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Chapter 5 : Attack On The Ministry
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ATTACK ON THE MINISTRY
The running of water accompanied by the clanging of dishes and the clinking of silverware were the sounds that woke Harry the next morning. After he had groggily opened his eyes, his surroundings were a reminder that he had slept through the night on Ron and Hermione’s pull-out sofa. Harry picked up his glasses off of the small table beside the sofa, upon which a solitary lamp was perched, and put them on so that the room came into focus.
Much like Harry’s apartment, Ron and Hermione’s was a mixture of the mundane and the magical. However, Ron and Hermione’s collection of magical artifacts was more obvious to the naked eye, with many whirring and enchanted objects going through their motions of fantastical abilities with expert precision. Of course, with someone like Hermione living here, the bookshelves were larger and fuller than the ones back in Harry’s apartment, and the books themselves were thicker. But overall, Hermione’s sense of decoration appeared to be better than Ginny’s, because this apartment’s design had the power to warm the heart of anyone who stepped foot inside.
Harry tossed back the covers on the pull-out sofa and got up, stretching his back to wake himself even more. Outside, the sky was a dull gray, which cast the living room in a pale white light. Harry then made his way into the kitchen, where Hermione (already dressed), was going about fixing breakfast whilst she had enchanted various other kitchen appliances to help her in her task.
Harry silently took a seat at the circular little table which sat beside the refrigerator, so Hermione didn’t notice he was there until she had turned around to put plates down.
“Morning.” Harry attempted to sound as cheerful as he could, but he could tell it still came out tinged with a bit of left-over gloom.
Hermione’s “Morning”, likewise, countered Harry’s by having sympathy in it. When silence uncomfortably followed, Hermione asked one of the textbook questions for a situation like this. “Did you sleep well last night?”
“I slept…okay,” Harry answered truthfully.
Hermione nodded in understanding as she took Harry’s hand. “Harry, I can’t even imagine how you must be feeling right now. And I’m not going to sit here and try to give you words of advice if you aren’t ready to receive them. All I’m going to say right now is that if you ever want to talk about it, I’ll always be available.”
Harry looked into Hermione’s eyes, which were shining with care, and he gave her hand an appreciative squeeze. “Hermione, I can’t even begin to describe how good a friend you’ve been to me all these years.”
“You don’t have to,” Hermione replied.
Hermione’s hand lingered in Harry’s for just a bit longer before they each let go, allowing Hermione to return to fixing the food. Harry couldn’t help watching Hermione go about this routine, curiously amused by how she seemed to know exactly what to do without even thinking.
By the time Ron had come into the kitchen, breakfast was ready and he took a seat beside Harry, fully dressed himself.
“How is she?” Harry asked plainly.
The night before, Ron had dropped by The Burrow to check up on Ginny, because Ginny had arrived to an empty home; Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had both been summoned away on urgent family affairs and nobody else except Ron had been available to console their sister. As a matter of fact, Ron had spent the night there with Ginny.
“Surprisingly, she’s taking it the same way you are,” Ron replied as he helped himself to some butter and toast. “But she still doesn’t want to be alone, so I promised I’d go back today. At least until Mum and Dad show up.”
“Does Barnes know about that?” Harry still hadn’t touched any of his food.
“Yeah,” said Ron through a mouthful of eggs and toast. “Besides, all my work for the Malfoy Manor case is done.”
This show of slothfulness caused Hermione to arch an eyebrow in Ron’s direction. Ron caught sight of it and swallowed.
“What? It’s not like Harry hasn’t seen me eat like this before.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Harry, before Ron left for The Burrow last night, he mentioned something about a book I could help you with?”
Harry suddenly remembered what he had wanted to ask her. “Oh, yes. Now, keep in mind that for the time being, this needs to remain strictly confidential.” When Hermione gave a nod of her head that clearly stated “Of course”, Harry pressed on. “Right after the funeral, I received a letter from John; pre-mailed, obviously. On it were only seven words: The Book of Merlin, William Donovan, and Trust No One. We were able to figure out that Donovan was someone on the Minister’s direct staff, but we still haven’t discovered anything about The Book of Merlin. We were hoping you could fill in that blank, Hermione.”
