PoP 67

Perversion of Purity

Year 3: The Looming of Shadows

Chapter 25: A Final Act of Mercy

By ACI100

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Luq707, Regress, and Thanos for their incredible work on this story.

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April 30, 1945
Berlin, Germany
7:33 AM

The final corpse fell and joined half a hundred others. Magic raged nearby and distant sounds of battle drew closer. A building toppled from somewhere not far away. Thick, grey smoke rose from its ruin, hanging in the air like a sheet of morning fog.

It stung his eyes and seared his throat, but he stared through the stinging pain and off towards the sounds of battle. The sun peeked above a distant rooftop and stretched its golden fingers out across worn, blood-smeared cobblestones.

The light dappled across the stones and made motes of dust glitter in the wrents between them. The blood glistened in that sunlight, not unlike the way it had against a field of snow some sixty years ago.

Another building exploded, this one closer. Shards of glass fell like gleaming rain. They never touched Gellert, but they punched countless gouges in the ruined skin of lifeless corpses strewn all around him.

Men poured through the gaping hole caused by that last blast. Some of them wore his colours, but many more wore Union Jacks or spangled banners; several sported the Romanov coat of arms — an aquila with two crossed wands behind it.

“Surrender!” an American bellowed as hundreds of soldiers closed in.

“Your offer is kind, but no thank you.”

“Take him!”


Men had no time to scream as they were torn apart by air that crumpled concrete and sliced through stones like they were naught but strands of string.

The street was silent but the air was thick with the coppery stench of blood. It choked him until he could all but taste it. Never had he smelled so much of it. Where dozens had lay before, hundreds sprawled across once-grey stones, now smeared with crimson.

No more sounds of conflict came and all was silent until a series of cracks filled the still air. Hundreds of soldiers appeared in a circle around him, these too dressed in ally robes. The wards around Berlin had been strong already, but they redoubled now. If fleeing remained an option, it is lost to me now.


The air exploded. A silver shield conjured last-second was all that kept him in one piece.

Something had intercepted his spell. The explosion melted stone like globs of candle wax and left blackened puddles of charred corpses littering the cobblestones. They smelled worse than the blood stains or the hundreds of still intact corpses strewn further away from him.

A scarce few soldiers remained alive, their majority disfigured. A few fired curses through thick clouds of smoke, but Gellert let them splash against his shield and watched the thin shadow that stood just feet away from him.


“Good morning, Gellert.”

His pulse quickened. “Have you finally come to stop me?”

His old friend wore plain black robes, singed at the hems but otherwise untouched by the explosion. “I have.”

His grip on the Death Stick tightened. “You understand I will not be coming quietly?”

“I feared as much.”

“Step aside. Killing you would bring me no joy.”

Albus closed his eyes; his chest rose and fell. “I have stepped aside a time too many. I have let a boyhood fancy distract me from the greater good.” His lips twisted into a rare and ugly scowl. “You will pardon the pun, of course.”

“You once believed. You admitted what I did was for the best. What has changed?”

“Much. Two global wars have made me realize that your plan will never work. Conquering the muggles would be no different than a hundred occupations they themselves have tried. Most of those have failed now, and the rest are crumbling before our eyes. The world is changing, Gellert. They no longer rely on swords and shotguns. They would rebel; the damage would be unthinkable.”

Gellert sneered as anger boiled beneath his skin. “You think I fear them? Look what I have done, look what I have become!”

“I see plainly.” Sadness swam in those deep, blue eyes. “They say you acquired the wand we sought as children, and I have seen the way you use it.”

“Casualties were inevitable. We said so from the start.”

“Our plan then was to minimize them the best we could. Was there any need to kill those soldiers? You could have immobilized them.”

“Messages are important.”

“I’m not surprised you think so. What sort of message did killing your old headmaster send, or burning down Beauxbatons? You will never be loved in Southern Europe, nor in Scandinavia. They would be the first to rebel against you.”

Gellert held the Death Stick high and twirled it through his fingers. “I do not fear rebellion. The cost is always unfortunate, but nothing is not worth the greater good.”

“And here lies the problem. You once believed that, and I think you still do.”

“I see no problem.”

“You use that belief to justify any action, whether necessary or not. You have become a tyrant; a far cry from the boy I knew in Godric’s Hollow.”

