12- The Minister Subdued

The Russian Ministry of Magic, if nothing else, was certainly a sight to behold. Placed within the crevice of three surrounding mountains, the scarlet bricked tower stood almost as tall the peaks, as wide as the largest of Quidditch stadiums and surrounded by half-a-dozen differently styled courtyards; each of which in turn led to either a path or bridge leading into the mountains. The walls that surrounded the entirety of the property scaled an impressive height, although Harry nearly craned his neck from looking down on them from his given V.I.P quarters.

He stood patiently looking out of the window of his handsome, silver-stoned bedroom, awaiting for someone to fetch him for his fourth arranged meeting with Berkoff since his arrival the previous night. He placed his forehead against the cool glass of the window, the conversation he’d just had with Kingsley ringing in his ears as though his Minister had just shrieked it at him.

“There are Giants missing, Harry.” He’d said through the flames of Harry’s ornate fireplace. “We’ve checked and rechecked the number of the survivors and dead from the avalanche and three members of the tribe are always unaccounted for. From what Kalgo’s been saying these very Giants were opposed to him declaring for the Confederation from the start.”

It would certainly explain why Cade and Morgana were taking their time in reaching their next target. Leading an army of Wizards, Witches and Dementors undetected was one task, but add Giants to the mix and the job would’ve become much more challenging for anybody.
This had to be it, Harry thought. This had to be the deciding factor in what Berkoff should order his Ministry to do, or what was left of it anyway. It seemed that as well as the main bulk of their Aurors and Enforcers, a great number of the Ministry’s workers had volunteered to fight against Akrahn Colby’s army to help in the attempt to rescue their Minister while more still had taken the initiative and had gone into hiding. From what Harry had seen so far, he would’ve been surprised if more than a hundred still worked here.
A loud thud from the oaken door of his room snapped Harry back to reality.

“Come in!” Harry called as he turned to see Alexei Zolnero, the Head of Russian Aurors, enter. He was a round bulk of a man, straight-backed and rough looking with numerous scars decorating his face and neck. His latest injury however was also the most obvious and the reason for his return from the front lines on the border for where his left arm would’ve once been was where a plastic looking limb, whose dark colour failed to match its wearer’s skin, now dangled.

“He’s ready for you.” Alexei said in a rough voice that did not sound comfortable in speaking English. Harry nodded and followed the Russian Head’s lead.

The interior of the Ministry was a confusing one for it seemed to wildly change depending on which part of the building you happened to be in. Some corridor walls were coated in various shades of crimson, blue and silver and lined with portraits of famous or well-accomplished Russian Wizards and Witches while other passages merely remained blank with bare grey-stoned walls with the occasional window being the main source of light. The hallway leading to Berkoff’s Head of Magical Law office was unsurprisingly the former.

They had just turned onto it when Harry felt something hot from the inside pocket of his robes. Knowing exactly what it was, he delved his hand inside and drew out his D.A Galleon to find a message engraved on the side.

Have the Russians made a decision yet?

Bruno had kept his word in updating Harry on everything that was going on at the Italian Ministry and Harry had seen little reason to mistrust the man after everything he’d done.

Not yet. Am going in for another meeting now.

With a final tap of his wand, Harry’s reply faded from his own coin and off to burn the one Bruno possessed.

After three loud thuds on the handsome varnished door to Berkoff’s office, Alexei indicated for Harry to enter.

“Mr Potter,” Berkoff greeted half-heartedly as Harry walked into his living-room like office. “I hear you’ve spoken with Mr Shaklebolt. Does he have an update for me?”

Harry was half tempted to say that he was surprised Berkoff didn’t know the contents of Kingsley’s update already, but decided that poking at an already over-worked and exhausted Russian bear was not the smart play.
“Giants,” Harry said simply. “We believe Meng Jour may have spared the lives of a few in return for their service and are now part of Cade and Morgana’s army.” Berkoff’s expression remained blank and unreadable as Harry continued “It explains why they’ve taken their time in reaching your Ministry, Berkoff. I’m sorry but it fits.”

