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Standing in the Way of Greatness by Pixileanin
Chapter 1 : Time and Effort Wasted?
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8

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For Moonylupin’s Broadway Song Challenge: “What Did I Ever See In Him” from Bye Bye Birdie.

Song's not mine. Anything recognizable isn't mine either... I get the leftovers. Lucky me

A slam of the front door served as the only announcement that Gellert Grindelwald had returned. He moved quickly up the stairs that led to his room. This certainly wasn’t his home; it was a temporary dwelling, a place he’d be leaving soon for a long string of future temporary dwellings. Gellert didn’t have a home; he had a mission.

He threw his knapsack on the bed and looked around. The place was exactly the way he’d left it three days ago. His notes were still neatly stacked on the desk and the collection of recently purchased supplies lined the far wall. Everything was in its place.
Collapsing into a chair, he ripped the boots off his aching feet and sighed with relief. The ball of his right foot and both heels were blistered and bloody, but the small sacrifice of physical comfort would be worth it. Besides, it was nothing that Auntie Tilda's healing salves and a little extra padding couldn't fix.

He was expecting a troublesome journey. Requesting leather with a strong charm repellant seemed like an ingenious move at the time, but it meant that Gellert had to break in his new traveling boots without magic.

Rummaging in a drawer, he found the small grey vial and wasted no time in applying it to his feet. His ministrations were interrupted by Auntie ‘Tilda’s voice drifting breathlessly from the stairs below.

“Gellert! Post for you!”

Her voice was particularly weak this afternoon. She sounded rushed and tired. She was the only person alive who still treated him like family. At the very least, he attempted to not leave messes behind him or make life any more difficult for her than need be.

Gellert loped gingerly down the stairs, careful to avoid touching his salve-covered blisters to the hardwood floor. When he reached out to grab the letter from her hand, Gellert nodded with a gleeful smile, waggling his eyebrows before he rushed back up to the privacy of his room.

She’d been good to him, taking him in after his expulsion without a word. He should feel guilty, but he didn’t. There were things in this world that neither she nor any school could begin to teach him. He shrugged it off.

Albus. Albus would be with him.

He smiled, remembering his friend’s initial reaction to his grand idea. What had Albus called him? Yes, that’s right. Cocky Bastard. Shouted it even. But moments later Albus’ face had softened and he’d chuckled, and then broke out into gentle laughter that turned into an uncontrollable chortle with tears streaming down his ruddy cheeks. That was the moment Gellert knew they were destined for great things.

After some convincing he knew Albus could finally see that his plan was ultimately for the whole of society, not just for the Wizarding World. Muggles needed guidance and protection. Lives would be better, longer and more fulfilling if wizards would rise up and take charge of the world.

It would be like olden times, except better! It would be like Auntie Tilda’s crazy stories from long ago, where Wizards and Muggles lived in mutual cooperation. She’d lulled him to sleep as a young child with her grand tales of peaceful co-existence and Wizard charity that had existed in ancient times. But that was before their manipulation and persecution. Wizards had the power to change the world and make it a better, grander place. And now that he’d found Albus, it was all coming together.

This boy. This… man. He would be everything Gellert would need for his plans.

Already at eighteen, Albus Dumbledore was doing things that Gellert had never even heard described before. It was simply amazing.

No, he corrected himself. Nothing Albus ever did was simple. It was genius. Gellert wondered how Albus had managed to develop his magnificent abilities whithout being ostracized from his own school.

It had happened to Gellert. Early on, he’d learned that brilliance came with a price. At fourteen, he’d exceeded all sixth year spellcasting requirements. At fifteen, he had moved ahead of the seventh years in several other subjects and started experimenting on his own. At sixteen, he was labeled ‘incredibly gifted’ but then was given multiple warnings after a few of his experiments were unsuccessful. Finally, after the unfortunate incident that Spring they’d made him leave.

Instead of recognizing his growing power, they’d relabeled him “reckless”. Instead of praising him for his focus and dedication, they had called him “irresponsible”. There was nothing left for him there anyway.

Unstoppable. That’s what he wanted to be. Together. That’s what they needed to be. Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Grindelwald and Dumbledore. Either way, it was a beautiful arrangement.

