Chapter 13 : Chapter XIII: Treiber und Klatscher
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A probing searchlight found and fixed itself on a German bomber. Every anti-aircraft gun in the area opened up on it.
BAAAMMM!BAAAMMM!BAAAMMM!BAAAMMM! the Bofors guns roared, spitting out streams of 40mm shells. The hungry guns ate up ammunition astonishingly quickly for weapons of their calibre. They chewed through four round clips every two seconds, requiring constant attention from the loaders just to keep them fed, like trying to keep a sieve filled with water.
The bomber braved the bursting shells as if they weren’t there, but just when it appeared that the aircraft was going to escape out of the guns’ range, the unfortunate Heinkel He 111 exploded into an angry, orange fireball. The explosion’s report thundered a second after the flash and lit up the smoky haze, as would a large – an impossibly large – firework.
The Polish anti-aircraft crews cheered. They had drawn their first blood, but nobody knew who exactly brought the plane down. One of the forty millimetres? A seventy-five? It didn’t matter at the moment, and they could argue about that later…
“You, kid! Fetch more shells!” A lieutenant barked at a teenage boy in civilian clothing.
Regardless of (or encouraged by) the officer’s tone, the boy enthusiastically saluted and shouted, “Yes, sir!” He seized a wheelbarrow and hurried to the ammunition stockpiles, weaving his way through the rubble and roadblocks.
He was not the only civilian to offer his assistance to the soldiers. In essence, nothing short of the entire able-bodied population of Warsaw had risen to the task. Though there weren’t many spare guns to go around, their labour was their weapon. Ignoring the pounding of the bombs and shells, the people cleared rubble, fought fires, ferried ammunition, and blocked off almost every street with barricades to help forestall the inevitable German assault.
There was one building that, for the moment, lay untouched. Downtown Warsaw was a charred, burnt-out wreck, but this small, unassuming bakery seemed blissfully unaware of the destruction and frenzied activity around it. Had people not been preoccupied with fortifying the city, some might have considered the building with some curiosity.
Everyone was also too busy to notice a man wearing a dark red cloak walk straight through the bakery’s strangely intact windowpane.
The interior of the bakery was much too spacious for the buildings small dimensions. In fact, there was no bakery inside at all, but a grand entry room with hardwood floors and several fireplaces along the walls.
The red robed man presented his wand to a witch behind a counter. A little brass scale hummed then confirmed his identity, and once cleared, he took a lift a few floors up to his department.
“Morning, Piotr,” a co-worker greeted him as he came through the door of the Polish Magical Defence Division headquarters.
Piotr replied with a mumbled greeting. He didn’t like waking up at four in the morning to go to work, so he was still groggy and half asleep.
Unhappily, he set to work on a report he hadn’t finished the night before. The Defence Division had been working overtime recently, working late into the night and starting early in the mornings after little sleep. Trust that mad German to cause trouble…
But, of course, Grindelwald’s hands were clean. There was no definitive link between the Zaubererreich Chancellor and the recent unrest, but Piotr felt intuitively the man was behind it.
He dipped his eagle quill into the inkwell and began to write.
…group of six pro-Zaubererreich protesters had performed magic on Muggles with blatant disregard for the Statute of Secrecy. The Muggles in question had been Confunded, but were otherwise unharmed. Subjects were Obliviated after interrogations by myself and Officer Spieprzaj Dziadu…
He detailed the events of the previous night. He and some others had tracked down the self-styled wizarding revolutionaries and apprehended them. Unfortunately, they had resisted, and Anastazja was sent to the hospital after the confused melee.
The room was not silent, despite the fact that nobody was speaking. The faint scratching of quills on parchment was drowned out by a constant rumble from outside. It was the thunder of the Muggle weapons. While outside, Piotr was amazed at how LOUD those nefarious Muggle contraptions were. He was surprised the devices didn’t kill people just by their noise alone, as a Mandrake would.
As if responding to his thoughts, there was a loud, thudding bang that sounded like a massive book being slammed onto a table. The walls shuddered and the windows rattled. A bit of dust fell from the ceiling.
The first time a Muggle bomb had gone off nearby, everyone in the Defence Division had bolted out their seats. No such drama occurred now, after a full week of bombardment. Piotr and his co-workers had gotten used to the constant rumble and the occasional jolt, but that didn’t mean they weren’t annoyed by it.
