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~~~

Hogwarts, 1995

The office was quiet. Nothing stirred in the dark, elegant room. The past headmasters and mistresses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry lay slumbering in their frames, peaceful in their resting places. Their faces were shrouded in shadow, but parts of the office were dully illuminated by the glow of the curious silver instruments that adorned almost every surface. A large stone basin that sat upon the desk was the most curious object of all; strange markings curved along its edge, and it appeared to be swimming in liquid platinum.

Somewhere below, stone ground against stone.

The noise, however soft, was enough to awaken the inhabitant of a particular portrait. Phineas Nigellus Black glanced around the dark room with a bit of a glower in his eyes, and then sat back in his chair resignedly, as if awaiting something.

Something came all too soon: the door swung open and a thin, long-fingered hand clutching a wand preceded the elegantly clad body of a very old, but very kindly looking wizard. A wave of the wand made the gas lamps flicker and flame, casting light throughout the room. The sudden brightness was enough to make a few more of the portraits stir; a few sleepy greetings were called out, and Albus Dumbledore answered them quietly and pleasantly.

The current headmaster of Hogwarts rounded the table and eased into his chair. His brilliant green robes settled about him, rustling musically against the furniture and the floor; they lent him an air of vividness and vitality. Upon closer inspection however, it could be seen that his gleaming white hair seemed a little grey and frazzled; his bright blue eyes shone not with their usual amicableness, but with a gleam of nostalgia and melancholy. The half-moon glasses slipped on the crooked nose but, deep in thought, Albus did not bother to adjust them. He looked very, very weary.

Almost absently, he raised a veined hand, and beckoned. A large and quite ugly flesh-coloured bird flew feebly from a shadowy corner of the room, to land unsteadily on the headmaster’s desk. It sounded out a long, low note of sympathy, and Albus, eyes closed, reached out and stroked a few of the remaining feathers at the crown of the bird’s head. A couple of them slipped mournfully to the floor.

Albus put his wand on the table, and looked at it.

It was not usual, in the Wizarding World, for wands to change hands frequently (the wild, outright exception lay before him, small and quite unassuming). The wand chose the wizard, after all. But… when they did… when wands did change hands, it was believed that the previous owner left a bit of themselves behind, imbued in the wood and the core of magical substance. Not anything substantial, not anything much, but the new owner… they would be aware of it, in the feel, in the grip, in the magic.

Albus looked at his wand. Picked it up, held it tight between his fingers. Closed his eyes once more.

His fingers were stroking the bird’s neck now. Fawkes continued to croon.

Across the room, the owner of the eyes that had been fixedly watching the headmaster since his entrance finally decided to speak.

“Pondering the past, Headmaster?” Phineas Nigellus asked, sounding very much as if he was not the least bit concerned. As for the slight sneer in his voice, the other man either did not hear it, or chose to ignore it.

“Something like that,” came the vague reply. Blue eyes opened slowly, like the sun inching its way above the horizon. “Perhaps…”

His hand left the phoenix. He raised the Elder Wand up to touch his temple. Carefully, with a sobriety usually reserved for death and its cousins, he drew out a long string of silvery, wispy memories and deposited them just as carefully into the stone basin. Phineas Nigellus narrowed his eyes, trying to see what now swirled in the ancient basin. It was no use; all he could make out was a flash of golden curls and a wide, confident smile.

He sniffed with disapproval, but made no comment.

Albus checked the clock on the wall; it was a quarter until midnight. He seemed to find the time satisfactory, for he got to his feet, adjusted his glasses, and bent over the Pensieve.

“Professor McGonagall wanted a word,” the old Slytherin headmaster piped up once again, not even bothering to pretend that he had only just remembered. He smirked a little. “Something about Professor Umbridge.”

Albus straightened, and gave Phineas Nigellus a grateful smile.

