Chapter 1 : Gellert Grindelwald
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A/N: This chapter was written for the Gryffindor April 2013 Person, Place and Thing Challenge. I chose the Enormous Stuffed Penguin, Gellert Grindelwald as the protagonist, Ariana Dumbledore as the antagonist and the Forbidden Forest at midnight for the setting.
Deep in the Forbidden Forest, there lay a small clearing choked by the thick and gnarled trees which twisted and groaned disconcertingly without the help from the wind. Moss hung from the branches like soft frizzy gray-green hair waiting for the breeze to flutter it as gently as the Veil hidden deep within the Ministry of Magic.
The clearing was bare. No grass or weeds peeked from the ground. The trees kept the sunlight hidden. Even on the brightest day, the clearing was gloomy. However, tonight it was especially dark and sinister. The moon hung high in the inky black sky. And it had not yet started its downward trek.
One would fancy that the clearing remembered a Dark Event. No creature and no animal had stepped neither foot nor paw in this clearing. More significantly, no human had yet stepped foot here. The trees refused any who would pass, providing one could survive the remaining dangers of this forest.
Tonight was different.
Tonight would be the first time a living creature would see the clearing and live to tell, should they so desire.
A young man dressed in black suddenly appeared. He landed quickly with wisps of dirty white smoke drifting around him. He was breathing hard, scared. He fearfully looked around the clearing, wearing paranoia as a dark cloak. His eyes widened in fear, freezing him in place when he saw the shadow. He could only perceive it because the darkness was darker. He didn’t need to see it clearly to know what stood there watching him. He already knew. It was an enormous stuffed penguin, though it didn’t look like any picture he had seen with its serpent neck, long beak and odd-looking flippers.
It would be curious that this teenager would already know what manner of creature lay hidden by the dark. Following his duel with Albus and Aberforth, he quickly packed his meager belongings and Disapparated before either brother could follow him. He was annoyed. He was angry. He had worked relentlessly to convince Albus of his dream. Now his ambitious plans were in disarray.
Ever since he first Disapparated, each time he appeared at a new location, the odd-looking penguin would appear, to watch him with its dead beady eyes.
He had lost count of the times he had Disapparated since the Duel yet each time he looked around, the penguin appeared to be waiting for him, its eyes looking down its sharp beak. He was tired. He needed to rest. But how could he relax with this presence looming around him?
He eyed the foul-smelling penguin. It stood easily with his height, its eyes level with his. It didn’t move or talk. But he could feel waves of disapproval from it.
“Gellert,” a soft, teasing voice interrupted his thoughts, drawing his name out just above a whisper. The hair on his neck rose and prickles of fear washed over him. Had there been other sounds, he would not have heard his name. He looked around the murky clearing. This was different from the other times. He was certain that only he stood in the clearing deep in the Forbidden Forest, ignoring the penguin blending in with the dark night. He saw no one else.
“Gellert,” the soft, teasing voice called once more. He glanced in the direction he thought it came from. His face bleached of color. It couldn’t be. Not now. Not ever. Not since the Duel. She couldn’t be the one calling out to him.
“You killed me, Gellert,” she reproached him, her voice became severe. He still had to listen closely to hear her whispered accusation. A wisp of pale smoke glowed slightly as it curled into a fourteen year old girl sitting on the ground with a small stuffed toy penguin near her, pulling the petals off a daisy. She spoke but he couldn’t hear her words. As she pulled the last petal from the daisy, a smile bloomed on her face. The image tore and the smoke faded.
“No!” Grindelwald peered around the clearing again. The gloom made it difficult to see. “I didn’t!”
“You killed me,” her voice gained strength. The trees creaked, their branches shifting to allow the rarest glimpse of light in the clearing. Dirt rose slightly from the ground, hanging gently in the air before settling. The moon’s pale, weak light shimmered in the dust forming a pale, silver mirror. She sat on the broad, wooden swing, laughing silently as Aberforth pushed her gently. A silver charm bracelet filled with penguins glinted in the sunlight. It had been one of the few times he’d seen him smile. The dust settled breaking the mirror. Her soft laughter soon faded away as the trees groaned, closing the clearing into darkness.
Again Grindelwald spun around, looking for a person, a ghost. No wind blew through the trees now. All was still and silent. “I didn’t!” He called out into the darkness. “I couldn’t have.” Doubt entered his conviction. Silence met his defense. His gaze was drawn back to the penguin. It must be a trick of the light. Or was that the dark? He saw it more clearly than he wished, almost as if it glowed from within. “I swear!” He cried out, looking into its unyielding gaze. “I didn’t kill you!”
“You must tell the truth,” her voice demanded harshly.
“I am telling the truth,” Grindelwald insisted.
“Until you tell the truth, you will go nowhere,” she countered.
He watched the penguin grow slightly. His eyes grew wide as he now looked up at its head with its long beak now the length of his arm. “What do you mean? I can go anywhere I like,” he Disapparated and found himself staring at the penguin in surprise. He was still in the shadowy clearing.
“Nowhere,” she teased. “Nowhere. Nowhere. Nowhere.”
He fell to his knees, holding his head in his hands. The Duel. The stupid Duel. He had carefully planned for the Wizarding world to dominate the Muggles once more. Why should witches and wizards fall prey to those who didn’t have an ounce of magic in them? And what had happened? They had a disagreement over Ariana, Albus’ younger sister, or more rightly, his very ill younger sister who needed constant care. Albus had wanted to bring her with them, hiding her under a cloak.
