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Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Amazing CI by viktor & rolf @TDA
The city of Caen sleeps peacefully. A few strands of smoke begin to rise over the rooftops, rapidly dissipated by the fluttering September wind. The streets are threaded bare of people, who have fled to the safety of their homes.
It is not safe, anymore, to aimlessly wander the streets.
Camille is perfectly aware of this fact, yet here she stands, at the intersection between the rue Ledoux and the rue Hardouin Mansard. Her brown hair is tamed by a green beret that matches her gloves, and an elegant felt coat completes her outfit. She loathes the heels she has been forced to wear – they are not practical when one needs to run.
Running, however, should not be necessary today.
As her target approaches, she straightens and plasters a smile on her face.
"Bitte sehr, Fraulëin," the soldier calls out as he sees her. He is approximately her age, twenty-two, perhaps younger, but this is a detail. There is no time for sentimentality.
Camille fingers her wand in her pocket, and whispers the words she has practiced so many times before.
It is not the first time she kills.
Astrid glances at her watch nervously, her long, pale, perfect fingers tightened around a cup of ersatz coffee. Her nearly-white blonde hair is cropped short, the locks littering the floor at her feet. She vanishes them with a flick of her wand: what is done is done.
As she looks at her reflection on the mirror, she smiles wryly. The gorgeous Veela is gone, replaced by a stone-hearted creature who murders in cold blood. The child with round cheeks like apples is gone, replaced by a woman with aristocratic cheekbones and a steely glare. Nothing will ever be the same.
A piece of parchment is lying on the table.
My dear sister,
The fact that you are reading this means I do not belong to this Earth anymore. Be strong for me, Astrid. Times are difficult, and will worsen rapidly. Please, Astrid, I beg of you, leave while you may. Save your life, when I was not able to do so. You have always made the right decisions. Show me you will do so again this time.
Slowly, Astrid sets the letter on fire, watching as the corner, then the rest of her sister's prim handwriting, burns and disappears into nothingness. Her mind is already made, and she knows she is doing what should be done.
She will fight on.
Johanna walks into the café, the bells over the door tinkling as she enters. She knows the eyes of the men are following her as she makes her way to the counter, and she makes sure to properly swing her hips.
She is a curvy girl of twenty-five, with a raucous laugh and a beautiful singing voice. Men flatter her by saying that when she sings, the sea stops its tide to listen properly. Johanna only laughs, and allows one man, only one, preferably an officer, to buy her a drink.
She presses him with questions, and the officer, distracted by her wide eyes, framed with long lashes, and by the crease between her breasts, answers dreamily. Johanna giggles, clutches his arm, expresses her fascination for his uniform, and then leans forward to whisper in his ear.
I'm sure what's underneath is even better.
The officer cocks an eyebrow, amused, and Johanna bats her eyelashes shyly, blushing at the nerve of what she has just said.
She follows him to his room over the café, timidly. Once the door is shut, the officer, aroused, expects things to go quickly and loosens his belt, but Johanna smiles and tells him off.
Not quite yet. A woman needs to feel ready, give me just a moment.
She smiles coyly, and disappears into the bathroom, leaving the officer to his fantasies.
A few minutes later, when she walks out, her wand is pointed at him.
Xavier mechanically runs his finger around the rim of his empty glass, his wand digging into his side as he leans forward. Tonight is like every other night, and he drinks to forget. Tenebrous, with dark hair and eyes, stubble shading his cheeks, he attracts girls like moths to a flame, but they mean nothing.
Xavier cares only for the freedom of his country, and drowns himself in his work to make this possible.
Today has been a productive day. He has intercepted the information concerning the delivery of ammunition, hand grenades, perhaps a gun or two. In less than a month, if everything goes well, the weapons will be theirs.
If it does not go well, in less than a month, he will be dead.
He is fully aware of this fact, and knows what he has signed up for. Death is a certainty, and how or why or when are merely details. He can only appreciate the fact that one more day has passed, and it is to this small victory that he drinks.
Simon laps the last few drops of soup from his tin bowl. Soup, he scoffs quietly, normally consists of more than two slices of rutabaga chasing each other in lukewarm water. His mother used to make a wonderful soup, with carrots and cabbage and potatoes, with fresh cream stirred into it. She would call to dinner from the doorway, clanging a wooden spoon against a pot, the clear sound resounding around the courtyard.
His mother has disappeared, separated from him and his father as soon as they stepped off the train. Esther and Sarah, his sisters, went with her, a small comfort. Simon manages to glimpse them every once in a while, their beautiful black hair chopped off unevenly. They looked like barely hatched ducklings, floating in the blue overalls that were too large for them. Esther was carrying a bucket that repeatedly hit her in the calf; Sarah was carrying a set of stiff brushes.
The sight of his sisters – the babies he once took care of and sung to, the cheerful little girls skipping to school with their matching braids hanging down their backs, the young women they are starting to become – cleaning the latrines drives him mad, but there is nothing he can do.
He just nods curtly, or smiles weakly if there is no one watching, trying to tell them all will be all right.
This is a lie.
Father is dying of tuberculosis in the hospital block, which has of a hospital only the name. In truth, it is a place where death roams more freely than anywhere else, only more slowly. Other than proper doctors, hygiene and medication, it lacks humanity and compassion and Simon, who used to study to become a doctor, knows that if even those qualities are absent, then the chances of healing are terribly low.
