The Greater Good
THE GREATER GOOD
The ruins of a small village was before them. Ottaviano. Ruins of Ottaviano greeted them. Here and there, they spotted people busy in some serious construction, or, perhaps, reconstruction. And there, amidst the destruction, was Mt Vesuvius. The indomitable depths of fire. The vast unstoppable force. Just as, perhaps, Grindelwald, saw himself. Just as he would be stopped that day.
There was a forest spread out on the mountainside. Thick, and impenetrable to normal people. But the company of folks that now trudged through it, was anything, but normal. They were a small party, headed by a man with long, auburn hair and beard, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. They moved cautiously, determinedly, alertly and barely stopping. And after what seemed a long time, one of them spoke out, quietly.
"We need to span out, Dumbledore," Slughorn said.
"No." Dumbledore scanned the area before him. "There is a slight trace of magic over there."
They spent a few moments more, to walk towards the place Dumbledore had indicated.
"This is the place. Any moment now. "
No one questioned how he knew that. But then, no one ever questioned Dumbledore. They waited in the clearing, disguising themselves appropriately. Minutes passed by. Minerva felt a slight tingling in her legs, an indication that they were about to go numb. Elphinstone hummed to himself. Moody muttered to himself, going through the battle plans in his mind. The other hit wizards and aurors fidgeted with their wands, practicing the commonly used offensive spells.
Dumbledore and Amelia remained the only ones who were completely still. But whereas, Amelia had a predatory look in her face and looked ahead eagerly, Dumbledore was deep in thought.He felt something nagging at the back of his mind. A foreign, disturbing emotion that he did not want to feel.Not now.This day was going to end badly. Even if he won, it was still going to end badly. And he already knew how it was going to end.
It was foretold. Cassandra. Many knew that the woman was gifted. And she knew people. Even if she had not been a gifted seer, Dumbledore was sure she could get inside a mind and see through people. Yet, she often maintained that her gift was also her curse. For she had seen, no, foreseen many a bad thing happen to many a good man. She had watched as some wasted away, in spite of having known about their fate.
People came to Cassandra for her gift. Dumbledore had come to her for her advice. They had known each other for over forty-five years, and had remained close friends. So it was only natural for him to have come to her. He had spent time on the matter.
Confronting Grindelwald after all these years was not something that appealed to him. But the wizarding world had cried out to him and he could ignore them, no longer. That the threat of Grindelwald was growing stronger every day was indisputable.
And once he had made up his mind, he went to her. Cassandra, the legendary Seer. She was tall and elegant. Her hair was part grey, part dark, and long. She looked young and only the wisdom in her eyes betrayed her age.
You may win or lose this battle. But either way, the loss will be yours. Cassandra's words rang through his mind. For you may gain a victory, but lose your friend. But I dare say, he is already lost. He had not been surprised. No one knew that Gellert Grindelwald had once been his friend. But if anyone could figure it out, it was Cassandra. Do not be alarmed, she had said. My Inner Eye isn't always right. Divination isn't an exact science. Cassandra had come closer to him. After all, I, once, wanted to win your heart, remember? she said, as she traced her fingers over his heart. But your heart was already won over. She smiled warmly at him.
We don't get to choose who we love.
Indeed. But it will not stop me from facing him, he thought. The wizarding world looked up to him, now. Expected him to act as their champion. And he had accepted, long at last. But how could he tell them the truth? Every ideal that Grindelwald stood for, he, himself, had once believed in. He couldn't tell them that he and Grindelwald had once been friends. That they had planned it all together…
For the greater good. Of course. That's what they had said. And now, Grindelwald had taken those same ideals and twisted them into something that was unimaginable, unrecognisable. Only the goal remained the same. The dominance of Magic. And it was all for the greater good.The words haunted his mind. The greater good.
The eruption of Mt Vesuvius, last year, proved to be disastrous in the cities surrounding it. Ottaviano had covered most of the crater of the volcano. It was the worst hit. And as of now, the rebuilding of the city is still underway. People are still recovering, but slowly. But there are still areas that are beyond repair, villages that underwent significant destruction - massive loss of life and property. That's where he will be.
