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Of a Linear Circle - Part IX - Serpent in the Grass

Chapter Text

Salazar has been living in the Willow House in Sherwood-on-the-Marsh since the 1600s, but he doesn’t bother changing anything about it but for the plumbing until telephones become common. After that, it’s electricity, because torches and candles are nice, but electricity might be useful. Maybe.

He decides he’s not much impressed by electric lighting, but a wireless qualifies quite nicely. What he doesn’t expect is how fast everything happens. He thought the last few decades of the previous century were bad for sudden, constant changes in human invention, but the 20th century seems intent on being ever faster. Many things are larger, greater—including the wars.

Wireless radio exchanges become programs, which quickly expand to story serials, sporting events, news broadcasts, and record programs. Curiosity drives him to purchase a radiogram when he realizes someone has combined a wireless and a gramophone into a single, polished wooden bit of furniture. This one is capable of playing the newer vinyl records where a gramophone’s steel needle cannot.

Salazar won’t miss shellac records, but the change to plastic makes him shake his head. He coughed his way through the so-called Industrial Revolution. While there are many resulting benefits, he’s not certain that such a speedy transition to factory production was worth the ill health and poor conditions that now plague humanity, plants, and wildlife alike.

“Ah, pollution,” Nizar’s 992 portrait comments from his worn frame.

“Tell me it gets better.”

Nizar snorts. “You want me to lie to you, then?”

“Never mind.”

World War I helped nothing in that regard. Salazar hasn’t been able to stand the idea of going to Europe since the Armistice. The earth beneath his feet screams, never stopping, from all that was so abruptly and terribly done to her. Blood and metal, forests decimated, chemical warfare—mankind has yet to stop learning of new ways to do terrible things to each other.

In particular, fuck mustard gas. Salazar has not had such a terrible wound that took so long to heal since Antioch Peverell attempted to murder him with the bloody Elder Wand. The stupid crossbow bolt through the eye was far easier to cope with in comparison, even if certain painted beings still think the event hilarious—though if not for a nearby healer’s magic, Salazar imagines it would not be remembered quite so fondly.

The experimental wireless-based broadcasts of something called television intrigue him, though Salazar would have to go into London to see the results. As the first televisions are sold, Nizar tells him to hold off on acquiring one, suggesting he wait until the 1960s.

“What will be so special about a television by the 1960s?”

“Not sure.” Nizar lounges across his chair on his back, his hair brushing the floor on one side, his feet supporting him on the other, in a clear sign of boredom. “I think maybe that’s when it starts broadcasting in color.”

“Colorful, moving, broadcasted images.” Salazar blows out a long breath. Gods, but Rowena would be fascinated to see the reason why his little brother’s Recordari charms were always so different. “I’ll most likely be purchasing one sooner than that, if only out of curiosity.” A monochromatic moving image viewable at home is still just as fascinating in concept, even if he has advance warning of its creation thanks to a portrait’s recorded memories.

“What do you know of Grindelwald?”

Nizar’s portrait lifts his head from the floor and glances at him. “The name sounds a bit familiar. Hold on.”

“We have time,” Salazar says, knowing from experience that it can often take the portrait a while to find the earliest things it magically recorded, which would be his actual brother’s own memories. There is quite a bit that the portrait recorded on its own afterwards, century by century. By now, Salazar thinks the portrait’s recorded experiences likely make it unique among magical paintings.

Salazar returns from the kitchen with a cup of tea to find the portrait sitting up on his chair. “I’m not certain about this,” Nizar says warningly, “because that fucking book was the best cure for insomnia money could buy, and it didn’t even cost all that much. I think Grindelwald is mentioned in Hogwarts: A History.”

Salazar frowns. “I’ve heard tell that such a titled book will be published at some point this year. It should be available by now.”

“I honestly cannot believe it’s already 1936.”

“Some days I find it difficult to contemplate the same.” Salazar sips at the tea, strong and bitter. Several hundred years have passed, and still the British are too busy destroying the benefits of tea’s tannic acid with milk and sugar to realize that there are other sorts of teas to be had aside from grass-flavored green and highly astringent black. “I suppose I should purchase this book.”

Nizar’s eye tics before his entire expression twitches. “Sal, please do the entirety of Wizarding Britain a favor: do not read that book until you’ve no choice in the matter.”

“That bad, is it?”

Nizar rolls his eyes. “You’re a historical villain to all except the students of our own House, remember?”

“Yes, but I’ve grown used to that,” Salazar points out. It does help quite a bit that he hasn’t used his own name in public for a very long time.

“You would tear down the entire Ministry for what that book says about Helga alone.”

Salazar pauses, staring at the portrait, before he swallows the tea in his mouth. “Perhaps I will not be purchasing this book. Have you recalled anything about this Grindelwald yet? I only know what the papers have reported, and none of it is promising.”

“I know that, for some reason, Albus Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald in a duel, but that didn’t come from the book. That was on a Chocolate Frog card. No, you probably don’t want to know,” Nizar adds.

“Chocolate frogs.” Salazar shakes his head. “It sounds as if Britain’s magicians decide to focus on silly nonsense.”

