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Chapter 8: Part 4: Albus
I have looked into the Mirror of Erised three times in my life.
The first time was during my first program of study in Alexandria. I had fled Italy and the Flamels and begun my studies in Deep Magic, but I questioned my heart and second-guessed my own thoughts. I learned of the existence of the mirror and became obsessed with finding it, with looking into it, with knowing once and for all that I had made the right choice when I had turned down Nicholas and Perenelle and immortality.
It seems I had. The Mirror showed me a homely little house, a warm and welcoming kitchen, and myself, with Elizabeth in my arms. We were older, but we were clearly passionately in love. I tried to remind myself that this was not a vision of the future, but I wished so badly that it was, and in the wishing I finally knew myself. That was the day I received Filius’ owl with the tickets to the tournament, and that was the day I knew that I would never be happy without my Elizabeth.
The third time I looked into the Mirror was on the day Harry Potter was attacked by Lord Voldemort. The Mirror had long since been moved to Hogwarts by then, and it had been out of my mind for so long that I had some difficulty locating it. But I needed to know my own mind; was I brave enough, strong enough, to carry this burden for the whole wizarding world? Was I willing to stay alive and keep the secrets, another decade and a half or more, to see to Lily and James’ son, while my wife and son waited for me to finish my work?
It seems I was. I saw them there, in the Mirror, hand in hand. I heard them speaking. Elizabeth told me that if I let that poor motherless boy fend for himself she’d personally come back from the grave and hex me from here to Timbuktu. I believe she also mentioned that if I thought being dead would keep her from hexing a hundred-forty year old schoolteacher, I had another thing coming.
But Asher, my brave, bright son, gave me that smile so very like his mother’s and said, “You’ll like him, Papa. He’ll remind you of me. And do you know what else?”
“What?” I whispered, reaching out my pale fingers to touch the cold glass.
“He’ll remind you of Mum,” Asher said, his blue eyes sparkling. “He’ll be brave and smart and always trying to prove something, and he’ll want to stop the bad people, too.”
“He has to,” I said, choking a bit as I thought of John’s great-grandson. “He’s the only one who can.”
“He’s John’s,” Elizabeth said, as though that settled it. “That makes him ours. He’ll need you. And when you’ve taken him as far as you can, you’ll come home to us.”
I looked at Elizabeth. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She and Asher smiled their identical smiles, then were gone, and I knew I would be staying for as long as John’s great-grandson needed me. They were right, of course; Harry grew almost as dear to me as my own Asher was. And I hope Harry will forgive the small lie I told him that night…about the woolen socks. I did in fact place a high value on woolen socks in that draughty castle, so I did not expect the lie to cause any harm. For all my vaunted courage and power, I could not discuss Elizabeth and Asher in Harry’s presence. I am afraid I would have lost control of my emotions altogether.
I promise it was the only lie I ever told Harry.
I never told a lie to Asher. He wanted to know what had happened that day, who it was who had held him hostage, and what he had wanted. He looked so grown up when we got home and sat down at the table, that I suppose even I was deceived into thinking that he was an adult. I believed it was best to tell him everything, young as he was.
Elizabeth finally got herself under control and made some tea for all of us. An interesting thing about Elizabeth is that she is renowned for her bravery and strength, except when it comes to Asher or me. We are, I believe, her one weakness.
The tea calmed us and helped us think clearly. Asher drank his quietly, but continued to watch us. He had not forgotten his quiet demand that he be told what was going on, and that the events of the last hour be explained to him. I was not sure where to begin, and I was afraid of frightening him. And I did not want to bring those names, those actions, inside our home. We were supposed to be safe here, though it only took one glance at the vivid cuts on Asher’s cheek to remind me of the illusory nature of safety.
As usual, Elizabeth took the decision out of my hands. She replaced the tea pot and sat next to Asher. “The wizard who grabbed you was named Grindelwald. Do you know who that is?”
Asher frowned. “He’s in the war, isn’t he? He’s the enemy.”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said steadily. She wouldn’t show any more fear now, because she wouldn’t want to frighten Asher. Though, if truth be told, Asher seemed the least frightened of any of us at the moment.
“Why is he grabbing me?” Asher said indignantly.
