A/N : Disclaimer : If they were mine, I wouldn't have to get up at 7am each morning and go study.
July 1944 - Somewhere in Germany
Tom sighed once again, as he felt cold dampness in his shoes. He and Dumbledore had been walking for hours, and they had not slept since... Since before Grindelwald's death, actually. As any magical activity would be recorded by the Gezaupo, they could not Apparate without giving away their destination, and it was impossible to Apparate in an ennemy country - which was exactly the reason why Tom and Rommel had used chimney powder when the teen had first come to Germany, and then to Africa. Rommel... Tom shook his head. He did not want to think about that. It was not like he was any kind of friendly chap anyway. He was a cold-blooded killer. He had ended his own father's life without as much as an afterthought or even a remote tinge of regret.
Trying to distract himself from his uncomfortable musings, he settled his mind on their situation. They had carefully avoided the last town - Hammelburg, or something like that, and now they were in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing around, no house, not even a farm. They were in the forest, and it was the middle of the night. The icing on the cake was that it had started to rain, and their feet sunk deeply in the mud, each step produced a sickening squashy sound.
After making sure Grindelwald was well and truly dead, they had left in a hurry, and used Dumbledore's car. How a wizard could stoop to driving a muggle filthy machine, that was beyond Tom, but he would have admitted it had indeed proven useful if he hadn't been a sly Slytherin. At any rate, they had abandoned said vehicle some time ago, and then had settled on walking. Where they were going, Tom had no idea, but the old goat wouldn't say anything, which infuriated the teen to no end.
As he was following Dumbledore, the older wizard did not notice the scathing glare Tom cast him, nor did he saw the gleam of resentment in his bright green eyes. The teen had now one more reason to hate and despise Dumbledore - apart from the fact that he was a senile old coot - and he felt anger building in his chest. His former teacher had stolen his victory. Intervening while Grindelwald was already in a weakened state, Dumbledore had managed to steal away Tom's glory - everything that should have been his. Little did it matter that his arrival might have saved Tom and Rommel's life. Who knew if they wouldn't have found a way to get out of this situation by themselves ? Not mentioning all the good it had beneficiated the German wizard in the end... No, the hypocrite old goat was being his usual self, and under his merry demeanor, he was a calculating bastard. Of course, it did not help that, had he been in such a situation, Tom would have done exactly the same thing. But it was the Slytherin way, dammit, no the Ravenclaw one ! And he, at least, admitted openly and took charge of his slytherin inheritance, while Dumbledore... Tom scowled at the man's back. He was tired, hungry, and cold, and it was all the old goat's fault, in a way or another.
Suddenly, said old goat stopped dead in his track and raised a hand for Tom to stop moving as well. The teen complied - as much as he might loathe the older wizard, they were together in this predicament, and needed to work together to get to safety. But once back...
"Your wand", Dumbledore murmured. "Hide it, and anything that looks even remotely wizard. We might end up among people who don't know about us, and we wouldn't want to have to Obliviate them, would we ?"
Tom had already cast a minimizing charm on most of his possessions, and he merely tucked his wand in his sleeve. He could still access it quickly and defend himself if need be, for he was not certain he trusted whatever escape plan Dumbledore may have come up with.
Suddenly, a light shone about twenty meters away, in the midst of the bushes ahead of the two wizards. Warily, they waited until the proper signal was given, and then Dumbledore gave the coded answer with a flick of his wand and a few Lumos spells. Then only did several dark figures stand and come towards them. They moved with the ease of a long practice, and they kept their hands none too far from their belt, where a gun - or a wand, according to whether they were wizards - probably hung.
"We were expecting you", one of them said in a low voice. "Please follow me, and keep as silent as possible - there are several patrols out tonight."
"Of course", Dumbledore nodded. "Show us the way."
He had not even requested Tom's opinion, and the teen snorted, but not too loud as he heeded the dark figure's advice. But he did not have much choice in the matter - which was probably the reason why the odler wizard had not bothered asking, but it still would have been better behaved...