But he didn’t want her around. He didn’t like dealing with her, a constant reminder why the Wizarding world should take precedence over the Muggles. Albus had finally confessed that she had suffered at the hands of Muggles because they were afraid of her. Since fateful day, everyone in the family had tried their best to keep her happy, which included surprising her with a variety of penguins because she had decided she liked the odd creatures.
Then Aberforth had added his unwanted thoughts. He didn’t want Ariana to leave the house. Furious, Grindelwald had no other option but to use the Cruciatus Curse on her brother which had led to the Duel.
“You killed me,” Ariana called out, no laughter in her voice now. A dark shadow grew to stand in front of him before evaporating into nothing.
“I didn’t kill you!” Grindelwald raised his voice again. He glanced up at the penguin that seemingly looked down its long beak at him. How could a button look so intimidating? And yet, Albus hadn’t reacted the way he had hoped. Instead of joining him to fight Aberforth, he had defended his brother. How could he have guessed that the brothers would defend each other when they could barely be civil to each other? Even the feeble Ariana tried to defend her brother. She had been hit by one of the spells and lay dying on the ground. When her brothers hurried to her, he had taken the chance to escape.
“Run away,” Ariana teased cruelly. “Run away.” Mist rose from the ground. It shimmered into a pale, still form of her. Surprise was etched on her frozen face. A tiny penguin sparkled on her ears and neck. She vanished abruptly when he tentatively reached his trembling hand towards her.
Grindelwald clenched his teeth. That part was true. He didn’t want to stay. He could see in one glance that Albus had changed and in ways that he could not.
“Tell the truth,” Ariana demanded. He stole another glance at the looming penguin. Had it grown larger?
“I am telling the truth,” Grindelwald insisted again. “It was your brother who killed you.”
“That is a lie,” Ariana drew her statement out eerily.
Grindelwald had trouble swallowing. “I tell you! It was your brother who killed you.”
“Lies,” Ariana hissed. The penguin seemed to draw closer, its girth growing larger.
“I mean it!” Grindelwald could no longer look away from it. “It was Albus!”
“Lies,” Ariana hissed. “Tell the truth.”
Grindelwald couldn’t catch his breath. Had the air left the clearing? “I couldn’t have killed you.”
“You killed me,” Ariana persisted, “no one else. Not Albus. Not Aberforth. You and only you killed me.”
“I couldn’t have,” Grindelwald tried to deny again. “My wand wasn’t pointed...” His gaze was drawn by the prehistoric penguin once more. Again it appeared to have drawn closer to him.
“Tell the truth, Gellert,” Ariana’s voice whispered around the clearing.
Grindelwald covered his eyes. He didn’t want to see it. He didn’t want to see if it drew ever closer to him or if it grew larger.
“The truth!” Ariana’s voice echoed around him.
Grindelwald felt the slightest breeze against his ear and flinched at the feel. The slight breeze touched his other ear making him flinch away again.
“Until you tell the truth, you will never get rid of the enormous stuffed penguin,” Ariana vowed.
Grindelwald’s breath caught. Never to be rid of that monstrosity? Always having to see the look of condemnation in its beady little eyes? Always to have it looming over him whatever he would do and wherever he was? A sob escaped him.
“You will never leave,” Ariana vowed.
Grindelwald began to understand. It wasn’t the penguin, odd as it was, keeping him here. Slowly he stood up and peered once more around the clearing with narrowed eyes to see only one thing.
“You want the truth?” Grindelwald demanded harshly. Darkness crept slowly to pool in his eyes.
“Tell the truth,” Ariana whispered.
“I’ll tell you the truth,” Grindelwald finally snapped. He sneered in disgust, “Especially if it will get rid of you!”
Ariana remained silent.
Grindelwald looked forbiddingly around the clearing, glaring at the penguin. “Fine. Fine! I. Killed. You.” He threw his arms out, punctuating his words. His fingers curled as if they were talons.
He thought he heard Ariana whisper “Why?”
“Why?” Grindelwald chuckled evilly with a chilling smile. “You were in the way! You would have ruined all my plans! I had worked so hard creating the perfect plan, which included having someone to take the fall! Your precious Albus! But then you didn’t want to go. You wanted to stay with Aberforth. I told Albus to let you stay. But he felt he should be the one to watch over you. He was the eldest, after all.” He shook his head mourning the destruction of his plans.
The wind began to swirl slowly around Grindelwald who ignored it and the penguin. He was lost in his rage. “And I was right! You are still getting in my way.” He cackled with delight. “But no more, you can’t keep me here anymore. And that thing can’t follow me. Go haunt Albus. Go stay with Aberforth. Leave me alone!”
This time when he tried to Apparate from the Forbidden Forest clearing, he disappeared in a swirl of black smoke.
Wind whipped around the clearing, swirling the dry dirt into a large dust devil that ran about until it fell apart. The enormous stuffed penguin stood guard in that lonely clearing. Watching. Waiting. Not everything was complete. Not everything was done. It would not fade away until the guilty one became contrite.
Nearly a century had passed before Grindelwald looked death in his red eyes to feel remorse for the first time in his long life. He had spent his life refusing to consider Ariana for one more moment only to realize at the end that it was her death had propelled him on his ill-fated path. In his last seconds, he felt a terrible sorrow for what he had wrought.
Unknown to him, in the lonely clearing of the Forbidden Forest in which he had faced his guilt, the penguin stirred as he felt true regret. Within a blink of the eye, the penguin had disappeared as if it had never existed.
A/N: As always, I hope you have enjoyed this first chapter. Please let me know what you thought about this chapter, especially if you have constructive criticism! I am always looking for ways to improve my writing! Thank you very much!