“Thank you, Phineas Nigellus; it’s very good of you to relay the message. However, I met Professor McGonagall on my way up, and the matter has been as happily resolved as current times permit. And now, if you will excuse me—”

Without any ado at all, he leaned over the stone basin that swam with bright images of the past, and in an instant he was swept into its depths. The portrait gave a ‘hmph! ’ and stared at the Pensieve for minutes on end, as if expecting the headmaster to issue from it at any moment. Albus Dumbledore, however, would not rise from the Pensieve for a very long time.

Beside it, Fawkes flared abruptly, and crumbled into ashes and dust.

~~~

Nurmengard, 1980

When he had first learnt, through a haze of pain and the strength of many binding enchantments, that they planned to imprison him in Nurmengard, he had laughed. Quite loudly. His gaolers had looked furtively at one another, and no doubt thought him doubly insane.

But honestly! Shut him up in a fortress of his own making, of his own design? How did they not see the utter folly of the idea? He knew Nurmengard from the inside out, every hallway, every cell, every stone; not a part of the prison was unknown to him. He had built it for his own enemies, had he not? Its fortifications were strong, the charms thick, the magic profuse, and it was indeed impossible to escape from the high stone walls. They could not, however, think that he had not made provisions for his own incarceration within Nurmengard. With the Elder Wand, his old wand, or no wand at all, (the last being his current predicament) the grim walls of his own making could not hold him in.

He’d laughed and laughed.

Until they threw him bodily into the highest room of the tallest tower, and he felt Albus Dumbledore all around him.

Gellert recognised his erstwhile best friend’s magic immediately. He didn’t know how, but he knew for certain that it was Albus who had fortified the charms and defences, who had secured and closed up those tiny, deliberate weaknesses in the defensive magic, who had sealed up both of the secret passages. It was like a brand; he could feel it as definitely as he could feel the wounds that he had sustained in the duel, wounds that had as much to do with his mind as his body and flesh.

He had tried, in any case. After the door had been shut and the shields raised, he’d sat very quietly in a corner, legs crossed and heedless of the dirt and grime beneath them, fingers intertwined beneath his chin, eyes narrowed, and had tried to think of an escape.

After thirty-five years in the dank, dark room, he folded.

It had always bothered him, just a tiny bit, that Albus was that much cleverer than he was.

Before that summer, Gellert had been perfectly content in his own skin, in his own mind. His companions at Durmstrang were dull-witted and uninspired; always eager to scrape the surface, but never daring to take the plunge. They’d bored him immensely; his own experiments and capers had been company enough for him. His brilliance and charm, of course, had secured him many admirers and followers, but he neither had nor needed any friends. It had been a relief to be expelled.

Meeting Albus had changed that. He had long dismissed it as impossible, that he might actually have an intellectual equal, and so Albus had been like a breath of fresh air. Their ideologies and theories had been the same – never mind that Albus had been on the conservative side – and while Gellert had previously dismissed Britons as stodgy and boring, the young man whom he’d befriended was miles beyond the stereotype. No, Albus had been quite… warm. Gellert had gotten so used to their daily (indeed, hourly) correspondence, – sharing an idea as soon as it occurred to him, eagerly conversing by wandlight in the deserted graveyard, scribbling down quick notes before hurriedly pushing his owl out the window – and now, to be closeted in his own mind was daunting and terrible.

He sometimes heard voices outside his room, talking worriedly of how he screamed and laughed and muttered strange things in his sleep. He never listened long enough to hear them discuss exactly what it was he spoke of.

His own thoughts and memories were torture enough for him.

It had been too much to hope, probably, that Albus would have stayed with him until the end. He still believed that the two of them, armed with the glorious Deathly Hallows, could have brought about an order that would have placed wizards at their rightful place at the top of society, and brought the Muggles to heel. It was regrettable, regrettable, of course, about Albus’ coarse, dim-witted brother, and the volatile Ariana…

Variables.

When the remorse came, it drove Gellert quite mad. He cursed Albus Dumbledore for five weeks straight.

~~~

The Leaky Cauldron, 1960

“Elphias, my old friend.”

At the sound of his name, the tiny wizard looked up from his drink and turned. A very familiar person stood before him, a kindly smile spread over his face. Elphias stood at once, returning the smile jovially.

