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Behind the Curtain by Cassius Alcinder
Chapter 12 : Mont Anglais
 
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 Duncan and Moody unpacked their gear, surveying their surroundings as they settled into their room within the antique inn that served as the living quarters of Mont Anglais.  Moody performed the series of revealing and protective charms that had become his standard procedure for any new room he entered, never completely trusting his surroundings even in a secure base such as this one.  Duncan strolled towards the window and began to take in the view of the snow covered landscape that could have easily made a postcard.   



A nondescript rectangular building that served as the base’s command center stood directly across from the inn, and the two buildings were connected by underground tunnels.  A little bit further out stood a collection of buildings which seemed to form a small village.  These contained the base’s cafeteria, recreation center, and things of that nature, and were staffed by trusted wizards of the French Ministry, most of who were older, retired Aurors.

After a curt knock, Augustus barged into the room, eager to keep them updated of the current situation.

“Alright lads, we’re in the home stretch now, and I dare say this may be the safest place we could possibly be outside of England.  All you have to do tonight is get a good night’s rest.  As for tomorrow, the department’s been shorthanded, as usual, so Moody, I’m going to need you to accompany me to the security conference.  Meet me for breakfast tomorrow and I’ll give you a full briefing packet.”

Moody nodded, eagerly anticipating the next step in the mission.

“And as for you, MacDonald,” Augustus continued, “Your mission tomorrow is to keep an eye on Natalia.  You can feel free to explore the grounds, enjoy the recreational activities, just don’t leave the base and make sure she doesn’t try anything stupid.”

“Where is she now?” Duncan inquired.

“She’s staying down the hall from us, sharing a room with Marie Lecavalier, an old friend from the French Auror department.   She’s in good hands with Marie, but you just have to watch her during the conference tomorrow.  Now, do either of you have any questions?”

The instructions being rather straightforward, they had none.

“Very well then, let’s get through tomorrow and then we’ll back in London very soon.”

Augustus turned and departed the room, walking with a bit of a spring in his step due to the massive intelligence coup he may soon be pulling off.

After Augustus left, Moody and Duncan climbed into their respective twin beds on either side of the room, exhausted after their long journey and more than ready for some rest. 

“Nice place, isn’t it?” Duncan mused.

“It is rather scenic,” Moody admitted, “but I want make sure you remember to be careful tomorrow.  I mean, I know there’s probably no reason to worry, and at this point we have no reason to suspect that she isn’t exactly who she says she is, but just don’t let your guard down.”

Duncan laughed off the warning, “Oh please, I’ll be fine.  In fact, I’m rather looking forward to it.”

“Don’t tell me you’re developing feeling for her,” Moody asked incredulously.

“I wouldn’t go that far” answered Duncan, “but she seems rather pleasant, and she certainly isn’t ugly.”

Moody shook his head in disbelief, “Whatever you do, I believe that getting involved with a witch is a mistake.  It would bind you to a world that may not wish to enter.”

“Oh, I’ve actually made that mistake before,” Duncan admitted nonchalantly.

“Really?” Moody asked in disbelief, “The magical community is not that large, so I would probably know her. Now you have to tell me who it was.”

Duncan started to blush, “Absolutely not, I’ve said too much already.

Moody pleaded, “You’ve already given me half the story, now if I were to be killed a dark wizard tomorrow my life would end wondering what the rest of the story is.”

Duncan finally relented, “Fine, Minerva McGonagall.”

Moody began to laugh uncontrollably, so much so that he nearly fell out of his bed.

“You…and Minerva…hahahahahahahahahahahahaha…how did that even happen?”

“It was a wartime fling nothing more”, Duncan claimed defensively before attempting to turn the tables, “Alright then, Moody, let’s hear about your love life or lack thereof.”

“If the Auror Department wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one,” he said defensively.

“Well at least you have the dog,” Duncan responded.

A few more minutes of playful needling followed before they both fell sound asleep, anxiously awaiting what the next day would bring.

