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Chapter 2: The Ministry of Magic
2. The Ministry of Magic
Harry hurried upstairs to change into something a little more fitting for a trip to the Ministry. Opening the doors of a large dark oak wardrobe, he quickly scanned through the few items he had. Selecting a dark gray pair of trousers and a light colored button-up shirt, he closed the doors and quickly changed. Tying the laces on a pair of oxfords, he was off and back down the stairs. Kreacher was still in the kitchen cleaning the breakfast dishes and pans.
"Kreacher," Harry said, "I'd like to try again today. For the rug that is."
Kreacher looked at him with a puzzled expression.
"I'd like you to go into Diagon Alley while I take care of some business at the Ministry... If you could find a rug, I'll meet you later this afternoon at the Leaky Cauldron."
"What kind of rug is Kreacher to get Master?" Kreacher asked, in a difficult mood today.
"Kreacher, just get something warm and woolen that basically goes along with the colors." Harry replied impatiently.
"Meet me at the Cauldron later and I'll go with you to pay for it," he added.
Harry could hear Kreacher mumble something under his breath, but he couldn't quite make it out. He took the mumbling for a yes.
There was still some Muggle money left from the transfer at Gringotts that Hermione didn't need, and Harry felt like taking a train. Dumbledore had scolded him for taking so many trains in the summer of his sixth year, but it was all in good fun and seemed like just the thing to do today. Even Dumbledore could have never imagined how boring summers were at the Dursleys. Reading or sneaking onto Dudley's computer were about the only things to keep one from going mad.
Apparating to a dark corner of the train depot, he walked to the ticket office and paid a small squeaky talking woman the Muggle money for the train ticket. He slid the ticket through the receptacle and walked through the turnstile as it gently clicked into place. He had thought about a computer at Grimmauld Place. But after all the enhancements and charms had been made, rendering the house invisible to Muggles, there would be no way to get a physical connection to the internet. There was talk of a local WiFi connection in the neighborhood, and he wondered whether the WiFi could get through the strong Invisibility charm that still surrounded the house. Seamus Finnigan had a Muggle cousin who owned a laptop computer, and Seamus had brought the computer over one day to try the WiFi connection. They fiddled with it all one afternoon but couldn't get it to work. There might be someone at the Ministry that could help with this problem.
He would use the call-box visitor's entrance that he and Arthur Weasley had used several years ago. The memory of that day, and attending trial for casting the Patronus Charm at Little Whinging, was still very fresh. Exiting the train and quickly getting up to street level, he could see the red call-box several blocks down the road. It was great getting out of the house, so Harry took his time walking to the phone booth. Approaching the door to the booth, he temporarily froze trying to remember the number Mr. Weasley had dialed to get the visitor information desk. Feeling silly, he felt the number would certainly have been changed. He dialed zero for the operator.
"Operator." Came the reply.
"Ministry of Magic please," Harry asked.
The line clicked and came back again.
"Operator." Answered a different voice.
"Ministry of Magic please," Harry repeated.
"You're connected sir, how may I help you?"
"I'm here to see Imelda Pickersgill about the Hogwarts project," he replied.
"Your name sir?" she asked inquisitively.
"Oh I'm sorry – Harry Potter."
"Mr. Potter... certainly," she responded quickly, "The booth will descend shortly sir," she added.
"Thank you," Harry replied.
After a short ker-thunk the booth began a long decline. He guessed he had descended several floors in darkness before the light of the Atrium floor began to show from the lower glass windows of the booth. Finally the splendor of the entire Atrium could be seen. With a soft thump, the booth settled on the Atrium floor along the right wall. There was small wizard waiting just outside the booth and smiling warmly.
"Just a quick scan of your wand sir!" the wizard said.
Harry reached into his right waistband got his wand for inspection.
"Thank you sir."
The wizard took the wand and ran it through a gray metal scanning machine. A little band of paper popped from a slot in the machine as the little wizard reached for the wand. He carefully read the information on the band of paper.
"11 inches in length – Holly – Phoenix feather core," the wizard read.
"Definitely Harry Potter... Very good sir!"
"If you could follow me sir, I'll take you to the correct lift for Ms. Pickersgill," he said.
Harry followed the wizard to the lift.