“People do weird shit, Sal. That’s nothing new.” Nizar frowns. “Besides, I think the information you’re wanting wasn’t in the first printing. I remember noticing once that the Hogwarts library copy only had the title on the front, but the copy I purchased had something on it about being revised with new information in 1947.”

“Bugger,” Salazar mutters. That sounds very much as if the situation he’s watching unfold in Europe will have quite the historical impact.

“Forget the Prophet and that stupid book. What do the European newspapers say about Grindelwald, Sal?”

“The last delivery I received from France was a mixture of tales,” Salazar replies. “The non-magical and magical communities alike are fearful of the power that Germany has gained for itself. It hasn’t been long enough since the Great War for them to not be concerned by such. Grindelwald seems to be using the distraction to rally like-minded magicians to his cause, and that cause is domination. He wishes for magicians to rule over the non-magical.”

Nizar rolls his eyes. “Sounds like a wonderful guy. I thought it bad enough that Voldemort begins at Hogwarts in two years.”

“It does make me suspect that Grindelwald will be leaving behind the blueprints for a young madman to follow.”

It hadn’t taken long to find the child who will one day choose the name Voldemort. Nizar had once been able to dig the name of Voldemort’s father out of a jumble of terrified recollection from a base necromancy ritual. Salazar found the non-magical Riddles in the quiet village of Little Hangleton, which was still rife with the gossip that the Riddle family’s only son had once run off with a woman of questionable origins before returning with claims that he’d been led astray by lies.

Salazar’s heart jolted uncomfortably in his chest the first time he saw non-magical Tom Riddle, now in his early thirties and still a handsome specimen of a man. The son grows up to look very much like his non-magical father; both have black hair and pale skin, though the elder Riddle didn’t have his son’s blue eyes.

Riddle is not an entirely uncommon name, but Little Hangleton also supplied Salazar with a place and a year for Voldemort’s birth: 1926, London. The files in the Ministry were useless, with no records of Merope’s education, employment, or current address. Salazar turned to the non-magical registries and records, though it took a while to seek out the place where Merope Gaunt birthed her son, named him—and breathed her last, not long after.

Tom Marvolo Riddle was born on the 31st of December, the last day of a dying year before the birth of a new one. Salazar is not one to think of birthdates as portents, but perhaps there are exceptions.

Young Riddle still resides in the place of his birth, Wool’s Orphanage. Salazar needed no tour or personal introduction to find the child in early 1934. He’d idly stood and watched the small, fenced-in play area outside the orphanage, looking for dark heads of hair and pale skin until his eyes landed on Tom Marvolo Riddle. He’d been seven years old at the time, but the other orphans avoided him. Teenagers still consigned to life in an orphanage were afraid of an undersized child; the staff running the orphanage refused to meet Tom Riddle’s gaze.

Salazar was most often of the belief that children had to grow and learn to become monsters, but that child’s eyes were just as cold, just as heartless—just as bloody fucking terrifying—as those he’d once glimpsed in the water when a young man wearing a Hogwarts uniform committed murder.

He studies his brother’s portrait, noting Nizar’s expression. He knows what that look signifies. “There is going to be another war, isn’t there?”

Nizar hesitates before nodding. “Yes.”

“Worse than the Great War?” Salazar asks. Last year, the Italians invaded Ethiopia. In July, Spain faltered and finally plunged itself into a civil war that has been long in brewing, and he fears it will become bloodbath enough to compete with the Reconquista. Germany cut itself from Spain and Italy’s new fascist cloth when it elected Adolf Hitler.

The League of Nations passed a useless Neutrality Act while Germany united its goals first with Italy, then with Japan. China has managed to unite itself to fend off the Japanese Empire’s desire to claim it, but they are already in desperate need of aid that none seem prepared to provide.

Perhaps he is asking his brother’s portrait a stupid question. War is already occurring.

Nizar’s portrait considers Salazar for a minute. “Bear in mind that this is a recorded memory of a faded primary school education that I suspect was not very good in the first place. I tended to read more about science than history…but yes, I think it will be worse. No, I don’t recall when it begins or how it ends, but if Dumbledore has to go to Europe to duel Grindelwald when he can hardly be bothered to leave Britain, you might be looking at two different wars happening right on top of each other.”

“This bloody century,” Salazar mutters, meaning it literally. He will not realize his words are a terrible precognition of what is to come until several years later, and still the worst of it had not yet occurred.

In 1937, Japan again invades China and takes her former capital for itself. The Soviet Union immediately betrays its proclaimed intention to ally with Germany and Japan to instead aid China, most likely in recognition of the fact that China is their first land-based defence against a Japanese invasion from the south. The Japanese Empire is constantly attacking the Soviet coastline, both with the desire to conquer and in anger that their efforts to control China are being thwarted by Soviet assistance. The Chinese welcome their Soviet allies until they realize that the Soviets are claiming parts of their own country as their own. That then becomes its own very special sort of disaster.

Salazar rests his hands over his face as he listens to the news through the wireless. Why is it when men lose their minds, that madness so easily spreads?

