Chapter 9 : Secrets and Soviets
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Next two loud voices emanated from the fireplace and spilled into the room, “Stop kicking my head you wanker!”
“Stop head butting my foot, you ponce!”
MacDonald and Reynolds had arrived, otherwise unscathed.
“Bloody hell, we can’t take you two anywhere,” grumbled Bromhead, the last of the group to arrive.
The Floo station was monitored by a young man in an ill-fitting Royal Navy uniform whose wand was protruding from his pocket. Doge informed the rest of the group that he was a newly qualified Auror on his first assignment, who hadn’t quite mastered the art of disguise yet.
Evans looked out the window and saw a very scenic beach leading out to the pristine blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The busy harbor was packed full of transports and Royal Navy ships, and the plethora of destroyed buildings in the nearby town indicated recent airstrikes.
“We’re at the British Admiralty Headquarters in Malta,” Doge explained, “It’s a vital link on our Floo network, Dumbledore passed through here on his way to Egypt. Now quickly, gather round, we have one more leg to go.”
He did not have to tell them that Greece had been invaded by the Nazis and was now occupied territory.
“How are we getting to Greece again? Back through the fireplace?” Reynolds asked.
“Actually we’re using Side-Along apparition, you will need to hold on to me and not think any distracting thoughts. It would help if you focus on this picture of where we’re going,” Doge explained, as he handed out copies of a moving black and white photograph of a much younger version of himself standing in front of Greek villa.
“You were quite the handsome devil back then,” MacDonald teased.
Doge felt slightly embarrassed until Daisy chimed in with a pertinent question. “So how does Apparition work? Can you just go anywhere in the world?”
“Well not exactly, it only works within a certain distance, and you can only go places you’re familiar with,” Doge explained.
“Wait, I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with this, “Evans protested, “You just pop and disappear and then you reappear somewhere else? That just doesn’t seem feasible.”
“Oh, just close your eyes and think of England,” Doge assured him.
Doge wrapped his arm around Evans and with a loud popping sound they both disappeared from the room. Evans felt the strangest sensation he had ever felt; it was as if his entire body was being squeezed through a turkey baster. As they reappeared with another loud pop, he fell to his knees, feeling extremely nauseous. While he slowly regained his composure, Doge kept disappearing and reappearing, bringing the rest of the group along one by one. Evans began to take in his surroundings; they were on the large balcony of an exquisite white stone estate with a blue painted roof. There was a view overlooking a picturesque bay with crystal clear waters. Standing in front of them to greet them was a witch wearing long, flowing white robes. She had an olive complexion and perfectly curled long dark hair. Though she was advanced in years, she retained strong remnants of what had been a legendary beauty in her youth.
Doge stepped forward, “I would like to introduce you to Athena Olympiakos, the greatest witch in Greece.”
“Elphias, you’re too kind,” she said in response. Though she was meeting most of them for the first time, Athena greeted the group as if they were all old friends, “Welcome, my friends, to my humble abode. We have much to discuss, but first we must eat.”
As they all got up to follow MacDonald whispered to Reynolds, “I like her better than the Egyptian bird already.”
“You’re bloody right about that mate; that one predicted our deaths, this one is giving us food,” replied Reynolds.
The ever inquisitive MacDonald then asked Doge a question that was burning in his mind, “So Elphias, how come everywhere we go we end up meeting exotic older women who seem to remember you well?”
Doge shrugged, “Well, I traveled a lot when I was younger.”
MacDonald persisted in a teasing tone, “I think there’s definitely more to this story.”
Reynolds joined in, “I can just picture it; Elphias Doge, the ultimate playboy of the 1890’s.”
The embarrassed Doge fumbled around for a response until finally Athena summoned them to sit down at a large table she had prepared on her patio. Two house elves arrived carrying a large roasted lamb as well as several side dishes including freshly grilled kebabs, spinach pastries, all kinds of cheeses and several bottles of Greek wine. They took their seats at the table, hungrily eying the sumptuous feast that had been prepared for them.