Thus, they followed their new friends across the bushes, and swiftly moved in the forest, until they arrived at the edge of the woods. A bit farther, there seemed to be a camp of sorts, but Tom did not pay attention as the smallest of the dark figures stepped ahead and opened... a stump ? The teen furiously blinked, but he was absolutely certain the smaller man had not used a wand. His curiosity aroused, he did not need to be told twice when another of their new friends motioned for him to follow the smaller figure.
He arrived in a tunnel ; but not just any tunnel. This one was quite spacious, well proped up, and high enough for him to stand up straight. That was most impressive... Now, he understood the reason for the fake stump ; it made the entrance of the tunnel quite well hidden... But why there ? Why dig a tunnel in the middle of a forest, and so close of what looked like a German camp ? Now, that was some mystery to unravel, but Tom had a hint he would know about it all too soon.
Behind him, Dumbledore and the men who had fetched the two wizards made their way in the tunnel. As the last of them arrived, Tom was able to take a closer look at the likely undergound agents. There was three of them ; the smallest had very short dark hair, and he looked straight and frank in the way he behaved. That was quite the Gryffindor type, the kind of guy who would speak his mind no matter what. Another one, taller, had blond hair and blue eyes, but looked like a youth and everything in his demeanor backed up this impression. He also carried an impression of clumsiness, like he did not know what to do with his gangling body. In some way, he reminded Tom of Wilkinson... The last one was of average height, with short brown hair and a sly smile, and the teen liked him at once. There was something in the way this man gazed at things around him that singled him out as a slytherin type - in other words, the clever type. Not that Dumbledore would agree with this assessment, but who cared ?
"Good, I see you made it back safely !" another man arrived in the tunnel, likely from the other end, followed by a black man - a sergeant. In his late thirties, he had an allied colonel's uniform, and bore a pleasant expression, but he looked just as cunning as the brown haired man, if not more. His dark eyes apraised the two wizards, and even though he kept on a mask of friendliness, Tom could almost feel his wariness. He gave Dumbledore an odd glance, but that could be accounted for by the man's long hair. No one had long hair - not in the muggle world, not when one was a man. But now, Dumbledore's fashion sense had always been outdated.
"Colonel Robert Hogan, and this is sergeant Ivan Kinchloe", the colonel said, waving at the black man and offering his hand. "I run our little Travelers' Aid Society, and incidentally I'm also the senior prisoner of war in Stalag 13."
"I have heard about you, colonel", Dumbledore nodded with a fatherly smile as he took the colonel's hand.
"All good I hope", Hogan said, but somehow he did not strike Tom as someone who would care much about his superiors' opinion.
"More than good ! Everyone thinks very highly of your operation, back in London", Dumbledore babbled.
"Excuse me", Tom interrupted. "Travelers's Aid Society ? Senior Prisoner of War ? I think I'm entitled to an explanation." His eyes narrowed dangerously at Dumbledore, and then he stared pointedly at the other men. He hated being left in the shadows, and not knowing what was going on. Not to mention the informations Dumbledore had obviously being keeping away from him - again. The man was a secretive bastard.
"We help people escape Germany", the colonel explained with the slightly bored tone of someone who had had to explain the same thing over and over again to plenty of people. "And incidentally execute some sabotage work and intel gathering. But to everyone else, we're just prisoners of war, from stalag 13 - which, by the way, is just above your heads gentlemen."
"I don't understand", Tom said bluntly. "If you have a tunnel at hand, why not escape ?"
That was what he would have done, in any case.
"We figured we could be far more useful by staying here", the slytherin-like guy said with a heavy cockney accent. "I'm corporal Peter Newkirk."
"Corporal Louis Lebeau", the Gryffindorish short man added. "Enchanté."
He was as French as one could be, and Tom had to hide a sneer.
"And I'm sergeant Andrew Carter", completed the clumsy blond youth, with a welcoming if somewhat slightly naive smile.