“Stop it, you damn Muggles!” Kacper said irritably from his desk. “I’m trying to work here!”
There was another bang, and the slightly muffled firecracker cacophony continued unabated.
“Somehow, I don’t think they’re listening,” Piotr commented dryly.
Kacper shook his head and shouted in the direction of the magically reinforced window, “SHUT UP!”
Amazingly, all went quiet. Then Piotr noticed the wand in his co-worker’s hand. “Sound-blocking charms. Marvellous things, aren’t they?”
“Without a doubt,” Kacper said, grinning. “Now, let’s just see how long the spell lasts. I’ll bet five Grosz for an hour.”
“Forty-five minutes,” Piotr replied. A few of those who had been listening on the conversation also placed bets. Lech was the most pessimistic of all, betting twenty minutes for the racket outside to worm its way through the muffling charm again.
Maja leaned over from her desk and gave a disapproving look.
“What?” Piotr asked.
“How can you think of gambling, boys? Don’t you realise what you are doing?” she scolded.
When Piotr and Kacper simply shrugged their shoulders, she answered, “You’re gambling on people’s lives. Every loud bang you hear is more people getting killed!”
“We’re not betting on people dying, Maja,” Kacper explained. “We’re just seeing how long the charm–”
She waved his excuse aside. “That doesn’t matter! It’s the same thing.”
Piotr looked at Kacper and rolled his eyes. He turned back to his female co-worker and said, “Look, Maja. I think it’s horrible that all these Muggles are fighting, but if they want to kill each other, that’s their decision, it’s up to them. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Who says we can’t?” she shot back. “We’re wizards and witches, aren’t we? We can do magic. I say that magic is wasted if it doesn’t do some good for this world.”
Piotr raised his eyebrows. “Don’t tell me you’ve started supporting Grindelwald, Maja.”
“So what if have? Why haven’t you?” she answered defensively. “Grindelwald knows what to do about the world – not just the wizarding world, mind you – the entire world, both magical and Muggle. We have a responsibility as wizards and witches to use our magic for the Greater Good.”
He shook his head and chuckled. “Sorry, Maja, but I’ll need more convincing than that. Grindelwald is a radical. He has some interesting ideas, but I got a bad feeling he’ll do anything to get his way, even if they are for the greater good, whatever that means. He’s two-faced. I don’t trust him.”
Maja gave him a disapproving look. “Why don’t you trust him? He’s delivered on every promise he’s made – much more than you can say about politicians in our country.”
“And don’t you find it odd that every one of his decisions is passed with one hundred percent majorities? That’s foul play if you ask me…”
The debate would have continued, but one of their superiors stepped in. “As fascinating as your discussion is, we are not here to argue about politics. Get back to work.”
Perfectly happy to obey, Piotr returned to his report. He could feel Maja’s disapproving glares on his back before she too resumed her work.
I better keep an eye on her, Piotr thought to himself. Though he didn’t want to think ill of his colleagues, he felt uneasy about Maja’s political leanings. Grindelwald had a number of supporters in Poland; even wizards in high Department positions like Chief Warlock Kaczmarek of the central courts. They were all up to no good, as far as Piotr was concerned: ruthless, but hiding behind a mask of lofty – and regrettably, popular – ideals. Minister Zawadzki should take a leaf from the Russians’ book and just have them all arrested, or at least taken out of government.
But no sooner had the thought appeared in his head, did Piotr feel guilty. He had known Maja for six years, and she was hardworking, dependable, and perfectly likeable despite her enthusiasm for that man’s peculiar principles. Was it just to… persecute people just because of their potential to cause trouble?
No, Piotr thought. We’re not like the Russians. And we’re not Germans either…
The minutes passed very slowly – writing boring reports had that effect. That was the least favourite part of his job, and he would much rather be out on the field, making more arrests. But drinking a nice, hot cup of coffee would be just as good.
Suddenly, Piotr had a task to do that didn’t involve writing. “Does anyone want coffee?” he offered. “If you all pitch in a few Grosz, I’ll get everyone a cup.”
Sixty seconds later, he was running down the corridor to the lift, pockets full of pooled change. His boss had warned him not to dawdle, and Piotr had no intention of returning any later than five o’ five, as ordered.
He returned from the lobby, running as fast as he dared without spilling his precious cargo. He stopped when he reached the Defence Department, balanced the tray of mugs carefully with one hand, and reached for the doorknob with the other–
Piotr had no time to react. The last thing he saw was the fiery blast tearing through the wall and door; then crushing blackness.