“Athena, please allow me to introduce my colleagues,” said Doge.
Athena smiled, “There’s no need Elphias, I’ve figured it out already.”
Doge turned to the others, “Athena is a very skilled Legimens,” he explained. They looked at him quizzically, so he clarified, “She can read minds.”
Athena turned towards them with a grin and announced, “It’s true, and to answer your questions; Nigel, the house is fully secure and you do not need to worry about posting a guard; John, yes, you can take the seat next to Daisy; Duncan, yes you can have seconds; and Will, I’m sorry I don’t know what vegemite is and I don’t think I have any.”
Amazed at Athena’s abilities, they pulled in their chairs and began to feast on the seemingly endless quantities of delicious food. They all thanks and complimented Athena profusely, but she demurred, claiming that any Greek woman, magical or not, could cook that well.
When they had finished several courses of dinner and were awaiting dessert, the conversation finally turned to work.
Athena explained to the group, “When the German forces were first preparing to invade; I scoured the country, gathering every magical artifact I could find so that they would not fall into enemy hands. If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you will know there are quite a large number of them. I have managed to secure them on top of a mountain on the next island over, with a few magical safeguards to protect them. Tomorrow morning I will take you there, and you will retrieve the artifacts and take them back to your country.”
“You’re not going to come back with us?” Evans asked.
Athena’s warm expression became slightly more serious, “The Greeks are my people, whatever happens here, their fate will be my fate.”
“And how are we getting all that treasure back to England?” inquired Bromhead.
Athena excitedly rose from her seat and beckoned the others to follow, “I have a special surprise for you all, I made it myself and I’m quite proud of it.”
She led them to the edge of the balcony were they looked down to see a traditional Athenian galley tied to the dock.
“It has some strong magical enhancements, and I think you will find that it is much faster than regular ships,” she explained. “I want you to take it home and keep it, consider it my contribution to the war effort.”
They all stared in admiration at their new boat before returning to the table for dessert. As the sun disappeared over the horizon and cast a shimmering reflection on the water, the elves brought out a large assortment of freshly made Greek pastries. Athena went inside to clean up as they all ate much more than their fill. A few minutes later, Doge excused himself, claiming he wanted to help Athena with the dishes.
“I bet you do,” said MacDonald, just barely loud enough to earn a swift elbow from Bromhead.
Bromhead then stood up, “I should get our equipment sorted, and I’m going to need two assistants.”
“But we didn’t bring any…” Reynolds began to protest before a sharp glance from Bromhead cut him off. Then they understood what Bromhead was doing; Lieutenant Evans needed all the help he could get.
Evans reclined in his seat, happily realizing that it was now just he and Daisy at the table.
Daisy smiled as they made eye contact, “It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Greece. You know I almost won a trip here a couple years ago but it went horribly wrong.”
“Oh no, what happened?” Evans asked sympathetically.
“When I was a student at Oxford the British Classical Society sponsored a contest for classical research with the prize being a trip to Greece. My paper was selected as the winner, but when I went to meet the committee they rescinded their decision,” she explained.
“Why on earth would they do that?” asked Evans with a hint of outrage.
“Oh, I have no idea, maybe because I’m a woman,” Daisy said sarcastically. A sudden gust of wind caused a bit of a chill in the air as Daisy crossed her arms.
“You must be cold,” Evans said as he alertly jumped up and took off his Army field jacket.
“I’m alright John, really,” she assured him.
“No, I insist,” he said as draped the jacket over her shoulders.
She happily smiled to herself as he sat back down. “I’m just fascinated by all the history and culture here; the warriors and philosophers, the myths and the legends.”
“And Lord Byron wrote some of his best poetry here,” Evans added.
Daisy continued to be pleasantly surprised by him, “You like Lord Byron and Jane Austen? You really are quite the romantic.”
