LAST TIME

"Who says we have to let them know it is us?" Susan smirked. "Masks work well enough. Tie them in ropes and leave them in the ministry atrium with the dark marks on display."

"That's brilliant."

"No one will know." Susan nodded. "We can use polyjuice or transfiguration to hide our faces."

"Simplicity itself." Harry smiled. "And I believe we will have an adult willing to help already. A powerful and very capable witch who just lost a lot to Grindelwald."

"Tonks?" Susan frowned.

"No." Harry shook his head. "Perenelle Flamel."


Ch.78 A Grand Game

30th May 1996

Examination Hall, Hogwarts

The scratch of quills and the rustle of papers drifted through the hall, punctuated by the sound of occasional footsteps of Professor Tofty and Flitwick. Harry dipped his quill and continued to write, his brows furrowed in concentration.

"Parchment, professor." Fleur's voice rang from the side of the hall and Professor Tofty hurried toward her, handing her a small booklet of parchments. "Merci."

The students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang had been provided the option to either give their NEWTs and OWLs from Hogwarts or one of the ministries. Fleur and a few of her friends had chosen to give it from Hogwarts. Victor Krum had done the same, choosing to give his exams from Hogwarts alongside the other Triwizard champions.

While neither school had fallen yet— Durmstrang barely making it through—Grindelwald had made no further attempts to capture them even though they were abandoned. The ministries had decided that the school would remain closed until the wards were redone— by multiple warders, no less, who would all be obliviated later in order to ensure complete secrecy and security.

Grindelwald himself, on the other hand, had been strangely non-violent for the past week. He had staged attacks on more or less every single castle that had once been his— except those actively used by the ministries and Beauxbatons, attempting to win them back. And he had successfully recaptured sixteen of his old strongholds.

According to sources though, he was making no big effort toward them or to ensure that they weren't taken back. It was puzzling, to say the least. Either they were mere decoys, or Grindelwald was playing the game of cat and mouse. Waiting for ministries to try and take back the castles, only for him to stop them, reducing any and all resistance against him.

Fortunately, the ministries had not taken the bait yet. Harry had heard that some politicians were getting twitchy, pushing to reclaim the strongholds.

But while Grindelwald had been non-violent, he hadn't been quiet. He was recruiting. From public speeches and grand visuals to displays of power and blatant threats, the dark lord had done it all. Though, like the last war, he let many escape, when they refused to walk through the flames of Protego Diabolica.

This was quite the opposite of what he had done at the ICW headquarters a few months back, and a few days after announcing his return. Dumbledore had explained that Grindelwald didn't harm witches and wizards unless they opposed him. His goals, however convoluted, were pure freedom for wizardkind and, to a stretch, subversion of muggles. So, unlike Voldemort, who killed indiscriminately, Grindelwald didn't.

And this tactic had been effective. In the past week, nearly a hundred witches and wizards had joined Grindelwald's ranks, despite the whole world knowing of his crimes and the fact that he was a wanted criminal of the highest order.

A kill-at-sight order had been issued by the ICW for both Grindelwald and Voldemort, with a reward of a million galleons for Grindelwald and a hundred thousand galleons for Voldemort.

A part of Harry had found it hilarious when Voldemort was clearly labeled as the equivalent of a minor dark lord to Grindelwald. While it was true— Grindelwald had conquered half of Europe and terrorized America while Voldemort had failed to take over Britain; it would've been a massive blow to Voldemort's pride.

Speaking of Voldemort, the terror of the British Isles… was missing.

The last time he had been seen was during the attack on the Montesi Castle in Italy, fighting alongside Grindelwald before fleeing when they had lost too many men. Snape had reported that since then, the Dark Lord had put Rookwood in charge of operations and disappeared.

To where or to do what? They didn't know.

It was something that worried Harry the most. Voldemort wasn't someone who would get his own hands dirty. He only took to the battlefield or diplomatic missions when he could not trust anyone else to do the work to perfection. Which was why it was concerning.

Voldemort was planning something. Whether it was for Grindelwald or himself, Harry wasn't sure. But he was going to be ready.

The OWLs and NEWTs had thrown a slight wrench in his efforts as most of the Dragon Legion, including his own inner circle had become busy with exams. And considering it was everyone's OWL or NEWT year, there was nothing Harry could do.

