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Behind the Curtain by Cassius Alcinder

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Format: Novella
Chapters: 15
Word Count: 35,152
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Action/Adventure
Characters: Dumbledore, Moody, Voldemort, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 01/25/2012
Last Chapter: 06/20/2013
Last Updated: 06/20/2013

Summary:
Banner by Camila @ TDA












The year is 1952, and Europe is a tense and dangerous place.  In a shadowy world of spies, betrayal, and shifting alliances, powerful wizards from East and West battle for domination, while a rising dark lord may outwit them all. 

Winner: Best Action/Adventure at 2012 Golden Snitches and Best War at Golden Paws


Chapter 1: Snakes in the Snow
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Soviet Union: 1952

The cold biting wind howled as it blew down from the massive towering mountains, stirring up clouds of flurries among the thick sheets of freshly fallen snow.  A loud cracking noise echoed through the air, disturbing the natural tranquility, as Vladimir Komissarov apparated.   His body was instantly jolted by the extreme freezing temperature, a harsh contrast to the heated Moscow office in which he had been spending most of his time.  He felt icicles beginning to form in his beard as the chilling wind stung his face.   In moments like this, he sometimes questioned his career decisions, wondering why he couldn’t have become the Minister of Magic in a country like Spain or Italy rather than his home country.  He quickly chided himself for having such thoughts, remembering that if his strategy progressed as planned, those countries may be added to his ever growing empire in the near future. 

The vacuum of power in the post war years following the defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald had provided the perfect opportunity for a patient and ambitious wizard to fill the void, and Vladimir was doing exactly that.   As Minister of the largest country in Europe, he was in the perfect position to expand his holdings.  So far the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic states, and most of Central Asia had fallen under his grasp, and his power was only growing stronger. 

Vladimir had learned valuable lessons from the mistakes of Grindelwald, having witnessed the German wizard conquer a massive, yet very short lived empire.  Grindelwald had made his conquests through open warfare, and with his Muggle Nazi allies he had engulfed the continent in a catastrophic conflict.  Vladimir, on the other hand, was building his empire through a complicated web of espionage and deceit.  It was a deadly game of shadows, and so far he was winning.  As he gradually became ever more powerful, the one major obstacle looming on the horizon was the potential presence of the one wizard powerful enough to stop him, the one who had claimed all the glory in defeating Grindelwald, Albus Dumbledore.  

Vladimir shivered as he pulled his brown bearskin cloak tightly around him, making sure it was securely fastened with its metallic brooch in the shape of a shiny red star.  With his long dark hair and thick beard, he seemed to personify the Russian bear itself in a way, although his gaunt frame would make for a very sickly looking bear.  His beady brown eyes always seemed to be intensely staring at something, and his face had a greenish pallor to it.  It was often whispered, but never to his face, that he bore a striking resemblance to the infamous Russian wizard Rasputin. 

A second loud crack heralded the arrival of Sergei Markov, the director of the recently formed Paranormal Directorate of the KGB, the Soviet Union’s secretive intelligence service.  Unbeknownst to his Muggle colleagues, he was a wizard who was constantly searching for ways to use magic to aid on the world of espionage.  His goals of Soviet domination closely aligned with Komissarov’s, and they were beginning to explore new opportunities for cooperation.

The two men walked past the dense groves of majestic Siberian pine trees whose evergreen branches were encrusted in a thick layer of frost as they approached their destination.  The primary reason for the success of Komissarov’s maneuverings thus far was the outstanding performance of the Soviet Ministry’s Intelligence Department, a group of highly skilled wizards who were perfecting the art of spreading their regime while leaving a minimal footprint.  And now, Vladimir, along with his colleague Markov, was paying a visit to their newly constructed base, to see firsthand the brilliant work they were doing.  Their boots sank into the ground as they trudged through the snow, walking past the glittering expanse of a frozen lake until they finally arrived at a nondescript group of buildings encircled by a high chain linked fence topped with barbed wire. 

As they reached the gated entrance to the facility, they were greeted by the woman who had established herself as the most skilled and reliable of the Soviet Ministry’s operatives, Anastasia Molotova. Through her daring exploits, she had made quite a name for herself in the magical intelligence community, and now, at just twenty-four years old, she reported directly to Komissarov as the Director of Magical Intelligence.  She stood patiently waiting as she dug her high heeled boots into the snow, wearing a white mink fur coat that fit snugly over her slim feminine figure, and was fastened with a red star brooch identical to the one Vladimir was wearing.  Her long blonde hair flowed freely over her shoulders, and her crimson lips added a pleasant touch of color against her pale complexion and the snowy white backdrop.  Though she possessed an incomparable beauty, the expression in her light blue eyes was colder then the Russian winter itself. 

“Your Excellency, it is a pleasure as always.” Anastasia greeted them, her stoic demeanor showing no signs of being affected by the cold or wind. 

“I have been anxiously anticipating this visit for quite some time.” responded Vladimir, as he and Markov followed Anastasia through the gate. 

They walked through the door to one of the plain looking concrete buildings and found themselves in a very long room, every wall of which was covered by large shelves with row upon row of different herbs, plants and other potion ingredients, contained in small glass bottles and arranged in neat little rows.  There was a long table in the middle of the room containing several black cauldrons and a variety of mixing tools.  A young wizard by the name of Antonin Dolohov stood watch over the room.  He had unkempt dark hair, and a thick layer of stubble covered his pale, twisted face. 

“Your Excellency, welcome to the Potions Center,” Dolohov announced, grinning proudly as he showed off his work.  “Now, as you can see, we use a wide variety of potions, there’s polyjuice, which is ideal for undercover missions, veritaserum, which come in handy when we have prisoners.  And we have any type of healing potion imaginable to deal with whatever we might encounter out in the field.”

Vladimir looked deeply impressed as he and Markov looked around the room and inspected several bottles.  When they had seen their fill, they nodded to Anastasia, who led them outside and towards the next building in the complex. 

They approached a small building with several large antennas protruding from the roof and fled in through the door.  They entered a dark room filled with all types of radio equipment, in addition to many large boxes containing rolls of parchment, and rows of cages containing owls. 

Anastasia informed them, “As you can see, this is the Communications Center.  And here is our Communications Director, Igor Karkaroff.”

A young wizard stepped forward with shoulder length brown hair, constantly shifting eyes, and a pointed beard that some said resembled the tail of a weasel. 

“You Excellency, welcome to my domain, the nerve center of our Empire,” Karkaroff announced, puffing his chest out as he demonstrated an inflated sense of his importance.  He led them towards the center of the room and indicated a rectangular object that somewhat resembled a Muggle typewriter.  “This is our Kwikcodes machine, they are in the possession of our agents throughout the world, and it allows us to send coded messages that can only be decrypted through the use of another machine.  It really is a foolproof means of communication if you ask me.”

Vladimir stroked his beard as he inspected the machine, greatly impressed with its design.  When he was satisfied, he gave Karkaroff a brief nod of acknowledgement before following Anastasia out the door with Markov in tow. 

As they walked out into the cold wind once more, Vladimir remarked, “I am very pleased with your progress, Anastasia, you have done well here.  But now, I should love to meet this Englishman I have heard so much about.”

The recent arrival of a small group of wizards defecting from Britain had provided a large advantage for the Soviets in their power struggle with the west.  The majority of them proved to be mediocre and un-noteworthy; however, there was one wizard who seemed to be the leader of the group that possessed powers that were being whispered about in all corners.  Nobody knew what exactly his allegiances and ideology were, but Vladimir at least knew that the mysterious young man was strongly opposed to both the Muggle born and Albus Dumbledore, which was good enough for him. 

“Well it happens that he is scheduled to run our new obstacle course this morning, so you will be able to observe him in action.” Anastasia informed him.  She was not yet sure how she felt about the new arrival, she certainly had her doubts and suspicions about him, but he was probably the best she had ever seen when it came to work in the field. 

The lesser skilled of the British exiles, Mulciber, Avery, Nott, and Lestrange, as well as several other Russian operatives, gathered around the obstacle course to witness the prowess of the man they knew simply as, “The Englishman.”

With a confident stride, The Englishman stepped up to the starting line, looking very poised as the gathering crowd murmured with excitement.

“I designed this course myself, it’s very challenging, and there are a few touches you might really enjoy.” Anastasia informed Vladimir.     

The loud pop of the starting gun reverberated through the air as the Englishman took off in a run, moving quickly across an open, snow covered field.  He cast a charm on his shoes so that he could skim across the surface and not sink into the snow, and his skillful execution of it put the native Russians to shame.  He continued running, completely unfazed, when dozens of bludgers were launched into the air, each seeming to be seeking him out.  He dove and rolled over once as the heavy, black balls whizzed by his head, then rose to a knee and shouted “Arresto momentum!”  bringing the bludgers to a halt. 

Without pausing, he quickly rose to his feet and ran towards the next challenge, a thirty foot wall that must be scaled.  He ran faster and faster to gather momentum before launching himself into a leap as he incanted, “Verticalis Maximus!” The gathered wizards gasped as the Englishman vaulted into the air, effortlessly gliding as he soared higher and higher, clearing the top of the wall by a few inches. 

A large devil’s snare plant awaited on the other side of the wall, and its long, twisting vines ensnared the wizard as he plummeted back towards the ground.  The devil’s snare plant is designed to wrap ever more tightly the more its victims struggled to escape, and many lesser skilled wizards would have easily fallen into that trap.  The Englishman, however, remained cool and composed as he cast, “Incendio!” shooting burst of flame from his wand that engulfed the plant, causing it to release its grip on him as the branches withered away. 

He dropped to a soft landing in the thick snow as he stood up and began to run some more when he was confronted by the sudden appearance of a lion like creature with a scorpion’s tale; a manticore.  The beast growled hungrily and bared its massive fangs as it prepared to charge him.  The hide of a manticore is impervious to magical charms, a fact that many wizards have ignored to their great peril.  However, the Englishman calmly faced the charging beast as he pointed his wand towards the edge of the nearby woods.  “Accio tree!”

The crowd looked on in awe as a massive pine tree was uprooted and came flying in their direction, landing on top of the manticore and pinning it underneath the weight of its branches.  Without looking back, the Englishman then continued to run, adapted his snow shoe charm into a water walking one as he skimmed across the surface of the pond that now stood in his way, which was enchanted so that it would not freeze and would always have choppy waves. 

After reaching the end, he was confronted with the final obstacle, an enchanted mannequin clad in flowing blue robes, designed to look exactly like Albus Dumbledore.  The Soviet Ministry had been experimenting with enchanted mannequins for quite some time, they were not convincing enough to be used in the field, but there were of great use in training. 

The likeness of Dumbledore raised its wand, preparing to fire one of the several curses it had been programmed to use, but the Englishman was too quick, firing an explosive charm that reduced Dumbledore’s double to a pile of smoldering rubbish.  He then stopped and gave a brief flourish as the wizards applauded his efforts.  Anastasia glanced at a nearby time keeper and realized that he had completely shattered the course record. 

Vladimir seemed very impressed as the Englishman walked over to approach him.  He had an arrogant, yet charming expression, and remarkably he looked as if he had barely broken a sweat, and his short brown hair remained perfectly in place.  He had a very high level of fitness, and it was easy to see how he could win so many people over. 

“Oh hello, Anastasia, I see you brought some dignitaries and didn’t see fit to introduce me yet.” he proclaimed with an air of condescension that somehow managed to sound a bit charming. 

Anastasia grimaced slightly, not fully at ease with his rapid rise through the organization, yet glad to have him on her side all the same.  She turned towards Vladimir, motioning for the two men to shake hands.  “Your Excellency, I’d like you to meet Tom Riddle.”

 
 

 

 

A/N: I'm a huge fan of Cold War spy stories, so this is my attempt at setting one in the HP universe.  Historically this takes place seven years after the conclusion of my story "Their Finest Hour." You don't have to read that one first to understand this one, but I do reuse a couple OC's.  Thanks to TenthWeasleyWriter for coming up with the name for the Kwikcodes machine, and thanks to academica, WitnessToitAll, and Daliha for suggesting the obstacles for the training course.  Please leave a review and let me know if you liked it!
 


Chapter 2: New Discoveries
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An icy chill spread from the frozen river as the sun began to rise over the busy city of Moscow, causing an intense glare as it reflected off the ice and snow.  Amidst the deep morning chill that cut to the bone, Archibald Wellington stepped outside the protective gates of the British Embassy and into the forbidding and unfriendly city.  He walked briskly, carefully avoiding the slippery patches of ice on the ground that had often caught him by surprise when he first arrived in the country. 

He quickly rounded the corner, pausing to take a glance at his reflection in the dark glass window of a nearby shop as he pulled his fedora hat tightly overtop his closely cropped brown hair, and adjusted his tweed overcoat and  the regimental tie that seemed to match his bluish-grey eyes.  While he was ostensibly looking at his reflection, the true purpose of his interlude was to ascertain whether or not he was being followed.  It was standard procedure for the Soviet KGB to keep close tabs on any Western diplomats in the country, and Archibald expected nothing less.  Sure enough, a very overweight man in a gray suit and trench coat did seem to be casually following him at a safe distance.  Judging by his stature and casual demeanor, he was clearly not one of the best agents, but instead, he was the type that would be assigned to follow a lowly and insignificant junior clerk from the British Foreign Office, which is exactly what Archibald was. 

However, unbeknownst to his tail and to most of co-workers as well, Archibald’s official position was merely a cover for his true role as an undercover officer for MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.  It was the type of job so covert that only with the greatest caution and discretion could one’s own family be informed about it.  Not that those things mattered to Archibald, who hadn’t had much contact with his family in many years.  His pureblood wizard relatives had been gravely disappointed when he was born a squib, and had disinherited him in favor of his younger brother Augustus, who had excelled at Hogwarts after being sorted into Slytherin House, as per family tradition.

While Archibald may have been lacking in magical abilities, he still possessed plenty of the traditional Slytherin cunning and ambition, which had served him very well in his career to date.  While the majority of squibs seemed content to work dead end jobs in the magical world, Archibald defiantly and seamlessly integrated himself into Muggle society, earning top marks at school, and gaining admission to Oxford.  While attending the prestigious university, he excelled at the study of Russian language and literature, and his knack for linguistics earned him a job interview with a mysterious man from the Foreign Office, who, as it turned out, didn’t actually work for the Foreign Office at all.   

Archibald took a look back at the Moscow skyline, noticing that almost every building was flying the red flag of the Soviet Union, with its hammer and sickle which, to him, were the clearest possible symbols of oppression through power.  His eyes beamed with pride at the sight of the lone British Union Jack above the Embassy, fluttering through the wind in proud defiance of its environs.

He continued his walk at a leisurely pace, randomly turning down side streets, doing a very effective job at convincing the fat man following him that he was nothing more than a lowly government bureaucrat enjoying his morning stroll.  Finally, he felt a sudden jolt of excitement as he passed by a nondescript lamppost which had been marked by a small and seemingly innocuous streak of chalk; the prearranged signal that a message from his newly recruited agent was awaiting him.     

A major part of Archibald’s job description with MI6 was cultivating human intelligence assets in his assigned country, that is, convincing Soviet citizens to knowingly or unknowingly spy on their own country.  Despite the vaunted security apparatus the Soviet Union was known for, he had found that mostly everybody in this country had their price, and there was very little information that he could not obtain with the right amount of cold, hard cash.

His most recently recruited agent, the one who had just left him a message, was the top clerk to Sergei Markov, the head of the KGB’s shadowy paranormal division.  Now, unbeknownst to Markov, any paperwork that crossed his desk would be in Archibald’s hands within a few days.  The activities of this new organization would certainly startle one who was not already familiar with the magical world.  In fact, Augustus Wellington, an up and coming Auror, who was also the only member of Archibald’s family he remained on speaking terms with, had asked his older brother to keep him informed of that unit’s activities.  Although the close relationship that had existed between MI6 and the Ministry of Magic during the war years had gone by the wayside in peacetime, the Wellington brothers did their best to keep the alliance operational, even if they were the only two that knew about it.  The tensions between the Soviet Union and the West existed in both the magical and Muggle worlds, and they were determined not to allow any magical or non-magical incidents spark an all out war. 

 Archibald casually walked towards a small shop and purchased a local newspaper while speaking fluent Russian before immersing himself in the throes of a large crowd, ensuring that the fat man could no longer keep track of him.  Finally, he reached a well traveled public park where he sat down on a bench and began to nonchalantly read his newspaper.  Without taking his eyes of the page, he reached underneath the bench, and was thrilled to feel a small magnetic canister attached to the bottom of the bench, which was the dropping point he and his agent had previously agreed upon. 

He casually slipped the container into his coat and read a while more before getting up and walking back into the crowd, taking an indirect and roundabout route to finally return to the Embassy.  Once inside the Embassy gates, he rushed to his office, slamming and locking the door behind him.  He then carefully removed a portrait of the newly crowned Queen from the wall, revealing a safe which he opened to retrieve his cipher key.  The message inside the container was encrypted with a code that could only be broken by one possessing that key, and it also appeared to contain several rolls of microfilm. 

Archibald’s heart raced as he decoded the message; no matter how many times he did this, it was always the same adrenaline rush.  When the task was completed, he double and triple checked his work, not believing what he had just read.  Ordinarily, a discovery of this magnitude would require an immediate call on his secure telephone to MI6 headquarters in London.  However, this discovery had clear magical implications.  He rifled through his drawer and grabbed a handful of green powder, which he then proceeded to throw into the small fireplace in the corner of his office.  He stuck his face in the pale green flames that connected to the Auror Office at the Ministry in London, urgently hoping that his brother Augustus would be there to answer. 

****

The sun had begun to set over Moscow, the cold day giving way to the even colder night, as Anastasia made her way back to her flat.  Though it was small and sparsely decorated, it was high end luxury by the standards of what a twenty-four year old in the Soviet Union could hope to obtain, magical or not.  As she walked through the door, she passed what she referred to as her “Wall of achievement”, which was adorned from top to bottom with photographs, trophies and plaques that she had accumulated during her time as a student at Durmstrang Academy, a place that was near and dear to her heart.

She didn’t remember much of her life before reaching school age, not that there was much worth remembering about growing up in an impoverished Moscow orphanage during the Great Depression and the war that followed.  It was never fun, but she had managed to keep her head down and survive in the rough environment, until the momentous day at eleven years old when she had received the letter from a magical school informing her that she was, in fact, a witch. 

For Anastasia, Durmstrang became the home she never had, and the more comfortable she became there, the more she sharpened her magical abilities.  Coming from her humble background, she knew never to take an opportunity for granted, and always went the extra mile when it came to anything school related.  When the other girls in her class were enjoying things like parties and boys, Anastasia was usually either studying in the library or practicing charms and spells outside.  She still managed to receive her fair share of notice from the boys in school, but she had neither the time nor the inclination to reciprocate. 

Anastasia’s hard work had certainly paid off; she had excelled in all subjects of her academic career, particularly charms and transfiguration, and she even found that see seemed to have a natural propensity for the dark arts that were part of the Durmstrang curriculum.  She also made time for athletic pursuits, and was a very successful chaser on her house’s quidditch team.  Her prodigious skills did not go unnoticed in high places; immediately after graduating she was heavily recruited by the Soviet Ministry, who wanted to put her skills to work.  She approached her new job with the same dedication as her schoolwork, and she had already greatly distinguished herself in the field. 

The last small flicker of sunlight poked its way through the thick curtain covering her living room window as she lit a lamp for additional lighting.  She then took a seat at her finely carved French piano, the type of luxury item that was forbidden to normal Soviet citizens, but was a privilege allowed to someone of her rank and stature.  Since learning her scales on an old and rotting instrument at the orphanage, music had always been her release, the one place she could turn when the stress was too much.  She began to play a concerto by Rachmaninoff, her favorite composer.  Many thought s raced through her mind as her fingers gracefully danced over the ivory keys.  She was in the midst of planning her next mission, and a very challenging one at that, abducting the Polish Minister of Magic. 

In the slightly chaotic years after the Second World War and the fall of Grindelwald, much of Eastern Europe had fallen under Soviet control.  While this was also the case in Muggle Poland, it was a different story on the magical side.  Pyotr Podolski, the current Minister of Magic, was steadfastly defying Vladimir Komissarov’s regime.  He had been a leader in the resistance against Grindelwald, and was now making bold proclamations about a new future for his country, one in which Muggles and the Muggle born would be treated as equals, views that Vladimir found completely unacceptable.  Perhaps even more unacceptably, he was known to be a personal friend of Albus Dumbledore. 

Anastasia’s fingers pounded on the keys as she neared the dramatic crescendo of the piece.  The thought briefly crept into her mind that there was something of a sense of injustice about being sent to abduct somebody who seemed to be doing nothing more than seeking a better future for his country, but she quickly stamped out all such doubts.  In her line of work, one could ill afford to ask such questions.  Her overarching goal, as it had been all along, was simply to survive in a complex and dangerous world. 