"Alle Angriffsziele wurden beseitigt, Sturmtruppenführer.”
"Sehr gut. Gebt die Entwarnung. Wir disaperatieren zum Hauptquartier in drei... zwei... eins... JETZT!" *
“So, do you understand now?” Dieter asked from his side of the table. The three boys were in the first-year common room. Dieter and Konrad were conversing, and Ernst was being slightly anti-social by sitting to the side, reading a book.
“I think so. A little,” Konrad replied, consulting the parchment had made for him. “But I still have to wonder why nobody taught me this when I was younger.”
“Well, you’ll find that Muggles know things that wizards don’t,” Dieter explained, grinning slightly. Though he hadn’t grown up around magic and felt out of place at Durmstrang at times, he was proud of his Muggle heritage. He knew things others didn’t, which was always a good feeling until he reminded himself that he was obligated to share that knowledge with those who lacked, whom were many. His roommate was a good place to start.
Dieter continued, “Grindelwald says that wizards will one day come out of hiding. When that day comes, you wizards should learn a few things from us Muggles. I’m sure you’ll find our knowledge useful.”
Konrad nodded slowly. Dieter suspected that the wizard-born boy had his reservations about that assertion.
“You’re not a Muggle,” Ernst said, looking up from his book. He had been listening in on the conversation.
“What?” Dieter replied.
“You’re not a Muggle,” the introverted boy repeated. “You’re a wizard now.”
Dieter spent a moment trying to figure out why Ernst had made that comment, and remembered what he had said to Konrad about ‘us Muggles’.
“Ah. So I misspoke.”
“Where were we?” Konrad inquired.
Ernst went back to his book, and the other two boys returned to their conversation, consulting the world map Dieter had traced from a textbook.
“So, without looking at the map key, could you point to the world’s concentrations of Latin peoples…? Okay. How about Aryans?”
Dieter believed that the map he had compiled would impress his old Muggle Geography teacher if he had the chance to see it. He was certain he had remembered the correct placement of all of the world’s human and sub-human races; teaching another student would have certainly counted for something as well.
He had marked areas of heavy Jewish infestations with little six-pointed stars. Konrad had trouble understanding the concept of international Jewry, and Ernst’s descriptions of them as ‘deluded deniers of Christ’ didn’t help. In fact, thinking of the Jew in religious terms hadn’t even cross Dieter’s mind.
Dieter didn’t even know what their beliefs were, apart from their apparent worship of money. Whatever their religion was didn’t really matter, as far as Dieter was concerned – after all, a Jew who converted to Christianity was still a Jew. His teachers and books had made that very clear. What made a Jew were the biological abnormalities of their race; imperfections that turned them into parasites of civilised societies. Some freak accident of evolution had brought the Hebrew to the world, and now everyone had to deal with him.
“Do you think there could be these Jews you are talking about at Durmstrang?” Konrad asked.
Dieter looked up, surprised. That was a question that hadn't even crossed his mind. “Why would there be? How could there be?”
“Well, you say they’re Unter-whatsits. If there are Slavs here, couldn’t that mean there are Jews here too?”
Without hesitation, Dieter answered, “No, don’t be stupid. Slavs are one thing, but Jews are something else. They’re not even partially human. And we know from our classes that only humans can perform magic. Animals can’t.”
“But… I thought you said that Slavs were animals in human bodies,” Konrad said with some confusion.
“They are. So what are you trying to say?”
“Erm… how are Jews and Slavs different, if they’re both Untermenschen? How can one be at Durmstrang but not the other?”
Dieter sighed. “It’s complicated. You’ll get used to it.”
Konrad shook his head. “This Muggle stuff of yours makes no sense. Can’t we talk about aeroplanes instead or something like that? Remind me why you’re trying to teach me this?”
Dieter responded with a question. “Are you German?”
“Of course. Why?”
“Then you’re a National Socialist,” Dieter said simply. “The NSDAP is a true people’s party, and it’s a movement of all Germans. It doesn’t matter whether you are a wizard or not. To be German is to be a National Socialist – they’re the same thing. It’s really important that you understand what it means to be a Aryan German.”
Konrad slid the map Dieter had made back to him across the table. “I never would have thought being German could be so complicated. Let’s do something else.” He glanced at Ernst’s book and asked, “What are you reading?”
