who can tell me the three basic elements of a shield charm?” She looked around expectantly,and nodded at Gellert, who was alone in putting up his hand to answer. He stood up, and after a moment’s concentration, confidently replied with “Power, necessity and the incantation.”
“Very good, now can anyone tell me why this spell is more difficult for novice duellers?” She asked. Gellert was once again, the only one to raise his hand. She sighed and nodded to him again. “It requires the caster to harness their emotions, as the strongest shield charms are powered by intense fear for your life.” Professor Le’onide smiled at him, and soon moved on, her lesson never pausing other than to help a student who was lagging behind.
The class passed quickly, and soon they were on there way to their first herbology lesson. It wasn’t the most stimulating topic on its own, he could admit, but it had interesting applications in potions, and he couldn’t help but try to take the top place in every one of his classes. He had read over his textbook out of a sense of duty, and had fielded questions from the professor, but he had no passion for the subject, and he could only hope that he wasn't very obvious about it.
The day slipped into evening in a flurry of other classes, and chatting with Vinda, who proved to have some very interesting charms knowledge, and some of the more amoral charms she knew had encouraged him to open up about some of his wider reading. He hadn't opened up about Foule Magikes yet, but if he ever did, it would be her he told.

The classes were all just so fascinating, that was the problem, decided Gellert, when all of a sudden he had been at school for three weeks, in which he had been so distracted that he had hardly noticed time passing at all. He had only realised this at all because of a particularly shirty owl from his mother, asking why he hadn’t written to her yet. He had been a little confused, and had sat down at his desk to write back at once, before visiting Indus and asking him the date in a panic. It had been weeks, where was the time going? With so many new classes to explore and the library to keep him busy at other times, not to mention his ever increasing list of Questions-That-Needed-Answers, the time had flown.

He had finally completed the theory for his warding project, and just needed a few hours to put them up now. He got up from the desk and discarded the pen in his hands in favour of his wand. He knelt on the floor of his room, wand at the ready as he checked his runes for the last time. He started by pushing a circle from his wand, and projecting it onto the wall around his door, murmuring “Chalked, Chalked.” in English as he did so. His english was progressing, and he had found that any foreign language helped to focus his magic, so soon there was a dusty white circle with the centre point marked with an X. He heated the tip of his wand, and began searing runes into the walls around the door, following the white chalk circle. Protect, prevent, conceal, return, banish, barrier and be-gone, all seven repeated seven times. He had his basic shield and anchors, now for the complex part. Narrowing his eyes at the door, he cast “ekthesi se megáli grammí.” The greek rooted spell sounded unwieldy on his tongue, but it worked, and a solid reddish shield came into being, forming a circular blanket over the door. He smiled, and carefully moved his wand towards the centre. Once he was directly pointing at the X he made a quick diagonal motion with his wand. A line appeared bisecting the circle, and he repeated this another three times. He now had eight equal segments, and he began to weave. Each edge trailed red tendrils, and in between them he wove a sickly pale green light, the nausea spell. He finished this, and wiped the sweat from his brow before continuing, now adding the spider web of thin blue lines that made up an ever increasing fear charm, weaving them in and out of the segments of red in a radial pattern from the centre.

He slowly pulled his wand away, smiling at the completed ward, but as soon as he disconnected his wand completely the whole ward system began to ripple violently, before splitting apart with a crack like shattering glass and a flash of white light. He was thrown backwards violently, and the door was thrown open, curious faces peering out of their own rooms to see what the noises were about. He scowled violently at the interruption, and then forced himself to be calmer about this. He thought about what had damages his wards, and then it hit him, he had been a fool. Unbothered by the witnesses, he groaned, and made a note in the now slightly singed notebook that had been blown across the room. He needed a Stability rune of course. Quickly assessing his burned rune circle, he decided that he would replace banish with
stone-stable. It was a simple square with a double bar on the left side, and he quickly and comfortably redrew his other runes. Closing his door without giving any explanation beyond a quickly muttered “Sorry, sorry, no rune based stability.”, he recast ekthesi se megáli grammí, watching as his circle began to glow, the red light stronger now. He rewove his defences, and half an hour later was watching as the long exposure spell faded, taking the coloured magics with it. The only tangible change to the room now was some singing from the initial failure, and a slight thrumming of magic that told him his ward was still active. His books were all over the floor, knocked out of their somewhat organised piles into a mess, and he sighed deeply. Turning away for a moment, he walked over to the door and pulled it open, feeling his magic being recognised by the ward, and the odd crawling sensation of the passing through it and into the corridor.

He was met with a barrage of questions, called from doorways and the odd figure still standing around. He opened his mouth, and panicking slightly, took a deep breath and then began to speak. “I’m afraid I can only apologise for the crash, I was attempting a rune circle and forgot to add the stability rune in my spell chain. The problem has been fixed, and in my defence I can only stress that success has now been secured, and there will be no more explosions. “ He blinked, surprised at his strange eloquence, but sighed in relief and walked back into his sanctuary, determined to put it to rights. He felt a slight resistance when passing through his ward, but he got in with little trouble, and was faced with a problem. His books. It had never been a long term solution to have stacks of them everywhere, but this was beyond the pale, there was only so much chaos he could deal with, and even the piles had been beginning to annoy him. He looked critically at the wood panelled walls, and pushed his magic towards the east wall, opposite his bed. He concentrated hard, reminding the wood panels of what they used to be, how they used to grow. There was nothing, not even a murmur of change. He scowled, then remembered something from a book he had read. ‘Watered it with blood and tears.’ He remembered. Tears would be difficult, but blood he could manage. He walked over to his cauldron and dug around inside it for his sharp knife. Finding it, he squeezed his eyes closed and slashed across his palm, wincing and biting his lip to stop himself from crying out. He flicked the blood at the wall and after a moment the wood began to grow.
He carefully forced it outwards into a rough approximation of a bookshelf, smoothing the natural lumpy growth into a lacquered set of shelves with a forceful push of his magic. He tested the strength of the shelves by scrambling his way up them to sit on the top one, and reasoning that he couldn't weigh more than his books, decided that they were safe enough. He jumped down, careful to avoid landing on any of his books, and began to sort them. Fiction went to the top two shelves, floated up by his wand, followed by History and Alchemy on the one below. He then put his newspaper collection, notebooks and divination books together, with the last shelf being filled with his favourite topics of all; Arithmancy and Runes.

He heard a muffled thump and opened his door curious, to see a woozy and anxious looking Indus, drool and bile stringing from his mouth disgustingly. Ah, the wards appeared to work then, he thought to himself smugly, before muttering a quick “Evansco” to clean him up. He held onto his arm and pulled him forcefully into the room. Indus blinked in surprise at the shelves and runic circle. “Gellert, every time I come in here it gets weirder. You know what, I’m no even going to ask about the shelves. What was that weird thing on the door?” he said, shaking his head.
“That my good friend was a runic circle based ward. It’s going to be my final project, you know the one that’s due next week. I think I could add you to the wards, but I’d need a drop of blood.” Instead of the interested look Gellert had been expecting, Indus reared back, eyes wild. “Are you absolutely mad Gellert? Blood magic? In school?” he hissed. Gellert blinked in slight confusion, and then his expression flickered slightly. He smiled winningly at the other boy and saw him relax. “The look on your face Indus, you could almost say I had you fooled. Of course I’m not serious you idiot.” He said, trying to make himself sound offended, and Indus threw his head back in laughter. “Alright Gel, you had me fooled.” After some minuted of Gellert explaining his wards, he felt is stomach clench in hunger, and suggested that they try to find the kitchens.

They found the rooms in question in a room on the first flaw, and it was pure bedlam. The floor sloped at 35 degrees, the stoves were nearly all attached to the walls, not the floor, and the room its self was some kind of dodecahedral polygon. There were sprites flitting from stove to stove, cleaning with rags while their wings softly glowed, shining like beetle’s shells. Indus looked around in wonder. “That,” he said, voice faint in his bamboozlement, “Is decidedly not a house elf.” Gellert could only agree. This was quite possibly the strangest room he had ever been in. A sprite trailing floating ingredients spotted them and let out a high pitched humming, alerting all of the others, and the two boys were faced the focus of a hundred pairs of eyes that gave off an unearthly glow. Gellert froze, and then something his mother had always said to him floated through his head. Bow before the fey, and show no weakness. He stooped into a formal bow and pulled Indus down with him. The humming became markedly less hostile, and one small imp floated down to where they stood. A humming came, and words began to form in the air. “Who are you to know the sprite’s place of servitude?”
The creature looked at him suspiciously, and Gellert thought of how to reply, carefully considering his words before answering. “We sought information and adventure, and were swept here by the tides of Fortuna” There, that was enough of a non-answer to paint him in a good light. True to form, the creature split into a smile, revealing needle teeth and a forked tongue. More words formed in the air, this time a pale blue of melancholy.
“We are those who walk with the courts, the trees and the hills, but bound in stone there can be no movement, and the North Wind’s call must go unanswered.” Gellert was wondering how he could reply to that when Indus spoke up.
“Fey I too hail to the winds, the currents of olde, the dark of Winter and Water. I am Indus Black, Son of Starlight, and this is my brother in all but blood. The old pact between my line and your courts stands still, and we honour this in offering our aid.” Gellert looked on in shock as Indus seemed to crackle with his family’s magic, his grey eyes echoing with the memory of generations, and he stood on in awe as the imps seemed to shiver, their magic strengthened by the old invocation of their court’s promise. The two boy’s backed carefully out of the room and Gellert whirled around.
“How on earth did you even know to say that?” He demanded, and Indus looked solemnly at him.
“That is the first thing any Black Family child learns by rote, it is the greeting any of my bloodline must offer. My family, It’s dark. We’re allies of the winter court, and our Grey eyes come from the family magic. We are allied, and it always shows in the eyes. I actually thought you must be an Ally as well, with your odd winter eyes.” Gellert shook his head mutely, glad he had the good fortune of befriending Indus, but not quite sure how to explain his eyes. He decided on a simple truth. “I have a gift. I bleed to see the future.” He replied, looking up at the slightly taller boy, a rare vulnerable expression on his face, and Indus inhaled sharply. “You are gifted with Sight.” He smiled in wonder, and then grasped Gellert’s hand, linking their fingers. “I will keep your secrets if you keep mine.” he vowed, and Gellert’s reply rang with potent magic. “And I.”

The walk back to their rooms was mostly silent, as each boy was lost inside his own head, but upon reaching their corridor, Gellert pulled Indus into his room. “Come, I want to show you the roof.” They crawled out of the window and up onto the steeply gabled roof, the burning light of the dying sun turning their embrace into a silhouette, starkly dark against the skies of fire. House Martines swooped around the eves of the roof, their circling flight disrupted by the two children, as they made their pact. They would stay by each other’s side, and while they sat up there, surrounded by sky and sun and slates, Gellert was content.

At dinner the two girls could tell that something had changed, bringing the boys closer, but they seemed content to chat amiably about light subjects, throwing each other the odd glance of curiosity, and the following days were slightly strange, but soon the group dynamic was back to normal, Vinda and Gellert teasing the other two cheerfully, Irina moaning about their workload, and the irritating necessity of German, while putting in twice the effort of either Indus or Vinda and Indus himself providing strangely insightful obscure knowledge at unexpected moments. The four of them were an odd friendship group, but Gellert found that he was enjoying having friends, a novel experience for him. Their warding exams were coming up, and though he had been curiously questioned by both his friends and many intrigued classmates, Gellert had remained tight-lipped about his wards.

The day of the exam came as the end of term approached, and he tapped nervously along the spine of his Warding exercise book while their Professor inspected his ward. She murmured a revealing spell and walked closer to the door, only to retch and back off, before bursting into laughter and turning around to congratulate Gellert on his use of the nausea spell as a defence. She turned back to the ward in an attempt to remove the Nausea spell, but furrowed her brow in deep confusion. “Gellert, you haven’t approached this in the usual way, could you explain how the nausea ward is impervious to detection individually?” She asked, and he smiled.
“ekthesi se megáli grammí.” he intoned clearly, and she looked on in surprise as his patchwork ward faded into view.
“You’ve done something very strange boy, this is fascinating. Are the two, no, three, spells woven together?” She queried, and Gellert couldn’t suppress a smile. He explained his process and she looked at him with an eyebrow raised. Gellert grinned nervously, an expression that soon shifted into unparalleled glee when his Professor informed him that his way of warding was almost unheard of, and that it would be very interesting to look at later on. He receive the highest grade possible, and went to bed with a hugely satisfied smile. His ward’s were exemplary, and he couldn’t help the smug grin that crossed his face every time he remembered the look on Jeanette’s face, when his ward had scored higher than hers, despite her prowess in the subject. He was better than everyone else, no matter who their parents were. Blood didn’t matter, he had shown them all this today, it was only power that really mattered with magic.

That night Gellert woke, tears mingling with the blood pouring from his eye, and he shook with fear. Indus lay there whenever he closed his eyes, dead on some kind of altar, eyes dull. Reaching out with his magic, he felt the steady heartbeat of his friend in the room next door, and relaxed slightly. He wouldn’t let that happen, he swore it. Indus would always have him as a protector, and he would prevent that horrible scene with his dying breath. He shook himself and willed a clock to appear. It was eighteen minutes past three, but he couldn't face going back to sleep, or even trying. He was too rattled to really work, so in a desperate attempt to distract himself, he pulled on clothes and headed to the library, in search of a fantasy novel. When he got there he was quick to unlock the door, and wandering the shelves, pulled down a battered copy of one of his childhood favourites. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Smiling through a film of tears, he pocketed the book and returned to his room silently.
He turned to the tale he had loved the most as a child, ”The Tale Of The Three Brothers” and began to read. On the page of Death’s meeting, someone had taken a pencil and very faintly traced a strange shape into the book. It was smudged and looked like a kind of geometric eye. He couldn’t say what drew his interest about that strange circle within a triangle, bisected as it was by a line, but he felt intrinsically that it was important. Feeling for his notebook, he copied down the symbol and went back to the Tales, fear of falling back to sleep slowly fading away, soothed by the familiar story.

Chapter Text

Some several days later, Gellert looked out of the window at the driving snow, each flake dancing into visibility as it caught the candlelight spilling from his windows. It was dark, and the weather had taken a turn towards bitter earlier that month, the late October nights sending heavy soft blankets of white that transformed the mountainous terrain that surrounded the school. He smiled, absently tracing the odd symbol he had copied out into his notebook, and thinking. He couldn’t let anyone harm Indus, and it might well be up to him to prevent his horrific vision of the future. He needed to shift his focus towards battle magic, warding, spell creation. Expression hardened in determination, he span from the window and summoned the chest of books that he didn't want anyone seeing. Pulling out foule Magics, he readied his wand and breathed his first proper curse, wand directed at the cauldron in the corner. “Invorto.” He thought to himself clearly. Nothing happened, and his repetition of the spell caused no change. He scowled at the stubborn thing and breathed the curse aloud, his voice strangely hoarse, distorted by both desperation and the magic it was laced with. There was a horrific rending noise as the cauldron was pulled apart and reformed, a twisted lump of metal that bore no resemblance to a cauldron at all.

Gellert felt his eyes go wide. There was nothing like this, this was strange. Magic had always come easily to him, in many ways he felt utterly connected to it, as if magic its self roared through his veins, but this felt alien. The battle spells he was practicing felt alive, sentient in a way he had never felt from other forms of magic. The closest thing he could liken it to was how his blood spells felt, like the shelves and the blood imbued runes on his library trunk, but those seemed like an extension of himself, an imposition of his will over his surroundings. This was nothing like that, that was him, pouring himself out into the world and watching as he shaped and changed it, this was something else, an opening into some other place. He felt strange, slightly jittery and energised in a way that felt unnatural, but he couldn't help but break into a smile.
Indus would be safer now, Gellert would never let anyone hurt him and anything would be worth if for that end. He looked concernedly down at the thing that used to be his cauldron, and willed it to reform. It began to shake and he felt resistance, it was struggling, no, it was this foreign magic, rebelling against being unformed. He growled, narrowed his eyes and glared at the Cauldron. With another shudder, the metal was forced back into its proper shape, and Gellert smiled. He was still in control of this strange magic, despite the odd effect it had, and he went back to the book, searching for an explanation.

An hour later, he gave up. He had read Foule Magics from cover to cover, which had become very interesting, as there were diagrams of the skeletal and nervous systems, which were a reference for some dark curses, and then later a philosophical debate section on the definition of death, which had been fairly diverting, but which failed to give him the answers he sought. He grimaced, and looked at the time. It was late, almost midnight and Samhain drew closer by the second. He loved Samhain, it was the night where the legends switched, summer’s soft treachery replaced by the brutal honesty of winter. Gellert had always preferred the cold, then at least, he could remain a good temperature, and warming charms had always been second nature to him, whereas summer always presented problems. He thought somewhat wistfully of his mother’s stories of the wild hunt, the courts of the fey, of the old gods and their fickle favours, but then shook his head and turned to go to bed, deciding that tiredness must surely be the cause of his strange mood.
He drifted off, blissfully dream free, and woke to the weak light of morning, content.

Waking, he felt currents of magic fill his mouth with the coppery yellow flavour of autumnal power. October was dying, and Samhain was upon them at last. He dressed, shook off the strangely compulsive desire to try another dark spell, reasoning that he didn't have the time, and was soon headed down to breakfast. Today would be huge, it could be the answer to his questions and after all, he had been planning for Samhain’s ritual day for what seemed like eternity.

All three of his friends seemed oddly subdued, and when he asked why, Indus had looked at him slightly nervously, before replying that it was the first Samhain any of them had spent away from home. “But we are here, in the very heart of the magical world, surely the opportunity to observe the Samhain rituals here, where they would be far more powerful, is worth it?” He questioned, only to be met with a strange look from all three of his friends.
“Gellert, we miss our parents, surely you feel the same way?” ventured Irina, a furrow marring her brow. Gellert looked at them, bemused. “Of course I miss mother, but it’s not as if that is going to make her materialise, is it? And I can always write if I feel like it.” He replied, and Indus shook his head.
“I don’t get it Gellert, but you're you. I’m learning that there’s not much anyone understands when it comes to what inside your head, so I think I’ll just have some more toast, could you pass me that rack?” He said, smiling lopsidedly at him, and Gellert returned his grin easily, passing him a few slices of toast.

They were given the day off to attend various rituals, both ceremonial and magical, to honour the power of the day. Older students came down to dinner looking wild, exited, free. Magic roared in Gellert’s veins, he breathed it in and his blood sang, the raw power of the equinox sending strange tingles over his skin. As night fell, many of the smaller rooms were converted for the celebrations, and students gave the halls a warmth as they rushed around, preparing for the usual Yew and bone fire of Samhain. Gellert had a slightly different plan. He had searched high and low, and eventually found a Poplar tree, from which he had removed the branches he required. Now he took out his bundle of branches, lit the lantern he would need, and made his way back to his room. There was only one place he could go to do this ritual, and it was the roof. He shimmied out of his window, everything he would need placed carefully into a knapsack on his back.

He looked up at the stars, out in their glittering multitudes, and spent a moment merely staring in awe the skies above him. He soon returned his gaze to the roof, careful to step only on what he knew there to be solid slates under the snow. He waved his wand casually and a section of snow was pushed up and outwards, forming an ice wall around a bare patch of slates, and Gellert wondered if this would work, if he could willingly enter a vision.
He set the fire in a flint sone ring for strength and grounding, burning Poplar for future-sight, Rowan for dreams and destiny, and Clary Sage for the protection of the Moon. He sparked the carefully arranged pile with his raw magic, wand left to one side, and the dry branches caught, crackling and spitting sparks of blue and amber. He formed the calling runes out of the smoke hanging in the air, invoking the names of Mímir, knower of knowledge, Hypnos, patron of sleep, and Sesaht, a goddess of all learning.
The runes sparked as they were completed, power flowing from the flames, where little figures danced in them as if alive, to the smoke above. Gellert felt his eyes begin to close, but there was still one step. Carefully, he withdrew the ritual knife and made a cut on his hand. He let it drip into the fire, watched as it sent up little sparks of silver. He let his eyes close, body unconsciously curling around the fire as he did so, and felt a current pull him away.

What he was looking for, he did not know, but he felt a tug at his chest and followed the pull through a murky fog, awash with gently swirling eddies of silver and blue. He saw a figure ahead of him wearing a black coat, hair starkly blond against the fog, and watched it turn towards him, gaping. He was seeing himself, his own eyes starring back at him in wonder, and he smiled. The man he would become looked at him warmly and said one sentence, before fading away into echoes leaving only the unfamiliar flavour of sulphur on his tongue. “We change the world, little one, and time will not let anyone forget us.” Then even the echoes were gone, and he was left wandering the odd plane of silver aimlessly.
He turned, hearing laughter on the very edge of his senses, and ran. He followed the sound for what seemed like aeons in the mists, and at last came to the next figure. A boy, his age or perhaps a little older. Blue eyes crinkled in laughter, and before him the boy began to age, becoming a youth, then a man and finally lapsing into old age, whispering Gellert’s name as he faded away. Their hands had been linked, though how, he knew not, and Gellert felt an immense sadness wash over him as the man crumbled to smoke between his fingers. He wandered further, seeing nothing for a time, but then he spotted it. The symbol again. The black triangle, bold and solid in this world of mist and shadows, became a door which opened, plunging him into a world of paper.
The symbol formed a landscape, a history, the trees bore it as a fruit and it was echoed in the clouds. He gazed out at the strange world of ink and blood, red and black twirling together as he saw The wand again. Lumped, grainy to the touch, it felt startlingly real in his hands, when nothing else here had. It swirled with power, pulsing a dull red, the colour leaking from it like a blot of red ink on parchment. He felt it thrumming under his skin, and couldn’t help but cry out as the world he had entered became faded, mere silvery lines, before he became aware of his shivering form on the roof.

He grabbed his wand with blue tinged fingers and willed himself warm. He watched in morbid fascination as the blue and grey faded from his skin, and the film of frost melted from his hair before evaporating completely. He looked around, and saw the stars, impassive to the mortal world below them, glittering in their cold beauty, and dried his eyes, startled for a moment that his fingers did not come back from his face caked in blood. The strength of the Samhain ritual, and of the day itself seemed to have shouldered the burden of his pains, and he grinned silently in the darkness. He would, he thought, make this an annual tradition.

He moved stiff legs and shoved his way down onto the roof below, scowling as he was forced to climb up into his room trailing snow and sodden through. At least he was still warm, he consoled himself, pulling off his sodden clothes and struggling into clothes he had brought from home. He pulled on his black tunic, his favourite with double breasted brass buttons, and a soft blue turtleneck jumper, seeking comfort from the unearthly melancholy that had gripped him on the roof, when he had returned to himself and stubbornly clung to him even now. He shook himself, and was just about to open a book, after directing a stream of warmth at his clothes on the floor to dry them off, when Indus burst into his room.
“Where have you been, you went missing for a whole day.” he gasped, before calling Irina, which attracted many other glances.
Soon Gellert was faced with a group of anxious and confused Professors, alongside his friends and many of his classmates, and he fought hard to keep an expression of panic off his face. He would say nothing more than necessary, and everything would be fine. He stuck to his simplistic story, that his ritual had taken much more power than he thought, and he had been ill, and soon the crowds around him reduced in number until he was left alone with his four closest friends. “That was decidedly not the truth.” said Indus flatly, “Tell us where you really were.”
Gellert smiled slightly, and looked toward Irina and Vinda. “The first thing you need to know is that I am a Seer.” He said, and then smiled as they gasped, not missing how Vinda’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully at him and Indus, and more specifically his strange lack of surprise. “I did a ritual that brought on a vision, and I had no idea that I was gone for so long.” He said, voice measured, not liking to reveal how nervous he was about the girl’s reactions. In some parts of the world, Russia included, truly prophetic Divination was seen as a dark art, but Irina smiled at him softly and he knew that their friendship would survive this. The four of them soon began telling each other stories of other crazy Samhain days. Indus had by far the most wild stories, as various family members of his were involved in every black art from Necromancy to Voodoo, all of which became more powerful with Winter's cycle, and Irina had mainly shared storied of her older cousin, who liked to sneak out and transfigure changeling children to trick muggles. Soon the four of them were cackling madly at the thought of stealing the Charms Professor and creating a changeling to teach them instead. As Vinda had snidely pointed out in between fits of laughter, there could be a massive improvement in lesson quality, and they'd be doing everyone a favour.

The four friends only grew closer after Gellert’s ritual, and the year slipped towards Yule in a flurry of snowstorms and secrets. Classes remained easy, and Gellert tried desperately to find something diverting to research. He was bored, there was no one else doing as well as him, and he was constantly held back in class because others could not grasp what, for him at least, was as easy as breathing. The holidays couldn’t come fast enough, and his only saving grace was that his two of his three friends were each trying to teach him another language. He often kept himself occupied by translating his notes into Russian for Irina, or into Hungarian for his own amusement, and to keep in practice with the languages his mother had taught him oh so long ago. He practiced his growing fluency in French with Vinda, mainly when he wanted to talk to her about something he wanted to be kept private, forced into learning at a fast pace to keep up with her. By late November, he only got seriously lost when Vinda got frustrated and her speech devolved into rapid-fire french cursing.
Indus had taken to lending him English books, and Gellert suspected that his Yule present would be something in English too, which he was thankful for. His attempts to learn languages had got him some strange looks, but he had merely smiled in response, and people seemed to assume he spent his time learning foreign insults to make his friends laugh.

The four of them were all going home for Yule, and Gellert had thought long and hard about what he was going to get each friend once he got home, and could buy them their gifts. He had flooed his presents to the others, for fear of a post owl dying in the storms, and was eagerly watching the fireplace for letters from each of them almost daily.
He had tried to make each of them personal to show that he had paid attention to them, knowing that he could seem distant at times. He had got Indus a fountain pen, as the other boy had been quietly envious of his for a while, monogrammed with the phrase “Property of Indus Black,” on one side and “Write well, from G.G” on the other. To Vinda he had gifted a box set of books titled “The Darker Side Of Grey.” With every cover a shade darker, and containing interesting battle magic and warding techniques of varying difficulties. Irina had been more difficult to buy for, as she was a little closed off about most of her personal life, but he had ended up deciding on a maroon scarf pattered with glittering gold and silver alchemical symbols which he had put a permanent warming charm on, and a book in Russian on basic occlumency.

The holidays came, and he woke on the winter solstice early. He rushed into his mothers room and shook her awake. “Presents!” he exclaimed, and dragged her downstairs, yelling for his uncle to wake up too as they passed his room. They passed by the guest room, where his great aunt was staying, an old witch who spoke in halting German, after spending decades speaking only English with her husband and his family, as well as writing some well renowned history books in English, as her mother tongue faded from her memory.
She had broken into a wide grin when he had told her that he was learning English, and was helping him with Grammar, which he still struggled with, as well as written English. Rushing into her room on the way to the Yule tree, he called her down to join the rest of their family. Gellert finally managed to run excitedly over to the tree, ensconced as it was in glittering orbs of light in every possible colour. Hunting underneath the tree, he grinned in excitement, pulling out all the presents and checking each label to see which ones belonged to him. The snow that dusted each present evaporated into nothing as soon as they were pulled out from under the enchantment on the tree, and he eagerly shoved his present to his mother into her hands. He had worked hard to create the onyx statue of a crowned figure in a hazelnut chariot pulled by “little atomies”, and couldn’t wait for her to see it. She smiled when she saw it, slightly confused, before seeing the book beneath. It was a German copy of Romeo & Juliet, and he had worked at the calligraphic art and translation for months. She flung her arms around him and then carefully placed the little statue to one side, to make sure that it wasn't broken.
He soon turned towards his own presents, and had soon opened a stack of interesting books to peruse later, as well as a pair of very fine silver-blue dragonhide gloves from Irina, and a dreamcatcher from Vinda. It was made of silver, with black stones and feathers woven in, a not so subtle nod to his Seer Sight, and he ran up to his room to put it in place above his bed. The books were mainly on subjects he was known to like, however there were three unexpected ones from his English Great-Aunt, Bathilda Bagshot, who had given him a book on English grammar, and two history books, one of which she had written herself. His Uncle had also given him a book on the interesting subject of politics and international relations. It looked useful, if a little dry, and Indus had given him an English book, with the attached note;
“The main character in this is just as mad as you, and just as clever.”, with love, Indus Black.

Hours later, he was happily engrossed in the book he had received from Indus. He was struggling a little, as it was an English copy, but the words were beautiful. Penned by a muggle, they seemed to shine with their own kind of magic; “Faustus” By Christopher Marlow was one of the most interesting things he had ever read, and his head span with ideas. Could he create gold from nothing? Summon a demon? Quantify the soul? Learn the secrets of the universe? The possibilities were dizzying in their scope, and he would do it all. He was a little offended that Indus had likened him to Faustus, but at the same time he was quite flattered, after all the man did become powerful through his magic and intelligence alone. He was immersed in Act II, when he started, his mother’s voice calling him in to eat Yule dinner, and to help light the Yule log of Birch, for rebirth and the new year, to which he sneakily added oak ash, with the hope that this year would bring power for everyone he cared for. The four of them sat in a half-circle around the fire, and they spoke of many things, Bathilda’s German coming back better now, rusty from decades of disuse, but soft and easy to listen to. Lined face gently glowing in the warm firelight, she told the best stories. Anything from her newest book to the many strange stories of the family that lived next door to her sounded wild and interesting, her lilting and slightly broken German lending her voice a powerful cadence.

Soon the holidays drew to a close, and Gellert waved away Bathilda at the international Floo port with his mother and uncle, before returning home, where Gellert was soon packing away his new books into his trunk, and preparing to go back to school. He double checked that he had everything he needed, and walked onto the ship, bumping into Indus as he walked down the long corridor looking for an empty cabin. The two of them found a cabin with only one person in it, and were soon joined by Vinda and Irina.
Gellert mentioned in passing to Indus that his Great Aunt had come to Germany for Yule, and Indus’ jaw dropped upon hearing her name. “You never told me you were related to Bathilda Bagshot, she’s said to be the greater current English Magical Historian you know,” Gellert raised an eyebrow, surprised, and Indus shook his head. “Well she is, and I’m surprised you’ve not read anything of hers.” he replied, only to find Gellert laughing in response.
“Of course I’ve read her stuff, I got a book of hers for Yule.” he said, and pulled out his copy of The Decline Of Pagan Magic, grinning. Indus levelled a glare at him.
“You do realise Gellert, that that book isn’t even available to the public yet?” he asked shortly, and then shook his head ruefully. “Only you, Gel, could ever accidentally find a famous relative that you don’t know about, and receive a book that doesn't exist yet for Yule.” Gellert threw his head back in laughter, and felt a sense of belonging that he had never felt anywhere. This is what it’s like, he thought to himself in that moment, to have real friends.

Soon they were exchanging thanks for gifts, and discussing their hopes for the next term while the boat rose through murky waters to the choppy surface of Lake Durm. The final Exams of the year loomed, a dark blot on an otherwise blemish-free term, but they seemed distant, and the four friends were all eager to be back. They were careful to wake the girl who was unobtrusively sleeping while sharing their cabin, as Vinda muttered that her name was Ladislav, a dorm-mate, and tumbled out of the cabin into the walkway, laughing. Indus turned to him, smiling, and Gellert sighed, tired out by the long journey, but happy, unconsciously drawing closer to Indus and inserting himself into the centre of the conversation to avoid the weary feeling that followed him, the product of his many sleepless nights over the holiday.

Sleep refused to find Gellert again that night. He starred up at the ceiling, marking the passing hours by the shifting rays of moonlight, their slanting fingers tracking the rotation of the earth as dawn crept irreversibly closer. At what he estimated to be around three in the morning, the moonlight faded, the clarity of hours passing softened to a blur as the moon was obscured by a think cloud. The darkness took on a soft, blurred edge, as is daring him to fall asleep, but he sighed, knowing that tonight he would not find rest, and summoned his Yule present, the book on politics.
It was a book less about government, he soon found, than about human nature. He distractedly made a note on scrap paper about structuring a speech, and how to use pathos; playing on a person’s feelings to sway their opinions. He couldn’t help but wonder, what the connection was between pathos and the english descriptor for muggles Indus was so fond of; pathetic. He chuckled to himself, and wrote a note in the margins of his book suggesting the connection.
With his brain active once more, on the hunt for more word play, he thought distractedly about his attempts to learn English from Indus. English was an odd language, and learning it was fiendishly difficult. German was etymologically straightforward, with the root language of old Germanic, but English was part Germanic, part French and part Latin. They had a smattering of old Nordic words too, and despite being an originally Celtic land, very few Celtic words made up modern English, which had a nasty habit of stealing words from its recent colonies to further confuse anyone who tried to learn it. Gellert found himself eternally frustrated by the intricacies of English, and no sooner had he learned a rule than he was told fifty exceptions to it, which had on several occasions driven him nearly to violence.
Despite this, Gellert was learning at a fast pace, picking up the convoluted language with determination, and in his visions, should they take place in England again, he was fairly confidant that he could understand at least some of what went on. He returned to the book, and time seemed to fly by, when before it had seeped, sticking to him like treacle, cloying and viscous in its grip.
He soon found himself startled to hear noises in the other rooms; if the other students were beginning to move around it was fairly late. He hastily flung himself out of bed, threw on his uniform quickly and was shoving his books into his bag not three minutes later.

He arrived, breathless, to the meal hall, and sat down next to Vinda, who was talking animatedly to Irina, helping himself to toast and a hearty helping of cold cuts, as well as a fresh apple and a warming cup of coffee. He soon joined the conversation, which was a lively debate about the merits of hair curling charms versus transfiguring it into shape. He was reluctant to be caught caring about something so girlish, but also unwilling to see this debate doomed, because Irina was right, charms were far superior for a controlled wave. Indus joined them as the bell rang, and they made their way to Arithmancy.

The first week went on as usual, but on the Wednesday of the following one he was summoned to Professor Mansuro’s office. “You are here because I wanted to give my favourite Mathemagician a proper Yule present before the holidays, but it arrived late.” said the man, and he handed Gellert a weighty tome titled “The Theory of of Euler’s Work and its Practical applications in Arithmancy.” Gellert smiled, and thanked him, eyes sparkling with interest. The famous man had been a Mage, and had unlike most, revealed his work to the Wizarding world as Arithmancy and the muggle world as theoretical mathematics. Gellert had actually discovered the man during his holidays in a muggle print shop, where he had happened to se the name Euler. His mother often insisted that the two of them use the muggle world for some things, as she thought it an important skill to be able to blend in with them when necessary. Gellert disagreed, but with the promise of Muggle books he acquiesced grumpily. He was happy in many ways, to get back to school, and he grinned as he carefully placed the heavy book into his bag, before thanking his professor once more and leaving.

In Charms he ignored both the professor and his friends, completely absorbed by how Euler had done the amazing feat of mathematical alchemy required to produce one of the most beautiful of all mathematical equations, as well as solving the Seven Bridges Problem. It was undeniably beautiful, simplistic and obvious when one thought about it the right way, and yet no one had until one determined Arithmancer, who then went on to revolutionise shield charms with the same principle. He was deep in concentration, trying to visualise the arithmantic chain that someone would need to break the Euler Shield, when someone snapped his new book shut, catching the edges of his fingers as they did so. He glared up at his assailant, curse already forming in his mind, when he was met with the eyes of his Charms professor. He forced his grip on his wand to loosen into a casual hold, and forced his face to return to an expression of bland mild interest. He apologised, smiling internally at how convincing he sounded, and the lesson proceed with no further incident. How dare that ridiculous professor tear him away from what was quite possibly his most diverting Yule gift? He simmered with rage, spitefully completed the lesson in the shortest amount of time he could and spent the remainder of the lesson smiling smugly at his Professor’s reluctant praise of his spell casting.

It was later that week when he was walking quietly down to the library that he heard two voices raised in anger, clearly audible despite the thick wall between Gellert and the staff room. “Please, I’m not asking much, just don’t teach him advanced battle magic here.” said one harshly.
“That boy is a prodigy, there’s no way I’m going to hold him back Albert,” replied the other. Gellert’s eyes narrowed as he recognised both voices, His professors for Charms and Duelling respectively.
“You didn’t see his face, it was inhuman I tell you,” Said the other, before their voices faded to harsh but unintelligible whispers. Gellert scowled, of course it was that ridiculous teacher again. What he had ever done to him was a mystery, but he wasn't going to allow him to colour his stellar reputation with the other members of staff. He would be even more brilliant than usual in Duelling tomorrow, he decided smugly, especially as it was their first proper practical Duelling lesson and he would be facing an opponent in the ring for real. He continued towards the library, and was greeted by the smiling Librarian. He returned his book, browsed a little and then left, spinning on his heel he marched back to his room, residual anger still lending his movements unnecessary force.

The next day, Gellert woke exited from a sleep less disturbed than usual, and donned his uniform cheerfully. The morning seemed to drag on indeterminably, but he wasn’t alone in his excitement about a real duel, and there was plenty of lively discussion about who would be duelling whom, and who would emerge victorious. Finally the bell rang, signalling the start of Duelling, and Gellert raced to the Duelling floor, eager to begin. It seemed like many of his fellow students had had the same idea, because the corridor by the duelling ring was packed with other first years.
Their professor poked her head around the door and looked at them in amusement. “Well come on in then, lets get going.” She said, and disappeared back into the classroom. Gellert grinned, and pushed his way to the front of the group as they rushed forwards. Soon they were paired off, with a warning that there would be no cheating and no hexes once each round was over, and Gellert was facing a rather stuck up girl that had made several rude remarks about his heritage on at least three separate occasions. He smiled, not feeling too guilty about what he was planning. At the given signal, they bowed, and Gellert began to smile. The girl looked at him shrewdly, expecting him to yell out a hex she knew the counter to, but he simply stood there. Gellert grinned as she began to turn blue, drawing the attention of many others in the class. suddenly he flicked his wand up to a guard and thought the incantation for Tantallegra, at which she was knocked off her feet, laughing hysterically. He sent an equally silent blasting curse at her, but purposely missed, hitting the floor to her left, and finished the round with a quick Expelliarmus. He smiled, and bowed to the class, most of whom had stopped duelling themselves to watch his duel, once everyone realised how good he was. He heard someone begin to clap, and soon found himself awkwardly standing there while the class applauded him, and The Professor smiled at him, before directing the others back to their own work. She walked over to him and smiled brightly, her serious face transformed by an impish grin. “That was some incredible spellwork Gellert, I think you surpassed even my expectations. And you did it all silently, I have to say I’m astounded,” She said enthusiastically. “I knew of your silent casting, but I thought that under pressure like that you’d say your spells.”
“Pressure, ma’am?” he asked, and she laughed loudly. He smiled and she walked away. He looked down at Amara, his opponent, and held her wand out to he. She reached for it, and he pulled it quickly out of reach, to a growl of frustration from the stuck up girl. “Now Amara, you wouldn't be planning to curse me while my back is turned, would you?” He enquired, smirking, and she scowled up at him, before snatching her wand off him and stalking off, still a deep royal blue colour, but otherwise fine. He stood for a minute, unsure what to do next, when a shriek of rage came from the infirmary.
“Grindelwald!” came the angry voice. He laughed, suspecting that the had found out that he hadn't used a colour change charm, but raw magic, to turn her blue. He walked over to the other room, and couldn't help but laugh when he saw Amara, her face purple with rage under the blue. He waved his wand lazily at her, and didn’t miss the small flinch she tried to hide, and watched regretfully as her skin returned to its original shade. The healer looked grateful, but Amara looked more angry, if anything, and Gellert’s grin widened, and he decided he enjoyed duelling class immensely. It did his classmates good to be reminded just how much better at magic he was than them he was every now and again.

The class ended, and he walked to warding with a smile playing on his lips and a warm feeling in his chest, flanked by his three friends and feeling like he could conquer the world.

Chapter Text

Months flew by after that first duel in a landslide of Arithmancy books and late nights, and Gellert woke to bloodstained pillows on several separate occasions, as January melted into June.
The first was a vision of a man in a green uniform with blood pouring form red hands, with a red and black flag swirling behind him, shouting orders, another was a ring, burnished and with a black stone set within, clutched in filthy hands with curling nails.
The third vision was a small figure in black robes trimmed in maroon, hunched over a notebook with a pile of reference books beside him. He had woken from that with a feeling of warmth, quite unable to decide if his Sight was a gift or a curse. He had tried to see the titles of the books, and saw that they were on transfiguration, but had only made out a few words before the vision had faded. He was frustrated in the extreme, but could not help but feel a little smug. He had been right about the English, and at least he knew to look out for someone involved in transfiguration in the future.
The fourth vision had been a dimly lit twisting street, cobblestoned and glistening with amber light pouring from the streetlights that was reflected in every pool of rainwater. Faint strains of music had curled in the damp air, and a rat scurried across the gutters above him, before fading along with the rest of the vision.

Beltane had come and gone, and Gellert and his three friends had done a joint ritual for growth and friendship. Indus had found the ritual, and Irina ended up being the one to orchestrate it, as they vowed to help each other, and offer up the their promises to the spring magics. The four of them had each become a little more powerful, with green and cream sparks dancing between any two when they touched for a week after the ritual. They had each made a promise, bound in the light spring rain of Beltane’s morning light, a promise of friendship and courage, written with water on sycamore leaves, freshly green and thrown to the wind as the four of them stood on the roof, one at each corner of the building. His other compass points. The four of them were closely knit, and he had felt the soft magic of the month weaving them even more tightly together than they had been before. Gellert was startled to realise quite how much he depended on the three of them when Irina had contracted a case of spattergroit and had to go home for weeks, and he had missed her terribly. He didn’t quite know why, as she was not especially remarkable, and he had never really missed his mother when parted from her, despite her inarguably larger influence on his life. He was happy to have her back, and had, of course, translated class notes of the highest quality for her, despite her growing abilities in German.

In April, when he had done the ritual and his magic was humming with power, he had a fifth vision. He had gone to bed restless, but when sleep claimed him he had been whisked away. He found himself in a Graveyard, this was perhaps the worst vision of all of them. The graves all had a family crest, of three ravens and a skull, at rest in a pooling banner that read “Toujours Pur” He had gulped at that, it was Indus’s family crest, but surely it must be some relation of his. He had been pulled to a fresh grave, in that dreamlike state where he was aware but unable to control his own actions, and his silver eye glinted in the half light of the moon that hung full over the graves. He looked down, and sank to his knees in horror. He tried to pull his eyes away from the terrible inscription, but found he could not. It read: “Indus Black, of the ancient and most noble house of black, 1882 to 1897.” The words trickled down his spine like sweat, curled within him and turned his steps to lead. They were austere, painting no picture of the Vibrant Indus, who lived for laughter and had a soul too bright to directly look at. They were set in stone, and the very air around him seemed to shiver with the terrible certainty that those words carried. When his vision became blurred, painted and faded to silver lines, those words hung, lingering in his view for longer still before they too faded, and he woke with tears mingling with the blood running down his face.

He had been haunted by the thought of it for weeks afterwards. Vinda had noticed something was wrong, and he felt both thankful and resentful of that fact. She had seen through his mask of cheer, which meant he had failed; an emotion he was neither familiar with nor fond of, but he was also deeply glad that he had received her support. Of his three friends, Vinda was by far the most observant. He had drifted through his classes ghostlike and exhausted, afraid to close his eyes for fear of a returning vision, but to the wider world he tried to appear as his usual self, so as not to invite personal questions. One evening in early May he had flung open his window and listened to the rush of spring rains. Magic crackled in the air, and the wet stones of the castle let out the aroma of post-rain stone. He had gazed up at the dark sky, stars obscured by a thick cloud that promised more rain for the morning, and breathed in deeply. The days were finally warming up, but the nights were still still held hostage by the bitter winds of winter, and Gellert shivered a little, but he didn’t even think to close the window, as it felt like he was breathing easily for the first time in months. He was tired of pretending that nothing was wrong, it was exhausting and sometimes he almost reached out to Indus about his visions, before deciding against it once more. He had no one he could turn to, when he cared so much about his three friends that he couldn’t bear to burden them with his worries. How could he tell his friends that he saw one of their number dead, and not even as an adult. In 1897 they would be in their fifth year, and he couldn’t bear to tell any of them that Indus might die even before their school days were over. Fifteen was too young, he would barely have time to even live before his death. It wasn’t fair, he thought to himself, and so he resolved to hide his knowledge from them, but with every little lie that he was well, he felt himself grow more tired. He sat in the window looking at the starless sky, and couldn’t help but feel that the void above him was appropriate for his mood. He smiled bitterly, but resolved to try and put the vision behind him. He wouldn’t let it happen, He couldn’t. He would just have to learn more and do more, so that when death came calling for Indus he could defend his friend. He turned from the window with a look of absolute determination on his face. He pulled down his box of hidden books, and selected one on battle magic.

The year was passing by at a tremendous pace as he continued to breeze through his classes with faint amusement, and before anyone had really thought about it, end of year exams were upon them. Gellert found that he had suddenly become somewhat popular, as everyone knew how good he was in regards to academia, and he had laughingly given them his help (how much he gave, however, was entirely dependant on the person he was talking to and the mood he was in when they asked him.) He was unconcerned about his own exams, as so far they were going as well as he had expected them to. (He would eat his cauldron if he hadn't got 100% on that arithmancy paper). He had, instead of the intense revision his friends were involved in, immersed himself in the hunt for the meaning of The Symbol, and how it connected to the wand from his other visions.
He had scoured the library, and eventually found a brief reference to it as “The Hallows.” in a book on Magical legends, after which, his research got somewhat further, as there were two books on them in the library. One was a history of the Elder Wand, which had been entertaining and deeply morbid, and the other was an essay collection arguing either for or against their existence. Gellert decided that based on the history book, and his own visions, he believed in the existence of The Hallows. He had devoured the two books and almost filled his notebook with important details from them, but he found that there were still many questions left unanswered. The notebook had been slowly filling with questions, as it was fairly thin, merely a pad of parchment in a transfigured binding, onto which he had drawn the symbol of The Hallows, and while some of his questions could now be answered, many more had been added. It seemed that for every answer he found about the mysterious symbol, three more questions popped into existence. As well as generating more questions, the history book had given him so many different things to research that he could hardly catch up with himself. He had started a notebook on interesting bits of history, and so far it was filling with military tactics and mad rulers, as well as spells and magical discoveries. He might try to find the hallows, he thought idly one evening, while looking over his Transfiguration notes, before dismissing the idea as impossible, and discarding his notes in favour of a book on the history of Walachia, and the necromancer queen Ladislav who ruled it with an iron fist in the sixteenth century. He couldn’t help but be drawn in by the plots and magic she employed to win her crown, and then to keep it. She was one of the most vicious rulers of all time, and had been in possession of the elder wand, as well as a mind highly attentive to military tactics. She used fear as a weapon, and when she faced the ottoman empire she won against a foe many times her strength through the sheer lengths she would go to to assure victory. He had to say, he admired her.

He also had to pick his options for next year, since he would be studying five new subjects. Though he was sure he could have handled the workload this year, Durmstrang assumed that first years were magically incapable of the more challenging subjects offered, and due to this, a wider selection of magical studies was offered in their second year. He was quite insulted that he had been deemed incapable, but he could admit that some of his classmates were rather slow. He often joked with Indus that Nicolái would have to be considered as a separate species if he were any less intelligent. He had done well in his end of year tests, he was certain, and so he found himself able to choose any subject, as he would be sure to be allowed his first choice of subjects. His only regret was that he couldn’t drop charms, as his teacher was still aggravating to the highest degree, and he could easily have self studied it at a faster and at more interesting level if he were allowed to leave the class.
He had decided to take Alchemy, Ritual Magic, History, Healing, and Astronomy for his choices, as well as continuing with the subjects he already did. He would also, though he hadn’t told anyone yet, be self studying for the Divination qualification, which he hoped to take in the next academic year, as he knew he had the ability. After all, he was a genuine Seer, and was therefore capable of actually passing the test. He had done some research into how Divination would be assessed, and had been bewildered by how much it changed in different countries. In France students of the art were required to project a vision, and analyse it accurately, whereas in Durmstrang students would be assessed in vision analysis, but also tested by a true Seer to ascertain their power levels. He had been quite incensed to learn that at Hogwarts, the English Magical school, it was thought of as an easy subject, and anyone could take it and pass with a good grade. This, he thought to himself, was an outrage, and he would have to change it at some point in the future, or at least raise concerns about it on the wider continent, perhaps Hogwarts would bow to international pressure on the subject. He shook his head in wonder at them, the fools. Divination was a respectable art, and they had no business mocking it this way, he thought to himself, irritated.

He had focused well on all of his exams, and was confident that he had done exceptionally. It was late July, and he was standing in his room, not for the first time wondering which teacher to go to about taking the Divination GZP early. after some deliberation, he decided to go to Professor Mansuro, and turned on his heel to do just that.
The evening after the final exam was saturated with a kind of festival like joy, as everyone breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief, and he passed many of the older years partying on his way to the Arithmancer’s office. He knocked softly, and walked in, momentarily distracted by the book he had spotted on the desk, which he chatted about for a few minutes happily, before returning to the object of his visit. “Sir,” he began abruptly, “How would I go about applying to take the Divination GZP?” he said, coming straight to the point.
The professor blinked at him for a few moments, before braking into a big smile and loudly exclaiming his surprise. “You never fail to surprise me with some new ability Gellert.” He said, shaking his head, and laughing in wonder.
Once the usually dignified Professor had calmed down sufficiently, he began to explain the procedure for applying for exams early. Gellert resisted a yawn, why exam boards had to be so overcomplicated he could never fathom, but agreed to applying for the exam next year.
“While we are on the topic,” added the professor when he made to leave, “I think you should take the Arithmancy early, perhaps the year after next if you continue to learn at the pace you have this year. That would put you at an advantage, and you could start studying for your BAZ in arithmancy. It only gets more interesting as you get further into it, I promise.” Gellert grinned and agreed, giving the professor his most charming smile as he bowed out of the office, honeyed words of gratitude once more dripping off his tongue as he left. He didn’t quite know how he felt about a professor knowing that he had The Sight, it felt like an invasion of his privacy, but he needed someone to know, and as it had to be a professor, he was glad that he had such a good professor to go to about it. He wanted to be sure either way if he was a powerful Seer, because his visions were strong, but as to their accuracy he could only guess.

Gellert decided that there was no time like the present for research, and was soon ensconced within the small divination section of the library on the floor below. Once he had found a few likely looking tomes, he selected one and settled in for a good read, when a thought struck him. How could he finish the books he had picked before term ended? His fingers itched to just take them, to keep them for the summer, as it wouldn't be the first time a book had ended up belonging to him that way, but he was cautious. He did not want to loose the Librarian’s trust, and he feared that he would never be forgiven if caught. In the end, he decided to play it safe and ask, as he had no desire to see his bridges burned when the library was such a place of comfort to him. He loved that room most in all the castle, and wouldn't jeopardise his free reign within for all the world, let alone just two books. Groaning at the prospect of having to ask the Librarian, he walked up to the desk at the entrance, and squared his shoulders, ready for an argument.

He walked away from the library, defeated. A slight frown marred his face and he sped up empty handed, as there had been no arguing with the librarian; he could not, under any circumstances, remove any books for the duration of the summer. The Librarian had, despite his benign tweed robes, looked positively threatening, and Gellert was both a little in awe, and very glad he had asked permission before trying to steal the books. He had regretfully copied down the titles of all that he thought looked promising, and was hoping to visit the Munich Magical Library during the summer to borrow most of them, but he had a sneaking suspicion that not all of them would be there, after all, Durmstrang was one of the academic centres of the western magical world. He sighed and thought once more of stealing just a few of them, but he had weighed the pros and conns, and could not refute his own logic; the risk far outweighed the potential gain, besides, he had a healthy respect for the library (And not a small amount of fear of the librarian).

He was soon two floors up, and was about to return to his room when he changed his mind and headed towards the East corridor in search of Vinda, because he was fairly sure she’d be climbing the walls with boredom after the exams had finished, as there wasn't much point to the lessons at this point in the year. He knocked softly on her door, and almost flinched back at the fierce glare she met him with, before she brightened considerably when she saw that it was him. He grinned in return and stepped into her room. It was surprising really, how little time the four of them spend in here, he thought to himself as he sat down, given that they spent so much time together. The room was almost new to him, he had been in it so little, and he looked around, curious to see how much it had changed since February, when he had last seen it. There was a white leather satchel hanging on the door, and a long coat he hadn’t seen, as well as a shelf of books he had never even heard of, all of which were french. He squinted in concentration and identified some of them as course textbooks, perhaps for Beauxbatons, but the vast majority were unknown to him. Vinda was reclined in an armchair that certainly had not come with the room, plush forest green velvet covering deep cushions that half looked like they would swallow her, and she swung one leg back and forth, bored. Gellert was wondering how he could create some excitement when he remembered. Those boys, among many, who had been so rude and jealous in those first few weeks, back before he had established quite how much better that those around him he truly was. Yes, he thought, they would do nicely as an end of term distraction. “Say V,” he began, a smirk flavouring his words with mischief, “Are you up for a little revenge this evening.” She looked up sharply and smiled, the edge of it as cutting as a ritual knife.
“What did you have in mind Gel.” she asked, and Gellert let a crafty expression make its way onto his face. The expression was mirrored by Vinda, and their eyes lit up with the same mischievous glee.

It was a complicated feat of charms, warding and potions combined. Vinda was, Gellert had been forced to admit, more naturally talented at potions than he, so she had both brewed and administered the potion to their unfortunate victims. It was the marker, and was locked into the trip-wards Gellert had set up, which would in turn start the spell chains, each of which was comprised of four spells of humiliation. They had considered colour change charms, but discarded them in favour of a charm that made the recipient feel cold all the time, and a charm for exhaustion, as those two were much more compatible arithmantically. The other two charms were a tongue tying touch, which they had modified so that it only came into effect when the boys raised their hands in class, and a charm for toothache, which wove together nicely as well. All in all, it was a revenge worthy of the two greatest minds in the school, and Gellert felt an immense wave of satisfaction whenever he saw the effects of their little prank come into their own. Vinda was, if possible, more vindictively pleased, and had began to write out other similar ideas in a notebook that Gellert had bought her for her birthday some weeks earlier, she avoided it being read by anyone who might repot them by simply writing out her plans French. Gellert had taken to writing small notes in the margins from time to time, but for the most part, Gellert left her to her plotting in peace. Indus and Irina had suspected the two of them were behind it, but like all the other students, their friends had no evidence, and as the old proverb went, it was innocent until proven guilty. In the last few days of term, Vinda relented and admitted it to them, and was hexed with Tantallegra for keeping secrets. Irina had cheerfully hunted down Gellert to hex him too, but he had longer legs than her, and had erected a strong shield charm to avoid her spells. He had laughed and felt the lightest he had felt in months, what with all the worry over his visions, and thus the school year ended on a high note for all four of them.

He had many things to do over the summer, and he was exited to be going home to see his mother and uncle again. He had lots of free time, and then he would be visiting Indus later on in the summer in Northern France, in his friends family estate, rather than the town house in London where Indus normally lived, because it was going to be too crowded, as Indus’s mother had guests over during the week Gellert had arranged to visit. Indus had complained, but Gellert didn’t mind, and he was still reeling slightly from the idea of a family owning multiple properties across two countries. He normally never noticed how different his upbringing had been from his friend’s, but every now and again it was thrown into stark relief. When he had arrived home in Munich, he had been greeted by his mother and spent many days unwinding, happy at the freedom summer would bring. He had no classes filling up his time with things he already knew, no one telling him he was mad, and best of all he had free reign to venture further afield than the school grounds. He had been convinced by his mother to spend some time outside, and the heat of summer was, he could admit, pleasant when he could read in the shade and dangle his feet in the little stream in the woods by his house. He had transfigured a stone into a bridge, and was often found there, a foot dangling in the water as he turned a page, or flicked a stray hair out of his eyes. He often wrote to his friends, and had received several rambling letters back from each of them, where they wrote of everything from their holiday plans to ardent complaints (in Vinda’s case about the evils of a younger sibling). He was reading one of Indus’s letters at that very moment, and heard his friend’s voice echoing in his head as he perused the letter. Indus sounded happy, and was looking forward to introducing him the the Black Family library, thought he could already tell that he would have his friend stolen by the books, and Gellert grinned, he could hardly wait.

A twig cracked and Gellert looked around, suspicious of the noise. A group of muggle boys about fifteen years old, clattered into his clearing, disrupting the quiet with their rough yells, and yet they all pulled up short on seeing him. He fixed them with a strange look, and hoped they would go away. He thought it at them resentfully, not really trying to do anything, but his magic answered the call. The boys all adopted a glazed look, their eyes unfocused in the extreme as they turned away from the clearing and marched back the way they had come. Gellert blinked in surprise, feeling his magic coiling thickly, clouding about him and crackling with the force of his vague wish. He shivered, that had felt very strange, almost the same way he could force objects to change shape with his blood magic, he had forced those boys to follow his commands, and it felt odd. His magic had felt cold then, like the sudden draft when a window blows open, and he felt uneasy, but at least they had gone. Gellert began to smile, and returned to the letter in his hands. He would have to put up some muggle-repelling wards around this place which he was certain he could find a book on, as it was one of the primary successes of early warding, and had become commonly used during the terrible witch hunts of the twelfth century, which he had read about in one of his history books. He pulled out a pen and looked in his pockets for a piece of scrap parchment, but found nothing, and shrugging, he scrawled a note about the anti-muggle wards on his arm instead.

He wandered back towards home, through cobbled streets and down a twisting alley that cut three roads out of his journey and made it to the front door just as the church clock bells rang out four o’clock across the neighbourhood. He pulled out the key to the front door, and stepped inside, calling out to his mother that he was home. A wonderful smell was drifting from the kitchen, and he poked his head around the door to see a large man he had never seen before peering at the clock, and pulling open the oven door. “Who are you?” He asked, and the man dropped what he was holding onto his foot with a scream of pain. The man was, it turned out, courting his mother. He was deeply suspicious, and couldn’t help but think that the man was up to something nefarious, as he had just turned up in their kitchen with no one thinking to warn Gellert, much to his consternation. He resolved to ask his uncle about it when he got home from work that evening. From his room, to which he had fled earlier after introductions, he could still hear the discussion between his mother and this stranger, who had said his name was Joule. He made a face, and pulled out three loose pieces of parchment, he had letters to write. "Dear Indus," he addressed the first one, "I may need to stay at your place for longer than a week, as there has been a somewhat problematic development here at home. My mother is being courted by an irritating individual who blames me for a burn on his foot. He may not be entirely wrong to blame me, I'll admit, but it doesn't make for great company when someone keeps glaring at you." He may not have intentionally caused that accident, but it was a happy one for which he would gladly take credit in front of his friends. He finished his letter off with the usual platitudes and a discussion of what he could get away with in terms of pranking the courter. He signed his name with a flourish, and moved over to the next piece of parchment.
"Dear Vinda, I am in need of assistance." He wrote, a cruel grin making its way across his face as he did so. "There is a visitor at my house that I would very much like your assistance in teaching a lesson or two to. Is there a free Week in your summer that you could spare for a good cause?" And he signed, Partner in crime, G. Grindelwald. smiling as he did so.
He wrote to Irina asking for advice about, and also for any books she might have, on Muggle repelling wards, as he knew that she lived in the muggle sector of Moscow, and her parents would know some strong wards that kept muggles away. He kept the tone of this letter cheerful, and slipped in his resentment about his Mother’s suitor as a secondary point. He asked her to come over any time she liked, as it would do her good to get some summer sun at least, as well as helping him avoid the new person hanging around his house. Putting down his pen, he cast a fire proofing spell on the parchments in his hands before going downstairs and into the living room, brushing imperiously past the two adults and calling out “Black Manor” before throwing Indus’ letter into the flames. He repeated this twice more for the other letters, and then turned sharply on is heel and fixed the man with a frosty glare, sweeping out of the room after announcing to his mother coolly that he was going to the library.

He returned to his room and grabbed his new satchel, shoving three notebooks and a sketchbook into it along with a pen and pencil, before he shrugged on his Norfolk Jacket, (an interesting style that his mother had bought for him the year before for outdoor wear, but it still fit him well enough to wear now) and slammed the front door with unnecessary force. He caught the bus from the local station, and was soon wondering if he could find a way of carrying a portable muggle repelling ward that would allow him personal space on public transport. He fought his way off the bus near the city centre, and walked the short distance to the Marienplatz market place, which was bustling as usual. He strolled casually over to a little stone archway behind a stall advertising hot wine, and tapped the foot of the dragon statue twice with his wand. The dragon uncurled itself and asked him where he wanted to go. “Munich magical library please sir.” he asked, and the dragon statue chuckled at his politely posed question before replying with a deep growl of amusement “But of course Little Lord.” and it swished its tail to the left, opening the door into Magical Munich nearest the famed library. Gellert blinked at it in confusion, what could it possibly mean by dressing him that way? He cast one last questioning glance at the dragon and shook off his confusion, bowing to the statue before walking through the entrance and swiftly heading to the library. He immediately breathed more easily once he was surrounded by magical books once more, and found himself breaking into a soft smile as he ran a finger along the spines of several Arithmancy tomes. He shook his head, and went searching for the Warding section, soon finding a likely looking book on muggle related wards. He found a table close by and sat down, pulling off his coat as he did so. Warding for movement safely while still maintaining the potency of the wards was supposed to be impossible, but Gellert thought he might be able to do it. He copied down a few runes for simple muggle repulsion, and then sat back, deep in thought. How could he transfer those runes to a moveable state” He looked down at his coat, and carefully drew a few runes on, but they bled into the fabric and he knew that they couldn't work, they were much too flimsy an anchor to hold the amount of magic he wanted them to. Maybe he could physically stitch the runes he needed into his coat, combining movement and magic by fixing them in the same material as the anchor. He would have to try. he stood abruptly and left, walking with purpose towards the clothier’s on the corner of the street, newly borrowed book in hand. He stepped into the emporium, slightly intimidated by the beautiful witch behind the counter, and asked her for a needle and thread. “I hope you’ll be sewing something more appropriate to wear young lady, honestly, girls in trousers! What’s the world coming to.”
Gellert blinked up at her in quiet rage. Just because he kept his hair long, he was mistaken for a girl. He glared, unwilling to let it slide, and pulled on a haughty expression. “I’m no lady, young or otherwise, and I need these for a warding project ma’am. I think you may be a little confused.” he said, sure to lower his voice a little, and swept out of the shop, refusing to acknowledge the woman’s embarrassed apologies, needle in hand. He pulled the soft grey thread through the eye of the needle, and headed back to the library.

Back at his table in the warding section he pulled out the book, and carefully drew the necessary runes onto the cuffs, pockets and lapels of the jacket. He grasped the needle, hoping that this would work, and began to sew, unconsciously channeling magic into his stitches as he formed the runes required to keep muggles away from him wherever he went, and forty-five painstaking minutes later he was finished. He smiled, and hoped that this would work. Carefully tracing each rune with his wand, he poured power into every symbol, as they transformed from the same grey as his coat to a deep black colour. He blinked at the unforeseen reaction, and put the coat on. He was eager to try how well the coat worked, and soon left the library a second time, walking over to the entrance he had come through. He ducked back into muggle Munich, and bid another good day to the stone Dragon warden of the entrance point. He then walked over to the bus stop and starred down the street, hoping the bus would soon arrive.

On the bus home Gellert beamed with absolute pride. He had done the impossible, and his muggle repelling ward was strong. He had a radius of three yards around him in every direction that was completely empty. He smiled again, and hopped of the bus happily when he reached his stop, momentarily forgetting that there was a house invasion, before sighing, and dragging his feet for the last few streets towards home. He opened the door, and was greeted by his mother.
That ridiculous fool Joule was gone, and for that at least he was thankful, but he still had to deal with his mother. “They had an argument” was probably an understatement, but that was all he had told his uncle when he had got home and felt the tension between the two of them. The fireplace roared green, and much to his delight he saw a letter spinning towards him through the floo. It was from Vinda, and he grinned darkly. She could come over tomorrow for a few days. Joule wouldn’t know what hit him.

Soon after this he headed to bed, and let himself drift off, mind full of plots and plans for the unfortunate Joule and he sleepily wrote a few of them down, before blowing out his candle and letting himself sink into sleep.

Chapter Text

An explosion sent the house into shambles, a vase smashed and the poker clattered to the floor as the walls shook, plaster raining down from the high ceiling. Creative swearing was heard from the kitchen, and above it all, from the attic a terrifying noise was heard. The high pitched cackle of a malignant witch, any muggle would have told you in a heartbeat, and they wouldn’t have been wrong. Vinda Rosier was having the time of her life.
Gellert had sent out a distress signal, and now they were waging what could only be described as war on the poor kitchen dweller below. Serves him right, thought Gellert vindictively, and he turned to his accomplice cheerfully. “Should we head on down and see what’s for lunch V?” he asked. Vinda’s smile widened considerably, and she nodded with a laugh. The two of them clattered downstairs and broke into the kitchen wearing matching grins, unworried by the wand levelled at them by a disgruntled Joule, and somewhat eager to see how much damage they had done. The whole wall above the range cooker was black, and a pot had exploded. He had tried to use the cinnamon then.

Hours earlier Gellert had been sure that he would pick the flobberworms, which would do nothing more than ruin what he was cooking, but the unfortunate man had chosen a far more dangerous ingredient. Dried Bowtruckle powder was usually a very stable potion ingredient, however when it was exposed to heat and a pinch of freshly ground pepper it became, well, combustible to say the least. Vinda surveyed the damage with a critical eye, mentally calculating how to improve their experiment results, but Gellert looked no further than the face of the enemy. Through the soot Joule looked thoroughly miserable and it brought a sunny smile to Gellert’s face when he saw the effects of their experimentation.

The last three days had been pure chaos. They had put wards around the kitchen so that Joule’s food burned before he could reach it, they had charmed his shoes to feel a size or two too small, they had given him potions for everything from hair loss to pink skin, and now the crowning jewel, a fantastic explosion. Though they had both enjoyed their war games, Vinda was the more theatrical of the two of them, always trying for the funniest results and most bizarre methods of sabotage, whereas Gellert liked to create true discomfort. This slight difference had, on a few occasions, almost set them against each other, but they had agreed to a Peace Deal. There would be no friendship left if they went to war, so they shook on the fact that they would always work together, and left any petty arguments well alone after that. Gellert had found the shoe spell, and the hair loss potion, as well as a slew of dark curses he had wanted to try, but Vinda had held him back from them, as she had reasoned that Joule wasn’t worth a criminal record for, but she had almost wanted to see Gellert unleashed in full force. In turn Gellert had made many of Vinda’s plans more feasible, his logic cutting through unnecessary steps and overcomplicated plans, and the truth was that they were at their best as a team. Vinda was going today, and Gellert, though unhappy, was at times missing his peace and quiet, so he waved her off at the international floo port cheerfully enough.

Hours later, he was sitting in the living room facing the firing squad. His mother wore an unhappy frown and his uncle looked exasperated, worn and slightly angry, though his eyes smiled at Gellert, who was a perfect mask of contrition. “Gellert, We’re worried about you,” began his mother, and he forced his face to twist into an even more apologetic expression, despite his internal eye roll. As soon as he had escaped this latest scolding, one of many this summer, he headed back to his room and looked into his tin box of Galleons, which were looking rather thin on the ground today. He sighed, lamenting the fact the he would have to go kleptomancer to get the books he had seen yesterday.
He had stitched more wards into his coat once he had realised that it was a stable system, and it was now warded with a permanent shield and he was trying to work in several other defensive wards, but it was very difficult to work in combinations when he couldn’t manually stitch the wards together, and was stuck warding purely in rune theory. That was why he needed the books, he had seen one on warding and two on rune chain translation, as well as one in a muggle shop that covered some mathematics that would be useful for the Arithmancy he was self studying over the summer, and now, due to his depleted funds he would be forced to steal all of them, and while one book was the work of a moment, four might be tricky. He thought about asking his uncle for some spending money, before remembering that he was in trouble, and scowling. He looked around his room, wondering how he could blag his way into four books that he couldn't afford, and then smiled, an idea forming as he looked down at the gold in his hand.

He took a deep breath and walked into the pawn shop, carrying the two galleons he had brought with him. He haggled the muggle into a good price, irritated at the condescending undervaluing he had been faced with merely because he was a child, and then received his money, discreetly summoning the galleons he had sold back into his pockets as he left, a furtive smile scuttling across his face as he did so. He walked three streets closer to the stone dragon entrance and hit another pawn shop with the same trick, before stepping through to magic Munich with the usual strange greeting of the dragon ringing in his ears. He walked swiftly to the bank, and smiled winningly at the witch behind the counter before asking to exchange his Marks into Galleons. She sneered, and he thought he caught a muttered “Mudblood” as she took the money, carefully not touching his hand, and he bristled, an indignant denial on the tip of his tongue, but he forced himself to turn away, galleons in hand, without a word. He marched down the hall and out into the street with a straight back and a proud expression, despite the rage he was struggling to contain. He stepped outside into the bright sun as a yell of pain echoed within, when a pretty bank teller’s leg was shattered as she fell from her seat, an accident no one could assume had been of malicious origin. Gellert smiled, and didn’t bother looking back in through the window, as he had pictured the incident in detail while he had been forcing himself to keep to a civil tone. He walked away, a smile twisting his face into an expression of dark glee as he meandered towards the bookshop.

He glanced into the window of a dusty little shop off the main road, and found himself both fascinated and confused. There were cards, crystal balls, tea sets and strange fabrics that glimmered in the places where no light touched them, and even more intriguingly, no one else seemed able to see the shop, and Gellert was quite sure that it had not been there the day before when he had been in a hurry to reach the bookshop. Gellert knew that there were many wards that prevented muggles from seeing the magical world, but he had never heard of any ward that discriminated further than that, and he was quite intrigued by the implications thereof. Maybe he could put up an anti-Joule ward around the house, he thought with a sly grin as he pushed at the door, dusty with disuse and creaking like an alarm. He coughed, bringing one hand up to shield his mouth and nose form the swirling eddies of dust that the movement of the door had conjured, and peered through the gloom. He jumped at the feeling of a hand at his shoulder, and whirled around to see who had touched him. He looked up into a strange face and felt a shiver run down his spine. There was something off, it seemed both young and old, beautiful and hideous, and all together not entirely human. The intensity of raw glee that it’s eyes shimmered with was disconcerting, he decided as he struggled to form words, and stumbled his way through a greeting. The thing smiled, its mouth twisted into a grin that seemed stretched, as if it might split, and he did a double take at the perfectly normal voice it spoke in. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” It said, and Gellert frowned.
“I am not wicked.” he replied, and wondered where he had heard that phrase before. The creature merely smiled, and shook its head. “Perhaps, Lordling, but do the ends justify the means I wonder, or is it means that justify ends? Think on’t before you embark upon your chosen path.” suddenly the thing became even more grotesque, a look of horror giving its eyes a panicked shine and its mouth a pinched appearance. It shook itself, as if ridding cobwebs from its gaze, and spoke quite urgently.
“Oh no oh no, I’m afraid that I was saying quite the wrong thing. The days get so muddled in this era, I can hardly keep track, and I don't say that for years. What I meant to say was; Hello young seer, will it be cards or crystals that you seek to deal with your dilemma?” Gellert edged away from the strange thing, and asked what it meant by cards and crystals.

The thing broke into cackles and shook, something in the pocket of its papery cloak clacking with the force of the tremors. “Oh you are a green one then Lordling, and there are so many trials yet. The cards are a deck to reveal the future, enchanted to aid the Seer in vision interpretation. Crystals hold a vision when applied to the head, and allow the Seer to review his visions, much like a pensieve does for a regular man’s memories.” Gellert made a mental note to research what exactly a pensieve was, and looked up at the thing in slight awe. He had no idea visions even could be held, and he wanted help in interpretation for the less coherent of his visions. He squared his shoulders and asked for both. The thing looked at him and nodded, before beckoning with a clawed hand for Gellert to follow. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he began as they wound their way past piled of odd nicknacks and strange mechanical devices. “What exactly are you? Because I am fairly sure that you’re not a normal witch.” The thing laughed and laughed, and would say noting more than “I am one of three, Lordling, woven into The Fabric at a corner.” at which Gellert had furrowed his brow and descended into a confused and contemplative silence.

At last they reached a tall set of shelves that held what looked like thousands of packs of cards, piled into stacks thirty wide on each shelf, and seeming to fade into the gloom up above them, unending.
“Now reach out, Lordling, and summon the deck that calls to you.” Said the One Of Three, and Gellert obeyed. He let his magic expand, and directed the raw surge towards the shelves. He sent it soaring upwards, and felt nothing for a long time, but just when he had almost thought that he was doing something wrong he felt a tug, as if something had pulled his magic in, absorbing it. He focused on the area, and summoned the deck that he felt shimmering with magic it had stolen from him, opening his eyes to see a deck of cards lying in his hands. The material of the box had a waxy feel to it and was an odd shade of red. He brushed his fingers along a join of the box and jumped when he felt it open for his hand like a fly trap. The inside was quilted with a cold fabric that exuded a strange sense of fear, and the cards themselves were thick, parchment colour, inked in a black that gleamed wetly as if it had been drawn mere moments before Gellert had set eyes on it, yet it did not smudge when he traced the image of a man with two faces, each holding up a sword. Gellert felt slightly uneasy at how the deck made him feel. It felt like an old friend, as if he had lost it as a chid and found it again behind the sofa years later, after giving up the search. It felt like a piece of home, and that made Gellert deeply nervous, as he distrusted the strange feelings that the deck had invoked within him.
“That is a deck of extreme power. The box is lined with dementor skin you know, and there be reasons many for that. You hold a dark hand, little Lord, and a strong one. What will you weave with it, I wonder.” Said the thing, before folding its clawed hands over his, closing the box as it did so, and shuffling off into the isles of junk with a gesture for Gellert to follow.

The retraced their steps, heading closer to the street and back towards the lit area of the shop, and Gellert frowned. Surely it would have made more sense to find the crystals first if they were closer at hand to the starting point, but perhaps he was missing something, or it was more important to find the cards, he conjectured to himself. They pulled up at a rickety set of shelves that held crystals, and Gellert felt immediately drawn to one that had an arithmantically perfect shape. The clear icosahedron was beautiful, and it sat on a cushion that was a deep velvet blue, shimmering with specks that formed constellations. He carefully looked into one of the many triangular faces, and saw his eyes reflect back at him, each one reflected a dozen times within the structure towards the centre, where they blurred into indistinct black and silver shapes. Gellert smiled, and twenty smiles were reflected back at him in its twenty faces as he picked it up, suddenly unsure of the price. He placed his wares on the desk in front of the thing, and asked how much he owed it. It let out a peal of laughter like a funeral bell.
“Little Lord what use have I for coin?” it asked mockingly, before continuing in a much sharper tone “For this card deck I ask the bones of the right foot of the first animal you use for ritual sacrifice, and for the crystal I ask for only a promise.” Gellert felt a sense of deep foreboding, but nodded, and said that he would pay his price. “The promise that you will listen, and listen well, to any of The Three that you may find. We always come to those who will have immense power, Lordling, and there will be no preventing you from having that. It is written in every line of your hand, every atom of your being, and so I take this promise from you. When one of us appears, heed our warnings.” Continued the One Of Three, and Gellert felt the weight of such a promise curling at the base of his spine, but he nodded, and was soon putting his things into a leather bag that he had been gifted by the thing, before beating a hasty retreat into the streets outside the shop. He took a deep lungful of the clear air, and was shocked to see that the light was fading from the sky. Time had felt distorted in the shop, but it seemed that hours had passes in the normal world. He looked about in confusion, and saw that the bookshop was still open, but he felt too rattled by his encounter to deal with interaction right then, so he turned homewards, deep in thought.

Getting home seemed to happen in the blink of an eye, and he was unlocking the door before he had really registered that the late hour would see him in more trouble. He curled a hand around the strap of his shoulder bag, and walked into the house, slightly nervous. He was bowled over in a hug from his mother, who looked a little red around the eyes, and he hugged her back, confused. “Oh you wicked Imp, we had no idea where you were, never scare me like that again!” she said, voice half muffled in his hair as she hugged him close, and Gellert began to smile. This was an awfully efficient method of making his mother forget their arguments, he thought to himself, and yet he couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt. He had worried her unnecessarily, and he felt himself return her hug just as strongly. “I’m sorry.” he found himself choking out, his apology genuine for once, as he felt tears pricking his eyes and choking his usual eloquence away. He internally shook himself out of the strange place he had found himself emotionally, chalking it up to fatigue and how odd his day had been, but not before he had resolved to be more thoughtful around his mother in future.

The next morning, he went swiftly to the bookshops he needed and was soon headed home to curl up by the window and get lost within the crisp pages of his new companions. He was limpet-like in his determination to read them to completion, but his mother, a veteran warrior in the fight to remove a book from his clutched hands, had coerced him into taking a break to make shortbread, using an English recipe that Bathilda had sent in a recent letter. He had flour in his hair, and his mother had a smear of butter on her cheek, but she was smiling more strongly than she had in a long time, and Gellert was glad in the end that they had spent the afternoon together.

Days drifted past at a leisurely pace and the icosahedral crystal was left unused, Gellert’s sleep blissfully uninterrupted by visions as the summer melted past. He and his mother had gone to Lake Starnberg for swimming, and had visited the Munich Museum of Magic in the catacombs of the old druidic temple nearby as days glittered past in a heat haze of relaxation and reading. Gellert began to truly relax, and he was often found with his ward coat spread out beneath him to keep the muggles away, sitting on a grassy slope or at the top of a cliff, reading in the summer sun. He enjoyed climbing again, and found that many of his favourite places were growing easier to get to as he got taller, and as a consequence he could hoist more books up with him. He was enjoying his summer more than he had ever enjoyed one previously, and his eyes were always bright with joy, as if they had trapped the warmth of the season in their gaze.

He was packing his bags, unable to contain his excitement because he would be visiting Indus in his family home the very next day. He had missed the sound of his friend’s laughter, his voice, and letters were no real substitute, leaving Gellert almost vibrating with excitement at the thought of seeing him again. His mother had toyed with the idea of visiting Bathilda at the same time, but decided that she would rather stay in Germany, and so Bathilda was coming over the following week. Gellert packed his crystal and his deck of cards into a borrowed traveling case of his uncle’s, strangely unwilling to be parted from them, as well as the three books he was part of the way through, and a few of his nicer cloaks, as his friend’s family sounded like appearances mattered to them. He paced his room, wondering if he had forgotten anything, and packed a comb that he spotted lying on one of his shelves, as well as a pair of dragonhide gloves, just in case, and then he was finished. He carefully closed the lid of the case and returned to the window seat, book in hand, however he was too exited to read, and was soon up again and pacing. Time seemed to flash past, and soon enough he was bidding his mother goodbye as he stepped into line for the french connection of the international floo port. He spun through green flames and arrived across the french border with little trouble, heading over to the national floo fireplaces and paying for another pinch of floo powder before calling out “Black Manor.” and watching as people’s heads turned in shock at someone calling out that address with such confidence as he stepped through the green flames.

He looked around in wonder as he found himself in the grandest room he had ever been in. The floor was black marble with veins of blue and silver shot through it like currents of water in a stream, the walls were a soft cream that spoke of elegance and money, and it was all Gellert could do to maintain his neutral expression in the face of this obvious display of wealth. A clattering of footsteps told him that someone was coming, and he arranged his face into one of polite neutrality. Indus walked into the room followed by a boy of about eight and a girl of five, some well dressed adults bringing up the rear. All of them had the dark hair and grey eyes that made Indus’ appearance so distinctive, and the woman wore a set of tight fitting black robes that glittered with a faint light of their own. Gellert bowed to the adults, remembering the greeting Indus had taught him when they were at school, and heard the tall man mutter approvingly about it. The adults were making no attempt to lower their voices, and Indus was smirking inexplicably, then it struck Gellert; his friend hadn’t told his parents that Gellert spoke English. He broke into a matching grin, wondering how long he should wait before revealing his understanding, and deciding that it would pay to wait a while, and hear all of their unguarded opinions before he said anything about it.

Indus swiftly excused them and the two of them were quickly ensconced in the large bedroom that seemed to ooze Indus’ personality, with fiction lining one wall and a large painting of the mountains that surrounded Durmstrang that Indus had done last month hanging on the wall opposite. The two of them quickly fell to catching up, as Gellert explained the prank war, and his warded coat and Indus laughingly explained the latest Black Family Drama and his newfound interest in painting the kinds of portraits that moved. Gellert learnt that Indus was living with his aunt and uncle for the summer, and was enjoying his stay immensely despite the potentially fatal family politics surrounding the heir position, which was still undetermined until his thirteenth birthday. Indus had laughed about it but Gellert resolved to be on guard, as he shivered at the memory of a gravestone wreathed in mist that told the sad story of Indus, dead before his time, and his wand never left his sleeve after that first night of staying there. He met the aunt and uncle properly, who introduced themselves with a translator spell as Phineas Nigellus Black, and Ursula Black nee’ Flint, who smiled at Gellert’s obvious, and entirely feigned, respect for the family line she came from. He fielded their questions with poise, and soon found himself with the approval of the black family adults, which was both gratifying and somewhat alarming.

They were called downstairs for dinner, Gellert casting a subtle diagnostic charm on Indus’ food before he took a bite, and Gellert was soon drawn into an explanation of his warded coat, when he brought it up casually and was then pressed into a more detailed description. The adults were giving him a hungry look, and he smiled depreciatingly, stating that anyone could’ve done it, he had just come up with the idea, but they wouldn’t hear a word of it. “My dear boy, you’ve just revolutionised warding and you don’t even realise it. You must patent your discovery quickly and put these warded clothes on the market.” said Phineas, and Gellert smiled. They were learning, like all adults eventually did, that he was no ordinary wizard. Indus then went on a tangent about some of their exploits at school, but Gellert was lost in another idea entirely. He had yet to find the library.

After dinner he allowed Indus to pull him around in a tour of the house, but was rather put out when he left the library till last, irritated that his friend knew him so well. He was lead, half attentive around the grand halls of the Chateaux until finally they reached the library. Gellert was so struck by the beauty of the room that he didn’t even hear Indus speaking. The library stretched on and on across the whole great hall of the west wing, and golden light poured into the room through arched windows that seemed to scrape the sky with their zeniths. The library was a study in architectural splendour, each book and comfortable sofa lined in the gold livery of the dying french sun, and every cobweb was a golden thread, connecting book to shelf and shelf to wall, in that moment seeming as beautiful as the carved facades of each window ledge. Gellert sighed in wonder, and drifted almost without knowing it towards the dark books by the wide window to the north. He stroked a hand along the countless spines and smiled softly to himself before glancing over, quite by chance towards the window, his eyes alighting on a strange pedestal formed of glittering obsidian, the home of an enormous book.

He walked with purpose towards the pedestal, feeling the swirling power emanating from it and heard a yell of horror as he opened the tome. It was bound in the same material as his box of cards, which he had a growing suspicion was human skin, and he swallowed in apprehension as he perused the contents. His eyes scanned down the long list, and every titled chapter was a match, lighting Gellert’s eyes with some new fire of curiosity. He was just about to turn to the chapter titled Impersonation when his hands were wrenched from the book by a thoroughly rattled Indus. Gellert turned on him angrily, a curse on the tip of his tongue without him quite pausing to wonder what he was so worked up about, but Indus’ look of naked fear stopped him in his tracks.
“Impossible.” breathed Indus, and Gellert looked at him in deep confusion. “Thats the Grimoire.” He said, as if that explained his actions perfectly. Gellert continued to stare at him in total bemusement, and Indus shook him a little. “The Grimoire, Gellert, you can’t read it. By all rights, you should have died trying to open it, you have to have Black blood to read that thing. I don’t understand it.” Gellert looked down at the book hopefully, not pausing to marvel at his ability to touch it, merely longing to read the section that had caught his eye, but at that moment Ursula walked in, saw the two of them standing at the pedestal and sent a glare at Indus. “Revealing family secrets, Nephew?” she asked darkly.
“He doesn't need me to reveal family secrets Ursula. He can read the book himself.” Replied Indus, voice slightly harsh. “Impossible.” said the witch, but Gellert decided to quickly prove their claim once and for all by opening it up to page 1274, where the chapter on Impersonation began. He looked back at Ursula, a challenge dancing in his eyes, and dodged a curse crackling with purple light that whipped past his ear and warped the wall behind him. He threw up a shield as fast as he could and she laughed, sending a red curse at it. It deflected and blew a window to smithereens. That paused everyone in their tracks, and Ursula looked at him strangely. “What was that shield boy? You shouldn’t be able to block that curse.” Gellert grinned.
“I make a habit of regularly doing the impossible ma’am, and I’d be very thankful if you didn’t try another curse.” He replied, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Indus’ whole family was insane, and he had been quite afraid, but at least his modified Euler shield had withstood a dark curse. He had thought that the theory would stand, but he couldn't be sure that rotating the spell chain by 73 degrees and refracting it wouldn't warp it somehow. He was suddenly very glad that he had been studying it, as he was in practice at throwing it up fast, and had been hoping for a chance to give it a proper trial run soon anyway. Indus had looked on in horror as his aunt attacked his best friend, but Gellert shook his head, Indus should know by now that he always had something up his sleeve. He threw a smile to his worried friend, and was soon chatting with Indus’ aunt about battle magic lessons, much to his friend’s growing concern.

The next day there was much discussion, and an avidly listening Gellert heard it all. “You shouldn’t have tried to curse him Ursula, who know’s what he’s capable of.” berated Phineas. Indus’ reassurances that Gellert would reveal nothing fell on deaf ears, and the younger children were aware of the argument only in the sense of the general mood, and said nothing much on the matter. Gellert grinned to himself and walked into the room, smiling like the cheshire cat from the English book “Alice in Wonderland” which Gellert had forced himself to reread in its original English earlier that year.
“Good morning,” he began in perfect English. “It’s such a nice time of the year here in France, though I hear that England is rain-sodden at every time of year. May I enquire as to breakfast?” he continued, his English grammar perfect, and his pronunciation understandable, if a little accented. The five Black Family members starred at him, two in bemusement, two in horror and Indus with a smirk, and there was a moment of silence before all hell broke loose once more. “How do you…” Began Phineas while Ursula loudly mentioned blood traitors while glaring daggers at Indus, and the small girl screeched questions at Gellert along the lines of hair care. He smiled and told her to brush it, his english halting as he stumbled his way through the rather strange topic, but he smiled kindly enough at the little girl and he felt that it went a long way in mollifying her mother tin regards to his uncanny abilities. After a few hours everyone calmed down, leaving Gellert immensely relieved that his family was far less highly strung and feeling sorry for Indus as he beat a swift retreat to the guest room he had been assigned.

Indus came to find him, and stretched out on his bed as if nothing untoward had occurred, despite the tumultuous events of the morning. “So, how do you like Black Manor so far Gel?” he asked, completely deadpan, bursting into loud cackling at Gellert’s somewhat pained expression of forced politeness. “Oh they’re alright really. You sort of get used to the mood swings when you grow up with them, and if we were to go down there now I'm quite sure that Ursula would give you cursing lessons, of both kinds, if you wanted them.” Gellert cracked a smile at that, and let out a laugh that was part nerves and part merriment. After being persuaded by a wheedling Indus to try flying, he had had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the French sun, speeding through the woods with Indus in front of him. Eventually Indus had slowed and floated down on an island in the middle of a lake, and Gellert grinned in delight to find that Indus had kept this place a secret until he had shown him. They spent a few happy hours there, Gellert with a book and Indus with paints before they checked the time, and swiftly flew back home over the rolling miles of trees. At dinner he could barely keep his eyes open, despite the slight fear that Indus’s older relatives induced, and he feared later that he had been a poor conversationalist. He made his way up the stairs and managed to unpack a few more of his things before falling into bed, exhausted.

