Aberforth Dumbledore was minding his own business. Always had done, always would do. Nothing good ever came out of meddling with other people’s lives, he knew that all too well, so he stayed the hell out of it. Should everyone else think whatever they wanted about that.
He was cleaning up a mixture of blood and vomit that one of his guests - he’d thrown him out for that - had left in the corner of the taproom of the Hog’s Head, when there was a knock on his door. He rolled his eyes, if that was Hutch again…
“It’s closed! Learn to read!” He yelled.
“It’s Albus.” A voice very similar to his came muffled from the other side of the door.
He considered ignoring his brother, he was not in the mood to deal with Albus’ antics or another attempted apology. He just wanted to finish of the day quietly.
“Would you please let me in? It’s important.”
Of course, because bloody Albus was always the most important of all things. He strode across the room and pulled the door open with a lot more force than would’ve been necessary.
“I know you’re not used to that, but my world doesn’t revolve around the great Albus Dumbledore, so whatever it is, it can wait til tomorrow.”
“It cannot, Aberforth. We need to talk.”
“You always say that.” He motioned to close the door, but Albus pushed against it - he’d never done that before. He always seemed to bow down at Aberforth’s anger, but when their eyes met, now, Albus looked stern. “It’s a family matter,” he said.
“Unfortunately you’re the only family I’ve left”, he spat.
“No,” Albus replied. “I’m not.”
Aberforth stopped and frowned. “What the -?” Albus held his gaze until he stepped aside to let his brother enter.
“What do you mean?” He asked after he’d closed the door again and folded his arms in front of his chest.
Albus sat down on one of the chairs at the bar, looking mildly disturbed. “Did you know Dad got out of prison?”
All the muscles in his body clenched immediately. “What? Albus, if this is bloody joke, I will hex you! That is not funny -“
“I don’t think it’s funny!” Albus looked furious now. For a moment they just stared at each other.
“Explain!” He demanded through gritted teeth.
“You know the family registers at the ministry? I was informed that someone had demanded access to them - and was granted such.”
He frowned. “That’s impossible. They must have made a mistake.”
“That’s what I thought. I went to tell them and asked them who had accessed the records and why anyone would take interest in that.” Albus pulled out a folded piece of parchment with the broken ministry seal on it and handed it to him. “Look at this.”
He grabbed the parchment and unfolded it. A family tree bloomed on it, reaching all the way back to their great-great-grandfather. He quickly scanned it, until his eyes reached his own name. He frowned, closed his eyes and opened them again, just to find that the picture didn’t change.
Albus, Aberforth, Ariana - children of Kendra and Percival. But the line didn’t end. There was another branch growing from his father’s name. Aurelius it read, son of Percival, no mother was depicted.
“This is wrong. Dad died in Azkaban. It’s impossible.”
“The records are magical, they’re not wrong. I know who it is, too.”
“If this is a joke, Albus…”
“Do I look like I’m joking?” He did not. In fact Albus looked as distressed as ever and something heavy sank in his chest.
“Who is it?” He whispered.
“He grew up as Credence Barebone. He is responsible for the great destruction of New York City last year. He is… Aberforth, he is an Obscurial.”
It was as if Albus had punched him. He couldn’t wrap his head around this. It was impossible. It was only him and Albus. There was no other brother. Their father had died in prison and Ariana and their mother had died during that summer. This was not real.
“Say that’s not real.”
“I wish I could,” Albus whispered. “There is more. Have you ever read The Predictions of Tycho Dydonus?”
“They speak of a sister in despair and a son cruely banished and of an avenger.”
“What’s it got to do with us?” But he feared he knew the answer.
“He will try to kill me.”
That made him laugh. “Who says it’s not me, who will kill you? Because I am really tempted right now!”
Albus smiled warily. “He is being set up to kill me. He thinks we abandoned him, that’s what the prediction says.”
“By who?” He spun around and stared at Albus. His brother closed his eyes and swallowed. “Grindelwald, isn’t it?”
Albus nodded slowly.
