Chapter 12 : A Rock Of The Boat
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A few days after Severus had rushed from the Burrow to go on his trip to America, Harry appeared in one of the Ministry of Magic fireplaces at around noon. He stepped out and brushed himself off before walking along the reflective black floor towards the elevators.
A few people waved their hands and nodded their heads as they saw him, he smiled back and returned the ‘afternoons’ and ‘How are you’s’ to everyone that said hello.
There was some kind of press coverage going on at the far end of the entrance floor, and he saw a few familiar faces. Rita Skeeter was stood at the back of the crowd of reporters. She looked sullen and bored, writing things down without her Quick Quotes Quill which had been removed from her possession years ago. Harry had heard that she was now working for a much smaller newspaper, and she was given just the odd column now and again. She looked over and spotted him, her eyes immediately brightened and she opened her mouth to speak, but Harry got their first.
‘One word to me Rita and I’ll cast a Tongue Tying curse on you so severe you’ll be trying to unravel it for a week’ her mouth shut suddenly, she glared and then turned back towards the crowd of people, writing down notes and snapping photographs. Harry couldn’t see who it was they were all interested in, but he suspected it was something to do with the new movement towards Dark Magic.
A few months ago Kingsley had informed Harry of a new procedure to stop the usage of Dark Magic. It was a risky movement, one that obscured the Free Rights of Wizards and Witches alike, and so it was bound to cause an upheaval when it came to the Publics knowledge.
Harry walked around the crowd and bumped into another familiar face, only this one he was much more pleased to see.
‘Malory Merryweather, fancy seeing a girl like you in a place like this’ he said sarcastically. The young witch turned around, and gave him wide smile.
‘Oh ha-ha-ha’ she smirked, and held out her hand. Harry shook it, and as always was surprised at the strength in the young woman’s grip.
‘Good afternoon Mr. Potter’ she smiled. She was a stunningly beautiful witch, she had tight blonde curls that swam to her elbows, bright blue eyes that were usually heavily accentuated with black eyeliner and mascara, and had a clear, pale complexion that made the redness of her lips even more inviting. Indeed, Harry saw several of the surrounding male reporters and photographers either drooling, or throwing him jealous looks as he let go of her hand.
She was wearing a pale blue dress that was rather short, the hem touching the middle of her thigh, with a pair of pale blue knee high boots. She was holding a pad and a quill in her other hand.
‘How many times have I told you Malory, quit calling me Mr. Potter, you know me well enough to call me Harry’ he shoved his hands in his pockets. Malory had landed a job with Xenophilius Lovegood for the Quibbler, and at age seventeen too. She had been there nearly a year and was chief reporter for the magazine.
Harry at first thought Malory would be the last person Xenophilius would ever hire for a job. She didn’t exactly look the part for a reporter of The Quibbler, she was far too chic for that, nor did she believe in anything remotely odd like Nargles and Crumple Horned Snorksnacks. On the other hand, she was a uniquely talented writer, and she could just about wrangle an interview out of anyone with a mere flutter of her eyelashes.
Apparently the old man could show some more tact that would necessarily be thought upon first looking at him.
‘What’s going on?’ Harry asked her, gesturing towards the crowd.
‘Oh, Neville Longbottom has stood up in the Minister’s place to give out details on this rumour about a break out from Azkaban’ she waved her hand at the details, pulling up one side of her lip dismissively. Harry’s brow furrowed.
‘I’ve not heard anything about that’ he said strongly, peeking over the heads of reporters and seeing the top of Neville’s head marred by camera’s and waving hands.
‘Well, I caught hear of it first thing this morning. Bat droppings if you ask me’ Harry smiled at her ‘one speck of snow can get turned into an avalanche after all’ Harry nodded, his brow still furrowed.
‘Although’ she said inquisitively, and Harry noticed that sparkle of intuition that seemed to glow in those bright blue eyes when she was onto something.
‘I have to say that this sudden press conference is perhaps just a rouse to keep all of us “Vultures” off of the scent of another story’ she glanced at Harry, who looked at her with a neutral glance. He wasn’t going to answer her, but he wasn’t going to out rightly dash her suspicions either.