Ernst showed the cover of a small book bound in blue leather. “The Bible. Book of Matthew.”
“So which one is it? Is it the ‘Bible’ or the ‘Book of Matthew’?”
“The Bible. The… chapters, I guess you could call them, are just called ‘books’.” He got up. “Now, I’m going to go outside and pray. It is Sunday, after all. Do any of you want to come?”
Konrad stood up from his chair too. “Sure. As long it doesn’t have anything to do with Untermenschen or anything like that, it sounds interesting.”
“It isn’t,” Dieter warned. “Religion is really boring, Konrad.”
Ernst gave Dieter a cold look and walked away. Konrad followed after a departing, “Well, I’ll see you in a bit.”
Their departure left Dieter alone at the table in the common room, confused. “Huh,” he breathed. Was Konrad really that interested in Muggle Christianity? Or was he just bored with Dieter teaching… or perhaps lecturing him about National Socialism?
He was probably just curious, Dieter concluded.
With nothing productive to do in the first-year’s tower, he decided to check out the school library. His brother, Paul, had asked him to investigate the origins of dragons, his theory being that the beasts were descended from dinosaurs. Dieter hadn’t done anything about his younger brother’s request in the weeks since receiving his letter, so he felt that it was about time that he honoured it.
The library was on the south side of the castle, occupying a wing and an adjoining tower offset at one end. Through double doors and an empty desk, Dieter saw that the floor plan was rather skinny, cramped, and had few windows, thus relying on many floating glass orbs with candles inside for lighting. Since the library couldn’t expand horizontally, it simply went up instead.
The ceiling had to be at least three or four storeys high from the floor, or about the same height as the Great Hall. The bookcases crowded against the walls and in the tight rows of the centre aisles were just as tall. Interspaced roughly every story in height were thick oaken crossbeams that doubly supported narrow catwalks and prevented the freestanding cases from toppling over. The catwalks were made accessible by a number of truly absurd, vertical ladders that reached the top of the towering ceiling.
The library’s proportions and complex layout overwhelmed Dieter, and he had no idea where to start looking for dragon books. He wandered around on the floor level, looking for some sort of cataloguing system.
“Salutations, young one,” a wheezy voice unexpectedly said from behind, causing Dieter to jump. “May I assist you in searching through our library's multitudinous tomes?”
He turned around and faced who could only be the librarian. The wizard was very old, and had a big mane of very wispy white hair. He also sported prominent large sideburns that must have gone out of fashion in the 1870s, and small round spectacles attached to a fine chain around his neck. His slouching posture, long limbs, and the big circle of hair framing his face gave him the appearance of some overgrown monkey.
“Er… sure. Can you tell me where I can find books on dragons?”
“Certainly, young boy. You’ll find them in section MZ, numbers two hundred twenty-five point five L two blah blah blah something something with numbers and letters... General reference books on magical creatures can be found in the same section, from zero A five seven something something blah blah something...”
The librarian’s instructions went straight through one ear and out the other. Dieter didn’t remember anything he said apart from section ‘MZ’. “Thank you,” he said nevertheless, not wanting to embarrass himself by asking the wizard to repeat himself.
“You are most welcome, young sir,” the librarian said, before promptly turning around and scurrying away.
It took several minutes of wandering, quite lost, among the narrow aisles before he found section MZ. He was annoyed to discover that it was almost towards the very top of one of the towering bookcases. At least the climb would offer an interesting vantage point to observe the rest of the library.
He scaled a ladder, and he found himself wondering how many students had fallen off and injured themselves. Hitting the floor from the very top would not be pretty. With that cheerful thought in his head, he climbed without looking down.
Dieter selected some books on dragons more or less at random. Holding the books with one arm, he carefully lowered himself onto one of the suspended catwalks and sat on one of the tiny benches. He spent a longer time than he expected flipping through the various texts about dragons.
The information on the different dragon species and the uses for their body parts was quite interesting, but Dieter could find no information pertaining to the origins of dragons. Checking some books on general ‘Magizoology’, he couldn’t find anything about dinosaurs either. In fact, wizards didn’t seem to have any concept of evolution, as the word was absent in every index he checked. He concluded that he would have to give Paul some disappointing news in his next letter.
He put the books back on their shelves and clambered down the ladder. On the way back to solid ground, he passed a section that caught his eye.