Finally, she the notes of the finale reverberated through the piano strings as she reached the conclusion of the piece.  She closed the piano and slowly walked to her window to pull the curtains shut, watching the last glimmer of sunlight disappear in the west.  Soon a new day would bring a whole new set of challenges. 

*****

As the darkest hours of night fell over London, a serene sense of calm covered many corners of the usually bustling metropolis.  However, in one particular neighborhood, bright gaudy lights and a large, blue Scottish flag bearing the iconic cross of St. Andrew beckoned visitors into the friendly and welcoming surroundings of the Rotten Haggis Pub.  Inside, the lively sounds of fellowship and merriment echoed within the wood paneled walls, which were adorned in highland tartan colors and all manner of Scottish sporting memorabilia.  

On this particular night, a very rambunctious group of men, many of them veterans of various Highland regiments who had settled in London after the war, had gathered in their home away from home to listen to a radio broadcast of Scotland’s rugby match against the New Zealand All Blacks, which was being played at such a late hour due to the excessive time difference.  The exiled Scots were bedecked in the colors of their homeland, and one particularly large man called Hamish had squeezed himself into a kilt that may or may not have fit him at one time in the past, much to the chagrin of those around him. 

Behind the bar stood the pub’s owner, Duncan MacDonald, a man of average height with short but fiery red hair who seemed to have a mischievious grin permanently affixed to his face.  He was well aware that if he was but a few inches shorter, the comparisons to a leprechaun would be all too obvious.  Unlike men such as Hamish who had made significant weight gains after leaving the service, Duncan remained as fit and trim as ever, which he attributed to playing on the pub –sponsored football and rugby clubs that participated in a local league.  Although he greatly missed his native Glasgow, where his parents and siblings still resided, he felt very much at home in his new community.   

In addition to the various flags and sporting shirts, there were many photographs hanging along the walls.  Most of them depicted various athletes, but Duncan was particularly proud of the one that hung directly over the bar; a black and white photo of himself as a fresh faced eighteen year old, surrounded by his Army mates in the North African desert.  Although ten years had passed since then, he was still every bit as energetic and exuberant as he had once been, fighting to prolong the remaining years of his youth after losing several of them to the war. 

The beer flowed freely and the men mingled happily, enjoying each other’s company, despite the layer of tension caused by the closely contested game.  Finally, after several back and forth possessions, the Scottish players scored to take the lead.  A joyous celebration erupted in the room as the men cheered raucously, singing various cheers, slapping each other on the backs and spilling most of their drinks in the process. 

“Duncan has to dance now!” the slightly inebriated Hamish called out to cheers of approval. 

“Really? You honestly want to see me dance?” Duncan called out, in a mostly fake display of reluctance.

Aggressively egged on by the boisterous crowd, he climbed on top of the bar and began to perform the famous Scottish sword dance that he had learned as a boy.  He somehow managed to maintain his balance as his feet nimbly performed a series of leaps, and his gathered friends cheered wildly.  Finally, he jumped down from the bar and bowed with an embellished flourish as they applauded.

“The next round is on the house!” he gladly announced to a chorus of cheers, as Hamish embraced him in a bear hug. 

Suddenly, the door swung open, and the merriment was interrupted by its loud crash and the sudden gust of chilling wind that accompanied it.  A momentary hush fell over the room as a serious looking man in a finely tailored black suit, freshly starched white shirt and a plain tie stepped inside.  He had short brown hair, was physically fit, and seemed to have a determination in his stride.  By the looks of things, he was clearly some sort of government agent. 

Duncan silently wondered what type of city ordinance he may have possibly violated to warrant this manner of visit as the man calmly took a seat by the bar. 

“Can I help you?” Duncan asked a bit awkwardly.

The man briefly glanced around before answering, “Well since you asked, I’ll have a scotch, but I really came here to talk to you, Mr. MacDonald.”

Duncan was somewhat surprised and concerned that the man knew his name, but he dismissively answered, “Well we’re listening to the match now, and the bar is closing after that, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to come back another time then.”

“I believe you misunderstood me,” the man said quietly yet firmly as he opened his jacket slightly to reveal a wand, “I would really like to talk to you, Mr. MacDonald.”

Duncan nearly dropped the glass he had been absentmindedly washing as the smile disappeared from his face.  Reluctantly, he turned off the radio and announced that the bar was closing, which was predictably met with a chorus of boos and jeers.

“Don’t be a wanker, Duncan!” Hamish called out.

“You heard me, sod off, the lot of you!” Duncan insisted as the crowd made their way to the exit.

When they had finally cleared out, Duncan leaned his elbows on the bar and turned to face the wizard. 

“So you come into my pub in the middle of the night demanding to talk to me, you made me throw out all my mates, you flash your magic wand at me, and you still haven’t even told me who you are.”

“How rude of me, I almost forgot,” said the wizard as he extended his hand, “Augustus Wellington, Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

Duncan shook his hand but looked at him skeptically, “So, what exactly do you want from me, Mr. Wellington?”

“I want to talk to you about a mission you might be interested in.  You have a lot of experience from the war that may be of use to us.” Augustus answered, his serious expression not changing at all.

Duncan shrugged dismissively, “There are thousands of veterans in London, why come for me specifically?”

“Please don’t patronize me, Mr. MacDonald,” Augustus answered in a polite but slightly condescending tone, “I’ve read your files.  I know that you were part of an elite military unit that helped Albus Dumbledore defeat Grindelwald.”

Duncan paused, remembering just how much of the world had been opened up to him since that fateful day ten years ago that his Army squad was given secretive orders to accompany an agent on a special mission, and was subsequently introduced to Albus Dumbledore.  He had no idea why the Ministry would be seeking to re-unite his old unit at this time, but whatever was going on in the world, it could not be good. 

“And what exactly would you be needing my experience for?”

Augustus took one more sweeping glance around the room, and then turned back to face Duncan once more.  “We’re planning a mission that has a high impact on national security, but I’d rather not discuss it here.  We really should adjourn to my office at the Ministry.”

Duncan shrugged, accepting the possibility of an adventure intruding into his usually carefree life.  Augustus politely paid his tab for the Scotch and led the way outside into the cold, dark night.  Duncan shut off the lights, and displayed the “Closed” sign on the front door, wondering when he would be back again, and what exactly he was getting himself into. 

 
 
 


Chapter 3: Plans in Motion
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Augustus and Duncan briskly walked down a normally busy London street that was quiet and deserted at this hour of the night.  The only movement they saw was their shadows following them, projected by the dim light of the streetlamps. There were no cars to be seen, and at this late hour not even the busses were running.   Finally, Augustus came to an abrupt stop when he reached an ordinary looking red phone booth. 

“Get inside,” he told Duncan as he held the door open. 

Duncan looked back at him quizzically, but did as he was told, much too tired and confused to protest.  Augustus then squeezed into the narrow booth after him, his body pushing Duncan against the wall as they struggled to fit into the enclosed space.

“Well I know my charms are irresistible, but aren’t you being a bit presumptuous? You could have at least bought me dinner first,” Duncan quipped.

Augustus rolled his eyes as he picked up the phone and dialed in a precise series of numbers.  With a sudden jolt, they were sucked beneath the pavement, and reappeared in the atrium of the Minister of Magic.  Augustus authoritatively flashed his identification badge at the night security guard, who quickly waved them through. 

Duncan looked around in awe as their footsteps echoed through the empty atrium.  He had seen many amazing and inexplicable things since he had met Dumbledore and been introduced to the magical world during the war,   however, he certainly never realized the full extent of just how much structure there was to this magical community.  They walked past a large fountain with several towering sculptures of magical creatures, and then walked down a corridor before entering a swiftly moving lift. 

They finally reached the appropriate floor and briskly walked into the secure wing that housed the Auror offices.  Augustus led the way into his corner office, slamming the door behind him after Duncan followed him inside.  A young man with shoulder length hair and a very grim expression on is face was already sitting there, awaiting their arrival. 

“Oh yes, I almost forgot.  MacDonald, this is my young protégé who is going to be your new partner, Mr. Alastor Moody,” Augustus announced. 

Moody suspiciously looked Duncan up and down before shaking his hand with a very tight grip.  Duncan then took a seat next to Moody as Augustus sat behind his desk and prepared to brief them.  The office, which was located in the corner of the Magical Law Enforcement wing, was very large and comfortable, but seemed very much secluded from the rest of the building.  The moving photographs and newspaper clippings on the wall commemorated the many well publicized arrests of dark wizards and criminals that Augustus had made, and a large silk banner behind the desk depicted the green and silver snake emblem of Slytherin House. 

“We can explain all of this later,” Augustus explained to Duncan, who was transfixed by his surroundings, “But right now I believe you’d like to find out more about this mission.”

When Duncan nodded in acknowledgement, he proceeded to explain, “I’m sure you are well aware of the dangerous tensions that exist between our country and the Soviet Union.  Well, you might not be aware that similar tensions exist in the magical community. Since the end of the war, their Minister, Vladimir Komissarov, has been steadily infiltrating neighboring countries and amassing a magical empire.  We don’t know where it’s going to stop, his web of shadows grows thicker every day, and his thirst for power knows no bounds.”

Duncan sank down in his chair, realizing that he was once again about to find himself in the middle of some sort of magical conflict he could have never imagined, with the fate of civilization seeming to hang in the balance.  It was hardly just another day in the life of an ordinary pub owner from Glasgow. 

Augustus elaborated further, “Until recently, we had no knowledge of what the Soviet Ministry was planning or what their operations were. They always seemed to be one step ahead of us, and we wouldn’t find out about their moves until it was too late.  But now, the game has changed.  With the help of MI6, we have learned a veritable treasure trove of information, including the location of their Intelligence Division’s secret headquarters.”

Augustus pulled a large envelope out of his desk, displaying several written documents, hand drawn maps, and black and white photographs enlarged from microfilm. 

“We have learned valuable insights into their operational structure, particularly when it comes to communications.  We have been attempting to intercept their communications for quite some time, but we have never succeeded in decoding their encryptions.  Now, we have learned that they make use of something called a Kwikcodes machine which sends messages that can only be decoded by one who possesses another such machine.”

Duncan’s ears perked up with interest, wondering where Augustus was going with this. 

“So this is where the two of you come in.  You are going to sneak into this base, and steal the Kwikcodes machine.”

Duncan’s mouth dropped in shock while Moody continued to look as grim and determined as ever. 

Augustus explained, “Due to the complex political sensitivities between our two countries, we cannot risk sending one of our own Aurors on this mission, because if anything were to happen, it could easily be traced back to us, and the Soviets would likely regard this type of interference in their affairs as an act of war.  You see, Moody here had the misfortune of entering Auror training just as our force was being drawn down after the war.  We did not have the budget to hire any new recruits, however, being the dedicated man that he is, he volunteered to complete the training and become available for missions without officially being on our payroll.  And you, MacDonald, as a Muggle you obviously wouldn’t exist in any wizarding records to begin with.  So, in effect, the two of you are untraceable.  The Minister has given me authority to use my best discretion and not tell him any of the details.  The name of the game is plausible deniability.”

“You mean we’re expendable?” Duncan asked with a nervous laugh

Augustus finally cracked a smile, “It sounds so awful when you put it like that.”

He then pulled out a photograph from the pile before handing it over to Moody and Duncan. 

“We have thus far been unsuccessful in identifying the major Soviet operatives, but with one notable exception.  The woman you see in the photograph is the infamous Anastasia Molotova, who we have been trying to locate for quite some time.  As you already know, I must warn you that once you are in country, you are to trust no one you may meet, and I shouldn’t have to warn you of the dangers you may face. ”

Duncan closely examined the photograph, seemingly mesmerized by the appearance of the beautiful blonde.

“So what do you think, a magical assassin and a guy like me?” 

“Not a chance, you’d be dead before you knew what hit you,” grumbled Moody.  

“So he does speak! I was beginning to worry about you, Moody,” Duncan exclaimed.

Augustus let out a brief chuckle as he threw a handful of green Floo powder in the fireplace behind him, where a face that looked remarkably similar to his own soon appeared.

“Glad you could make it, Archie!” he said into flames, “This is Alastor Moody and Duncan MacDonald, soon to be heading your way.”

He then turned around, “Gents, this is Archibald Wellington of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, currently on station in Moscow.”

Augustus turned to address the whole group, “And now we must address the issue of your transportation to Russia.  I’m sure you’ve never been there before, so apparition is out of the question.”

Archibald spoke up, “And the Russians have the Floo network monitored.  The one in my office is off the grid obviously, but it’s probably not strong enough for transport, it was made for communications.”

“Maybe we could fly there? You know, on a plane?” Duncan suggested. 

“The KGB has the airports watched, especially flights coming from Britain.  It’s doable, but you would need a really strong cover,” Archibald explained.

Augustus contemplated the possibilities before having a sudden realization, “Wait a minute, when I was reviewing the members of Dumbledore’s old task force from the war, the one MacDonald here was part of, I remember there was an RAF pilot that’s flying for British Airways now.  I have a crazy idea, but it just might work.”

The men proceeded to discuss the details of the plan before finally breaking up the meeting when morning was still approaching.  Moody strode out of the room with his normal level of energy, helping to convince the others that he did not ever actually have to eat or sleep.  Meanwhile, the very tired Duncan turned around on his way out the doorway to ask Augustus one last question.

“So I have to know, there were several soldiers in the squad with Dumbledore that you could have contacted.  I know John Evans for one is teaching at a school right down the road from here.  Why did you come for me in particular?”

Augustus smiled, “Because I read your psychological profile, I knew you were the only one crazy enough to go through with this.”

****

Anastasia hastily stuffed several folders of intelligence reports into her bag as she walked outside to make her rounds of the facility.  While her workload was always large, it was especially so on days before a major mission, like the one she was about to undertake in Poland.  As she inspected each building to ensure it was properly secured for the night, she noticed Antonin Dolohov hastily walking by, as is he was in a rush to get somewhere. 

She called out to him, “Dolohov, I haven’t received your mission briefing yet, are you fully prepared? Do you have everything you need?”

He shrugged, “I’ll be ready by the time we leave.”

She looked at him sternly and incredulously, “Well you’d better be, you know were leaving for Warsaw tomorrow, right?”

Dolohov smiled and let out a weak laugh, “Relax, when have I ever let you down?”

Anastasia was forced to admit to herself that he was probably right.  Since their days at Durmstrang together, she had a strong rapport with her former classmate, and they always seemed to work well as a team. 

“And besides, you’re not going to want to miss Riddle’s meeting,” he added. 

“What the hell are you talking about?” she asked, greatly taken off guard.

“Oh, Anastasia, I was just about to invite you of course,” came an unmistakable voice in reply, that had just snuck up behind her. 

Anastasia turned around to face the smugly grinning Tom, “Let’s get one thing straight, Riddle, I don’t know what you’re trying to plan here, but this is my operation and nothing happens here without going through me first.”

Tom simply smiled at her in his typical condescending manner, “Well Anastasia, let’s just say then that outside the bounds of your organization, I have just happened to invite my colleagues to a drink at the local tavern, and I may or may not be giving a speech there.”

“Come on, Anastasia, everybody’s going,” Dolohov pleaded. 

Anastasia rolled her eyes as she finally lamented, “Fine, I’ll stop by, but only for a little bit. “

“Excellent, a witch of your abilities is most definitely a welcome addition to our humble gathering,” Tom responded, arrogance seeming to drip from every word. 

Together they walked outside the gates of the facility and towards a drab wooden building of that served as their tavern.  The high level of secrecy involved in their professions had the effect of creating a very insular community, and it seemed that a good portion of their free time was usually spent in places like this, in very close proximity to their workplace. 

They passed underneath the large icicles hanging over the doorway to enter the dimly lit building.  The bar man, a retired operative who knew them all by name, simply nodded as they walked by, their footsteps creaking on the old wooden planks of the floor.  They filed into the private room in the back of the tavern, where a burning fireplace provided the only warmth and light in the room, aside from a couple torches on the wall. 

All eyes were on Riddle as he strode towards the front of the room, and the gathered wizards inched their seats closer and closer around him.  Avery, Mulciber, Nott, and Lestrange, who seemed to follow him everywhere, had long ago staked out their seats in the front row.  Many of the Russians were anxious to attend as well, and Igor Karkaroff in particular had aggressively pushed his way to the front.   Riddle stood in front of the fireplace, and its faint light produced a very long shadow.

A very tense anticipation filled the room until Riddle finally began to speak, “My friends, first of all I want to thank you all for coming here on such a cold inhospitable day. I can see that you all enjoy my company that much.”

The wizards let out a brief laugh, and they already seemed to be hanging on his every word.

“Now some of you may wonder just who I am and why my associates and I have come here to your beautiful country.  To begin, I am sure you are all familiar with the man responsible for my magical education, Mr. Albus Dumbledore.”

The wizards booed and hissed at the mention of Dumbledore’s name.

Tom smiled at their reaction as he continued, “While Dumbledore may be a powerful wizard, like far too many others he has fallen under the spell of the half breeds and mudbloods.”

 Even more derisive booing and hissing commenced as Tom moved on with his point, “So, you see, with people like that calling the shots, my home country is no longer a safe place for our kind.   However, what I see here, in this country, is encouraging.  Vladimir Komissarov is a man who understands our power, and that it is a power that is only to be wielded by those of worthy blood.”

Riddle’s voice rose and he flapped his arms dramatically as his speech moved closer to a crescendo, “The magical Soviet Empire we are building is a great start, but it does not go far enough! If we work together, we can push the boundaries of magic further than they have ever been pushed before! We can claim our rightful place as the rulers of the world, crushing our inferior opposition, and all will know that it is we that wield the ultimate power!”

The wizards erupted in applause, greatly moved by the effortless charisma of his speech. 

Riddle toned things down a notch as he concluded, “Will you settle for mediocrity, or will you follow me to excellence? The choice is yours.”

As he basked in the ensuing applause, Riddle had a smug, self-satisfied grin on his face. The wizards quickly pushed forward to gather closer around him, offering their congratulations and offers of support.  In the midst of the commotion, Anastasia quietly slipped out the backdoor, trying to process what exactly just happened.

 

 
 


Chapter 4: Daring is Doing
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As the sun began to rise over London, the powerful din of jet engines starting came to life to greet the new day.  Just like on any other day, London’s Heathrow Airport was packed full with travelers carrying their luggage through the crowded, narrow terminals.  Amidst the bustle of the arrivals, departures, and luggage carts, the one quiet refuge of relaxation could be found in the British Airways pilot’s lounge.  Inside the room, Duncan stepped in front of a mirror, brushing the lint of his dark blue pilot’s uniform, and adjusting the shiny set of wings above his chest pocket.  It had been seven years since the last time he wore a uniform, and back then it was army green.  He grinned to himself as he checked out his reflection; it felt great to be back in the game. 

“Oi! MacDonald!” a gruff voice beckoned from behind him.

Duncan stepped back and looked around in confusion, before finally noticing Alastor Moody lurking in the shadows, his tie hanging awkwardly around his neck.

“Show me how to tie this blasted Muggle thing!” he whispered loudly, as Duncan began to double over in laughter.

He steadied himself just long enough to tie a Windsor knot for Moody before succumbing t the laughter once again.

“There you are, here is one handsome devil!” he joked as he slapped Moody on the back.

“I’d like to see you try to wear wizard’s robes,” he grumbled, grimacing in disgust when he saw his reflection.

Their moment of bonding was interrupted by the approach of Roger Cranford, the only actual pilot in the room.  He had a confident stride and a suave sophistication in his voice, and he bore a striking resemblance to the movie star Richard Burton.  As an RAF pilot during the war, he had once been part of the same secretive missions as Duncan, and he was likewise very much surprised when the mysterious magical world had suddenly come calling again. 

“Duncan MacDonald, you have not changed one bit,” he observed out loud.

“Look at you, Roger, still suave as ever,” responded Duncan, as he clasped his hand. 

“And who might your new friend be?” Roger asked as he noticed the gruff looking man lurking behind Duncan.

“This is my new best mate, Mr. Alastor Moody,” said Duncan with a laugh, as he pushed Moody out into the forefront. 

Moody then gripped Roger’s hand in a firm handshake, looking ill at ease as he turned his head around the room. 

Several minutes later, the announcement for boarding was made, and Roger led them towards the pilot’s entrance, bypassing the usual security gate.  When the boarding was finally complete, the loud engines roared to life and the plane began to taxi down the runway.  Duncan and Moody strapped themselves into the co-pilot’s seats while Roger worked the controls, carefully coaxing the aircraft as it rapidly gathered speed and began to tilt upwards as it lifted off.  Moody’s face looked as white as a sheet as his hands gripped tightly to his seat, scared to death of this Muggle contraption. Finally, after a steep climb, the plane began to level off as it reached its cruising altitude.