“The Book of Merlin?” Hermione leaned back in her chair, her mind already searching for any memory of those words. “I don’t recall reading anything about it. But what did it have to do with John?”
“Ron and I believe it was why he and Daniel were sent to Malfoy Manor. Possibly to find out how much Lucius Malfoy knew about it.”
“But the only problem is we haven’t the vaguest clue as to what weight The Book carries in the Wizard world,” Ron added.
“So we need to go to the one person we know can help us,” said Harry. “William Donovan. Now, according to his secretary, he should be back in his office today.”
“I wish I could go with you, mate, but…” Ron trailed off heavily.
“That’s alright.” Harry looked back at Hermione. “I’d like Hermione to come with me.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “What? Why me?”
“I’ve been through this routine before. And people in Donovan’s position almost always want legal counsel present when they have to divulge certain information. Since Hermione works in the Law Division, that saves me a lot of trouble.”
“What if Donovan’s dangerous?” pressed Ron, pushing his chair back and rising.
“Relax, Ron. She’ll be with me…a trained Auror, remember? I’ll make completely sure Hermione stays out of harm’s way.” Ron looked as if he was searching for a retaliation to that, so Harry quickly added on to his statement. “Look, you want to get some answers about The Book, right? As of now, this is our best option.”
“It’s okay, Ron,” Hermione said reassuringly. “I know how to defend myself if I have to. And Harry’s an expert Auror.”
Ron swept over to Hermione’s side and kissed her firmly. “You just be careful.”
With that, Harry wolfed down his breakfast in his desire to get to the Ministry as quickly as he could. When both he and Hermione were done, they got up and were preparing to depart when Ron grabbed Harry by the arm and pulled him to the side.
“I just remembered something I wanted to tell you earlier,” he said.
“What is it?” By now, Harry had magically replaced his pajamas with a more appropriate attire.
“Last night, when I was with Ginny, I got the distinct feeling that we were being watched.”
Harry suddenly perked up with concern. “Were you?”
Ron shook his head. “If we were, whoever it was must’ve realized my suspicion, because when I did a check around outside, there was no one there. But I’m telling you, Harry, it was like a pair of eyes was boring right into the back of my head.”
Harry pondered this for a minute. “If the same thing happens again today, send Pigwidgeon to me immediately and I’ll come there straight away.”
“Okay.” Ron glanced over at Hermione, who was standing by the kitchen archway, patiently waiting for Harry. “You two better get going. After all, you’ve got some important information to get. I want to hear about everything as soon as you can tell me.”
Harry nodded. He started to step toward Hermione, but lingered momentarily. He was on the verge of inquiring further about Ginny, but decided to hold his tongue. Instead, Harry gave Ron a final nod that showed his feelings of encouragement before he exited the apartment alongside Hermione.
As it so happened, William Donovan turned out to be waiting for Harry and Hermione. Well, he had been expecting an Auror in general, to be exact, because he showed no signs of surprise as Dorothy ushered Harry first into his office, followed closely by Hermione. Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but Harry thought Donovan seemed a little too relaxed, given the situation he was currently in.
On top of that, William Donovan was nothing like the image Harry had conjured up in his mind of the contact. Whereas Harry had been half-expecting Donovan to have the appearance of someone like Peter Pettigrew, a mousy little man who seemed like the right kind of wind would knock him over, the real Donovan was instead much younger and handsome-looking. Underneath a mass of dark brown hair were eyes that radiated not only self-confidence, but also an easygoing and friendly nature. But the latter was soon replaced with relief, while the confidence turned to anxious fear.
“Merlin’s Beard, you have no idea how relieved I am to see you.” Donovan’s voice seemed like a combination of high-pitched and deep and resonant. “That will be all, thank you, Dorothy,” he added to his secretary. Dorothy nodded and showed herself out.
Harry and Hermione moved toward the two chairs situated in front of Donovan’s desk, noticing the cluttered mess that was his office as they did. “Mr. Donovan, I assume you already know why I’m coming to see you,” Harry said as he took a seat.
“Indeed.” Donovan then pulled a black briefcase from under his desk and plopped it down upon his cleared-off desk. “But before I say anything, I want assurances that I’ll be protected.”
