Part 2 Edit
Can be found here.
Part 3 Edit
“A life near its end perceives the world in a different way.” Dumbledore considered. At the moment, all he could fully concentrate upon was his inability to concentrate. “All those rituals, everything I studied. In the end, it’s all worth nothing. Perhaps everything is equal in one final respect? Mountains and kings … all eventually pass on.”
Then another thought flashed through his mind, a burst of light in a dimming room. “I am maudlin. Who would have thought? Failure. Aberforth, Arianna. Forgive me. I gave it everything I had left.”
A weight settled on his chest, sinking his consciousness deeper. “I just wish – hoped – that I could have finished Gellert. He will die, eventually. But it will destroy the world as I know it, that I’m … sure ….”
Sound, pure unadulterated existence penetrated. Light bloomed once more, bright sunshine piercing the fog.
It felt familiar. Encouragement, not banal words of well-meaning friends, but the tone of surety, knowledge that a better future lay ahead. There was only one being capable of such a thing.
“Fawkes?” He raised his head, filing the action in his memory.
The Phoenix lifted its head from where it rested on Dumbledore’s chest. One last tear fell, landing on the wound, soaking into flesh like water on drought-starved ground. Its intent stare pierced Dumbledore, filling him with resolve once more.
A deep growl emanated from Dumbledore’s throat. Strength returned to his limbs, surging into motion when the thought sparked. The clawed hand grasping his shoulder fell apart in a spray of dust.
Lunging to his feet, Dumbledore took a heartbeat to examine his surroundings. The purple shield grew larger still, nearing a point where it had begun curving inwards, encasing the tower within a bubble. The tower itself trembled, incredible power forcing the tons of stone to shake. His practiced eye caught a faint flicker within the stone itself, as if it were removing itself from sight – signs of a teleportation spell at work. One part of his mind did a brief search, informing him that it likely was based from a Chinese Seal, one of thousands created to make surreptitious additions to the Great Wall. The main body had been built by Muggles, but wizards had never been one to leave advantages to others.
The song of the Phoenix turned fierce – it followed his train of thought better than a Master Legilmens. Then it abruptly ended in a surprised squawk.
Dumbledore’s head snapped back. “Fawkes?”
A shockwave surprised him, faster than his enhanced senses could catch beforehand. Instant memory replayed across his mind, seeing a grizzled figure landing to one side, energy sparking off its flanks like the spray from a large ship. But the impact threw out enough energy to toss Dumbledore off his feet, tumbling him like a toy into the dirt once more.
“Keep your eyes open lad!” A hoarse voice shouted. It was punctuated by a brief light, followed by a peal of thunder.
Dumbledore was on his feet in an instant, wand at the ready. “Adams?”
The old man spared a glance in his direction. “Ya. Didn’t yeh see the Undead coming?”
Dumbledore squinted through his glasses, then cursed. That enchantment had been remotely deactivated, a flaw inherent within its design. At the touch of one finger, it flared back to life, revealing an unwelcome sight.
Outside the purple field, the cracks were disgorging more skeletons, climbing into view. Pieces of their remains lay around Adam’s impact crater, evidence of yet more lying near jagged burn patterns. But Dumbledore’s attention still hung on the hordes of Undead outside the barrier. The wall stood a good two dozen feet beyond the tower, but the bodies rising were not stopping. Already there were enough articulated forms to form a full company – rapidly approaching battalion status. Given what Gellert had told him, there could very well be an entire army group coming – up to a million souls, if the term could still be used.
“Get to it boy,” Adams made a strange gesture, sliding away his wand. A battle staff, etched by time and busy rune masters fell out of thin air into his hand, its tip stabbing into a cobblestone-like butter. “I’ll hold ‘em off while you tear Big Bad a new ‘un.”
Dumbledore didn’t hesitate. If the creations were Gellert’s, there could be no doubt the barrier would prove no obstacle to other portions of his creation.