"Albus Dumbledore", the former teacher said with a smile in kind. His name drew odd looks that almost screamed 'what kind of name is that ?', and was proof enough that these undeground agents were not aware of the wizarding world - except maybe Hogan, who hoisted a half smile. But frankly, what did the old goat expect, with such a name in a Muggle environment ?
"Tom Riddle", the teen said eventually, and he was greeted by smiles from all the men.
"All right boys, now that the introductions have been made, how about we get up there and get you something to eat ?" the dark-haired colonel offered.
"You mean in the camp ?" Tom queried in alarm. Were all this guys sheer crazy ? How were they still alive with an operation like that ?
"Dun' worry", Newkirk said with a reassuring smile. "There are not many night bedchecks, the kommandant doesn't like to get up in the middle of the night... plus our barracks goon, Schultz, he is... well, you would have to see for yourself, but it's allright." He shared a knowing grin with the other men.
"If you say so", Tom muttered dubiously.
He took the lead and the two wizards followed. As he passed in front of the Frenchman and the clumsy one - Carter, he couldn't help but hear them mutter, while they thtought he was too far to overhear their muffled discussion.
"He's just a boy... what's he doing in the middle of this mess ?"
He glowered at them - he was young, all right ! That didn't mean he wasn't able to do something right in this war. What did they think ? After all, he had managed to keep his cover while surrounded by Germans for over six months. He had nothing to learn about undeground operations. And he had saved Dumbledore's life along with Rommel, and gained hardly a thank in the process. The thought, along with the memory it brought, pained him, and the teen gritted his teeth. After all, he had already killed twice, directly or indirectly, and he didn't care one bit. He shouldn't feel that way for his german friend - no, not a friend, he had no friends, could not afford to have one.
Yet... now that the man was dead, would it hurt so much to accept that he had mattered to him ? He could no longer be a threat, nor used against him. Why not mourn him properly... or at least keep the memory vivid...
He quickly discarded the thought as Hogan climbed a ladder and motioned for them to follow him. Complying, Tom soon found himself in a wooden barracks. The bunks monopolized most of the available space, however there was a table near the door, and chairs. Tom was so tired he could kill for a place to rest, and he did not need to be told twice when, along with Dumbledore, he was invited to sit. The Frenchman started to make some coffee, but as he took a coffeepot, the thing was pulled away from him by the black sergeant.
"Not this one, Louis. I can't believe you still mix the two pots together after all this time !"
Tom couldn't see what was wrong with the coffeepot, but obviously it wasn't meant to make coffee. He raised an eyebrow at the scene, but no one volunteered any kind of explanation, as if it was just normal. A slight frown creased the teen's features ; he had a feeling that he was shown only the tip of the iceberg. There was probably much more going on there than met the eye - and, naturally, it aroused his curiosity. Not that he suspected the men to be lying (no one could fake that cockney accent), they were undoubtedly on the same side. But he was curious as to the extent of their operation. And of course, as to what would warrant that coffeepot a special protected status.
"So", Hogan said while sitting in front of them. Something in his tone hinted that they were about to speak of serious matters. "We've been warned by London that the two of you might come here, though they were unable to give us a specific date. We're pretty isolated here, so pray tell what's going on in the wide world ?"
Isolated - yeah, right. As if Tom was going to believe it... or it was the understatement of the century.
"Oh, the usual business", Dumbledore replied cheerfully, and Tom had to hold back another sneer. They had just gotten rid of Grindelwald, for Merlin's sake ! But, of course, the man just had to play casual about the whole thing. And he didn't even have the excuse of being a Gryffindor to explain his modest-hero-complex.
"Care to be a little more precise ?" Hogan pressed on.
"We were involved in a plot against Grind... Hitler", Tom said quietly, remembering at the last minute that he was dealing with muggles.
