Part Two- Albus
Albus Dumbledore—1900—age 54
Decisions are so complex, and the consequences of our actions are so far-reaching, that it is often difficult to know the right things to do. I was wandering the world, all that time, and I learned a great deal. I do not regret it. Elizabeth thought I had a fundamental resistance to commitment, but that was not it at all. I was waiting for her. I understand that she didn’t want me to wait. I realize that she was ready to be married much younger than I was, although I was deeply in love with her.
But there were certain things which I could not tolerate. They may sound like silly pride, but a man is entitled to his pride, and he is entitled to hold to his own moral code. I could not tolerate being looked upon by the world as a kept man, someone who could not make his own way or provide for his family, someone who had to latch on to a wealthy, successful woman instead of being responsible and honorable. Even if nobody else had thought that, I would have done.
And I could not tolerate the thought of asking Elizabeth to leave her dueling career before she had taken it as far as it would go. A person needs to know how good she is, she needs to be tested and tried and emerge triumphant from the battle. Elizabeth needed to know. Elizabeth has always been competitive, but she competes against herself the most, always striving to improve herself, to do better than she has done before. Knowing her as I do, how could I let her love for me rob her of her respect for herself? I could not tolerate the possibility of unspoken resentment embittering what I fully intended to be a sweet life together.
You mustn’t judge me harshly—at least, not for this. I am not one of those foolish men who feels that a married woman should not have a career if she wants one. I have known too many powerful, brilliant witches to fall into that trap. But I also understood that Elizabeth wanted both, a career and a family, and that she would want to excel at both. And that she would be torn in two—wanting to be in competition if she were home, wanting to be home if she were competing. I wanted her to have both, and I myself wanted both, but there was no reason we couldn’t have them consecutively, rather than simultaneously.
Elizabeth says that I was…what was it? Ah, yes…condescending, patronizing, high-handed, obstinate, and selfish. I cannot deny it. But while Elizabeth was strong in so many areas where I am not, I can lay claim to one virtue she never had. Patience. Elizabeth was never content to wait for things; she would rather blast through the brick wall than simply walk the long way around. Yet, somehow, we ended up in the same place after all.
Nevertheless, I was selfish. I was willing to be patient while she finished her dueling career, because when she was done, I expected to have all of her attention. I wanted to be the most important thing in her life, not one of two. I wanted to be the only man, and not have to share her with Filius. Yes, I understand that they were never involved, but he was always with her, and I wasn’t.
Sometimes I stayed away from her because I couldn’t bear to see her with him. The inside jokes, the casual touches, the exchanged glances, the hours and hours of practice, the adjoining hotel rooms, the hot tubs. Filius was my friend, is still my dear friend, but I could not stand for her to give him so easily what I wanted for myself. Her affection and attention. I was always a bit foolish where she was concerned, I’m afraid.
While I was away from her, while she climbed the heights of her profession, I put the time to good use. I did the work with dragons’ blood that I had wanted to do. It seems I was, in fact, correct about there being twelve uses for it. It took much longer than I expected it to take, in part because dragons are often reluctant to part with enough blood for one to study. I broke several bones, including my nose, and lost a great deal of my own blood in the attempt to persuade them to do so. I published my work, in a deadly dull book which sold exactly fourteen copies. One of those copies was sold to Nicholas Flamel, the renowned alchemist. I was stunned at my good fortune when Nicholas came to see me in Romania and offered me the chance to study with him.
I studied with Nicholas for nearly ten years, and consulted with him on and off until his death many years later. He was surprisingly young for such an accomplished man, and I believe we complemented each other as well as Elizabeth and Filius did. Nicholas’ knowledge was deep; there was nothing about alchemy he did not know. He had, in fact, taken the science to its furthest reaches, though I was not to know that until I had been with him for several years. My knowledge was broad; I knew something about everything, but everything about nothing. I was able to apply some of the principles of other magical disciplines to Nicholas’ basic alchemical theorems. For example, if lead is Transfigured into another element, such as iron, sapphire, or even wood, before attempting the complex alchemical reactions, the arrangement of the atoms would—
I beg your pardon. I always seem to be doing that. Elizabeth was the only one who could effectively redirect my enthusiasm when I got carried away.
It was decades before I told Elizabeth why I decided to end my partnership with Nicholas. Nicholas and I had published three books together, our work was heading in exciting directions, and he paid extremely well. It was an ideal life for me, one I planned to pursue for many more years, until things changed.
I was up late in the laboratory one night, as was usual. Nicholas had gone to bed with his wife, Perenelle. I did not blame him; she was a beautiful young woman, lovely enough to tempt a man to retire early. If I sometimes envied him his happiness, I kept it to myself.