I spoke up, because not even Elizabeth knew the answer to that question. “He thinks I have something he wants. But I do not have it.”
Understanding dawned in Elizabeth’s eyes. “He thinks you have the Stone?”
“Yes,” I nodded, pressing my fingers to my lips. “Nicholas asked me to keep it safe for him.”
“What did you do with it?” Elizabeth said sharply. I understood her anger; the Stone had caused us so much trouble and grief, and now it had put her son in danger.
“I didn’t do anything with it,” I said calmly. “I told Nicholas to put it in Gringott’s himself, and I was led to believe that he did so.”
“So we can’t get it?” Elizabeth said with a mixture of fear and relief. I understood her emotions perfectly. Either of us would do anything to keep our son safe, and we did not wish to put to the test whether that included putting the Stone into the hands of Grindelwald and Hitler.
Asher’s eyes grew wide. “But what if he comes back for me?”
Elizabeth made an impatient noise. “He won’t arrive in the street at the exact time he said,” she said. “He knows there would be Aurors waiting for him. But he does want us to get the Stone for him.”
“Why does he want a stone, anyway?” Asher demanded.
“This is a very powerful stone,” I said. “Do you remember the story of Will the Brave Wizard?”
“This is the Stone Will was killed for, and Grindelwald was the wizard who killed him,” I said.
For the first time, Asher looked scared. His face went pale again and he clutched the table. He whispered, “I don’t wish for him to kill me.”
Elizabeth glared at me. “Don’t tell him those things, Albus,” she snapped. She turned to Asher. “He won’t kill you. Your father and I won’t allow it.”
I frowned at her. How could she make him such promises? Grindelwald could have killed him today if he had wanted to do so.
Suddenly black dots swam before my eyes and a cold sweat coated my face. I swayed on my feet, then reached out a hand, seeking something to steady myself.
“Albus!” Elizabeth’s voice seemed to come from very far away. “Albus, here, sit down.” I felt her hand take mine, her strong arms guiding me to a chair. “Here, put your head down by your knees.” She pressed on my head, pushing it down between my knees. “Take deep breaths.”
I did as she instructed, and after a moment my vision cleared. But all I could think of was that Asher could have died. I tried to take another breath, but I couldn’t complete it. I choked on a sob that was forcing its way out of my chest. Asher could have died. The gleam of steel talons sliced across his cheek again, blood dripped down that pale skin. The sobs wracked out of me one after another. I kept my head bent, I didn’t want them to see me, I wanted to hide my fear from them. The dark, evil figure with his hands on my pure, bright boy. I could not keep it in, but I kept my head down, doubled over in pain and horror. He could have died, he could have died, he could have died.
My eyes were squeezed shut against the onslaught of fear, so I did not see when Asher approached me. He pressed back my shoulders and climbed into my lap, and I clung to him as though I were clinging to life. Elizabeth stood and drew me to her breast, stroking my hair while I wept, kissing the top of my head and whispering soothing noises.
I should never have let them go.
When I was calm, if not quite ready to relinquish my hold upon Asher, Elizabeth moved from me and began to prepare dinner. I understood what she was doing, and I was grateful. The simple sounds and smells of normal life: water boiling, bread baking, cutlery clattering. They helped me, and Asher too, I believe, feel normal again, after a very abnormal day.
“What does the Stone do, Papa?” Asher asked me over dinner. The stew Elizabeth made with grainy brown bread soothed and warmed us. I glanced up at Elizabeth, who shrugged. We had never hidden things from Asher; we had always tried to answer his questions as honestly as we could. We always thought it was better for him to get facts from us, rather than interpretations from others.
“If I tell you, you must promise not to tell anyone else, Asher,” I said solemnly. “Few people know of it, and that is best.”
“I won’t tell anyone,” Asher said solemnly. His blue eyes were alight with curiosity, and I couldn’t help but smile. He was so bright, and I was so very proud of him.
“Have you ever heard of the Philosopher’s Stone?”
Asher’s eyes grew wide. “But Professor Slughorn says that’s only a legend, Papa! That Slytherin boy, Tom, tried to get him to admit it was real, but Professor Slughorn laughed at him and told him not to believe every fairy tale he heard!”
“You must especially not tell Tom Riddle,” I said severely.