 Roger leaned back in his chair and switched on the public address system as he announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.  We have now reached our cruising attitude en route to Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, USSR.  Our stewardesses will be around shortly with our complimentary beverage service.   Please relax, and enjoy your flight on British Airways.”

A stewardess poked her head in the cockpit as she prepared to journey down the aisle with her beverage cart.

“Who wants some tea?” she asked as she held out a steaming pot.

Roger eagerly accepted the offer, in desperate need of something to keep him awake on such a long flight. 

“I’d rather have some brandy,” Duncan mused, cursing the fact that his disguise as an on-duty pilot prevented him from partaking in alcohol, before reluctantly accepted a cup of tea. 

He then offered the pot to Moody, who curtly answered, “No, thank you.”

As the stewardess walked away, Moody pulled a small, metal flask out of his pocket and took a long sip from it.

Duncan felt the need to pry, “Do you seriously carry that around with you everywhere?”

“It’s a dangerous world, and one must learn to eliminate all possible vulnerabilities.  Take food and drink for example, it’s the perfect opportunity for an enemy to poison you, so naturally I just carry my own,” Moody explained.

Duncan shook his head incredulously, “My God, you’re paranoid.”

Moody simply shrugged, “It’s how I stay alive.”

The passengers in the back settled into their seats, many of them falling asleep, as the plane continued to cruise over the North Sea, presented a very nice view of the Northern Lights.  Things were very quiet in the cockpit, as Roger focused on flying, and Duncan and Moody were preoccupied with thinking about their upcoming mission.  Every time they hit even a mild patch of turbulence, intense fear shivered up Moody’s spine.  Augustus had suggested that he bring a sleeping potion to help get through the flight, but Moody didn’t trust this Muggle contraption enough to risk losing his situational awareness.

Finally, after a very long, occasionally bumpy, but otherwise uneventful flight, the plane touched down on the runway in Moscow.  Everybody on board, but particularly Moody, was very relieved to have finally landed.  The sky overhead was a permanent shade of grey, and large clouds of snow were blown around by the swirling winds.  Roger mused that landing in such conditions was at least easier than flying through clouds of anti-aircraft fire like he had done during the war, but only a little bit. 

The passengers disembarked the plane, followed by the air crew. Duncan and Moody both grimaced when their faces were stung by the sudden impact of the cold, biting wind. 

“Welcome to Russia! That’s always my favorite part about flying here,” Roger laughed. 

The two pretend pilots then followed the real pilot as they walked through customs.  Roger walked through first, and as a frequent visitor, he was promptly waved through by the inspectors.  Duncan then stepped up and presented his forged identification, which seemed to work well as he was also waved through.  Moody then cautiously stepped up, presenting his Muggle passport with a false name.  The inspector studied it intently, glancing back and forth between Moody’s face and his photograph.  Moody’s heart pounded in his chest as he nervously gripped his fingers around his wand in his pocket, hoping he wouldn’t have to use it. Finally after a very intense minute of waiting, the inspector stamped Moody’s passport and motioned for him to walk on through. 

After successfully clearing the first obstacle, the group walked outside to a very crowded car park.  Roger turned to shake their hands as he prepared to board the shuttle that the airline had provided to take the crew to their hotel.

“Alright gentlemen, I’m sure you have other instructions from here, and I wish you the best of luck, whatever it is you’re doing here.”

Duncan and Moody gave Roger their regards, and then walked through the car park until they reached a line of taxi cabs which were eagerly awaiting passengers.  They stopped when they saw a particular cab driver leaning against his car and smoking a cigarette.  Although he was well disguised as a Russian cab driver, his facial features still bore a strong resemblance to Archibald Wellington. 

“Do you have a light for my Marlboros?” Duncan asked him, using a seemingly innocuous question as a prearranged code phrase. 

“We all smoke cigarettes, but only true gentlemen smoke pipes,” Archibald answered to complete the phrase, as he motioned for them to get in the car.

“So you must be Archibald,” said Duncan, once he had taken his seat in the back of the car.

“Please, call me Archie,” he insisted, “So I trust you had a pleasant flight?”

“Remind me to never travel on one of those things again,” Moody grumbled. 

Archie laughed, “I finally get to meet the legendary Alastor Moody, and I must say you’re exactly how I pictured you.”

“Well your brother has trained me well,” Moody acknowledged. 

Archie skillfully maneuvered his way through the packed grids of traffic, the chains on his tires allowing him to gain traction on the snowy road.

“So where are we going anyway?” Duncan asked.

“An MI6 safe house out in the countryside, once we get there we’ll go over your mission brief, and I believe you will have quite the journey ahead of you,” Archie explained. 

When they reached the outskirts of the city and started to move into more open ground, Moody cast a concealment charm around the car.  The three men shivered in their seats as the now invisible car drove deeper and deeper into the wilderness.  

                                                                       *****

Of the many cities that had been badly damaged by the Second World War, Poland’s capital city of Warsaw had probably gotten the worst of it.  Its weary residents were constantly surrounded with the wreckage and rubble of what has once been beautiful medieval architecture.  While cities such as Paris and Amsterdam had quickly sprung back to life after their liberation from Nazi occupation, Poland had simply traded one conqueror for another, as the Soviet Union had been quick to move in.  And now, if all went according to plan, the country’s magical community would soon fall into the Soviet sphere as well.

Disguised in local Muggle clothing, Anastasia sat across from Dolohov in a small café as they rehashed the details of their imminent mission.

“Abducting a sitting Minister of Magic, in his own capital? I must say that’s bold even by your standards,” Dolohov mused. 

 Anastasia did not acknowledge his comment as she showed him a series of black and white photographs, “One more time so you recognize him, Pyotr Podolski, the Polish Minister.  And I trust you have committed the layout of the Ministry building to memory?”

“Yes, of course,” he sighed, growing slightly tired of the exhaustive thoroughness she brought to every mission.

An informant within the Polish Ministry had provided them with well drawn plans of the building, as well as a detailed plan of the Minister’s daily schedule.  Aware that he had drawn the Soviet’s ire, Podolski took many precautions, protecting his home with the fidelius charm, and never leaving the Ministry without a well trained security team.  Now, Anastasia was prepared to take the only course of action left, abducting him from his own office. 

As she mentally prepared herself, Anastasia continued to quiz Dolohov, “And our cover story to get into the building?”

“We’re a married couple applying for a permit to open a book store,” he answered before offering an unsolicited opinion, “I wouldn’t mind that, you know, Antonin and Anastasia has such a nice ring to it.”

She glared at him, her ice cold expression freezing him in place, “I need to be focused on this mission, in case you’ve forgotten it’s going to be quite dangerous.”

Dolohov shrugged and laughed, “You know I’m only kidding. And besides, we all know you and Riddle are meant to be together.”

Anastasia scoffed in disgust, “I’ll admit that Riddle is a magical genius, probably the best I’ve ever seen, and he can work wonders in the field.  But he’s also an insufferable ass, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

“Sounds like his charms are starting to win you over,” Dolohov added with a smile.

Anastasia gritted her teeth, “Back to the mission.”

Dolohov leaned back in his chair, conceding the point, as they proceeded to review every step of their plan to exploit the only weakness they could find in the Minister’s protections. 

When their plotting was finally concluded, Anastasia and Dolohov walked several blocks outside until they arrived at unmarked storm drain.  They quickly glanced around to ensure nobody was watching, and then lifted up the grate covering the drain.  They quickly slipped inside, rapidly sliding down the pipes until they landed with a thud in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic.  So far at least, the building looked exactly how it had been sketched in their plans.

They walked over to the side of the room where there was a desk labeled, “Visitors Check in Here” which they approached while doing their best to look like awe struck visitors.  When presented with a visitor’s form by the clerk, they filled it out claiming to be Miroslav and Karolina Kowalski of Gdansk, Poland, whose purpose of visit was to obtain a small business permit to open a new bookstore.  

“Take the lift up to the third floor, and it’s the third office on the right,” the clerk informed them in a courteous manner.

Dolohov curtly nodded in response as they briskly walked away and entered the lift, greatly relieved that there was nobody else inside.

“Remember, the kitchen is on the bottom floor, and they bring the Minister his lunch at 12:30, so we don’t have much time,” Anastasia reminded him for probably the twentieth time in the past hour.

Dolohov hurriedly re-wired the lift so that instead of taking them up as it was supposed to, it would go down to a floor not usually accessible to the public.  They pressed themselves against the wall as they snuck past the large cafeteria that was frequented by Ministry workers.  Having committed the building’s plans to memory, they easily found a little used corridor that led to a back entrance to the kitchen, where if their information was correct, the Minister’s lunch was now being prepared. 

“I see two chefs, one male, one female,” said Dolohov as he poked his head in the window.

“This couldn’t have worked out any better,” Anastasia remarked with relief. 

In a quick whir of motion, Dolohov kicked the door open and went charging into the kitchen with Anastasia following close behind.   A stodgy older man and a round faced middle aged woman who had been carefully preparing a seafood dish looked up in shock.  Before they could process what was happening, they were directly hit with stunning spells. 

Dolohov withdrew two vials of polyjuice potion from his pocket and tossed one of them to Anastasia.  They each grabbed a hair from their respective victims and added it to the potion before gulping it down.  They then hid the unconscious chefs in an empty cupboard, stealing their uniforms to complete the transformation of their new appearance. 

Just a second after they had finished, the head chef came bursting into the kitchen, loudly proclaiming that it was time for the Minister’s lunch to be served.   Anastasia, who spoke enough Polish to get by, dutifully obliged, and they placed the seafood dish along with a pitcher of pumpkin juice and a tray of treacle tarts on a wheeled cart to be taken to the Minister’s office.  The head chef gestured at them to move faster as they pushed the cart out into the hallway and into a specially designated lift tucked away in the corner which was the only way to access the Minister’s office. 

Moments later, they reached the top floor of the Ministry building and walked out.  The overweight security guard lazily glanced at the lunch tray, and then casually waved them through to the Minister’s office, suspecting nothing out of the ordinary. 

The door opened to reveal Minister Podolski intently focused on the large pile of paperwork on his desk.  The office was a very long room with a window opening up to a view of a river below.  The walls were adorned with traditional Polish coats of arms, as well as various photographs of the Minister in different settings, including a rather prominent one of him shaking hands with Albus Dumbledore. 

 As Anastasia crossed through the doorway into the office, she felt her body begin to transform, cursing to herself as she realized what was happening. 

“It’s a security scanner in the doorway, it reveals all intruders!” she shouted to Dolohov, too late for him to do anything about it.

Alert that something was amiss, Podolski leaped up from his seat, wildly firing a barrage of defensive spells which impacted throughout the room.  Anastasia nimbly dove to avoid them, pausing when she could to fire off spells of her own.  From his defensive position behind his desk, Podolski dove, reaching up to pull the rope hanging from the ceiling in the corner of the room which sounded the alarm system.  By doing so, he left himself exposed for just long enough for Anastasia to score a direct hit with a stunning spell. 

Anastasia breathed a brief sigh of relief amidst the shrill ringing of the alarm bells, but then she dove to the floor as a new barrage of spells materialized behind her.  Dolohov sprung into action, rushing to confront the group of Aurors that had just responded to the alarm.  With great concentration, he deployed a spell he had invented himself, shooting a whip of purple flame out of his wand, using it to great effect to keep his foes bottled up in the doorway.  When they were pinned in place, Anastasia used an incendiary charm to create a wall of fire, preventing them from advancing any further. 

“So how do we get out of here?” Dolohov asked casually.

Anastasia aimed a curse at the window, blowing a gaping hole in the glass. “We jump.”

Dolohov was clearly apprehensive, but raised no objections as together they lifted up the unconscious Podolski, carrying him in between them with his arms draped over their shoulders.  Taking extra caution not to look down, they propelled themselves out the window, just as the Aurors made their way past the flames and came charging into the office.  After a terrifying drop, they splashed to a landing in the icy cold river below, seemingly out of range of the curses being fired at them from above. 

They swam under a bridge to take cover, and made their way onto the banks, dragging their shivering bodies out of the river.  They conjured ropes to secure their prisoner as they warmed themselves up to gain the strength to apparate.  Finally, they could allow themselves the chance to breathe.  Another mission was successfully accomplished; the scourge of the East had struck again. 

 
 


Chapter 5: Man's Best Friend
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Inside a small wooden cabin in a rarely visited corner of the Russian wilderness, Archie Wellington threw another log on the fire that was steadily burning in the fireplace as Duncan and Moody huddled in front, tightly wrapping blankets around themselves for warmth.  Despite being equipped with sophisticated radio and communications equipment, this little used MI6 safe house was devoid of most other modern amenities, not the least of which was heating. 

“How did you find this place anyway?” Duncan asked.

“It’s part of a network of outposts we’ve constructed for smuggling people in and out of the country, although we haven’t had much opportunity to use it yet,” Archie explained as he began to brew a pot of tea over the wood stove.  He mused to himself that the ability to brew tea in any possible location or weather condition was a skill essential to any Englishman. 

The cabin was very sparse; it consisted of just one room that contained a few cots in the corner, a small wooden table, a wood stove, and a communications station full of wires and antennas.  Archie poured three cups of tea as he spread a large map out on the table and took a seat, inviting the others to join him.

Duncan made an observation as he reluctantly pulled himself away from the fire, “You know, when I was in North Africa during the war, baking in the desert sun, my fondest wish was to experience what it’s like to feel cold again.  I would like to officially take that back now.”

“Well it’s too late for that I’m afraid,” Archie responded as he poured two cups of tea and offered them to his guests. 

Moody politely refused to take one, preferring instead to drink out of his flask once more. 

“Seriously?” Duncan incredulously mouthed to Archie, who simply shook his head and smiled. 

Archie then turned their attention towards the map, “As you may or may not be aware, our current position is here,” he explained as he indicated an area of desolate wilderness with his finger, “And thanks to our informant in the KGB, we have been able to pinpoint the position of the Soviet Ministry’s base in this position, 200 kilometers east of here.  Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ll be able to bring you without attracting unwanted attention.”

Duncan’s eyes widened and he fidgeted in his seat at the looming sense of adventure.  Meanwhile, Moody continued to look straight ahead with his usual impassive expression, as if it were just another day at the office.  Every few seconds he would look around and scan the cabin, just in case an unseen enemy had managed to trek through hundreds of miles of frozen terrain to listen in on them.

Archie spread some papers containing hand drawn diagrams out onto the table. “These are rough sketches of the layout of the compound.  It’s not scientific, but it’s the best information we have.  Now, as you can see, you must first penetrate this outer fence, which will almost certainly have at least one sentry posted.  Once inside you will proceed to the communications center, which you can’t miss, it’s the building with all the antennas.  And from there, you will proceed as we have discussed in regards to the Kwikcodes machine.”

 “One question,” inquired Duncan, “this compound is 200 kilometers away, how exactly are we getting there? I’m guessing they don’t have a free bus that runs there or anything.”

“Funny you should ask, I was just about to show you something special,” said Archie with a grin, his eyes opening wide with anticipation. 

Archie clapped his hands and called out, “Nicholas!” and seconds later a large Siberian husky came eagerly bounding into the room. 

‘Lads, meet your new friend Nicholas; I named him after the old Czar of course, I like to stick it to those commies any way I can.”

Nicholas jumped up on his hind legs, playfully pawing Moody’s shirt with his front paws while attempting to lick his face.  Moody was taken aback at first, but then allowed himself to show something vaguely resembling a smile as he rubbed Nicholas behind the ears.

“He clearly likes you,” Archie observed with a chuckle.

Duncan had a good hearty laugh at the sight of Moody finally letting down his guard a bit.

“You see, Nicholas is a special breed of magical husky that the Russians have developed, but he ran away from his training center and I happened to find him.  I assume you’re familiar with dog sleds, well Nicholas can pull a sled all by himself, and much faster than normal dogs as well,” Archie explained.

Moody used his wand to conjure a small cricket ball which he tossed across the room, allowing Nicholas to eagerly fetch it.  Meanwhile, Archie folded up the map and extinguished the lanterns. 

“You will leave first thing tomorrow morning, I’ll give you your final instructions then, but for now, you should probably get some rest,” Archie informed them.

When the lights were out, they pushed their cots as close as they possibly could to the fire and did their best to stay warm.  Nicholas curled up in a ball at the foot of Moody’s cot, and after some initial apprehension, Moody was all too happy to welcome him there.   In their quiet remote corner of the frozen tundra, three young men who had already lived the lives of hardened old warriors seized the opportunity to rest, knowing that they would soon be in action again.

***

The shrill whistling of the boiling tea pot caused both Duncan and Moody to awake far earlier than they felt was natural for any rational human being. 

“Rise and shine, time to start the day!” Archie cheerfully announced.

Duncan grumbled as his weary eyes came into focus in the pre-dawn darkness and he stumbled out of his cot. “You’re even worse than my old sergeant, and if you weren’t so bloody important I’d punch you in the face.”

“Come now, that wouldn’t be very sporting.  And if you hurry up, you might have time for eggs and toast before you leave,” answered Archie with a smile. 

Moody scanned the room in a rare state of grogginess, unwilling to muster the energy to speak this early in the morning.  After surmising that his new best friend was already outside, he stumbled over to the table, where Archie was already setting out plates of eggs and toast.  After hastily shoveling down their food, the three men bundled up and walked outside, where the sun was just starting to appear over the horizon in the distance.  Their uncovered faces burned from the sting of the wind, and they could feel their breath freezing instantly. 

They walked around the back of the cabin to find a large wooden sled lying next to Archie’s repainted taxi cab.  It was loaded down with a large bag containing all the supplies and provisions they would need for their journey.  Nicholas was strapped in to tow the sled, panting with excitement at the knowledge that he would soon get to run at full speed. 

Archie then gave them some final instructions, “If Nicholas is on his top form, you should arrive at the compound by nightfall.  It’s a simple mission, go in, grab the Kwikcodes machine, and get out.  Afterwards, you can return back here and call me on the secure line to the embassy.  Don’t send owls, it’s too risky.  And remember, if things go belly up, you’re on your own.  In the official word of both the Ministry and Her Majesty’s government, neither of you exist.”

Greatly assured by those words of encouragement, Duncan and Moody took their seats on the sled, holding on tightly as Nicholas bounded away into the forest, much faster than they ever imagined was possible. 

***

Having completed her nightly rounds of the complex, Anastasia collapsed with exhaustion into her chair in the command center.  She took a quill in her hand, looking with great trepidation at the massive pile of paperwork that had accumulated on her desk.  As much as she loved the thrill and excitement of going abroad on missions, she always dreaded the administrative work that awaited her when she returned. 

Dolohov, looking equally worn and exhausted, entered the office to give her an update.   “The prisoner is secured in the detention center, and aside from that, it’s all conditions normal.”

Anastasia nodded, “Thank you for that, now I just have to write the after action report and send it off to Moscow.”

They were then interrupted as a now all too familiar face entered the room, clapping his hands in a patronizing manner.  “Behold, the conquering heroes make their triumphant return.”

“Well that was a pretty impressive mission now that you mention it,” said Dolohov, puffing out his chest with pride.

Riddle ignored him, dismissively brushing past as he walked towards Anastasia’s desk.   “I heard the two of you really made a debacle of things and barely made it out alive.  It was apparently a lot messier than a smooth operator like yours truly would have done it.”

Anastasia let her quill drop, frustrated by the distraction.  She looked up to meet his intense gaze, “What do you want, Riddle?”

“I want to run my own mission for once.  As you know, my record is spotless, and I can always keep beating the record on your silly obstacle course if you need more convincing.  Now, I noticed that we need to do a surveillance mission in Albania, I believe it would be in your best interest to put me in charge of it.”

Anastasia paused to think things over.  She admitted to herself that Riddle was right, he had proved himself more than capable, and there was no reason to think he couldn’t handle running his own mission.  With several more glamorous assignments available in place like Paris and Rome, she found it perplexing that he was insistent on going to Albania, but on the other hand, somewhere like that would probably be the perfect place for one to lead their first mission and gain experience. 

Finally, she relented. “Fine, the Albania mission is all yours.”

Riddle’s intense expression quickly changed to a pleasant smile as he turned around to leave the room.  “Excellent choice, you won’t regret it.”

When he was gone, Anastasia turned her attention back to the paperwork, making the grim observation that the total of all her reports would probably end up being about the same length as a Tolstoy novel. 

“You know that paperwork will still be there tomorrow, you really should get some rest now,” Dolohov suggested.

Anastasia sighed, “Who’s on duty tonight?”

Dolohov glanced at the schedule posted on the wall, “Looks like Avery and Mulciber.”

