There were so many secrets about Dumbledore. So many hidden truths waiting for his death to reappear. So many sides he hadn’t expected. Had he heard about that one a few years earlier, Harry would probably have been horrified. Now he was able to welcome it with no more than mild surprise. So Dumbledore used to be in love with a man, and this man was the dark wizard Grindelwald : Harry found he could deal with it. And he went on listening the old witch’s melodic voice, without even a start.
“We shared many things indeed, Albus and I. But three of these things left the deepest print upon us, us both. To love Gellert, to have to fight him… and to lose a sister to him. Perhaps you don’t know about Ariana Dumbledore…”
“I do” Harry answered, and he couldn’t resist to ask : “Was it really him? Was it Grindelwald who killed her?”
“I never knew. Neither did he. I met Gellert a year after Ariana’s death, and she was only like an uneasy memory for him. He felt responsible in a way, as Albus did, and he was trying to forget this feeling. We spoke about her… later.”
Darkness and grief were haunting the room again. Harry almost felt the coldness he would always associate with Dementors. You don’t need a Dementor to feel the touch of despair. How do Muggles manage? he wondered briefly. How can they fight it without a Patronus? Then music sounded high and clear, darkness drew back, and that was part of the answer.
“He certainly killed my own sisters. We were all grown-ups at this time, and I carry this responsibility as well as Albus does for Ariana. You see… we were quite close, my sister and I. She was only a year older and she was a fierce and brave person. The war was perhaps at its worst, and our people were running desperate. Many times she tried to convince me to confront Gellert. She thought the same as you: that I would have been able to… Each time I refused. I fought my part, defeated many of his fellow wizards and thwarted a few of his plots but I was avoiding him. Or I should say we were avoiding each other, for he acted the same way. I wasn’t brave enough, as I said. But my sister was. A night came when she got information about Gellert’s actions, and she went to intercept him. Alone. She wasn’t really trying to kill him. She had never been somewhat of a duellist. She was trying to force me to come and do… my duty.”
Harry remembered his own decision, his own departure to duty and death. He wondered, as he often had, what it was to have a sister, or a brother, what sort of bond it could be. He promised to himself he would have at least two children. Then he thought about Fred and George, about Fred’s death and George’s pain, and the music was now echoing his own grief.
“I got her note, of course, Milena continued. But I wasn’t alone then, and my friends stopped me before I managed to Disapparate. They were trying to protect me, I suppose. Or they didn’t want to lose both my sister and me. I almost killed them for that. And when I finally escaped and went to my sister, it was too late. She was dead, Gellert was away, and I had to live with it.”
And she still has to, Harry realised. She still pays back. He awkwardly tried to distract her: “But Dumbledore said…”
“… I was right, yes, and you probably wonder when I managed to be right after so many errands.”
He blushed. She was the kind of women to make you blush with the utmost ease.
“It was later. After the end of the war. After Albus defeated Gellert and my conflict was over. I don’t believe I could have been right in anything during the war. I couldn’t even put things right inside my head. Then it has to be later. Gellert was in life custody, and we were trying to rebuild something, and rebuild ourselves. A few months passed, before I knew what I had to do. Or before I was actually ready to do it. That usually is the same moment. I went to the prison, and asked to talk to Gellert.”
Harry held on his breath. What could it be she wanted to say him, after they loved each other and fight each other, after he killed her own sister, after he lost the war? He could hardly imagine such feelings. He felt very young, for the first time since Voldemort’s fall.
“They refused, of course. Then I called to Dumbledore, knowing that he was the only one they would listen to. I remember this conversation very well, and I now know he did too. For what I told him happened to be right, after all.”