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Their Finest Hour by Cassius Alcinder
Chapter 1 : The Shadow Spreads
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 26


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                It was a bleak day in Paris.  June was usually a very pleasant time of year there, with tourists enjoying their coffees in sidewalk cafes, street performers enlivening every corner, and the smell of freshly baked pastries in the air.  But this June, everything was changing.  The war everybody was hoping to avoid had finally arrived, and its wrath was terrible.  Now, just a few months into the conflict, the tide had significantly turned.  France had fallen, and the banner of Nazi Germany was ascendant over Europe. 

                The streets of Paris were devoid of their usual activity.  The shops and cafes that were once so vibrant were now boarded up, and the few people who were walking about tried to conceal their obvious expressions of disgust and despair.  The roads that were once filled with tourist traffic were now completely clogged with the trucks and tanks of the German army.  Column upon column of young men in brown shirts marched forward with a stoic discipline, aware that they were going to be the most unwelcome of guests. 

                Interspersed throughout the troop formations, high ranking officers moved around in their command cars, inspecting the progress.  One such car was on a particular mission.  To the outside observer, the middle aged blonde man in the car was just another German officer, not very distinguishable from the rest.  But to the magical world, Gellert Grindelwald was so much more.  He was a wizard, and a very powerful one at that.  And now, with yet another country under his grasp, he was without a doubt the most feared wizard in the world.   

                Grindelwald motioned for his driver to stop as they passed the entrance to the Louvre.    He quickly got out of the car, leaving the troops behind.  He walked past corridors full of priceless muggle artwork.  He was sure his colleagues would loot their way through here later, but he was after treasure of the magical variety.  Everything had gone smoothly enough so far; the French Ministry of Magic was all too willing to surrender, and now the magical treasures of France would soon be at his disposal.

                He descended several levels before arriving at a medieval tapestry depicting knights in battle.  If his information was correct, he was nearly there.  He pulled out his wand, “Alohomora,” he said, as the tapestry swung aside to reveal a hidden entrance.   He began to walk down the long stone corridor when an old man in grey robes appeared in front of him, blocking the way. 

“You should not have come here, Grindelwald,” said the wizard, brandishing his wand. 

“Aah Porthos, I had a feeling I would see you here,” replied Grindelwald.   He knew Porthos Perignon by reputation.  A former Minister of Magic and Headmaster of Beauxbatons Academy, he was one of the most famous wizards in France, and well respected throughout the wizarding community.  If anybody in the country was going to stand up to Grindelwald it would obviously be him, but this nuisance would be dealt with soon enough.   They began to slowly circle around each other, preparing to duel.

“Your quest for power has blinded you,” said Porthos, “You may beat me now, but you can never win.”

“Stand aside old man, you know nothing of my powers,” said Grindelwald.

“I know what wand you wield,” responded Porthos, “But there are deeper powers you will never understand.”

“I appreciate the advice,” said Grindelwald, as a curse from his wand sent Peringnon flying backwards into the wall.  He then shot a follow-up curse that caused an explosion along the wall, leaving Peringnon buried in rubble.  Although he was accustomed to using it by now, Grindelwald could not help but be impressed with the performance of the wand that he had searched so long for.  He had always been highly skilled as a duelist, but for a wizard of Peringnon’s caliber to be disposed of so easily, well that was some very powerful magic.  He stepped around the pile of rubble and into a large vault, lined on all sides by massive piles of treasure, and all manner of ancient magical artifacts.  They would soon be added to his ever growing collection.

 

***

Albus Dumbledore, Transfiguration Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and wizardry, was cleaning out his office after another school year had recently concluded.  It had largely been business as usual at Hogwarts, despite the growing clouds of war on the Continent.  Dumbledore was nearly finished dusting his desk when a colleague came barging into his office. 

“It’s over, we’re doomed!” Horace Slughorn never was one for subtlety. 

“Please sit down Horace,” said Dumbledore. He had learned long ago to take Slughorn’s hyperbole with a grain of salt, but he did provide useful information from time to time. 

Slughorn slumped down in the chair, taking off his bowler hat and struggling to catch his breath.  “I just got an update from Declan Noble; it’s not good.” Slughorn was known for his system of establishing favorite students who were likely to be successful and then keeping in touch with them to claim credit for their accomplishments.  One such student was now the lead foreign correspondent for the Daily Prophet and was happy to tip off Slughorn of breaking news. 

“Go on,” said Dumbledore, maintaining his usual calm and collected demeanor. 

“The French Ministry of Magic has fallen, Grindelwald has won again.” Slughorn shuddered as he struggled to say the dark wizard’s name.

“This is disturbing news indeed,” said Dumbledore, trying not to betray any emotion. 

Slughorn grew visibly agitated “France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, all fallen, he must be coming here next! We should run Albus, go into hiding, it won’t be safe here!”

Dumbledore looked at him sternly, “Calm down Horace, we will do nothing of the sort.”

“But Albus, they say he has the Death Stick, the Wand of Destiny, the wand that cannot be defeated,” said Slughorn, nervously sweating.

“I am well aware of the rumors, but as long as I am here, Hogwarts will remain safe and open!”

Slughorn was taken aback by Dumbledore’s stern rebuke and he got up and stumbled toward the door, “All right then, I’ll just … carry on,” he said as he walked out the door.

Dumbledore sat at his desk in contemplation.  Though he did not want to feed into Slughorn’s paranoia, this really was disturbing news.  Reaching into his desk, he pulled out the files he had begun to keep since Grindelwald overthrew the German ministry several years prior.  It was time to prepare for the moment he hoped would never come, although he always knew it would.  All along, he had wanted to believe that his old friend Grindelwald still had some good left in him, hoping against hope that he would come to his senses and see the error of his ways.  Now, with Grindelwald oppressing an entire continent, Dumbledore could no longer sit on the sidelines.  He knew now was the time to act, but where would he start?

 


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