He hadn't yet asked, but she had answered. Cassandra had given him the location of his former friend. And if you wish to find him, that's where you should go.
Before parting, she had said one last thing...I will not live long, Albus. When you come back I shall probably be long gone, she said. You have been a good friend to me. Will you, also, extend your friendship to my family? Will you promise to be a friend to the seers in my bloodline-
Dumbledore was awakened from his thoughts as Alastor turned to him, and whispered in a low voice, "I see someone. Invisible. To your right."
Dumbledore, suddenly straightened up, furious. He brandished his wand, and, seemingly out of nowhere, a man was blasted out into the clearing. He fell hard on his back.
"Justus, do you recognise him?" Dumbledore asked, his voice cold, as he stared at the man before him.
Justus nodded. "Yes. Indeed."
"It's Artur Bronwood." Amelia said. "He left the ministry for Grindelwald."
"Bloody scumbag," Alastor growled.
"Artur Bronwood, you will be given leniency, if you cooperate with us," Minerva stated.
Artur watched warily, as Dumbledore moved to stand right in front of him."Where is your master?" he said, quietly. He stayed his fury.
"I shall die before I tell." Amelia started forward, but Alastor stopped her.
Artur spat at them. "I will never give up Grindelwald. Never."
"We can easily make you, Bronwood." said Ogden. He took out his wand, but was suddenly interrupted by a cry of surprise.
Roots, tendrils and creepers from the forest had suddenly shot out from the forest and wrapped themselves around Alastor and a few others. They were bewitched, no doubt, to detect a magical threat. Minerva cast a spell and burned those away. Dumbledore followed suit, as did Justus and Slughorn. Amelia was already busy, cutting through the thick undergrowth with a spell. There were a few wizards camouflaged in the thick bushes.
Ogden yelled at her. "Amelia, don't hurt them, we need them for questioning."
"Like hell, we do," she yelled back. She easily deflected a well-aimed curse and sent her own after it.
Only Slughorn noticed more figures in dark, approaching the clearing, from a distance."Albus!" he warned.
Dumbledore whipped around at once and, in a long fluid motion, moved his wand. The bewitched tendrils that had wrapped around his team, loosened themselves and went after these new figures - Grindelwald's closest associates. One of them, Milah Karkaroff, said to be his lover, somehow broke free. She used a wandless spell and sent a volley of knives made of ice, at him. Dumbledore turned on the spot, and apparated. The next instant, he reappeared beside Milah. He disarmed and stunned her, in a single, fluid, wand movement.
Meanwhile, a few more members of the opposition had arrived and engaged Dumbledore's crew.
"Dumbledore, go," Amelia cried out. "We'll take care of this. Go find him."
Dumbledore looked around. There was a reluctance in him that day. But the people who had accompanied him were fighting readily, bravely. He could see Cornelius, the ambitious young man, fighting a heavily built man; Minerva, his own protégé, was efficiently casting spells that made her opponents back away, warily. Amelia, the ferocious tigress of the ministry, had a maniacal grin on her face, as she revelled in the battle rush. Justus was carefully incapacitating his opponents, making sure they were in a fit state for interrogation. Ogden the Bold, was busily taking down a group of younger men, all at once. Gawain was struggling against an apparent half giant. Nearby, Slughorn was performing a complex transfiguration spell that turned the ground into a quicksand. Their opponents, who fell into it were held fast, and unable to move. Alastor and Elphias were furiously deflecting curses from a couple of wizards who used two wands. And countless others, who had accompanied him, were fighting the dark lord's followers.
He felt old. These were brave, young souls, fighting against a foolish cause that he, himself, had helped come up with. These younger minds deserve the glory of a battle, Dumbledore thought, Not I. It ends today. , Dumbledore apparated once more.
He reappeared on a higher ground, a cliff, very close to Mt Vesuvius. Dumbledore opened up his mind, relaying a single, powerful thought.
I know you're here, he said. Show yourself.