The door was lined in runes, some visible, others covered in thin layers of stone. An old Egyptian trick if he recalled aright. Still more runes incorporated entire rune patterns to create more runes, akin to writing letters with the body of books. Inefficient use of space, but exponential power amplification –a Nordic trick. Hurried examination revealed enough traps, decoy trails and sabotage enchantments to occupy seven Ward-Breaker teams for a week.
“Boy?” a crack of thunder shuddered the ground. “They’re startin’ ta move.”
Dumbledore calmed his mind lifting Occlumancy to the highest portion of thought. His consciousness compiled into a single whole unit, shedding trained reflexes honed over the course of the last century. It divided, then divided again, and again, and again. Time slowed as his perception increased, slowing further as the division process continued, devoting mental resources on each problem. Perhaps it would take seven teams to do so, but each team held less than fifty years of combined experience. Dumbledore’s own studies had encompassed far more than basic ward-breaking. It honed the decryption of puzzles to an art form.
“Reminds me o’ those voodoo folk in New Orleans. What was it, eighteen-fourteen?” A blast of green flame incinerated another squad. “Fire and ‘lectricty, that’s how it’s done.”
One sequence resolved itself after three tense seconds. Then a second. Mental partitions combined as their equations became known, reducing the strain, adding their own resources to other partitions. Within the space of thirty seconds, Dumbledore knew the answer.
“Class three unstable ward, five seconds after I break the lock!” he called to the elderly wizard.
Another detonation answered. “Do it quick, I’ll bug out when yeh say four. Capiche?”
Putting aside a longing for proper English terminology, Dumbledore tapped the proper code, breaking rune limitations. “One – two – three –“
Fawkes dove behind Dumbledore, screaming in rage. A strange smell of charred feathers, mixed with that of incinerated bone met Dumbledore’s nostrils, while an unbearably hot wind buffeted his combat robes against the back of his hind-most leg. A fraction of a partition diverted enough power to check – and froze on the wards. Despite all his care, a fail-safe had been activated. A faint glimmer caught his eye as the runes involved evaporated, a swohilo and gel, intersecting within an overarching containment directive, a line-of-sight kill directive; potent but short-lived.
He spun. The shield was gone – so were many of the skeletons, small piles of ash lying where they’d once stood, although any out of direct view still existed, at least in part. The very nature of a skeleton meant entire swathes were gone, but there had been nigh an army already, and the terrain varied which meant the bulk of skeletal forces had been winnowed, not destroyed.
“Not a shield,” Dumbledore glanced at the perfect circle of exceptionally charred earth, where the magenta field had once stood. “Containment. Directive. Clever but sim – Fawkes?”
A faint cheep came from the ground. Horrified, Dumbledore looked down, seeing a bedraggled chick, somewhat more homely than a plucked Turkish guinea hen, yet possessing the same eyes betiding death to any that mocked.
“Adams ….” Dumbledore looked up. A thick layer of ashes lay on the ground, a dark bird with silver-hued head resting beside them. Golden eyes met his, boring into his consciousness.
“Vengeance.” The word resonated in his skull, vibrating like a gong. “Vengeance.”
The thunderbird rose in fury, sparks leaping from its wingtips and striking the ground. But it gained only a handful of lengths upward before turning its full attention on the undead army shambling closer to the tower. Its head reared back, wings extending to their full width, pinions spreading far wider than their humble appearance would have suggested.
Instinct prompted Dumbledore to cast an auricular dampening charm on himself, and on the miniature Fawkes below.
Thunderous rage, finding a twin in his own soul, billowed from the heartbroken familiar in a tidal wave of sound. Skeletons, mere calcified remains, shattered under its force. Trees leaned back, smaller representatives cracking under the strain, toppling over in splintering rumbles inaudible under the force of the thunderbirds pain. The nearest buildings collapsed, thin-walled barriers shattering into a thousand pieces.
Dumbledore felt the wall under hand fade from existence for a moment, then fade back into reality, the transportation charms taking hold. The familiar’s anger reminded him of his own – and he let it be known.
