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Chapter 4 : Daring is Doing
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“Oi! MacDonald!” a gruff voice beckoned from behind him.
Duncan stepped back and looked around in confusion, before finally noticing Alastor Moody lurking in the shadows, his tie hanging awkwardly around his neck.
“Show me how to tie this blasted Muggle thing!” he whispered loudly, as Duncan began to double over in laughter.
He steadied himself just long enough to tie a Windsor knot for Moody before succumbing t the laughter once again.
“There you are, here is one handsome devil!” he joked as he slapped Moody on the back.
“I’d like to see you try to wear wizard’s robes,” he grumbled, grimacing in disgust when he saw his reflection.
Their moment of bonding was interrupted by the approach of Roger Cranford, the only actual pilot in the room. He had a confident stride and a suave sophistication in his voice, and he bore a striking resemblance to the movie star Richard Burton. As an RAF pilot during the war, he had once been part of the same secretive missions as Duncan, and he was likewise very much surprised when the mysterious magical world had suddenly come calling again.
“Duncan MacDonald, you have not changed one bit,” he observed out loud.
“Look at you, Roger, still suave as ever,” responded Duncan, as he clasped his hand.
“And who might your new friend be?” Roger asked as he noticed the gruff looking man lurking behind Duncan.
“This is my new best mate, Mr. Alastor Moody,” said Duncan with a laugh, as he pushed Moody out into the forefront.
Moody then gripped Roger’s hand in a firm handshake, looking ill at ease as he turned his head around the room.
Several minutes later, the announcement for boarding was made, and Roger led them towards the pilot’s entrance, bypassing the usual security gate. When the boarding was finally complete, the loud engines roared to life and the plane began to taxi down the runway. Duncan and Moody strapped themselves into the co-pilot’s seats while Roger worked the controls, carefully coaxing the aircraft as it rapidly gathered speed and began to tilt upwards as it lifted off. Moody’s face looked as white as a sheet as his hands gripped tightly to his seat, scared to death of this Muggle contraption. Finally, after a steep climb, the plane began to level off as it reached its cruising altitude.
Roger leaned back in his chair and switched on the public address system as he announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have now reached our cruising attitude en route to Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, USSR. Our stewardesses will be around shortly with our complimentary beverage service. Please relax, and enjoy your flight on British Airways.”
A stewardess poked her head in the cockpit as she prepared to journey down the aisle with her beverage cart.
“Who wants some tea?” she asked as she held out a steaming pot.
Roger eagerly accepted the offer, in desperate need of something to keep him awake on such a long flight.
“I’d rather have some brandy,” Duncan mused, cursing the fact that his disguise as an on-duty pilot prevented him from partaking in alcohol, before reluctantly accepted a cup of tea.
He then offered the pot to Moody, who curtly answered, “No, thank you.”
As the stewardess walked away, Moody pulled a small, metal flask out of his pocket and took a long sip from it.
Duncan felt the need to pry, “Do you seriously carry that around with you everywhere?”
“It’s a dangerous world, and one must learn to eliminate all possible vulnerabilities. Take food and drink for example, it’s the perfect opportunity for an enemy to poison you, so naturally I just carry my own,” Moody explained.
Duncan shook his head incredulously, “My God, you’re paranoid.”
Moody simply shrugged, “It’s how I stay alive.”
The passengers in the back settled into their seats, many of them falling asleep, as the plane continued to cruise over the North Sea, presented a very nice view of the Northern Lights. Things were very quiet in the cockpit, as Roger focused on flying, and Duncan and Moody were preoccupied with thinking about their upcoming mission. Every time they hit even a mild patch of turbulence, intense fear shivered up Moody’s spine. Augustus had suggested that he bring a sleeping potion to help get through the flight, but Moody didn’t trust this Muggle contraption enough to risk losing his situational awareness.
Finally, after a very long, occasionally bumpy, but otherwise uneventful flight, the plane touched down on the runway in Moscow. Everybody on board, but particularly Moody, was very relieved to have finally landed. The sky overhead was a permanent shade of grey, and large clouds of snow were blown around by the swirling winds. Roger mused that landing in such conditions was at least easier than flying through clouds of anti-aircraft fire like he had done during the war, but only a little bit.
The passengers disembarked the plane, followed by the air crew. Duncan and Moody both grimaced when their faces were stung by the sudden impact of the cold, biting wind.
“Welcome to Russia! That’s always my favorite part about flying here,” Roger laughed.
The two pretend pilots then followed the real pilot as they walked through customs. Roger walked through first, and as a frequent visitor, he was promptly waved through by the inspectors. Duncan then stepped up and presented his forged identification, which seemed to work well as he was also waved through. Moody then cautiously stepped up, presenting his Muggle passport with a false name. The inspector studied it intently, glancing back and forth between Moody’s face and his photograph. Moody’s heart pounded in his chest as he nervously gripped his fingers around his wand in his pocket, hoping he wouldn’t have to use it. Finally after a very intense minute of waiting, the inspector stamped Moody’s passport and motioned for him to walk on through.