In 1938, a united Italy and Germany annexes Austria. Nothing is done to stop them. They move on to stake their claim on part of Czechoslovakia. Still nothing is done but for France and Prime Minister Chamberlain willfully conceding the territory to Germany, ignoring the protests of Czechoslovakia herself. Then the rest of the country is split in two, with part given to Hungary and the rest claimed by Poland.

Grindelwald uses these many distractions to build a massive fortress in Germany, calling it Nurmengard. Salazar reads of the name in a quiet article from a magical newspaper out of Belgium and feels a chill of premonition.

The Nuremberg rallies, he realizes. Gellert Grindelwald has named his home in reflection of the city that hosts Germany’s yearly Nazi rallies. It is also the place where the recent Nuremberg Laws were passed, revoking the citizenship of every Jewish person in Germany. They have since been fleeing the country in droves, oftentimes to no avail. Desperate people are turned away at the borders of other countries for no reason other than the convenient politics of accepted bigotry.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with everyone?” Salazar wonders aloud. “Why are they committing all of these sacrifices, especially when their sacrifices are people who are not themselves?”

“They’re thinking on how much they don’t want another world war,” Nizar’s portrait says irritably. “They’ll give little thought as to who lives and who dies as long as there are no trenches dug and no machine guns to face. They’re just too bloody short-sighted to realize that it’s already too late.”

Salazar gives in and goes to France in 1939, intent on visiting his contacts in Beauxbatons. Instead of a school preparing for a new term, he finds a shelter preparing for war.

“Of course it’s a shelter!” Elise Mercier says to him in disbelief. “Do you not read the newspapers in your country, Saul Luiz?”

Saul grimaces. “I read every newspaper in Europe as well as those of Britain, Headmistress. What is happening?”

“You know there will be war. Yes?” Elise asks.

“Yes. One that is likely to eclipse the previous one that enveloped the Continent, which is a terrible thing to contemplate.”

“Exactly so,” Elise responds, sniffing once before directing her conscripted assistants, older students and teachers alike, to continue their efforts. “Beauxbatons has been well-hidden since it first opened its doors, Saul. It will remain so, but I will not stand by and watch as others suffer. School will continue, as our students will be safer here than they will be if they remain in their homes, but the dormitories will be crowded this year. According to our Seers, they will be crowded for many years to come. Thus, we act now to adjust.” Elise turns back to face him. “Why are you here? Why are you not in Poland?”

“I left Britain early this morning.” He’d arrived not to feel the earth beneath his feet echoing the damage from the Great War, but to an intense, watchful silence. “What has happened in Poland?”

Elise sighs and Summons a copy of that morning’s Des Temps Magiques. “See for yourself.”

Salazar blinks at the front page for a few moments after reading the brief article. “That explains why I felt it should be first September, then,” he murmurs.

Germany and its European allies have just invaded Poland.

“I would say that they cannot do such a thing, but I’m not that sort of fool.” Salazar returns Elise’s newspaper, which she promptly Banishes again. “If they seek Poland after what was done to Czechoslovakia…”

“They will seek everything,” Elise says in agreement.

“Just as Grindelwald does.”

Elise’s lips thin at mention of Grindelwald’s name. “If France has but one kindness granted to her at the moment, it is that Grindelwald has only raided. He has not yet issued an official declaration of war against the magical governments of Europe.”

“Even Wizarding Britain recognizes that to be inevitable, given the trouble Grindelwald has caused. What does he raid for?” Salazar asks.

“No one is yet certain, but he leaves no clues behind as to what he seeks. Those who are magical who live and dwell in Nuremberg, which places them near that monstrosity that Grindelwald has dubbed Nurmengard, have already retreated to places of assumed safety. Some of those families had sense enough to come to my school.” Elise bites her lip, which causes the hard set of her features to soften. At age thirty-five, she is the youngest Head Teacher ever to rule over Beauxbatons, but Elise witnessed the entirety of the Great War, and knows of all the ills that war brings. Salazar can think of none better suited to lead Beauxbatons in this time but her. “Our sorcier and sorcière brethren attempted to warn their neighbors, les gens sans. Most did not listen.”

In less than a year, Germany and its allies hold Luxemburg, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, driving Allied forces from the Commonwealth out of the Continent entirely. By that time, Salazar is working with those magicians who choose to fight rather than shelter, and their entire operation is forced underground. Quite literally, in some instances.

“I hate crypts,” Aurelius Achilles mutters. He’s a German-born magician schooled in France, one who has no love of anything Nazi. Aurelius and his twin sister Alexis both worked in the Magical German Ministry before the election of Hitler; Aurelius was a translator, and Alexis was Magiemiliz[1]. They’ve proven themselves fonts of valuable information, for all that Alexis looks as if she would fit in fine in a burlesque club.

“I worry more about the water coming down from above,” Salazar tries to say, but it’s difficult to be understood when he has a torch in one hand, a map in the other, and his wand clenched between his teeth. They meet Alexis, who is waiting with five others, one of whom is new. The Achilles twins confirmed their new member’s devotion to secrecy before bringing them below the Paris streets, so Salazar has no concerns there.

“We can’t win back Paris. Can we?” Duipuis asks in dejection. Even his dark hair is hanging in limp threads, as if it has also given up.