Harry indicated Hermione. “Miss Hermione Granger works for the Magical Law Division, so anything you tell us --…”
“Not that kind of protection,” Donovan interrupted. “The kind of protection that only Aurors can provide.”
“That depends entirely on the depth of the information you can provide,” replied Harry. “Now, we came here today because John Milligan sent me a letter before he died. It suggested that I ask you about --…”
“Not here,” Donovan hissed. “The people who are involved in this, they have ways of listening in that even the Ministry’s best security measures can’t account for. I want you to get me to a secure place where you’re sure we won’t be overheard.”
“How can we be sure what information you do have is valuable?” Hermione inquired.
“There have already been three failed attempts on my life. Is that proof enough for you?” Donovan got out of his chair in a flash, swinging his briefcase out in front of him like a protective shield. “Look, the people behind this plot are already aware of how much I know. I need to get out of their reach before they actually manage to kill me.”
Harry and Hermione gave each other the same look of agreement and they rose to their feet. Harry already had his wand out.
“There’s an Auror safehouse just outside the city,” he said. “We’ll get you there and then you’ll tell us what you know.”
Harry and Hermione began to lead the way toward the office door, but before they could reach it, the door opened of its own accord by way of a burst of wind that was strong enough to open the door, but too weak to send anyone to the floor. The wind was followed by a pure black owl swooping into the office, a pale yellow envelope clutched between its beak. The black owl dropped the envelope at Harry’s feet and then soared back out, evidently needing no payment.
Harry stooped down and picked up the envelope. Two words were written in solid black ink upon the front, every letter capitalized to emphasize the importance and urgency of the words: “OPEN ME”. Harry did as he was directed and tore open the envelope without wasting any precious seconds.
What Harry read next not only made his blood run cold, but also caused him to whirl around on the spot, his wand already aimed.
Donovan had been pointing his own wand at Harry, but the beam of red light that burst forth from Harry’s wand still caught him off-guard. Harry’s spell sent Donovan’s now immobile form flying into a bookshelf behind him, which caused a shower of books to rain down upon Donovan.
Hermione’s voice carried absolute shock, but instead of voicing an answer, Harry instead chose to shove the piece of parchment at Hermione. Hermione took the paper from Harry’s hand and quickly read over the contents, her eyes growing wide as she did.
“He’s…an impostor? But…how?”
Harry bent over the immobile form of the person impersonating Donovan, his mind already finding possibilities. “Polyjuice Potion, Confundus Charm, you take your pick.”
“But, Harry…the second line of this letter. It says we have to get to the Ministry Atrium now. It’s signed ‘The Shadow’. Who could that be?”
“Most likely an alias.”
Just then, Dorothy came rushing into the room, probably to investigate the source of the sound the impostor had made when he crashed into the bookshelf. When Dorothy laid eyes on the person in question, she adopted a confused expression.
“That’s not Mr. Donovan!”
Harry stood up. “But you showed us inside. You saw him.”
“Confundus Charm,” Hermione said to Harry. “He must’ve cast it over everybody on this floor. Very clever.”
“Do you recognize him now?” Harry asked Dorothy, assuming the Confundus Charm on her had worn off.
“No,” Dorothy answered plainly after a few seconds of concentration.
“Okay, we need to leave him to other Aurors.” Harry walked over to stand beside Hermione and reclaimed the letter. He reread it two times before looking back up. “Why would we need to get to the Atrium?”
The answer to Harry’s question happened to be standing near the reception desk inside the Ministry Atrium, engaged in a deep discussion with a few members of his staff.
Kingsley Shacklebolt had been elected Minister of Magic not long after the terror caused by Lord Voldemort had come to an end two years ago. There had been no competition, as everyone in the Wizarding world had no doubts that Kingsley was the perfect man for the job. During his time in office, Kingsley had enacted several changes in legislation that were for the best. For example, in honor of Remus Lupin, Kingsley had abolished the laws that people like Dolores Umbridge had so callously created as a form of discrimination against werewolves and other magical creatures. He also took into careful consideration pieces of legislation Hermione had come up with that concerned the treatment of house elves. Not only did he consider them, he put them into action, much to the delight of Hermione.