That night his dreams were many and varied. He saw an old woman with a golden eye and a proud expression sitting in a darkened room, chanting the words of a prophecy and scribbling them down before being shaken by a fit of wracking coughs. He saw a man with chestnut hair and a pink suit leaning in at the door of a cramped and dirty room, where a dark haired boy to whom shadows seemed to cling sat on a small bed, angry at the world. He saw strange translucent cloths descending over Paris, curling as if alive in the air of a city that seemed to shrink from them in fear. He saw again the symbol of The Hallows, etched into a wall in Durmstrang castle, and heard a bitter cry of hurt and the slamming of a heavy door, before silence reigned once more. He woke, shivering with blood pouring from his eye. It seemed that the more he saw the more he bled, and he reached out, blinded, for his crystal. Pressing his head into one face, he felt the vision of the old woman flow from his mind into the crystal, and swapped faces to store each of the others away, smiling bloody eyed at the crystal that had saved him so much bother. He would look at them again, and write them down once he had cleaned his eye and face, but for now, he was just happy that he had a way of recording them.

He padded softly to the bathroom closest to where he was staying and had begun washing his face when the door creaked open behind him and Indus (though he would deny it later) screeched in fear and left without another sound. Gellert sighed, and called out softly that it was only him. Indus walked back in, slight embarrassment colouring is face before he blanched at how the water in the sink was pink-red with Gellert’s blood. “What’s wrong?” asked the other boy, any traces of tiredness disappearing in the face of his concern for his friend. Gellert smiled and shook his head fondly. “Don’t worry, this is just a side effect of my Seer Sight. It happens all the time.” he said, but his attempted reassurance went awry, as Indus began to look even more worried.
“You just deal with this all the time and you never told us? Never told me?” he asked, hurt colouring the worry in his tone. Gellert smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry,” he began, “But I just assumed that it was usual for a seer. How would I know it worried you when I’ve lived with it all my life?” he asked, and shock ran through him when he found himself clutched tightly in the sleep-heavy arms of the other boy. Indus, usually so physically reserved, was hugging him. He smiled in earnest, and returned the hug awkwardly, before extracting himself from the limpet-grip that Indus held him in, and pushing Indus down the dark corridor towards his room with a muttered “You need your sleep.” Indus resisted his sensible advice and so Gellert pulled him towards his bedroom manually, sighing as he did so. When they reached the bedroom Indus refused to let go of him, so Gellert chose to collapse both of them into the bed, and then lay there, carefully waiting until Indus began to breathe more deeply to unwind himself and leave the room softly, returning to his own bed with the fervent hope that Indus would have forgotten the late night encounter when he woke tomorrow.

In the morning, Gellert was up early, intrigued to try interpreting a vision with the aid of his card deck and the crystal. he looked into the box and took out his cards, unfolding a sheet of paper that was tucked in at the bottom under the cards themselves. It was a basic interpretation of the deck, and there were instructions on how to attune one’s magic to pick the correct cards out of the pack of 78. He tapped the triangle of his crystal that held the vision of the woman with a golden eye, and the image shimmered into existence above it, larger and clearer than anything his memory could produce. He shuffled the deck and pulled out six cards with his magic, unable to decipher why he had picked those ones but sure of his choices.
He threw them upwards with his magic, and allowed them to swirl into place, guided by uncontrolled power. The High Priestess, crossed with Death. The Lovers to the left and the Nine of Swords to the right, with the Four of Pentacles above, and the Ace Of Swords reversed below. He looked into the spread and let his eyes un-focus as he starred. The high priestess crossed with death, someone powerful, perhaps a seer, at the end of her days. Affected by past love to the left, but with only the promise of total desolation in the future, to the right. The Reversed Ace of Swords told of success, the consequences of which were horrific and widespread. The Four Of Pentacles above showed an inherited gift, but one that influenced her, it caused her terrible pain. Gellert shivered at how the meanings seemed to float towards him, unbidden. He pulled out a notebook in an attempt to return to a sense of normality, and wrote down first the vision, followed by a diagram of the spread, and what meanings had become apparent to him, along with theories on how it could have happened.

As he was putting his pen down and contemplating the merits of reading versus interpreting the second vision Indus knocked on his door and barged in without waiting for an invitation. “Good Morning,” He asked, before spotting the divination paraphernalia littered across the floor in front of Gellert. “Ooh what are you doing?” he asked brightly. Gellert sighed minutely, before explaining the crystal and the cards to Indus. An offer to read his future had been on the tip of his tongue when he remembered the visions, and the grave. He couldn’t give that knowledge to Indus, not for anything, and so he would have to avoid doing a reading for him. Perhaps he could invent some legend that warned against misuse of the cards, he thought desperately to himself but Indus was busy examining the crystal with interest. “So,” he asked, tone thick with curiosity, “Are these really what you see?” and he glanced back at the strange little images captured in some of the faces of the crystal in wonder. Gellert nodded, and soon found himself cheering up despite the dark spin his card reading had put on the vision of the old woman. The two of them headed down to breakfast and Gellert was greeted warmly in English by Indus’s aunt, with quite a different attitude to the day before. She pulled him aside after the meal, and said that he would be very interesting to teach, if he was in need of a battle magic instructor. He smiled, and had been about to politely decline when he remembered the spells she had shot at him the previous days, and thought better of it.

The following days flew by at an incredible pace, and Gellert found that despite their rocky start, he got on well with all the members of the Black Family. With Indus’ aunt and uncle he found that it was best to appear studious and allow his intelligence to speak for its self as he learnt curse after curse perfectly. The children were much easier to win over, he had gleefully shared a few of his pranks with the boy, Arcturus, to great effect, and had taught the little girl a way of weaving her raw magic to make her hair look effortlessly neat. He had also taught her a stinging charm, so that she wouldn't be defenceless in the face of the prankster he feared he had created in her older brother, and he had heard a few crashes over the time he had been there that suggested she was putting it to good use.

He hugged Indus tightly when he had to leave, and was soon back in his own home, after lamenting the fact that he didn’t know how to apperate, and had been forced to wait in a horrendously long queue for the international floo. He had no time to properly miss Indus however, because his great aunt was expected the following morning, and his mother had roped both him and his uncle into a last minute effort at spring cleaning before she got there. The week when Bathilda was staying with them shimmered past in a flash of stories and taking her around Munich, both magical and Muggle to see the sights. She seemed a little shaken, as her neighbour had suddenly turned on her, when she had asked about the little girl that she didn't see often who lived next door, and was quite glad that she had left the neighbourhood for a while. She wasn’t hurt, but Gellert narrowed his eyes all the same. How anyone could be cruel to his great aunt he had no idea, yet it was evident that this jumped up muggleborn had been. He had nothing against them as a group but really, moving into a wizarding neighbourhood and threatening celebrated authors, it just wouldn't have happened if she’d stopped to think. Gellert and his mother had done their best to distract Bathilda, and had been largely successful, but she seemed most anxious to return, as she wanted to make sure the two older boys that lived next door were not being harmed. “They are nice boys, and the older one is quick enough to give our Gellert a run for his money.” she said, and Gellert had laughed, disbelieving. After she had left the summer seemed to evaporate in lazy afternoons spent in the library and letters from his friends, and as September crept closer, frantic school shopping for his new subjects.

Chapter Text

On the Lady Durmstrang as she cut her way through the depths, Gellert was deep in his pamphlet on interpretation of the cards, and his crystal was propped against a chair in front of him where he was sat on the floor. He had projected the vision of the man in a pink suit in the air above the crystal, and was in the process of analysing how the cards had fallen. The Magus card took the ‘Self’ place at the centre, crossed with the card of The Devil, and with the reversed Eight Of Swords to the left, and the The Tower to the right. Above this tableau of horror sat the reversed Ace Of Cups, and below lurked the Eight Of Wands. The Magus, the powerful man in magenta had led a hard life, he had already faced betrayal of the deepest kind, and he stood on the edge of destruction. He would fight the devil, and whomever won, it would be in the face of almost total annihilation. This man had a sad story, influenced by the assured path of success below, and the promise of revolution hanging above. Gellert felt a wave of sadness for this man, he had faced deep personal injury and would maintain until the bitter end, despite this, that his actions were for the best. He was influenced by massive revolution more than once, and his hope endured through everything. Gellert let out a sigh, and wrote down what had come to him as he starred at the spread, as well as a diagram, before shuffling the deck back together and tapping the triangle that held the vision of cloths curling over a terrified Paris with his wand.

He threw the cards with his magic, and looked down at the spread. The Hermit took the ‘self’ place, crossed with The Magus, in bitter confrontation. To the left stood The Lovers, reversed, and Gellert shivered. There would be a bitter betrayal. In his mind’s eye he saw a young man with hair between red and gold with his head in his hands, tears pouring down his face, before the image was gone with a flash. To the right The Chariot stood. This was victory, or the desperate attempt to grasp it, a hero trying for change. He carefully drew out this placement, and noted the cards above and below that completed the Celtic cross pattern. The reversed Seven Of Cups sat above, showing drive and determination as the main influence of The Hermit at the centre, and the six of swords below spoke of a journey. Gellert saw flashes of confusing images in his minds eye when he looked at the spread. Curling strands of long blond hair hitting the floor. A hall filled with people underground, looking attentively towards the speaker at the centre of the room. Black smoke twisting angrily and smashing a cabinet in a small stone walled kitchen. He noted each of them down carefully, before reshuffling his deck and pulling up the fourth and final vision. As he did so he felt the telltale rising feeling that meant they had arrived at Durmstrang, so he hastily packed away his things and readied his luggage, casting his usual charm to make it float after him. He shouldered his satchel and walked swiftly down the gangplank and onto the shingle beach by the castle, spotting Irina as he did so and hurrying over to her. “How’ve you been?“ he asked eagerly. to which the witch replied positively with a smile. They exchanged pleasantries and were soon chatting happily about how their summers had been. Gellert looked around, trying to see where Vinda and Indus were, but couldn’t find them and turned back to Irina to tell her about some of his visions, as well as attempting to describe the confusing shop where he had bought his cards. He shivered, feeling someone’s gaze, and so without checking who it was he switched to Russian and continued his story.

Later in the dorms, he unpacked his things and carefully placed his viewing crystal on a stack of the divination books he had bought, before shaking his head and removing a floorboard from under where his trunk normally went. He tapped it with his wand, pulled out a knife he had stolen from his mother’s kitchen, and nicked his finger. The blood dripped down onto the floorboard and it began to warp, twisting into a new shape before him. He watched as it became a plain set of shelves, and then tilted his head to the left thoughtfully. He could do better than that, he thought to himself, and he clenched his fist, watching as the newly made shelf set grew elaborate flourishes, the traces of swirling patterns growing out of the woodwork as sweat ran down his brow. In the top shelf the vines of wood grew upwards into a concave hemisphere, and he laughingly placed his crystal into it, then putting his cards down by it and putting his divination books onto the shelves below. Indus knocked on his door, and popped his head around it before Gellert had a chance to confirm that he could come in. Gellert pondered, not for the first time, how Indus had managed to cultivate such terrible manners despite his family’s status in Wizarding England, and waved him in with a smile.

Indus had returned to the town house in England for the last week of summer, and his mother had welcomed him home with the news that muggle hunting had just been made illegal in Morea, which his father and extended family were to quote “Much displeased” by, as it was where they had enjoyed the sport for generations, due to the criminalisation of it in both England and France around a century before. Gellert laughed, imagining the poor law department who had to deal with the angry Black family patriarch, along with various relatives, he could only pity the poor man and hope that he escaped the encounters with all of his limbs intact. Morea had a very interesting history, because despite the fact that it had long been subsumed by Greece into initially a vassal state of the Byzantine empire, and then just a Grecian province in the muggle world, Morea was still very much its own wizarding country in the world that really mattered. When Gellert asked if Indus was aware of this fascinating splintering of cultural identity, he cheerfully responded by informing him that he neither knew, nor cared, and then flicked his wand at Gellert with a muttered “Aguamenti.”, a stream of water soaking Gellert’s hair. He spluttered, totally caught off by his friend, and send a stinging hex in return, but Indus dodged, and then began to laugh. “You’re off your game, where’s your prank proof shield Gel?” He gasped between bouts of laughter, before yowling in shocked pain as Gellert flicked his wand without a word and cursed his underclothes to be three sizes too small. Indus quickly became appropriately apologetic for laughing at him, and Gellert smiled, removing his charm before finishing moving his last few divination books to the new shelf he had made. “Are you taking Divination on timetable, or as a self studied subject?” asked Indus, and then the conversation veered off towards their hopes for the new subjects they were taking.

The following morning, Gellert climbed up to the roof and inhaled the peach skies of early September, breathing in the smell of the pines and magic as it curled around the castle. He started, hearing a yell from the courtyard floors below, and remembered that he did, in fact, have classes to attend, and made his way downstairs to the hall, picking up his things on the way and bumping into Indus, who was never a fan of early rising and was always worse after a holiday, as he ran down the stairs. He was late and rushed into the hall as a bell went that signalled the end of breakfast, picking up his timetable for the year and consulting it before rushing off to his first class, Healing, toast in hand. It was fascinating. Gellert sat at the front of the class, enraptured by the lesson, taking copious notes. The teacher had begun by Lecturing the class on how before they could learn how to fix the body, they had to learn how it worked, and going on to teach the first lesson on the seven structural systems of the muggle body, and the eighth system that wizards had, that allowed them to use magic. Gellert had sketched out the systems as Professor Synap had shown them on the posters around the room, but he was dissatisfied by the quality of his diagrams and made a mental note to find a spell that would copy an image from one page to another. He quickly glanced at his timetable again and headed to Ritual magics, where he met up with all three of his friends, none of whom had chosen Healing despite its obvious benefits.

Ritual magic was a brilliant class, starting with a lecture on the history of the oldest type of magic, and why it was one of the most powerful used today. Their teacher had suggested reading “Der Verfall Der Heidnischen Magie”, startling a laugh out of Gellert, as he had never talked about his great aunt’s latest novel The Decline Of Pagan Magic in german, and the unexpected reference to it had surprised him. “Is there anything you would like to share with the class Grindelwald?” asked Professor Burntwraithe sharply, eyes narrowed. “No Ma’am,” he replied. “It is just odd to hear that book title in this class in German when I came across it in English. Please excuse the interruption.” he finished, with a sly look at Indus, who was grinning at him from across the room. The lesson continued, and Gellert had redeemed himself in the eyes of his professor by answering every question perfectly, and by the time it finished she was smiling at him proudly and asked him to stay at the end of class. As the rest of the students shuffled out, Gellert thought about why he could possibly be being held back, and drew a blank. His professor came and sat down at her desk, summoning a chair for Gellert as she did so. “Gellert I’ve seen a high level of knowledge from you today, and I wanted to know, have you done any rituals yet?” Gellert nodded, and said that he had found and done a growth ritual with three of his friends last Beltane, and then paused, before continuing that he had created his own ritual the previous Samhain. The Professor’s smile grew, and she asked him what the ritual had done, if anything. Gellert looked at her strangely, and told her that it sent him into a forty-eight hour trance, and that he had achieved what he had wanted with it. Then Professor Burntwraithe had narrowed her eyes, and Gellert felt a faint headache coming on. After a moment the professor smiled widely, and his headache seemed to fade. “You’re a remarkable wizard, normally ritual creation doesn't work first time, and to achieve a fully working ritual at the age of what, eleven?” Here Gellert nodded. “is very impressive. I think you have a clear natural talent for the subject, and I’ll be sure to give you some challenging work next lesson.”

With that clear dismissal, Gellert left the room to find that all three of his friends had waited for him, and he broke into a smile as they lightly teased him. He caught Indus starring at him and gave him a quizzical look in return. “Do I have something on my face?” he asked, and Indus jumped shiftily, before he grinned, normal once more. “Nope, well, only your nose, but you cant help that.” Gellert thumped him and was elbowed in return, but they made their way down the stairs without further incident. In the courtyard the four of them found a bench, and Gellert described his conversation with the professor, including his odd headache. Indus frowned thoughtfully, as if trying to remember something and Vinda too looked deeply suspicious, but it was Irina who realised what had happened. “Gellert that was Occlumency. No wait, I forget what its called, but Occlumency is the opposite. Legilimency I think. She read your mind to see if you were telling the truth.” said Irina, looking shocked at the idea of a teacher using something so underhand. Gellert was distinctly uncomfortable. He was sure that he had come across the terms before, but couldn't remember exactly what he had read, and he didn't like the thought of anyone digging around inside his head whenever they pleased. “I think we should learn Occlumency.” said Indus, looking deeply uncomfortable. “Ooh, do you have something to hide?” teased Vinda, but Indus flinched minutely, looking at Gellert. Vinda didn’t miss it, and looked at Indus thoughtfully, before assuming a blank look, and turning to Gellert, who was just plain confused at the strange exchange between his two friends.

The bell rang, and they headed to Arithmancy, Gellert smiling, happy to return to his favourite subject. The day melted into evening in what felt like minutes, their familiar subjects flying by until sunset was upon them, and Gellert had elected to climb back up to the roof. He leaned back against the chimney pot and felt the warmth of the summer sun, he was thinking over what had happened on his first day back, and was writing a to do list. Find out how to do Occlumency, that was the first order of business, then finding out what was wrong with Indus. He had three essays and an arithmancy worksheet of problems to do as well, not to mention that he had to timetable when he did his divination self studying so he sighed, closed his small notebook and headed back down to his room. He happily completed the arithmancy questions in half an hour, then went on to the charms essay. Knowing he would be marked more harshly that the rest of the class, he double checked a few of his facts in his textbook, but he finished that fairly fast too. His Ritual essay prompt, ‘Explain why the date a ritual is done on has magical significance on the power and outcome of the ritual.’ was a gift, and he began the essay with a smile.
‘The date a ritual is done on is magically important because like the ocean, the tides of magic are affected by the moon. This means that for a ritual with a positive outcome, the first half of any lunar month would work best, whereas a darker ritual would work best in the last few days of a lunar month. Dates are also important because there are many points of the year at which magic is stronger, such as…’
He finished it with a flourish half an hour later, and wrote his name at the bottom of the front page of the folded booklet. Unlike the majority of his classmates had last year, who chose to write their essays on scrolls of parchment, he preferred to write his essays in notebook style and bind them magically in thin pamphlets, as he thought it would be easier for the teachers to read that way. As none of them had complained, he assumed that he had been correct. He then went on to complete his essay for transfiguration, before relaxing with his most recent book; Machiavelli’s ‘Discourses’ translated into German, and opened it to the page he had last got to, which was marked with a pressed leaf he had found that summer. As he headed to bed he reminded himself to write to his mother in the morning, and for once, he drifted off at a reasonable hour.

He woke just as the light was beginning to creep over the eastern horizon in a grey glow, and checking the watch he had received for his birthday told him that it was quarter to four. The sole hand on the smaller face attached to the watch strap above the regular clock pointed to the waxing moon just shy of half full, and another small circle below the regular timepiece told him his current location, the engraving showing latitude, longitude and elevation from sea level. He pocketed his tarot cards before heading to his desk to write home, the watch reminding him to write a letter to his uncle as well as his mother, and was soon walking down the corridor towards the stairs, stopping at the fireplace by them to toss his letter into the blaze with a pinch of floo powder and a muttered home address. He then walked down the winding stairs to the second floor. He beamed as he opened the door, a simple “Alohamora” giving him access to the room he had most missed during his summer at home. He winced at the memory of blowing up the doors the year before, and was glad that he had found a less incendiary solution for locked doors since. He walked swiftly to the divination section and pulled out a book on the tarot, reading for two hours without interruption before being tapped on the shoulder. “Hello young Grindelwald, what brings you to this section of the library?” said the librarian, and Gellert pushed down his quiet rage at the interruption to answer by waving his deck of tarot cards at the Professor, and going back to the book. The Librarian left him alone to read, at which Gellert smiled, his anger fading, pleased that silence would reign once more. He finished the book and returned to his dorm to get ready for the day at half past six, which turned into seven o’clock rapidly as he pulled out his potions equipment and the books he would need for the day.

He sat down at breakfast and awkwardly realised that some of the upper years would have potions that day, but not one student past third year had a cauldron. How had he not noticed this last year? he thought to himself, and how could he learn what they had done? Turning to a sixth year he happened to be sitting next to, he asked politely if there was a spell he could use to shrink something. “Not at your age mate, sorry.” said the older boy, peering at Gellert from over a cup of black coffee blearily. “Humour me.” said Gellert, an edge of malice in his voice that he hoped the other boy wouldn’t pick up on. “Oh alright then, its incantation is Firfallan, and the wand movement is a downwards pointing triangle and the counter spell is Wahsano.” Said the boy “But you wont be able to do it anyway pipsqueak.” he continued. Gellert glared at the boy in anger, but resolved to prove him wrong first, and then perhaps indulge in a little revenge. He took out his wand and the older boy laughed, calling out to a few friends what Gellert was trying to do. A fair few of the older years looked over in amusement, and Gellert gritted his teeth. Pointing his wand at his cauldron, he screwed up all of his rage at the older students and intoned “Firfallan.” quietly, drawing a triangle in the air as he did so. His rage flowed into the spell, magic pulsing as it hit the cauldron, causing the pot to shrink. It reached the size of a Yule bauble and Gellert popped it into his bag, smiling at the other boy as he did so. “Thanks, I can’t believe that I did’t know this last year, it would be so useful.” He said, and returned to his breakfast, not acknowledging the surprised stares of the older students. He told his three friends how to do the charm, and they practiced it until the could all do the Engorgement charm as well. It had taken all of break and most of lunch, but they walked into their charms class after lunch able to do it, and that would be enough.

In their lesson, the charms professor, Professor Watkafn, was as annoying as ever, but Gellert had a plan. He nodded to Vinda, and she put her hand up. “Yes Miss Rosier?” Said the professor, unwittingly playing into the plan perfectly. “When will we learn the shrinking and engorging charms? They would be really useful for carrying our cauldrons.” replied Vinda, tone innocent despite how much she disliked the professor, and liked the prank they were planning. “Ah my dear girl, I am afraid that that magic is a little beyond children of your age. You will not be covering that until November next year.” Replied the Professor condescendingly. Vinda waited until he wasn’t looking and then send a sharklike grin at Gellert, who returned it gleefully. They were finally set their practical work, and many of them were struggling, as the four of them had told everyone to pretend not to understand the spell. “Professor, could you do a demonstration?” asked Indus. The professor half nodded, and then saw that Gellert hadn’t performed the spell that the class had to do either. “Ah Grindelwald, Why don't you come up here and show the class how to do this spell then.” He asked, and just like that, he was doomed.
“Of course professor.” replied Gellert. He walked up to the front of the class and stood there calmly with the statuette dragon they were supposed to be charming to move in his hands, and placed it on the desk. He said the incantation and watched as the little wooden dragon curled up and then stretched its wings in a perfect imitation of a real dragon. Then he grinned and clearly intoned “Wahsano.” the teacher looked on in horror as the wood dragon grew to the size of a chair and then picked itself up, and walked over to Gellert’s desk, jumping onto it and curling up to sleep. Gellert turned to the class, and took a cocky bow, proud that the plan had gone so flawlessly. He stayed at the front of the class, and at a nod from Indus began to talk again. “To do this spell you’ve got to really imagine how the dragon would move, and incant, focusing on how you want it to.” The class laughed at him, but he stood his ground at the front, and the class, led by Indus, Irina and Vinda, attempted the spell again. This time, with everyone trying their hardest, the class mastered the spell easily. Gellert smiled sweetly at the Professor. “Hey guys, anyone fancy learning the Engorgement charm? It’s just as easy, I promise.” he said, and his three friends nodded, along with some of the others. He taught the class, and his friends grinned, as one after the other they ‘learned’ the spell, and proved that it could be done. Gellert wasn’t expecting anyone else to get it, but Ladislav Dracut and the twins Otto and Karl Schulze also managed the spell towards the end of the lesson. Gellert smirked, now he couldn’t be accused of planning anything at all, as students who weren’t his close friends had also learnt the spell. He would call this a total success; he had taught a useful spell, and had so thoroughly proved that his charms professor was incompetent that he might face some kind of sanction. As the bell rang the professor couldn’t stop the class from leaving, and yelled after Gellert to stay behind, but Gellert feigned deafness as he was swept down the corridor in a tide of his peers, some of whom had taken to calling him Professor Grindelwald, no doubt led by Indus.

As they all made their way down to dinner, Gellert grabbed Ladislav and the twins, and asked them to join his friends at the dinner table. Once they were all sat down, Karl smiled and asked jokingly if Gellert would be taking every charms lesson from now on, and if he would be setting less homework than Professor Watkafn. Indus laughed and replied with humour colouring his tone. “Nah mate, Gellert will be setting twice the amount of homework, he’s a fiend.” Gellert sent a stinging hex at him, and Indus pointed at him theatrically. “See, A fiend I told you!” he exclaimed, and Karl laughed uproariously. Ladislav was deep in conversation with Vinda, whispering about something while wearing twin smirks that promised a dastardly prank, if Gellert knew anything about Vinda. Irina was making conversation with Otto, who seemed to share her passion for Transfiguration, but found her pronunciation of some words a little strange. Karl asked quietly where she was from and Indus told him that she was Russian, and to watch out for Gellert speaking it with her, as it meant a prank was surely being planned. “He’s lying to you Karl, Vinda is the one I plan pranks with. We do that in french, but Irina isn’t yet a prankster, so we mainly just chat.” said Gellert, shaking his head. “I don’t know which of you to believe, so I’ll just be careful around Gellert whenever he’s not speaking German.” Said Karl.
“Did I mention that Indus and I speak English together sometimes?” added Gellert with a grin. Karl threw up his hands in mock horror and the group, who were all listening at this point, broke into laughter. “How many more languages do you speak Professor Grindelwald?” said Otto, and Gellert put one finger up.
“I speak French, English, Russian, German and Hungarian. So only one more really.” Otto and Karl were thoroughly impressed, but Ladislav seemed a little disappointed. He asked what was wrong, and she replied in a melancholy voice that it would have been nice if he spoke Romanian because she did. Gellert apologised and asked her if she had read any of the history about Ladislav I, witch queen of Wallachia. “Yes of course.” Ladislav had replied, “She is my namesake. My family is descended from her second daughter.” Gellert had then become truly animated, as he discussed history, and slowly, the conversation moved from history to literature, and he discovered that he had finally found a friend who read the same kinds of things that he did.

The group split up into factions heading for different dorms, as Otto, Karl and Vinda headed to the East corridor, Indus and Irina headed for the North corridor and Gellert and Ladislav headed to the library. Indus had looked a little bitter as dinner continued, and Gellert had no idea why, but he shook off Indus’ strange behaviour as he was dragged into the fiction section. He soon had armfuls of books that Ladislav had suggested that he hadn't read, and she was equally laden with books that he had suggested, and they were chatting happily about their mutually loved books and debating the merits of Vector vs Riddlingston for history books. “Of course,” Irina was saying as they meandered out of the library after checking out their books, “There’s no one who can beat Bagshot when it comes to magical history, even if she is a bit Anglo-centric in the way she writes.” He smiled and agreed, not mentioning that he new the author personally. “She’s german actually, but she married an english wizard, or so I hear.” he said, and thought he would tell Ladislav later to see her reaction to his secret keeping, and indeed to his relation to Bathilda.

When the two of them staggered off, he to the north corridor and she to the east, they were both beaming uncontrollably at the thought of finally finding someone who read as much as they did. Gellert walked into his room and put all of the library books he had just borrowed onto his bedside shelf, the one the room had come with, squeezing them on beside the ones already there. He unshrunk his cauldron with a simple finite, rather than Wahsano, as that way it returned to its original size rather than Gellert having to judge by eye when to stop and cost much less energy magically. He opened a promising tome by Muggle Mary Shelly and began to read.

Hours later he closed the book, finished, and checking his watch told him sleep would be pointless now. He starred unseeing at the dark window, lost in the ivory world of paper and ink still held loosely in his hands. ''Everything is related. . . the minutest description of my odious and loathsome person is given, in language which painted your own horrors and rendered mine indelible. I sickened as I read....Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?’'He heard the plaintive voice of the monster echo in his head and he felt a tear track down his face as he felt the secondhand pain of a being unloved by its creator, before he scowled and brushed away the tear. He distanced himself from the emotional aspect of the novel, and pulled out a notebook, it was an incredibly interesting idea, and he couldn’t help but wonder. Muggle science couldn't reanimate a corpse, at least not yet, but perhaps a combination of magic and science could. He reached for a notebook, half ready to write down the idea, before he paused. Would he really want to do that? He made a small note but put a large question mark in the margin next to it, and turned to stare out of the window at the dark sky.

He made a decision, seeing as he couldn’t sleep and has no homework to do, he got out of bed and pulled on two jumpers and his fur lined red school cloak before venturing out onto the roof. He pulled out his wand and a book, and cast a spell he had recently learnt “Hyacinthum Flamaré” he thought, and watched as fire pooled out of his want like a slime. He cupped his hands around the lavender blue flames and sighed in contentment, drying a patch of rooftop to sit on and dropping the flames into his lap, where they grew to around the size of a typewriter and warmed him successfully. It was like having a cat sit on you on a warm day, and Gellert resisted putting his hands back into the cool blue fire, instead pulling out his next book and stretching out, back against the roof and legs dangling over the edge, to read. He paused in his reading to watch the sunrise, a line of golden light suddenly striking out along the skyline, and lighting the clouds from underneath, sewing each one with a red piping on the deep grey livery of the night sky above, and sighed, heading down to the his room after extinguishing his lovely blue flames. He undressed and got a fitful hour’s sleep before he woke again, red tracking down his face in the parody of a tear. He groped blindly in the dark for his crystal, his room still locked in darkness with its north facing window, and pressed his head into a blank face. He had seen a cave, and two men, one old and one young, watched as the elderly man dark the liquid and felt an inexplicable tug of emotion in his chest at the sight. He had watched as a thing of nightmares had crawled out of the lake, and had shivered at the sight of fire destroying it. He woke fearful but he knew not why, and he pressed his head into the crystal hard, hoping for some sense of clarity. He checked the time, finding that it was five past six, an acceptable hour to wake, and so he began to get ready for the day ahead.

Weeks melted together and Gellert found himself wondering what ritual he would perform this Samhain, as it was fast approaching. He ended up researching random branches of magic in the library for inspiration, and eventually stumbled on the idea of Familiar magics, and decided to do the ritual to find his familiar. He had brewed a position to see if he had one first, and he had discovered that he did, so now it was a matter of finding the ritual to summon it to him. He had to ask Professor Burntwraithe for the ritual of summoning a familiar in the end, unable to find the answer in any book in the library, and she was happy to oblige Gellert, who suspected that he was fast becoming her favourite student. “The ritual is one of the oldest there is, and is Norse in origin, meaning the runes it uses are Nordic.” explained the professor at one point, and Gellert soon had a book on the ritual, including a brief history of familiar bonds and another ritual to be able to communicate with one’s familiar.

Gellert studied the ritual at great length, and on Samhain night he was totally prepared. The ritual had to be done on open ground, with each rune dug directly dug into the earth in a pentagon, as the familiar bond protected both familiar and wizard from harm, and signified strength. An animal life had to be sacrificed, and he had swiftly removed the head from a large rat, watching as the blood soaked into the runes in the ground and they began to glow with a dull red light. The ritual chant was a short one, in old norse, and Gellert had stumbled over the unfamiliar language when he had first practiced it, but on the night, with the wind howling past him as he chanted, he spoke the words clearly, and felt something in his chest strike out, further and further away, lengthening into a invisible thread that led north. Gellert blinked, and felt himself swept away. His last coherent thought was that he would see through his familiar’s eyes, and then wake. He knew this, this was good, but still, part of him clung to his mortal body firmly before being wrenched away from it, tracking along a string that stretched across oceans and land, far to the north.

She tasted blood in her hooked beak and saw icy tundra spread out beneath her, before she was pulled up, feeling something calling to her from the south. She turned and flew, as fast as she could, following the pull. It was like nothing else, she was hunting but it was not prey that she flew so desperately towards. This pull felt anchored in her heart, not her beak, and it confused her. She winged her way west, aided by the prevailing wind towards some far off place.

Gellert woke in fear, his wings would not work; he would fall, but no, he was already on the ground, he was Gellert Grindelwald and he had just been inside his familiar’s mind, with her thoughts. She was a bird of prey, he had tasted blood and she thought often of the hunt, but he had no idea what kind she was. This was exiting, but he found that he was exhausted and he dragged himself up to bed with all the energy of a flobberworm in winter, remembering his promise to the One Of Three and chopping the right foot of the rat before he trudged away. He fell into bed and slept deeply, dreaming of a starry sky that went on forever and a sea of clouds he was above, he soared south, following the pull, and woke to his alarm wishing that his familiar would get here soon, and sending her his hopes for a safe flight, he got up and readied himself for the day. He was distracted in every lesson, and actually got something wrong in Herbology because whenever he closed his eyes he saw himself flying, land whipping past beneath him as he soared in the southerly breeze. He hoped that once the bond had formed he wouldn’t have to contend with this strange otherworldly sight, and that he could choose when he saw through her eyes. He was sure there was a ritual for it, but he would have to wait until a waning moon, because it would be a preventative ritual, and therefore would be strongest when the moon was vanishing. That night he sat on the roof facing north, blue flames wrapped around him in a pseudo cloak, waiting for his familiar to arrive. At twelve minutes to two in the morning, something landed on him, and he jumped in surprise, having drifted off into a state that rested half way between waking and sleeping. He blinked and saw himself though her eyes, and then took one backward pace. Gellert looked at the bird and saw that she was beautiful. A pure white colour with intelligent dark eyes, she was large, maybe 25 inches long and with a wingspan of around four foot, and she was looking at him in an evaluative manner too. Driven by instinct, he offered his left hand and she tore into it. He stroked her back, allowing the blood to pour as he did so, and it coated her flight feathers, soaking into the edges and running off all of the other feathers like oil on water. He watched as a pure white feather fell from her plumage and another grew in its place, pulled as if by gravity, he picked up the feather and grasped it softly.

He wriggled out of his jumper and shirt, not knowing why he was doing it but driven by pure instinct, and he placed the feather on his chest. He watched in fascination as it melted into his skin, becoming connected and then nothing more than a faint white mark edged in red. It stretched from his heart to his left collarbone and he looked over at his familiar. He pulled his jumper back on and curled up on the roof to sleep. When he woke he saw only white, slowly realising that his vision was obscured by feathers. He had been sleeping on the roof, fingers numb in the sharp frost of November’s birth, and he was curled in a ball around his familiar in the half-light of dawn. He carefully moved, trying to jostle the magnificent bird as little as possible, but despite his best efforts the bird opened one black eye and abruptly stood, its clawed talons scrabbling until they found purchase on his arm, biting through the layers of cloth like it was nothing and into his skin. Wincing, he hurried down from the roof to his room and transfigured one of his old dragonhide gloves, thickening the wrist padding and lengthening the glove into a gauntlet that reached to his elbow, which he made double thick on the back, to protect him from the claws. He smiled softly at his familiar and nudged her gently onto the glove once he had put it on, and then attempted to get dressed with only one useful arm. As if sensing his distress, the bird nuzzled his head with hers and flapped off to perch on his curtain rail, and he smiled warmly at her. He swiftly dressed, put the glove back on over his blue tunic’s sleeve and spoke softly to the bird, telling her that it was ok to come down now. He had yet to decide on a name for her, and was thinking of various historical figures, and was weighing he pros and conns of naming her after a queen or Witch. At that moment Indus popped his head around the door, and began to talk before stopping short at the sight. “So your familiar is a gyrfalcon,” he said softly, “She is very beautiful.” he continued, and Gellert smiled in response and invited Indus into the room properly, summoning the chair across the small room with a simple curl of his magic.

The Saturday morning was flowing by slowly, an unhurried river of time spent with Indus drawing sketches of his familiar, who he had decided to name Cixi, after the witch Empress of China, who was responsible for discovering the third exception to Gamp’s elemental laws of transfiguration as well as clawing her way to power through blood magic and being responsible for revolutionising the uses of Chinese ritual magics in the modern era. He thought it a fitting name, and the gyrfalcon seemed to agree, or at least not object, and so the morning wore on. He decided that he should return Frankenstein to the library and bumped into Ladislav, who was returning a book that he had suggested, and he found himself smiling warmly. “Did you like it?” He asked, and Ladislav went into a long description of her favourite aspects of the book, beaming. They eventually headed back to Gellert’s room and he walked in to find Indus hastily closing a sketchbook, and pulling out his drawing of Cixi he had now begun to ink. Pushing aside his friend’s strange behaviour, he beckoned Ladislav into the room and she immediately screeched unintelligibly in indignation. “How come you get all this extra shelf space?” She said, eyes flinty.
“Oh I added those in, I could probably do it in your room too if you want me to.” He replied nonchalantly. Indus had a strange pinched expression on his face, and Gellert made a mental note to ask him why he didn’t like Ladislav later. The two book lovers and a disgruntled Indus made their way to the east corridor, where they ran into Vinda who joined their group with a knowing glance towards Indus. The three others sat and watched in mute shock as Gellert asked for a drop of Ladislav’s blood as if it was a perfectly normal thing to say. she offered her hand with an uncertain glance and he pricked it, swiftly repeating the magic he had done in his own room but with the raw power of it coming from Ladislav’s blood, not his. soon she had all the shelf space she could want, and had quite got over her shock at his use of the taboo blood magic to give her this fantastic room. The others were not quite so sure, and Gellert looked around in confusion, unable to tell why his friends were all looking at him with a mixture of worry and fear.

As the afternoon wore on, Gellert pulled Vinda aside and asked her the question that had been at the back of his mind for weeks; What was wrong with Indus? but she had only smiled craftily and said “I don’t think he had realised it yet either so I wouldn’t worry.” She would say nothing more, despite the cocktail of bribery, flattery and threats Gellert had poured for her to get her to tell him what she knew, and Gellert eventually resigned himself to having to do his own research. “More importantly, why are you messing around with blood magic Gel? It’s dangerous.” She asked, entirely derailing Gellert’s internal monologue into a defence of the branch of magic that had helped him so much over the years. “Blood makes magic stronger, our families are tied together by blood, our magic is in our blood, so why should we not utilise it? We draw runes and then trace them with magic, when our wards would be that much stronger if we just drew them with blood, allowing our magic to be tapped directly at the source. We are crippling ourselves with this taboo Vind, and I for one am not about to stop.” By the end of this rant Gellert was breathing heavily, having taken very few breaths in between making his various points, and he smirked, satisfied, when he saw Vinda’s wondering look quickly turn into a perfect study in determination.

Gellert fell asleep thinking about the injustice of labelling whole branches of magic distasteful, and of the way muggles had forced wizard-kind into hiding so many years ago, yet no one had thought to do anything new since, and their world had stagnated. The muggles were slowly but surely discovering theoretical alchemy, though they called it chemistry, and he fell asleep wondering how everyone could be so wilfully blind. That night he dreamed of strange ships under the ocean, of muggle warships disturbing a nest of kelpie, of screeching flying machines that rained fire and of fields of poppies under the french sun. He woke unsure of what he had seen, and the cards were no help when he tried a reading. The fell into a line, not the celtic cross pattern he could decipher with relative ease, and he struggled to understand the strange pattern. The Hermit fell opposed at the end, and he unwittingly smeared a drop of blood from his eye onto the card, which, when he noticed, had already dried into a crimson splotch, the light of the hermit’s staff now drenched in red. He had soon written down his troubling visions and the corresponding card array, but the warmth of his bed called and he huddled away from the first snows of the year under his blankets, reading by wandlight until sleep took him once more. He had no more dreams that night, and in the morning woke wondering if the strange card arrangement of the night prior had been a bizarre dream, but no. There were the cards scattered across the room and there was the blood smear on the card of The Hermit. He shook himself and opened a window for Cixi, who had been out hunting, and had been successful if the red tinged feathers around her beak could be trusted. He gave her an affectionate scratch and quickly got dressed before heading to class.

Months seemed to drift by like smoke, and Gellert knuckled down to study for his divination and arithmancy GZPs, which he would be taking at the end of second and third year respectively. He was growing more confident in his divination techniques, and he had decided that along with delivering his side of the bargain made with the creature that ran the divination shop he would buy a crystal ball, and perhaps a book or two more on reading the tarot at yule. Professor Mansuro was giving him steadily more challenging arithmancy and he was becoming almost too busy to continue with his side projects, but he needed to do the communication ritual with Cixi soon and his notebook detailing research on the hallows was tantalisingly empty, which he couldn’t help but want to change. As Yule drew closer Gellert was swamped with end of term tests, and it was with a big sigh of relief that he boarded the boat homewards on the 16th of December.

Yule was only just around the corner and despite their frequent letters, his mother had neglected to tell him that they would all be going to Aunt Bathilda’s for the festive season, and that they were leaving that very evening for England. They rode the train to the international floo port, where they quickly went through the England connection fire place, and were soon arriving slightly dustily in the small front room of a little cottage in Godrick’s hollow. Gellert’s bags had not even been unpacked from school, and so he arrived carrying the customary two case set and his leather satchel, and could hardly find a space to put it before his mother and uncle shot through the connection. Bathilda showed the three of them around, apologising for the small accommodations, but Gellert was eager to explore the area, and the house itself, ready to uncover the secrets he could almost taste on the misty English air. His uncle gallantly took the sofa, which Gellert was privately sure was due to it’s proximity to the kitchen, and his mother took the spare room, leaving him to walk up the creaky stepladder to the attic, directly above Bathilda’s own room. As they had arrived quite late Gellert was hurried up to bed, despite protesting that he was old enough to stay up with the adults, and he lay on his bed listening to the ticking of the clock and warming his toes on the heating pipes that ran along the lower wall, where the roof sloped steeply almost to the floor. Gellert got up resentfully and stalked over to the window, where he lit a candle and put it to one side, before peering out into the night veiled with a thick mist and seeing a shape moving in the darkened window across from his own. He could see another child, a girl of about nine who looked frail in the half light, and he found himself wondering why she had no candle or lamp lit in the room. Another figure, an older boy, stuck his head around the door and both of them disappeared down the stairs as Gellert watched, silent. He turned around and put the candle in the window, before draping a blanket over the pipes to warm it and lying down with a huff, book angled towards the candle to catch the most light possible. He wrapped the blanket that had been warmed on the pipes around him and smiled contentedly, a little too warm but enjoying the peace and quiet of the evening.

That night he was haunted by a strange vision of swirling black energy that struck out at a proud looking woman and then coalesced into the shape of a little girl with deep bags under her eyes and a look about her that suggested too little time spent outdoors. He woke on his back and tried to stem the blood trickling from his eye so that he didn’t stain his aunt’s sheets. He fumbled around in the dark for his crystal and clicked his fingers, lighting the candle that still sat in the window where it had burnt down to a stub earlier. He quickly located the crystal and pressed a blank side to his head, before being seized by the strange urge to open a window despite the chilly night. He did so, fumbling with the old latch and finally wrenching the window open before looking through it. He saw with a start that the little girl was back in the attic of the house next door, starring right at him. she looked at him hopefully and he tilted his head to one side, as if asking her what she wanted. She looked at him, at the candle and then back to him, and then solemnly raised a book in her right hand. It was a battered copy of Tales Of Beedle The Bard, and Gellert smiled. He quickly blew out his candle and mimed opening the window, before pointing to her. She opened her window hopefully and grinned as he threw the candle to her. She looked in his direction again, and whispered “Can you light it?” He did so with a click of his fingers, and she gasped in awe, at which he grinned. He took a last look at the girl, curled up with a book and reading with the very end of a candle, before smiling again. He closed his window softly, now left with no choice but to lie in the dark, waiting for either sleep or the light of dawn, as he had no light to read by. He shouldn’t have given her his candle end, he thought to himself, but it was his favourite children’s book, and Aunt Bathilda did want to introduce him to the neighbours at some point, so he sighed, rolled over and tried to return to the fickle lands of sleep that seemed to dance just outside his grasp.

Yule was very different in England he discovered, for one thing it was strangely warm, like a sunny October day, for another, there were many places in the small wizarding part of the village that celebrated Christmas, not Yule, which Gellert was given to understand was a muggle festival celebrated on the 25th of the month. He couldn’t help but wonder what made these wizards abandon their roots, but he was too exited at the prospect of practicing his english to really consider it deeply. In the morning he had dressed in a warm coat and a turtleneck jumper before heading out into the snowless english countryside. He explored a small stream all the way to the source, through the wood and up into the moorland above, where a biting wind reminded him of the proper temperature it should be at this time of year, and made him wish he had brought his gloves. The hills looked promisingly dating and there were craggy rock faces marching upwards behind the dell where the village lay. Turning, Gellert saw the whole place spread out below him and saw how small the village really was for the first time. There were just a few streets, the stones of the houses the same dull grey as the crags above and the little township seemed to almost melt into its surroundings. He walked a little further up the hill where he found a disappointing lack of icicles and an abandoned cottage with ivy growing all over it. In the leeward side of one wall he had spotted a small tin box wedged in among the rocks, and after a few moments of tugging he got it free. Struggling a little with reading the loopy handwriting, he made out that the box contained a diary, and some of the loose sheets at the bottom of the box were what looked like arithmancy notes, and Gellert grinned. He had spotted a mistake. Pulling out a pen he tapped it with his wand to turn the ink red, and corrected the mistake in his own clearly different hand. His spiky writing stood out from the looping cursive boldly, and he grinned mischievously again, wondering what the owner of the notes would do when they found the corrections. He was little hungry so Gellert began the long walk back into the village, warming himself up by walking quickly down the path he had come up and soon he found himself meandering through the village with a smile, carefully causing all the muggle children’s snowballs to miss what they tried to hit, and came back to the Bagshot cottage in a very good mood despite the odd graveyard next to the house that he had had to walk through to avoid some drunken muggles.

He grinned and walked into the little kitchen where Bathilda was making some last minute biscuits. “Hey Aunt Bathilda, I’m back from exploring.” he announced. Bathilda was an excellent cook, and Gellert helped make the gingerbread with the help of her yellowed old recipe book, while she chatted away in German. “Oh I’m sorry you missed them, the boys from next door, but they came over earlier. The older boy, a year ahead of you in school dear, is quick as a whip, and I had hoped to introduce the two of you.” Gellert asked if they would be returning another day, but Bathilda shook her head. “I’m sorry dear, but the whole family is going up to Hull to spend Yule with the family. It’s such a shame, but I’m sure you’ll become acquainted at some point.”
“Where is Hull Aunt Bathilda?” asked Gellert, and she smiled, explaining that it was on the other side of the country on the east coast, and lending Gellert a map of the British Isles so he could see it for himself.
The rest of the yule holiday passed quickly, and in what seemed like mere minutes he was heading back to Germany, and thence to school by ship, new notebook and telescope in his trunk, the strange half-remembered gratitude of the girl next door for the candle he had thrown to her, which he had half convinced himself was a dream, preying on his mind. He was quiet on the boat back to school, and starred into his crystal contemplatively, the strange occurrences of the holiday playing across the back of his eyelids as his eyes fixed on the blurry land of the middle distance.

Chapter Text

Gellert sat at his desk, head bowed as he wrote his concluding paragraph for the essay on divination techniques he had to show the examiner and nothing in the room made any noise, save the icicles that encrusted his window, which dripped continuously in the April sunlight. Months of cold snow and driving hail had flown by, melting into spring, and Gellert had found himself withdrawing more and more into solitude, as none of his friends were worried about taking any important exams. He was the only one that had a GZP this year, and as a result he found that he had quietly isolated himself, but he was about as prepared as he could be, so he sighed, put down his ink pen and went next door to visit Indus. He still spoke to his friends in the classes that they shared, and on occasion spent the evening with them, but he had less leisure time than any of them, and they had drifted apart by pure accident. He found Indus’s room empty, however as he passed Irina’s room he saw his three closest friends sat in a circle, laughing. Softly, he knocked on the door and the three of them looked up, surprised. He sat down and the conversation resumed in a slightly stilted manner. Gellert felt a pang of hurt, had he really pulled away so much that they could no longer share easy conversation? he thought to himself, but he watched the group dynamic carefully and after a few minutes was steering the conversation in the direction he desired. He smiled internally, relieved that he could make his friends comfortable around him once more, and thankful that he could do so quickly. He allowed himself a mental pat on the back while making a self depreciating joke, and let himself smile widely at his closest friends’ laughter.

Looking around at his three friends as gold light poured through the window of Irina’s room, Gellert found himself suddenly overcome by a strange sense of melancholy. They were illuminated by the long light of the soft spring evening, and they were strangers to him. He had smoothed away the social awkwardness in the group, had slotted himself seamlessly back into their lives, but there was something different about all of them. They seemed to be an exquisite painting, beautiful but two dimensional and as distant from him as another world. He watched them with a shadow in his eyes that whispered faintly of bitter envy and poisonous longing, trying to get back to what it felt like being close to them, but unable to remember quite how. There was nothing he could do, he realised, looking out into the yawning abyss of differences that had come to rest between him and his friends, he was alone, and it was an isolation of his own design.

Weeks passed and Gellert found himself growing back into his friendships as the end of the year drew closer, forced as they had seemed at first. One evening they had all gathered in his room, and Vinda suggested a prank potion she had found that forced the drinker to speak only in limericks for an hour, and Gellert laughed, finally feeling more at home in the conversation. The four of them soon fell to planning, but when they were arguing over who should be the recipient of the potion Gellert had the uncomfortable feeling that had he not been there, he would have been suggested. They eventually decided on professor Watkafn, as he persisted in being generally useless, and Vinda then asked the important question of logistics that they had left unaddressed. “How will we get him to drink the damned thing?” she asked, frustrated, and Gellert blinked, thoughtful. An idea struck him, so simple and yet untraceable that he had almost dismissed it before remembering about Indus. “We should take it to the kitchens.” he said, and Indus’s eyes lit up with understanding. “Of course.” he breathed, and then his eyes met Gellert’s, shining with all of the wonderful possibilities he had just thought of. Gellert found himself smiling, noticing with a start that Indus’ softly curling hair had been cut shorter, falling in a curl across his forehead but no further. It looked good, Gellert decided, and he tuned back into the conversation, which had moved to where they could get the ingredients for their potion.

A few days later, Cixi had been sent to Irina’s cousin for a box of ingredients, and a potion had been made. The small vial Gellert had in his pocket felt strangely warm as he and Indus crept down the stairs towards the kitchens, and he saw Indus trying to hide his laughter as he slipped on the bottom step, falling to the floor with a quiet thump in his haste to get the prank underway. As they opened the door to the kitchen Gellert was once again reminded of his friend’s otherworldly connections as the sprites of the kitchen floated down to greet them. They quickly explained the prank, as well as who it was for, and the sprites agreed to help them, but when Indus had turned and walked out of the door, it slammed behind him ominously and a sprite drifted down between Gellert and the exit. Gellert felt very uncomfortable and slightly afraid as he met the strange slitted eyes of the fae spirit, almost scared of falling into their fiery amber depths. The creature spoke, a strange guttural sound closer to rocks grinding together than any human voice, and said “You are tied tightly by strands of love and betrayal, See-er.” Gellert frowned, and began to open his mouth to speak when the creature spoke again. “You are bound to us as you can see through time. You will walk through the world, ashes in your footprints, and blood will forge your path to greatness. The starlight will be snuffed out by your hand, taken with tears but silent sorrow sleeps too soon. You are cold, child, and the ice could crack.” Gellert blinked, head spinning with what he had heard. It made no sense, yet he felt as if some enormous truth had been revealed to him, only he couldn’t comprehend it. He felt like he was looking at a book in a foreign language, unable to understand what it said but knowing it was important. The sprite moved aside and the door swung open as if of its own accord.

Outside the kitchens Indus was waiting, confused, and Gellert painted on a smile, making a lighthearted joke about the fae telling him his fortune at which Indus laughed. Gellert smiled for real at that, Indus’ infectious laughter taking his mind off the strange words of the fae. He tried to forget them entirely, but they rang with the note of an unavoidable truth, and Gellert found himself writing them out into his notebook of visions later that evening, perturbed by their dark promise for his future. What could it mean, ‘the starlight snuffed out’? He did not know, and after hours of starring mindlessly at the words he closed his notebook resolutely, deciding to concern himself with the more immediately solvable problem of Vinda.
Though the other two had quickly accepted him back with open arms, she had been a little more reserved in re-offering him her friendship. He got up and quickly walked down the long north corridor, turned to the east corridor and vaguely hoping that he emerged from her room unpranked, or at the very least uninjured. He knocked softly on her door and waited for her to invite him in, poking his head around the door and then, after quickly scanning the room for pranks, walking in. He sat down and Vinda levelled him with an icy glare. “Vinda look, I’m sorry I’ve been distant-” He began, but Vinda cut him off. “Not sorry enough, you rat. We’ve all struggled without you, and let’s face it, Indus and Irina were always the closest to each other and I’ve had no one. I tried to hang out with Ladislav but she’s a pale imitation, and the twins are no better. I had no one, because you evidently don’t care enough about any of us to bother being friends. You were not there for me. So No, you’re not sorry enough, not yet.” She left a cold pause after every sentence, aware of how much more impact they could have that way. Gellert felt horrible about it, he really hadn't meant to cut off any of them, but at the same time his guilt was muted, as if felt form a great distance; he might have been awful but he had had his reasons. In the end it was him or them, and he had made the wise choice of bettering his chances for an Outstanding in a GZP three years early. He let none of this show on his face, apologising with all the wide-eyed guilt he thought he should feel, and soon he had her forgiveness. He sat for a moment before pacing her room and then pulling out his peace offering. It was a notebook, but inside it was every prank they had successfully pulled, and all of her ideas that had just been mentioned in passing over the last year. “I do listen. I do care, I promise.” He said, guiltily thinking of the useful little charm he had created to make this, the modified diction spell that copied down all conversations that flagged as the correct content, which he had attached to Vinda, his presence and anything involving pranking to create his ‘meaningful’ gift.

After that evening he and Vinda were once more thick as thieves, and they were often found, heads bowed in concentration over some spell or potion they were trying to use. “It took me a while to figure it out you know, what is wrong with Indus.” he said one evening just before May. “He has a crush on that Ladislav, doesn’t he.” Vinda looked at him for a long, silent moment and then began to shake with ill-suppressed laughter. “No Gel, he doesn’t. Not even slightly. Not in a million years. It would be easier if he did, believe me.” She choked out between bouts of laughter, and Gellert looked at her in abject confusion. “Clever with magic, not so much with emotions I guess.” Vinda taunted, and he scowled in return. He was sure he had been right. Vinda was being needlessly obscure, with that “It would be easier if he did.” stuff that was more confusing than any of his visions, and he had the sneaking suspicion that she was doing it on purpose. He narrowed his eyes at her and she laughed. “Indus does have bad taste though, so you weren’t too far off.” she added, just to make Gellert’s life more miserably confusing, he assumed.
“You never forgave me for drifting apart did you, you are just pretending to like me in order to get your slow revenge as I’m driven mad, aren't you?” he joked and then they were both laughing, and he felt the irritation of being so wildly incorrect about Indus fading away. The topic drifted to schoolwork and soon Gellert had almost brushed aside the exchange entirely, when he frowned, wondering how he could get to the bottom of the issue without actually asking Indus himself. As the GZP drew ever closer he made sure to study often, but his friends, and he could safely call them that again, made sure that he saw the summer sunlight at least once a day, and he often wondered how they had let him get so isolated in the first place.

On the morning of the divination exam, Gellert made his way to a small room just off the food hall, as he was the only student taking it. He shivered as the disembodied voice let him know to begin, and looked down at the closed paper as a clock appeared on the wall counting down the minutes he had left to complete his work. As soon as he opened his paper all of his concerns flooded out of him. This would be fine. Forty-five minutes later he put his pen down after answering the final question “If the tarot was arranged like this, see diagram, describe and explain what the significance of the whole spread could be.” with a sigh of contentment, and began leafing back through the paper, checking his work. Once he was satisfied that his paper was as good as it could be, he put his pen down and passed the time by watching as the second had on the clock rotated. He walked out of the theoretical exam well pleased, and hurriedly made his way to the tower, where the practical divination exam would take place.

The exam room was small, a nook in the tower proper, just below the Apparition point in the school, and the examiner introduced herself as Kikida Delphius just before they walked in. Gellert blinked up at her, shocked that such a prestigious name in Divination was moderating his exam. He introduced himself and walked into the exam room proper.
The room was thick with the acrid scent of burning sage and dried poplar berries, and Gellert smiled, sinking into a half-aware state from the divination herbs he had requested to bring on a vision. He pulled out his cards in preparation and saw his vision of the world around him fade into greys. He was once more in that strange disconnected sea of blues and silvers, and he saw himself leap from a window, hand clutched tight around the Wand, the hallow of the eldest brother. He saw spinning scenes of confusion, sparkling blue eyes filling with love, then with tears that killed the bright spark that lived within them, and finally determination, loss, and the strength of a soldier. He felt some strange pain in his chest and down at the base of his spine, and knew that something very precious to him had been lost. He came back to himself with his right eye pouring red, and pulled the parchment towards him to note down his vision, now used to the process from his own notebooks, almost forgetting about Kikida entirely. Once he had written down his raw vision he threw his cards, spinning the deck with his raw magic and allowing it to direct the card placement. The lovers, upright were crossed with the emperor, reversed. The age old struggle between love and power played out across the spread. To the left the past held the Hermit and to the right the future held the Wheel Of Fortune, changeability. Above stood the Ace Of Wands for inspiration and below lurked the King Of Swords, denoting manipulation and mental clarity, intellectual power and authority. He copied down the tarot pattern and began annotating around the diagram with possible meanings, when he was interrupted. “Is this routine for you Grindelwald, you look practiced.” Said Kikida, and Gellert nodded. She wrote that down on her assessment page and Gellert grinned. He quickly wrote out his different possible interpretations of the way the cards had fallen, ending up with about three pages of notes, which he then tapped with his wand, creating a copy and then signing it G.Grindelwald. He gave Kikida the copies, and then they left the small room and moved upstairs to a room that had been prepared for the power level assessment.

Gellert stood in the centre of the rune circle in mute shock. He had no idea what a pure white glow meant but it had almost blinded him, and the examiner was looking at him with wonder and no small amount of apprehension. “What does that mean?” he asked, almost afraid to hear the woman’s answer. She took a deep shuddering breath in, her eyes swimming with a range of emotions that Gellert couldn’t identify, before she spoke. “You are powerful. There are very few records of seers with this much power that didn’t go mad.” Gellert’s eyes widened in panic, and then narrowed in determination. He would not be told that he would go mad, and if others could stay sane then so would he. He squared his shoulders and opened his mouth to say just that to Kikida, but she spoke again. “The most famous of these was the Great Seer Cassandra Trelawney, a legendary seer of enormous power. She remained sane for her whole life, and wrote a series of prophetic books, as well as the famous Trelawney diaries, which are said to be a detailed account of her life, but they were lost after her death and have never been found.” Gellert made a note of her name, and then bid the examiner goodbye with a smile, assured that he had got top marks on at least one section of the exam.

The end of term flew by quickly after that in a barrage of end of term tests for his other subjects, and after what felt like no time at all Gellert was packing up all of his things at the end of term and trying to coax Cixi down from his curtain rail and onto his arm for the boat ride. Over the course of the past few months he had got very good at localised shielding, as Cixi’s claws were very sharp, and she liked to perch on his shoulder, and he needed his clothes to remain intact. He finally got her to land on his arm and after charming his luggage to follow after him he took a last look around to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything, before leaving to find Indus, and a cabin for him and his friends for the boat trip home.

He shook with laughter at Vinda’s luggage, which because she had charmed it to follow her, would not stay where she wanted it to, and even tried to follow her to the lavatory. It eventually took him and Indus wrestling the luggage to the floor and then the two of them, Irina, Ladislav and the twins sitting on it, three to each trunk to prevent it following Vinda any further. Indus was reluctant to thank Ladislav for the help, and kept glaring at her across Gellert, who was wedged in between the two of them on top of one case of the large two-case set. He was sure that a crush was at the bottom of his issues with the girl, and couldn’t understand what Vinda knew that he didn’t. Recently Irina had been let in on the secret, he was sure, as he often caught the two of them sharing knowing looks over his head. He felt something snap and the trunk they were sitting on stopped struggling to move. Laughing, he stood up and opened his own bag to retrieve a book for the journey, studiously ignoring the catty sarcasm and stony glares both Indus and Ladislav were throwing at each other. The rising of the boat an hour later told him that they had arrived in Munich, and he bid his friends goodbye, most of whom were remaining on board, as they got off at different lakes to him, in France, Russia and Romania respectively. Otto and Karl followed him off the boat and they both waved at him as he walked away towards his mother.
“How was the exam imp, are we expecting an Outstanding?” She asked by way of greeting, to which he nodded, then trying to wriggle away from her as she kissed him in greeting, embarrassed in front of the other boys.
“And what on earth are we going to do with that enormous hawk Gellert, where is she going to even sleep in the house?” his mother said as they got onto the train back into Munich, at which Cixi loudly complained, drawing the attention of several confused muggles. Gellert glared at them and stroked her feathers softly, attempting to calm her. “She’s not a hawk mother, she’s a gyrfalcon, and she will stay in my room, and be no extra trouble.” he said, scratching his beloved familiar’s neck as he did so. His mother asked somewhat frantically what she would eat, and responded with a frown when Gellert confidently said that she would catch her own food, probably pidgins or other small birds. He happily changed the subject, and soon they were making their way through the twisting city streets towards home.

When he woke up the next morning, Gellert was eager to visit Magical Munich once more, as he needed to drop off the rat’s foot with the One Of Three at its shop. He had put a stasis charm on the thing, still unsure why the creature wanted it, and he had put in the smallest pocket of his leather satchel for safekeeping so that he could find it easily. He ate breakfast and brushed off his mother’s questions about where he was headed off to so eagerly with a taciturn “To the Library Mother, I’ll be back shortly.” as he left the house, jangling his keys in his coat pocket to make sure that he had them with him. As he ducked into Magical Munich the stone dragon responded to his cheery greeting with only a grumble of acknowledgement, and the phrase “It has begun, Young Lord.” which was the usual type of infuriatingly cryptic message he got from the statue, and he went on his way regardless. When he got to the strange little shop he walked in without hesitation, and the One Of Three soon came clattering into view, its robes a faded burgundy this time.

He wordlessly held out the rat’s foot and watched in bemusement as the thing let out a laugh like crackling flames, putting the foot deep into an inner pocket of its robes. The creature suddenly fixed him with a stare and tilted its head. “What is it that you wanted to ask, Lordling?” He smiled and replied that he wanted to know more about Cassandra The Great. “Oh yes, she came in here years ago, I remember her well. A golden eye and an uncommon clarity of Sight, that girl, not unlike yourself. Her descendants were all horrors, and will always be that way. The one born in the thirties will be the worst by far, and that’s the last Trelawney I believe, but Cassandra’s gift persists within her, however diluted. She’ll come in here expecting respect just because of her ancestors you know, the nerve of it.” said the thing, and Gellert couldn’t help but laugh at the incongruently earthly irritation in it’s voice. He attempted to get more information out of the creature but it merely laughed at his attempts, and he soon left the shop, bemused. Stopping abruptly when he walked through the door back into the street, he realised that time seemed to have stood still while he was inside the shop. The same boy threw the same hoop that glittered and spun with a trail of sparks down the road, and it hadn’t even fallen yet, continuing to roll on as if Gellert had not just stepped outside of regular time. He turned around to stare at the little shop again, wondering just how many secrets surrounded it, and shook his head ruefully, sure that it was more than he could ever uncover. Popping into the library, he walked over to the divination section and soon found Volume IX and Volume XXIII of Cassandra’s Prophetic Certainties, the most famous of the book series written by the great seer. Gellert wandered over to the fiction section, and picked up a few interesting looking books, stopping in arithmancy to do the same before checking them all out and heading home to read in peace.

The rest of the first week passed in relative quiet, and on Monday he did nothing, curled up in bed reading his books in solitude. He was a little preoccupied, as that night he had dreamed a blur of black hair and pale skin, a sensation of burning and two grey eyes snapping open with a long drawn out moan. His dream shifted and he saw a mess of hair that slowly faded from black to a deep reddish brown, little crows feet lines of worry writing themselves into the soft skin around eyes that had shifted from grey to a bright blue, his name choked from a different pair of lips.. He had seen a fractured scene of blue fire in a tomb and a field in the summer sun of an August evening, two hands entwined by red string that seeped blood. He had woken with blood smearing his pillow and a name he could almost taste lingering on his lips, but it was gone before he could say it, lost in the mists of the future. He had found that he was hard, and fell back into a deep sleep after relieving the stress on his body, cleaning the sticky residue off his sheets with a swift Evansco. For a while he hovered near waking, but before he could resign himself to a night of sleeplessness the currents of his dreams pulled him back in. He fell forward through time, felt himself stand up on a roof and drop a cigarette and saw Vinda smiling at a blonde dressed in a long pink coat with tears in her eyes, and offering the woman her hand. He saw a flash of green light through the door of a strange house and felt Vinda’s hand on his shoulder, her voice low as she murmured “It is done.” into his ear before turning on her heal, long green coat swishing as she turned and walked away. When he woke he wrote down the dream of Vinda, but felt that his other dream was probably not of the prophetic nature despite his eye, and at any rate was not appropriate for his notebook. It might be published one day and those dreams were his, and nothing to do with anyone else. He carefully put aside his notebook and picked a book to read

Gellert was just waking up the following day when he heard a letter come through the fireplace in his room. He thought little of it until he suddenly heard Vinda’s voice, a loud uncertain yell of hello before the letter commenced in full. “Hey Gellert, I’ve got tickets to see Macbeth, want to come? It’s in Paris and it’s supposed to be an incredible performance. I read your copy last term and really loved it, its going to be great! PS: I learnt the howler spell, and its great.” He would be delighted with the news were it delivered at either a better time or a lower volume, Gellert thought, disgruntled, and got out of bed to write a note back accepting the offer. He was exited, as it was a play he loved. He enquired as to wether Indus would be joining them, as he was the one Gellert had first got a copy of the play from, and Wished Vinda well before signing his name, and adding a postscript requesting that she never send him another howler, on pain of death. He threw a pinch of floo powder into the flames that had danced up with the arrival of Vinda’s letter, followed by his response. Cixi was scratching at the glass of his window to be let out and he complied, watching as she winged her way up across the many spires of the city in search of some smaller bird to have for breakfast.

Gellert got up quickly and made himself a small cup of coffee, returning to bed with his backpack of books to read. The first of the books by Cassandra Trelawney was fascinating and he was still deeply absorbed in the Seer’s writing at lunch. In the afternoon his mother dragged him out to Munich’s Magical Museum to see the new exhibit on witchcraft and cannibalism in prehistory, early history and the middle ages, which turned out to be an absolutely fantastic exploration of the earliest, bloodiest forms of magic. Caribbean wizards had for centuries believed that eating the heart of another wizard would allow someone to develop the victim’s magical talents, and the Aztec wizarding community had sacrificed people to their gods, the mass slaughter of thousands allowing them to seal off parts of their land from invaders and disappear behind impenetrable wards. The Aztec empire’s magical areas flourished even in the modern era, its protective wards disguising whole communities across much of the Andes, steeped in blood magic and, supposedly, the most advanced ward creation in the world. Gellert wanted to go to South America. He wanted to go next week, if possible, and live there until he had learnt all of their secrets. His mother disagreed, vehemently.

Despite being determined to get to South America to study blood wards, Gellert was actually going on holiday to Russia, where they apparently had some second cousins who his mother was keen to see again. Irina lived in Russia too, and despite the distance between her family and his relations he had wrangled the promise of a visit from his mother, and would be seeing her in a week. She wasn’t quite as cool as an Aztec blood mage but she would be fun to meet up with, and without Vinda there she might crack and tell him their secret, so he was looking forward to seeing her again, as well as meeting his four second cousins, the eldest of whom apparently liked explosions just as much as he himself did. Though he had never met his mother’s cousin or his children he had heard a lot about them, as his mother and uncle had been close to their cousin in age, and interests. Gellert’s grandmother had been Russian, while his grandfather had been German, and while his great aunt Bathilda was german and had married an Englishman his family on his grandmother’s side were all Russian, and he was keen to meet them, especially as his mother had mentioned that in a few years the younger ones might go to Durmstrang. Soon they were packing their bags for Russia and heading off to the international floo port by train, and he was exited about it in a detached way. He had gone back to the museum and bought three books, depleting his pocket money and he had made a mental note to pawn a few more galleons soon, so he was prepared for boredom despite his mother’s assurances that he would like the extended relations, and his own half-hearted excitement.

His mother had been right, he did like his second cousin. Sasha was currently pointing his wand at an abandoned stone barn that was loaded with a few crates of muggle gunpowder that they had stolen, and in between them rested bags of peppercorns and dried bowtruckle powder. The older boy had been dubious about Gellert’s addition of the potions ingredients, but he had been assured that it would be a much bigger explosion, and Gellert couldn’t wait. Sasha had apperated them out to a very isolated part of Siberia after walking far enough away from his cousin’s house that their parents couldn’t hear the crack of apparition, and Gellert grinned up at the other boy. “Come on then, let’s do this.” He said, and Sasha grinned down at him, his dark hair blending in with the craggy landscape, unlike Gellert’s blond shock of hair that stood out like a sore thumb on the dark background of heather and rock that surrounded them. “Incendio!” yelled the older boy, and a stream of fire leapt from his wand to the old barn, which stood still and silent for another few seconds before exploding into fire, rocks that had until a few moments ago been part of walls flying every which way and landing in the heather, where they smouldered and went out, the wet greenery steaming as it snuffed out any chance of a larger fire. The two boys high-fived, grinning at the explosion, which had been bigger than what either of them had expected. Sasha turned and did something very odd then, drawing a square in the air with his wand and tapped the edge of it. He smiled at Gellert’s confusion and said “Oh thats a spell that captures an image, like the muggles’ photography but obviously better, the images the spell can get are in colour, and should be very detailed. Want to learn?” Gellert smiled, nodding and thinking that he had made an excellent friend. Only a few days ago the older boy had been sure he would be snotty and incapable like his younger half-siblings, and since then they had become quite close, sharing their love of chaos. He soon learnt the spell, and Sasha warned him not to do any other spells before tapping a piece of paper, or he would lose the picture. The two boys had quickly apperated back home to Sasha’s house, and Gellert had rushed upstairs to pour the picture he had “Snapped” into a piece of paper, before coming down at a more sedate pace to the kitchen, where Sasha was laughing uproariously at what his mother was saying. “And then he put something in the food and it exploded in Joule’s face.” said his mother, her tone somewhere between fond and exasperated. “Hey, I can’t take all the credit. My friend Vinda Helped a lot with that.” He said, walking into the stone kitchen cheerfully, lost in the satisfying memory of a soot-stained suitor. His mother laughed and concurred. “Yes those two are quite the pair, trouble on legs I’d call them both.” She said, feigning a disapproving frown. “So Gellert, making moves?” asked his cousin, but Gellert tilted his head in confusion. “Do you like this Vinda then?” Gellert nodded, and then when his cousin wolf-whistled he shook his head frantically.
“Oh no, A whole world of no, It’s never gonna be like that with her. She’s like my sister.” He said, faintly disgusted at the suggestion. Vinda was nice looking he supposed, and they were close, but the thought of that with her made his skin crawl uncomfortably, though he had no idea why. It just felt wrong. The conversation was soon steered towards more pleasant topics and then Sasha’s school came up. How could he not have known that the two of them were at the same school when they were only four year apart, it was peculiar. He said as much, and received a shifty look from his cousin in return. “Well truth be told I thought you would be some snot-nosed kid like all the others in first year, and then it just became a habit, plus I had GZPs the year you started.” He said “So I kind of avoided you.” and Gellert relaxed, not so insulted once he had factored in exam stress. “Yeah I know those can be awful. They’re a pain.” He said and at his cousin’s scoff his he smirked as his mother nodded. “Oh yes Gellert has already done Divination, and he’ll be doing Arithmancy next year.” she said, the two of them laughingly watching his cousin’s jaw drop as he began to splutter.

The laughter of two boys carried far over the Siberian summer scenery, the mortar they had charmed wobbling dangerously as they passed far above the glasslike waters of the lake, the clouds almost close enough to touch above them in the high blue sky. “Come on, lets go higher Sasha, or are you too Scared?” crowed Gellert, before whistling a long and high pealing note and watching as his familiar flapped over to him, a large dead gull hanging from her beak. Gellert stroked her feathers once she had safely landed on the lip of the mortar and happily ignored the butchery of her kill while viewing the stunning reflection of the mountains in the cold lake below them. The old stone mortar, and it was an odd half cracked thing at that, began to wobble more fiercely and he looked over to find his cousin unable to tear his eyes away from Cixi and her meal, green at the sight. Gellert smiled, the expression wiping it’s self off his face as the mortar began to undulate like a storm tossed ship, responding to the distress of Sasha, who held the pestle. Gellert shoved at him and grabbed the heavy stone pestle, putting the bowl to rights with his soothing magic, establishing himself as the one steering to top the panicking of their mortar. He cackled at Sasha’s panicked look, who was obviously mistrustful of Gellert’s ability drive the thing safely, and banked steeply. He let out a whoop of joy as he brought them further up, high enough to touch the clouds, and then let them sink back down, watching as the mountains rushed up to meet them and following first one gorge and then another as the stone mortar flew over the craggy landscape. His cousin scowled and grabbed the pestle back from a beaming Gellert, sending both boy and gyrfalcon a nasty stare before smiling and doing a loop the loop. “Who’s afraid now Gellert.” he yelled, laughing as Gellert gripped the lip of the mortar, white knuckled and Cixi flapped her large wings in fear as the half-eaten gull skittered across the stone bottom of the mortar before flopping back towards her as the loop finished and the mortar righted itself. They turned towards home later as the sun began to sink, now a red-gold coin in the glowing buttery sky just that was quickly sinking out of sight, the mountains to the west cutting the warm sky in a sharp knife-line of deep shadow. Gellert took the pestle for most of the way after hitting Sasha with a Petrificus Totalus and stealing it from him, but he undid the spell as the drew closer to home, as he had no idea how he could land the thing. Sasha sent a stinging hex back at him, followed by what sounds like “vespertilios жупел.” but Gellert blocked the latter with a strong shield, unsure what it did. He had let the stinging hex hit him, pretty much sure that it would pacify his cousin. “Wow, you sure cast that shield fast” Said Sasha, and Gellert smiled, ducking his head to accept the compliment in feigned modesty before explaining that with friends like Indus and Vinda, a strong shield was a necessity. “With friends like yours who needs enemies?” Asked Sasha jokingly, and Gellert grinned. “Oh its all just practice, our real enemies won’t know what hit them.”

Gellert had sent Irina the address of his cousin’s house and on the eighth day they were there he had just sat down to breakfast when Irina appeared out of the fireplace coughing and covered in soot, smiling fiercely. “Ooh where a-bouts are we in Russia?” she said, looking out of the window into the beautiful landscape they were in the middle of and craning her neck upwards to gaze at the mountain peaks. “We should go climbing.” she breathed in awe, and so, quite spontaneously, they did. The three of them took a tent, enough food for three days and the pestle shrunk down, in case of an emergency that they needed to go home for, along with all of the necessaries for a camping trip. Irina had flooed back to her house for her fishing things and a snare that she swore up and down could catch a bear. Sasha had promised Gellert’s mother to bring them all back alive, and Gellert had tried to take his library chest, but it was decided that he would just have to shrink down a few of his favourites and take them in the satchel he never parted with, so there they were, Gellert’s breast pocket full of matchbox sized books and his bag full of apples and a sleeping sack. Sasha had briefly worried that Irina would slow them down, as the only girl of the group, but she had swiftly disabused him of this notion by catching the first fish for dinner, and then deftly skinning it without blinking, tossing the entrails to “That evil monster of the skies” known to the younger two as Cixi. Sasha had been bitten when he had first met Gellert’s familiar, and relations between the two of them had not improved much since.

Cliffs, Gellert discovered, required a very different method of climbing from trees. With a tree there was some cover from the elements, and you could be sure to catch yourself on a lower branch if you fell, with a cliff it was just you and the mountain in a desperate, adrenaline inducing battle for survival. He hung from the crack in the third cliff face, resting with his feet sideways on a small slanting ledge, and grinned wildly. The idea that he was completely alone, the only thing holding his life to his body a thin ledge and a crack for his hands, was bringing an intoxication power rush and he decided then and there that this was the sport for him. He could duel all he liked, play whatever insane english Indus introduced him to, but his heart would belong to the mountains. He loved it, and though he was the least experienced climber of the three of them he quickly realised why the others loved it so much. It was beautiful. He fluffed his sleeping sack and put it down carefully between Irina’s and Sasha’s, before ducking back out of the triangular tent that was a little too small for the three of them but very warm, and went out to join Sasha. He was holding his wand and levitating a pebble, starring at a hare in the distance and Gellert watched in wonder as he flicked his wand, the pebble shooting towards the hare at great speed and hitting it in the head. “Could you do that to a person?” he thought, and then blinked when Sasha turned around, shock painted across his face. He had spoken his thought out loud. “Hypothetically.” he added, nervous laughter breaking the tension, and Sasha nodded, half thoughtful half worried, and then Irina walked up to them, the hare swinging from her left hand, wand held loosely in her right, an excellent distraction.

The had reached the summit of Belukha Mountain which they had been climbing and the view was wonderful. Gellert saw the world spread out before him, dark stone houses ant sized and green slowly turning to grey rocks and snow as the tundra gave way to ice in the far north, the horizon a gleaming line of white. The three of them took “photographs” as the muggles would say, printing each one out three times and then taking another, before printing those too onto the sheets of plain parchment Gellert had packed at the last minute. Though Irina was all for climbing down the muggle way, Sasha had remembered his girlfriend’s visit, and the impromptu climbing expedition would cut into his time with her if it took them as long to get back as the climb up had, so they were traveling back by mortar. Last summer Gellert had tried flying on a broom the English way, and he had to say that he preferred the Russian tradition of flying in a mortar with the pestle to steer. It felt much more stable and Gellert liked the amount of room inside one as well, he could read in a mortar, but never on a broom. As they swept down the mountain and across the valleys towards home, he chatted with Irina about her thoughts on the latest issue of Transfiguration Today. Some boy hardly older than they were themselves had discovered a fourth exception to the Gamp’s Sixth Law of Elemental Transfiguration. It was a Hogwarts student too, and that made it even worse, at least if it were durmstrang they could be proud rather that jealous, which was the main emotion Gellert was feeling currently. He thought of getting his rune coat patented and putting it in the latest issue of Runic Revelations, before his fourteenth birthday so that he would be published before this Hogwarts boy, and decided that he would contact the Magazine after patenting his design once he had got back to Germany. Smiling sunnily about his plan, Gellert turned back to Irina and shared it, before showing her the coat he had rune-warded. It had grown a little too small in the autumn of last year, however he had woven in a rune chain connecting Growth, the three lines that formed a plant-like rune, the forwards pointing arrow of the transformation rune, strength and structure runes and the longevity rune to make the coat grow to fit the wearer. He was comfortably curled up in the coat now, which fit him once more and kept out both rain and cold, creating a barrier between him and the outside world, and he smiled.

Once home, he bid Irina goodbye and sent her off through the fireplace with a grin and a wave, and all too soon they were returning from the sanctuary that was his cousin’s place to the bustling city of Munich. He had gone on a day trip to Berlin to submit his article on transportable warding to the patent office and Runic Revelations, the magazine that let the runes community know what new discoveries had been made, and had been quite offended at their shock. The patent office had point blank refused to believe his coat was real, and then refused to believe that he was the creator of the design, and he had had to swear on his magic before anyone took him seriously, and then at the publication house for the Runic Revelations he had been scorned despite his freshly inked patent. He had been about to give up when he had spotted his runes teacher walking down the right had side of the antechamber. He had clamoured for her attention and received a grin, and he was soon swinging his legs on a high-backed chair in the room of the Editor-In-Chief, who his professor was apparently a close acquaintance of. He had come up with the coat when he needed to, one day last summer, and he hadn’t been trying too hard to do anything but keep the muggles off him on the train, but he wouldn’t be telling the editor that, it wouldn't do to push him too far into the realm of disbelief.

A week later he sat down at the table when a post raven arrived. Gelled quickly divested it of its paper and pushed it back out of the window before Cixi could get her claws into it, as he had had to pay postal fines for that twice before and did not appreciate money that could be going towards his book collection heading towards some post office that he rarely used, just because of a few dead ravens. Opening the newspaper, he saw a double page spread of himself and his warded coat on the first page. He had a post-stamp size portrait in the top left, and a byline that gave his name and age, as well as citing Durmstrang as his current school, however the vast majority of the spread was a detailed description of how he made the coat. He let a curling smile of success cross his face as he bit into his toast, warmed by the smug sense of victory that he had achieved. He had beaten the fourteen year old Hogwarts student by almost a year, and was published at thirteen. He closed his eyes, revelling in the joy of success and in his first delicious taste of external acknowledgement. He was in print, and the morning sun had never felt so glorious. He couldn't help but smile, feeling like a god.

Chapter Text

The sun rose over Paris a week later and Gellert looked on in wonder as the light struck the huge metal structure in the centre of the square. The Eiffel Tower was beautiful, gleaming and reaching up to scrape the peach tinted sky of the morning. He had just arrived in Paris in the international floo port, which had been built inside the muggle Notre Dame’s highest east facing pillars in memory of the witch burnings of the dark days, and how even now in modern France, magic was above religion. Gellert had instantly seen the symbolism and had descended into the church proper with a wide smile. The dawn light had lanced into his eyes as he looked towards the eastern horizon, and he had blinked it away, spotting the Eiffel Tower and heading towards it to meet one of his best friends. He looked around for her now and spotted Vinda smiling at him from across the street. She looked odd dressed up, her flowing forest green dress sweeping the cobbles of her hometown with an elegance that he had not known she possessed. As she ran towards him he saw sunlight glinting off something metallic in her hair, and she had a closed parasol of saffron yellow at her side which seemed a world apart from her usual clothes. She could normally be found in shorter dresses and with plainer hair, with heavy winter boots on at school, when out of her red and black uniform, but now she walked towards him very differently. He looked down at his own somewhat shabby appearance, ashamed, having just thrown on a faded green jumper and the first pair of trousers he had found in his room that morning before leaving. Vinda seemed to be having similar thoughts, because she greeted him with a pitying look. “Honestly you’re such a hopeless case Gel. You come to Paris dressed like this?” she asked, and he grinned, shoving her lightly and fixing her with a mock-glare. She was babbling something about a make-over, what ever that was, and Gellert would have been perfectly content to change the topic if not for the steely glint in Vinda’s eye and the smirk that she wore ,as if undecided wether she was feeling amused or cruel. He found himself starring at her warily as she dragged him into first one shop and then another.

Gellert was uncomfortable with the amount she had spent on him to say the least, and in his new fancy slacks and the deep blue fine-woven linen waistcoat he now wore he felt somewhat out of place. He had a royal blue light waistcoat and, though he had objected, a deep orange neck-tie with an ivory linen shirt. He was wearing his old battered boots, now gleaming after a polishing charm and the only real victory he had tasted in his fight against Vinda’s fashion coup was was that he was still wearing his coat. It was the only concession Vinda had allowed, as once he had explained the wards and shown her the article Runic Revelations had printed about it she had hit him for not telling her and cast a nifty scourgify on the coat, smartening it up and eyeing it critically, before sighing and letting him keep it on. Gellert brushed a speck of imaginary dust off the lapel and left it hanging open over the new clothes he had on underneath, before pulling Vinda into a pawn shop that lurked in a side street between The Eiffel Tower and The Notre Dame, and exchanging rapid-fire gutter french with the pawnbroker. He gave over all the galleons that he had brought with him, before summoning them back as they left. The shop owner saw that his payment had vanished and ran out into the street after them, demanding the return of his franks but they ducked under the cloak of a statue that Vinda pointed out and fled gleefully into Magical Paris. She watched him trade the muggle money for galleons and fixed him with a questioning glare as he threw a sack of galleons at her. “Don’t think I’m happy to owe you, that’s for the clothes, V.” he said, and she laughed, replying with a smile. “If you pull this stunt all the time why can’t you afford better clothes on your own? You dress like a hillbilly you know.” She asked teasingly, and Gellert gasped in outrage, loudly denying her statement with laughter dancing in his eyes “Where do you think all my books come from Vinds?” He taunted and she shook her head, muttering about bookworms and bad clothing choices as she did so. “You’re lucky that you have me for dealing with the real world Gel, or you’d be some sort of classically desperate Faustus type with no future.” she said, and Gellert frowned, a pretence at offence, but deep down he could do nothing but agree. He did sometimes get lost in his head, and Vinda was undeniably the best at drawing him back out into the real world.

Back in muggle Paris they stopped at a small café which was quite boldly declaring itself to be ‘Le Petit Café Aux Saveurs Magiques’. Vinda had laughed, seeing the irony of the café being so close to the real Magical Paris, and they had eaten there, Gellert quietly “Snapping” the image of Vinda laughing, radiant in the midday sun, with her dark brown hair set in contrast against the background of ochre stone, the green of her dress a stark contrast to the blood red of her lips, and with the café’s sign in the back of the picture. They payed for their food and then he was off at a run, Vinda picking up her skirts to chase after him, yellow parasol tucked up under one arm as she gained on him, her legs a little longer that his own. He screeched to a halt at a stall selling watercolour postcards of Paris in the spring and slyly grabbed a few, shoving them into his pocket and sending a mental plea for the muggle to continue unawares, feeling a rush as his magic leapt to do his bidding. He poured out the image he had captured onto two of the postcards, the original image melting off, replaced by the bold tones of his own that curled their way across the paper from where his wand had tapped the card. Vinda turned towards him beaming and then glanced behind him at the clock set into the ornate building and swore. “We’ll be late, We need to pick up Indus from Notre Dame floo station and we won’t make it in time.” Gellert muttered a quick “point me” and set off at a run, Vinda overtaking him after a few paces despite his eager rush to see Indus.

Indus was anxious, Gellert could tell because it was written in every line of his body, particularly in the set of his shoulders and the way his hands were folded, but when he yelled a greeting Indus visibly relaxed and turned to face the approaching duo. As they got closer towards Indus, Gellert began to notice little details about him that had changed. He had grown even taller, much to Gellert’s chagrin, and his skin was tanned, doubtless from flying in the sun for hours. He was dressed in a thin navy overcoat, cutting a striking figure in it with his light grey trousers and contrasting mess of dark curls and sparkling eyes. Gellert closed his eyes and saw again his strange vision from the start of summer. Grey eyes half lidded and black hair lying in inked tendrils across a pillow. He blinked and shook himself, hugging Indus and then stepping back to allow Vinda to do the same. They still had a few hours before the play started and the time seemed to fly by in a haze of laughter as he reunited with Indus and the sun began to sink as the start of the show drew steadily nearer. He could hardly wait, Macbeth was one of his favourite plays, and the company of actors were renowned across France, according to Vinda, and Gellert would be the first to trust her judgement in that kind of thing.