At least, he would get the pleasure to tell them and to see their astonished faces. And indeed, the colonel cast him a sharp glance, as if reassessing his first impression. Maybe he would take him a little more seriously now, Tom thought with a wicked pleasure. At any rate, that had drawn the attention of the other prisoners of war, and they were opening eyes as big as house-elves. Then, they started to ask questions all at the same time, and Hogan had to silence them. However, they regained their poise quicker than Tom would have thought. The Frenchman poured them some coffee, along with some food that probably wasn't very good, except Tom felt ravenous and really didn't care about the quality of the food as long as it was edible.
"Now, now, that's something pretty big", the senior prisoner said, getting back to their business. "How did it end ?"
The teen glanced at his fellow wizard, but Dumbledore was intently gazing at his nails and pretended he did not notice what was going on. That was just typical of the man, but Tom could not truthfully say he didn't enjoy all the attention he was getting.
"One of his generals tried to kill him with a bomb", the younger wizard explained, "but Gri... Hitler escaped alive of the bunker, barely scratched. But, hum, we had planned to be there and check, just in case, so we managed to, er, terminate him."
A stunned silence followed this statement. All the prisoners were gaping in shock at Tom. It was beyond them to understand how an old man and a boy had managed to get rid of the most evil human being since... well, actually, the most evil human being, period. Unless one believed in Satan and such, of course. And even then...
"You're kidding, right ?" the black sergeant asked in disbelief. "I mean... he can't be really dead, can he ?"
"When I checked his pulse, I sensed nothing - and that was after I severed his head, but if you don't want to take my word..." Tom retorted ironically.
Kinchloe seemed slightly uneasy at the idea of the dark-haired teen facing him severing someone's head, even if this someone was Hitler. Someone so young should not be already so stained with the realities of war, he though to himself. Not to mention the cold, uncaring voice... maybe that was the teen's way to cope with the idea of having killed ? But he didn't voice that opinion.
"Well, can't say that's not good news !" Hogan said, though he looked as if he had trouble really believing it. Not that Tom could blame him.
"Nonetheless", Dumbledore stepped in, "we should not drop our guard. The death of one man is not the end of the war."
Trust the old goat to be a killjoy, Tom mused grimly. But the man seemed to have an uncanny ability to spill the beans. Or, in that case, the bad news. Bird of ill omen.
"What do you mean ?" Carter queried. He always looked like he was in a dream and not paying attention to the conversation. There was something innocent about him, which was somewhat irritating. It certainly got on Tom's nerves.
"There are many people just as eager to take Hitler's position as head of the Third Reich", Dumbledore explained with virtuous patience. "Goering... Himmler... Goebbels... of course, if someone like Admiral Doenitz could take over, I have no doubt the war would soon reach its end, but it is doubtful. Not with so many wolves out."
"If we are lucky, they will just fight amongst themselves", Hogan pointed out. "As Plaute would say, homo homini lupus... In any case, that will be a serious advantage for us. As long as they don't have an appointed leader, it will be a real chaos in their high-command structure."
Tom tried, unsuccessfully, to stiffle a yawn, and Dumbledore flashed him a gentle smile. The bloody hypocrite. Tom knew perfectly well that the old goat did not trust him, yet he behaved in a grandfather-like way. Had he any idea just how annoying and unsettling it was ?
On second thought, knowing the man, yes, he probably did - and that was probably the exact reason he was doing it. Tom would never admit it to anyone, but Dumbledore probably had some Slytherin blood - at least, he had some of the skills. Which did not make him any more likeable.
"We should get to sleep, now", Hogan said. "We have roll call in a few hours. I, for one, am ready to sleep like a log. I'm sure I'll have sweet dreams involving Hitler ass-kicking and such."
The other prisoners grinned and nodded, but suddenly the door crashed open, and a fat German sergeant looking positively as wide as he was tall bursted into the barracks.
"What is going on here ?!" he said in a scolding voice. "Lights are supposed to be out. Do you know that could cost me my next three-day pass ?"
