Valentines Day really was the highlight of February Harry decided as he reported for work on the first Monday in March. The second half of the month consisted of completing the paperwork associated with routine assignments, reading field reports from the teams positioned on the beach and in the cave to verify the timing of the rugs, working with Hermione on the shirts and the crystals, trying to plan various strategies for the muggles’ protection, and waiting for their map of the cave system to develop fully. Every few days they reset the sensors gleaning a bit more new information. Harry, Hermione and Rupert spent more time with Dr. Summerby on each visit learning how to interpret the scans: variation in the signals showed the placement of rocks, water and glass. Further investigation by Harry confirmed that the random lines which appeared as thin bands of interference on the map, were indeed caused by magic and represented the locations of concealment charms and shields. Harry let these thoughts drift away as he, Kingsley and Robards left the department staff meeting and walked three doors down the hall to a smaller, more private conference room.
“What do you have Harry?” Kingsley asked as they sat down for their Monday morning Auror Cabinet meeting.
“We’re doing well Minister,” Harry reported. “The first year trainees on my team have just returned from their memory training in France and are now able to help with the muggles on the AMASS, and we’re making steady progress with mapping the cave system. We are able to add another 200 feet to what we have every three or four days.”
“So how long to you think it will take to have a map of the whole thing?” Robards asked.
“We estimate the total depth of the cave system at about 4000 feet, which means it will take between six and seven weeks to map it completely,” Harry explained. “We’re four weeks into that, so probably another three weeks before we can be certain we have everything.”
“Which should be just about right,” Kingsley commented to Robards as the two exchanged a look.
“Just about right for what Minister?” Harry asked warily. The two older men looked as though they were planning something…something that was likely to interfere with his plans for this investigation.
“You have been doing a tremendous job coordinating the training for most of our trainees Harry,” Kingsley began ignoring Harry’s question.
“With the exception of one. Since the first of the year and your promotion to junior grade, you have neglected your own training,” Robards finished for him.
“Oh well, er…It just seemed like I should be around while we’re working so closely with the AMASS,” Harry explained.
“And I quite agree,” Director Robards replied. “However it was made clear to you when your promotion was granted that it did not relieve you of the responsibility for completing your own training.”
Harry suppressed the urge to groan in frustration. “Sir, I…”
“Harry,” Kingsley held up a hand to stave off his protest. “As I am sure that by now you yourself can appreciate, complex investigations such as the one you are currently involved with take time. During that time, the routine business within the department must go on.”
“Yes Sir, of course but…”
“It has been four months since your last foreign training Mr. Potter,” Robards pointed out.
“And even ongoing investigations can benefit from further training,” Kingsley reminded him.
“I agree but, Sir…we are getting so close!” Harry protested.
“All the more reason to go now, while you have the time,” Kingsley pointed out.
“We are sending you to Italy for foreign training beginning tomorrow morning,” Robards told him firmly. Harry opened his mouth to protest further but at the look on Kinsley’s face he closed it again without making a sound. “Two thirds of the cabinet agrees, so you will go.” He added, ending the argument before it started.
“This is not as ill timed as you may believe,” the dark-skinned wizard assured him. “The Italian wizarding community you’ll be training in lives literally on top of ancient wizarding sites all over their nation. Their ministry officials are regularly called on to investigate various aspects of residual magic. While it is true the specific magic used at their ancient sites may be different from what you are encountering on the Isle of Mann, they encounter it with such regularity that they have become experts at assessing the nature and possible threat posed by all types of ancient magic.”
“But Sir, we’ve all been taught a lot of those investigative sorts of spells here,” Harry said. “Surely the methods used for dissecting or investigating ancient magic are similar.”
“It is similar, but it is also unique,” Robards told him. “As you will discover, ancient magic powerful enough to linger into the present time exhibits some peculiar qualities as it breaks down rendering many investigative charms difficult if not impossible to interpret. You have shared with the minister and your intension to infiltrate the cave system to gain more tactical information as soon as your map is complete. Consider this training a series of practical lessons which will equip you with the skills you will need to interpret such ancient magic when you encounter it Auror Potter.”
Harry studied the two senior cabinet members. Normally he would have considered such an assignment as an attempt by Robards to interfere with the success of his investigation, but the fact that Kingsley was so wholeheartedly in agreement caused him to reconsider.
“You said this is practical training Sir,” Harry answered carefully. “Can you explain that?”