The three of them headed in and Vinda was so insistent on putting Gellert in the middle of the group that he was half afraid to sit down least the chair be rigged with a prank. As the gaslights dimmed a hush fell over the watchers and they settled into their seats in the front row of the circle. Though Gellert was not taking up too much room in the luxuriously plush seat, Vinda elbowed him every few minutes until he was pressed against Indus to avoid her sharp jabs. Thus satisfied, Vinda gave the two wizards a smile and settled down to watch the play. Gellert watched, enthralled by the beauty of the scenes unfolding before him. His eyes gleamed and he felt himself caught in the story once more, living every moment of the play until one fateful line caught his ear, sounding eerily familiar and bringing with it a creeping sense of deja vu. “By the pricking of my thumbs,” called out the actress playing one of the three witches, and then time seemed to stop as the realisation hit him. The three witches, one of the three, The One Of Three. It was her, the creature from the shop. His mind reeled, had this meant that they could be seen by muggles, or did this mean that history’s greatest playwright had been magical? What could it possibly mean that he had met this character, was he doomed to suffer the same fate as Macbeth, as Lady Macbeth? Was this an omen of his future insanity?” No, he banished that last thought as impossible, he would not let that that happen. He had met one of them, had met a creature so steeped in history that he could barely comprehend it, and he struggled as act three commenced to re-theorise about that odd little shop. Did it even exist in the normal world at all? he wondered. He found himself slipping out of his strange thoughts and back into the rhythm of the play, slightly grounded by the feel of Indus’ arm pressed to his own on the arm of his chair that they shared.

They walked out of the play and Indus looked a little pink cheeked in the night, gas lamps lighting strange shadows across him and half hiding the blush he wore, thrown into blurred relief by the lamp to the left of them. Gellert was still lost, head swirling with lines of Shakespeare and conjecture about the little shop he had visited twice, and he only half-heartedly listened to his friends’ jokes and impressions on the trek back to the Notre Dame, where they had to walk around to the stairs, only accessible at a tap of the staff wielding monk carving, who sprung aside and gestured to the set of stairs that shimmered into existence behind him. They hugged, Vinda seeming to push the two boy closer together than was necessary, doubtless for some nefarious prank that they two of them would soon feel the impact of. When he was home he lay down, knees folded up and feet flat on the bed, starring at the ceiling in a half aware state. He saw a round tudor building, the globe theatre in London, from the sketch he had seen in one book on Elizabethan England, but it was surrounded by the strange cold lights of a distant time. Buildings made of dark glass and sheer metal craned towards the sky, a city reaching for the stars built on eons of the past. A figure walked down the cobbled street, pearl earring swinging in the lights of fires burning inside every door, and in another time a boy walked the same path, swinging a bottle of amber courage from his left hand before climbing up onto the wall by the river, hypnotised by the reflected lights that shimmered there, purple and green, red and cold white that flickered and disappeared. Gellert watched as the city morphed and changed, the rush of the river giving way to a deep heartbeat, the weight of a train clattering across a bridge on its way towards the endless future. He blinked and was once more staring at the spiderweb that strung its way across the ceiling of his bedroom, weeping red. He needed to talk to it, The One Of Three, and he would go tomorrow. He had many questions, and he thought that he might see if it knew where the Lost Trelawney Diaries were, as he thought that if anyone knew about them, it would be that creature.

He walked into the otherworldly little shop with purpose the following day, the dusty door swinging open just before he put his hand to the wood, and he blinked, walking in warily as he looked around the shop which seemed so unchanged since the last time that he had come in here. “No Lordling,” said the creature, appearing behind him to shut the door. “I’ll not tell you about the diaries, you’ll have to find them on your own. The others all did so you must as well, traditions may have been made to be ignored but this one must stand firm.” He blinked in confusion, unsure how to respond to the uncanny sixth-sense of the thing, and then remembered that first strange conversation he had had with the creature, where it had ‘said the wrong lines’ which seemed to make a strange sort of sense now, when he looked at it in a new light. He steeled himself to ask the question he had really come to ask, and blurted it out uncomfortably.
“Did you meet Shakespeare?” he asked, and the thing leapt back, startled for some reason. “Why did you flinch, am I not supposed to say that?” asked Gellert, confused at it’s odd reaction.
“It had been years since anyone has said something I had not foreseen Lordling, and I thank you, these old bones need a shock of life every now and again.” It said, and then cocked its head to one side, as if listening to someone speaking from a distance. “What? Well yes, I suppose he did. I suppose you think it’s him. No. Yes yes fine.” It said pausing between each phrase as if listening to some silent reply, a sigh of resignation causing it’s chest to rattle as the final acquiescence was pulled from it’s reluctant mouth. “I have conversed with the Two and Three of three, and with our mother Magikes, and we have decided that you ought to know. “We were apparent to Shakespeare because he could See, and we who live five degrees outside of time fear not the turning of the world. We are three, immortalised by the writer of the modern English tongue, and by our home in the plain five degrees widdershins to yours.” Gellert tilted his head, thinking about what the thing could mean. Eventually he settled on “So you are on a different plain of being? Is that why the other wizards can’t see the shop?”
“Oh what a bright spark you are Little Lord, how much you see it that eye of yours. Yes, we can only be seen by the connected. when the brainwave reaches a certain frequency we become visible. Seers can access time, so we can be seen through the veils, but it takes the blooming of a rare and unstoppable mind to see us without seer-sight. Shakespeare was a remarkable muggle, perhaps the most remarkable of all. He used the past and the beauty of his words to shape the future, and because he had so many threads trailing from him, people who could not live and stories that would never die, the formation of a language and an understanding of human nature writ large for the masses, for all these things he was rare. And so yes, we three did meet him, one early morning in his youth. He was meandering across Hampstead Heath, hand in hand with the shadows of the morning to the east, and we three came before him.” It looked at Gellert, but he felt unseen, as if the stare was directed at the events of many years ago, or perhaps many years into the future. He was standing in something that was not his world, how'd the creature put it? Five degrees widdershins, that was it, and wherever that was he could guess enough to know that it was not either of the worlds he knew, muggle or magical, but something else entirely. He smiled faintly and thought that perhaps another human could explain it better. He needed to read more of Cassandra The Great’s work to understand more about where he had been, he decided, and after bidding The One Of Three goodbye he walked out into his own world, glancing contemplatively up at the grey skies.

The rest of the summer passed quickly and though Gellert got even further ahead in Arithmancy he was distracted, the summer sun luring him out of doors on days that should have been spent sensibly reading, and the crisp night air calling to his tantalisingly, smelling too sweet not to breathe in as he wandered the silent cobbled streets, unafraid of the muggle vagrants with whom he shared those silent hours. The start of his school year loomed ever closer, and Gellert found himself wondering idly if Ladislav had missed him over the summer, and if Indus would ever grow to like the short dark witch, but doubted it, laughing to himself at the mental image of the two of them laughing amiably. An impossible pipe-dream perhaps, but one he could still try for, and soon enough he was poking his head into one cabin after another on the school ship as it descended into the icy depths of the under-sea, looking for his friends. He found their compartment and was on the verge of going in when he heard a low whisper that sounded like Vinda. Fearing a prank, Gellert thought that it would be best if he listened covertly rather than just walking in, just so he couldn’t be caught unawares, when he heard the panicked tones of Indus. “I can’t just tell him, what on earth do you mean?”, and Vinda’s reply, though too low to make out properly, was in an exasperated tone and he caught the phrase “such an imbecile.” before they stopped talking, having seen his shadow hovering by the door. He walked in, feigning a cheery hello while his mind raced, trying to piece together the odd behaviour of Indus from last year, Vinda’s theatre night and the conversation he had just heard, but couldn’t think of anything that made sense with all of the details he knew. He almost began to theorise wildly again, but remembering the deductive process of Holmes, the English sleuth that Indus was such a fan of, he came to the conclusion that he simply did not have enough data to theorise properly. The three of them were joined by Irina, who had been escorted on board by Gellert’s cousin Sasha when they stopped at Lake Onega, who nodded to the group and left their cabin to find his girlfriend after a short round of introductions. As the evening wore on Gellert found a smile playing on his lips continuously, his friends seeming all the more interesting because of the time they had spent apart over the summer, and now they all had new stories to tell.

Back at school the time continued to race by and before he knew it he was fourteen, and Samhain was approaching. He was huddled into his coat and thinking of adding a rune chain for wind-resistance as he tramped across the grounds that were blanketed by the first few inches of winter snow. The few deciduous trees clung to the last of their leaves and the pines were weighed down by the frost dewing on every branch. Samhain was approaching and he was doing a ritual for clarity of sight. Cixi loved the snow, finally at home in the environment around her and Gellert loved to watch her hunts, feeling a thread of wild joy at the centre of his chest that had no correlation to his own emotional state. She had caught him a young guillemot for the ritual he was planning, which would increase his clarity of sight and had very reluctantly brought it back to him alive. There had been two in the powerful grip of her talons when she had made the catch, but she arrived with only one left whole. Gellert grinned fondly at her retreating form, the white of her feathers bending almost seamlessly with the dull pearl-grey sky that promised heavier snowfall soon as she winged her way north, riding the current of the prevailing wind. He turned back to go inside but just as he put his foot on the first step of the stairs a hand was placed on his shoulder. He turned, a curse on his lips, but saw that it was only Professor Mansuro, who was holding an official looking envelope. It had been torn open by a careless hand, Gellert could see the white line of a magically mended tear in the paper, and Gellert wondered why he had been pulled into the arithmancer’s office, when said arithmancer in question spoke. “Gellert, your friends were all in your room screeching, and I checked in on them only to find that they had opened your divination results without you.” Gellert grinned and muttered fondly that it was rather like his friends to do so, before grabbing the envelope and re-tearing it. A thick piece of parchment fell into his hands, emblazoned with the curling script that gave official approval, and he scanned it, eyes hunting for the elusive letter on which hung his mood. There it was, the predicted H*, though Indus would likely revert to the english O*equivalent, and Gellert let a massive smile creep across his face. He quickly wrote a note to his mother expressing his excitement before popping it into the envelope along with the paper that assured his H*, resealing it and sending it off with a pinch of floo powder in Professor Mansuro’s office. “I’m Expecting nothing less than the same again this year when you take your arithmancy GZP.” Said the teacher with a smile, before sending him off to the dorms with a set of theoretical arithmancy papers to do for revision.

Back in the dorms his friends were celebrating, and he walked in to the sight of Otto propping a glass bottle of whiskey on his desk right next to where he kept his precious notebooks. “Nope thats that, If you all want to celebrate my victory then we’re doing it somewhere else, I’m not going to clean up for you lot when my room gets trashed.” The six of them fell silent and then Karl spoke. “We should go to the lost room.” Immediately a hush fell over them all, and Indus broke it with a derisive laugh. “Oh yes, lets party in the imaginary room of Durmstrang legend. Sure.” he said snidely and Otto laughed. “No really.” Karl insisted. “Gellert’s cool cousin showed us where it was in the first week as a bribe because we caught him cheating on Annalise.” Irina nodded and Gellert felt a pang of hurt. He was perhaps closer to Vinda but he had thought that he would have been invited to join them in this small adventure, by Irina at least if not Karl. “Wow guys, It’s my family drama and you didn’t even tell me?” He said, before brushing off their apologies with a shrug and telling the two of them to lead the way. Clattering down the stairs in a big group, Gellert couldn’t help but feel smugly satisfied, he had brought these friends together and it was his success they were celebrating. Vinda glanced over to him, a smile dancing in her eyes that suggested she know exactly what he was thinking, and was quietly laughing at him. He shot her a wry smile and she grinned, the smile of a jokester caught, while he turned his attention back towards Indus, with whom he was conversing.

Gellert staggered a little, arm thrown over Indus’ shoulder as the two of them walked back to the dorms. They were pleasantly drunk on a combination of euphoria and the alcohol running in their blood and Gellert felt as if he was slightly separated from reality, so when they reached their rooms he felt that it was only natural to kiss Indus goodnight on the cheek. He gave the other boy a soft smile and walked unthinkingly into his bedroom, not looking back to see the cocktail of wide eyed shock and an unbearably hopeful smile cross the other boy’s face.
When he dreamed he smelt the acid tang of a burnt out fire, the smoke of a city in the aftermath of ruin, and felt something akin to a smile playing across his face. He took a deep breath of smoke and exhaled swirling colours that twisted like falling silk, forming a figure in a trilby that was turned away from him. Blue suit clinging, the strange figure began to turn and Gellert saw eyes that reflected blue light, a bright warmth emanating from the man and softening the charred carcass of the building he was standing in.
Gellert woke and cleaned off his face, headache in full force, remembering both the vision and the evening preceding it with stark clarity. He had kissed his best friend on the cheek, which while out of character still did not seem too serious to him, but would probably upset the delicate sensibilities of his best friend. Gellert really did like him, but Indus was still wound far too tightly when it came to personal space. Gellert assumed it was due to his inherent english-ness, which even Durmstrang couldn’t cure him of completely. He read for a while after he had caught his dream in one of the crystal’s blank faces, finally having got his hands on Volume I of Cassandra’s most famous series, and spent the early hours of Monday peacefully reading, unaware of the emotional upheaval he had generated in the room next door.

In classes that day Indus showed no sign that anything odd had happened at all, but seemed both distant and slightly cold towards everyone, and Gellert began to believe that his friend had clean forgotten the whole thing, chalking up his odd mood to a hangover. Part of Gellert felt disappointed, though he had no clue why, and he shook off the emotion distractedly, choosing to concentrate on his transfiguration work instead. As Samhain came and went Gellert began to concentrate less on his interpersonal relationships and more on arithmancy, which he would be taking his GZP in the following summer, and as the weather got colder he found that between his friends, his studies and his reading he had almost no time to even stop and breathe, let alone for an examination of his inner thoughts. The Yule holidays were upon them in a rush and Gellert was delighted to hear that Bathilda would be coming to Munich for the festive season, arriving on the same day that Gellert got back from school. Stepping off the gangplank of the Lady Durm he ran at his great aunt for a hug, having missed her the previous summer, and soon they were catching up, a mixture of German and English flowing rapidly between the unlikely duo. She was discussing her latest research and he listened avidly, never tired of how her liltingly expressive tone could make anything sound interesting. The working title of her latest book was “Omens, Oracles and Sacrifice.” and she had, after binding Gellert to secrecy, revealed that it was his seer-sight that had inspired her research into the elusive art of divination. Gellert had smiled, hardly able to wait for the book to be finished, but Bathilda chided him gently, that not all genius could be hurried, despite his rush to be published. She had had a subscription to Runic Revelations for decades and was teasing him for how young he was to have published research, and Gellert had given up hope of getting her to let the thing slide.

Yule morning was crisp and cold, snow thick over the silent city when Gellert woke, dawn’s scratchy light forcing his from the arms of sleep. Soon the whole house was moving around, and they gathered in front of the yule tree to open their tantalising gifts after breakfast. Vinda had given him a royal blue hat of soft felt, with a note telling him that there was no excuse for the clothes he chose, and a list of shops in Paris, Munich and Berlin that were reputable for mens clothing. He laughed and jammed it onto his head, striking a peculiar figure in his bed-clothes, wrapped in a blanket and with a fashionable hat perched jauntily on his head. Reaching for his mother’s present he opened it to find three beautiful leather-bound notebooks, two with ruled pages and one where every second page was unlined. He smiled, thinking of how useful the alternating one would be for his alchemy and healing diagrams, and opened his uncle’s gift to find a gilded quill made with a white feather and embossed with his initials swirling across the black grip. He weighed the thing in his hands, unsure when he would use it, as it was a by far inferior writing tool to the ink pens he used generally, but thankful all the same. Irina and the others had given him books, predictably, but Indus had sent him something truly beautiful. It was a sketchbook, and when Gellert opened it he had gasped. It was the tale of three brothers, written out in Indus’ ostentatiously gothic handwriting and illustrated with beautiful watercolour paintings of every scene. He stroked a finger over the bridge scene on the first page, the half formed bridge beautiful and arched like the masonry of Durmstrang’s courtyard doors. The images were still, unlike most illustrated copies of the tales and Gellert found his breath had been stolen, lost in the beauty and magicIndus had imbued every stroke with. Gellert decided then and there that art was a form of magic unique to the talented, and smiled wildly at the thought Indus had put into his gift, hoping that the other boy would like his own as much as Gellert did. Here and there the watercolour paints had seeped through the lines of the drawing but the imperfections only made it more beautiful, as far as Gellert was concerned. At the back page Indus had drawn the hallows, a beautiful three-dimensional drawing with the annotation ‘waiting for who?’ inked below it, and Gellert smiled, awed at his friend’s artistic talent, and pleased that at least some of his ramblings had been listened to. For the first time Gellert attempted to help make the traditional yule meal and though he tried, he was more of a nuisance than anything else in the kitchen and was soon banished to the parlour with his uncle. He read his way through Irina’s gift and hoped that she had liked her gift as much as he had his, and thought of Vinda and Indus, who would have received their gifts by now. He had given Indus a cloak in the same shade of pale grey as his eyes, trimmed with black velvet and with a monochrome Black Family sigil embroidered on each pocket, and he was sure that the other boy would like the unconventional gift. Vinda had received a transmutation set, as she had been dropping hints about wanting it for ages, but he had carved her initials into each piece of potions equipment, a small detailing of her initials embossed on each individual part of the set.

Gellert walked along the muggle streets of Munich flinching slightly at every step. He was seeing flashes again, ships docking in their thousands at Germany’s ports, men passing boxes of guns from hand to hand and two arms wrestling over an ocean of blood. He blinked and tried to focus on the here and now, unable to stop the things he was seeing. It reminded him of when he was small, before he had visions about magic he had seen this, a hell of grey and red, and he shuddered to remember it. He blinked again, lost in a field of poppies under the sun, filled with a sense of mourning at the sight. He looked more closely at the poppies and saw that they were growing out of cracked bone, every flower the beautification of a corpse. He retched, and was back in the present once more, feeling the echo of childhood fear and that taste of rising bile in his throat. Distantly he heard someone asking if he was alright and felt a muggle hand on his shoulder. He flinched back, terrified another vision would take him, but them felt a surge of anger. Why should he be afraid, what was this muggle? He was nothing Gellert couldn’t handle, and at that he began to smile. The expression split his face like a knife, so unlike the panic of a few moments before that the muggle jumped a little. Strands of hair fell into his eyes and he grinned, hands shaking for no discernible reason, and the muggle began to back away slowly, apprehension colouring the set of his body. Gellert walked on, now flinching less as his visions seemed to fade in the wake of his anger. He smiled, glad that he could ward off the strange fear he felt with rage, an emotion that he found was always within his reach. As he stalked home he found himself wondering why he saw what he did, and if he could stop the muggle war he had foreseen. He would never allow it if he were in charge, the ships would never be built and no poppies would ever stain the ground with red.

Gellert was curled in the window of his room, legs now slightly too long for it to be properly comfortable, and was writing in a blue notebook, the velvet cover worn to a shine in certain patches as he wrote furiously into it in blue ink. Why did they have to hide? He knew on an academic level that wizard-kind had gone into hiding because they were outnumbered and afraid, but he couldn’t fathom it. Surely, he thought to himself, it would have been easier to fight it out and rule, because then at least there would be no warfare looming on the horizon that painted Europe bloody in its wide scope. He understood the international statute of secrecy, yes but he couldn’t understand the thought process behind it, surely it hindered magical innovation to always be consigned to the shadows of the world, hidden away and unable to do large scale magic for fear of the muggles. Sighing and thinking he could work out some of his rage, he pulled out his case of darker books and then an unconnected but still interesting idea struck him. He gazed thoughtfully into the middle distance, wondering if he could weaponise the cloud spell “Nebulus” with a poison, and pulling his pen back towards him he began to theorise, writing out the initial ideas he had for the modification and then adding some possible arithmantic chains that could work for the actual process of changing the spell.

Soon the school holidays were over and Gellert found himself back at Durmstrang, his concentration tunnelling towards that fateful exam date in June. He had to do exceptionally well, it was a matter of pride that his talents were non-hereditary and he couldn’t let down Professor Mansuro, who had become by far his favourite teacher over the year, so anything less than a H* was unacceptable as far as he was concerned. He had raced though all of the question papers his Professor had given him, and filled one of his new Yule notebooks completely with both arithmantic history, theoretical mathematics and the practical arithmantic uses of it, the writing small and slanted to fit more of it into the notebook. Hearing a knock on his door he started and told whoever it was to enter, surprised when he was confronted by an angry Vinda. “Hey I just thought you should know that you’re doing it again. The isolation thing. And I need to talk to you.” He blinked and invited her in properly, standing and allowing her to take the only chair. He sat on the end of the bed, tossing his pen from hand to hand, and waited patiently for her to begin. “Karl just told me he liked me.” She said, and Gellert began to nod before the full meaning of the phrase struck him. “Oh. Well how did you respond?” He asked and Vinda blushed, shifting in her seat in discomfort. “Oh come on Vinds, it can’t be that bad.” Said Gellert and Vinda blurted out her response. “I put him in a body bind curse and and ran.” Gellert tried to keep a concerned expression on his face, he really did but his mask soon collapsed into helpless laughter. Eyes swimming with tears he was laughing so hard, Gellert choked out his congratulations. “You handled that well Vinda.” He laughed, sobering up when he saw the hurt crumpling his friend’s face. “I’m sorry, but this isn’t so bad really, I promise.” He said, and was then fixed with the patented Rosier glare as Vinda snorted skeptically. “You’re just saying that because you know that’s the socially appropriate response Gellert. You can’t fool me, I know that you are secretly just a Lefithold in a trench coat with no functioning emotions.” Gellert stood up and hugged her threateningly, squeezing her the way a Lefithold ate its victims, and was pleased when he heard a watery laugh. “I resent that you know. I have feelings.” he replied, mock offended, and Vinda snorted. “We will sort him out, don’t worry. If you want me to I can explain to him that he is, how to phrase it? Less than a speck of dust beneath your flawless heels.” Vinda laughed and agreed, leading the way back to her room where the unfortunate boy was still struggling to break free of the body bind curse.

Gellert was right on the edge of hexing someone, that was the third person today who had asked why he hadn’t told anyone that he and Vinda were dating, and he hadn’t even had the chance to have breakfast before being accosted by their inane queries. “Because,” he said slowly, for the benefit of the obviously mentally unsound boy that had asked, “We aren’t.” Vinda came storming down the staircase with her eyes flashing rage, followed by a boy who’s skin was flaking off in what looked like an extremely overpowered dandruff jinx. She slammed her bag down on the table next to his and then sat there, waiting for Indus, Irina, Ladislav and Otto. It was Karl who had turned traitor, obviously hurt by the dressing down Gellert had given him for thinking he could be romantic with Vinda and desperate to regain some sense of pride, he stooped to petty rumour spreading to be thus revenged. Gellert sighed, and turned back to his breakfast, unable to deal with the stupidity of the people he was surrounded by. He had never expressed a romantic inclination towards Vinda, was everyone blind? He thought to himself, crunching angrily on his toast as he did so, and after spending another minute listening to people gossip pulled out his arithmancy papers and began to go over them, looking for any possible mistakes or areas to work on. He saw Vinda’s chair scrape back, heard her hurried footsteps heading away and looked up, confused. Irina and Indus stood in the doorway, Irina looking murderous and Indus looking somewhat normal, if a little strained. The three of them hurried out of the room and Gellert got up to follow them. Sliding off into the corridor, he followed the three of them who were talking low in rapid-fire french, Irina having hurriedly cast a translation spell, and heard the end of an interesting conversation. “How could you?” Indus was saying, his voice betraying no emotion, cold and steely in the light of whatever Vinda had apparently done. “You’re a fool,” she sneered, and then had got out half of “We aren’t involved.” before Indus ran off, his face rippling with hurt before he took what looked like a deep breath to calm himself, and resumed his icy exterior. Gellert was worried about his friend, but thought it best to let him cool off before attempting to explain the situation. He was just heading over to join the two girls, who were still arguing, when a noise had him turning back towards the hall. He saw a flash of distinctive brown hair and knew immediately that it was Karl or Otto, so he hid just around the stone pillar of the ground level entrance to the school to see which of the twins it was, not wanting to curse the innocent Otto. He smiled, cruel, when he had looked for a few seconds, and was able to identify the figure as the guilty party. “kuwedzera kusadzikana” he thought, pointing his wand at the traitorous snake. Feeling much better about the day, Gellert headed to arithmancy and tried to calm the jittery feeling he had from doing the darker curse. He had almost used something worse, but the thought of trying to excuse it later stayed his hand, and he thought that the nightmare curse would be an appropriate one. The incantation was interesting, with an african origin and therefore a completely different verbal structure to most of the spells he learnt. He often thought that their duelling lessons would be much more interesting if they studied less well known spells, as the common ones had mainly latinate or german roots, with the occasional greek spell thrown in, and Gellert was hoping that because of this oversight the foreign magic would be harder for a professor to identify and reverse.

He sat down in arithmancy and tried to force his knee to stop bouncing with the strange energy he always felt with a darker curse, concentrating on his notes. Professor Mansuro had given him more theoretical papers, and had started to teach him the practical portions of the course, which Gellert was attempting to master in this lesson. He cast the disarming charm again, freezing his spell in front of him to study, and then looked at his spell suspended in the air before writing down its casting angle and component formulas, and then pausing. He could add an explosive element, or perhaps blend it with a stinging hex, and he decided on the latter. Carefully casting a “wahsano” on the spell, he opened it up into the graphical line that formed it, and cast a stinging hex into the graph, which shuddered and absorbed the spell, a red line of jagged spikes appearing on the graph parallel to the expelliarmus. He wrote down the function of his stinging hex and then jotted down the calculations he needed, equating the two mathematical expressions and then simplifying it into a single new one. He looked once more at the final equation and then applied it to the graph, before dispelling the glowing grid and letting the spell shrink down. He removed the “Immobulus" charm without thinking, finished with it because he had achieved what he thought was a successful arithmantic modification, unlike his previous modified spells, which were all intent based modification done with his pure magic. Across the room someone yelled in pain and Gellert caught the wand flying towards him instinctually, turning to smile brightly at his arithmancy professor in pride. His teacher returned his smile with twinkling eyes, but turned and helped the unfortunate classmate up before sending him over to collect his wand from Gellert. The boy snatched his wand back with a scowl and Gellert blinked, tilting his head to one side before he realised what the boy was expecting. “I’m sorry that you were disarmed.” He said, and then, not wanting to waste the opportunity for research, pulled out his pen and a fresh piece of paper, paused, and asked “How did it feel, was it any different from a regular disarming charm or stinging hex?” The boy rounded on him, furious for a reason that eluded Gellert. “You’re a freak, Grindelwald!” He said, and stormed back over to his friends, visibly enraged. Gellert scowled, all he had done was want to understand how his spell had felt for the recipient, and if the modification had warped either component or not, but he had been called a freak. He didn’t understand what the boy had meant, he had apologised well and then asked a perfectly reasonable question. Yes the boy had been hurt but he wasn’t dead, or even injured, was he? Thought Gellert to himself in confusion as the lesson progressed, and he shook his head, turning back to the arithmancy, a subject that made far more sense to him than people did.

In alchemy Gellert looked around for Irina and found that instead of her usual seat she had elected to sit at the back, and tried to push down his pang of hurt. He wasn’t involved in whatever argument had taken place between his three best friends, and he felt that they were all treating him quite unjustly. He had no idea what was going on, and just because he had reserved all judgement Irina was suddenly set against him. He shook of his confused hurt and focused on the lecture, disappointed that he had already read ahead because it meant that he was less absorbed in the lesson than normal. He carefully drew out the bond diagrams of the molecules that were were supposed to be transmuting into carbon, tapping the lump of silica with his wand and using the floating angle-measure to draw out a 109 degree bond angle. Though he could have done the sketch by eye, he had found that his transmutations would work best when he drew out the bond angles accurately. He thought of the bonds he wanted to form and watched as the silica took on a black shine before transmuting successfully into sooty block carbon, and Gellert smiled. He put his hand up and asked for the next material to transmute, waiting impatiently for the lesson to end. He had a trick to plan on the boy who had called him a freak, and the ideas swirling around in his mind wanted writing down where none of the professors could demand that he show them his scribblings. He smiled as the bell rang for the end of the lesson and walked quickly back upstairs, discarding the need for a midday meal in favour of his notebooks and the relative quiet of his room.

Weeks passed and Gellert watched the splintering of his friendship group in horror as whatever argument between Vinda and Indus had taken place set them against each other, each drawing other parts of the group in support. One evening after Gellert had finished his warding essay and duelling question paper he decided that enough had been enough. He was going to fix his friends, because as much as people bemused him, he did need all of them, and it had fallen to him to fix the mess, as usual. He sighed, thinking that he could have made his Alchemy revision notes and let Cixi out for the evening instead of embarking on this fools errand, but forced his irritation down and knocked again on Indus’ door. He waited for a count of five and then began to pull down the other boy’s wards, forcing the door open with a quickly scribbled rune for localised destruction, saying the incantation “Hi-Di” in a low voice. The door shattered inwards, the wood breaking into chunks that fell inwards with a clatter, and Indus blinked up at him, surprised. “How did you get through the wards?” He asked, and Gellert grinned.
“I am The Great Gellert Grindelwald, wizard extraordinaire, what did you expect?” He said, voice low as he stroked an imaginary beard and Indus raised an unimpressed eyebrow. Gellert burst out laughing, and despite his attempt at cold indifference Indus soon joined him in his amusement. “That’s the first time you’ve laughed properly in weeks.” observed Gellert, and Indus looked at him strangely. “Is it that odd that I notice when you’re unhappy?” He asked, mildly insulted, then paused for dramatic effect before adding. “No wait, don’t answer that!” Indus laughed again and Gellert smiled, counting it as a victory. Gellert tried as hard as he could to get Indus to at least let Vinda apologise, and could not help but ask what she had done wrong that he didn’t know about. To his confusion, Indus looked at him in a horrible mixture of bitter anger and even worse, hurt, refusing to answer the question. Gellert scowled, not liking the feeling of being the last to know something, and decided to take more drastic action. He mended the door with a muttered “Hi-Nem” and a sketch of the corresponding rune and Indus thanked him, only to find himself unceremoniously shoved outside it. “Go and hear Vinda out. I’m sure one of you will be able to sort out whatever it is, seeing as neither you will tell me what’s going on.” he said, and Indus slammed his fist into the door, wand safely left on the dresser unable to do any harm. He yelled through the door to fix his problems with Vinda, and Indus remained silent. Gellert wracked his brain for a new approach, as this was doing nothing but making Indus angry at him as well, and then a slow smile began to spread its way across his face. Though his friend couldn’t see it, he adopted a deeply mournful expression and willed tears to spring in his eyes.
“Indus.” he said softly, and he felt Indus shift, listening. “I really miss the way things used to be. Indus, can you please just try to talk? I need you both.” He continued, voice carefully cracking for emphasis on his friend’s name, and he heard Indus breathe deeply, before acquiescing and Gellert heard every fading footstep dragging on the floor, betraying Indus’ reluctance.

Getting comfortable on Indus’ chair Gellert took the opportunity to look around at Indus’ room, vaguely aware that it might be considered rude, but he was curious. Paintbrushes and paints hovered in a jar and schoolbooks lay scattered around, scrolls of notes sticking out of the textbooks, folded in at the appropriate pages of the book, and Gellert smiled. It was organised chaos, a lot like Indus really, and Gellert flicked through a sketchbook, looking at the sketches of what looked like Durmstrang from the lakeside, with the steep hills in the background and low cloud obscuring the tower. He closed the sketchbook and was just about to pop back next door when he spotted another sketchbook; kept separate from his other books on the shelf by his bed. It was jammed behind the wardrobe, only an edge sticking out to show where it was hidden and with his curiosity peaked, Gellert went over and pulled at it, willing it to come unstuck and unwittingly overriding the wards tat surrounded it, locking it in place. The notebook fell open, and Gellert gasped.

Chapter Text

He saw himself, inked in black and white, sitting and standing, in watercolour paints and oils and soft pastel chalks. The notebook was him, every page a captured moment in pencil and paper. He saw Cixi perched on his shoulder, saw his laughter captured on a page, his concentration, the curve of his own spine as he leaned down to look at an essay. He saw eyes drawn independently of anything else, calligraphy of their names entwined, and finally, the pieces of the fragmented puzzle began to fall into place. It was him, it had been him all along. Gods, no wonder Vinda had laughed at him, he thought to himself, and a strange smile began to work its way across his face. He liked these feelings, the quiet rush of power that came with the solution to a particularly convoluted problem, this newfound appreciation of Indus in a new light, the glowing feeling that came with being the object of another’s desire.

Gellert was leafing through the notebook, eyes catching on small details, His hair half-hiding an earring in his left ear, the hallows glinting there in gold. He smiled wryly, acknowledging how well his friend- how well his Indus knew him, and was just about to put the notebook back when Indus burst into the room. Gellert winced internally, remembering with a sigh that he had not warded against the unlocking charm, and prepared himself for the exchange sure to follow. Indus looked at him in abject horror, stuttering out the start of several sentences before settling on “It’s not what it looks like. I can explain.” Gellert carefully put aside the notebook in his hands and tried to resist a laugh, standing slowly and walking towards Indus, who backed away as if expecting to be attacked. Gellert decided that he would kiss Indus again, just to see if he still tasted the same, and he leant up to the taller boy, their breaths mingling for a moment before he pulled Indus down to meet his mouth, cataloguing the things he felt internally. This felt pleasant, not unwelcome and something sparked along his spine when Indus let out a heavy breath. There was no lingering alcohol to get in the way this time, and Gellert tried to decide if the flavour was better or worse. He was somewhat confused and appreciative, though Indus seemed to be closer to cloud nine than reality. Gellert edged back a little and assessed his internal state. There had been none of the earth-shattering changes that he had read about in novels, none of the fireworks or glowing moments of revelation, and it had been tolerable, pleasant, but Indus looked around himself in a daze, as if caught in a dream. Gellert didn’t let any of his internal musings show on his face, and they soon fell into a comfortable rhythm of confessions whispered between kisses, Gellert using honeyed tones to keep the conversation flowing.

After that first evening Indus had confessed his jealousy and bitterness and the tears in their friendship group had slowly begun to knit back together, Gellert often finding Vinda lounging in Indus’ room, teasing him about how lucky he was. Gellert had been reading a book on the revolution in arithmancy that had occurred over the last century, when the focus of the subject had shifted from spell creation to the search for a deeper understanding of both magic and the numerical world, and was enjoying it immensely when he caught the tail end of Vinda’s sentence. “Well you know you’ll always come second.” She said, “His first love will always be numbers Darling.” and though it was said in jest there was a cruel quality lurking in her voice that made Gellert suspect that it had been said to hurt Indus. He shook his head, knowing that there was nothing he could do to erode the lingering grudge left in the wake of their argument, and turned a page in his book. As months wore on and the heavy snows of winter began to lessen, their history course became much more interesting. They were doing the period of history that directly preceded the witch burnings, and studying the dangerous phenomenon that was muggle religion, how it had shaped the ensuing violence and how it had condemned so many to death over a simple spell. Gellert was already quite knowledgeable on the subject but the lessons were a lot more in depth about the methods of concealment and protection that were formed in that era, and he thought for the first time that perhaps muggles shouldn’t be allowed to theorise about alchemy. Given their track record, they would only turn whatever they found towards cruelty, and when he thought that he saw horrific things, flashes of burning air mingling with screams, an ominous mushroom cloud of smoke, a man tapping a square device with a glowing face full of ones and zeros and ordering an attack. Gellert learned over the course of many history lessons to block out those strange and unsettling visions by biting the inside of his mouth, grounding himself with the pain created by something real.

Gellert sat down in his history classroom one Thursday in late March, intrigued by the solitary word written on the chalkboard.“Obscurials” Was written in the professor’s elegant scrawl, and Gellert felt the uncomfortable sinking feeling that came with those rare occasions when he was unprepared for class, usually confined to the potions laboratory. He had no idea what an obscurial was. The professor walked into the classroom, called the register and began the lesson, a bang from his wand causing the class to fall silent. “None of you here today are aware of what it is like to be hunted. No magical people today know that horror.” he began, pausing for effect and then continuing in a booming voice as Gellert listened, spellbound.
“One of the worst aspects of the witch-burning era was the formation of what we know of today as an obscurial. These poor souls were magical, usually muggle-born,” Here many of the students scoffed, and there were a few muttered comments about scum before silence reigned once more. “These poor people, children who were forced to hide their magic, had no idea what it could unleash. When a child suppresses their magic terrible things happen. Sometimes they die, sometimes they loose their magic all together, but there was a third, more dangerous occurrence that became widespread throughout Europe during this dark time. An obscurial is what a child becomes when they are abused for their magic, and the few studies on these forces suggest that the destructive beings themselves could have been physical manifestations of the child’s magic, bastardised into a malignant force of destruction called an Obscurus.” Their professor paused, his tone grave, and no one in the class was muttering anything any more. Gellert was feeling woozy, he barely registered writing notes despite the page and a half that had appeared in front of him and then he was lost, sinking down into his memories. The little girl, the dead woman, the black smoke whipping through a little cottage and leaving destruction in it’s wake. His visions leapt forward strongly, technicolour in their vivid clarity. He had seen an obscurial. His eyes snapped open with a start, realising the implications of what such a person’s existence suggested about the present state of the magical world. He worried at the end of his pen with his teeth before putting up his hand. “Sir,” he began, and when asked to continue, he did so. “Do they still exist today?” The class seemed to lean forwards, all interested the the answer that the professor would give. “No, thankfully they do not, as the days of our integration with muggle’s world are long-gone.” said the professor, moving swiftly on to set them an essay on obscurials and their origins due the following Monday. Gellert sat mutely in his seat, unsure as to wether the professor was unaware of the truth or just unwilling to tell a group of children about that level of suffering, before jumping up when the bell rang and heading to the library.

Gellert pulled down a stack of possibly-relevant books on wizarding history and began to read, eyes flying down the contents pages of each respective book in search of that elusive term “obscurus.” He looked in a thirteenth book before giving up and asking the librarian, who frowned and asked why he was researching such horrific subjects, before reluctantly providing him with a stack of books and wandering off to another section of the library. Once Gellert had the right books he flew through the essay and had marked the task off as complete on his to-do list, but as he packed away all of the books he had used he began to wonder. If there were such tormented people out there, Gellert thought that they should be able to live in the magical world, and he wondered if having an obscurus was classified as an illness, and if there was a cure. On the way up the stairs he was lost inside his own head and barely acknowledged the kiss from Indus as he went to the desk to pull out his blue notebook of Questions. “How do you cure an obscurial?” he scribbled, followed by “We hide = obscurial children. Statute of secrecy?” on the following page. He felt Indus lean down behind him and kiss the back of his neck softly, at which he turned around and greeted him properly, able to concentrate now that his queries were down on paper.
“Muggles are barbaric Indus. Why is no one doing anything about it?” he muttered later, and Indus laughed softly.
“Statutes of secrecy and fear of the unknown I think Gel.” He replied, and Gellert could feel the slight disinterest in Indus’ voice. “Muggles think that this is a sin, did you know? People die just because they happen to love the wrong people.” He said, and Indus nodded, before a smile crept across his face. “If we say we do not sin,” he said, voice curling around the Christopher Marlow quote, “We do deceive ourselves,” and Gellert kissed him, lacing the fingers of their hands together before finishing the quote. “Therefore, we must sin.”

Despite the many distractions that the thawing spring offered, Gellert couldn’t forget his vision entirely, the whirling misery of the black smoke palpable now that he knew what it was. He tried to be open-minded about the muggles, his mother had always attempted to instil that in him, but the more he read and thought about them the more they repulsed him, and during the last week of April he decided to finally ask the history professor about it, completely derailing the lecture of the day. “Sir, how is the statute of secrecy benefiting us?” He asked, and the class went silent, some derisive and some intrigued. The professor repeated almost word for word the doctrine of fear and hiding that his mother had used all those years ago, when they had fled their home leaving three dead children in the snow and a house on fire behind, and Gellert scowled, shutting out the troubling memories with his more immediately accessible emotion of anger.
“Sir I think you mistake my meaning. I understand why we created it, but not why we maintain it. It causes the suffering of wizarding adults and children alike, and if we apply the ideas of Machiavelli’s discourses on Livi, the stasis it has introduced to the magical world is both unnatural and detrimental to our society.” He said, drawing odd looks from his peers for his persistent debating of what many of them clearly thought was an obvious point. “Take the example of Rome” he continued regardless “They remained safe for eons through warfare; simple muggles have deduced that sometimes the best defence is offence, so why should we not utilise this idea?” he finished, and his professor looked at him with something that lingered between anger and fear dancing in his eyes. Gellert looked around in the class to see that many of his peers were now looking at him in apprehension but also with a look of dawning admiration. He had upset the status quo with this question, but as the garbled explanations of the professor fell short, he saw more and more of his class begin to see the point he was trying to make, and after the class was over he saw the many questioning glances thrown his way. He found himself talking over his views with a group of students in the year above him one evening in the library, the five of them having heard about it through the Durmstrang Rumour Mill, which had been hard at work twisting his words into a good story to whisper to a friend in charms. After explaining the increasing trends in muggle-related violence to the older students in a carrying voice, he was surprised to find a timid first year walking up to them and agreeing with his point of view. “My older brother was attacked by muggles and his back is scarred all over from what they did. We shouldn’t have to hide, it lets these things happen.” Said the small boy, his oversized cloak and boots suggesting a poor family. Gellert smiled and later asked him discreetly if he would like to learn the clothes resizing charm. At the eager nod, Gellert showed him and the smaller boy, Lev, walked away wearing clothes he had shrunk himself after Gellert’s careful instruction in the subject.

Summer rushed towards them and Gellert began to focus more and more on arithmancy, his notes scattered across both his and Indus’ rooms, revising with his right hand while his left hand entwined with Indus’. As the exam dew closer his musings on the statute of secrecy were pushed to one side as he concentrated on the beauty of arithmancy, but despite his almost constant state of revision, some of his ideas persisted, and he was often found racing across a little stone bridge in the library that he had used to connect the arithmancy and history sections. On the morning of the exam he ate a hearty breakfast, sure that he would need the energy, and reminded Vinda to tell the professors in their first two lessons where he was. When he sat down in the exam hall, drawing confused stares from the older students as he did so, he felt a sense of calm wash over him, unconsciously aware of his imminent success. He opened his paper and scanned down the questions, sighing in relief as he recognised what to do and how to begin. With a scramble for his ink pen he began, and ninety minutes later he put his pen down, satisfied. He had done the best he could, and in the end not a single question had required of him more than a moment’s thought. He walked out of the hall with a smile and made his way to the dorms, feeling a warmth spreading through him at the thought of finally being able to relax with his friends properly. When he got to the fourth floor he made his way to Indus’ room to find the party in full swing. Irina was dancing with Otto and Ladislav, while Vinda and Indus sat in the corner, each with a mug that smelt strongly of whiskey but looked, upon closer inspection, like hot chocolate. Gellert unfocused his eyes and felt the magic swirling around the cups, deciding that it must be some disguise charm, and greeted Vinda with a smile, before turning to Indus and sitting down on the bed next to him, one hand twisting around the taller boy’s waist as he was pressed into a description of what his exam had been like by Vinda.

After he had done his arithmancy GZP Gellert felt that term should jut hurry up and end, but despite his best efforts even he could not engineer a method of speeding up time, and it continued to act like treacle, viscous and unmoving in it’s mundane stagnation. While everyone else either revised or messed around as the third year exams drew closer, Gellert turned his attention to both his historical research and the long neglected idea of actually finding the hallows, and was currently in the process of tracking the most powerful duels of history and creating a timeline of possible owners of the most dangerous Hallow, The Elder Wand. He scratched out one of the names, as he had found a description that fitted his timeline better, and Harpo The Foul replaced Arichmané The Enchantress of the same time period, who he had decided was just powerful, as Harpo The Foul had actually come into contact with the prior owner in a well documented fight ten years prior to his own bloody end. Satisfied, he left the library and returned to his dorm where he found Indus sitting at his desk going over a set of transfiguration notes that Irina had corrected for him. He traced a hand down the other boy’s neck and lent down for a kiss, before settling on his bed for a final review of his own transfiguration notes before the first of their exams.

Just after they had all walked out of their second potions exam three days later he felt his right eye begin to water before realising that it was probably blood, and rushing away from his friends to the only haven he could think of, the arithmancy department. The exam had gone smoothly, almost too smoothly, and now he felt that his good luck had run out. He knocked on Professor Mansuro’s door and thought he saw it open before his vision changed and he recognised the onset of a vision. Lost to the real world, he stood in a room filled with clutter, unable to see over the mounds of strange debris. It looked as if all the junk of a magical school had been emptied out, and Gellert looked more closely at an essay to find it written in english. He saw a wizard of seventeen perched atop a pile of junk writing furiously, examining a strange instrument of some kind with silver bells and tubes that emitted purple smoke into a conical flask every seven seconds, glasses glinting in curiosity. The scene changed and an older version of the same man levitated a large pile up into the air, russet hair glimmering in the candle light as he placed a metal box into the space he had unearthed and let the pile fall back into place. The man turned away crying, before blowing apart the pile and retrieving his box, whatever it contained. In a flash the room shifted around and a dark haired boy unearthed a bejewelled tiara and pocketed it with a maliciously gleeful grin. Shadows crept forwards, as if made bold by the presence of this unearthly child, and then Gellert blinked, seeing a rush of movement as if time had been sped up. A boy who looked eerily similar to the other one, but who seemed to radiate hope sat in the same place putting down a battered potion text book, and then Gellert saw fire leaping from stack to stack, a pale blond rescued by the mirror image boy of light and fire as he swept out of the room on a broomstick with its twigs half-rotted that by all rights should not have been able to fly.

When Gellert came around he was lying on a sofa that he recognised as the one in professor Mansuro’s office, his head thumping and what felt like a soft cloth draped over his face that he could see was stained a pinkish red by his bloodied tears. He reached instinctively for the notebook in which he detailed visions and the shock of it not being within his reach woke him fully, his eyes wide with anxiety and his breathing heavy. He must have made a fair amount of noise because Professor Mansuro poked his head around the door of his office. “Grindelwald, I hate to be discourteous but I have to ask. Why are you here, rather that in your own room?” Asked the concerned professor, and Gellert opened his mouth to reply before closing it, unsure if his professor’s questions were actually meaningful or just a social nicety. He decided uncomfortably that he would stick to the more palatable “I was nearer to here than my room and I could feel the visions coming on.” rather that explain how claustrophobic he had felt in his own rooms this past few weeks. He couldn’t explain to a teacher how those around him drew out his anger and he just wanted to seethe on his own, and how in his dreams grey eyes turned blue and that when he woke a name he didn’t know slipped out of his mind with his last exhalation of sleep. He levelled Professor Mansuro with a steely gaze, who looked at him a little skeptically, but let him go without protest, a new arithmancy book in hand on the muggle Riemann Theory and possible practical arithmantic uses of a proof thereof.

When the night was edging fitfully towards dawn Gellert closed the book he had been leant and strove for sleep, but the more he tried the further that elusive land seemed from him. He starred at the ceiling of his room, observing how the spiderweb that had been spun so industriously earlier that week had been removed, and how there was a small patch of mould on the part of the ceiling closest to the window. He starred, transfixed, drifting in and out of exhaustion as he attempted sleep, and slowly the room faded around him until he was starring at a strange shape. It was the silhouette of two men which upon closer inspection were each a dense cloud of numbers. One figure was made up of seventeens and the other of forty-threes, but where their hands connected there was a blot of red, a single 731, the calligraphic flourishes extending into ropes of scarlet that bound the figures together, and then he slowly rose out of his strange waking dream and was one more seeing only the clean ceiling of his room. He wrote down the numbers on a sheet of spare parchment and made a note to look up their arithmantic significance later, before trying once more for sleep.

Blearily he gave up his attempts, climbing up to the roof to watch the sunrise with his latest alchemy homework carefully charmed to follow him, and he sat down with a tired smile, back against one of the many chimneys that scraped the sky. He had to write an essay on the history of De Demarne, who was the alchemist that quantified each alchemical formula and mass during the 15th century, putting them into a table of elements that had been re-discovered by the muggle chemist Dimitri Mendeleev just 26 years ago in Russia. Gellert was fascinated by both the muggle and magical discoveries, and how muggle chemistry was becoming closer and closer to alchemy as the muggle methods become more refined. The two branches of theory were remarkably similar, however the spells of practical alchemy were, of course, unattainable by muggles, no matter how far they advanced theoretically. Gellert suspected that not too soon in the future the theory of muggle chemistry would advance beyond the alchemical facts, as muggle “scientists” were driven by pure curiosity, and alchemy had always been a more practical pursuit for the wizards who chose to dedicate their lives to it. He scribbled down the final lines of his essay as he mused on the idea, eye itching in a way that suggested he was being influenced by his seer sight. He closed his eyes and saw a flash of something, a mushroom cloud rising above the earth while the wind carried thousands of screams around the world. He opened his eyes and frowned, his visions were definitely becoming more common this year, and he could only hope that it was a sign of his increasing power levels.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and jumped, unaware that someone had joined him on the roof. He turned to see Indus and felt his scowl melt at the warm concerned gaze of the other boy. Indus carefully took his hand and pulled him into a kiss, which Gellert returned with relish, the morning sun sending warm rays of light dancing across the two of them, illuminating their embrace, then hiding behind a small scudding cloud before bursting out into radiance once more.

In the hall where they breakfasted each professor was handing out parchments, presumably containing their end-of-term results, and Gellert opened his with a small moment of anxiety. He scanned down the list, seeing a line of H’s in every subject, and let a massive grin slide onto his face, the taste of victory heady on his tongue. Beside him Vinda was also smiling and the rest of his friends looked happy enough, Irina smiling like she had bested a manticore and Ladislav smiling a quiet smile of satisfaction. Across the hall Gellert saw Karl put his head in his hands and begin to shake, before letting out a cry and opening his eyes wide. Gellert smiled, happy that his nightmare curse was still in effect and darkly gleeful that it had caused the boy to fail at least some of his exams, judging from the way Otto was looking at his twin’s results in horror. Gellert smiled, wondering just how much of an effect his spell was having on the other boy. He turned away and met Indus’ eyes, sharing a secret smile and flicking a glance down at the paper in his hands. Indus smiled back and Gellert felt a rush of affection for his, well, his Indus. They left the hall amidst the shouts of horror and glee as more and more students poured into the exam hall, and their first lesson was one in which no one could fully concentrate. In healing Gellert couldn’t focus, too preoccupied with the memory of Karl’s nervous twitching at breakfast, and worried that his magical signature could be traced as the source of the nightmare curse.

Days melted by in a haze of warm summer sun and clouds that looked for all the world like spun sugar, spent in airy classrooms where the windows were all thrown open or outside, fingers loosely entwined with Indus’ own as the taller boy drew and painted while Gellert closed his eyes, wondering if it was theoretically possible to modify smaller jinxes into curses with no counter and no shield. He had experimented and there was no way to do it in the three dimensional world he could see, but he had a gut feeling that it could be done and, remembering the phrase of The One Of Three and her strange place about “Five degrees widdershins” from the rest of the world, he decided to alter his thinking. What he needed was a fourth dimension in which to work. He had been thinking about shapes, modelling the idea of a fourth dimension with everyday objects and the platonic solids, and had come to the strange conclusion that every shape was either a stretched sphere or a ring shape, the latter being applied to objects that had holes, like the distillation kit used in potions. When he had babbled all of this in a rush his friends had all laughed, even Indus had joined them in their derision, and Gellert was once more forcibly reminded of the fundamental differences between him and his companions. Back in his room, still a little miffed at the rude laughter of his friends that still rang in his ears, he drew out his first attempt at a four dimensional cube. Then, seeing the weaknesses of paper as a medium, had made a three dimensional model of it out of a floorboard, twisting the wood into shape with the power of his blood’s magic and waiting patiently for it to form. Once he had his shape he decided that it needed a name, and settled on a Tesseract, before returning to the idea that shapes in his world were all actually either spherical or ring-shaped in the fourth dimension, he thought himself lucky, as a sphere was the precise shape required for a spell with no counter. Looking out through the window into the bright blue of the sky Gellert smiled, intrigued by his ideas and wondering if they could be made feasible.

On the boat home a week later, Gellert was feeling rather accomplished. Not only had he scoured the library for reference to a fourth dimension and found nothing, he had been deemed “Revolutionary” by Professor Mansuro, and as soon as he could modify a jinx that worked after he had implemented his theory he would be published. He had written a proof of sorts out and an explanation of how shapes worked in this fourth dimension, and he was confident that he could implement the theory in practice eventually. So far his attempts had been in vein, the results rather more incendiary that he had expected, so he was refraining from some further experimentation while on a boat. Gellert was sitting in a compartment with his friends, one arm wrapped around Indus closely and the other writing out an example of how to modify the dandruff jinx so that it couldn’t be blocked. So far he had done an arithmantic example for a hex, a charm and a mild curse, and now he was completing the offence spell list by theorising based on a jinx. He completed the equation by equating it to a circle’s general formula and solving for his unknowns before putting down his pens and paper to rejoin the flow of conversation. It had been decided that Irina and Ladislav would be staying with Vinda for a few days, after which the boys were arriving for a camping trip in France. They had two tents between them, one that belonged to Irina and the other which Indus thought he could wheedle his uncle into lending. Gellert was very suspicious about why the girls were meeting up before them, but eventually decided that he would rather be prepared for anything than prove to them that he knew what they were planning. The boat rose to the surface of Lake Starnberg and Gellert kissed Indus deeply, a goodbye and a promise that needed no words, but there was a flavour in his mouth when they parted that tasted like rot. Indus waved and Gellert turned away, walking out onto the lake shore with Cixi perched on his shoulder, afraid that he had tasted death upon the lips of his beloved and with the sinking fear of never seeing the other boy again.

Once home, he settled down at the kitchen table to talk to his mother properly, catching up on months of missed conversations and rushing through apologies for not writing more often while keeping certain aspects of his personal life quiet, unsure how she would react. That evening there was a summer storm that rolled across the city, the heady smell of wet stone permeating the air as the light faded and the warmth of the German summer was quenched, allowing a cool breeze to whip up the rain into a torrent in the night. Gellert forwent sleep, flinging his windows wide and breathing in the beauty of his city in all of its bedazzled glory, each edge picked out in a shining amber glow as the rain reflected the light of the countless street lamps of muggle Munich. Gellert watched as one by one those lights went out, the dawn revealing a cloudless sky and a fresh city, cleansed by the rain of the night. He pitied the muggle forced to go out into the chill of the dawn to douse the lamps, and couldn’t help but think a spell would be faster. How much more efficient would the city be if wizards could run things? How much faster would new discoveries be made in all realms, both scientific and arithmantical, if wizards and muggles could compare theories?

He shook himself out of his musings and turned away from the window at last, pulling out his tarot cards for a reading. He pulled out his crystal and tapped the side that held his vision of the room of things, and commanded it to grow until he could make out details. Throwing the cards high, he put their box to one side, tracing the black fabric within and feeling a frisson of thoughtless fear as soon as his hand came into contact with it. He made a mental note to actually research what could cause that reaction in a wizard and watched as the cards swirled around, settling into a pattern. The Six Of Cups lay at the centre of the spread, making memory and innocence key figures in the spread. Crossed with this was Justice, and Gellert felt a wave of sadness. What tragedy could cause a person’s moral compass to come into conflict with their memories of childhood and innocence? He wondered with a shiver. Above and below these lay the Devil and Temperance, the two juxtaposed cards that influenced the conflict. The Devil, a feeling of powerlessness and an incitement to do evil, and Temperance, encouraging peace, patience and adaptability. The deck’s focus would have to change, either himself or those around him. To the left lay The Lovers, and Gellert saw a flash, tears welling in a pair of blue eyes as a girl fell to the floor dead. Three boys on the edge of adulthood hung suspended in a moment of shared horror before the shortest of the three let out an incoherent scream of rage. He dropped the card in shock, not used to a reading triggering a subsequent vision and unnerved by it. He jotted down his second vision, denoting it as a derivative vision with a simple arithmantic f’(x). The final card in the deck lay there innocently, Gellert starring at The Fool warily. He looked at it with suspicious eyes, wondering at the uncertainty the card added to the deck. Did it mean that there was no certain outcome, or did it mean that this scene would bring the end of a story? He didn’t know what it could mean, but he dutifully wrote down his theories, inking the last card in red and putting a question mark beside it as a reminder of his current uncertainty. The summer had seemed to start slow, but soon enough his mother was telling him all about her plans for his summer. She had arranged for them to go to England to visit his Great Aunt Bathilda, however the week clashed with the camping trip his friends had arranged and he stuck his heels in determinedly, unwilling to miss out on seeing all of his friends. His mother had looked at him with deep hurt but for once he found himself able to resist her patented guilt-trip inducing expression, and she had eventually allowed him to go, saying that Bathilda would have less to cook if he wasn’t there, so he could do as he very well pleased. Gellert had smiled for a week at the news, unable to contain his gratitude for his mother’s half-feigned reluctant acceptance, knowing full well that she did have the ultimate say over where he got to go. He ducked underneath the stone dragon who greeted him with “The hour draws near.” to which he responded with a cheerful greeting, and he walked swiftly to the library, looking for anything that could induce fear by exposure.

He found several curses that did the job but intuition told him that that was not the answer that he really sought, and he turned in confusion to the mind-magic section. He soon found many techniques for repelling negative spirits, many of which could be dispelled by a spell called the Patronus charm which seemed to be a distillation of pure happiness, but nothing on a physical being. He also found a reference to the ever-obscure magic of Occlumency, and startled, he charmed the book to follow him, soon getting sidetracked from fear-induction all together. He was trying to learn the mysterious art, a stack of eight books on the subject trailing after him as he decided to try once more to find what could be lining his box of cards, looking in the magical creatures section in a last ditch effort. He momentarily thought he had struck gold when he came across a description of a Lefithold, but it didn’t magically induce fear, not needing to by virtue of its absolutely terrifying nature. Gellert shivered, and thought slightly fearfully that he would never look at a black blanket again without checking that it wouldn’t eat him as soon as he turned around. He put that book back on the shelf after making sure he knew all the protective charms against a Lefithold, making a note to prioritise learning the patronus charm as soon as possible and picking up another hopeful looking book titled simply “Dementors.”

Pretty sure that the material that lined his box of cards was dementor skin, Gellert was at a loss as to how it had been harvested from the dementor, as they were apparently immortal beings that fed on souls and positive emotions. He borrowed the books on occlumency, putting back the book on Dementors and wondering why anyone would spend their time writing about such a horrifying creature, eventually deciding that it was done to protect the wider wizarding world. He couldn’t help but be glad that he was now more informed, despite his disgust, and thought of writing to the author to thank them for their sacrifice. Gellert walked slowly out of the library, putting his books into the shoulder bag that he had been given by The One Of Three and walking back into Muggle Munich, headed towards home.

Weeks flew by and though Gellert had been busy with both the complex first steps in developing an occlumency shield and attempting to put his arithmantic fourth-dimension theory into practice, he had been overjoyed to hear that Bathilda had rearranged the meeting, as she would be doing a book signing in Berlin in the last week of August, and would be staying with them for the week preceding it, so he could see her after all. He retuned his books on occlumency one by one, learning first to meditate and then to occlude using a simple shield, and soon enough he had read his way through the last one. As he became steadily more proficient in the art while the summer wore on, he slept in fitful bursts, woken often by visions. Sometimes the visions would be startlingly clear, a large amphitheatre full of people listening as he spoke out against the statute of secrecy, and a field of poppies blooming and withering in front of him as he looked out over a sky burning amber in the long summer evening. Vinda holding out her hand to a tear-strewn blond, a dark haired boy and a snake that coiled around him with eyes that looked out of a scaled face with human terror. Other visions were more feelings and shapes than clear images, and he saw tunnels flashing past, black pipes running parallel to the tunnel as a shape roared past, screeching against some unseen metal. A feeling of drowning in something close to sorrow and warmth. Something that sparked along his nerve endings in a strange way that he couldn't describe.

Soon he was packing his bags for the camping trip his friends had organised, and though Irina had fought long and hard for a trip to Russia, they had eventually settled on France. He was looking forward to seeing his friends again, and though he waited anxiously for bad news from his Indus he began to shake of his feelings of portending doom and believe that he had been mistaken. When at last the day of the trip arrived he bid his mother goodbye, his uncle’s knapsack flung over a shoulder and an extension charm placed on his shoulder bag to fit his books, he headed through the green flames into France, and the part of summer that he had been hardly able to wait for began at last.

Chapter Text

 

Crackling flames leapt and danced as the six friends watched the french twilight fade into velvet night. They had opened a case of butterbeers earlier and as the light faded Otto had produced two bottles of fire whiskey that Gellert accepted without question, as the other boy always seemed to have some on hand. They sat around the fire playing truth or dare, various states of drunkenness causing more than one of his friends to reveal things that they may have regretted had they been sober enough to do so. Indus was draped around him, kissing his way down Gellert’s neck and ignoring the game going on around him entirely, making Gellert more than a little distracted. Otto took another gulp, drinking faster than any of the others, and Vinda was asking him a little too loudly why he was drinking so fast. After a few melancholic seconds, he revealed his reasons for the long silences that had punctuated his conversation throughout the trip and the heavy drinking he was indulging in now. “It’s Karl.” said the boy, voice strangely hoarse as the truth ripped through him. “He won’t stop panicking, he shakes sometimes for no reason, and wherever he goes when he is off in his own world, I can’t follow him to help.” He said, and Gellert slid a mournful expression onto his own face to match the suddenly somber mood of the group. He felt no remorse for the spell he had cast, though he had not expected it to be permanent, but he consoled himself with the thought that it was well deserved, and he leaned back into Indus’ embrace, opting out of the conversation by turning around for a long kiss.

 

The game wore on and Irina was dared to kiss Otto, at which she giggled loudly in a tipsy moment of joy before giving him a quick kiss, to the whoops and yells of their friends. Gellert rejoined the conversation and in a slightly drunken haze he started to explain his theorem of fourth dimension spell strengthening, his equally drunk friends staring at him, semi-catatonic in their lack of understanding, and he rambled on. He talked at them until a disgruntled Indus kissed him into silence, muttering about numbers and Gellert being nicer with less words. He frowned but allowed it, a cold feeling settling into his chest at the realisation that even now, on holiday and in the arms of someone he loved, he wasn’t really understood. He distracted himself by kissing Indus again, and he vaguely heard someone yelling at them to either keep it in the bedroom or stop lip-locking and join in on the game. Indus smiled into the kiss and mumbled that maybe they should go into their tent, but Gellert, who was keen to collect more of his friends’ drunken confessions, shook his head. When at last they fell into their respective tents, Gellert half-manhandled half-led Indus to his bed and kissed him deeply, before settling in besides him, a sly grin crossing his face at the thought of what everyone would assume the following morning.

 

The dawn brought Gellert out of a restless sleep, fitful as it had been due to the flashes of light and colour that had disturbed him throughout the night. He caught individual words and streaky disconnected emotions but nothing that stayed in his memory after a few seconds of blearily getting his bearings. He was in Indus’ bed, and though he hated to ruin the prank he had planned, he shuffled out, careful not to wake Indus, who was a notorious late sleeper. The morning’s fresh clean air hit him as he ducked through the heavy canvas of the tent door, his bare feet cold in the morning dew that lay thick across the grassy floor of the clearing they were using as a campsite. He flicked a finger and crackling flames danced up, amber glass edged in silver forming for a spilt second before fading into the flickering orange of a regular bonfire. Gellert yawned happily and thought for a moment of waking up his friends before remembering the hex Vinda had thrown his way after he woke her once before, hungover after a previous party, and thinking better of it. Feeling healthy and sans-hangover, as usual, Gellert wanted to feel the morning sun so he headed for the tallest sycamore tree he could find in the area, not bothering with shoes as he let his magic quest out, searching for where he could find a tall tree and following the pull he felt in return, before starting to climb. With branches at almost ladder-like regular intervals he was soon above the crown, suspended with each limb at a different intersection of the spindly branches, swaying in the light breeze with the bows of the tree. The broad leaves fluttered, blowing back to reveal pale undersides in the breeze and forcing Gellert to cling to his precarious branches while they rattled, clacking like heels on a cobblestone road. He felt something land on his shoulder and drew up his magic to blast whatever it was away before he recognised the warmth of his familiar bond’s glow. “Cixi,” he muttered, slightly shaken by what he had almost done, “What are you doing in France?” he continued, shaking his head. She levelled a glare at him, as if to say, “You should have brought me here yourself. Familiars must go to where their bond calls them.” He grinned, stroked her neck feathers and tapped his sleeve with his wand, transfiguring the soft linen of his night-shirt into a leather arm guard before nudging her onto it with a smile. “My fault I suppose.” he grumbled, and began the climb down one-handed. Back on the ground Gellert carefully smeared a bloody finger over a small dead branch, watching as it morphed into an elegant perch for Cixi before moving it to the camp and nudging the stubborn bird towards the perch. He walked back into the tent, ducking in through the low canvas flap and heading over to the ornate desk embossed with the black family emblem. He picked up his disorganised arithmancy notes and stacked them carefully before heating up some strong coffee and putting a cup by the door of each tent, hoping the smell could wake his friends in a reasonable mood. He wandered back into his own tent and picked up a book, half intending to continue with his latest book on warding, but he was interrupted by a bleary-eyed Indus, who kissed him warmly in a ploy to steal his coffee.

 

Waking up the rest of the group was an incremental process, but slowly the four of his friends woke, deciding as a group to visit the lake nearby as they had been on holiday for a week and had yet to go swimming. It was on the property of a rich muggle lord and though Otto had expressed concerns over being caught, both Vinda and Gellert had no such worries, sure that should any unpleasantness arise their spell-casting could get them out of it. The group of them collected their bathing things, the shorts reminding Gellert of a summer long forgotten, a time before he and his mother had moved away from their little village in rural Germany and moved to Munich, the flared collar of the shirt-like part settling against his skin comfortably as he was drawn out of his memories by Indus’ long wolf-whistle at his appearance. He smiled and offered the other boy a kiss before breaking away, laughing and complaining about coffee breath. Vinda came out of the tent almost nervously, and she seemed to be wearing a daringly short bathing suit with no skirts at all, wand stuffed through the loops where a skirt was supposed to be attached to the sky blue number. Gellert tucked his own wand through a loop in the fabric made specifically, and made sure that the runes sewn in around the sleeves, bottom of the shorts and collar still lit up when he wanted them to. There were runes for heat, protection and buoyancy, though the last one Gellert had had to form on his own from a modified weight rune combined with the rune for wind, and they all headed down through the winding paths of the forest laughing.

 

The last few sunny hours of the morning splashed by in a haze, and they all summoned ingredients from their camp for lunch, ending up with a slightly strange mixture of different meals all being made and eaten at the same time, but they were all too happy to care. After banishing their rubbish they returned to the water, Vinda’s cry of aguamenti starting a water fight of legendary proportions. Gellert used a motion charm to create a shield of water, the elliptic curve suspended in front of him to block attacks from the others. Vinda had used a bubble-headed charm to introduce an element stealth to the game, creeping around on the lake bottom and launching surprise attacks. Ladislav ended up being a surprisingly good marksman for someone who never played quidditch, and they were all in the middle of a spell when Indus spotted a flash of light on the far shore of the lake. The six of them paused, and Irina, who had the sharpest eye for detail among them, soon came to a damning conclusion. “It’s an eye-glass. There’s a muggle watching.” She yelled, and there was a moment of horrified stillness among them as they all took in what that meant. Gellert knew the statute of secrecy inside out, his many hours of frustrated wrangling in the library giving him a confusing and overwhelming data stream to sort through now, but there was no way to deny that they had broken it into fragments. While he was not exactly against that in principle, he knew that the crime carried heavy penalties, and he didn't know the french legislation in detail at all. He was sure that he could do a spell, there was a way of making someone forget something that he had read about, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what the incantation was. Indus shouted out in alarm, and sure enough the muggle had turned away, walking back towards civilisation. Tension among the group rose, Vinda looking panicked and Gellert ran through a mental list of spells in desperation, inspiration striking when he remembered his most recent book on curses. “Spiritus Subtrahit” he breathed, the curse sending spikes of strange energy through his blood as he said it. It was used to steal someone’s magic, just a little at a time until they were stripped of it entirely and sentenced to squibdom for the rest of their lives, and Gellert put his head in his hands in defeat. He had panicked and responded with a spell that only worked against wizards, and he had turned away in horror at his mistake, ready to hear the worst when Vinda gave a shout of triumph. “He’s down, he crumpled when whatever Gellert cast hit him.” He felt a warm glow begin in his chest and was beginning to smile when he felt Ladislav pause. “Should we get some help for him?” she asked, and at Indus’ scoff added a hasty “Or at least see what Gellert’s spell did?” After a few minutes of arguing, as Vinda and Indus were firmly against helping, Ladislav and Irina both wanting to help and Otto being undecided, Gellert couldn’t help but put in his own two sickles. “I want to see what that spell did, after all it’s not usually applied to muggles.” He said, and with that the whole group set off around the edge of the lake.

 

Vinda and Gellert walked the fastest, Indus close behind while the others trailed a few yards behind him, and later Gellert would reflect that it was good that he had his two closest friends with him when he first saw what had happened. As they came around the last peninsula and the muggle came into view, Gellert felt a sudden rush of cold as if someone had dunked his whole body in ice. He felt strangely distant from the scene, unable to feel the guilt he should while looking at the remains of the muggle man who had had the misfortune to spot their water-fight. He blinked, unable to move a step closer, and heard muted gasps as the others saw what his spell had done one by one. Vinda had a look of horror on her face, but there was a kind smile dancing in her eyes as she looked at him, and Gellert’s lips twitched in response, a thanks for the silent show of understanding. Vinda was always closest to him in some ways, and her quiet support bolstered him back into action, unfreezing him and allowing him to move closer towards the desiccated corpse by the lake’s edge. It didn’t even look human anymore, the spell having ripped its way through every nerve in search for magic, sucking away the life as it did so. Gellert overcame his initial horror after a moment’s silent contemplation, and he found that his mind was icily clear, different possible consequences flashing past with their respective probabilities accompanying them. The body was evidence of magic, and if Gellert was sure of one thing it was that they had to be rid of it as soon as possible. He and Vinda had a silent conversation of minute flickers of expression, and they moved in sync as the rest of the group stood in mute shock at what Gellert had done. Vinda levitated the body up and far out towards the centre of the lake, pausing to let Gellert transfigure all of his clothes to stone, a simple material transfiguration that crackled with unnecessary energy, a residue from the dark curse that began the whole mess, and they watched as it sank towards eternity in silence.

 

The walk back to camp felt interminable, and he could feel the accusing eyes of his friends, each of them wrestling with their own conscience in the wake of Gellert’s inadvertent killing of a muggle. As they walked away from the scene of horror Indus had hugged him close, wrapping his longer arms around Gellert, who still couldn’t feel properly, an icy blanket hanging between him and any sense of what had happened. Indus whispered fervently about how much more they were worth than muggles, and how he hadn’t really killed anything worth the life it had possessed, but Gellert wasn’t moved by the typically Black family-esque argument, merely melting into the physical affection offered and trying to remember what it felt like to be warm. Otto followed soon after, offering a quiet but steadfast nod, the simple motion letting him know that, at least one more pair of eyes would look at him without condemnation. He still didn’t feel guilty, merely blank and distant, and though Irina professed forgiveness, he sensed acutely that both she and Ladislav were still much troubled by his actions.

 

Back in camp there was a distinctly subdued atmosphere, and though Vinda and Indus seemed to be functioning relatively normally the others kept throwing wary glances at Gellert, and he ended up retiring early to the tent he and Indus were sharing. Falling into the ebony four-poster bed and drawing the curtains with a rough toss, he curled up and tried to examine his own internal state, the eery equilibrium settling down into something like a frost, his mind clear and cold. He gazed up at the deep blue hangings of the bed unseeingly, searching for guilt that he knew he should feel but finding nothing. His thoughts were interrupted when Indus parted the curtains softly and stared at Gellert’s curled form worriedly before climbing in beside him. Gellert looked at Indus with a frightening apathy, expression cold and distant, separated by some inane capacity that only Indus possessed for guilt. As Indus wordlessly began to kiss Gellert, untangling his limbs and slowly entwining them with his own, Gellert began to come back to life, warmth breathed back into his body and mind by the passion pouring through every touch of lips to skin. What had began as Indus trying to bridge his way back to a Gellert who was icily removed from him became comfort, and then the warmth Gellert felt sparked something within him. The kisses were slowly returned, frigid at first from lips that wouldn’t move properly but slowly becoming more heated as Indus slipped his tongue into Gellert’s mouth. Touches that had begun as a gesture of forgiveness became intent-fuelled caresses that set a smouldering fire under Gellert’s skin, burning away the ice that had filled his veins in a rush of warmth and sending the blood rushing from one place to another.

Indus gasped in pleasure as Gellert’s thigh brushed between his legs and Gellert noticed, smirking, and repeated the action. Any worry over the muggle faded as together they began to explore the limits of what their bodies could feel. There was a struggle to get out of clothes, each garment tossed irreverently through the hangings of the bed and far from their minds. Indus traced him through his trousers, stroking him in rhythm with their slow kisses and Gellert shuddered, undone by a combination of the feeling of warmth, the actions of the other boy and the last of the residual dark energy from his curse that was running through his veins. Indus brought himself off while Gellert basked in the glow of le Petite Mort, eyes alt-lidded as they watched Gellert, broken moans spilling from his lips as Gellert roused enough to kiss him, eyes heavy with promise and hands wandering to all the right places. Gellert reached down to his arse, pulling the other boy closer and providing much needed friction where it was wanted with undulating movements of his hips, and Indus came with Gellert’s name pulled from his throat in a long drawn out sigh.

 

When Gellert woke it was to the familiar sound of Vinda’s raucous laughter. “Well,” she gasped between fits of laughter, “We know what gets Indus hot now.” Indus blushed, throwing a pillow at her and accidentally dislodging Gellert, who fell out of the bed with a discontented cry. Vinda shrieked and covered her eyes with her hands, loudly stating that she had seen more than she ever needed to of Gellert, and was going to try to scrub what she had just seen from her mind. Gellert laughed, ruefully pulling on some clothes despite Indus’ noise of protest at his actions. He turned to smile at the other boy, whose bedhead made his curls much less well controlled, giving him an air of innocence that Gellert knew from experience was an inaccurate one. Gellert ducked out from under the tent, the warmth of Indus and of the easy acceptance of his lack of guilt from Vinda draining away to be replaced by uncertainty as he came face to face with his other friends. The comfortable smile he had worn only moments before slid off his face, a cold feeling growing behind his eyes as he tried to rationalise his action for those of his friends who couldn’t seem to accept it. Ladislav looked at him with a mixture of fear and disgust, and coldly ignored his attempts to talk to her, while Otto seemed to accept what had happened the with the same cynicism and quiet sadness he had greeted everything with since his twin Karl had gone off the rails, and Irina had apparently talked to Vinda, eventually excusing his use of a truly dark curse by rationalising it as a necessary evil.

 

After the events of the previous day, their holiday seemed to have lost all of its charm, with half the group still uneasy in his presence and they parted ways a few days before they had initially planned to, Gellert and Indus returning to Munich to spend the rest of the week together. When Gellert unlocked the door he was almost bowled over by the hug his mother offered, and she had almost shut the door in Indus’ face when Gellert turned back to his guest to introduce the two of them. He hadn’t said anything to his mother about being involved with Indus, but something must have given him away, as she smiled, laughed and told Indus that she had heard a lot about him with a wink. Gellert was eternally thankful that he had been born a pureblood, as he had never had to deal with unjustified hatred for loving Indus, accepted as it was by wizarding society. Giving Indus a tour of Munich was almost a magical experience in and of itself, because, though he never forgot the beauty of his home city, Gellert saw it with new eyes, Indus at his side who beautified every side street he walked down in both the muggle and magical areas. They had entered magical Munich and the stone dragon had looked between them with a soulful air, greeting Gellert in his normal, vaguely respectful manner before tuning to Indus. In his voice of shifting gravel he imparted a strangely cryptic greeting. “First, fifth and second, hello and goodbye. Give my regards to the great wyrm when you move away” Indus looked towards Gellert in confusion but he pulled him away impatiently, disregarding the stone dragon’s statement in his excitement to show him the wonders of magical Munich.

 

The day after Indus left, Gellert had just settled down to try his proof once more when he was distracted from his arithmancy yet again by the arrival of his great aunt, who brought news of another ritual ban by the British ministry of magic, as the popular opinion seemed to be leaning more and more towards vilifying the whole magical branch as dark. She shook her head at the folly of British wizards, and told Gellert to never get involved with an english girl. After being notified of his preferences by his mother she laughed and warned him away from British boys instead. “They’ll only ever give you bother,” she said, laughing at his fervent response that he had Indus, and wouldn’t change that for the world, and changing the subject back to politics. “The currently favoured style in England is muggleborn integration; rather that forcing them to assimilate to our customs they are introducing theirs. It’s terrible, it’s said that Hogwarts will celebrate the Christian holidays rather that our own if Atharrach gets in. It’s a disgrace, a Disgrace I say!” she said, fired up by the thought that an important part of history that was being buried purposely by those who supported the new pro-muggle agenda. “We were persecuted by Christians on a scale seen neither before nor since, and I for one will not forget the witch burnings.” She continued hotly, Gellert nodding, feeling a sick thrill of satisfaction at the memory of the incident with the muggle during his holiday in France. It was as if Bathilda was excusing him for the incident, and he felt something that had been gnawing at him since they saw the body melt away. He had taken to thinking of what had happened as “The Lakeside Problem.” in his head, and now he finally felt like he could make his peace with the incident and lay it to rest without a cold feeling descending on him and blocking out his ability to feel altogether.

 

Bathilda stayed for three days, and Gellert attended her book signings, working quietly away at his fourth dimension conjecture while she signed countless copies of her books. They made a tradition of sorts that they would stop in a café afterwards to discuss the book or arithmancy, divination or alchemy, and though Gellert was leagues ahead of Bathilda in Arithmancy, he couldn’t deny her immense repertoire of knowledge in every magical field from transfiguration to healing, and their academic conversations soon became something he looked forwards to immensely. On those short summer nights Gellert dreamed of blue eyes that captured the sky, drunk on the possibilities of infinite futures spreading out before them. He dreamed of a boxy little room overflowing with papers, and of half-moon spectacles that glinted with some hidden knowledge. He woke often with a name on the very tip of his tongue that melted away before he could give it voice, and he carefully wiped blood off his face every morning, proud of his growing powers. By the time Bathilda left, she had opened up at least thirty four different avenues of research that he wanted to pursue, and he knew that he would miss her, but he had found out that they would be spending Yule with her in Godrick’s Hollow, so he waved her off at the international floo port happily, with her cheerful challenge ringing in his ears. “I expect a published paper by Yule.” His tarot cards also called to him, but he felt that he was nearing a conclusive practical application of his Conjecture on the fourth dimension so he put them to one side, determined to remain undistracted while he worked on his arithmancy.

 

The last three weeks of the summer holiday seemed to pass in a glittering wash of sunlight on rooftops and ink on pages, and Gellert thought that finally, finally, he had created an unbreakable charm using the fourth dimension. He had discovered that while theoretically his proofs worked for jinxes and curses, in practice they were too complex for him to transfer to the fourth dimension as of yet, so he had settled for improving a simple charm. He had sought inspiration everywhere, and had remembered the flawed nature of the charm “Reparo.” that couldn’t work on multi-functioned objects or on things that got much wear and tear. Deciding that he would give it a shot, he had worked tirelessly and in the end he had done it. He finally had a complete proof that satisfied his requirements, and he was ecstatic. Five days later, after writing out all of his scattered notes and submitting it to the Annual Arithmancer’s Almanack as a proper paper, he saw his proof splashed across the front page of the charms newspaper he was subscribed to, with the heading “Reparo Charm is Fixed by Durmstrang’s Brightest Student.” Gellert smiled and thought smugly that he would be interested to find out the reactions of his peers to the headline when he returned for fourth year on the following Monday, when august died. Though he was named in the arithmancy journal, the charms paper had left him unnamed, perhaps to prevent people prying into his personal life, and he remembered with a smug smile how he now had more published papers that whoever the Hogwarts student was who had discovered a fourth exception to the Gamp’s Sixth Law of Elemental Transfiguration the summer before. Durmstrang was once more ahead, and Gellert felt a thrill of pride at the thought that it was down to him.

 

On the boat ride to school Gellert slouched back in his chair, finally able to relax and bask in his own academic glory, and attempted to return to the meditative trance suggested by his latest guide to Occlumency. The last few days of the holiday had been a hectic rush to buy books and potions ingredients, return things to the library and make sure that he had left nothing behind that he would need for the term, and he was glad he had this time to relax before the school year truly began. He sat completely still for another few minutes, a sharp knock on the door from Vinda his cracking his oasis of calm in two and pulling him rudely out of a trance-like state. His exasperated sigh drew a laugh from Vinda, who sat down and calmly unwrapped a slice of sponge cake, offering Gellert half as a peace offering. He cracked a smile, unable to keep a straight face, and asked how the rest of her summer had been. She launched into an explanation of the torrid family politics she had been wrapped up in, painting her cousins as both inept and vile, before dropping the bombshell in a monotone voice, an uncharacteristic display of her feelings. “I have a younger brother now.” She said, eyes dead. Gellert would have offered congratulations had he not remembered what this meant in the nick of time, and scowled appropriately. Vinda met his eyes, her own shimmering with a film of tears. She would be passed over for inheritance, this would ruin her future, he realised, and the silence between them stretched like toffee, unbroken until Gellert spoke. “We could always kill him?” He offered, uncomfortable and ill-equipped to deal with the emotional turmoil of his closest friend and therefor suggesting the only thing he could think of that would solve the problem. Vinda gave a watery chuckle, shaking her head. “Believe me, I’ve thought about it. They would know.” Gellert grimaced, wondering how he could make her feel better. He smiled suddenly, catching her eye and breaking into an expression far less kind that the one of a moment before. “We won’t need your family fortune when we rule the world Vinda. You can have France.” She laughed again, but Gellert looked at her seriously. “We'll do it, you and I.” He said, and this time she smiled for real, taking the hand Gellert had offered and shaking on the promise.

 

Indus found them after the boat had been under for about an hour, complaining that he had been looking for them for ages, and greeting Gellert with a kiss before dropping into the seat next to him, arm slung around his waist in comfortable contact. “What are we plotting here, I can tell you’ve been up to something, you’ve both got your planning-faces on.” He asked, kicking his trunk open and reaching for something as he did so. “World domination.” said Vinda flatly, her deadpan confession making Indus laugh, and he pulled out a pair of gloves with a flourish. They were beautiful, a stunning pair or dragonhide gloves that looked like they had a line of Ironbelly scales over the knuckles, with paler Opaleye skin making up the rest of the gloves. Indus thrust them into Gellert’s hands and smiled. Gellert looked more closely at the gloves, easily the most expensive thing he had ever held, and shook his head. “Indus I couldn’t possibly-” he began, but Indus cut him off. “Am I not allowed to buy you nice things?” he asked, and folded Gellert’s hands over the gloves with an air of finality. Gellert slid them onto his hand, marvelling over the soft feel of the lining and noticing that there was some other kind of dragonhide on the fingertips of each finger. “It’s Peruvian Vipertooth, The tiny scales will give you extra grip when you're climbing.” Said Indus, seeing where Gellert’s attention was fixed. He turned towards Indus and gave him a long heated kiss, all of the thanks he felt poured into a silent promise. Vinda cleared her throat and Gellert broke away, embarrassed, at which all three of them laughed. Irina joined them as Gellert put away his gloves, still hardly able to believe that Indus had spent a small fortune on a gift for him. Irina seemed a little on edge but Gellert brushed it off, assuming it was simply nerves about the start of term, and soon enough the boat began to rise, the scrunch of the bow hitting the gravely beach audible in every cabin.

 

The sky was lit on fire by the sun hanging low on the horizon and edging every cloud in gold, the whole sky a study in every shade of orange from peach to bronze. Turning towards the castle, Gellert watched long shadows stretching away over the trees behind the building and clicked his fingers, his luggage leaping up behind him and following at his heels as he and his friends walked towards the arch that led into the castle proper. The beautiful metalwork of the arch was lit by the sun, transformed into a glowing sigil by the golden light. The runes “Reign and Ritual” stretched away to either side of the durmstrang crest, the same one that was embroidered on the breast pocket of their tunics, Gellert wondering what each part of the crest actually represented. He made a note to look it up in the library or ask one of the teachers at some point, and made his way into the hall for dinner.

 

When they made it to their rooms Gellert opened a window for Cixi, expecting her to arrive during the night, as she refused to board the boat and always flew north under her own steam, preferring to stretch her wings than rattle around in a stuffy cabin. He picked up his book and began to read the introductory paragraph about the applications of Arithmantic Number Theory, which ironically seemed to have more to do with arithmantic proof than actual numbers, when he heard a soft knock on his door. He sent his magic out, wondering which of his friends was outside, smiling as he sensed Indus. He stood up and let the other boy in, closing his door and lighting up his wards so that the wouldn’t be disturbed, a promise lingering in his eyes as he did so. Gellert grabbed Indus, kissing him and slipping his tongue in between the taller boy’s lips as he felt him bring a hand up to curl in his blond tresses, and he clicked his fingers, feeling a successful silencing charm spring up around his room. He pushed Indus onto his bed and laughed when Indus moaned as he straddled him, pushing him further down into the mattress. Slowly he peeled off Indus’ tunic and undershirt, kissing bruising marks into his bare chest in a trail downwards. When he reached the line of Indus’ trousers he heard a broken moan and Indus pulled him up for a kiss by the hair. Gellert found himself helplessly moaning and almost missed the question muttered into his ear. “Where did you fucking learn this stuff?” breathed Indus, and Gellert bit into his jaw lightly, drawing a long moan from Indus before he leant near his ear. “You think arithmancy is all I read about?” he breathed, voice hitching as he felt Indus stiffen against his leg. He slid down the other boy and unbuttoned his trousers, slightly nervous until he looked up and met the lustful half-lidded gaze of the other boy. He knelt and sank down on him, licking his way towards Indus’ base, and felt a shudder run through his lover’s body as he did so. Assuming he was doing something right to evoke that reaction, he repeated the motion and smiled around Indus as he thrashed, lost in the throws of pleasure. He hummed and looked up, unprepared for how seeing Indus like this, a being of pure wantonness in the candlelight of his room, would affect him. He felt Indus shuddering and looked up at him through sweat soaked golden strands of his hair, holding his hips down against the bed as he picked up his pace. Feeling Indus tugging on his hair, he pulled back and watched as Lé petit mort overtook his lover, sending streams of white spurting from him. He lazily stroked himself, looking at the hot scene in front of him with eyes half-closed in lust, bringing a hesitantly curious finger to his lips to taste Indus’ seed. Once he too was spent he cast a thorough scourgify charm and lay down next to Indus, curled around his bare form and lazily flicked a hand, dowsing the candles and settling into the embrace of the taller boy. The two of them talked over the day, the parts of the summer that they had spent apart, the term to come, and Gellert was almost asleep when he heard Indus mutter “I love you.” into his hair. Unsure how to express what he felt in return, Gellert merely feigned sleep. Soon sleep claimed him for real, and he sank through blue and silver currents into the future.

 

He dreamed of blue eyes slitted in anger, furious scribbles on multiple parchment scrolls, and saw the edition of the charms monthly that he was the front cover of flung into a corner. A red and gold tie was flung across a chair and piles of books were stacked against the wall precariously. Gellert looked around in interest and noticed a badge with a word he didn’t recognise embossed in gold over red leather, a silk scarf with roaring lions heads printed around the edge and, perhaps most surprisingly, a well thumbed copy of his proof of the arithmantic fourth dimension lying by the bed. He woke to find that he was too hot, the presence of another person in his bed messing with his thermal equilibrium, and he slowly extracted himself from the bed, headed for the wash basin to clean his bloodied face. The water was refreshingly cool, the clear air of the small hours of the morning sending chills across Gellert’s skin and forcing him to put on a shirt and trousers. After a few seconds hesitation he pulled on a jumper as well and lit a candle, reading at his desk in the pool of light it cast. Hours passed and Gellert remained submerged in his book, pausing only once to write down everything he could remember from his vision before returning to the two-dimensional world of paper and ink in which he was most comfortable.