“Not now. Given the way things are progressing, possibly not for several years yet.” Salazar is glad he left everything of true value to him in the Willow House in England, though he often longs for the company of his brother’s portrait. The occupying Nazis are liberal enough with their bullets that he might’ve lost everything to vultures searching a man believed to be a corpse.

They never find his wand. Some things do not allow themselves to be taken.

A dark-haired, dark-eyed magician who will only allow them to know her name as Marie drops the day’s non-magical newspaper onto the table in disgust. “They call themselves the Axis Powers now. Japan, Italy, Germany. All are in danger of this joining but the Soviets.”

A year. All of it in a single, bloody damned year!

By 1941, Salazar has spent just as much time assisting Libres Sorciers Occidentaux[2] as he did the Freed French Forces and La Résistance. The Resistance has communication firmly established with Britain; the Western Free Wizards are so well-entrenched that it doesn’t need their assistance any longer.

“Why do you help the les gens sans?” Marie asks him. Earlier in the season, their cell made the decision to take on the more difficult act of spying on Gellert Grindelwald and Nazi Germany on their home ground. It is now the end of October, almost Samhain. Salazar and Marie are the only two members of their original cell still in France, but they will not be for much longer.

Salazar has the advantage of being able to spy without disguising himself save for the need to bloody well dye his hair to hide his age. He’s spent the last year crafting the identity of a staunch Spanish fascist sympathizer who finds himself welcomed by Nazis as well as Grindelwald’s allies, though Spain herself will have naught to do with the Axis Powers. Aurelius and Alexis speak their birth language with no trace of a French accent, and appear to be the perfect Nazi Aryan ideal with their pale hair and blue eyes. Marie will have the true difficulty, being both French and Jewish, but she refuses to remain behind. The potion Salazar brews changes the color of Marie’s hair on her entire body, but everything else, she insists on doing herself.

“Why would I not help them? They are also living beings. Their use of magic should not matter a whit,” Salazar finally replies when the last patrols are gone. It’s easier, after that, to find a safe route in the darkness. If the country had bothered to keep to its own borders, they would now officially be in Germany.

“Grindelwald is meant to be a sorcier’s only concern.”

Salazar keeps lookout while Marie chooses the place where she will bury everything remaining that is precious to her: gold star of David, the lace handkerchief that holds all that remains of her hope chest, and photographs of lost family members. Some were executed. Others were imprisoned, yet cannot be found in any prison cell in France.

“Given how Germany treats your own people, I think you already know why I would also help those without magic.”

Marie returns to his side, brushing her dirty hands off on her trousers before straightening. “I do. It’s why we like you, Saul. You understand that there is more than one reason why this war cannot merely be endured. It must be fought, and it must be won.”

The fascist Spaniard magician Saul Luiz easily secures a meeting with Gellert Grindelwald. His picture has been in the newspapers, but in black and white print only. In person, he has white-blond hair, pale skin, and harsh, piercing pale blue eyes. He is nearing the age of sixty, the sharp planes of his features beginning to soften with age, but he all but radiates power and charisma. It’s no wonder so many fools have joined together under his banner—and it is a stupid banner. Grindelwald does not care where his allies come from so long as they are useful to him.

It will be hard to gain his trust to be an effective spy. Grindelwald is paranoid, but not without justification, and intelligent enough to turn paranoia into caution and an excess of security measures. Bloody hell, Salazar never thought he would miss any part of the Great War!

That first meeting in November grants him one thing, though, and it’s terrifying in its importance. The moment Grindelwald drops his wand into his hand to curse a sycophant who refuses to keep his mouth from spewing dangerous words, Salazar recognizes the carved length of the Elder Wand.

Salazar spends a great deal of time the next day by himself, pacing a rural bit of land and swearing under his breath while clenching his jaw. As if Grindelwald’s base of power was not enough of a problem, there is a cursed and powerful wand to contend with. It explains why magicians from America as well as an Allied International Confederacy group failed in their attempts to kill the bastard. It takes special circumstances, or outright foolishness on the wielder’s part, to overcome the Elder Wand.

It also stirs anew Salazar’s anger against his little brother’s caretakers during Nizar’s childhood. “The Tale of the Three Brothers” is now a popular Wizarding nursery story throughout the British Isles, Europe, and even the Americas, but Nizar had never heard of the Deathly Hallows until they were placed into Salazar’s hands.

Salazar hasn’t seen the Wand since Antioch attempted to murder him with it. His last glimpse of the Resurrection Stone was in the ring that Valerian, Cadmus’s son, passed on to his eldest when young Antonitis came of age. The last time he saw the Cloak—aside from the one safely stored away in the Willow House—Iolanthe had just died, and it was being given by Ignotus to his grandson Nobilis. It was once meant to go to Wychardus, but his parents outlived their only son.

He knows the Cloak is somewhere in the hands of a Potter magician in England. The unexpected difficulty is that there are many magical Potter families, all of them descended from Ignotus and Iolanthe Peverell. Only one of those family branches will hold Death’s own Cloak of Invisibility, and thanks to records lost during the fires in London during the 1600s, Salazar hasn’t the first clue which of them it might be. He could trace that particular lineage backwards after that, but only once he discovers if the family bearing the Cloak knows those lost names. Ignotus was a good lad, but he and his wife were not the source of his little brother’s Deslizarse blood.

