Chapter 14 : The Changing Tides
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“So was France everything you dreamed it would be?” Daisy asked in a slightly teasing tone.
“Well the scenery was excellent, but we didn’t have the opportunity to experience the cuisine, and I have to say I found the hospitality severely lacking, but I blame the Germans for that , of course,” he said with a grin.
Daisy had a brief laugh before asking, “So, while we’re talking about France, who’s your favorite French writer?” She smiled widely, continuing to be very much pleased to have found somebody who would willingly and knowledgably participate in that type of discussion.
Evans thought deeply for a moment before answering, “I would have to say Voltaire.”
She looked back at him incredulously, “Really? I did not see that one coming; I was definitely expecting you to say Dumas or Victor Hugo, somebody like that.”
They proceeded to have a very friendly yet mildly contentious debate on the merits of various French writers as they proceeded down a slightly hidden path to a small, nondescript country house that Dumbledore had requisitioned to use as a medical facility. With Hogwarts out of session for the summer, Dumbledore was able to convince his faculty colleague Poppy Pomfrey to lend her healing talents to the war effort for the time being.
Evans’ arm had been a relatively easy fix for Madam Pomfrey, but MacDonald, who was still confined to the medical ward, had required a bit more work. Pomfrey had loudly scolded Dumbledore for allowing a Muggle to reach that condition when she first encountered him, but after stretching her skills to their limits, MacDonald was finally put on the road to recovery.
Evans and Daisy walked through the entrance to the cottage where they were greeted by Nigel Bromhead, standing awkwardly on a set of crutches.
“How’s the leg?” Evans asked him with concern.
Bromhead shrugged it off, “They said I can return to duty in six weeks; I’ll be back next week of course.”
Evans slapped him heartily on the back, “Now that’s the spirit!”
They walked towards the end of the room where the heavily bandaged MacDonald was sitting up in his hospital bed. They were all glad to see that his usual sense of humor was still very much present. Reynolds was patiently sitting by MacDonald’s side, obviously coming up with some sort of scheme that would drive poor Madam Pomfrey mental, when the Scot noticed his new guests.
“Lieutenant Evans Sir, I knew you’d make it here,” noticing Daisy, he added, “And I’m a little sad to see that I’m not the only ginger in your life anymore, but I’m sure there’s plenty of room for both of us.”
Evans laughed and shook his head in amazement, very pleased that MacDonald seemed to be remaining in good spirits. “We’re all glad to see you being yourself.”
MacDonald nodded, “Aye, but if I can make one complaint, I never thought I would experience worse food then army food, but hospital food has achieved that. And I must say wizard hospital food is even worse than ours.”
The gathered guests laughed in unison until they noticed a very concerned looking Minerva McGonagall enter the room.
“Oh, how could I forget, we have to go to that meeting now,” Evans announced, forcing himself not to smile.
“Oh yes, the important meeting,” said Bromhead with a knowing nod.
“I didn’t know we had a meeting,” objected Reynolds, until stern looks from both Evans and Bromhead helped him figure out their true meaning.
They quickly said their goodbyes to their comrade and left the room as Minerva took the now vacated seat at the side of his bed.
“I brought you shortbread biscuits, your favorite,” said Minerva, as she produced a round tin from her bag.
MacDonald’s eyes lit up in anticipation, “How did you know?”
“Well I just assumed every good Scot would love shortbread.”
MacDonald slowly processed what she had told him before he finally made a long overdue observation, “Wait, you’re Scottish too?”
Minerva laughed playfully, “Well my name is McGonagall, what did you think?”
“Well I just kind of assumed that you were so uptight and haughty that you had to be English,” MacDonald teased, as they both had a good laugh.
With the tension greatly eased, they sat and conversed for hours, discovering many other things they never knew about each other.
Inside his underground bunker, Winston Churchill stood in the massive map room, patiently watching as his tired and overworked staff monitored the phones and telegraphs, and constantly updated the troop positions on the map with the latest reports from the field. As he took it all in, it was finally beginning to sink in that the tide of the war was turning. All across the front, Allied troops were advancing forward, and the liberation of France was well underway.
The Normandy invasion had been a massive risk, its scale far surpassing any military operation in history. And now, it appeared that the risk was paying off. The Allied armies had made large landings on five beaches in northern France and were now pushing inland. The German defenders had put up a very strong resistance and the landing forces had suffered very high casualties. There had been some desperate moments on the morning of June 6 when the outcome of the entire war seemed to hang in the balance. But after the initial resistance, the Allies had pushed on and broken through their beachheads, fighting their way across the hedgerows of the French countryside. Now, the German army was in full retreat as the Allies had opened a clear road to Paris. Churchill had exchanged several congratulatory phone calls with President Franklin Roosevelt, and they were both greatly pleased that their strong alliance had been so effective.