MU: Muggle Books
For a library with countless tomes on every conceivable magical subject, the section for Muggle writings was tiny – only two shelves of books sorted by author, and with no sub-divisions by topic. The selection was more or less random. Dieter spotted a few children’s books like The Poisonous Mushroom and Grimm’s fairy tales, a few technical volumes on drills, old religious texts, and two copies of Mein Kampf – a discovery that raised some degree of hope in Dieter. Perhaps some wizards were not totally ignorant on National Socialism.
As a going-off-to-school present, Dieter’s father had given him his own leather-bound, hardcover copy of the book. He had read select excerpts in Muggle school, but never the whole thing from beginning to end, before. However, he hadn’t gotten past chapter one, with all the schoolwork and distractions of wizardry at hand.
Dieter had been trying to teach Konrad about National Socialism for the last couple of weeks, but had only achieved some success with the simpler concepts. Perhaps his friend would understand more if he learned from the Führer’s word’s himself.
He made up his mind to check out a copy, and reached for the book. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain like an electrical shock, and snatched his hand away. He shook off the tingling feeling and reached for the book a second time, but again he was shocked.
So it wasn’t static electricity, then, he thought. There must have been a spell of some sort that shocked people who reached for the books. As for why, Dieter did not know, but he wasn’t deterred. He figured that he should just plunge his hand in yank the book out, if he could will himself not to flinch at the initial pain.
Before he could enact this plan, a voice wheezed, “What do you think you are doing my dear boy?”
It was the old librarian. He didn’t call from the floor – incredibly, he was hanging onto some shelves not three metres away from Dieter. The librarian didn’t seem to have much use for the ladders. In fact, Dieter noticed that on all of the shelves, certain books were pushed in to make footholds.
Ignoring the oddity of the sight in front of him, Dieter answered, “I’m just trying to get a book.”
“Are you a third-year?”
The librarian explained, “Muggle books are only allowed for checkout by students in the third year and above.”
“What?” Dieter protested. “But I’m a Muggle-born! Why shouldn’t I be able to look at these?”
The old wizard’s answer was very unhelpful. “It’s just school policy, young boy. Now, there are plenty of other books you will find interesting. I would recommend Hohenheim’s Prognostications…”
Dieter returned a non-committal, “Right, sound’s interesting,” and left the library with a book on minor hexes and jinxes – he might learn something useful to use against Karkaroff from it. On the walk back to the dormitories, he wondered why the school couldn’t trust students below the third year with Muggle books. They couldn’t do any harm, Dieter thought. In fact, distributing copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf might do some good.
But for the time being, it looked like Konrad would just have to share Dieter’s copy.
“You were right,” Konrad said the next day at breakfast, keeping his voice low.
“About what?” Dieter asked.
Konrad gave a furtive glance towards Ernst, who was giving his attention to some sausage and not their conversation. “Religion,” Konrad explained. “It really was boring.”
“See? What did I tell you?” Dieter couldn’t help but smile. He didn’t have fond memories of sitting around on hard pews when he was little, listening to the pastor’s drone. Sermons and prayers were things the wizarding world didn’t need.
The newspapers arrived. In the days following the disaster in Warsaw, the Poles had been showered with sympathy by all the wizarding governments of Europe, especially now that the confirmed death toll had climbed into the thirties as the wounded succumbed and as more bodies were found. But, alarmingly, the most sympathetic of all was the Zaubererreich. Grindelwald had pledged funds and support in rebuilding their Department of Magic, and the new Kaczmarek government had returned that generosity.
That morning’s issue of Warheit bore unexpected news.
Annexation ‘a Possibility’, States Minister Kaczmarek
It was a long article, but Dieter read it all the way through, pushed on by some morbid curiosity. The newspaper stated that in light of the disaster in their Department of Magic, their new Sejm (what the Poles apparently called a parliament of some sort) had unanimously voted for cooperation with their German neighbor. The issue of complete absorption into the Zaubererreich would be decided in the coming months, most likely by plebiscite.
“We mourn those lost at the hand of Muggle violence and carelessness, but we wizards will remain steadfast and look to the future,” commented the provisional Polish Minister for Magic, Włodzimierz Kaczmarek, in his announcement to the Sejm. “This recent tragedy has heightened our common bonds of magic, and given us common ground with our friends to the west. Together, we will strive to create a better, safer world in which all wizards and witches can live in peace.”