The Atrium was as splendid as usual with a large canvas covering a new fountain arrangement. The previous sculpturing that depicted a derogatory and vulgar expression of Muggles had been removed. He assumed the canvas would be taken off when the new arrangement was ready. The lift operator was a tall and slender fellow. "Where to sir?" the operator inquired helpfully.
"Ms. Pickersgill please," Harry replied.
"Right away sir," as the operator punched a couple of buttons. The lift went abruptly backwards, then paused and jerked as it went up a couple floors.
As the lift stopped, and the operator said, "Three doors down on your left sir!"
"Thank you!" Harry relied as he jumped out.
The tile walls were pretty much as Harry remembered. A dark, polished gray. Finally a door on the left was labeled 'Department of Historical Artifacts', and below that read, 'Imelda Pickersgill'. Harry knocked on the door.
He could hear rustling and footsteps moving toward the door. Ms. Pickersgill answered the door with a smile and said, "Mr. Potter I believe – nice to meet you!" Ms. Pickersgill was slender and wore her hair over her head in a tightly woven bun.
"Hello...", and before Harry could say anything else, Ms. Pickersgill replied, "I bet you're here to help with Hogwarts!".
"Well, yes I am," Harry replied quickly.
"Please have a seat Harry. Uhmm... Let me see I've the sign-up list somewhere," she said as she was digging through a pile of papers on her desk.
Her office had light blue colored walls and was decorated with pictures of kites. All kinds and designs of kites floating and weaving in the frames. Harry noticed some of them weaving out of the frame entirely before coming back into view. He took a seat in a very comfortable looking leather wingback.
"Ms. Pickersgill, I was interested in the Hogwarts project after reading the article in the Daily Prophet this morning," Harry paused shortly and then added. "I liked the idea of a contribution of time – and right now I've got loads of it," he said smiling.
"Well, I thought that's what you were here for... I means it makes sense," she said while placing her index finger to her nose.
"I'll add your name to the sign-up list... That's really a formality. I'm sure Headmistress McGonagall would love to have you there," Ms. Pickersgill stated flatly.
"When do you think we'll be getting started on the project?" Harry asked.
"Well... there's quite a bit of cleanup work that will have to be done before visitors are allowed," Ms. Pickersgill paused while scratching her earlobe.
"Well, we're supposed to say that... I mean... well, you were there Harry. The place is still a mess. Some of the Giant's bodies still haven't been removed from the grounds yet," she added, with the expression of someone who had just wet their pants.
"It's looking like things will get started around the first of July," she said.
"Look for our Owl by that time... If you don't hear from us by then please check back. I'll tell McGonagall you're coming," she said smiling.
Harry thanked Ms. Pickersgill and went back to the lift. He was figuring that the Department of Magical Transportation might have some information on his computer WiFi being blocked by the Invisibility charm surrounding Grimmauld Place. Entering the lift again, he went up to level six where the department was located. In the lobby he spotted a concierge window just left of the lift entrance He explained the problem to the attendant who thought the new office of Magical and Muggle Technologies would be the right place to go. The Technology office was located in the back of the Floo Network Authority. He browsed around awhile before finally spotting a small sign over a door that read 'Office of Magical and Muggle Technologies'. Looking surreptitiously, he spotted a small Wizard in a powder blue lab coat tinkering with a small contraption that was arcing a tiny bolt of electricity to another device across the room.
"Oh.. Excuse me," Harry injected with a cautious voice.
The little wizard jumped slightly and looked at Harry through a thick set of horn-rimmed glasses. His dark hair was pointing in every direction as he began to smile. "Sorry I didn't see you. We don't get many visitors down here. Trying to tune this little teleprompter here... Without much luck I might add. Hello, my name is Bradford Quixwood." The little Wizard said as he extended his hand.
"Nice to meet you," Harry said while shaking Quixwood's hand.
"How can I help to Mr. Potter?" said the Wizard.
Harry repeated the whole story of how he had borrowed a friends computer, but the WiFi couldn't penetrate the strong Invisibility charm surrounding Grimmauld Place.
"Uhmm... Let me see.. If you could follow me?" Mr. Quixwood said in an puzzled tone. They walked to end of the room where several office cubicles were standing. The cubicle walls were littered with magical sticking post-it-notes. In one of the cubicles there was a shelving unit, full, of what looked like computer printout bindings with dark brown pasteboard covers. The backs were labeled and Quixwood pulled one out that said 'Tunneling Charms'. "Now if I understand your problem... You need to connect to the public WiFi without adding degradation to the Invisibility charm around your property?" he said, with a raised index finger and doing a perfect impersonation of a man saying, "Eureka!"