With a satisfied grin, Churchill retreated into his office, where an equally pleased Horatio Hotspur was eagerly waiting for him.
“Congratulations, Prime Minister, you’ve done it!” Hotspur exclaimed as he offered a very firm handshake and a pat on the back.
“Your assistance was much appreciated, my fellow Minister,” said Churchill with his trademark grin.
Hotspur turned to reach into his bag, “If you don’t mind, I brought a little something along to celebrate; are you much of a drinker?”
Churchill laughed at the absurdity of the question as he answered, “When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast.”*
Hotspur gave a hearty laugh as he carefully removed a very shiny bottle from his bag. It had a strong blue hue and seemed to be made out of pure sapphires.
“This is a bottle of Nostradamus Blue Label, the finest fire whiskey that exists in the magical world. I’ve been saving this for a special occasion, and this certainly seems to be one,” said Hotspur, as he placed the bottle on Churchill’s desk.
“It’s always been a rule of mine to never trust a man who doesn’t drink whiskey,” said Churchill as he eyed the bottle approvingly.
Hotspur added with a note of caution, “I must warn you, it’s very strong. It has quite the burn, if you will pardon the pun.”
Churchill laughed, amused at how much he was being underestimated, “Horatio, old boy, in my long and tumultuous relationship with the spirits, I have taken a lot more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.”
Hotspur laughed as he poured the drinks, knowing that he would never encounter anybody who could even attempt to match Churchill’s wit. The two ministers raised a toast to their alliance as they downed their drinks, attempting to mask their grimaces at the intense burning sensation.
Churchill flashed a “V for Victory” sign with his fingers as he happily proclaimed, “Let’s have another.”
Churchill and Hotspur had several more rounds, both of them finding great amusement in the fact that the two most powerful men in Britain were drinking fire whiskey in an underground bunker.
Finally, they were interrupted as a very haughty and unpleasant witch entered the room and announced with annoyance, “Mr. Minister, your presence is required back at the Ministry.”
Hotspur shook his head in disappointment as he said, “I’m sorry about that rude interruption, Winston. And since she just barged in here without introducing herself I must do the honors, if you can call it that. This is my new aide, Muriel Prewett. Muriel, this is Prime Minister Winston Churchill.”
Muriel looked at Churchill with an expression of disgust on her prim and proper face, “You sir, are very drunk.”
Hotspur was completely mortified but Churchill laughed it off, “Yes I am drunk, and you, my lady, are ugly. But tomorrow, I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.”*
Hotspur doubled over in laughter, taking quite some time to compose himself before he finally departed through the fireplace.
Nothing seemed to be going well for Grindelwald as he gritted his teeth and angrily stormed through the streets. His invasion of Russia, which had started out so promising and progressed so quickly, was now slowly grinding to a halt as his forces faced increasingly stiff opposition.
At the outset of the invasion, Grindelwald’s wizards had easily decimated the Muggle Russian army while the local they were often met with approval, either actively or tacitly, by the local magical population.
But something Grindelwald had not been counting on had happened. Andrei Krum’s killing had been a great propaganda coup for the resistance. Using him as a heroic example, many Eastern European wizards had rallied to join the fight against Grindelwald. Though Grindelwald’s wizards were far better fighters and had gotten the upper hand in almost all of their skirmishes so far, the fact that there was any resistance at all was something that Grindelwald most certainly did not need.
And now, with the Eastern front stalled, reports had reached Grindelwald that the entire Western front was collapsing. Allied armies were invading, and the Germans were in full retreat. Grindelwald had tried desperately to contact Franz Dietrich, his subordinate who had obviously badly mishandled his assignment, but since Dietrich was rapidly fleeing across France like the rest of the German army, he had been very difficult to get a hold of. After much searching, Grindelwald finally tracked him down, taking cover in a small farm house in a rural French village.
With rage in his eyes, Grindelwald charged towards Dietrich, who backpedaled as he protested, “My lord…I can explain.”
Shaking with anger, Grindelwald grabbed Dietrich by the neck of his robes, pulling him close so that he could yell directly into his face.
“I put you in charge of the Western front because I trusted you! And now, in case you haven’t noticed, the whole front has collapsed and you’re retreating in front of a Muggle army! How did this happen? I want answers!” Grindelwald bellowed.
“My lord…the Muggles had help…there are wizards on their side too now,” Dietrich stammered.
With great force, Grindelwald angrily threw Dietrich to the ground and proceeded to kick him squarely in the ribs. “Do you mean to tell me that Franz Dietrich, the greatest duelist in the history of Durmstrang, couldn’t handle a few wizards?”
“It wasn’t just any wizards…he was there,” Dietrich struggled to say as he clutched his ribs in pain.