The Russian Head of Law stared at Harry for a moment as if sizing him up before slowly turning around and, with a sudden burst of fury, scattered the contents of his desk to the ground with a swipe of his arm and a growl of anger and frustration.
Harry remained silent as he and Alexei stared at the back of the heavily panting Berkoff while ink pots, quills and flurries of golden parchment flew around them.
“How many?” He asked.

“Three,” Harry answered. “It is possible however that Mosby might order one or two of them elsewhere if he thinks-”

“If he thinks we’re weak and feeble enough!” Berkoff finished loudly.

“Did you discuss with the other Confederation Ministers about sending reinforcements?”

“They all agree with Kingsley.” Berkoff spat before admitting “You were right, it appears that Russia alone possesses all of the bravery in the Confederation.”

Harry was so close to defending the Ministries that were both fighting and willing to fight, the words almost choked him.
“Alice Mulvenna has done a very good job on them.” Harry said instead after coughing away his previous thoughts.

“Don’t you say that name in this Ministry!” Berkoff hissed. “The traitorous…” But even Berkoff seemed to struggle with a word bad enough to describe the Italian Minister and instead slammed both hand onto his desk.

“Berkoff, you can’t win this.” Harry said calmly, though he was feeling anything but. “The odds that were stacked against you before have just double. And even if you were somehow able to keep the Wizarding army, the Dementor horde and the Giants at bay it would be all too easy for them to call in a Dragon from the Sanctuary. You need to retreat your army from the border and you need to evacuate the Ministry. Kingsley’s assured me that the Australian and Chinese Ministries will-”

“I do not care what Kingsley has or hasn’t assured you!” Berkoff retorted. “They may house my army but what of my people? You vould have me stand aside and allow dem to become victims and slaves the vay the British have? The vay Romania has? No, I vould rather fight and die den be known as de man who allowed that to happen.”

“And your workers will join you?” Harry asked hotly, his temper fanned by Berkoff’s remarks. “Whether they want to or not?”

Berkoff stared at Harry intently. “Alexie,” He said without even looking at the man. “Give the announcement. All those who wish to stay with me and fight have the right to do so.”

Harry saw Alexie’s narrowed eyes flicker between Harry and Berkoff before heading off to perform the task.
Berkoff gave a great sigh of what was unboundedly wiriness and rubbed the ridge between his eyes. “How did it come to this?” He asked weakly.

“Selwyn was several steps ahead of us from the start.” Harry said consolingly. “Even when he died it was only too easy for someone else to keep the ball rolling.”

Whether or not Berkoff took this in, Harry couldn’t tell. “You know when I informed the Muggle’s Russian President, he offered his own forces to fight.” He gave a small laugh. “Can you imagine using those… gun things the Muggles use to take on a Giant?”

“Well if the Confederation can’t stop the Alliance, the Muggles better work on it.” Harry said.

“Do you think dey could? If it came down to it?” Berkoff asked curiously.

“I don’t know actually.” Harry admitted. “I’m sort of hoping we don’t find out.”

Berkoff gave another chuckle before looking Harry in the eye and indicating the desk supplies that were now strewn across his floor. “I apologise for my outburst. It vas uncalled for. Minister Milan vould never have condoned such insubordination.”

“It’s fine, really.” Harry said, his heart dropping deeper into his stomach by the second.

Berkoff stared at Harry for a moment as though he were a particularly difficult problem before walking up to him until they were almost nose to nose. “I’ll arrange for a message to be sent to de border ordering a retreat should ve come under attack.” He said. “But I vant you to promise me that you will look after every single man and voman should dey escape into your care.”

“You have my word.” Harry stated.

Berkoff offered his hand. “Vere it any other man, I vould doubt dat word, Mr Potter.” He said as Harry accepted the shake. “I vish you luck for vat is to come.”

“Berkoff, it’s not too late to-” Harry started but Berkoff had raised his other hand for silence.