“Albus! How are you?” he enquired as they shook hands warmly, locking eyes. His old friend was resplendent as always, currently in robes of deep blue, bordered by shimmering silver stars. He looked a bit haggard, though, and distinctly troubled; Elphias was too good of a friend not to see beyond the wide smile and twinkling blue eyes. Before he could comment, though, Albus took his seat and replied.

“Oh, as well as ever, my dear man,” Albus gave warmly, looking down at his friend as he patted his hand. Elphias cleared his throat. “I hope that the same can be said for you?” Albus continued.

The smaller of the two men nodded, perhaps a bit too vigorously.

“Oh yes, of course,” he assured him. “My wife is in good health as well,” he added unnecessarily.

Albus beamed.

“I’m quite glad to hear it,” he said, and as he did, Tom the barman approached. Elphias wiped his palms on his robes beneath the counter as they exchanged greetings.

After Albus finished ordering his drink, (a very festive fruit punch, laced with sweet mead) he turned once more to Elphias.

“Now, you wanted to speak with me, I do believe?”

That was the truth; it was why Elphias had arranged this little meeting. Now that the time had come, however, he felt more than a little shy about it. He had no idea where to begin, and to fill in the silence of the slightly awkward moment that ensued, he cleared his throat again. Albus regarded him passively and waited for him to begin.

“As you no doubt already know,” he finally commenced after a sip of his Firewhisky, “the authorities at Nurmengard want you to return to the prison to perform a routine check on the cell that you enchanted fifteen years ago.” He cleared his throat yet again. “More specifically, his cell.”

He chanced a look at his friend. Albus had comprehension in his eyes, but he did nothing but take a mouthful from his flagon and nod. Elphias turned back to his own drink.

“I do not think that it would be wise for you to go.” It came out in what felt like one breath, and instead of the relief he had expected to feel upon saying it, he experienced a dull sort of sickness in the pit of his stomach.

To his utmost surprise, Albus nodded placidly. His old friend seemed a little surprised himself.

“Oh, I had no intentions whatsoever of journeying to Nurmengard.” He used his straw to stir his drink. “The charms will hold; I’m sure of it.”

“Oh.” Elphias was not sure of what his reply should be at that juncture; he was much too flushed to think of any. “Well… good, good!”

Albus directed a benign smile his way.

“I thank you most kindly for your concern, but – and please do not think me callous – it is not necessary.”

Elphias flushed deeper, and downed the rest of his Firewhisky for something to do.

“Of course, of course,” he said after an interim. “I simply… thought it would be prudent to give you my opinion.”

Albus inclined his head slightly to show his understanding. A comfortable silence rose like mist between them, as Albus finished his drink, and Elphias gestured to Tom for another one. He felt the relief thick in his chest. That man was a part of Albus’ past, and stay there, he must.

“They say that he continuously tries to escape,” Elphias said finally, out of an alarming but profound need to say something.

“He will not,” his companion assured him calmly, not meeting his eyes. The tone of his voice had a slightly strained quality to it. Elphias tapped his finger against the rim of his mug, staring fixedly at the liquid inside. He knew that he should not venture further, but he was barely in control of himself, and before he could check them, the words slipped out.

“I wonder if he knows who—”