“This is a field training course Harry,” Kingsley explained. “Unlike most training abroad which is largely confined to classrooms, this course offers trainees practical experience in detecting, understanding and working in the presence of ancient magic. It takes place in Rome, which you will discover is a many layered city both for the muggles and the wizarding world. The new is built over the old, leaving a great complexity of ancient spaces within and beneath their city. This class will give you the tools to explore those intricacies properly.”
Harry leaned forward slightly in his chair, beginning to appreciate the opportunity being presented to him by the two more experienced Aurors. Even Robards it seemed was motivated by the need to ensure Harry could do the job. Suddenly Harry found himself able to step back, to look at the case he’d been so immersed in from a ministry point of view. Having a good outcome in their upcoming confrontation with the Death Eaters was important not only to him, his team and the muggles they were trying to protect, but also to the Auror department in particular and the ministry as a whole. As with most things where Robards was concerned, this was political. This was about making the Auror department look good in the public eye, and Harry had to admit, if they could pull this off, they probably would. In fact as he considered the investigation as a whole, this was by far the largest and most complicated active case. Clearing it and apprehending the Death Eaters responsible would be seen as a show of strength for not just the Aurors, but for Kingsley’s administration as well.
“Okay then,” Harry agreed. “Where do I go?”
Kingsley grinned as he handed Harry the memo.
The rest of the meeting covered the more mundane business of the department, but as Harry went back to his desk, he had the violet colored memo clutched in his hand.
“Hi Ron,” Harry greeted his friend with a grin when he got back. “Welcome back.”
“Thanks Harry. France was cool, but it’s good to be back,” Ron said. “Laura says ‘hi’ by the way.”
Harry nodded. He hadn’t seen much of Laura since their accidental meeting during the holiday with the girls, despite the fact she’d been on loan to the London office off and on during the first three weeks of February while the first of the trainees went abroad for training. So much of the work on the case was being handled by teams other than his own that Harry hadn’t seen any reason to assign her to work with them specifically, and so she hadn’t. Apparently as Ron confirmed from his greeting, last week she’d been in France working with the trainees there instead.
“So what have you got there Harry? That looks like those memos you send us when we’re going abroad,” Ron said.
“That’s exactly what it is,” Harry said. “They’re sending me to Italy tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Ron replied with a note of surprise.
“Did I hear that right?” Wendy asked appearing at Ron’s elbow in the space leading to Harry’s cubicle.
“Yeah you did,” Harry said as he exchanged the file in his hand for another. “I suppose we should meet and plot out how you lot should carry on without me.”
“Do we have time for coffee first?” Wendy predictably asked.
Harry grinned, set down his file and grabbed his cup.
Ten minutes later Harry’s team was gathered in the small conference room, discussing how Dean, Justin, and Ron would take over the task of helping the AMASS while Wendy and Smith would otherwise take over the leadership for the team during his assigned absence.
“The training is only fourteen business days and I’ll be home on weekends, so it’s not like I’ll be totally out of touch,” Harry said as he told them all what he’d be doing.
“As you say, we’ve got nearly three weeks more of plotting the cave before we can start sending anyone in,” Smith said. “It’s been going smoothly, with very little involvement from us other than to get the muggles through the barrier at the top, to assess the stability of the magic in the burial mounds, and to manage the rotation of teams in and out of Death Eater Cove and Death Eater Beach to monitor the transport schedules. Learn as much as you can Harry. I for one found it a very interesting course to take. Learning to assess the age of old magic and understanding the culture of the wizarding world at the time it is from… can go a long way towards understanding its purpose and how it functions. It really excellent.”
“Who’s going with you Harry?” Dean asked as their impromptu meeting broke up. “Not us.”
“No. I’ve already signed up all the second year trainees from my class, and Seamus Finnegan, Michael Corner, David Bode and Thomas Avery from your year are going. It’ll be their first class away so I hope they’re up to it,” Harry said gathering his files.
“I’m sure they will be Harry,” Smith said with a smile. “I’ve been very impressed by the practical skills of all the trainees you’ve brought in through the DA.”
Harry smiled. “I wish I could take credit for it.”
“Of course you can take credit for it,” Justin told him. “Harry, if it weren’t for you and Hermione starting the DA back in our fifth year, the lot of us would be complete rubbish at all this.”
“And I doubt some of us would even be alive,” Dean said seriously. “It made a difference Harry.”
Harry stared at his colleagues and former classmates. “Thanks. Now let’s see if we can keep doing that.”