I was bent low over an old book, trying to decipher the blurred runes in the text. I remember thinking that I had to get the translation exactly right or the results could be disastrous. The candle flickered, and I glanced up.
There stood Perenelle, exquisite in the candlelight. She wore a flowing, low-cut gown, and I thought I could see through it in certain places. Perhaps that was my overheated imagination. She looked like a fantasy, so young and ripe…I shook my head, trying to clear it, and stood up straight.
That movement brought me into contact with the man standing behind me. I had been distracted by Perenelle’s appearance, and had not heard Nicholas approach. I jumped, knocking him back a step. I cleared my throat; I believe I felt guilty for entertaining lascivious thoughts about his wife.
I did not know the temptations they were preparing to offer me. I simply took a deep breath to regain my composure, then raised my eyebrow enquiringly.
Nicholas smiled gently. “Sit down, Albus,” he said. “We must talk.”
I sat nervously on a stool near the laboratory work table. Perenelle came around the table and stood behind me—too near. Far too near. She pressed herself against me. I looked back at her, both aroused and horrified, and glanced at Nicholas. He was smiling.
“Albus, do you ever wonder how I can afford to pay you so well?” he asked casually, while Perenelle began rubbing against me like a cat. I shifted, trying to put distance between us, but she only leaned in further.
“I assumed you had family wealth,” I said, trying not to stutter. Nicholas moved a step forward. Perenelle laughed huskily in my ear.
“No,” he said. “It’s not family wealth. It’s my wealth. I made it.” He stopped, while I stared at him uncomprehendingly. “I made it! I turned lead into gold, Albus, a very long time ago.”
“You can’t have,” I said, trying to ignore Perenelle’s hands rubbing my shoulders. “There’s no mechanism by which the elements—”
“Yes, there is,” he said, sliding his hand into his pocket, and stepping even closer.
I raised my eyebrows in incredulity. “Not unless someone discovered the Philosopher’s Stone, and since that’s nothing but an old legend, I doubt that’s—”
Nicholas removed his hand from his pocket and opened it. He stood so close he was touching my legs, our foreheads nearly pressed together as I gaped at the Stone he held in his hand. It was beautiful. It was blood red and glowing from within. I lifted my hand and picked it up from his palm.
Nicholas held out his hand for Perenelle, and she stepped around me, to stand in front of him between my legs. She closed my hand over the Stone, leaned in and kissed me. She tasted fresh, like strawberries, and I opened my mouth before I knew what I was doing. She kissed me long and slow, sucking on my tongue and biting my lower lip. I clenched my fists and the Stone cut into my skin.
“It’s all true, Albus,” she said against my mouth. “All of it. We want to share it with you.”
Nicholas was watching us with a hungry look in his eyes. “All the time you could hope for, Albus. All the time it would take to study everything you wanted to study, and all the money you ever need, as well. Not to mention all the youth you require to enjoy it all.”
“Tell me how to make it,” I whispered against Perenelle’s throat. Her skin was so smooth, I scraped my teeth against it, leaving red marks. “Tell me the secret.”
“No,” Perenelle said, taking my hands in hers and lifting them to her breasts. Nicholas licked his lips at the sight of my hands on her, then grasped her by the hips and rubbed against her. “We won’t tell you the secret. But you can share ours. We’ll share with you.”
And I finally understood. They would share with me, everything. It would be the three of us, at least until they got tired of me. But I was confident that by then—given that much time-- I could figure out the secret on my own. I was at least as clever as Nicholas. I could have as much knowledge as I wanted, and as much youth and money as I wanted, too, if I were given the decades it would take to find the secret.
I wanted it. All of it. Perenelle’s mouth was persuasive and Nicholas’ eyes burned hot into mine as he watched us. My body was urging me to accept them. I wanted to be with them, to bury my face between Perenelle’s perfect breasts, to be naked with both of them, to be young and strong and virile forever and wealthy enough that I would never suffer in all my very long life. But more than anything, I wanted to know things, to have the time to learn all there was to learn. I wouldn’t have to choose one thing to study, because I would have time for everything. I closed my eyes, and leaned back into Nicholas, who was suddenly behind me again. He buried his hands in my hair and bent down and began to rub open-mouthed kisses on my neck. I moaned low in my throat.
Perenelle interpreted my desire as agreement. She smiled at me and knelt on the floor between my knees, her graceful hands lifting the hem of my robe so they could snake up underneath. Nicholas’ tongue traced along my jaw while his hands rubbed the muscles of my shoulders.