In the second week of December, German newspapers gleefully print the news that Japan assaulted Pearl Harbor, the shipyards for the majority of vessels in the United States Navy. It is considered both a success and a massacre, a sign that Germans will prevail.

“Fuck that,” their newest spy mutters. Lewis is a blond man with blue eyes from Ireland. His family’s original plan didn’t include Lewis leaving the family pub (which will be his inheritance from his grandfather), but Lewis’s father died when the Germans pushed the Allied forces off the Continent. That was enough for Lewis to know where he was meant to be; he found his own way across the Channel and joined the first group of spies to recognize his talents. The man is so very Gaelic is nearly hurts to listen to him speak, but when he isn’t being true to his roots, Lewis can fake German mannerisms and regional accents better than any of them.

“They’ve not won any sort of victory, not by stirring up the Americans,” Lewis continues. “That’s like stickin’ your hand into a beehive an’ expectin’ the bees will sit all nice and docile-like as you rob them blind.”

“Given Germany’s easy victories but for the Commonwealth Allies, I would not be surprised if they expected exactly that,” Marie says in a bitter voice. “The article mentions that this was almost the whole of the American fleet.”

“They’ve other boats than those, and more can be built,” Lewis insists. “I’ve got a good feeling about it!”

Alexis rolls her eyes. “Saul, you’re the master of Divination. What do you think?”

I think I would dearly love to ask my brother’s irritating portrait so many questions right now. “I’ve no idea. They were only just recovering from an economic downfall that rivaled that of Germany’s fate after the Great War.” England had also felt the sting of the American Depression, but recovered quickly in comparison.

Salazar gestures until Alexis understands and passes him her half-full wine glass. It’s easier with his wand, but he doesn’t need one to read the water as long as his focus is true. They’ve plenty of candles to cast the right sort of light for rich reflections.

The very first thing he sees is a misty shoreline. Then the imagery skips ahead to boats approaching. The boats beach themselves in the sand before they reach land. Their fronts open, and soldiers—thousands of soldiers—are disgorged from their insides. Within moments, the ocean is as red as the wine, but still the soldiers keep surging forward. Salazar sees patches of Commonwealth colors, but mixed among them are also many to mark soldiers from the United States.

“Yes, they’ll join the war, but it seems the Allies will not land again in northern Europe without paying a stiff price for it,” Salazar tells the others.

“When?” Maxime Moscovici asks. She’s an Ashkenazi Jewish magician, French by way of her father and Romani by way of her mother. She taught Romani magic at Beauxbatons until news reached her of what coup-conquered and turncoat Nazi Romania had done to her family. Headmistress Elise Mercier sent her to Saul two months previous. “We need hope, Saul. It will be easier to fight if we know that we are not alone.”

“We are never alone,” Salazar counters, but magically prods at Alexis’s wine glass once more. He needs a date, something strongly tied to this oceanic bloodbath. An image grudgingly appears for him, that of a newspaper opened by someone with angry hands. Salazar freezes the image, squinting to read the date. “1944, but I cannot make out the month. January, June, or July. I suspect June.”

“Christ in Heaven,” Lewis whispers in the complete, haunting silence that follows Salazar’s words. “Three years from now?”

“Two years and some months, not three. Do not make it sound worse than it is,” Aurelius scolds him.

“Two years.” Marie regards her wine thoughtfully before drinking the remainder. “We’ve proved to British wizards that there is much that can be done on Continental soil. It’s high time we gained more from the Commonwealth than mere volunteers.”

Some of those volunteers, Salazar knows, are here already. When the Blitz began, a united magical defence arose to counter it. No offensive was mounted, no plans made other than the protection of British soil. When young magicians realized this, they joined non-magical soldiers in the Army, Navy, and the RAF in order to travel, to fight back. That this takes them away from Britain is a price they have chosen to pay, and Salazar will see to it that the Ministry respects those losses even if he has to bribe every last stingy, bigoted old bag of bones on the Wizengamot.

The next summer grants them another bit of good news, the last they’ll receive for quite some time. Wizarding Britain finally gets off its arse and begins participating in the war with the official creation of magical brigades. Some of them are intermixed groups of magicians and non-magical soldiers, proof of the Wizarding Britain’s Minister for Magic and the British Prime Minister’s pledge to present a united front for the duration of the war. Not everyone knows, of course, as the Ministry is still focused on maintaining their International Statute of Secrecy, but the current Minister all but steamrolled the Wizengamot to make certain there was internal cooperation between governments.

By 1943, it’s obvious that nothing much has changed. The promised magical brigades could not safely make it across the Channel. There are so many Nazis and bloody Wizarding Nazis on the Continent that boats are not a possibility. Even using a Port Key not approved of by Grindelwald is noticed at once. Morale among spies is sitting somewhere down in a mine shaft.

Grindelwald has magical control over everything Germany holds, which is most of Western Europe. His lack of progress ends with Spain and Italy, and his attempt to invade the Soviet bloc went as well as Hitler’s recent attempt—badly.