He looked more like a grandfather scolding disobedient children than a guard adressing prisoners - and he hadn't even noticed the 'guests'. Tom couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. Of course, that was the first time he ever stepped into a prisoner of war camp, but he certainly didn't expect that kind of behaviour. Okay, he knew that back in Africa Rommel was always pretty fair and adament about the Geneva Convention, but that was Germany ! And he had heard awful things about that kind of camps, mistreatments and such. Yet, there seemed to be nothing of the sort there. And he realized in dismay that he had failed to ask anything about the place, busy as he was to gloat about Grindelwald's defeat. Way to go, Riddle, he thought with disgust. He had let his pride get the better of him.
"Sorry, Schultz, but Carter had a nightmare and I just couldn't let him all on his own in the dark, could I ?" Hogan said with a charming smile.
That was about the silliest excuse Tom had ever heard, and he stared at the colonel, aghast. Did he really expect the German sergeant to believe that ?
"Oh, that's so sweet !"
Okay, so maybe Hogan was not so crazy after all. On the other hand, Tom started to wonder about the inexistence of a brain in that German helmeted head. The fat sergeant had even propped his rifle up against the doorframe. Frankly, what kind of guard was that ? The teen started to suspect he had right under his nose the very reason why Hogan and his friends managed to be so successful in their "Travelers' Aid Society" business.
"But you'll get me in trouble", Schultz added, as if moved by an afterthought. "And the lights must be... colonel Hogan ! What is that ?"
Well, to his credit, he had eventually noticed the two newcomers. It had only taken him five minutes. Duh !
"What that ?" the colonel asked innocently. The nerve of the man !
"I don't know these two men ! They aren't prisoners here ! Colonel Hogan, you are going to get us in trouble !" the sergeant whined with desperation.
"What are you complaining about !" Hogan chided him. "You don't even have to make prisoners - we make prisoners for you."
"He's right, Schultz", Kinchloe stepped in. "I mean, if you had prisoners missing... but what is wrong with more prisoners ?"
"But they are not supposed to be here ! That I have to report !" Schultz insisted, though he looked like he would be all too glad to leave things the way they were if only Hogan gave him a good excuse to do that.
"All right, Schultz, don't worry", the colonel sighed. "They'll be gone by roll call, and no one will know about there presence. I promise I won't tell."
"You won't tell ? I will tell !" the sergeant protested.
"Ah, too bad, Schultz. But, well, I guess that if that's what you want... Ah, that's just beautiful. Beautiful !"
"Thank you, colonel", the German goon replied with satisfaction, before heading towards the door. However, he stopped suddenly dead on his tracks and spinned round, as if moved by an afterthought. "Colonel Hogan ? What is beautiful ?"
Ah, Tom could see it now. The colonel was baiting Schultz skillfully, artfully. Not that it seemed that difficult to pull out with such a guinea pig.
"What is beautiful ? Aaah, Schultz, do you need to ask ? The way you are willing to throw away - just everything ! Your career, your rank - perhaps even your life - to do your duty."
"What do you mean ?" The German looked quite uneasy, now.
"Well, Schultz, who's responsible for the lights and for the number of prisoners in our barracks ? And who's going to be punished, therefore ? Not to mention the time you allowed other prisoners to stay in our barracks - I don't want to tell, of course, but if there is an investigation... you know the Gestapo, they're such nice fellows... Ah, too bad, when I think corporal Lebeau was going to cook a nice strudel tomorrow... We'll miss you, Schultz."
The sergeant was sweating more and more each minute, glancing with anxiety at Tom and Dumbledore, as if wondering how they could cause such mayhem in his life by merely being there.
"Maybe I need to reconsider... Colonel, you're sure you won't tell anyone ?"
"Schultz, you know me", Hogan replied in mock indignation. "I wouldn't tell a secret !"
"Yes, I know you all too well", the sergeant snapped. "I see nothing, and I hear ab-so-lu-te-ly nothing ! I don't want to know about your monkey business."