 

As light crept into the room, spreading across the sky like a blot of watery ink spreading across coarse parchment, Indus began to stir. Mindlessly he reached out to where Gellert had been, only waking properly when he found the bed empty. Gellert grinned and noticed a splotch of blood from his eye on Indus’ left wrist, where it must have fallen before he woke and dried, wondering if Indus, or anyone else for that matter, would notice it during the day. They made their way down to breakfast in due time, Indus taciturn and grouchy until he had his hands around a warm cup of strong black coffee. Gellert had prepared what he would need for the day while Indus slowly woke, and was considering finding an expansion charm so he could carry more than just his course books without adding any extra weight to his bag. Vinda joined them in the food hall, groaning when Irina asked where Indus had been when she had dropped by the evening before, and casting a disgusted glance at Gellert’s smug expression. Professors were handing out timetables and Gellert received his with a sigh, wishing once again that he could drop charms, as the teacher was sure to be as intolerable as usual and they had that subject first.

 

Weeks passed and Gellert sank into a comfortable routine, finally finishing his timeline of elder-wand owners with a dwarf from Lithuania who could control the weather silently, before it had disappeared without trace fifty-nine years ago. Gellert had searched high and low for any reference to an incredibly powerful wizard since then, but found none, and had been forced to concede that he was stumped. He was thinking of beginning his search again with the cloak of invisibility, but it would be much harder to trace through history by virtue of its defensive nature, and he was focusing on research into power channeling objects at the moment. It was a fascinating subject, often influenced by the socio-political climates of the muggle and magical worlds, and it had him quite distracted from both arithmancy and divination. In between all of these interesting research topics his arithmancy GZP result had arrived, but the H* was met with little fanfare as it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that he had got it. Flicking through the notebook on the desk in front of him, Gellert opened a page at random and smiled, remembering the many happy hours spent among the books discovering more about the past. The staff had been favoured by druidic celts in Europe until the witch-burnings of the middle-ages when it had become a liability as it was too easy to spot, and that was when wands came into favour. In the Egyptian region of Africa magical talismans were favoured, each spell carved into wood or bone individually and activated with a tap. This made spell creation much easier but left a lack when it came to spontaneous spell-casting, for which they relied heavily on raw magic. In South America blood magic was widely used, and Gellert felt a pang of longing at the thought of learning the Aztec arts of the blood rites in a society built on that branch of magic. Because of their favouring of blood magic, knives were often used as their primary conduit for magic. He found all of this fascinating, and had half-filled a notebook on the topic already, currently deep in the note-taking process regarding traditional magical conduits of China.

 

Walking slowly back to his dorm, his nose still buried in the book, he was trying to balance three more under one arm without losing his place when he bumped into someone. His books fell to the floor as he began a litany of apologies, but he looked up to see Ladislav and trailed off into silence. She shrank from him, quickly putting the book she had helpfully picked up back on the floor and walking away, brushing down her clothes like she might be contaminated by him. Gellert felt a sheen of tears forming in his eyes and roughly brushed at his face to be rid of them. There was frost creeping into his head again and he felt himself beginning to slide into the cold place he went to when things got bad, but he clung to his notebook for a distraction, the cover rough under the pads of his fingers as he began reciting the list of alchemical elements in order of increasing mass to thaw out his mind. He raced up the stairs and into his room, flinging open a book as soon as he sat down and starring unseeingly at the page in an effort to regain some sense of normality. He started at a knock at his door and got up to see who it was, opening the door once he saw that it was Vinda outside. When she walked in he offered her the chair and tried to put a brave face on his strange internal state but she saw right through it and asked what was wrong. “Is there something wrong with me?” he asked, and Vinda looked at him uncomfortably. She sighed and her shoulders slumped, accepting the responsibility of bringing him out of whatever mood he was in. “No Gellert, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are just a little ill-adjusted to social interaction; a little too smart and a little too intense, but people are just the same as any academic subject. There are rules to follow and they can be learned.” she said, and he shook his head, muttering a sarcastic “You’re too kind.” at which she laughed, breaking the strange tension that had filled the room since she had asked him about his worries. Gellert had responded sarcastically, but he realised in a strangely intense moment of self-reflection just how honest Vinda had been. Though he cared deeply for Indus, he felt that in many ways he relied on Vinda more; she was his person. He had been there for her when Karl had ruined a perfectly amiable friendship by falling into the terrible trap of romantic attraction, she had been the one to help bury his skeletons in the lakeside incident, and they relied on each other in a way he, at least, didn’t rely on anyone else. They spent the rest of the evening happily planning pranks and Gellert worked through the logistics of putting colour changing itching powder in the charm’s professor’s trousers as if it were an arithmancy problem, taking no short-cuts and leaving no step un-worked through. He smiled and found himself feeling warm, the distractions Vinda had provided allowing him to shove his cold feeling away and replace it with the warmth of laughter.

 

Sitting in his room on one chilly evening in early October, Gellert stared at the wood of his desk in a daze, not wanting to deal with the gargantuan task ahead of him. Thinking back over the past few days in an unconscious effort to put off working on his lecture for a little while longer, he smiled, remembering the most recent downfall of their charms professor. The prank had been pulled successfully and they were treated to a full three days of Professor Watkafn’s azure discomfort before he got rid of the itching powder and blue skin. Gellert was still feeling particularly smug about the whole thing, as the professor had been condescending about him the day before their latest dastardly scheme was put into effect. He had silenced both the professor and the room by pointing out that he was in fact already published in a charms journal, so the course material was a little under stimulating at best. The professor had laughed until Gellert had summoned the most recent issue of the charms journal to prove his claim, after which Professor Watkafn had refused to look at him, so Gellert felt perfectly entitled to his little prank. Becoming aware once more of his surroundings, he noticed that he was slumped over his desk, despondent as the light faded from the sky. When Professor Mansuro had first suggested he give the seventh years a lecture on his theory of the fourth dimension it had seemed like it would be fun, but Gellert was quickly learning that teaching anything at all was horrendously complex, and that teaching his own theory was harder still, as he had developed an unfortunate habit of skipping steps in his written working that seemed obvious to him, but made it incomprehensible to any other wizard.

 

Three days later Gellert walked out in front of the seventh-year arithmancy class, unwilling to admit his nerves but unable to stop the dryness of his mouth and the way his magic sparked and crackled, jumpy in the moment before he began to speak. He stumbled over an introduction, cleared his throat and began again. “Good Morning. I presume that many of you will be wondering what a fourth year such as myself could possibly teach you, and I will admit, I have never taught a class or given a lecture before.” He began, smiling as he heard a ripple of laughter run through the class. “If you require total honesty I have never even given a speech.” He continued, his voice carrying across the classroom clearly, and despite his fear he couldn’t help but feel a thrill as he felt every eye in the room focus on him and his words. Spinning to the blackboard, he clicked his fingers and a piece of chalk leapt up to the top of the board to draw out a two-dimensional graph. Ignoring the scattered muttering that swept through the room at his casual use of wandless magic, he began to speak again. “This is the graph of two dimensions, a simplistic one comprised of the real number set, and the imaginary.” Tapping the blackboard with his wand, he paused as it peeled its way off the chalk board and floated in front of him. He carefully drew a third line through the other two, adding a third dimension to his graph and labelling it appropriately. “This is the three dimensional world we live in, correct?” he questioned, and at the nods of several older students he smiled. “Now I want you to throw it all away.” He continued, and paused for effect before introducing his theory proper. “Because right now, sitting and standing as we are in this very classroom, we will do what no arithmancy class has ever done before. We will take the plunge and dive into the fourth dimension.”

 

Eyes shining with an almost palpable glow, Gellert concluded his lecture with a magnified practical demonstration of how he had used the arithmancy that he had just taught the class to improve the Reparo spell, many students sitting mutely in  awe and concentration while others took notes, quills racing across parchment. He beamed, finishing his careful spell modification and taking a bow before telling the seventh year class that he could almost always be found in the library if they ever wanted to talk numbers with him. Many of them smiled, a few even offering a friendly nod before leaving, and soon only two remained. They were both enthusiastically chatting about his lecture, unaware of his approach. “I’m glad you liked it.” he said, and they jumped in surprise before sharing a laugh. “You are very quiet, Gauss, we didn’t hear you.” He smiled at the compliment, replying amiably that he was not a mathematician of that calibre. They introduced themselves as Hans and Monika respectively, and soon they fell into a discussion of the muggle Gauss’ innovation of both muggle mathematics and arithmancy, as his revolutionary work had led to the improvement of many different areas of the magic world, without him ever knowing it. Gellert smiled, happy that he had found two wizards who were as knowledgable as him when it came to the non-magical side of arithmancy, and the muggle art of mathematics. Too often he found that his friends were dismissive of muggles, but Gellert was all too aware of how dangerous and intelligent they could be. The three arithmancers made their way to the library slowly, the older two sending a barrage of questions towards Gellert that almost overwhelmed him.

 

As Samhain drew closer Gellert found that the two seventh-years sought him out every now and again, initially for arithmantic debates, but these soon morphed into more social chatting and Gellert ended up discussing his views on muggles with them at length. “We need more freedom.” Gellert said, the three of them tucked away in a dusty corner of the arithmancy section. “Imagine how much more arithmancers and alchemists the world over would benefit if we could actually share our knowledge with the muggles, get the opinions of all the greatest mathematicians of our time despite their magical deficiency.” Said Hans wistfully, and Gellert nodded. Monika looked a little nervous when Gellert and Hans were so outspoken, but Gellert reasoned her out of it more than once by putting it to her as a purely theoretical problem. “But what about the witch burnings? The muggles have killed thousands, and it was worse in Germany than anywhere else. They would never accept us.” She said, and Gellert considered her point carefully before his mind drifted back to “Discourses.” by Machiavelli.

“I don’t think that peaceful coexistence is possible.” began Gellert, and at Monika’s protests began his argument fully. “The natural state of man is war. There can be no peace where there is a power imbalance and magic causes a natural disparity between our power and there’s. There is fear because of this, and fear will only ever breed hatred.” he said, and was just about to continue with the argument when Hans jumped in. “Did you hear the latest statistics on muggleborns?” he said. The other two turned to him in confusion and he spoke again. “The abuse rates are skyrocketing in Beauxbatons and the Muggleborns don’t want to go home in the summer.” Gellert jumped in, adding that England’s sympathetic stance was probably leading to inaccurate surveys. Monika snorted, obviously contemptuous of the English wizarding world all together, and Gellert had nothing to say that could oppose her succinct view on the country as a whole. The debate shifted towards muggleborns rights and the evening faded past easily, the three parting ways at the library doors.

 

Gellert spent the following week torn between spending time with the two seventh years and their wider circle of friends, most of whom did arithmancy and were eager to start a debate about any given topic, and his own friends. He spent long evenings in the library with his new acquaintances and Vinda, who had seen where he was going and decided to tag along, surprising all of the older students with her sharp debating skills and gallows humour. There had been many debates over everything from the merits of transfiguration over charms to the best time for picking fluxweed, and Gellert found himself enjoying the flow of intellectual conversation in a way he never had before. Books were cited, thrown and disparaged as was needed by each person, and Gellert eagerly joined in, Vinda at his side to argue potions with Franz, the seventh year with almost paper-white skin and blond hair who was going on to study potions for a mastery the following year. Gellert was passionate about arithmancy and clearly the best in their group at it, which oddly was true of history as well, though Vinda joked that history was in his blood so he couldn’t claim that one. Kazadi, the dark skinned charms whiz, taught Gellert more in one evening about charms than Professor Watkafn ever had, and said that he was a natural at the subject. With a powerful seventh year teaching him, Gellert raced through the fourth year curriculum and then the fifth. He became close with Kaz by exchanging notes, arithmancy for charms, and it was the older boy who introduced him to the idea of weather-witchery. Gellert had read about it, but he had assumed that it was an inborn talent, rather than a skill he could learn if he had enough power, and he soon found a potion that would tell him what element he would have an affinity for. Kaz himself had a small amount of influence over rain, and could actually bend the rain so that it never touched him, as he demonstrated one day on the way across the courtyard, but he didn’t have the power to stop or start rain altogether.

 

On the eve of Samhain he took a dubious mouthful of the potion Franz and Vinda had brewed for him, and dropped the glass he was holding in surprise when he saw strange sparks of lightening dancing at the end of his fingertips, ignoring the shattering sound of the glass on the tiles of the bathroom floor. He slowly walked back into his room, where Indus was lounging on his bed and put down his wand, reaching for Indus. When their mouthes met Indus gasped, a spark of static electricity dancing between their mouths for the second that they were apart before Gellert reconnected them in a kiss.

Chapter Text

Samhain dawned bright and cold, a thin layer of snow blanketing the ground, and Gellert yawned his way through the morning, only really wakening properly when he was standing in the kitchens, mug of coffee in his hands. A sprite floated down to him, its pale blue eyes glowing with a light that pulsed with a strange unearthly glint before it spoke with a voice that reminded Gellert of water over stones. “This is the last year in which you dace among the stars.” It began. “when you see starlight’s breath stolen you will be unshackled from Cassandra’s burden and in that moment when your tears dry up and the stars are snuffed out, a storm will surge and the sky will cry a reckoning.” Gellert tilted his head to one side, the words echoing with a certainty that made his right eye ache dully. “Your pain’s power will free us all.” It said, before fading into a blue orb of light and dashing off into the kitchen, lighting a cooker that was tilting out of a set of stairs descending from the ceiling the wrong way. Gellert’s hands shook and he felt a sense of foreboding prickling sweat into his skin. He vanished his mug of coffee and raced back to the dorms after bowing to the fey, writing down the ominous words before he could forget them.

He tried to relax in the day, preparing for his usual ritual of foresight with poplar branches and sage, but he felt pinned by the words he had heard, held like an insect under glass by the hand of fate. His hands wouldn’t stop shaking and he felt like his blood was too hot, charged with the power of the day and coursing through his body like acid. Later, when he stood on the roof, the wind blowing his hair into streams of gold and catching at his cloak in an attempt to unseat him from his perch, Gellert felt his magic lashing around with power and he let it seep through his skin, sparking wildly into existence all around him. He lifted his arm and let out a long whistle, piercing despite the wind, and he felt Cixi flying towards him, battling strong winds to give him the last ingredient he needed for his improved ritual. He had been reading through his only book on blood magic, stolen over the summer from a disreputable mage in Berlin, and he had decided to incorporate it into his ritual as it was said to strengthen any ritual performed on Samhain. Cixi landed on the roof and dropped a struggling bat in front of him, Gellert quickly moving to pin it to the tiled roof beneath his feet. Raising his wand he muttered a simple cutting curse, letting the bat’s blood drip over his bundle of sticks, which was lit when a stray spark of dazzling white bounced down, shaken from Gellert’s fingers with the force of his trembling hands to light the seer-fire on contact with the life’s blood of the bat. Before Gellert fell into the dreamlike state of a vision, he tapped the glass boiling tube he had brought with him, expanding it to catch the smoke of his fire so that he could study it later and compare it with the smoke of a fire without sacrifice. Soon enough his grip on his wand loosened as he curled up around the fire, sinking into his seer-sight, lost to the world around him.

At first the mists rolled back to reveal a field of deep green grasses and dusty indigo forget-me-nots, filling Gellert with a sense of warmth that originated in his chest and seemed to pulse like a second heartbeat. He felt a hand around his waist and leant into the touch, filled with a syrupy happiness that suggested long summer days and nights spent in a world of paper and ink, theories blooming sweetly in the cloying summer air. He turned to meet blue eyes in a face smudged and warped into a blur, and tucked auburn hair behind an ear before the vision faded into smoke. He blinked and felt himself shift through time, the mists pulling him to a high backed chair within a strange office. In corners strange machines trilled and whistled, emitting vapours and sounds regularly, and on a golden perch a phoenix sat, looking mournfully at a man who lay hunched over a shimmering pool of light that rippled with images. Gellert saw himself there, and a girl who lay unmoving on the tiled floor of a kitchen. The image rippled as a tear fell from the man’s eyes into the pool of memory but the oscillations of the scene didn’t stop there, the whole vision rippling until it broke apart, leaving Gellert stranded in the blue-silver mist once more. He saw a glowing shop window set in the midnight blue background of magical Munich, and watched as the young man he would become leapt from the ledge, wand in hand to run off over the rooftops, filled with a giddy pleasure that Gellert could feel even through the mists of time. The scene faded into lines of gold in the mist, but there was something strange happening now, a purple haze surrounding him, and suddenly the mists snapped into an image of crystal-sharp clarity. He saw a broach, silver and delicate, filled with blood, cracked at his feet. He saw a twisted broken power pulsing from it, and his hands came up stained with red when he tried to pick up the two halves from where they had fallen. Looking down Gellert saw that the pool of red around him was spreading, the locket sinking beneath the crimson tide as he fought to stay afloat, drowning in the blood. He was choking, his throat full of metallic red that tasted of loss and love as he fought for breath. He gasped, taking in nothing but the scarlet liquid that seemed to seep from him in an unstoppable coalescence of red, red, red, going on forever and stretching out into the mists in every direction. Panicking as he felt his vision begin to fade, black spots appearing as he choked, no breath left in his lungs as they filled with red, he thrashed wildly, unable to separate vision from reality and gagging on the metallic taste of death. He saw black, felt his heartbeat swell and then come to a sudden stop, and was lost to both the world he knew and the plane of existence he saw in his visions.

In the wake of his vision Gellert came to shivering, his clammy hands frozen and his tunic smeared with the blood of his sacrifice and the cold ashes of his ritual fire. He needed warmth and his first thoughts were of Indus. Indus who had held him close in summer and brought him out of his cold apathy, Indus who could always reach him when he was deep in thought. Indus who had forgiven him everything. He unfolded his legs and stood, shimmying down the drain and brushing snow out of his hair before knocking on Indus’ window, warming and drying charms already helping him to feel his fingertips again even as tremors seized his body. Indus looked up at the knock, startled and then progressively more worried as he took in Gellert’s shaking form and bloodied hands. Indus threw his window wide, a question on his lips but he had no time to voice it before Gellert was climbing in through the window and wrapping him in a hug that was more a desperate attempt to ground himself than a gesture of comfort. Gellert slowly relaxed in Indus’ arms, his warming charms nothing compared to the heat of another body, and soon he found himself fielding question after question about his ritual. Why was he covered in blood, ashes? Why was he shaking? Why he hadn’t told anyone what he was doing? Gellert felt a flash of anger, eyes poisonous with hatred as he spat acidic replies at Indus. “How could I explain, what would you know about my visions anyway? What use would you have been?” He said, each phrase designed to hurt, vicious silences punctuating his speech. Indus’s face crumpled in hurt and Gellert blinked, suddenly able to see what Indus had really been saying. He had been worried, and now Gellert had thrown it all back in his face. He ignored Indus’ scowl and kissed along his jaw, muttering apologies between every brush of his lips to the soft skin. He felt something wet on Indus’ cheek and realised that the other boy was crying. Gellert reeled internally, swallowing the guilt that welled up in his throat and threatened to stop his breath, and caressing tears away from the grey eyes that held the world. His muttered apologies became more frantic and he leant back to see if there had been any change in Indus’ expression, carefully observing the flashes of emotion that crossed his lover’s face. Indus surged forwards in a kiss, tears still falling before he pulled away, gasping. “You absolute bastard.” He said, and Gellert offered a small smile before linking their fingers together, pulling the taller boy into a simple embrace and beginning to answer his questions from earlier.

Kissed awake by Indus, Gellert felt the icy cobwebs of fear melt away as warmth flooded his body at the connection of their mouths. He parted Indus’ lips with his tongue and was on the edge of falling into the lust he could feel sparking between them when he pulled away reluctantly. “As lovely as this is,” he said, his voice laced with something tender that he could’t quite define, “We do actually have class.” Indus groaned and pushed him out of bed, muttering darkly about his ruined morning, at which Gellert began to cackle. Once he had stopped in his own room to pick up the things he would need for the day he made his way to breakfast, stopping to poke his head back around the door of Indus’ room to make sure he hadn’t fallen back to sleep. They made their way down the stairs together and were in class in the blink of an eye, brushing toast crumbs off their robes as they sat down.
Days passed and November faded into grey monotony and snowfall that piled drifts up under every window, the week drifting by in a rush of revision and debates in the library. His discussions had become increasingly popular, as the seventh year arithmancers invited their friends and then the word filtered down to the more studious sixth years, and over the last few days their debates had become so loud that they had all been kicked unceremoniously out of the library, which Gellert had been totally unprepared for. They had ended up in an empty classroom that was dusty and cold, but their debate had continued regardless, several magical fires springing up around the room for warmth, and Gellert couldn’t help but smile. People listened to him, despite the fact that he was almost always the youngest person in the room, his unfortunate voice breaks making that abundantly clear, and Gellert found that he liked the feeling. He was slowly getting to grips with speaking in front a large group of people, and he was often surprised by how bare facts left people unmoved where one emotional sentence had them altering their views. It made no sense to him but once he had noticed the pattern he had put it into practice, his debating skills skyrocketing as he learned the ropes of pathos. Debating in the evenings and his classes left him with little time for himself, and much of that was spent with Indus and Vinda, occasionally joined by Irina, so he almost hadn't noticed that having visions had become a regular occurrence. They made little coherent sense, the tarot readings clearing up nothing about the rush of images he half-remembered on waking, and he noted it down, wondering if he was benefitting from the sacrifice aspect of the ritual that he had performed.

Sitting in herbology with the afternoon sun shining through the glass in soporific warmth, Gellert couldn’t for the life of him pay attention. He was bored, by the subject, by the teacher, by everyone and everything, and he felt like he was waisting his time. He was never going to be a herbologist, or a potioneer, which was the only other career in which he would ever use this knowledge, so he couldn't see the benefits of spending three hours a week grubbing around in the dirt. He had had no sleep, kept awake by muddled visions of men in green and lines of white crosses that stretched into the horizon, and his concentration was suffering because of it. He heard Vinda gasp and looked down, watching as sparks danced along his fingertips and the plant that he was supposed to be pruning curled up, a shrivelled mess of charred branches that seemed to lean away from his hands as it died. Gellert smiled ruefully, reminded of his frayed nerves, and then hurriedly tried to hide the state of his plant at the approach of the professor. He managed to coax the branches into a sickly green tone with a tap of his wand but it looked off and he could do nothing about the state of the leaves, so he just turned around, a smile painted onto his face in the hopes of distracting Professor Schilf from his obviously deceased plant. Gellert had just breathed a sigh of relief, sure the teacher had moved on, when he heard a tutting noise at his left ear, followed by the dulcet tones of the professor. “Well dear, I’m afraid something drastic has occurred here. What happened to the plant Grindelwald?” She asked, her voice carrying clearly in the quiet greenhouse and causing more than a few snickers across the room. He looked down, the green tint draining from the plant and revealing the true extent of the damage as he did so. “I lost control ma’am.” He said, concentrating on remaining polite. Gellert found that in that moment he was tired, a week of nights where he dreamed fitfully of blood and woke fearful catching up on him, and all of a sudden he had no energy left to pretend. At the confused expression and disproving tut of the professor he felt something within him snap and he looked up, meeting her eye with a cold stare. “It might be because of the time I’m waisting sitting in this irrelevant greenhouse.” He said, and continued, now unable to disguise his emotions, the shocked expressions of his peers fuelling his desire to say exactly what he thought. “Your subject is useless and I don’t need to be here to pass the worthless exam.” He finished, and he drew in a breath as the possible consequences of what he had just said suddenly became apparent to him. This would ruin both his perfect academic record and his reputation as the best student in Durmstrang. He felt a sinking feeling in his chest as he met the scandalised gaze of the professor, but he wouldn’t flinch now. He had said his piece, for better or for worse.

The headmaster’s office was not somewhere Gellert had ever envisioned himself sitting in for negative reasons, but he was now resigned to the course of events that he had set in motion. He found that while waiting in the room his mind had drifted and he blinked to find himself somewhere else. He was standing tall, looking out over a storm tossed night, and the carriage he was standing on flew across the sky, pulled by great black beasts that Gellert couldn’t name. He shut his eyes, willing himself back into the present, and blinked to see a different office entirely from the one he was expecting. Gold picture frames ornamented the walls and a small boy with black hair looked around in wonder. He had just walked over to a red-gold bird when it burst into flames and Gellert watched in quiet awe. A phoenix was a rare and beautiful thing. An old man walked in and began to talk, but all Gellert caught before he was pulled back to the present was “Pity you had to see him on a burning day Harry, Fawkes is usually quite magnificent.” The voice pulled at Gellert, achingly familiar and yet quite unknown to him, but when he opened his eyes again he saw that the office he was in in the present was still very much empty. He looked around for something interesting to read or fiddle with but saw nothing too promising. He spotted the latest edition of The Arithmancer’s Almanack, so he felt that at least the headmaster’s first impression of him would be good, and smiled. Perhaps this would be easier than he had thought.

Walking into the room in an eerily similar manner to the headmaster of his vision, Professor Arinch fixed Gellert with a disapproving glare and asked him to take a seat. Gellert did so, fixing an apologetic expression onto his face. When asked about his actions he made sure to look appropriately regretful as he pulled out his perfectly tailored excuse. “I know that it by no means excuses my actions,” he began, his voice placating and softly regretful. “But I’m working on an arithmantic theory about weather affinities at the moment, and I just wish that there was more time for me to work on it.” Gellert smiled internally, the aftermath of panic draining away as he thought of a plausible research project that he could be working on. “I understand, of course, how important herbology is for the wizarding world, but I feel so frustratingly close to a breakthrough with my own work that I fear I’ve been more than reprehensibly short tempered.” He finished, well pleased by the look of understanding he was receiving.
When Gellert walked out of the room he felt like he could fly. He had just talked his way out of not only trouble, but having to attend any herbology lessons for the foreseeable future. He did have the slightly thorny issue of producing a proper proof on a subject that he had no research on, but with the extra time he now had he was sure he could get it done, and the smile that broke across his face as soon as he was out of sight of the office was positively devilish in its smug lilt.

Back in his room for the evening, Gellert put his feet on the desk and collected together loose leaves of paper, tapping his wand on the top one and forming a leather binding for the new notebook wordlessly before he pulled out a fountain pen and carefully inscribed his question on the first page. “How is magical affinity for weather determined, and is there an arithmantic formula that could predict weather-witching ability and affinity.” The following pages were filled with premises about the magic, his own study and how the potions ingredients all reacted to show the affinity of the drinker. He was unsure about a few of them so he set off in search of either Vinda or the seventh year Franz, intent on getting an opinion more expert than his own on potions. As he left his room he was a little curious as to the many whispering groups of students but he manoeuvred around them easily enough and made his way to the library, hoping Franz would be there revising for his exams and eager to pick up some of his own books for his new line of research. When he reached the library he quickly made his way to the area where his seventh year associates could usually be found and came across them all laughing heartily. He sat down and they turned towards him, revealing the source of their laughter. Vinda sat there, pulling an expression of absolute horror before breaking into laughter and telling Gellert who she was supposed to be. “Can’t you tell? It’s professor Schilf.” He laughed and smiled smugly, taking his own turn at an impression of her face, much to the amusement of the others. “What happened with the headmaster?” asked Kaz, and Gellert broke into the devilish grin that was swiftly becoming a very familiar expression. “Oh nothing at all, in fact, I’ve wriggled out of having to do the subject entirely for the foreseeable future.” Vinda’s jaw dropped and Monika snorted in disbelief before he explained his clever lie, and showed them the notebook he had started on the subject. Kaz was shaking his head in rueful admiration and Hans muttered something about “Why didn’t I…” at which Gellert grinned again, and watched as the table descended into another debate, this time about the ethics of Britain’s use of dementors. Kaz was loudest in his disapproval of the archaic custom, however the more Gellert thought about it the more logical the decision seemed. “If they didn’t guard Azkaban where would they be?” He said suddenly. “Better under some form of contract for the brits than rogue in all of Europe, No?” There was a murmur of agreement from many of the others, but Monika and Kaz stood firm in their views, and the table descended once more into debate.

Making his way back up to his room later with a tall stack of books on weather magic, Gellert flicked a finger at his door and it opened as he walked in, swinging shut behind him with a shove from his foot before he carefully put his new books on the desk. He heard someone clear their throat and turned to see Indus lounging on his bed. Gellert felt his regular polite smile fade away, a truly warm one taking its place, and he sat down next to the taller boy, leaning back into the arms offered and launching into an explanation of the events in the headmaster’s office. Indus was tracing soft circles on his arms as he spoke and Gellert sighed. “Indus why do I get myself into these situations?” he asked, and Indus laughed, pulling both of them backwards so that they ended up lying side by side on the bed, starring up at the ceiling. The conversation flowed back and forth with an ease Gellert was unaccustomed to and he found himself trying to discuss his latest project, the desperate lie that may have saved him months of detention and had proved to be an interesting topic in it’s own right. Indus laughed and nodded along for a while but soon grew impatient when Gellert began to verbalise the algebraic conjecture he could use as a starting point, and pulled Gellert into a kiss. Despite the nature of the interruption, Gellert didn’t need the distraction right now, and he found himself wishing that Indus was more interested in what he enjoyed. Sometimes he wanted to curl up in bed and discuss something of substance, but he felt stifled here, unable to convey what he wanted in a way Indus would understand. He sighed, losing himself in the physical movement and endorphin release of the present and pushed his feelings down, concentrating on the instant spikes of heat he felt from Indus.

Later, when he woke, Gellert turned over in bed and had to stifle a scream. Indus lay in the bed next to him, rotting, his eye socket visible and his skin peeling away from muscles that looked more grey than red. Gellert reached out a shaking hand and touched the corpse, sure that it would melt away into the smoke his visions all seemed to be formed of, but he retched at the feeling of waxy skin beneath his fingers and the way he could feel rotten patches of skin deform beneath his hands. Suddenly he felt the thing shift and a hand of bones and emancipated flesh came up to cup his face in a parody of a loving caress. He leapt away and backed towards the door. He sank down onto the floor and curled his arms around himself, half sure that he was having a vision and half terrified that he wasn’t, when he felt an icy shock running down his face. He cast a petrificus totalus reflexively before he blinked and saw Indus dodge his spell, whole and living once more. Indus was saying something, gesturing wildly and looking worried, but Gellert couldn’t hear him through the rushing in his ears. He launched across the room and enveloped Indus in a hug, choking on sobs as he did so and Indus put his arms around Gellert in return, his confusion and fear written in every line of his tense posture. Gellert felt something pouring down his face and couldn’t bring himself to care wether it was blood or tears, so wrapped up in the elation he was feeling at Indus’ breathing, his soft and unmarred skin, his eyes alight with worry and love.

When he had calmed down he realised that he would have to offer some kind of explanation and, too emotionally exhausted to come up with a plausible untruth, he gave up and whispered what he had seen, voice cracking with the depth of his fear. In the dark of early morning they held each other close and Indus whispered a continuous litany of sweet denials. He would never let Gellert see him die, he would live a long life, he would love Gellert forever. Gellert returned it, matching Indus phrase for phrase and promise for promise. “I need you, I’m going to protect you, my vision’s aren’t always what they seem.” he said all of this, hoped he wasn’t lying and tried to sink into the promises of forever washing over his skin, but he couldn’t. Something settled in his chest and he felt leaden, the weight of his fear dragging his mind back to the present and to what he had seen. Gellert had always held the belief that no matter how horrible the future was, it was better to know about it in advance, but now he began to think that maybe the english idiom “Ignorance is bliss” might not be totally inaccurate after all.

He tried to put the vision behind him by mouthing along Indus’ jaw, trailing fingers along his ribs under his shirt, and Indus responded with a hitched breath. Gellert broke into a smile and gently bit under Indus’ ear, on the pale column of his neck where it would be visible for all to see tomorrow, sucking a bruise into his skin and smiling against the mark as he drew a moan from Indus. Gellert rolled over so that he was on top of Indus but soon found himself on his back again, with Indus roughly pulling him free of his night-clothes and sinking down the bed until his mouth was dangerously close to Gellert’s erection. Gellert was lost in heat and wet and he found himself losing all semblance of eloquence, reduced to a mess of emotion and sensation, bucking up into Indus’ mouth unable to restrain himself. Indus let himself be manhandled, Gellert’s tugs on his hair not bothering him, and though Gellert managed to convey that he was close he made no move to pull away. Gellert surrendered to his body and let himself go, watching as Indus struggled, swallowing around him as his vision went white and his fingers sparked little jolts of magic as Indus took down all of his seed. Gellert pulled Indus up and kissed him, the other boy’s mouth salty and unpalatable. “Tastes bad.” he muttered as his hands went down to Indus’ member. “Yeah.” agreed Indus, his smile messy and elated as he reached his own orgasm. Gellert looked at Indus in hazy wonder, smile loose and honest. He pushed away the memories of his sick vision and focused on holding Indus close, his sweat and solid form reassuring him with every breath that Indus was still alive. Gellert traced down the lumps of Indus’ spine with a lazy finger, revealing in their warmth. Indus shifted and turned to face him, serious in the half light. “I love you.” said Indus suddenly, and Gellert exhaled a long breath, feeling Indus tense as he did so. “I love you too.” he said, aware, even now in the warmth of an afterglow, of the pressing fear he had felt at the idea of losing Indus. He didn’t know what love was supposed to feel like, but Gellert needed Indus. He was a constant in his life, and Gellert had been forced to realise that though Indus wasn’t perfect, he was a part of Gellert now, and as Gellert looked hopefully into the future, he thought that whatever was thrown their way, he and Indus would have each other’s back. Those three words were laced with a promise that Gellert didn’t know if he could keep and couldn’t quite define, but he had said them anyway, and as he looked at Indus’ smile he knew that he had said the right line in response, the soft warmth of Indus’ eyes assuring him that everything would be fine, if only for a little while.

Time flew by and Yule loomed on the horizon as Gellert feverishly studied. He had to do phenomenally well in the upcoming tests to prove that he had the talent to remain out of herbology and still perform brilliantly, and though he felt he could do the exams in his sleep, he was taking no chances. He wanted to be the very best. His visions were nightly now, and he found that it took a toll on his body to never have quite enough sleep but he soldiered on and soon there was thick snow everywhere, and the exams were over. He got his marks and didn’t blink at the line of H*s he saw. Indus had done well too, though ironically he had done a little poorly in herbology, while Gellert had maintained his perfect score despite not attending class. Vinda looked down at her results uncaringly, the Yule holiday’s approach dampening her spirits. She would have to go home, where her family would once again be ignoring her in favour of her younger brother, and she didn’t know if she could physically bare it, and Gellert felt a scowl forming on his face when he realised the cause of her listless expression. That evening Indus knocked on his door and pushed a parcel about the size of an encyclopaedia, only heavier, into his hands. “I thought you should have this present early, because, well, it will be useful.” He said, and Gellert tore at the paper, curious. He opened the wrapping to see a mirror with an ornate gold frame, the three ravens of the Black family crest embossed on each corner. “Thank you.” said Gellert, confused but appreciative. “You don’t see, do you.” asked Indus, voice teasing and light as he pulled out another mirror and spoke the words “Speculum ostende mihi faciem tuam seccondus.” Each mirror was enveloped in a soft glow of midnight blue and Gellert watched in awe as Indus’ face was reflected in his mirror. “They let you talk face to face over long distances, see.” said Indus, and the mirror echoed him, half a second behind. It was an incredible work of magic, and Gellert held his carefully, in awe of the fantastic heirloom he held. “They are the only two, passed down from when my ancestor first made them.” said Indus, and Gellert began to say that he couldn’t possibly take this present when Indus took it from his hands, played it gently on the bed and Kissed him, effectively preventing any arguments Gellert might have made. “Let me give this to you,” Indus murmured, breath hot against Gellert’s lips, and then they were kissing again, soft and then crushingly passionate in the space of a few short eternities. When they pulled apart at last it was regretfully, and the evening continued in much the same vein, save for the packing that they both had to do.

Students were pouring forth with their luggage to the boat. Gellert stretched and sat down in an empty cabin, waiting for his friends to find him, and was drifting into a comfortable state between waking and sleeping when Vinda and Indus joined him, who were soon followed by Monika and Hans. A lively debate was kindled as to the merits of divination and Gellert was having the time of his life arguing that it was useless, not sure he could trust the older students with the truth and enjoying spinning his lies. Soon enough the boat was rising through water and he bid a fond farewell to his carriage, sharing a secret smile with Vinda, who had been struggling to keep her composure for the entire debate, his luggage floating behind him as he made his way down the gangplank and onto the snowy shores of Lake Starnberg. Cixi flew down out of the leaden snow filled sky, a large white blot against the smaller swirling flakes of snow, and Gellert smiled. He would ask her to carry a note to Vinda’s house in France this evening, if she was willing, because he had seen his friend’s face fall as he waved goodbye, and he couldn’t bare the thought of her being miserable over Yule.
His mother spotted him and waved energetically, hurrying over to him and beginning to speak in very fast Hungarian. “We’ll have to go to England by the muggle way, or at least for part of the journey. The British ministry is non too fond of us Germans at the moment. Something to do with rising muggle tensions, but we can go right across France magically and the boat from Calais won’t be too long.” Gellert’s mind was whirring, turning over what his mother had told him in his mind as they headed home. “Mother,” He began, a tone of persuasion in his voice as they sat down in the train towards Munich. “Vinda’s got a little brother now.” She turned to him with as expression of pity on her face, and Gellert felt a little inadequate about how slow on the uptake he had been when his mother had understood the situation instantly. “Can she stay with us for Yule?” he asked. Gellert watched as different emotions fought their was across his mother’s face, sadness and anger waring with pity and finally being defeated by determined resolution. “If she needs to get away, she need’s only ask. Our house will always be open to her, as long as she doesn’t prank me.” Said his mother, her voice iron and her eyes sad. “It’s a terrible thing to be replaced.” she said, something catching in her throat, and Gellert offered her a quick hug before jumping up to get his trunk down from the luggage rack as the guard came down the train, announcing Munich central as the next stop.

When they got home he wrote out a note to Vinda saying that he would be in England for yule, and that she was welcome to join him there if she needed to, along with the floo address of Bagshot Cottage, Godrick’s Hollow. Satisfied, he tried to coax Cixi into taking the letter, but she tapped her sharp beak on the glass, as if to highlight the weather outside, and then turned away sulkily. Gellert looked outside for himself and saw that perhaps his familiar did have a point, as the driving snow was piling up under his window at a frightening rate. He threw a pinch of floo powder into his fireplace and his letter soon followed. His mother called and soon they were focusing on packing what they would need, Gellert pulling his school robes out of his trunk and folding them away into his wardrobe, replacing them with more relaxed home-clothes. He pulled out his cauldron and put books in its place, finished with his packing long before his mother was, and he sat on his trunk, one of his many books in his hands. It was a compendium of curses that were semi-legal, and how to use them, along with areas of the world where they were totally allowed and totally forbidden. Gellert was beginning to see an interesting pattern about legality, and as he flicked through the book he was certain that he was right. Britain and America were very fast to ban whole branches of magic, and France was only a little more forgiving, whereas in Russia and Italy practically nothing was completely forbidden. Germany too was more forgiving of many darker branches of magic, however Gellert was most shocked at his discovery about the British isles. They had something in place called “the trace” which monitored magic and notified the ministry when underage wizards cast spells at all outside Hogwarts. It was barbaric, Gellert thought, and he shuddered, glad that he didn’t live in England, and then he read further, wondering why the Irish ministry, who allowed underage sorcery and put great stock in ritual magics, were so much more sensible about things than their immediate neighbours.

Getting to the international floo port was a lesson in warming and shielding charms, and soon they were through the fireplaces and standing on the french north coast. His mother confunded the muggles checking tickets and they made their way down the stairs to the cabins, where she quickly ejected the muggle who was sitting inside and Gellert turned to the door, tracing his anti-muggle ward onto the wood with a flaky chalk before his mother had the chance to cast any more spells for him. She smiled and sat down, Cixi flapping her wings discontentedly. She had never travelled by fireplace before and Gellert could see that she hated it, and now she was trapped in a cabin, furious at him and the world in general. He winced as his bond with her sparked with pain and he conjured three swallows which flapped around the cabin desperately. Cixi shuffled over to him, nudged his hand forgivingly and launched herself at the birds he had created. Feathers floated down over Gellert and he grinned, vanishing them as his mother curled her lip, faintly disgusted by Cixi’s eating habits. Gellert soon got out his mirror and spoke the words, seeing the mirror fade to black and then lighten again, showing him Indus’ room in the Black house in Grimmauld Place, London. Indus grinned up at him and they spent the rest of the journey chatting through the mirrors.

When they reached Godrick’s Hollow they were greeted by Bathilda Bagshot, who was ringing her hands nervously. “Gellert, would you have anything to do with the strange dark haired girl in my living room who can’t speak much english and looks faintly murderous?” she asked as soon as she was close enough, the loud German gaining a few nervous looks from village muggles. Gellert cursed bitterly in Russian, wincing as he remembered that his mother was right behind him as he swore, and explained the situation. “That’s Vinda Rosier. She is a friend, can she stay?” he asked, and his mother filled his great aunt in on the situation with her family as the three of them walked back through the village to their cottage. As they neared the stone dwelling they heard a shattering noise and Gellert hurried ahead to see if there was anything he could do to help his friend. Looking in at the kitchen, he was met by a scene of total destruction and Vinda sat in the middle of a melee of broken plates and cups, a picture of misery with cheeks tracked with black tears, her makeup ruined and her expression pitiful. Gellert let his magic balloon out into the whole room before he intoned a simple Hi-nem, tracing the hieroglyph in the air with his wand and setting everything in the room to rights. Vinda looked up at him, eyes suddenly hard and inaccessible as she starred at him. “Don’t you dare pity me.” She said, and Gellert swiftly disguised his expression with one of cold rage. “I’ll wipe your whole family off the map if needed, what happened.” he said, his voice betraying none of the compassion and pity he felt for her. He knew his friend well and right now Vinda needed someone to offer a harsh solution to her problems, later when the walls of anger she had built crumbled, then she would need to be held and comforted, but now she needed ice, a cold balm for her helpless misery-driven rage. She smiled at him and by the time they were joined by Bathilda and his mother they were having a rapid-fire brainstorm of ‘accidental’ deaths that they could engineer for Vinda’s usurping little brother in French, speaking too fast for either woman to keep up.

That evening Gellert ignored the bed in the corner of the attic, choosing to make a large comfortable area on the floor where both he and Vinda could sleep by expanding the mattress with a simple growth charm and conjuring several large pillows. As she calmed down she began to shudder and Gellert could feel the vibrations of her sobs, and not knowing what to say, he simply put an awkward arm around her shoulders and spoke softly about the future. “I have no future.” she muttered darkly. “Nonsense,” he replied. “We haven’t taken over the world yet, so you’ve got to stick around.” Vinda turned around to face him, crushing his lower arm as she did so, which he quickly extracted from the half-hug he had attempted earlier. “Do you mean that?” she asked, and suddenly Gellert knew that he did. He hated how the world worked, hated how it treated the countless magically inclined people, hated how Vinda had been maligned simply for her gender. He would make it better. “Yes.” he said simply, and then a smile crossed Vinda’s face. It was a smile Gellert rarely saw, not a smirk of satisfaction or of superiority, but a genuine smile. Looking back over the past few months, Gellert realised how little this smile had been present, and saw how much sorrow Vinda had been hiding, how much hurt she had been feeling, suddenly feeling like a terrible friend for not spotting the sadness earlier. “My parents don’t care about me any more. They’ve got their precious little Aloysius to worry about now.” she muttered, her quite tears lending her voice a broken quality that Gellert flinched at, and he could offer nothing but the truth as he lay there, angry at how hurt his friend had been. “You’re better than they are. Better that any of them could ever hope to be.” He muttered back, and then he clasped her hand, hoping that his support would help his friend in some small way, at least. The two of them stayed up that night and talked of everything and anything, the subject changing and changing again, as Gellert attempted to distract Vinda with any topic from the pain she felt. As the sky crept towards dawn they settled into sleep, Gellert half turned away from Vinda as she lay on her side, curled up into a protective ball.

When the morning sun crept over the horizon Gellert came to, body moving unconsciously in the throes of a vision. Vinda was leaning down in a Parisian street, comforting a blonde in a long dusty pink coat who sat in the gutter, obviously distraught. The vision changed and he saw himself walking along a corridor with the same woman, asking her a question that made no sense. The vision faded and Gellert came to with a pain in his arm. He frowned wondering what was pinching him, but his questions were all answered when he saw two red nails digging into his upper arm. “Hey.” he said, glaring at Vinda in hurt that was only half feigned, the early morning light dancing through his hair, silvered by the grey dawn that lay across the pillow. “You were making too much noise, I couldn’t get back to sleep.” said Vinda shortly and Gellert nodded, her violence forgiven as he looked out into the faintly grey English sky. “How Indus puts up with it I don’t know.” She added with a huff, and Gellert smirked.
“Well he does get some perks from it, and I always sleep well after we-” He began, but Vinda smothered him with a pillow before he could finish his sentence, muttering that it was too early for his foul mind. He grinned and got up, pulling on a jumper and going over to the little window. He looked out into the little English village spread out in the valley, snow a mere inch think and all the windows dark in the half-light of dawn. He threw open the window and let the curling mists swirl, muggy around his hands, feeling the pinpricks of frost on his skin and enjoying how awake it made him feel. Vinda had departed for the bathroom, he presumed to get changed and put on her customary cosmetic charms, so he took the opportunity to put on day-clothes as well, choosing a soft grey shirt from his trunk and black trousers that Indus had mentioned that he looked nice in. He headed down the narrow set of stairs that wound their way down to the hall between the kitchen and living room. Gellert put a kettle full of water on the stove and willed heat from his wand, flash-boiling the water he would need for tea. Usually he never touched the stuff, preferring a strong coffee with one sugar, but when in England, he supposed, he ought to drink as the English did. Pouring out the water into a large tea pot he waited for the stuff to brew, but before he could take any cups of tea upstairs for his mother and aunt they both came down. “Do I smell a cup of tea coming my way?” asked Bathilda, smiling, and soon all four of them were happily discussing the past few months over breakfast.

Gellert was eager to show Vinda around the small village and the surrounding hills, regardless of the rain, and so the two of them set off into the drizzle, Vinda applying a water-resistance charm to her shoes, and then quickly teaching the charm to Gellert. He charmed his shoes and then, to Vinda’s amusement, his hair. “Just because you’ve not got hair nice enough to save, doesn’t give you licence to laugh at me.” he said haughtily, his french mimicking the cut glass accent of an aristocrat. Vinda shoved him into a puddle and Gellert counted it as a win, spotting the smile Vinda tried to hide at his friendly mockery. He impatiently pulled Vinda though the village, explaining this place or that, but soon he broke off the main road, cutting through the little muggle church, sparing the symbol of magic’s oppressors a sneer as he trod on a muggle grave to avoid a deeper patch of mud. Vinda followed, bemused, and Gellert looked back to see their muddy boot prints clearly defined on the pale grey stone of the grave. He laughed at the sight and looked at Vinda to see the same mirth reflected in her eyes, pulling her up the steeply sloping incline behind the church and into the low cloud line. They walked on, a little unsure of the way in the mist, and Gellert used a point me spell to be sure he was staying on the path, and as they made their way up rough slope they left the hanging mist below them, coming up onto a windswept plane of heather and craggy grey rocks. The tumbledown cottage stood there as it had the day when Gellert had discovered it the last time he was here. Ivy fronds shook in the wind and the grey stone met grey sky in a sharply jagged line where part of the roof had fallen in since he was last here. They stopped on the wide stone step of the cottage and ate the sandwiches that they had made before starting their trip, crunching their way through crisp english lettuce and bacon as they argued the merits of potions and alchemy in the biting wind, their fingers warmed by a charm without the need for cumbersome gloves.

Vinda looked around, a smile creeping ono her face once they had finished their food. “Can you get inside?” she asked, “snapping” a picture of the ruin with the spell Gellert had learnt from his cousin. Gellert hadn’t actually got that far last time he was here, distracted by playing a prank on the second rate arithmancer that kept his notes here, so they pushed at the rotten wooden door together, both unsure of what they would find. On the ground floor there was nothing of interest, but when they headed back outside and made their way up the dark stone steps that curled around the outside of the house they hit gold. In the part of the room not opened to the elements by the fallen roof, someone had set up a study of sorts. There were books lined up on shelves that looked like thy had been made out of fallen roof slates, and a desk with draws full of notes. In a corner there was some strange distillation unit that was full of purple fumes and green solution. They were all protected from the elements by what Gellert was amused to learn was a variation of his own portable ward system, and he looked around for inspiration, wondering what they should change this time. Suddenly it struck him, they were going to build on what he had done previously; they were going to improve things. He told Vinda the story of correcting the arithmancy notes and laughingly she asked what he was going to fix next. He motioned to the roof and Vinda smiled. “I’ll do the roof, you transfigure the shelves into something better.” he said and Vinda laughed. Gellert carefully made his way past the debris of the fallen roof beams and cut his finger, tracing his blood across the fallen tiles and broken beams repeatedly, drawing the hieroglyph for mending before bringing everything together with a single phrase, spoken aloud to add power. “Hi-nem.” He said, and watched as his blood pulsed with a deep bloody glow and the roof joined back together, looking like a collapse in reverse. He turned to Vinda with an infectious grin and saw that she had transfigured the set of makeshift shelves into a deep brown wooden set that looked rather ornate. The two looked around at the now darkened room, pleased with their work, and Gellert sat down in the chair, hunting for more arithmancy to correct. Vinda lit three candles, sending them soaring off to different points of the room with a simple levitation charm and peering at the book collection. “Gellert, this is your kind of man, he’s got books upon books about arithmancy and history here. A few on warding too.” Gellert laughed and sent a stinging hex Vinda’s way, which she dodged nimbly and returned, forcing Gellert to duck sharply to avoid the streak of light. “Hey, I’ve got Indus and I’ll have you know that he’s just my kind of man.” He replied while Vinda laughed and cast a simple clock face to check the time. “Hey it’s fairly late, we should probably head back soon.” she said, looking out of a window to peer into the darkening skies. “It gets so dark so early at this time of year, curses it’s like we never see the sun.” Said Gellert, and Vinda pointed out that there had been no sun even when it was light, which he couldn’t refute. They made their way swiftly down the hill and back across the graveyard to Bathilda’s cottage, where they were greeted by a roaring fire.

Over the next few days Gellert and Vinda had fun pranking the village muggles and practicing spells to their heart’s content. Though there were many new things that the two of them tried, Gellert found that he couldn’t master the patronus charm at all. There was sometimes a whip of silvery fog but he couldn’t cast anything near the bright white amorphous shape Vinda could, which was looking more and more defined every time she cast the spell. Gellert was becoming steadily more frustrated with himself, and he had no idea what he was doing wrong. “Expecto Patronum.” He intoned again, thinking about the moments he had shared with Indus. “What are you thinking about?” asked Vinda. “Perhaps you need a stronger memory.” Gellert began to explain but Vinda stopped him. “All you ever think about is sex I swear. That’s not enough.” She said, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “That’s not true.” said Gellert, feigning indignation. “Sometimes I think about arithmancy.” he said, collapsing into laughter at Vinda’s expression of distain before she cracked up, sinking to the floor in laughter and trying to hit him with a playful leg-locker curse as she went down. Gellert pulled up a shield and soon they fell into a playful duel, pulling all their punches and warming up the frosty air of the wooded glade that hid them from the muggles with their shared joy.

On the morning before Yule’s eve Gellert woke blearily to the sound of yelling. Someone screeching in french gave him pause and he turned in confusion to Vinda, who was starring at a red-bound letter in horror. She had received a howler. “Sulking in a fit, we won’t have it. You’re to come home at once young lady, and you won’t be seeing your friends again all holiday. We’ve half a mind to transfer you to Beauxbatons!” Yelled the letter as Vinda shook, and Gellert blinked furiously at the piece of paper disparaging his closest friend. He felt something hot in his hands and unconsciously flexed his fingers at the letter, sending a little zap of electricity dancing from his fingertips towards the paper, which left up in flames. The air felt charged all around them and Gellert quickly set to work recording what had happened. “Weather witchery more emotion-driven?” he scrawled, ignoring his shaking fingers, and no sooner had he shut the notebook than Bathilda came running up the stairs to see what was wrong. She took in the scene of a burning howler and Vinda’s conflicted expression of rage and sadness and walked over to her, enveloping her in a hug. Though she dragged her feet for as long as could be considered acceptable, Vinda packed up her bags and left with a morose wave and Gellert’s worry followed her through the fireplace and back to France, where she was no doubt getting the dressing down of her life from her parents. Gellert turned to his mother and was pulled into a hug, thankful for their good relationship.
Yule its self passed uneventfully, Gellert preoccupied with how Vinda was faring at home and how he had heard nothing from her. He had opened his gifts with his family, smiling at the portrait Indus had done of him and the books he had received from some of the seventh years and Irina. Vinda had sent him a box which was the size of an envelope, and opening it he saw a piece of paper inside. On it was written a short note telling him that if he wrote on his paper a message would appear on hers, due to something called the Protean charm. He made a mental note to look it up and sent a quick thank you note to Vinda through the parchment. Though the food was delicious and Gellert had many new books to read, he found that as they day drew to a close he was gripped by a strange melancholy that refused to fade.

Chapter Text

In the strangely disconnected time between Yule and the new school year Gellert made a point to study the strange muggle customs going on in Godrick’s Hollow. The Christian holiday, stolen and bastardised version of the wizarding solstice celebration though it might be, was an odd mixture of traditions. The pagan idea of gift-giving had obviously transcended religious differences as the muggle bookshop offered to wrap some of his purchases in bright paper when he popped in for a book or three, but there was talk amongst the muggles of “mass” which Gellert inferred was some strange church-based event. He had decided to attend this ritual, curiosity getting the better of him as he wondered what could drive muggles to the blood soaked actions undertaken during the witch-hunts. He sat in the cold night, listening to the man standing at the front of the hall’s echoey sermon and decided that either he was losing something in translation or this “faith” the muggles held was arrant nonsense. He shifted in his seat, paralysed for a moment as his legs had gone to sleep while he sat on the uncomfortable wooden bench, and he grimaced at the sensation of pins and needles in his calves as he stood. He felt eyes shift to him disapprovingly as he moved, ignoring the droning of the pastor and turning to the door. He drew himself up haughtily, trying to channel Indus’ aunt through a supercilious sneer thrown at the muggles as he swept out. Back in Bathilda’s warm cottage he wrote up his findings under the question “Muggle Faith?” in his blue notebook while sitting in bed before he flicked his wand to out the lights, thinking “Nox.” as he did so.

The next day Gellert decided to visit the strange cottage on the hill, wondering if the inhabitant had returned and chortling to himself at the thought of how confused they would have been to find his changes. He ducked into the upper floor of the tumbledown cottage as the wind caught at him, blowing his hair into his eyes, and Gellert tucked it behind his ear, irritated by the distraction. There was no discernible change in the cottage and Gellert had been just about to turn and leave when he spotted something out of place. A short sgian dubh blade with a simple black leather grip was driven into the back of the door, pinning a note written in an elegant hand to the wood. From what Gellert could make out of the looping hand, so unlike his own spiked and slanted script, it was a list of questions.
Why did you fix my study? Am I going to have to sell my soul to you now? Shall we ever meet?
Gellert grinned and pulled out his fountain pen to reply.
To the Faustus to my Mephistopheles, I was exploring the area and couldn’t help but notice the state of disrepair you’ve let your study descend into, and stepped in to fix it with a friend, no soul required. I’ve fixed two things for you now; your second rate arithmancy and your study, so be grateful that I have relatives in the area. —The Arithmancer.
He turned to leave before stopping suddenly and pulling his pen out. He left it on the desk, where it sat on his return note innocently and he smiled, feeling warm and slightly smug as he did so, pleased with the message he had left. That afternoon he curled up by the fire in Bagshot cottage to re-read Edward II by Christopher Marlow, though he was interrupted by chatting with Indus through the mirrors. Their conversation flowed back and forth with ease and Gellert bid him a happy goodbye when called in to have dinner, trying to ignore the ache in his chest when he saw Indus’ wave of farewell.

Gellert dreamed of roses as the wild winds of the winter storm blew into a fevered maelstrom as midnight approached. He stood in the dark landscape of Nowhere and walked through the black space, unable to see even a hand in front of him but sure of his path. A faint glow of amber grew on the horizon, blooming into a strange sight as he drew near. A rose grew out of the nothingness, its petals blooming wide in every shade between deepest red and sunshine yellow. Gold dust seemed to cascade from the flower and fall, lighting a circle around him with softly ambient light. Gellert felt his heart leap in his chest, unable to stop the immense something that he could feel but put no name to. He felt his soul reach out, join with another, happiness flooding his blood like a syrup and then something began to change. As he stood there basking in the warmth of the plant Gellert saw a crack run through one of the petals, poisonous green and glowing as it tore its way through the flower. Petals shattered like glass and the shards tinkled to the floor and faded into non-existence. The stem of the rose remained and Gellert watched as another flower bud grew in place, this one emitting a cold white glow. The rose bloomed wide, sending light glancing off the many strange shadowed things in this place and illuminating the stem fully. Red began to colour the thorns, then drip from them, pooling in the residual glow of gold before drowning it entirely as black veins corrupted the cool light and turned everything to a murky dissolute grey. As the last of the gold dust disappeared Gellert felt a rending tear within him and the blackness was ripped in two, harsh white nothingness replacing the soft dark. Gellert jerked awake, unsure and feeling as if someone had taken a hammer to his heart. He coughed, the convulsions of his chest sending another ripple of pain through him as he brought a hand up to his face to stem the steady drip of blood from his right eye and felt his left eye with confusion. Startled, he realised he was crying from both eyes, one blood and the other tears, and he began to hunt for a tissue on the makeshift nightstand that he had transfigured from a piece of firewood when they arrived. Something, likely the glass of water, fell off the edge and shattered, prompting a muttered curse and Gellert flicked his fingers in the general direction, thinking ‘reparo’ as he did so. The glass reformed but Gellert could do nothing about the wet floor and he groped for his wand on the nightstand, finding it and flicking it in the direction of the candles dotted around the room. As the room was bathed in a warm glow Gellert heard the door creak open and was less than prepared for Bathilda’s shriek.
“What happened to you Gellert? You’re covered in blood.” she exclaimed, and Gellert shook his head in exasperation. “It’s not that bad, I’m fine now.” he began, but a new round of coughing belied his reassurances. He looked down, shaken at the volume of blood on his clothes, he had been prepared for a smear or two, but the whole left side of his nightshirt was sticky with scarlet stains and Gellert looked nervously at Bathilda, who’s concerned and fearful gaze had never left the bloodied form of her great-nephew. He met her eye and tried to smile offhandedly as if this was a usual occurrence.

Sitting at the table in the warm kitchen a few minutes later, Gellert struggled to control his shivers. Never before had a vision caused him pain, he had actually been under the impression that he couldn’t be hurt while having a vision, but now all of this had come crashing down around him. He coughed again, frame wracked with the convulsions of his chest, and winced as Bathilda came back into the room with his mother in tow. He pointed a finger at the kettle on the range cooker and smiled as he saw steam rising from the spout mere seconds later, getting up and pouring out three cups of hot tea. The kettle trembled violently and more of the hot water splashed over the table than into the mugs. Gellert forced his hands to steady and finally filled the three cups sufficiently. He turned to get the milk they would need but his mother had already brought it over. “Gellert, why don’t you sit down.” she said softly. He blinked at her, suddenly exhausted and shuffled over towards the chair he had been slumped in before Bathilda’s return. Semi-catatonic, Gellert drifted between waking and sleeping as he sipped his tea, both hands curled around the mug for warmth as he listened to the two women’s conversation as if it were on a crackly wireless channel, broken up phrases and distorted sounds reaching him as if from far away. “I had no idea it was this severe” said Bathilda, and an eternity later he caught “Never been like this” from his mother. Distantly he was worried about having scared both of them so badly, but mostly he had curled up internally, unwilling to admit how afraid he was of his own Sight and unable to simply lock it away behind a wall of denial. At some point before dawn his mother and great aunt had gone back to bed and now he was lying down in his own room, so he assumed they had tucked him in. Under normal circumstances the action would have made him both vaguely embarrassed and slightly uncomfortable but tonight he appreciated the gesture. Gellert starred at the ceiling unseeingly, multiplying consecutive numbers and then computing the square root of each of their product’s factorials in his head in an attempt to prevent himself from sleeping and force his mind to stay firmly in the present. He sighed, having lost his train of calculation, and picked up the volume of Edward II he had been reading earlier that day, lighting the end of his wand with a flicker of thought and bringing the cold white light close to the page so that he could read despite the dark. Sighing, he gave up on the idea of reading by wand light and clicked his fingers, the candles in the room leaping into bright flame simultaneously and burning through as he read the night away.

The next morning they were treating him like he was made of eggshells. Gellert smiled tightly as he was asked for the thousandth time how he was feeling, choking out the polite reply through the poisonous words building up on his tongue. He would climb to the top of one of the hills today he thought to himself, mentally running through a list of what he would need. He sipped at his tea for as long as he could bare the hesitantly sympathetic stares and then sprang up, saying that going out into the countryside could only do him good. As he walked uphill he began to feel less like someone marked for death, turning his face east to catch the weak sun of english January and relaxing in the single moment of silence. Nothing moved, people left far behind and the rolling hills of heather and bracken hiding the town from sight. Gellert let his line of sight fall from the sky to the winding sheep-track he was following and saw a boulder sitting incongruously in the greenery on the other side of the valley he was in.

Abandoning his plan to reach the tall crags he had seen on one of Bathilda’s maps of the area, he struck out using another winding sheep-track through the bracken, surrounded by tall brown stalks that came up almost to his waist, and was soon across the low point of the little valley. He threw his bag over the stream that wound, veinlike through the hills and then jumped himself, lading just short of the other shore with the heels of his boots cracking through the thin sheen of ice to stir up the silt of the river bed, but had soon jumped up onto the mossy rocks of the shore and climbed upwards, walking up to the boulder that had sent him this way. It stuck up out of the bracken like a frozen teardrop, a large rounded part close to the ground that tapered sharply into a point, and Gellert looked up at it, unable to resist. Thankful for the relatively warm english winter, he tapped the rock with his wand, drying the stone and melting the frost off. He shed his shoes, warming charms preventing his feet from feeling the chill, and began to climb. At the point where the rock was widest it was hard to find a handhold, the only faults in the rock a few shallow bevels and a slanting crack that Gellert couldn’t quite reach. He breathed deeply and leant into the rock, tucking his centre of gravity as far into the boulder as possible and put his weight onto his lead foot. The shallow dip he was putting his faith in held, and as his leg straightened he reached out and caught the long fault line with both hands, steady once more. Looking down at what he had just done he realised that it had been nothing, the work of a mere moment, and yet it had felt as if he was only inches from a chasm that would never end. He let out a shaky laugh and continued to climb, the going as easy as a set of stairs. He reached the peak of the boulder and to his delight what he had thought was a spike of rock actually disguised a little hollow that sprouted long grasses, growing sheltered from the driving wind by walls of stone. Gellert sat down, tension and shivers drifting away from him in the wind as he did so. Shrugging off his knapsack he pulled out the mirror Indus had given him and tapped it with his wand, saying the incantation needed to activate the mirror’s enchantment. It remained reflective for a few long minutes but the reflection of the grey sky and stone-strewn landscape around him melted into an image of Indus in his large blue-canopied bed in Grimmauld Place. “How are you?” asked Gellert, and Indus’ voice was a balm to his frayed nerves, his voice washing over Gellert and warming his chest in a strange way an he met grey eyes intently. “Enough about me,” said his Indus cheerfully, “Where the hell are you?” Gellert grinned and explained the rock he had climbed, receiving rolled eyes and a fond look from Indus.

As the light faded Gellert looked out over the landscape and spotted a light. With a start he realised that he was looking at the cottage he and Vinda had fixed, and someone was there. He felt a spark of something in his blood and above him the skies rumbled with sudden thunder. Gellert looked at his hands in shock as little sparks leapt from his fingers to fizzle out in the air and gasped as lightening rent the sky behind him. He started and began the descent, half-afraid that another strike would hit him if he didn’t move. He hurried back home as fast as he could, rain only beginning in earnest as he reached the doorway of Bagshot cottage.

The week faded by in a blur of rainy days and nights marked by swirling scenes of what was to come, and soon the eve of their departure had arrived. Gellert packed all of his things away sadly, readying himself to return to Munich and thence to school. He and his mother stood in the road, watery afternoon sun giving every puddle a butter-yellow outline as they waved a fond farewell to Bathilda, who returned the wave heartily from her place in the doorway of Bagshot cottage. They apperated from where they had been staying in what was known as “the west country” down to the south coast, His mother and the bags cracking out of existence before she came back for him, and he was forcibly reminded of the nowhere-place he traveled to in his dreams as they moved through rushing black before appearing with a crack in Dover. Though the english and german ministries were unfriendly at the moment, Gellert could use english well enough to buy tickets from the suspicious muggles despite his accent, and they made the crossing the muggle way. The boat was old and small, the ride nothing like the smooth proud Lady Durm’s as it cut its was through the water to Durmstrang, and Gellert found that he was a little nauseous due to the rolling action of the boat. Deciding that the cabin was not for him, he left a note telling his mother where he had gone and went up on deck, immediately feeling better as he breathed in clean air and felt the dancing mist of rain settle on his skin.

When they reached Calais they arranged a portkey, as his mother wasn’t feeling up to apperating them both across two countries, so they arrived home with an old cart’s wheel, the “portus” charm wearing off and leaving them with a useless red wheel. His mother vanished the thing, and after a warm welcome from his uncle they each departed to their rooms to read. He drifted into sleep, exhausted by the journey and his head rested atop a book on weather magics as the candles in his room burnt low and Cixi tapped sharply at the window. She had not taken well to magical transport, and had made her own way home from France. He started awake, groggily opening the window to let his familiar in and breathing in the frosted metropolitan air of home before he trapped the cold outside once more. Cixi nipped at his fingers affectionately, the white feathers around her beak stained red with the blood of her evening meal and he returned the gesture by ruffling her neck feathers and settling down in his bed, book in hand and Cixi perched on the headboard as he began to read once more.

As the moon rose high over the steeply gabled roofs and spires of the snow laden city, Gellert thrashed around in his sleep, beset with nightmares of skulls breathing smoke that choked him, searing his throat as he gasped for air, and a black veil that separated him from Indus, almost transparent until he tried to reach through it and found it made of stone. He felt something settle over him and draw him up and away from his own dreams, a soft white glow overpowering his vision. He was flying now, soaring on cold winds in hot pursuit of a red-gold bird that felt deeply familiar to him. He swooped down, claws closing on tail feathers that slipped through his grasp. The dream changed and he was Cixi, hungry and hunting again with her sharp eyes tracing something that flew close to the ground. The sensation of free-fall swept through him as she dropped down through the sky, silent death from above. The grouse had no warning as she landed, claws tearing through feathers and beak filling with hot blood as she landed in the heather to enjoy her meal. Gellert rose through the dream and woke at peace within his own skin for the first time in what felt like an eternity. Cixi was asleep still, her head under a wing where she was hunched in sleep by his head. Looking out of the window Gellert saw sunlight glancing off the snows outside and stretched, feeling weightless and alive as he got out of bed an made his way downstairs for breakfast. He walked into the kitchen and greeted his mother brightly, who jumped out of her seat and hugged him tight. “Gellert, thank merlin you’re ok!” she said, and Gellert laughed, confused.
“Of course I am mum, why were you worried?” he asked gently. His mother looked at him fondly and ruffled his hair. “Gellert you just slept through an entire day. I was worried that you were coming down with something.” She said and Gellert looked up sharply, disbelieving. His uncle walked in, patted him on the back and yawned, saying “See, Gellert’s fine, there was no need to worry so much.” as he made his way to the coffee pot and poured a cup.

After the shock of learning that he had slept for more than a day Gellert rushed his packing for school and slipped out of the house in the early afternoon to visit the One Of Three. He had questions, and he would have answers. As he strode into the shop he heard a shattering and The One Of three appeared brushing glass off it’s robes. “Well Lordling you’re chaotic today, and the hour grows near. What will you be wanting on this fine afternoon?” It asked, and he blinked in confusion, trying to puzzle out the greeting before giving up and pressing on with his questions. “I have already said all of this once before little lord. I’ll not tell you about the diaries, you’ll have to find them on your own. The others all did so and you must as well.” Gellert finished the line with the creature, their voices synchronised as he spoke from memory what it had said the summer before last. “Traditions may have been made to be ignored but this one must stand firm.”
It smiled at him, or he assumed that was the expression it was going for as it looked at him, shaking its head and remarking on his excellent memory. “Do you mean The Lost Diaries?” he asked in awe, and the One of three nodded, shaking an admonishing finger at him as he smiled. “You’ve blood on your hands child, some already spilled and some staining the future. You will lose much if you find them, and lose more if you don’t.” said the creature, and continued with a rattle in its throat that sounded like bones clacking together, disregarding Gellert’s confused stare. “Will you rise from the ashes of burnt out stars and set fire to time its self, or will you simply fade into the future, lost like so many who carry Cassandra’s burden. Methinks you will pay your price little lord. You trail red strings that travel far into the future, carried in the pockets of a firebird and the memories of all the world.” Gellert shivered, feeling a weight settle over him. This was the second time he had come across the phrase, Cassandra’s burden, and it struck something deep within him that sent icy fear rippling down his spine and pooling behind his heart. He bid the creature a good day and watched, puzzled as it laughed at him, the sound ringing like a deep bell all around him.

School seemed mundane and grated on his senses after the break, his sleepless nights and waking dreams leaving him constantly on edge. Indus was one of the only people he was not entirely fed up by, and that list was growing shorter by the day. Vinda was worried about him, he could tell, and he found himself trying to explain what had happened during the holidays after she had been called back to France. She had her own set of battle scars from the holiday, her family extremely displeased with her actions, and Gellert was often found in her rooms, just sitting in silence and doing work along side her. His proof dealing with weather magic was coming along nicely and he was in the process of formulating an initial equation that brought some of the ideas together, while Vinda worked her way through the charms curriculum early, tired of the substandard teaching from their least favourite professor. Indus joined them more often than not, drawing and painting or playing idly with Gellert’s hair as he worked on his arithmancy, content to support him by simply being there, and Gellert continued to debate with the seventh years as he had last term, but he was so, so tired. As weeks dragged by and February’s corpse was hauled into spring Gellert became more stressed, the approaching exams adding to his long list of growing concerns. In the end, it was Indus who helped the most, offering wordless support.

“Gellert you need to calm down.” said Indus soothingly one evening as their mock-exams drew near, running his hands through Gellert’s hair, now waist length and full of tangles due to Indus’ habit of fiddling. “Calm down?” said Gellert, faintly exasperated. “I haven’t been calm since Yule love, how would you suggest I start now?” He continued, agitated. Indus smiled and quirked an eyebrow. “I can think of certain things we could do together for stress relief.” He said, eyes full of promise. Gellert laughed and looked at Indus a little too knowingly. “Are you propositioning me good sir?” He asked in a joking tone, and smiled into the kiss Indus started, letting Indus’ tongue explore his mouth as his hands wound tightly in Gellert’s long tresses. Gellert let out a heavy breath and surged forwards, pulling them both down onto the bed and forgetting, for a while, the stress of his present, lost in the instinctual game of give and take. Silencing charms sprang up as Gellert pulled away from their kiss to undress and felt a hand ghosting over his back and tracing the lumps of his spine. He turned to meet Indus’ half-lidded gaze. “Gellert,” said Indus, his voice rough as he leaned in close to Gellert’s ear, a hand snaking down to unbutton Gellert’s trousers. “I want you to fuck me.” Gellert smiled slowly, a sinful grin making it’s way across his face as he captured Indus in another kiss. “Your wish is my command.” He muttered, the words hanging in the lust heavy air before he rolled them both over so that Indus was below him.

Gellert panted with the effort of staying still inside Indus, his whole body feeling every tremor of Indus’ inner walls as he grew accustomed to the strange and semi-painful stretch. At a nod from Indus Gellert began to move slowly, rocking his hips backwards and forwards in small movements and listening to the expressive moans that Indus couldn’t contain. One angle seemed to draw more of these and Gellert let himself move freely, lost in heat and motion. It was it’s own kind of magic, he thought to himself as he kissed Indus’ neck, to feel this weightlessness and power coursing through his veins. Indus moaned again and Gellert felt him reach his climax, the other boy’s magic pulling him closer and sparking hotly all around him. Feeling his own climax approaching, Gellert looked down into Indus’ face and felt himself lose control as he watched the blissed out smile widen lazily, releasing into Indus and pulling out as he curled into the other boy’s tired embrace.

Feeling their seed beginning to dry into the sheet, Gellert lazily reached for his wand. “Indus, do you know any cleaning spells?” He asked, and Indus raised an eyebrow. “This is my bed we’re in you know, so don’t give me that look.” he added. “You like that look.” said Indus knowingly, and Gellert had to concede that yes, he really did. Indus smiled and picked up his own wand from where it was lying on the dresser, moving it in a spiralling motion inwards as he said “Tergeo habuerit” Gellert watched in fascination as the evidence of their actions was sucked into nothingness in a spiral motion that mirrored Indus’ wand movement. “I like spirals.” he said, relaxing an arm around Indus as they lay back onto the now clean sheets and shared a lazy kiss. “They were first studied by Descartes and they’ve got an arithmantic equation that makes them unique. It’s written as r= a multiplied by (e to the power of b/theta) in the ‘real’ plane. r is the radius of each turn of the spiral, a and b are constants individual to the spiral’, θ is the angle of rotation around the centre point and e is the base of the first arithmantic logarithm.” He mused, happily ignoring Indus’ incredulous look. “I wonder if they are common to all vanishing spells. It would make arithmantic sense I suppose.” He added, and Indus rolled his eyes, kissing him again. “This is you’re idea of pillow talk?” asked Indus, fondly incredulous, and Gellert smiled sunnily, replying that Indus should either be nicer to him, or leave his bed immediately. Indus laughed, tugging on a strand of Gellert’s hair in a teasing manner as he feigned the motions of getting up before pulling Gellert into another deep kiss.

The next morning Gellert walked down to breakfast smiling in a deeply satisfied manner, accompanied by a disgruntled Indus who was walking a little gingerly and cursing whoever had come up with mornings. Irina joined them on the stairs, heartily agreeing with Indus, bleary eyed and with slightly messy hair. The three of them sat down where Vinda had commandeered one of the smaller tables for the four of them in the breakfast hall, Indus shifting uncomfortably in his seat for a moment, prompting an unconscious smirk from Gellert. Vinda spotted his satisfied expression and sighed, a long suffering expression crossing her face. She raised a dark brow and shook her head knowingly, taking a large swig of coffee before speaking. “Gellert, I’m far too sober to see that look, please refrain from it at breakfast.” She said, her accented German pained. Gellert had opened his mouth to retort when Irina elbowed him sharply. “Hello professor,” she said, and Gellert turned to see the potion’s professor standing right behind him. Breathing a sigh of relief, he sent a silent look of thank’s to Irina for preventing what could have been a very embarrassing moment and swallowed the joke that had been on the tip of his tongue. The teacher moved on soon enough and Indus burst out laughing, the sound making Gellert smile more widely as the bell rang and they all headed to their respective lessons. Gellert crossed the courtyard taking deep lungfuls of air that sang with the taste of a lightning storm, his shoes splashing through the puddles left by the night’s wet weather.

In Healing Gellert completed his work as fast as possible and put up his hand. “Professor, Are there any localised pain relief spells we could learn today?” He asked, and at the concerned look of his professor he realised how that might sound. “Purely for the sake of it, of course.” He added, his most studiously trustworthy expression fixed in place as he waxed lyrical about how useful the subject was. The professor smiled and began to teach, not seeing Gellert’s expression of hopeful interest slide off his face like oil over ice. Half an hour later Gellert was sure he could fix basic bone breaks, though messy breaks with fragments still caused him some trouble, and more importantly he had learnt three anaesthetising spells, any of which he could do for Indus later. Smiling, he walked out of the classroom feeling very positive, and made his way to arithmancy.

It was amusing, watching his classmates struggle with arithmancy he could have done in his sleep years ago, and Gellert found that his good mood continued unabated for the lesson’s duration. He worked through his latest question set, a formal method of proving spell chain series by induction, and smiled as he handed in the work before the lesson ended. Professor Mansuro handed back his papers as the bell rang and a quick flick through them told Gellert that he had got every question right. That evening he tried the patronus charm again, sure that his happiness would allow the spell to take corporeal form, and cast. “Expecto Patronum.” He yelled, frustrated when once again his attempts yielded nothing but silver wisps of cloud, to no avail. No matter what he thought of or how he cast it, he could not produce a corporeal patronus, and Gellert hated it. The evening was frustrating, Indus unable to help him and literature undiverting in the face of his strange inability with the charm. He had never come across practical magic he couldn’t do, couldn’t understand, and wasn’t good at, and it drove him to distraction. He fell asleep, frustrated, in the window seat of his room as the day’s light faded from the sky and the March evening bled into dusk, the stars creeping out in ones and twos as he slept on, unaware.

That night he dreamt of a crushing winter and saw strangling lines of men falling, a storm of the dying thudding on top of the dead, replaced by more grey figures that bloomed red and then crumpled. Flags of red clashed, a jagged black cross-symbol on one and a yellow sickle crossed with a hammer flying on the opposite side, and Gellert saw days pass, each indistinguishable from the last save the spreading stain of blood across the lands and the growing piles of the dead that were heaped everywhere, freezing where they lay. In the end, it was the cold that won, the flags inscribed with the black insignia falling into retreat as snow drove strange metal beetle-like structures back across the frozen lands and south. The land had protected it’s people, but many of the dead strewn around on the blood-fields were it’s own, caught by the cold or by the metal projectiles of the enemy. Gellert snapped into awareness, a feeling of fear crawling up his spine and a crick in his neck from sleeping in the chair. He looked down to see his night-clothes stained again, and he sighed, performing a cleaning spell to remove the blood and looking down at his hands that shook with fear. He had to find a solution to this, whatever it was, and how his seer sight was changing. With a strange chill he remembered the words that seemed to haunt him. “Cassandra’s Burden.” he murmured to himself, wondering where to begin.

A simple unlocking charm and a change of clothes later, Gellert was ensconced within the divination section of the library looking for any reference to the mysterious phrase. He found plenty of books on Cassandra The Great, and two essay collections that referenced her among other seer’s of great power, but nothing that made any allusions to a Burden of any kind. He found a pamphlet on the burden of foresight, but it was general reading as opposed to anything relating to her specifically, and as dawn drew nearer and daylight began to illuminate the library Gellert grew close to screaming. He drew his wand, not knowing what he was going to do but sure it would cause damage, when he heard the library doors creak open. He waited with baited breath, crouched at the end of the alcove he had been searching, but relaxed when he saw that it was only the librarian. He cleared his throat, watching as the greying man jumped and laughing at his poor reflexes. The professor hadn’t even raised his wand in defence. “You’re lucky it’s only me Sir.” he said, and the Librarian smiled wryly in agreement. “What can I do for you at this hour Grindelwald?” He asked, yawning and shuffling over to the desk near the doors. “Do the words ‘Cassandra’s Burden’ mean anything to you Sir?” Said Gellert, hopeful that this would at last yield a result, but he was soon disappointed. “Why the esoteric research young Grindelwald?” asked the professor, and Gellert felt his jaw clench. “I’ve been caught by idle curiosity.” He said, words tumbling forth before he could think them through. It had been purely instinctual to lie to the man, and Gellert couldn’t quite put his finger on why he had done it. He had acted without thinking, disconcerting because he prided himself on logical reasoning, but the lie had fallen from his lips before he had even consciously decided to obscure his true purposes. Soon after that Gellert bid the man a pleasant goodbye and began to make his way back upstairs.

When he reached his room he was met with an Indus who was half-alive in his pre-caffeinated state, and whose mouth tasted slightly stale with sleep when they kissed. He slipped into his room briefly to change into his school tunic and reemerged a few short minutes later, bag in hand. Once they were sat in the breakfast hall Gellert brought up the topic of his research. “Could you write to your family and ask if they have any books on something called Cassandra’s Burden? I think that it’s important.” He asked, making sure that he phrased it nonchalantly enough to slip past his friends, and he thought he had been rather successful until lunch that day. Indus had gone up to his room and Irina was doing some last minute essay corrections before she handed it in, so Gellert found himself alone with Vinda, who took the opportunity to tell him in no uncertain terms to stop with “All of this cloak and dagger nonsense” and explain what he wanted her to ask her family about. They had decided to walk around the lake for the sake of privacy, and Gellert waited until they were on the far side of the jetty before beginning to explain. “I’ve been having dreams, well, visions really, for a long time.” He began, the French rolling off his tongue smoothly, and Vinda huffed. “I know Gellert, what’s new about all of this?” She interrupted, and he frowned, pointing out that had she not butted in he would have already explained before returning to his original topic. “They’re getting more frequent, and much worse. I don’t- I can’t sleep often. I think it’s something to do with Cassandra The Great, but the person who told me wouldn’t explain.” he said, and Vinda sat down on a stone bench by the lake, turning to look him in the eye and promising she would do her best. Gellert offered a hug and Vinda stared at him strangely before accepting, soon relaxing into the action. “I’m here Gel,” she said, eyes serious as they pulled back to talk. “I know Vinds, and I’m here for you too.” He said, and she smiled warmly in response, opening her bag for something as she did so. She pulled out a strange flat silver box and Gellert caught a glimpse of a swirling pattern on the front before she opened it to reveal cigarettes in two neat rows, held in place by a metal bar of the same silver as the case its self, on some sort of spring-hinge. The cigarette case was a thing of beauty, and as she passed it to him he felt a crest in the grooved front. “My fathers,” Vinda said by way of explanation. “I’d imagine that he’s noticed it’s absence by now.” she added slyly, lighting up at the end of her wand and watching as Gellert copied her, snapping his fingers to conjure a flame before inhaling.
The two of them sat there and talked through the hours that they were supposed to be in class for, the sky darkening into twilight before they moved from their place, walking back to the castle at a leisurely pace as Vinda smoked another of her father’s cigarettes and looked out into the young darkness of the evening bitterly. “It’s not as if I can’t go home. I just resent being there with a happy family that doesn't want me around anymore.” She said, vengefully breathing out clouds of grey that misted around them in the sharp chill of the outdoors as she opened up a little about the Rosier family dynamics. Gellert tried not to pity her, as he knew she would hate it, but he couldn’t imagine having an apathetic family, and how much harder it would make almost everything. “You can stay with me for as much of the summer as you need to Vinds,” he said, and she smiled, all sharp edges and twinkling eyes in the night. “I think I might just take you up on that Gel.” She muttered, before switching back to German as they walked up the long set of stairs and parted ways at the join of the east and north corridors.

That night Gellert dreamed of a strange group of people, people who screamed and yelled and tortured their instruments in a nihilistic blaze of glory that seemed to last a generation. Gellert watched as cities changed, people either changing with them or being left behind, and he dreamed a place where the buildings reached the sky and hope crumbled in the rubble of something that used to be. It was a place without magic, and a magic of its own, and then the plague came. Bright hair and bright futures withered away at the touch of death, and horror manifested in the sunken forms of huddled figured in every doorway. Calm people in suits who had never lost anyone to the darkness read out long lists of numbers, bare death figures that said nothing about the pain of loss. Flashes of cold dark rooms, hospital beds and bottles of pills crossed his vision in the wake of that terrible exponential curve of gravestones and the world spun, a maddening haze of colour and emotion that he couldn’t escape. He woke as another needle landed with a dull clink on the bathroom tiles as a man who came from the past fell victim to the ever-encroaching future. Gellert groped for his wand in the darkness without turning over onto his back, his hands shaking as he tried to put his weight on them and his face sticking to the pillow with crusted blood.

The dawn streaked pink across the sky as Gellert gazed unseeingly out into the beginnings of the morning, worried. What time would give rise to such dissent and destruction, he wondered, and why in the distant future had no one fixed anything at all between now and then. The world needed to change, of that much he was sure.

Chapter Text

“What do you want the future to look like?” Said Gellert, his voice echoing as he stood in front of the Durmstrang Debate society, eyes fevered and nerves forgotten as he felt the attention of the crowd. “Are you content to sit through life while our world stagnates, falls beneath the whims of a culture that not so long ago hunted people like us by the thousands?” He breathed in, out, and felt the ripple of interest around the room. Closing his eyes he visualised his notes and spoke, the emotive feeling of his opening sentence now replaced with logos, as suggested by the greek book he read read on the subject of oration. “We are facing a tide of laws that limit us, ministries trying to bury whole branches of magic due to mere superstition. Poland has restricted the use of ritual magic due to pressure from France, Ireland gets closer to doing the same by the day, and the people in power refuse to acknowledge that they are in the wrong.” He said, before returning to the pathos-driven side of his speech with a intense stare. “The way things are has to change, magic should be free. Knowledge should be free. It’s up to us.”

He didn’t know who had started the clapping, but he found himself facing a round of applause and a barrage of questions. He blinked, not sure which he was less uncomfortable dealing with, and sat down in his seat without really responding to either reaction. After a few minutes of heated discussion on his ideas the group looked once more to the front where Vinda held forth on Witches rights. After a debate that was almost entirely one sided, no one able to deny the ridiculousness of the current inheritance law, Kaz meandered over to where Gellert was sitting with Franz and Monika in tow and soon he had relaxed, the air thick with a mixture of jokes and politics as Vinda came over to join them. Soon after the debates began to fragment, Indus popped his head around the door and broke into a wide smile, walking over to Gellert and wrapping him in a hug and pulling a bar of chocolate out of his bag, breaking it up and offering it around the group sitting with Gellert. Gellert smiled at Indus and then winced, a throbbing in his eye painful for a second before dissipating fast enough that he wondered if he had imagined it, his smile flickering uncertainly for a moment, then coming back in full force as Indus linked their hands, interlacing their fingers together easily as he smiled at Gellert.

The evening faded into soft spring night as Gellert read his latest book on arithmancy, arm lazily draped around Indus as the other boy sat, writing an essay on the importance of ley lines in ritual magic that Gellert had completed the week before, just after it had been set. “Gel, my love, my most treasured arithmancer, light of my life, can I have a look at your essay?” asked Indus, and Gellert pulled him down into a kiss. Indus broke away with a smile and Gellert pulled him close, kissing his way along Indus’ jaw before reaching his ear. “Not a chance lover.” He murmured, and Indus pouted, Gellert’s laughter loud and juxtaposed to the quiet mood of a moment before. He went back to his book and Indus sighed dramatically before going back to his essay. After a few minutes Gellert broke down and made a few suggestions, but stood firm against Indus’ pouting when it went all the way to actually looking at his essay. Indus settled for his suggestions and was finished before too much of the night had passed. The two kissed in the doorway of the room, Gellert moaned a little and was ready to duck back into Indus’ room for a little longer, but Indus forced himself away. “Gellert I need to sleep.” He said, and when Gellert let a suggestive smile dance across his face Indus let out an exasperated sigh. “The unconscious kind, Gellert, I’m exhausted.” He said, a smile tugging at his lips at Gellert’s dramatically disappointed slump.
“The night it young yet, as are we.” said Gellert, prompting a laugh from Indus as he shoved Gellert towards his own room, and Gellert drifted off to sleep with the sound of Indus’ soft laughter ringing in his ears, spiralling down into his dreams.