“It’s is. Goodbye Harry Potter.” Berkoff finished before walking over to his office door and opening it for Harry. “I’ll arrange a Portkey to be brought to your room.”
Harry nodded his goodbye and, for what he knew would be the last time, left the office of Berkoff Vadim.

Harry knew that Berkoff would be expecting him to make his way back to his given room, but Harry couldn’t stand the feeling of leaving the place as though doing so would be to personally condemn it. Knowing that his presence wouldn’t exactly be rejected, Harry decided to stroll down to the courtyard where he’d seen Alexei from a window at the head of a small crowd of about thirty people. He regretted this decision however when he noticed the concentration of the group’s faces changed focus from Alexei to Harry.

Harry could hardly fail to notice the grave, solemn looks on their faces but it was nothing compared to Alexie’s as he turned to see what his party had found so interesting. In the brief moments since he’d left Berkoff’s office, the Head of the Russian Aurors had grown ghostly pale.
“Ah, Mr Potter.” He said as he waved his remaining arm to call Harry closer.

Begrudgingly, Harry proceeded to climb down the stone steps into the courtyard until he was level with Alexie. “These who’re staying behind?” Harry asked dryly.

Alexei nodded. “Vat do you think?” He asked in an attempt to sound proud.
If Harry were to guess, he would’ve said less than five of those before him had any kind of training from the looks of them. They were fidgety, nervous of their surroundings and looking as though they were regretting their moment of nobility in offering to fight.

“They have an army of Dementors coming their way,” Harry said. “How many of them can do a Patronus Charm?”
Alexei bellowed the question to the group. Harry’s heart sank as four people raised their hands. “And how many of them have a Corporeal Patronus?” Two people left their hands up.

“Alexie, this is insane.” Harry hissed in a hushed whisper. “Allowing these people to fight is as good as any death sentence.”

“Vat vould you have me do?” Alexei asked in an equal tone. “Give de order to run? Tell dem dat they must abandon their Ministry? Their families? Their friends?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying.” Harry pressed through gritted teeth. “While there’s still time. Get rid of that blasted Wireless message you’ve got pumping through the airwaves asking for fighters and send out the warning-”

But Harry and Alexie’s argument was cut off by one of the thirty before them who had broken away from a conversation with those around him and had moved to the front with his arm raised. “Excuse me, Mr Potter,” The man said. “Are you joining us? Are you fighting?”

Harry stared at the man. There was hope in his eyes; genuine, unspoilt hope. As he looked around, Harry noticed that many of the others were also wearing awe-struck looks as they looked up to him.
Alexei sighed deeply beside him as Harry’s throat closed as though his whole physical being was urging him to announce yes.

Harry opened his mouth and had forced sound to come out but he had been completely drowned out by a loud thunderous crack from high above them.
Harry drew his wand and aimed it at the source of the noise as the Russian Ministry’s defenders all spun to look for the cause of the noise, terror coating their faces.

High above them, Harry could see a large silver bird swooping at a great speed towards the Ministry’s main tower; more specifically, towards the window of Berkoff Vadim’s office.
Alexei bellowed out an order that Harry could not understand though it got his fighters to make their way towards the wall surrounding the Ministry’s courtyards.
Harry stood frozen as he watched the bird above him zoom through the open window and enter Berkoff’s office. Was this it? Was this the beginning of the invasion and, even worse, the moment when Harry was to walk away?

His Portkey would only be in his room and he’d promised Kingsley that he would not fight. But a second look towards the Ministry’s last defence was what sealed Harry’s decision.

“Alexie!” Harry bellowed out. “You need to get wands on top of the wall of the main gate! They’ll know it’s the largest bridge and that’s where a majority of them will be!”
Alexei spun around to see Harry run towards him, a look of surprise on his face, before he began relaying Harry’s instruction.

After a quarter of their fighters had taken position above the main gate and another five had gone off to seal the other entrances, Harry found himself staring at the thick black bars of the main gate, waiting.