“Incompetent louts,” she muttered under her breath.

Dolohov shook his head as he gave an exasperated chuckle. “I know you’re looking out for us and everything, but you really need to start looking out for yourself as well.  You need to accept that you can’t do everything here, so please, just go home and get some sleep.”

She hesitated, not quite sure what to make of it.

 Dolohov continued, “I know how paranoid you are, but I must remind you that nobody has ever attempted to break into this complex, even if they wanted to they wouldn’t know where to find it.  I guarantee you, everything will still be here tomorrow.”

Anastasia sighed appreciating his concern. “Alright, I suppose I can afford to go home for a while, but I will have to be in extra early tomorrow.”

“I would expect nothing less,” said Dolohov with a grin.

Anastasia pulled herself up from the chair, and found herself unable to resist the urge to grab a stack of paperwork to take home with her.   As she walked outside, passing through the magical protections and fenced in walls of the compound and into the surrounding wilderness where she could apparate home, she had to admit to herself that any potential foe would have to be absolutely mental to attempt to break into this place.     

 
 


Chapter 6: The Infiltration
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The sun was just disappearing over the horizon, turning the gray cloudy sky to black, when the tightly packed sled came whooshing across the frozen lake.  Though he had been running for miles, Nicholas was still bounding with energy, his magical breeding giving him far more power and stamina than an ordinary dog.  Moody urged him on with excitement, his long hair billowing in the wind behind him.  Meanwhile, Duncan desperately clung to the sides of the sled, getting lurched uncomfortably in every possible direction as they slid over various sized snow drifts.

Finally, Nicholas jumped to a halt at the top of a rather steep snow bank, and the heavy sled slid to a stop behind him.  The sudden jolt made Duncan lose his grip, and he was tossed from the sled, landing face first in the snow.  Moody, meanwhile, was able to maintain his balance and smoothly dismount the sled.  He took a few steps and shook his head at the sight of Duncan, who was dizzily stumbling as he attempted to pull himself up.  Eventually, Duncan was able to prop himself up against a tree, his head still spinning, and his movement greatly restricted by the several layers of clothes he was wearing underneath his thick parka.  

“Remind me to never do that again,” said Duncan as he struggled to catch his breath.

“Cheer up, we still have to complete a dangerous mission, and if we survive, then we’ll ride the sled again to get back,” Moody responded with a slap on the back. 

Together, they dug a small out cove in the snow and carefully hid the sled.  Moody sternly ordered Nicholas to remain next to the sled, and the husky willingly obeyed.  Moody then rummaged through the bags, grabbing a map, several vials of potion, and various other objects, stuffing all of them into his pockets.   Duncan rummaged through the bags next, placing a silenced revolver inside his coat as well as sneaking a few chocolate bars.  They then quietly made their way to the edge of a snow bank, where they could look down to see a large complex surrounded by high fences. 

“We wait until its completely dark, then we move,” Moody decided.

They waited in silence for what felt like an eternity.  Duncan tried desperately to think of ways to amuse himself, while Moody appeared to be intently focused and looking ahead the entire time.

Knowing that Moody likely held no opinions on Muggle subjects such as football, movies or rugby, Duncan stretched his mind to think of something they could possibly talk about.  Finally, he went ahead and asked, “So Moody, what exactly do you do for fun, when you’re not at work I mean?”

“I’m not really one for leisure,” Moody admitted, still staring straight ahead at the base.

“Surely you must have some sort of hobby or something,” Duncan persisted. 

Moody took a deep breath as he explained his take on life, “Things you may think of as leisure or hobbies are luxuries that I can ill afford.  There was a time when people were rugged; they conquered the wilderness and were self-sufficient, and they fended for themselves.  But now, peace and prosperity have made us complacent.  People have grown soft and comfortable, which allows the evil to prey on the weak.   If the people won’t defend themselves, those that are willing to fight must do it for them.  They long for a hero, but I’m not a hero, I’m a silent protector, a dark knight.  We all must reach a point where we must choose to stand by and watch or to go down fighting; my soul is at peace and I’m prepared to make that decision.”

Duncan took it all in, not quite sure how to respond to that, before eventually offering to share his stash of snacks, “Chocolate bar?”

“No thank you,” Moody declined. 

Moody then scanned the horizon with his binoculars, which were enchanted to be able to tell how many life forms were inside a given building. 

“Looks like two men in the guard shack, and that’s pretty much it,” he observed. 

He then put the binoculars back in his bag, gripped his wand tightly, and added, “Time to roll.”

With the quickness of foxes, they darted from tree to tree, maintaining their cover, before tucking their arms and legs in and rolling down the rest of the hill, coming to a stop at the edge of the tall fence.  Moody looked very closely at its structure, analyzing it for possible weaknesses.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Duncan asked as he produced a pair of wire cutters from his pocket.

“Don’t touch it!” Moody sternly warned him, “It’s an enchanted fence; try to cut it, and you might die.”

“Well I don’t suppose we can just dig a hole underneath it?” Duncan suggested offhandedly.

“No, that might work, but we don’t have the time.”

Moody proceeded to rummage through his bag and pulled out two long ropes as sized up the height of the fence. 

“You’re not seriously thinking about climbing over that, are you?” Duncan asked as he glanced at the barbed wire on top of the fence. 

An excited gleam began to form in Moody’s eyes as he rapidly turned around and walked away from the fence, the wheels in his head obviously spinning quickly, “No, but I have an idea, come help me tie these.”

Without really questioning why, Duncan assisted Moody as they tied the long rope diagonally across two adjacent trees, and then tied the other rope diagonally so that the two ropes crossed and met I the middle.

Satisfied with their job, Moody aimed his wand and cast, “Elastico,” enchanting the ropes so that they would have an elastic stretching quality.  He then placed an enchantment on the center point of the ropes to form something resembling a seat, putting the finishing touches on what was essentially a giant, magical slingshot. 

Very impressed with the idea, Duncan followed Moody as they pressed themselves against the center and walked backwards, stretching the ropes out until they were completely taut.  Their legs strained heavily under the pressure of holding themselves in place, and the trees seemed to be bending backwards.  On Moody’s signal, they jumped into the air, and the moment their feet were no longer planted in the ground, they felt themselves soar through the air as the ropes snapped forward powerfully.  The quickly gained speed and height, contorting their bodies as they barely cleared the barbed wire, and finally landing with a crunch in the densely packed snow on the other side. 

Duncan slowly pulled himself up, thankful for the extra padding provided by his several layers of clothes.  He then noticed that Moody, who had gotten up immediately, was firing a spell back through the fence, incinerating the ropes they had just utilized. 

“So…how exactly are we going to get out?” Duncan asked, as nonchalantly as possible.

Moody ignored the question and instead walked up to Duncan and informed him in a hushed tone, “I know you’ve been in combat before, but being our first mission together we need to be on the same page.  Don’t ask stupid questions, don’t touch anything you’re not supposed to, and if I get killed, get out of here and don’t come back for me.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” Duncan replied, conceding that the slightly younger man would have to be in charge, since he was a wizard after all. 

They carefully trekked their way to the only building in the complex that was lit, which they correctly assumed was the guard shack.  Moody used a vanishing charm to erase their footprints in the snow behind them as they walked.  As they approached the shack, they dared to sneak a quick glance through the window, where they could see two men sitting at a table, drinking large mugs of coffee to stay awake, and playing some sort of card game.  They crouched underneath the window, pressing themselves closely to the wall, as they strained to hear the two voices conversing inside.

“You saw the procedures; we have to make the rounds of the complex every two hours and sign the log book that everything is normal.”

“But it’s sodding two o’clock, what could have possibly happened?”

“We both know nothing’s happening, but it’s the boss’s orders, and you don’t want to upset the boss now, do you?”

“Fine, but let’s make it quick, it’s bloody freezing out there.”

When the two men had walked outside, Moody turned to Duncan and handed him a vial of potion. 

“So here’s the plan,” he explained, “This vial contains a very strong sleeping potion.  It will buy us at least four or five hours, which should be more than enough time.  You’re going to sneak in there and pour this vial into their drinks.  I’ll be keeping watch and covering for you.  When you’re done, we’ll meet back here and wait.”

Eager to get started, and growing ever more accepting of magical explanations, Duncan did not question Moody’s instructions at all, and he eagerly grabbed the potion and walked around the corner and towards the front door, keeping his back pressed against the wall.  After reaching the door, he gingerly placed one foot in front as he stepped carefully to avoid causing a loud creak in the wooden floorboards. 

 Moving step by step, he finally reached the table.  He carefully handled the glass vial and removed the cap, quickly pouring the contents into the half empty coffee mugs.  When the task was complete, he looked up to see Moody peering in the window, frantically signaling that he didn’t have much time.  As if Moody’s warning wasn’t enough, Duncan could clearly hear footsteps approaching.  Seeing no other options, he dove under the table, hoping to remain as still and silent as possible. 

Duncan’s heart pounded as he lay on the ground, the tablecloth providing a thin layer of cover between him and the two sets of boots he saw on either side.  He nervously gripped his revolver as he listened to the two gruff voices above him, which very strangely seemed to have English accents. 

“So bloody cold, why did we come to this sodding country anyway?”

“Just shut up already, we could be on a bloody beach in Majorca and you’d still be complaining.”

They lifted their mugs to take a sip, and an instant later they were both sprawled out on the floor.  Duncan then came bursting out from under the table, pointing his revolver at the guards as he kicked away their wands and made sure they were really passed out.  Moody ran through the door, and came to a halt when he recognized the faces on the floor. 

“I know these men,” he said with a start, “And they’re no Russians.”

“I was going to say, their English was a little too good,” Duncan confirmed.

“They were a year ahead of me at school, I never talked to them much, but I knew who they were at least.  This one’s Avery and that’s Mulciber. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I sure don’t like it.”

Moody leaned out the doorway, scanning the complex with his binoculars and comparing the view to the map in his hand until he had definitely located the communications building. 

“I found it, and I recognize the type of scanner they have protecting it, it’s enchanted to only allow authorized personnel inside” he observed.

“Do you suppose we’ll just drag these two blokes over there then?” Duncan inquired.

“Even better,” Moody replied as he plucked hairs from the two unconscious men and mixed two vials of potion, throwing one to Duncan, “We’re going to become them.”

Duncan looked at the vial hesitantly, not quite willing to trust its contents.

“It’s Polyjuice potion, and it’s perfectly safe, which means something coming from me,” Moody informed him.

Unwilling to argue, Duncan gulped the potion down, grimacing in disgust at its horrific taste.  As soon as he swallowed it, he could feel an instant transformation; growing slightly taller, his stomach growing bigger, and his hair growing longer. 

“Your friend Avery is one unfortunate looking bastard,” he wryly observed as a he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window. 

When they had both finished their transformations, they wasted no time in walking over towards the communications building.  Once there, they stood a few feet in front of the door and waited while sets of mechanical eyes extended from the door frame and scanned them up and down with a light resembling one of those newfangled lasers that Duncan had read about in a science fiction novel. 

Finally, an automated voice announced, “Special Agents Avery and Mulciber, authorized for entry,” as the heavy metal door slid open. 

“Lumos,” Moody cast, adding some light to the very dark room.  They stepped slowly and carefully through the room, hoping not to break anything or awaken the many sleeping owls. 

Duncan stumbled as he tried to void stepping on some wires, grabbing onto a table to maintain his balance.  He looked down on the table top to find a large object resembling some sort of cross between a radio and a typewriter, with a rather large scroll of parchment coming out the back.

“I think I found the Kwikcodes machine!” he announced.

Moody walked over and examined the machine closely.  “Good work.”

He then concentrated intently as he focused his wand and skillfully conjured an exact replica of the machine. 

“A duplication charm,” he explained, “They’ll figure it out eventually, but it should buy us enough time to get away.”

He then picked up the original machine and put it in his bag, which could magically hold a lot more that it appeared on the outside.  Without wasting any time, they left the building and walked back outside towards the exit. 

“So you have to tell me now, how exactly are we getting out of here?” Duncan prodded.

Moody finally showed something resembling a smile, “We walk out the gate.”

 
 


Chapter 7: The Breach
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The fresh morning frost had just set in when Anastasia arrived to begin her morning rounds.  As was her daily routine, she was going to perform a thorough inspection of the complex.  Though nothing appeared out of the ordinary on this particular morning, she knew that she hadn’t gotten where she was by cutting corners. 

On her first stop, Anastasia walked into the guard shack, where she would customarily receive a report from whoever had been on duty the previous night.  As she walked through the door, she was instantly shocked and appalled to discover Avery and Mulciber with their faces and arms sprawled out on the table, just beginning to slowly wake themselves up. 

Infuriated by their complete dereliction, Anastasia cast a loud explosive charm right in front of their faces, which caused them both to jump up with a start, not entirely aware of their surroundings. 

“You imbeciles!” she snapped at them, “Sleeping on watch is a serious offense, I could have both of you thrown in prison!”

“Well…you see…it wasn’t really our fault,” Avery stammered helplessly. 

Anastasia rolled her eyes, “Luckily for the two of you I’m feeling generous, so I’ll only give you two weeks of extra watches.  But this is your final warning!”

She quickly turned on her heel and slammed the door behind her as she stomped outside.  She finished her rounds made her way to her desk in the command center, already well behind in her mountains of paperwork after having to complete to official log books that Avery and Mulciber had neglected the night before.  She was just starting to make a dent in the pile when Igor Karkaroff entered the room.

“The daily brief is ready to be transmitted out to the embassies,” he announced, standing awkwardly and stroking his beard as he waited for her to review the document he had produced.

Anastasia dropped the paper on the desk, looking up at Karkaroff with the kind of intense glare that made wither as he realized he must have done something wrong.

“This isn’t the new encryption key, this is the one from six months ago.  How long have you been writing these, Karkaroff? I should not have to correct these kinds of errors, unless you are utterly incapable of doing your job,” she pronounced in a calm but stern voice.

Karkaroff recoiled a bit from the firmness of her response as he stammered, “Well…I encrypted the message like I usually do…but, somebody must have tampered with the Kwikcodes machine.”

Anastasia paused, “This is a serious allegation, and one that I do not take lightly.”

“Well it’s the only possible explanation as far as I’m concerned,” he answered defensively.

With a steadfast determination, Anastasia rose from her desk and briskly walked towards the communication building with Karkaroff struggling to keep up with her.  After gaining access to the room, she walked straight towards the Kwikcodes machine and encrypted several sample messages, which, sure enough, became encrypted in an older code.  She realized that somehow the machine had returned to its original settings, with every update she had enchanted into it somehow having been erased. 

Wondering how this could have possibly happened, she hastily ran towards the security scanner, where an enchanted quill kept a log of everybody who had been granted access to the room.  Strangely, it appeared that Avery and Mulciber, who had apparently fallen asleep on watch, had entered the room at a very late hour the previous night. 

Anastasia bit her lip in frustration.  At this point, it certainly wasn’t much of a stretch to assume that something was obviously amiss.  With her wand at the ready, she stormed out of the room, eager to obtain some answers. 

“Kozlov, Fedorov, Malkin, follow me,” she barked out to several colleagues as she made a beeline to the potions room.

 “Dolohov, I need a bottle of Veristaserum,” she ordered.

Dolohov raised his eyebrows as he retrieved a bottle of the powerful truth potion from the shelf, “I’m assuming I’m not supposed to ask what this is for?”

“That is correct,” she confirmed as she grabbed the bottle and left the room as quickly as she had came. 

Continuing her brisk pace, she threw open the door to the training center, where she found Avery and Mulciber using the weight room, oblivious to her sudden appearance.  A quick stunning spell sent Mulciber crashing backwards into the wall, while Kozlov and Fedorov grabbed a hold of Avery, disarming him of his wand, and restraining him in a nearby chair.  They held him in place while Anastasia forcefully administered the truth potion and waited a few briefs moments for it to take effect. 

“Why did you access the communication center last night?” she asked calmly.

“I didn’t,” he responded, slightly groggy from the effects of the potion.

“The Kwikcodes machine was clearly tampered with, and your name appears on the security log, surely you must know something,” she pressed.

“Honestly, I have no idea what happened,” he insisted nervously. 

Anastasia paused; this definitely wasn’t what she had been expecting to hear, “Alright then, what did you observe last night on watch? Was anything out of the ordinary?”

He scratched his head as he tried to recall, “We didn’t see anything suspicious or anything, me and Mulciber were just sitting down and having some coffee, and then, well I don’t really remember anything after that.”

Ordinarily this type of story would have been more than enough to convince Anastasia that he was hiding something, but given the strength of the Vertaserum, she had no reason to doubt he was telling the truth.  While there were sometimes whispered stories of wizards he could successfully resist the potion, that would require powers well beyond the capabilities of somebody such as Avery.  Sensing that something bigger must be at work, she ran outside to continue her investigation.

“So I was right? It was tampered with?” Karkaroff called out as he ran, struggling to catch up to her.

Ignoring him, she headed straight for the front gate of the protective fence, which after a cursory examination did not show any signs of having been forced open.  She walked outside the gate and paced around the perimeter of the base, still seeing no tracks, damage to the fence, magical residue, or any other signs of intruders. 

Finally, as she walked further out towards the tree line, she noticed the glint of a small piece of foil left behind in the snow.  She eagerly dove to the ground to retrieve it, closely inspecting it for any kind of clue.  As if to confirm her deepest fears, her eyes were immediately drawn to a small label on the foil, “Cadbury Chocolates, UK.” 

She tore the foil in frustration as she kicked the ground and stirred up a cloud of snow.  She never thought it was possible that her adversaries in the West would know the location of this facility, let alone be able to infiltrate it.  Throughout the shadowy conflict, she had always remained several steps ahead of her British adversaries.  But now, it appeared the game was changing. 

****

The sun was beginning to set when Duncan and Moody finally arrived back at the cabin.  After a long day of running, Nicholas had reached the point of exhaustion and lazily sprawled out on the floor, barely bothering to move his head when Moody tossed him some treats.  Moody then cast an Incendio charm in the fireplace, adding the first semblance of warmth to the frozen room. 

Duncan removed his gloves and breathed warm air on his hands as he experienced one of his rare moments of being too tired and cold to come up with a relevant joke.  Remembering their instructions, he made his way to the communications equipment in the corner and dialed the secure line to the British Embassy.   He waited for the encryption to take effect, and when the line was clear, he was greeted by a secretary on the other end.

“British Embassy, culture and tourism department, how may I help you?”

Duncan recited the prescribed code phrase, “This is Mr. Chaucer, I’d like to plan a trip to Canterbury.”

“One moment please…”

A few seconds later, Archie came onto the line, “Macdonald! Glad to hear you’re alive! So were you successful?”

“Everything proceeded as planned.  The machine is in our possession, and we have returned to the safe house,” Duncan informed him.

“Excellent!” Archie responded.   “I’m afraid I’m a bit tied up at the Embassy for the moment, but we should plan your extraction within the next week or so, but until then, stay where you are.  Also, now that we have the machine, you can monitor the Russians’ communications.  Please collect all the messages you can and pass them along.  We’ll be in touch soon.”

“Thanks mate,” said Duncan as he hung up the phone. 

He looked around and saw Nicholas curled up in front of the fireplace while Moody was silently staring out the window, looking as vigilant as ever.  Duncan contemplated that he would have plenty of time over the next few days to process everything that had just happened, but now, it was time to sleep.

*****

On the outskirts of Tirana, Albania, Tom Riddle absentmindedly thumbed through the pages of the local newspaper that completed his disguise as an ordinarily farmer.  Nott and Lestrange sat across from him, eagerly awaiting his instructions.  It was much to Riddle’s disgust that they were here, in the outdoor seating of a Muggle restaurant sampling the local cuisine, but it was necessary to maintain their cover. 

“Well we might as well get the official mission out of the way,” he informed them as the waiter walked out of earshot. 

“You mean the reconnaissance?” Lestrange asked.

“Yes, we need to make a detailed plan of the Albanian Ministry, including every possible entrance and exit.  Also, we must compile dossiers on the high ranking officials and discover which ones are most likely to be amenable to our views.  I want you to begin your infiltration tomorrow.”

“And what about you, Sir, what will you be doing?”  Nott prodded.

Riddle answered him with a grin, “Ahh, you see there are many secrets contained in this country; secrets that are in no position to have to know about.  But if you continue to follow me, you will learn the importance in due time.”

Nott and Lestrange eagerly accepted this information, continuing to be in awe of Riddle’s mysterious powers. 

After finishing the meal, Riddle briefly contemplated how much easier it would be to simply kill the waiter rather than pay the check, but knowing that he had far more important reasons to be here, he left a few crumpled Muggle bills in the local currency on the table and took his leave. 