                                                                                *****

After a quick breakfast, Augustus and Moody walked briskly through the tunnel connecting the inn to the command center. 

“I feel safe saying that you’re already one of the most skilled field operatives I’ve ever seen, but now it’s time to learn the other half of the job; diplomacy,” Augustus explained as they walked.

“I can hardly wait,” Moody grumbled to himself.

They passed through a security checkpoint at the end of the tunnel, and then entered into a large, high ceilinged room containing a long, ovular meeting table.  There was an oversized map of the world displayed on the wall, and the flags of the participating nations were displayed throughout the room, with the French flag being the most prominent. 

Augustus looked around at the other wizards filing into the room, and recognized many familiar faces of old colleagues: Marie Lecavalier and Jacques St. Pierre from France, Claudius Giroux from Canada, and Harry Smith and Dick Thompson from the U.S., all of whom were seasoned warriors who had seen their fair share of battle. 

Augustus made his rounds of the room, greeting his old colleagues and introducing them to his recalcitrant apprentice.  When the pleasantries were concluded, the wizards took their seats around the table, and Marie Lecavalier rose to address the assembly.  She was a witch in her early thirties with shoulder length brown hair who possessed the well put together appearance that one would expect from a French woman, but also showed a little bit of the weathered look that came with experiencing many battles.  As the ranking French official present, she was the unofficial moderator of the proceedings.

“On behalf of the French Ministry, I would like to welcome you all back to our abode.  Exciting times are upon us as we approach the Wizarding World’s Fair next week in London.  It is a time of great international fellowship and cooperation, and in the spirit of that cooperation, I’d like to introduce the first speaker of our conference, my old friend, Augustus Wellington.”

 Augustus confidently strode the podium, gave Marie the customary French greeting of a kiss on either cheek, and then began his remarks.

“Thank you for the warm welcome, Marie, and thank you all for your continued cooperation keeping the magical world safe from ongoing threats.  As our war of shadows with the Soviet Union enters its seventh year, I am now pleased to report that we have reached a major breakthrough.  Due to the daring efforts of our undercover operatives, and the help of a high level defection, the British Ministry is now in possession of a Soviet Kwikcodes machine.”

The crowd gasped in surprised as Augustus felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.  There was an ongoing friendly rivalry between the various services and nationalities who were constantly trying to one up each other, and Augustus had clearly won this round. 

He proceeded to address the rest of the issues on the agenda, confidently adding to the growing sense that the tide of the global struggle was turning in their favor.

                                                                        ******

Earlier that morning, Anastasia took in her surroundings as best she could.  She was determined to gather as much information as she could during her stay, but it appeared that she was going to be constantly monitored; by Marie when she was in her room, and by the Muggle while the conference was going on. 

As Marie prepared for the work day, she stepped into the bathroom, giving Anastasia a brief moment of not being watched.  Acting quickly, she searched through Marie’s  purse with her wand at the ready until she found a quill pen. 

She whispered the incantation, “Auditorius,” and when the spell took effect, the quill was now enchanted to preserve an auditory recording of all that was spoken in its presence. 

Marie stepped back into the room and smiled at Anastasia, suspecting nothing.  Anastasia remembered that she and Marie had once fought a protracted duel in the back alleys of Berlin a few years prior, and took a smug satisfaction in the fact that Marie didn’t recognize her in disguise. 

                                                                    *****

Back in London, Quincy Queensbury nervously fiddled with his wand behind his back as he prepared to face his questioners.  It wasn’t often that he saw other parts of the Ministry outside of the research and development office, but today he was being called upon to testify before a sub-committee of the Wizengamot to inform them about his latest project.

He stood at the front of a dark room, facing a panel of five Wizengamot officials.  At the center of the panel sat a well-dressed wizard called Abraxas Malfoy, who was distinctive for his long blonde hair and piercing cold stare.  

“So Mr. Queensbury, please give us a brief summary of the Albatross project,” Malfoy began, slowly enunciating each syllable.