The rest of the article dived into a lot of incomprehensible politics, as well as the implications of a proposed incorporation of Poland into the Second Zaubererreich. Dieter was torn between pride and horror at the prospect. One the one hand, Germany (both the Muggle and wizarding variants) had a natural right to expand at the expense of the sub-human races. However, the article seemed to suggest that the Poles would not become the subjects of Aryans, but partners, of all things! The thought was positively alarming. Had he misread the article? Was he still tired from waking up half an hour earlier, and he was just seeing things in the newspaper?
Dieter decided that had to have been the case. He didn’t have the time to reread the article to check, since he had to rush off to his first class. With his roommates (minus Karkaroff, of course), they flew down the mountainside and alighted in the middle of the Quidditch Pitch.
Professor Adlersflügel began the class once everyone had arrived. “Gather around, everyone, and pay attention. Now that all of you know how to fly, we today begin the second part of this course – Quidditch.”
With a casual wave of his wand, several wooden cases on the ground opened, each revealing a number of balls. There was a large red ball in each case, and pairs of smaller, black balls. They were moving, and appeared to be straining against the straps holding them in place. Students exchanged excited looks.
“Some of you may be wondering why Quidditch, a sport, is taught as a class at Durmstrang. Well, I’ll tell you why. In Quidditch, you must be able to cooperate with your teammates and coordinate your efforts. In Quidditch, you must be able to think on your feet, and react rapidly to changing situations. None of your other classes, excepting Defensive Magic I suppose, teach you how to do this. In this class, you will become leaders and followers, and you will learn to give and receive orders. You will act quickly and decisively. This is a real class. You will be graded, not only on your performance, but also on how well you play with your team members. Understood?”
There were nods.
“Good. Now, the rules of the game…”
Professor Adlersflügel removed the different balls from the chests, and explained their use and the different positions. It was all very complicated: three Chasers played with the red Quaffle to put it through one of three hoops guarded by the enemy Keeper, to score ten points. Two Beaters armed with clubs whacked flying cannonballs called Bludgers. Lastly, the Seeker on each team tried to catch a little golden ball with silver wings called the Snitch, to score one hundred fifty points.
Though Dieter had yet to actually play the game, he was already making preferences. The ‘Beater’ sounded like the most interesting position.
“The class will be divided into four teams,” Professor Adlersflügel explained. Instantly, clumps of students gravitated towards each other to be with their friends, but the instructor put his hand up to signal a halt. “These teams will be selected at random. In Quidditch, as in real life, you will find yourself working with strangers. You must get to know your teammates, and form a cohesive, effective unit. Any questions?”
Nobody raised their hands. Dieter was suddenly horror-struck at the possibilities of such a random selection – he had a twenty-five percent chance of winding up on the same team as a certain Slav…
The professor pulled out a small sack and pulled out a little piece of parchment. “The first player for Red Team is Natalya Degtyaryova.” A diminutive Slavic girl walked out of the main body of students and stood where the professor pointed.
He pulled out another little slip of parchment. “For Yellow Team, we have Ernst Busch.” When Ernst stepped forward, the professor muttered some spell and turned his crimson school robes canary yellow.
Dieter had his fingers crossed, hoping that whatever team he wound up in would have Konrad in it and not Karkaroff.
Neither happened. Dieter was placed into Red Team, and Konrad to Blue. Karkaroff ended up in Green Team, and his large Slavic friend, Todorov, was placed in Yellow with Ernst. The large Untermensch gave Ernst an ugly look, and the Muggle-born turned a little pale.
“And the last player for Red Team is Gerta Roth.”
Dieter groaned. Though having Gerta on the same team was preferable to Karkaroff, the girl was… annoying.
And so the students were sorted, and had the colour of their robes appropriately altered. Professor Adlersflügel put the little sack of names back into his robes and announced, “Now that you are in your teams, you must make your introductions, determine who will play each position, decide on a team name, and choose a captain. You have five minutes.”
Dieter turned to his teammates. Gerta he already knew from the beginning of the school term – the novelty of annoying him for whatever strange, deviant reasons of hers had worn off over the last few weeks, but Dieter was nevertheless not thrilled by the prospect of being in a team with her. Another familiar face was Heinrich Fuerst, the slightly self-absorbed Pure-blood boy who would tell anyone who’d listen everything about his prized broomstick, which he was so unfairly not allowed to ride in class. But for the other four players, Dieter did not know them.