He was very pleased that, at least so far, everything seemed to be proceeding as planned.  Thanks to his new affiliation with the Soviets, he now had the perfect opportunity to be in Albania with some of his most loyal supporters.  While his reconnaissance mission would be easy enough to complete, he was, of course, here for greater purposes.  He had an extra spring in his step at the thought of how close he seemed to be to obtaining what he so dearly desired.  He had been seeking it since his days at Hogwarts, and now it was nearly within his grasp.    

 
 


Chapter 8: Plots and Counter Plots
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Slipping unnoticed through the crowds of Muggles, Anastasia made her way through the familiar grounds of Moscow’s Red Square.  She walked past the colorful onion shaped domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and up to the large stone edifice of the Kremlin.  Although she had routinely been here many times, she continued to be impressed by the sheer power that it seemed to represent.  She deliberately made her way inside the iconic clock tower, and after one last sweep to make sure no one was watching, she charged and ran headlong into the brick wall. 

When she reappeared on the other side, having long ago perfected the art of landing perfectly upright and balanced even while wearing heels, she was standing in the grand foyer of the Soviet Ministry’s headquarters.  The large open room with its marble floors and grand chandeliers dated back to the days of the czars.  However, the more recent decorations included the powerful and stoic looking statues of Vladimir Komissarov and his recent predecessors crushing their opposition beneath their feet, and the large red star that adorned the largest wall. 

Anastasia’s heels echoed loudly as she briskly walked through the room, earning nothing more than deferential nods from the security wizards, who knew better than to challenge her.  After walking through a long corridor with many doors leading to the offices of various departments, she reached the end, which was marked by statues of two medieval Russian knights, facing each other with their lances crossed.  She recited the lines from an obscure Russian poem that served as a password, and the knights raised their lances to allow her to pass, revealing a hidden spiral stairwell, with a sign informing any visitors that it was the Minister’s personal stairwell, and was only to be used by authorized personnel on official business. 

At the top of the stairs, Anastasia finally entered an impressively large office.  Its walls were covered with art work, and there were many shelves decorated with traditional Russian dolls, Faberge eggs, and other priceless gems.  The prominent open window offered a commanding view of Red Square and the Kremlin below.  At the head of the room, directly behind the desk, was an ornate fireplace, flanked by two Soviet flags, and topped with a portrait of the Minister.

As Anastasia approached, Vladimir swiveled his chair around to face her, stroking his beard with a sinister grin.  He was wearing his trademark bearskin overcoat, and the collar was flipped up over his neck. 

 “I’ve been expecting you, and I must commend you for your successful Warsaw mission; that was very bold, even by your standards.”

“Just another routine mission, Your Excellency,” she answered modestly as she took a seat.

Vladimir pointed to a large map of Europe on the wall on which Poland, like most of Eastern Europe, was now colored Soviet red.

 “One more piece removed from the board as we slowly move ever closer to our final checkmate.”

 Anastasia nodded in acknowledgement as she removed a thickly stuffed file folder from her bag.

“Your Excellency, I am afraid I must also inform you of a slight setback we have suffered.  It appears that there was a break in at our new facility, and I suspect the British Ministry is responsible.”

Vladimir sank low in his chair, gritting his teeth in frustration, unable to process this information having believed that the facility’s location was completely unknown. 

“Was there any damage? Is anything missing?”

Anastasia briefly paused before informing him, “Your Excellency, I have reason to believe that the Kwikcodes machine has been compromised.”

Vladimir pounded his fist on the desk rattling its contents and mixing up his piles of papers.  But then he paused and took a deep breath to regain his composure. 

“I’m sure you’re aware that if you were anybody else, you would have been dead before you finished that sentence.  But knowing you, I trust that you would not be here to inform me of this development if you did not already have a plan for how to exploit this to our advantage.”

Anastasia allowed herself a slight grin, “Anything can be turned to our advantage with the right plan.  As always, I’d like to think of this as an opportunity.”

She opened up the file folder and slid it across the desk, “With your approval of course, I believe our prey is ready to be trapped, and we only need the bait.”

Vladimir grinned as he pages through the folder, perusing her plans.  “Oh Anastasia, it appears you have outdone yourself once again.”

*****

Duncan reclined and propped his feet up on the cot as he tried to soak up the warmth of the fireplace.  After several days in the cabin, he was trying desperately to stave off the inevitable onset of boredom and complacency.  It was not yet a problem for Moody, who spent much of his time vigilantly keeping watch by the window, and checking and rechecking his protective charms.  But after several days of this routine, even Moody was beginning to show signs of wear, and resorted to tossing a tennis ball around the room for Nicholas to fetch as his sole form of entertainment. 

Mission wise, there had been a steady stream of messages arriving daily through the Kwikcodes machine.  At first, it had been a painstaking process as Duncan would struggle mightily to recite the unfamiliar Cyrillic writing letter by letter over the phone so that Archie could translate the documents from Russian to English.  Eventually, Archie decided it was worth the risk to use the unregistered Floo station in the cabin’s fireplace so that they could show him the documents.  Like the small station in his office at the Embassy, it was not strong enough to transport people, so as not to attract the attention of the Soviet Ministry, but it was perfectly sufficient for purposes of communication.

Moody had also passed along his concern to the Wellington brothers about the familiar faces he had recognized inside the Soviet compound.  Augustus had recognized the names of his former fellow Slytherins, a few years younger than himself, but like Moody he was not sure what to make of this development, and they both agreed that given the level of competence the defectors had displayed thus far, they were unlikely to do much damage. 

The cabin’s food supply, which consisted mostly of dried salted meats, canned beans, slightly stale biscuits, and leaves of tea, had been enough to sustain them, but was far from appetizing.  The lack of variety quickly grew tiresome, and Duncan remarked many times that it compared very unfavorably even to Army food.  They had long since exhausted every piece of reading material in the cabin, and they were growing ever more anxious to leave the place behind for good. 

Duncan got up from the cot with a groan as he heard the now familiar rapid typing and mechanical whirring which indicated that a new message was incoming from the Kwikcodes machine.  He walked over to retrieve the message while Moody threw a handful of green powder on the fireplace, beginning their newly perfected routine of transmitting the messages to the British Embassy.

 “Here’s another one for you, and this one looks a little bit longer than usual,” Duncan announced as he brought the freshly printed message towards the fireplace, where Archie’s face was beginning to appear. 

“The Russians may be horrid at governing, but I must say they do have a beautiful language,” Archie observed as he put on his reading glasses and strained to make out the letters as Duncan held the message up toward the flames. 

Duncan and Moody looked on anxiously as Archie hastily scribbled down his translation on a notepad, looking more and more perplexed and agitated the further he got in the document.  When he finished his translation, he looked the message over one more time to check for errors, and then looked up and announced, “Well lads, this might be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.”

Duncan and Moody crowded towards the fireplace, yearning for more information while Archie expanded the Floo link, allowing Augustus, who never seemed to care about the time difference, to join the conversation from his office in London. 

When all the men were finally ready, Archie began to read aloud, “Well it begins as a normal message from Ministry headquarters in Moscow to the intelligence center, which the two of you recently visited.  There are a few paragraphs of routine administrative matters, but then things start to get interesting.  They report that Natalia Kuznetsova, the chief librarian at the Soviet Ministry’s Archives in Moscow has not shown up for work and has been reported missing.  They have reason to believe she is traveling west on the Black Sea Express in the hopes of defecting to the West.  It then instructs them to send agents to intercept her at the station in St. Boris.”

“St. Boris is a magical village, think of it as the Russian equivalent to Hogsmeade,” Augustus clarified.    

“Well, what do we make of that?” Archie asked as he set the papers down. 

“I think it’s a trap, it just seems too obvious.  They must have figured out we have the machine and they’re hoping we take the bait,” Moody opined. 

“Was there any chance you were spotted? Did you leave anything behind? Any clues or footprints maybe?” Augustus inquired. 

“We were extra careful about that, but I really didn’t expect the duplicate machine to fool them this long,” Moody answered.

Archie took off his glasses and speculated out loud, “The Russians do love their trickery, and this seems pretty typical of them, so must consider that.  However, what if this is true? What if the chief librarian of their archives really is trying to defect to the West? Can you imagine how valuable an intelligence coup that would be? The information she would be able to provide?”

“It does seem like an obvious trap, and I struggle in good conscious to send you two into it, but on the other hand the potential reward if it isn’t a trap seems almost too good to pass up,” Augustus opined.

“Well maybe it is a trap, but did you really pull me out of my nice London pub and send me all the way to Russia just to sit around in this cabin and fetch messages for you? There very well may be a woman out there that is trying to help our side, and we can’t just leave her to the mercy of those agents.  I don’t know what you were planning, but I came here to accomplish a mission and I’d like to able to do it,” Duncan proclaimed.

Moody concurred, “This mission has been far too easy so far, I was expecting some action, and if this turns into a major scrap, then so be it.”

Augustus looked them over with concern, “You both have already performed above and beyond the call of duty, so I can’t make you do this, but if you really want to go through with this I can have a mission packet ready for you tomorrow.  But please, whatever you do, take care of yourselves.  I know I called you expendable, but the absolute last thing I want is for either of you to be killed or captured.”

Duncan and Moody looked at each other and solemnly nodded before Moody spoke up, “That’s a risk we’re willing to take, and if you’re worried about us getting killed or captured, well I believe you underestimate us.”

“Well then, let’s get to work.  I’ll have a briefing ready for you tomorrow and then you can go on your merry way.  But once more I feel obligated to remind you that it might be a trap, and even if it isn’t and everything goes as planned;  then all you will be doing is covertly traveling several hundred miles of hostile territory to extract a highly sought after foreign national of questionable loyalties.  I must remind you of the enormity of the challenge,” Augustus calmly stated.

Duncan simply looked back at him with a slightly mischievous grin, “Challenge accepted.”

 
 


Chapter 9: The Station
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The black night fell over the forests of Albania as Tom Riddle slowly and deliberately made his way down the trail, scouring every inch of the ground.  The wind rustled the leaves and branches of the trees, and the sounds of all manner of creatures of the night reverberated though the air.  The faint of heart would have turned back a long time ago, but Riddle was in his element.  He welcomed the darkness; he was the master of the night.  The moon provided just enough light for him to follow the main trail as he moved further and further into the forest, hoping he was getting closer and closer to what he was looking for. 

He turned around with a sudden jolt when he heard a rustling in the leaves behind him, instinctively firing a green killing curse.  With his wand still at the ready, he cautiously walked towards the underbrush to inspect what he had heard.  He breathed a great sigh of relief when he discovered it had only been a small squirrel, and he couldn’t help but grin to himself knowing what power he possessed, and how easy it was to alter so many lives with a simple flick of his wand.

Over the years at Hogwarts, many students had heard whispers of the seemingly mythical diadem of Ravenclaw, but it was usually assumed that its intellect enhancing powers were never more than legend.  Showing his ambition and resourcefulness from a young age, he learned to cultivate and exploit sources that other students carelessly overlooked, and it hadn’t taken him long to discover the true identity of the mysterious Ravenclaw ghost. Like most who had encountered Tom’s charm and guile, the women once known as Helena Ravenclaw soon caved, revealing Albania to be the diadem’s true location.

Not only did Riddle now possess the information he needed, but he know had a perfect excuse to be in Albania on official business, and the ability to keep a low profile while in the country.  If they did their job properly, Nott and Lestrange would soon be finished with their reconnaissance mission, and Riddle would be expected back in Russia with a report.  While he would have loved to remain in Albania until he located the diadem, at this stage in the game, maintaining his Russian alliances was still vitally important, and he was sure he would have ample opportunities to return in the near future. 

He peered down at his map, carefully marking off the areas of the forest he had already searched.  He could not help but feel a small bit of frustration that he had not yet located the diadem, but he had to acknowledge that thus far his larger plans seemed to be coming together perfectly.  It was going to take some time, but he knew that time was on his side. 

 

***

Despite its quaint charm, the remote and constantly snow covered wizarding village of St. Boris was rarely visited, aside from the weary travelers who would pass by here in the midst of a longer journey to more consequential places.  There was a small central street with a few shops, taverns, and inns, but the central feature of the small town was the train station.  The recently completed Black Sea Express was constructed to easily connect magical Russia to its ever growing empire in Eastern Europe, and the station at St. Boris had been selected as a natural breaking point where inbound passengers from Moscow or Leningrad would change trains before continuing their journey to destinations abroad.

On this particularly chilly evening, Igor Karkaroff huddled inside his overcoat, icicles seeming to form on his beard as he shivered, standing as close as he comfortably could to Antonin Dolohov in an attempt to keep warm. 

“What are we even doing here? I want to know exactly what Anastasia told you,” he grumbled.

“She was very short on the details,” Dolohov explained, “All she told me was what I told you before; some archivist woman from Moscow who had access to a lot of information is suspected of defecting and is traveling by train.  Our instructions are simply to apprehend her and bring her in for questioning.”

Karkaroff shook his head, beginning one of his typical rants that Dolohov had long ago learned to tune out.  It was always the same story with Karkaroff; he was overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, and it was just too damn cold.  While Karkaroff continued to drone on in the background, Dolohov strained to catch a glimpse of the clock.  Thankfully, the train in question was due to arrive in ten minutes.  Their long miserable wait was nearly over.

***

Inside the impeccably clean and freshly decorated women’s wash room of the Black Sea Express, Anastasia took a long glance in the mirror, greatly satisfied that she herself could barely recognize the person she saw.  She had begun by casting a darkening charm on her blonde hair so that it was now a mousy shade of brown, and pulled it up in a tight bun.  She wore a pair of very thick reading glasses, and a set of very plain and drab brown robes and overcoat.  She had also gone to great lengths to alter her demeanor, adopting a very demure expression to replace her usual icy glare.  All in all, she looked every bit like the quiet, bookish and slightly fearful librarian she was planning to portray.  She returned to her compartment of the train, frequently glancing back and forth between the window and her watch.  It was nearly time.

***

Moody and Duncan carefully crawled their way through the woods, leaving Nicholas and their supplies safely hidden behind the tree line as they reached a ridge overlooking the train station.  Using the navigational skills he had first learned with the army in the deserts of North Africa, Duncan unrolled his map and confirmed their position with his compass as Moody cast a charm over the map so that it would display the magical villages as well.  Duncan concluded that they had correctly reached the village of St. Boris, and he never ceased to b pleasantly surprised at how much easier it was to navigate when there were discernible landmarks around.

“Something still doesn’t add up about this situation,” Moody mused aloud. 

Duncan shrugged, “Eight years ago, Albus Dumbledore sent me to Norway to fight a Nazi sea monster.  Ever since then I just stopped asking questions.”

Moody shook his head as he pulled his omnoculors out of the bag and scanned the horizon, carefully noting all the details of the station’s layout.  He then withdrew his foe glass, which he had enchanted to reveal the presence of enemies.  He scoped along the platform until the glass lit up at the discovery of two men in overcoats, who appeared to nonchalantly waiting for the train.

“Well there are our Russian friends,” he observed. 

A few minutes later, a loud whistle pierced the quiet air as a train appeared and ground to a halt at the station.  Moody and Duncan scrambled to maintain eyes on each person that disembarked, which became increasingly difficult as they dispersed throughout the station.  Finally, once the crowd began to dissipate, they caught sight of a young brown haired woman traveling alone, moving very tentatively along the platform.  The two men in overcoats seemed to take note of her presence, and moved surreptitiously in her direction. 

Moody brandished his wand and nodded silently to Duncan, whose hand was gripping the revolver that he had in a shoulder holster underneath his overcoat.  They sprung into action, climbing down from opposite sides of the ridge and made a wide sweep of the approach to the station, coming together in a pincer movement as they converged on the platform.   The crowd of passengers had mostly dissipated, and those that remained around the platform seemed to pay no heed to the two men moving towards the train.

After making a quick visual sweep to ensure he had not been followed, Moody knelt behind a garbage bin, taking careful aim at the two wizards whose backs remained turned towards him as they walked in the opposite direction. 

“Stupefy!” Moody cast in a harsh whisper as red sparks flew from his wand and hit Antonin Dolohov squarely in the back.  Dolohov’s body went instantly numb as he collapsed to the ground, stiff as a board.  Though he was greatly confused by what was going on, Karkaroff was alerted by the sudden fall of his colleague, and he instinctively dove to the ground, narrowly evading Moody’s follow up curse. 

Reacting without thinking and relying on his training, Karkaroff fired off an explosive charm, destroying the garbage bin and driving Moody backwards.  He moved forward and pressed the attack, casting a barrage of curses which failed to achieve their desired effect as Moody rolled hard to his right and effectively deployed a series of protective spells.

Karkaroff paused for a moment, having expended much of his energy, allowing Moody to sense a window of opportunity to attack.  Moody rose to his feet, charging forward in a full speed run as he prepared his next spell.  However, just as he was about to incant the words, his feet stepped on a sleek patch of ice, which had the effect of a jelly legs jinx as his legs went out from under him. 

Moody slammed down hard on the concrete, and fumbled to recover his wand, which had landed several feet away from his when he fell. He grimaced as he saw Karkaroff approach him, brimming with confidence at his apparent victory.  However, just when his defeat seemed imminent, Moody watched with enormous relief as Karkaroff suddenly collapsed in a heap not far from Dolohov. It was only then that he noticed Duncan, casually strolling from behind and wielding a large wooden plank.  Duncan casually shrugged while Moody shook his head in disbelief, beginning to see the benefits of this unconventional partnership.

Moody and Duncan assessed the situation.  The remainder of the crowd had cleared out by now, and the only people remaining in the station were their two unconscious foes, and the mysterious brown haired woman who was meekly taking cover in the stairwell.  Moody nodded to Duncan, acknowledging that they would cautiously approach her and attempt to make contact.  All the while he kept his hand tightly gripped around his wand, fearing that the arrangement may yet be a trap. 

“Natalia Kuznetsova?” Duncan carefully enunciated as they walked up towards her.

Anastasia nodded in acknowledgment and then hesitantly asked them in an overemphasized Russian accent, “You are…English?”

“No one’s ever accused me of that before,” answered the proud Scot, “I’m Duncan MacDonald and this is Alastor Moody.”

Moody bit his lip in frustration, cringing at how readily Duncan volunteered that information.

Anastasia cast a concealment charm and an anti-listening charm around their position as she spoke in a hushed tone just in case.

“As you might surmise, I have valuable information.”

She reached into her pocket and withdrew a small, diary sized book, which, on second glance, was revealed to be an enchanted book whose deceptive size actually contained a whole library’s worth of information. 

“This book contains the entire classified portion of the Soviet Ministry’s Archives.  I am sure this is of great interest to you.  I am prepared to sell it, if you are willing to provide me safe passage and asylum in the West. “

“And why would you betray your country so readily?” asked the unconvinced Moody.

“I am, what you call, a Muggle Born,” she explained, “My family has been oppressed by the regime; this is my chance for revenge.”

“And how do we know this information is authentic?” he persisted.

Anastasia tore a portion of a page out of the book and handed it to Moody.

“This contains a list of several employees of the French Ministry of Magic who are on the Soviet payroll.  Once you investigate these names, I am sure you will have no doubts as to the accuracy of the rest of the information.”

Moody folded the paper and placed it in his pocket, betraying no reactions with his face as he made a mental note to pass the information on to Augustus. 

“We don’t have much time, the station will be crawling with security soon after all that commotion.  You can interrogate me all you want later, but right now, we need to leave.”

Moody looked at her skeptically, but Duncan shrugged and nodded, helping convince Moody that she had a legitimate point.

The three of them walked briskly towards the exit, with Moody and Duncan walking on either side of Anastasia and keeping an alert watch. As they walked outside, Anastasia couldn’t help but be pleased at how smoothly things had gone so far.  In her years of experience, there were many things in her job that she found difficult, but manipulating men was certainly not one of them.

 
 


Chapter 10: The Double Agent
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 As the sun disappeared over the horizon and the cold day gave way to the even colder night, Moody stood on the edge of the sled, directing Nicholas onwards as they traveled westward at high speed.  Duncan sat comfortably on the sled with their bags, while their new female guest held on dearly.  By their best calculations, there were still several hundred miles to go before they were safely outside Soviet territory.  Nicholas was more than capable of covering the distance in a few short days, but now, as the blackness of night began to set in, it was clearly time to stop and set up camp for the night.

The sled slid to a halt near a small clearing in the forest as Moody dismounted and began a thorough inspection of the area, casting protective charms as he went. 

Duncan stood up and stretched his back, making slightly awkward eye contact with Anastasia, who shyly smiled.  Without speaking, the two began to unpack the bags and set up the two tents that Moody had brought along, a skill Duncan had become quite adept at in his army days.  When the task was complete, Moody returned from his reconnaissance.