Surprisingly, the letter in his hand was penned by Albus. Gellert wondered why his friend had sent him a post when he lived just across the way. He’d be seeing him shortly.

He tore open the parchment and scanned it impatiently. The eager grin turned to a grimace, then a frown and finally an all out scowl.

Dearest Gellert, 

Oh for Merlin’s sake, it was a Dearest Gellert letter. They were to leave next week on the greatest adventure of their lives. Together. What on earth could have changed his mind?

His eyes roamed the beamed ceiling of his bedroom, blinking. This wasn’t happening. It wasn’t fair. He had PLANS! The parchment crumpled in his maddened fist.

Eight weeks.
That's how long I've wasted on him!
That's all, I'm through.
Albus dear, to put it sweetly,
To hell with you! 

He hadn’t planned on staying in Godric’s Hollow this long. His sweet great-aunt was a suffocating bore. Two months had been enough time to grill her on her knowledge of the Deathly Hallows, ancient relics that were now crucial to his plan. He’d even thoroughly explored the historic grave of Ignotus Perverell one of the suspected ‘brothers three’ in the story. The cemetery and headstone had given little insight to the tale.

He was certain he’d be off before summer. But she’d convinced him to stay until June, and then introduced him to the neighbors across the street. They’d met. Then they’d talked. And then they’d planned.

He could have been gone two months ago, but he’d waited for Albus to be ready. Now he was backing out? Forswearing his promises of companionship and trust? Is this how Albus Dumbledore repaid him for sharing his deepest desires and wishes? With a damnable letter?

Gellert added ‘cowardly’ to a long list of offensive descriptors that flowed out of his mouth. He thought he’d gotten to know Albus better than this.

What did I ever see in him?
How did I ever get involved that way?

He steeled himself against the bubbling inner rage at his waste of time and sat resolutely at the small writing desk, smoothing out the refined script of his closest confidant, now broken and creased by his hasty reaction.

If Albus had taken the time to compose a letter in his absence, then maybe Gellert could find a hint of redemption from its contents and further convince him with his own words to rejoin the cause.

Dearest Gellert,

I regret to inform you that even though it has been my deepest wish to accompany you on your grand quest, I am regrettably forced, by my own reasoning and on my own free will, to remain here, at Godric’s Hollow, to look after my dear sister, with whose care I have been entrusted.

I did not know the exact time of your return, so I wanted you to have this letter as an explanation for my decision before we next spoke.

Yes, we had discussed taking Ariana with us but my brother is firmly against it and worries for her safety, as well as the safety of anyone who may come in contact with her. I cannot in good conscience leave my brother Aberforth in charge of her alone. He is a strong wizard, but has not yet completed his training. My sister’s condition has grown more erratic and as she becomes stronger, I cannot bear to think what grief would follow if I left her in the care of someone less qualified than myself.

It would be irresponsible to shirk the responsibility of my family and suffer another tragedy because of my negligence. If my mother had lived through my sister’s last magical outburst and could offer counsel, she would surely agree that, as I am now head of the household, the burden of my family lies squarely on my shoulders.

In these last weeks you have become almost more than family to me yourself. It has been such a joy, such a comfort to know you and your great talents as well as your desire to help wizardkind rise above its current worldly status.

I regret that I am unable to join you on your quest. I will miss your daily company and discuss with the prospect of a brave new world that you have proposed. I regret that I cannot offer my talents to the cause which you have termed “the greater good”. But please know, dear Gellert, this choice that I make is for the good of Aberforth and my dear sister, for whom I care very deeply. This I must do for the the greater good of what is left of my family.

I hope that you find a way to forgive me for retracting my pledge to you. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

I trust that you could spare some time to visit me before you leave Godric’s Hollow, if only to give me the chance to properly say farewell. This summer has by far been a most difficult time, but you, my dear friend have been a great comfort and the best companion I could ever hope to have.

Your loving friend,

Albus Dumbledore 

Gellert took note out his window, towards the house of the man with whom he’d laid his many plans. He watched a tall lanky shape approach the house across the street. The figure carried a large stuffed pack on his back, presumably the weekly groceries. Gellert could only guess this by the long loaves of bread under the man’s arm.

This man had no right to be going about his daily business as if the world wasn’t about to change any time soon. As he watched him disappear inside, Gellert felt his bile rise up.