He’d believed he couldn’t hate Gellert Grindelwald any more than he already did, but he’d been mistaken. Hot rage rushed through him and he clenched his fists. “I should’ve killed that Bastard years ago.” He looked around the room for something to throw, then turned to Albus again. “You let him into our lives. Ariana is dead and he is still messing with us! He continues to destroy everything around us!”
“I know,” Albus whispered.
“You need to stop him. Stop hiding, stop sending other people to do the job for you. You need to stop him, now.”
“No, stop this. I don’t care about your heartbreak or your fear or whatever, for once this is not about you, you -“
“No, I can’t.”
“We made a pact!” The silence after that was deafening and Albus’ eyes shone with tears. “A blood pact. We vowed to never fight against each other. I haven’t found a way to destroy it yet.” He sounded defeated, but that only fueled Aberforth’s anger.
“You are the most ignorant, stupid douche I have ever met. What were you thinking? No, I know, you were not thinking at all and now it is coming down at us and you can only watch! You know, I might really do it. I’ll do them the favor, kill you for them!”
“I’m sorry, Aberforth.”
“Well, I don’t care!”
“How was I supposed to know?”
“BECAUSE I TOLD YOU!” He roared. “I told you he was trouble! I begged you to stay away from him! I asked you to take care of us! But you didn’t care! Of course, why would you listen to your stupid little brother, when you could be fucking Grindelwald and scheming world domination?”
“I am so sorry.” Now Albus was really crying and that almost made him angrier. What was he crying about? It was his fault, in the end. Aberforth should be the one crying.
“No, I don’t want your apologies. I want you to find a way to destroy that pact and to fight him.”
“I am trying.” Albus dabbed his eyes and regained composure. “But in the meantime we need to help that boy.”
“Our brother, you mean.” It was weird, saying it out loud.
“Yes, our brother.”
Suddenly, a thought struck him. “Why didn’t he grow up with Dad? Why did he never tell us he was free again?”
“He died in a ship accident, from what I’ve gathered. I don’t know how he got out of prison without being noticed, but he had Aurelius afterwards and wanted to flee the country. He asked aunt Honoria for help, do you remember the ship accident she died in? He died there, as well. Aurelius would have too, if Leta Lestrange hadn’t switched him for her brother before. A servant of the Lestrange family gave the baby to Mary-Lou Barebone upon arriving in America, where he grew up - unfortunately in a very anti-magical environment.”
“That’s insane, do you know that?”
“I know. Aberforth, I think I will need your help.”
“Of course you will!”
It seemed like Albus didn’t have to track the boy. Aurelius tracked him. Or bloody Grindelwald did. Albus called for him in the middle of a freezing afternoon in November 1933. When he arrived in Godrics Hollow - how ironic! - there were 3 houses destroyed already and a dark cloud expanding. Scamander and his friends were there, as well as Grindelwald.
The dark haired woman tried to calm the boy with no luck and Scamander had to pull her out of the way of the lashing out Obscurus. Grindelwald stayed back - a blonde woman by his side, who looked considerably shocked, while Albus was desperately trying to keep the damage at bay.
“Aurelius!” He called. He didn’t pull out his wand, Ariana had always hated that. He just stood there, unarmed.
The Obscurus crashed into the house Albus had been standing in front of only a second before.
He stepped forward a bit. “My name is Aberforth! Aberforth Dumbledore,” he explained. “I am your brother!”
The dark cloud suddenly stopped mid-air, until… “Aurelius!” That was Grindelwald and the Obscurus immediately rushed through the air, split and came down onto the ground with such a force that the massive stone cracked. Albus had just managed to disapparate again and was now standing next to Scamander and his friends.
Anger rose in him, but he reminded himself not to pull out his wand. He couldn’t afford any mistake now.
“You don’t have to do this, Aurelius. You have a choice! You are stronger than this.”
Again, the Obscurus seemed to listen for a second. “I know you are feeling terrible. We had a sister, she was like you. She was the most wonderful girl in the world, but she suffered, too, just like you.”
“Don’t listen to him! He is trying to manipulate you!” Grindelwald called. The Obscurus shuddered in the air and crashed into another house.