As was usual on the morning before a foreign training session, Harry met his colleagues at the fountain in the atrium early then guided them all through the proper floo, this time to take them to the Italian Ministry in Rome. It was always interesting to look around at their surroundings when they arrived in a foreign country as the character of each nation was often reflected in the arrival hall housing the foreign floos and this one was no different. Great polished stone columns flanked each floo, but as Harry stepped through them and turned to look around, he found that the floos themselves were hidden. When he moved towards the center of this round room the spaces between the columns which contained the fireplaces appeared to be niches containing statues instead. Harry was curious about this until he turned to look about and discovered that the building housing the floos to the foreign ministries was open to the public and there were both wizarding and muggle tourists milling about. In fact this didn’t look to be a ministry building at all, more closely resembling a church or possibly a temple, and Harry wondered if they’d come to the right place until a moment later when a guard in muggle clothes approached them.
“All luggage entering the Pantheon must be stored. This way please,” he announced in slightly accented English.
The guard led them behind another column off to the side. As soon as they passed it, a narrow doorway opened in a solid wall directly in front of them. It closed again behind them as soon as they’d gone through it, once again appearing to be a solid wall.
“Welcome to the Italian ministry,” the man said. “If you will check your luggage here.”
He indicated a window looking in on a room off to the side. At first glance it appeared to be a normal luggage check room, except that across the room on the wall opposite where the wizards stood checking their luggage, another window looked out onto a muggle metro station, where muggles queued up to check their luggage for storage too.
“This is amazing,” Harry murmured under his breath as they finished. “Don’t you separate your ministry from the muggles?” he asked.
“Of course we do,” their guide answered drawing himself up to his full height. “However here as well as everywhere, muggles live all around us. We find it very useful to use selective concealment charms when hiding our world.”
“They can’t see us but we can see them,” second year trainee Susan Bones commented.
“Precisely,” their guide said. “I am Senore Rossi. I will be your guide and your instructor while you are here. You will find exploring our city to be a unique and educating experience, I think. Our approach to separating our two worlds is somewhat different from most. I have heard some from your nation even call it unique.”
Senore Rossi verified the trainees bags would be sent ahead and then led the class into the bustling city of Rome, and with that their instruction on detecting and navigating charms and concealments cast at different points in history began. Their lessons were indeed a tour of the city as wizarding doorways appeared to them on solid surfaces, or between columns of buildings muggles thought to be in ruins. The wizarding parts of the city were for the most part underground, running through basements or below the streets of the Roman city above. Manhole covers, made transparent by magic let in natural sunlight acting like regularly placed skylights. It was a fascinating experience, one geared towards teaching the trainees to recognize spells cast throughout the ages, how to determine the difference between an old concealing spell or a structural support charm through specialized applications and refinements of the revelo spell.
Harry appeared on the front doorstep of Twelve Grimmauld Place with a soft pop that first Friday after classes eager to contact Ginny so he could tell her about his week, and also to floo call Ron to inquire about their team and how the investigation was faring in his absence. Harry pushed open the front door, pulling the tapestry backed mirror from the inner pocket of his robes, even before Hermys came to take his cloak.
“Hi Gin,” he commented when she appeared in his mirror looking windswept and blown while Harry was still standing just inside his front door. “Are you still flying?” Harry asked in surprise.
“Yes, well we have our first game tomorrow,” Ginny reminded him. “So Gwenog’s making us run through these last few drills, until we all get it right.”
Harry grinned. “I won’t keep you then. I just wanted to let you know I’m home. We can talk tomorrow after your game.”
“Of course. And I’m bringing Teddy too,” Harry assured her. “They let me come home for the weekend, remember?”
Ginny grinned. “Are we still going out with my team afterwards?”
“Yes Ginny we will. I suppose it is time I met them properly.”
Ginny grinned happily into the mirror before ducking suddenly.
“Sorry. That was a bludger over my head. I’d better go. I’m glad you’re home safe. I’ll see you tomorrow Harry.”
Harry grinned as Ginny’s smiling face faded away.
“Hi Hermys,” Harry said as he turned to greet his house-elf. “Any dove mail this week?”
“No Master,” Hermys said. “All is very quiet while Master is gone.”
Harry nodded. “That’s good then. When is dinner?”
“At seven Master Harry.”
“Excellent. I have time to call Ron before.”
Harry hurried down to the kitchen to make his floo call.
“Hi Harry. How was training?” Ron asked when Harry’s head appeared in his fire.
“Brilliant. I don’t suppose you have time to update me on the case?”
“Can’t we do that before Ginny’s game tomorrow?”
“Are you going?” Harry asked.
