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Their Finest Hour by Cassius Alcinder
Chapter 8 : Reform and Regroup
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8


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Deep inside the Black Forest of Germany, the thick mass of trees masked the sunlight and made any approach on foot impassable.  Towering mountains with their snow covered peaks filled the horizon, as the tranquil rivers and waterfalls flowed freely below.  To the muggle world, this area was known for its breathtaking natural scenery, picturesque villages, and traditional exquisitely carved clocks.  However, in the deep inner reaches of the forest, there were regions where none dared to venture, where dark, powerful magic was lurking. 

It was here, safely tucked between two large mountains, that Grindelwald had constructed his large imposing fortress of Nurmengard.   While he handled his administrative tasks from his Berlin offices, the real work was done here.  It was here that he pushed the boundaries of magic and plotted the demise of his foes.  Its location was protected with an unplottable charm, and only his innermost circle had the ability to find it.  

Grindelwald prepared a large table in the central hall of the castle, awaiting the arrival of his closest followers.  He was calling them here to regroup and reassure them.  They had just suffered their first major setback of the war, and internal tensions were running high.  At first Grindelwald had been furious when Meisterberger had failed to return from Egypt.  Several top subordinates were dead, and his chance at constructing an unbeatable army was gone.  He was not sure how this could have happened, and assumed that it had to have been some kind of grievous error on Meisterberger’s part.  However, the passage of time had allowed Grindelwald to put things in perspective.  He was still the undisputed master of most of Europe, and he still had a very powerful army, not to mention the full resources of Nazi Germany, at his beck and call.  And if that was not enough, he remained in possession of the undefeatable Elder Wand. 

A mood of nervous anticipation filled the room as the wizards began to arrive.  They feared Grindelwald’s wrath, but their fears in this case were unfounded.  Grindelwald had not called this meeting to express his anger; all those who had failed him on the previous mission was now dead anyway.  He had called this meeting to rally his troops, restore their confidence, and inform them of their next major undertakings.  The room had no windows to the outside, and the flickering of the torches on the wall provided the only light.  The walls were adorned with bright orange banners, bearing both the Nazi swastika and Grindelwald’s Deathly Hallows insignia, which he had also carved onto the ceiling of Durmstrang before the school expelled him all those years ago. 

Hitler had demanded closer oversight of Grindelwald’s activities after the unsuccessful Egyptian mission, and it was decided that General Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler’s SS and by extension their magical archaeology division as well, would now be a direct observer on Grindelwald’s staff.  Grindelwald was far from pleased at Hitler’s meddling, but he had worked with Himmler before and they were certainly compatible.   

Grindelwald watched as the guests slowly filed in.  Himmler had arrived early, trying to make a good impression, and was soon followed by numerous black robed wizards.  There was Franz Dietrich, a fierce looking man with a face full of scars who in his school days was the most successful duelist in the history of Durmstrang, and whose reputation as a fighter had only grown since then.  There was Yomuri Yomoto, a quiet but intensely cruel Japanese wizard who had mastered many obscure and deadly Eastern magical techniques that few had ever learned of.  There was Hans Panzerlieder, a large brawny man who had spent his days before finding Grindelwald wandering the darkest reaches of the Black Forest and fighting the most powerful magical creatures he could find, just for the thrill of it.  There was Landolfo Padovisi, the powerful patriarch of the largest magical crime family in Italy.  There was also Sebastian Schwartz, a short round faced man who may not have been imposing to look at, but whose thorough knowledge of every possible type of spell and enchantment was unparalleled.  Together with their several dozen colleagues who followed close behind, they were without a doubt the most feared collection of wizards in the world. 

Grindelwald took his customary place at the head of the long table, with the torches behind him strategically placed so that he would cast the longest shadow possible.  He opened the meeting in a calm, collected voice, not the angry tirade the wizards were expecting. 

“I thank you all for your prompt arrival.  As most of you know, we have recently suffered a setback.”