It took everything in him not to go after Grindelwald, but he focused on the Obscurus again. He would not lose this time, he would not let this escalate. He just wished somebody else would shut Grindelwald up.
“Ariana was hurt, when she was a child. They hurt you, too, didn’t they? You deserve better, Aurelius.”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw how Grindelwald waved his wand, but Albus was fast enough to block the curse. At the same time the blonde woman broke the protecting shield around them and raised her wand. Grindelwald looked furious.
“You need to ki -“ He was interrupted when the blonde woman shot a curse at him. “Keep talking. He is listening to you!” She yelled at him, while Grindelwald furiously sent back curses, Scamander and his friends rushed to her side and Albus conjured a magical shield between the Obscurus and another family home.
“I can tell you about her! And I can tell you about our father. He was a great man. He protected Ariana and he tried to protect you, too!”
The Obscurus sunk to the ground, listening apparently, while there were curses flying from Grindelwald, Scamander and the two woman. The third man - obviously a muggle - stood back, shocked, while Albus tried to shield his friends as well as he could without fighting Grindelwald directly.
“I wish I had known. I wish I could’ve helped you.”
Slowly the Obscurus gained the form of a young, shaking man.
“Aurelius, remember the predictions! He wants to destroy you!” Grindelwald yelled. The blonde woman was lying on the ground, apparently unconscious now and the muggle was kneeling next to her.
“That’s ridiculous! It’s your choice! You don’t have to kill anyone and nobody will kill you. I promise you, I will protect you. Predictions don’t say anything.” He took another step towards the young man. “This is not your fight, Aurelius. It’s theirs. We don’t have to fight.”
Grindelwald shot another curse at him, but Albus steered it in another direction.
“Remember what I told you, Aurelius”, Grindelwald insisted.
“Forget it. Forget him. You don’t need this war. We don’t need it. Come home, Aurelius.” At this Aurelius looked him in the eyes, tears glittering on his cheeks, still on his guard, but he saw him. He really saw him, really heard him.
“Remember, they abandoned you! Put you through all of this! He will kill you!”
“I would rather kill myself than you!” It was the first time Albus spoke, but it sounded so desperate, so sincere that it sent a shudder down his spine and his eyes flickered from Aurelius to Albus for a second. He had dropped his wand and was looking at Aurelius now. The young man stared back at him and Grindelwald’s face was marred with rage.
“He is lying. He’s promising this now, but he will break it. I must know.”
Albus’ head spun around and he stared at Grindelwald with wide eyes, but Aurelius slowly shook his head. “No,” he whispered. “I believe him.”
Grindelwald raised his wand, but Albus stepped in between them. “If you want to kill me, do it yourself.” He pulled a silver pendant out of his pocket. “Let’s stop the proxy war.” He closed his fingers around the pendant and the next moment it seemed to crush in his hand, blood and silver and white smoke running down his arm. His face was stone cold, but Aberforth could see the turmoil in his eyes. Grindelwald held his gaze for a moment, equally stern - then he disapparated without another word.
There was a shocked silence that spread out and became heavier with each second and Aberforth was the first to gain composure again. He turned his attention to Aurelius, who was still crouching on the ground. “Can I come over to you?” He asked.
Aurelius slowly nodded, so he carefully stepped forward. Right in front of him, he kneeled down and tentatively put a hand on his shoulder. Aurelius leaned in to the touch, so he dared pulling him closer. Though a young man, he seemed more like a small child, hiding his face on his shoulder, digging his fingers into Aberforth’s back, while he simply held him close and stroked his back. “It’s alright,” he murmured. “It’s alright.”
He took Aurelius to the Hog’s Head and the blonde woman - Queenie Goldstein, she’d said and the muggle, Jacob Kowalski - were coming with them, while Albus, Scamander and his friend (Tina, Queenie’s sister) were left to deal with the ministry, which undoubtedly would appear to investigate the breach in the statue of secrecy and the destruction of the village.