In terms of things at the Ministry itself, Kingsley had eradicated some of the positions, as well as the people who occupied them, that Voldemort had managed to infiltrate. The positions that Kingsley deemed unnecessary or contrary to his aim to make the Ministry of Magic a better place were eliminated and replaced with ones that would push the Wizarding world toward a better governmental system.
All in all, Kingsley was considered the best Minister of Magic to have come along in quite a few years.
The conversation Kingsley was having right now happened to concern Magical Law Enforcement. He was so enraptured in what he was saying, he didn’t notice the gang of black-cloaked wizards halt a few feet away from his group and form a straight line. As if they were all robots programmed to the exact same frequency, each wizard withdrew their wand, pointing them upward so that an array of red sparks erupted from the tips and caused a loud BANG! to reverberate off the walls. The wizards didn’t stop there, however, as they all then turned their wands upon the floor. As a result, the polished dark wood floor’s smooth surface erupted as chunks of it flew into the air, causing everyone inside the main hall to duck. That is, everyone except the ones who had caused the disturbance.
All of the cloaked wizards had faces hard as stone, but the most easily distinguishable one was the man who stood at the center of them all. He had long, flowing blond hair and a sinister sneer on his face that seemed to be permanent. Lucius Malfoy aimed his wand at the Minister’s group.
“Cooperate,” he muttered in his cold drawl, “and no one will have to die.”
Harry put the finishing touches on a glowing blue bar that stretched across the length of Donovan’s office door. The magical lock would hold not only make sure none of the immobilized impostor’s compatriots would attempt to free him via this main door, but Harry and Hermione had also placed wards over any other possible entrance to the office, such as holes in the walls, windows and especially the fireplace.
Harry and Hermione didn’t have time to question the person who had masqueraded as William Donovan if the letter from this Shadow person was to be taken seriously. They had told Dorothy to wait by the door until reinforcements had come to collect the impostor and had just turned their backs on the frightened secretary when all of a sudden there came a violent shaking that sent tremors through the ground. Harry and Hermione had to hold onto each other to keep from falling over, but they didn’t dare let go when the shaking stopped, for fear of a second wave.
When it never came, Harry gave a nervous glance at Hermione. “It sounded like it came from the Atrium.”
Without another word, the two of them Apparated from where they stood and appeared on the floor of the Atrium. The sight that was waiting for them was one of foreboding.
Lucius Malfoy and people whom Harry could without a doubt guess were his cronies had their wands out and trained upon the Minister of Magic and a few members of his direct staff. Making sure not to be seen or heard, Harry and Hermione crept behind a nearby bluish brick column, which was a part of one of the numerous fireplaces lining each wall. Harry saw Hermione reflexively take out her wand and hold it in a ready position. As far as Harry knew, the last time Hermione had engaged in a duel was during the Battle of Hogwarts two years ago, but there was no denying the fierce fire raging in her eyes as she examined the situation before them.
Malfoy had cornered Kingsley and his staff past the newly added reception desk and against the enormous fountain with the four golden statues inside it that spurted water from various openings. Now, either Malfoy had caught them all extremely off guard and it froze them or they simply didn’t wish to risk fighting back because none of Malfoy’s targets drew their wands or performed any sort of retaliatory action.
“What is it you want, Lucius?” Kingsley’s voice was cool and controlled, giving the impression that he and Malfoy were having a casual conversation over tea.
“I believe you already know the answer to that question, Minister.” Malfoy’s wand never wavered, and his other hand was visibly holding the top of the cane he dragged everywhere. To further solidify Malfoy’s position as one of power, the crater in the floor where one of his henchman’s curses had wrecked the surface was still smoldering. “You’ve involved yourself in matters that do not concern you, so now it’s time for you to pay the price.”
“Go ahead,” said Kingsley, the defiance in his voice barely discernable, “kill me. It’d be surprising if you make it two steps after that.”
Malfoy chuckled condescendingly, and the noise echoed off the walls eerily due to the utter silence filling the hall. All the while, Harry and Hermione were stealthily moving from behind one fireplace column to the next, edging as close as could be allowed without being spotted.