And I remembered Elizabeth.
I went still. I understood that access to the Philosopher’s Stone would mean sharing a bed with Nicholas and Perenelle. It would mean leaving Elizabeth behind, staying young while she grew old and eventually died. It would mean sating my lust with Nicholas and Perenelle year after year while Elizabeth married someone else—John Potter or Will Weasley, or even Filius—and shared his bed, bore his children. It would mean everything I ever wanted. Except her.
Nothing was worth that. Not immortality, not wealth, not the most satisfying sexual experience. Not even access to the knowledge I craved as much as air. I grabbed Perenelle’s hands and stopped their movements.
“I’m sorry,” I said as politely as I could. I lifted her to her feet in front of me, doing my best to ignore Nicholas pressed against my back. I opened my eyes, squeezed them shut again. My decision was made, but I was only a man, and the temptation was very strong. I swallowed hard, and forced myself to stand and look Nicholas in the eye. “I cannot accept this. I do not want this.”
“You’re a liar, Albus,” Nicholas said, his eyes amused. “You do want it.”
“But I will not accept it,” I said, more firmly now, and pushed Perenelle back toward Nicholas. “I am a man, and I will make my own decisions.”
“You do not know what you are doing, Albus,” Nicholas said. “Think for a moment! You will never run out of time to work on a difficult problem. You will never run out of money to fund your research. You are a scholar, Albus, what better dream could there be?”
I did not respond. I just continued to stare at them.
“You are making a mistake,” Perenelle said softly. I looked away. I had to.
After a moment Nicholas shrugged and they left me alone in the laboratory. I sat there all night, wracked with doubt, unsure of my choice, wanting to call Nicholas back and tell him I changed my mind. By dawn I realized that my patience was running out. I wanted Elizabeth. I needed her.
But I couldn’t just burst into her life and demand to take my place in it, so I tried to wait. I did some research in Alexandria, hoping I would know when it was the right time. The next time I saw her was two months later, on the night of the International Championship in Paris. Filius sent me tickets to the match, because he knew Elizabeth as well as I did. She was too stubborn to admit she wanted me there.
And after all that, she attempted to eject me from her room, from her life. I understand, now, but when she told me to go I panicked. I had never been so afraid. After all my years of patient waiting, would she really send me away?
After all I gave up for her, would she send me away with nothing at all?
She thought my patience was a sign that I did not love her enough. That I did not want her urgently, that I did not want her enough to make demands on her, to demand that she love me. I was unable to explain that it was only my love for her that enabled me to be patient. I made love to her that night in a blind panic, knowing only that I had to make her see that she loved me, that I would die if she made me leave. I believe I did make demands on her that night. I demanded that she bare her heart to me. I demanded that she place me first, at last. I demanded that she marry me, practically dragged her to the church, because I was too scared to allow her a choice.
I worried that I pressured her, that I forced her, that she would hate me. She said that for the first time in our lives, she felt that I really loved her.
The day we were married Will’s photograph ran in all the newspapers. I still keep it, a reminder of the grand and deep love I was privileged to hold for a while. I learned later, much later, that Elizabeth always had that photograph in her possession, as well.
We bought a house in Hogsmeade, on the outskirts of town, and we lived there together for all of our marriage. It was lovely when we lived there; two stories with gleaming wood floors, a view of Hogwarts from the window, and a big yard for the children to play in when they came along.
We didn’t know that the children wouldn’t be coming.
I took a position with the Ministry of Magic, though I had once sworn that I never would. My mother was thrilled; since Aberforth had bought the Hog’s Head and moved out, taking his goats with him, I received owl after owl from Mother asking when I was going to settle down and give her grandchildren. I do not think that Aberforth ever received the same degree of pressure; it was generally assumed to be unwise for him to reproduce.
My Ministry position was in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office, and I enjoyed it immensely. I spent much of my time interacting with Muggles, which I found delightful. They’re odd little creatures, Muggles, and I was constantly entertained by them. Chuck Weasley worked in that office with me, and we spent a few years rebuilding a solid friendship. Photographs of his children covered every available space in our office. Chuck didn’t seem to enjoy Muggles as much as I did, but he did enjoy complaining about them, so we were a good team.
Elizabeth went to work with Filius. They traveled around to various countries and schools, holding seminars on both competitive and defensive dueling. They drew crowds wherever they went; mostly due to the star value of their names and illustrious careers. Years later I would have seasoned Aurors approach me to say, “Mrs. Dumbledore taught me everything I knew about defensive dueling—saved my life more than once.”
That was my Elizabeth, good at everything she did.