He quickly made sure that Queenie was alright, before Jacob insisted on taking care of her and Aberforth was more than happy to leave them to it. He opened a dusty bottle of butterbeer and handed it to the young man still standing in the middle of the room looking quite lost and intimidated.
“Thank you,” Aurelius muttered, eyes fixed on his shoes.
“What for?” He poured himself a glass of Firewhiskey and sat down at the bar, pushing another chair back for Aurelius to sit down.
“For keeping me from destroying everything.”
Aberforth snorted. “Sit down.” Aurelius followed hesitatly. “Listen up, it’s not your fault. I know it’s hard to control.”
“I can control it… sometimes.”
“Well I’m sure it’s harder with bloody Grindelwald whispering in your ear.” The boy nodded slowly, so he continued. “That was not your fault.”
“Why are you helping me?” Aurelius looked up from his fiddling hands and into his eyes. It was odd: he and Albus had the same crystal blue eyes, the same as their father, but Aurelius’ resembled Ariana’s much more. How very fitting, he thought, what a mess this all was, though his answer was still simple:
“Because you’re family.”
Aurelius’ eyes widened as if that was the last thing he’d expected to hear, so he kept talking. “And I’ve seen what that bastard can do and I won’t let you suffer because of that. That is Albus’ fight, not ours.”
“I am so sorry for trying to…” The boy looked at his lap again, but Aberforth only chuckled. “It’s alright. Sometimes I would love to kill him, too. Somehow his character just calls for it. You know, I broke his nose, when I was 15. He can do with a reminder that he’s not aloof of everything, once in a while.”
Aurelius shoulders relaxed a bit, but he still frowned. Aberforth clapped his shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it. He’s not angry at you and I’m certainly not either.”
Right at that time noises and muffled voices suddenly appeared outside, followed right by a tentative knock on the door. He opened it and let Albus and his friends in. Tina rushed right to Queenie’s side, who seemed a lot happier than before, holding Kowalski’s hand. Scamander’s eyes scanned him and flickered back to Albus, then to Aurelius.
“Newt?” Tina called then and after another look at Albus he cleared his throat and hurried over to his friends.
Albus turned to look at him, his hands buried in his pockets. “Is he alright?” He asked quietly.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
Albus swallowed, his eyes flickered to Ariana’s portrait in the backroom, before he carefully stepped towards Aurelius, while he took back his seat next to the boy. Aurelius looked up at Albus, his head still bowed.
“How are you?” He asked hesitantly.
“Alright, I think. How - how are you?”
“Alright, as well, I think.” There was a weird pause, neither of them knew what to say apparently, so Albus smiled awkwardly and Aberforth wanted to bury his head in his hands. How could all the world think his brother so brilliant, when he was so incredibly incapable, when it came to his family?
“You want a drink, Albus?” He asked, already getting out another glass. “You, too?” He called over to Scamander and his friends, who gladly accepted.
He tried to get the boy to ease up a bit, assure him that he was safe, that he was family. They had a drink and he cracked a few jokes at Albus’ expense, who easily went along with it, but when Scamander and his friends announced they had to leave very late that evening, Aurelius still looked tense and insecure. Albus left with Scamander, but stayed back at the door.
“You will take care of him?”
He crossed his arms. “Of course, I will.”
“That’s good. You’re very good at this, Aberforth. I admire you.”
“Being a good brother.”
“Yeah, can’t say the same about you.”
Albus swallowed and looked down at his shoes. “I know. And I know it probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, but I am very proud of you.”
He sighed, grabbing the door handle already. Why did Albus have to make this complicated again? Despite everything this was not a family reunion, there were too many people missing and he was definitely not forgiving Albus for that, whatever he’d done for Aurelius. “You’re right,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything to me. But, at least you’ve done the right thing for once, so…” He looked him in the eyes. The same ones as his but glassy and exhausted. He couldn’t bear it, he didn’t want to feel the wave of compassion rolling over him. “Night, Albus.” He gave him a casual pat on the shoulder, before returning to the Hog’s Head and closing the door just as Albus muttered: “Good night, Aberforth.”