There was a loud cry from behind them coming from the Ministry’s doors. Harry had spun around to aim the Elder Wand only to lower it again at the sight of Berkoff Vadim running towards them, a sheet of golden parchment in his hands.

“What’s he saying?” Harry asked Alexie.

“He’s ordering us to open the gates.” Alexei translated, bewildered. “Do you think de bird could have Confunded him or something?”

“Berkoff, what-”

“Open de bloody gate!” He ordered to Harry once he’d reached them. “We have reinforcements!” And he brandished the golden parchment piece as though it were the key to solving all of their problems. “Now I von’t ask again! Open de gates! And lower some of our enchantments; it’ll take less time den having dem breaking dere way through.”

Harry took several steps back as Alexei followed the orders.
It was nearly half an hour before the task was done, with dusk beginning to set in on the scene, but once Berkoff’s orders had been completed Harry had to blink rapidly just to make sure his eyes weren’t somehow being fooled.

Marching down the thickest of the three bridges was a full army of Wizards and Witches all dressed in dark green battle-robes. At the head were three people who it took some time to draw close enough for Harry to distinguish. The largest of them towered over the other two and possessed a long tight ponytail of gleaming golden hair that was currently draped over the man’s square shoulders. The second darkly-haired man appeared quite rounded in Harry’s opinion with his bulging cheeks and bulbous nose while the third stood out to Harry above the entire army.

“Naomi?” Harry exclaimed as the newly arrived fighters began pouring into the courtyard. “What are you doing here?”

“Well I just happened to be relaxing at the house of the former Minster of Mongolia when he let me know about a full scale invasion happening at the heart of Russia.” She smirked as she indicated the round cheeked man hugging Berkoff Vadim. “So I thought I’d tag along. But what are you doing here?”

But Harry was too stunned at the sight before him to reply. “Uh, meeting.” Was all he seemed capable of mustering whilst his brain whirred to comprehend everything. “There’s a Portkey in the room they gave me,” Harry eventually managed to say. “It’ll take you back to Paris, if you let Kingsley Know what-”

“Wait, I’m not going back to Paris.” Naomi said incredulously.

“Naomi you’re the Supreme Mugwump!” Harry replied. “You have no idea what has been going on-”

“Everyone’s somehow got the bright idea that waiting for Mosby to come to them is the best plan of action.” Naomi retorted. “Gal’s been bringing me up to date on things.”

“You’ve been in a coma for over a week!”

“Well, yeh, but I’m much better now. Thanks for asking.” Naomi replied with narrowed eyes.

“This isn’t a joke Naomi!” Harry snapped, his temper flaring out.

“Do you see me laughing?” Naomi pressed. She was full foot shorter then Harry yet she stood firm as she glowered up at him. “If what Berkoff told Gal is true then you’re going to need every wand you can get your hand on to fight off what’s coming.”

Harry struggled to come up with a new retort as he stared back at her. “We’ll need to update Kingsley.” He said finally.

“Agreed,” Naomi said. “We told no one of our departure to reduce the risk of Mosby finding out we’re here.” And she stormed towards Chingis and Berkoff. “Naomi,” Harry called after her as she reached the halfway point. She spun around clearly ready for another attack on her decision to fight. “It’s good to see you.” Naomi’s stern look cracked the briefest of smiles before she had turned back to talk to the two allies.

“Absolutely not, Naomi!” Kingsley’s fiery figure bellowed from the fireplace of Berkoff’s office. “Do you have any idea how important your position is? Do you know what would happen if-”

“I was killed?” Naomi finished as she stared up at the man. “Yeh, I have a vague idea.”

“Then stop acting so rash and take that Portkey!” Kingsley demanded. “It’s bad enough that this is the way I find out about your recovery.” He then glowered at Gal Chingis who, Harry had to admit, stood his ground far better than most would under Kingsley’s scrutiny.

“I vas merely following de orders of de Supreme Mugvump.” Gal replied.

“Leave Gal out of this.” Naomi warned.