“Who was there?” Grindelwald angrily demanded.
“Albus Dumbledore,” Dietrich admitted, gasping for air as he winced in pain.
Grindelwald’s expression suddenly changed as a deeply cautious and concerned look came over him. “Are you absolutely certain of this?”
“Yes, my lord,” Dietrich confirmed, hoping for mercy as he continued to lie on he floor.
Grindelwald’s mind was racing as he slowly turned and walked away. This was definitely not something he had been planning for. Things were about to get very complicated.
After finally being released from the medical cottage, MacDonald walked back to the estate with an extra spring in his step, and he found that life seemed to be considerably easier. Now that the Allies were beginning to win the war, the team was finding that there were many less opportunities for missions and their pace of work began to slow. Dumbledore, however, had been busy as always, constantly keeping abreast of the newest developments and seeking new information. The men couldn’t help but notice an interesting trend; that the closer the Allies seemed to get to victory, the more stressed and uncomfortable Dumbledore appeared.
Madam Pomfrey had recommended an hour of walking outside each day to aid MacDonald in his recovery, and Minerva had taken to joining him on these walks. On a particularly sunny autumn afternoon, MacDonald and McGonagall made their way across the lawn, where they noticed Joe Spinelli instructing a small gathering of admiring local girls how to swing a baseball bat.
“Look at me, I’m a yank, I play baseball because rugby is too scary,” said MacDonald in a mocking attempt at an American accent.
Minerva laughed and rolled her eyes, “Well, Mr. rugby player, I’d love to see you try your hand at quidditch.”
MacDonald was intrigued, “So what is this quidditch you speak of?”
“It’s a wizard sport, the rules are a bit complex but basically you fly around on brooms and there’s an awful lot of contact,” she explained.
“Well I could handle the contact part, but I’m not so sure about the flying,” said MacDonald, who seemed genuinely interested in learning this new sport.
Minerva pulled out her wand and cast, “Accio brooms,” as two brooms came flying into her outstretched arms. “Here, I can teach you,” she said, as she handed one of the brooms to MacDonald.
He looked at her incredulously, “You’re actually going to let me fly this thing?”
She looked back at him with a mischievous grin he had never seen from her before as she claimed, “You’re not the only one that likes to bend the rules once in a while.”
MacDonald hesitantly straddled his broom, patiently watching as Minerva demonstrated for him how to push off. Hovering only a few feet above the ground, MacDonald slowly and nervously moved forward, swerving in every possible direction as he struggled to control the broom.
“There you go; you’re getting the hang of it!” Minerva said excitedly as she followed close behind him.
MacDonald continued to struggle mightily; very uncertain of what he was doing, until with a sudden lurch he made a sharp backwards turn, slamming into Minerva and knocking both of them off their broom sticks. They became entangled as they crashed and rolled together on the ground, laughing heartily the whole way.
They slowly regained their composure, smiling widely at each other as they came to a halt, still completely entangled.
“Would it be clichéd and over the top if I tried to kiss you now?” MacDonald asked.
“Not at all,” replied Minerva, as she closed her eyes to savor the moment.
Throughout central Europe, the large, majestic peaks of the Alps provided some of the most breathtaking views anywhere in the world. The picturesque ski villages that dotted the snow covered mountain tops provided scenes that would be ideal for any Christmas card, and the views of the valleys and lakes below provided an incomparable natural beauty. It was in this setting, on a particularly inaccessible and otherwise deserted mountain top in the southern German state of Bavaria that Adolf Hitler had constructed the complex he had termed his “eagle’s nest.” It was the perfect place to plan things unobserved by outsiders, and to hold meetings with the likes of Grindelwald.
Hitler paced towards the panoramic window, turning his back to the outstretched map on the table, as he observed, “I am deeply disturbed by the state of the war, Grindelwald.”
“Yes, things have clearly not gone as planned,” Grindelwald replied, comfortable in the knowledge that he was probably the only person in the world who could sit there without fearing Hitler’s wrath.
“What is this I hear of a powerful wizard aiding the Allies?” Hitler inquired.
“Dumbledore is weak,” Grindelwald said dismissively, “He will run and go back into hiding as soon as we are once again victorious.”
Hitler sat back down, at a loss for ideas. “So what are you suggesting?” he asked.
Grindelwald pointed to the map with his wand, once again relishing just how easy it was for him to manipulate the dictator, “We should counterattack. We’ll wait until the winter, let the Allies get complacent, and then we’ll hit them where they least expect it.”
Hitler saw the validity of Grindelwald’s plan but wasn’t entirely convinced yet. “So what if your plan doesn’t work?” he asked.
Grindelwald’s eyes narrowed with a steely determination as he emphatically stated, “It will work.”
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