“I’ve secured the perimeter; it appears perfectly safe to remain here overnight as long as we don’t let our guard down too much, and I’m fairly certain we haven’t forgotten anything,” he announced.

“You forgot something major, mate,” Duncan reminded him, “The fact that we haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

Acknowledging his all too frequent tendency to neglect to take care of his own needs, Moody cast an Incendio charm to start a small camp fire. 

Duncan rummaged through his bag, trying to determine what he could cook with the sparse ingredients they had brought along. 

“So Natalia, what do you like to eat?” he enquired, attempting to initiate some small talk.

“I am very hungry, I will eat anything,” Anastasia replied curtly.  Though she spoke flawless English as a result of her training, she made an effort to retain as much of a Russian accent and a non-native speaker’s hesitancy as she could to remain in character. 

Duncan placed a pot of chicken broth on the fire, and added into it several tins of canned meat and vegetables, resulting in something that was close enough to resemble an acceptable stew.  The three travelers proceeded to sit around the fire and eat, quickly devouring the stew as they hoped to absorb some of its warmth.  Throughout the meal, Duncan made various attempts at witty banter which mostly fell flat as Moody ate his meal in silence, suspiciously glaring at Anastasia, who mostly just looked down at the ground. 

Finally, Moody finished his soup and started to stand, before Duncan excitedly reminded him that it was now time for dessert.   Duncan produced a tin of biscuits, which he passed first to Moody, who took one reluctantly, and then to Anastasia, who reached for it cautiously.

“They’re delicious,” he assured her, “It’s real Scottish shortbread.  My mum used to send it to me during the war, there’s really nothing like it.”

As she slowly chewed on the biscuit, she allowed her mind to imagine what it would have been like to have grown up with parents like that.  She quickly snapped out of it when she became aware of Moody’s gaze, watching her every move like a sentinel.  It affirmed her mental evaluation that while one of her new companions seemed quite amateurish, the other was very clearly a trained professional and a worthy foe. 

As the darkness began to set in, Duncan retrieved a tent from the tightly packed sled and pitched it with Moody’s assistance.  It was a skill he had grown quite adept during the North African campaign ten long years ago.  He thought of those days in the oppressive desert heat and how he would have given pretty much anything to feel cold.  Now it was as if karma had come back to bite him. 

Duncan then stepped inside the tent and looked around.  He had seen wizard tents before, but they never ceased to amaze him.  Though it appeared to be a normal sized tent from the outside, it magically concealed a much larger interior which had three separate sleeping chambers surrounding a comfortably large common area.  Anastasia followed him inside, with Moody immediately behind her.  Nicholas darted inside as well, before finding a comfortable spot in the common area to curl up and fall asleep.  Anastasia quietly excused herself, retreating into her chamber.  Moody and Duncan seized the opportunity to confer in the common area. 

“You don’t trust her, do you?” Duncan whispered with a slight grin.

“A mysterious Russian woman with access to their entire Ministry Archives just falling into our laps like this? It seems a little too easy,” Moody responded.

Duncan gave a casual shrug, “She’s not bad looking.”

Moody rolled his eyes as he leaned back in his seat and stroked Nicholas’ ears. 

“Tomorrow we should reach the next safe house on the smuggling route.  From there we should be able to contact the Ministry…and be mindful of distractions. Remember, I don’t trust her.”

Too tired to say anything more, they both drifted off to sleep where they sat.

 Several hours later, Anastasia sat up in her chamber, relieved that they still seemed to be sleeping, and knowing she had to act swiftly and silently.  She reached into her robes and withdrew a small hourglass, one turn of which would send her one hour backwards in time.  She carefully performed some mental calculations, and then spun the Time turner three times, hoping that this would be enough.

*****

Several time zones away, Augustus Wellington sat hunched over his desk at the Ministry, poring over documents and anxiously hoping to receive reports from agents in the field.  Very few employees remained at this late hour, but he had long since been accustomed to being one of the last to leave.  Outside the window, he could hear the bustle of a magical construction crew, hard at work setting up for the 1952 Wizarding World’s Fair, which London would soon be hosting.  Magical dignitaries from all over the world would be descending on the city.  For many, it would be a powerful expression of peace and cooperation.  But for Augustus, it was just one more security nightmare to add to his plate. 

His penmanship errors became ever more frequent the longer he worked, and rather than use an erasing spell, he would simply roll the offending piece of parchment up and throw it on the floor, where Duke, his English bulldog, was all too happy to play with it.  Augustus didn’t bother looking up when he heard footsteps entering the office, knowing that they had to belong to the Department’s secretary, Mrs. Guinevere Norrington.  Mrs. Norrington, who had recently celebrated her seventieth birthday, had worked in magical law enforcement since leaving Hogwarts many years ago, and it was acknowledged by all that she basically singlehandedly kept the department running.  With the authority of a seasoned professor, she had no qualms about directing those who may have nominally outranked her. 

“Augustus Wellington, you are going to come down with Dragon Pox if you don’t start taking better care of yourself,” she warned him in a very maternal tone. 

“Thank you Mrs. Norrington,” he responded playfully. 

She proceeded to drop some more scrolls of parchment on his already crowded desk. “Well if you’re going to stay this late anyway, you might as well come inspect the Albatross Project, because you were supposed to do it earlier today.”

Augustus stood up, realizing once again that he would have no hope of maintaining his schedule without her.  Plus although he had put it off, he actually was rather anxious to finally see the highly secretive project for himself.  They walked out of the office and entered their access codes to use the restricted lift that led to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement’s Research and Development Division. 

The doors of the lift opened to reveal a large warehouse underneath the Ministry, holding all manner of experimental magical objects.  Most of research and development’s work revolved around useful gadgets and protective equipment to assist Aurors in the field.  However, the Albatross was something far more deadly, of much greater strategic importance. 

“Ah Mr. Wellington, right this way please,” announced Quentin Queensbury, a young researcher with large glasses and unruly hair who had drawn the night watch this evening. 

Augustus followed as Quentin led him to a hanger bay at the end of the warehouse, where he finally laid his eyes on the magical aircraft known as the Albatross.  It had the outward appearance of a Muggle biplane from the World War I era, but it was magically enhanced in many enchantments, and it was claimed that when its full speed was reached, it could travel from London to Moscow in thirty minutes. 

Quincy went on to explain its armaments, “It’s equipped with an invention I came up with myself, which I like to call the ‘magic seeking missile.’  Basically, I was able to isolate the explosive properties of erumpent horns and confine them to aerodynamic capsules that are enchanted to hone in on magical activity.”

Augustus nodded, being familiar with the early uses of weaponized erumpent horns during the war, and how much the magic and technology had advanced in the few short years since then. 

“So in other words…”

“It could destroy the entire magical community of a major city in minutes and the local Muggles would never the wiser,” Quincy concluded.   

Augustus breathed deeply and took it all in.  Nobody in the Auror Department ever wanted to see this weapon used, but there was hope among all involved that the threat of destruction may be a powerful deterrent to help preserve a tenuous peace. 

*****

Anastasia apparated back at her base, taking off her fake glasses but not bothering to change her hair color back as she briskly walked inside.  It was now several hours in the past, which she hoped would be sufficient time to catch up on her work and return to the tent in the woods before her new traveling companions would expect her to be awake.   She walked past a very confused Dolohov and Karkaroff, who were still stumbling from the effects of being knocked out.   

“Wait, so the lady from Moscow archives we were looking for was you in disguise? Then who was it that attacked us? Can you tell us what’s going on?” Dolohov pleaded.

“I’m sorry, it’s a need-to-know basis as usual,” Anastasia brushed them off as she briskly walked past. 

“I hate when she says that,” Karkaroff grumbled. 

Anastasia proceeded to walk into the records center, where she had a few short hours to learn as much as she could about her new mission.  She sat down at a desk and lit a cigarette, needing something to keep her awake and alert.  She wondered if her body would somehow give her credit for the fact that her past self was actually getting some sleep, but she hadn’t quite figured out how all that worked yet. 

She set to work sending off a quick encrypted message to Vladimir informing him that the operation had been successful and she had successfully planted herself as a double agent.  She then began to sort through the books of records, attempting to learn the identities of her two mysterious companions.  She began by reading through the book they had compiled with short profiles of all known Aurors in the Western nations.  She flipped the pages to the British section, which was by far the longest, and came to a stop at the photograph of her usual counterpart: Augustus Wellington, Director of Magical Intelligence, Department of Magical Law Enforcement.  Though they had never met in person, they had battled through proxies many times as their competing schemes came into conflict. 

“You slippery bastard, what are you planning this time?” she muttered out loud. 

“A good Slytherin like him, obviously something devious,” answered Tom Riddle, who startled her with his sudden presence in the room.

“I actually knew Augustus Wellington fairly well.  He was a Slytherin prefect when I entered Hogwarts; he showed me to our dorm in the dungeons my first day there.  A very worthy adversary if I may say so, from good pureblood stock.”

Before Anastasia could ask Riddle to explain what he was doing there, he dropped a medium sized notebook on her desk.

“The full reconnaissance report on Albania, as you requested.”

She nodded in appreciation as she continued.

“I don’t know what you’re planning, Anastasia, but be careful out there,” he said as he turned to walk out the door.

Anastasia was more confused by Riddle than ever, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it as she returned to her work.  She finished going through the list of known Aurors, finding no signs of any “Moody” or “McDonald.”  That was assuming that those were their real names of course, but she could tell from Moody’s look of disapproval at the time that his partner had given away information he was not supposed to. 

Next, she turned to an older, fatter book which had been compiled from public records and contained the entry and graduation lists for every year of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  A few minutes later, she was able to locate an “Alastor Moody,” Gryffindor House, class of 1946.  She proceeded to search every year in the likely age range, but was unable to find any record of a “Duncan MacDonald.”  She recounted their interactions thus far in her mind, and quickly realized that she had never actually seen Duncan perform magic.  She vaguely remembered Vladimir sharing tales of collaborating with special forces units from the Muggle Red Army during the war, and it was a logical assumption that similar operations may have occurred in the West.  But why a Muggle would be pressed into service for this type of mission, she really had no answer for.

She checked the time and realized that she would have to get moving soon to be in the proper place when her altered time merged with the present.  She inspected her disguise as she prepared to disapparate, noting that the more she learned, the questions she seemed to have.


Chapter 11: Powerful Secrets
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 Anastasia glanced at her watch as she reappeared at the campsite, perfectly timing her covert re-entrance into the tent to coincide with the moment when the past would merge with her present self.  At the proper moment, she quietly crawled back into her sleeping chamber, breathing a deep sigh of relief when she made it back without incident.  She tucked the timeturner deep inside her bag, noting that the longer her covert mission continued, the riskier it would become to use it.

When morning arrived, she emerged into the common area, where Duncan was busily preparing breakfast while Moody had just stepped in from inspecting the perimeter. 

“Did you sleep well, Natalia?” Moody asked as he eyed her intently.

“Yes,” Anastasia meekly replied.

 Although she knew that she likely had nothing to worry about, she couldn’t help but feel as if Moody suspected something. But of course, Moody acting like he suspected something was probably a better sign than any that all was completely normal.

Duncan set out three hastily warmed plates of canned eggs and ham as he unfolded a map across the small table in the common area.  Moody leaned in to peer over his shoulder at their position on the map.

“The next safe house is a day’s journey away. If all goes well, we should reach it by nightfall.”

Anastasia took a glance at the map for herself, “That’s over the Hungarian border.  The Soviet Ministry has indirect control over Hungary, but their grip is not as tight as it would be here.”

“Well I’ll pack extra food since we’ll probably be really hungry there,” Duncan quipped.

Moody was not amused, but Anastasia couldn’t help having a laugh, something she didn’t get to do too often.

 Once the proper route was planned, they began the work of packing away the tent and loading their gear onto the sled.  Reenergized after a night of rest, Nicholas was bursting with energy as he pulled the sled through the snow, carrying the group across the Hungarian border without incident, and arriving at the safehouse slightly ahead of schedule. 

When they were safely inside, Duncan placed a call on the secure telephone line to the British Embassy in Moscow to inform Archie of their arrival.  Meanwhile, Moody grabbed a handful of green floo powder and walked towards the fire, calculating the time zone difference in his head as he prepared to contact London.

***

The horseless carriage slowed to a halt in the face of the driving wind.  Tom Riddle surveyed the landscape, feeling a bit nostalgic as he recalled the similar carriage that had once transported him to Hogwarts, and how it wasn’t until he had killed his Muggle father that he was capable of seeing the thestrals that were actually doing the work.  After a journey through the desolate Siberian wilderness, he had finally arrived at Severnaya, the prison of choice for the Soviet Ministry.  Restrained in the secure rear section of the carriage, awaiting transport to the prison, were the Polish Minister of Magic, as well as a journalist who had been overly critical of Vladimir’s regime.  The task of transporting prisoners to Severnaya usually fell to somebody very junior in the pecking order, but in this case, due to the high profile of the captives, Riddle had been given the job. 

Behind the wrought iron gates of the compound was a dreary building of grey stone surrounded by the barren snow covered tundra where the prisoners were often forced to do labor.  In such a desolate place, the dementors who hovered above for extra security were hardly necessary. 

Riddle stepped out of the carriage, pulling his long black overcoat tightly around him.  He strode towards the wizards standing guard at the gate, who instantly noticed the shiny red star pin on his coat, identifying his status as an important Ministry official. 

”We’ll take the prisoners from here, Sir,” one of the guards spoke up.

“Thank you,” Riddle answered, “And if you’ll allow me, I have some business to attend to inside.”

“Yes, of course, Sir,” answered the guard, who opened the gate to let him in.

Riddle could feel a rush of excitement as he walked through the gates, over the grounds, and into the building, knowing that one of his principal reasons for defecting to Russia may soon be fulfilled.

According to a legend that Riddle was very familiar with, during the sixteenth century reign of the Muggle Czar Ivan the Terrible, a dark wizard by the name of Dmitri Stroganov was one his most powerful advisors.  Among his many powers, it was rumored that Dmitri had discovered a secret to prolonging his life.  While he hadn’t been heard from in hundreds of years, further rumors held that he was still alive and had been held prisoner by successive magical regimes.  Riddle had first learned of this story while at Hogwarts, and further investigations had led him to believe that Dmitri was still alive, and was being held here, at Severnaya.  The quest of avoiding a mortal death is one that many wizards had attempted but very few had achieved.  But if Riddle’s theory was correct, he would be one major step closer towards achieving what was slowly becoming his obsession.

With a confident stride, Riddle briskly walked down several flights of spiraling stairwells until he reached the lower level of the prison, where the highest security captives were kept.  He flashed his Ministry credentials at various checkpoints, where the poorly-paid guards did not see fit to question him.  Finally, he reached a long, brick corridor lined with iron-barred cells.  The position of this level deep underground ensured that it was always considerably cold, and a mildew infused dampness seemed to hang in the air. 

At the end of the corridor, Riddle finally reached a cell that seemed to be occupied.  There was a very old man inside, sitting in a slouched position against the back wall, with an expression of resigned defeat across his face.  He was extremely thin, and his long white hair and beard had not been cut in quite some time.  There was a very pale pallor to a face that hadn’t seen the sun in years, and it seemed that only one or two of his original teeth remained intact. 

“Aren’t you a little too posh for a prison guard?” the man inquired in a weak, raspy voice as he noticed Riddle’s approach.

“Actually, I’m only here to ask you a few questions,” Riddle answered.

“I have not had a visitor in decades,” he sighed.

Riddle’s ears perked up, “So, you are, in fact, Dmitri Stroganov?”

“That is the name I was known by.”

“And you have obviously discovered the secret to lasting this long, which, as you may surmise, is what brings me here, to your charming abode.”

Dmitri let out the closest thing his frail body would allow to a laugh, “So many young wizards like yourself have sought such a quest, but it involves levels of magic you could never hope to comprehend.”

“Are you referring to horcruxes?” Riddle persisted, completely unfazed.

Dmitri’s jaw dropped in shock, “How do you know about horcruxes?”

“You may find that I am full of surprises,” Riddle responded with a bit of a smug grin.

Dmitri shook his head, “Of the many young pretenders I’ve encountered, only one other went as far as to discover the existence of horcruxes.  He was one of my countrymen, and a rather infamous one at that.  It took them forever to kill him, and they tried pretty much everything.”

“You mean Rasputin?”

Dmitri nodded, “The damn fool used a Faberge egg as his horcrux, somebody destroyed it by accident, and then he was finished.”

“Well then it appears his mistake was only making one horcrux,” Riddle observed.

“Now that is a step nobody has ever taken,” Dmitri warned.

“Well anyways, you can probably guess what I’m after now.  I need to know the exact steps of how to make a horcrux,” Riddle persisted.

“This is a dangerous step that one does not take lightly, why exactly should I aid you in taking it?”

Riddle coolly explained, “Because I have several vials of Vertiaserum and I am well versed in the Unforgivable Curses.  I’m going to get the information out of you regardless, so you might as well make it easy on yourself.”

Dmitri sighed resignedly, “I traveled extensively in youth.  One year my travels carried me in to England.  I had conducted some research of the period prior to the founding of Hogwarts in the time of Merlin and King Arthur.  At that time, there was a very powerful dark witch called Morgana le Fey.  During her reign, she compiled a library, gathering together all the knowledge of dark magic that was available at the time.  I managed to locate this library, and I found a book there with detailed instructs on creating horcruxes.”

“And is this book still there?” Riddle asked excitedly.

“I didn’t move it.”

Riddle took a step back to process this new information.  Several years prior, he had accepted a sales position with Borgin and Burkes which afforded him the opportunity to collect magical artifacts.  He resigned from that position believing that he had recovered everything he was going to find in Britain, and that his search must now take him abroad.  His ultimate endgame was always to return to Britain as a powerful and immortal dark lord, but he was still quite a few years away from contemplating that next step, as there was much work that remained to be done.  But now, it appeared he was going to have to return to Britain much sooner than planned, even if it was only a brief expedition.  He wondered if perhaps his new position may afford him that opportunity.  He then turned to leave.

“Thank you, you have been most helpful.”

Dmitri strained his neck as he attempted to call out a warning, “This is a dangerous path that most cannot handle.  Take a look at me, you may avoid death, but your quest will bring you nothing but pain and suffering!”

Riddle briefly turned back and remarked, “You are not the first person to underestimate me, and I fear you will not be the last.”

 

***

Augustus leaned back in his chair, hungrily devouring the sandwich that had been in his desk for several days.  He wistfully observed that if he had a normal job, he would have been at home cooking a decent dinner by now, but of course, his job was anything but normal. 

Mrs. Norrington marched into the office carrying a fully packed suitcase in one hand and a French medallion in the other as she announced, “I hope you haven’t forgotten, but you’re leaving for the security summit at Mont Anglais in one hour.”

Augustus sighed, “Of course I haven’t forgotten.”

“I knew you would forget, which is why I packed for you,” she reprimanded him.

Mont Anglais was a very secure and delightfully scenic magical complex hidden away in the French Alps.  It had been constructed during the war as a base for French and Allied wizards that were active in the resistance to Grindelwald and the Nazis’ occupation.  In recent years, the post war alliance had continued as magical security and law enforcement professionals from France, Britain, and the United States met periodically to share information and strategies.  The agenda for this particular conference was to discuss the security procedures for the upcoming Wizarding World’s Fair, as well as sharing recent advancements in technology. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Norrington, I’d be lost without you,” Augustus conceded.

“I know,” she said smugly, as she departed the office. 

It was just then that Augustus noticed the activity in his fireplace, which indicated he was being contacted on the Floo network.

“Moody, is that you? Where are you?” he barked at the fireplace.

“We have arrived at safe house #59, just over the Hungarian border, package is in tow,” Moody informed him. 

Augustus breathed a deep sigh of relief as the wheels began to turn in his head.  Now that they were in Hungary, an extraction was much more feasible.  However, Augustus was due to spend the next few days in France, and after that he was going to be overwhelmed with securing the Wizarding World’s Fair.  Suddenly, an idea came to him.

“Stay where you are, I’ll be right there.”

Several minutes later, Augustus appeared in the safe house with a loud crack.  He looked around to scan his surroundings, and then gave Moody a hearty handshake and slap on the back.

“Excellent work, Moody, I’ll make a Slytherin of you yet, and you too MacDonald, you’re an honorary wizard in my book.”

He then turned towards Anastasia, “And you must be Natalia Kuznetsova, I hope you have had a pleasant journey.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Anastasia said politely, managing to conceal her inner gloating gleam at having so thoroughly duped her rival.

Augustus pulled the French medallion out of his bag and explained, “This is a portkey, it leads to a secure location in France, we’re going to spend the next few days there, and then return to England.