“Why, Minister, I’m fully aware that I’d be signing my own death warrant if I did kill you within these walls. No, I’m much too smart to do that. Instead, I’m going to take you somewhere where we can have a more intimate conversation.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Kingsley spotted Harry and Hermione. He didn’t need Harry’s frantic motions to tell him to stall for a bit longer.
“And where would that be?”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.” Quite easily, Malfoy stepped forward and roughly seized Kingsley by the arm. He barely had time to even think about Disapparating before Malfoy heard a confident voice booming from a short distance away.
“One more move, Lucius, and it will be your last.”
Both Harry and Hermione had emerged into the fray, wands level with Malfoy’s chest. They appeared quite the duo, but it didn’t have the desired effect on Malfoy.
He chuckled once more; Harry didn’t doubt that Malfoy was thoroughly enjoying this by now. “Ah, well, if it isn’t The Dream Team. Intending to be the noble hero yet again, are we, Potter?”
“I do it just to spite you,” Harry spat back.
Malfoy smirked as his eyes diverted to Hermione. “You know, Mudbloods shouldn’t even be permitted to carry wands anymore. It’s such a waste, seeing as how they’re unworthy to carry them.”
Hermione took a menacing step forward and scowled with deepest loathing as Harry shot crackling red sparks from his wand. They landed at Malfoy’s feet.
“The next one will be right on target,” Hermione said coldly. “Let the Minister go.”
“I don’t have any time for your naivete, Granger. The Minister and I are walking out of here without any trouble.”
“I respectfully disagree,” said Kingsley.
In a move Harry suspected Kingsley could have only learned during his stint as an Auror, the Minister of Magic twirled Malfoy’s arm off his own and whipped out his wand in the same motion, pointing it straight at Malfoy’s left temple. Kingsley didn’t say a word before a red burst of light emanated from his wand and shot at Malfoy, but was subsequently blocked and sent toward the brick wall opposite Malfoy; the Shield Charm Malfoy had conjured up shone in a midnight blue haze as Kingsley’s Stunning Curse created a hole in the wall. Malfoy’s shield was instantly retracted by him and he shot off a Stunning Curse of his own, but it was deflected by an orange ball of light Harry had cast. But more specifically, the orange ball opened up as if it had a mouth and literally swallowed Malfoy’s curse.
That was when the battle began.
Harry and Hermione lunged forward with their wands in the same instant as Malfoy’s men, and the result was madness. A cacophony of multicolored lights flew in midair, and they either exploded upon contact with one another or missed their human targets entirely and devoured chunks of wall and floor. However, the most common occurrences of that were at the beginning, due to each witch or wizard engaged in combat being expert duelers.
Harry was currently fighting a pug-faced wizard with close-cropped hair and a strong build. Evidently, this appearance was an indicator of the level of this man’s intellect, as it took Harry less than one minute to disarm him. Harry did so by aiming his wand at the wizard’s feet, where soon after a yellow-orange length of magical rope shot out from his wand and wrapped itself around the man’s ankles. Harry gave a hard tug, which caused the wizard to go soaring through the air and straight into the brick wall. Once the wizard was knocked unconscious, Harry squeezed on his wand and the magical rope flew back inside its source.
Harry barely had any time to prepare for his next attacker, as he was charging toward him at a breakneck pace, hurling enchanted bricks at him. Harry quickly ducked low and used his wand to draw a colorless circle in the space before him. He then placed his wand (which was still clutched tightly in his fingers) at the direct centerpoint of the circle. With a firm concentration of will, Harry’s circle released a wave of power that dissolved each and every brick into dust while paralyzing the wizard who had been charging Harry in the first place. With another power wave, the wizard helplessly went sliding away and down the floor of the Atrium, with nothing in his way to halt him.
At that moment, the fireplaces lining the walls abruptly came to life as they became aglow with green flames because many other Aurors started to appear and join in the fight.