An old siege curse, used by the Greeks against their foes, detonated against Grindelwald’s door. Aged wood, heartened by runes and strange materials barely shuddered.
He started again, scooping up Fawkes and depositing him in a protected pocket. Both hands blasted at the door, changing curses. Bombardments invented by the Persians, siege-hammer spells from the Carthaginians, everything he could recall struck at the door befouling his path. Slowly, the wood chipped away. Perhaps Grindelwald had been inspired by Hogwarts, the way his wards were layered; a lesser wizard could have never dreamed of breaking through. But Dumbledore knew the very nature of a siege defence ward – he’d lived in them for decades, first as a student, then as a teacher. Tinkering with wards had been a hobby, then an occupation. Not to the point of his Transfiguration or Alchemy penchant; but then, there were only three living organisms that matching his skills. One of them lived on an island, breaking coconuts with his head.
The tower faded and reappeared once more, a faster transition this time. The last charm would be activating soon.
One blast offset the fire-suppression, then battered with an Arctic chill. Negating values flickered through his mind, calculating optimal directions, highlighting weak points as the defences weakened.
Swirling ovals of bright colours collapsed around the charred circle, deepening their hold as reality shifted. Like their magenta predecessor, their cycling orbit rose skywards, drawing towards the tower’s peak in a bubble of multi-coloured power. Its energy made Dumbledore’s hair stand up, mild crackles of static charge dissipating through his robes.
Finally, he unleashed the roaring fire of a particularly potent battering ram analogue. This one he’d borrowed from the Otto-Turk Empire, an illegal spell allegedly kept under wraps until its immolation would be carried out. The fact that he’d discovered the spell within a repository of similar works meant either the Turkish government hadn’t eradicated the spell’s existence – a tiring endeavor involving Soul Memory magics – or his own mental defences were more formidable than entire empires of wizards.
He fancied the latter more accurate.
The door burst inwards, and he sprang through, charging into the tower before it vanished entirely.
Inside was much, much larger than the outside; exponential factors of magnitude larger. A Size-Expansion charm had been applied, or rather, what must have been a Size-Expansion Ritual. Staircases thirty feet long rose from the centre, pausing at evenly spaced landings before launching themselves upwards once more, only to meet at another landing. In the brief glance Dumbledore stole, he could determine fifteen landings – which meant nearly five hundred feet lay between the floor and the ceiling.
He revised his estimate when the entryway flooring abruptly gave way to a near fall, where the edge toppled away from the doorway into depths beyond eyesight. It was an expert opinion as well, he had to admit. Clinging to the floor with one hand whilst the rest dangled gave some unimpeachable authority on the matter. It held – of one dared to think, he chuckled – gravitas.
“Albus?” A surprised voice asked.
He looked up, and saw Grindelwald staring down in shock. But like the professional he was, the shock did not last more than a heartbeat. The Elder Wand cleared its holster, almost apparating to Grindelwald’s hand, aimed and spitting death at Dumbledore within the second heartbeat.
Rage scorched back into life, stronger than ever. Dumbledore performed a one-handed pullup, launching himself back over the ledge, returning fire for fire, blood for blood.
This time, he did not hold back. Size-altering magic or no, this time, Gellert would not escape.
Fiendfyre leapt from his wand, instantly feeding upon the nearest surface. It needed magic to survive, or copious amounts of flammable substances – both of which were present in abundance. The bright orange magic flared as it hit the wall, latching to its enchanted surface. The fire’s form grew from a small Phoenix into a massive avian, soon joined by a dragon. That was the benefit and bane of the enchantment; once the magic detected the signature of the nearest wizard-made construct, it adapted the darkness inherent in the original caster into its own form. Soul Magic, one could argue, at its most depraved.
“How Dark of you, Albus!” Gellert’s wand spun at inhuman speeds, redirecting the Fiendfyre into a lower portion of the tower. It followed the elder magic willingly.
