How the Malfoy Wealth Was Won (London, 1860)
When I Ruled the World (France, 1917)
Portent (London, 1943)
The Greatest Generation (London, 1945)
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (New York, 1959)
The Ill-Made Knight (Yorkshire, 1960)
The Setting Sun (Surrey, 1963)
Conviction (London, 1974)
(Baby Don't) Fear the Reaper (London, 1979)
A Woman's Place (Surrey, 1979)
Chronology (Surrey, 1980)
Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War (Surrey, 1982)
Once upon a time, even Abraxas Malfoy believed in something. And then Albus Dumbledore cast a containment spell he'd never seen, one none of them had ever seen, and trapped Grindelwald's army in France, by the side of a muddy river. It was April, and the trees were beginning to flower, and it rained most of the time. They dug trenches, they slept curled under their cloaks, and they waited for Grindelwald to break them free.
All but Abraxas, who did not have the gifts of stillness or patience, and whose faith was wearing thin. He kept watch, though there was nothing to see but the enemy, and the gray sky and the river and the endless sheets of rain that fell and fell until the trenches flooded and the last of their spells failed them. He walked until the ground began to wear away beneath him. He cast spell after spell, all of them useless. The containment barrier was a mile away in the beginning, and each day it crept closer to their lines. And still Grindelwald did not come to relieve them.
Abraxas did not think he would come, though he did not say so. He would not have come, in Grindelwald's place. Even if he raised a second army, he would still have to storm the field and break down the barrier. Even if he managed that-- they had not been winning the war. It seemed more likely that they would starve or die of disease, if the Ministry and its allies did not slaughter them like terriers sent down fox dens.
In the beginning they buried their dead at the furthest reaches of the barrier. And then the enemy dug them up, and burned the bodies. The smoke hung over the Somme like a black cloud, and the smell of it clung to their clothes and their hair despite the rain. After that they left them to the river, offerings to the god of the desperate and the damned.
A week rolled into two, and the wounded and the weak died, and the containment spell tightened, and Abraxas paced at the edge of the trench, and waited for the British. He was alone, trying to light one of his last, carefully hoarded cigarettes with a Muggle flint he'd confiscated from one of his junior officers, when Grindelwald came.
He walked alone across the barrier, a big, fair-haired man in a dark cloak, bare-headed despite the rain, hands empty-- and the British did nothing to stop him. He seemed to have come out of nowhere. Abraxas could hear them shouting, raising the alarms, and he felt a fierce, triumphant sense of vindication. Grindelwald had come back for them. He had not left them to die.
And then he was close enough that Abraxas could see his face, and he knew that this was no rescue. There was no army on the other side of the river, no magic trick, no sword pulled from a stone-- no miracle waiting. Grindelwald had come back to die with them. He was a fool, and he had always been a fool, and Abraxas was a fool for following him here to this sodden field in France.
“Gellert,” he said, and he could not stop the rage that crept into his voice. “You came back.”
Grindelwald slowed, and his head came up. “Did you think I would not?” he asked, in his slow, careful English. “Truly?”
He was surprised, Abraxas thought, and perhaps even a little insulted. Ordinarily Abraxas would have been careful. Grindelwald was his superior in rank, and in skill and in talent. But there was no magic left, and they were both going to die. It made him bolder than he would ordinarily have been. “What price Teutonic practicality now? You have the Elder Wand, man, and you came back to die like a rat in a trap!”
“Yes,” Grindelwald agreed, looking down into the trench at his soldiers. The faint starlight mottled his face with shadows like bruises, and under them real bruises shadowed his eyes. His hair was too long, and he was shivering a little. “It seemed the least I could do.”
“The least you could have done,” Abraxas said precisely, coldly, “would have been to go on, so that our lives counted for something. The Greater Good, you said, more important than individual lives or needs or wants-- you were going to establish a new order, predicated on the needs of the many.”
“Yes. But you never believed it, did you, Malfoy?”
Abraxas sighed. “Of course I didn't. I believed you were going to win, and that was enough for me. But if it's any consolation-- you made me want to be the kind of man who believed it.”
Grindelwald smiled a little at that. “Ah, Abraxas. Ever the pragmatist. Do you never grow tired of examining angles? Do you never want to fight for something besides yourself?”
Abraxas considered it. “No,” he said, finally. “When you think about it, there isn't really anything else, is there?”
This time he got the full force of Grindelwald's smile, like clouds parting. “How ironic that you should ask me of all people that!”
“Yes,” Abraxas said, “it is.” He fumbled again to light his cigarette, eager to have something to do with his hands, and Grindelwald reached out and took it from him and struck a spark from the flint and steel at the first attempt.
“As it happens,” Grindelwald said, “I did not come back here to die with you, Abraxas, which is not to say it would not be an honor. I am as much as a dilettante as Dumbledore thinks me: I find I cannot care too much for the greater good, when the price is the lives of my friends. I came back to ransom you all.”
“That's lovely, Gellert. What is it you mean to offer them, to redeem us?”
“Myself,” Grindelwald said. His face, in profile, was as tranquil and handsome as Charlemagne's on a golden coin. But he would not turn to look at Abraxas, saying it. “Do you not think Dumbledore will have me?”
There was a double entendre there, though Abraxas was not sure Grindelwald meant there to be. His English was very good, but not always entirely idiomatic. “Oh, I'm sure he'd like to have you,” he said, because he couldn't resist. “If he were being honest with himself. Which I doubt he ever is.”
It worked. Grindelwald slanted a glance at him, and his eyes were dancing and his mouth quirked up. It had been intentional, then, the implication--. “No one could hate you as much as he hates you, unless they'd loved you first. But I doubt that he accepts such things are possible. No doubt he is carefully celibate, channeling his desires into righteous doings and the education of youth.”
“No doubt,” Grindelwald agreed.
“He'll kill you, you know. Or lock you in Nurmengard and throw away the key.”
“Don't do it,” Abraxas said, and he almost did not recognize the voice speaking the words as his own. “Stay here. We'll all go together.”
“You don't really mean that,” Grindelwald said gently. “But it was a very noble offer, all the same-- particularly for an individualist such as yourself.”
“Yes. It was.” Abraxas did not add that he had meant it, when he said it. He had built his career on being the sensible one, who could be relied on to base his decisions wherever his own best interests lay. It was too late in the game to change to loyalty or idealism, and besides he'd never really seen the advantages.
If Grindelwald was right, his surrender would save the rest of them. It would cost Grindelwald his freedom, and probably his life, but Abraxas would walk away. He should be happy, but he felt sick with something that might, in another man, be grief, but which he attributed to hunger. “Well,” he said. “If you're determined, I won't try to talk you out of it.”
“Thank you. You're a better man than you think you are, Abraxas.”
“No. You're a worse judge of character than you think you are.” He smiled when he said it, because after all it was Grindelwald who was going to his death, but Abraxas was done with lost causes. He was going home, no matter what he had to renounce or promise or forswear. “I'd wish you luck, if I thought it would do any good.”
Grindelwald turned and gave him that famous, mocking smile one last time. “At least I'll have a roof over my head tomorrow night,” he said. “One way or another.”