As Harry finished off his latest opponent with a well-timed and well-placed Repelling Curse, he looked over at Hermione and had to admit he was quite impressed with what he saw. Hermione was taking down Malfoy’s men with quick and clean swipes of her wand which sent the thuggish wizards to the ground and unable to move, but only after they flew up into the air in angular arcs. Harry made his way over to Hermione, still shooting spells as he did, until he and Hermione were back-to-back with their wands raised. Each noticing the swarm of Malfoy’s men closing in on them, Harry and Hermione made a mentally mutual decision and a curving wave of misty white light snaked out of their wands. These curvy light waves circled around their creators and, at the same time, coursed through the heads of each of Malfoy’s thugs and pushed them to the floor like Dominoes. Each of Malfoy’s men closed their eyes and slumped to the ground in a heap once the light had passed through them.
Once that was all done, the only pairs left fighting were Kingsley and Lucius, accompanied by Ian and Ann. They were each dueling two wizards whose physical attributes made them closely resemble Crabbe and Goyle. Contrary to Harry and Hermione’s brand of dueling with wands, Ian and Ann seemed to have a style all of their own. Instead of simply firing off spells, they used their wands as swords. Indeed, the portions of their wands above the parts they were gripping appeared longer and more corpulent, shiny even. It was a spell Ian and Ann had learned early on; turning their wands into magic-filled swords. And from the looks of it, their opponents had used a special form of Priori Incantatem to allow their wands to do the same.
The four of them looked like modern day pirates by the way they swung their mystical, glowing blades above their heads. Each time the pinkish-purple blades connected with each other, sparks of varying colors rained down around the wand carriers. Ian in particular appeared really adept at this craft, as his blade was nothing more than a blur which would be in front of him one moment, but behind him the next as he performed a move comparable to a graceful pirouette. With another twirl, Ian lunged out with a kick to the chest, but that wasn’t what did it. After aiming his blade directly at the wizard, Ian was able to make his sword shoot four small lines, all of them the same pinkish-purple color, and the lines curved as they connected with the thug’s wrists and ankles. The force of this sent Malfoy’s crony hard into the wall, the magical bracelets now pinning him there.
Ann was faring just as well, if not with more ease. The clanging of the magical blades was just as authentic as the sounds of actual metal swords, and they came so often from this pair, it was hard to tell where Ann and her opponent had to break in between swipes. But just when Ann’s dueling mate blocked her blade with an easy horizontal stance with his own, Ann turned her wand back to its original form and blasted a Stunning Curse right into the wizard’s face. The wizard hit the floor immediately and Ann joined Harry, Hermione and Ian; they were all surrounding Kingsley and Malfoy.
Kingsley and Malfoy were both furious fighters when it came to wizard dueling, and they were each showing it at the moment. Both had to jump back numerous times, which allowed for many craters to form in the floor and whenever two of their spells would meet in midair, they would each rebound against the walls. Well into the battle, Malfoy seemed to realize that he was now surrounded, and he did something Harry couldn’t say he was really surprised by: he smiled broadly. But this smile carried the same darkly amused air his chuckle did earlier.
“Give up, Malfoy,” spat Harry as he held his wand in a fashion very similar to the way Muggle policemen hold their guns. “You’re surrounded.”
“For the moment,” Malfoy replied silkily.
Harry was just about to say something else when suddenly, Malfoy placed his cane out in front of him and brought his wand to rest against its midsection, forming a cross shape with the two objects. Before anyone could do anything else, Malfoy raised the cane (wand still in place), and forcefully brought the cane down upon the floor with tremendous force. The after effect was a large surge of clear blue energy coming from the wand and cane, then spreading outward around Malfoy to knock everyone surrounding him on their backs. Everybody, that is, except for Kingsley, who was quickly seized by Malfoy and engulfed in black ropes that wrapped themselves tightly around the Minister’s body.
Just as Malfoy Disapparated from the spot with the Minister in tow, he reappeared down the Atrium right in front of the lifts that led to the upper level. Harry had already half-hauled himself to his feet when he saw this, so he and Hermione wasted little time in Apparating after Malfoy. Ian and Ann were right behind them.
They caught Malfoy just after the door for the lift he had summoned opened, but he was apparently ready for them. He aimed his wand threateningly over Kingsley’s left shoulder as he started to edge toward the inside of the lift. Of course, Kingsley struggled the whole way.