Evans blushed, “At Cambridge I actually wrote my thesis paper on Lord Byron.”
“You really do have some impressive accomplishments, even though Oxford is superior to Cambridge in every way,” she joked.
Evans laughed, “Well I all know is that we beat Oxford in cricket every year that I played.”
“So you were the star bowler, carrying your team to victory?” she teased him.
Evans looked down, “No, that was Roger’s job. I was the dutiful wicket keeper.”
Daisy laughed, “You and Roger do seem to work well together.”
“That’s how we first met in case you’ve forgotten,” he playfully reminded her.
They both laughed as they recounted the disastrous events of that particular evening. They continued talking until deciding it was probably time to get some rest before the mission. Evans pushed Daisy’s chair in for her as she got up from the table.
“Let me walk you to your room,” he insisted.
“That’s awfully kind of you,” she happily obliged.
Athena had prepared a room for Daisy in the main house, while the men were going to be staying in the adjacent guest house. As they slowly strolled towards their house, Evans fumbled around with his hand at his side, seemingly grasping at the air, until Daisy grabbed hold of it and held on tight. He felt his heart rate spike and a cold sweat run down his brow as they approached the door.
Daisy paused in the doorway, and as they prepared to part, Evans found himself in the type of awkward standoff that he so greatly dreaded. His powerful mind that had solved so many academic and military problems was now at a total loss about what to do. Should he shake her hand? No, too formal. Take a bow and kiss her hand? Don’t be stupid it isn’t a Jane Austen ball. A voice in the back of his head seemed to be screaming, “Just kiss her already!”
He looked into Daisy’s emerald eyes which were beautifully reflecting the moonlight and decided to swallow his fears. As they slowly moved closer together, he began to forget all about the war and everything else. In that moment, the girl in front of him was all that mattered. Daisy was fully cooperative, losing herself in his arms as she drew him nearer. Only a very short distance remained between them as their lips prepared to meet…
A loud crash oh pots and pans filled the air followed by an outburst in a familiar Scottish brogue, “That was my baklava! Stop taking my food fatty!”
“Oh go blow your bagpipes, you ginger bogan!” came an Australian voice in reply.
Evans bit his lip in frustration. As much as he liked MacDonald and Reynolds, one of these days he was going to kill them.
John and Daisy both awkwardly laughed and looked at the ground until she finally broke the silence. “Good night John,” she said, quickly kissing his cheek before she retreated into the house.
A loud mechanical roar filled the air as thousands of engines started in unison. Grindelwald directed the driver of his staff car to assume a position at the center of the long line of tanks and armored trucks, the same position he had been in during the invasion of France. Across a long front of several thousand miles, the full might of the German army was on display as the massive invasion of Russia was now in full effect. The lines of troops stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction. Grindelwald’s wizards were interspersed throughout the line, strategically placed where they could do the most damage.
Instead of his usual black robes, Grindelwald was wearing the German army uniform that he wore on campaigns. His fingers wrapped tightly around the Elder Wand as the long columns quickly and deliberately moved forward. Grindelwald lived for these moments; the thrill of battle, and the excitement of new conquests. He had dispatched emissaries to Romania to reach out to the vampires, and he was expecting to recruit all manner of magical creatures as they pressed deeper into Eastern Europe. However it was unlikely that they would need any more help. As it was, the well oiled German war machine seemed poised to run over all opposition, just as they had already done to so many other countries. With the convertible top to his car in the down position, Grindelwald took some time to soak up the sights and sounds all around him. He was at war, and he loved it.
After many miles of uneventful driving, the convoy slowly ground to a halt as artillery fire impacted all around them; it was the first opposition they had encountered. Slightly annoyed, Grindelwald stepped out of his car and found that the nearby German troops were engaged in a fierce skirmish with a group of Russian soldiers. Completely unfazed by the bullets whizzing past his head and explosions happening all around him, Grindelwald walked towards the front line. He carefully aimed the Elder Wand at a Russian tank and incanted, “Confringo!”