"Yes, that about it," Harry repeated.
Racing back to his desk with the tails of the powder blue lab coat trailing behind him, he thumbed through half of the volume before settling on a page for several moments. "I think this section will help you with this problem Mr. Potter," said Quixwood. The Wizard copied the page with a magical copying charm and outlined the section for tunneling charms before stuffing it into an envelope for Harry. "This section describes a tunneling charm and firewall incantation that should allow your WiFi to connect to the public access point... What you want to do is perform the spells on the area nearest the wall that is nearest the access point," Quixwood stated, making it sound easy.
Harry thanked Quixwood for all his help and began to make his way back through the Floo Network Authority and into the main hall. He was turning the corner to catch the lift back down to the Atrium and thinking about testing the new tunneling charm and where he would get a computer to try it. Suddenly he was almost wrapped in the robes of Arthur Weasley.
"Oh.. Mr. Weasley!" Harry said as he backed up to get a full view of the man.
"HARRY!" Arthur said and beamed with a wide grin.
"Well it's certainly good to see you – what brings you to the Ministry today?" Arthur inquired.
"I came to see Ms. Pickersgill about volunteering some time for the Hogwarts restoration. After that I came down here to talk with Bradford about a computer charm for Grimmauld Place," said Harry.
"Oh I see – good to know the new Technologies Office is helping out... Harry I need to get these papers to the office. Could you walk a moment? I'd love to have a word," he added.
"Sure.. got plenty of time!" Harry said.
"Harry, Molly and I have been talking and we've love to have you over for dinner soon. We're way overdue and Ron and Ginny would love to see you." Arthur grinned a wry grin as mentioned the last.
"Sure, that sounds great Mr. Weasley... Kreacher's not a very good conversationalist and it's been a little boring lately," Harry said flatly.
"Good.. Well, that's settled then. Look for our Owl soon Harry," Mr. Weasley said still beaming.
Arthur was about to turn the corner away from the lift, when he paused as if suddenly remembering something. He stopped and collected his thoughts. "Harry... Oh, almost forgot... I think the whole ministry knows you're in the building. Ah... If you have the time, Kingsley Shacklebolt would like to see you if possible. If you don't have time today, please make an appointment for later... Well, got to be going. See you soon!" Arthur said quickly as he rushed down the hall.
"See you!" Harry barely got the remark in before Arthur was out of sight.
Harry paused at the lift and thought to himself. What on earth could the Minister for Magic want with him. Should he make an appointment for later? Kingsley and him had been on good talking terms, but this was puzzling. Harry was still thinking when he walked into the lift.
"What level sir?" The operator inquired.
"Make it Level 1 please." Might as well be today, he thought.
The lift hummed upwards to the level and abruptly stopped.
"Here we are sir," came a monotone announcement.
"Thank you," Harry said as he was still scratching his head to figure out what the Kingsley could possibly want. As the lift jerked to a stop he paused for the door, then walked out of the lift entrance.
He noticed a Pointed arch entrance to a small receptionist lobby directly in front of the lift entrance. The arch frame was gilded in a gold leaf that reflected different colors of light around it. On the secretary's desk was a small name plaque that said 'Sandy Sparkelyn'. There was a very attractive red haired girl working behind the desk. Suddenly the head shot up to take notice of Harry standing in front of the desk.
"Oh excuse me sir – didn't see you standing. How may I help you?" she asked.
"My name is Harry Potter, and I'd like to see the Minister if possible?" Harry asked somewhat Sheepishly.
"Let me check Mr. Potter," she said in a rhythmical tone. She reached over and pressed a button on a gadget that looked a lot like the device Quixwood had been tinkering with. Once again a tiny bolt of electricity arced from the device on her desk upwards through a small hole in the wall to the next room. At that time you could hear a static like connection.
"Minister, a Mister Harry Potter is here to see you?" Ms. Sparkelyn announced.
"Yes, show him in Ms. Sparkelyn." Harry heard Kingsley reply.
"Right this way Mr. Potter," she said smiling.