They made their introductions. There were two female Slavs, and Dieter quickly forgot their names. One was quite short and had very light blonde hair tied up in a bun. The other was taller, had a round face, and long wavy brown hair. Rounding up the total number of girls in the team to four was Frieda Knickerbacker, who Dieter suddenly recognised as one of Gerta’s annoying friends. The last teammate was, curiously enough, a Spaniard named Alfonso Panza.
Dieter knew Falangist Spain was close to Germany since they had received the Reich’s aid during their civil war against the communists, but the presence of Latins at Durmstrang surprised him. Yet another race added to the school’s genetic mix? They weren’t Aryans, but at least they were European and human, which was more than the Slavs could say.
They stated their position preferences, and Dieter without hesitation declared that he wished to be a Beater. There were conflicts of interest, however. Both Frieda and the small Slav girl wanted to be Seeker, and each argued that they had been flying longer than the other.
Heinrich stepped in. “Look, no offence, but I know more about Quidditch than any of you here. I think you’d make a better Seeker, Natalya.”
Dieter rounded on him. “Why did you pick her over Frieda?” he demanded. As much as he didn’t like any of the girls, he wouldn’t see an Untermensch’s wishes override an Aryan’s.
Heinrich explained, “Simple. She’s small. Seekers should be as light and fast as possible, to be a hard target to hit and to get the Snitch before the opposing team.”
Dieter couldn’t argue with that, but… “Do you think she is even capable of catching the Snitch? She might not know how.”
The little Slav girl scowled, and Heinrich ignored Dieter’s comment. In the end, Dieter and Alfonso the Latin became Beaters, Heinrich the Keeper, the small Slav girl the Seeker, and Gerta, Frieda, and the other Slav girl the Chasers.
“And I’ll be team captain,” Heinrich announced, prompting another argument with Dieter.
“No, I should be captain. I’m the most experienced leader in this team. I was in the Deutsches Jungvolk back home, and have been awarded medals for leadership and good conduct!”
That did not have the desired effect of swaying opinions in favour of himself, as nobody else in his team had even heard of the Deutsches Jungvolk.
“How about we take a vote?” Heinrich suggested.
Frieda voted for Dieter because he had supported her bid for Seeker, and so did Gerta. “Oooh, you should be captain Dieter,” Gerta said. “That means you’re obligated to protect me from the Bludgers!”
He was outvoted, and his only supporters were the two annoying girls. All the other team members choose Heinrich. “Now, a team name?” the newly elected leader asked.
Dieter suggested ‘The Red Barons,’ and when that was shot down, he offered ‘Jasta 11’ and ‘Jagdgeschwader 1,’ which met similar fates. Nobody understood the Great War reference.
They decided on ‘The Flying Tigers,’ which was a pretty stupid name, Dieter thought. Tigers couldn’t fly.
They were given equipment once the teams had sorted themselves out. Dieters’ misgivings about his team dissipated somewhat when he received a short, heavy, metal-reinforced club. He hefted its authoritative weight, and decided already that Quidditch was a sport he would like very much. Any game featuring clubs and flying cannonballs had to be good.
Now, am I only allowed to hit ‘Bludgers’ with this thing, or can I whack people too? Dieter wondered, with a particular victim in mind…
The class practiced for the rest of the period, with each player trying to get attuned to their positions. Using the bat one-handed was manageable, but Dieter didn’t think he could deliver enough power or accuracy that way. Unfortunately, the alternative of swinging the club with both hands was proving to be almost impossible. Dieter was still not fully adept at flying, and didn’t feel confident enough to fly without holding onto the Volksbesen’s shaft, much less risk losing his balance trying to hit things with a two-handed swing.
He sparred with a slower, lighter practice Bludger, but it still proved to be a formidable opponent. Dieter found himself forced to dodge the ball rather than beat it back, which sort of defeated the purpose of his position.
Predictably, Karkaroff noticed his troubles at one point. He brought it to the attention of his other Slavic crony, and the two of them periodically zoomed past Dieter, jeering. Ernst, Dieter was embarrassed to admit, was a much better flier, but he too was on the receiving end of the Slavs’ taunting.
“You call that hitting a Bludger?” Karkaroff mocked while flying by. “My house elf is a better Beater than you!”
His friend Todorov, who still did not have the greatest command of the German language, simply echoed, “Yeah, house elf!”