A tyrant? “If I have fallen so far, what does that make you? Anything I have become has happened by your allowance. You waited on your island, hidden behind wards as I marched. You condemn me for all I’ve done but did nothing. Are you any better, Albus?”

“No.” He almost lowered his wand, so surprised he was by the single word. “Your campaign exists at all only by my allowance. I could have stopped it in Godric’s Hollow all those years ago. I think we both know that — for all the times you call me craven, you stand in a house of glass. I know why I never came for you, but why did you never come for me?”

“You remained in a nigh unsiegeable castle, nestled in the most protected nation on the continent, sans Russia.”

“Ah, yes. I heard the boy Tsar repelled you — took control of the nation and its might, then drove you from the mountains. I think you knew what could happen if you came to Britain and forced my hand.”

“I do not fear you!”

“No, just what might happen when we come to blows. Don’t feel ashamed, Gellert, I fear too, but for my own reasons.”

Ariana; he never did learn.

“Enough of this. We are boys no longer. You cannot beat me, not whilst I hold this.” He let the Death Stick roll across his palm.

“Does Gregorovitch not explain the basics when selling first wands? The wand chooses the wizard, Gellert. I doubt it will work the way you hope, not today.”

“Shall we see, then?” he asked, heart pounding, blood racing in his ears.

It was always coming. Now you must face it — one more victory; one more victory and all is won.

“I’m afraid we shall.”

The first spell came, silver beads leaping from the Death Stick’s tip, met by a crimson blast from Albus’s wand.

An explosion rocked the city, bathing it in white light as the stones shook underfoot. A hundred monsters formed from the crumbling mass of stone and charged towards Gellert.

A twist of the Death Stick closed the air around them and left naught behind but pebbles. Shards of glass replaced them when they soared at Albus, melting into sand halfway between the two combatants.

A sense of dread crept through the air, like the fear of death but a hundred times stronger. Albus’s eyes widened across the street as twitching shreds that had once been bodies knit themselves together.

Half the inferi were missing limbs and even more had melted skin trickling down their chests, blackened and charred, the sweet and sickly scent spreading as it pooled atop the shattered stones.

Flames spread across the stone, but the inferi marched straight through them. They stepped out the other side little more than skeletons, their charred flesh covering the street like a black coat of snow.

Gellert pressed his advantage with a barrage of Killing Curses that held Dumbledore’s attention and allowed the inferi to creep nearer.

Albus twisted and was gone, dead hands just inches from where he had stood. They’ve tied him into the wards.

A shower of spells came from above and forced him to reconjure the silver shield. It flashed and gonged when struck with a gout of golden fire and broke under the force of Dumbledore’s next spell.


The inferi swarmed around him, shielding him from Dumbledore’s onslaught as Gellert probed outwards. Found you.

Splinters of bone were strewn across the street, blasted apart by Dumbledore, but even as they fell, they began reknitting, reborn anew.

Wisps of light curled from Gellert’s wand as he thrust it skyward. “FULGURA!”

A fork of lightning sliced through the rooftop Dumbledore had occupied a split second prior. The roof collapsed, bringing about half the building down with it and sending yet more smoke billowing into a sky already choked with ashen clouds obscuring sunlight that had been bright not long ago.

Gellert whirled, wand still sparking, and slashed at the nearest row of buildings. Lightning cleaved them down the middle and collapsed them one by one. The sounds of their destruction shook the earth; glass shattered so loudly that his ears rang.

Albus now stood nearby. “Talamholc!”

Craters opened wide maws and swallowed undead swarms whilst spires of stone jutted up and shattered skeletons so thoroughly that only dust remained. The earth rose and twisted into a hundred beastly shapes that leered and struck.

Emerald fire swirled from his wand and unfurled great, green wings. The flaming dragon let out a roar that shook the stones again, cackling as it swallowed stony monsters and soared towards Dumbledore, who slashed his wand to no avail, then grimaced.


Cackling flames met a watery twister. Both spells screamed, writhing as they dissipated into spires of smoke that slithered skyward.

Another lance of lightning stabbed down from the sky, but this time, Dumbledore conjured a lightning rod and diverted his attack. A gout of golden fire missed Gellert by inches but left him reeling in blackened robes and with a singed head of hair.