If Kingsley’s figure were not made of fire, Harry was sure that this retort would’ve made the man combust so angry did he look. “Supreme Mugwump,” Kinsley said through gritted teeth. “I want this war over and done with just as much as you do, but we need you alive to do so.”

“No, you don’t.” Naomi said as she delved her hand into the green robes she wore and pulled out the Mugwump Staff. “Here, protect us with your strength.” And she threw the golden staff at the fiery figure before them. It was several seconds before the staff arrived at Kingsley’s end though he wore the same look of disbelief throughout. “By staying here and fighting, my life is now in danger. Should I be killed, you’ll become the Supreme Mugwump; and a damn good one I bet too. You’re not technically a Minister for Magic right now, so there’s no reason to stop you from that standpoint-”

“Naomi,” Kingsley said dryly as he stared from the staff in his hands to the Junior Auror standing before him. “You’re wrong. We do need you. Do you have any idea how much respect you earned yourself at the last meeting both before and after Marius’ attack? The only reason the majority of the Confederation is against attacking is because Alice Mulvenna, despite her shortcomings,” Kingsley added as he noticed Berkoff snare of contempt at the sound of the name. “Is still highly respected among the other Ministers. When she talks, they listen. She didn’t become the youngest ever Minister for Magic by being-”

“A complete ignorant bitch?” Naomi finished.

Kingsley appeared to choose to ignore this. “We still need you to turn them to our way of thinking.”

“Then we’ll be doing it my way.” Naomi ordered in a demanding tone that Harry had never heard her use before. “You can’t expect me to run from this fight only to ask the Confederation to join straight after. If Mulvenna’s as tricky as you say she is she will use that against us. Let me fight; if I survive, you bet I’m going to beat them over their heads with it, and if I don’t… Well, I guess you have your martyr.”

“I like dis von.” Alexei murmured to Harry with a wide grin.

“I’m sorry Kingsley, but this matter is closed.” Naomi finished decisively leaving Kingsley to stand there in a begrudged silence, the golden staff still clutched in his hands.

“I wish to speak to Harry alone.” Kingsley stated as he turned to face Berkoff.
Despite being clearly annoyed at his exclusion, Berkoff led the way out taking the others with him.
“You taught her too well.” Kingsley said in an exasperated tone as he rubbed his eyes. “Give her a lightning bolt scar and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and that’s you at her age.”
Harry attempted though failed to hide a smile as he looked up at Kingsley. His Minister sighed lightly before asking “Do you think they can do it? Hold the Bowton twins off?”

What little of Harry’s smile had gotten through quickly faded. He’d been asking himself that very question from the moment his head had comprehended what was actually happening. More than three-hundred Aurors and select Enforcers had come to fight alongside Russia against just as many Wizards and Witches that marched on them allied with Dementors, Giants and possibly even Dragons.

“It’s a tough one.” Harry replied dryly. “We certainly have the man-power to maximise the Ministry’s defences. Bringing down the bridges looks easy enough and could halt their progress if we time it right… Maybe…” Harry shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Kingsley nodded slowly. “And will you be joining our Supreme Mugwump?”

“She has a point, Kingsley.” Harry started. “Mulvenna believes her Ministry will be a target if she fails to keep the Confederation subdued. She’ll do and say anything to them to stop that from happening even if it means trying to label Naomi as a hypocrite or coward.”

“She’d fail.” Kingsley said boldly.

“Can we afford to take that chance?”

Kingsley eyed Harry and for what like hours to two stood there in silence. “You have one job, Harry.” Kingsley eventually said. “Keep her alive at all costs. I don’t care if that means losing the whole of Russia, Naomi comes out of this alive.”

“As if that was an order you needed to give me.” Harry replied.

Kingsley sighed and said finally “Good luck, Harry”.

“Sirius out.” Harry finished before the fiery figure faded from sight.

Harry opened the door to Berkoff’s office to find the rest of the meeting’s attendance waiting; Naomi’s wide brown eyes staring at him in anticipation. “Well then,” Harry said. “What are we waiting for? We have a war to fight.”

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