And not to mention, he too had to give it a final revision. Helga and Salazar would never tolerate anything less than straight O's in the NEWT year. While Harry was certain he had aced the practicals/projects part, he had to still study theory.

Which sucked, considering he knew concepts of magics in much more depth than NEWTs could ever cover. What was asked in NEWTs was something Harry had learned in his third year itself and remembered it all, having near-perfect recall due to his Occlumency.

The problem lay in the way the answers had to be written. According to most sources, a majority of NEWT paper-checkers corrected the papers in what Hermione dubbed to be 'the textbook way'. Which meant they needed the answers nearly verbatim from the textbooks assigned. And while Harry knew the concepts, the word-to-word definitions needed work.

With a sigh, he continued to write the answers and fill the booklet of parchment he had been given.

Grindelwald and Voldemort could wait for a couple of days till his exams were over. It was not like they were going anywhere.


12th June 1996

Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts

Long flames licked the edge of the torches, casting a yellow glow within the room. Silver trinkets whirled on top of tables, a few emitting smoke or different colored lights. On the center table, a stone basin was placed, its contents rippling with silver waves, blurry images visible beneath them.

"The cup of Hufflepuff." Harry's hand curled into a fist. "And the locket of Slytherin."

The last word almost came out as a hiss from his lips.

"Indeed." Dumbledore nodded. "Tom seems to have chosen the artifacts of the four founders to house his soul… or at least two of them, which he found."

"They were priceless artifacts. A cup that could increase the potency of any healing potion by tenfold. A locket that could protect the mind of the wearer from even the Imperius." Harry's eyes glowed with rage. "And he turned them into Horcruxes."

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "I confess myself surprised, Harry. I didn't know they had those capabilities; let alone existed. The only artifacts from the founders I was aware of, were the diadem of Ravenclaw and the sword of Godric Gryffindor— which you now possess."

"There's the hat." Harry glanced at the sorting hat. "Amongst other things."

"I suppose you found out about this in the chamber?" Dumbledore hummed.

"They were mentioned in a book. A book written by Rowena Ravenclaw on enchanting." Harry lied. "The hat was actually Gryffindor's artifact. It was meant to store any and everything its wearer wanted and act as a sheath for his sword. Well, after he died, the others made it… more."

"Remarkable." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "And what of Ravenclaw's lost Diadem? Did it truly grant great wisdom to its wearer?"

"It didn't." Harry rolled his eyes slightly. "But it gave the user the ability of perfect recall alongside the ability to understand, read, and speak any language."

"Interesting." Dumbledore nodded. "And concerning. The diadem has been lost since Rowena Ravenclaw's death. But if someone could've found it…"

"It would be Tom Riddle." Harry pinched his eyes. "Unless the diadem itself was destroyed somehow."

"Well, for now, we know of two Horcruxes." Dumbledore said. "The locket of Slytherin and the cup of Hufflepuff. And we must find them."

"Indeed. Where did you get this memory from?" Harry asked. "And what happened to Mrs. Smith?"

"I got this memory from an elf in the ministry's creature custody a few days ago." Dumbledore winced slightly. "Hokey… was convicted for the murder of her mistress, Hepzibah Smith."

Harry frowned. "That's impossible. The elf magic—"

"Would prevent her from doing such a thing." Dumbledore agreed. "But Hokey confessed to the murder. When I visited her, well, I searched her mind. Her memories had been greatly altered. I had to… break through them and peel away the layers of magic to get this memory from her."

"Did she… survive, professor?"

Dumbledore closed his eyes. "She did. But I suspect it won't be for long that she is in the world. Not at the age she is."

Harry leaned back. "Well, back to the matter of the Horcruxes. How do we find them now that we know what they are? I suppose we can't just summon them to us?"

"I don't think they could be summoned." Dumbledore smiled mirthlessly. "Or people would've found them long ago."

"True. But they didn't have something you do." Harry glanced pointedly at the wand lying on the table.

"The Elder Wand." Dumbledore picked it up. "Accio locket of Slytherin!"

The two of them waited in silence for several moments. Harry waved his wand to open the window just in case.

"Alas, it didn't work." Dumbledore stated after a few minutes.

"Perhaps it is being… trapped?" Harry frowned. "By a closed room, preventing it from reaching us?"

"I'd have felt a tug at my magic had that been the case." Dumbledore shook his head. "I am quite sensitive to magic, unlike most wizards."