The others listened intently and each grabbed a hold of the medallion, and moments later they were in what appeared to be an adorably quaint ski village in the French Alps.  After a brief examination, Anastasia realized that she was now inside the secretive base of Mont Anglais.  Regardless of what she would find there, her mission was now already more successful than she could have possibly imagined.  


Chapter 12: Mont Anglais
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 Duncan and Moody unpacked their gear, surveying their surroundings as they settled into their room within the antique inn that served as the living quarters of Mont Anglais.  Moody performed the series of revealing and protective charms that had become his standard procedure for any new room he entered, never completely trusting his surroundings even in a secure base such as this one.  Duncan strolled towards the window and began to take in the view of the snow covered landscape that could have easily made a postcard.   



A nondescript rectangular building that served as the base’s command center stood directly across from the inn, and the two buildings were connected by underground tunnels.  A little bit further out stood a collection of buildings which seemed to form a small village.  These contained the base’s cafeteria, recreation center, and things of that nature, and were staffed by trusted wizards of the French Ministry, most of who were older, retired Aurors.

After a curt knock, Augustus barged into the room, eager to keep them updated of the current situation.

“Alright lads, we’re in the home stretch now, and I dare say this may be the safest place we could possibly be outside of England.  All you have to do tonight is get a good night’s rest.  As for tomorrow, the department’s been shorthanded, as usual, so Moody, I’m going to need you to accompany me to the security conference.  Meet me for breakfast tomorrow and I’ll give you a full briefing packet.”

Moody nodded, eagerly anticipating the next step in the mission.

“And as for you, MacDonald,” Augustus continued, “Your mission tomorrow is to keep an eye on Natalia.  You can feel free to explore the grounds, enjoy the recreational activities, just don’t leave the base and make sure she doesn’t try anything stupid.”

“Where is she now?” Duncan inquired.

“She’s staying down the hall from us, sharing a room with Marie Lecavalier, an old friend from the French Auror department.   She’s in good hands with Marie, but you just have to watch her during the conference tomorrow.  Now, do either of you have any questions?”

The instructions being rather straightforward, they had none.

“Very well then, let’s get through tomorrow and then we’ll back in London very soon.”

Augustus turned and departed the room, walking with a bit of a spring in his step due to the massive intelligence coup he may soon be pulling off.

After Augustus left, Moody and Duncan climbed into their respective twin beds on either side of the room, exhausted after their long journey and more than ready for some rest. 

“Nice place, isn’t it?” Duncan mused.

“It is rather scenic,” Moody admitted, “but I want make sure you remember to be careful tomorrow.  I mean, I know there’s probably no reason to worry, and at this point we have no reason to suspect that she isn’t exactly who she says she is, but just don’t let your guard down.”

Duncan laughed off the warning, “Oh please, I’ll be fine.  In fact, I’m rather looking forward to it.”

“Don’t tell me you’re developing feeling for her,” Moody asked incredulously.

“I wouldn’t go that far” answered Duncan, “but she seems rather pleasant, and she certainly isn’t ugly.”

Moody shook his head in disbelief, “Whatever you do, I believe that getting involved with a witch is a mistake.  It would bind you to a world that may not wish to enter.”

“Oh, I’ve actually made that mistake before,” Duncan admitted nonchalantly.

“Really?” Moody asked in disbelief, “The magical community is not that large, so I would probably know her. Now you have to tell me who it was.”

Duncan started to blush, “Absolutely not, I’ve said too much already.

Moody pleaded, “You’ve already given me half the story, now if I were to be killed a dark wizard tomorrow my life would end wondering what the rest of the story is.”

Duncan finally relented, “Fine, Minerva McGonagall.”

Moody began to laugh uncontrollably, so much so that he nearly fell out of his bed.

“You…and Minerva…hahahahahahahahahahahahaha…how did that even happen?”

“It was a wartime fling nothing more”, Duncan claimed defensively before attempting to turn the tables, “Alright then, Moody, let’s hear about your love life or lack thereof.”

“If the Auror Department wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one,” he said defensively.

“Well at least you have the dog,” Duncan responded.

A few more minutes of playful needling followed before they both fell sound asleep, anxiously awaiting what the next day would bring.

                                                                                *****

After a quick breakfast, Augustus and Moody walked briskly through the tunnel connecting the inn to the command center. 

“I feel safe saying that you’re already one of the most skilled field operatives I’ve ever seen, but now it’s time to learn the other half of the job; diplomacy,” Augustus explained as they walked.

“I can hardly wait,” Moody grumbled to himself.

They passed through a security checkpoint at the end of the tunnel, and then entered into a large, high ceilinged room containing a long, ovular meeting table.  There was an oversized map of the world displayed on the wall, and the flags of the participating nations were displayed throughout the room, with the French flag being the most prominent. 

Augustus looked around at the other wizards filing into the room, and recognized many familiar faces of old colleagues: Marie Lecavalier and Jacques St. Pierre from France, Claudius Giroux from Canada, and Harry Smith and Dick Thompson from the U.S., all of whom were seasoned warriors who had seen their fair share of battle. 

Augustus made his rounds of the room, greeting his old colleagues and introducing them to his recalcitrant apprentice.  When the pleasantries were concluded, the wizards took their seats around the table, and Marie Lecavalier rose to address the assembly.  She was a witch in her early thirties with shoulder length brown hair who possessed the well put together appearance that one would expect from a French woman, but also showed a little bit of the weathered look that came with experiencing many battles.  As the ranking French official present, she was the unofficial moderator of the proceedings.

“On behalf of the French Ministry, I would like to welcome you all back to our abode.  Exciting times are upon us as we approach the Wizarding World’s Fair next week in London.  It is a time of great international fellowship and cooperation, and in the spirit of that cooperation, I’d like to introduce the first speaker of our conference, my old friend, Augustus Wellington.”

 Augustus confidently strode the podium, gave Marie the customary French greeting of a kiss on either cheek, and then began his remarks.

“Thank you for the warm welcome, Marie, and thank you all for your continued cooperation keeping the magical world safe from ongoing threats.  As our war of shadows with the Soviet Union enters its seventh year, I am now pleased to report that we have reached a major breakthrough.  Due to the daring efforts of our undercover operatives, and the help of a high level defection, the British Ministry is now in possession of a Soviet Kwikcodes machine.”

The crowd gasped in surprised as Augustus felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.  There was an ongoing friendly rivalry between the various services and nationalities who were constantly trying to one up each other, and Augustus had clearly won this round. 

He proceeded to address the rest of the issues on the agenda, confidently adding to the growing sense that the tide of the global struggle was turning in their favor.

                                                                        ******

Earlier that morning, Anastasia took in her surroundings as best she could.  She was determined to gather as much information as she could during her stay, but it appeared that she was going to be constantly monitored; by Marie when she was in her room, and by the Muggle while the conference was going on. 

As Marie prepared for the work day, she stepped into the bathroom, giving Anastasia a brief moment of not being watched.  Acting quickly, she searched through Marie’s  purse with her wand at the ready until she found a quill pen. 

She whispered the incantation, “Auditorius,” and when the spell took effect, the quill was now enchanted to preserve an auditory recording of all that was spoken in its presence. 

Marie stepped back into the room and smiled at Anastasia, suspecting nothing.  Anastasia remembered that she and Marie had once fought a protracted duel in the back alleys of Berlin a few years prior, and took a smug satisfaction in the fact that Marie didn’t recognize her in disguise. 

                                                                    *****

Back in London, Quincy Queensbury nervously fiddled with his wand behind his back as he prepared to face his questioners.  It wasn’t often that he saw other parts of the Ministry outside of the research and development office, but today he was being called upon to testify before a sub-committee of the Wizengamot to inform them about his latest project.

He stood at the front of a dark room, facing a panel of five Wizengamot officials.  At the center of the panel sat a well-dressed wizard called Abraxas Malfoy, who was distinctive for his long blonde hair and piercing cold stare.  

“So Mr. Queensbury, please give us a brief summary of the Albatross project,” Malfoy began, slowly enunciating each syllable.

Quincy recounted the technical details of the project until Malfoy interrupted him.

“So are you saying that this weapon has the power to wipe out the magical population of an entire city?”

“Yes sir”

Malfoy scribbled some notes on his parchment as he leaned forward with interest, “Tell me more…”

 

                                                                      *****

After Moody and Augustus had departed for the conference, Duncan had made his way down to the lobby of the inn, where he had been instructed to wait instructed to wait.  He leaned back in a comfortable chair, staring with fascination at a brochure with moving photographs depicting the various recreational activities available on the compound.  The official role of Mont Anglais was a place for the French Minister to get away from Paris and entertain visitors, similar to how the Muggle Prime Minister might use Chequers.

Finally, Anastasia arrived in the lobby, still flawlessly playing the role of a nervous defector who was overwhelmed by her surroundings.

She coyly grabbed the brochure out of Duncan’s hands and proclaimed, “I would like to go ice skating.”

Duncan jumped up with a smile and offered her his arm, “Ice skating it is!”

“Men, so easy to manipulate,” she thought to herself. 

The walked to a pristine frozen pond which was set against a mountainous backdrop where the rays of sunlight glistened off the icy rooftops in the quaint village surrounding them. 

“I don’t normally wear skates,” Duncan explained as they put their skates on, “I usually go on the ice to play this sport called curling, it’s a little hard to explain, but it’s kind of a big deal in Scotland.”

Anastasia nodded as she pretended to be interested.  She then gracefully glided out onto the ice, flawlessly executing some rather complicated twists and jumps.

“Where did you learn to skate like that?!?” Duncan exclaimed.

“I practiced every day as a girl,” she explained, “It was my dream to represent the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics.”

She didn’t usually incorporate actual details of her childhood into her assumed identities, but this Muggle just seemed like such a good listener.

Her voice then trailed off and became more somber, “I thought it was my only hope of escaping the orphanage I grew up in.  Well until I found out I was a witch of course.”

She then began to sob, “I never knew what it was like to have a family, I just put everything into schoolwork and magic because I had nothing else, and Russia is such a bleak place.”

Duncan sat next to her at the edge of the pond and began to put his arm around her, “Don’t worry, you’re going to have a whole new life in the West.   Just wait, we have grocery stores lined with aisles of food where you can get whatever you want, and …”

Before Duncan could finish, Anastasia poked her wand into his side and quietly muttered a stunning spell, leaving him unconscious on the ice.  She looked down at her watch, calculating just how much time she had to make a report to Moscow.  Amazed at just how easy this operation had been so far, she held out her time –turner and prepared to give herself a few extra hours. But just then, a well-cast disarming spell from an unseen foe knocked her backwards, sending both the time-turner and her wand flying out of her hands.

Alastor Moody then emerged from the shadows, walking towards her over the ice with his wand drawn. 

“A very impressive plan Natalia, or shall I say, Anastasia?” he prodded.

 She crawled backwards and reached into her pockets as she tried to come up with a plan.

“You really thought you could fool us? You really thought I would let you out of my sight for even a moment?” Moody continued as he prepared to cast an incarceration spell.

Just before her time ran out, Anastasia found what she was reaching for.  “Ice Busters” were an invention of her agency, small white pellets that when thrown on ice would cause the ice to shatter; they were very useful for quick getaways in the cold environs in which they frequently operated.  She threw the pellets at just the right moment, sending Moody plunging into the cold pond as the ice below his feet shattered. 

Wasting no time, she dove to recover her wand.  With her cover blown, she would have to abort the mission, but it had already been successful beyond what she ever envisioned. 

“Accio quill,” she cast, bringing the enchanted recording quill flying out to her.  She then ran to the top of the nearby hill and slid downward, rapidly picking up speed until it propelled her beyond the protective enchantments of the compound and she could safely disapparate.  

 

 

A/N: "Mont Anglais" means "Mount English," I know, I'm really creative with the French names haha



Chapter 13: Pieces in Place
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 Anastasia walked the familiar passage to Vladimir’s office in Red Square with an extra spring in her step after her recent success.  As she walked through the door, Vladimir was eagerly anticipating her arrival.



“I can sense that you have brought me news of success,” he said delightedly as he spun around in his chair to face her.

Anastasia dropped several rolls of parchment on his desk, “As I suspected, the men that stole the Kwikcodes machine were working off-the-books for the British Ministry, and they completely bought the story about me being a defector.  But it gets better; I managed to infiltrate the secret French base at Mont Anglais where Allied Aurors were having a secret conference, the complete transcript of which is written in these scrolls.”

Vladimir’s eyes widened, “You’ve really outdone yourself this time.”

Then, with a confident swoop, Tom Riddle walked into the office, announcing, “Your Excellency, you won’t believe this news, my man in London has really come through for me this time!”

Anastasia sighed, “You know Riddle, we have a chain of command.”

Riddle looked over at her with a charming but condescending grin, “Oh, I’m sorry, Anastasia, I thought you were out of the country, but it’s great to see you back here alive and well.”

Vladimir motioned for Tom to proceed as Tom handed him a folder marked “Albatross Project.”

“My contact at the Ministry has provided me with these plans for a new weapon system, and I believe you will find it most interesting.”

Vladimir paged through the folder, looking very impressed at what he was reading. 

“Now, Your Excellency, I understand you will soon be traveling to London for the Wizarding World’s Fair?”

Vladimir nodded as he continued reading.

“Might I suggest that some of us may accompany you on your journey, and perhaps try to exploit this opportunity?”

Vladimir looked up, “What exactly are you suggesting?”

“With the information we have just obtained, this could be the opportunity you have been waiting for; to knock Britain out of the game for good.”

“And how feasible would that be?” he asked cautiously.

“It’s a very high risk,” Anastasia cut in, “But with a perfect plan and perfect execution, it may be possible to ensure the fall of the British Ministry and its replacement by a friendly regime.”

Vladimir leaned back and began to grin, “Excellent, I am trusting the two of you to cooperate to form that perfect plan.”

 

*****

Vladimir arrived in London through the official portkey, dressed in regal burgundy robes and a fur hat emblazoned with a red star.  The Deputy Minister of something or other was there to officially greet him, affording him the courtesies due to a head of state, even here in a hostile land.

As he was led to his accommodations, Vladimir looked out over the sprawl of London, sneering at its excesses, but gloating to himself that it would all soon be his. 

****

A Bulgarian called Boris Stoichov also arrived in London that night, wearing a dark hood to conceal his recognizable scars and eye patch.  He alone among the dark wizards that had once made up Grindelwald’s inner circle had managed to escape being killed or captured at the end of the war.  Since then, he had made his living as a hired wand, performing difficult and morally questionable jobs for those that required a good bit of discretion.  As one would expect, the Soviet Ministry had become his biggest client, using him for all manner of jobs.  It was a no lose scenario for them; if he succeeded, their goals would be met, and if he did not, he could take the fall and they could deny all responsibility.  Stoichov was perfectly content with this arrangement, considering how much they had lined his pockets.

But now, he was facing his most difficult assignment yet; the assassination of the Minister of Magic.  The shadowy conflict between the British and Soviets had been very profitable for men like Boris.  He was not sure what had caused this new major escalation in the conflict, but as long as got paid, he wasn’t too concerned. 

His Soviet contacts had given him thorough information on the Minister’s security procedures, which had led him here, to the home of one of the Aurors on the Minister’s security detail.  Boris’s plan was simple yet effective; using Polyjuice potion to take this Auror’s place on the security team, which would give him a clear shot at the Minister.  He drew his wand, ready to complete another job.

*****

Riddle and Anastasia, followed by twenty of their comrades, arrived in the country through a different portkey, which took them to the gates of a grand, imposing estate known as Malfoy Manor.  Abraxas Malfoy, the proud owner of the estate, was there to greet them. 

 “I have eagerly awaited your return,” he excitedly informed Riddle.

The group walked briskly into the house, passing the nursery where Abraxas’ infant son Lucius was sleeping, and finally reaching the dining room, where Riddle took a seat at the head of a very long table.  Anastasia took a seat at his right, and the rest of the group filled in around the table.

With a commanding presence, Riddle rose to speak.

“We have arrived at a major turning point in our struggle.  For many years, this country’s Minister has embraced mudbloods and half-breeds.  But now, we have the chance to bring to change, and the preserve the power of magic for those who are worthy of wielding it.”

He paused briefly as applause filled the room.

“Our plan has several moving parts, but if they are all successful, our conflict ends tomorrow.  Anastasia, please enlighten us with the details.”

Anastasia then rose to speak, “As most of you know, we have contracted Boris Stoichov to assassinate the Minister of Magic.  We are timing this event to create the maximum amount of chaos, and it is imperative that we position ourselves in order to take advantage of the situation. The rest of you will be on standby outside of the World’s Fair, ready to capitalize on the situation and add to the confusion.  With the following exceptions:  Karkaroff, you were instructed to bring the new potion we’ve been developing. “

“The Dumbledore special,” said Karkaroff with a grin, as he held up a glass vial. 

“With you status as a Durmstrang Professor, you have obtained credentials to attend the tomorrow’s International Magical Education conference, which as you know, is being chaired by one Albus Dumbledore.”

The wizards booed and hissed at the mention of Dumbledore’s name. 

“When lunch is served at the conference, your mission is to find a way to ensure that Dumbledore drinks this potion, for we cannot afford to have him meddling.”

Anastasia then conjured some diagrams with her wand, displaying the image of an antique looking biplane. 

“Sources at the Ministry have informed us of a new experimental weapon known as the Albatross.  This weapon has the power to destroy the magical population of an entire city, and will change the face of warfare forever.  And we are going to steal it. “

The wizards murmured excitedly as she continued to explain.

“Dolohov, Markov, and Fedorov, you will accompany me on this phase of the mission.  Mr. Malfoy will allow us to access the Ministry, and from there it’s a simple heist.  ”

“And that’s where I come in,” added Malfoy, “Following the minister’s assassination, there will need to be a special election to choose a new Minister.  As part of my campaign, I will reveal that the previous Ministry has developed these secret weapons that may now be used against us.  These events will likely push our nations to the brink of war, but I will run on a campaign of peace.  But of course, before any of that happens, I have positioned myself to claim de facto power as soon as tomorrow’s events transpire.”

“And then the real changes will begin,” said Riddle, “For law abiding purebloods, life will continue as normal.  But the imposters will be made to pay.  Anyway, I cannot stress how important timing is to this operation. Regardless of progress, you will all report back here at 2000 to assess our next step.”

“Are there any questions?” Anastasia asked.

Seeing none, see wrapped up the meeting, “Now you all know the stakes, good luck.”

The wizards then began to mingle, excitedly discussing their roles in the plot, while Anastasia casually slipped out the door. 

“Where are you going? This is our big moment,” Riddle asked her.

“I have to send a dispatch to Moscow.”

****

Augustus Wellington paced through his office with the haggard appearance of a man who hadn’t slept in days.  He was irate with himself for falling for such an obvious ploy by the Russians, but now, he was determined to make sure that the Wizarding World’s Fair went off without a hitch. 

He looked out his window at the massive tents that had been set up for the fair, in which each participating country had made their own display.  There was a Pegasus surrounded by classical columns in the Greek exhibit, and animatronic mummies walking through replica pyramids in the Egyptian one.  But Augustus’ weary eyes kept zeroing in on the Soviet section, which was centered around a dancing bear on an ice covered pond.  He wondered what the bear was planning as it seemed to openly mock him. 

Mrs. Norrington walked in with a stack of parchment, too tired herself at this point to admonish Augustus for not taking care of himself. 

“There’s a message from Marie Lecavalier; the French Minister has arrived safely. “

Augustus nodded in acknowledgement, still intently staring at the bear. 

“And here’s a few more authorization forms that need your signature, and there’s one more message…um, you might want to read this one yourself.”

Augustus took the parchment from her, double checking its veracity as his eyes opened wide with concern.  


Chapter 14: The Confrontation
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 A festive mood filled the air as wizards from around the world arrived in London.  A large spinning globe projected in the air, surrounded by a banner reading, “1952 Wizarding World’s Fair.”  A sprawling complex of tents housed the colorful exhibitions that had been put together by each attending nation, surrounding a central pavilion, where the Minister of Magic was about to take the stage as part of the official opening ceremonies. 


With the assistance of Polyjuice potion, Boris Stoichov had taken the place of the unfortunate Auror he had visited the previous night, and was now entering the pavilion as part of the Minister’s security detail.  The Minister stood in a small backstage room, looking over his prepared remarks.  Stoichov took note of how easy it would be to finish his job right then and there, but his Russian clients had specifically instructed him to do his task during the speech in order to inflict the maximum chaos.  Stoichov didn’t mind, because they had paid him handsomely, and that chaos might just increase his chances of escaping unharmed. 

After a few minutes of waiting, a voice could be heard from the stage announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Minister of Magic.”

Applause filled the pavilion as the Minister walked out to the podium at the center of the stage.  Stoichov walked out as well, assuming his position at the corner of the stage.  He looked out to scan the crowd, noting that there were Aurors posted on the other side of the stage, as well as at the rear of the seating area, and patrolling the aisles. 