He was in a room with no windows, every wall scrawled with formulae he had never seen and couldn’t understand. In the corner an greying man penned something onto his left arm with a right hand that shook uncontrollably as he did so. Gellert walked a little closer and the old man looked up, as if he could sense Gellert’s approach. Gellert leapt back in shock unable to believe that the huddled form had looked back at him with eyes he recognised from the mirror. They stood still, eyes locked, his horror reflected in the weary pain of age. Gellert couldn’t bring himself to break the loaded silence and stared, transfixed by the portrait of what was yet to come. In the end it was the older version of himself that spoke. “All the bright and precious things in this life fade so fast.” Said the man who Gellert still could hardly think of as himself, and as he said those strange words Gellert was swept up in a melancholy wind that drew through the room with a whining rattle as everything began to fade away into sepia, before becoming a line drawing, and then nothing at all.
Waking, he found that tremors shook his frame and he couldn’t think clearly. Stumbling over to the wash basin to clear his head with a splash of cool water, he closed his eyes and saw the haggard face that he would one day wear once more, and the echoing statement of misery rattled around in his head, compounding the throbbing pain pounding through his skull. He angrily wiped blood off his face with a soft towel and cast the Tempus charm, seeing that it was after five. At least he had managed most of a night’s sleep, he found himself thinking, and he quickly dressed, picking up his book as he headed for the window. The early April sun had almost risen, casting everything in a shadowy blue light that preceded true-dawn and picking out every spire of the gabled rooftop world in a line of powder blue, every shadow a pool of midnight-ink. Casting a lumos charm, Gellert flicked the ball of light off the end of his wand with a thought, watching as it floated to an unobtrusive point where he could easily read with it and smiled, watching as the sphere pulsed once, twice in time with his heartbeat and grew a little larger. He settled against a chimney comfortably and opened his book to the page he had marked, reading as the sun rose in full and the sky bloomed gold and peach before fading into the blue of the waking day.

As Gellert regretfully climbed down from the roof and made his way along the low edge of the roof towards his window, he looked down and thought almost unwillingly about his vision. He didn’t know much of what it meant, and he hurried down from the roof to read the cards, hopeful that it would help make things a little clearer. He opened the box and withdrew his cards, throwing them up into the air and letting his magic swirl them around as he held the vision in the front of his mind. Two cards fell face down and Gellert cleared the others away with a flick of his wand before turning over the two that his magic had selected. The Lovers lay there in tragic conjunction with the Ten of Swords, and Gellert noticed in a confused double take that the eyes of one of the figures inked on the lovers card seemed to be blue, something he was sure hadn’t been there before. He breathed in with a hand on each card and blinked, scenes of battle playing across his vision in microseconds. He saw a battle with no winners, only two broken men who had forgotten how to dream and opened his eyes with a gasp. Something tugged in his chest and he found that he was wiping away tears again, bitterly regretting his decision to read the tarot after the confusing vision of the early hours of the morning. He reached for his wand and cast a shredding hex at the cards, anger building up behind his eyes until sparks danced in the charged air around him. The cards sat there undamaged and Gellert growled, pointing his wand and casting a curse he had only read about. It was supposed to flash-freeze an object and then splinter it into chards of black ice, and it sent delicious shivers of wrong down his spine even as the cards sat there, undamaged. Gellert smiled, the expression twisting his face as he finally felt something like understanding. The books were right, to perform truly dark spells you had to mean it.

Feeling much better after the strangely cathartic dark spell, Gellert made his way down to breakfast early and greeted Irina with a smile. She quickly drew him into conversation, slamming the newspaper down onto the table to show him what had happened. “Hogwarts folded under pressure, they're celebrating Christian holidays from next year.” She said, and Gellert frowned deeply. “One day this is going to come back to bite people, when they’ve forgotten all the powerful rituals we learn today.” he said, and Irina nodded.
“Still,” she said, a sneer in her voice. “At least it’s only the British, It’ll never catch on here.” Gellert laughed and agreed, his smile becoming more genuine as he began to eat.

Weeks flew by and exams loomed close on the horizon. Most of the subjects weren’t teaching anything new, merely doing reviews of things they had already covered, and Gellert found himself drifting. He didn’t need revision sessions, and his boredom was only staved off by the half-idle research into the Hallows he had picked up again, and the Russian history course that they were doing. He leant over his desk in May, finishing an essay on how Russia’s size had influenced and been influenced by the martial magic favoured by it’s wizarding citizens, and wrote the concluding line with a smile. Signing his name, he noticed the slight tremor of his pen on the page, a shiver in his hands that seemed to have taken up permanent residence as his visions grew ever more frequent. He briefly looked over his latest arithmancy worksheets, shuffled the papers so that they were in order and tapped them with his wand, straightening out the crumpled edges of the sheafs of paper. Answering a knock at the door revealed Vinda, Indus and Irina, who barged into his space all looking exited. “We found a reference to the famous seer, that Cassandra that you were looking up early this term!” Said Irina, half yelling in excitement, and Gellert pulled her into a tight hug. It had been months since the two of them had really shared this much tactile affection and he was shocked to find that he was now taller than Irina by quite a bit, Gellert began to tease her for it with a smile in his eyes. “On a more Serious note, thank you for looking. I really appreciate it, and I was beginning to lose hope that any reference to her in print even existed at all.” He said, pulling Vinda into a hug too before kissing Indus.

“What did you find?” He asked. Irina handed him a scroll of parchment and he unfurled it, finding himself looking at a family tree, beneath which was written some rumours and legends about the great seer, a final resting place and the address that she had lived at for most of her life. “The family tree is from the Lineage Grimoire at Grimmauld Place,” said Indus, and Vinda added that she had owled the Central Magical Library of Paris and found her addresses. Irina had asked her grandmother, who had replied with legends and rumours her mother had handed down to her, and Gellert sank down onto the bed, scroll clutched to his chest. This was the best lead he had had in six months, and some fear he hadn't known he was carrying slid off his shoulders. He felt giddy, laughter bubbling up in his throat, but it got tangled there and when he gave it voice it was a sob, not a grateful laugh that left his mouth. His three friends looked on in concern, and watched as he visibly pulled himself together and the momentary lapse in his emotions cleared off his face like a cloud blown away by strong winds. They looked at him a little strangely, not sure how to comfort him when he seemed, once more, to be fine, and Gellert smiled warmly, studying the family tree in more depth and looking for all the world as if he hadn’t just began to cry for no discernible reason as he leant back, his head resting on Indus’ shoulder. Vinda realised with a sinking feeling that if he was that good at compartmentalising his feelings, he was hiding more from them than she could guess, and Gellert, unaware, thought that he would deal with his feelings later, when he had finished processing all of the new information.

May soon became June and Exams were upon them, Gellert unconcernedly completing them while reading more and more on Cassandra The Great whenever he had the time to do so, finding a reference to her West-country origins and noting it down. He didn’t know why but it felt significant, he had learnt to trust the tingling in his eye that leant confirmation to his research and every fibre of his mind seemed to register the address until he knew it almost as well as he knew his own. He completed the last exam in a semi-delirious state and remembered walking towards the North staircase with Indus, and had woken up a day and a half later in the infirmary on the duelling floor. He was told he had collapsed, and Indus had looked at him with haunted eyes that were bloody and set within deep bags that told the story of a waking vigil by his bedside. Gellert reached out a hand and pulled the other boy down into a kiss. “Gellert you have to promise me that you won't scare me like that again.” He said, his voice sounding fragile, which prompted a wave of guilt that Gellert tried somewhat successfully to push away. Though they talked a little Gellert was exhausted and soon slept again, waking in the evening and straining to hear a whispered conversation. It was Vinda and Irina, and something was very wrong. “Don’t be stupid, Gellert is going to be fine.” Hissed Vinda, and Irina lowered her voice, as if revealing something darker.
“But the lakeside problem, he was so cold about it. What if that gets worse?” she said, and Gellert felt a horrible sinking cold come over him as she said it. She still didn’t trust him, after all of this time being his friend. Was that all a lie? He wondered, eyes cracking open to see the facial expressions of the two girls. Vinda spoke again.
“I don’t understand your problem Irina, no one will find out and Gellert has clearly got bigger problems going on. Just let it go, it was almost a year ago now.” she said, eyes narrowed and shoulders set.
“I don’t know why you’re not more concerned, he’s not exactly stable at the moment,” replied Irina, her voice low and shaky, “What if he goes mad?” Those words chilled Gellert to the bone, made Ice of his veins and froze his thoughts in fear. The word echoed in his skull like a funeral bell, shattering the sharp thoughts he had been holding onto as he eavesdropped. Irina was still talking but Gellert couldn’t hear it through the rushing in his ears, his blood thudding loudly through his body and air whistling into his creaking lungs too loud, too near, the life underneath his skin like a crescendo he could no longer ignore. He needed silence, needed something, but he didn’t know what. He felt a hand reach for his own and came back to himself a little, so he focused on it. The hand was soft, without callous or blemish, cold and caring with nails that felt glossed, and he could feel an edge of lace at the wrist. He smiled, more himself after listing what he could feel, and Vinda was the one who broke the silence hanging between them. Her voice was cool and unconcerned.
“Nice of you to collapse and scare us all, it was a great day.” She said a sharp voice, cutting and caring in equal measure. “No problem Vinds,” he said. “Just feeling a little cold right now but I think I’m fine.”
“You made me a promise, and we’re not done yet. Are you going to be ok?” She said, the cool facade cracking and her voice blooming with sudden raw pain. He nodded weakly. “Good, because I need you, you’re my best friend.” she said, and then reached down for a hug. Gellert coughed and broke into a smile, responding in kind and forgetting for a moment the sting of Irina’s betrayal.

Released from the infirmary with strict instructions to get enough rest and not over-exert himself, he draped an arm over Indus’ shoulder and returned to the dorms with a smile. “So, how’s life been without me?” he said, tone joking and light. “Terrible, I’ve been inconsolably lonely and the world seemed grey and colourless.” Replied Indus, laughingly kissing his cheek. “Really Gellert, I’ve missed you.” Gellert pulled him into his room with a grin. “Then we’ll just have to make up for lost time.” Indus laughed and ducked into his own room, appearing half a minute later with a sketchbook in his hands. There was a drawing in the sketchbook, a city of stone towers and sweeping buildings made of glass that reached the sky, strange machines and red post boxes. “You were talking about a vision, a city of the future, and I felt like I should draw it.” Said Indus, and Gellert shook off a warm feeling that lodged somewhere in his chest at the thought that Indus had captured a half-dreamed rambling on paper so perfectly. “You’re amazing” he said, and leant into a kiss, shocked to find that he was almost the same hight as his Indus now.

Life continued in its relatively mundane fashion and Gellert stuck up another debate, this time about the ethics of legilimency. He argued his point passionately and bickered lightly with Vinda about it even days later, citing the skills a necessary evil while Vinda was strongly opposed to the idea all together, and their test results would be arriving soon. June raced past and they had almost reached July when it happened again. He had just been walking down to the library with Vinda when he had begun to feel woozy, sounds fading in and out of his hearing as he felt himself fall to the floor, unable to control his movement. The world faded away with Vinda’s worried expression the last thing he saw before dreams took him.

He was in a city he had never seen before, the sun baking over his head as a strange ululating song saturated the air. A sandstone tower seemed to be the source of the noise and the people turned towards it as if drawn by some magnetic force. He turned away and found himself on a bridge, water rushing beneath him in a torrent, the heart’s blood of this strange sun-caught city where clouds were a distant memory. The Bridge had a small carved sign at the other end, Gellert stopping to read it, the curling scrip legible somehow despite the strange unknown letters it was made up of. “Galata bridge, Constantinople.” was written in a curling tongue of lines and dots that Gellert knew he shouldn’t by any rights know how to read. He turned to see a boat hurry under the bridge, deep red sails caught in the wind and billowing out as the boat turned further downwind, the sun painting the whole scene in bright bric red and turquoise, sandy stone and the waxy dark leaves of olive trees. Four thin spires struck up out of the melee of human life, scraping the sky and wrapped with a stone brocade of white curlicues that looked like magic carved in stone. An arch called to Gellert and he ducked through, suddenly ensconced within the dark of a building, the high ceiling marbled and stretching up into the shadows painted with arithmantic symbols. He looked around and sucked in a sharp breath as he realised where he was. It was somewhere he had read about in more than a few arithmancy books, the centre of the mathemagical world. He felt a tug at his arm and turned to see Vinda pulling him away. “Come on, the guild is waiting for you and they have what we came to this damn city for.” He followed her down the twisting streets, defending the city as they went, switching from French to German indiscriminately, and he was talking about mathematical innovation in the fourteenth century when the scene began to fade and Gellert was left lying in the dark before he cracked open an eye and saw the worried expression of his mother.

For half a moment he convinced himself that he was still dreaming, but the slight scratching of the sheets and the warm touch of his mother’s hand to his brow convinced him that she was really here. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked, voice bleary with sleep and confusion. “The school asked me to take you home early, they feel you’ll be better off in a home environment.” She said, her voice sad and worried as she looked into his eyes searchingly.
“You mean they didn’t want to deal with me?” he said, and though he had meant it as a joke his voice curled with a snidely bitter tone. His mother reassured him that it wasn't true but her words rang hollow and Gellert laughed harshly in response. “It’s ok, let’s just go home mum.” He said, voice soft again as he spent the last of the energy his anger had leant him rising to his feet. He looked down and saw that his trunk had already been packed, and a note from Indus lay atop the cases. “I packed everything for you, and the Mirror is in the same section of that satchel you like so much as your tarot cards. I’ll visit when the holidays start, with love, Indus.” Gellert smiled and reached for the bags, picking them up and heading for the door to follow his mother.

Munich was colder at this time of year than he remembered and Gellert realised sadly that this would be the first time he had spent June in his home city since he was ten. Though the circumstances could have been better, he was glad to be home again, and he had questions that he could only get the answers to here, in the city of his heart. He declined dinner despite his mother’s coaxing and soon went to bed, hoping that the soothing atmosphere of his home would keep any visions at bay, if only for one night. He woke, sweat drenched in the small hours of the morning and rolled over, retching at the visions that had plagued him. He saw a man, aged and frail, falling from a tower with acceptance in his eyes and a hand withered black by some form of curse. Gellert didn’t know why the vision had caused him so much pain, such a pulling dig in his heart, but he knew he couldn’t sleep again after that, so he got up and paced. He needed to see the One Of Three.

Throwing on a jumper and his coat, Gellert charmed his door closed and jumped out of his bedroom window and onto the roof that lay a few feet below and across the back alley that his room overlooked. From the neighbouring roof he knelt down and took hold of the lead guttering with a firm grip, swinging himself down so that his feet were as close to the floor as possible before dropping down into the alley. He hurriedly made his way into magical Munich, unafraid of the muggles that roamed the streets of his city, desperate and trying in vain to fend off the cold, and passed the stone dragon with nothing but a rumbled greeting to give him pause. He was walking down the little streets of magical Munich, belatedly wondering if anywhere would even be open when he saw a light on in the windows of the strange little shop he sought. Smiling and thinking “nox”, he walked in through the dusty door and was greeted by the One Of Three. “Oh this has accelerated. You shouldn’t be this bad so soon Little Lord, what did you do?” Said the one of three, and he looked at it with outrage, a withering retort on his tongue when it spoke again. “Oh you foolish little child. You did a sacrifice for power didn’t you. This was supposed to happen when you were older, more ready to give the payment for your powers. You’ve accelerated Cassandra’s burden child.” Gellert went white as a sheet, the memories of his ritual and how proud he had been of the results crashing down on him. This was all his own bloody fault, and he was paying for his foolhardiness now. “Don’t go thinking that, Little Lord, you would still have had to sacrifice for the burden’s lifting, it just would have been a little later, that’s all.” said the one of three. “Now, I’ll give you four months, how does that sound.” she said, and pulled four sticks each the length of a cigarette out of her inner robes. Gellert tilted his head in confusion and took the odd bone-white twigs lightly. “They are Grayswood Ghost tree bark and the ground finger bones of an eyeless killer, and you're to light them and inhale the smokes once a month. It will be most effective in the ides of each moon and it’ll tide you over while you find the diaries. Speedy hunting Little Lord, for you’ve not much time to do it.” Said the One Of Three, and Gellert looked at the creature, disturbed.

Bak in his room, tapping one of the odd grey twigs, he wondered exactly how one would go about finding the finger bones of an eyeless killer, but decided that it was probably better if he didn’t know. Wondering if they were inherently magical, he picked up his wand to cast a revealing charm on one but it showed nothing, and Gellert thought that he would dig no deeper into the things, merely use them as he had been told and hunt for the diaries. First he would need to tell his mother, he supposed, and then he would start at the very beginning, the birthplace of Cassandra The Great.

It took a week of begging and arguing to get his mother to agree to his idea, and in the end he had had to light one of the twigs so that he became more himself and looked less sickly in order to convince her that he knew what he was doing. They had taken the awful steam train to Calais and from there got the boat to Dover, his mother unrelenting in her worry over what apperating would do to his fragile condition. Now they were rattling along on the back of a cart that was transporting goods along the south coast of England, and it would be several days until they got to the town where history’s greatest seer had been born. Boscastle was reportedly very pretty, and Gellert had been forced to listen to their driver wax lyrical about the village for much of a day when they mentioned that it was their destination. From what he could make out through the man’s very strong accent, Gellert assumed that he was some kind of farmer whose land had been taken from him, and thought Gellert did feel some sympathy for the strange little muggle he was irritated more often than not by the idle chattering that they were being forced to deal with. At long last, when Gellert had almost blasted the man into oblivion on two occasions and accidentally poisoned him on one (How was he supposed to know that fire whiskey was poisonous to muggles) they reached Boscastle, and Gellert alighted first, then held a hand out for his mother to step off the cart and dealt with their bags, the smoke of the strange twig still lending him energy for the moment.

They had found lodgings with a strange woman that Gellert was privately sure was at least half goblin, and the town was welcoming, but Gellert wasn’t here for pleasure and he couldn’t find these damned diaries fast enough. They had been to see the house of the Seer, and had a very unnerving experience with her batty and self assured descendants, but he had seen nothing that pulled at him, or even made his eye throb. After days of wrathful stewing in fear and loathing, his mother dragged him off to see some waterfall, sighing and pointing out that Bathilda had mentioned that it was beautiful and they might as well see it while they had the chance. Gellert had to admit that the glen they were walking through was beautiful, every tree thickly furred with moss that you could sink your hands into like a cushion and the sounds of the river calling to him with a siren’s song. Gellert suddenly felt as if energy had been poured into his veins, his blood replaced with something deeply powerful, the stones of the valley vibrating with a hum that set his teeth on edge and his eye glowing. “Mother,” he began, his voice harsh and two-toned as he spoke, “This is where I needed to be.” His mother turned around, concerned, but when she saw his glowing eye something within her relaxed, instinct telling her that she had watched the beginning of healing. Gellert laughed at her slumped shoulders, his voice still richly toned with something entirely other and his laughter eerily close to the sound of a waterfall over rocks as he straightened, steel lacing his spine and silver glowing in his eyes as he walked further into the gorge. Then he saw it, the almost perfectly circular door of rock, the water tumbling through in and something like light tearing through the gap in the world. With his glowing eye he saw the threads trailing from the tear, silvered light setting them on fire when they tried to close the gap and heal the rip in the fabric. Warning his mother to stay away in a voice that sounded both like him and not, he stepped forwards into the rip and through into another place.

It looked like the place he had come from, but something in the air whispered power, whispered truth, and before long Gellert came to a house that didn’t exist on his side. It was old, grown out of the ground like a huge boulder and the door was made of spiders webs, shimmering lines of purple and blue iridescence when the light hit, grey and almost vaporous when in shadow. He pushed at them and they moved like a door, a solid mass swinging in to hit the wall with a thud. Gellert felt something shift and a child poked its head out of a doorway further down the hall. The creature had dark skin, not like the deep brown of Professor Mansuro’s, but faintly blue and oddly non reflective. Though it was as young as the other was old and an as dark as the other was pale, Gellert felt with certainty that this was the second one of three that he had met. “You’re not supposed to be here for years yet.” said the creature, its voice childlike and playful. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, wary, and the creature giggled in a high pitched tone.
“What I said, I’m sorry for your loss, but never mind that. You're here early, and that means you can tell me how the other side is going. How’s One?” asked the child-thing, before a frown crossed it’s face. “Oh no, no you don’t have much time at all. I can smell Grayswood Ghost tree bark smoke on you, and that’s a last resort. Hurry along then, the diaries await you Little lord.”

Gellert walked down a corridor made of shadows and turned, a door of cobwebs lit by a glowing moth calling him to open it, and when he did he found himself in a well lit library. There were tomes of leather lining the eight walls and somehow, the ceiling. He looked at his feet and saw with a jolt that he was standing on books too, and thought that there had to be some of them that weren’t her diaries. He breathed in, out and in again, and closed his dark eye. Putting a hand over it he opened his silver eye and looked again, breaking into a smugly satisfied grin when he only saw one shelf of books, the rest of them mere shadows. The ceiling held what he needed and he exhaled before reaching for the first shelf and beginning to climb towards the books that remained real in his silvered sight. When he touched the first one they all fell into his arms, knocking him from his precarious place atop the shelve. As he fell the room whirled and he found himself standing on the shelves the right way up that had been a wall moments ago, arms full of books that would save his life and the door immediately to his right. He turned the door handle and quickly made his way out of the library room, unnerved by the sense of being watched that he couldn't shake. The Second of Three greeted him in the room where he had left it, offering a bag made of leather that looked suspiciously like human skin. Not wanting to anger the creature, he accepted the offered bag and hurried back through the glade to the door.

Walking through the tear in the world and into his mother’s arms, the river singing in his ears and the light fading from the sky, was the best feeling Gellert could ever remember. He revealed the books and smiled, his mother’s eyes lighting up as she threw an arm around him. They stood at the same hight now, something else that Gellert hadn’t noticed, and he smiled then, grateful that in his family at least, there was love. He thought of Vinda and hugged his mother more tightly, trying to show his gratitude without words, unsure what he would say. “While we’re in England I thought we might drop in on Bathilda, what do you think?” Asked his mother, and Gellert readily agreed. For the first time in months he felt weightless and free, worry sliding off his shoulders and warmth lending his smile a depth it did not usually possess.

Chapter Text

Curled up in the window of the attic room in Bagshot cottage that he couldn’t help but think of as his, Gellert opened the diary bound in cracked black leather and began to read. His mother and he had been traveling for the better part of a day and had finally made it to Godrick’s Hollow, making their way across the river Tamar and into Devon, and trapped as they were in muggle transport, Gellert hadn’t had the opportunity to open the first of the diaries that he hoped would give him answers. Now he breathed in the fragile smell of an old book, the ink dark and the script a practiced slant that Gellert could read perfectly easily, despite the antiquated english it was written in. With every turn of a page Gellert felt like he knew a little more about the most prominent seer in history, her dry humour and superior tone making him laugh often. It was humbling, reading something from so long ago, and interesting to see how little people had really changed in the time between then and now. Bathilda called him down to dinner and shared a concerned glance with his mother when he ate little, too caught up in his successes to pay attention to the present. That night he lay awake, caught by hopes and fears, and eventually clicked his fingers for light, reading through the night and into dawn.

Though Gellert had already been out of school for almost a month the official school holidays had only just begun, though he had forgotten this small fact, so when he padded downstairs to find Vinda sitting in the kitchen he let out a high pitched screech that he would never admit to and reflexively cast a petrificus totalus. Once he had undone the charm on his friend and waited out the inevitable laughter, Gellert smiled and quickly made them two cups of tea. Vinda looked down at the cup with an air of slight disappointment, but smiled and quickly brought Gellert up to speed on the Durmstrang Gossip that he had missed. “There were a lot of rumours about you, you know.” Said Vinda, a smile playing around her mouth. Gellert settled down in an anticipatory manner and impatiently told Vinda to continue. “I’m getting there you impatient fool. According to some you’ve just been hiding in the library, refusing to go to lessons.” Gellert let out a sharp laugh and Vinda smiled. “Just wait, it get’s better. Some people think you’re in prison for petty crime. I heard one group of second-years swearing up and down that you had eaten three horn-swobs and been hospitalised because of hallucinations. The seventh years had a debate and decided collectively that you had tricked the school into giving you longer holidays.” Said Vinda, her laughter a high cackle that sent Gellert into another laughing fit in turn.
“Oh dear I’m so behind the times; after all, I’ve been hospitalised and jailed and I didn’t even know.” He said, still giggling, and Vinda continued to laugh for a few moments before her smile faded and she looked down at the floor, the humour of the moment draining away. “Gellert, why didn’t you write?” she asked, her voice suddenly fragile. He sighed and began to explain what had been going on.

“So all in all, what with the diaries and the constant travel I’ve not had the chance to write. You must have been worried, I’m sorry.” he finished almost half an hour later, his rambling coming to an end with how he and his mother had got to Godrick’s hollow after the boat trip across the river Tamar. Vinda sniffed haughtily, replying that it was no excuse for what she called his laziness. Gellert laughed but noticed that she was still a little shaken, and walked around the table to give her a warm hug. “Hey, I’m much better than I was in school, so there’s no need to worry.” He said gently, and Vinda narrowed her eyes at him. “How?” She asked, suspicious.
“I’m a little offended at the lack of trust here,” joked Gellert before he sobered up under the patented V.Rosier Glare and explained properly. “I went to the divination shop in Munich and the person there gave me four months worth of these strange twigs to smoke that keep my visions under control.” Said Gellert, and then frowned. “When I said that it sounded very dodgy and more than a little dangerous, but it’s not, you have my word.” He said, trying to describe his interaction with the One Of Three without it sounding dubious in the extreme. Vinda smiled at him strangely and ruffled his hair, ignoring his attempts to extract her hands from the waist length waves and laughing as he muttered a string of threats. Bathilda and his mother soon joined them, both slightly disgruntled as they had been woken by the loud laughter, and Gellert felt Vinda tense as the two adults came into the room before relaxing again once she had registered who it was. Filing away the worrying reaction, Gellert asked if any of the others had plans for the day.

Bathilda waved them off at the train station in Plymouth, disapperating with a crack after confunding the muggle selling tickets to get them onto the day’s train up to London. Though his mother could be negotiated with on many things, she had taken it into her head that magical transport would be bad for Gellert and wouldn’t be persuaded to allow them to floo into the magical district of London. As a consequence, Gellert and Vinda found themselves rubbing elbows with muggles, crammed onto a busy train full of men in flat caps and boxes of luggage, and as Gellert had gallantly offered his warded coat to Vinda, he was forced to touch one or two of them physically. He quickly withdrew from the offending limbs and managed to avoid another vision, shaken by the horrible probability of losing himself to the future once more. When they were half-way to London Vinda got tired of the way that Gellert reacted when one of the muggles got too close and smiled at him. “Let’s give them a scare.” She said, eyes flashing and smile hard. Gellert laughed cruelly and after a brief discussion in French snapped his fingers, intoning “Malus Malstromus.” while Vinda giggled and summoned water to kickstart the miniature storm they were creating. Gellert hadn’t tried the spell before but it fed on his fear, the anxiety poisoning his thoughts, and was sparked from somewhere down in the base of his spine, fierce and powerful. The magic came easily, static building in his long hair before leaping up to join the lightening sparking through the air in a white-hot line of instinctive magic. Muggles screamed as the carriage became charged, miniaturised storm clouds forming and swirling around the two of them, thunder drowning out the frightened and disbelieving shouts of the muggles. Some of the screaming attracted attention and the carriage door opened, Gellert dispelling the storm with a thought and Vinda drying the seats before the door could open fully and evidence the claims. The guard laughed condescendingly at the frightened muggles, sharing a small smirk with Vinda, the only one who seemed unaffected. Gellert was doing his best impression of fright and only stopped the charade when they got to the closest station and their carriage emptied.
As the train rattled on towards it’s destination, Vinda rummaged through her bag before reapplying a shiny gloss to her lips, jokingly offering it to Gellert and laughing at the offended expression that crossed his face. “What?” she asked, her voice playfully naive. Gellert looked at her, exasperated. “Not my thing I’m afraid Vinds.” He said, put upon and feigning a tired slump. “Wrong colour?” she replied before devolving into giggles and cuffing him on the head gently. Gellert responded by elbowing her in the ribs and felt the heel of her shoe dig into his boots in return. He pulled a shiny dark lock out of her forcefully styled bun and she took a handful of his hair and tugged back. Gellert smirked and let his eyelids flutter, faking a quiet moan before he spoke. “Not quite the way Indus does it, try a little closer to the scalp.” he said, and Vinda released him with a retch. He began to cackle and watched as his words had just the effect he had planned.
“Gellert,” she began, faintly green and looking like she had a world of regrets, “Please don’t ever utter another sentence like that in my presence.” He opened his mouth to speak again and Vinda silenced him with a spell, muttered something about deviants and got a book out of her bag to read. As the train slowed down Gellert closed his eyes and tried to unravel the spell put on him, feeling the threads of magic that floated around his jaw and ripping them apart with his own, his wand pointed to his throat as he mouthed the counter curse.

“You know, there was really no need to silence me with magic.” he said as they got off the train, making Vinda jump and narrow her eyes. “Actually that’s not entirely true. You’d never shut up when Indus isn’t around.” She replied, eyes flashing with humour. Gellert looked at her quizzically. “What’s Indus got to do with it?” he asked. Vinda smirked, Gellert shifting from foot to foot, uncomfortable at the feeling of falling right into some kind of trap when he noticed the expression on his friends face. “Well you can’t very well speak with your tongue down his throat.” She said, cracking up as Gellert shook his head ruefully. “I walked right into that joke, didn’t I?” he said, defeated, and joined in with Vinda’s laughter at her smug agreement. They picked their was over the filthy cobbles, heading into the heart of the city in search of the magical district’s entrance. A stench began to filter through the air, slime and silt mixed with the soot of the city’s mechanical pulse, and Gellert realised that they must be getting close to the river. Almost as soon as he had thought it the great artery of the metropolis came into view, moving in a sluggish flow of silt and promise.

Gellert blinked and found himself in the same place, surrounded now by glass spires and signs glowing with a strange kind of light, standing at the foot of a great bridge. It was blue and rose up out of the water like some form of magic, towers gating the water that flowed beneath reflecting the triumph of engineering that Gellert was staring at. He blinked again and watched as it was constructed in reverse, as if time was looping the wrong way as the bridge was stripped of first its facade and then foundations. Soon the bare skeleton of the bridge was all that he saw, and something made him look up at one of the towers. He saw two figures standing at the top of the tower, not yet roofed and open to the soft breeze that lifted long cloaks up into the air. They cast a spell, gold forming in a translucent sphere around them before both the light and the two figures disappeared with a crack. He slowly came back to himself, feeling a frantically tight grip on his arm. “Don’t scare me like that, what the hell’s going on?” Said Vinda, a fragile quality in her voice belying how worried she was despite the forceful tone. Suddenly he felt a cold hand at his face and Vinda wiped the blood off his cheek tenderly before once again demanding answers. Gellert cracked a smile and tried to begin describing what he had seen but broke off into hacking coughs almost immediately.

Gellert could see that Vinda was still shaken by what had happened by the river but the english magical community was so strange that it had half-distracted both of them. Pointed hats were the fashion here it seemed, and there was only one bookshop, and it had no discernible ritual magic or arithmancy section. Gellert had been incensed by the latter, stating loudly that any bookshop missing a section on such a fundamental cornerstone of modern magic was obviously not worth the space it took up, much to the amusement of those who could understand the accented french he was using. The two of them had swept out of the shop imperiously and Vinda had dragged him into the apothecary, ignoring his complaints and telling him that he should be glad she liked potions, as one of them ought to be able to brew properly. Gellert peered around, half interested, and caught a glimpse of gleaming russet hair that seemed eerily familiar. He ducked under the iguana skins hanging over a drying rack, trying desperately to spot the person again and not sure why they were so important. Did he know them from somewhere? He wondered, and cast his mind back, trying to remember any chance acquaintance of his with hair of that particular shade. Vinda tapped him on the shoulder and held up a small chest of assorted ingredients. “I’m all done here, so I was thinking that maybe-” Gellert heard her stop, indignantly abrupt as he twisted around so fast his neck clicked. “What on earth?” began Vinda, before following his line of sight. He had finally seen the young man again, the half-shadowed profile he could see a thing of beauty, but before he could do anything other than fix the boy with an intent stare, trying to remember why he seemed so familiar, Vinda had dragged him out into the open air. “Need I remind you that you are in a relationship?” she said, stern. Gellert tilted his head in confusion, still trying to catch a glimpse of the not-stranger with the red hair. “Oh I don’t believe you,” began Vinda, “It’s bad enough that you make your jokes all the time, I’ll not see you undressing some poor stranger with your eyes.” That brought Gellert out of his musings with an offended scowl.
“I’m doing no such thing. I’m sure I know that man from somewhere, he seemed so familiar to me. Can you remember him from anywhere?” He said, his voice dropping to a harsh whisper as the young man in question walked past, nose buried in a new potions guide. Vinda shook her head, bemused but neither judgemental nor disbelieving. Gellert smiled at her, glad that he had been believed, and they made their way towards the inn for sustenance.

They hadn’t spent five minuted in the busy inn when Gellert felt a touch at his elbow. He spun, drawing his wand and seeing Vinda do the same, the smouldering cigarette she had just lit between the fingers of her other hand, lighter dropped in her haste to draw. The stocky man who had drawn their attention laughed a deep bellied laugh and addressed them in fluent french. “You two have eclectic taste in books, I’d try Mordibun’s down in Knockturn alley for a wider range of reading.” He said, eyes shifty as he spoke the name of another strange alley. Gellert perked up, hunger forgotten in favour of the tantalising hope of a better bookshop. Vinda looked equally as eager, eyes alight with fire, and she asked for directions politely in french before switching to german for Gellert. “If it comes down to it we can take him in a fight, and he did say a wider reading range.” she muttered, the speech fast and low, just in case the strange little man could understand German too. Gellert nodded in agreement and together they swept back out into the warm cobbled street, taking the left they had been told to and soon spotted a sign pointing down a set of shallow iron steps that they were to take. This alley was much cooler than the wide one they had come from and the shops advertised a very different side of magic. They wondered past The Museum Of Cursed Curiosities on their left and another apothecary further down the street. Vinda almost succeeded in dragging him into yet more shopping for ingredients, however he managed to distract her before he was forced to traipse around another dingy room full of dead things and slime. “Look, there’s the bookshop.” he said, his German drawing both a few wary glances and a smile or two from others who spoke the language. They headed in, shocked to find themselves in an airy and well lit bookshop that seemed to go on forever instead of the small shop they had been expecting from the exterior.

“Looks can be deceiving.” said a woman in soft english. She was tall, unnaturally so, and her luminous blue eyes were so pale they seemed almost colourless in the strange light filtering in through the windows of the shop. Gellert blinked, coughed and looked at the floor, deciding to play the polite young academic card that had worked so well for the school librarian. “Oh no, don’t put on a mask for my benefit. I admire the craving for knowledge you both glow with and there’s nothing else I need to know.” Said the odd woman, before turning to face Gellert specifically. “Curses are the third isle, arithmancy is the fourth and magical arts on the far left wall near the windows, if you’re gift shopping.” She said, and turned to address Vinda before he could get a question out. “For you my dear, potions is on the second isle to the right and law is the fourth isle from the back. Happy reading young hunters.” Gellert blinked, his distrustful gaze a mixture of suspicion and honest confusion, before springing into action, waisting no time as he all but ran over to the arithmancy section.

Vinda made her way methodically through the large tomes on the law and jumped when a long slender hand tapped her on the shoulder. She tightened her grip on her wand, ready with a blasting hex, but the words coming out of the strange woman’s mouth were so wildly unexpected that she forgot all about her wand. “Your friend has seer-sickness. When the time comes and the truth splinters you all, he will need you. Do not run, child, for you will carve history together.”
Vinda frowned, countless questions building under her tongue and fighting for the right to be asked first, but the woman shook her head and walked away, gesturing with a cold hand to where Gellert stood, reading his way through a tome that upon closer inspection seemed to be on magics of the soul.

Gellert was fascinated by Soul Magic, his imagination caught by the idea of a spell that could make the caster live forever, or bind two people together for eternity. Soul magic was a mostly forgotten art that he had only read about in passing, so to hold a book that had survived the purges sent tingles up his spine. Ministries across the world had banned research into the topic, citing it as too dangerous, too dark to be positive in any way, but here in his hands lay the secrets of history. Gellert let a slow smile stretch its way across his face and turned to call Vinda over, shocked when he found her right behind him. Showing her the interesting books he had found, the pile ranging from arithmancy to forgotten household charms of the 13th century, Gellert made his way to the counter and pulled out a sack of galleons. The woman did not speak, merely counting out the money and pushing most of it back towards him, and though he found himself thinking that the books were oddly underpriced he shrugged and smiled at the kindness of the odd woman. She smiled back, revealing teeth that looked a little sharp in the fading daylight and her eyes flickered with a silver that matched his before fading back to their pallid blue. Vinda reached for her purse but the woman waved her away, prompting a smile from the young witch, cut short when she saw the royal blue of the twilight sky. “We’ve got to go Gel, thank you for the books ma’am.” she said hurriedly, practically pulling Gellert out of the shop as he stuffed books into his bag.
“What’s the rush, we’re not too late are we?” He asked. Vinda responded by gesturing wordlessly at the twisting alley they were standing in. Gellert looked at her quizzically, tilting his head in confusion and prompting a wry smile.
“I forget that for a genius you can be remarkably dense. We definitely do not want to be in a strange magic city after dark, Gellert, despite your death wish.” She said.

They walked back into Diagon Alley in heated debate several minutes later. “I do not have a death wish,” said Gellert as they walked through the inn connecting the two Londons. “I just don’t feel afraid in a street at night.” He continued. Vinda shook her head impatiently and soon their barbed comments devolved into senseless insults that neither meant. “Idiot.” said Vinda fondly, Gellert acting as if mortally offended before replying with “Kelpie.”
“What kind of insult is that you flobberworm?” Said Vinda, and Gellert Grinned.
“Well you know, slimy, lives in a disgusting pond,” he began, adding “Bad hair.” slyly after a pause. Vinda made as if to draw her wand and then narrowed her eyes, remembering where they were, the cobbled street around them seething with countless muggles and carriages.
“If it were not for the Statute Of Secrecy, you’d be dead faster than you could blink.” She said deadpan, cracking up at Gellert’s entirely unimpressed look. They broke down into laughter together and got onto the train happily at the railway station, Vinda doing a charm to make the carriage less noticeable to muggles and Gellert anchoring it with his usual anti-muggle wards. “You know, the statute of secrecy makes no sense when you think about it.” Said Vinda. Gellert coughed in surprise, his whole frame rattling with the force of his laboured breathing. “Hey, you were the one who said that muggle mathematics should be applied to arithmancy, and science to other magical fields.” She pointed out, laughing at him to disguise her worry. “That,” said Gellert once his coughing had subsided, “Was entirely wishful thinking. The Statute might inhibit progress but it’s better than mass slaughter.”
"We wouldn’t have that problem if the power structure changed drastically.” Mused Vinda, and Gellert blinked, suddenly very much engaged in the discussion. “I see what you mean Vinds, and I think that you and I should be the ones to bring about this change.” He said, half-jokingly but when Vinda adopted a contemplative mood Gellert dropped the smirk and together the two of them began to theorise.

“So what did you two get up to in the big city?” asked Gellert’s mother as they came at last to the door of Bagshot cottage, dinner long past and Gellert eating the last of his Pasty as Vinda dropped her bag onto the floor and began to talk her way through their day. “We found a bookshop.” He piped up, and his mother rolled her eyes, pulling him into a hug. “Of course you did, however I think the reading of them will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s late.” she said, and Gellert let out a groan. “Mum it’s not much past ten, this doesn’t exactly qualify as late anymore.” He whined, pointedly ignoring Vinda’s hastily disguised laughter. She floated the piles of books out of their bags and followed them up the stairs to bed.

Though Vinda remained content for just under two weeks, Gellert could see that she felt trapped in the village life they had in Godrick’s hollow, and he too began to chafe at the idea of spending much more time in the place, a little bored and more than a little distracted by the ever-present itching need to read his way through the diaries. He could tell that his mother felt the same so the three of them soon departed for Germany, his mother relentlessly enforcing her rule about muggle-transport and slowing down their journey considerably. Bathilda had sent them off with a cheery wave, saying that she was glad to see the back of them as she had books to finish, for which houses full of noisy teenagers were reportedly, not conducive, and they passed the return journey playing a lively Russian card game ‘Idiot’ which his mother taught them the basic rules of. “You’re the Idiot again Gellert.” teased Vinda as they finished their umpteenth round, laying their cards face up on the table on their last train, from Eastern France to Germany. He swore bitterly in Russian and Vinda laughed, his mother looking on, amused as the conductor announced Munich Central as the next station.

Once they were back in the familiar setting of Gellert’s place in Munich, he and Vinda could barely keep their eyes open, feeling a wave of exhaustion tide it’s way over them, and he bid her goodnight, directing her to the guest room before dropping onto his bed fully clothed, asleep in moments. He dreamed of a cat, stern looking and flinty-eyed, sitting on the wall beside a white fence and neatly clipped hedge in a neighbourhood that seemed squat and strange, odd dish-shaped cones projected off the sides of roofs and gracelessly ugly automobiles full of muggles clogging the streets. To Gellert, the cat looked more than a little disapproving, and more than once he thought it rolled it’s eyes. The small tabby made direct eye contact with him and tilted it’s head to one side, as if sensing something and unsure what, then faded out of colour until a line drawing remained before that too disappeared and Gellert found himself in the present once more.

Just as he was fumbling around in the dark, his tarot cards elusive in his blind search, he heard a tapping scrape at his window and flinched at the loud noise. Flicking the curtains wide, he saw Cixi silhouetted against the deep blue of the late morning’s cloudless sky and let her in, a weight of worry that he hadn’t known he felt sliding off his shoulders as she flew into his arms. “Where’ve you been Cixi?” He muttered, mindlessly ruffling a hand through her feathers, and he was half surprised when a mental image of Indus’ face, eyes reddened with past tears and expression worried, hands smoothing her feather’s anxiously, was projected to the forefront of his mind. Gellert let out a sob, suddenly missing Indus fiercely and unable to divert the wave of guilt he felt about not even talking with him on the mirrors.

He carefully unwrapped the mirror from the velvet that prevented it getting scratched and spoke the incantation needed. Within a fraction of a second the glass lit up, fading into soft blues and greens behind Indus’ tired face and blue robes. “Gellert, where have you been. Why didn’t you call? What did I do?” He said, and something about the way his voice hitched and cracked in odd places pulled at Gellert’ vocal chords until everything he tried to say got all choked up and all he could say was “I’ve never seen such nice robes.” And then as the urge to cry overwhelmed him he began to shudder, crying voicelessly. Tears tracked down his face and he half consciously noticed that Indus was suddenly question-less and kind-eyed. “Indus I’m sorry.” he said, his voice cracking delicately on the apology, and he realised that telling Indus that he was sorry would be enough. He could use his breakdown, ask Indus to visit Munich and then explain everything that had happened. “I hear Cixi wouldn’t abandon you, even when I did.” he said, and Indus smiled weakly at the half-joke, saying that he didn’t feel abandoned, and that of course he would come to Munich if Gellert wanted him to.

Indus was sitting in Gellert’s living room half an hour later, brushing ash off his blue robes as Gellert walked in. Their reunion was wordless, Gellert leaning in to kiss Indus softly in greeting, an intention which was quickly corrupted by Indus’ desperate mouth seeing his own in a much less merely affectionate gesture. Indus’ arm went around him tightly, as if he would turn to smoke and drift away if Indus didn’t keep hold of him. “Hello.” He said, throat raspy and eyes locked on Indus’ as he spoke. “Hi, it’s been a while.” replied the other boy. Gellert tried for a laugh and got fairly close to sounding convincing, much closer than Indus had over the mirrors.
“I’ve missed you so much.” he said, the meaningless platitude falling from his lips before he could think through a more heartfelt response. Indus smiled warmly, satisfied by Gellert’s simple statement, and then let his eyes roam over Gellert full of promise. “You’re my hight now, that’s a little strange I have to admit. But you look better than you did at school.” he said, adding “And of course just as beautiful as ever.” after a pause during which he let his eye wander again over Gellert’s form. Gellert pulled Indus in for another kiss, letting his hands roam and learning all of the slight differences that a month had made of Indus. He was slightly thinner, hair brushing his cheekbones in a soft wave and eyes a little sad when he looked down at the carpet. Gellert enfolded him into a hug, his chapped lower lip almost bleeding when Indus bit it softly in a needy kiss, and they had relaxed into a honey-slow reacquaintance of their mouths, Indus’ hands dipping below Gellert’s shirt to hover over the soft skin of his back, when Vinda made her appearance known.
“Control yourselves, I can’t deal with this before coffee.” She said, and then all three of them were laughing, reminded forcefully of last summer, and a similar situation in a tent in France.

Vinda had decided that she was going to go back to France for a few days to visit some cousins, and Gellert was thankful for her tactful bowing out when he needed some time with Indus. They had decided to visit the small coastal town of Graal-Müritz and Gellert internally patted himself on the back for thinking of it. Indus loved to swim and they had spent a wonderful morning in the relatedly warm waves of the North sea, after sneakily using the floo network from his mother’s room while she was out to travel the length of Germany. Now they were sitting in a secluded area of beach warded from the muggles with a few of Gellert’s runes scrawled as well as possible on surrounding stones, finally able to be alone with each other in peace. Gellert summoned some sandwiches from a stall selling them, weaving notice-me-nots throughout the fabric of the spell and soon they were eating the finest foods on offer, Gellert casually explaining all of the things that had occurred since he left school and Indus taking over from time to time to talk about what he had missed while away.

The day faded into early evening they returned to Gellert’s, giggling as they fell through the fireplace and quickly vanished the tell-tale ashes from their clothes. Declining an invitation to dinner, Indus went home by floo, promising to be there again either later that evening or the following morning, and they shared a passionate kiss before he stepped into the fireplace and went back to Grimmauld Place. Weeks meandered by and Gellert spent his days lounging with a book or visiting Indus, talking with Vinda or exchanging the odd letter with Irina. His cousin Sasha had offered to visit in his one letter, and spoken a lot about the post-graduate course in martial potioneering and weaponised alchemy he was doing, but Gellert’s mother had vetoed the visit, saying that she wouldn’t want the two of them within a hundred mile radius of a big city at the same time. Gellert had ruefully agreed and so his summer drifted past in relative peace and quiet, his adventures being mostly of the two dimensional variety.

Weeks bled together as summer faded into the glowing beginning of autumn. Trees set fire to the horizon with a blaze of golden tones that mourned a summer past, as Gellert’s head swirled, a mess of past and future as he read his way through the diaries and dreamed of fire bright madness and smears of darkness on the left arm of a woman who looked like Indus, her eyes the same distinctive grey. He had finished all but one of the diaries and the last one lay by his bed, unopened and worrying, because as interesting as the books were, they hadn’t helped him with his problems. He woke bleeding and confused, his mind scrambling for explanations and finding none in the grey light of the halfhearted summer dawn. Feverishly, he cast a charm and looked with a sinking feeling at the date. It was the ides of August, and the effects of his first twig had faded away into insubstantiality. He hurriedly threw open the window and summoned the leather pouch he was keeping the Grayswood twigs in, removing one and lighting it with a thought. He brought it to lips lips in a parody of a cigarette, inhaling the pale blue smoke and feeling the tremors of his hands fade away before exhaling, tasting grave dirt and raw power in his throat as the smoke poured out of his lungs a colourless grey and drifted off through the window. 
A face at the window of the house across the road made Gellert start, his Grayswood-induced calm mood interrupted by the appearance of another person. A man with a pinched face was staring suspiciously at him wearing a scowl that seemed carved into his face, and Gellert raised a scornful eyebrow, exhaling in a billowing cloud towards him before smiling, turning his back to the window and picking up the final diary. There was something powerful about turning the first page of the last of the notebooks, a profound fear and desperation that shook Gellert deeply. So many hopes were pinned like butterflies underneath his skin that he almost screamed into the soft grey mist of the early dawn, the quiet turn of pages yielding a new cycle of anticipation and disappointment as each one failed to reveal what he expected. The One Of Three had told him that it would solve his problems, he thought angrily to himself, and in the greying light of the early morning Gellert began to lose hope. Listlessly he turned the page, reading quickly before turning again, then blinked at the title and sat up with a start. “The Price of Power” was boldly inscribed on the first line of the page, and Gellert once more began to smile. 

“‘Of the many things humanity has lived with, the burden of absolute truth is perhaps heaviest to carry.’ This is more true of wizard kind than of the muggle who wrote it, and there is a price for sanity that few can bear to pay. I was powerful, too powerful, some say, but I payed my toll when I was seventeen, and it tore my world asunder to do it. It will hurt you seer of future-times, but Tempus Fugit, and you have little of that left if you have read this far.” 
Gellert swallowed, preparing himself for the worst. Thoughts of giving up a magical ability flashed through his mind, thoughts of souls as bargaining chips quick to follow in their footsteps, and he turned back to the text, sure that no price for his sanity would shock him. He read on and stopped abruptly, brought up short by four small lines of text that rattled his world. No, he wouldn’t do it, couldn’t do it, wouldn’t even consider the notion. He looked down again, re-reading the lines of tightly slanted script that summoned tears to his eyes as he looked at them. 

“Darkest of the future arts, 
for you must turn your heart to ice, 
Strength of mind for sacred bond, 
Life of a Lover, Sanities sacrifice.”

Indus. Something deep within his chest cried out, already in mourning, and suddenly Gellert knew. All of those terrible visions came flooding back to the forefront of his mind, Indus on an altar, bleeding out over runes of power, Indus’ grave in the Black Family Graveyard, Indus, rotting in the bed beside him, and he knew. All of the magic he had learnt to defend Indus from an early grave was useless. Gellert stood helpless in the face of his cure, the salvation that would damn him, and turned away. He closed his eyes and flinched at the unbidden flood of memories that threatened to overwhelm him. Kissing Indus in the morning as the sun lit a sliver of his face, curled around Indus while the other boy slept, arched against him in love and lust. Gellert saw this mixed with things that hadn’t happened yet, wouldn't happen; Indus dying, Indus looking up at him, tears clinging to his lashes as he bled out, Indus dead. 

“Darkest of the future arts," 

He felt a terrible sense of certainty and all of a sudden a few words the fey had said to him, all those years ago came floating back to the forefront of his mind. “Starlight snuffed out by your hand” Something clicked into place in his head and suddenly he saw it. Indus Black was starlight, it was written into who he was, written into his family through history, and Gellert knew then, that his visions of the grave, the rotting corpse, the altar, were all true, and that he would be the one to put Indus there in the end. He let out a piteous keening noise of anguish and curled in on himself, desperate to hide form the horribly clear path that fate had put before him.
 
"for you must turn your heart to ice,”

He remembered with a shiver how cold he had felt after the muggle incident by the lakeside, how disconnected he had been from the world until Indus had breathed life back into his lungs, kissed warmth back into his body. Would he be cold forever, if Indus were gone? No, he could’t do it. He wouldn’t become a monster. The images of Indus dead, Indus dying, an Indus who looked up with hatred and hurt in his gaze, flashed across his mind’s eye in vividly horrific technicolour. He closed his eyes, hoping the visions would have mercy, would leave him alone with his thoughts for just a little while.

"Strength of mind for sacred bond,”

 He couldn’t do this, couldn’t raise a hand to harm his lover. Blood flashed through his head, a thickly flowing coalescence of magic and life painting his hands gaudily and feeding his power. He couldn’t distinguish between their magics anymore, could only moan as he absorbed the blood like a sponge, every crystalline droplet making him a little clearer of mind, a little less fragmented, until all the blood was gone, every molecule that made up Indus feeding the madness that had festered in his mind, slaking its thirst and allowing him to reassert control. He came back to himself, shaking and unable to believe what he had seen. He thought desperately about the way Indus looked when the evening sun caught him as he sat, sketching in the window or on the roof. He thought of how his face looked lost in the throes of pleasure, thought of all the wonderful things that he could do, that Gellert would miss if he were gone. No, the price was too high, and yet a cold part of him, the part that took control when things got bad, told him that he had no choice. Which did he value more? asked the voice, mocking him with it’s parody of a lover’s tender murmurs, “His mind or his heart?” 

"Life of a Lover, Sanities sacrifice.”

It echoed in his head like a funeral bell, though whose, he could not say.

Chapter Text

Gellert looked out of the window, listlessly starring at the cloudless blue sky hanging over the rooftops of Munich as his thoughts raced. He felt distant from his own hysterical thought process, as if viewing his whirling mind from the other side of a glass box, and couldn’t decide if it was him that was trapped in or his panic. The circular arguments that played out beyond the glass tore at him, the colour of blood seeping through to permeate the air and as he looked out unseeingly he felt something begin to crack inside him. Screams built in his throat, wordless horror caught up in the thorns of guilt that kept him silent, and he felt a tear roll from his eye, incapable of bringing a hand up to his face to wipe it away. He felt the beginnings of frost in his blood, a shiver running down his spine as he closed his eyes, desperate to force back the cold grip of fear.

The door to his room clattered loudly against the wall, pulling Gellert into the physical world once more, his mother smiled at him before she noticed the telling red rims around his eyes. She carefully walked over to the seat by the window and wrapped her arms around him, asking what was wrong in a soft tone. Gellert swallowed, tried to remember how to form words with lips that felt frozen, and paused. He couldn’t tell her the whole truth, he wouldn’t want to burden her, but perhaps he could tell her a little. “How would you make a decision if you had two bad options to choose between?” he asked, his voice small as he brought a hand up to tuck his hair behind one ear. “Well, I would decide which would be better in the long run. I believe that to really decide you have to look at how the decision will change your life. Why’d you ask Gel?” she said, her voice comforting.
“I just didn’t know, I don’t, I can’t—” Began Gellert, his voice fading away and letting silence reign once more. His mother seemed to understand, offering silent support and bringing him a square of Bathilda’s last culinary efforts. He attempted a smile and began to eat, picking up his arithmancy notes and looking over the ones on Linear Transformation again.

Numbers swirled before him glowing softly in the air, grounding in their clarity. He looked more closely at the general formula for animate-inanimate transfiguration, marvelling at the relatively simple three by three variable matrix that defined the spell. Nine Diophantic equations that could be manipulated to turn a living thing into a non-living one. It was fascinating, compelling in its beauty, and Gellert felt warmth threading back into his mind. Looking at the mathematics of transfiguration was absorbing, complicated enough to keep his mind fully distracted and yet no so complex that he got irritated, and he began to smile. The initial horror of what he had read was trapped behind a wall of equations that kept him distracted, he thought to himself, tapping his wand against the graphical representation of the generalised transfiguration to expand the three dimensional graph. He jotted down another note onto the parchment, frustrated that he had to represent his ideas in two dimensions, and then paused. Maybe he didn’t have to.

He pulled on his shoes, mind humming with a new idea, and went out in search of what he would need. Glass, he could get hold of quickly enough, he thought, and hefted the larger half of a broken brick in his right hand. The shattering sound of the plate glass window was immensely satisfying and Gellert picked up a large piece, carefully sanding down the edges with his magic before putting it into his satchel and taking flight. As he got to the corner of the street he heard an angry yell and sped up, blood rushing loudly in his ears as he ducked around another corner and slowed to a walk, trusting that anyone following him would lose him in the busy thoroughfare. Next he needed wooden picture frames, all the same size, with no glass in them, so he made his way through the muggle city to where he knew there was a framers. He knocked, walked in and politely asked for a five inch square frame in a dark wood tone, and was out of the shop with no more than a minute spent speaking to muggles. He had taken the frame cautiously, careful not to touch the thin muggle who had handed it to him for fear of another vision, and put it into his bag next to the stolen glass. He bought some string and four metal corner caps at a hardware shop on his way home, emptying his bag onto the floor of his room and wondering where to begin.

Tapping his picture frame, he vanished the glass and muttered “Plicamini” under his breath. One wooden square became six and he grinned, putting them together and slicing his pinky finger for blood. He called on the wood to remember, told it to fuse and grow and watched as it did, intricate magical patterns carving themselves into the wood as the six haphazard frames grew into one box shape. Carefully, Gellert enlarged it and placed the stolen glass into one of the sides and watched as it rippled, growing to fit the space perfectly and filling every face of the box with glass save the top one. He had his box now, and was sure that he could suspend a spell in there indefinitely. Trying a simple Accio, he directed it into the box. A shattering noise rent the air and Gellert swore bitterly, flicking his wand in a quick reparo and wondering why the box hadn’t worked. He sat back contemplatively, lost in thought, and then it hit him. He didn’t have a magical medium to suspend the spell in and the box wasn’t strong enough to hold a spell in stasis without one.

Gellert stood outside, warming his hands while he funnelled the smoke of a magical fire that he had started with Ashwinder eggs and his own blood into a conical flask from his potions equipment, well pleased that he had come up with a solution to his current problem. Hurrying back indoors, he released the smoke into the box he had created, willing a colour change charm from the grey of woodsmoke to a colourless vapour which would make the spell clearer. He carefully used a spell that would, if cast on a person, induce basic trust towards the caster, and watched as it hung in the centre of the box, motionless and ready for study. Cackling in glee, his mind free of everything beyond the object that he had just created, Gellert cast the charm that would impose a graphical representation onto a spell on his spell inside the box and began to play with his novel way of studying spells.

The illusion of cheer that Gellert had created for himself shattered when he walked down into the kitchen for dinner to find Indus sitting at the table. His good mood splintered and broke as he met the eyes of the boy he loved, feeling the weight of Cassandra’s burden settle back onto his shoulders as he sat down next to him. Though he couldn’t dredge up a real smile if his life depended on it, Gellert managed to straighten his spine and pull on a mask of joy, his laughter ringing hollow in his ears throughout the meal as he acted his way through the evening. Back in his room he relaxed a little, distracting himself by telling Indus about his spell suspending box, and he had his emotions mostly under control when Indus wrapped him in a hug from behind. He felt a tear slip down his face and hoped Indus couldn’t see it, sure that he would break down completely if Indus asked him what was wrong. Wiping his face, he turned and met Indus’ mouth with a searing kiss, hoping what he had thought of would prove enough to distract him from the diaries. When they broke apart Indus smiled and quirked an eyebrow. Gellert let his eyes meander downwards and he met Indus’ eyes with a half-lidded gaze of promise, throwing up a silencing ward with a flick of his fingers. “I want to forget everything.” he said.

When their lips met again it was a kiss that promised more, and Gellert tried to ignore the lines of prophecy that kept creeping back into his mind. “Life of a lover” the phrase echoed in his mind as he tasted the inside of Indus’ mouth and he closed his eyes, expression a strange mix of lust and pain, and he made a decision. Pulling Indus down onto the bed on top of him, he pulled the other boy close and unbuttoned his shirt feverishly as he put his mouth close to the other boy’s ear. “I want you to fuck me.” he said, blunt and dirty. Indus moaned and waisted no time, divesting them both of clothes and casting some sort of spell over two of his fingers. the feeling of something moving inside him was odd, and the stretch hurt a little but he could still think, and was a little disappointed by the feeling. Indus added another finger and went deeper, curling his fingers in an odd way that felt uncomfortable and then suddenly made Gellert see stars. “What,” he choked, “Was that?” Indus laughed and did the same thing, eliciting another moan from Gellert.

Gellert rapidly became accustomed to the strange sensation and lost track of time, his world narrowing down to sensation and allowing him to forget the words that had shattered his world. He felt something larger than two fingers at his entrance and shivered, half anticipatory, before he felt a stretch that made his vision white out for a second. Indus moaned as he went deeper, slow and careful, and Gellert half-laughed. He leaned up towards Indus, fixed him with a hazy glare and spoke. “I said fuck me.” His tone was a clear challenge, and Indus lost whatever restraint he had been clinging to. Gellert moaned loudly as Indus slid into him, his mind going pleasantly blank as he lost himself to sensation of being completely full. At some point Indus’ thrusts lost regularity and he reached around to bring Gellert off as he got close to finishing. Gellert met his pace and encouraged Indus to further efforts, half aborted sentences choked off by moans as Indus bit softly into his shoulder and licked the mark. Gellert felt his release building and closed his eyes, relishing in the pure physicality of the moment as he went over the edge. Unbeknownst the two of them, lightening rent the sky in a storm that had been building all evening, flashes of raw power throwing the dusk into bright light before disappearing with a rumble of thunder. Indus followed soon after and the two of them lay still, blissed out. Gellert smiled lazily, ignoring the slight ache, then registered the stickiness of the bed and themselves and shifted, uncomfortable. He snapped his fingers, muttering a quiet scourgify and relaxing into the freshly cleaned bed, the scent of sex lingering in the air despite the spell. Indus pulled him into a kiss, breaking apart to speak a few moment later. “Well that was new. Uh, did you—” He began, but Gellert had started laughing.
“Yeah, It was great.” He said, smiling and shaking out his hair, unknotting it with a through as he ran a hand through the bits that had become tangled when they were distracted. Indus pulled his hands away with a smile. “Don’t, sex hair’s a great look on you.” He said, voice saturated with lust once more. Gellert ignored him, sorting out his hair and smiling at the comment. He felt weightless, happy and relaxed in a post-coital state that made it impossible to feel too negative.

Sitting up, Gellert realised how hungry he was despite having had dinner earlier and made as if to get up. Indus pulled him back into an easy embrace with a disgruntled frown but Gellert wriggled free. “I’m hungry, so either let me get up to make some food or do it yourself.” he said testily. Indus raised an eyebrow and smirked.
“You’d think you’d be in a better mood after sex, but no. Fine, make your food. If you were planning to make me some I’d love you forever.” Gellert laughed and told him that he could make his own. “Hey, I did all the work, you can make a damn snack.” Said Indus and Gellert feigned an expression of deep offence.

In the kitchen Gellert found two biscuits and made coffee, taking all of it up to his room with a simple hover charm once the coffee pot had boiled. On the stairs his mother waylaid him with a knowing look and told him that under no circumstances was she cleaning his sheets. “I can’t believe you just said that Mum.” he said, slightly horrified that his mother was making jokes about his relationship. His mother just laughed and shook her head at him fondly before heading down to the kitchen. He had just shut the door to his room when he heard a yell. Laughing, he gave Indus the biscuits and coffee, sliding back into bed and wondering if there was a spell for removing knowledge from someone’s mind. He mulled it over and began to theorise out loud, however he was interrupted by Indus. “There is. It’s mind magic and the incantation is Obliviate, why?”
“I was just wondering how to make sure that my mother never makes another joke about sex.” He replied, Indus choking as he tried to swallow a gulp of coffee while breaking into helpless laughter.
“How’d you know the spell anyway?” asked Gellert, unable to hide his own laughter, and Indus described how earlier that summer his mother had found a muggle for him to practice the spell on, and how he was now quite proficient at it.
“I could teach you if you want.” Added Indus, prompting a smile from Gellert, and they talked the rest of the evening away before Gellert snuffed out their candles and they settled down to sleep.

That night Gellert dreamed of desperation, his limbs thrashing while he was trapped in the throes of a vision so vivid he was half-convinced that it was real. He felt the wet slide of an ornate ritual knife into flesh, saw the choked convulsions of a body that he loved as the blood drained away, taking life with it. The knife was in his hands now, pale crystalline blade stained red and the hilt a fusion of black stone and bleached white bone that seemed impervious to the red of blood, clean and cold in his hand. Eyes that had been a dull grey in death brightened into blue that looked up at him with love and wounds disappeared as another boy entirely held him close, but when they kissed Gellert tasted the metallic tang of blood and saw rushing green light which sickened him, though he couldn’t fathom why. The boy faded away into silver lines and he woke, red guilt streaming down his face from one eye as the other welled with real tears. Indus slept on, his face free of worry and Gellert slid out of the bed on silent feet, padding to the bathroom to clean his face and hoping that the warm water would calm his nerves and force the shaking in his hands to stop. He wouldn’t let it happen, he told himself, he could find some other way to lessen his visions.

The tail end of summer slid by in a rush and before Gellert could blink he had done his school shopping and was waving goodbye to his mother as he boarded the Lady Durm on September the first. Hurrying below decks he sought out Vinda and soon found her in the cabin that they had claimed as theirs over the years. “How are you?” he asked, nudging Cixi onto the seat next to him. Vinda smiled. “I’ve come to an accord with my family. I’m moving out at the end of this school year, into a flat in Paris which will fully payed for by my father, as long as I don’t cause a scene at any more high end functions that they drag me to where I have to pretend to be a part of the family.”
“How did you get them to agree to that?” asked Gellert, a little in awe of what Vinda had managed.
“Oh I found some evidence of fraudulent business deals, told my father I knew and that I’d told you so if he tried to obliviate me you’d go straight to the Goblins with what we knew. He was pretty compliant after that.” She said, flicking imaginary dust off her shoulders as she did so.
“Always glad to help.” He laughed, the sound a little hollow.
“You’re not ok, are you?” said Vinda, her smile fading as she picked up on his brittle state. He shook his head helplessly and gulped. “Vinda, what would you do if you had to choose between doing something terrible or suffering something equally as bad?” He asked, and Vinda looked at him, alarmed.
“Please don’t ask me to explain.” he added, and Vinda sighed, pushing aside her worry to answer his question as well as she could with the limited context she had.
“I would put myself first. If you don’t, there’s no guarantee anyone will. I would choose not to suffer.” She said, and Gellert hunched his shoulders as his best friend unknowingly echoed exactly what he didn’t want to hear, what he was most afraid of. She pulled him into a hug and held him as he shook, then started at a knock on the door. It was Indus.

Gellert pulled himself together and smiled at his lover as he levitated his luggage up to the rack above them. Greeting him with a kiss, Indus pulled away and pushed a strange box into his hands. “I thought, since you were interested in blood magic, that I would get you an appropriate gift.” said Indus, and Gellert took the box with a sinking feeling in his heart. He opened the lid and looked down, his worst fears confirmed when he saw the glittering opal blade from his visions lying innocently against the black velvet. The irony almost tore a cruel laugh from his throat but he pinned it down, not letting it past his lips to ruin the moment. He picked up the ritual knife and felt the cold handle of carved bone, the obsidian stones fused seamlessly into the grip that fit his hand perfectly. He tested the blade edge against his left forefinger and smiled a little as blood welled before the slight sting registered. He readied his wand heal the small cut but Indus took his hand and carefully sucked the cut clean, unwittingly painting his lips with red as he hollowed his cheeks in a way that could only be interpreted as lewd. Gellert laughed, a little broken as memories overwhelmed him. He pulled his hand back and met Indus in a kiss that tasted of his own blood. Indus deepened the kiss and it might have gone further had Vinda not reminded them of her presence sharply. Gellert felt a stinging hex hit him in the back and broke away from Indus with a laugh.
“If you two ever do anything like that in front of me again I’ll transfigure you into birds and set my cat on you.” She said calmly and Gellert laughed. Indus sent a playful stinging hex back and asked about the cat.
“I summoned my familiar this summer.” she said, and then, as if it had been waiting for a cue, a small cat poked it’s head out of her handbag. The creature was beautiful, with fur that started black and melted into tones of burnt toffee gold and brown as the light hit, and it fixed them with an unimpressed stare that was very reminiscent of Vinda herself. Cixi flapped down to join the cat and it hissed in fear before smelling the air and relaxing. Vinda laughed at it and turned to Gellert. “His name is Lamellar,” she began.
“Like the striped precious stone, right?” asked Gellert, and Vinda laughed, nodding.
“I should have known you’d know Gel.” she said, and Gellert agreed that it was always safest to assume that. Vinda cuffed him on the back of the head but he noticed that she didn’t deny his egotistical statement.

The first week back felt strange, with teachers throwing him concerned glances and asking the summer away had improved his health. Professor Mansuro had gone so far as to ask if he was well enough to take exams this year, and had been reassured to know that Gellert had created something arithmantically productive over the summer. He had written to the Arithmancer’s Almanack on Gellert’s behalf and given him a copy of the issue with his spell suspension box described within, at which Gellert smiled and joked that Durmstrang was ‘in the lead’ again, then explaining his one sided competition with the Hogwarts student who was being published in transfiguration circles. The professor had laughed heartily and told him about the muggle convention that was being whispered about. The unified decision of the mathematical community on which the most pressing unsolved problems of the day were, to be called The Millennium Problems. Gellert’s eyes lit up with interest and the Professor smiled, suggesting two books he could borrow from the library and jokingly asking him not to tell anyone that he was considering attending a muggle convention. Gellert frowned and agreed, the joke somewhat lost on him and unsure how he should respond, settling on a short laugh and a quick departure as the best course of action.

September seemed to flash past in a strange dream state where time ran past faster than water or congealed into a viscous nothingness that lasted forever. Gellert took notes and listened halfheartedly to the warnings about upcoming GZP’s from the teachers, unconcerned. Sleepless nights could no longer stave off the visions that plagued him, any moment when he closed his eyes could trap him in the future, and it took it’s toll. He grew thin, his eyes haunted under dark bags and red from the tears he couldn’t stop. The ides of September came and went, bringing some relief when he took the penultimate Grayswood twig. For a few days he felt a little more steady but it wore off faster that the others had and he had to resist taking the last one a week later. He would be sitting his BÄZTs in Arithmancy and Further Arithmancy at the end of the year, in which he was less sure he would do perfectly, so much of his time was spent playing with the many formulas it was required that he know for the two exams, and September seemed to coalesce into late October in the blink of an eye. Professor Mansuro had asked earlier that week if he was ok and he hadn’t known how to respond, the harsh answer written across his face even as he said “Of course Sir, why wouldn’t I be?” and turned to leave the class.

Samhain drew closer and Gellert found himself guiltily planning a ritual based on the clues the diary had given him when his mind drifted into a daydream before he snapped out of it, telling himself that he couldn’t even think about that. It wouldn’t help, he swore to himself, he could find another way, but whispered haunted him. “Tempus Fugit,” —time flies— and the prophecy that he couldn't seem to escape. Life of a Lover, Sanity’s Sacrifice. He tried no to think about it but sometimes he couldn’t distract himself, couldn't escape the pervading sense of helplessness that his visions brought him. The colder parts of him whispered that Indus would want to help him in any way he could, that he should see thing’s how Vinda did and put himself first. In the small hours of the morning he admitted to himself that he had no choice, only to be horrified again once dawn broke, unable to look himself in the eye in the mirror. The one thing that had distracted him during the summer now felt deeply wrong, with Indus flickering between living and dead as they lay together and causing Gellert to flinch as a corpse leant down to embrace him, only to see the hurt on Indus’ living face. Indus was so understanding, unwaveringly supportive, and it broke Gellert’s heart to see the hurt that danced mockingly in those grey eyes he loved so much, and to know he was it’s cause.

The eve of Samhain dawned and Gellert knew. In his heart he had known since he read those cursed words what he would do. They spent the day together, he and Indus, and Gellert felt crystal tears track down his face at the thought of losing the person he loved in something as bitter as a murder. His heart thudded in his ears, beating despite the shards of pain lancing through it from the fracturing love he felt. Indus didn’t question the cup of coffee he brought that evening, not thinking anything of the slightly sweet taste. The opium distillate should keep Indus asleep, Gellert had looked up natural soporifics and decided on that one, not wanting there to be a tangible betrayal and unable to bear the thought of Indus seeing what had to happen. He put his disillusionment charms in place and collected the things he would need, the ritual knife Indus had given him and the diary, for reference, as well as other things he thought might be necessary. Tears fell freely down his face as he made his way down to the lake as the light faded from the sky, walking around it until a copse of trees hid him from view. Cutting his finger, he traced a square into the granite beneath his feet and sank his dagger into the line, power flowing from him as he created his altar. He painted the stone slab with tears, runes forming where they puddled in the fissures in the rock, and waited for midnight.

As the witching hour approached he levitated Indus onto the stone altar and removed his clothes, tracing cold fingers along his familiar form and taking a last look at his breathing body. Steeling himself for what had to be done, Gellert wiped away his tears and took up the knife in one hand, beginning the chant that was written in the diary.
“Amans est vita mea, et non sacrificium. Sana animam meam, sanguis cordis in corde meo. ego enim dabo sanitatem reducamusme.”
It sounded like a song, lulling his conscience into sleep as he repeated it the required seven times, his limbs light and his mind clearer than it had been in what felt like forever. He brought the knife down, heartbeat slow as he began to cut down into Indus’ chest, feeling as if he was cutting out his own heart and offering it up to the alter of his sanity. Something touched his face and Gellert let out a small scream. It was Indus, awake. Gellert felt no resistance, just a hand threading through his hair. He began to cry, moved as if to remove the knife but Indus’ other hand held his own and pushed it deeper. Gellert looked into his beautiful grey eyes and flinched. What he saw there was worse than what his visions had shown him, darker than hatred and more terrible than sadness, because Indus looked into his eyes, into his soul, and forgave him. The weight of his gaze forced Gellert to lean down, to hear his last choked words.
“I understand, Gellert, I read the Diary.” he said, then strained up to kiss him one final time, muttering an “I love you.” that bubbled up from torn lungs with a mouthful of blood, then letting out a final sigh as the dagger took his life.

Power flooded Gellert’s veins as tears dripped down his face in a steady stream, his hands thrumming with magic and his mind sharply clear once more, his body glowing a bloody red as lightening of the same crimson shade cut the sky in two. Indus’ blood sank into him, glowing white before disappearing under his pale skin to slake the thirst of the madness that had almost consumed him. Golden sparks danced from dead lips to his own and forced their way down his throat, warming him despite the hard lump of ice in his chest that had formed around the fragments of his heart, and he let out a helpless cry of raw pain into the night. The whole lake seemed to hum with power as he watched the body of his lover decompose before him, the smell of accelerated rot inescapable despite the lashing winds of the storm he knew he had created. Soon even the bones, yellowed with age that was brought about by the magic of the ritual, had disintegrated into the air, clogging his lungs and choking his breathing, and the altar of black granite sank once more into the stone from where it had risen. He had done it. He was safe.

Rooted to the spot, Gellert stood in front of the black lake and watched as rain caused ripples in the deep lake that warped the reflection of the sky, the clouds finally releasing the breath they had been holding in a sudden storm of cold rain. Gellert stood there, his hair in matted twists slick with blood and rain as the sky cried in mourning, and as the initial power surge faded and a sense of feeling returned to his extremities he realised he was frozen to the bone. Hurrying back inside, he wiped his face furiously and made his way up the stairs and collapsed in his room. He went into the bathroom, flinching away from the reflection that looked at him with hollow and distant eyes. He splashed water over himself, then closed his eyes. Something had to change, he had changed. He couldn’t look into the mirror tomorrow and see the same thing he had seen tonight, he wouldn’t be able to cope. Almost without realising what he was doing, Gellert unsheathed the knife that was still red with Indus’ blood and hacked off a lump of his hair. Now with frenzied speed, he let a fistful of blond tresses fall to the tiled floor and reached up to his head to cut again. Hair fell in curling ribbons from his head, the gold pooling on the floor as his blade flashed, carelessly close to the flesh of his ear. Hair gone, Gellert let the knife fall from his hands and clatter to the floor, beginning to cry once more. He looked up at his reflection, seeing a stranger in the mirror and moving back. He fell into the bed, it’s sheets cold and barren feeling without Indus, and was asleep in moments.

The following morning Gellert woke from a sleep that wasn’t plagued with visions, feeling well rested and at ease. He lay for a blissful few minutes, just breathing and feeling the soft sheets against his skin, revelling in waking up without having to deal with a bloodied pillow and haunting visions before the events of last night came crashing back down on him. Vinda burst in on him as he sat up, shirtless and shivering in the sudden draft and gasped. “Gellert what happened to your hair?” He snorted and replied that he had felt like a change. “No there’s something else, you loved your hair.”
“Vinda please,” he said quietly, “I couldn’t look at myself. It’s done now.” Her features softened from their shrewd considering expression into something closer to worry and she put an arm around him.
“Gellert you’re freezing, and too thin. I noticed you’d lost weight but not like this, What happened?” Asked Vinda, and Gellert looked up with hollowed eyes. “I’m sorry.” He said, eyes distant, and Vinda scowled at him.
“Gellert Grindelwald tell me what’s wrong right now or I swear to merlin I’ll get Indus to leave you in the cold for a week.” She said, voice stern. Gellert laughed, a hollow sound that grated on his ears and rattled unnaturally in his throat.
“Indus is gone.”
“What do you mean?” She asked, voice afraid. Gellert looked up into her eyes and recited the words he had read in the diary, Cassandra’s burden, his voice cracking as he stumbled over the word lover. Vinda looked a little shaken, and had been on the verge of backing away when she remembered the words of the strange bookseller in London. “When the time comes and the truth splinters you all, he will need you.” She swallowed her sorrow and smiled at the fragile boy in front of her, a sudden surge of pity and protectiveness forcing her to pull Gellert into a crushing hug.

They didn’t attend class that day, instead camping out in Vinda’s room, and the two of them had migrated to the bathroom to, as Vinda put it, mitigate the damage. “I think I could neaten up your hair, make it a little longer if you wanted.” offered Vinda, standing behind him in the bathroom connected to her room. Gellert began to shake his head but looked again at face in the mirror, gaunt and angular, almost unrecognisable without the blond waves to soften out the hard edges of his face.
“Perhaps a little. Just down to my ears.” he conceded, and Vinda performed the charm, judging the appropriate length by eye and smiling, pleased with the results. He looked odd, no curtain of blond to hide his sharply calculating gaze, and nothing hiding how deep the hollows under his eyes were, but it fit his current mood and Vinda smiled when something close to joy began to dance in his eyes as he flicked his hair out of his eyes and sat down on her bed to read. Out of the corner of his eye, Gellert watched Vinda closely to see if she was really as forgiving of him as she seemed and was honestly surprised when she relaxed next to him, seeming unconcerned by the fact that he had just murdered his lover. He felt cold, but something had changed, he no longer felt afraid of the frost curling around his heart, he had made his peace with the cold side of himself. Sometimes a conscience could get in the way of things, and he was glad in a twisted way that he could turn off his guilt and succumb to the ever encroaching tendrils of frost.

He sat back and felt a tear fall down his face unbidden, but felt separate from his grief as if it were happening to another person entirely, and closed his eyes, visualising the animate-animate transformation matrix as a distraction and wondering how far it could be stretched in terms of changing physical size. Could an extension charm be incorporated? he wondered, or Would the transfiguration simply require more power? He jotted down a note onto his left arm reminding himself to follow up with that research later, marvelling a little at how clear his thoughts were. He hadn’t realised how much of his mental power had gone into keeping his visions at bay and ignoring his exhaustion until it was no longer necessary to do so. He had been in massive amounts of pain, and despite the gaping hole that he had been forced to tear himself, he was feeling better than he had in months. He was more in touch with his magic, the simplest spells requiring far less effort on his part and his wandless magic suddenly more powerful. He snapped his fingers, conjuring a flame that danced green and lilac, just starring into the fire and revealing in how much he could sense about the magic.

Venturing out to get some lunch from the kitchens, they made their way downstairs, though this proved to be a mistake. Upon entering the strange room where walls were treated like floors and everything was propped at an unlikely angle, they were met by a solitary sprite who glowed dimly in the near darkness of the room. “Hello?” Gellert tried, and the little thing pulsed and glowed more brightly, spinning towards him. “You have given us power, boy of evil, and we are free.” It said, before disappearing with a crash and The room began to fold in on its self, the door shrinking as the two of them escaped. “What was that?” asked Vinda, rattled and concerned.
“The power surge from my ritual must have freed them from their spell. They were tied to the castle you know. I found them in first year, with Indus.” he said, voice cracking as he said the name. Vinda looked suddenly angry, scowling so fiercely that it prompted a question from Gellert. “Why so angry Vinds?” He asked.
“You’re not a boy of evil. You had to choose between your mind and Indus, and I think you made the choice he would have wanted.” She said, voice snappish and matter of fact. Gellert smiled, eyes sad, and they returned to the refuge of her room, and the sanctuary they had built for themselves.

Chapter Text

Gellert and Vinda were sitting in the great hall with everyone else at lunch the following day when the doors shattered into smithereens. Standing in the doorway were an aged crone, two men and two women, a little girl and a boy of about ten, all with the dark hair and imposing stare of the Black family. The teachers scrambled up, several drawing wands as the headmaster walked placatingly forwards. The hall was totally silent in the aftermath of the dramatic arrival, and when Indus’ uncle spoke his voice carried clearly across the hall. “My nephew is dead. Why?” The words hung in the air, dark with promise even as the woman Gellert didn’t recognise, Indus’ mother, began to cry. Whispers flew across the hall and many turned to stare at him and Vinda, knowing that they had been close to the Scion of the Black family. Gellert looked over the heads of the curious students unseeingly, vision full of the red lightning of his ritual and the sickening feeling of Indus’ hand on top of his own, driving the dagger deeper into his own flesh, and he was vaguely aware that he was crying openly. He only registered the stares of the people around him when he and Vinda were being hurried out of the room at the Black Matriarch’s request.

“Gellert, I’m sorry that you found out this way.” Said Cassiopeia, Indus’ mother who he had heard so much about but never met. “I know what the two of you meant to each other.” She held a delicate black lace handkerchief up to her face, dabbing away tears carefully and Laying a cold hand on his shoulder as he broke down, shaking in silent sobs while Vinda looked on, lower lip trembling. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” muttered Gellert, his constant litany of apologies choked by tears, and he felt the hand on his shoulder turn his body towards Cassiopeia.
“Listen to me closely, because in another life I would have one day called you son. This is not your fault.” She said, her voice low and warm despite the loss she was going through. “Indus wouldn’t have wanted you to blame yourself.”
Gellert swallowed back a helpless confession, the taste of it poisonous as it stuck in his throat, caught in thorns of grief and guilt, and he took the offered black lace handkerchief from Cassiopeia, not knowing what else he could do. He felt a small hand pat him on the arm and looked up, meeting the soulful eyes of the little girl, Indus’ youngest cousin Aquila, who had been so fascinated by his hair the summer he had visited. He attempted a watery smile for the little girl and it was then that it began to truly sink in. Indus wasn’t just gone for him. He had ripped apart this family, torn out the best of them and changed the line of succession. He had stolen a son’s life, ruined the hopes of a family and he was sitting here next to them, comforted by the very people he had hurt. A feeling of all-encompassing wrongness began to crawl through him. He was crying, surrounded by the family of the boy he had murdered, trying to comfort them.

No, he closed his eyes and set his jaw. He had lost Indus too, he deserved this. However it had happened, there was a hole in the world that would affect them all. The space that Indus should have filled would stay with him forever, and he knew that if he admitted what he had done he would die. The Black family may have had their family politics but they would turn on him in a unified force that not even his prodigious skill could hope to face. He wiped his eyes and returned the hug delicately, a shuddering hand on Cassiopeia’s back as she leant into him for support. Listening to the room around him, he heard Vinda ask how they had found out, her voice cracking with misery as she searched for something other than the crushing loss they all felt to focus on. Phineas began to explain the magically updating family tree tapestry that covered a wall of Grimmauld place and Gellert listened closely, any distraction from the terrible cocktail of guilt and sorrow roaring through his veins a welcome one.

The Black family turned as one to face the door as the headmaster walked in, grey faced and wild eyed. “Have you an explanation?” asked Indus’ father in a grave tone. The poor headmaster shifted from foot to foot, expression hovering somewhere between fear and guilt.
“Not currently.” he replied, almost backing away at the thunderous expressions of the Blacks, too preoccupied to notice the flicker of relief that crossed Gellert’s face before he pushed the feeling back behind the all too real curtains of his grief. Gellert shrank back and felt Aquila clutch his hand as the terrible wrath of a grieving mother was unleashed.
“If you are under the impression that this is the end of the discussion you are sorely mistaken. No child of ours will ever grace your halls again, and no breath will grace your lungs if you do not find those responsible, as they will be on display in the family manor. Arcturus is rather interested in human anatomy at the moment, aren’t you darling?” The ten year only boy nodded dutifully and Gellert smiled despite himself, the action so very reminiscent of Indus that he could almost hear his laughter in the creaking wind that rattled the tall shuttered windows on the back wall of the room they were in. The headmaster shook like a leaf in a gale and glanced nervously towards the door, an action that didn’t go unnoticed by the little girl still clinging to Gellert’s sleeves, who let out a watery attempt at high pitched laughter.
“Madam this is the only school in Europe that focuses on Martial magic, and with England’s new laws a family of your persuasions simply can’t attend Hogwarts. Their curriculum is insufficient, I assure you. This tragedy is a smear on the school’s good name, but the future of your family still lies here, I feel sure of it.” He said, sweat rolling down his face despite the chill. Cassiopeia threw her head back and laughed, a harsh grating sound that echoed with an empty joyless cruelty.
“You verminous little squib. You think that you could say anything that would change things now? Our son is dead. You cannot bring him back to us, and you dare stand there and tell us about the future of this family. You have killed the scion of the ancient and most noble house of black, already had a negative impact on the family’s future. You insignificant little man, as if we would trust you with any more heirs of the line.” Her frame heaving with rage and sadness, she sat back down heavily, the strength of her rage flooding out of her with a single tear that tracked down her face. Ursula was the first one to throw a curse, and then all hell broke loose. The twisted magic of the dark curses being thrown electrified the air as the grieving of the darkest pureblood line in Europe was writ in bloody vengeance in the flesh of the man they had deemed responsible.

Professor Mansuro was the one to stop the fight, neither pleading or defending, but pointing his wand at Gellert. The unique and rather unpleasant feeling of being summoned brought a scowl to his face even as the space where he had stood a mere moment before was crossed by a beam of sickly yellow light. Gellert was spun around to face the battle and felt the press of a wand to his temple. “Stop.” yelled the teacher he held in highest esteem, and Gellert realised that he’d identified Gellert himself as the Black Family’s weak point. There was a tense moment where Gellert was sure that the five adults would continue on the warpath they had started regardless of his precarious position, and then Cassiopeia spoke, tone disgusted and eyes accusing.
“And we thought you could sink no lower. To use a child, an innocent. I don’t know why I’m surprised, given the death of my only son, but I had wrongly assumed that there was still something like honour among the educators of the future generation.” she said. “Gellert, there will always be a place for you in our halls, should you need it. Don’t move yet my boy, you never know what this type of person might do, but I’ll write to the board of governors to remove this despot from his post with haste.” she continued, her tone full of cold malice, then in the blink of an eye all seven members of the Black family were sweeping out of the room, the tell-tale soft green firelight signalling their departure.

The professor relaxed his hold on Gellert and he spun, eyes coldly fearful despite the clear logic behind the action. “I’m sorry about that, but it was the—” began his teacher, and Gellert nodded, interrupting.
“The fastest way to stop them without loss of life and limb. Happy to be of use sir.” He finished, Professor Mansuro smiling at him and shaking his head with fond pride.
“Should have known you’d be quick on the update with battle strategy too Grindelwald.” He said, ruffling Gellert’s shorn hair in an odd gesture of affection. and despite the circumstances Gellert smiled back, the adrenaline that was still coursing through his system from the fight lighting his eyes with a fire that bordered on mania. He had never seen an all-out duel before, never watched a fight where lives hung in the balance, and through the layers of ice that caked his heart in a frosty grip, it began to feel again. It had been the most alive he had ever felt, standing there as curses flew and dark magic ripped through the air, singing with a twisted power that still saturated every breath Gellert took, and he wanted to feel that again. Smoothing his face into something more acceptable and hoping that Professor Mansuro hadn’t seen his expression, he felt Vinda move closer to him, grabbing his arm as if to make sure he was still there. The room echoed with silence, broken only by the slowing breaths of the teachers, and Gellert had to hide another smirk when he spotted the resident healer rapidly muttering Tergeo after Tergeo while undoing whatever curse had hit the headmaster. In the quiet of the aftermath, He and Vinda backed out of the room, succeeding in their attempt at an unnoticed departure.