Harry hummed. "Maybe a locator spell?"

"Point me, locket of Slytherin." Dumbledore held the elder wand on the flat of his palm.

The tip glowed briefly, before dying out.

"So, he hasn't missed anything." Harry growled.

"Lord Voldemort is not someone who would've made such silly mistakes, my boy." Dumbledore pushed his wand into his sleeve. "He was a brilliant wizard with a few peers. Most who met him, only saw greatness in him."

"But you knew he was rotten." Harry's eyes darkened.

"I showed you my first meeting with Tom Riddle. The matron did report some concerning details." Dumbledore's gaze grew distant. "Had I turned back that day—"

"You had no way of knowing. You are no seer, professor." Harry cut him off. "Yes, it would've saved us quite a lot of trouble had you not admitted Riddle into Hogwarts. But you had no way of knowing. What you could've done though, was kill Grindelwald or sign an order of execution for him. Now that is a mistake you can take the blame for."

Dumbledore hung his head. "I won't make that mistake again. Not this time. We will finish them off for good. And make sure they cannot return… Gellert won't be a problem in the returning part, I suppose. But Lord Voldemort is."

"Are you sure he won't get motivated and make a Horcrux of his own?" Harry raised an eyebrow.

"Would you?" Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.

Harry paused. "Not… really. Cutting off a part of my soul is…" Harry shuddered.

"A perversion of magic." Dumbledore nodded. "Gellert won't do it either as far as I know him. Gellert has morals, Harry. And a code. He doesn't seek power but he seeks change. Voldemort merely wants a throne at the top of the world for himself."

"Could Grindelwald be persuaded otherwise then?" Harry asked. "To turn his back on Voldemort?"

"If Gellert has sided with Voldemort, it means that he has a plan, Harry." Dumbledore sighed. "And unlike me, he is a seer."

"You told me that the visions he gets, he has no control over them." Harry frowned.

"Indeed. But the man I knew would never join Voldemort. Not without a very good reason… something that he could justify for himself as the greater good." Dumbledore peered at Harry atop his spectacles. "And these actions might have been motivated by one of his visions. And he has had no shortage of time to plan, has he? For all we know, he has been planning something a lot bigger since the day I put him in Nurmengard."

Harry leaned back in his chair. "Then we must be ready for anything."

"We must not only be ready, Harry. We must be a step ahead. We are in a grand game of chess. And right now, we are losing."


15th June 1996

Grindelwald's stronghold, Siberia

Several loud cracks rang through the quietness of the dark room. A single candle flickered by the windowsill, its light glinting against the silver buttons of Grindelwald's waistcoat.

"Guten Tag," a smile curled on his lips. "How do we fair, Mitmenschen?"

"Most of ze recruits are promeeseeng." A melodious female voice rang through the room, the flame of the candle rising higher with her words. "Ze ones who were a part of ze Aurors and the war weezards are going to be ze jewels of our force, Herr Grindelwald."

"Excellent, Madame Tremblay." Grindelwald's eyes remained on the flame. "How soon can we begin?"

"Monsieur Hansen's and Madame Agard's teams are ready." She looked at the two who stepped forward. "Monsieur Nyberg and Meyer's teams will be ready by ze end of ze week."

"Hansen, Agard." Grindelwald turned. "Are your teams ready?"

"They are, Lord Grindelwald." Hansen bowed while Agard gave a curt nod.

"And what of the dragons we captured?" Grindelwald turned to a short woman who was standing away from the group.

"Heavily sedated and in isolation, Herr Grindelwald. Your men—" She sneered at the two men standing at the center. "—have done all kinds of things to them that makes them unpredictably wild and angry. Potions, charms, blood magic, and whatnot."

"Peace, my dear Fabrizia." Grindelwald smiled. "What is being done, is for the greater good."

"They are dragons, Herr Grindelwald. Creatures of magic. Magic, which is being altered by wizards." Her eyes darkened. "Surely you—"

"I do see, my dear Fabrizia." Grindelwald walked to her and patted her back. "But when we use them to conquer the obstacles in our path, they will be the biggest threat for our enemies. They'll be the first ones to be harmed. This is to protect them and ensure they attack our enemies and not our allies."

Fabrizia huffed but said nothing. "Then what are my orders, Herr Grindelwald?"