‘It has struck me, that since Kingsley Shacklebolt made Minister for Magic five years ago, he has not been away from his post for more than two days. He has always returned speedily back here to make sure the country is running smoothly. And yet… without word of where is was going, and without one single appearance anywhere in the world, he has suddenly disappeared on a mysterious trip, and has not been back for two weeks’ Harry smiled inwardly at her keen perception… she was not wrong.
‘Malory’ Harry said ‘If I knew anything more than you, you would have the first interview, I promise that’ he saw her bite her lip, apparently his answer had uneased her. Perhaps she was scared about what may have happened to the Minister if Harry knew nothing about it either. He placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled.
‘See you Malory’ he said and walked away.
‘Bye Mr. P… Harry’ she said, and shrugged before turning back to Neville.
Harry made it to the elevators and stepped out at the floor of Magical Defense in which his office was.
He stepped into the resources office and began searching through a few files; a bit of out of work research as Ginny and the children were at the Burrow for the afternoon. He was there for about half an hour when he spotted Neville walk in. He looked above a stack of old papers and observed the several changes that seemed to have sculptured Neville into a very different person.
His appearance had deteriorated even worse than when he was at the Burrow, his skin was hanging off of his face, and he looked about twenty years older. There were even deeper dark ditches beneath his tired, blood shot eyes.
He spoke to the woman at the desk and then turned around and saw Harry looking at him. He smiled weakly, and waved half heartedly before trudging over to where he was sat on his table, surrounded by old newspapers and reports.
‘Hey Neville’ Harry said, and gestured his hand for him to sit at the table, Neville shook his head.
‘I’ll have to get going in a minute, I’ve just come from a press release and I’ve got to go back to my office and start on a stack of papers that have been there for a week’ he drawled.
Harry stared at him suspiciously; he knew something was going on, something he couldn’t guess at. It seemed far too distrustful that the Minister should disappear from sight with an explanation that he has gone abroad to ally with other countries.
‘Neville’ Harry said sternly, keeping his voice low so the woman at the desk would not hear ‘I do not take you for a fool, and I hope you would never take me for one in return’ Neville stared at him, a little fearfully ‘But do not think that some of us have not twigged onto certain lapses in truth with concerns to Kingsley. I’m not the only one keen on spotting a lie when it comes face to face with me. I’m sure a reporter or two are onto a trail as well… so I would be very careful about how you handle yourself’ Harry had meant it as a few words of advice, but he was suddenly aware that these words may have sounded like a threat. Neville’s face darkened, and he leant down over Harry’s table.
‘I’ve always admired you for your courage to stick your nose into other people’s business and make a positive change after it Harry, but I’m asking you, no, I’m telling you as a higher ranking Ministry official to keep your nose out’ Harry had never heard Neville speak with such demand, Harry glared at him.
‘Tell me what’s going on Neville’ he said angrily ‘Where is Kingsley?’ Neville’s ears turned a rather ferocious red and he leaned in even closer.
‘We’ve known each other a long time Harry, we’ve been through a lot, through childhood, through school, through war and death and I have always felt that the two of us have kind of been in the same boat. But this isn’t school, and we have made our leaps from the side of that God forsaken boat that tended to cause so much misery for the both of us. I can’t tell you what’s going on, and I pray that you do not go looking for answers… because you will only find trouble’ Harry stared up at him silently, and then watched as Neville turned and stormed out of the room.
Although Neville had given him no answers, Harry came to one correct assumption. There was definitely a problem within the Ministry, and that problem was to do with Kingsley’s disappearance. Harry slammed an old newspaper down on the desk and glanced out of the window, there were dark clouds descending outside, and he began to feel the sticky humidity of a thunderstorm on the way.
Here we go, yet another chapter. What do you think? Can you believe the changes in Neville's character? And how do you like the introduction of Malory Merryweather? She's set to play a bigger part in the future :D I would love to know what you all reckon? Thank you!
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