After successfully clearing the first obstacle, the group walked outside to a very crowded car park. Roger turned to shake their hands as he prepared to board the shuttle that the airline had provided to take the crew to their hotel.
“Alright gentlemen, I’m sure you have other instructions from here, and I wish you the best of luck, whatever it is you’re doing here.”
Duncan and Moody gave Roger their regards, and then walked through the car park until they reached a line of taxi cabs which were eagerly awaiting passengers. They stopped when they saw a particular cab driver leaning against his car and smoking a cigarette. Although he was well disguised as a Russian cab driver, his facial features still bore a strong resemblance to Archibald Wellington.
“Do you have a light for my Marlboros?” Duncan asked him, using a seemingly innocuous question as a prearranged code phrase.
“We all smoke cigarettes, but only true gentlemen smoke pipes,” Archibald answered to complete the phrase, as he motioned for them to get in the car.
“So you must be Archibald,” said Duncan, once he had taken his seat in the back of the car.
“Please, call me Archie,” he insisted, “So I trust you had a pleasant flight?”
“Remind me to never travel on one of those things again,” Moody grumbled.
Archie laughed, “I finally get to meet the legendary Alastor Moody, and I must say you’re exactly how I pictured you.”
“Well your brother has trained me well,” Moody acknowledged.
Archie skillfully maneuvered his way through the packed grids of traffic, the chains on his tires allowing him to gain traction on the snowy road.
“So where are we going anyway?” Duncan asked.
“An MI6 safe house out in the countryside, once we get there we’ll go over your mission brief, and I believe you will have quite the journey ahead of you,” Archie explained.
When they reached the outskirts of the city and started to move into more open ground, Moody cast a concealment charm around the car. The three men shivered in their seats as the now invisible car drove deeper and deeper into the wilderness.
Of the many cities that had been badly damaged by the Second World War, Poland’s capital city of Warsaw had probably gotten the worst of it. Its weary residents were constantly surrounded with the wreckage and rubble of what has once been beautiful medieval architecture. While cities such as Paris and Amsterdam had quickly sprung back to life after their liberation from Nazi occupation, Poland had simply traded one conqueror for another, as the Soviet Union had been quick to move in. And now, if all went according to plan, the country’s magical community would soon fall into the Soviet sphere as well.
Disguised in local Muggle clothing, Anastasia sat across from Dolohov in a small café as they rehashed the details of their imminent mission.
“Abducting a sitting Minister of Magic, in his own capital? I must say that’s bold even by your standards,” Dolohov mused.
Anastasia did not acknowledge his comment as she showed him a series of black and white photographs, “One more time so you recognize him, Pyotr Podolski, the Polish Minister. And I trust you have committed the layout of the Ministry building to memory?”
“Yes, of course,” he sighed, growing slightly tired of the exhaustive thoroughness she brought to every mission.
An informant within the Polish Ministry had provided them with well drawn plans of the building, as well as a detailed plan of the Minister’s daily schedule. Aware that he had drawn the Soviet’s ire, Podolski took many precautions, protecting his home with the fidelius charm, and never leaving the Ministry without a well trained security team. Now, Anastasia was prepared to take the only course of action left, abducting him from his own office.
As she mentally prepared herself, Anastasia continued to quiz Dolohov, “And our cover story to get into the building?”
“We’re a married couple applying for a permit to open a book store,” he answered before offering an unsolicited opinion, “I wouldn’t mind that, you know, Antonin and Anastasia has such a nice ring to it.”
She glared at him, her ice cold expression freezing him in place, “I need to be focused on this mission, in case you’ve forgotten it’s going to be quite dangerous.”
Dolohov shrugged and laughed, “You know I’m only kidding. And besides, we all know you and Riddle are meant to be together.”
Anastasia scoffed in disgust, “I’ll admit that Riddle is a magical genius, probably the best I’ve ever seen, and he can work wonders in the field. But he’s also an insufferable ass, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
“Sounds like his charms are starting to win you over,” Dolohov added with a smile.
Anastasia gritted her teeth, “Back to the mission.”
Dolohov leaned back in his chair, conceding the point, as they proceeded to review every step of their plan to exploit the only weakness they could find in the Minister’s protections.
When their plotting was finally concluded, Anastasia and Dolohov walked several blocks outside until they arrived at unmarked storm drain. They quickly glanced around to ensure nobody was watching, and then lifted up the grate covering the drain. They quickly slipped inside, rapidly sliding down the pipes until they landed with a thud in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic. So far at least, the building looked exactly how it had been sketched in their plans.