“That,” Albus cut across him, raising his voice by the barest notch, “is a question better posed to the authorities at Nurmengard.” His face bore the same pleasant expression, but his eyes had gone strangely distant and glassy and cold. Elphias swallowed, and knew that the discussion was closed.

~~~

Durmstrang, 1945

Gellert knew that he would come. The past five years had been spent in a crazed sort of anticipation. And as always, Albus did not disappoint.

No one would have expected him to be on the grounds of Durmstrang, the school that had expelled him in his youth — no one but Albus Dumbledore. Admittedly, the school had been his for more than two years now; the administration had been easy enough to overcome. Gellert smiled as the redhead approached the tree under which he stood. He had been in Nurmengard up until this morning; how Albus had known to come looking for him here was beyond him.

His old friend had changed. He had grown out his auburn hair so that it hung below his waist; the same went for his once modest goatee. He had traded in his old circular glasses for half-moon spectacles that perched on his nose. Even that was different; once a long straight line, it was now crookedly arched near the middle. He wore sweeping robes adorned with crescent moons, and a grim expression on his face.

His eyes, though, were the same.

Gellert strode forward and withdrew the Elder Wand from his pocket. His blood thrummed, running hot, and he smiled.

“Hello, Albus,” he said quietly. He spoke in English, without consciously meaning to. It had been years since the language last rolled off his tongue.

“Good evening, Gellert,” came the polite reply, in that deep, sonorous voice.

Neither of them spoke for a while. Anticipation built further in Gellert, and he let himself wonder why Albus had waited five years for this. He caressed the smooth surface of the Elder Wand with his thumb. In all their years apart, he had never come across another who was Albus’ equal. It was to be expected, he supposed.

“You have come, I suppose, to try to defeat me?” Gellert said idly. He stepped closer. His eyes were agleam with something like hunger.

“Indeed,” Albus agreed.

Gellert smiled, baring his teeth.

“I am afraid that your chances are quite slim. While this instrument hails me as its master, you will never win, old friend.” He held the Elder Wand aloft, letting the setting sun illuminate it. Albus’ eyes flashed.

“Ah.” He did not look particularly distressed — not that Gellert had expected him to. “I surmised that you had acquired it. However, your clever wand notwithstanding, I think that you will find me quite formidable.” And from his gleaming robes, he withdrew his own wand, and fell into a duelling stance.

Gellert shrugged.

“Perhaps.” His eyes roved the length of the redhead’s body, down, then up. “But… one third of the quest complete, Albus. It is a pity that you could not have remained steadfast for the duration of the quest. A pity…” His eyes squared, taking in Albus’ calm visage. “I am sure we would have all three of the Hallows in our possession by now, and well on our way to creating the perfect society. I have done great things in the past five years, Albus. Great things…”

It was true. He had amassed followers by the thousands, individuals who had his sense of purpose and direction with the same aim in mind, and simply needed a leader to guide them. One by one, within little pockets of Germany, wizards were beginning to rise up, and Muggles were being driven into the dirt, where they belonged, covering themselves with a blanket of soil and fear. The curriculum at Durmstrang had been revolutionised. The youth were being enlightened, and every day, more wizards fell to the might of his influence.

There were dissidents and rebels, of course, those who tried to fight him, but they did not disagree for long. Either they had a sudden, but profound change of heart, or Gellert hunted them out, and squashed them beneath the heel of his boot. Those who were determined to stand by Muggles could die like Muggles.

He was alone at the top, of course; he trusted no one, confided in no one. Such a shame, that Albus, who’d had wit so sharp and blood so pure…

But that did not matter anymore.

Steel plated the blue, blue eyes that were so much like his own.

“I think you may have forgotten the reason why our plans fell apart, Gellert.” Albus’ mouth was a thin line. “I also think we may have different definitions of ‘great’. Innocents have been killed, and it is as much my fault as it is yours. I will allow you to do no more harm.”

Perhaps it was the way he said it. Perhaps it was because Gellert had never ceased to be able to read Albus better than any Seer. Perhaps it was because best friends never became anything but. Whatever it was, Gellert suddenly knew the reason why Albus had taken so long to come out in search of him.

He chuckled.

“It was I who killed her, Albus,” he said, a tad ruefully.

That was not entirely true; he didn’t know exactly who’d killed Ariana, but he was sure that it had not been Albus. It was quite simple. Someone’s wand had missed and killed Ariana, so it stood to reason that that person had to have been using a deadly curse. Out of the three people in the room, Albus had been aiming at him, Gellert, and him alone. And no matter what Albus had said, or how he’d tried to convince himself, he had not been aiming to kill.

He did not have much time to think upon it. For suddenly, Albus was striding towards him, holding his wand rigidly high, with a cold sort of determination hardening the sapphire of his eyes.

~~~

The Hog’s Head, 1930

Aberforth made a point of not turning around. He continued to inspect his store of fine liqueur.