Quincy recounted the technical details of the project until Malfoy interrupted him.

“So are you saying that this weapon has the power to wipe out the magical population of an entire city?”

“Yes sir”

Malfoy scribbled some notes on his parchment as he leaned forward with interest, “Tell me more…”

 

                                                                      *****

After Moody and Augustus had departed for the conference, Duncan had made his way down to the lobby of the inn, where he had been instructed to wait instructed to wait.  He leaned back in a comfortable chair, staring with fascination at a brochure with moving photographs depicting the various recreational activities available on the compound.  The official role of Mont Anglais was a place for the French Minister to get away from Paris and entertain visitors, similar to how the Muggle Prime Minister might use Chequers.

Finally, Anastasia arrived in the lobby, still flawlessly playing the role of a nervous defector who was overwhelmed by her surroundings.

She coyly grabbed the brochure out of Duncan’s hands and proclaimed, “I would like to go ice skating.”

Duncan jumped up with a smile and offered her his arm, “Ice skating it is!”

“Men, so easy to manipulate,” she thought to herself. 

The walked to a pristine frozen pond which was set against a mountainous backdrop where the rays of sunlight glistened off the icy rooftops in the quaint village surrounding them. 

“I don’t normally wear skates,” Duncan explained as they put their skates on, “I usually go on the ice to play this sport called curling, it’s a little hard to explain, but it’s kind of a big deal in Scotland.”

Anastasia nodded as she pretended to be interested.  She then gracefully glided out onto the ice, flawlessly executing some rather complicated twists and jumps.

“Where did you learn to skate like that?!?” Duncan exclaimed.

“I practiced every day as a girl,” she explained, “It was my dream to represent the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics.”

She didn’t usually incorporate actual details of her childhood into her assumed identities, but this Muggle just seemed like such a good listener.

Her voice then trailed off and became more somber, “I thought it was my only hope of escaping the orphanage I grew up in.  Well until I found out I was a witch of course.”

She then began to sob, “I never knew what it was like to have a family, I just put everything into schoolwork and magic because I had nothing else, and Russia is such a bleak place.”

Duncan sat next to her at the edge of the pond and began to put his arm around her, “Don’t worry, you’re going to have a whole new life in the West.   Just wait, we have grocery stores lined with aisles of food where you can get whatever you want, and …”

Before Duncan could finish, Anastasia poked her wand into his side and quietly muttered a stunning spell, leaving him unconscious on the ice.  She looked down at her watch, calculating just how much time she had to make a report to Moscow.  Amazed at just how easy this operation had been so far, she held out her time –turner and prepared to give herself a few extra hours. But just then, a well-cast disarming spell from an unseen foe knocked her backwards, sending both the time-turner and her wand flying out of her hands.

Alastor Moody then emerged from the shadows, walking towards her over the ice with his wand drawn. 

“A very impressive plan Natalia, or shall I say, Anastasia?” he prodded.

 She crawled backwards and reached into her pockets as she tried to come up with a plan.

“You really thought you could fool us? You really thought I would let you out of my sight for even a moment?” Moody continued as he prepared to cast an incarceration spell.

Just before her time ran out, Anastasia found what she was reaching for.  “Ice Busters” were an invention of her agency, small white pellets that when thrown on ice would cause the ice to shatter; they were very useful for quick getaways in the cold environs in which they frequently operated.  She threw the pellets at just the right moment, sending Moody plunging into the cold pond as the ice below his feet shattered. 

Wasting no time, she dove to recover her wand.  With her cover blown, she would have to abort the mission, but it had already been successful beyond what she ever envisioned. 

“Accio quill,” she cast, bringing the enchanted recording quill flying out to her.  She then ran to the top of the nearby hill and slid downward, rapidly picking up speed until it propelled her beyond the protective enchantments of the compound and she could safely disapparate.  

 

 

A/N: "Mont Anglais" means "Mount English," I know, I'm really creative with the French names haha



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