Elizabeth looked at me with surprise. “Don’t you like Tom?”
“I like him well enough,” I said. “But I cannot completely trust him.”
The wheels were turning in Asher’s head. “So if we had it, and we gave it to Grindelwald, the magical Dark Side and the Muggle Axis would be undefeatable.”
“Yes, I’m afraid that is exactly what would happen,” I said.
“That’s why Will wouldn’t give it to him in the last war,” Elizabeth said.
“Mum,” Asher said, turning to look at Elizabeth. “You were the Brave Witch, weren’t you? You’re the one who took over for Will.”
We were silent for a beat. “Yes,” Elizabeth said. “I was. But it was a long time ago.”
Asher looked at Elizabeth for a long moment, and I could tell he was assimilating this new information. Then he smiled and turned to me. “Mum’s a hero, isn’t she, Papa?”
“Yes, my boy, she is,” I said, and we both gazed on her with so much love and pride that she blushed scarlet.
“I wasn’t the only one,” she said. She stood and began to clear the dishes away to cover the fact that she was flustered. “Your father was very brave, and your Uncle Filius. Even your Uncle Aberforth did his share.”
“You don’t have to fight any more, Mum,” Asher said seriously. “I’ll take care of you now.”
“All right, my darling,” Elizabeth said, kissing his head. “I’ll just let you do that.”
The week passed quietly, though we could not fully relax. I treated Asher’s cuts so that there would only be the faintest trace of a scar, visible only when one looked very closely and carefully. I was rather pleased that my long-ago Healer training had come in useful. Asher no longer seemed to be afraid, but he did seem quieter than usual. I assumed he was simply working a problem out in his mind and that he would tell us about it when he was ready. It had happened before.
It was unusual, however, that Asher spent more time alone in his bedroom than he spent with us. He always seemed to enjoy our company, but now he was on his own much more often. We wouldn’t let him take walks through the woods or near the lake on his own, though, not now. Not after Grindelwald had attempted to harm him. Therefore I assumed that Asher was getting restless on his holiday, and that that would account for the footsteps I frequently heard coming from upstairs.
I no longer remember what drove me to climb up to the attic that day. It was after New Year 1945, and Asher and I only had a few days until we would be required to return to school. The weather had turned bitter cold; perhaps I sought the extra quilts we had inherited when my mother died. I was moving boxes and old furniture, wondering why we never discarded anything, when a dusty sunbeam fell on it. The Mirror of Erised.
It stood behind a stack of boxes, one sliver of its glass reflecting the dim light. I moved the boxes aside and pulled the Mirror into the light. I do not know what compelled me. I do not understand why I moved it there, to where I could stand in front of it unimpeded.
“Neither knowledge nor truth,” I whispered to myself. “Nothing but the deepest desires of my own heart.”
I thought of the choice that faced me. I could acquire the Stone if I wanted to; Nicholas had given me a key to his vault. I had left it in a box on my bureau for safekeeping, but I could get it in just a few seconds. I would do anything to keep Elizabeth and Asher safe; I could easily trade that Stone to Grindelwald for the guarantee of my family’s safety. I didn’t want that choice, and I did not know what I would do with it. I did not know what I should do with it. So I looked.
I saw Elizabeth and Asher, wands raised, hair and robes blowing in the cold night. They stood over a dark, cloaked body, which lay on the ground still and pale. Elizabeth and Asher had defeated Grindelwald.
“Neither knowledge nor truth,” I whispered again. Then I chuckled to myself. I hadn’t needed the Mirror of Erised to tell me that desire. I could have sat comfortably at the kitchen table and told anyone that my two deepest desires were for Elizabeth and Asher to be safe, and for Grindelwald to be defeated.
Still chuckling to myself, I turned, and was startled to see Asher standing at the top of the attic staircase.
“What is that, Papa?” he asked.
I hesitated. I did not want Asher to be tempted to sit up here all day watching while his desires were played out only in the world of the glass. On the other hand, we were due to return to Hogwarts in three days. I did not see what harm it could do, so I told him.
He gave that some thought. “What did you see?”
I smiled. “Exactly what I would have predicted. The deepest desire of my heart is for you and your mother to be safe, and for the war to be over.”