No words needed to be spoken as Harry pressed the button for the other lift located right next to Malfoy’s. Luckily, this one arrived straight away; Harry, Hermione, Ian and Ann boarded it without hesitation. And even though the walls of the lift were not see-through, everybody still aimed their wands at the side Malfoy and Kingsley were on the other side of, just in case Malfoy tried to blast through with a spell.
Harry kept one watchful eye on the lift wall while the other was trained on the indicator which showed the levels of the Ministry they were quickly passing by. He took note that they were heading toward the level where employees could enter through a set of large rotating glass doors. But due to the fact that the Ministry had an enchantment over it that made Muggles see it as an out of order and run down building with decaying features, Harry wondered how it would look to passersby if a group of wizards emerged from a decrepit-looking building with their wands expelling great bursts of light. The ding of the lift reaching its destination, accompanied by the cool female voice announcing “Ministry of Magic Main Entrance” brought Harry back to the situation at hand.
Harry and Lucius Malfoy emerged from their lifts at the same time, walking out into the lavish Ministry entrance hall and out in front of the stainless spinning glass doors that allowed entry and escape. Harry and Malfoy were staring each other down in the same fashion as American gunslingers in the Wild West, each of them itching to use their weapon before the other. But Harry would never attack with his wand with the Minister of Magic in the direct line of fire, no matter how clean his shot may be. Malfoy seemed to realize this, because he pulled Kingsley closer to him while still retaining the lethal angle of his wand.
“See?” Malfoy sneered as he began inching his way toward the exit. Harry and the others were already following him. “Your weaknesses are your undoing, Potter. You won’t risk taking a shot at me because there’s a good chance you might hit the Minister. Even if it may be a minor injury to him.”
Malfoy was getting ever closer to the doors and once he was past them, he’d be out in the middle of a street full of innocent Muggles. Harry knew it was now or never. He glanced briefly into Kingsley’s eyes and in that split-second, they came to a decision. After Kingsley gave Harry an almost imperceptible nod, Harry fully leveled his wand and shot a burst of blue light that scraped against Kingsley’s shoulder, but connected fully with the upper part of Malfoy’s chest.
Malfoy released Kingsley and stumbled back as a result. Kingsley sank to the floor, the black ropes that were binding him completely gone by the time he was down. Harry saw a tear in Kingsley’s robes just above his shoulder blade along with a thin trail of fresh blood. But Harry didn’t dwell on that; he just kept approaching Malfoy, who was now without any leverage.
“Never assume, Malfoy,” he said just as smugly as Malfoy himself would have said it.
Malfoy gritted his teeth and raced out of the Ministry and through the glass doors, not even bothering with Apparition. Harry and the others gave chase.
They found Malfoy standing in the middle of the street outside, his appearance eliciting quite a few glances from passing Muggles.
Harry and Hermione saw it before anyone else. Malfoy was aiming his wand at the pavement beneath him and smiling coldly, calculatingly, at Harry. Harry’s eyes widened and he grabbed Hermione by the arm as he yelled out to the entire street.
“EVERYBODY GET DOWN!”
Harry then fully wrapped his arms around Hermione in order to shield her, but it wasn’t enough. What sent them both sprawling across the pavement was not only Harry’s momentum, but the shockwave of the blast as well.
The street exploded in a contained shower of pavement chunks and dust that swept over all who had been thrown down. The street that still remained intact now had craters through it that dug almost as deep as the sewage lines.
Harry’s head rang and he could feel cuts under his chin and in the left palm of his hand. He looked to his right and saw Hermione beside him, a fresh but small gash just above her right eyebrow. A line of blood also trailed from the corner of her mouth. Without thinking, Harry slid his hand across the distance that separated it from Hermione’s and squeezed.
Above the ringing, Harry heard the popping of what he assumed were more Aurors. He was right, because seconds later there came the sound of simultaneous shouts of “Stupefy!” That was followed by a great explosion of red light that was reflected in Harry’s askew glasses. Whether Malfoy had lingered long enough to be on the receiving end of those spells was something Harry wasn’t immediately sure of, but he would worry about that later.
Right now, all Harry was concerned with was accepting the invitation of the soothing blackness that was washing over him. The last thing Harry heard was Hermione saying his name in a very worried fashion and the last thing he felt was her tightening her grip on his hand.
It felt comforting.
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