Ms. Sparkelyn stood up and eased away from the desk. She looked back at Harry to make sure he was following. Even with the full robes, Harry could easily see she was tall, full figured and moved very gracefully. There was a small hallway off the back left corner of the room that hid the entrance door to Kingsley's office. Ms. Sparkelyn walked up to the leather padded door and pressed a little button that only her finger could activate. The latch clicked and the door cracked open. She opened the door wide enough for Harry to enter. "There you are Mr. Potter," she said smiling.
Harry walked into a huge oak paneled office where Kingsley was working behind a large mahogany desk. Harry couldn't help from taking a backwards glance as the lovely Ms. Sparkelyn left the room. When he turned back around he could see Kingsley watching him keenly over a green banker's lamp.
"Harry, yes please have a seat," Kingsley said.
Harry settled into a comfortable leather padded armchair.
"Sir, just ran into Mr. Weasley and he said I should come by and talk."
"Yes Harry, how have things been going lately? Heard you've taken up board at Grimmauld Place." Kingsley moved his chair around to the side of the desk to make the conversation more personable.
"Well yes Minister..." Harry started to say.
"Please Harry, call me Kingsley if you like," Shacklebolt injected.
"Thanks... yes I've been staying at Grimmauld Place, and with Kreacher's help we're trying to fix the place up," he said.
"Good luck..." Kingsley said laughing.
"It's a mess, but it's starting to look better... if you can believe that. Things have been pretty quiet and boring. So... I stopped by today to sign up for the castle restoration project," Harry said.
"That's very good Harry... I'm sure Minerva could use the help. I know she would love to have you there," Kingsley added with a hint of dissatisfaction.
"Min... I mean, Kingsley is something else on your mind?" Harry asked curiously.
"Well... Yes, now that you're out of school, I was wondering – curious I suppose, where your long term interests lie Harry," Kingsley said while narrowing his eyes. "It's been a while back, but Professor McGonagall said you were interested in the Auror service," he added.
"But Minister, I never got around to completing my N.E.W.T.s!" exclaimed Harry.
"Harry, considering your efforts in eliminating one of the most dangerous Dark wizards in history, I think we can work around that point. The same goes for Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger," Shacklebolt stated flatly and slapping his knee to add emphasis.
"You mean I don't have to finish my N.E.W.T.s?" Harry asked.
"That's exactly what I mean. We can get McGonagall to help you out in your weakest areas, but yes.. we can get around the N.E.W.T.s," he repeated gently.
Harry paused while reflecting on what Kingsley said while leaning back a little deeper in the padded armchair. "Well, that's great news sir. I... just didn't expect to get into the service quite so fast," Harry said with a troubled expression.
"Well, we're desperately short on Aurors right now," Kingsley said.
"But the war is over sir," Harry replied.
"Harry, if history has taught us anything, we know that war is never over. Now that Voldemort is gone, others will be ready to take his place. We have to always be ready Harry. We can't get caught like this again. 'Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them'," Kingsley patiently added.
Harry paused and looked around the room while thinking of a way to change the subject.
"Sir... about the article in Rita Skeeter's column – are we in danger of exposure?"
Kingsley paused for a moment while fidgeting with his pipe.
"We're still trying out who her source was - if she had one - yes there's some truth to her story. As much as I hate to admit it."
"Any ideas as to who's behind this - the stolen artifacts?"
"No, not really - oh a gang of some sort I would imagine. It's a serious matter, that's for sure," he said tamping the pipe. "We're already in enough hot water with the Muggle government after all the killings Voldemort committed - now this."
"Oh I see," Harry said nodding.
"Something else Harry... You may not know... In spite of all this, the ministry still has some connections with the Muggle government. We cooperate, you might say, from time to time. Dark wizards have been known to become entrenched in the non-wizarding world - to avoid capture from our detective branches. There has been cases, while few, where Muggle criminals penetrate into the wizarding world to avoid detection and capture from their side."
Somewhat puzzled as to what to say, Harry listed quietly. Kingsley paused while lighting the large droop stem pipe. He seemed satisfied the bowl was lit and flicked the match into the tray. He leaned back and thought for a moment.
"Muggle technologies are growing at a rate faster than new magic in the wizarding world. You might say, our worlds are becoming closer every day," he said after reflection.
"You grew up in a Muggle household Harry, and we desperately need people that can work in Muggle environments. You might be a good fit for this line of work," he added smiling.