With a glare, he left the barracks. But even after he had left, the prisoners kept an eye on the door with a half smile, unmoving. Seconds later, the door reopened, and the German sergeant slid an arm into the barracks to get his rifle back.
"And turn off the lights !" he bellowed before leaving, for good this time.
"He... doesn't look too bad. Certainly not as much as prefect McGonagall anyway", Tom murmured, earning a twinkling in Dumbledore's eyes as a result.
"Good, good, everyone to bed now", Hogan ordered. "We'll have a rough day to get you out of Germany, half the army and Gestapo will be looking for you."
For security reasons, Tom and Dumbledore had to sleep in the tunnel ; but it was obviously not the first time Hogan had that kind of "guests", and the mattresses were actually fairly comfortable, more than Tom would have expected. But he was so tired that he could have slept on the ground without even feeling it. He was dead on his feet, and he slept soundly well past sunrise, as they could not hear the noise of roll call down in the tunnel.
When Tom did wake up, the first thing he saw was Dumbledore and Hogan, quietly talking. He stirred like a cat, and rose to his feet, before going to meet the two men. The three of them were alone in the tunnel - or rather the tunnels, as there seemed to be several junctions, and Tom guessed the other prisoners must probably be up - it would be a little too conspicuous if they just all disappeared in the barracks all day, especially in the middle of july.
"We were working out the details", Hogan explained to the teen. "It won't be easy getting you out of this place. But for now, you should get something to eat upstairs - I'm sure Louis will have something ready."
Tom didn't like much being moved aside so casually, but he did feel ravenously hungry, so he didn't protest as much as he would have under other circumstances. As he left, he didn't notice Hogan's thoughtful glance on his back.
"That's one quite unique young man", the colonel said softly.
"Yes, I'm afraid he is", Dumbledore sigh. "But sometimes, this boy frightens me."
Hogan squinted at the older man with a weird look. Being afraid was not the kind of things most men would willingly admit - but Dumbledore was no ordinary man, and he already knew that.
"I would hardly call a boy someone who chopped off Hitler's head."
"That's part of my concern", Dumbledore replied darkly. "Though I understand his motives... but there is something most people don't see under the tip of the iceberg."
"You have a reason for telling me this", the colonel stated, and Dumbledore cast him a sharp glance.
"Yes, I do", he acknowledged, and this time the twinkling was gone in his eyes. "I want you to be careful around him."
When Tom came back, he noticed the somewhat strange look Hogan sent him, as well as a certain tension between the colonel and Dumbledore, and he knew at once that something had been said that he wasn't supposed to know about. He didn't ask, though, but kept the information in a part of his head - well hidden under his strongest occlumens shield. He didn't put it past Dumbledore to have a discreet look at his thoughts. And he doubted the elder wizard would be willing to pay a penny for them.
"So, just how are we going to leave ?" he queried with a fake easy-going smile.
"The usual path is out of the question", Hogan said, at once all business-like. "That would endanger the whole underground network, not to mention it's not discreet enough. I mean, had it been anything else... but killing Hitler..."
"They didn't see our face", Tom protested. "They can't know..."
"I'm afraid they can", Dumbledore cut him. "We didn't have time to Obliviate the few survivors of the bunker's collapsing."
"Professor..." Tom started, glancing at Hogan.
"That's all right", the colonel smiled. "I'm well aware of, er, your special abilities. And of Hit... Grindelwald's story."
"You told him ?" Tom asked Dumbledore in disbelief. That was a break of over a hundred regulations, he was certain of that.
"He already knew. We have been working with the Muggles for over four years, Tom, my dear boy", his former teacher replied smoothly. "They had to know what they were up against."
The teen shook his head in disbelief.
"I suspected as much", he admitted. "But telling so much people... why not broadcast it on the radio ?!"
"Now, that's a bit of an overstatement", Hogan protested. "Not so much people know. And no one below the rank of colonel."
"Hmph", Tom snorted, though he stopped there his eloquence.