The remaining cobblestones crumbled like sand at high tide as Albus turned and vanished.

The crumbling line of stones almost reached Gellert by the time he raised his own wand and summoned a rooftop many times heavier than him. He was jerked up off his feet and through the air, soaring in the direction of the nearby rooftop. Hot knives stabbed through his neck and shoulder as he ended the spell and banished himself upwards, cresting the ledge and landing atop one of the few remaining buildings.

Stones shifted beneath his feet as the roof became a gaping maw prepared to grind him between metallic teeth.


A sound like thunder rolled across the city. The entire building was dust, crushed in a single heartbeat by rushing air that softened Gellert’s fall. Now he stood in a different sector of Berlin, untouched by their duel but for the building he had brought down.

I’m losing. Damn him, I can’t lose! Albus strode towards him, calm but blood-soaked, wand levelled. Not yet. “SGRIOSÀILE!”

Something resisted for the merest of moments and he thought the day was lost, but then the air blurred. It lasted but a second before red blisters burned across his flesh.

A silver bubble of magic rose around him just as an explosion rocked the earth. More buildings fell, toppled like blocks by a careless child.

The air, Gellert thought with awe. He transfigured the air into fire.

Apparition sounded all around him and white spots danced before his eyes. He was lying on his back, looking up at Albus and a hundred others. The Death Stick vibrated in his grip.

“It’s over, Gellert,” said Albus, breathing almost as heavily as him and nursing a limp and useless arm. “Drop your wand.”

It’s not over so long as I hold the wand. “Over, Albus?” A cruel smile stretched across his face. “It is only beginning — Protego Diabolica.”

A string of bright blue flames streamed from his wand and formed a ring around him. Dozens fired spells or tried to flee, but they were swallowed by leaping tendrils of fire, black as the charred remains of those they licked.

Burnt corpses fell like autumn leaves. Gellert stood again, a demented laugh escaping him, devolving into great fits of coughing that bent him over at the waist.

“You’ve lost, Dumbledore! None but the loyal can step through the fire — the rest will burn. Soon it will swell and the city will die.” A twisted smile played across his cracked and aching lips. “A necessary sacrifice for the greater good, but one I doubt you’ll make. Surrender and I will end the spell.”

He was there in an instant. There was no turning, no sound, and no sign of apparition — Dumbledore was suddenly just feet away from him.

Gellert dilated and probed the air for magic. Impossible; he switched himself with air.

Dumbledore’s expression was stony as his wand rose above his head. Thunder rumbled and great clouds rolled in from nowhere.

Gellert just laughed. “Rain? Do you think rain will douse these flames? Are you so —”

The first drop touched his face and burned! Numb shock closed around his heart as more drops found their mark and ate through his skin. He’s conjured acid rain.

Blind panic replaced the numbness and he thrust the Death Stick skyward, imbuing the air with magic, prepared to burn the rain away.

White light flashed so brightly that everything else vanished. Dull weight filled his limbs as his stomach dropped. Then something cracked and the air was driven from his lungs. He tried to raise his arms but they wouldn’t move; the rain would eat at his skin, he was going to die, this was it.

A single eye opened and saw the clouds were gone. He was looking up at a pale blue sky again, but this time, he was bound and wandless.

The wand… it backfired.

Dumbledore stood over him with the Death Stick in his hand.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I wish I could save you from the life you must now live.”

An awful feeling built in Gellert’s stomach, one he did not recognize. It twisted at his innards almost like dread or mourning, but not. “You were always the better half.”

Albus’s expression hardened and a deep inhale brought on the question Gellert knew would come. “Ariana… I must know — did I… did I —”

“No.” The word rose unbidden to his lips, spoken despite the memory of the girl crumpling beneath his old friend’s spell. “It was I who killed her. I truly did not mean it. I am sorry, Albus, even now.”

His spell had escalated. A fiery blue dragon taller than any building now raged through Berlin. Albus glanced over his shoulder and frowned, clutching the Death Stick between his fingers. “I forgive you.”

Harry stood in numb shock, watching Grindelwald study him from his place on the cot. So much raced through his mind. All the magic… it was like nothing he had ever imagined. Their first duel had been awe-inspiring, but this… this changed what it meant to be a wizard. Merlin, I have miles to go; I might never match that.