Asher leaned against the doorjamb, his hands in his pockets. “What if you had to choose?” he said. The light from the stairwell below him shone up, and I could not see his face clearly.
“My heart cannot make that choice,” I said simply. “My wife and son, or a million other wives, sons, daughters? I am not brave enough to make one choice over the other. Fortunately, I do not have to do so.”
Saturday night we sat at dinner while the cold wind blew outside. The snow had stopped, but the winds continued, slicing through every tiny gap beneath doors and down chimneys. We hadn’t gone outside more than absolutely necessary in the past two days, but during those rare times that we did, the wind stole our breath away.
“Mum,” Asher said. “Have you always been brave? Even when you were young?”
I answered before Elizabeth could. “Yes, she was. I remember once when a boy tried to curse me in the back, a much bigger boy than she was, and your mother ran at him and attacked him before he could hurt me.”
“You did?” Asher looked shocked, in the way the young are when they first understand that their parents were very much like they were. “How old were you?”
“I was eleven, just as you are,” Elizabeth said, giving me a wry look. “But that doesn’t mean I want to hear of you attacking people.”
Asher straightened his shoulders. He seemed to be proud that an eleven-year-old could do something so courageous. “Were you scared?”
Elizabeth chuckled. “Only afterward. Then I cried. But your father said I was his champion, and so of course I had to stop crying, because champions weren’t supposed to cry.”
Asher blinked. “Is that true? Champions aren’t supposed to cry?”
Elizabeth smiled. “Of course it’s not true. But that’s what I thought when I was eleven.”
“I hope I’m brave like you, Mum,” Asher said seriously. “I hope I can take care of people the way you did.”
Elizabeth’s eyes grew teary, and she reached out and covered Asher’s hand with hers. “Thank you, my darling. I could never have been brave without your father, though. I believe we were brave together. And we’ll help you be brave, too, if you ever need to be.”
“Excuse me, please,” Asher said, and he jumped up from the table and ran out of the room. Elizabeth and I exchanged glances and listened as his footsteps ascended all the way to the attic. I shook my head and stood to begin clearing the table.
Elizabeth stood, too, and I glanced up. The light from the hearth hit her face just right, making her seem as though she were glowing from within. My heart filled to overflowing with the love I felt for her.
“Elizabeth?” I said quietly, setting down the dishes I held. She glanced up, eyebrows raised enquiringly. I walked over to her, took the bowls from her hands and set them on the table. I placed my hands on either side of her face and bent to kiss her reverently. “You are so beautiful, my sweet Elizabeth. You are so precious to me.”
She gazed into my eyes, as though she could see through them into my soul. I believe she could, because she always could. Tears sprang to her eyes for a second time. “I know that, Albus. You’re precious to me, too. I love you so much.”
She moved into my arms and lifted her face for my kiss. She was ninety-five years old, with the lines of middle age creasing her face. I loved every one of them, because I had been there to watch every one of them wear its way in. We had earned our lines together. I would still do anything for her; the love between us was stronger than it had ever been.
I would have given my life for her. I tried.
But for now, I kissed her. It felt almost like a renewed vow, as though I was promising her my adoration and faithfulness again after fifty years of marriage. I wanted fifty more. I had known her my whole life and it wasn’t enough. I wanted forever.
We broke apart, almost afraid to move. That moment will always be with me. For that moment, standing in our kitchen surrounded by dirty dishes, we stood in heaven. A movement caught our attention in the doorway and we moved our heads ever so slightly to look up. Asher was there, watching, but without his usual expression of exasperation. He seemed to understand the sacredness of the moment. Elizabeth and I shifted to make a space for him and he came to us. None of us spoke, we just held each other, strong and confident in our love.
I do not know how long we stood like that. It was not long enough.
Finally I glanced down at my son. His face held my gaze; he looked different. I could see the man he would grow into; he looked strong and resolved. He met my eyes.
“Father,” he said. “I think you are wrong. About yourself. I believe you are brave enough for anything.”
Elizabeth gave a frown of confusion; she had not heard Asher’s and my conversation in the attic the other day.
“Thank you, Asher,” I said, feeling that something important had just passed between us, but not understanding what it was.