For the next few days things returned largely to normal, though Gellert had almost broken down in tears in charms when he had turned to make a snide remark about the teacher’s latest blunder to Indus, only to find an empty seat where he should have been, a sharp pain in his chest throbbing as if he had been opened up, his ribs broken to get at the heart within, as tears choked the simple witticism that had been on the edge of his tongue. He hunched his shoulders and turned back to the work, unaware of the aura of misery he was projecting which infected those nearest him and seemed to cloud the very air with a palpable sense of loss. Days faded past, Gellert lost in a strange state where everything seemed to vibrate with a mournful despondence and yet glow with a crystalline clarity that he attributed to the ritual. It comforted him that Indus hadn’t died in vain, the shadows under his eyes that had so worried his late lover disappearing as he caught up on months of interrupted sleep and fear induced insomnia. Weeks faded into a month, Cixi’s condemning glare softening as she saw how he was quickly mending, and when she put her softly feathered head against him it felt like a kind of absolution.

In early December he received a very stilted letter from Cassiopeia and Pollux Black, formally inviting him to their Yule celebrations, but Gellert knew that he wouldn’t be able to bear the misery of a holiday spent with a household in mourning, and politely declined. The tone of their next letter carried a distinct air of relief, Gellert wondering briefly if he was is some way a reminder of everything that they had lost, and he offered to return the mirror set that Indus had gifted him despite the very large part of him that argued that they were too valuable to merely return like a barely skimmed library book. The family refused to accept any gifts back despite their value, stating firmly that it was what Indus would have wanted, and though the terribly tender statement brought more than a tear to Gellert’s eye part of him let out a sigh of relief, fiercely possessive over the magical artefacts in question. The end of term tests were no problem, the answers dripping from his pen with a newfound ease as his mind focused, hyper-clear on the task at hand. He still could’t believe how much of his mental energy had gone into desperately blocking out his visions, and he breezed through all of the tests with even more ease that usual, walking out of the exam hall with a broad smile on more than one occasion.

Boarding the Lady Durm was acutely painful, Gellert walking to their usual cabin and feeling a sudden wave of sadness when he realised with a lurch that there would be no side-splitting mindless laughter on his journey home this time, no soft kisses stolen when they were alone, no soft hands running through what was left of his hair as the boat rolled in the deep currents of the under-sea. He sat down, curled in on himself in his misery, thumbing the velvet case of the mirror set, seeking some kind of comfort from the familiar texture. The boat trip seemed long, an interminable silence broken only by the quiet turn of pages, Vinda reading and locked behind a stony facade of calm. They both got off the boat in Munich, Gellert charming all of their luggage effortlessly with a thought as they walked out into the long corridor below decks, not even bothering to lift his wand for the simple enchantment. Vinda smiled at him, her book tucked under an arm, and gave him a one armed hug with her free hand, silent understanding and shared sorrow offered in the gesture. His mother looked deeply worried, her hands twisting in their leather gloves, eyes frightened until she saw that the two of them were safe.

Yule was a quiet affair, Gellert receiving books and notebooks for the most part, as well as an unfinished painting of him and Indus that Ursula had found in his room in The Manor. Gellert’s face and hair had been painted in great detail, as had their clasped hands and the folds of Indus’ shirt, though the other boy’s face had only been painted in with a wash, the pencil lines that had formed the shape still visible through the watercolour paint, and the drawn Gellert’s robes were unfinished, a sleeve sketched in lightly and a tie suggested by a few haphazard lines about his throat. He hadn’t known what it would be when he opened it, and the stark reminder of what he had destroyed had reduced him to quiet sobs, and he found himself wrapped in his mother’s arms, hushed and comforted as if her were still a child. Though the gift had been kindly meant it left his mood low and regretful, and even Vinda had only drawn a small smile from him in the late evening. Though the yule log still sent tingles of seasonal power rushing through his blood, he couldn’t fully enjoy the celebration of the winter solstice, lost in memories of a boy whose eyes captured winter without any of the frozen harshness, the beautiful grey forever sparkling with warmth.

In the evening, after the Yule celebrations had ended at long last, Gellert stayed up, a finger tracing mindless patterns in the condensation that had pearled, cold, on the frozen window. Struck by an introspective train of thought, Gellert opened the window, breathing in the refreshing cold of winter’s longest night and let his mind wander down paths he would rather avoid. He had done something terrible, had bled Indus out over an alter to save himself. He closed his eyes, guilt pricking at them, but he had had no choice. A tide of madness had almost pushed him over the edge, his only hope an iced heart, the sacrifice of love for sanity. He would miss Indus forever, he felt as if he had lost part of his life, but a quiet voice, growing louder in the small hours of the morning, shouted that he was getting better. He had put on much of the weight he had lost, had shot up almost a full head, now taller than both Vinda and his mother by quite a bit, and he could sleep at night, unafraid of a rest tormented by the future. He had lost so much, had given so much, but part of him that demanded recognition argued that he would do it again if he had to. He sighed, his breath blooming grey in the cold winter of his room, and let himself feel the terrible wave of emotion that he had left unacknowledged since Samhain. Relief. He could deny it no longer. A part of his life had died that night, his innocence taking its last breath as Indus’ lungs rattled in and out for a final time, but he knew in his heart of hearts that he would do it all again if he had to. He was free of the seer’s curse, free of Cassandra’s Burden, free of madness. In the cold darkness of the night Gellert smiled, his face hidden from the world. When the first greys of dawn began to creep into the sky, he made his way to bed and slept deeply.

For the first time in months he dreamed, summer’s sticky heat slicking his hair to his brow. In the dream he flicked it out of his eyes and a part of him wondered when he was, if it was still short enough to merely graze his shoulders. Was he in the near future? he wondered, but soon he was swept up in emotion, no room left in his head for thoughts of when and how. He heard laughter that sparked something bright in his chest, felt a hand in his and heard someone say his name with a tone that rested between lust and awe, kindness and excitement. Turning, he caught a glimpse of russet hair that gleamed with copper and gold strands in the summer sun, blue eyes that seemed to go one forever, sparkling and alight with some strange emotion that Gellert felt sure he was responsible for. Before he could get a look at the face behind the brilliant blue eyes, the figure faded into smoke and silver lines, Gellert rising out of the fog and waking up. Reflexively he put a hand to his face to wipe away the blood he knew would be there, shocked when he found dry skin. Wearily he touched his eye, expecting lancing pain and feelingly only a slight tingle, and wondered if he had just had a dream. He sat up and looked around him, a strange glow lighting the room that seemed to emanate from his right eye. Suddenly wide awake, he began to realise that he had just had a painless, bloodless vision. Gellert let a beaming smile appear on his face, closing his eyes for a moment in silent contemplation before he grabbed the well worn notebook from under his bed that he had written visions in before they had become so common that it was impractical to do so. He had been worried, he realised, that he had lost his seer sight for good, but the sweat of a summer’s day not yet lived belied his worries as just that; irrational fears, and he carefully wrote down a description of everything that he had seen and felt. As he was writing a description of the figure he paused, then let out an inarticulate noise of realisation. That red hair in Diagon Alley, this was where he had known it from. No wonder Vinda hadn’t recognised the man, he wasn’t someone who Gellert knew, it was someone from his future. The notebook fell open at a different page and he glanced down, seeing another description of blue eyes. Flicking through the thick notebook he scanned the cramped handwriting for other references to blue eyes, eyes widening in surprise as he realised that they had haunted his dreams for as long as he had been writing them down. Gellert let the notebook fall to the floor in his shock, hands loose and eyes still wide. How had he not put it together before? How had he missed this obvious pattern? He shook his head in bemused horror at his own lack of observation, and then pulled on a smile as his mother burst into the room, Vinda hot on her heels.

“What happened?” Asked Vinda, eyes flashing with worry. “We heard a yell.”
“Remember the redhead I was sure we knew from somewhere?” He said instead of answering the question. Vinda nodded, pursing her lips in disapproval as she remembered the endless complaints she had had to suffer about going to the apothecary. “We don’t know him—” he began, interrupted by Vinda’s impatient reply.
“I know, and funnily enough I remember saying that at the time, not that you believed me.”
“No, well actually yes, but my point is, we don’t know him yet.” he said, and watched as Vinda made the leap. “But I have seen him before. He’s from my visions.”
She smirked, Gellert able to read the dirty joke on her face before she opened her mouth to say it. His mother coughed, demanding an explanation, and together they recounted the moment of last summer when they had encountered a stranger who was nothing short of eerily familiar to Gellert and completely unknown to Vinda. When his mother had left the room to make them all a much needed pot of coffee, he had beckoned Vinda closer. “That’s not all. I was rereading the notebook of my visions, and he’s everywhere. Blue eyes, right as far back as I can remember.” He hissed. Vinda quirked a suggestive eyebrow, opened her mouth to make an undoubtedly mean joke, and Gellert stopped her. “No seriously, he’s important, I can tell.” he said, realising quite how obsessive he sounded and wryly joining Vinda in her lighthearted laughter. “Whoever your mystery man is, he’s put a smile on your face for the first time in months and I’m glad to see it.” She said. Gellert hugged her tightly, trying to convey his thanks and affection without words, eternally grateful that he had become friends with such a capable and fantastic witch.

The holidays seemed to melt, his new books devoured at top speed as he read avidly, the outside world forgotten as he absorbed the new information like a sponge. They were at school again before Gellert had had the chance to visit the One Of Three, something he regretted as he had been going to ask what a reoccurring vision could mean, but on the whole he was glad to be back. Though he still sometimes had to sleep in his chair, the bed too full of memories, no room to move when on every side memories of he and Indus pressed close around him, suffocating, he was improving, moving even further ahead of his peers, and it had been decided that he would take the rest of his BÄZTs a year early, condensing his two year courses into just a year and allowing him to pursue avenues of research that were entirely his own during his seventh year.

Everything ran smoothly for most of January and he was preparing to take his end of year exams in March, allowing him to start his BÄZT courses a few months early, when he overheard a conversation that shattered his incremental progress, sending him into a tailspin of rage. “It’s not as if he had many friends here. Just that weird group of fifth years, so why all the teachers care so much I can’t really understand.” Said a boy, his voice pitched low, but still loud enough for Gellert to hear. His blood ran hot and red descended over his vision, but he was aware enough to hear the reply. 
“Well his family was influential, no?” Said another boy, his german rough and likely the result of a badly applied translator charm. Gellert snapped. To hear Indus reduced to a family name and an afterthought was too much to bear, and he had sent the first curse before he’s properly registered what was going on. The group of sixth years turned to see who had thrown the spell and then relaxed when they saw that he was on his own, sharing a few smiles and drawing their wands. Gellert felt his jaw lock, casting silent spells that grew steadily darker in nature. Deliciously painful magic curled through the air as Gellert thought the words “Rukeret Dermis.” and watched as the five sixth years began to scream. He smiled, cold and cruel, conjuring salt with a muttered word and levitating it into the wounds caused by his skin peeling curse before he turned on his heal and walked calmly towards his Arithmancy class. Part of him, the part that delighted in a debate and thrived on conflict, was slightly disappointed that they group were so below par when it came to duelling. He longed for the addictive adrenaline rush of a duel where lives hung in the balance and the very air rippled with raw power but the bumbling idiots hadn’t even landed one shot. He sighed, partly disappointed by the general lack of talent he was surrounded by, partly hurt by the comments of the five figures that were moaning on the floor behind him.

He arrived in the Arithmancy classroom, empty of any people save himself and Professor Mansuro, throwing his bag haphazardly onto the desk he always sat at and pulling back the chair with a little too much force. “How are we today Grindelwald? Feeling confident for your exams?” He asked, and Gellert smiled. “I’m doing very well sir, though I have to admit that I’m struggling a little with the some of the applications of the Arithmancer Fermat’s little theorem. It’s fascinating what he did with transfiguration but I’m a little lost when it comes to it’s applications in ingredient harvesting. Why does that work?” He asked, voice smooth and measured, taking careful notes of the professor’s answer before the rest of the class began to filter in. Half way through a very interesting worksheet on the applications of Fermat’s little theorem, three first years burst into the room. “Is there a Gellert Grindelwald here?” One asked, and when he nodded uncertainly they fell over themselves to tell him that he had been called to the headmasters office. He smiled, a little bemused but unconcerned, and followed the chattering first years up to the office. They were all very talkative, making Gellert wonder if he had ever been quite as loud as this with his friends, conceding that he had probably been much worse, and spared a half-feigned smile for them as they pushed him on front of the office door and scampered off.
Gellert walked in, disorientated by the whiplash inducing expression change he had had to perform as he adjusted his demeanour to the mood of the room. He had walked in expecting to talk about his early exams and perhaps discuss his research topics for seventh year a little, and was instead faced with a panel of teachers facing him sternly, holding an ominous piece of paper. “Grindelwald, a group of five sixth years claim that they were attacked in the north corridor, and that you used magic meant specifically to injure with no provocation. What have you to say for yourself.” Said the headmaster, a frown marring his usually expressionless visage. “I contest none but one of those points.” began Gellert, only to be interrupted in the build up to what would have been a deeply moving speech about his recent loss and the stress he was feeling due to his extra exam load. The charms teacher spoke with a smug expression, sanctimonious smile firmly in place as he spoke. “So you admit to grievously bodily injuring five other students for no reason?”
“As I was saying, I had a very justifiable reason for starting the fight.” he said, sending a blank look at his most irksome professor that did nothing to disguise his hatred. “They were insulting the memory of Indus Black, and as I was very close to him, I’m afraid that, momentarily overcome by my grief, I acted rashly.” “Rash?” asked the headmaster, his question cold. “You half killed a group of students a year older than you, reportedly without a single verbal spell.” Gellert sighed inaudibly and rolled his eyes internally, outwardly ashamed and apologetic. “As this is a first offence,” began the headmaster, though a few members of staff shot him dark looks that suggested their disapproval of this course of action, “And you have early exams to revise for, you will be let off with a warning, but if anything like this happens again I’m afraid that we will have no choice but to expel you.” He finished, and Gellert shivered at the strange finality in his voice. He had never been in a situation he couldn't argue his way out of before, and the feeling was disconcerting to say the least.
That evening Gellert stood on the roof above the staff room, eavesdropping, and he exhaled a shuddering breath of relief that he had as he overheard the teachers arguing. “We shouldn’t even be considering that as an option. He’s a child.” Said Professor Mansuro, angry, and cold, and Gellert felt his blood thudding in his ears, knowing he was the topic of conversation. It was the Duelling professor who replied.
“All I know is that I’ve never taught a fifth year class that kind of magic, it’s not right to learn curses that harmful at his age. It’s hard enough to believe that he could manage it magically, but I don’t want to think about the kind of mindset a child needs to have, to think that that skin peeler curse is acceptable for a playground scrap.” Someone sighed deeply, and a coffee pot began to bubble. Gellert inched closer to the edge of the roof, not wanting to miss any of the important conversation going on beneath him. Professor Mansuro continued to defend him, but it was in the face of an unfair number of his teachers that the arithmancer argued. Could none of them see his side of the story. The charms teacher was most outspoken, and as Gellert strained his ears to hear more, the professor spoke again. “What baffles me is that no one else is considering the obvious.” there was a murmur of questions as to his meaning and he spoke again. “No one else is considering the idea that there’s a pattern.”
“What do you mean a pattern? He’s got a perfect academic record.” replied the duelling professor, and Gellert had to smile at that. “He blew up at poor Violet about that damn plant he killed and then he was rewarded for it. He constantly gets his own way around here, he has inherently destructive magic and everyone is ignoring the fact that he is the most likely suspect in regards to Indus Black’s death. We need to dose him with Veritaserum.” the charm’s professor said, his voice rising as he spoke until it finished in what was almost a yell. Gellert’s blood ran cold, a freezing fear overcoming his rational thoughts and locking his muscles where he was crouched above the room. He was deaf to the responses from beneath him, able only to hear the pounding fear and adrenaline that rushed through his bloodstream, swaying in place as his thoughts raced, trying to figure out a way to save himself.

He needed to go to the library. He had to learn everything there was to know about Veritaserum in the next few hours, find or develop a way of beating the potion and then actually do it before that vile Charms teacher could implement his dastardly suggestion. With a plan in mind Gellert forced his muscles to unlock, the ice cold state of his mind providing him with a strange sense of clarity despite his panic. Down in his room he took out the piece of parchment Vinda had given him that would copy his words down onto her piece, wrote a quick note telling her to meet him by the entrance to the school. He started to walk towards the library, then realised the potential problems with his library record showing that he was looking into Veritaserum and went directly out to the main entrance of the building to await Vinda. He greeted her and shook his head at her questions, pointing out into the misty evening and walking away from the building. “I didn’t want to be overheard. Vinda they know, the charms teacher thinks I killed Indus, and they’re going to give me Veritaserum to prove it.” He said, his words falling over each other in a cascade of panic
“Gellert that’s six different kinds of illegal. They need parental consent, as you're a minor, and they still have to warn you about it before you ingest it unless it is under the authorisation of a magical government. You can avoid this.” said Vinda, alarmed. Gellert looked at her in wonder, suddenly remembering the shelf of law books in her room.
“But what if they get it? Is there any way I could beat the potion?” he replied, still shaken but more confident.
“Not that I know of, but if anyone could create a way of doing it would be you.” she said, and Gellert deflated, his blood still ice, but reassured somewhat by Vinda’s confidence. He sent a post owl with a letter to his mother and a request for some books on Veritaserum, suggesting that he needed it for his potions BÄZT that evening and was much mollified about the whole situation when he went to bed.

Weeks passed and soon March was upon him, his GZPs passing in a flurry of questions that he barely needed to think about to answer right. He took his BÄZTs in Arithmancy and Further Arithmancy, the tests forcing him to work a little, but he walked out of the exam hall at the end of the final exam, happy. There had been one or two questions he was uncertain on, however he felt that he had done well overall. After his last exam, Gellert felt a wave of relief, happy that the pressure was now off and more importantly that he hadn’t seen any evidence of the teachers making any attempts to drug him with veritaserum. Vinda was getting steadily more stressed for her own GZPs, pestering Gellert for revision materials and exam technique expertise, and he offered coffee, advice and the occasional slice of cake, as was needed. The first time he had ventured down to the kitchens he had been nervous, then extremely befuddled, as he was greeted not by prisoner spirits unwillingly bound to the school but small humanoids that seemed mentally incapable of the understanding concept of personal freedom. He had been deeply confused on several levels but had taken the offered chocolate eclairs along with the coffee, making his way back up to Vinda’s room and asking her what the creatures were. She had let out a peal of laughter and begun to explain the roles of a house elf. “No, that’s not what I meant. What are they? Are they products of magic? Breeding? A Curse?" He asked, his voice rising, much to the amusement of his friend. "Are they demons, enchanted statues? Elves? I’m a little more than confused here Vinds.” He finished, but she merely shrugged in reply and told him that she had bigger things to worry about, dragging him into another revision session on the six known uses of dragons blood, its extraction and the way it’s different uses were affected by the harvesting processes.

It was mid May when Professor Mansuro walked up to him in the library with a grave expression. “Could you come to my office?” He said, and Gellert followed, bemused. When they were both seated in the professor’s office, he spoke again, vice low and angry. “Grindelwald I’m going to tell you something I shouldn’t. There’s been some talk of giving you Veritaserum, because certain members of the faculty believe that you may have had a hand in the death of Indus Black. Now I know full well that you’ve done nothing, but they argue that no one else had motive and my word isn’t enough. You’ve some enemies among the teachers wether you know it or not.” He said, and Gellert blinked up at him, unsure how to respond and forgetting to react as if surprised. “You already knew?” said the arithmancer, and Gellert nodded shortly. Professor Mansuro shook his head and laughed a little, before offering Gellert coffee and a biscuit. Gellert narrowed his eyes, asking wryly if there was Veritaserum in the drink, and the professor laughed openly. “Grindelwald, I wouldn’t be the only one here if there was.” Gellert returned his smile, then had an interesting idea. He had recently been reading a book on trust, and the inner workings of the wizard mind, which suggested that trust could be earned by giving someone a sense of becoming close to you. He decided to try out one of the basic techniques suggested, and looked his Professor in the eye as he spoke, trying to discern the reaction his words prompted.
“Sir, I think it’s past time you were calling me Gellert, after all I am your favourite student.” he said, finishing with a smile designed to look warm. Professor Mansuro laughed and agreed, something in his voice suggesting relief, and Gellert knew that it had worked.

A week went by and nothing happened, though Gellert now tested every meal that he ate to check for Veritaserum before he took a mouthful. Vinda had pointed out that it would be a futile action, as he hadn’t found an antidote, but he rationalised it by replying that at least he would have some warning. At the end of the day, just after his warding lesson, he found Professor Mansuro waiting for him, solemn and silent, and he knew. Led up winding stairs once more to the headmasters office, he tried to control his breathing, tried to keep the icy tendrils of fear and helplessness at bay, but found himself sinking under a tidal wave of crystalline ice, lost to the winter inside himself and coldly aware of his surroundings. Every footstep felt like a bell tolling his fate, and his heartbeat remained slow and steady, all sense of rising panic locked behind walls of ice that his mind hid behind, trembling. He hadn’t registered that they had walked into the room, but he was directed into a chair, and heard himself greet the teachers in a polite tone, as if from a distance. He felt his lips form the shape of mindless pleasantries, then forced his arm to take the proffered cup of water, knowing full well what it contained. The ice in his mind shuddered, threatened to crack as external magic tried to compel him into admitting the horrible truth, and then he realised what was happening. The ice, the clear coldly logical side of him that he was swept into in bad situations, had interfered somehow, with the potions effects.
“State your name.” said the headmaster.
“Gellert Grindelwald.” he replied.
“What is the date?”
“May the fourteenth, 1898.” He said, wondering why they had bothered with this. The charms professor spoke, sating that he had proved sound of mind, and that the questions could commence, before walking into Gellert’s line of sight and asking him what had caused him to start his fight with the sixth years. “They were saying horrible things about Indus Black, a close friend.” he said, the potion in his blood encouraging him to speak further, but he resisted, and remained silent.
“Ah yes, Indus Black. You say the two of you were close, and we saw as much while he was alive.” said the charms professor, his voice loud in Gellert’s ears as he poured more of his concentration into resisting the potion’s effects. “Did you kill him?” said the professor, and Gellert drew in a shuddering breath before he spoke.

Though he tried to force himself to give a firm denial, he found that he couldn't manage to throw off the potion’s effects that far. Instead, after a moment’s pause, he replied. “How could you even ask me that?” Feeling the potion pulling at him to speak again, he choked through a sob and continued. “I loved him. Indus and I were in love, he meant everything to me. How can you stand there accusing me of ending the life of someone so close to my heart?”
At this Professor Mansuro smiled, Gellert catching the expression when he turned his head minutely to the right, but the Charms professor snarled and repeated the question.
“Did you murder your fellow student Indus Black, of the House of Black?” The potion began to become painful in his veins, the liquid threatening to successfully loosen his tongue more with every second, and Gellert scrambled for an answer, his mind in disarray as the compulsion of the potion grew stronger. He drew breath, felt the air rattle in his lungs like a death sentence, and knew that he would speak the truth as soon as he exhaled. Suddenly, he found himself visualising a book on Etymology and semantics that he had read a few years before, and in the depths of his mind he began to smile. When he spoke, it was with confidence. “No.” The teachers breathed out as one, the suspense of the moment sucked from the air by a single syllable. Gellert sat there, expressionless, congratulating himself on the brilliant loophole he had found. After all, he hadn't murdered Indus, he had sacrificed him, an entirely different action. Murder suggested a causeless crime, and Indus was nothing of the kind. He had been a sacrifice, a payment, and a death, but Gellert would never have taken his life if he had had any other choice, so he breathed out shakily and let the shards of ice around his mind melt into the warmth of relief.

As he walked out of the room, his blank face hiding a smile of sheer relief, he crowed silently about his success and made his way to Vinda’s room to tell her about his experience. Flinging open the window in his room later that evening, he crawled out onto the roof and climbed up to the slates above his room. He stayed up there until the last golden ray of the summer sun had faded from the sky, and the stars were clear pinpricks of cold light in the velvet of the night. His ear length hair was tossed into his eyes by the light breeze and he sat in the rapidly cooling night air, simply looking out over the shadowy landscape and breathing deeply, allowing himself to feel the full weight of the narrow escape he had just managed.

Chapter Text

The barn owl beat a hasty retreat after dropping the letter, hunted by an eager Cixi, but Gellert pulled at the familiar bond, giving the owl the chance it needed to escape her clutches, watching as it flew into the clouds, carrying his exited response back to Germany. His mother had had a promotion and to celebrate they would be spending a week in Athens when school ended for the summer, and he had written back immediately, writing spiky with excitement as he thought of all of the things he could see in a place as magically significant as Greece. He smiled to himself and sat down on the edge of his bed, knee bouncing with excess energy, and opened his well thumbed copy of “Souleficae, A Study In The Unexplored.” Intending to reread the chapter on Cirtitus’ theories of the soul, Gellert had no sooner opened the book to the right page than he felt the strangely hot glow of his right eye begin and the silver saturation of his sight that warned of a vision fast approaching.

In his mind he found himself somewhere where the sky seemed to last forever, a burning blue that somehow scorned the suggestion of a cloud’s existence, and he saw the land dropping away from him in a rugged cliff face that overshadowed a strange forest. He felt hot, the sweat dripping down his neck in unpleasant rivulets, but he turned as if compelled to face the sun. Standing in the heat, he swayed on his feet as runes ignited, the noon rays beating down upon them relentlessly and causing rippling torrents of magic to swirl around him. As if in a dream he stood, carved a triangle into the floor and slashed the throat of the muggle at his feet. The triangle filled with blood and began to rise, a door bourn of sacrificial magic which would let him in, he hoped. He felt a familiar magic beat through him, the four-four of his heartbeat rushing in the air around him as he put a hand on the blood door and forced it open, his blood singing with the power he possessed. He was filled with a strange sense of accomplishment, swept up in a manic glee that brought laughter bubbling to his lips in sheer joy. He turned, saw a pyramid and woke woke with a gasp.

At some point in the future he would find the Aztec Citadel, he thought to himself, or something very like it, and Gellert grinned, the sweat soaked clothes he was wearing scratchy against his skin as he made for the notebook detailing his visions. Sighing in disgust, Gellert went to the bathroom quickly and charmed his tub to fill with a fast auguamenti before getting in, a quick cleaning charm removing the sweat from his clothes as he sank into the hot water. He detested warm weather, and though he smiled again at the thought of studying Aztec warding systems, he couldn’t help but wonder just how much of his life was going to be spent in hot places, and how he could avoid the terrible curse of hot weather while it happened. After scrubbing away the sweat conjured by his vision and the grime of day to day life, Gellert cast a cleaning charm at the water and relaxed with his book, making a mental note to update his notebook when he was dry once more.

As summer arrived in full force Gellert felt the pressure of his accelerated academic course for the first time, unused to having to try at his schoolwork to do well. He was doing BÄZTs in alchemy, transfiguration, healing, duelling, history and Ritual Magic, and despite his best efforts he was struggling. He had to make notes in class, complete all of his essays and exam question papers, review what he had already learnt and still find time to read the tarot for his visions and decide his seventh year research topics. To say that he was stressed would be an understatement, but despite all of it he could always rely on the fact that he was healthy once more, his mind clear and his magic reliable. Vinda stopped by often, though as both of them had to study it happened far less than usual, and he had entirely neglected Irina in the mess of exams and his courses, so when he bumped into the crying figure of his friend in the library he did a double take and sat down, asking her what was wrong. “Gellert, I miss him.” She said, the book around her forgotten as she sighed. Gellert flinched, unprepared for the reminder of what he had done and feeling the needles of guilt in his gut once more.
“I’ve lost my best friend this year, and you and Vinda forgot all about me because the two of you are so very close.” She said, her Russian soft and sad as she hunched her shoulders. Gellert sighed, not knowing how to spin his actions into something that didn’t look like apathy.
“I’m sorry Irina.” he began, keeping his latest psychology book in mind as he approached the problem from an academic viewpoint. “I always forgot that he and you were so close. We all lost someone important last year, and I think of everyone, the two of us were hit the hardest.” The words tasted bitter on his tongue but Gellert ignored their flavour, giving Irina a comforting hug and asking if she’d like to spend some time with him and Vinda over the weekend.

Weeks seemed to drag past at an infuriatingly slow rate, the summer a distant dream as Gellert was bogged down in steadily increasing volumes of work, but he woke one morning to find that they only had a few days remaining of the school year, surprised how fast the holiday had crept up on him. Soon enough he was making his way onto the Lady Durm and then out into the summer sun in Munich where his mother was waiting. She looked happy and Gellert smiled, struck by how small she seemed. She greeted him with a hug and a “Merlin look at you, you’re tall now.” Gellert laughed, realising that it was true. He had grown over that last six months, shooting up again until he stood at almost five foot nine but it had been an inconsequential and gradual change, and in the midst of lively debates and endless studying it had slipped past him. They had soon boarded a train into the city proper and Gellert listened avidly as his mother recounted the last few months in Munich, smiling as she described Bathilda’s letters. She was reportedly incensed by the continuing family drama of her neighbours, and how often the eldest son and his mother clashed, sending an angry letter to the two of them in Germany about the impossibilities of writing a book when the people next door were yelling loud enough to rattle her windows. Gellert was in stitches by the time they alighted, and the two of them continued to catch up as they hauled his luggage through the bustling streets towards home.

Ducking through the door of the One Of Three’s shop the following day, Gellert greeted the creature and turned to close the door behind him, noticing with a start the dust clouds that were thrown up into the air from the floor by the sudden motion were gleaming a brilliant gold in the slanting sunlight. “I felt your ritual Lordling.” it said, and Gellert’s face crumpled at the finality in the creature’s tone. “You misunderstand me. I’m glad to see you healthy once again, lordling, because you have solidified what is to come into bold strokes, red on the canvas and blue fire in your soul. Will you set the phoenix free, I wonder, or will he remain bound by self imposed chains?” Gellert surreptitiously wrote ‘release a phoenix?’ on his arm, pulling the sleeve down and asking the One Of Three if it knew what a reoccurring vision could mean. “Little Lord I’ve answered that question already today, but did you listen? We shall see.” replied the thing, throat rattling in laughter when he sent a glare in it’s direction. Gellert bid the One Of Three as pleasant a goodbye as he could manage and left the shop in a huff, turning towards the exit into Muggle Munich before he paused, span on his heel and headed for the clothiers on the corner.

“Have you got anything with permanent cooling charms stitched in?” He asked, and the girl behind the counter directed him to the rack of lightweight summer shirts in question. He nodded at her thankfully and began considering his options, comparing the cut of two white shirts.
“You should go for the one with the Blue detailing, it would look really good on you.” Said a voice and Gellert looked up, both affronted and surprised, realising that the shop girl had hung around by the shirt rack to give her unwanted opinions. Gellert looked at her a little coldly and went back to his silent appraisal of the shirts, considering a peach coloured one that came with a dark grey pinstriped tie. A voice that reminded him eerily of Vinda suggested just getting all three of the shirts in question and he made a split second decision to go with the idea. The girl smiled at him strangely, both a little nervous and vaguely hopeful, though about what, Gellert couldn’t say. He handed over the shirts for her to remove the spell tagging each collar as shop property, briefly touching the girl’s hands as she took them and then the puzzle clicked into place. She thought he was attractive. Despite his twinge of nausea at the thoughts that her expression invoked, Gellert returned the smile and as she withdrew her hand to ring up his total he made as if to take her hand once more. She met his eye, looking up at him through her lashes and he smiled, softening his expression into one of reciprocative interest as she told him the price. He pulled out the money he would need for two of the three shirts and then made a big show of patting down his other pockets to see if he had other change. Making sure to look apologetic, he offered her what he had and spoke. “I don’t have quite enough, so I’m just going to go for two of them after all.” He looked down and regretfully picked up the peach one to return it to the rail with a sigh. “The two white shirt more more sense really,” He added, but he felt a hand on his upper arm and turned. The girl grinned conspiratorially and tugged him back to the counter.
“I tell you what, you pay for the plain white one and the peach one and I’ll throw in the one with the blue for free.” She said, and Gellert smiled internally. His ploy had worked like a charm, and he gave himself a mental pat on the back before looking her in the eye again, filling his gaze with a shimmering mix of gratitude and interest.
“I couldn’t possibly,”
“No you must, really.” she replied, and he leant in too close towards her for his own personal comfort.
“You’re too kind.” He breathed, eyes flickering down towards her lips in a mockery of attraction before he packed all three shirts into his bag and left without another word, containing his laughter until he was almost at the exit of the magical district, then breaking into a cackling mess as he thought about how easy it had all been.

He nodded briefly to the stone dragon and hurried towards home, gleeful smile still firmly fixed in place when he reached the front door. His mother opened it, greeting him with a smile that grew more suspicious as she took in the shopping bag in his hands and his self satisfied expression. “What’ve you been up to Gellert? That’s your sneaky smile.” she asked, ruffling his hair and taking a look at his shirts. “Oh I just got really good deal on the shirts, that’s all.” His mother scoffed and walked into the kitchen. Gellert followed reluctantly, hopeful that the conversation would end there, but his mother sat down, poured herself a cup of coffee and raised an eyebrow. “I’m waiting for the rest of that tale.” She said, and Gellert broke into an open smirk before explaining. His mother threw her head back in laughter, shaking her head fondly. “Oh to be young. There’s nothing that can stop you.” she said, and the evening melted by in the warmth of laughter, loudly tumbling through the conversation on a cool summer evening. Just as he was going to bed a letter shot through the floo, Vinda’s hand clear on the envelope. Opening it, he grinned and grabbed a piece of parchment to reply that of course he would come to see her flat in Paris the next day, and padded next door to tell his mother the plan before getting into bed at long last, a smile on his face as he faded into sleep thinking about how masterfully Vinda had engineered getting her own flat from a father that resented her.

The next day he took great care to dress well, remembering Vinda’s sharp eye for detail, and decided to wear the peach coloured shirt he had bought the day before, pairing it with a charcoal waistcoat and plain trousers that he thought Vinda would approve of. With one final glance in the mirror he decided that he would ask Vinda to grow his hair out a little more, as it was at an awkward length currently, but there was nothing he could do about that now and so he headed through the fire place, calling out the dress she had written out for him. He spun for an uncomfortable few seconds amid whirling green flames and shot out of the fireplace at the other end, almost tripping over a traveling case as he tried to step into the room. Vinda popped her head around the door and nodded, then did a double take.
“When did you get good at appearances?” She said, and he smiled, knowing that it was a far cry from the faded jumper of yesteryear. “Since you started giving impromptu lectures on colour pallets and styles Vinda, I do actually value your advice.” He said, the feigned waspish tone of his voice somewhat ruined by the smile dancing in his eyes.

The apartment was beautiful, Vinda’s good taste clear in the forest green curtains and pink accents that decorated the main room, and a nosey peek into her bedroom suggested that the colour scheme was just as tasteful, with deep blue and a rich sunset orange featuring along side dark wood shelves and wardrobe. After asking Vinda to perform the hair growth charm Gellert felt a lot better, happy with the elegant cut she had done for him. It was kept short at the back, the top allowed to grow out a little more until the riot of curls was manageable once more, and they both thought it a big improvement on the previous attempt. Gellert had a look into the kitchen shortly after that, wondering if a talent with potions translated into cooking, but soon they returned to the main room and sat down, Gellert summoning a pot of coffee as Vinda lit a cigarette, the elegant cigarette holder something she must have bought recently. It was carved as if a tiny dragon was wrapped around it, the cigarette held in the open jaws of the silver dragon in a manner that suggested the dragon was breathing smoke, and Gellert was fascinated. Vinda noticed and smiled. “I just got it on the Porte de Montreuil Market. We could go today if you wanted to look for something like this.” She said and Gellert ready agreed.

The market was truly stunning. They had walked through a muggle graveyard to a grave with a tall robed figure statue standing at the head and ducked under the curtain of ivy that hid the magical market, descending down a set of stone steps into darkness. The stair had spiralled to reveal a hollow stone courtyard complete with exquisitely carved stone trees and flowers, and Gellert was entranced. “It’s the birthplace of the magical arts, every great magical painter or sculptor comes here to train and then to sell their wears. It’s even said that to see the workshops it to see the creation of true beauty.” Gellert was fascinated, eyes fixed on the ceiling’s improbable architecture and the microscopically detailed carvings of every tree. With a start he realised that the petrified forest was holding up the roof, each tall maple or pine strategically placed to increase both the beauty and stability of the great hallowed hall beneath the city. “The apprentices live in halls close here, and they are expected to craft something magically unique if they are ever to become master craftsmen.”
“How do you know all this?” said Gellert, and Vinda replied in an entirely fake affronted tone that he was not the only one who read books. Gellert laughed, the sound echoing upwards into the endless domes of cool stone high above their heads and drawing a few disapproving glares from other patrons. Gellert quickly found a sculptor to ask if the statues he made were carved in three dimensions or in two, then brought into the third dimension by revolving the area to get a volume. “No, we carve straight into three dimensions. Am I right in thinking that you are an arithmancer?” Asked the sculptor, to which Gellert nodded. “That’s not actually possible, it’s only been done mathematically. We can’t warm the two dimensioned source that far without significant amounts of sheer magical force and it’s impractical.” the man continued, and Gellert found himself saying, quite without meaning to, that the arithmancy behind sculpting with the magic of ‘volume of revolution’ was more beautiful than any end product you could make with it, and then having to apologise. Vinda diffused the situation, dragging Gellert away with loud complaints until they were out of ear shot of the man.
“I know, I know, you can’t take me anywhere.” said Gellert, and Vinda elbowed him.
“That’s right, you’re impossible. Now play nice with the others and find something interesting to buy.”
“You’ve never played nice in your entire life.” muttered Gellert, but as he spoke a strange stall caught his eye, and he walked away just in time to escape another elbow to the ribs.

The stall was filled with bowls of all shapes and sizes, some filled with a liquid that appeared to be water, and some empty, but they all swirled with powerful magic and one in particular seemed familiar to him. “What are they?” he asked the woman. “The bowl is called a pensieve, and it—” she began, but Gellert interrupted.
“Stores memories, I know.” Closing his eyes, he saw a flash, the strange headmaster’s office and the swirling memory of his face in the pool, the same pool he had just seen on the stall, and he quickly payed for the thing, compelled to do so by something deeply instinctual, the urge rooted at the base of his spine and uncompromising. The pensieve he had chosen was a wide circle, shallow and smooth, the curve arithmantically perfect, crafted from some pale stone that shone and reflected arcing lines of light around the bottom of the bowl. “A very good choice, that's a hand grown White Abalone laevigata shell, they are practically indestructible and beautiful too. You’ve an eye for value, boy.” said the woman, and named her price. Gellert had been sent into a coughing fit, surprised at the high price and forced himself to regretfully decline when he felt a tap at his shoulder. Turing to see Vinda, he shook his head but she had already pulled out a handful of Galleons and payed the difference for him with a smile. Gellert felt slightly bad about not being able to pay for it himself but he was so fixated on the magical object he had just obtained that his muttered apology was halfhearted at best. Vinda shook her head and grinned.
“It’s my father’s money we’re spending here, so I don’t mind in the slightest.” she replied, and Gellert met her smile with one of his own.

Back at her flat, Gellert opened the little booklet about maintenance and use of the pensieve, and was soon wishing that he had asked the woman at the stall more questions. Why did it have to be stored the right way up? What was the purpose of leaving it in direct moonlight on every full moon? Why did it have to be cleaned with the precise combination of herbs that it did? Why did those herbs have to be conjured, not picked? His head was awash with questions as he stared into the pale bowl that could hold his memories. Vinda handed him a cup of tea, bringing him out of his reverie and making him smile. “So you do secretly like tea. I knew it.” he exclaimed, and Vinda shot him a dark look.
“And if I do? What of it.” she said, her voice heavy with threat.
“Then I’ll offer you nothing else whenever you're at my place.” he said, and jumped up to avoid an elbow, tea perfectly balanced in his left hand, wand in his right pointed at Vinda as if in rage. She laughed and then caught sight of the time, the imposing mahogany grandfather clock behind him displaying half past nine in the evening.
“Gellert you may have to go, your mother will be wondering where you are by now.” She said, and Gellert span around to see the time. With a yelp, he downed the cup of tea in one, scalding his tongue but not pausing as he picked up his pensieve and flung floo powder into the grate, yelling his home address before jumping through the green fire towards home.

Tumbling through the fireplace, he jumped up and ran to the kitchen where his mother and uncle were sitting. “Where’ve you been? we already packed our things, and you’ll need to pack yours this evening, because there’s no time tomorrow. We’re getting the nine-thirteen floo connection to Athens.” Said his mother, and Gellert explained in a rush before jetting off upstairs to pack his bags. He was only going for a few days so the reasoned that he wouldn’t need his school trunk, instead pulling out a cracked leather suitcase that he had found on a market the year before and loved. He put in his vision notebook, a few others, his pens and the book on soul magic that he was re-reading. He put his last bag of galleons into one corner, then shrank down a few arithmancy books and a greek dictionary before adding them. He flung a few pairs of trousers in, finally adding all three of his new shirts, careful not to fold them in a way that would crease. Pulling on a night shirt, Gellert made his way back downstairs to make himself a sandwich and found himself in the middle of a lighthearted argument between his mother and uncle. “We never go to Russia, Gellert should get to see his cousins again.” Said his mother, but his uncle argued that he himself hadn’t seen Bathilda in ages, and didn’t want to lose touch with her. “Gellert, where would you like to go for yule this year?” asked his mother, and Gellert froze.
“I don’t really mind, I’d be happy to do either.” he said, sloping off with the chicken and lettuce sandwich he had hurriedly thrown together before they could pull a proper answer out of him.

The Greek sun was scorchingly hot, Gellert thankful that he was wearing one of the shirts with cooling charms as they looked around with a fascinated air. Walking through the streets of pale stone, cracking in the heat, Gellert and his family made their way to The Parthenon, a historical site of magical importance. In their attack on the then almost entirely wizarding city, the Romans had sacked the temple, built with magic on the sacred ground that had been used for rituals for centuries, and thought that they had successfully carried the figurehead away. The Athena Parthenos was kept under the strongest wards known to the Greek mages who had completed them and reportedly could only be seen if you had a talisman of the right symbol, Gellert read as they walked along, the guidebook an interesting read, though it was in English. As they made their way towards the legendary ruins, Gellert guided them through the arch that would allow them to see past the glamour put in place for the muggles and walked through. He blinked in awe, the soaring pillars now carved with alchemical symbols that he recognised from some of his more esoteric books on the subject. Cixi flapped off his arm to investigate something in the eves of the great structure, wing beats discomforted in the extreme heat despite the cooling charm Gellert had cast for her. Agreeing to meet his mother and uncle in three hours, Gellert walked purposefully towards the stone acropolis alone.

Eager to begin, Gellert set off towards the magnificent temple and was soon looking up in awe at the grandest statue he had ever seen. It was Athena, the sword at her waist, wand and book in hand while the shield of legend was slung across her back. Goddess of wisdom and war, she was a figure that Gellert looked up to, and he snapped a quick square into the air, taking a magical photograph and pouring it into a piece of parchment immediately as well as onto a page in his latest notebook. A tap on the shoulder forced him to spin, wand already in his hand as he turned to face his attacker, but it was a confused greying man with glasses that he faced, and he lowered his wand apologetically. In the spit second where his wand was lowered, it was taken from him with an expelliarmus that threatened to throw him off balance, and Gellert glared, furious. The man who had his wand spoke in rapid-fire Greek, then sighed and switched to French. “What are you doing. How did you get through the wards around the Parthenos?” He asked, voice dark, and then blinked in shock as Gellert wrenched his wand back, the raw magic he used overpowered and crackling with energy. Gellert smiled, eyes glittering as he felt his wand in his hand once more, and replied.
“I didn’t know I had. Maybe your wards aren’t as good a you think they are.” He replied, still rattled that the man had disarmed him with a mere first year spell and too anxious to feign good manners. The man scowled and flicked his wand once more, but Gellert was prepared this time and the spell he was attacked with bounced of Gellert’s modified Euler shield.
“What are you?” asked the man, eyeing him wearily. Gellert bristled, anger roaring in his ears at being termed a thing as he readied his wand to send a curse, then smiled and lowered his wand.
“You’re going to leave me alone.” he said, confidence dripping from his lips.
“And why is that?” asked the man, half afraid of the answer.
“Because if you don’t leave me alone in the next ten seconds I’m going to blow up the parthenos.” Replied Gellert, hoping his threat would work, as he would never go through with destroying something so historically significant. As he had predicted, with his wand pointing to the statue the man backed off, melting into the shadows. Gellert walked up to the statue, admiring, and lost all sense of time, caught up in the beauty of the craft.

A creeping sense of being watched came over Gellert and he clutched his wand tightly, his naturally destructive magic building under his skin in the hope of a fight. Adrenaline coursed through his bloodstream and he let himself revel in the feeling of it for a moment, then turned quickly and came face to face with two women, cloaked in grey. “Who are you?” He asked and the taller of the two threw off her hood. “Rena look, his eyes.” Gellert narrowed his eyes, disliking the way the two women were speaking as if he weren’t there. The other woman gasped and then broke into a smile. “The catalyst.” She said, and the two women shared a knowing look.
“What are you talking about.” he said, wand raised threateningly. The women laughed and the one called Rena gestured placatingly, then began to speak.
“Peace, Warlord, for we mean no harm. You are written of you know, here in the temple of your patron goddess: ‘War and Wisdom walks the world with a black and silver stare.’ and here you are.” She said, and Gellert felt a smile tug at his lips. “Today I seek nothing but knowledge.” He said, and the other woman laughed.
“And yet, you ready yourself for battle even now,” she said. “You gave Octavius a right scare threatening him earlier. You deserve your titles.”
“What titles?” he asked, but she merely gave him an infuriating smile and they left him alone in the temple once more. Gellert growled. It seemed that anyone he met that had any knowledge at all would not reveal their secrets to him. Other than his professors, not a single adult that he had met would answer his questions. If he was written about, he needed to know what was said, and neither the One Of Three nor anyone else would give him a straight answer. Magic crackled in his blood, angry and desperate to lash out, so he made his way out of the temple and into the open air. He closed his eyes, breathing deep as he tried desperately to regulate the rush of magic dancing at his fingertips.

He felt a drop of rain on his brow and looked up, shocked to see a storm over his head. His magic leapt and swirled, calling down lightning and joyously rushing upwards to meet the storm that Gellert suspected that he had inadvertently created. Cixi landed on his shoulder with a thud and let out a screech of joy at the rapidly cooling air around them, and they walked off to find Gellert’s mother. As they walked Gellert began to appreciate the size of the storm he had created, the black clouds and heavy rain darkening the sky over the hill and part of the city, but fading into the sunny day he remembered over the Northern parts of Athens. Back in the guest house they were staying in, Gellert swapped storied with his mother, editing his to seem slightly less eventful, and then decided to send his photo of the parthenos to Vinda with a more accurate description of what his day had entailed. Signing his name, he wondered how he could get it to her when Cixi snatched it up in her beak, sending him a mental image of cold snows and making it clear that she would drop the letter to Vinda on her way north. Gellert scratched her neck affectionately and opened his small window to let her out into the warm night air.

That evening Gellert curled up after a delicious Greek meal to sleep, too warm in his night clothes but unable to sleep totally uncovered. When sleep finally came, Gellert saw himself driving a staff into the ground, calling for a blessing, and smoke rolled in waves from where he had struck the stone beneath him, coalesced into the crest of an owl in flight that shuddered into reality and dropped a feather at his feet. He reached down and picked it up, feeling the pure power of the magic that had formed the creature pass to him as he pulled it through the top button hole of his waistcoat. Gellert felt himself grit his teeth, muscles tense and heart pumping adrenaline through his system, bringing him a sense of peace despite the danger he knew lucked in the day to come. He felt his mouth curl into a wide smile and apperated away, falling through the void between Here and There for what seemed like an eternity before he appeared in another city entirely. Gellert woke with too much energy to simply go back to sleep, the pure adrenaline still forcing his blood around his body at twice the normal rate. Instead he opened the window and looked down. He wasn’t too far from the ground, and the roof was only a few feet above him. With a deep breath Gellert stood on the wide ledge beneath his window, ignoring the flower pot that slipped off as he stood, shattering below him on the cobbles. He gripped the top of the wood shutter for balance, then put his foot on it and reached up for the edge of the roof. He pulled himself up into the world of slates and chimneys, stars and street lamps, waiting for the dawn and staring across the unlit city, the pale stone and desert sand all blue and grey without the sun, the dark green leaves of olive trees black silhouettes against the night. He smiled, caught up in the beauty of a sleeping city that was not his own, and leant against a chimney, content to simply look and listen to this strange world of ochre and terracotta in the quiet moments before dawn, where everything was lost to the monochrome of the night.

The rest of the week in Greece passed at a tremendous pace, the days melting by as they looked at different feats of architectural splendour and discovered more about the magical society of both ancient and modern Greece. Gellert bought an excellent book on geometry and its influence in early greek magic as well as one describing the cult of Pythagoras in great detail, and when they went to the Aegean Sea he spent much of the journey reading, so absorbed in his books that he had to be pulled bodily off the bus they were on when they got there. He had had no response from Vinda, who he missed a lot, but he accepted her lack of reply as she had no idea where he was, as he had realised after sending his letter with Cixi that he had given no return address. Cixi herself was happy, wherever she was it was cold and there was plenty of prey, which Gellert was viscerally aware of because his heart sometimes thudded with the thrill of a chase, the satisfaction of a kill, despite he himself doing nothing physical. He often did the spell that would produce a still image of a scene, his notebook full of crystal clear miniaturisations of the fantastic grandeur of the city they were staying in. When they had to pack, headed back to Germany the following day, Gellert bought three more books and then had to shrink them, jamming the lid of his case shut and hoping the latches would hold.

When the three of them opened the door, his mother screamed and Gellert pulled out his wand, but the thing that had caused such a violent reaction was no one but Bathilda, the unexpectedness of her being in their living room a shock for Gellert’s mother. Bathilda cackled, then calmed down as she explained why she was there. “It’s the Dumbledores.” She said, a sigh heavy on her lips. “The who?” asked Gellert, wondering why the name sparked an oddly strong feeling in his chest.
“My neighbours. Now I’m well aware that the teenage years are difficult enough for any parent, but there is a limit to how much shouting I can live with. Honestly the house is as silent as the grave for ten months a year, then they make up for it by having raging arguments for the whole summer. The two brothers fight a fair amount but it’s the eldest son and the mother who get the loudest. They yell constantly.” She said, eyes flashing in irritation.
“Now I don’t like to speak ill of anyone,” she continued, smoothly ignoring Gellert’s snort of disbelief, “But that woman is a horror.” Gellert’s uncle came back into the room with four cups of tea and they had just settle down when Vinda popped through the fireplace and blinked owlishly at them. “Oh. You’re back.” She said, and Gellert began to laugh.
“Have you been coming over without me here?” He asked, laughing, but it was Bathilda who answered.
“The two of us have been enjoying your hospitality, and Vinda has actually saved me a lot of time on my book. The french ministry is always rather unfriendly when I do research over there and Vinda provided me with the opportunity to do some first class sneaking.” Gellert laughed uproariously.
“Look at that Vinda, I always maintained that you were the favourite child and now we have the proof.” He said.
“Gellert, I’m not related to you.” She said , tone dry, and Gellert had been about to reply when his mother gasped.
“Oh no, Vinda darling how did you find out you were adopted? We were going to tell you when you turned seventeen.” This time everyone broke into laughter, and the evening passed by in a haze of warmth, Gellert happy to be home.

The rest of the summer passed in a blur of sunny days spent with Vinda and Bathilda, who had taken to writing her book in the sunlit woods close by the house while the two teenagers ran rampant through muggle Munich, pulling pranks on unsuspecting muggles and the odd witch or wizard who passed by. Gellert also spent a few weeks reading his way through the seventh year books on the courses he was taking, making sure he would be ready for the accelerated course that would put him with the seventh years for every class in the coming academic year. He was sure that he could do this, and his GZP results had arrived, only further proving his brilliance. He had received a H* on everything except charms and Herbology, in which he had got two H grades respectively. His arithmancy results had also arrived, a week later due to the different level of exam he had taken, and the two H* grades had put a smile on his face that was impossible to dim.

The night before he and Vinda returned to school, he dreamed of rage, the red mist of sheer fury descending over his vision. “We have no choice Grindelwald, you were warned.” echoed a voice, and Gellert felt himself push through a mass of people to the east wall. “You have made a grave a mistake. I will be remembered.” He yelled, the noise pulled from his throat as he carved the symbol of the hallows into a wall, each side of the triangle ten feet long, fleeing into the night with nothing but his rage, trunks soaring down from a tower to meet him as he blasted the gates to smithereens and stepped through their remains. He woke in a cold sweat, hearing a roll of thunder as he came back to himself, deeply confused. After writing down his vision, he pulled out his tarot cards, but the strange pattern merely confused him further. What could The Hermit crossed with The Emperor possibly have to do with The Lover’s in the future? He couldn’t hazard a guess, and in the end just noted down the pattern and attempted to get back to sleep, knowing full well that if he had none he would hardly make a good impression on the seventh years tomorrow.

Chapter Text

The boat ride was uneventful, the crossing smooth as Gellert read his was through his latest book on curses and counter curses and stroked Vinda’s familiar Lamellar, who had decided that it would be sleeping on him for the entire journey, and much like its human counterpart, wouldn’t brook any disagreements from him. He scratched the creature behind an ear and Lamellar allowed it, throat rumbling in a deep purr before he unsheathed one set of claws and began kneading Gellert’s leg viciously. Vinda had seen what was happening but merely laughed at Gellert’s mild discomfort and went back to her own book, a thick tome on familiar magic.

As Gellert walked into the seventh year transfiguration class after his double lesson in healing, many of the other students broke out into confused muttering, and Gellert took the available seat next to a short and pretty wizard with a sly smile and a tightly curling afro which was shot through with streaks of bone white. The morning had been difficult, even after all this time he found himself waiting for Indus sometimes on the stairs before remembering with a start why he wouldn’t be appearing. Vinda had been helpful but in healing they had been covering how to deal with chest wounds and it hadn’t helped his mood, so when he walked into the seventh year transfiguration class alone he was in no mood to talk. Despite his feelings on the matter, appearances had to be kept up so he opened his mouth to intrude himself, unsure if the seventh years would know him by name. “I’m Gellert Grindelwald, sixth year muscling in on the seventh year course. What’s your name?”
“Oh I know who you are. You’re the one who attacked Mikhailov and his whole group of friends over nothing, am I right?” he replied. Gellert opened his bag to remove his course textbook, muttering about having perfectly good reasons as he did so, unaware that he was being studied.

Throughout the lesson Imari watched Gellert keenly, Gellert himself becoming uncomfortably aware of the fact towards the end after he had finished the classwork, and he smiled awkwardly. “Listen, it might be a bit presumptuous of me to say this but I’m not looking for a relationship, so I’d rather you didn’t ask me out.” He said, deeply uncomfortable with the whole conversation as Imari began to laugh.
“I’ll say it’s presumptuous, I was categorising.” He said, and Gellert tilted his head in confusion. “I’m analysing you.” Said the boy, and then smirked. “You are intelligent and very aware of it, attractive, but you know that too. Your messed up, that much I know for sure. You’re homosexual, you’re driven by a desire for both power and knowledge, and you are dangerous.” He said, Gellert’s eyes widening as the boy he had just met correctly guessed things about him that he didn’t think were all that obvious.
“Are you a legilimens?” asked Gellert, suspicious, and Imari shook his head with a chuckle.
“I get that question all the time but no, I just read people fairly well.”
“How did you do that? Can you teach me?” asked Gellert, fascinated by the other boy anew.
“Well, you’ve attacked a group older than you, that told me that you were both dangerous and intelligent. That in its self told me that you were messed up and probably power hungry, and the assumption that I would like you told me that you are aware of your good looks and attracted to other men, because it wouldn’t have occurred to you if you weren’t.” He replied, and Gellert saw instantly how Imari had connected the dots. He blinked and smiled widely. This was a whole new lens through which to look at the people around him, and the more he thought about it the more sense it made.
“You’re brilliant.” he said, and Imari grinned.
“Sorry, but I’m not looking for a relationship, so I’d rather you didn’t ask me out.” he said, and Gellert responded by sending a weak stinging hex and muttering a heartfelt
“Desist, wretch.” while laughing quietly.

As they walked down the stairs to Duelling, Gellert watched him carefully as he said something about another student, then described his reasoning for thinking it, fascinated and eager to learn how to analyse people the same way himself. They walked into the Duelling classroom and stood as Professor Le’onide gave a grave warning to the class about the battle magic they would be studying. “Now I know that some of you are already proficient at violent magic,” had Gellert imagined the glance thrown his way? He turned to Imari and shared a glance, Imari’s lips twitching as he glanced at first the teacher, then one of the students before looking back at Gellert. Upon closer inspection Gellert recognised the boy, one of the group that he had got into trouble for attacking the year before, and he laughed quietly, completely missing the latter part of the professor’s speech, snapping back into listening when he heard the order to split up into pairs. Imari met his eye and shook his head.
“I’m not chancing it with you, your violent tendencies are well known.” he whispered. “I’m not a massive fan of Wilhelm though, he’s the tall one with the odd hair over there.” Gellert narrowed his eyes, not liking the feeling of being used, but forced a mischievous smile onto his face, nodded at Imari none the less and walked over to the odd boy.

“Want to pair up?” He said, tone a carefully considered mixture of arrogance and cool poise. The boy gave a sharp nod and at the command of the professor they bowed and took up the duelling stance. Gellert flicked his wand in a series of short jabs, bringing up his modified Euler shield and firing a curse that would made the older boy’s shoes two sizes too small. Wilhelm laughed and dispelled the curse.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Asked the boy, and Gellert willed his tongue to stick to the roof of his mouth. Wilhelm smiled and drew breath to cast, then silently flicked a curse that trailed a sickly looking yellow colour at him which bounced off the shield he had put up. Gellert smiled and made a mental note to research the curse, sending a simple bone breaking curse at the other boy’s knee which caused a loud crack as it met its mark. Gellert smiled, sent a slashing hex towards his right side and missed, Wilhelm taking his full body weight on his shattered knee to avoid the spell as Gellert fired another curse, this one a simple combination of expelliarmus and an overpowered stinging hex that prompted a loud yowl of pain from the boy as his wand flew through the air and landed at Gellert’s feet. With a grimace he kicked it back to the boy who was now moaning and lying on the floor due to the pain he was in.
“Grindelwald did you not hear my announcement that forbade any curses that directly interfered with the nervous system?” Yelled Professor Le’onide, storming across the room.
“Professor it was only a stinging hex.” He said, and she scoffed, drawing the attention of the room.
“Stinging hexes don’t cause that amount of pain. It was severe, I could see it on his face.”
“It was. I cast it, I should know.” Replied Gellert stubbornly. Suddenly a girl he had never spoken to piped up.
“Professor he’s telling the truth. He did a stinging charm combined with an expelliarmus, my sister’s seen him do them before. He probably accidentally overpowered the spell in the stress of the moment.” Gellert shot her a thankful smile as the professor backed down, but he was told to stay behind after the lesson had ended.

While Imari walked off, suggesting that they meet up in the library once he was done, Gellert turned to face the short professor. “Ever since first year, back when all I was teaching you was the basic shield charm, I’ve seen you come alive in the duelling ring.” Gellert dipped his head, accepting the compliment. “But I’m concerned about your preference for hyper-violent curses.” she began, waving off his protests. “I’ve seen the look in your eyes when you duel. My brother was just like you. He loved to duel, breathed for the next fight and bleeding rage, but it’s never quite enough. You are here to learn the finer points of duelling, not to win with blunt overpowered hexes you mastered years ago and get a cheap thrill from fights you know you’ll win. Do you understand?” Gellert nodded, her point about bettering himself striking home. “You’re better than your school mates, you always have been, but there are people out there better than you at duelling. I can help you become the very best, but only if you listen to me now. Do we have an accord?” She finished, and Gellert offered her his hand to shake. She took it, Gellert feeling callouses on her palm from constant wand use, smiling as he agreed, humbled slightly by the battle mage’s words.

Though he didn't do arithmancy any longer, having finished the courses offered at Durmstrang, Gellert decided to drop by to see Professor Mansuro on his way to the library, though it was going a floor out of his way to do so. “Gellert,” the professor said loudly as he walked to the door of the classroom and leant against it, thin frame relaxed around his favourite professor. “What can I do for you?” He asked, and Gellert smiled. He had missed his teacher’s easy going attitude over the summer. “Oh nothing, I just dropped in because I miss my numbers.” He replied.
“Are you telling me that you've not got a proof in the works?” said the professor, tone scandalised. “An outrage, the finest mathematical mind of the generation wasting away in a duelling ring or some such place.”
Gellert laughed and replied that no, he did have a topic of study. At the impatient gesture for him to continue, he began to speak about something that had been preying on his mind since the start of the summer.
“I’m trying to quantify the soul. We know that it is intrinsic, we know that it can be split and lost, but there is next to nothing in arithmancy that looks into that branch of magic. It’s a massive oversight that I intend to correct.”
“Gellert, There’s a reason that soul magic has little research done on it. It’s a highly dangerous art that many parts of the world consider dark. I personally don’t have a problem with theoretical discussion of it, but I implore you not to do anything other than study the theory.” He said, voice grave and low. Gellert nodded, acting as if he was glad that his professor had warned him while he seethed internally. How could anyone scorn a whole branch of magic that way? Above all else knowledge was important, and soul magic wasn’t inherently dark in nature, so Professor Mansuro had no right to forbid his research. Gellert left the office shortly afterwards, more determined than ever to satisfy his curiosity about the topic, walking down to the library to meet Imari and Vinda, who always looked for him there during breaks.

“So why not take Arithmancy to BÄZT level if you like it so much?” asked Imari, and Vinda opened her mouth to answer but Gellert beat her to it. “I’ve already done my BÄZT in Arithmancy and Further Arithmancy. I did them last year.” he said, running a hand through his hair and smiling arrogantly. Imari nodded, grudgingly impressed, and waved over someone who had just walked into the library. “Hey Yagana, this is Gellert Grindelwald, and his friend Vinda Rosier.”
“Oh cool, the psycho. Imari did we have potions homework to do over the summer?” Said a tall pale girl. There was something distinctly spider-like about her, her hair a thick black curtain that hung just shy of her shoulders and her pale limbs oddly elongated. The next thing about her that Gellert had noticed was a strangely piercing stare and he grinned in spite of himself, thinking that he had made some interesting new friends.
“I’m not a psycho, but it’s nice to meet you.” Gellert said, his voice level despite the irritation he felt towards her greeting. She laughed and sat down opposite Vinda. Her and Imari made an odd pair, he just shy of five foot, dark skinned and always ready with a smile, while she looked out at the world with a brooding neutral expression and stood a little taller than Gellert himself, but he could see that they had the same easy camaraderie as he had Vinda and tried his best to be forgiving because of it. Imari nudged Yagana and smirked, looking pointedly towards the door, and Gellert turned to see an elegant girl that was in their year walk to the herbology section. Vinda laughed a little at his confused expression while Yagana sighed, a smile appearing for the first time on her face. Imari noticed his confusion and laughed. “That, my good friend, is none other than the most attractive girl in our year. Haya Saito. She transcends a preference for one sex, even Yagana can admit it.” He said, and snorted at Gellert’s blank look. “You’re really very bent, aren’t you?” He asked, tone teasing, and Gellert laughingly agreed. The four of them spent a happy lunch time discussing the different subjects they were taking, Vinda bonding with Yagana over taking the exact same courses, and by the end of Lunch Vinda had successfully argued her way into borrowing the other girl’s notes once she was finished with them. Gellert and Imari had spent the hour arguing the merits of battle transfiguration, which Gellert thought was a waste of time but Imari loved.

A week later Gellert had given up, sure that the library didn't contain anything on soul magic, and was considering asking the librarian. It might, he could admit, blow up in his face spectacularly the same way it had when he had suggested his idea to Professor Mansuro, but he was getting desperate enough to take that chance. He had read a grand total of three books on the subject and it seemed fascinating as well as practically undiscovered. It was a blank canvas, the soul an area of magic that the great minds of the past had largely ignored. Secrets of the Darkest Art had been illuminating, but it still didn’t do much more than provide instructions for splitting the soul, and didn’t explain anything. Why did murder split the soul? What was the relationship between magic and the soul, the mind and the soul? Gellert personally thought that it was the height of irresponsibility to provide the method for something that invasive for the caster and not warn them about every potential side effect, and knew that until he had more information he would not be trying any soul magic on his own, let alone making a horcrux. Gellert had read up on Harpo the foul, once an owner of the elder wand and the man who seemed to have discovered how to make a horcrux, and was privately sure that he would have researched what else soul magic could do, but despite all of his musings he could find nothing else on the subject. Shaking his head, he decided to ask the librarian.
Taking a deep breath, half afraid that he would be banished from the library permanently, he began. “Sir, is there a section here on soul magic?” Biting his lip, he hoped that he would get a positive answer, and smiled beguilingly up at the man, trying to appear as innocently curious as possible.
“No, though there are a few books on the subject I could recommend. It’s a dark art, even by Durmstrang’s standards. I hope you’re not going to be making any horcruxes young man.” replied the stern librarian.
“No, it’s far too big a risk and Harpo The Foul doesn’t even touch on the side effects in Secrets of the Darkest Art. I’m more interested in researching the aspects of it that we haven’t discovered yet. It’s one of the last great frontiers of the unknown in magic today.” He said, and The librarian let out a sigh of relief.
“History would suggest that they decay the mind, given Harpo’s end.” He said, and Gellert let out a breath, glad that at last he could have a proper conversation about soul magic with someone informed on the subject.
“I want to know if the soul is more closely connected to the mind or the magic of a wizard. Do you know of anything that could test that?” He asked, and The Librarian nodded.
“Do some digging into dementors, they eat souls. Maybe you’ll find answers there.” Gellert shuddered, remembering how horrified he had been when he had read about them last, but he squared his shoulders and politely requested a stone bridge connecting the sections on dark creatures and arithmancy. As he walked off the Librarian called him back, providing a measly pile of four books on soul magic, two of which he had already read. Picking up the other two he smiled in thanks, not missing the professor’s slightly concerned frown when he admitted that he had read the other two already.

The threat of exams loomed, but Gellert was sure that he would pass them well despite their early date. His BÄZTs were in early May, a strange time for what was supposed to be end-of-year exams, but he thought he could definitely do very well in them given how long he had left. As Samhain approached Gellert withdrew into himself, silent in class and quiet in his free time as he struggled to keep his head above water in the sea of memories that threatened to consume him. He clung to the knowledge that he had only done what had to be done but sometimes it wasn't enough, and in dark moments he found himself seeing a pair of blue eyes superimposed over what he could see, warm and comforting as ever. Vinda had told him earlier that month that Ladislav was stirring up resentment of his special treatment and as a result many of his year mates had taken a strong dislike to him, but Gellert was completely apathetic to the inane prattling of his peers, lost in an internal maze of memory. For the first time since he was ten he spent the evening of Samhain, the most magically powerful night of the year, sitting quietly in his room and ignoring the magic of the night that thudded through his blood, calling to him and fizzing into strange lights at the edges of his vision. Gellert lay on his bed, immobile as he felt his hands began to shake with suppressed power, and forced himself to sleep.

In his dreams he walked along the edge of a deserted road, watching as shades acted out a bloody massacre. He was in a field that seemed to stretch forever, the gold acres of wheat endless, broken only by the dusty road and the two black automobiles that roared though the silence. A beautiful woman hung onto a red beret as she leaned out of the passenger side window, and Gellert wondered what she was pointing at the car giving chase. A loud series of bangs echoed through the empty landscape and Gellert jumped as laughter echoed from the lead car, the other careening into a ditch with a loud crash, the driver dead from some strange projectile that the woman had fired.
The image faded and the world spun under Gellert’s feet as he fell backwards through time, the sickening swirl of motion coming to an abrupt halt as he found himself watching as a boy with eyes slitted in fury yelled at a steely looking woman whose hair was greying at the temples. The boy looked at the older woman with undisguised loathing, voice spitefully low as he spat out what he had to say. “I’m meant for more than this backwater existence, and there’s nothing that can stop me leaving.” Gellert watched, half admiring and then realised with a start that the red hair was familiar. It was the boy again, and Gellert almost missed the woman’s reply in his analysis of the figure before him.
“You have a duty to this family, I’ve raised you singlehanded and you could at least show me some respect for it.”
“Respect?” replied the boy, a sneer transforming his tone into something icily disgusted. “I’m better that you. Better than all of you. Why should I respect anything you say?” His eyes widened, the crystal blue suddenly filled with terror at what he had said. “I’m, I’m sorry. I, I don’t know why I said it. I didn’t mean that Mum. I’m sorry.”
“Yes you did.” the woman replied, her shoulders slumped. The image faded, Gellert trying desperately to remember the details of the room as the colour leached out of it, the thousands of silver lines blurring until he lost the image entirely, waking with a start and reaching blindly for his crystal to store the scene.

After that evening the term seemed to fly past at an alarming rate as Gellert wrote essays until his hands ached, read until his eyes closed of their own accord and attempted mostly successfully to keep up with both his courses and his independent research. Though there wasn’t much in the way of reading he could do for soul magic, he had finally begun the process of applying arithmancy to the groundwork laid centuries ago by Harpo The Foul. He was having to develop a drastically altered form of calculus to deal with the complexities of the link that he was theorising that existed between the mind, magic and soul, and had termed it Vector Calculus to distinguish it from other branches of the subject. It was turning into a whole new branch of mathematics, and Gellert was half convinced that he would have to write up a paper on the pure theory before even beginning to write one on soul magic, as when he had tried to explain it to the arithmantically capable Imari he had been forced to explain everything twice and draw six diagrams before he could begin on his theory, so used to understanding his own notation that he had quite forgotten that his audience would not. His work inside the curriculum had dulled as he got more used to the rigorous speed of the courses and grew more capable, and he was once again progressing well in his chosen subjects without too many problems.

Yule was upon him before he could blink, the freezing wasteland of Russian winter cold despite his strongest warming charm while he waited for his cousin to apperate him to their house. His mother had won the argument over where they were to spend Yule, a she usually did, and their uncle had acquiesced with grace once she had pointed out that Bathilda had been over for weeks during the summer, so they should spend some time with their cousin and his children. Gellert stamped his feet in the foot of freshly fallen snow and turned the page of his notebook, hoping the ink inside his pen wouldn’t freeze before he finished his latest calculation for his soul magic research, the symbols and half-written words sprawling over seven pages as his breath crystallised in the frozen air around him. He heard a sharp bark of laughter and looked up to see Sasha grinning down at him, shaking his head. Gellert reached out a gloved hand to his cousin and held his bags tightly as the man apperated him far away to the warmth of the house where they would be staying. Sasha had moved out the year after leaving school and was successfully blowing things up for a living, having joined the military contingent of the Russian ministry for magic, but he returned home for every Yule, which he explained in great detail as they made their way to his room to drop Gellert’s things before making their way down to the main kitchen. “You’ve got a licence for explosions now? I’m very afraid.” said Gellert in a dry tone, and Sasha laughed loudly, joking that he could get Gellert a job as soon as he had his BÄZTs if he were that jealous.

The morning of the winter solstice dawned bright and cold, the sun dancing along every crisp white edge of the snow covered landscape as Gellert woke, his head spinning with a pair of blue eyes that spoke of the pain of loss and something that wavered between love and regret in the warmth of a summer evening. As he padded downstairs, he ran into one of Sasha’s younger half-brothers and greeted him in a friendly manner, only to be met with a warily guarded gaze. Gellert shrugged the strange encounter off, walking into the main room where the rest of his family was waiting by the Yule tree, doubtless woken by the younger children without the simple child repelling ward that had let Gellert sleep in, uninterrupted. He smiled and greeted everyone, grabbing a handful of traditional Russian ginger and pepper biscuits to eat while everyone opened their Yule gifts. He had got his mother a cloak that was a deep royal blue with music notes of a lighter tone that moved along the cuffs and hem, and his uncle a waistcoat that Gellert thought he would like. He watched their reactions carefully before opening his own presents, a set of moleskin notebooks that had his name monogrammed into the bottom right corner in silver falling into his lap. He smiled and thanked his mother, putting them carefully aside before he moved on to the next present.

Gellert had carefully packed all of his gifts into his school trunk, folding the new robes and carefully packing the climbing equipment into every last space and putting the blank notebook set into his smaller case with the revolving book shelf, as the holidays had seemed to melt past in a flurry of frozen days and in the blink of an eye he was saying goodbye on the lakeshore as the Lady Durm rose out of waters to meet him. The holiday had been a fantastic chance to relax, though Gellert was still a little bemused by his younger cousin Ivan’s jumpy nature, but he was eager to get back to Durmstrang. His research was progressing at pace and part of him had been itching to get back to it, resentful of the many hours that he had to spend with his family. The boat ride was eventful, as no sooner had he found Vinda and Imari that he had seen an impressive duel between Yagana and some boy from her year that ended with a dazed opponent who had two broken fingers and Yagana bemoaning a broken nose. Gellert had offered to fix it, eager to try out some practical healing for the first time, and had managed to correct the damage with a simple “Episkey” that he thought, so out of practice with saying his spells that he quite forgot to, so Yagana had no warning that her nose would be snapped back into place. She had reactively cast a curse that Gellert didn’t know, but it had bounced of his Euler shield with no damage, so he didn’t really mind. He had grown quite close to the two seventh years in the past term and they were now a part of his life at Durmstrang that he would miss dearly the following year when he was once more consigned to spending time with his year-mates. Alighting on the shores of Lake Durm was a relief, as Gellert found that he was tired, the research fuelled sleepless nights of the holiday catching up with him all at once in a wave of exhaustion.

Gellert soon settled into a new routine, balancing his research and revision with debates, now an open event that any year could attend, held once a week on Saturday evenings. Imari had become something of a permanent fixture in his life, as had the much quieter Yagana, and they and Vinda were both an inspiration and a source of endless frustration to Gellert, who enjoyed both their company and their political debates, but couldn't quite get them to understand the arithmancy he was developing. He struggled to teach them even the basics of the theories he was developing, biting his tongue as insults built up, closer to being unleashed with every blank stare he got after finishing an explanation. He was lonely, no one quite understanding his thought process. In the quiet moments between lessons and just before sleep took him, Gellert found himself wishing for someone who could keep up with him, who could challenge him in some way other than by testing his patience, the fuse of which was getting shorter by the day. January faded into April with alarming speed, Gellert shocked to see ice melting into the soft yellow-greens of spring in what felt like a matter of minutes.

As exams drew closer Gellert forewent his research in favour of spending laborious hours with his textbooks, making notes for his courses and doing exam styled questions by the book load. When he woke up one morning to find that it was early May it brought a sense of relief with it. He was almost glad to sit down in the exam hall once more, his pen unwavering as he scrawled his answers down and felt more sure with every exam that he had done well, brilliantly even. As the exams passed and summer began in earnest Gellert returned to his research into soul magic, and became more and more convinced that he would get nowhere in his proof if he didn’t do a physical experiment. His three current theories all involved different types arithmancy, the three branches either developments of other’s work or complete invention on his part, but he had no way of knowing which of his three theories would prove true without some kind of physical test. He had talked it over with Vinda and been dissuaded from attempting anything with his own soul without some sort of practice, so the two of them had contrived a way of getting hold of a test subject, deciding on Ladislav, as Gellert could concede that it would be dangerous and she already had a poor opinion of him.

Late May drifted into early June and they sprung their trap, using that same opium distillate Gellert had used to put Indus to sleep the year before, using a larger dose to keep their chosen subject under for the required time. The sun beat down on the roof that they had decided to use for the experiment, the warmth of the summer slightly distracting for Gellert as he prepared what he would need. He was half sure that the mind and the soul were most deeply connected, with magic merely providing the connection, as dementor victims lost their cognitive function when their souls were consumed, and the experiment he had devised should prove this, separating the soul from the magic that was centred in the blood while keeping all three parts intact. He was sure it would work, all the arithmancy worked out and he had faith that his casting at least couldn’t cause any problems.

Taking a deep breath he began to cast, beginning by casting a graph of glowing lines over Ladislav’s prone form, then drawing his precise symbols onto the points of the body he thought most likely to be significant. Some legends suggested that the soul resided in the chest, some in the head and still others in the feet, so Gellert carefully drew his symbols, a strange mix of mathematical notation and runic script that hummed with power as he drew them carefully with a mixture of Ladislav’s blood and a powder of Hazel ash and ground adder skin. Power pulsed from his marks, bringing forth a strange iridescent glow as what Gellert thought was Ladislav’s soul appeared before him. He quickly summoned up a red representation of her circulatory system that mingled with the glow, a strange white mist connecting the two, and Gellert smiled. So far he had been proved correct, the blood and soul connected, and he carefully moved his wand from his right hand to his left, taking hold of his ritual knife with his right and willing magic into the blade. He didn’t know how the foreign magic could contaminate his results, one of the biggest reasons he had wanted to test this out on his own body, but it had to be done, and he cut a careful line between the glow of her soul and the red of her heart, central to the blood and therefor the magic.

As he cut, his representation of the brain began to glow more brightly, and Gellert recognised the brightening parts as those associated with pain, though he couldn’t in the heat of the moment recognise exactly what part of the body was in pain from just his magical scan of the brain. As he cut again, the glow of Ladislav’s magic, now separated almost entirely from the heart, dulled, then brightened again and beneath the glowing nexus he was controlling, Ladislav’s body began to thrash and flail, disrupting his delicate equilibrium of different spells. His knife made the final incision, cutting the soul entirely away from the circulatory system, but as it did so the brain began to pulse, blood leaking from Ladislav’s ears as Gellert watched in horror, transfixed by what was happening inside the prone form. The mist connecting her mind, heart and soul was shredding into ineffectual ribbons, torn apart as the soul fought its way free. Gellert tried in vain to undo what he had begun, but the magic twisted away, the soul rebelling against his alien magic as it coalesced into a pale white orb of light above the drool collecting in her open mouth before shooting upwards into the clear blue sky. The ground shook, a splintering sound rending the air as the rogue soul smashed it’s way through the wards, Gellert wincing as his botched experiment shattered wards that were formed in the first and second centuries, and turning to look at the equally horrific sight of what he had unwittingly turned Ladislav into. The floating circulatory system was unchanged, but it was the only thing that remained intact. Even as Gellert watched, the floating image of the brain shut down, the pale glow fading into a greying shape that bore no resemblance to a functioning brain and the magic was torn apart, sinking out of sight as the brain was destroyed. Gellert felt tears drip down his face, shoulders shaking as he took in how far awry his experiment had gone. He had never thought that it would be this dangerous, nothing had warned him. Nothing about the horcrux magic had suggested a misstep this grave was possible, and Gellert found himself shuddering in relief that Vinda had been able to talk him out of testing his theory on himself, and even as the frozen cold inside him cracked his tear ducts and kept his vision clear he found himself readjusting his theories.

By the time he had watched as Ladislav stabilised into a state of near brain death Gellert had shut down his empathy entirely, cold to the human tragedy he had caused and lost in the theory behind why the magic he had used hadn’t worked. His head was spinning with variables, what he could change and how he could have completed his experiment more successfully, so when he heard a terrible silence and then a hubbub of voices that reached a crescendo before falling silent once more, it was as if from a great distance. “What have you done?” Asked a voice, coldly condemning, and he faintly recognised it as belonging to Professor Mansuro. The part of him that wasn’t wrapped up in reconsidering his theory on the soul choked back a sob, unable to bear the disgust in his professor’s tone, but his cold theorising drowned out the voices that spoke of emotion, roared over the guilt he felt and kept his mind clear of any fog of fear.
“It wasn’t supposed to do this. It was supposed to, to do the undone, to quantify the unknown. It wasn’t meant to be like this.” He heard himself say, mind clear and tone detached. “Soul Magic, the last great unknown.”
“A disgraceful perversion of magic the likes of which I had never thought possible.” The second voice was colder still, digging through Gellert’s iced heart and bringing with it a wave of shivers. It was the headmaster.

Expelled. The word echoed in his ears with a terrifying finality as he stood in his room, a scream building in his throat. They couldn’t do this, it had been an accident. He packed his trunks with a flick of his wand, leaving them in the dorm that he would never see again. Suddenly his course of action was clear to him, he had seen it all before, in the last days of the previous summer holiday. He gripped his wand in white knuckled fury, making his way down to the great hall and standing in the doorway, framed by a line of light cast by the low-lying sun as he paused. The teaching staff stood as one, wands pointed at him in a mockery of threat. Much as what he had done had disgusted them, Gellert knew that he would leave unharmed, his vision proving true as he heard the headmaster speak.
“We have no choice Grindelwald, you were warned.”
He began to laugh, eyes wild as he shoved through the students to face the east wall. He turned away from the professors to face the stone and spoke, voice carrying clearly through air that seemed eerily silent, as if waiting with baited breath to hear his thoughts
“You have made a grave mistake. I will be remembered.” He said, and then with five slashing movements of his wand he had carved the hallows deep into the wall, the stone rending permanently into the mark that had haunted his dreams for as long as he could remember. Forcing magic into the symbol, he tied it into the very fabric of the castle’s structure and then turned on his heal, fleeing into the evening sun. His trunks came soaring through the window of his room, the shattering glass audible from where he was in the grounds, approaching the gate at a run. The metal warped and screamed, bent into disfigurement by the pain and fear that hummed in his raw magic. Gellert Grindelwald stepped through the twisted remains of the school gates and out of his childhood, something inside him that was crushed by the events of the afternoon dying under the heels of his icy hate and burning rage as Cixi swept down out of the skies to land on his shoulder.

The Russian spring night was bitterly cold but Gellert was warmed by his magic, the hot anger still burning in his blood as he contemplated his expulsion and heat radiated from him into the dim grey of the late evening. Though it approached midnight, the sky still held some of the sun’s last light, the northerly latitude allowing the sky to remain grey for all but the latest hours of the night, and Gellert struggled on into the wilderness, alone. He slept wrapped in his cloak, trusting his magic to keep him warm while he surrendered to unconsciousness, and when he woke to the light of a summer’s day he sent a letter to his mother with Cixi, asking her to come and get him. He had sent Cixi off, carrying all of his hopes with her as she flew south to Germany, unknowingly lending her strength as she soared off into the sky. He looked south, following by eye the path of his familiar’s flight until she disappeared over the horizon and hoping that she would reach his mother before the school’s owl did.

He woke a few days later from his half-dreaming state that suspended him between a daydream and a vision, brought back into wakefulness by the loud crack of apparition. His mother appeared a few feet to the left of him, eyes wild and full of questions as she took in his rumpled appearance and suitcases. “Gellert,” she exclaimed, “What happened? Why aren’t you in school?”
“They expelled me. I didn’t deserve it, it was just an experiment that went badly wrong.” He said, his eyes filled with a desperation that was only half-acted. “I didn’t mean for any of it to happen. And now it’s all too late.”
“Let’s get you home, then you can explain everything to me. You’ll be much better after a decent bath and some food.” She replied, and Gellert gathered together his things, making sure to grip his bags tightly as his mother took hold of his arm, apperating them both back home.

Gellert was wrapped in a soft towel after what had felt like the longest bath of his life, wondering how his mother would react when she found out what had happened. He pulled on a soft blue jumper and dark trousers, returning to the living room, face pulled into a worried frown. He wasn’t in control here, couldn’t think of a way to spin the events of the week prior into a palatable story for his mother and unable to filter the letter that he was sure was on it’s way to them from the headmaster of Durmstrang. As he opened his mouth, though what he would have said he couldn’t guess, a letter shot through the fireplace and unfurled, beginning to speak. Gellert watched as his mother’s expression changed from righteous fury to a whey-faced horror and then settled into a condemning stare trained on him. Silence echoed in the aftermath of what the cooly mechanical voice that had calmly explained his expulsion to his mother had said.
“You didn’t deserve it? How could you have said that?” she said, voice faint with horror, and Gellert opened his mouth, then closed it again as his mother spoke over him.
“I don’t know where I went wrong with you. Get, Get out. I can’t look at you right now. A girl died because of you.”
Gellert was crying, though he didn’t know when the tears had started, and he turned away without speaking. He walked back downstairs a few minutes, school trunks packed with all of his clothes and books, his room an empty husk as he walked away from the home he had always known. He straightened his spine, headed for the door and almost left before he was struck by the compulsion to speak again.
“I’m sorry.” He said, and then with a finality that reverberated through his very being, the door swung shut behind him.

Chapter Text

Where could he go? Where could he stay? He thought briefly of Vinda’s flat in Paris but he didn’t doubt that she had put up some nasty wards for the term time when she wouldn't be there, which he would probably be able to overcome if she had done them herself, but knowing her, she would have hired a warding team. He could try Bathilda’s, but would she react the same way as his mother had? There was no way to tell. He would write to her and ask if he could stay there, he thought, but that didn’t solve any of his immediate problems. He couldn’t go to Sasha, he lived with other people and Gellert felt that he’d only be in the way if he was staying with them. He was at a loss, wondering if he would have to stay at some grimy inn in the muggle world, paying exorbitant fees for the dubious pleasure of a flea ridden bed, when he remembered the strange little shack up in the hills close to Godrick’s Hollow. He encouraged Cixi to fly ahead, knowing how much she disliked travelling by floo, and sending her a mental image of the windswept hills, the little cottage where he hoped refuge would lie, and watched as she receded into the skies above his city, disappearing among the clouds.

That could work, he thought to himself, the beginnings of a smile playing around his lips. He could stay there while he waited for Bathilda’s reply, and if she was more understanding about his expulsion than his mother had been then he would stay with her. Turning on his heel, he headed into Wizarding Munich with a sigh of relief, able to float his trunks along once more. The stone dragon greeted him with a fanged smile and asked nonchalantly how he was, and he smiled politely in return. “Well, life continues, regardless of how I feel.” He said, trying to sound unworried.
“Not for everyone.” Said the dragon, the rumbled words almost escaping Gellert’s hearing as he made his way into the magical district, not really expecting a reply. The oddly ominous response conjured a frown on Gellert’s face but he shrugged it off, moving through the busy street with his luggage following him closely.

Not knowing where would have a working floo, Gellert made his way to the One Of Three’s shop. He swept in, the door creaking and dust floating up in eddies that danced into the air in a golden swirl despite the lack of sunlight, and was greeted almost immediately. “Spurned Darkling standing tall, what is it you require today?” asked the creature, and then began to shake with silent, rasping laughter as he told her what he needed. “You want to, to travel? And you come here for it? Like we’re some kind of taxi service?” Gellert waited out the laughter and sighed, making sure to look as down spirited as possible.
“Sorry for the question.” he said, voice small. “Could you direct me to someone who could help?” He continued, the hopeful tremor of his voice an apologetically worried performance that even he half believed.
“Don’t seek to pull the wool over these eyes Lordling, they’ve seen centuries flow past and watched the world unfold. You can use The Passage, I’ll send you to Three in London, but you’ll have to make your own way from there.” Said the creature, a smile twisting its grotesque face even further from what could be considered a human expression. Gellert smiled, thankful that despite the One Of Three’s discerning ridicule of his acting skills, he was getting closer to somewhere he could stop and sleep.