The curse was a direct hit on the tank, which exploded on impact. Not missing a step, he cast another curse, and another tank exploded. He took aim again; an armored troop carrier went up in flames. As the Russian vehicles began to fall back and change direction, Grindelwald noticed a large fuel truck in the middle of their formation. Sensing the opportunity he cast, “Incendio!”
A long streak of flames shot out of Grindelwald’s wand and towards the fuel truck, which instantly ignited in a towering inferno. The surviving Russian soldiers frantically ran for cover as thick clouds of black smoke billowed into the air. Grindelwald dusted off his shoulders as the surrounding German soldiers cheered him on wildly. Muggles, he sneered to himself, so easy to impress.
The sun slowly rose above the horizon, and cast a blinding glare off the stone white buildings of the Greek islands. After tying up her enchanted galley at a dock and making sure her new friends were not seasick, Athena led the group to a narrow trail at the bottom of a moderately high mountain. Due to the covert nature of this mission, the soldiers had left their uniforms behind and were instead dressed like Greek farmers. Daisy wore a head scarf to ensure that her red hair would not instantly give them away as foreigners, and MacDonald wore a large wool cap for the same reason.
Slowly but steadily, they hiked upwards on the rocky trail. The higher they got, the air seemed much thinner to breathe, and the temperature slowly dropped. It was not an easy climb, but it was a manageable one, and they managed to scale the mountain without much difficulty. They stopped to eat their pre-packed lunch about halfway up the mountain, before continuing on to the top.
Finally, near the summit of the mountain, the path was blocked by an iron fence. Lurking behind the fence were several lion-like creatures whose tails were fully grown snakes and who had a second head resembling a goat.
“Chimeras! I’ve run into them before, nasty creatures,” Doge informed the group.
There was a gate in the fence which led to a protected path between the chimeras’ cages, and another gate that opened the cages. Athena explained, “The gates are enchanted, it’s one of the safeguards I put in place.”
When they all looked at her incredulously she answered in a defensive tone, “If I knew you were coming earlier I would have just left the artifacts at my house, but I thought I might have to hide them from Grindelwald indefinitely.”
Doge sighed, “Well what’s done is done, so how do we get past it?”
Athena produced a long roll of ancient looking parchment as she informed them, “Allow me to explain the enchantment I put on the gate. This scroll contains an excerpt from our national epic poem, the Iliad. It must be recited in its original Greek and the gate to the safe path will then open up. But if you make a mistake, the other gate opens and the beasts are set free. I’m particularly proud of this precaution; Germans don’t have a good ear for Greek, and I wanted to ensure that only a true Greek could open it.”
Doge looked at her like she was completely mental, “Well what are you waiting for then?”
Athena grew concerned, “The gate will not respond to my voice, that’s another precaution I put in place in case I was captured.”
Doge threw his hands in the air, “Looks like we’re at an impasse then.”
“We have rifles, let’s just shoot the damn things,” suggested Bromhead.
“But Nigel, you can’t just shoot magical creatures,” Doge hastily objected.
“I shot that magical scepter in Egypt and that worked out fine,” Reynolds reminded them.
The group began to bicker as everybody tried to talk over one another until Evans finally lost patience and shouted for them to be silent.
As all eyes looked at him, he calmly stated, “Excuse me, have you forgotten that we have a renowned classical scholar in our midst?”
Daisy shied away in embarrassment, “But John, I don’t know if…”
He cut her off with a stern look, “Daisy, this is your moment, I believe in you.”
Daisy nervously stepped forward and opened the scroll as the others offered her encouragement. She had translated the Iliad in its entirety while at Oxford, but she had never dreamed that her skills may one day be needed in a real life or death situation. The whole scenario was really quite absurd when she thought about it.
