Author's note: This story was inspired by the "Location, location" challenge by xdaanana. I wanted to write a story about Dumbledore and she gave me Vienna as a setting. Thank you for choosing such a wonderful city for me! I've never been there but I've talked to people who have and it's the perfect surroundings for Albus Dumbledore. This story is in honour to one of the greatest wizards ever and the demons he had to fight.
„You should try the Sachertorte.“
Albus Dumbledore had been aware of the wizard standing behind him for a while already. It was a feeling, a tingling in his spine that sent the hairs in his neck standing up.
“The Sachertorte is the best of all cakes,” Dumbledore said again and put down his newspaper. “Come and sit with me, Gellert. Or do you despise all things muggle so much that you will not even try their food?”
He turned around to face his former best friend. Gellert Grindelwald was still as blonde as ever but he had cut his locks and now wore his hair short. His face looked sunken in with dark shadows beneath his eyes.
“I’ve been watching you for a couple of days,” Gellert said as he sat down on the chair opposite Dumbledore.
“Just like I have been watching you. And so the circle is complete.”
Dumbledore went back to studying his menu, even though he already knew what he was going to take. A piece of Sachertorte, the fabulous chocolate pie which alone was reason enough to visit Vienna and a coffee. A large, traditionally brewed coffee.
He had chosen his favourite café in the Austrian capital on purpose for a meeting with Grindelwald. Here, they would be forced to talk. The last time they had seen each other had ended up with them throwing spells left and right but this setting left them no choice. Talk it was.
Maybe there was still hope left.
“Why Vienna?” Gellert asked.
Dumbledore leaned back. The head of his back touched a column which reached up to the ceiling and from which arcs stretched to the other, identical columns in the room. A masterwork of architecture, the creation of domes that separated the large hall into smaller, comfortable pieces.
“I’ve always loved the city. Haven’t you? A mixture of elegance, tradition and progress. Vienna is the city of reporters and papers, of news travelling fast. And then look at this place, the coffee machines behind the counter. Can you hear them grind the beans, in the same way they have for centuries? Look at the waitress.” He motioned at a young woman that was approaching their table, clad in a black dress with a white apron. Her hair was tied in a bun. “I’m sure you wouldn’t see a difference if we were two hundred years in the past. Fascinating, isn’t it?”
Dumbledore turned to the woman that had reached their table. “My friend and I will each have a piece of Sachertorte and a large coffee, please.”
“Muggles, stuck in their old ways,” Grindelwald snorted. He did not even wait until the waitress was out of ear-shot.
“And you’re not?”
“On the contrary. Albus, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m trying to do what no wizard has before. The beginning of a new era.”
Albus sighed and pointed at his newspaper.
“A new era? Europe is preparing for a war. Germany has invaded Poland. Gellert, what are you doing?”
“Who tells you I’m behind this?”
Grindelwald leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms in front of his chest. A smirk spread on his face and for a moment, he was as attractive as he had been back then in Godric’s Hollow. Dumbledore felt a pang of pain in his stomach, both at the sight and at the knowledge of what had become of his lover.
He shook his head. “Gellert, Gellert, you should know me better.”
“And because I know you, I know that you’ll have to agree with me.” Grindelwald leaned forward and clasped his hands together. “It’s a brilliant strategy and you know it. Use the muggles to subdue them. You and I, we both know that it works. We’re too much alike, we’ve both felt the need for power. We both know that we must make sacrifices.”
“Sacrifices?” Dumbledore’s voice jumped and his breath shuddered. He tried to block out the emotions bubbling up in him. It was vital to concentrate, to not let them rule him.
The waitress came back and Dumbledore even managed a smile as she placed a piece of chocolate cake and a large coffee in front of each of the men.
“Look at her,” he said when the young woman had left again. “Did you see the bags under her eyes? She was up late last night worrying about her father and her brothers that have gone to war. She knows that not all of them will come back alive. Sacrifices, all made for you. Just like you sacrificed my sister. No, Gellert, you and I, we are nothing alike.”
“Oh really? Tell me one thing then.” Grindelwald picked up a piece of Sachertorte with his fork and deliberately slowly moved it to his mouth. By the time his lips closed around it, Dumbledore was feeling sick. He did not touch his own cake.
Grindelwald chewed and swallowed and it seemed like an eternity until he continued to speak. “How many have you loved since me?”
Silence. They could hear the chinking of cutlery in the background. Dumbledore was aware of people talking around them but the voices seemed so far away that they could as well have been on another planet.
“None,” Gellert said. “Which means that you still love me, that deep down, you still agree with me.”
“No. Deep down, I still love you because I know that you’re not the kind of person you make out to be. Gellert, I promise you that I am going to be your downfall.”
The blonde wizard suddenly burst out laughing. He threw back his head and pearls of laughter rang through the café, but from the corner of his eyes, Dumbledore could see his left hand twitching nervously.
“Albus, Albus, you’ll never be able to defeat me.”
There was a bump in Grindelwald’s dark blue robe, just underneath the still twitching fingers of his left hand. His wand. So he must have found the Elder Wand. That made things more complicated.
Dumbledore wondered where he had gotten it from. They had searched for it but in their youth had not known where to begin. Grindelwald must have been more successful. If it hadn’t given his knowledge away, Dumbledore would have asked. But for now, his curiosity had to be left unsatisfied.
“Gellert, I promise you that I still love you and I promise you that I’m going to do everything I can to help you. If that means stopping you to protect you from yourself, I will.” Dumbledore stood up and left a couple of coins next to his untouched Sachertorte and coffee. “I do not believe that you’re as evil as you make out to be.”
With a swish of his robes, he was gone.
He needed to come up with a new strategy and then he would bring Grindelwald down.