“Does no one learn from others’ mistakes?” Salazar asked Aurelius. “Do they not remember the name Napoleon?”

“Apparently they do not, or think they could succeed where he failed.” Aurelius snorts. “I hear rumors that Soviet snipers are immune to the cold, and had a fine time hunting their prey during the winter.”

“It’s like watching a polar bear attempt to invade Spain from the Mediterranean end,” Salazar mutters, which causes Lewis to snort and then choke on his own spit and laughter. Salazar smiles at Lewis, but rubs his temple with one hand while doing so.

Marie notices first, even though Salazar tries to keep the difficulty to himself. Considering the ways and means in which Marie places herself in harm’s way, Salazar is often amazed she is still alive. “You’re tired. More than the others.”

Salazar smiles at her and shares her canteen when it is offered. “I am a bit older than I look.”

“You look fine. I don’t speak of your appearance, you vain fool.” Marie watches the skirmish below as it unfolds, a batch of magicians from the French resistance fighting against an unfortunate group of Nazis who stumbled over their camp. Salazar discovered during the Great War that revolvers have no concern for magic, but semi-automatic or automatic firearms are not much fond of it.

Very few non-magical soldiers wander around with limited revolvers these days, not when a semi-automatic will hold more rounds. That is one group of Nazis who will not be leaving their chosen valley.

“Then what is it you speak of?”

“Magic. Your magic is tired,” Marie says. “Even though I see you expend very little of it.”

“I am an Earth Speaker. I do not necessarily ever stop,” Salazar replies. What he feels through the Earth is certainly not helping. It wasn’t so bad in 1939, but the accumulating damage is wearing on him.

“Not that, either. Who is calling for you that you ignore?” Marie asks bluntly. “Is it assistance they require while you remain in Germany, spying and fighting with us?”

“You have excellent Sight.” Perhaps there is a very good reason why Marie has survived so long, after all. “I bear a noble magical title in Spain, but Spain has been without a monarch since her king left the throne in an attempt to avert civil war.” Not that it had worked very well, or at all.

Aside from his brother’s portrait, Salazar has not spoken to anyone else of the distinctive, repeating chime of insistent magic that’s been plaguing him. Magical titles do not simply end because a king abandons his throne, and the magical title of Castile has been demanding that Salazar restore a royal ruler to Spain since 1931. It would have been better if Alfonso XIII had officially dissolved the monarchy instead of fleeing to another country. Over a decade of listening to that chime, of feeling that compulsion, is as tiring as it is frustrating.

With Salazar not responding to his kingdom, the magic of the throne might be seeking out his little brother, too. Salazar hopes that Nizar’s portrait within Hogwarts is protected from that call, else the students of their House might receive more of an education in language than they bargained for.

“I am not the only magician from my country who is hearing that insistent call, but to answer it right now would mean the death of any monarch we attempted to safeguard, and likely cause our deaths, as well.”

Marie is sympathetic as well as curious, but doesn’t ask questions that Salazar cannot answer. “That must be difficult to deal with.”

“One can get used to anything.” It’s the truth, but Salazar has never gone so long without a ruler sitting upon an Iberian throne. He is nine hundred seventy-four years old, and that is a long time to be used to a magic that never once changed its call…until it suddenly did.

Salazar taps into an Earth that is ever more unhappy, crosses an angry Channel, and visits London to give reports regarding their progress, or their lack of it. He goes home long enough to ensure that the Willow House is still standing, and takes a bottle or three of aging wine from his cellar. Germany might not be suffering the ration shortages of England, but Salazar has better taste. If an evening’s enjoyment of a rare vintage is the only thing he can give to the others to lift their spirits, he’ll willingly grant it.

Their luck turns, or it gets worse. Salazar often thinks it is both, but for whatever reason, Gellert Grindelwald is suddenly far more interested in Saul Luiz and Alexis Achilles. Grindelwald grows fond of them, even to the point of tolerating Salazar and Alexis’s “lesser” allies, which forces them to keep their safehouses nearer to Nuremberg. It’s dangerous, bordering on foolish, but the others are limited by anti-Apparition zones that are becoming thicker on the ground. With half of them now ensconced in Grindelwald’s court in some fashion, and the other half trusted by the Nazis controlling the city, it would be odd if they had no local address.

They move just in time. Nurmengard was already surrounded by anti-Apparition wards, but suddenly the whole of Nuremberg is surrounded by them, as well. They must continue their ruse to keep gathering the information they can, and in doing so, they’ve cut themselves off from the very people who need to receive it. Salazar is the only one who can tap into the Earth and cut through the terrible feel of the wards crawling across his skin, but he now finds himself trapped for weeks at a time in that foul man’s fucking castle. It goes on for so long that both Churchill and Minister Spencer-Moon must believe him dead. He doesn’t think either man would miss him overly much.

Finally, they’re granted a reprieve from Grindelwald’s company. Grindelwald is off to campaign in the eastern bloc in an attempt to gain Soviet allies with words instead of weapons, and only a few of his most trusted lieutenants accompany him. Grindelwald is hoping to gain favor by reminding the Soviets of his Austro-Hungarian heritage. Salazar finds the idea amusing; Grindelwald seems to have forgotten why the countries he courts are not much fond of Austrians.