She approached the iron gate, which was humming with a dull buzz, as if there was a magical electrical field. She tried hard to focus, ignoring the growls of the chimeras who were anticipating a meal. With a deep breath, she began to recite the familiar verses in the fluent Greek that she had studied so long to attain. The others looked on in silence, and the tension was thick. Slowly and deliberately, Daisy recited each word. Her heart was racing as she struggled to block out all the distractions around her. Finally, the enchanted gate, satisfied with her knowledge of Greek, slowly creaked open. Daisy closed her eyes and exhaled deeply as the others gathered round and congratulated her.
They walked through the narrow path which soon led into a tiny cavern opening. They squeezed through the opening to find themselves in a very large cavern which was piled high with treasure. “I think you will all find this was worth the climb,” said Athena.
They looked around the room, seeing many recognizable objects from Greek myths and legends. Among the tall mounds of treasure, there was the Golden Fleece, the shield of Perseus, the armor of Achilles, and countless other priceless and powerful artifacts. “These are going to look fantastic in the British Museum!” Evans quipped.
Daisy laughed, “Along with everything else from ancient civilization.”
Doge distributed magical bags similar to the one Dumbledore had been using, and they hastily packed up as much treasure as they could carry, preparing for a very log boat ride.
Dumbledore slammed the door to his office, trying to make sense of everything that had just happened. The crisis at Hogwarts was seemingly resolved for the time being, but was it really? After a heated discussion among the faculty, the decision was made to expel Rubeus Hagrid, a third year Gryffindor. Tom Riddle, a Slytherin prefect, had brought forth incontrovertible evidence that Hagrid was raising an acromantula, which was a clear violation of school rules. Rightly or wrongly, this creature was blamed for the attacks, and Hagrid suffered the consequences.
Being the head of Gryffindor house, Dumbledore knew Hagrid well. He knew that he was a kind hearted young man who had no malice towards anybody. But he also knew that Hagrid’s generosity was often extended to potentially dangerous magical creatures, and that he could sometimes seem oblivious to the hazards they posed to himself and others. Dumbledore strongly disagreed with the expulsion, but he was able to persuade Headmaster Dippet to allow Hagrid to remain at Hogwarts as a gamekeeper.
Since Hagrid’s spider departed the grounds, the attacks on students had ceased, and those that had been petrified began to wake up. While the rest of the faculty accepted these events at face value, to Dumbledore something just didn’t add up. It all just seemed too neat, too convenient. Plus, there was something about Tom Riddle that he just didn’t trust, although he was also the only professor to see that. The potential injustices aside, what was most important now was that the school seemed to be safe again, and it was going to be allowed to remain open. With Hogwarts secure, Dumbledore was now free to resume his struggle against Grindelwald. As much as he wanted to stay behind and get to the bottom of this mystery, he eventually convinced himself that the dangers that Grindelwald posed were a more pressing priority. The students would always come first, but right now Grindelwald posed the greater threat to the students’ safety.
He began to plan his next step, stretching his mind to think of wizards skillful, fit and trustworthy enough to recruit to his new task force. As he ran through his list of contacts, he was interrupted by a knock at the door.
“Come in please,” he beckoned, adjusting his half moon glasses.
Into the office walked Minerva McGonagall, a seventh year Gryffindor prefect. She had a serious expression, and her dark hair was pulled back in a tight bun. “Professor Dumbledore, I have finished everything on the check list. All Gryffindor students are safely accounted for, and all their families have been notified that they are safe and the school will be remaining open.”
“Thank you Minerva,” he said, having a sudden realization. In her role as a prefect, Minerva had calmly and skillfully led Gryffindor through a very difficult time. She excelled academically, particularly in his own subject of Transfiguration, and she was now of age and would be leaving school soon.
“Minerva, forgive me for asking, but what are your plans for after you graduate?” he asked her.
“I recently accepted a position with the Ministry,” she answered him.
Dumbledore grinned, getting the endearing and slightly mischievous twinkle in his eyes that would appear when he was up to something. “I might have to have a talk with your supervisors, there’s a special assignment you might be interested in.”
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