“Well?” he said gruffly. “What d’you suppose you want, eh?” The bar had been empty a few minutes ago; it would have been for the best if it could have remained thus.

“A butterbeer would be most satisfactory,” his brother replied. Aberforth gritted his teeth.

“Could’ve gone to the Three Broomsticks for that, couldn’t you?” he growled, but nonetheless reached under the counter for a bottle and slid it to Albus. In doing so, he finally looked at his brother. Albus seemed… haggard, as if he was trying to enjoy a short rest in the middle of a long, long journey. Aberforth narrowed his eyes, and turned away, but not before he noticed something else.

“Got your nose broken for you a second time?” he asked with grim satisfaction as he turned his attention to wiping down the counter. Albus’ nose was twice as crooked as it had been the last time they’d seen each other. It was now marked by two large bumps, one redder than the last.

“Oh.” Albus touched the bridge of his nose. “I had a bit of an accident. Well, Elphias did, in any case. The spell he was attempting was particularly difficult, and… it was a bit too much on his wand. It backfired,” he ended ruefully.

Aberforth’s eyes darkened, and he scrubbed harder at the countertop. He heard everything in his brother’s voice that he tried to hide.

“Dogbreath…” he muttered under his breath. “When was the last time you went to Germany?” he barked suddenly, whipping around to glare at Albus, who had gone quite still indeed, and was looking at him curiously.

“I’ve never been to Germany,” was his calm answer.

Aberforth snorted in derision, eyes flashing.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” he said sarcastically. “I’ll bet you’ve just completely forgotten about him, haven’t you, because saints don’t associate with those types, do they?” He was getting angrier by the second, and he didn’t even know why. “No, not at all, the place for saints is good ol’ Hogwarts, where they’re worshipped, where they don’t have to atone for anything, where the sun shines out of their arse and no one dares question it!” He threw down his cloth, face red, chest heaving.

Albus was staring into his drink. His demeanour had not changed in the slightest.

“I don’t speak with him anymore,” he said, very quietly. “I do not even think of him.”

“Hah!” Aberforth said, and picked up his cloth once again. As quickly as it had come, his anger was dissipating. However, he couldn’t help but add darkly, “Portraits are a damn poor consolation, Albus.”

Albus’ eyes strayed to the staircase that led to the upstairs room, but, as Aberforth expected, he made no reply. The younger man glared. If he weren’t in his own establishment, he might have spat.

They remained silent until Albus’ drink was empty and Aberforth could see his scowling face in the counter’s surface.

“What did you come here for, eh?” he demanded, rounding on Albus again. “If it’s about that rubbish in the Prophet, I’ll have you know that what I do with my goats is my own damned business, and I bloody well won’t have anyone telling me otherwise!”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Aberforth.” It was the first time he’d said his name since he arrived, and Aberforth’s temper shot up.

“Then what do you want?” he roared. He pointed in the general direction of the castle. “All your philanthropy can be done up your castle; there’s no place for it here!”

Albus was unperturbed by his outburst. It made Aberforth want to punch him. Again.

“I simply came to get a drink,” Albus said pleasantly, and finally got up from his stool.

“That you haven’t yet paid for,” Aberforth reminded him as he watched him collect his cloak.

“Oh, how rude of me,” he said. Coming over to the counter, he took out his pouch, and laid some coins on the counter. Aberforth watched him without saying anything.

“Well, then.” Albus inclined his head. “I take my leave.”

Aberforth grunted, and turned around to pretend interest in his wares once more. It became very quiet, and he would have thought that Albus had left had he not heard the rustling of his robes behind him. Minutes passed.

“I am very, very sorry,” his brother said softly. His voice trembled.

Aberforth gritted his teeth and refused to say anything, even to acknowledge that he had heard the whispered words. He glared hard at a bottle of Ogden’s Old, and waited for his ire to disappear. When he next turned around, his brother was gone.

And the bar was empty. Just the way he liked it. It was about time to close up, in any case. He spent the next few minutes clearing off the tables and washing out the glasses. It was only a few minutes past eleven; he still had time to sit with her for a while before he went off to bed.