"Well Minister, I'm really flattered that you've considered me for such a job as this. That being said... I just don't feel like getting back into this business of chasing down dark wizards right now," Harry said and drew a deep breath. "I know this type of work is probably a good fit for me. But, for right now, I'd like to enjoy the peace... I hope you understand," he said with an apologetic tone.
"Harry, I understand. Really I do. You and your friends have been through a hell of a lot in the last year."
"I'll tell Ron about this. He's mentioned he'd like the Auror service. Not sure when I'll see Hermione again," Harry said.
"From our correspondence with Ministry officials in Australia, I can tell you she's found her parents living in Perth. From what we understand, there's a lot of work left to reverse the memory spells," Kingsley said regretfully.
"Wow... I don't think Ron knows that. He'll be happy to know she's found her Mum and Dad," Harry said.
"Harry, take some time and enjoy yourself at Hogwarts. If you happen to get bored, consider my offer. Remember the training for this job will be rigorous. You'll spend quite a bit of time training before you go after any dark wizards. I can promise you that!" Kingsley said with a huge smile as he rose to shake Harry's hand.
With his head spinning as he left Kingsley's office, he just did remember to say goodbye to Ms. Sparkelyn. She had a beautiful smile that worked overtime with her green eyes. The Auror service was something Harry had thought of since his early days at Hogwarts. The trouble was, he just wasn't feeling it right now. The quality of life had not been so great in the last year. All that time on the run and hiding in the tent. Always on the move looking for clues to find Horcruxes – constantly worried about snatchers. The final battle had left so many faces with an empty stare laid coldly out on the castle floors. The thought of it again was draining. All he could think about now was getting back to the life he had enjoyed so much at Hogwarts. Only now, his friends were scattered and the school was partially destroyed. Oh well, a butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron should help sort things out, as he smiled to himself.
Harry had spent more time at the Ministry than he planned for. He would apparate to the Leaky Cauldron to save time. He found an alley just down from the Ministry after leaving the red call-box. With no one looking, he found a dark portion of the alley just out of sight from the crowded street. Now concentrating on the back yard at the Leaky Cauldron, he took a deep breath of air. Harry felt like he was being pulled spiraling through a bouncing rubber tube. Globules of light were visible outside of the tube. Moments later he felt himself pop out of the tube and reassemble in the yard at the Leaky Cauldron. Brushing himself off, he walked into the Dining room of the Leaky Cauldron. Business had picked up after the war had ended, and several wizards and witches were cackling and chatting above the normal din.
"Oh Harry... How are you getting along?" Hannah said smiling.
"Hannah... Thirsty... A butterbeer should help!" he said.
Hannah walked to the table with a frothy mug of butterbeer.
"You feel like something to eat Harry?"
"Yeah, I think I do.. Uh.. make it a Leaky House Soup."
The Leaky House Soup was a regular dish served at the Cauldron. Requesting it by name was almost a joke. Hannah smiled and left to the get the soup.
Harry took a full gulp of the cold butterbeer. He took the envelope out of his pocket that contained the tunneling charms Quixwood have given him. The charms were outlined with explanations of how to establish a portal through the magic of invisibility surrounding Grimmauld Place. Hannah returned with the soup and a plate of bread and butter.
"There you go Harry," Hannah said as she took a seat on the other side of the table.
"You're dressed nice today – you looking for a job Harry?"
"Thinking about going to help McGonagall on the Hogwarts project." Harry said before gulping down a spoonful of the soup.
Just as he was taking another spoonful of soup he heard a footsteps through the doorway.
Harry turned quickly to see Seamus Finnigan and some friends walking toward his table.
"Hannah... Harry's butterbeer is on my tab!" Seamus drifted over to the table, and Harry told him about the Ministry visit and the tunneling charm Quixwood has given him. Seamus agreed to bring his cousin's computer to Grimmauld Place so they could test the new charms. A few minutes later Dedalus wandered in as usual and made his way over to Harry's table.
Harry finished off the Leaky House Soup, a couple of butterbeers, and a celebration drink of Firewhiskey with Dedalus. Feeling no pain, he suddenly remembered Kreacher. He was supposed to meet Harry in the Leaky Cauldron, and it was getting late now. Before long the evening crowd would roll in and he'd never get out.