“Mother,” he said, turning to Elizabeth. “You don’t have to save the world any more. I’ll do it now.”
My Elizabeth, ever practical, said, “And just how will you do that?”
“By taking care of you and Father, of course,” said Asher, giving her that smile that looked so much like her own. “I’ll be brave like you, when my turn comes.”
“I expect you will,” Elizabeth said. “You’ll be our champion.”
“Yes, that’s exactly it,” Asher said, looking so grown up that my heart broke a little. “I’ll be your champion.”
He leaned and kissed his mother; he was exactly her height now. Then he stood on his toes and kissed me. I grasped him to me for just one moment, and he let me. I thought I heard a soft sob, but when I put him down his face was peaceful.
“Good night,” he said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, son,” I said.
We watched him leave the kitchen and listened again as his footsteps climbed the steps. Quietly and comfortably we finished cleaning the kitchen, then I took Elizabeth’s hand and led her into our parlor. With a flick of my wand I started a fire in the hearth and its warmth blazed through the room.
I stood facing her in the center of the room while the flames warmed us. With a wave of my wand I filled the room with music, weeping strings and soaring harps. Slowly I began to unbutton her robe, button by button, revealing that soft skin I loved to touch. I took my time, sliding my fingers in and out of the material against her skin. Her breath began to come more quickly, but she did not rush me. When her robe was unbuttoned, I knelt in front of her, slid my arms around her waist and laid my head on her breast.
She raised her hands to my shoulders and grasped them. “You’re so strong, Albus,” she said. I turned my head and buried my face between her breasts. She stroked my hair and held me to her and I placed kisses along the insides of her breasts, then covered one dark nipple with my mouth. I swirled my tongue around and sucked, pulling her deeper into my mouth. She clenched her hands in my long hair and moaned softly.
“You are exquisite, Elizabeth,” I whispered against her nipple. I drew her back into my mouth again, until small sounds of pleasure were purring from her throat. Her knees buckled and she slumped against my chest. My mouth slid up her chest to come to rest on her neck, where I continued to taste and kiss her.
She began to unbutton my robe, running her hands inside it over my shoulders and my chest. She made me feel strong, and I lifted her body higher against mine, then laid her gently down on the rug in front of the fire. She was still so fit and shapely that I looked at her in awe for a moment, before I shrugged out of my robe and came down beside her.
“We’ve been making love for more than seventy years,” I said, running my hand across her smooth belly, then down over the dark curls between her legs. “I still cannot get enough of you. I’m sure I never will.”
I slid my hand down between her thighs, then up between her legs. Her hands were caressing me, my chest, my arms, my hips. I slid a finger into her hot, wet passage and she gasped and thrust her hips up against my hand. I pushed it in again and rubbed her sensitive nub with my thumb. She cried out and I continued, wanting more than anything for her to find satisfaction. It did not take long; she pressed herself one last time against my hand and collapsed limply onto the floor.
But now I did feel some urgency, and I was not inclined to wait longer. “Please, Elizabeth,” I said, climbing onto her body and fitting myself between her legs. “Please, I cannot wait.”
“Oh, yes, Albus,” she said, giving me an inviting smile as she held out her arms. She drew me to her and I slid into her, joined to her body and soul. She wrapped her arms and legs around me and held me close as I moved inside her. Every inch of our bodies was touching; it was as though we were one person. Even that thought evaporated under the onslaught of sensation as I moved more and more quickly within her, and then felt my seed pouring out of me and into her beautiful, welcoming body.
I lay on top of her, breathless and sweaty, while I tried to recover. I pressed my forehead to hers, my hair falling in curtains on either side of us, and breathed, “I love you, Elizabeth. I’ll always love you.”
She tiled her face slightly and said, “I love you, too, my darling.”
We held each other close, for a long time, until the fire died down and the chill began to seep into the air again. Reluctantly we stood and began to put our clothes on; the rest of the house was too cold for walking around completely undressed. Hand in hand we walked up the stairs, stopped to peek in on Asher, who was safe in his bed, and made our way to our own room. Buried under several warm quilts, we drifted to sleep in each other’s arms.
I must not have been sleeping well, or perhaps there was a noise that awoke me. In any case, suddenly I was awake. I listened intently, but could hear nothing. I turned my head and saw the shine of Elizabeth’s eyes in the dark.
