I am back after so many years; thank you for all the favs and reviews you gave me in all this time.

Betaed by NeverBeyondRedemption. Thanks!

AU, starting from 1890.

This time the main hero/villain is Grindelwald. Once imprisoned, he has time to think about his mistakes and decides to set things right... In his own way and with the subtlety of a tank division. He is not a man doing things by halves.

Anyhow, is it not strange that they locked Grindi up in his own castle? If anyone knows its every secret, it is him...

I will use some elements from the „Fantastic beasts" but the story is not movie canon conforming. The plot of the movies makes little sense to me and I cannot really follow the characters` actions, it is all so out of the blue, chaotic and self-contradictory.

'My' Grindelwald is neither a Nazi nor a follower of any other real-world doctrine, nor a homicidal maniac, but as he meddles up with Muggle history, there will be tons of allusions to our dear real world, starting from Charlemagne through Paracelsus to Bismarck. The Desert Fox & the Blitz Daddies boys' band will enter the scene with a bang and a boom as well, you really cannot do without them in the forties... Just to put it clear, if you do not like too much merging of the two worlds.

But do not learn history for your tests from this ff, please, all turns into AU anyhow, and at the end of each chapter I will add some explanation reg. "real" world behind the scenes for better understanding.

The story is a loose translation of its Polish version, I added some details here, removed others there... I cannot help tweaking and improving. Yet the gist of the story remains untouched.

Off we go, enjoy and review!

Chapter 1

Where we learn how stupid it is imprison a war-lock in his own castle and that it is even more stupid to enter his cell free-willingly

Empty spaces, what are we living for?
Abandoned places, I guess we know the score
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for?
Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain, in the pantomime
Hold the line, does anybody want to take it anymore?

The show must go on!
The show must go on!

Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on!

Whatever happens, I'll leave it all to chance
Another heartache, another failed romance
On and on, does anybody know what we are living for?
I guess I'm learning (I'm learning), I must be warmer now
I'll soon be turning (turning, turning, turning), 'round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I'm aching to be free

The show must go on!
The show must go on!
The show must go on!
Ooh, inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on!

The show must go on, yeah
The show must go on
I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in
On with the show!

Ooh, I'll top the bill, I'll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on

On with the show, on with the show!

Queen, Show must go on

.

When the gates of Nurmengard slammed shut behind his back, he collapsed on his bed, falling asleep before he'd even hit the mattress. He was wounded and exhausted, he needed rest. Of course, he knew he could break out but not immediately.

Why should he continue, what should he continue, anyhow? All he cared for was gone. He had no family, no army, no friends. Not anymore. Germany was gone, the Europe he knew was gone.

His soul – if it was still there – was like Germany: a pile of rubble, crushed brick, glass and china shards, soot, death.

Yes, he could leave but there was no cause for him to live, fight and die. His enemies were well aware of that but still it was idiotic to send him to Nurmengard, he mused.

He was the rightful heir of the castle and he had never dishonoured the ancient walls so Nurmengard was on his side, no matter what wards and spells his opponents used to subdue him and his home. Anyone, just anyone with inkling about house magic would know that. The bunch of politicians, including Dumbledore, that were responsible for... getting rid of him were obviously, not for the first time, unaware of the basics.

Oh, by all gods of Asgard, of course Albus had no idea about stone and brick magic, it was not in the Hogwarts curriculum for certain; Gellert still remembered the shabby look of the Dumbledore's house. Two practically grown up wizard brothers could not even deal with a leaking roof properly! The British taught their children how to turn a rat into a fancy crystal glass but ignored the simplest household spells.

The victors also overlooked the fact that Nurmengard was built as a fortress, not a prison and that meant a substantial difference in its construction both regarding spells and stones. Any competent wizard or witch would tell them that a fortress, unlike a prison, is designed to keep the intruders out, not the rightful owners in, and that you could not turn it inside out without demolishing a half of the castle!

Further, they forgot that it was their own propaganda that spread the gossip of its hellish dungeons where innocent young Aurors with pretty faces were rotting, tortured and abused by the wicked, perverted, mad German. Sure, there were some prisoners there, from time to time, kept for a week or so, but no sane wizard would dishonour his family home by turning it into a permanent cage for any magical being. Nurmengard was not meant, not designed to be a prison, let alone the prison for its master.

And in their propaganda the triumphing fools forgot about Gellert`s great-grandmother Joyce, she was just a Muggleborn from another continent, dead long ago... But she would be out of her grave in no time and would crush Gellert`s skull – and that was no metaphor - if he turned into a slave keeper. And no, she would not understand the difference between a slave and a long-time prisoner. Gellert was not so stupid as to enrage Joyce the Jaguar, dead or alive.

Thus, Nurmengard was not a prison and the old castle would simply refuse to be turned into one, and anyone would understand it if they bothered to listen to its stone walls.