"Make sure that they are in optimum health and ready to be unleashed." Grindelwald smiled. "And Fabrizia, I promise these dragons will have a free home like they used to in the ancient times. They won't be chained and trapped to keep them away from unworthy muggle eyes. For when magic reigns supreme, it won't have to cower and hide. It will run glorious for all to witness."

Fabrizia smiled and bowed. "They'll be ready, Herr Grindelwald."

"Excellent." Grindelwald nodded, turning back to the group as a whole. "You all are my Verkünder. My inner guard. My generals. We have one single purpose. To ensure magic reigns supreme. To ensure that magic has to no longer hide in the shadows. And soon. Very soon, we will rebegin the journey I left off in the last war."

"And what of your British friend, Herr Grindelwald?" A man stepped forth from the shadows, his blood-red eyes glinting like the silver canines in his mouth. "The one who champions not magic but purity of blood? A man who neither shares your ideals or your drive, who only has ambition to sit atop a throne, even if the whole world lies dead at his feet?"

"Lord Voldemort is a necessary evil, I am afraid, Count Silas." Grindelwald frowned. "Our foes are not as weak as they were in the last war. Yes, there were great men. But they didn't have mammoths fighting for them. There was only one who could challenge me and he sat away in his castle till the last second until it was all but necessary for them."

"Dumbledore, your old friend. I am aware." Silas' eyes glinted.

"Indeed." Grindelwald nodded. "That is no longer the case. And there is a new player in the game. A young boy who is more powerful now than I was when I was twice his age. The one who vanquished Lord Voldemort when he was a year old."

"Surely you don't buy into that, Herr Grindelwald, do you?" A woman snorted. "A child stopping the killing curse by himself?"

"No, it was most likely one of his parents— both of whom were brilliant, I might add." Grindelwald agreed. "But it doesn't discount the fact that the boy is powerful. Powerful and skilled enough to hold me at bay for several minutes without taking a hit. I need Lord Voldemort to keep them busy in Britain so they cannot interfere with my plans here."

"And what eef they… come to stop us?" Tremblay questioned.

"Then, my dear Madame Tremblay," Grindelwald said, giving her a piercing stare. "You retreat. You live to fight another day. Because, Albus is not as forgiving as he was in the past and the Potter boy is as ruthless as his grandfather, Charlus Potter."

"Very well." She nodded.

"Prepare and plan for any eventuality." Grindelwald said. "Those lacking vision, will resist us. Will resist change. But you've to show them otherwise. You've to show them that those who want magic to reign supreme… reign supreme."


14th June 1996

Room of Requirements, Hogwarts

"Good evening." Harry's voice rang over the chatter of the room, and everyone turned, ceasing their conversations. "So, how were everyone's exams?"

He received a mixed response, with some replying enthusiastically while some grumbled and a few waved him off.

"Right." He said dryly, before turning to the youngest group of students. "What about you folks? How was Defense?"

"Great, professor!" Colin Creevy chirped while Ginny nodded beside him.

"It went well, Harry." Luna said dreamily. "You were an excellent teacher and taught us way more than whatever came in the exam."

"Brilliant."

"I still feel you could've given us hints." Ginny muttered. "Gone and seen the paper."

"I am not going to leak the papers, Ginny." Harry rolled his eyes. "Not for you. Not for anyone."

"Yes, that's cheating." Hermione agreed. "Also you would not learn if you were handed the papers."

"Can we stop this talk about exams?" Ron asked irritatedly. "We've had enough of them for our lifetime."

"Well, then we can begin today's session." Harry clapped his hands. "Today, I have a few special guests with me."

A door appeared, and Fleur waltzed in, followed by Viktor, and Cedric.

"The Triwizard champions." Harry motioned for them to join him on the podium. "You all know who we are. You all saw what we faced. Fleur, Krum, and Cedric are some of the most skilled witches and wizards of our age. And today, you'll be facing us."

The room shifted with a snap of Harry's fingers. Bookshelves and dark spell detectors vanished, the padded floor turned into rough ground and a huge house rose up in the middle.

"We will be Death Eaters." With a wave of Harry's wand, the robes of the Triwizard champions turned into black robes, and silver masks appeared on their faces. "We will attack your home. And you have to survive in any way you can."

"Hold up a second!" Seamus blurted. "Even you will attack?"

"You can think of me as Lord Voldemort." Harry replied and a lot of students flinched. "Because, if he comes to you, you must defend yourself enough to run away. Also, this is not the only scenario we will be running. We'll have Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, a London street and everything. If you can fight on varying terrain, you should be good."