As he was clearing the counter one last time, he picked up the money that Albus had laid there. It was then that he noticed that his brother had overpaid him by one sickle.

Choler flooded him. He stomped to the front of the store, unlocked the door, wrenched it open, and threw the silver piece into the dirt.

~~~

The Three Broomsticks, 1915

The man had been acting strangely since he arrived. It wasn’t exactly an anomaly to have types around here who refused to take off their cloaks and show their faces, but this one refused to speak as well. He’d ordered his drink by pointing and grunting. The barman was sure that he wasn’t mute either, for he’d heard him muttering to himself in a strange, guttural language under his breath. It was quite queer.

Currently, he sat at a table in the corner, sipping his drink quietly. Barely an inch of him was visible, swathed as he was in yards and yards of black cloth. Only a hand and a stray ringlet of blond hair could be seen.

The barman cleared his counter, eyes still on the stranger. His head turned and twisted ever so often; he was watching the people who entered and exited the pub from the cover of his cloak. None of them seemed to be who he wanted, however, so he stayed in his seat for well over an hour, nursing his drink.

When he finally came back to the counter, it was to return his glass and pay. The barman took both with a nod of thanks; he would not be sorry to see the back of this person.

Not just yet, though. Instead of moving away, the stranger leaned closer, and crooked a finger at him. The barman hesitated, but after contemplation leaned forward as well.

One word was whispered in his ear, in, strangely enough, perfectly unaccented English.

“Hogwarts.”

The barman looked at the stranger quizzically.

“The school? Well, it’s right yonder,” he replied, pointing. “Just follow the path and follow your eyes; don’t reckon anyone can miss the castle.”

The stranger said nothing in reply. He nodded and swept out of the bar.

Strangely enough, (but perhaps that was to be expected, the barman supposed) he headed in the opposite direction of where he had been pointed.

~~~

Godric’s Hollow, 1899

Albus loved to hear Gellert laugh. It was a rich, deep sound that bubbled into existence out of his throat, the curved line of which preceded the elegant bump of his Adam’s apple and the smooth expanse of skin that ran from shoulder to shoulder. He threw his head back, and his blonde locks tossed and caught the sun. His eyes were closed, but Albus imagined that the blue irises sparkled vibrantly.

He loved hearing him laugh.

Even when it was at his own expense.

Albus doubled over and spat the remnants of the offending bean out of his mouth, trying in vain to get rid of the taste of vomit. He coughed and wheezed, spitting intermittently, and Gellert pounded him soundly on the back, still laughing heartily. Even through his disgust, Albus could almost smile.

When his coughs subsided, he sat back and gratefully accepted the cup of mead that Gellert offered him. His friend was still chuckling. Albus levelled him with a look of mock reproach.

“And now you see where my bravery gets me,” he said, pointing to the innocuous looking jar of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. “With a mouthful of regurgitate and an unkind best friend.” He leaned back against the tree and sipped his mead. His eyes twinkled.

Gellert laughed loudly.

“Ah, I am afraid it is more a matter of your inferior luck, my friend.” He lay back on the chequered cloth that they had spread out for their lunch, between the cheese and the mug of mead. He was a perfect picture of languidness and indulgence. He selected a piece of cheese and threw it carelessly into his mouth. “Not that I set much store by luck, but I suppose it is of some import to you Britons.” His eyes sparkled.

“Am I to be led to believe that your luck – on the days that you decide to care for it – is far superior to mine?” Albus set down his glass and moved closer to his friend. They were in one of Godric’s Hollow’s many parks, not too far from the Dumbledore and Bagshot residences. The sun was high and blazing, but the huge oak under which they lay was more than shelter enough. All around them was quiet and deserted. Albus pushed aside a few maps and old letters and sat near his friend’s head.

“Oh, indeed,” Gellert said airily. He angled his head to let it lie in Albus’ lap, who began to feel quite hot, despite being in the shade. “Though, in some respects, your luck does not fail you at all. For here we both are, brilliant wizards of like mind who are going to change the world. It is certainly not chance that brought us together.”