Unbeknownst to Stoichov, Algernon Avery was sitting in the crowd, leading a team that included his fellow English defectors as well as around a dozen Soviet agents, who were spread out and interspersed throughout the crowd.  Avery had been given a specific task; to eliminate Stoichov once he had killed the Minister, ensuring that he would not survive to answer questions.  The rest of Avery’s team had been instructed to take advantage of the ensuing situation to create as much chaos as possible, and several of them had taken seats near where the French, German and Spanish Ministers of Magic were seated, hoping to exploit targets of opportunity.   He gripped his wand and waited tensely at the edge of his seat, knowing the situation was about to escalate.

Stoichov controlled his breath, careful not to make any movements that might betray his intentions, as he waited for the opportune moment to strike. 

The Minister began his remarks, “On behalf of the people of Britain, I would like to cordially welcome you all to the Wizarding World’s Fair.  We have come together here to celebrate each other’s cultures as we work together towards a new era of peace and prosperity.”

The crowd interrupted with applause, leading Stoichov to conclude that this was likely going to be his best chance.  With a methodical coldness, he turned to face the Minister, preparing to cast the Avada Kedarva charm.  

Before he could finish the incantation, Stoichov felt his wand fly from his hand.  Much to his surprise, the disarming charm seemed to have come from the Minister himself.   Before he could process what just happened, the Minister was in a dueling stance, quickly casting “Petrificus Totalus!” and “Incarcerous!” leaving Stoichov petrified and restrained with ropes. 

Dramatic gasps filled the crowd, and Avery stood up in alarm, eagerly awaiting what would happen next. 

Thinking quickly, the Minister returned to his podium and proclaimed, “My apologies for any alarm, but what you just witnessed was a demonstration to prove that despite our new age of peace, there will always be danger lurking in the shadows, but if we stick together, we can avoid it.”  The Minister then seemed to wink as he added, “The key, of course, is constant vigilance.”

With that, the crowd settled back down, anxious to hear the rest of the speech.  Avery the resignedly raised his wand and fired red sparks in the air, the signal to his team to abort the mission and return to the rendezvous point at Malfoy Manor.  

 

*****

At the other end of the Fairgrounds, a private room had been ornately decorated to be a much smaller but completely to scale replica of the Hogwarts Great Hall.  Candles hovered above the table, the enchanted ceiling displayed a starry night, and the four walls were adorned with banners of Hogwarts’ four houses. 

Professors and school administrators from the magical academies of attending nations had been invited to a private banquet in this room, in which the keynote speaker, Albus Dumbledore, was to deliver a speech on “Multi-cultural education in a shrinking world.” 

Due to his day job as a professor at Durmstrang Academy, Igor Karkaroff was invited to intend the banquet, and as far as the Soviets were concerned, that could not have worked out more perfectly.  As Karkaroff took a seat among his fellow educators, he kept a close eye on the small deadly vial in his bag.  Years of research and experimentation had gone into creating the “Dumbledore special,” and now that chance had finally arisen to use it. 

At the head of the room, Duncan MacDonald resisted the urge to scratch his uncomfortable new beard.  While this wasn’t his first experience with Polyjuice, becoming Albus Dumbledore just felt a little too strange.  He had been given a text of the remarks he was supposed to say, but he strongly worried about being coerced into a question and answer session. 

As a group of house elves walked out to serve the initial round of drinks and appetizers, Karkaroff seized his opportunity.  He excused himself from his seat, ostensibly to find the nearest men’s room, and walked on a course that led to a direct collision with the elf that was about to serve the head table. 

“Watch where you’re going!” Karkaroff snarled as he collided with the apologetic elf.  He then turned around to storm back to his seat, having successfully emptied the vial into what he was reasonably certain was the correct goblet. 

Duncan looked over the speech, making sure he knew how to pronounce any unfamiliar terms, as he reached for a drink.  He eyed the goblet of pumpkin juice suspiciously; it did not look appetizing, but he knew that to play his part successfully, he would have to eat everything that was served.  He hesitantly took a sip of the juice, and then, surprised at its smooth sweetness, took a much larger gulp.  He returned to looking at his speech, until he felt a rumbling in his stomach, bringing on a very intense feeling of nausea.  He stumbled out of his chair, searching for relief.  Poppy Pomfrey, the Hogwarts nurse who was also in attendance, ran to put her arm around him and guide him out the rear entrance to the room.  Karkaroff then quietly slipped away, confident that his mission had been achieved. 

*****

Deep inside the Forest of Dean, Tom Riddle arrived at the spot that Dmitri Stroganov had indicated on the hand-drawn map that he held.   A light breeze moving through the leaves was the only sound he could hear, and there was not a soul around for miles.  Riddle scanned his surroundings, and sure enough, he soon spotted some inconspicuous stone ruins. 

He walked over to the crumbling wall and found a large stone that was inscribed with ancient runes.  He read the Druidic inscription aloud, and when he was finished, a trapped door opened up in front of him.  He dropped a few stones through the opening to test the depth before plunging in himself.

“Lumos,” he cast, causing a light from his wand to illuminate the very dark room.  There were rows musty and rotting shelves containing ancient dust-covered books, and the air was oppressively stiff and damp.  It was fairly obvious that this room had not been visited in centuries. 

Riddle systematically made his way through the rows of shelves, carefully reading each book title, until he finally came across a black book whose title simply read, “Horcruxes.”

He tucked the book away and turned to leave, feeling an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.  Whatever happened elsewhere this day, his personal goal had been accomplished. 

 

*****

Working together as they had so many times before, Anastasia and Dolohov led their team to a little-used side entrance of the Ministry of Magic, where Abraxas Malfoy was awaiting from inside to let them in. 

The group walked briskly and determinedly through the corridors and into a lift, where he could use his clearance level to grant them access to the restricted level underneath the Department of Mysteries.  Malfoy led them down a corridor and towards the entrance to what appeared to be a large, open warehouse.  He then proceeded to inform them that this was the Aurors’ research and development lab, and wished them all luck as he turned to leave. 

Taking over from there, Anastasia ordered Markov and Fedorov to guard the entrance as she and Dolohov proceeded ahead.  She had studied the layout of this room many times, and as they walked through the shelves containing various types of gadgets, everything seemed to be exactly where they expected it.  Sure enough, when they reached the open floor space at the center of the warehouse, the Albatross aircraft was sitting in the middle.  However, they had not expected to see three wizards standing around it, seemingly performing a maintenance check.  This added a complication to the plan, but as they quickly surmised that these wizards were Ministry researchers rather than Aurors, they did not seem to pose much of a challenge.

Anastasia and Dolohov dove behind a storage bin for brooms, and looked from behind their cover to assess the situation.  They were about 20 yards away from the aircraft, where it appeared that Quincy Queensbury, who they recognized as the author of the classified report that Malfoy had turned over to them, was directing two other wizards in performing a routine maintenance check.  The wizards were engrossed in their work and did not seem to notice the presence of the intruders. 

Anastasia gave Dolohov a nod, and at the count of three, they sprung from their hiding spot, firing off a barrage of spells.  Two of the British wizards were quickly felled by stunning spells, but Queensbury reacted surprisingly quickly, firing back some spells of his own which sent them diving back behind the bin.  Queensbury then took advantage of the momentary lull by starting the engine of the plane and casting a spell to open the hangar door at the far end of the room.  He ran along with the plane as it began to taxi, attempting to climb into the cockpit

“Cover me!” Anastasia yelled, as she sprang into action and sprinted after him. Just as Queensbury was about to slide into the cockpit, Anastasia hit him with a flying tackle, bringing him crashing to the ground.  She pinned him to the floor as Dolohov walked up behind with his wand at the ready. 

“You’re too late,” Queensbury informed them, “I activated the autopilot charm.  In the event of an intrusion, it’s enchanted to launch an attack on Moscow.”

Upon hearing this news, she slapped him viciously across the face, and then motioned to Dolohov to retrieve brooms from the bin.   Leaving Queensbury on the ground, they lifted off on their brooms, and began to chase after the now pilotless aircraft as it exited the warehouse and went airborne.

As it lifted over London, the aircraft quickly gained speed.  Anastasia and Dolohov accelerated on their brooms, narrowly avoided a collision with the Tower Bridge.  Strong winds whipped across their faces, and the extreme forces of gravity made them grit with discomfort as they leaned forward as far as they could, trying to make themselves as aerodynamic as possible.

Despite its antique appearance, the Albatross was proving to be quite a capable aircraft.  With Dolohov close behind her, Anastasia struggled to stay on her broom as she fought through its tailwind, maneuvering to get as close as possible.  With one final push, she managed to lunge far enough to grab hold of the inside of the cockpit, watching her broom disappear beneath her as her legs dangled in the air.  It took all the strength she had to pull herself up and finally take her place in the pilot’s seat.  Dolohov made the lunge next, and as there was no seat for him, he held tightly to the edge of the cockpit and managed to wedge himself against the side of the plane with his feet on the wings.  Visibly hanging from the wings a few feet away from him were the processed and enchanted Erumpent Horns they had read about; the “magic missiles” with the potential to cause untold destruction. 

By the time they had gotten themselves situated, the plane was now somewhere over Norfolk, heading towards the North Sea.  Anastasia had tried to work the controls, but they seemed to have been jammed by the Autopilot charm.  The only direction that seemed to work was to go down for an emergency landing. 

Since turning the plane around was going to be impossible, Anastasia moved on to her next idea, “We’ll jettison the bombs over the water!”

Moments later, they were “feet wet” over the North Sea, and Anastasia frantically pressed every button she could find hoping to release the bombs, but none of them seemed to work.  She then tried various charms, all of which were equally ineffective. 

“What’s happening?” Dolohov yelled.

“There’s some sort of powerful charm on these bombs, they won’t release!”

Anastasia then faced forward with a grim determination in her eyes as she began to steer the plane downward, “I know what I have to do.”

“No! I can’t let you do this!” Dolohov called out in alarm.

“Sorry Antonin, it’s the only way,” she replied as she gave her old friend a square kick to the chest which dislodged him from his position, knowing that this would force to disapparate. 

Dolohov took a moment to process everything that just happened as he free fell towards the sea.  He managed to pull himself together and disapparate just in the nick of time, and the last thing he saw before he disappeared with a pop was a massive splash as the plane hit the waves.  


Chapter 15: New Beginnings
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 Minister of Magic Horatio Hotspur walked through the grounds of World’s Fair, taking in all the sites around him.  This wasn’t supposed to be the first time he was seeing everything, but after much resistance, he had finally caved in when Augustus Wellington had insisted on letting that young fellow Moody take his place for the opening ceremonies. 

He strolled through the visitors’ lounge, exchanging the customary pleasantries with the many foreign dignitaries he encountered, until he found himself face to face with his most bitter rival. 

“Vladimir, I trust you have enjoyed your stay?” he asked, struggling mightily to conceal his disgust. 

“I must thank you for your hospitality, Horatio,” Vladimir responded with an equal amount of barely concealed disdain. 

“Now Vladimir, don’t you think it’s a shame that not every world leader was able to attend? I was looking forward to seeing Mr. Podolski from Poland, and that Hungarian fellow.”

Vladimir stepped back nervously, sensing that a group of Aurors was starting to close in around him.  “Yes, that is rather unfortunate.  I wonder what held them up.”

Hotspur scoffed, “Don’t patronize me, Vladimir.  I know damn well where they are, and I hold you personally responsible for their disappearances, as well as the attempt on my life, I might add.”

He then motioned to the Aurors, “Arrest him.”

“You can’t do this! I am a sovereign head are state! You are violating every international protocol!” Vladimir protested as the Aurors began to restrain him.

Hotspur handed him a scroll of parchment, “Here is a list of political prisoners that are known to be held by your regime.  When they are released, you will be too.  But until then, enjoy your stay in Azkaban.”

Vladimir hung his head in resignation, cursing the day he chose to cast his lot with that ambitious fool Tom Riddle. 

 

*****

Tom Riddle set down the portkey the had taken him from Malfoy Manor to here in the woods of Albania, reminding himself how good an idea it had been to establish this portkey during his previous trip to the country. 

He took stock of everything that had just occurred, and from his perspective, he was right where he wanted to be.  He felt a slight twinge of regret that the plot he had pitched to Vladimir had not panned out, but he knew all along it was overly ambitious.  Although he did ultimately yearn to seize power in his home country, he knew that there was much work to be done to reach that point, and realistically, he was at least a decade away.  As things stood right now, he now had the information he needed, a great place to hide, and a loyal group of followers. 

He looked out at the group of wizards that had followed him to Albania, knowing that they made a pretty formidable group.  He had ordered Malfoy to remain home and gain influence at the Ministry, but aside from that, all of them were here; both his Hogwarts classmates who would follow him everywhere, and his new Russian friends, who saw no alternative but to follow him after the failure of their mission.  Well almost all of them; Dolohov had informed him of Anastasia’s untimely demise.  Riddle regretted that she may have been a powerful ally, but on the other hand, she always was a bit too independent for his liking.  In the meantime, Riddle could sense some uncertainty among the group, and it became clear to him that he would need to address them.

“My friends,” he began, as they eagerly gathered around him.

“While it may not be clear to you yet, today was a momentous day for our cause.  For today was not the failure of mission, but merely the beginning of the next phase.  For too long, we wizards have been divided by petty differences like language or nationality.  But today begins a new age, where we will be united by the power of magic, and our struggle to preserve it for those who are worthy to wield it.”

The wizards hung on his every word, building an enthusiasm that was completely erasing any disappointment they may have felt.

“In previous ages, we have wasted lives in pointless struggles between nations or kings.  But now, we begin a much greater struggle; a struggle to defeat death itself.”

Now there was some applause and shouts of approval; he knew he had them.

“No longer will we be known as English or Russian, for now we will be the enemies of death, the Death Eaters.  And no longer will I be known by this filthy mudblood name.  For I am no longer Tom Riddle. I am Lord Voldemort!”

The newly branded Death Eaters erupted in applause, more eager than ever to do his bidding.  Riddle was pleased.  There was much work to be done, but for now, he had a diadem to find. 

 

****

Augustus Wellington paced in front of his office window, completely exhausted, but very relieved at how everything had played out.  When Anastasia had sent him a frantic owl the night before the opening ceremonies, explaining in detail everything the Soviets were planning, he thought for sure that it had to be a trap.  However, he had a hunch that it since it was far too obviously a set-up, it just might be real, and ultimately, it appeared he had been correct.  Their exchange of communiques had revealed that beneath all her trickery, there did seem to be something of a conscience, and whatever ill feeling she may have had towards the West, she couldn’t bear to subject anybody to Riddle.  She had signed up to serve her country, not to commit genocide.   

The tireless Mrs. Norrington walked in with a stack of documents. 

“The latest reports from the field.  Marie Lecavalier reports all is well with the French delegation, and I took the liberty of making dinner reservations for the two of you tonight, just looking out for your best interests.”

Augustus shook his head; he was often annoyed by Mrs. Norrington’s interventions into his mostly nonexistent personal life, but in this case, he wasn’t going to object.  But right now, there were more pressing concerns.

“And what about our guest?”

“I’ll send her right in.”

Mrs. Norrington opened the door as Anastasia walked in, wearing a plain Muggle outfit, yet somehow still managing to give off her femme fatale aura. 

Augustus turned to face her, “Perfectly timed disapparation from a moving aircraft, I have to say I’m impressed.”

“Please, I could do that blindfolded,” she teased as she took a seat across from him. 

“But tell me one thing,” she prodded, “That device of yours wasn’t actually going to bomb Moscow, was it?”

“Good heavens no! What do you think I am?” Augustus answered to her relief.

He explained further, “What you were flying was an enchanted Muggle aircraft that was simply loaded with fireworks.  To be perfectly honest, the real Albatross project is still in the development stages, and it’s at least six years away.  We showed the Ministry a replica because I suspected we had a leak, and it appears I was correct.”

“Well Abraxas Malfoy is your leak, I could have told you that,” Anastasia explained.

“I see,” Augustus said with concern, “Unfortunately he’s too well connected for me to do anything about it at the moment, so for now I’ll just have to keep an eye on him.”

“Well I’m sure you can find an unconventional solution, I mean told you we were going to kill Dumbledore and the Minister, and your plan was to have Moody and MacDonald take their places?”

“And Moody handled himself spectacularly, he’ll make one hell of an Auror,” Augustus said proudly.

“And what about MacDonald, I trust he’s recovered?”

“Oh he’s fine,” Augustus reassured her, “That ‘Dumbledore Special’ of yours really was quite ingenious, a poison that feeds on magical power, making more deadly the more powerful the victim is, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that first.  But anyway, like you assured us, when given to a Muggle, the only symptom is nausea. He had a rough night for sure, but he’s pulling through it.”

Anastasia smiled in relief, “And your man Queensbury, is he ok? I had to get a little rough with him to play the part.”

Augustus couldn’t help but chuckle, “He’s recovering nicely as well.  That was his first field operation, and he’s not going to forget it anytime soon.”

“And I’ve been dying to ask you,” she continued, “How did you ever find out about our base in Russia in the first place?”

Augustus grinned, pleased to know he had gotten one over on the Russians, “My brother is a squib and he works for MI6 at the Moscow embassy.  It seems your lot has a leak on the Muggle side of things.”

Anastasia nodded, despite her defection, she couldn’t shake her professional diligence. 

“Well anyway,” he continued, “the terms of our deal still stand; a new life here in exchange for your wand.”

Anastasia felt a slight twinge of regret as she handed her wand across the desk, :You still don’t trust me, do you?”

Augustus smiled, “One does not stay alive very long in our business by trusting people”

Anastasia reached for the large envelope Augustus had handed her, which contained a British passport identifying her as “Anne Miller,” a librarian from Doncaster. 

He explained, “The arrangements have been made your new flat is ready, and we even stocked it with groceries.  In any case, I’m glad we can put this whole business behind us.”

“As am I, but I fear we have not seen the last of Tom Riddle.”

****

Moody and Duncan prepared to leave the Ministry after their debriefings, having been handsomely awarded for their services.   Moody had finally been awarded his official Auror badge, and he was also presented with the adoption papers for a magical Siberian husky.  Duncan meanwhile, was given the only reward he had requested, a very large bag of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. 

As they prepared to part ways, Moody was about as emotional as possible for his personality. 

“Well MacDonald, it’s been an honor serving with you.”

Moody extended a firm handshake that quickly turned into a bear hug.  As Moody walked away, Duncan reflected that he had never met anyone quite like that, and he was really going to miss him. 

Still struggling to process everything he had been through, Duncan took a long walk, stopping on Westminster Bridge to take in the view of the Houses of Parliament and feel the cool breeze coming off the River Thames. 

His reflections were interrupted by the sudden appearance of a mysterious blonde walking up behind him. 

“So I wanted to apologize about the whole knocking you out and leaving you on the ice thing, I hope you understand it was nothing personal,” she told him.

Duncan shrugged, “Eh, what’s a little assault and battery between friends?”

She walked up next to him to share the view as he turned to ask her, “So why did you do it? Give up your magic, come over to our side and all?”

Anastasia paused to gather her thoughts before explaining, “All my life I’ve been working for power, for myself, for others, and I guess I always though being powerful would make me happy.  But when I look at you, an ordinary Muggle with no powers so to speak, but you’re the happiest person I’ve ever met.  And it took Tom Riddle to make me realize how empty and lonely that quest for power really is.”

Not sure what to say to that, Duncan asked, “So what are you doing to tomorrow?”

Anastasia had to pause to answer the question; for the first time in her life, she owed no obligation to anybody.  “I…I guess I don’t know.”

Duncan smiled as he handed her an address on a crumpled up piece of paper, “Well then you’re going to have to experience a traditional Scottish lunch.  Be at the Rotten Haggis Pub at noon, and don’t be late.”

Anastasia smiled as she departed to investigate her new flat, “I’m looking forward to it.”

Duncan seemed to have an extra spring in his step as he walked all the way back to his pub, flipping the sign in the window from “closed” to “open.”

Moments later, his old friend Hamish stumbled through the door, out of breath from a brisk walk.

“Duncan, you lazy bastard, where have you been?”

Duncan shook his head and laughed, “Hamish, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

 

 

 

 

A/N: This is the end of my most ambitous story to date!  Thank you so much to everyone who has read this story, and thank you even more if you left reviews!  I felt very honored from the recognition this story has received, and I apreciate all of you so much for sharing such a great communities where we can share our creativity.  







And as sort of an epilogue note, if you want to know more about what happens with Duncan and Anastasia, read the epilogue of my story Their Finest Hour

Spoiler alert if you don't want to read that: they get married and Mary MacDonald of the MArauders era is their daughter

Thanks again!


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