Dumbledore’s eyes widened as the fire, hot enough to melt goblin-steel like an ethereal bite of brigtsmör, faded in a heartbeat, vanishing into smoke. Its smoke grew, darkening into shadows deeper than the forests surrounding Hogwarts. He created a shield out of instinct, just in time to deflect a plethora of sharp – somethings. They drifted slowly, giving him just enough time to understand their flavour. It burned on the back of his tongue, acrid aftertaste of cloying strength.
He apparated beyond Grindelwald, delivering a counterattack as he landed. That was an advantage he held: situational awareness. Very few – even amongst the elite – possessed the same comprehensive attention to detail as he.
As Grindelwald retaliated, Dumbledore let his mind expand once more. The walls were gaining a transparent look, channelling enough power through their depth to turn the entire structure into a single, massive portkey. He could glimpse multiple structures, oriental towers overlaying Italian buildings. Once every three point seven seconds, a Teutonic-style castle appeared, crenulations shrouded in darkness.
He moved faster.
“You could have held the world in your hands, Albus.” Walls leaned overhead, spikes extending town towards the English wizard. “This is my home. My sanctum. It is a reflection of my mind. Traitor.”
Rather than deal with transfiguring or using alchemy on an obvious target, Dumbledore Apparated again. This time he sent a random blasting curse into the wall, dislodging stone. A second later, he repeated the action.
Precise jets of some curse he could not recognize hissed past his ear. Dumbledore spotted a new point, Apparated, and fired a Nordic hex at the ceiling above his last position.
“Ah yes, the Vikings,” Grindelwald’s silky voice murmured, quiet in the rumble of stone. “They were rather proficient with strikes. Never could see why they abandoned staves. So much more powerful, if a trifle unwieldy.”
Dumbledore did not answer. Grindelwald may have felt secure enough to exchange banter, but no duel of such import could convince himself of that. His eyes fell on a placard; one word spread across its breadth: Museum.
Apparently the Germans used the same word as English did – and where there were relics, there were treasures. He Apparated to the sign, opening the doors with a single application of brute force, and slipped inside.
Cases stretched beyond sight, artefacts breaking the patterns in pleasing patterns. From just inside the door, he could see multiple objects long thought lost: the Sword of Damocles, cursed to kill the unsuccessful wielder, and a strange set of golden panels made of what looked to be pure amber.
“Do you like it?” Grindelwald appeared in a corner of the room, wisps of smoke floating around his form. Pure hate, the more dangerous, controlled variety, shone in his eyes. “I had you in mind when I built this place. Things you might appreciate, if you’d agreed to work with me. Do you see that priceless Helm of Ægishjálmr? Lost in a dragon’s maw?”
Purple magic struck the wood, splintering its mass.
“Gone. The Throne of Kai Kuvus?” A massive artefact, carved eagles mantling their wings over its height erupted in flames under another curse. “Now finally lost to the ages. But you treasured knowledge over things did you not?”
Dumbledore cast a protective enchantment over his immediate area – what had he been thinking? “You would destroy the world if it meant no one else could have it, Gellert. You don’t care about these things as you put it, just that no one else may have them now.”
Cold victory emanated from Grindelwald’s smile. “And why should I not? You would have treasured the Syballine Books, would you not? Seer magery made flesh – well, paper and ink. But here?”
Anguish clutched at Dumbledore’s heart as another display erupted in unholy flame.
“Enough!” Dumbledore threw his power outwards, toppling displays while flinging Grindelwald into the far wall. Another sweep of his wand changed priceless artefacts into a battering ram out of legend, the fire-eyed face of a monster on its front. In an instant, the ram flung itself into Grindelwald, crushing the body into a wall – except the Dark Wizard had seized an ancient shield from the rubble, shattering the ram’s head. But the rest of its bulk carried on, driving Grindelwald back into the hole, out into the tower proper.