His voice carried across. He let his mind wander around, trying to connect to another conscience, just as powerful as he was. There was a silence, and it grew heavier until-
Grindelwald's voice rang out, penetrating even the darkest crevices of his mind. And then nature itself seemed to respond to his call.
Strong winds started to blow, making his robes flap behind him. The trees swayed from side to side. The dry leaves on the ground rose up, as if in greeting, and, Grindelwald, himself, appeared. Dust swirled up around both of them in a wide circle, forming a high wall.
Strong and powerful and very much human, Grindelwald, the terror of wizarding Europe. Gellert, his friend. And somehow, Dumbledore couldn't help but feel a little elated.
He said only-
"Surrender, Gellert, give up your wand and I shall personally ensure that you are treated well."
Grindelwald seemed not to hear. "Albus," Grindelawald gave his most charming, yet chilling, smile. Hadn't he always been charming and persuasive? So dedicated were his followers that they were willing to even die for him. "My old friend. Have you come, at last, to meet me?"
"Gellert, let go of this madness," Dumbledore said, calmly.
Grindelwald cocked his head to a side and looked at him curiously. "Is it mad, to want a better world? To fight for the greater good? Come, come, Albus. Surely, you, of all people, see the necessity of it."
"I see only a mad man. Taking matters into your own hands and killing innocents is not a solution."
"Stop me, then," Grindelwald said, "Or better yet, kill me." He spread out his arms before him, fearless. "While you still have the chance. That is what you are here for."
Fear gripped Dumbledore, then. Fear, not of the man, but of the truth, and the end. Fear was an emotion foreign to him. And now, fear, he felt. And he felt alive.
Dumbledore's bright blue eyes seemed to pierce through the distance that separated them.
"I do not wish to kill you, Gellert."
"Then, you have become weak, Albus. You cannot win a war without death. It is the price you pay."
"I don't wish to win the war. I wish, only, to stop you."
Grindelwald let out a bark of laughter. It had no mirth.
"I, merely, stand for an idea," he said. "You think you can stop me, but I have already set the wave in motion. If I'm defeated, someone else will take my place. Perhaps, tomorrow, perhaps, someone more terrible, more murderous, but someone will always take my place. For ideas cannot be stopped," he smiled coldly. "Neither can I."
"Nevertheless, you will be stopped today." Dumbledore said. He felt foolish, standing there. The power that Grindelwald had, had he not once wished for the same? Gellert was everything he once thought he wanted to be.
"I implore you to step down. The destruction and death you have caused are far too terrible, far too evil. I knew you once, Gellert. I know you, no more."
"And I implore you to join me. To change the world. To free it. Join me. I give you the chance for us to be friends again, working together again, inseparable once more," Grindelwald said. "Choose it or lose it."
Grindelwald seemed to be emanating a sort of radiant power. It seemed to scorch him and everything around him. So persuasive his words...so dark, the con of men. He remembered the day the Ministry had come to him for help against Grindelwald. They had needed his views on the dark wizard who was equally, if not more, powerful than him.
"He's after the greater good," he had said then. "Or, so he says. He thinks of himself as a revolutionary. A reformist and a saviour of the wizarding kind. He wishes to bring all wizards out of hiding. He wants the magical folk to rule over the non-magical. To protect them, he would say. But it would really be for power. And how best to experience power, if not by subjugating a few. It is what has swayed dark minds and dark hearts over the centuries. The idea of power, thoughts of wielding it, have always been intoxicating. And greater good is the term given to justify it."He knew where his heart lay. "I refuse."
A change seemed to have taken place in Grindelwald's features, then. His smile faded. His eyes grew sharper. He straightened up, fiercely, emanating a cold wave of fury. They looked at each other in a cold silence. Untill-
Then, it begins. Old friend.
Even in the mind, his words sounded chilling. Dumbledore shook his head to clear the chill of the thought out.
No, he replied, his voice grave. There would be no pretenses now. No falsehoods. Only the truth of a battle. Dumbledore closed his eyes. He took a moment to gather himself. Grindelwald was going to be stopped. His friend, his enemy, will be brought to justice, and he was going to do this. As only he could. He opened his eyes.
It ends, now.