He was led further into the shop than he had been before, passed the shelves holding the tarot decks and through heaps of strange instruments that displayed the time, the year and bizarrely the season,and into the twilit gloom. Gellert couldn’t see anything, merely caught the soft black edges of strange shapes in the foggy grey atmosphere as they walked, but soon began to see a soft pale glow in the distance. They walked towards it until Gellert could clearly see a shelf of books and then the One Of Three paused. “The Third Of Three is as yet unbothered by the mortal eye, so I go no further. I’ve no wish to feel the dirty gaze of the unseeing again, but just walk towards the shelves.” Gellert nodded and began to walk but the One Of Three grabbed his arm, grip like iron. “Don’t take your eyes off the bookshelf. Don’t get lost in here, it is not a path walked by many and for good reason. Above all, mind the gap.” Gellert nodded, the words echoing deep within him as he looked back to the bookshelf that became clearer as he walked towards it, alone once more.

He touched the first of the book’s spines for reassurance that they were real, afraid to blink in case it meant he was looking away from the only real place in the mist, and walked further out of the clutches of that odd inbetween that the creature had described only as The Passage. He shook off the terrible feeling of being watched that had crept up on him as he had stared unblinkingly forwards, never taking his eyes off the shelves that felt like the last thread connecting him to the real world when the One Of Three had abandoned him in the mist, and shivered as he looked around. With a start he realised that he recognised the shop he had appeared in. It was the deceptively spacious bookshop in Knockturn alley that he and Vinda had visited in the summer between fourth and fifth year. “Did you come through The Passage?” Said the pale woman who he remembered.
“Are you the Third Of Three?” He asked, completely floored by the strange lurch in world view that he had just experienced.
“Is it so much a surprise?” she —no, it— said, and then continued. “No, the real point of interest is that you walked The Passage. The first mortal to do so in a considerable number of years.” Gellert smiled and dipped his head.
“Really? Is that why I felt so watched?” He asked, and the pale visage of the Third Of Three closed down, suddenly as impenetrable as the surface of a frozen lake.
“Do not ask me of that, it is beyond you. Trust me when I say that it was a good thing that you didn’t turn.” It said, and Gellert shivered again, eager to get away from the piercingly fascinated pale gaze of the creature. He didn’t know how he could have missed that it was the Third Of Three when he was last here, putting it down to the delirium of his seer sickness as he crossed the shop. He picked up a book on Pyromancy, the studies of magics connected to fire, which were primarily attributed to early alchemy but were very different arithmantically, before remembering that he didn’t have the money to pay for any books if he wanted a train ticket. Pyromancy was a fascinating art, and one of the source subjects he had drawn on when he was developing his failed ritual, and he partly blamed his lack of information in that area for why it had gone so badly wrong. The arithmancy of fluids or solids couldn’t be applied to fire or magic, and he had been forced to deal with the circulatory system as the vessel for magic rather than a direct manifestation of it, meaning the arithmancy was ill-suited to what he had tried to do. Gellert wanted the book. Still angry about the failure of his experiment, he looked around to see if he could quietly pocket it, only to meet the watchful pale eyes of the Third Of Three, and it smiled at him with sharp teeth. “For the book in your hands I’ll take a thread of your coat, and an eighth of an inch of the sole of your shoe.” It said, and Gellert was once more thrown into uncomfortable musings about the strange requests of The Three, and what they could possibly use the things he gave them for. Gellert nodded, and the Third Of Three plucked a grey thread out of the right lapel of his jacket before taking a large knife out of the drawer behind the desk and motioning for his shoe. He removed his left, and watched as the glittering blade carved through the leather sole of his shoe like butter, leaving it thinner, and took it back silently. The Third of Three smiled, flashing a fang, and motioned to the door. “Fare thee well Lordling, for thine heart’s pull draws you westward.”

Holding his bags close, he ducked into the night of the twisting narrow alley, holding his wand loosely, ready to fire a curse if anyone approached him, and he had almost cursed a hag’s tongue out before he had realised that he was just being asked for money. “I’ve none for myself, let alone for another, though I wish it were not so.” He said, and the hag looked at him strangely before shuffling out of his way and after that he wasn’t bothered by anyone in London on either side of the barrier. With his last Galleons he got an excellent deal from a pawn shop on the journey between The Leaky Cauldron and the muggle train station Paddington, where the westbound trains left from every six hours. Gellert bought his ticket just in time and had hardly found a seat when the train started moving away from the platform, the adrenaline in his system keeping him awake for the whole journey despite the rhythmic rocking of the train. When he finally arrived in the nearest town on the train line to Godrick’s hollow, Gellert jumped up, stumbling as he stepped off the train and hoping vaguely that none of the muggles had noticed that his bags moved of their own accord. He walked through the small hours of the morning, following his point me spell and staggering to the door of the tumbledown cottage on the hill at thirteen minutes past three. He exhaled, flicked his wand at his cases and sent them up to the second floor of the hut. He followed them up, sighing in relief as he found the room in perfect condition. With another flick of his wand he conjured a squashy pillow and sent a softening charm at the bare floorboards. Too tired to do anything else, Gellert shoved his luggage into a corner with a thought and collapsed, tugging at his cloak until it unclasped and he could use it as a blanket, falling asleep as soon as his head hit the conjured pillows.

In his dreams he walked along rooftops he recognised as Parisian, to where a strange boy and a girl who swirled with dark transfiguration magic were standing, wary of him. He enchanted a map for the strange pair, wondering how they were significant and why he had gone to such lengths to seek them out, but he turned away and they disappeared from the rooftop leaving him alone. He twirled his wand, sensing it’s strange power and unconsciously enjoying the raw magical strength it possessed, revelling in the glee it seemed to radiate towards his magic. It was the first Hallow, some would say the most important, and it was his. Maniacal laughter rattled in his throat and the sky shook with the sheer magical power emanating from him. Gellert rose through the dream and felt the ebb and flow of a multitude of emotions, wondering if he were still feeling things connected to the scene he had witnessed or from somewhere else entirely.

Waking up had been a distinctly odd experience, Gellert having no idea where he was until after he had panicked and blasted the door off it’s hinges. As the bits and pieces of the last few days came floating back to him he grinned sheepishly and sent a quick reparo at the door, rubbing the back of his head. His hair had grown out further over the last six months, now just brushing his shoulders and long enough to get in his eyes again, which he liked despite the inconvenience as it felt as if he were more himself with it long. Running his fingers through the strands, he willed it to untangle, instantly taming the bedhead he had sported a moment before as he vanished the pillows he had conjured and levitated his trunks up to sit on the beams above the bookshelf that held the roof up. Checking the time and finding that it was past one in the afternoon, Gellert rummaged through the draws of the desk, hoping to find some kind of food under a stasis charm that he could steal before giving up and summoning some bread from Godrick’s hollow, hoping that no one saw it’s flight. Not for the first time Gellert wished that he could transfigure food, but it was one of the earliest discoveries in transfiguration that though you could make a thing look like food in every way it wouldn't be safely edible unless it had started out that way. Wanting to stretch his legs, he straightened the worst of the creases out of his shirt and moved towards the door, shocked when it swung open of it’s own accord.

“Who are you?” They said it at the same time. Gellert began a stumbled and entirely false explanation of who he was and why he was there, chancing a look up at the man who was still frozen in the doorway and trailing off as he met red rimmed eyes, a familiar blue that he had dreamed of for a lifetime.
“It’s you.” He said, all apologies forgotten, and a smile began to creep onto his face.
“I saw you once, in Diagon Alley. Do you recognise me?” The boy replied. Gellert nodded distractedly, part of him smiling at the thought that he had been noticed in the apothecary’s and marvelling at the strange coincidence of meeting the other boy here of all places. His eyes dropped to the other boy’s lips, drank in the boy’s face for the first time without a glow emanating from his right eye, then he spotted something else and began to laugh. The boy had the pen he had left here years ago in his top pocket. “I’ve been looking for that.” He said, and walked over to the boy to reclaim his stationary, unwittingly invading his personal space as he did so.
“You’re Mephistopheles, the one that came in here and fixed the roof.” Said the boy, eyes suddenly alight with understanding.
“Gellert Grindelwald,” Gellert managed to say, still in shock as it dawned on him that the second rate arithmancer that he had left a teasing note for all those years ago and the blue eyed redhead from his visions were one and the same person. “Pleasure to meet you Faustus.”
“It certainly is. Albus, at your service.” The boy replied, and Gellert found himself smiling for no reason at all, as after all this time he had a name to put to the face that had haunted him for so long. Gellert was so lost in thought that he didn’t notice the sweeping gaze of the slightly smaller boy that lingered on his lips, smiling wryly as he realised that he had almost met the boy more than once before.
“Do you know, I’m almost positive that I’ve heard your name somewhere.” Said the boy, Albus, and Gellert smiled.
“I don’t know where you’d have come across it, unless you’re living in the village. My great aunt Bathilda might have mentioned me.” He replied.
“No, I’ve read it somewhere, I’m sure.” replied the boy, a frustrated sigh drawing Gellert’s attention back to his mouth.
“I did some arithmancy, nothing much, but if you get the Arithmancer’s almanack I was in it for a proof I did on—”
“The Fourth Dimension! I knew I’d read the name Grindelwald somewhere.” said the boy, and Gellert found himself smiling, not used to anyone his own age knowing him for that.

At some point in the conversation Albus had produced a sandwich from somewhere, now choking on a mouthful as Gellert began to explain how he had thought of the idea for the fourth dimension and giving Gellert the excuse he needed to touch him, reassuring himself that the boy from his visions was real by patting him on the back as he tried to regain some of his dignity
“Here lies Albus, done in by a simple crust of bread. Wouldn’t look too bad on a grave.” Joked Gellert, wondering why he had felt a half aborted recoiling motion from the other boy. “Hey, I’m sorry if that was a bit weird.” He said, shocked to find that he actually did feel a strange sense of remorse for causing the flinch that he had felt.
“No, don’t worry about it.” said the boy, a strange note of melancholy in his voice before he brightened up once more and cast a sideways grin at Gellert, who realised that he hadn’t actually got around to removing his arm from where it had rested after patting Albus on the back. He found that he didn’t exactly mind, a strange exception to his general distaste for being tactile with new acquaintances, but, he reasoned, in many ways the boy was no stranger at all. The conversation flowed easily, jumping from topic to topic, each boy trying subtly to wrong foot the other by bringing the conversation towards a topic at which they were better. Gellert was fully engaged in the lively debate, revelling in the feeling of having to try to keep up with someone his own age for the first time.

Gellert’s face contorted in a fit of laughter as Albus described his classmates, all as dull as Gellert’s own cohort at Durmstrang, and met his blue eyes in time to see a flash of something undefinable in them before it was replaced by something closer to humour. “It was just the same for me, they couldn’t even keep up in Seventh year.”
“What was the point of kicking you out a few weeks before you would have left anyway?” Said Albus and Gellert explained, not humble in the least, that he had done his BÄZTs a year early. “BÄZTs?” Asked Albus.
“You know, the big exams at the end of seventh year.” Said Gellert, the english a little unfamiliar as he tried to remember what the exams would be called in the foreign tongue.
“Oh, they’re called NEWTs here.” Said Albus, and Gellert looked at him, confused.
“You named your exams after a, how would you say, Water Lizard?” He said, laughing incredulously. “Bathilda was right. All you english wizards are crazy.” Albus laughed, his eyes kind as he nodded, suddenly seeing how strange it must seem for a non-British wizard. Gellert fell silent, wondering why he was feeling so relaxed around a boy he had only just met.
“You’re younger than you look.” said Albus, smiling a little nervously, but Gellert just nodded in reply. Drawn out of his musings by the strange comment about his age, Gellert caught himself smiling with genuine warmth at the boy as he suddenly frowned before leaping up from his seat with a glare. “Why you little, that note you left was rude!” Gellert paused, confused for a moment before remembering the note he had left in this very room years ago, and began to laugh. “My arithmancy’s not second rate.”
“It was at the time, that’s all I know.” Taunted Gellert, falling quiet as Albus laughed properly, his head thrown back and his hair flaming as it was caught by the late afternoon sun.

At that moment Cixi flew into the room through the open window carrying a letter, landing on Gellert’s arm and projecting a sense of warmth and, to Gellert’s surprise, a flash of power-mate-take-kill-give that went by in a stream of feeling too fast for Gellert to identify properly. “Hey, slow down Cixi, I can’t keep up.” He said, and Cixi let out a screech that Gellert would swear had a derisive tone, flapping off to roost in the beams above Albus’ head.
“Is that your familiar?” asked Albus, and Gellert nodded. Albus sighed wistfully, a note of longing in his voice as he started to explain the relatively new anti-ritual laws in England.
“I know about the laws over here, but no one would find out if you did the ritual you know.” replied Gellert with a conspiratorial smirk, and Albus laughed, his eyes dancing with trapped sunlight.
“Aren’t you going to open the letter?” He said, Gellert internally amused at the very obvious change of subject, but he did have to so he gingerly broke the seal and unfolded the letter.

Gellert breathed a sigh of relief and summoned his trunk, the smaller case of books floating down after it to where the two of them were sitting on a sofa that Albus had conjured by the open door. Gellert hadn’t know how Bathilda would react at all, and it had been a relief to find out that she was much more receptive to his reasons for being expelled than his mother had been. “You look happy, Good news?” asked Albus and Gellert nodded.
“I’m going to be in the area for some time, my great aunt’s agreed to let me stay here for the time being.” He said, and Albus furrowed his brow.
“Not that I’m complaining, but you’re not usually stuck here, so why?” He asked, and Gellert felt his shoulders slump. “If you don’t want to explain please don’t feel obligated to.” Began the boy, and Gellert smiled.
“No, it’s fine. I needed somewhere to stay because my mother wouldn’t have me in the house. After I was expelled the school’s explanation as to why upset her a great deal.” He said, carefully wording his answer.
“What did you do?” asked the boy, eyes dancing with a glittering curiosity and Gellert paused.
“I don’t quite know how to begin.” said Gellert, falling silent for a time.
“I’ve made you uncomfortable haven’t I?” said Albus sadly, “I’m sorry, I’ve been told too many times to count that I shouldn’t bombard new friends with too many questions.”
“Curiosity is not a negative trait, at least not in Germany.” said Gellert, his eyes meeting Albus’ intensely. “I was always encouraged to ask questions myself, because if no one asked any questions no one would ever learn anything new.” He continued, wondering who had been responsible for the downtrodden air that his new acquaintance now possessed. Albus smiled a little sadly and Gellert felt a tug of something in his chest that he would later categorise as a protective instinct, angry that Albus had been discouraged from his natural curiosity by someone whose opinion obviously mattered to him.

The two boys walked down the winding path from the cottage on the hill in the darkness, having talked the afternoon away, Gellert’s bags floating along behind them as they discussed the merits of divination. Albus was entirely skeptical of the art and Gellert was having a lot of fun disagreeing with him. “You only believe that it doesn’t work because of the poor curriculum at Hogwarts.” he said, imperious tone only half jesting, but he broke into a wide grin before Albus could get up in arms over the slight, noticing how the other boy focused a little too much on his lips to be unaffected by a smile. Gellert knocked on the front door of Bagshot cottage and smiled as it swung open.
“Gellert, it’s good to see you despite the circumstances, how’ve you— Albus?” She said, interrupting herself as she noticed the second figure standing on her porch.
“Good evening Mrs Bagshot, How have you been lately?” He said, Gellert watching as he was transformed from the aloof and slightly mean spirited man Gellert had met to the perfect picture of a good mannered youth and wondering if the differences between how he acted around acquaintances was so blindingly incongruous to how he acted with friends.

Bathilda had ushered them both into the living room and directed them to the sofa, going into the kitchen to make them all a cup of tea. Gellert nudged Albus, mouthing ‘Good Evening Mrs Bagshot’ at him with a smirk.
“Don’t I deserve your good manners?” He asked, a smile in his eyes that was intentionally a little flirtatious. Gellert didn’t know what was happening, unsure of quite what he was doing, but it felt good and who was he, he thought as Albus laughed again, to deny himself such things?
“You’ve been writing me mildly insulting notes for years, it’s only fair.” he said, and Gellert snorted, unable to refute the point. “Besides,” continued Albus. “I’m not interested in presenting a facade for you.” He said, Gellert’s vision suddenly full of cobalt blue that was swimming with something like sincerity as well as a profound sense of kinship.
“You are a curiosity.” replied Gellert, eyes flickering purposely down towards Albus’ lips, and Albus had opened his mouth to reply when Bathilda walked back into the room with the tea. Gellert was torn between frustration and relief about the interruption, intensely wishing that it hadn't happened and at the same time needing to take a minute to get his emotions into order. He was a little afraid of how strongly he felt for Albus, not used to feeling so much for someone he had just met. He had found himself sympathising with the other boy, up in arms on his behalf and flirtatious without quite knowing why. Gellert found himself deeply confused by his conflicting feelings, deep in thought, but as he had been preoccupied within his own mind, he had missed most of a conversation between the others, and Albus was standing up to leave. Gellert walked him out into the hall and was struck by Albus’ beauty once more as he was silhouetted against the darker sky, half lit by the firelight glowing from the living room door, and missed his spoken goodbye entirely.

In the Living room Bathilda was looking at him with a smile that was all too knowing, but didn’t comment on his new friend too much, demanding to hear the sordid tale of his expulsion. Gellert was relaxed, something about the memory of Albus’ smile keeping his worries at bay, and slowly he began to explain everything. “Soul magic, there’s something so compelling about such a powerful branch of the unknown. The idea that nothing is really certain, the sense of doing something new, something unique, it caught me.” he said, and though Bathilda frowned, she seemed at least receptive to the idea of his curiosity. “I had spent months confined to paper and ink, double and triple checking my work, but in the end I miscalculated one of the fundamental aspects of how the soul would act once isolated from the bloodstream, and I—” he took a shuddering breath, casting a surreptitious glance towards Bathilda as he put his head into his hands, wondering if he was acting appropriately. “She died, I, I couldn’t, I tried to stop it, but I just—” he continued, and fought to contain a smile at the understanding nod he received.
“It was a horrible tragedy, but I understand all too well the curiosity that drove you to it.” Said Bathilda, though her tone wasn’t completely devoid of a fearful tremor. “Gellert, I don’t know what to say, but you can stay here. Like I said in my reply, there will always be a home for you here in Godrick’s Hollow.” The conversation shifted quickly after that to lighter topics, and soon Gellert was smiling in exasperation as Bathilda teased him about his new friend. He bid her goodnight shortly after this, secure in the knowledge that she was at least trying to be sympathetic about his situation, and made his way upstairs, trying in vain for sleep.

Once he was sure that sleep would once more elude him that night, he went over to the window, desperate for some air, and found an origami crane perched on the window sill. It went through the motions of pecking his hands and flapping its wings for a moment before unfolding into a note.
‘Dear Mephistopheles,’ it began, already drawing a quiet laugh from Gellert. ‘I have never met someone whose conversation was more stimulating than yours.’ He wondered if Albus had meant what he said to have the clear second meaning, and thought with another muffled snort that he probably knew exactly what he was suggesting with that choice of words. ‘Would you like to come to mine tomorrow, as it’s a little nearer than The Study. PS: Tap with your wand and the crane will reform and return the note to me with your reply.’ the note continued, and Gellert smiled wryly.
He picked up a pen to respond and paused, wanting to make sure that his reply was as elegant as Albus’ note had been. Sitting back for a moment he tapped his pen against his mouth in thought. It couldn’t err too closely to the lewd, as Gellert wasn’t sure how it would be received so soon after becoming acquainted, but he wanted to make Albus think a little. Suddenly he thought of a fantastic turn of phrase and smiling wickedly, he wrote it down.
‘To Faustus, I am in earnest when I say that I would enjoy your company tomorrow. PS: How did you learn the crane spell? It must be fairly complicated if it is that specific.’ Gellert smiled, wondering if Albus would pick up on the Wilde reference and read the second meaning therein, tapping the paper and watching as it once more took the shape of a crane and flapped away. To Gellert’s shock, It didn’t get far before alighting, and Gellert watched with a growing sense that he’d been played as the crane flew through the attic window of the house next door.

As Albus opened the window to collect his message-crane, unfolding it and reading the message, Gellert watched his reaction closely. He watched as Albus recognised the quote and then the subtext, shaking with silent laughter before lighting a candle and writing a second note on a fresh sheaf of parchment. “You don’t have to do that, we could just talk you know,” Said Gellert, but Albus shook his head, walking over to the window before whispering that he couldn’t wake his siblings. “I could climb in through your window if it would make things easier.” He found himself offering.
“You’re mad. You’ll fall.” said Albus, still in a whisper, and Gellert grinned.
“Sounds like a challenge to me.” He said, much to the dismay of his new friend.
“Gellert don’t, you’ll hurt yourself.” Said Albus, real panic fluttering in his blood as Gellert hoisted himself through the open window and up onto the roof, but he was ignored, and there was a short silence as Gellert landed on Albus’ roof after running along the apex of his own and taking a flying leap across the gap between them. He lowered himself over the edge of the roof, legs dangling freely before one of his feet found the ledge of the windowsill and he quickly manoeuvred himself through the opening and into the attic. He lost his footing on something indecipherable in the gloom and fell, the grace of his movements of a moment before forgotten as he lurched sideways, caught by a quietly laughing Albus.
“Here lies Gellert Grindelwald, an elegant climber who was brought low by a rickety old chair.” Whispered Albus in an echo of their earlier conversation, and they both started laughing. As they made their way down the stairs they took it upon themselves to make shushing noises at each other with prompted another fit of giggles, which caused more shushing in a cycle that Albus broke by putting his hand over Gellert’s mouth in an effort to keep him quiet. As Albus tried to prevent his own laughter by forcibly stopping Gellert from making any noise, Gellert opened his mouth under the hand covering it and licked a long stripe down the slightly rough skin. Instead of the squirming Gellert had anticipated, Albus went very still and seemed to be muttering something under his breath, but Gellert had achieved his aim as he was free to speak once more.

Sitting in Albus’ rooms later, or rather earlier the following day, Gellert was pouring over an example of Albus’ handwriting and trying to remember what little of graphology he could dredge up from the one book he had on the subject. “The flourishes show a very creative mind, I think, and the way you never quite write on the line shows vanity. The free looping parts show that you are open to the idea of change.” he said, getting more sure himself as he spoke. Albus smiled, looking down in the appearance of humility.
“You flatter me.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t love it.” Gellert said, only realising how odd the wording of what he had just said was once he had already spoken the words.
“It’s as if you know me.” Replied Albus, attempting a sarcastic tone and half-succeeding.
“Well I’d like to.” He said, letting the statement hang in the air. “You’re intelligent, perhaps the only person I’ve ever met who is.” He added, the words pouring fourth despite his best efforts to keep them locked behind his teeth. Albus met his statement with a smile, eyes shining in the glow of the single candle he had lit, the light catching on his hair and painting it fire-gold. There was a silence and Gellert caught Albus looking at him again, eyes unable to focus on anything else in the room, and smiled nonchalantly at him, knowing how he must be affecting the other boy.

Gellert was absolutely fascinated with the way Albus’ brain worked, so very differently to his own, yet sometimes it was as if they were thinking in complete unison. Albus looked up through strands of fiery hair and Gellert shivered, suddenly seeing a deadly calm, an ice cold determination levelled at him in anger. He blinked it away and rubbed his arms self-consciously, hoping Albus hadn’t noticed the glazed look in his eye that had been brought on by the odd vision. “Gellert are you cold? You’re shivering.” He asked and Gellert nodded gratefully, still reeling from the strange intensity of the expression he had seen. Albus got up, returning with a blanket and carefully draping it over Gellert’s shoulders. Gellert turned towards him, thanks falling from his lips as he found himself far too close to the other boy’s face. He looked up through his lashes and made a show of glancing to the other boy’s lips before getting up and brushing past him on his way to the window. He heard a sharp intake of breath behind him and smiled to himself, self-satisfaction dancing in his eyes as he pushed open the window and took a deep breath of fresh air. He sat on the ledge, only to find Albus’ hand on his arm, pulling him down and back to the alchemical formulae they had been wrangling with together. As Gellert sat down on the sofa next to Albus, rearranging his blanket for greater comfort, Albus cocked his head to one side, hearing a quiet hubbub of voices from somewhere else in the house. He looked towards Gellert with wide eyes, crystalline panic distilled in the blue that Gellert still couldn’t believe he was seeing in the present, and motioned him towards the windows. “My siblings are awake. Go, quickly.” he said, his voice a low hiss.
“Are you so ashamed of me?” asked Gellert with a carefully concealed smile, Albus shaking his head vehemently.
“More of them than you. They’re difficult at the best of times.” he said with a sigh, and Gellert wondered if it was for them that Albus would stay in a village that he had so clearly outgrown. He smiled softly at the other boy and made his way back to the window.
“Will I see you today?” he asked, smiling again at the eager nod he received in return and jumping to the ground a floor below after casting a strong cushioning charm where he would land.

Chapter Text

He slipped back into Bagshot Cottage and padded up the stairs, glad that his bare feet wouldn’t make much noise, and made his way to the attic. His book on Pyromancy awaited and he had soon settled back into bed with the intention of reading, however in the half-light of the grey morning his pillows were far too comfortable to allow it and he was soon drifting off to thoughts of the boy next door. When he woke it was midmorning, his aunt’s dulcet tones bringing him out of his light sleep and telling him that they had guests. He heard a set off footsteps too fast to be his great aunt’s and ran a hand through his hair, lacing the action with magic to get rid of the knots, and shrugged off his rather ratty night shirt, reaching for another. As he got out of the bed a knock on his door stopped his movement and he slumped back against the pillows hurriedly before telling Albus to come in. Albus opened the door and stopped short at the sight of Gellert in bed, hair artfully mussed and shirt nowhere to be found, and Gellert had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself laughing at the red blush that stained Albus’ cheeks and rendered him speechless. “Hey Albus,” He said, then realising that Albus wasn’t quite up to speaking yet, continued, “It’s rather conventional of you to come via the front door.” This drew a laugh from Albus, distracting him from the lines of Gellert’s pale frame against the white of the sheets that had so successfully caught his attention.
“I don’t have a death wish, unlike some.”
“That sounds like something a coward would say.” said Gellert, and then, unable to resist making Albus more uncomfortable, added a loaded look. “Are you a coward, Mr Dumbledore?” he said, laughing as Albus audibly swallowed.
“I came here to avoid being harangued by my siblings, and right now I don’t know where I’d rather be, you wound me so.”
He managed, and Gellert took pity on him, getting out of bed and pulling on his peach silk shirt, turning the subject back towards academics smoothly as he did so.

“What are your opinions on muggle-borns?” Asked Albus suddenly, derailing Gellert’s train of thought immediately. It was mid afternoon and they were sitting in the grass on the hill behind their cottages.
“I think they’d be a lot less of a problem if there was no statute of secrecy.” he replied, not sure what answer Albus wanted to hear. As he said it Albus blanched, horrified, and Gellert sat up from where he had been lounging in the long grass. “Think about it. If muggles knew about magic there would be no fear, far less abuse of magical children, and each family would be glad to have a magical child. It would make things better for every possible party.” he added, and smiled when Albus’ initial objections fell away into a considering look.
“Do you know, I think you’re right. Why has no one ever told me that? He said, voice a mixture of wondering and indignant.
“Because Al, no one else has ever bothered to have an original thought. I think we might be the first.” He replied, slinging an arm around the other boy’s shoulders and pulling him back so that they were both lying with their backs on the grass. Albus laughed and Gellert couldn’t help but notice how his eyes crinkled up beautifully when he did, getting slightly sidetracked from their friendly debate.
“I’m sure someone out there is thinking something.” Said Albus.
“Oh, to have the endless optimism of youth.” He replied, sighing as if deeply regretful, much to the indignation of Albus, who adopted an outraged expression.
“I’m older that you, You know, it’s at times like this when the phrase ‘respect your elders’ comes to mind.” He said, sending a lazy hex at him that he identified as a tickling charm, Gellert laughing helplessly as the curse took effect, not quite managing to throw up a shield against the very unexpected spell.
“Please,” he begged, breathless with laughter, “Please, have mercy on me.” He threw his head back in another fit of laughter as the charm intensified and then met Albus’ eye, making his eyes as pleading as possible and watching as Albus visibly swallowed again and released him from the charm. In an attempt to return to a slightly more dignified conversation, Gellert returned to the initial topic but Albus was a little distant, his distinctive eyes glazed and distracted.

Albus was mindlessly doodling on the edge of a page of his notebooks in the mid afternoon sun, and though Gellert would never normally have allowed the action, when he removed the notebook from Albus’ destructive reach he saw the Hallows, drawn into the pattern of an eye made up of concentric circles. “The Hallows.” he said, and looked at Albus with a wild smile. “How much do you know about them?” He said, summoning his stack of notebooks on the topic with a flick of his wand.
“I love the story of the three brothers, it was the tale I asked for most often as a child, unlike my spineless brother, who always preferred Grumble The Grubby Goat,” Began Albus, prompting a laugh from Gellert.
“Your brother had poor taste, but did you know that the hallows are—”
“Real? Yes, and the history of all of them is fascinating. The elder wand is easiest to track, but I think that the resurrection stone is the most magically interesting.” Interrupted Albus, and Gellert tilted his head to the side, confused by the preference.
“The elder wand is inherently more useful.” He said, and Albus flinched a little before nodding. All of a sudden Gellert connected the dots, the puzzling pattern of Albus’ flinches at his more morbid jokes and the reason why he was stuck here all falling into place. He had lost a parent, shackled by family duty to a house full of memories and as a result he would of course desire the resurrection stone. Gellert felt the abrupt urge to give sincere condolences, strangely emotive for someone that he didn’t know well, and bit his tongue to stop himself. It put a damper on conversation for a while, then Albus snapped him out of the strange spiral of empathy he had descended into by suggesting that they go to the cottage that Gellert had begun to dub The Study in his head, as it seemed as apt a name as any, and it was after all Albus’ place, so he had the right to name it.

After the two of them had spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon comparing notes on The Hallows and disparaging the insipid new English laws regarding ritual magic, they made their meandering way back towards Bagshot cottage. “I saw you here once, when the lights of The Study were on. I was climbing the big boulder over there.” said Gellert as they walked, pointing. Albus looked at him suspiciously to see if he was joking, and then gasped.
“I thought I’d imagined that. I saw you there, you were silhouetted against the lightning for a moment, but I convinced myself that no one would be mad enough to climb it in a storm like that.” He said, and Gellert began to smile. “Needless to say that your desire for death wasn’t something I’d factored in.” he continued, and Gellert grinned.
“I didn’t know you cared.” he began, and then when Albus blushed again he smiled, a slightly cruel lilt to the expression as he continued. “Personally though, I’d only ever desired the small variety of death.” He said, enjoying the spluttering sounds that Albus was making, a perfect impression of a choking salmon. While Albus recovered from his suggestive joke they reached the foot of the hill and Gellert led the way back to Bagshot cottage, knocking on the door and opening it to see Bathilda, who took in their appearance with a smirk on her face.
“Have you two boys been getting on?” She asked, and Gellert replied that yes, they had while Albus nodded. Bathilda looked between them knowingly and offered some chocolate cake that she had just made.
“Oh, you should have said, I’d have helped make it.” said Gellert, at which Bathilda laughed.
“Gellert dear you’re a menace in the kitchen. You’re far too fond of explosions for my peace of mind.” She replied.
“That was one time.” he exclaimed petulantly, and Albus laughed.
“Mrs Bagshot I think I’d like the details of that particular tale.” he said, eyes gleaming wickedly as Gellert groaned in embarrassment. Bathilda laughed and began to explain.

As the evening wore on, Gellert noticed the subtly flirtatious comments Albus slid into the conversation, but feigned a lack of awareness and smiled internally at Bathilda’s exasperation. He resisted the urge to reply in kind, all double entendre and sidelong glances that were just ambiguous enough to keep Albus in the dark while amusing his aunt no end, instead smiling at the boy and letting his silence offer whatever conclusion Albus wanted to draw from it. Albus left late, the sun dying in a blaze of glory and haloing the boy in red-gold as he stepped out of the house, claiming that he should have been back home hours ago. When Gellert made his way back to the living room Bathilda was cackling, eyes streaming with mirth as she clutched her sides in helpless laughter. “Gellert Grindelwald, you are perhaps the least perceptive boy I’ve ever met. That boy couldn’t take his eyes off you and you were just as bad.” He began to protest, feeling a strange heat in his face as he did so. He made another token attempt at protest but let Bathilda speak again when she looked at him with a serious expression. “I want you to be careful. Albus is a strange boy, and he can be quite cruel. He was always vicious in arguments with his mother, always toeing the line between petty meanness and something a little darker.” she continued, Gellert shocked at the strange sense of anger the words conjured in his chest, but he distracted himself by nodding and acting for all the world as if her advice would be taken. “Though” she added, laughter back in her voice, “I suppose it means you do suit each other well.”
“I don’t know what that suggests about your opinion of me,” began Gellert, indignant, “But I’m going to take it as a compliment, because Albus is possibly the most interesting person I’ve ever met.”
“What did I tell you? Completely Besotted.” said Bathilda, and Gellert laughed.

That night Gellert slept like the dead, not stirring until eight the next morning. When he woke he quickly threw on a white shirt and a deep red waistcoat with silver buttons, making his way to the house next door while Bathilda yelled “Besotted.” at him in German as he walked away. He knocked softly and was admitted by a drowsy Albus, who he followed back into the kitchen, blinking in surprise at the two other people there. There was a girl of about fourteen who looked sickly, whey faced and looking out at the world with tired eyes. “Albus do we have to have that horrible breakfast again, because I’ll be—” She began, but was brought up short by Gellert’s presence as Albus sighed at the obviously habitual complaint. A boy who looked fifteen or sixteen with rust coloured hair and a scowl sat opposite her and stared suspiciously at Gellert. “Who’re you? What are you doing here?” he asked, and Albus scowled at him. 
“Put a bit of effort in Abe, there’s no need to be rude. You ought to have begun with an introduction.” He said.
“I’m not a child, and you’re not mother, so quit with the lectures.” Replied the boy waspishly, and Albus’ face crumpled in hurt before he let his shoulders slump and shot Gellert a pained smile. 
“Sorry about Aberforth, he’s just—” Began Albus, but he was interrupted by the little girl. 
“I told you he was real Abe!” She said suddenly, a smug smile on her face. “He thought I made you up you know, that time that you gave me the candle end.” She added conversationally to Gellert, and he saw in his mind’s eye the little girl with the battered copy of The Tales Of Beedle The Bard. He shot Albus a wry look and got an eye roll in return before replying.  
“You’ve got good taste in books. Which is your favourite Tale?” Gellert asked, and the girl considered her response carefully before replying. 
“The Warlock’s Hairy Heart.” She said eventually, and Gellert looked at her oddly.
“Did you know that some people believe that it’s an allegorical warning against using dark soul magic?” He replied, so wrong footed by her rather macabre reply that he blurted out the first thing that came into his head about the darkest of Beedle’s tales. As he said it Albus shot him an incredulous look and Gellert rubbed the back of his neck, noticing in retrospect that he had just started talking about deeply taboo magical superstition with a child. He offered Albus a sheepish smile and changed the subject, not missing the angry stare Albus’ younger brother shot him and filing away his strong reaction for later analysis.

“Well you’ve a charming set of siblings.” Said Gellert dryly once they were alone.
“Aberforth is just like that, I can’t get through to him.” replied Albus with disgust lacing his voice.
“Well that'll be the inferiority complex. You’ve got to feel sorry for him really, always overshadowed by his more intelligent, more witty and more vivacious older brother.” He replied, and Albus laughed.
“Vivacious am I?” He said, something in his voice sounding slightly strained. Gellert laughed, nodding vaguely and not missing the lingering stare that followed. Gellert's slightly cruel smile softened into something more intimate as he let out an internal sigh of relief that his brief reference to soul magic had been ignored, his attempt to distract Albus with the subject of his siblings working like a charm.

He soon found himself arguing the merits of potions, smiling as he denounced it as useless. “I think that you’re not admitting it’s usefulness because you’re bad at it.” said Albus, and Gellert grinned wryly.
“Perhaps, but if given the correct equipment a muggle could do potions, it requires no magical talent.” He said, and Albus fell silent. Gellert had been just about to crow over his argument winning out, when Albus looked up at him intently.
“That’s exactly right. Gellert you're a genius.” He said, eyes full of wonder, and Gellert smiled, about to agree. “We shouldn’t be hiding. Muggle medicine would be revolutionised by potions, we could help millions. Why has no one bothered to think through how harmful the statute of secrecy really is?” Said Albus, and Gellert swallowed, visions flooding his mind of a mushroom shaped cloud and the scent of burning timbers.
“Muggles, Albus they’re dangerous. I agree that it would be beneficial, but wizards would still have to have control of potions ingredients. Who knows what they might come up with if left to their own devices.” He said, voice shaking with a bone deep fear as he remembered the grey wastelands of the dead he had seen as a child.
“Of course,” agreed Albus easily, but he looked a tad uncomfortable with Gellert’s views.
“Albus, when I was nine a group of muggles set fire to our house while me and my mother were still inside it. We lost everything we owned.” He said. “They’re not the fools most people think they are.”
“No you mistake me. I understand completely how muggles can destroy lives. When I was small muggles attacked Ariana, that’s my sister, and my dad went to jail for responding in kind. I just think that we shouldn’t judge the whole race negatively because of a few bad apples.” Said Albus, and Gellert remembered with a start the first vision he had ever had. The boy shielding his siblings from harm, trying protect them even as the tears streamed down his face. It was Albus. Gellert smiled, eyes distant and unfocussed, drawn out of his reverie by Albus’ hand on his arm. “Should we go climbing today?” he asked, and Gellert nodded, smiling.

The boulder strewn heath offered plenty of spots for climbing, and the two boys were spoilt for choice, however Gellert was once more drawn towards the rock he had climbed last time. They made their way to the boulder through the winding bracken discussing the fine line between history and legend where the Hallows were concerned, and Gellert relaxed into the new and thrilling feeling of having someone to talk to who was as intelligent as he was. When they reached the boulder Albus went first, a spark of bravado alight in his eyes, and Gellert followed at a leisurely pace. At the tricky point in the climb where a transfer of weight was relied upon, Albus almost overbalanced and fell, only to be caught by a smirking Gellert. He paused on the rock face where his feet were steady, arms suddenly full of Albus, who instead of looking scared was smiling madly. “We’re just alike you know. You’re as much of an adrenaline addict as I, regardless of your denials.” Said Gellert, unaware that Albus’ mind was far from coherent. Gellert gingerly let go of the other boy only to have to grab him again a few minutes later as they neared the top of the climb. When they were safely at the top of the boulder Gellert looked out across the endless green hills and fell silent, awed by the distinctive beauty of their surroundings. “It’s beautiful.” he murmured.
“Yes,” murmured Albus, his tone strange and hoarse. Gellert turned to him and inhaled sharply, the sun glistening on Albus’ skin mesmerising in the heat of the midday. Snapping out of his staring, Gellert sat down on the edge of the hollow top of the boulder and smiled as Albus sat as close to him as could be considered polite, their legs pressed together and his arm around Gellert’s shoulders.

After they had been up there for a while, Gellert suggested getting down to head back to the village, drawing a reluctant smile from Albus by suggesting a few relatively harmless pranks that he could pull on Aberforth. As Albus looked over the edge of the boulder he swayed, suddenly hypnotised by vertigo, and Gellert grabbed him around the waist, making sure that he wouldn’t fall.
“How much do you trust me.” He murmured, not wanting to speak too loudly while they were so physically close. Albus shivered, Gellert feeling the tremor through the layered of cloth that separated their skin and drawing in a sharp breath, unsure why.
“Why do you ask?” said Albus, interrupting Gellert’s inner monologue.
“I think that to avoid any more falls I should levitate you down.” said Gellert. Albus looked at him for a long moment, eyes crystalline and captivating as he met Gellert’s heterochromatic gaze steadily.
“Ok. I trust you.” He said simply and Gellert broke into a helpless smile at the admission. He cast a silent levitation charm and felt his magic roaring through his veins, jumping and sparking wildly where it touched Albus, as if something was generating sparks where their magics interacted. He carefully cradled Albus with his magic, floating him down to the grassy glade below the boulder before grinning wildly.
“Catch me if you can.” he yelled down, before leaping off the boulder and falling freely for a split second, then feeling himself slow to a stop as Albus’ magic reached him. It fizzed against his skin, cracked against his own magic, and Gellert laughed giddily as he felt himself descend downwards slowly. When he reached the ground he felt himself held in Albus’ arms as the spell faded, smiling up at the other boy through his lashes as he tilted his head back in laughter.
“You’re mad. Absolutely mad.” Said Albus, and Gellert only laughed harder in response.
“Don’t be daft, I knew you’d catch me.” He replied once his breathing had returned to normal, and then Albus seemed to realise that he was holding Gellert bridal style and promptly blushed from the roots of his hair all the way down to his neck and put him down. Gellert made sure to pretend that he hadn’t noticed the way Albus had reacted, having too much fun seeing his varied but reliably hilarious reactions to his flirtation.

That evening Gellert and Albus had intended to have dinner at Bagshot Cottage, however no sooner had they sat down that a loud knock at the door disturbed their quiet. Bathilda answered it and the two boys looked through the doorway to see an irritable Aberforth poke his head around the door. “I knew you’d be here with him.” he said, casting a spiteful glance at Gellert before returning his accusatory gaze to Albus. “You have a real family too you know?”
“Don’t take that tone with me Abe, just because your a jealous little toad who doesn’t have any friends. I haven’t been gone that long.” said Albus, his voice rising. Aberforth looked at him with narrowed eyes and Gellert thought that it would be best if he intervened before wands were drawn.
“I’m sorry to have kept him away Aberforth, I’ll endeavour to take up less of his time tomorrow.” he said, eyes dancing with laughter when he looked towards Albus and tried not to smirk.
“You’re just like him with that faked smile and apologies you don’t mean, so I’ll just say that it’s none of your business, so keep out of my family affairs.” Spat Aberforth.
“Then perhaps don’t have an argument in my living room?” Gellert suggested, tone condescending. Aberforth’s attitude was beginning to wear very thin on his nerves, and he could see how upset he made Albus with his constant judgement. Gellert narrowed his eyes, thinking to himself that if the little twit said one more thing he would find himself at the wrong end of a nasty hex and quietly wondering how far Albus would let him go before stepping in to protect his little brother. The look in Albus’ eyes when he met his gaze suggested that it would be quite far, and Gellert smiled guilelessly over Aberforth’s head at Albus as he spoke.
“As per usual, Gellert has made a very good point, something you rarely do, so why don’t we go back home and leave Mrs Bagshot in piece.” said Albus, tone cold and harsh as he glared at his younger brother.

The silence that the Dumbledore boys had left behind them was deafening, and Bathilda blinked a few times in shock before taking a sip of her tea. “You see what I mean. A hot tempered bunch, that family.” she said dryly, and Gellert found himself laughing.
“I’m so sorry that you’ve had to put up with that kind of thing next door for years, how you’ve not managed to get rid of a few of them I don’t know.” He said, and Bathilda cackled.
“Excessive use of silencing charms.” she replied and then laughed again. Gellert thought to himself that he would have to modify a permanent silencing charm especially for Aberforth, smiled at the idea and jotted down some initial matrices that would make up the basis of the spell’s modifications. The evening passed quickly and as night fell Gellert made his way up the stairs, wondering if Cixi would be amiable to taking a note over to Albus to reassure him that he was welcome to come around any time.

Gellert gave Cixi the note he had written and watched as she flew in a sweeping curve around the house next door to the downstairs window, wondering when Albus would have the time to reply. As the sun faded from the sky that night, Gellert lit a candle, intending to read until he received a response, and he saw Cixi flapping back without a letter. Gellert frowned, not expecting Albus to ignore his note completely. He let her in with a scowl, only for his expression to clear when she sent him a clear mental image of Albus writing something, only for Aberforth to steal it and throw it into the fire. Cixi had taken her leave at that point, her delicate hearing offended by the loud yelling that had ensued, and Gellert smiled, rather pleased that Albus had been so angry on his behalf over something so small. Going back to his book, Gellert made another note in the margin about how he could adapt his rituals to better reflect the arithmancy of fire, and therefore magic.

The summer evening was far too warm for comfort and Gellert had almost cast a cooling charm before he remembered Albus’ reaction to his disrobed state of the morning prior, a wicked grin crossing his face, as he crept over to the window. He shed his shirt and the blanket he had been sweating under, throwing the window wide and coming face to face with Albus, who, unbeknownst to Gellert, had been waiting at the window for him. “Do you never wear a shirt?” Asked Albus, voice strangled with arousal, which Gellert politely ignored in favour of acting innocent. It had become a dance, this flirtatious back-and-forth between the two of them, and Gellert never lost a game when the playing of it was this entertaining. Albus would be the one to pursue the relationship, he would make sure of that, and he would have a lot of fun making it happen.  
“Oh, Sorry, hang on a second,” he said, and walked away from the room well aware of the eyes burning into the skin at the base of his spine, shrugging on a black shirt and not bothering with any of the fastenings. Gellert left it loose, knowing full well that the look might actually be less obscene without the shirt, as it only accentuated his state of undress. He leant an elbow on the windowsill and made a decision. The look in Albus’ eyes at his bare chest had sent thrills down his spine that he hadn’t experienced since Indus had been alive, and he was all too eager for the moment when Albus snapped and made his move. Gellert held as normal a conversation as he could, getting a little tired of Albus’ distracted state as the last of the light properly faded from the sky, so he feigned tiredness and bid Albus goodnight, wondering if he would be a better conversationalist once he had worked up the nerve to act on his attraction.

The following day Gellert waited with mounting frustration as Albus didn’t respond to his letter. He would have thought that he mattered enough to at least get a return note, he thought, but apparently he had been wrong. He sat in the kitchen slowly tearing a piece of paper into smaller and smaller shreds and drinking cups of tea by the dozen. Bathilda laughed and asked him why he didn’t just pop next door if he was that preoccupied by Albus’ silence and Gellert found himself wondering the same thing. “It’s the principle of the thing Bathilda, I’m not going to visit if I’m not wanted.” he had replied eventually, at which Bathilda laughed and walked off muttering about the folly of youth. Gellert sat through the day simmering in resentment at Albus’ strange silence, but eventually returned to his books, climbing out onto the roof of the cottage to read below grey skies that reflected his dull mood. He went to sleep without bothering to see if the other boy was at the window of the attic next door and missed the hours of forlorn silence that Albus spent waiting for him to appear, lost in dreams of war.

In the morning Gellert finally received another note, this time folded into the shape of interlocking tetrahedra, which put a smile on his face as it proved that Albus had listened to his rambling about the connection between magic and the tetrahedral shape, as methane fuel was alchemically tetrahedral and behaved much like a source of magic might, as Pyromancy applied to both. Gellert relished the fact that Albus both listened to him and was able to keep up with his fast paced thought process, unfolding the note. ‘Dear Gellert, Sorry about the family drama you were dragged into the day before yesterday, but thank you for stepping in when you did. I’m also sorry that I couldn’t get away yesterday, what with Aberforth being such a prat, but I was wondering if you wanted to go to London today?’ Gellert wrote out a quick reply in the affirmative and sent it with a smile, meeting Albus at the front door a few minutes later. “Well what are we waiting for, let’s go.” said Albus, and Gellert caught his arm. Albus smiled and opened his mouth to speak but Gellert interjected. “I can’t apperate.” Albus laughed, then attempted to assume a straight face when Gellert adopted a mock-hurt expression. “Of course, I always forget you aren’t seventeen yet. Here, take my arm.”

Gellert spun through the vacuum between Here and There, the only constant Albus’ arm where he was gripping the other boy tightly, unwilling to admit his fear of being trapped in the odd reality between the two places. They appeared with a crack in a secluded corner of Diagon Alley and Gellert found that Albus had his back to a rough brick wall. Not letting go of the other boy’s arm, Gellert leant into his personal space once more, his eyes falling for a moment Albus’ lips as he pressed him back into the wall before letting go and walking backwards as if he had just been reorienting himself. He walked off casually and made his way into the main street, turning to see if Albus had emerged from the corner they had apperated to. The two boys had soon spent their money, the grease paper wrapped chips gone in a few short seconds and a new book in each of their bags, so they contented themselves to walking through muggle London. The sun was high in the sky, though the smog of the great city leant it a sullen and malcontented air, and as they approached the river Thames Gellert remembered in a flash the vision he had had of two figures on Tower Bridge. The knowledge that it was he and Albus seemed to echo from his very bones so he set off at a quick pace, saying that there was something he wanted to see.

Tower Bridge gleamed in the sun, the scaffolding fingers of a city that was forever reshaping itself reaching across the river and suspending the bare skeleton of what the bridge would one day become, and Gellert turned to Albus, meeting his eye with a wild expression of excitement. “Let’s climb it.” he said.
“You’re mad Gellert.” Albus replied, but Gellert leaned against his arm dramatically and looked into his eyes, knowing full well that he was having a profound effect on the other boy.
“Please? It will be fun.” he said, and he heard Albus sigh, knowing that the argument had already been won. When they reached the top, Gellert looked out over the city and smiled, lost in the power he could feel thrumming from the river below them, the beating heart of the metropolis. Suddenly he felt Albus grab his shoulder, spinning him around so that he was backed against the wood of the scaffold spanning the bridge.
“You’ve been messing with me.” Said Albus, tone half way between confrontational and aroused. He leant close to Gellert, eyes fixed on his lips and then moved back. Gellert smiled, imp-like and sure of himself, only to gasp when Albus moved his mouth to Gellert’s ear before speaking again, the rush of breath bringing up goosebumps on Gellert’s neck. “I think you’ve been leading me on, my dear Mephistopheles, and I’ve been half driven mad by it. You’re a cruel man you know.” Gellert smiled, eyes a swirling with a mixture of amusement and daring.
“Well it took you long enough to notice.” Said Gellert, his voice rough as Albus wrapped a hand around his waist.
“What would silence that wit of yours I wonder?” Said Albus, his nerves gone and his voice silkily suggestive, making Gellert moan softly before opening his mouth to reply, not sure which suggestive answer he would give, but got lost in the sensation of Albus’ chapped lips on his own before he could utter a word.

Chapter Text

Tower Bridge felt unsteady under Gellert’s feet, the world narrowing down to the space between Albus’ mouth and his. He closed the gap, Albus moaning as he did so, and he smiled into the kiss at the involuntary sounds that he could pull from his friend. A hand snaked up to tangle in his hair and Gellert moaned in response, at which Albus drew back far enough to speak and grinned. “Well that was an interesting reaction. My hypothesis is that you’re—” he began, but trailed off as Gellert moved from his mouth to the junction of his jaw and neck and sucked a very obvious bruise into the skin, letting out a long breath of air. Gellert licked over the bruise he had just created and drew closer to Albus’ ear.
“Be silent.” he said, his voice dripping with command.
“Are you going enforce that?” asked Albus, smirking, and Gellert flipped them, pressing Albus into the edge of the wooden scaffold and meeting the other boy’s mouth in a deep kiss. He felt Albus open his mouth and began to explore it with his tongue, lost in the sensation of Albus’ kiss and unable to think about anything but here and now, on the sunlit bridge. When he first felt what it was like to kiss Albus, he finally understood what Indus had been feeling when he had kissed him such a long time ago. Albus tugged his hair, prompting another moan from Gellert which Albus took as an opportunity to take back control, Gellert moaning as Albus began to dominate the kiss, all thoughts of the past forgotten.

They were perhaps equally to blame for letting people creep up on them, kissing at the top of a very visible landmark of London without thinking about the muggles, but when Gellert felt something hit him in the side, just under his ribs where it would hurt the most, he was caught completely by surprise. He crumpled to the floor just in time to avoid a plank of wood to the head, which Albus ducked, his pupils still blown wide from their kiss. “Fucking Sodomites.” said one of the muggles, a large man who had cropped hair and the rough speech that marked him as a working man.
“Yes.” said Gellert, a smile on his face as he stood, a silent healing charm taking care of his side in seconds. “And what exactly is your issue with it?” he said, tone still conversational and light. Then he broke into a cruel smile and his eyes began to glitter. He met Albus’ eye and an understanding seemed to pass between them. They were going to have a little practice with their battle magic. “Actually I don’t care for your opinions, a sentiment I’m sure most of your acquaintances share.” he said, confusing the man with his lack of fear. “Now be a good little halfwit and run along. I was planning to do many many ungodly things to my lover and your face is putting me off.” he said, hearing a choked laugh from Albus as the man grew more and more disgusted with every word he said. He gave the muggles three seconds, the silence echoing around them as the group readied themselves for an attack, then he sent a rib shattering curse at the tallest man, who screamed in pain. The second man was hit with an Impedimenta jinx that he hadn’t sent and he spared a moment to smile at Albus before he took out two muggles with a particularly nasty pain hex he knew. Albus sent a spell at one that didn’t appear to do anything, but he began screaming in pain almost immediately after the spell connected and his hair took on a silver appearance. Albus looked immediately afraid and offered his arm to Gellert with an expression that flitted between a quiet pride and what looked like shame, apperating them away from the remaining muggles without any further magic.

“What was that last curse?” asked Gellert, and Albus shot him a guilty look, the two of them standing just outside the tumbledown cottage where they had first met, adrenaline still coursing through their veins.
“It wasn’t a curse. I transfigured his hair so that he ended up with spikes of metal for hair follicles.” replied Albus, and Gellert smirked, a wicked smile that revealed just how attractive he found Albus’ surprising display of violence. Albus had looked down, unwilling to face the disgust he was sure would be written all over Gellert’s face, and missed Gellert’s twisted arousal, too caught up in the sudden wave of guilt that had overcome him. “I’m so sorry, it was just—” he began.
“You are unique you know.” Interrupted Gellert, impressed. Albus looked up at him, shocked by Gellert’s response to what he had done.
“Of course I am, but why do you mention it?” replied Albus, tone thick with feigned arrogance that fell flat, his tone a little too surprised by Gellert’s acceptance of the dark transfiguration spell to be convincingly proud.
“Not many people prove me wrong. I have always thought very little of battle transfiguration, but perhaps I was too hasty.” said Gellert, and he met Albus’ gaze with a lust that the violent interruption to their kissing had only fuelled.
“It was all I could think of at the time.” replied Albus, eyes slightly calmer now that he knew Gellert didn’t resent the spell. Gellert smiled to himself, the moment of sheer adrenaline that they had shared before they apperated playing out behind his eyes, and this time it was him who initiated the crush of their mouths, tasting power when his tongue touched Albus’ and feeling magic jump and spark wildly in the air around them. Gellert pulled at Albus’ shirt and ran a hand up under the fabric, ghosting at the pale skin beneath and sending shivers down the other boy’s spine. He traced the bone, his blunt finger nails digging into flesh as Albus took control and spun Gellert into the rough wall of the cottage, their mouths meeting in another clash of emotion. Albus pulled away and Gellert was left gasping, the pause for breath an unfortunate necessity.
“You are very strange you know. You ought to be frightened. That was dark magic I just did.” Said Albus, smile teasing and voice hoarse.
“I don’t think that dark magic condemns a person to evil,” replied Gellert, eyes serious despite the lust still sending sparking jolts of heat through his body. “If the intention is good the action is justified.”
“Thanks.” said Albus, his thumb still stroking anxious circles into Gellert’s thigh.
“Did you think I would be upset? You did it for me.” replied Gellert, trying to melt away the tension still winding knots into Albus’ back. Albus pulled further back from his embrace and for a moment Gellert was worried that he had misjudged the situation and responded incorrectly, but Albus was looking at him with a kind of marvelling expression.
“I’ve never met anyone like you.” He said, and Gellert laughed, the sound warm and designed to soothe Albus’ frayed nerves.
“Of course you haven’t. I’m special.” He replied, and Albus’ eyes dipped to his lips once more.
“The ego on you, honestly.” said the other boy, and Gellert smiled, eyes flashing with a challenge.
“Do you deny my claims?” He said, and Albus smiled, his eyes glittering with some emotion that Gellert couldn’t quite recognise and shaking his head before pulling Gellert into another searing kiss.

As they lay on the roof of the little cottage under the darkening sky of late evening, backs pressed into the ivy that had almost entirely consumed the southern side of the cottage. Gellert sighed, wondering why his heart was racing in the quiet moment as the two of them looked up at the scattered constellations. He felt blissfuly happy, wondered if this was what producing a patronus should feel like and decided to ask. “What’s your patronus?” He began, unaware of how disconnected the question was from their previous conversation point, and Albus leant up on an elbow to look at him.
“Why’d you ask?”
“No reason. I was just thinking about it.” He replied, and Albus said the incantation quietly, Gellert watching avidly as a blossoming plume of white formed into the shape of a bird of some sort.
“What’s yours?” asked Albus, and Gellert looked down at their linked hands, wondering if he could admit his strange inability to form a corporeal patronus. He looked up and met Albus’ curious gaze, throwing caution to the winds and deciding that it could do no harm. Albus wouldn’t think less of him for it, he was sure, despite the nagging voice that said that he would see him as a stupid child if he revealed his failing, so he steeled himself for disappointed surprise and spoke.
“I’ve never actually managed more than mist.” He said, his voice small as he admitted it.
“If you give it a go, I might be able to see where you're going wrong.” Said Albus, and Gellert sighed, squashing the hopeful part of himself that was suddenly sure he could do it with Albus’ help.
“If you insist.” he said, and then tried to focus on his strongest happy memory. He pictured the first time he had seen his name in the Arithmancer’s Almanack, reliving the soaring triumph of that moment. “Expecto Patronum.” He said, the usual wisps of silver issuing from the tip of his wand. He sighed and his shoulder’s slumped. “Maybe I’m just wired for offensive spells. I can’t make it work.” he said. Albus caught his face in his hands, pulled him forwards for a light kiss and spoke again. “Pick another memory, the one you’re using isn’t strong enough emotionally.” He said.

Though Gellert was sure he would fail once more, he tried again with Albus’ encouragement ringing in his ears. Though he tried to picture his first conversation with Vinda, thoughts of Albus kept creeping in. Albus kissing him frantically on Tower Bridge, Albus with his eyes alight as he spoke animatedly, Albus unable to speak when Gellert was without a shirt. He breathed in, breathed out, and felt Albus’ hand on his waist. “Expecto Patronum.” he said again, and watched in awe as a long tailed silver bird shot from the end of his wand. It had an intelligent glint in it’s eye and long flight feathers, it’s tail a magnificent plume of white light as it swept around him and left trails of silver dancing in it’s wake.
“You did it Gellert.” murmured Albus, tone almost reverent, and then continued. “What were you thinking of?”
“You.” replied Gellert, the confession tumbling out of his mouth before he could think of something more appropriate to say. Albus’ face lit up with a smile that sparkled in his eyes, a mixture of surprise and affection swimming in the unshed tears that threatened to fall.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you.” he breathed, and Gellert smiled back, a fragile warmth filling the expression.
“You’re brilliant—” Gellert began, but Albus had let out a sudden bark of laughter and Gellert paused, head cocked to one side in a questioning glance.

“Your patronus, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. It’s a phoenix.” Albus said, Gellert wondering what that had to do with anything. Something of what he was thinking must have shown on his face because Albus gave him a sheepish smile and began to explain. “There’s a story in my family, that a phoenix will come to any Dumbledore in desperate need.” He said, and Gellert smiled wryly.
“What can I say. You’re quite wonderful Al.” He said, the nickname feeling natural as it fell from his lips. Albus raised an eyebrow at the name but smiled again, his eyes darkening into something closer to lust than innocent affection.
“I bet I could make you feel better than you do now.” He said, tone suggestive, but Gellert smiled and shot him a questioning glance, as if not quite catching his meaning.
“How so?” he enquired innocently, and Albus surged forward, kissing Gellert passionately and sliding a leg between his.
“I’m told,” he said, breathless between kisses, “That endorphin release improves one’s mood.” Gellert laughed, cutting himself short with a choked off moan at the sensation of Albus biting down on the junction of his neck and throat. Albus hadn’t stopped at a suggestion of teeth, biting down hard enough to leave a clear indentation, Gellert was sure, but he found that the pain sent sparks of arousal crackling through his blood. Albus licked over the spot and Gellert shuddered, pulling Albus back upwards by the hair to claim his mouth with a kiss before biting down on the other boy’s lower lip, prompting a moan in response.

Their surroundings dimmed as Gellert’s patronus faded out of existence, his magic swirling out of control, unforming the spell and rushing skywards in a desperate attempt to release some of the tension coiling within him. The stars were obscured by thick cloud and as Albus tugged his hair again, pulling his head back and trailing kisses down the pale column of his throat, lightning rent the sky in a powerful display of Gellert’s helpless attraction. The loud thunder that followed made Albus jump, pulling away to look up at the sky, worried. “Maybe we should head in?” He suggested, Gellert agreeing wholeheartedly, unsure if he would have any control over the storm he had conjured. Gellert levitated Albus down to the ground and jumped down himself, trusting that the other boy would catch him with a spell, and they made their way indoors. Albus cleared the desk with a sweeping motion of his wand, ink pots shattering as the distracted wizard pushed Gellert down onto the desk, over eager and careless in his lust. Gellert looked up through lashes that seemed to glow in the sharp light of the moon and smiled, dark glee betrayed in the press of his fingers into Albus’ wrist and the calculated hitch in his breath that he knew would only fuel the fire in Albus’ eyes.

Just as Gellert had begun to lose himself in the crackling build up to what he was sure would have been a uniquely brilliant physical experience, Albus pulled back with a jerk. He looked up, an injured expression playing over his features as he propped himself on an elbow to get a better look at Albus.
“Personally, when I’m thrown onto a table and kissed breathless there is usually a certain chain of events that I might expect to follow.” He said, tone heated. Albus managed a smile despite the worry marring his expression.
“Get thrown onto tables a lot then do you?” he said, tone bitingly jealous despite the distracted look in his eye. Gellert frowned, not sure what had happened to so suddenly shift Albus’ mood.
“Never by someone quite like you, but then again there’s no one who would compare.” He said, tone carefully balancing playful sensuality with a sense of realism as he fought to understand the sudden bitterness colouring Albus’ voice. The sentiment brought forth a slight smile, and Gellert wondered at how beautiful the other boy was, even as the object of his attention looked around the room wildly, the vain attempt to find a believable story to tell playing its way across his face clearly.
“I need to go— I have to— my sister—” Albus tried, obviously struggling with something, his eloquence fleeing in the face of his clear panic. “The wards just tripped in my house, and I need to see what happened.” he finished, expression closed off and wary all of a sudden, the burst of emotion tidied away behind a mask that didn’t fool Gellert in the slightest.
“Albus what is it? You can tell me, I could help.” Said Gellert, pushing at the point of discomfort to see how seriously Albus had been affected by whatever his wards had told him. For a split second he seemed to waver, opening his mouth to say something else, but frowned and seemed to close himself off even further.
“Don’t worry about it. I just need to go. I’ll go to Bathilda's afterwards.” said Albus as he hastily picked up his crumpled shirt from the floor. He left with the buttons in the wrong holes and a pinched worried expression that Gellert couldn’t help but hope wouldn’t linger on his face. As Albus rushed off into the night Gellert wondered not for the first time why Ariana was so frail, half remembering a dream that he had had years ago before dismissing it as something he would find out later. He looked around to find himself and the room in disarray, ink and papers in a mess where Albus had swept them off the table a few moments ago and his shirt hanging off his shoulders. With a sigh he put the room to rights with a flick of his wand and summoned his coat, walking out into the darkness of the starlit night with a shiver, his shirt only half done up in his haste to be back in the comfort of Bagshot cottage.

Though he glanced a look through the attic window later, Gellert had held little hope of seeing Albus so soon after he had rushed off, panic writing forlorn lines into his face, but he was proven wrong for the second time that day. After whispered greetings he asked what had happened, but Albus looked as if he might break into fragments if he had to answer, so Gellert swiftly changed the topic.
“Do you want to go to Paris tomorrow?” He asked, and Albus laughed softly.
“I’d rather be in your room now.” he replied, and Gellert let his eyes flicker downwards, lightly flirtatious before he met Albus’ eyes and saw the raw pain threatening to shatter their distinctive blue into painful tears.
“I think maybe we should take things a little slower. You’re in pain right now.” he said, and as soon as he said it Albus let out a sigh, the smile dropping from his face as he hunched in on himself.
“People normally don’t notice how things really are. What tipped you off?” he asked, voice small, and Gellert found himself caught up in what Albus was feeling, hands itching to help the other boy in any way he could.
“Ah, but if I tell you then I won’t be able to spot your real feelings next time you try to hide them.” He said, drawing a watery chuckle from Albus as he smiled, attempting to diffuse the dark mood with a joke.
“How is it that you know me so well?” Asked Albus, bright hair haloed by the candlelight of the room behind him.
“Your eyes. You feel so strongly that it dances in your eyes clear for all to see. I could recognise any emotion there.” He murmured, wishing that the space between them would shrink to nothing as he spoke.
“But how can you recognise my eyes, you’ve not known me long. I sometimes can’t tell what you’re thinking about at all, so how is it that you can read me so well?” Asked Albus, persistently clinging to his distraction from whatever had drawn him back to the house earlier, and cast a pall over the mood of the evening. There was a strangely pregnant pause and Albus met his eye with a questioning look that compelled Gellert to speak.

“I can’t remember a time before I knew your eyes better than I knew my own in the mirror.” said Gellert, the statement hanging heavy in the crisp night air before he could attempt to bite it back. He waited with baited breath, not knowing what Albus’ next words would bring, and felt as if there was warmth emanating from his very bones when Albus’ reply sounded innocently curious as opposed to closed off.
“What do you mean?” he asked, and Gellert breathed a sigh of relief, his cold fear of being rejected melting away.
“I see through time. I’ve seen you more times than I can count.” He said, and Albus sat up on the window ledge, leaning across the gap to see him better in the darkness.
“A Seer.” he breathed, voice shaking with some suppressed emotion. “What is it that you see.”
“I see you. Us. I always have.” He replied, meeting Albus squarely in the eye and smiling as he broke into a large grin.
“I’m flattered.” said Albus, tone sincere.
“You should be.” he said, tone joking once more as he felt Albus cheer up, his eyes losing their fragility as he looked into Gellert’s own. “I think I’ll head off to bed.” He added with a yawn.
“That sounds like an excellent plan, may I join you?” asked Albus, tone lightly suggestive.
“Only if I may sleep in peace.” He replied, a smile lightning up his face, and Albus pouted in faux-misery, bidding him goodnight with a forlorn look and blowing out his candle as he walked away from the window and down the stairs to the main part of the house.

Gellert stood in the morning sun the following day, trying in vain to remember all of the confusing instructions that Albus had given him. “Remember the three stages.” called Albus from across the field, and Gellert shot him an irritated scowl that held no weight behind it. “Step One: Fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination. Step Two: Focus your determination to occupy the visualized space. Let your yearning to enter it flood from your mind to every particle of your body.Step Three: Turn on the spot, feeling your way into nothingness, moving with deliberation.” continued Albus, sunnily ignoring the sharp look that Gellert had sent him. Gellert growled in frustration, then forced his anger into the attempt and found himself rushing through space, unwilling to open his eyes to see if he had moved at all or just fooled himself into believing that he had. He felt a hand tuck a strand of hair behind his ear and smiled, opening his eyes to see Albus’ awed expression.
“It took you longer to learn, didn’t it.” He crowed, and Albus smiled, a halfhearted attempt at condescension crossing his features as he did so.
“Actually I got it on my first attempt.” He replied, and Gellert pouted, letting his eyes trail down Albus’ form. He heard the other boy’s breath hitch and he smirked internally, pleased that he could so easily make Albus forget himself.
“Let me dream.” he said, tilting his head to one side, and Albus laughed, the sound choked by his obvious attraction. He kissed Gellert roughly, who allowed the action, taking the opportunity to slide his hand up underneath Albus’ shirt, digging his fingers into the soft flesh of his back and pressing the two of them closer.
“You are certainly a dream.” Muttered Albus, breathing heavy as they parted. Gellert laughed, teasing the other boy about his terrible flirtation, but fought to hide his smile as he did so, caught up in a light feeling of warmth that hollowed out his bones and made him feel as if flight were attainable.

The morning of the day after next brought with it a strange sense of foreboding for Gellert that had his right eye itching, inflamed and slightly luminescent but barely noticeable in the bright light of the morning. As the day wore on his distracted state didn’t go unnoticed by Albus, who had won their lighthearted debates with suspicious frequency and asked what was the matter. Gellert rested on his elbows in the grass by the cottage, eyes closed as he turned his face towards the sun. “I don’t know, I just feel like something will change soon.” He said, and smiled when he felt an arm snake around his shoulders as Albus kissed his cheek in a comforting gesture that Gellert was slightly confused by.
“Not all change is bad you know.” He murmured, voice warmly reassuring. Gellert turned to him and initiated a proper kiss, smiling at Albus’ point. As the afternoon wore on Gellert relaxed, tension unwinding from his spine as the two of them lay in the sun talking about the future that they hoped for. They made their way slowly back towards their respective homes, unwilling to part ways once more, and Albus agreed that his siblings could wait a little longer for him to get back to them, and they meandered their winding way towards Godrick’s hollow. As the afternoon sunlight slanted through the trees in the valley and transformed the scene into a dappled glow of gold and green, Gellert followed Albus down the winding sheep track and took the opportunity to stare unabashedly at the lines of his body beneath the careless pale slacks and simple white shirt that so likened him to a marbled statue in the muggy summer air that swirled between them.

They reached Bagshot cottage in what seemed like the blink of an eye and Gellert walked in, There was a moment where no one spoke, Albus confused and Gellert frozen in fear of what the sudden reappearance of his mother could mean. He had no idea what to expect, no way to control what might happen, and no way of stopping his mother ruining whatever he had with Albus. She could destroy everything, feed Albus poisonous truth until everything Gellert thought that thought the other boy could feel would be withered away to ashes. Gellert’s eyes went wide and he brought up a hand placatingly, to do what? He didn’t know. He knew only that the next few minutes would catalyse great change. The very breath he drew could change everything. His mother broke the tense silence. “So he is here after all. I don’t know how you can allow someone like that beneath your roof Bathilda.” She said, her disgust palpable despite the tremor of fear that shivered through her voice. Gellert flinched, wondering how he could ever fix their relationship.
“That someone is your son. My great nephew. How can you be so cold?” She said, throwing a glance at Gellert to see how he was holding up. “A child who is unmatched in magical talent by any except perhaps the boy who stands beside him.” she continued, and despite the grave situation Albus’ slight smile still made something within Gellert glow with warmth.
“I ignored what he was for too long, blinded myself to how cold he could be, how violent he was.” replied his mother, and Gellert cast an anxious glance towards Albus, afraid of how he was taking the confrontation. “That boy is no son of mine.” She said, and Gellert felt his eyes begin to water even as she spoke again. “He is a killer.” The silence echoed through the small room, broken only by a low sobbing that Gellert was barely aware was coming from him. As the two women continued to trade verbal barbs Gellert felt an arm around his shoulders pull him away from the room and out into the warm summer evening. “Gellert, it’s ok.” Said the other boy, and Gellert felt the vestiges of his composure buckle at the simple lie he had been told. He buried his head in Albus’ shoulder and let himself cry, ugly sobs breaking through his masks until he stood there, vulnerable, held up by only Albus’ compassionate embrace.

Gellert was sitting on a bed, though he had no real recollection of getting there, and assumed that it was Albus’ room, so different in the daylight that he hardly recognised it as the room he had stumbled into a few days ago, in the early hours of the morning. It seemed like a distant memory, as if he were sitting in a half remembered dream, and he sat motionless until Albus returned, cup of tea in hand and a worried expression marring his fine features. He looked at Gellert nervously, his eyes brimming with uncertainty that almost hurt more than the horror he had seen in his mother’s face.
“Why were you expelled Gellert?” Asked Albus, his fearful tone bringing an unpalatable cocktail of guilt and fear up in Gellert’s throat. A large part of him was scrambling for a cover story that would be plausible, but something about this boy had always made Gellert want to trust him, so when he opened his mouth all that he could provide was the hideous truth. 
“I was trying something, something completely outside the realm of the known, something to do with soul magic, and it went badly wrong.” he said, looking up at Albus through his lashes, copper gold hair swimming in his teary vision.
“If it was for knowledge, the school should have recognised it as an accident in pursuit something bigger.” Said Albus, and Gellert felt strangely warm at the thought that he was so readily believed, but a creeping sense of guilt took hold of his vocal chords, and before he could stop himself he had admitted the truth of what had happened to the other boy. 
“A girl died.” said Gellert, the truth ripping its way through the soft light of the fading evening and making it hard for Gellert to breathe. Albus wasn’t like Vinda, he had a seemingly endless capacity for empathy, a deep rooted belief that everyone mattered which could rear its head at the most unexpected things, and Gellert was crushingly afraid that he had just destroyed everything. Albus did a double take, eyes wide, but in the face of Gellert’s haunted gaze he offered nothing but a small smile and reached out a hand to clasp his shoulder, pulling him close as he sat down by him on the bed.
“It couldn’t be helped, the death, and after all it was for the greater good.” Albus replied, and Gellert collapsed into the other boy’s side in thanks. He carefully cupped the back of Albus’ head, fingers threading gently gently through his hair as he pulled him for a desperate kiss. 
“There’s something wrong with you you know. You ought to be more upset.” said Gellert, attempting an amused air and failing, his voice cracking with a thankfulness that he couldn’t quite express.
“You’re the single most intelligent person I can remember meeting, I’m not going to let anything hold me back from this.” Replied Albus, and Gellert found himself echoing the sentiment wholeheartedly without quite knowing what it meant. 

Chapter Text

“Your notes are incomprehensible!” said Albus, throwing his hands up in defeat, the two of them sitting in their hut on the hill the following evening, the last of the long afternoon light slanting in through the windows in golden rays. The visit from his mother had rattled Gellert, and he had spent the night curled up in Albus’ comforting arms, slipping out of the house with him while a thick dew still dampened the summer green of the woodland. Albus had left his siblings a note explaining where they had gone and took Gellert’s hand, leaving for their private cottage at a run. Gellert had found himself laughing and joking through the day, sadness washed away by the glow of warmth that Albus’ smile brought into the world. They had wiled away the day with laughter and magical theory and now Albus sat at the desk, frowning over his latest notes on soul magic.
“My handwriting is more legible than yours, and you know it Al.” replied Gellert flatly, a smile lighting up his expression and revealing the warmth behind his tone.
“That, my dear, is not what I meant,” replied Albus, nudging Gellert with his arm and sending a rueful smile his way that Gellert couldn’t help but describe as radiant, “Gellert this is in three languages at least and arithmantic notation crops up all over the place. How do you keep it all straight in your head?”
“There’s always going to shortcomings in every language, I just use the most applicable word I know for the situation, and that won’t always be in one language. Imagine writing ‘there is’ in English when the Hungarian is ‘van’. I’m not wasting my valuable time writing superfluous words when there’s so much to do.” He replied, warming to the topic as he spoke about it.
“But I’d like to read your notes sometimes Gel,” wined Albus, and Gellert pulled him into a kiss to stop his petulant complaints.
“Then of course my love,” he began, trying to keep the smile out of his voice as he spoke close to Albus’ ear and felt the other boy smile, thinking that his complaint would cause a change, “You just need to learn Hungarian.” he finished, and Albus laughed, his eyes lovely in the sunlight, the dappled light of the .
“You’re vile, simply vile.” Said Albus once he had stopped laughing.
“But you love me just how I am, and you can’t hide it. I know you.” He replied, his singsong tone lightly teasing, but Albus nodded, serious expression on his face, and muttered his agreement. Gellert let a real smile emerge on his face and felt some warm almost magnetic sensation pulling him towards Albus, and gave in to it, stepping into the other boy’s embrace and closing the distance between their mouthes with a heated kiss. “I love you too.” He muttered as he pulled away, and for the first time, Gellert realised what saying those words really meant.

Evening fell into night with a soft fading away of the last warmth of the sun, the green of the rolling hills of bracken fading into shadows and silhouettes against the dark blue of dusk and then into total darkness under the stars as Gellert’s world shifted on its axis. He had thought he loved Indus, had been happy with him, would have killed for him, but it couldn't hold a candle to what he felt now. Gellert would lay waste to the world for Albus, would give him everything, and tears pricked at his eyes as a flash of understanding hit him. This was why Indus had pushed the knife deep into his own flesh with a smile, this was the force that let him forgive Gellert for all his sins, and Gellert realised as he lay in the long grasses that had been painted black by the night, that he would die for the boy lying next to him. He had always trusted that he would stay alive at any cost, had always been able to prioritise himself over anyone around him, but Albus Dumbledore took all of those selfish instincts and turned them on their heads. He would do anything for the boy whose hand was loosely threaded through his own, and that scared him. As if sensing his sudden shift in mood, Albus leant up on an elbow and traced the planes of Gellert’s face with a finger, the touch strangely intimate under the stars. Gellert surged forwards in a kiss, not able to articulate how things had just changed for him and hoping that he could prove eloquent without words. Albus moaned, sinking back until he was lying on his back below Gellert.

Gellert felt lust shoot through him as he took in the position they had ended up in and smirked, opening his mouth to make a comment only to be pulled down to meet Albus’ mouth again in a kiss that was more a battle for control than a loving gesture. Gellert bit Albus’ lower lip and felt the sharp gasp that it caused, before Albus pulled his hips down, grinding them into his own and sending wild sparks of pleasure down Gellert’s spine and pulling his blood southwards. With a grin Albus rolled them so that he was on top and grabbed Gellert’s hands, pushing them back into the ground with a sly smile before leaning down into a searing kiss that stole Gellert’s breath. “Is this how we’re doing this then?” asked Gellert, and Albus looked at him with a strangely serious expression.
“If you, if you’d rather—” Albus began, but Gellert could hear a deep reluctance in his voice, so he let his eyelids flutter and arched up into Albus, pressing their groins together in an instinctive hunt for more sparking pleasure that crackled through his blood and sang to him. Albus moaned then, and Gellert met his gaze with eyes half lidded in an expression calculated to make Albus forget everything but Gellert.
“Take me.” he said, smiling as he watched the other boy’s Adam’s apple bob up and down as he said it, Albus’ whole body as taught as a wire for a single moment that lasted eons before he collapsed back into motion, hips stuttering as his full weight fell onto Gellert and he lost himself to the lust that had been building in him since that first kiss on Tower Bridge. Gellert moaned, letting control slip from his fingers and allowing Albus to dictate the pace of their coupling.

Gellert felt hands unlace the loose shirt he had been wearing and then unfasten his trousers and he fumbled to return the favour until his hands were batted away impatiently. Without his shirt the evening chill had a slight bite, but Gellert thought nothing of it in his lust. When the skin of their bare chests met a shiver ran through Gellert, the warmth of Albus’ skin contrasting the cool touch of the night, and he moaned as Albus dragged teeth down across his lower throat before sucking a bruise into the hollow above his left collarbone. Albus lost his patience with getting his own clothes off and simply vanished them with a murmur, then bringing a hand down to slide torturously along Gellert’s length once, twice, before he slipped his fingers between the cheeks of Gellert’s arse and began to rub at his entrance. Gellert felt a single dry finger breach him and mewled in pain, gritting his teeth against another sound and wishing that Albus knew whatever spell it was Indus had found that would slick his fingers before beginning this. As he fought to relax, he felt a sudden wetness on Albus’ fingers as if his silent wish had been a spell. Albus smiled, his eyes black with lust as he breached Gellert once more, one thrusting finger quickly replaced with two. This time Gellert’s unconscious sounds were born of pleasure and he ground down on the fingers inside him, hoping to see stars. Albus was having none of it, pinning Gellert’s hips to the ground and purposely avoiding the place inside him that would bring him the most pleasure. Gellert twisted and fought to keep a plea behind his lips, though for what, he couldn’t say, and caught Albus’ smiling at his refusal. The fingers inside him withdrew, them Gellert felt the much broader head of Albus’ cock where they had left him empty. He bit his lip, hoping again for slick oil to appear, and his magic did not disappoint, manifesting a strange fluid at the joining of their bodies that Gellert was deeply grateful for. Albus moaned, the sound reverberating around them as he slid into Gellert, a soft glow began in his fingertips as his excess magic poured from him in a warm light that seems to pulse with Albus’ heartbeat.

As Gellert writhed in pleasure he found himself surprised at how different this was from the time he had done this with Indus. Magic sparked and danced in the cool night air around them, a crackling force that sent lightning strike arousal through Gellert’s blood as Albus breached him further, the glow in his fingers lighting Gellert’s skin in tones of gold. Above them thunder rolled across the black night sky and Albus shuddered, pulling out before sliding back in, his thrust hitting the sweet spot inside Gellert and puling a low moan from him. Lightning rent the sky and for a moment Gellert saw Albus in brilliant white light, his hair the colour of blood and his skin ivory pale, before the thunder rolled again and the glow of Albus’ fingertips was the only source of light once more. Albus looked up towards the storm and Gellert rocked his hips, drawing the other boy’s attention back to where it should be. “Focus Al, or—” he began, cut off by the moan that tore through his words as Albus began to fuck him in earnest. Lightning flickered across the night again but Gellert payed it no mind, lost in chasing the building pleasure he could feel. Albus’ thrusts quickened and Gellert found himself winding a hand into the copper locks of hair, pulling Albus’ mouth down to meet his own. As they kissed Albus’ thrusts became irritate and he reached a hand down to bring Gellert over the edge with him. Gellert looked up at his lover and blinked away the image of an older version of the same man, copper hair cut shorter and lips parted in the same sharp gasp of pleasure, focusing on the pure pleasure his body felt in the present. He called out Albus’ name as he came undone, muscles tightening around his lover and bringing him closer. Gellert gasped raggedly as a wash of pleasure rushed through him, losing himself for a timeless moment before reality began to fade back into his awareness as Albus came.

As the glow of pleasure faded Gellert noticed that Albus was shivering, realising with a start the night might be considered fairly cold for the english boy and conjuring a blanket with a flick of his fingers. Albus blinked, surprised at the sudden warmth of a thick quilted blanket, and then registered what Gellert had done and smiled at him in wonder. “Did you just conjure a whole blanket without a word or your wand?” he asked, shock written in every syllable he spoke.
“Yes, I thought you might be cold.” Replied Gellert, pulling Albus into a lazy kiss as the rainless storm above them dissipated, leaving the heavens clear once more.
“You’re brilliant.” said Albus, and then after a moment of silence continued. “Thank you. For everything.”
“I hope you’re not planning to go anywhere. That sounded too close to a goodbye Al.” said Gellert, and Albus laughed.
“Where would I go Gel? The most important person in my world is lying in the grass and doesn't look likely to move any time soon.” For a while Gellert was silent, then he thought of Albus’ glowing fingertips and began to wonder about the connection between sex and magic.
“Do your fingertips always glow during sex?” he asked, and Albus laughed, propping himself up on an elbow to look directly at Gellert, the corners of his eyes crinkled into a smile that radiated warmth as he shook his head.
“Sometimes, but never that brightly. Why’d you—” he began, then his eyes took on a sharply thoughtful look. “You’re thinking about how magic interacts with sex, and how latent power is channeled differently by the two of us.” Gellert smiled, wondering how he could really be here, sitting under the stars with a man whose mind jumped to the same questions that his had with the same speed, whose eyes burned with the same curiosity that fuelled him and whose touch sparked such pleasure through his body.
“Yes,” he said, and kissed Albus again. It wasn’t a lust driven touch now, just a warm tough that Gellert hoped would convey everything he couldn’t quite voice. “You were great, by the way.” he muttered into Albus’ skin, and pulled away to see a self satisfied smile in full bloom across his face.
“Of course I was.” Albus replied, and Gellert laughed, too relaxed to tease Albus about his ego.

The next morning Gellert woke early, too hot with Albus lying half across him, their limbs entwined and the duvet he had conjured trapping the heat of their bodies. He disentangled himself and winced, feeling a sharp ache lancing through him as he sat up in the dew laden grass, pulling his trousers from yesterday towards him and looking around for his shirt. With a curse he pulled up his trousers as he stood, shifting from foot to foot to get more comfortable and looking around for his wand. Impatient, he snapped his fingers and called out for his wand with his magic, rubbing his eyes and running a hand through his hair to untangle the worst of the knots while he waited for his wand to appear. Once he had his wand back in hand he felt much more comfortable, and he summoned his shirt, then sent a drying charm at both himself and his shirt before waking up Albus. He shook Albus’ shoulder, getting no response, and his lips twitched as he vanished the blanket keeping his lover warm. Albus opened his eyes slowly, glaring out at the world with a mixture of confusion and loathing. “Not a morning person then?” Said Gellert, and something in his smile must have tipped off Albus about how funny he found because his expression turned flinty and he went for his wand.
“You, shut up.” said Albus, still too close to sleep to think up anything more creative, and Gellert laughed.
“Really witty Al, how can I possibly come back from that,” replied Gellert dryly, “And more to the point, you just had the best night of your life so if I were you I’d be a little nicer to your ever generous lover.” Albus fixed him with a scowl and Gellert maintained his serious expression for a few moments longer before cracking a smile and beginning to laugh. He waved his wand and summoned breakfast with a thought, his magic seeming to leap at the opportunity to stretch out across the woods towards home.

After they had shared some toast and got properly dressed, Albus leapt up with a start, expression guilty and worried as he looked over the rolling green landscape in the direction of Godrick’s Hollow. “I have to get back, my siblings probably need me for something.”
“Just stay, they can cope for another hour or so.” said Gellert lightly, and Albus turned towards him with a suddenly hateful stare. Gellert raised an eyebrow, offended at his lover’s sudden flash of anger, and Albus must have seen some of the hurt he felt in his expression because his gaze softened and he smiled sadly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to lash out like that. You’ve done me nothing but good,” said Albus, and Gellert looked up at him from where he was still sitting, unimpressed and wondering what Albus would say next. “I'm sorry, I’m despicable, but I love you.” he said, eyes apologetic, and Gellert felt all his anger drain away as he drowned in the blue of Albus’ eyes once more.
“Brilliant, not despicable.” Said Gellert, and stood up, holding back another hiss of pain as he moved, leaning into a slow kiss and then following Albus down the path away from their corner of the world. They walked down into Godrick’s Hollow slowly, towards the responsibilities that gave Albus’ shoulders their defeated slump and Bagshot cottage, where his mother’s poisonous words still soured the air, and Gellert found himself hating Aberforth and Arianna just a little, for pulling Albus away from the private world they shared, where what they didn't like could be forgotten.

Albus pulled away from a kiss at the door, too late to hide their embrace from Aberforth. The younger boy stood in the doorway with an uncomfortable look on his face, glaring at Albus silently before he switched his dark look to Gellert. “You’re not welcome here.” he said, and then looked at him expectantly, as if his opinion mattered to Gellert, who laughed.
“But your brother’s been so very welcoming.” he said, his tone layered with innuendo as he looked at Albus with a smirk and pulled him close, a hand around his waist. Aberforth’s expression twisted into disgust before he visibly tried to calm down and Gellert laughed again before turning towards Albus once more. “See you later.” he said, eyes flickering downwards before meeting Albus’ gaze and seeing a mixture of amusement and arousal therein. He walked away slowly and heard the argument begin as the door closed behind the brothers, before creeping back to hear more.
“You have no right to be so rude.” Albus was angry, that much was clear, and Aberforth sounded smug when he replied.
“What would Mother have said Albus?”
“Well seeing as she’s dead, she’s not saying much about who I keep time with, is she.” Said Albus, tone suddenly as cold as Durmstrang in the depth of winter.
“You bastard.” said Aberforth. “Just keep whatever boy your fucking out of the house, Arianna doesn’t need to see that kind of thing.”
“I don’t know why you have these muggle hangups brother, we’re not muggleborns, it’s time you stopped acting like one.” replied Albus, and then they must have moved away from the door, as the conversation faded out of hearing range. Gellert shook his head at the stupidity of Aberforth, wondering how he and Albus could be related, and finally walked back towards Bagshot cottage.