Our failure to produce children distressed her, and she fretted about it. It wasn’t for lack of trying, I can assure you. I was forty-nine when we married, but Elizabeth made me feel like the randy eighteen-year-old I had been the first time we kissed. Elizabeth had always been in my life, and she had always been beautiful to me, but now we shared a house. Now we were in each other’s company in various states of dishabille, and I could not refrain from touching her.
She decided to take up cooking, and I discovered a previously unknown admiration for lacy little aprons. I also gained two stone, because as with most things she attempted, she was excellent at it.
We were happy.
I did not mind that we weren’t having babies. I wanted children, in the abstract, but we have already established that I was selfish, and I did not object to having all of Elizabeth’s time and attention for myself. She was a devoted wife, a loyal friend and support, and could fight or make love with equal passion. I was no longer bothered by the time she spent working with Filius, because Filius lived in London, and no matter where they traveled for their work, my Elizabeth Apparated home every night.
I was still jealous, still possessive, still resentful of anything that took Elizabeth from me for long. I can only offer to you that I was more in love with her every day, and though we had separate careers, my life and well-being depended more and more on her.
I arrived home earlier than Elizabeth one day, to find an owl waiting for me. It was from Will Weasley, who was on the continent following the English National Quidditch Team.
Strange things going on here…hard to explain. Rumors, gossip, general feeling of tension. Nothing I can put a finger on, but it worries me. Do you know anything? Off the record, of course.
I studied the note for several moments. I was so caught up in my own life, in my interesting, if low-paying, work, and in my marriage, that I could honestly say that I knew little of anything else. But I had friends and acquaintances all over the world; perhaps I could make enquiries. Will was very easy going, an adventurous bachelor reporter; if he was worried, there must be something to investigate. Elizabeth might know; she had even more European connections than I had.
At that moment, Elizabeth Apparated into the kitchen. I turned to her, intending to show her the note, but she kissed me, and I became distracted. She pulled me to the kitchen floor by way of evening greeting, and it was a long time later that I thought of Will, his note, or anything else. It was only when I noticed Will’s note beneath Elizabeth’s discarded robe that I picked it up from the floor and held it out to her.
“It’s from Will,” I said.
She took it and slid on her reading glasses. There was a pause while she read it, then she frowned and said, “You know, I think I know what he’s talking about.”
“Do you?” I enquired, raising an eyebrow. “You’ve never mentioned it.”
“No,” she said thoughtfully, straightening her robes, which were still delightfully disarrayed. “There’s nothing to mention. It’s like Will says…just tension, I suppose. I didn’t really even give it conscious thought until just now.” She shrugged and began to select ingredients for our dinner. “I thought we’d have Italian tonight.”
“Lovely,” I said absently, turning Will’s note over in my hand. “Let’s have that chianti that Nicholas sent us.”
She looked at me sharply as she chopped the vegetables, but I wasn’t really paying attention. “Fine.”
“By the way,” I said, as I tapped the cork of the wine bottle with my wand. The cork popped out, and I summoned two glasses. The wine poured, rich and red. Nicholas wanted to make amends, and I wasn’t averse to accepting a gift. “I accepted a new position today. I’ll be sorry to leave Chuck and the Muggles, though.”
Elizabeth spun away from her vegetables. “What?” she said. “What do you mean you accepted a new position? I am not moving, Albus!”
I drew her into my arms, hoping to soothe her. If it came to it, I had effective means of distracting her, but she was holding a rather large knife. “No, my dear,” I said, planting a kiss on the top of her head. Her hazel eyes glinted suspiciously. “I’m just transferring to another department at the Ministry. They asked me to come work at the Department of Mysteries, and I thought I would.”
“Oh,” she said, relaxing and lowering the knife. “Really?”
I nodded and kissed her again, until she pushed me away and returned to the vegetables. “It should be fascinating,” I said. “There’s so much to learn about life’s mysteries, Elizabeth.”
She grinned at me. “Especially for a professional student?”
I gave her a small bow. She was right, as usual.
“I’ll miss your stories about all the Muggles you see every day,” she said as she tapped the pot of water to set it boiling.
“Perhaps I shall still see Muggles,” I said, sipping Nicholas’ excellent wine.
“But you wouldn’t be able to tell me,” she pouted.
“I’ll tell you what I can,” I promised.
She moved back into my arms and I held her there, where she belonged. I have many faults, and I made many mistakes as a husband, but I never took her for granted. I was always amazed by my good fortune. Then she kissed me and I forgot about dinner, about Nicholas and Will, about the tension in the world. There was only her. She was completely mine and I was completely hers, and it was all I had ever wanted.