Dieter wished very much to hit Karkaroff with his new Beater’s bat, but that would probably earn him a detention. The last one had been an unpleasant affair, and Dieter wasn’t in the mood to have a repeat of the experience. He couldn’t attack him in their dormitory either, because the Slav would just report him like he did last time.
He decided to ignore Karkaroff for the rest of the class. He assured himself that Karkaroff would get his comeuppance sometime, but just not in the middle of Quidditch instruction while Professor Adlersflügel was watching. Dieter thus vented his frustrations by imagining the pratice Bludger to be Karkaroff’s thin, stupid face. It certainly helped him focus.
The practice Bludger charged again, aiming straight for Dieter’s chest. He wiggled his feet to check that they were secured in the footrests, and he tightened his grip on the bat with both of his hands. The flying magic cannonball covered distance disconcertingly quickly, but after being on the receiving end of some twenty or thirty (he had lost count) strikes since the beginning of class, Dieter had become a bit more familiar with the Bludger’s speed and capabilities.
Fifteen metres… ten metres… five metres…
Dieter swerved to the left and poised his bat above his right shoulder for a swing – he had discovered that it was next to impossible to hit the pratice Bludger coming head-on towards the chest, as there was no way to deliver a good stroke. Therefore, he had to position himself to the side, but timing was crucial – swerve too early and the practice Bludger would correct its course, or swerve too late and get hit by the ball.
He rotated his body as he swung with both hands. Wood crashed with iron–
The shock jolted up Dieter’s arms, and the spasm in his fingers made him almost drop the Beater’s Bat. Hitting a Bludger directly hurt!
But when he looked up, he saw the practice Bludger spinning away – a sight that lifted his spirits considerably. “Ha! Take that!” he called to the retreating cannonball. That’ll show Karkar–
Dieter didn’t complete the thought. He was interrupted by the sudden acquaintance of a large, solid iron ball with the back of his skull. His body and head were snapped forward and down, knocking his face into the Volksbesen’s shaft.
The broom’s flight performance then mimicked that of a brick. It dropped, and only reached a stable atlitude of three metres above the ground once Dieter had recovered enough wits to hold onto his broom with his hands.
He brought the broom down to the grass and promptly fell off. The pain in his head was excruciating. His nose and lip felt sticky. His vision was blurry, and there was a piercing ringing in his ears – but through that Dieter heard something that sounded distinctly like laughter.
“Owwww,” he moaned.
Footsteps, then two feet appeared in front of Dieter’s face. There was a murmured spell, and a voice: “Here, take this.” Strong hands pushed his head back, and a bitter-tasting liquid entered his mouth.
Dieter coughed and sputtered, but suddenly the pain went away to be replaced by a slight feeling of numbness and dizziness. His face didn’t feel sticky anymore either. He staggered to his feet, and was greeted by the sight of Professor Adlersflügel standing in front of him.
“Feeling better?” the instructor asked.
Dieter didn’t answer. “Who was it?” he demanded, though he already had a likely culprit in mind.
Adlersflügel jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing to a large boy in yellow robes, who was flying closeby to a figure in green. “Aleksandr Todorov,” the professor answered. “Now get back on your broom.”
He didn’t. “But, what about Todorov?” Dieter asked.
“What about him?” the flying instructor said gruffly.
“He hit me with that Bludger!” the Dieter protested, pointing at the Slav in the air.
Professor Adlersflügel’s eyes narrowed. “Of course he did. That’s what a Beater’s supposed to do. So get back on your broom and hit him back.”
The first-year was taken aback – it sounded too good to be true. Then it suddenly occurred to him what that exactly meant. With excitement: “Really?”
“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. You’re not going to win many matches if you come running to me every time they hit you with something. Now get out of my face. Go.”
Dieter snapped a salute: “Delighted to, sir!” Still slightly disoriented from the blow to his head and the potion, he stumbled back onto his broom and had a very wobbly takeoff.
But his mind was clear. He grinned like a wolf as he shot off, bat in hand.
Dieter had decided that Quidditch was the best sport in the world.
Title: "Beater and Bludger"
* “All targets have been eliminated, Storm troop leader.”
“Very good. Give the all clear. We disapparate to headquarters in three… two… one… NOW!”
Thanks to Caren for the illustration, and Molly (OliveOil_Med) for commissioning it!
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