Therefore, Gellert could simply turn the doorknob and leave. Yet, he was wounded, magically unstable and mentally in tatters so he stayed, letting his wounds close and his maddened mind calm down. At first, he sunk into despair but slowly, as the spring returned, hope resurrected in his heart. It was not the first fall in his life, though the deepest one for sure. Yet he was Stehaufmännchen, a roly-poly toy, he could start again, he could not betray the Revolution, as long as his heart was beating.

He knew the attention of the enemies was still on him but that wouldn't last. Soon a new challenge would appear, distracting them and then... Then he would strike like lighting, a bolt from the blue, smashing their defence lines, crushing their resistance before they could even manage to lift their wands. He had always scrambled back to his feet after any blow and struck back harder than ever before.

Yet the moment he felt strong and ready, his magic started to quiver, his hands trembled so badly that he would not be able to hold a wand, his temperature soared. Azadeh, his dear, loyal lady djinn butler and batman fed him potions, murmuring old Persian healing spells and the disease waned, only to strike again in the middle of the night few weeks later.

At first he thought that wars, hardships and prisons were taking their toll and that he simply had to let the body heal and regenerate at its own pace. So, not one to waste time, he began reading, after all there was always something a wizard could learn to boost his powers. There were battle curses to learn, strategies to study, plans to perfect. He kept reading even if his dark eye refused to cooperate, but, by Wotan, an eye is the price for wisdom, is it not?

He continued, slowly, but with dogged perseverance. He read at night because he could not sleep. The wraiths, the spirits, whole divisions of spirits came to haunt him in his nightmares. He saw Germany in Schutt und Asche – reduced to a pile of rubble - and Budapest under the boot of Stalin. He saw the sons and cousins he failed to save, too busy chasing the Hallows, the vain fame, an idiotic revenge.

And sometimes he saw Albus, desperately trying to resuscitate Ariana. By Loki and his children, what potential got wasted in that witch! He still remembered the echo of her power when she lost control and her magic imploded. Such wasted innocence, both in Ariana and his little baby boy.

No. Revenge was not enough, vengeance was futile, just another mindless bloodbath. No fancy overworking, no window dressing would ever set things right. Atoning for his crimes? A joke. He had to go back to the drawing board.

He kept reading. Soon he noticed that his health issues were not due to old injuries or mental pressure. It was his magic, overused, overstrained in an inhuman way for years and then suddenly not used at all.

An average wizard could wave his wand all his life like he walked and breathed, without giving it a second thought; a powerful one had to take care of his magical core like a professional athlete had to look after his body.

If a child does not learn to use the powers properly, an Obscurus may form; if an adult is forced to live without a wand, his magic does not go berserk anymore but still will fight against the chains.

Azadeh, a being centuries old, who had met dozens of exceptional wizard and witches in her long life, helped him the best way she could. He had to learn to bridle the magic without a wand, he still did not dare ask her to fetch him one. He had to keep a low profile.

'Powers' Azadeh whispered one evening, deep in thought 'I have heard that, if you strip the powers off a wizard and link it with the magic of the pyramids, you can get the worst tragedy undone. They say in Egypt that people fear time but time fears the pyramids. But you cannot take anyone's powers away permanently, can you? They would have done it to you, Almani, if it were possible.'

After all this years she still called him simply 'German'.

'But why, by Loki's daughter?' wondered Grindelwald.

Why indeed? If you can channel your magic through a wand, lock a part of it in an artefact, if you can rip your soul apart to create a horcrux...

A horcrux. That idiot Slytherin boy wanted... Fangs of Fenris, this is it!

'Azadeh' he said 'Such things you can see clearer than me. Will he come here?'

The lady djinn did not even ask whom he meant. She took a fistful of sand out of a little sack she always carried and threw it high in the air. Magical grains flew, forming a miniscule twister and then dropped to the ground.

'He will' she nodded, examining the strange shape the grains formed 'But not soon.'

'Prisoners have to be patient' he replied.

'But you cannot deal with it alone' she continued, tossing more sand high above her head 'Muggles... The sand clearly points towards Muggles... Muggleborns? And a tree, can you see the leaf it formed?'

Grindelwald laughed loudly, noticing the asymmetry of the leaf and its toothed edges. An elm. The Elm, the tree of death and revolution.

'There were three of us, born under the same elm tree' he stated simply 'And deadly we were... And we shook the world... And we will again.'

He put his nose to the grindstone, shaping his body, magic and mind for his first and last fight, working as his ancestors erected gothic giants: day after day, year after year, decade over decade.

Lake Constance froze and thawed, the Alps turned dazzling white, then green, then yellow and red, then white again.

He kept studying, reading Paracelsus and Avicenna, Rommel and Guderian, Einstein and Hawking.