Salazar and Alexis escape Nurmengard and go their separate ways, returning to the addresses in the city that Grindelwald and the Nazis believe to be theirs. Salazar is in no mood to keep to the walkways and takes a shortcut through a park, hands stuffed into the pockets of his suit coat and a scowl on his face. He’s exhausted, and is thinking on little else but his fierce desire for this fucking war to be ended already.

His sense of Divination screams of danger almost all the time now. It leaves him a bit deaf to true moments of impending calamity, and thus he has almost no warning at all. Instead, he hears the shrieking whistle all of Germany is learning to fear.

“Dammit,” Salazar mutters. He commits to a bit of Desplazarse that puts him on the other side of the park—just before a bomb turns the park, the street, and several buildings east of him into trenches, dust, and rubble.

When Salazar lifts his head, his ears ringing from the blast, he is lying in a new ditch. A halted wave of plowed earth is still dropping clumps of soil and pebbles down onto his head. “Mis dioses.

“You can certainly say that again, please and thank you.”

Salazar jerks his head in the direction of very precise King’s English in a place it most certainly doesn’t belong. The man opposite him in the ditch has very dark brown hair with odd glints of color and pale skin, though he was sensible enough not to dress as blatantly English as he speaks. The Nazi officer’s uniform he’s wearing would definitely have helped him to avoid being stopped by patrols. Not a single pin or patch is out of place. Just enough rank to remain unquestioned, but not so much that others would look to him for command decisions.

Then the Englishman lifts his head, and Salazar finds himself locking gazes with a man whose eyes are not merely hazel, but exactly like his own. Salazar’s magic, which has grown unused to having family to sing to, causes Salazar to sit up in abrupt recognition.

Family. This man is of his blood—distantly, but he is Deslizarse nonetheless.

Then the world decides it a fine time to remind Salazar that there are downsides to being a spy. Not all of Germany is fond of the Nazi regime.

Bastarde!” a young voice yells. Salazar can’t find them through the rising haze of smoke and dust.

The grenade that lands between Salazar and a wide-eyed English spy, however, is a bit obvious.

“Oh—fuck me,” Salazar bites out. He throws himself over the bedamned thing, calling upon the Earth to pull it down into the soil before the grenade explodes.

It works and it doesn’t. The blast is contained, muffled by the earth, but the force of it is still directed upwards. The world tilts on its axis in a wild spin before Salazar lands heavily on his side.

The English spy has an excellent grasp of German, accompanied by proper inflection, and has no difficulty in shouting his anger. “You fools! You have no idea what you’ve done!” Pistol shots follow his words. Salazar recognizes the sharp barks of a Mauser .30 caliber, one that doesn’t seem to have received the news about not working near magic.

Then the Englishman who shares Salazar’s eyes is rolling him over. “My God. I feared you dead already.”

Salazar lifts his head long enough to catch a glimpse of the large red stain spreading across the front of his shirt and jacket. “Alas, you’ll have to tolerate me for a bit longer,” he says, tasting blood. He is hurt, badly, if he is not yet feeling the wound.

“We have to find a medic,” his English friend says. It worries Salazar even more when being scooped up from the ground also does not hurt. “My healing spells were never much good for anything.”

“Start speaking German again before someone bloody notices,” Salazar tells him. “Idiot. Do you not know what they do to spies in this country?”

“Throw grenades at them, it would seem,” his rescuer says dryly, but at least this time he is speaking German. There are a nuances local to Nuremberg that he lacks, but that would be easily explained by claiming he originates elsewhere.

Salazar smiles. “Logical point.”

“This is not how I expected to find you, Saul Luiz.”

Salazar blinks a few times, annoyed by the feel of grit trapped beneath his eyelids. “You know who I am?”

“I was sent here to find you, actually,” the man admits. “You’re considered valuable enough to both our leaders that they wanted to know if you were alive, dead, or had decided upon a convenient exchange of priorities.”

“What a fanciful way of saying traitor.” Salazar closes his eyes for a moment and blacks out. When things come back into focus, they are much further away from the destroyed park. He can hear the whistles that signify other falling bombs, but they’re distant, following an eastern path that is counter to their western stumbling. His rescuer has to stop twice when he is addressed by Nazi squads who’ve been stationed in the city long enough to recognize Salazar, though the non-magical know him as Fernan Suero. The magicians always meet Saul Luiz. Grindelwald finds the translation of Salazar’s chosen name to be amusing.

“Fool! If Suero dies before I find a medic, you’ll be the next man I shoot! Now get out of my way!” The English spy marches on without waiting for the Nazi sergeant’s stuttered response.

“What a way you have with words,” Salazar slurs in Euskaran. He doubts the Englishman understood that. Blood loss is no man’s friend. “Wie heißen du?

“Harry.”

Salazar stares up at him in disbelief. “Hari? Really?”

“Truly. Well, it’s Henry Simon Potter, if you wish to be formal. First lieutenant, first battalion of the combined wizard and Muggle infiltration forces under the joint command of Minister for Magic Spencer-Moon and Prime Minister Churchill.”