"But don't Death Eaters attack in hordes?" Katie asked. "Don't get me wrong, you four are great and all. But numbers…"

"Oh, we will have numbers." Harry grinned. "I've got a few people to help me, you know? Some very skilled members of society including but not limited to Aurors and Hitwizards. Even Professor Dumbledore has agreed to help me out with the last session."

Murmurs and whispers spread across the room at that.

Harry cleared his throat and held up his hand. "My objective here is to have you as prepared as I can before we leave for summer break. Why? Because I know there will be attacks over the summer. I know some of our families will be targeted. Susan's aunt is the Minister of Magic. Many of your parents work for the ministry, and some even hold seats in the Wizengamot. So, you must be alert and ready."

There were grim nods around the room. A good portion of the Dragon Legion belonged to well-to-do families. While a good portion were muggleborn, it didn't discount the fact that they too were at risk for being muggleborn and thus, a target for Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

"We have a little over a week before we leave for our summer breaks." Harry continued. "Exams are over and there are no classes. The Quidditch season will be over on the sixteenth, which is in two days. So we have time. Ample time to get you ready in case of an attack."

Dean raised his hand. "Will you call us to help if there's an attack somewhere? To, you know, fight against the Death Eaters?"

Many eyes turned back to Harry, shining with eagerness.

Harry's jaw twitched. "It wouldn't be my first call. BUT—" Harry glared at them, quelling their protests. "I will not discount the fact that as a group, you all are capable. You fought against them before. You stayed on the side-lines, but you fought. It is something that no one can overlook. Heck, several of you are more capable than a few of the Aurors I've seen."

"So, you will call us?" Seamus blurted.

"If I feel it is needed, I will." Harry declared. "You all won't be the first ones I call. Not even the second one. But if I have no other option, the Dragon Legion will be called upon. Your primary objective will be to mitigate losses and protect civilians like you did back in March."

Cheers spread amongst the group, most looking satisfied that they could play a role in protecting the world.

Harry put his wand to his throat. "But I will only call upon those who perform well this week. I will assess you. I will test you. And I will ensure you are ready. Am I understood?"

"YES!"

"Then, let us begin."


AND… DONE! Hope you all liked the chapter!

Yes, there is more to Grindelwald's plans than mere chaos. A thing to understand about Grindelwald is that he is not some megalomaniac who wants to rule the world. Does he want a throne? Maybe. Is that all he wants? No.

Grindelwald's main motto is for magic to reign supreme. To get dominion over muggles and not live in fear of them. Voldemort is a necessary evil for him. An answer to Dumbledore and Harry's duo. A balance of the scales on both sides, so to speak.

While Voldemort is not a footnote by any means, he is still a chess-piece in a bigger game of Grindelwald. Or so he intends. And even right now, Grindelwald's army and influence stretches far more than Voldemort's does. Let us not forget that Grindelwald was influential enough to arrange an assassination attempt on Harry Potter of all people while sitting in the most secure prison in the world. He is not your typical cartoon villain like Voldemort is. Yes, he has his flaws, his obsession with the hallows for one. But he has a purpose. A clear defined purpose which doesn't limit to world dominion.

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Shady mankey and DaSalvatore: I do see the point of what you're saying and at the same time, I don't. Yes, they should've been more responsible and they were. The Flamels had the information as protected as they could. Under wards and enchantments. An ordinary thief will not have broken into it. Not even remotely.
But for Grindelwald, it was but an obstacle which he overcame. Think of him as an expert hacker who just bypassed all encryption on the data and breached it. (Even the most secure servers get breached and most secure places get robbed at times. Everything is good until it isn't.)
There are only so many precautions one can take. That's the way I see it. You're welcome to disagree but this is my point of view. In my opinion, it was protected well enough but for Grindelwald, it wasn't enough.

Uchicha ASHU: He is not letting Grindelwald run rampant. He cannot intervene everywhere Grindelwald goes. If he gets to it in time, like at the Flamels, he will intervene. He even tried to take Grindelwald down, with a killing curse, no less, when he had a shot. You cannot get closer to killing intention than the Killing curse.

Magic21: The good guys will start winning soon enough. It is always darkest before dawn.

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Thank you for all your reviews.

A huge thank you to Mughil, Nanu for betaing this chapter!

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