There he stood, alone in a foreign country, with an old and powerful witch who used to be Grindelwald’s consort, and he had just told her about the Deathly Hallows, about how he united the three of them. Perhaps Dumbledore had said she was right, but never that she was righteous. There he stood, a trustful and childish fool, after so many traps. He grasped his wand, nervously.
Milena’s eyes, acute and bright, followed his movement.
“That isn’t the Elder Wand” she said slowly.
“No, Harry muttered. It was just… I was just… only for a brief moment… they are away now. I don’t own them anymore.”
Except for the Cloak, he thought, but he had fortunately turned off the Translatongue, and she wasn’t able to read his mind… was she?
And in a second, in a few quiet music notes, everything was over. The room was warm again, with hot tea and sweet cakes. She was old again, frail again, smiling again. But her smile was a sad one, he was now able to tell. Was it really like that, a sudden wave of darkness, barely a few seconds of tentation, enough to throw someone on a dead end? Was it like that when Dumbledore had tried to use the Stone?
“Then it happened. I’m not sure if I shall be happy.”
“Only for the briefest moment” Harry repeated. He was almost breathless, as he had been after his greatest perils.
She nodded dreamily. “Perhaps that was the only way. For the briefest moment. Death wouldn’t allow more. But it was enough, wasn’t it? You survived, and defeated Voldemort. It was enough for the world, who has its own ways of… regulation. Yes, I suppose that was all we could expect.”
But she looked even sadder. She was no more frightening at all, and Harry felt the urge to comfort this very old woman.
“But you were right. I had to own the Cloak first. I had it with me, when I… used the Stone. Sort of. The third Hallow. I had the Cloak with me. You were right. ”
But she shaked her head. “No. I might have been right about that, but I don’t think that is the matter Albus had in mind. I think he meant… a much deeper question. Much more essential.”
Deeper than Death? More essential than the Quest of the Hallows for people into it since they were teenagers?
Milena probably saw doubt in Harry’s eyes.
“Yes, she smiled, there are deeper things, closer to our hearts, even for old obsessive wizards like us. I told you the story had little to do with you. That is an ancient one, one that took place at the end of our first war, when Albus finally defeated Grindelwald.”
“I was wondering…” But Harry blushed again, felt tactless again. He was nothing of a diplomat.
“Please go on. Every wonder is appreciable.”
“Well, I was wondering… why you needed Dumbledore. Sure he was powerful and everything, but your people certainly had its great witches and wizards, too, able to challenge Grindelwald… I mean, yourself…”
“I would have been able to beat him? Perhaps you are right. Many people believed it then. Including my own sister.” The music became dark, bringing bitter grief and bleeding remorse. “Perhaps they were right. I will never know. But there was a great difference between Albus Dumbledore and me. He was brave, while I am not.”
“You cannot say that ! Harry exclaimed. You had been in love with Grindelwald, of course you…”
“And so was Albus. Why do you think he waited for so long? Why do you think he was so reluctant to confront Gellert, even when his very country was threatened? But he did it. He managed to do it, at end, and I didn’t. That’s the sole difference between the brave one and the coward. Some are able to go through their fears and act. Some aren’t. I was not.”