Chapter 1 : In His Heart of Hearts
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The flame of the wax candle reflected in the silver blade of the sword of Gryffindor. The rubies in its hilt glistened in the dim light that spread across the desk and illuminated the otherwise completely dark, circular office. Dumbledore’s thin, wrinkled fingers stroked the cold silver surface, where Godric Gryffindor’s name was engraved; he could feel the inscription, the sharp edge of each letter, perfectly shaped by the hands of goblins.
The ring lay next to the sword. Its poor handiwork was evident next to the perfection of Gryffindor’s heirloom – the gold was uneven, and the small, black stone had been clumsily attached to it. The sign was still there – Dumbledore bent down to get a closer look – yes, the triangle, the circle, and the vertical line. He drew a wheezy breath and closed his eyes.
The sign still worked as a time turner, one powerful enough to send him years and years back in time, it worked as a ruthless reminder, as a rough hand, grabbing his heart so tightly that it could no longer beat as it should. Suddenly, there was Gellert’s mirthful face, his blue eyes shining as he drew the sign on his napkin and hid it away from his great aunt’s prying gaze. Then the triumph in his facial expression when young Dumbledore nodded, leaned in towards him and whispered: “We’ll find them.” And Gellert smiled as he responded: “For the Greater Good.”
Another memory took hold of Dumbledore’s mind: he was nine years old, sitting across from his father in the kitchen. The middle-aged man was bouncing a little girl on his lap, and she was laughing as she reached up and tried to grab his long wisps of hair that just barely brushed against his shoulders when he moved.
Dumbledore’s father chuckled. “What are you going to do with my hair, little angel?” he asked. “I would prefer to keep it on my head, you see!”
Young Dumbledore sighed, closed his book and shot an aggravated look at his father and little sister. “Can you play with her outside instead? I am trying to concentrate.”
The scene changed: they were in the same kitchen, but Percival Dumbledore was a few years older – the wrinkles on his face had deepened, and his hairline had climbed further up his head. His daughter, Ariana, was not there. Instead, it was his sons, Albus and Aberforth, who sat at the table, staring up at their father with similar, frightened looks on their young faces.
“They will come for me any second,” Percival explained. “I will have to go with them.”
“But why?” Aberforth whimpered. “I don’t want you to!”
“Just listen to me,” his father said. “I am not going to be around anymore, and I need you to promise me something. You are big boys now, are you not? Good, because I need you to look after your mother and your sister when I’m gone.”
“How can I look after someone?” Aberforth asked. “I am only seven!”
“Be quiet!” Albus said. His eyes did not twinkle, like they used to – they were cold, determined. He lifted his head, looked at his father and nodded. “We will take care of them,” he promised. “You don’t have to worry about them.”
For a brief second, Percival looked like he was going to burst into tears. Then the moment was gone. He spun around and stared out the window while a cold, icy fog crept in through the door chink. Next to Albus, Aberforth shivered. They had come. They had come for their father, and the boys could do nothing but watch the tall, hooded figures take him away from them.
Dumbledore opened his eyes; he was his hundred-and-fourteen-year-old self, sitting in his office at Hogwarts. He fixed his brilliantly blue gaze on the ring. When he had searched the ruins of Marvolo Gaunt’s house, he hadn’t expected to find the stone. The ring, yes, but not the stone. And yet, here it was, just an arm’s reach away. They were just an arm’s reach away.
Other than the wax candle on his desk, there was only one light source in the room. A silvery blue, shimmering light came from the Pensieve by the opposite wall – his collection of memories lit up that part of the room. As he turned his eyes to it, his mind started an argument with itself.
You could see them in a memory.
See them, but not talk to them. Not tell them what I need to tell them.
You know what happens to the second brother in the story – it destroys him.
This guilt inside me is already destroying me!
Without realising it, he had leaned forwards; his fingers closed around the ring. His heart fluttered when he pictured them, standing right in front of him again: his mother, his tall, proud father and Ariana, his beautiful sister. They were just an arm’s reach away – they had never been so close in a hundred years.
“I should have taken better care of them,” he would tell his father. “I promised you that I would, and I failed you. Can you ever forgive me?”
And then he would turn to his mother and say: “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you, and I’m sorry that I didn’t fulfil what you had died doing. I’m sorry that I didn’t keep you safe.”
And to Ariana, to his lovely Ariana, he would say: “Not a day goes by that I don’t regret what I did. Not a day goes by that I don’t have to bear the pain of knowing that had I only put you first instead of myself, instead of Gellert and his grand dreams, you would have still been here. For that, I will never forgive myself.”
And he wouldn’t even ask for her forgiveness, for he was sure that she could not give it.
But it wouldn’t change anything; they would still be gone.
Yes, but at least they would know how sorry I am.
So he did it. Without hesitating, without devoting another second of thought to it, he opened his palm, grabbed the ring and slipped it onto his finger.
The pain spread, like washing water, like furious fire, to the root of his finger and through the rest of the hand. He fell off his chair; his entire body was shaking. He could no longer see his dimly lit surroundings; he could not hear the baffled sound of the wind creeping into the castle. His mother, his father and Ariana – they were all moving further away from him. He had lived for one hundred and fourteen years, but until that moment, he had never known pain in its purest form.
His left hand – the healthy one – fumbled over the chest of his robes in search of his pocket slot. He slid his hand into it, gripped the wand and pulled it out.
Hours later, when Severus had left his office, he sat back down in his chair by the desk. The ring and the sword lay in front of him, but the ring was now broken, the Horcrux was destroyed. There was a crack in the stone – every time Dumbledore’s eyes swept over it, that little crack caught his eyes.
When Dumbledore had woken up that morning, he had been a man with a mission. In a few hours, he would go to bed, and he would fall asleep as a completely different man: a man with a year left to live.
The curse couldn’t be cured, and he was going to die. It changed everything. A year was not enough time. His eyes flickered to the sword of Gryffindor. It would have to be someone else, he thought and nodded, as if to confirm his own thought. He had a year to tell Harry everything – it would have to be him.
The crack in the resurrection stone caught his eyes again. His parents and his sister had been within arm’s reach, and now they weren’t. He had almost had the chance to see them, to put words to the thoughts that had haunted him for a hundred years. But for a man who has lived a hundred and fourteen years, one single year doesn’t seem that long anymore. What was one year compared to the hundred during which he had already waited? Once again, he grabbed the ring and lifted his hand. With his eyes closed, he bent his head down and allowed his lips to brush against the stone. He could almost feel his mother’s soft hand against his now wrinkled cheek, hear his father’s deep voice and see Ariana’s beautiful smile.
One year. One year, and then I’ll be with you.
A/N: If you have any comment at all about this story, please leave a review! I really want to know what you think of it :)