Sometimes, feeling the age gnawing on his strength – though wizards age slower than Muggles, the time takes its toll nonetheless – he began to doubt. Why should he deserve his second chance, after all? The bravest and the noblest he knew got smitten by merciless Fate, why should he be spared? But then he shook his head and continued to tweak his equations, turning shapeless power into a deadly weapon, like his Muggle compatriots hammered blocks of iron into merciless Panzers.

And he kept waiting like a marksman hiding in the thicket... No, like a Panzer, a tank, invisible, unmoving, nearly non-existent, knowing he would have just one shot so he had to stay still until the enemy was at point-blank range. No third chance.

Voldemort rose only to fall and then... Then it was time to hunt him down, when he was reduced to a wraith! But Albus failed to act, he was a splendid éminence grise, a talented backseat driver and a good teacher but, by all children of Loki, no general.

Then the monster was resurrected and still no serious offensive action was taken. Then he killed Dumbledore. At least then it was time for the wizarding community to act but, of course, nothing happened. As usual.

Voldemort took over the British MoM. NOW it was highest time to act, as the rebel seized power but was still busy subduing the state. That was the very last chance to end the war with relatively little blood spilled! Anyone with inkling about politics should know that: the moment the putschist sits firmly in the saddle, defeating him will cost blood, lots of it.

Still, nothing happened, the wizarding world let him grow. They thoughtlessly fed the basilisk like the Muggles fed the crocodile not so long ago.

Yet there was a difference this time. In Nurmengard, a vindictive, blood-thirsty, dark warlock, yes there is "war" in "warlock", kept honing his powers, the smell of his friend's fresh blood driving him into cold, calculated rage, turning him into a berserker with the power of a tank division.

Revenge, oh yes, he would bring the head of the murderer to Albus' grave.

Sure, he had his issues with Dumbledore.

Not because he lost the war. Wars were won and lost, that was their very nature and no self-respecting general got sulky because of that. It was Fate, the merciless Weird, who turned them into enemies and nobody was to blame. Moreover, Gellert had to admit that it was not only bad luck and treacherous allies that forced him to his knees; it was to a great extent his own mistakes.

But he bore a grudge for being locked up like a savage animal. Albus should have known better. He should have let him die. Or, if he believed – correctly, by the way – that death was no punishment for Grindelwald, there were many other ways to make him atone for his deeds, ways far more reasonable and honourable than a cage.

The prison was a clear mockery, a jeering laugh of the victors – let the madman rot in the place he had prepared for others! As if any halfway sane wizard would ever turn his home into a cage for humans.

Or maybe Dumbledore foolishly wanted him to brood over the past in solitude, until he understood his moral fall. He would not put it past him, but what was the use of this if he was not able to atone for his crimes, to repair what still could be repaired, to help where help was needed? He would not even be able to beg for forgiveness, his atonement would be vain, a pure torture gnawing his soul like a worm. There is no point to making a man understand an error in his ways unless he got the chance to choose a better path. Seeing one's mistakes but not being able to correct them would be a Cruciatus for the soul that torments the victim for years.

Those oh so noble people were sometimes cruel, not even realising they were hurting somebody. Anyhow humans were neither logical nor consequent in their actions and beliefs. As great-grandma Joyce always said, a man can fight for the freedom and rights of his nation and be a slave owner at the same time, noticing no contradiction.

Last but not least, the old squib treated the Potter boy like a tool. Well, soldiers are tools in the hands of their generals to some extent, but letting a wizard baby be abused by Muggles just to make him submissive... Just to make him malleable so that the young man will turn kamikaze...

No. This was unforgivable, a general that disrespects his soldiers like that is not worthy to be one and is an idiot to boot. At least, if Dumbledore did not dare extract the horcrux out of the child – it would be risky but feasible – he should have done far, far more to even his path. Gellert sent him a hint or two but was obviously ignored. Why should a noble victor listen to the advice of a fallen war criminal, after all?

American Muggles had more brains, accepting several ex-Nazi generals as allies practically the day the war was over. Both sides realised they need any help should Stalin strike. Gellert would bet his only healthy eye that if Rommel had survived the war, he would have been in NATO in no time, as if Normandy had never happened.

Wizards were such idiots sometimes...

Nonetheless, an oath was an oath and Grindelwald was set to avenge his friend regardless of the war that ripped them apart.

Furthermore, Voldemort had to be destroyed anyhow, for the greater good of everyone. Gellert had seen such people before: murderous, ruthless, power-hungry, fanatic, cowardly. They had to be annihilated at any cost, come hell or high water.

.

Finally, the enemy came, on a broomstick, heading for the castle's tower where he expected the prisoner to be.

The fortress warned Grindelwald, who watched the 'lord' fight the defensive spells. Let him get tired. Let him believe he had managed to break into the legendary prison.