More curses, and Dumbledore sent more artefacts after the first, layering his own magics over those of the original makers. A spear caught his attention, Celtic by the design, as it launched itself without help, turning into ten thousand spears as it flew – he added Unbreakable charms, with cold fire burning on their tips.
Launching himself after the spear he Summoned more artefacts, flinging them after Grindelwald. Others … he sent into the piles of rubble, made from his efforts before. A smile, frigid enough to freeze a demon’s heart, crossed his lips.
Grindelwald responded with the reflexes of a far younger man. The spears would not miss – but they could not penetrate either. The ram-breaking shield protected him again and again – until Dumbledore stretched back into the museum, breaking the restraining barriers that shielded a copper cylinder. It responded to his magic, eagerly taking direction at a speed he’d never seen before. It transformed as it flew, shifting from a tarnished-green pipe into a shaft of chaos too bright to see.
Dumbledore leapt back from the edge – just enough to avoid the impact rebounding up the shaft. A fraction of a second later, the same bolt of lightning flashed up, striking the walls. Each strike made the entire tower shudder; groaning from over-strained Portkey charms began to rumble. The walls began to shake, cracks appearing at critical structural points.
“You fool!” Grindelwald appeared again, blackened and smoking. “The Thunderbolt of Zeus? Five cities were sacrificed to make it!”
Dumbledore’s wand had never stopped moving. The piles of rubble obeyed his latent command, Transfiguration bringing their forms into being, Alchemy making them permanent, and the artefacts granting them power.
The Dark Wizard’s eyes widened, and he vanished again. A Nemean Lion leapt up the wall after him, adamantine claws digging into the wall. At the same time a large man-like construct, but covered in hair, leapt as well, landing two stories higher on big feet.
Dumbledore himself seized a line-of-sight position near the top of the tower, and Apparated. By the time he arrived, his wand was already spitting curses, his offhand adding more creations to the assault.
For a brief moment, he saw an artefact, glowing a faint orange-yellow, fall into the depths of the tower. Every time he tried to lock its form into his memory, it slipped, vanishing away from directed thought like oil on water.
Then the tower flickered once more, a devastating shimmer that revealed the outside world. Dumbledore found himself looking into the startled gray eyes of an American pilot. The name tag stated his rank to be Major Sweeney. Then the world solidified once more, and the tower shuddered into existence.
Grindelwald exploded next to Dumbledore, the Nemean Lion – now half gone – making weak efforts to bite.
Taken by surprise, Dumbledore fired a high-power cutting curse, removing Grindelwald’s hand and ending the stone Nemean Lion’s existence.
For a moment, the two wizards looked at each other, Dark into Light. The Elder Wand lay on the ground between them, sparking impotently.
Dumbledore sighed. Then, with a quick motion he ripped a button from his robes, slapping it onto Grindelwald’s suit. “Goodbye, old friend.”
The Portkey took effect, slapping the Dark Wizard out of the tower in an eyeblink. Dumbledore looked down at the wand, then around as the tower started its inevitable collapse. Heaving yet another deep breath, he stooped, picking up the wand. It sparkled, shimmering in his grasp while his current wand seemed to turn cold in protest.
“I cannot let it go to anyone else … perhaps?” Dumbledore tried snapping the Elder Wand. It resisted his efforts. A quick cutting curse gave the same result. “For safekeeping then. Until it can be destroyed.”
Something silvery and heavy arced towards Dumbledore; before it could hit, he Apparated away from the tower, feeling something heavy enter his pocket.
Safely away from the tower, he turned to watch. Stones as big as cottages were blown away, landing to tumble in the village below, digging deep furrows. Other pieces launched skywards, expanding as they did so. Size-Expansion had its downsides as well.
Letting the rumbling crescendo build, Dumbledore turned away, weariness inherent in every bone. He stopped short though, at the sight of a full platoon facing him, guns at the ready. The leading figure looked familiar.
“Lieutenant Granger?” he tried.
The brown-haired man relaxed. “Sir. We were getting worried.”