There was a nervous murmur throughout the room at the mention of the unsuccessful mission.  Grindelwald was not normally one to tolerate failure, and they were all in fear of the consequences.  However, he continued to surprise them with his calm demeanor. 

“I have not called you here to dwell on that unfortunate failure; those responsible are dead so the message would be lost on them anyway.  I have summoned you to discuss the way forward.  First of all, I would like to welcome the newest member of our staff, a man you are all familiar with, General Heinrich Himmler.”

There was a smattering of applause as Himmler rose to say a few words, his beady eyes intently focused.  “My friends, together we have achieved great things, and when the might of the German people is fully united with our magical brethren, the power of the Third Reich will last one thousand years! Heil Hitler!”

“Heil Hitler!” the wizards repeated in unison.

“Thank you General Himmler,” continued Grindelwald, still seeing the immense benefits of that particular alliance.  “And now we discuss our new direction.  Dietrich, you have served me well, and you shall be rewarded.  I am placing you in charge of the Western front; you will choose a few assistants and set up your headquarters in Paris.”

A smattering of applause broke out as Franz Dietrich basked in the praise. 

Grindelwald interjected, “Paris is beautiful this time of year Franz; it’s a nice contrast to your hideous face.”

The room erupted in laughter.  Grindelwald had perfected this technique; build them up to maintain their confidence, but then cut them down to remind them who’s in charge, while being humorous enough to keep things loose. 

Grindelwald continued, “As for the rest of you, we are about to embark on a large and necessary task.  I hope you’ve packed some winter clothes because we are going to Russia.”

An excited chatter spread through the room in anticipation of the coming battle.  When Hitler had recently proposed a massive invasion of the Soviet Union, Grindelwald was all too eager to offer his assistance.  For him, this battle was personal.  Many of Grindelwald’s former professors and classmates at Durmstrang were now powerful, influential people both in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe.  Now, he had his chance to send an emphatic message to the school that once expelled him. 

 With a quick swish of the Elder Wand, Grindelwald conjured an interactive map of Europe in the air, which is used to demonstrate the detailed complex movements of their invasion plans.  When the meeting finally concluded after a few more speeches, the wizards went their separate ways to make their preparations, convinced that their actions, like all those they had taken so far, were for the greater good. 

***

Dumbledore paused in the corridor to take in the surroundings.  For the moment, he was back in the familiar halls of Hogwarts, a fact that gave him great comfort.  He observed the commotion of the students hurrying to get to class on time, and occasionally being harassed by Peeves.  More than anything, he wished he could be back in the classroom teaching, he much preferred the beautiful simplicity of the classroom to the harsh madness of the war.  However, he reminded himself that the safety of these children would always be his most important priority, and that in this case, war was necessary to ensure that.  Today, Albus Dumbledore was not here to teach; he was here to recruit. 

Dumbledore’s position was already much stronger than it was when he originally departed Hogwarts.  Although Grindelwald was not any less powerful, nor did he control any less territory, Dumbledore’s recent victory had sent a powerful message.  As the tales of his deeds were whispered throughout the magical community, the word was finally beginning to spread that maybe Grindelwald was not invincible after all, and that maybe there was a hope of victory, even if it seemed only a faint hope. 

The next step in Dumbledore’s plan was to expand his coalition of witches and wizards opposed to Grindelwald, and he was starting the process right here with his colleagues on the Hogwarts faculty.  He quickly ran some of the possibilities through his head.  Headmaster Armando Dippett was very advanced in age and looking forward to his pending retirement, so it was highly unlikely he would be willing or able to take off on an adventure.  The same also applied to Galatea Merrythought, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.  Cuthbert Binns was already dead, so he was unlikely to be of much help.  And then there was Horace Slughorn, who bumped into Dumbledore, interrupting his deep contemplation. 

Slughorn looked up at Dumbledore, appearing very flustered, “Albus, where the bloody hell have you been?”

Dumbledore calmly smiled, “I’ve been busy, Horace.”