“Did you hear something?” she asked.
“I am not sure,” I said.
“I’m going to check on Asher,” she said, and she bent down to pick up the first article of clothing that came to hand, the robe she had been wearing earlier that evening and had discarded when we came to bed.
I was uneasy, though I still did not hear or sense any reason to be so. I was also wide awake, and left my warm bed with some intention of going downstairs and making chocolate. I had just slipped on my own discarded robe when Elizabeth ran back into the room.
“He’s gone, Albus!” she said, her eyes blazing with terror. “Asher’s gone!”
“He can’t be gone,” I said, and ran past her into the hallway to check Asher’s room myself. As though she would have missed him.
“Check the kitchen,” I said. “Maybe he wanted some chocolate. I want to check the attic.” I had some idea that maybe he had gone to look into the Mirror of Erised.
But the Mirror was back in its place in the corner, blocked by boxes again. “Asher!” I called, angry at him for scaring us. “Asher, come out!”
Asher, of course, did not come out. I ran back down the steps to the kitchen, where Elizabeth was lacing her boots. I pulled my own on and grabbed my cloak and hers, and the two of us dashed out the door of our house.
He left footprints in the snow. He had left the house. There was only one set of footprints, so he had to have left on his own. What was he doing? If he was not all right, he was going to be in serious trouble. Asher was rarely punished, but I’d think of something suitable.
We ran, following the footprints. The wind was so bitter, we could barely take a good breath, and I ached to think of a child out in the night tonight. Why would he go out? Why would he sneak out, hoping to escape detection?
What would you do if you had to choose?
The memory hit me like a fist in my belly.
I could not choose. I am not brave enough.
I stumbled, but Elizabeth did not wait for me.
You don’t have to save the world any more, Mother. I will save it for you.
Oh, no, no Asher. You don’t have to save the world. “No!” I yelled into the night, panting as I ran. “No, Asher!”
I’ll be brave like you.
“Elizabeth!” I shouted, my hair blowing into my mouth and eyes. “Look! He’s gone to Hogsmeade! Apparate!”
She stopped running, took a breath and vanished with a small pop. I was right behind her, and we both appeared in the street in front of the Three Broomsticks where Grindelwald had grabbed Asher only a week before. They were not there.
“Albus!” Elizabeth turned to me, fighting to be heard over the wind. “Where is he?”
“We have to find him before Grindelwald does!” I answered.
“Why is he here, Albus?” she said as we turned to look through the dark deserted village.
“He’s here to save the world,” I said, and my heart cracked down the middle. “He knew we would be tempted to give Grindelwald the Stone to keep him safe, and he’s making it so we cannot do so.”
“What?” Elizabeth yelled, the panic making her voice shrill. “He is not! He’s—” Her eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open. “Oh, no…he’s brave, like us. He’s saving the world. Oh, no, Albus, no, he can’t, he can’t…” She began to sob, but I grabbed her shoulders.
“There’s no time for this, Elizabeth,” I snapped. “He wants to protect us, and he’ll sacrifice himself to do it if we don’t find him right now. You’ll have to weep later. You have to be brave for him.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and lifted her chin, looking for all the world like that little girl on Platform Nine and Three Quarters all those years ago. “I’m brave,” she said. “Let’s find our boy.”
We ran down side streets, separating so that we could find him faster. We didn’t see footprints, and I ran toward the edge of town, wondering if I had been wrong in thinking that he was coming to Hogsmeade. I ran back to the center of town hoping to find Elizabeth, to suggest that we look elsewhere.
But Elizabeth had found him. It was an eerie replay of the scene from the previous week. Asher was being held in front of Grindelwald, those talons digging into his throat so that black blood dripped down. This time, however, Elizabeth was not watching from the curb, but facing him in the center of the street, wand at the ready like an American gunfighter.
“Let him go,” she growled, and the rage in her voice was like ice, colder than the wind that whipped around us. “You can have the Stone, you can have me, but you can’t have him!”
“No, Mother,” Asher said. His voice was shaky, but he could be heard. “You can’t let him win.”