They walked over to the side of the room where there was a desk labeled, “Visitors Check in Here” which they approached while doing their best to look like awe struck visitors. When presented with a visitor’s form by the clerk, they filled it out claiming to be Miroslav and Karolina Kowalski of Gdansk, Poland, whose purpose of visit was to obtain a small business permit to open a new bookstore.
“Take the lift up to the third floor, and it’s the third office on the right,” the clerk informed them in a courteous manner.
Dolohov curtly nodded in response as they briskly walked away and entered the lift, greatly relieved that there was nobody else inside.
“Remember, the kitchen is on the bottom floor, and they bring the Minister his lunch at 12:30, so we don’t have much time,” Anastasia reminded him for probably the twentieth time in the past hour.
Dolohov hurriedly re-wired the lift so that instead of taking them up as it was supposed to, it would go down to a floor not usually accessible to the public. They pressed themselves against the wall as they snuck past the large cafeteria that was frequented by Ministry workers. Having committed the building’s plans to memory, they easily found a little used corridor that led to a back entrance to the kitchen, where if their information was correct, the Minister’s lunch was now being prepared.
“I see two chefs, one male, one female,” said Dolohov as he poked his head in the window.
“This couldn’t have worked out any better,” Anastasia remarked with relief.
In a quick whir of motion, Dolohov kicked the door open and went charging into the kitchen with Anastasia following close behind. A stodgy older man and a round faced middle aged woman who had been carefully preparing a seafood dish looked up in shock. Before they could process what was happening, they were directly hit with stunning spells.
Dolohov withdrew two vials of polyjuice potion from his pocket and tossed one of them to Anastasia. They each grabbed a hair from their respective victims and added it to the potion before gulping it down. They then hid the unconscious chefs in an empty cupboard, stealing their uniforms to complete the transformation of their new appearance.
Just a second after they had finished, the head chef came bursting into the kitchen, loudly proclaiming that it was time for the Minister’s lunch to be served. Anastasia, who spoke enough Polish to get by, dutifully obliged, and they placed the seafood dish along with a pitcher of pumpkin juice and a tray of treacle tarts on a wheeled cart to be taken to the Minister’s office. The head chef gestured at them to move faster as they pushed the cart out into the hallway and into a specially designated lift tucked away in the corner which was the only way to access the Minister’s office.
Moments later, they reached the top floor of the Ministry building and walked out. The overweight security guard lazily glanced at the lunch tray, and then casually waved them through to the Minister’s office, suspecting nothing out of the ordinary.
The door opened to reveal Minister Podolski intently focused on the large pile of paperwork on his desk. The office was a very long room with a window opening up to a view of a river below. The walls were adorned with traditional Polish coats of arms, as well as various photographs of the Minister in different settings, including a rather prominent one of him shaking hands with Albus Dumbledore.
As Anastasia crossed through the doorway into the office, she felt her body begin to transform, cursing to herself as she realized what was happening.
“It’s a security scanner in the doorway, it reveals all intruders!” she shouted to Dolohov, too late for him to do anything about it.
Alert that something was amiss, Podolski leaped up from his seat, wildly firing a barrage of defensive spells which impacted throughout the room. Anastasia nimbly dove to avoid them, pausing when she could to fire off spells of her own. From his defensive position behind his desk, Podolski dove, reaching up to pull the rope hanging from the ceiling in the corner of the room which sounded the alarm system. By doing so, he left himself exposed for just long enough for Anastasia to score a direct hit with a stunning spell.
Anastasia breathed a brief sigh of relief amidst the shrill ringing of the alarm bells, but then she dove to the floor as a new barrage of spells materialized behind her. Dolohov sprung into action, rushing to confront the group of Aurors that had just responded to the alarm. With great concentration, he deployed a spell he had invented himself, shooting a whip of purple flame out of his wand, using it to great effect to keep his foes bottled up in the doorway. When they were pinned in place, Anastasia used an incendiary charm to create a wall of fire, preventing them from advancing any further.
“So how do we get out of here?” Dolohov asked casually.
Anastasia aimed a curse at the window, blowing a gaping hole in the glass. “We jump.”
Dolohov was clearly apprehensive, but raised no objections as together they lifted up the unconscious Podolski, carrying him in between them with his arms draped over their shoulders. Taking extra caution not to look down, they propelled themselves out the window, just as the Aurors made their way past the flames and came charging into the office. After a terrifying drop, they splashed to a landing in the icy cold river below, seemingly out of range of the curses being fired at them from above.
They swam under a bridge to take cover, and made their way onto the banks, dragging their shivering bodies out of the river. They conjured ropes to secure their prisoner as they warmed themselves up to gain the strength to apparate. Finally, they could allow themselves the chance to breathe. Another mission was successfully accomplished; the scourge of the East had struck again.
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