When he opened the door Bathilda answered with a smile on her face. “Are you the cause of wherever fight is happening next door?” she asked.
“Maybe, why?” replied Gellert.
“The word sodomite might have been yelled, and I couldn’t help but think of you.” replied Bathilda dryly, and Gellert cracked up laughing. Bathilda hadn't missed his pained hiss as they both sat down and quirked an eyebrow knowingly, laughing at him quietly and then listening again to the raised voices next door. “Do you know, I think I should go round there to calm things down, perhaps with some cakes for Arianna.” She said, and Gellert laughed.
“Do you know, I think I’d like to join you. After all, getting to know the -how do you say- neighbours, is important.” Said Gellert and Bathilda shook her head at him fondly.
“Come on them you wicked boy, lets go round and make them uncomfortable.” she said with a grin, and walked into the kitchen to pick up the cake she had made the day before. As they made their way to the front door Bathilda had to stifle her laughter, able to hear the argument raging within. Albus was yelling, Aberforth bitterly yelling back and Gellert exchanged a look with Bathilda, a half amused smile appearing on his face without his leave as she knocked fearlessly. Arianna answered the door, her two older brothers both shouting too loudly to hear the tapping, and her pallid face lit up to see Bathilda.
“Batsy! Did you bring cake?” She said, then frowned. “I think you might want to come back later. My brothers are fighting again and I think it might get worse.” Gellert was wearing a perfectly polite smile, and he waited until Arianna had turned to look back through the doorway to catch Bathilda’s eye and mouth ‘Batsy’ at her with laughter dancing in his eyes. She fixed him with a steely glare but it changed nothing. Gellert’s lips twitched, the laughter threatening to bubble up in his throat before Bathilda spoke again.
“I think we ought to come in anyway, your brothers don’t scare us Ari dear.”

When they got to the living room it looked like harsh spells had been exchanged as well as bitter words, and Gellert reached for his wand instinctively when he saw the tears shimmering in the corners of Albus’ eyes before blinking away the sudden rage and offering to fix the room, directing his question at Albus while his great aunt unpacked her cakes and offered one to a still fuming Aberforth. “Yes, of course, but how—” began Albus, going suddenly silent as Gellert sank to his knees. Gellert stifled another laugh, knowing exactly what lines Albus was thinking along, and began to draw the Egyptian Hieroglyph for order-out-of-chaos that he had read about. The rune burned silver in the floor before he spoke, disappearing under the swirling debris of the room putting it’s self to rights as he intoned “Ma’at.” with a wink at Albus.
“Was that supposed to be impressive?” the other boy asked, and Gellert walked over to him with a smile.
“Well it must have been, what else would have you at such a loss for words?” He asked, eyes flashing with mirth.
“Now,” interrupted Bathilda, “An aged neighbour could go deaf with all the yelling going on here.” She looked as if she were about to say more but Albus spoke, his tone honeyed and eyes widely innocent.
“We are lucky then, that none of our neighbours are old.” He said, smiling, and Gellert almost cracked up laughing again. Albus was not as good as he thought he was, and nowhere near good enough at flattery to appease Bathilda Bagshot.
“That’s as maybe, but my real question is this. What’s all this really about and why do I have to hear it through the damn walls?” She said, and Albus’ charm fell away as fast as it had appeared.

The five of them were seated at the kitchen table with a cup of tea each when Bathilda got her answer, and Albus looked to Gellert, who offered a sly smile, before he began to explain. “I’m terribly sorry Mrs Bagshot, Truly, I am, but I’m afraid tensions rise easily now, especially after our recent bereavement. We’ll try to keep the yelling to a minimum, and I do apologise for any trouble you might have had from my younger siblings.” Bathilda nodded with a slight smile, offering to have the three Dumbledores over for dinner as a truce of sorts, throwing a sneaky smile at Gellert while the three others nodded in agreement. Gellert ignored the subsequent conversation entirely, more focused on how softly he could brush his hand against Albus’ upper thigh under the table. The first time he had done it Albus hadn’t reacted, but the next time he shot Gellert a suspicious glance, and after that it had become a game of how red his face could get before Bathilda would mention anything about it. Albus shot him a pleading look and Gellert smiled innocently and thumbed his inner thigh, at which Albus jerked away, his knee hitting the underside of the table and causing a loud bang.
“Boys!” said Bathilda sharply, and Gellert laughed, Albus going another shade closer to crimson as Aberforth’s lip curled in poorly disguised contempt. Arianna frowned at Gellert inquisitively and he fought to hold his tongue, not wanting to push Albus any further.
“May we be excused Bathilda?” he asked, and when she nodded with a knowing smile he broke into a wide grin. “Thanks Batsy.” He said, and darted out of the door before she could cast a stinging hex at him for the nickname, Albus in tow.

Albus spun around when they had closed the door of his house, anger painted across his body language as he shoved Gellert back against the door. “What was that Gellert? Why did you touch me like that in front of my gods-damned family?” He said, truly angry with Gellert for the first time since they had met. Gellert didn’t know quite how to deal with the other boy’s anger, not sure how he could word an explanation without it sounding false when it was in fact, as far from sincere as one could get. He couldn't pull the wool over Albus’ eyes and it would only add insult to injury to try, so he didn’t waist his time with futile words.
“I’m sorry. I can see I hurt you, It wasn’t my intention at all.” he said, frustrated when it didn’t sound as eloquent as he had wanted it to, worried that Albus would judge him for the clumsy wording of the apology. Albus’ expression softened, though he still had him pinned to the door, and Gellert smirked suddenly before pulling Albus towards him for a kiss. “Let me make it up to you.” he said, cupping Albus with his hand through his trousers as he sank down to his knees and felt Albus thread fingers through his hair. He snapped his fingers and vanished Albus’ trousers and underclothes, looked up through his lashes and smiled before sucking a bruise into his inner thing, then moving his way upwards. He bit gently into his left hip, heard a hitched breath and looked up, smiling before taking Albus into his mouth. It was strange, doing this for someone whose preferences he didn’t quite know yet. He hollowed his cheeks and began to move, sure that that at least would feel good regardless of personal tastes, and smiled internally at the shuddering moan it pulled from Albus. He moved away completely and kissed his way along the line of Albus’ pelvic bone, biting the skin and feeling a sudden flash of possessiveness as he licked over the bruise. Albus’ fingers tightened in his hair and he smiled, then moaned as he felt a sharp tug and let himself be directed where Albus wanted him to go. He half smiled before sinking down onto Albus, then felt the hands in his hair tighten again, half painful now before he realised what Albus wanted. He slackened his jaw and met Albus’ eyes, the blue a fine line around his blown pupils, trying to convey that he could do what he wanted without words.

“I think,” muttered Albus when he had spent himself and apperated them to their cottage, “That you should apologise more often.” Gellert laughed and clicked his fingers, summoning a glass of water to ease the soreness of his throat.
“I’m sure you do,” he said, his voice hoarse, and smiled before pulling the notes he had been working on the evening before towards him on the bed that Albus had transfigured from a loose floorboard when they arrived. “But maybe if you’re spectacularly nice to me you’ll get to fuck my throat without the excuse of an apology on my part.”
“I’m always nice to you.” said Albus indignantly, and Gellert grinned, pulling him down onto the bed beside him.
“Well things are looking quite good for you then, aren't they?” he said, his voice raspy. Albus went pink, strangely prudish now that he was dressed again. He tapped his notes with his wand, muttering a spell that he had found that would bind them into a booklet with a sturdy cover, and smiled at Albus’ awed expression.
“That’s such a useful spell, I can’t believe I don’t know it. Could you teach me?” He said, blush fading as his eyes flashed with curiosity.
“The incantation is переплет, and the wand motion is a a sharp downwards jab.” He said, and laughed when Albus garbled the pronunciation of the Russian spell. “No, per-e-plet. It’s three syllables.” It took Albus another attempt but he got the spell, and Gellert felt a strange tug on his heartstrings, never able to get used to someone mastering things just as quickly as he did himself. “I love you.” he said, smiling uncontrollably, and Albus looked at him, a little confused until a spark of understanding seemed to catch in his eye and he smiled softly back.
“And I you.” he replied, and Gellert pulled him into another kiss, the afternoon sliding by while they lay on the bed talking away the hours, giddy and laughing about nothing in particular.

They apperated back to the road outside their houses after a lazy few hours of comparing their notes, the late afternoon sunlight falling through dust motes thrown up by the dry breeze on the dirt road and painting them gold. Gellert was relaxed, his mind swirling with ideas as he mulled over what he had read of Albus’ notes on the second hallow. He himself had spent the better part of a year researching the history of the first one and a few fruitless weeks trying to find anything about the third, but Albus had spent months actively trying to find the second one. Gellert hadn't understood at first, but seeing Albus looking so miserable as he made his way towards his own front door had explained his obsession with the most dangerous of the hallows. He wanted to bring his mother back, and Gellert couldn't help but admire it as a singularly ruthless scheme. Albus knew the legend, knew how the shades tempted those who cared about them to suicide, so he must have realised that he would be dooming his siblings by bringing their mother back. As Gellert walked slowly back to Bagshot cottage, the dappled sunlight lighting shifting patterns over his smile, he thought for the first time that perhaps Albus resented his siblings just as much as he did.

That night Gellert fell into bed, exhausted, as the physical exertion of the past twenty four hours caught up with his all at once, and he was asleep as soon as he had pulled the covers up over himself. In his dreams he walked along a road that stretched out endlessly in either direction, the cracked paving stones the colour of blood behind him and a stony grey ahead. He took a step forwards and the red seeped forwards until it stopped at his feet once more. Another step yielded the same result, but when Gellert stepped back the red tide didn’t recede with him, the slabs of stone remaining a deep rust colour and he swallowed, deeply afraid, though he couldn't explain why. Gellert walked forwards, grey dyed red behind him, until he reached a fork in the road. The red stone behind him seemed to ooze dye into the air, tendrils of crimson wrapping around him like snakes and gliding menacingly forwards through the air. Albus walked towards him, a glow surrounding him that saturated the air with white sparks that danced in the currents of magic that wove through the air in a violent parody of an embrace. Their hands met, the red tide at Gellert’s heels smashing against the white glow of Albus’ path through the darkness and throwing up plumes of light in every direction. Albus pulled him close, white light almost blinding as they kissed in the centre of the glow, but the red that stalked Gellert’s footsteps hadn't been defeated, and a tendril of dark red lanced from his hand to Albus, binding him tightly in a chain of red that spread over his hands until they dripped with blood and dimmed the glow surrounding them. Gellert cried out in horror, trying desperately to control the strange red stains and save his lover as he looked into the blue of his gaze that had been drowned in unseeing terror. The dark red trailing from Gellert caught Albus in a stranglehold and he choked, the light that surrounded Gellert in a gentle embrace fading as he stilled, blue eyes staring at Gellert accusingly out of a dead face.

Gellert woke with a jerk, swallowing the scream that had been on the tip of his tongue and trying to calm his shivers. He reached out with his magic, paralysed with fear as he sought out the heartbeats in the house next door. He sank back against his pillows with a shaky relief as he found all three normal, wondering why he was cursed with The Sight. He rubbed his glowing eye, still half expecting his fingers to come away bloody, and tried to ignore the tears still streaming down his face. As he curled in on himself, hugging his knees as he lay on his side in the darkness, he found himself thinking of Indus. He would not go through that shattering loss again, couldn't bear to watch Albus die. He couldn’t live with a hole in his heart, couldn't cope with knowing that a soft caress would never come again, wouldn't be able to survive on his own. He couldn't stop a tear rolling down his face at just the thought of living in a world without Albus, and he knew in that instant that losing Albus would kill him. There had to be a way to join them together with magic, a way to bind them as one so that he couldn't hurt Albus accidentally, could never bring him to harm. Then it hit him. They could create a blood pact.

Chapter Text

It had rained in the night and the roofs shone in the light of the grey pre-dawn, and the slates were slippery when Gellert took a running jump across the space between the two. He landed badly, sliding down the rain wet surface as his bare feet lost their purchase on the apex of the roof, and for a moment he fell, weightless, before his feet slammed into the iron gutter that ran around the edge of the roof. With a shaky laugh Gellert swung his way down until he was standing on the windowsill of Albus’ room. He knocked on the window frame and waited, hands braced against the overhanging lip of the roof to make sure he wouldn't fall. Albus threw open the window, a smile in his eyes until he took in Gellert’s tear streaked face and glowing eye. “What happened Gel?” he said, his worry clear in the gentle hug he pulled Gellert into once he had jumped down into the room.
“I killed you. I, I watched a red tide consume you. I couldn’t stop it, I didn't mean to do it. I won’t lose you, I can’t lose anyone else like that. We need to do a blood pact. We need to do something” he said, his voice panicked and his eyes darting wildly back and forth across the room. He sank down into a huddle, hands shaking as his vision flickered and he saw the knife sliding into Indus’ chest with sickening ease once more. In his minds eye Indus’ hair faded from black into the fire-gold of Albus’ and when the corpse opened its eyes they were the bright blue of the trapped summer sky that he had loved for so long.
“Gellert,” someone was calling his name, shaking him in an attempt to snap him out of his memories. “Gellert I’m here. It’s ok, I’m ok. Nothing bad has happened to me. We can do a blood pact, we can do anything you like. I’ll protect you. I love you.” He said, rubbing soothing circles into the small of his back. “I’m here, we’re going to be fine. I promise.” Gellert sobbed, the room coming back into focus as he felt the reassuring weight of Albus’ arms wrapped around him in a tight embrace.
“You don’t understand. I can’t do it again, I won’t lose you like that. It would kill me.” He said, trying to convey the wordless terror that bit deep into his bones. Albus said nothing, just tightened his embrace and helped Gellert to feel more grounded.

They were on the bed, limbs entwined as Gellert’s shivers subsided at long last, and Albus opened his mouth to speak before closing it, silent and worried. “What?” asked Gellert, his voice hoarse. “It’s ok, I’m not going to just shatter if you ask me something.”
“Gellert, I don’t mean to pry, but you kept saying that you couldn’t lose someone like that ‘again’. What happened?” Said Albus, tentative, and Gellert turned to meet his gaze, fresh tears welling in his eyes as he began to reply.
“I’m going to tell you the story of my Seer’s Sickness, and the price I payed for my power.” He took a deep breath before continuing, trying to steady his nerves. Albus wouldn't hate him for this, wouldn't react any differently to when he had told him about Ladislav. A voice in the back of his mind pointed out that this would hit a lot closer to home that the the other story but he quashed the thought with another shuddering breath and started to speak. “There was a boy in my year at Durmstrang called Indus Black, and he had pretty eyes.” He began, and then the whole story came pouring out of him. The terrible madness, the sickening realisation of what he would have to do and the dark ritual he had performed, and when at last he had finished he hardly dared look Albus in the eye, afraid of the emotions he would see lurking there. He felt a hand on his jaw that gently forced him to look Albus in the face, meeting his eyes with a fearful expression.
“I understand Gellert, and I’m sorry you had to go through that.” He said, and Gellert looked at him searchingly, trying to spot the fear that should by all rights be obvious in Albus’ expression, but if the boy lying next to him was afraid he hid it very well. Albus smiled and caught him in a soft kiss, comforting him and murmuring something about the greater good between kisses. Gellert managed to return a watery smile and Albus wiped away the tears that tracked his cheeks with a gentle caress before putting his arms back around Gellert, fearless as he held a murderer close. Gellert pushed away that thought, distracting himself by settling into the hug and starting a conversation about the recent anti-veela shift in french wizarding policy.

Blood pacts were old, older than any magical school. He had read about them in Russia, when he had visited the great magical library in Moscow as a child, but he could remember everything he had read about them vividly, even now. They predated even basic wand use and were considered unsafe by most today. They were dangerous; it was said that a bound couple couldn't live without each other, that if one died the other would as well, and the pacts themselves were steeped in mystery, but at least they had a starting point. The two of them had left for the cottage as late morning painted bright sunlight across the woodland and Gellert had wasted no time in getting there, eager to begin the construction of their blood pact. Albus hadn't been as sure that he wanted to do it after Gellert had explained how much of the magic surrounding blood pacts was either taboo or shrouded in confusion, but he had talked him around, and Albus soon lost any reservations he had started out with, fascinated by the magic they were studying. “What do you know about horcruxes?” asked Albus suddenly, and Gellert looked at him in complete confusion.
“What?”
“Horcruxes. I was reading this passage about blood pacts and I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this and soul magic.” Replied Albus, and Gellert’s eyes went wide when he realised how right Albus was.
“How did I miss that?” he muttered to himself as he rooted through his trunk for one of his older notebooks, flicking through it to find his notes on the dark subject. He flicked through another of his notebooks, this one containing his research into soul-splitting and what made up the fabric of the soul. “You were right. I think we could blend blood magic and soul magic, all of my research— yes, that could work.” he said, eyes bright with the possibilities that Albus’ insight provided. “It would be an anti-horcrux if you will, the joining of two souls into one, with a drop of our blood to bind the pact to the physical plane.” He said, and Albus smiled at him warmly before frowning.
“If we need to join our souls there’ll be a catalyst. For a horcrux it’s death, but what could bind two souls together?” asked Albus, and Gellert mirrored his expression, stumped.
“We can worry about that bridge when we come at it.” decided Gellert, and Albus laughed gently.
“‘When we come to it’ sounds more natural in English. I forget sometimes that it’s not your first language.” Gellert scowled but there was no malice behind his look and he returned to their new project, his heart beating at the normal rate for the first time since his horrible vision.

It was just better with Albus as an academic partner; they got through research faster, checking their calculations was easier and Gellert was smiling uncontrollably by the end of the day. As the afternoon light slanted through the greenery Albus closed the last reference book they had and sighed, kissing Gellert on the cheek and getting up from where they had been sitting. Gellert laughed and pulled him back down for a proper kiss, still half disbelieving Albus’ easy acceptance of his past but not willing to shatter the illusion if there was one, and with Albus smiling in the sunlight he couldn't bring himself to put any kind of damper on the moment. “Should we head back to the—” he started but was interrupted by a scream. He looked around wildly to find Albus face to face with a strange creature. It had amber eyes made of glowing smoke and a face that disappeared, the wide grin of its sharp toothed smile half vapour and half opaquely solid. Albus looked as if he’d had the fright if his life and Gellert smiled at him reassuringly before speaking. “Fey I hail to the winds, the magics of olde, the dark of the Winter and the currents of the Water. What would you have of me?” Albus looked at him, confused, and he shot the other boy a smile.
“Speak not with stolen oaths, for you are no son of stars and I come to pay a debt.” it said, it’s voice sounding as if it lay somewhere between a crackling flame and the rustling of wind through leaves, and Gellert bowed in apology.
“The Fey owe me a debt I do not remember, but pay what you will.” He said, and the creature’s smile widened further, stretching back impossibly far around its face.
“You freed the lonely from their stone prison, on the night of the star’s fall. I pay the debt of my people with this glimpse: You will blind Orion, and magic of that ilk can’t be undone, Lordling. The world will change and you will walk the blade’s edge between victory and defeat. I will add only this, the phoenix is the key.” The creature turned to smile at Albus, who nervously smiled back as it dematerialised, leaving only a perfect heptagon of vividly orange flowers where it had been seconds before to show that it had ever been there.

The walk back to Godrick’s Hollow was quiet, Gellert wondering what all of it could mean while Albus processed what had happened, lost in his own head. They parted on the path between their houses with another hug, Gellert kissed Albus’ cheek and then walked into Bagshot cottage as the sun dipped lower in the sky. Gellert didn’t even taste the dinner that Bathilda put together, thanked her for it and went up to his room, tired all of a sudden, and hoped that at least tonight he would sleep dreamlessly. Though it was early evening Gellert felt his eyes closing of their own accord and he soon abandoned the attempt to get any reading done. Albus had lent him a very modern muggle book called ‘War Of The Worlds’ that had come out just a year before, and he was enjoying it much more than he thought he would. The imaginative writing reminded him that muggles had their own kind of magic, but he was too tired to even read a page, and he left it unopened on the bedside table in favour of sleep.

“Gellert.” the voice sounded impatient, and Gellert opened an eye blearily. “Gellert I’ve got it. We blind Orion.” said Albus, a wild smile on his face as he got in under the covers. Gellert hissed as Albus touched his cold feet to Gellert’s warm ones.
“Don’t steal my warmth! Why’re you here?” he asked, still half asleep and wondering why Albus was repeating the words of the fey.
“We steal Orion’s eye.” Said Albus, as if changing the word order made it any clearer what he was getting at.
“What?”
“Orion’s eye, we take it.”
“I can hear you just fine. What do you mean? Speak plainly, I’m too tired to figure out whatever you’re on about if you talk in your usual riddles.”
“That’s it. The Eye Of Orion is the catalyst.” something in Gellert’s face must show how confused he still was, because Albus smiled and continued. “We’re going to steal the blue eye-star from the Orion constellation. That’s what will join our souls for the blood pact.” Gellert’s knee jerk reaction was denial, how could two barely-adult wizards steal a star out of the sky, but the more he thought about it the more sense it made. Alchemists theorised that the world was comprised of stardust and that all the elements were just exploded star matter, so the heart of a star would be the most powerful magically creative force possible. Of course it would work.
“You’re brilliant. Absolutely Brilliant.” he said, puling Albus into a deep kiss. “My mad, brilliant genius. I’m so glad we met, so glad I was expelled and you were here. You’re right about the catalyst. I never would have thought of that Al.” They lay there in Gellert’s bed in the attic room of Bagshot cottage, fingers entwined as the sun rose, and Gellert was silent, held mute by how much he wanted to say. They talked through the grey of the morning’s birth and then slept a little, Gellert waking refreshed, in the late morning to the sunlit form of his lover, his hair flaming across the pillow as he slept, and Gellert sat up, spellbound by the beauty of the scene. He sighed and shook Albus gently by the shoulder. “Get up. Come on, we’ve plenty to do to day after all.”

It took them the better part of a month to get the ritual planned. They had to buy a second pensieve in order to have a second-order refractive process for their blood mixing, then wait for the summer solstice to call the star down and perform the ritual proper, but the day had finally arrived. The two of them spent the day apperating back and forth between the place they had chosen for the ritual and the cottage where they had made all of the preparations, and as the moon rose Gellert anxiously recalculated his angles. Albus had made the potions they would need and worked out a spell that would de-clot the mixture of their blood while it was suspended in the air above the pensieves, and Gellert had calculated and recalculated the trajectory that the Eye Of Orion would fall in. They needed to be certain, they only had one chance. One moment would catalyse the bonding of their souls, one moment would determine the success or failure of their ritual. Gellert was nervous, but Albus’ hands stopped his distracted fiddling as the hour approached. To calm himself Gellert went through a mental list of everything they had prepared once more. Almost the first thing that they had done was plant Bay and Calendula plants, for prosperity and magical prowess as well as Mugwort for magical consecration and Rosemary for wisdom, and now the Heptagonal space they had planted with them was growing well. Albus had turned out to have a deft hand for herbology, something Gellert had railed against as a subject for as long as he could remember, and they often exchanged barbs over it. After planting their ritual space with herbs they had mixed their blood, arguably the most potent magical substance in the body, and then the difficult part had begun. The arithmancy involved with summoning a star was fiendishly complex, and Gellert had had to go up as far as he could on Aberforth’s broom measuring air density and factoring it into how the star would fall. They had returned the broom in bad repair, it had not taken kindly to the extreme Gellert had pushed it to, and fell apart soon after, much to Aberforth’s horror. It was all very well to work within the confines of a mathematical model but the world didn’t really work that way, and they needed this to be right first try.

As the witching hour approached, Gellert and Albus clasped their left hands, wands grasped in their right as they stood in the centre of the heptagon and began the ritual. “Orionem et nos caeci sumus te. Orion autem facie tua furantur. Cem rapuit oculum animae viribus obligantes.” Gellert chanted, then Albus said the same words and a final time they said it together, repeating the sequence seven times, the last words fading away as the church bells tolled midnight far away in Godrick’s Hollow. Gellert felt a strange tugging sensation in his chest, then cried out as his magic spiralled upwards, entwining with Albus’ in a double helix arcing its way towards the Eye Of Orion. As the distant church bells faded the sky grew brighter, the heart of the star was falling. Though it was difficult to pinpoint position, Gellert tracked the path of the star and smiled. He had calculated right. As long as the atmosphere didn’t interfere with the fall, they would be successful, and Albus smiled back at him, his hands shaking in Gellert’s with the anticipation. When the Light grew too bright Gellert closed his eyes and clung on to Albus with everything he had, and as the light faded he felt the first effects of the ritual.

When he opened his eyes the world looked the exact same, but somehow everything felt different. The heart of the star had burned away both the pensieves, piles of silver ash all that was left of them, and solidified into a metal structure that Gellert stared at in complete fascination. It was a parallelepiped, had probably started out as a mathematically perfect one, but the summoning had changed it, carved out the faces so that every edge was elliptic. Their blood swirled in constant motion, a perfect sphere trapped within the frozen heart of a star, and when Gellert turned his gaze skywards he broke into a wide smile. The constellation Orion no longer had an eye, the sky there suddenly dark and empty. They had really done it, they had changed the sky, shaped the writing of the very heavens. He turned to Albus, who had transfigured a plaited strand of their hair into a silver chain that glistened with a strange light of its own and fused it to the frozen star, creating a beautiful necklace of their pact. He placed it almost reverently about Gellert’s neck and unlaced his shirt, captivated by the sight of everything they had achieved resting against the pale skin just above Gellert’s heart. He grinned and pulled Albus into a heady kiss, gasping as he felt the final magics of the ritual seal together and lock. As they kissed sparks flew and Gellert felt a static shock just above his left ear, and when they puled apart at last he began to laugh. “What?” asked Albus.
“You’ve gone grey.” cackled Gellert, for there was a streak of very pale blond in Albus’ russet red hair that stood out vividly, and Albus responded by pulling a strand of his hair teasingly.
“Well you’ve got a little red in there now, no doubt you’ll find yourself braver.” He said, and Gellert kissed him again to cease his noise.
“I’m glad, because it shows that you're mine, and I’m yours, and now nothing will be able to divide us.” He said, eyes flashing possessively in the moonlight as he pulled Albus close.

The next morning they apperated back to Godrick’s Hollow, Gellert pulling Albus into a passionate kiss on the doorstep of his house before returning to Bagshot Cottage for breakfast. “This isn’t just a restaurant service you know. I’d like to know where you went gallivanting off to yesterday, and what you two had to do with that midnight sun.” Said Bathilda by way of greeting. Gellert grinned and denied all knowledge of any late night light shows.
“Batsy dear, I’ve not the faintest clue what you’re talking about.”
“My dear Great Nephew, if I ever hear that name from your lips again I’ll sew them shut the muggle way.” she replied, and Gellert threw his head back in laughter, admitting that the ritual had been him and Albus, though he didn't quite get around to explaining what precisely it was meant to do. Almost as soon as he had finished talking there was a knock at the door and Gellert got up to answer it. Albus stood there in a sea green shirt that complemented his hair beautifully and Gellert didn’t respond to his greeting for a minute, lost in the way the fabric of his shirt hugged the body underneath in just the right way.
“You just couldn't stay away could you, come in then.” he said, feigning irritation before closing the door and pushing Albus back against it for a kiss before they made their way into the kitchen. Albus made small talk with Bathilda for as short a time as could be considered polite and all but dragged Gellert out of the house, apperating them to somewhere in magical London.

“I wanted to show you my favourite part of London today.” said Albus, a smile lighting up his face as he walked towards a strange little shop with an alchemical flask on the sign that swung over the street. Gellert followed Albus into the shop and smiled in delight at what he saw. There were arithmantic equations written on large blackboards thirty feet high, books were piled haphazardly in towering stacks in all kinds of inconvenient places and there was an Alchemy lab set up in one corner. “Welcome Gellert, to The Raven’s Nest.” Gellert wasn’t listening to the explanation of the name, sure it had something to do with the ridiculous english schooling system. Instead he was reading through a proof written on the blackboards under the title Functional Analysis that several arithmancers seemed to be arguing over. He read through it a few times, stood lost in thought for a few minutes and then frowned, not sure what the densely written proof was for. He walked over silently, feeling Albus’ eyes on him, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote his proof. He made sure to make his symbols as legible as possible and then backed away, pleased by the beautiful proof he had come up with. When he moved away the six people arguing fell silent one by one, as they noticed his elegant two line proof and then someone started to clap. Gellert swept a low bow and looked around, wondering where Albus had gone.
“Thank you.” he said, and stepped back further from the board only to hit someone. “Oh I’m sorry—” he began before turning properly to see that it was Albus.
“Show off.” the other boy said.
“Jealous?” replied Gellert, and Albus laughed.

“Care to introduce us to your… friend Albus?” said a tall bespectacled man with dark hair, and Albus gave the man a confused look before smirking.
“This is one Gellert Grindelwald,” Said Albus with a smirk, “Most famous for his—”
“Fourth dimension proof, yes, I was amazed to discover that you were so young. The two of you are the same age, no?” said the man, directing his question this time towards Gellert.
“Actually, I’m a year younger.” He replied, and had been about to add more when Albus spoke again.
“Though no less brilliant, I assure you.” Gellert smiled at that and almost reached out to pull Albus in for a kiss before realising that he might not appreciate the overt display of their relationship. Albus reached out and laced their fingers together and the tall man smiled, thanking Gellert for his short proof once more and wondering off. The group of arithmancers that had been puzzling through the long proof came over, all a little older than the last one had been, and there were two whose noses had obviously been put out of joint by being so outclassed mathematically, so Gellert put on his most gracious smile and began to weave the web of flattery and arithmantic theory that would make these fools more amiable towards him. As they spoke he edged his way back towards the blackboards to sign his name beneath the proof, so he wasn’t quite prepared when the door swung open to reveal someone that Gellert had thought he would never see again.

Hoping to quietly fade into the background Gellert pulled Albus away from the boards where they were clearly visible, but it was fruitless. The tall arithmancer that had spoken to him earlier was talking to the dark skinned man, gesturing to the blackboards with a smile and pointing to the proof. Gellert sighed and shot a worried look at Albus before realising that he wouldn’t know what was wrong, and turning to put the chalk back on the shelf below the blackboard before dredging up a smile. “Still up to your eyes in more complicated things that the rest of us then I see.” said his old teacher, smiling as he read through Gellert’s short proof.
“I’m afraid so,” He said, wondering how badly Professor Mansuro had reacted to what had happened to Ladislav.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your redheaded friend Grindelwald?” reproached his old professor, and Gellert smiled, relieved at how his professor had chosen to open the conversation.
“This is none other than Albus Dumbledore.” He said, and Albus offered his left hand to Professor Mansuro, the right still entwined with his own.
“Ah, the transfiguration prodigy. I wouldn't expect to find you by the arithmancy boards in The Raven’s Nest.” Mused the professor with a smile on his face. Albus leant his head on Gellert’s shoulder and let the reason for his whereabouts speak for itself. After a somewhat stilted dance around the events of the term and a much more enthusiastic talk about his short proof, the professor left the two of them to their own devices and Gellert suggested lunch.

“I’ll just get some money out of Gringotts, hang on.” Said Albus, but Gellert merely laughed.
“No you won’t. It’ll be my treat.” He said, then pulled Albus towards the connection to muggle London. The first pawn shop he came across fell victim to his usual tricks and he soon had a pocket full of muggle coins while Albus shook his head disapprovingly. Gellert waited until they were at the corner of the street to summon his galleon back, and laughed at Albus’ outrage. “Shh, this is your lunch. Stop complaining about it.” he said, and then winced as Albus hit him in the arm. They quickly headed back into Diagonally and Gellert spun around backing Albus into a wall and kissing him breathless before flouncing off. Albus quickly caught up with him blushing and smiling, Gellert’s con forgotten in a moment, and they quickly made their way towards the bank to exchange their muggle money for galleons. They ate their food while sitting on the warm pavement, and it earned them dirty looks from some of the richer people out and about but Gellert was having a lot of fun changing the colour of their shoes. If they sneered he turned the shoes pink, if they tutted the shoes went an ugly shade of green and if they scoffed he turned the shoes puce. Albus had tried to stop him at first but he had soon given in, even doing the honours when a pale woman with long white-blond hair walked past and tutted loudly. “We’ll make a criminal of you yet Al, I’m sure.” He said, a smile turing at the corner of his mouth.

The afternoon seemed to slide past them like grease and Gellert found himself laughing loudly, lost in the joy of pulling childish pranks that put him in mind of his friends from Durmstrang. His smile dropped for a second, he only had Vinda left of his original friendship group, but Albus had picked that moment to transfigure a man’s hat permanently into a seagull and they were hard pressed to escape the man’s outraged screeching. Hours flew by and before he knew it the light was lending the buildings long shadows and the day was drawing to a close. They apperated back home and Gellert joined Albus for tea with a grin, doing his level best to make Aberforth as uncomfortable as possible, but found himself distracted by Ariana’s discussion of magical history. He returned to Bagshot cottage shortly afterwards and was strong-armed into cooking dinner for once, counting the meal as a success as both he and Bathilda were alive after finishing it. He exchanged a few charmed notes with Albus but couldn’t go to see him, Aberforth having put his foot down about Albus spending more time properly looking after Arianna, and fell into a light sleep at a reasonable hour after whiling away the evening finishing the book Albus had leant him.

No dark dreams stalked his sleep but he woke in a cold sweat just before dawn, terrified and shaking for no reason. As he woke up properly the feelings faded until they almost seemed dreamlike, but Gellert felt a sudden lurch of fear that squeezed his heart and held him motionless. In a flash it came to him that it was Albus’ fear that he was feeling, and he sprang to his feet, apperating to Albus’ side as quietly as he could. “Albus.” he said, shaking the other boy into wakefulness. “I’m here for you, it’s ok. You’re ok now.” He said, not really sure if he was helping but unable to stop saying the redundant reassurances.
“I’m fine.” said Albus shortly, and Gellert met his eye with a frown.
“Maybe now, but you were paralysed with terror not five minutes ago. Was it a nightmare?” He asked, worried that digging up whatever it was wouldn't be helpful.
“It was a dream about my mother. It’s always the same dream: we are all sitting at the table when a shadow coalesces into being, tears right through her body and leaves us with sitting at the table with half a corpse.” Gellert didn’t know what to say, didn’t know if it was a memory or just a horrible imagining or something else entirely, and so he settled for enveloping Albus in a tight hug. “She, well we argued a lot but she was still my mother, you know? I still loved her” he said, sniffing and trying desperately not to cry.

Gellert did not know. He didn’t understand at all. From everything Albus had said about the woman Gellert would probably have breathed a sigh of relief at her death if he’d been in Albus’ position. She sounded like an awful person; obsessed with how others perceived her and envious too, but Gellert couldn’t very well say that. He bit his tongue and held Albus close while he cried, suddenly realising as he felt the tears seeping through his nightshirt where Albus had buried his face in Gellert’s shoulder that he was being trusted with real emotional vulnerability. It was hard for Albus to let himself show Gellert a weakness, so used to bottling it up that he couldn’t express himself clearly, and so Gellert kissed him gently and held him close as the first light of a new day marched over the horizon in the east, silently supportive in the only way he knew how. It was strange, the feelings that he could sense rolling through the bond, and his hand went up to trace the shapes of the blood pact unconsciously, not sure what this said about the magic they had used. Albus saw the motion and smiled. “It was the bond, wasn’t it? That’s how you felt my dream.” said Albus, pulling Gellert out of his reverie.
“I woke up and I could feel your fear, then as I became more aware they sort of faded into the back of my mind but there was a strange pressing sensation in my chest,” He said, “The bond doesn’t like to be stretched too far, I think.” Albus shot him a considering look and Gellert smiled at him, eye caught by the rebellious curl of a strand of red hair across the pillow. He tucked the hair softly back behind Albus’ ear and Albus smiled in thanks before speaking again.
“That could present a problem if we need to be apart, we might need to be in whole different parts of the world at some point.” Said Albus, and Gellert shook his head, kissing Albus and feeling warmth saturate the air between them with the magic of their bond.
“Say it is not so.” he murmured, and Albus laughed before getting out of the bed with a sigh and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Gellert looked up at him and smiled, reaching out to pull him back into beg but Albus slapped his hands away.
“I need food, so do you, and unfortunately so do my siblings.” He said, and Gellert grimaced before smoothing over his expression and hoping that his anger wouldn’t echo through the bond too much.

He apperated into the kitchen of Bagshot cottage with a smile on his face an had just boiled the kettle for tea when Bathilda emerged. “I hope that’s my cup of tea you’re making there.” She smiled kindly, the picture of innocence, but Gellert knew the truth.
“I think there’s enough for both of us.” He said, and added that he could cook breakfast if she wanted him to.
“Please no, I think I’ve been through enough.” She said, and Gellert made a face at her, though he was secretly relieved to have some of Bathilda’s cooking, as she was reliably brilliant. As he rubbed his eyes a letter shot through the fireplace and Gellert broke into a massive grin. It would be his BÄZT grades. He grabbed it out of the air as it flew past him and tore it open eagerly, surprised as two letters also fell out of the envelope. with his grades. They were both from Vinda, but he could read them later. With trembling hands he unfolded the sheet of paper and let out a sigh of relief at the row of Outstandings, then wondered how Albus had done and charmed a quick note asking if he’d got his grades. A smile on his face, he opened the two letters from Vinda and began to read.

When he closed the letter Gellert was shaking with rage. Vinda’s father had cut her off completely, and she was being forced to work through the summer to afford her place at Durmstrang for the next year. He penned a quick response and threw it into the flames, and was waiting anxiously for a reply when he heard a knock at the door. Bathilda, who was holding her wand in a white-knuckled grip, go tup to answer the door, and Albus seemed to sense that there was something wrong, because his smile faded and he walked straight over to Gellert and pulled him into a reassuring kiss. “What happened?”
“My friend’s family disowned her.” Said Gellert, and Albus did a double take. “Yes, it’s awful. We’ve been friends for years so I invited her round for dinner and you’ll love her, I promise. Her name’s Vinda Rosier.” Gellert said fondly, and Albus smiled at his obvious affection.
“I’m sure I will.” He replied, leaning in for a longer kiss. Bathilda coughed to remind them of her presence and they broke apart, Albus blushing prettily as they parted.

At half past five the fireplace crackled green and Vinda stepped out of the fireplace with a smile looking as if she had just stepped out of some elegant magical tailor’s despite her new economic circumstances. He complimented her choice of a pastel pink blouse and the deep midnight blue skirts she had paired it with and leapt up to hug her tightly. Remembering his manners, Gellert introduced Albus and Vinda looked at him with a smirk. “Well I can see I’ll be suffering through more of your traumatising displays of,” here she paused and glanced to Bathilda, “Affection.” Gellert laughed and Albus looked between them, confused.
“How is everyone?” he asked, and Vinda began to tell stories of post-expulsion Durmstrang. Imari, Yagana and she had become good friends it seemed, and there had been a lot of debate about why he had been expelled, as the professors had kept the details quiet. Some people insisted that he’d summoned a full fledged demon while others thought that he’d been set up because the school didn’t want to deal with him any longer, and Gellert laughed until tears streamed down his face. Albus began to talk then, wondering aloud how one would go about summoning a spirit and the nature of ghosts, and Vinda groaned, turning to Bathilda with a look of abject horror.
“There are two of them?” she said, incredulous, and Gellert cracked up laughing again.

Vinda stayed until dark had fallen but didn’t spend the night, slyly pointing out that she’d rather not be kept up for all of it by Albus and Gellert, who laughed and waved goodbye at the fireplace before apperating to the tumbledown cottage for the night.

Chapter Text

Seeing Vinda again had been lovely, but it had broken the spell of easy contentment that Albus had unknowingly given him. As they apperated to the cottage from Bathilda’s kitchen Gellert found himself longing for wider skies and more books to read. Though they had gone to several places in England in the last few weeks he missed the soothingly guttural sounds of his mother tongue, wishing that Albus had the chance to see more of the world than this one wet little island that he had been stuck on for the whole of his life. He wanted to take Albus to Munich and Moscow, to the great libraries of magical Europe and to the strange world of the craftsman’s guilds below Paris, but they could never stay the night away from Godrick’s hollow, and it had begun to feel like a noose around his neck, the very air suffocating as he lay down to sleep each night. Days had drifted by and Gellert’s nights had been consumed by dreams of broken locks and birds with red-gold plumage that could sing prettily but wouldn’t fly to freedom, and he needed no tarot cards to discern their meaning. He sighed, his mind’s eye full of the glittering blue eyes of the phoenix in his dream, snapping back into the real world as he felt a gentle hand cup his face and tilt his jaw upwards to meet Albus’ eye. Albus looked at him worriedly and pulled him into a kiss, Gellert tasting his uncertainty in the innocent press of lips to his own, and smiled into the kiss, coaxing Albus into a more passionate meeting of their mouths. They broke apart after what felt like eons and Gellert tried to ignore the feeling of spiders crawling under his skin, the trapped feeling that he was battling only growing as he looked out of the window into monotonously beautiful greenery, and he halfheartedly started to talk about his ideas for a dominant magical society in the grey morning light, smiling, surprised, when Albus jumped at the idea. “It would be magnificent Gellert.” He said, and Gellert felt familiar warmth bloom in his chest at the reverent way Albus breathed his name.
“Yes.” He agreed simply. “It would.”
“The way things work now is dangerous, you’re right. We should be the ones in charge.” Replied Albus, and Gellert felt himself being pulled into another searing kiss, Albus’ fingers twisting unconsciously in the chain of the blood pact at the nape of his neck before he reached up to grasp Gellert’s hair in another needy embrace.

“You’re bored.” Said Albus sadly a few days later, and Gellert looked up at him from where he was sitting, his head rested against Albus’ thigh as he made his way through the latest book Albus had leant him.
“I’m not bored right now.” He said, looking up at Albus through pale lashes that caught the afternoon sunlight, expression serious.
“Details details. You know what I mean, you’re bored in Godrick’s Hollow.” Replied Albus, and Gellert sighed, unwilling to admit the truth. “I envy you.” said Albus abruptly, shattering the oddly melancholy silence that had descended in the air between them before he had spoken. “You can go anywhere, leave whenever you want to. Nothing’s keeping you here.” Gellert moved so that he could look Albus in the eye properly and grasped one of his hands.
“You think I’d just up and leave you?” he said, and then tugged the blood pact out from under Albus’ shirt. He wrapped a hand around the chain and pulled Albus into a kiss, the chain biting into the flesh of his fingers with the force of his grip. When they broke apart Gellert smiled, taking a few shuddering breaths before he continued. “You’re a fool Albus Dumbledore, a blind fool. I love you. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’ll have to. One of us has to change the world and I’m stuck here.” Gellert tuned to face his lover in confusion, not sure why Albus was talking as if he was trapped here permanently.
“In less than a month Aberforth and Arianna will be back at school, and we can do whatever we want.” he said, and Albus scowled.
“You know Arianna doesn’t go to school Gellert, or had you missed the fact that she’s very ill?” He said, tone icy, and Gellert narrowed his eyes in confusion.
“I’m sorry Al, I didn’t think.” He said, voice placating as he disguised his slight suspicion at Albus’ defensive anger. Gellert hadn’t noticed any medicine in the house and he’d not noticed any symptoms of an illness that would keep Arianna out of school either, and he was more than a little bemused about Albus’ flashes of white-hot anger. He smiled at his lover and began to ask about exactly why food was an exception to Gamp’s Elemental Laws of transfiguration, a topic that distracted Albus well enough that Gellert could be left to his thoughts in peace while keeping half his attention on the conversation, as hearing Albus talk about anything he really loved wasn’t something he ever missed an opportunity to do. As Albus explained how transfiguration couldn’t branch the gap between edible and inedible substances because of how the body’s magic system didn’t interact with the digestive system Gellert got so drawn into the conversation that he put his musings to one side and began to discuss the idea from a healing perspective.

“Should we play chess?” Asked Albus as they apperated back to his room that evening. Gellert smiled and nodded his agreement, then began to smirk as he had an interesting idea.
“We should play for something.” he said, and Albus smiled at him, confused.
“What kind of thing.” he said suspiciously, and Gellert began to smile more widely.
“Whoever wins the game fucks the loser later.” He said, and Albus laughed, agreeing readily.
“You could have just said you wanted me inside you again you know.” said Albus, and Gellert laughed.
“I wouldn’t be so sure of a victory lover.” he said, kissing Albus deeply before declaring with a smile that he would play the black side. The game lasted for almost an hour and a half, Gellert foiling three near wins before sneaking a victory by distracting Albus while he carefully put his trap into place.
“Check Mate lover.” He said, and Albus suddenly looked nervous. He began to hunch in on himself and Gellert ran through what could be wrong, not sure why he looked so panicked.
“I’ve, I’ve never actually—” began Albus before he trailed off, his words choked into silence by a mixture of worry and embarrassment. Gellert swallowed his laughter and tried to stop his lips from twitching. Albus was probably waiting for a serious reaction, but Gellert was struggling to keep the laughter at bay and had to bite the inside of his lip to stop himself reacting inappropriately.
“You’re still a virgin?” he asked, internally congratulating himself on the level tone of his question. Albus nodded and Gellert smiled. “I’ll be gentle my love.” He said, and Albus smiled gratefully. If someone had said that to Gellert he would have been fairly angry at being patronised, but Albus was sometimes his polar opposite, and he had realised that it was most obvious in the way they accepted help; Albus was gracious in a way he couldn’t dream of being, and he envied it at times. He pulled the other boy close, his fingers tracing the delicate chain of the blood pact where it lay against Albus’ pale chest, and Gellert smiled at the way Albus melted into his touch, marvelling at the fact that anyone as beautiful as the boy in from of him was his.

Gellert decided as he paused, gazing down at the way Albus’ sweat had beaded along his limbs, reflecting the candle flames in miniature and begging to be licked away, that he had never seen beauty like this. He withdrew his three fingers from Albus and rubbed them together, willing lubricant to materialise again, and finally slicked up his aching cock before lining himself up. He moaned as he pushed into Albus and couldn’t help the thrill of pleasure that the other boy’s sharp gasp sent though him, stilling with the last of his control. “Do it.” said Albus shortly, a shudder visibly running through him as he looked up and met Gellert’s eyes and Gellert swallowed, feeling as if he were drowning in the endless blue of summer before Albus shifted slightly underneath him, bringing him back to the present. He pushed all the way in and stilled once more, letting Albus get used to the stretch before he began to move. He heard Albus’ shaky exhalation and took it as permission to move, slowly drawing back out and then letting himself move ore quickly. It took him a few more thrusts to find the perfect angle, listening as the gasps of pleasure he could heard turned into a muttered string of pleas and swearing when he found the sweet spot that would make this so much better for Albus.

Gellert smiled to himself as he learnt what made Albus swear and tremble, and what made him melt underneath him the way he just had. He reached down with a hand to bring his lover off, shocked when the first feather light touch pulled a long drawn out moan from Albus, and felt his hips jolt forward at the sound. They tumbled over the edge of pleasure and into mindless bliss together, Gellert pulling out when he could once again form a thought that was vaguely coherent. “Why didn’t we do that sooner?” He murmured, and Albus laughed.
“Because you like being underneath me too much.” he said, and then hissed as he tried to move. Gellert laughed and pushed Albus onto his front, murmuring a healing spell that he had learnt what felt like a long time ago for a different lover, before he knew how to feel anything as intensely as the love he bore the boy next to him, and Albus sighed in relief as the deep-seated ache that Gellert had caused was washed away in a rush of healing magic. As Gellert watched Albus come back to himself he smiled and tucked a strand of red hair behind his lover’s ear, his eyes glittering possessively as his fingers brushed through the streak of blond that their ritual had brought about. “Thank you, Gellert, for giving me that.” continued Albus, and Gellert laughed.
“It was my pleasure, I assure you.”
“But it was mine as well, and I really do mean it. Thank you, I’ll never forget this evening.” Said Albus, and Gellert laughed, smiling wryly at the obvious flattery.
“If you ever needed reminding…” he replied, quirking an eyebrow suggestively, and Albus smiled, pulling him into a tired embrace, their limbs heavy with exhaustion.

The next morning Gellert woke early, a bone deep satisfaction bringing a smile to his face as he got dressed and padded towards the door, dismantling the silencing wards around the room with a click of his fingers. As soon as the wards came down he heard Aberforth’s dulcet tones and a few loud knocks on the door. He opened the door just as Aberforth drew breath to yell something else, and smiled at the abrupt silence he had been met with instead. “Good morning Aberforth, Albus is going to be sleeping in so I’ll be attempting to make breakfast unless you or Arianna can cook.” He said, and Aberforth found his voice.
“I’m not cooking for you,” he began hotly, “And I was yelling for ages, why didn’t Albus open his fucking door?”
“Albus was rather busy having a much needed lie in behind my two way silencing wards.” Said Gellert, his tone level and perfectly polite.
“You can’t just shut us out of his life, we’re his family.” Replied Aberforth, and Gellert laughed, delighted by the opportunity that he had just been handed by the unfortunate Aberforth.
“Oh I assure you, it was for your benefit.” he began, his polite facade cracking into a deeply smug smile as he continued. “After all, children need their sleep and he was being, how would you say, rather loud.”

With that he swept into the kitchen and began to hunt through the cupboards for something he could force to assume the rough shape of breakfast. Aberforth was completely silent in the doorway, face pale and expression flickering between disgust and horror as Gellert smiled, humming a half remembered tune as he found a bag of ground coffee under one of the upturned plates that had languished, unwashed, since the night before. With a tap of his wand he cleaned the coffee pot and began to fill it, snapping his fingers for a flame before Aberforth dredged up the courage to speak again.
“What about Arianna?” He said, and Gellert tilted his head to one side, confused about why she was being brought up. Aberforth made a disgusted sound in the back of his throat and explained himself further with a withering look. “She should get breakfast too don’t you think?” Gellert nodded and shot an engorgement charm at the coffee pot, filling it with more water and unscrewing the top to add more coffee grounds.
“There we go, your precious sister’s accounted for.” He said, a sharp smile making it’s way across his face. Aberforth glowered resentfully, forcing a smile onto his face as Arianna herself appeared in the doorway a heartbeat later, silent as a ghost and almost as pale, and she smiled back before turning to Gellert.
“Good morning Gellert. Have you read ‘Eighth’ by Van-Helmsprung?” She said, and Gellert nodded, remembering suddenly that he had left his copy of the grizzly account of the witchcraft that had been used to curse the Tudor line on the floor of the landing. He bit his lip, wondering if Arianna had been upset by the more graphic descriptions in the book, but shrugged off the concern. If she didn’t want to read about such things she could simply put the book down, and he had soon started a light debate over which aspect of the curse was worst for the mad english king Henry VIII. Albus appeared in the doorway of the room just as the morning sun broke through the clouds to fall onto Gellert’s lover, the splashing gold reflecting off his copper coloured hair and picking out the silver threads in his ivory toned shirt as he walked over to the table. Gellert’s train of thought had been completely derailed by how good Albus looked and it wasn’t until Albus sat down and poured himself a cup of coffee that he gathered his wits enough to greet him with anything more than a helpless smile.

As Gellert watched the three siblings interact he remembered with a frown Albus’ strange anger about Arianna, and began to wonder what it was all about. He had always enjoyed puzzles, forbidden information tasting all the sweeter once he had stolen it from whoever sought to keep it from him, and he tried to hide a twisted smile behind his coffee cup. Aberforth looked at him with a strange fear in his eyes and Gellert smoothed out his expression, feeling like a fool for allowing himself to display his excitement about this new puzzle so easily. He winced internally when his shift in expression seemed to make Aberforth even more fearful and got up with a sigh, wondering when Albus’ infectious way of letting his every emotion cross his face had rubbed off on him and vowing to remember his audience in future. Making his excuses, he left for Bagshot Cottage and wrote up what he wanted to know in his battered old notebook of questions, with the few things he was sure of jotted down on the rest of the page.

The ides of August fled, September fast approaching as the days grew hotter still, and Gellert was determined to unravel the mystery of Arianna’s malady, but in the end his questions were answered not by logic and deduction but by a chance argument overheard in the small hours of the morning. Gellert woke, heart thumping as his veins flooded with a white-hot anger that wasn’t his as he lay in his bed in Bagshot cottage, cold without Albus beside him. Closing his eyes, he followed the anger to it’s source inside his chest and then allowed himself to fall down the twisting channels of his bond with Albus, his hand going unconsciously to the pact hanging about his neck as his eyes rolled up in his head and he began to hear the whispered argument through Albus’ ears. “You can’t be serious Aberforth. You have to stay in school. Mother would’ve wanted you to do NEWTs.” The words were harsh and Gellert wondered why there was so much resentment behind the biting phrases.
“You don’t care about Ari, or what mother would have wanted for that matter, you’re always off with your German bastard. When I go off to school she’ll be neglected and you know it. What if she kills herself in one of those fits she has, what if your precious Gellert find out about her being a squib and attacks her?” Hissed Aberforth, and Gellert reeled in shock. Arianna was a squib. All the odd pieces of the puzzle of the Dumbledore family fell into place as Gellert absorbed the information; Albus’ shame about his family, his reluctance to admit what stopped Arianna attending Hogwarts, his rash anger. It all made sense. Gellert could hear more whispers but didn’t listen to the argument any further, and pushed his way back along their bond, falling back into awareness of his own body, the dull ticking of the grandfather clock outside his room in the hall telling him that it was his own sheets he could feel scratching at his skin.

The next morning Gellert woke and blinked away the last remnants of a dream where black mist had swirled through a city he didn’t recognise, the towers of glass and stone stretching upwards to meet the sky as black magic crackled through the streets, loss and loneliness beautiful in their destruction of the muggle world. He rubbed his eyes and wrote down what he had seen, adding ‘obscurus’ followed by a question mark in the margin of his latest volume of recorded dreams. Not for the first time Gellert wished that he had Indus’ talent for drawing, or even a fraction thereof, but he contented himself with a written description and soon put down his pen in favour of getting up to look for something he could have for breakfast. He half thought he had dreamed the conversation that he had overheard through the bond but the certainty of his suspicions was compounded later when Albus showed up looking as if he hadn’t slept a wink. Gellert was sat in the kitchen when he’d heard the first knock at the door, and when Bathilda had looked at him expectantly he’d obligingly got up to greet the exhausted Albus. Pulling him into a soft kiss, Gellert offered a smile and then a cup of coffee, the latter being by far the more well received of his two attempts at communication.

After Albus had been revived by the warm mug of good coffee he became much more amiable, discussing the varying historical duelling styles that had fallen out of favour with Bathilda as Gellert made them toast to share. By the time they were all seated for a proper breakfast Albus looked much better, eyes bright once more as he leant his head on Gellert’s shoulder and apologised quietly for his prior mood. Gellert smiled and distracted his lover with a kiss as he stole a piece of toast, pulling away with a grin and taking a victorious bite as Albus realised what he had done and began to splutter indignantly. Half an hour later they made their way to the cottage up in the hills of bracken that marched south from Godrick’s Hollow towards the sea. Gellert turned his face to the sun, revelling in the warmth that caressed his skin, and decided to climb up to the roof to properly enjoy the morning light. Albus joined him with a laugh, his hair dancing with the reds and golds of fire as Gellert leant a hand and pulled him up over the the guttering that ran around the edge of the roof. When they were both stood steadily on the gentle slope of the gabled roof Gellert lifted the blood pact over his head and placed it around Albus’ throat reverently. They had decided to wear it on alternate days and he always took great pleasure in seeing it glittering at Albus’ throat or lying against his bare chest in the half light of the waxing moons of the hot august nights when they lay wrapped around each other, and putting it into place against Albus’ collarbones in the warm sun was no different. A thrill of possessive joy sparked through him as he smiled again, running his fingers through Albus’ hair as he unbuttoned the deep blue shirt so that the blood pact was still visible as it rested against the pale skin of Albus’ chest. Gellert dipped his head and mouthed his way along a collarbone before biting a bruising mark into the pale column of Albus’ throat, pulling away regretfully and smiling darkly as he watched the skin bloom a dull pink and then fade into the purple of a bruise as he watched. Albus caught his mouth in a kiss and Gellert felt his blood begin to hum in the light of the warm august sun as they wiled away the morning with passion and plans for the future.

As the afternoon drew near the roof grew uncomfortably warm, the dark grey slates absorbing the heat of the day and making their precarious perch less that comfortable, so Gellert flung himself from the roof and fell through the air, a cool breeze rushing past him as he plummeted, slowing to a stop above the ground as Albus’ magic caught him mid air. “You have got to stop doing that Gel, What if I didn’t catch you?” Said Albus, expression fearful as he looked down at Gellert to reassure himself that Gellert was still breathing.
“Then I’d die a happy man.” said Gellert, and smiled at Albus’ frown.
“You aren’t allowed to die Gellert. I expressly forbid it.” replied his lover, and Gellert laughed, summoning Albus to him with a silent flick of his wand.
“Then,” he began with a sly smile, “I know you’ll catch me.” Albus growled at him, pushing them backwards until Gellert’s back hit the rough stone wall of the cottage and pinned his hands above his head. Gellert melted into the kiss that followed, a rush of pleasure jolting through him at the controlling press of Albus’ hands against his own, and he was left gasping as Albus moved in closer to him, his mouth resting on Gellert’s ear.
“You are not allowed to die. Do I make myself clear?” He said, and Gellert began to laugh helplessly, nodding before began to smile slyly, wondering if his latest hypothesis would prove correct.
“As you command my love.” he said, the words spoked in a whisper that promised sin, and took careful note of how Albus’ pupils dilated as he spoke, black eclipsing the blue as Gellert made a show of submission. Gellert grinned, pleased that he had been right about Albus once more, and pulled away, continuing their conversation about how magical healing could be modified to treat muggle ailments as if their heated kissing had never happened. Albus closed his eyes for a long moment, held silent by his arousal for a few minutes before he replied, rushing after Gellert as he made his way up the stairs to the first floor of the cottage with an alternative perspective on the tip of his tongue.

They made their way back to Godrick’s Hollow as the sun’s heat began to ease into a cool evening, the sky a deep blue to the east while the sun painted long ribbons of gold across the western horizon, and Gellert tried to figure out how he could bring up the topic of squibs without it seeming suspicious to Albus. As they approached their respective houses he decided to bite his tongue and say nothing for now, not wanting to callously wipe away his lover’s easy smile. “You’re beautiful.” he said, the remark slipping from behind his teeth without his consent, and Albus smiled, his eyes lighting up with what could only be love.
“So you’ve said before.” he said dryly, and Gellert laughed.
“That doesn't make it any less true.” he pointed out, and Albus pulled him into an affectionate one armed hug as they meandered down the narrow path through the local graveyard on their way home. Albus smiled softly and promised that he’d write to Gellert that evening, sighing in agreement as Gellert voiced his irritation at being kept apart.
“You know how my brother is, and maybe he’s right. I should spend more time with them really.” He said, and Gellert laughed incredulously.
“Who are you and what have you done with my dearest Albus. He would never be caught agreeing with anything his stupid little brother said.” He said, and laughed again as Albus shook his head, exasperated at his childish antics.

It took days for Gellert to find an appropriate moment to bring up squibs, unsure how Albus would react to the touchy subject. “We’ve not even considered squibs. How would they fit into an openly magical society? It might actually be a lot better for them, not having to hide where they came from and being able to live fulfilling lives in the muggle world.” He said, tone carefully tailored to come across as thoughtful and sympathetic without sounding pitying. Gellert knew Albus better than he had ever know anyone, and if there was one thing he hated it was being pitied, so he made sure to avoid any suggestion of it in his voice. Albus looked at him uncertainly, trying to spot an ulterior motive for him bringing it up and not seeing one in Gellert’s guileless expression.
“Do you know, I think it would be actually.” he replied, and Gellert smiled at him, careful to keep a knowing expression off his face as he patted himself on the back internally. He had shown Albus that he was sympathetic toward squibs, given him food for thought and made him even more invested in Gellert’s vision for a better future in one simple sentence. Gellert loved Albus, but he couldn’t help but worry that he might disagree with how he planned to change the future, and though he felt guilty for using Albus’ family as leverage he was too grateful that it had worked to really regret it, and a smile bloomed across his face before he pulled Albus into a deep kiss as the two of them sat, limbs entwined on Gellert’s bed in Bagshot Cottage. The summer sun picked out the swirling dust mites that had been caught in the breeze, dancing like the embers of an invisible fire as they kissed again, Gellert lost in the taste of victory and the feel of Albus’ mouth moving wetly against his own.

They were interrupted by Bathilda, who coughed loudly and told them to keep it down, at which Albus sprung up and smoothed down his rumpled shirt, apologising hastily. Bathilda turned to Gellert, expecting the same from him, and he laughed loudly. “Just be thankful you didn’t walk in on us in a state of undress Great Aunt. You wouldn’t be the first.” he said, and Bathilda nodded with a laugh as Albus went completely red.
“You’re incorrigible. What I came up to say was that lunch is ready, and if you want to eat anything I’ve cooked you’re to come down now.” She said, and Albus’ pained expression deepened even further as Gellert smiled and said they’d be down shortly.
“Do I embarrass you?” he asked, eyes filling with a hurt film of tears that was entirely manufactured, and Albus rushed to reassure him that he was just not used to having acceptance from adults, repeating vehemently that he could never be ashamed of their love. Gellert felt a sudden stab of guilt, he hadn’t meant to press Albus where he was obviously vulnerable, and he couldn’t help but wonder who had been so cruel as to condemn his love in the first place. He had a sneaking suspicion that it was Albus’ mother, but didn’t ask, not wanting to bring up any painful memories. “Hey, It’s ok. I know that you love me. I’ll protect you. We’ll be accepted wherever we go one day.” He said instead, and Albus offered a watery smile as they made their way down the stairs to the kitchen.
“I didn’t hear an ‘I love you’ in there. Should I be worried?” he joked, and Gellert spun them both so that Albus’ lower back was pressed into the stair rail almost painfully, bringing their mouths together in a heated kiss before he pulled away, breathing heavily as he looked at Albus with half-lidded eyes that shimmered with lust.
“There will never be a day when you aren’t the first thing I think about, and the last thing I see in my mind’s eye before I fall asleep.” He said, the words ringing with a rough tone that only the utter truth could pull from him, and Albus smiled, pulling away from him to move towards the ground floor once more but unable to unlace their entwined fingers as they began to make their way downstairs.

That evening another argument sprang up between Albus and his younger brother, which Gellert listened to with some entertainment from the kitchen below, not realising what was about to happen. As the two english boys yelling grew louder and louder Arianna began to shake, her eyes darting back and forth around the room as she started to hyperventilate. Black smoke that seemed to twist with a malignant sentience poured out of her mouth and dripped from her eyes in a parody of tears, Gellert noticing as the first plate shattered against the wall as her destructive sadness lashed out. He leapt backwards, then began to smile uncontrollably as he realised what she was. Magic was pouring off her in waves, her skinny frame rattling as pent up pain and fear ripped her from the inside out and her arms disappeared in rolling smoke that crackled and sparked. She wasn’t a squib, she was an obscurus. Gellert watched in awe as the dark force that Arianna had become hit the ceiling and rained chunks of plaster down onto the tiled floor, lost in thought as visions of the future and what he could see in the present overlapped and he saw the door splinter into a thousand pieces. A shard of wood caught him in the cheek and he snapped out of his vision, wondering how he could stop her rage and pain.

“Arianna, can you hear me?” he began, voice soft and gentle, and he stepped through the remains of the door into the hall. “I’m not going to hurt you. If you’d like I could block out the shouting.” He said, and then raised his wand to do just that. He trapped the sound of Albus and Aberforth’s argument above them with a soundproofing ward and waited expectantly for Arianna to re-materialise. Gellert swore softly as he realised that it would take more to calm Arianna down, then quickly apologised as the swirling creature took offence at his tone, not sure if enough of Arianna was left inside the obscurus to understand him. He looked around desperately and caught sight of a battered copy of The Tales Of Beedle The Bard sitting on the edge of the mantle piece and edged past the rolling smoke to reach it, not wanting to startle the creature by summoning something. He sat on the bottom step of the stairs, close enough that he didn’t seem afraid but far enough away to remain nonthreatening to the creature that lived in Arianna’s skin, and opened the book to the beginning of The Warlock’s Hairy Heart, remembering that she had mentioned preferring that tale when they’d met. “There was once a handsome, talented and rich young warlock, who observed that his friends grew foolish when they fell in love…” He began, and as the tale unfolded the hulking mass of shadows calmed, no longer destructive. By the time that he was reading the gruesome conclusion of the tale Arianna had begun to coalesce back into the shape of a pale fourteen year old and he smiled encouragingly at her.

“Could you maybe not mention that to my brothers? They both get scared when I have one of my fits and then they blame each other, and all it does is cause more fighting.” she said, her eyes still scared as she finally slipped back into her skin fully.
“Of course,” he lied easily, making a mental note to tell Albus when they were nowhere near the house.
“Why weren’t you scared?” asked Arianna suddenly, her voice wavering and Gellert suddenly realised how damaging it must be for her to have to live with something like this eating away at her under her skin. The lack of control must be truly frightening, he thought to himself, and he made sure that he didn’t startle her when he spoke again.
“You were upset, that’s all. I just tried my best to help you come back to yourself Arianna.” He said, gently putting his arms around her as he spoke. She looked up at him through a film of tears and smiled, and Gellert did his best to pull up a smile for her in return, his shoulders slumping as he took in the porcelain fragility of her expression and began to realise the extent of the problems that were tearing apart the Dumbledore family. “Come on. I hear you Brits always turn to a cup of tea in trying times, and I do believe these times qualify as trying.” He said, and felt a surprising amount of pride at drawing a laugh from Arianna. As they walked into the kitchen Arianna began to cry, seeing what she had done to the room in her other state, but Gellert shielded her from the sight, cradling her thin form against him until he had flicked his wand at the room, intoning the incantation ‘hi-nem’ as he drew the hieroglyph for mending objects and watched as the room was put to rights. He filled the kettle as Arianna smiled, the normality of the action soothing her frayed nerves.

They sat there drinking very sweet tea, as Gellert was sure that he’d read about sugar being calming somewhere, and he listened attentively as Arianna began to talk softly about her brothers. It was interesting to hear about Albus’ childhood, but there was a melancholy in her voice when she spoke that Gellert thought might cause another incident, so he changed the subject to a less emotionally charged one, and soon they were happily debating which of Bathilda’s books was the most interesting. “I know what you and Albus are to each other.” Said Arianna suddenly, and Gellert smiled, warmth blossoming in his chest at the mention of his lover.
“What do you think about it?” he asked, curious.
“You’re good for him. You don’t know what he was like before you got here.” She said, and Gellert laughed, gesturing for her to continue as he poured them both another cup of tea. “He would disappear for days, forget to eat. He was manic when he was here, always full of this crackling energy and spite. I think sometimes he hated all of us simply because we couldn’t keep up with him.” she said, smiling fondly at the memory despite the casual cruelty he must have inflicted. “It was sort of like living with a dragon; you learnt to tread carefully, but you changed all that. He smiles all the time now.” She continued, and Gellert felt his heart melt just a little more with her every word.
“Well I’m not leaving, so don’t worry.” He said, and Arianna laughed, the sound more robust than her earlier laughter had been, sounding less likely to shatter into sobs.

After a few more minutes he decided to see if his lover had calmed down yet, and found the two brothers brooding in their respective rooms. He knocked softly at Albus’ door and found him scribbling at something on his desk before he stopped, every muscle tensed in anger. “What is the fucking word?” he growled, not registering that he had an audience. Gellert crouched beside him and looked up into his eyes, seeing blind panic and frustration written there. “What is it? There’s no time, no time for this. What is it? It’s on the tip of my tongue.” He muttered, and Gellert smiled. This was a perfect reflection of how he could get sometimes, so lost in understanding everything that the world seemed to stand still and people acted like paper cut-out figures, two dimensional and not even as real as a morning’s mist.
“If it’s the tip of your tongue you’re looking for,” he began, and then kissed Albus softly, hoping it would snap him out of his rage, “I think I can find it.” He finished, and Albus smiled at him unseeingly.
“The world is turning too slowly and everyone is made of flies and treacle. What is it?” He said, his voice jittery, and Gellert caught his hand, prising his fingers off the quill he had gripped and looking deep into his eyes. He felt the bond spark to life and pushed a sense of warm calm and affection down the bond towards Albus, smiling as he finally seemed to get through to his lover. Albus’ blue eyes came back into focus and he sagged in Gellert’s arms. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—” he began, but Gellert hushed him quietly, rubbing soothing circles into his back as he made a comforting noise.
“I understand Albus. I understand.” he said, and Albus smiled slowly.
“Of course you do, you’re you.” he said, voice hoarse, and Gellert decided to lighten the mood.
“Your throat sounds rather raw my dear. Such a shame I wasn’t the cause.” he said, deadpan until Albus pushed him away with a giggle and got up, following Gellert as he made his way back down the stairs to where Arianna sat, shoulders hunched once more.
“Hey Ari, could you grab another cup?” asked Gellert, and Arianna looked up, surprised to see Albus leaning his head lightly on Gellert’s shoulder looking relatively calm.
“You really are a miracle worker Gellert.” she said, and Albus laughed again, nodding in agreement as he sat down and wrapped his hands around the proffered mug as Gellert poured in the sweet tea and they began to talk.

The next day Gellert apperated them to their cottage, not patient enough to walk there, and Albus kissed him hungrily as they appeared in their shelf lined paradise. Gellert let himself melt into the kiss for a minute, pulling away when Albus drew back for breath. “I need to talk to you.” he said, and Albus looked at him with a horrified expression a little too exaggerated to be real.
“No! Please don’t leave me.” He said, and Gellert laughed, kissing him lightly.
“You’re ridiculous. It’s about Arianna.” He said, and then tried to kiss Albus again, only to have his lover pull away sharply, expression cold and closed off. “She’s not a squib Albus.” He said, ignoring Albus’ spluttered questions about what exactly he thought he knew about anything as he continued. “She’s an obscurial.”

Chapter Text

The silence that followed his statement was deafening. Albus stood perfectly still, Gellert watching carefully as he saw something in Albus’ eyes shift as the bedrock of his world changed. He had opened his mouth several times to deny what Gellert had said, and Gellert had watched as he remained silent, expression cycling through horror, pride and distrust before he finally spoke. “How did you know, and what did you see? Are you sure?” said Albus, and Gellert nodded, his fingers stretched out towards Albus but stopping just short of grazing the bare skin of his lover’s hand, half afraid that if he touched Albus he’d shatter into countless glass shards.
“She had a fit, while you were fighting with Aberforth. It matched the description of an obscurial perfectly.” He said, attempting to inject calm across their bond and Albus slumped against the desk as his world tilted on it’s axis.
“Can you—” Albus began, breaking off as his voice cracked with a half swallowed sob, “Could we help her?”
“I don’t know Albus.” replied Gellert, feeling something that cut deep into him with serrated edges as Albus’ face crumpled and he shrank in on himself, bringing his hands up to block Gellert’s view of his face as he hid his tears out of habit. Gellert pulled his hands away from his face and gently wiped his tears away, looking deep into his eyes as he tentatively bit his lip before speaking. He didn’t want to give Albus false hope, couldn’t bear to watch him shatter if they failed, but he had to say something. “I think we could help her. I’m not sure about any of the arithmancy but I think that my research on soul magic might be able to help.”

Gellert had never seen anything as frightening as what Albus became over the next few days, his fevered eyes blurring as he spent countless hours pouring over Gellert’s notes on soul magic as they tried to reverse-engineer a ritual that could join two fractured parts of a person together. His fixation was worrying, and Gellert often wondered if he had done the right thing by telling his lover, but Albus had a right to know what his sister was. Gellert had successfully split a person’s soul apart from their magic and mind three months ago, and though it had been horrific he was glad it had happened now, as the threadlike hope of being able to help his little sister with Gellert’s research was all that was keeping Albus going. Gellert could see Albus’ helplessness eating away at him and it scared him when he looked into hollow blue eyes that looked as if they stared back at him out of a marble face, unfeeling and cold, or watched as Albus turned away from food as if it were a poison. He had almost written to Vinda in a panic asking how to deal with his hurting lover on several occasions before reminding himself that she was possibly even less well equipped to deal with emotional upheaval that he was, and burnt his letters. Looking into eyes that gleamed with a fragility he couldn't bear, he made a split second decision. Pulling Albus away from his notes he apperated them away from Godrick’s Hollow, not knowing where he was going but desperate to get to somewhere calm. He opened his eyes to see the landscape of somewhere that was definitely not England picked out in miniature, lakes and wildflowers making a patchwork across the landscape below the veils of cloud that partially obscured the vista spreading out below them.

Albus wrenched out of his grip, turning to look around wild and angry. “Where are we? Why are we here?” He said, spitting the words as the notes in his hands disappeared along with the cottage that they had left behind, and Gellert grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking him a little before he spoke, his eyes warm and his tone soothing.
“We’re on a mountain in Russia I think. I wanted somewhere where you could learn to breathe again. It’s calm here.”
“I’m calm. I’m fine. Can we please go back now?” Said Albus, his eyes flitting back and forth as he looked around cagily.
“No.” said Gellert, his voice firm as he pulled Albus towards him, pressing the blood pact into Albus’ skin between their chests until Albus flinched away a little, Gellert using the pain to bring him closer to the present as he swept the other boy up in a demanding kiss. When they broke apart Albus had calmed down a little, his eyes less wild as he began to look around with a newfound sense of wonder.
“Did you just apperate us several thousands of miles across magical borders just to get me to take a break?” he asked incredulously, and Gellert laughed, glad that something had finally penetrated the haze of pain that had sunk into Albus’ very bones when he told him about Arianna.
“Yes, I suppose I did.” He said, and Albus beamed at him, fingers caressing his cheek as warmth trickled into his eyes until they seemed to capture the summer sky once more. As Albus’ icy expression melted Gellert found himself smiling as more of his lover seemed to seep back into his face with every moment spent in his desperate embrace.
“You’re brilliant Gellert.” he said, and his voice echoed with love once more, the snappish panic fading as his smile bloomed. Gellert breathed a deep sigh of relief and pulled his lover into another kiss. The wind tore at them and Gellert held Albus close, apperating them down the mountain with a thought as they kissed again as opened his eyes to a sea of flowers rippling in the wind, breathtaking in their beauty.

Laughing, Gellert pulled up another long stem of Jasmine flowers and broke off the roots. The white flowers the size of his thumbnail moved softly in the breeze as he held them up to the light before threading them through Albus’ hair. He had charmed one set of them red to plait into the streak of silver hair left by the ritual they had done, but the rest were white, circling his head in a glowing crown and twisting through the gently curling waves of red-gold downwards to brush against his upper back. Albus laughed as Gellert kissed him, the smell of the Jasmine in his hair intoxicatingly sweet as they pulled apart, and Gellert smiled, almost breathless in the cool summer air. “You’re beautiful.” he muttered, his lips only an inch from Albus’ warm skin, and the hum of laughter that he received in return would stay with him for years. Albus sounded so alive, so full of warm attachment that Gellert wanted to stay in that moment forever. Albus waved his wand and Gellert smiled at him as the white flowers stretching for miles around them turned red in a strange pattern. Most of them were left white as red lines snaked across the landscape, some pattern that only Albus understood writ large in the crimson of a thousand sweet smelling jasmine blooms. With a laugh Gellert was pulled down and smiled as Albus began to softly twist flowers into his hair, red and amber in a circlet, white for the red streak that hung forever in his peripheral vision.

The long light of the Russian afternoon faded away as Albus threaded the last of a scarlet crown around Gellert’s head with a sigh of contentment, and as he finally stilled Gellert began to smile, a plan forming in his mind. He didn't know if they were far enough north here, but he would be damned if Albus didn’t get to see it while they were outside of England for once, so he took Albus’ hand once more to apperate him through the darkness and into the cold. Frosted tundra crunched beneath their feet as Albus shivered against him in his light cotton shirt. Gellert willed warmth into being around them, his warming charm second nature, and Albus laughed in delight as he looked around them at the moonlit plants gleaming with a frost that picked out every leaf in a line of silver crystal and transformed the tundra into something truly beautiful. Gellert watched the skies, waiting for the first great swathe of green that would light the night with bated breath. Gellert tugged Albus’ hand and the other boy met his eye with a smile. “Thank you for this Gellert, I’m so—” he began, but Gellert hushed him, pointing skywards wordlessly and watching as Albus turned his gaze to the sky. Albus was spellbound, but Gellert couldn’t tear his eyes from the beauty of the rippling lights reflection in his lover’s awed eyes, unable to look away from the shadows moving across Albus’ pale skin with every pulsing glow of the northern lights above them.

When at last Albus squeezed his hand and suggested apperating back to Godrick’s Hollow Gellert’s knee jerk reaction was to refuse, to try to claim magical exhaustion and put off returning until the next morning, worried that returning would lock Albus back into his fevered mania. He swallowed the protests that tore at his throat and took Albus’ other hand, pulling them close and tried to apperate them back. When they opened their eyes Gellert was shocked to see the tundra still around them, and Albus smiled at him softly. “You must be tired. I want to try something, could you—” began Albus, before trailing off and starting again. “Could you share my magic? You know, through the bond?” He asked, and Gellert blinked. He didn’t know how to respond, didn’t know how Albus could trust him with something like this.
“Albus I couldn’t do that. Why would you trust me to do that? It’s madness.” He said, his voice strained as his breath bloomed white in the frost air despite the artificial warmth of his charm.
“I trust you,” said Albus, pulling him close and leaning in to speak right by his ear, “Because I love you. I don’t know exactly where we are so I can’t apperate us safely, and I trust you. Of course I trust you. I gave you my heart, remember? We joined our souls Gellert. If there’s one person I know I can trust unconditionally, it’s you.” As he spoke Gellert felt tears pulling at the corner of his eye, wondering how he could have been so lucky in finding Albus after all those years of seeing just a pair of eyes that haunted him in his dreams.
“Ok. I’ll try. And by all the forces of magic I love you too Al, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He said, and then he felt it, a jump in his blood emanating from the anchor for the bond, and suddenly he was falling through swirling magic that seemed to pulse through his veins in a new way. It was warm, licking at his skin like fire as magic that was so distinctly opposed to the familiar controlled ice cool of his own magic, and he began to cackle. He pulled them through space with a laugh as thunder rolled and crashed above him while ice and fire roared through his veins. Albus kissed him in the sudden storm of rain as he smelt the wet english greenery around them once more, and the fire that had flooded through him in a tidal wave left him, pulled back into Albus as they kissed. Above Gellert lightning rent the sky and he shivered, cold without the internal fire of Albus’ addictive magic to warm him to the bone as Albus embraced him with a crushing hug.
“Thank you for that Gellert. You gave me what I needed. It was beautiful.” He muttered.

They ended up in Albus’ bed, too tired to do anything but sleep, and they fell into their dreams with the sweet smell of jasmine cloying in the air around them, the flowers in their preserved whole by a simple charm that Albus had performed earlier. When they woke it was to Aberforth’s loud knocking on the door. “Albus get up. Get up you blithering fool. It’s two in the afternoon.” Gellert growled, wondering if Albus would object to him blowing up the door to teach Aberforth a lesson before he remembered Arianna’s reaction to the frequent fights and managed to hold himself back. Albus seemed to have realised what he might do, as he was rubbing soothing circles into the skin of his bare thigh beneath the covers before he got up with a sigh.
“Fine, fine. I’m awake. What do you need?” he grumbled, and Gellert began to laugh quietly, the flowers still caught in his hair delightfully juxtaposed to the bleary eyes and rumpled clothes that Albus had hurriedly pulled on as he went to answer the door. Aberforth took in his brother’s appearance with obvious distain and Gellert felt a cold anger descend on him as Albus’ shoulder’s slumped as he was poisoned by his insipid little brother’s words.

They walked slowly through the dappled sunlight towards the cottage that had become their retreat from the world, Albus silent and glum once more. “You do realise that Aberforth isn’t telling the truth? He says what he does to hurt you.” Ventured Gellert, wondering if all of his efforts to cheer Albus up the previous day had been undone by a simple conversation.
“He’s right though. I’m a terrible brother.” Said Albus, and Gellert stopped abruptly, pulling Albus towards him and gently forcing the other boy to meet his eyes.
“You are not.” he said clearly, then began to loudly speak over Albus’ protests, “You care too much about your siblings for your own good. Your first thought is always to return here for them, to see if they’ve managed without you for a few hours.”
“No it’s not. Maybe at the start of the summer it was, but my first thought will always be for you now.” Said Albus, and Gellert felt warmth bloom through him. Unable to keep a smile off his face, he tried again to reassure Albus.
“You went half mad last week trying to find something to help Arianna. I don’t think that’s the mark of an uncaring older brother. Do you?” He said, and Albus smiled, unable to fault his logic. Once Gellert could see that he’d got through to his lover, he tucked a strand of his lover’s coppery hair behind an ear before beginning to walk onwards, fingers still entwined with Albus’ in the summer sun.

“Wait a second.” Said Gellert, his eyes scanning the piece of paper he had picked up off the floor. “This could be it.” Albus’ research had been scrawled on notes that were scattered across the floor, haphazard piles knocked over by careless feet and ink staining the desk with ideas that hadn’t waited for a piece of paper, and Gellert was holding a barely legible note that filled a scroll of paper as long as his arm. Albus gasped, his eyes lighting up with a fire all too familiar to Gellert. The fire of an idea half born and the promise of success. Gellert laughed, spinning Albus in a half turn that Vinda had laboured to correct for years when he’d been first learning to dance, and knocked over another pile of papers in his elation. Albus laughed giddily, his joy palpable in the air between them as Gellert pulled him in a kiss before spinning again, the satisfaction of finding the solution spiralling through him and echoing across their bond in a positive feedback loop, the taste of victory heady on his tongue. Albus Dumbledore was a genius, and as Gellert pulled him close he felt Albus put the blood pact around his neck. The now familiar weight of it settled against his skin and Gellert smiled, beginning to explain what it was that he thought could make the ritual that they were trying to create work.

It took them the rest of the day to iron out the details and by the time the light was fading from the sky Albus wore a smile that Gellert would do anything to keep on his face. They parted at the door to Bagshot cottage and Gellert smiled softly, watching Albus’ figure hungrily as he walked away, struck again by his beauty in the half light of the late evening. When he knocked on the door Bathilda fixed him with a beady stare. “The next time you decide to up and leave for a week you need to tell me. I don’t need the details of whatever the two of you could possibly be doing that would take a week, but I would like to know if you're alive or dead. If you’re too tired out to write I’m sure Albus can remember my address, so you’ve no excuse for leaving me in the dark.” She said, and Gellert frowned.
“We were doing important magical research.” He replied and Bathilda laughed knowingly, a teasing glint in her eye.
“Is that what their calling it these days. At any rate I’ll be wanting a letter the next time you disappear for that long.” She said, and Gellert began to laugh.
“Of course. Is there any food left over from dinner?”
“Albus is rather rude isn’t he, I always at least expected food when I stayed at a boyfriend’s place.” Said Bathilda, and Gellert shook his head with a laugh.
“He’s a gentleman, just a forgetful one.” He said, and Bathilda laughed, summoning food from the kitchen as she muttered something about love and the blindness of youth.

The next morning Gellert ate a hasty breakfast and tapped his hair with his wand, unknotting it and smoothing out the bedhead but leaving the slightly wilted jasmine where is was, unable to let go of the memory of that golden afternoon. Today they were going to talk to Arianna about what she was and how they might be able to help. He chose a simple white shirt that was stitched with blue thread that he had subtly changed to match the shade of Albus’ eyes and black trousers that hugged his legs perhaps a little less than Albus would have liked, wanting to look as capable as possible to reassure Arianna. Walking out into the sunlit road Gellert realised that he was nervous. He desperately wanted to experiment with what they had come up with, wanted to be able to justify all of the harm his research had caused by doing something incredible for the odd fourteen year old that he had become so fond of, but he was held almost paralysed by the fear that she would refuse. His knock sounded to his ears like a funeral toll and his right eye began to tingle, throbbing softly as he heard a piercing scream that echoed through time, but at that moment Albus opened the door and the noise faded away into silence as he was brought back to the present by the feeling of Albus’ fingers curling around his own. As they walked into the living room it occurred to Gellert that Albus was just as nervous as he was himself, though probably for different reasons, and he squeezed his lover’s hand comfortingly, a wordless reassurance that it would all go as planned.

Arianna looked between the two of them, curious, and Albus looked towards Gellert, clearly too tongue tied to begin. “Arianna, you’re an obscurial.” said Gellert bluntly, remembering his healing lessons. He’d been told repeatedly to break the diagnosis to a patient quickly, as if you weren’t clear immediately they stopped listening because panic set in. Albus elbowed Gellert, obviously of the opinion that he should have been a little less brutal in getting his point across, but it was Arianna that broke the silence that followed.
“No I’m not. They haven't existed for thousands of years.” she said, her tone confident.
“Wrong on both accounts I’m afraid my dear.” Replied Gellert, and then began to explain the indicators of having an obscurus, and watched as her eyes widened, the realisation that she showed every sign sinking in as she began to shake, tears gathering in her eyes.
“Arianna I think we can help you. Don’t cry, We’ve been researching it.” said Albus, and Gellert took over the explanation of what they could try while Albus pulled Arianna into a hug.

“You won’t be trying dragon-shit on our sister you monster.” Said Aberforth, his wand pointed at Gellert from the doorway, and Gellert let to his feet, wand already in hand to respond.
“No Abe, I want to try this. Gellert and Albus can give me magic.” Said Arianna, and Aberforth’s eyes narrowed in hatred.
“He’s a liar, but I’ve got his number. He’s not who you think he is Al, I’ve been doing a bit of digging around about your precious little lover and he’s got a trail of bodies in his wake. I’ll not have our sister be the next victim of his twisted experiments.” Growled Aberforth, ignoring Arianna’s protest completely. Gellert laughed and shook his head.
“Albus knows about all of that. He understands. But this is going to work. Together we’re going to help Arianna and you’ll thank us once it’s successful.” Replied Gellert, and Arianna looked at him in sudden fear. The shock of that expression in her eyes was surprisingly painful and Gellert regretted his wording for a split second before he was distracted by Albus’ impassioned defence of him. Arianna began to relax as Albus defended him, sure that her older brother wouldn’t lie to them about something so serious, and Gellert swallowed, finding Albus’ anger on his behalf rather more attractive than he probably should have.

“We will be going through with it, if of course Arianna still wants to try.” said Albus, his tone commanding in a way that Gellert thought was wasted in the situation they were currently in, but Aberforth’s reply shook him out of his slightly distracted musings.
“You’d have to go through me first.” he said, bristling with defensive anger, and Gellert burst out laughing.
“Then I’ll do just that you jumped up little braggart.” He said, voice dripping scorn as he trained his wand on Aberforth. “You wouldn’t stand a chance against me little boy.” He continued, cracking a dark smile as the first curse flew, a vicious bone breaker that shattered Aberforth’s left arm with an audible crack. Arianna screamed and Albus looked at him in shock.
“What did you just do to my brother? Gellert what’s wrong with you?” he said, and Gellert realised with a start that Albus thought he’d gone too far, felt the horror Albus was f