It was that damnable brother, Aberforth! He’d put Albus up to this, this agreement to cut out on their plans. Well, Gellert Grindelwald wasn’t going to stand for it!

Aberforth was insistent that they shouldn’t do it. Albus had a responsibility, he’d said. Albus couldn’t take her with them, he’d said. She’d already taken a life, he’d warned.

Gellert snorted. Their mother had simply been too slow. Aberforth was young and in his prime. He was not as talented as Albus, but surely he possessed enough skill to handle the sister. Aberforth was more than willing, so why? Why did Albus insist on resigning himself to this life-long vocation of guilt… this lowly babysitting endeavour instead of their plans?

He’d shared everything with him, the only one in this world that would even understand, and now nothing? Just sit at home with an invalid for the rest of his life? This was too important! This was too monumental! This was for the greater good!

Silently fuming, Gellert felt the beginning of a dull throb in his head. He shut his eyes and rubbed his temple, trying to relieve the pressure. There was too much at stake to just give up now.

Am I crazy?
What's he's got that I found so damned appealing?
What did he ever do for me? 

Stalled. That’s what he’d done.

Albus had delayed the date of their departure on several occasions. First it was the third of July. The brother had interfered and they’d needed a more solid plan. Then it was the fifteenth of August, because of the favorable moon signs for travel. There was another delay, because of Aberforth… again.

Weren't the two of them strong enough to shelter the little witch? They had enough magic between them to set a shield charm that wouldn't be penetrable for weeks! It wouldn’t do anything to keep her from hurting herself... was that it? Was that what the brother was on about? They could just knock her out cold. She would simply sleep through it all and stay safe that way. Then she wouldn't be a burden to anyone.

Albus didn't like it. Caring, was he? Thoughtful and tender towards his sister? The brother had begged to stay home and watch her instead, so she wouldn't be 'neglected'.

So what is the difference between tenderness and weakness?

What is the difference between thoughtfulness and neglect?

Ultimately, what was more important here? The comfort and well-being of a magically unstable invalid, or the mission that would set all Wizardkind free from their self-imposed chains of silence and secrecy?

Gellert knew he was forcing Albus to choose. Choose wisely, he’d said. Be a man, he’d demanded.

That was it. This was to be settled today. Gellert grabbed a pair of shoes and thrust his blistered feet into them, gritting his teeth. They would have words today. Then it would be over and he’d finally leave this place. With or without Albus Dumbledore.

How did I ever?
Why did I ever?
What did I ever? 

Auntie ‘Tilda hummed a mindless tune as she straightened up her sitting room downstairs. She glanced up briefly as the blurry form that was her grand-nephew hastily exited the house. She turned to watch the door slam shut… but not too hard to rattle the windows. She smiled sweetly, as if she’d reached out and patted his head before he’d left.

He was such a talented boy. He always behaved well for her; always ate his sprouts, preferred apricot jam on his toast in the morning, washed behind his ears and never complained about the weather. She couldn’t see him being a bother to anyone.

Oh, how Gellert loved her savory pasties. She had once asked him to help stuff the pasties. After his initial reluctance to enter the kitchen, he’d ended up enjoying himself, and she’d even shown him how to paint a decorative symbol on top with the watered down yolk of an egg.

He’d been curious about the strange symbol she’d shown him. How old must he have been back then? Ten, maybe?

It was a triangle for the cloak, a circle for the stone and a line down the middle for the wand. Don’t cross the lines, she’d warned. That would ruin the beauty of the geometric design.

After baking, it would shine bright yellow like a freshly minted galleon. Of course it wasn’t really gold. But a sack of galleons comes second in importance to a shiny egg-glazed pastry in the stomach of a growing boy.

When he’d asked again, years later, she’d shared with him her notes tracing the history of that quaint little children’s story about the three brothers and Death. The Deathly Hallows, as they were sometimes called, were said to be very powerful, and perhaps when combined, they may be able to cheat death, if they were ever found… or if indeed they were real.

To her pleasant surprise, Gellert had gotten interested. His enthusiasm further fueled her own research until she was quite sure that perhaps she should embark on her own adventure, writing a book on Magical History… or something to that effect. She really hadn’t decided what to do with herself yet. Everyone needed something with which to occupy their time.