“Ah. Most kind of you,” Dumbledore ignored the sounds of imploding magic occurring behind him, even as an errant spell soared overhead. “But we knew what this could have been like.”
The Lieutenant shook his head. “Nossir, you’ve been gone for two weeks. Operation Valkyre worked splendidly, by the way. Germany is falling back everywhere, without Him supporting every move.”
“Two – weeks?” Dumbledore blinked. “But how would – oh. Oh Gellert.”
The guns shifted away, their owners lowering their guard. The Lieutenant made some signal, and they began to leave. The tramp of hundreds of feet faded rapidly under the last echoes of the tower’s demise.
Dumbledore finally turned back, looking at the ruins of what had once been an incredible work of construction. Countless workers would be needed: investigators, artefact experts, curse breakers – and they would want him there, or someplace else supervising. But Gellert was gone, sent to Nurmengard, safe in a prison built specifically for him. He could live with that form of exchange. Dealing with paperwork would be a much more peaceful method as well, he hoped.
“Hmm?” Dumbledore shook the cobwebs free. “Oh. Grindelwald always ignored some of the more basic rules of higher magic. The more power used, the fewer laws of science are followed. I hope there wasn’t too much damage, I am not certain, but I believe we traveled through time a little.”
The lieutenant’s eyes bugged out. “Time travel, sir? Where, I mean, when?”
Dumbledore passed a hand through his hair, liberating it from his hat. “Some city called Nagasaki, Grindelwald’s Eastern base. As to when, No idea. Not far, perhaps a year or two from now? A great deal of power was expelled – more than I could say, really.”
A thought struck him. He’d forgotten, something had fallen in his pocket, had it not?
One hand dipped in, touching a cold something, and a very warm, fluffy body.
Faint cheeping emanated from his hands as he drew them out. “Fawkes?
The Phoenix, oddly satisfied looking, chirped, rubbing his hands with its soft feathers.
“Sir, if you don’t mind, could I … hold him?” Lieutenant Granger gave him a half-pleading look. “I’ve always wanted to see what a magical bird felt like, and now he’s ….”
Dumbledore met Fawke’s eyes. Assent passed between Wizard and Familiar. “Very well. Here.”
While the muggle stood almost frozen, Phoenix in hand, Dumbledore turned his attention to the small object that had made its way into his keeping. It was a bowl, created out of what seemed to be silver, but did not have the feel of it. Dumbledore carefully poked at the bowl. Its latent power, strong enough to bypass humming and dive straight into an aura, met his touch. The note, written in graceful script pasted to its side bore a simple inscription:
Recreation Bowl, Atlantean origin. Energy-into-matter; locks after first item introduction.
A single note followed after, looking as if torn from a notebook. “Seems to respond to wishes, or the desire first received. Gold? No, devalue currency. Basilisk venom? No, rare but not versatile enough. Perhaps a food item; perfect for withstanding sieges.”
Dumbledore touched the edge of the bowl once more, righting it upon the squat lower surface. By its feel, he could sense the reactive magics had already been used, leading to a single question: what did it make?
The bowl thrummed, then gave an almost happy chime. Tiny objects, yellow crystal spheres appeared in its depths, multiplying until reaching the bowl’s rim. A sharp, citrus scent stung his nose, a striking contrast to the stench of death currently surrounding him.
Throwing caution to the wind, he selected one of the objects, lifting it to his mouth. Lemon flavour exploded across his tongue, driving away the malodorous smells.
He looked at the ruined tower, then back at the bowl. By rights, the recovery teams would have to take it for classification – Atlantean artefacts were rare, and one that appeared to ignore the deepest rules of Magic?
“Perhaps later,” he pocketed the bowl once more. The lemon drops vanished as the bowl tipped sideways, just as he’d expected of an Atlantean artefact. “It would be nice to have a souvenir that did not look like a wand.”
[ v ]Miscellanoeus
|Omake · Podcasts · References and Inspiration · Corrections · Theories|