“Ahh.” Albus treaded his fingers through golden hair without even realising it. “I cannot contradict you there.”

Gellert’s smile was wild and bright.

“Of course you can’t.” And he raised his hand to clasp onto Albus’ neck and pull him down. They were kissing before he knew it.

Bertie Bott had been very kind to Gellert that morning; he tasted of strawberries, ham sandwiches, chocolate and something wild and fresh and unnameable. Albus traced the harsh, sharp lines of his handsome face, biting into the sweetness of his bottom lip. Gellert’s tongue was magical; it licked at Albus’ lips and tongue and teeth, coaxing soft sounds out of him. As always when he found himself so close to Gellert, Albus felt himself losing focus, and yet achieving a sort of clarity that only they could understand.

Gellert was the first to master himself. He pulled away, before clearing away some more items on the cloth and bringing Albus down to lie next to him. He toyed idly with long locks of auburn hair, and Albus shivered pleasantly.

“Where do you think we should search first?” Gellert asked. It took Albus some time to figure out that he was referring to their upcoming quest for the Hallows. “Bulgaria? Italy, perhaps, since that letter—” He waved languidly to their stack of papers. “—seems to suggest that the last owner of the Stone disappeared around that part of the Mediterranean Sea. Sweden is a viable option, as well as Germany—”

“Germany,” Albus said without hesitation. His smile was wide and sincere; his fingers rested fondly on the pulse point of Gellert’s neck. “I should like to be shown around such a fascinating country by a native.”

Gellert indulged him by mirroring his smile.

“Of course, I shall show you a grand time — but we won’t be there for the sightseeing.” His electric blue eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

“Of course,” Albus agreed, and kissed away his frown. Mollified, Gellert reached across for a piece of cheese to slide between Albus’ lips.

“I do admit that we shall have to some measure of amusement on the journey, if Ariana is to be joining us,” Gellert allowed. Albus made no reply; he only chewed thoughtfully. A blond brow arched.

“That is, if she is still coming?” he queried, and watched Albus closely as he swallowed.

“Of course she is,” Albus finally said. “There is nothing else to be done; Aberforth will be going back to Hogwarts, and goats are hardly appropriate company for a young girl.”

Gellert laughed that beautiful laugh of his, and the curl of apprehension that had formed in Albus’ stomach immediately disappeared.

“Good.” His smile had a definite wicked cant. “Now, I believe we still have a good few hours to ourselves. However shall we use them…?”

Albus’ chuckle turned into a gasp as Gellert rolled onto him and bit his neck. The blond tossed his hair back, still grinning, and began undoing Albus’ tunic. The feel of those clever fingers against his warm skin made him catch a breath, and he relaxed into the touch. It was only when he felt a tongue flicking at one of his nipples that he came to his senses.

“Gellert!” he hissed, and tried to push his friend away. Gellert, however, continued mouthing at his chest, and Albus groaned. He was already hard. “No; not here, not now! Your aunt—”

“Is safely locked up in her study, pouring over some volume or the other.” Gellert laid a comforting kiss on his cheek, and relieved him of his glasses.

“But…” Albus tried hard to form words as Gellert started working his tunic over his head. “Aberforth, he could be in the garden this very moment; he might—”

“See?” Satisfied, the blond ran his hands all over Albus’ naked chest, thumbing his nipples, tracing his abdominals, petting the fine hairs that led into his trousers. Albus arched off the chequered cloth, and could not speak but in soft moans. “Ah, well, if he does see, it will do nothing but incur some harmless jealousy, I should think. After all, I am sure I am a much better kisser than his usual companions. I speak, even.”

Albus could not even bring himself to laugh; Gellert’s nimble fingers were wreaking havoc with his mind as they cavorted and played near the top of his trousers. His wicked mouth was no less culpable; it pressed moist kisses on his chest and stomach, going lower and lower and then higher and higher; torturing and teasing him until Albus was sure that he would lose his mind before the day was out. When a pink tongue slid out to leave a wet trail on his skin, little electric currents flew through Albus until he keened.