"Now, getting back to our business", Hogan resumed, "in other circumstances I would have asked you to sit it out and to wait for the search parties to be over, but they aren't likely to be any time soon - they'd rather get worse. So we managed to contact Nemrod and to have him take care of you."
"Nemrod ?" Tom repeated guardedly.
"Codename. That's a German operative who's been gathering intel for us for a long time. I have no idea of his real identity, though I suspect he's from around there. We are on a need-to-know basis, so London insisted we'd be kept in the dark about him. But don't worry, he's one of the best."
At this moment, and before Tom had time to ask further questions, there was a commotion near the ladder and Carter tumbled down.
"Sir, a German car - Major Hochstetter just arrived in camp."
"Ow, this one's bad", Hogan muttered with a grimace.
"Who's this Major Hochstetter ?" Dumbledore queried, as phlegmatic as ever.
"He's this blood-thirsty Gestapo agent", Hogan sighed. "He's been trying to pinpoint us for months. Fortunately, he never managed to gather evidence against us, but he's out for the hunt, and he'll probably stick at nothing to put an end to our operation."
"Looks like a nice fellow", Tom muttered.
His weak attempt at humor didn't elicit any laughter, and Hogan climbed swiftly up, followed by the two wizards. Tom quickly realised that the faucet, apart from being - well, a faucet - also was of use as a periscope. Thus, he was able to have a look outside without actually leaving the barracks, and without the risk of anyone noticing him - which would be quite deadly with this Gestapo fellow around.
Hochstetter was a short, brown-haired man, slightly bulkier than average, and with that predator eyes most Gestapo agents seemed to cultivate. The angry red of his swastika armand flashed for everyone to see, as the man strode to the biggest building of the camp - obviously used as an office for the germans in charge of Stalag 13.
"Kinch, plug in the coffeepot", Hogan ordered.
Now, that was getting interesting ; at last, Tom would know the use of the damn implement. He and Dumbledore followed Hogan in his office, and they all sat around the coffeepot. Soon enough they heard voice coming out of the thing. Tom shot a weird glance at Hogan, wondering if he wasn't a wizard finally.
"We bugged Klink's - the kommandant's office", the colonel explained, noticing the glance. "Now, listen."
There was some silence, then the sound of a door being opened and closed.
"My dear major", came a fawning voice, "please have a seat. It's always a pleasure..."
"Klink's still the same", Lebeau grinned. "Even with a major."
"Spare me the pleasantries, Klink !" cut a grating voice. "My time is precious. I'm here to warn you of new measures. We are looking for two very important people, and the highest authority has given the Gestapo free hand to apprehend them. If you can't make them prisoners, they are to be shot."
"What did they do ?" Klink's voice had decreased to an excited whisper, as if he felt flattered to be told all this.
"That is top-secret", the major retorted dryly. "If you manage to capture them - which I doubt - you are to report to me at once. Is that understood ?"
"Of course, of course, major ! You know I'm always ready to work with the Gestapo, that's indeed a great pleasure..."
"Yes, yes", Hochstetter said tiredly and with a hint of disgust. "I need to go now, here are the descriptions of these two people."
Kinchloe unplugged the coffeepot, or rather the Muggle listening device, and shared a glance with Hogan.
"Hochstetter too is still the same", Lebeau grimaced with annoyance. "Do you think he's going to be a problem, colonel ?"
"We don't want to put your operation in danger, colonel Hogan", the older wizard added.
"Well, we're supposed to meet Nemrod tonight", Hogan sighed. "In any case, we can't postpone that meeting, we have no means to contact that Nemrod guy, and it would be too complicated to arrange for another meeting. No, we'll have to carry out the mission."
The remaining of the day was rather dull, barring the preparation of the night's expedition. Both Tom and Dumbledore were given dark clothes, papers, some food, in short everything and anything they might need, except of course a Muggle weapon ; they wouldn't know how to use it and were more likely to end up injuring themselves. Besides, they had their wands.
They left the camp around midnight, long after roll call. Tom idly wondered what they would do if one day the kommandant ordered a night bedcheck or impromptu roll call. Ah, well, not his problem.