With a quick move of his hand, Gellert turned his robes into worn out, frayed, cheap-looking garments. He hunched, let magic dishevel his hair and turn his elegant moustache into an unkempt beard.

'Where is the Wand?' barked the Englishman.

'Lord Voldemort' whispered Gellert, bowing his head 'I have heard you managed to kill my archenemy. What a feat, worthy of the Heir of Slytherin. If I were younger I would beg you to let me join your army, Lord Voldemort.'

Maybe he had no Elder Wand anymore, he was maimed, one-eyed and old, but neither his enemies nor time had taken his most potent weapon away. His Voice.

'Give me the Wand!' repeated Voldemort impatiently.

'If I had it here I would not be here, it is elementary' continued Gellert 'But I was naive, gullible, I have to admit that. You are cleverer, you will achieve my goal.'

And so he went on, boosting his ego, letting him feel superior, flattering and begging, licking his boots. All is fair in love and war and vengeance for a friend was both. He swallowed his pride; a tyrant would not be defeated in an honest duel, it would be treachery, treason and lies that did the trick. He forgot his dignity, let his actions dirty his soul and conscience, he would wash himself clean in the blood of his enemies soon enough. Gellert let Voldemort believe he was harmless, a boulder lying in the bushes rather than a tank primed to fire.

'Respectable Heir of Salazar, I will tell you where to look for it... For a favour.'

'How dare you demand something, you squibbish Kraut?!' Riddle raised his wand.

Why on Earth the British folk called Germans 'pickled cabbage'?

'Destroy all he loved, all lived for!' hissed Grindelwald through clenched teeth. 'Everything. Everyone.'

Riddle eyed him suspiciously.

'But... you were friends, I heard'.

'Would you have enemies if you had such friends?' spat Gellert furiously 'That squib who did not understand that it is the power that counts, nothing more. That traitor who shot me in the back. Do you really believe we duelled? Have you ever seen him in a battlefield, fighting wizard to wizard? Where are his scars? I have dozens.'

The serpentine face of Voldemort twisted into something vaguely resembling a smile.

'I promise.'

Gellert approached him slowly, cautiously.

'The wand is hidden, they could never track it' he started 'Anyhow, those Muggle lovers, those squibs would never be able to use its potential but you... Oh, if only I could be young again and could witness what you achieve with it in your hands... Weird is so cruel...'

'Where is it, then?' demanded Riddle with a softer tone.

'You have to go to Ulm, it is a small city not far away from here' said Gellert in a conspirational tone, as if sharing a secret with a school friend. Voldemort, intrigued, stepped closer.

'You must find three boys there. The first one...' Gellert, pretending that his voice failed him because of his long years of silence, kept whispering with a hoarse, barely audible tone. Voldemort stepped even closer to understand him better and that was exactly what Grindelwald wanted.

The point-blank range.

FEUER FREI!

'The first boy... His name is... GEER HARDT!' he roared, wringing Voldemort's wand out of his hand. He yelled the spell when the yew wand was still spinning, against all the rules of spell-casting safety. Yet he was an old warlock who cast spells on horseback, underwater, with a muggle weapon in the other hand... And still he had eight fingers.

The spell cracked and Riddle slammed against the wall, magic pinning him to it like a beetle in a Muggle insect cabinet. The wand flew high in the air, spinning, and Gellert nonchalantly caught it in mid-air.

'Geer hardt, that is 'a sharp spear'' he explained smoothly 'Gellert is the Hungarian version of the name. Lovely, is it not?' he laughed mirthlessly. 'You have murdered a friend of mine, Schätzchen. I will drink your blood tonight like in the good old times.'

.

So, a few words regarding language and history.

'Panzer' is a tank here (but may also mean 'armour' or even 'carapace').

'Feuer frei' means 'shoot at will' or literally "fire freely".

`Schätzchen` means 'darling'.

The copiously fed crocodile was Hitler, of course. Thank you, Prime Minister Churchill for this lovely metaphor.

And yes, there were some Germans who started their military career when their country was still monarchy, through Weimar republic, Nazi time and, nothing daunted, West Germany and NATO. Let me name just general Hans Speidel as an example. He must have had an impressive collection of his own uniforms.

His superior, field marshal Erwin Rommel / the Desert Fox did not make it (he was forced to suicide by Hitler for alluded treason and coup attempt, btw).

Here Gellert mentions his last and biggest battle – Rommel was the military leader on the other side of Invasion of Normandy, to which Gellert refers simply as 'Normandy'...

A strange man he was, I must say, not what you usually imaging thinking of a Nazi general. An excellent writer ('Infantry attacks' about WW1 is definitely worth reading, in particular if you can read the original version)... And, believe it or not, he was accused of using magic in the battlefield (in the forties of XX century, not medieval times!) And it gave me some ideas...

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