Mercifully, Gellert finally undid the buttons of his trousers, pulled them down to his knees and took his member, hot and heavy, into his hand. Albus hissed in pleasure. It felt almost too good to be real; a thumb slid across the sensitive head and made him shiver.

“Feels good?” Gellert murmured with a smile, sitting back on Albus’ thighs, and it was all Albus could do to nod blindly. Long fingers stroked his arousal gently, and he wanted to buck his hips up and tell him to grip harder; no matter that he would die of embarrassment immediately.

“Good,” Gellert said thickly, and Albus caught a trace of his accent. He slid down Albus’ body, who registered something thick and hot against his leg before Gellert slid even further down, and took him into his mouth.

Albus yelled; he couldn’t help it. Gellert’s mouth was very warm and very wet, and when he curled his tongue just so… Albus’ hips jerked violently, and he felt Gellert gag slightly. He caressed his blond curls in apology, and Gellert’s response was to hollow out his cheeks and take him deeper. Soft, wet sounds issued from his mouth as he sucked, sliding up and down. Albus’ face flushed deeply, and he felt his legs turn to water.

“Merlin…” Albus breathed, and started to rock in the rhythm that the blond initiated, frantic and hot. There was a hand pinching his nipples, bringing his pleasure to a peak, and another was affixed at the base of his penis. A white hot heat was building in his stomach, threatening to explode. He was so hard, he could barely think. When the hand moved further down to fondle his bollocks, it became too much for Albus. He erupted into Gellert’s mouth, fingers deep in his hair, pressing his lips together to quell his moan of ecstasy.

Gellert kept his mouth on his member, kept sucking and licking and swallowing as best as he could as Albus’ orgasm rippled through him. A thread of semen escaped from the corner of his mouth and rolled down to his chin, and Albus had never seen anything quite as intoxicating in his life.

When Albus’ tremors finally subsided, Gellert made short work of ridding himself of his clothes, and lay down on top of Albus with a groan of relief. He devoured Albus’ mouth in a kiss, touching him all over his face and chest. His penis was hard and red against Albus’ softening cock, and when Albus bucked his hips up, it seemed to send him over the edge. He began rutting mindlessly against the other boy, limbs quivering, eyes squeezed shut. Albus planted soft, slow kisses all over his face, while one hand cupped his backside firmly, and the other reached between their bodies to grab hold of his manhood. Gellert threw back his head, revealing the perfect line of his neck, and when he came, his mouth found its way to Albus’ shoulder, and bit down hard.

It took a long time for them both to catch their breaths. The sun broke through the cover of their tree, warming them, but not unpleasantly so. Gellert was kissing the spot that he had bitten, and stroking Albus’ long hair. Albus basked in the attention, feeling impossibly content, and it was a while before he had the presence of mind to search out his wand and perform a quick Scourgify. They donned their clothes reluctantly; as wondrous as it felt to lay there, skin against skin, the park would not remain deserted for much longer.

Gellert winked mischievously at him as they settled back against the tree together.

“Aren’t you glad that you fold to my will so easily?”

Albus chuckled.

“I don’t have much of a choice, now do I?” Gellert laughed along with him, and for a few minutes, they sat in comfortable silence.

“Something will have to be done about your brother,” Gellert said quietly, a little while later, as he looked up at the sky. Albus arched a brow politely at him, to show his confusion. “The trip,” Gellert explained. “I sincerely doubt that the fact that Ariana will be accompanying us will sit well with him.”

Albus opened his mouth to answer, before realising that he had none. Gellert was right. Aberforth would not be pleased in any measure. He might even refuse to let her leave. Albus frowned. That would be troublesome; he did not want to think about it.

“I’ll think of something,” he promised Gellert, and the other boy grinned sharply. They leant against the bark of the tree, hands loosely intertwined, looking up at the sky, at the sun that was shining and radiating, like a promise of their impossibly bright future.

~~~

A few feet away, Albus Dumbledore closed his eyes slowly. A few tears trickled down his cheeks and over his crooked nose as he bowed his head, and rose from the Pensieve.

~~~