Gellert wasn’t often around these days for apricot jam or savory pasties. He was buried in his own interests, as she supposed most boys his age were. This quest of his, one which she fully supported, was something she hoped would keep him well away from trouble. Retracing the steps of History was a worthy educational endeavour, as she herself was discovering. Surely he would discover something grand, she mused. Surely his discovery would shake the world and the world couldn’t help but be better for it.

Despite her firm belief that her grand-nephew was both gifted and destined for greatness, Auntie ‘Tilda felt that poor Gellert was becoming distant from his peers. After his return to her on account of his sudden expulsion, which she still hadn’t fully grasped, she fussed about his isolation from boys his own age. He should have friends, she decided. Then her sad, sad neighbor passed under even sadder circumstances and poor Albus… well, he just needed a friend too. Auntie ‘Tilda was certain that Gellert and Albus would be good for each other.

They’ll be fine, she supposed. She should get him a traveling gift, perhaps. Does Gellert like hats? What kind of hats do sixteen-year old boys like these days? Would he and Albus like matching hats? Wouldn’t that be nice. She should knit up some extra pairs of wooly socks too. A man should have a nice hat and extra wooly socks if he is to travel the world.

He was barely a man, if a man at all.

It would be another year before Gellert was considered a proper man. What is a man, but someone who has strong convictions and seeks his fortune in the world? Albus had turned into a good man, she nodded to herself. Surely he would be good for Gellert.

Gellert hadn't finished school. He had done some things. He was clearly an outcast at that Durmstrang school, a place that no longer wanted him. He would have to go out into the world and make his own mark without fabulous letters of recommendation or testimonials to his prodigious genius.

A loud bang from outside startled her out of her thoughts. Auntie ‘Tilda ran outside to her front porch in time to see a mass of flapping drapery, wrapped around a flaming upholstered chair crash through the second story window of the house across the street. Angry shouting ensued from that upstairs room and then a piercing scream echoed through the neighborhood.

She knew that scream. She’d heard it once before, earlier that year when Mrs. Dumbledore had passed on. It was the sound of something truly horrible

Her shaking hands moved to cover her mouth in dismay as bright green lights flashed against the broken window frame.

“This can come to no good,” muttered Auntie ‘Tilda, watching her grand-nephew flee the Dumbledore home and run towards her as if chased by a pack of dementors.

“She… he… I… ” Gellert gasped at her, wild-eyed and frantic.

There was no time for knitting extra socks.

She thought back on that day often and wondered if she had done the right thing. He’d pleaded with her to help him. She’d not thought twice about offering the emergency portkey. She’d given him the means to disappear instantly and honestly, she didn’t know what she would do if she ever heard from him again.

Things had gone very badly for Albus and Aberforth, especially after Ariana’s funeral. The poor girl had obviously been set off by the heated argument and lost control again. Except this time she’d been killed herself. No one put blame on anyone else who had been present in that room. But Albus’ spirit was wounded after that. Aberforth never spoke of it, but always looked at his brother as if there was blame to lay. And Gellert had never returned.

Even years later, a small part of her still felt somewhat responsible for the mess of broken lives he’d left behind.

Bathilda Bagshot dabbed her eyes with the tattered kerchief clutched in her hand. It was her day of brokenness, the day she chose to remember and mourn. She mourned the deaths of the mother and daughter across the street. She mourned the loss of the two bitter brothers that remained. But most of all, she mourned for the little boy who had grown up too quickly and run away. There was no one left to be an Auntie to anymore.

She would see reports in the news now and then about a man who went by the name of Gellert Grindelwald. The things this man was accused of… awful, evil things. It sounded nothing like the grand-nephew she used to have. She missed that dear, sweet boy.

Now, all she had were fading recipe cards, unworn wooly socks and memories. She would spend hours in her sitting room, thinking back and wondering if she could have done something different. She would spend years with her research, hoping to find a reason for it all.

Maybe she’d been too kind.

What did he ever do for me?
Well, to be honest he was sometimes nice,
But still it wasn't worth that awful price.
It was rough from the start.
Broken dates… broken heart
How did I ever?
Why did I ever?
What did I ever?

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