“Hari,” Salazar says again, and starts giggling. That hurts, a burn in his chest and a deep ache in his belly. Any other man would be dead by now, a fact that only makes him laugh harder.

“I’ve read that blood loss makes a man giddy, but this is excessive,” Henry Potter comments. He’s gone right back to English again. “Do cease that at once and tell me how to find a medic in this godforsaken city!”

Salazar rattles off the address of the closest safehouse, though he has no idea if their new healer is in residence. “Can you find it?”

“Perhaps, but I didn’t have much time to study a map of Nuremberg before my arrival. Nothing today has gone according to plan, including the bombs. Their target time was dawn, and they must’ve missed it, since two hours ’til noon is most assuredly not sunrise.”

“Dammit.” He’s left with no choice, then. “Left jacket pocket. Spanish coin. Port Key.” It takes Salazar a ridiculous length of time to remember the activation phrase. “Bugger this for a lark.” At least Grindelwald isn’t in Germany at the moment to wonder at the use of an illegal Port Key.

“Last resort, hmm? Wise of you, given the tales we’ve heard. They chill a man’s blood.” Henry Potter glances around and then retrieves the coin not with a hand or a wand, but Summons it with a twitch of his fingers. “By all that’s holy, please don’t tell anyone I did that. I’m meant to be portraying a Muggle. Bugger this for a lark.”

Salazar vomits when the hook and twist of the Port Key ends. Right, that. He’d forgotten the other reason why he didn’t want to use that means of travel. Injuries such as these do not mix well with a Port Key’s abrupt magic.

“Oh, now what the fuck is this?” he hears Lewis asks in disbelief. “A Nazi, and—Saul? What the hell happened to you?”

“Young man, I believe that is rather obvious,” Henry Potter says, his voice authoritative. “Fetch your medic, and do it quickly, or they might not have anyone to save when they arrive.”

“Right. Yeah. I’m off to find her,” Lewis responds, and Disapparates with a crack. Salazar despairs of teaching that one to mute his magical travel. Marie mastered such years ago.

“Better.” Henry Potter kicks the kitchen table onto its side to clear it of its contents, then rightens it again with another practiced kick. He places Salazar on its rough wood and lets out a sigh. “That will have to do for the moment. Even with magical healing, a good medic should have water nearby. You, sir, are quite the mess.”

A rich, Pure-blooded Potter, Salazar thinks. It fits with his little brother’s history, but neither of them had any idea who Nizar’s grandfather had been or what he might be like, much less the man who may possibly be his great-grandfather.

Then again, there are so many Potter families. This man may be nothing more than a distant cousin…but somehow, Salazar doesn’t think so. He has come across no other Potter in England whose magic sings with the familiarity of House Deslizarse.

“Henry Potter.” Salazar feels a smile stretch across his face. So far, Henry Potter seems a sensible man, and Salazar is much fond of sensible. “I’ve been looking for you for quite a while, also.”

“Do be quiet, Saul Luiz,” Henry Potter chides him. “That is…you Spaniards must be a stubborn lot. I honestly don’t know how it is you’re still breathing.”

He must pass out again; Salazar wakes up trying not to shriek. “Fuck, what the hell—!” he manages, and chokes down the rest of his words.

Henry Potter glares at Salazar with his too-familiar eyes. He took off his officer’s jacket, bundled it up, and is pressing it against Salazar’s belly. “There is absolutely no need for that sort of language.”

“The fuck there isn’t!” Salazar’s voice goes high-pitched with pain. “One of those fucking rank pins is in my bloody spleen, dammit!”

Henry Potter pauses. “Well, I’ll grant you that bloody is quite accurate.”

Salazar and Henry Potter stare at each other before they both collapse into near-hysterical laughter. It hurts, fucking gods, he wasn’t exaggerating about that bedamned pin! “I’ve heard the Allies have shot men for that!” Salazar gasps out.

“I’d most likely deserve it,” Henry Potter agrees, but he’s still holding his ruined jacket in place. “You’re a special sort of man, aren’t you, Saul Luiz?”

“You’ve no idea.”

“But I’d very much like to find out,” Henry Potter responds. “You’ve survived this long, Saul. You had best not die on me before a healer or a medic arrives!”

The prod from Salazar’s magic is so strong that he is never certain afterwards if it’s the family magic, or his own divination talents screaming necessity at him. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. He understands what it wants, if not why.

“Henry. Hari.” Dammit. Salazar really did try to get it right. “There is no need for any healer to rush.” He swallows down blood, feels the sharp crunch and slide of dirt in his teeth. “I literally cannot die.”

Henry Potter draws back from the table, his eyes narrowing. “I didn’t realize Wizarding Britain would rely on a spy who would dare to use the Darkest of magics.”

“What?” Salazar stares at Henry Potter in confusion until he realizes what the man is implying. “No. No Horcrux. S’foul. It’s an…an entirely different sort of curse.” Then he blacks out once more.

 

[1] German: Magic Militia, i.e. the equivalent of British Hit Wizards

[2] French: Free Western Wizards