I sneaked around behind them, thinking I could aim a curse at Grindelwald and not hit Asher. Elizabeth could handle herself in a fight, but we had to keep Asher safe. I stepped just a few steps closer.
I took my shot, but Grindelwald knew I was there. He spun and avoided the red light, throwing Asher away from him. He fired a shot at me that I dodged. We dueled, but my attention was divided between Grindelwald and my wife and son. Elizabeth was hurrying Asher off of the street; I saw it just as a spell of terrible power blasted me backward into a building behind me. Glass shattered all around me, slicing into my skin and I felt blood begin to pour. My wand fell out of my hand and skittered into the street.
Elizabeth screamed and shoved Asher aside. Beautiful, brilliant Elizabeth, who knew better than to let her attention be divided during a duel. That’s why she was the champion. She stepped away from Asher and stepped into the street for her final duel with Grindelwald.
I could not stand; my leg had been sliced above the knee by falling glass. Asher was too far away from me for me to speak to him. I roared with helplessness. Lights were beginning to come on in the village, but still Elizabeth and Grindelwald dueled.
“Asher!” I shouted, and then I realized that my nose was bleeding; it must be broken again. Blood choked me, but I called for him again. He was standing unprotected on the street, transfixed, watching his mother duel. “Asher, move! Get out of there!”
His eyes flicked toward mine, then he looked down and saw his wand in his hand. I pulled myself up, cutting my hands on the broken window. Asher raised his wand, but he knew no spells, he didn’t know how to fight someone like Grindelwald. His only thought was to help his mother. He had told her he would take care of her.
I will be your champion.
The movement caught Grindelwald’s eye and he dodged one of Elizabeth’s curses and spun to fire a bright green jet of light at Asher. It lit up Asher’s face as it sank into his chest. He made a surprised little sound, then his eyes closed and his shoulders slumped.
Elizabeth froze, her own wand raised in combat position. Time seemed to stop as Asher’s body fell slowly to the pavement. She could not move. I could not move for a moment, either, but in the flash of green light I had spotted my wand, and I flung myself across the cobblestones to retrieve it, pain lashing at me from within and without. Elizabeth could not take her eyes off of Asher, so I yelled, “Elizabeth, move!”
But it was too late. Grindelwald recovered first, and as I was pulling myself to a standing position, he raised his wand and screamed, “Avada Kedavra!”
The green light illuminated her stricken face, and she fell to the ground, feet from her son.
Now it was my turn to be shocked, but my shock lasted only a moment. A wave of molten fury coursed through me, giving me energy and strength I had not known myself capable of. Though I was bleeding and torn, I stood and faced my enemy.
Elizabeth always said I could be a good duelist if I had a good enough reason. I had one now. This man would pay for what he had done to the only people I loved. I flung spell after spell at him, brutal ones, deadly ones. Spells that no decent wizard should know, much less speak. Blood flew from my hands and hair and wand, I slid in the blood dripping down into my boots from the wounds on my legs. I stalked toward him, watching him falter, watching him look for escapes. My fury whipped up the cold wind, causing it to blow harder, causing lightning to crash into the once quiet streets of Hogsmeade.
I finally backed him up against a wall, where he continued to try to hurl spells at me, though he was clearly trapped. My rage had not diminished; indeed, walking past the still bodies of my wife and son had increased it like adding petrol to a fire. He was defeated, I was the victor, but it was not enough. He would pay. I would be their champion, as they had been mine, and I would see that Grindelwald paid.
I closed in, my wand flashed, and the bright green light shot out at him. It hit him between the eyes, and he fell. I watched him hit the street and slacken his grip on his wand. It rolled away and into the gutter.
I stood there panting, all my pain coming back to me, wave upon wave. “No, Elizabeth, Asher, no…” I muttered, turning to stumble back toward them. The bitter air was turning grey; was it dawn? I didn’t know; I only knew I needed to be with my wife, my precious wife, and my beloved son.
I stood between them, looking down at their bodies. The air was getting lighter, as though fog were rolling in, and now I heard voices, but they seemed very far away. My hand slackened around my wand and I watched with detachment as it dropped from my fingers. I know now that I was suffering from blood loss, but at the time I thought I was dying.
It was peaceful. It was welcome. My last thought as I fainted was that when I woke up, I would be with my family.