They walked in the forest, moving a shadows with barely a few muffled sounds. For discretion's sake, Tom had discreetly cast a Silencing charm, but he knew they could have went without it. Hogan and his men moved with the ease of a long practice, and it was obvious they knew perfectly their surroundings. They arrived to the rendezvous point without any bad surprise.
"All right, Newkirk, give the signal", Hogan whispered.
The Englishman drew a torch, and switched it on and off alternatively following a definite pattern. They waited for sometime, but no answer came, and as time went by Tom started to feel slightly ill-at-ease. He didn't like being like that in the open, just waiting.
"Try that again, Newkirk."
This time, the answer came, in the shape of several flashes long and short. The light came from about twenty meters away.
"That's good, sir", the Englishman murmured.
"Okay, let's go then", the colonel instructed.
They left the screening of the bushes and soon enough they met the famous Nemrod. Well, at least they met a man clad in black with a mask on his face who called himself Nemrod. But he did know the code, so he probably was who he said he was. Tom decided not to let his vivid imagination take over and definitely not to think about all the ways this guy could have laid his hands on the afore mentioned code. Besides, he was with Dumbledore - as irritating as the old goat was, it was good to have him by his side in a fight.
All right, all right. It was good to have the old man fight and stall their foes while Tom took the opportunity to flee.
"Here you go - it was nice meeting you", Hogan said in a low voice. "Have a pleasant trip back."
"You too, my dear colonel", Dumbledore answered politely.
"We don't have time for that", Nemrod cut in. "We need to go now."
They left Hogan and his men behind, and followed the undeground agent through the forest. Nemrod kept silent, except for short commands and instructions, and kept talking in a subdued voice, barely audible. After about half an hour of a walk in that pitch-black forest, they reached a road, where a car was waiting.
A car with swastika flags on it.
"Hands up !" Tom hissed, as he drew his wand.
Dumbledore didn't take his, but he didn't prevent the teen from acting either. He too had seen the flags.
"What is this about ?" Nemrod barked back.
"Are you kidding ? There are Gestapo flags on this car !"
"Oh, because you expected me to get you out of Germany with an Allies-flagged car ?" the man scoffed.
"Remove your mask, then", Tom instructed.
The underground agent hesitated, but it was obvious that the teen had no intention to back off, and what he helf in his hand did seem to have the shape of a gun in the darkness. He complied, and Tom gaped in amazement.
"Major Hochstetter ?! You are Nemrod ?"
"You just ruined a cover that took years to build", the major said grimly.
"Please, my dear fellow, I'm sure you will admit that we do have reasons to be cautious just who we travel with", Dumbledore stepped in soothingly. "Besides, your secret is safe with us... though I must admit I'm surprised. I've been told, hum... how determined you are in the chase of underground activities."
"Yes, I'm quite good at it", the major couldn't help but grin. "I always come so close to discover Hogan's whole operation... the man never wondered how I could not find the obvious."
Tom smiled too. he liked Hochstetter's devious mind.
"So, now, if you're reassured, maybe we could go ?" the major asked with a hint of petulance. "I don't have all night - remember I'm supposed to be looking for you two."
Dumbledore cast the teen a pointed glance, and with a sigh Tom lowered his wand and slid it back in his sleeve.
"All right, all right", he gave in. "Lead the way."
Behind the major, he and Dumbledore went in the car for the long travel that would get them back home.
The End... kinda
Ending Note : My first long fanfic finished ! Now that's something !
Ok, so, basically, this story was supposed to be only a kind of introduction to the "real" story. Only, I got carried out, I guess, and it became much longer than expected.
I'd like to thanks too all the people who've reviewed so far, and those who will... might... review later. Not so much people do review, and thus I feel that those few who took the time to tell me they liked (or not) this story deserve these thanks. And for all the readers who didn't review but read the story, well, I hope you liked it in spite of my weird ideas and twisted plot.