“You lied,” he said instead, half-whispering the first thought that came. “You saw his spell hit Ariana — you knew he killed her.” Grindelwald just nodded. “Why?”

Grindelwald closed his eyes. “You are too young to understand —”

“Try me.”

“Dumbledore and I were closer than brothers. I felt real regret the day his sister died, and not just for the empire I knew might be lost. The world could burn for the greater good, but I never wished harm on Albus. Fear of the truth kept him away for decades; I could not make myself break him, not when I was already defeated.”

He’s human.

It was obvious, but the first time he had allowed himself to accept it. Despite everything Gellert Grindelwald had ever done, he was still a human being; not the emotionless monster the world painted him as today.

“That’s… surprisingly noble.”

Gellert laughed. “Noble? No, I think not. I can be called many things, but never noble.”

“Your cause was noble.”

“It was, it is, and it will always be.”

“Then why not you?”

Grindelwald stared up at the ceiling. “There was truth in what Albus said. I think it’s partly why the wand chose him in the end.”

“I was wondering that — what happened? You thought it backfired?”

He chuckled, mirthless as it was. “The wand chooses the wizard. Dumbledore was right, as were Romanov and Shevchenko before him.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“I once told you the wand was not infallible. Do you remember?”


“The Elder Wand, the Death Stick, the Wand of Destiny — whatever you call it, it is a wand. No wand chooses the victor of every duel, but it does choose its loyalty.”

“So you’re saying its power is a myth?”

“Oh no, I did great things with that wand. Emerald fire was lost to legend, a colour denoting power we thought the world had lost. You will never see those flames from any but the master of the Elder Wand. I could not cast Sgriosàile without the wand, nor Auslöschen or any other air-based spell of such power.”

“But you still lost.”

“Emeric the Evil lost the wand in combat, as did others. I thought myself better, but I knew nothing.”

“You still haven’t explained what happened.”

“The Death Stick has more autonomy than any other wand. It is a part of its power, but its greatest weakness. Its goal is power and it will always seek the greater wizard. If it believes you are equal or greater than your foe, it will serve you undyingly. If it believes otherwise… you saw what happens.”

“How does it know?”

“I think my own doubt played a part. It began resisting me once my confidence waned. A combination of a difficult duel and Albus’s words sinking home.”

“His words?”

“The greater good justifies anything, but it should only justify that which furthers its cause. There was a time when serving its purposes was difficult. It was easy by the end; murder, destruction, it mattered not. I no longer killed because they opposed me, I killed because I could. I realized that then, but never knew until later. I wonder sometimes whether the wand knew sooner than I.”

They sat in silence for a time. “I’m sorry.”

Grindelwald cocked his head. “Whatever for?”

“Your cause was right, you should have won and it shouldn’t have caused you so much pain.”

“The greater good is worth the sacrifice.”

Harry stared out the open window. “Yeah. I think so too.”

“If you truly wish to repay me, pursue my cause and make a single promise.”

Harry fidgeted, his pulse pounding. “What promise?”

“Never reveal the truth of what happened that day in Godric’s Hollow. It would cause me great pain if I heard that Albus knew.”

Harry continued staring out the cell. “I promise.”

Author’s Endnote:

I’m sorry this is coming out a day late. Scheduling conflicts arose due to a trip I’m on and coordinating with my betas became a bit problematic. 

I’m a bit nervous for this one. How does one write the canonical ‘greatest duel of all time’? I feel like it living up to its hype is impossible, but I did my best and chose to portray it more as a backdrop for some character work I am happy with. Let me know what you think, as always.

Please read and review.

Thank you as always to my lovely Discord Editors, blood and Idefix, for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.

A heartfelt thank you is extended to my Mage-level patron, Cup, for her unwavering generosity.

PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, April 8th 2023. ALL DISCORD MEMBERS CAN READ THE REST OF BOOK 3 RIGHT NOW! THE NEXT TWENTY CHAPTERS CAN BE READ RIGHT NOW BY ANYONE WHO SIGNS UP TO MY PATREON PAGE! That is the entirety of Book 3, plus the first eighteen chapters of Book 4.

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