His only hope is to get his wand back. Pushed by a sense of urgency, he dropped it on the path between the gates of the camp and the barracks, but it is only a question of time.
And once he finds it, he and all those he loves will be saved.
Jean sits at his desk, nervously clenching and unclenching his fists around a silver pen, one he received for his graduation. The blinds are drawn, all lights are off, and the street is completely quiet.
Yesterday, the paper he has been dreading has arrived. He is required to leave the city of Caen for that of Munich, and to go and work in one of the Reich's armament industries.
He already knows he will not go.
His suitcase is packed, but not for the same reasons. He waits, patiently, for the siren that screams almost every night, and will use the din created to Apparate, unnoticed, to the French Ministry of Magic.
The whole system was built on luck, and favourable circumstances. The Minister died four years ago. The appointment of a new Minister took much longer than expected, long enough for the Vichy regime to come to power in Muggle France. When Paul Goldberg became the new Minister, anti-Semitic policies were in action already, and, as it happens, Goldberg is Jewish. He never revealed the existence of the magical world to Pétain or Laval.
He offered protection to all the wizards residing in France, setting up a new unit that methodically and illegally recovered all proofs of existence of those who chose to hide. He facilitated the Portkey network, created new alliances with England, and, most importantly, created the Liberation Squadron, used to coordinate wizard resistance around the country. The Liberation Squadron was in no way responsible for each minor group's actions, but made sure those who used an Unforgivable curse were not pursued by justice as long as the war lasted – a law sometimes used for other purposes than the freedom of France, of course, but war was war, and casualties were a natural consequence.
Jean has been a member of the Resistance for months now. Death is a part of his everyday, and he does not fear it.
The alarm goes off suddenly, a wail tearing the night apart. Jean stands up, grabs the handle of his leather suitcase, and takes a deep breath. It is time.
The setting sun bathes the small room in a soft yellow light. Camille leans against the window, watching the dark buildings that detach themselves against the pale background.
"All good today?" Johanna appears behind her, balancing a piece of toast and a cup of tea.
"The usual. They're becoming more and more suspicious though."
Her friend shrugs. "Depends how you put yourself forward…"
"Or which part of yourself," Camille comments with amusement.
"Shut up, I managed to get two extra cigarettes today because the guy wasn't paying attention to my face."
They laugh, and it is in the midst of one of these rare moments where the war is forgotten that Jean walks in.
"We've got a new target. I'm waiting for Xavier and Astrid to get back here before giving out the details."
Immediately the two girls stop laughing, and their faces harden, flickering from child to killer in a heartbeat.
"What about Simon?" Johanna hazards. "When are we getting him out?"
Jean sighs. This discussion has come up regularly since Simon has been deported, and the answer is always the same. "Jo, I want him here as much as you do, but we don't know where he is."
"Damn it, Jean, if you really wanted to find out you'd be able to! The longer we wait, the smaller the chances are that he'll be alive…"
Camille bites her lip, tentatively placing a hand on her friend's shoulder, who shakes it away.
"He won't leave without Esther or Sarah, and getting them out is more complicated than if he was alone," Jean argues quietly.
"We would be perfectly capable of evacuating them if we decided to do so," Johanna snaps. "You don't understand what he means to me."
Camille and Jean exchange a worried glance. As time moves on, Johanna is more and more impulsive when it comes to Simon. Their relationship is one that has never been openly discussed, but from what Camille has understood, it is more serious than what she first thought, and she does not like it. It makes Johanna vulnerable, less dedicated to the reason she is fighting, and allows Simon to be used against her.
Those who fight cannot afford to be vulnerable.
"I do understand," Jean replies. "And we will take care of Simon's case, but we have other priorities."
Johanna resolutely crosses her arms over her chest, but does not retort, which is progress. At that moment, Xavier strides into the room, Astrid on his heels.
"So?" he questions immediately. "Who are we supposed to take care of?"
Jean does not answer immediately, instead balefully staring outside. The night has spread over the city like a blot of ink on parchment, just as dark, thick and starless.
"The mayor," he answers finally. "They want us to kill the mayor."
There is a very pregnant pause, during which the only sound that is heard is the ticking of the clock, and, somewhere in the distance, the dull thud of boots against the pavement. Then Astrid speaks up, her voice slicing through the tension.
"So, your uncle."
A/N: Hello, lovely reader! Meet RF, my newest baby :)
Huge shout-out to TheVividImagination and apondinabluebox (known on the archive as, respectively, ImagineHarmony and The Misfit) who let me rant to them about this story -- Tawhida and Katie, you have my eternal thanks!
As per usual with first chapters, an introductory paragraph is needed, and even more so with this story.
I am in no way a historian, only a teenager who grew up with the Second World War as a backdrop for family history, and for whom it's an extremely important period. If you spot any inaccuracies, please tell me so that I can edit them.
And now, a few questions about the story...
What did you think of the characters? The context? What's going to happen next? One of the characters here is linked to a cannon one - who do you think that is (it's fairly obvious, but anyway)?
Please leave a review if you have a minute, just to confirm that this isn't crap and that there's a good reason as to why I write it!
Thank you ♥
The line in german roughly means "Please, Miss..."
edit 03/02/13: typos.
edit 07/02/13: date incoherence.
edit 10/03/13: added CI.
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