Slughorn huffed, “Well while you’ve been gallivanting around the world, not only have I been covering your classes, but I’ve been facing some very real danger here!”

Dumbledore couldn’t help but grin to himself, “I’m sure you have, Horace.” he assured him. 

“So you heard about the students getting petrified then?” Slughorn prodded.

Dumbledore paused; this was certainly grounds for concern, and it was certainly not what he was expecting to hear.  “Go on.”

“Some sort of creature is on the loose attacking students, one girl has already been killed, a Ravenclaw called Myrtle, if we don’t catch it soon we might have to close the school!” Slughorn said excitedly. 

Dumbledore paused to process this new information.  This was a serious complication, and one that he had certainly not anticipated.  It appeared he was now facing a battle on two fronts.

***

Once again, Bletchley Park was buzzing with activity.  Evans and his squad had warmed up quickly to their new assignment, and the combined absence of North African heat and Captain Whittington ensured that their stay would be an enjoyable one.  They had not seen much of Dumbledore lately, as he was constantly in and out, traveling between Hogwarts, Bletchley Park, and visiting various wizards throughout the country. 

In their recent down time while they awaited a new mission, Evans had taken full advantage of his new clearance level to read all manner of documents that he would have otherwise never had access to.  One day while perusing the archives he made a particularly interesting discovery.

 “Look at this!” he exclaimed.  “Remember in school when you learned about the Spanish Armada in 1588? And how they never made it to England because of the storms?”

“Yes,” the others groaned.  They usually cared very little for his educational observances. 

“Well it says here, that the reason that happened is that Queen Elizabeth was in touch with the wizards and she convinced them to brew a huge storm in the English Channel!” said Evans, who was much more excited to learn this than they were. 

“Well people did think she was a witch,” Bromhead observed. 

“That’s so stupid, why do we even fight wars at all then, why don’t we just say ‘Oi wizards brew us a storm?’” added MacDonald. 

 They contemplated Macdonald’s wisdom until Reynolds could no longer resist making an observation of his own.  “It’s funny that you mention Queen Elizabeth, I really think your girlfriend looks just like her,” he pointed out, as Bromhead and MacDonald agreed with him. 

Evans was slightly taken aback.  He wasn’t quite sure what was going on with Daisy exactly; they caught up and chatted when they could, but she always seemed to be extremely busy.  In any case, he certainly would not refer to her as his “girlfriend” or anything like that. 

Evans responded, “First of all she’s not my girlfriend, and secondly they look absolutely nothing alike, you’re only saying that because they’re both gingers, and that’s just daft.”

“You’re an old fashioned Rennasaince gentleman who is just waiting for it to rain so you can throw your coat over a mud puddle and let her walk on it.” teased MacDonald. 

Evans blushed, as Elphias Doge, who had been spending a lot of time at the estate lately, entered the room and interrupted them.  “Gentlemen, I believe I may have a mission for you.”

They listened intently as he explained further.  “We have managed to make contact with the magical community in Greece.  An old friend of mine in the Greek islands has secured a large amount of their country’s magical artifacts and hidden them from Grindelwald’s forces.  This is a simple extraction mission; we go in there, grab the objects and get out.”

“And then we display them all in the British Museum,” Evans quipped.  Nobody laughed; they never seemed to get his humor. 

“So, do we have any volunteers?” Doge asked, as four hands shot eagerly into the air.  “Excellent, we leave in a few days, I’ll get you the details shortly,” he explained as he walked towards the door. 

“Wait, one quick question,” Evans interjected. “Will we have to do any translating or anything? I haven’t read Greek in quite some time and I’m very rusty.”

Doge looked back and smiled, “Miss Johnson speaks and reads fluent Greek, and after much convincing, I have persuaded her superiors to allow her to come with us.”

Evans turned bright red as the others playfully needled him.  Regardless of what happened on this mission, it was going to be eventful to say the least.  

 

 

 

A/N: Thanks to chatnoir for Beta reading the rest of the story from here on!
 
 
 


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