“Yeah of course. She’d hex us if we missed it…the first game of the regular season and all,” Ron commented.
Harry grinned. “She probably would. She’s really been practicing hard.”
“I know. She hasn’t talked to Mum all week and Mum’s really got her knickers in a twist about it. It should be brilliant though, seeing Ginny play.”
“Yeah it should.”
“Mum and Dad are coming too,” Ron added.
“And you’re going with us to set the sensor on Sunday, right?” Ron went on.
“Yeah I am. I feel too out of touch in Italy. It’s too far for the dove and we’re underground most of the time so owls can’t find us,” Harry confided.
“But the training’s good though?”
“Yeah it is. Kingsley was right, this is exactly what we need. Look Ron, this floo isn’t secure so I’ll talk to you more in person tomorrow.”
Ron grinned as Harry broke the connection.
Saturdays had become the most stress free day in Harry’s week. He’d finally learned to keep Saturdays for himself and Ginny as much as possible only allowing work to encroach only when absolutely necessary. When she was practicing, as she had been in February, Harry would take Teddy and watch her play, before spending time with her afterwards. On those few Saturdays when she wasn’t practicing and didn’t have a game, the standing plan became for them to spend their time together, occasionally sharing some of it with family. This Saturday however was Ginny’s first official game of the spring and so Harry apparated with Teddy to the stadium just before noon to attend the game.
High up in the stands, Harry sat with Teddy on his lap, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley on one side and Ron and Hermione on the other. Play began and all of them cheered loudly with the rest of the crowd as cries of excitement erupted in time with the actions of the players, Harry’s voice louder than his companions by far. For the first part of the match most of the plays were being executed by veteran players, but the small group of family watching all hoped that Ginny would be rotated in at some point as the game progressed.
“So tell us about your training,” Hermione said during a brief lull in the gameplay.
The noise in the stands was just constant enough and loud enough to allow for some private conversation.
“It’s excellent Hermione, really, really good. If History of Magic at Hogwarts had been anything like this, I might actually have paid attention,” Harry told her, rising to his feet and cheering as the Harpies keeper blocked an attempted goal with an excellent sideways slide move. Ron, who sat next to Harry, cheered in appreciation.
“What do you mean, History of Magic?” Hermione asked. “Is it really a history class?”
“Well it is, but not the sort of class where they teach places and dates and happenings. Mostly we talk about the different sorts of spells that have been used throughout the ages. New spells get created and old ones get forgotten over time, so that every five hundred years or so, the sorts of spells that are in general use can be very different…Yeah! Go! Excellent save!” Harry interjected cheers with his explanation.
“That does sound really interesting,” Hermione agreed.
“But is it useful mate?” Ron asked somewhat skeptically, not actually willing to admit that a topic that involved history might be interesting.
“Yeah it is,” Harry said climbing to his feet again to cheer as one of the Harpies chasers scored a goal. Harry grinned as Teddy yelled too, wildly waving his hands. “Apparently old spells can be somewhat different than modern ones in their character, especially supportive spells. You have to be careful of the magic you do around them or you can cause them to fail completely. You do that and some old building is liable to come down on you. So you have to be able to detect them and to recognize what sort of spell it is. The best way to do that is to determine its age.”
“Then what do you do?” Hermione asked.
“Well that depends. It can affect how you choose to use your own magic when in the presence of older spells if you’re trying to not disturb anything,” Harry explained. “Also being able to detect barriers and wards created by older spells can be useful as well.”
“Yeah I think we’re seeing a bit of that,” Ron related. “At least that’s what Smith said.”
“You’ve gotten more scans then?” Harry asked.
“Yeah we did. It’s got gaps in it though,” Ron commented just as they rotated Ginny in. “Look! There she is!”
The entire Weasley section cheered for their favorite player. Harry saw Ginny grin and he was pretty sure she heard them, but the rapid play of the game immediately pressed her into action. A bludger was flying towards her and Ginny swerved to avoid it as the Harpies beater hit it back towards the stands and at the last minute the other team’s beater hit it back again, causing the crowd to ooh, duck and aw as they got drawn into the game. All the while Harry’s eyes tracked Ginny’s movements as she raced around the pitch in the setup moves Harry recognized from one of Gwenog’s plays, one of many Harry had helped her memorize over the winter break.
Right, dip, roll, swerve left, up, left again, Harry reviewed the moves in his head as she made them. Right again, down, turn, weave in and out, then left…”No left Gin! It was supposed to be left!” Harry shouted into the wind, just as a bludger flew through the space where Ginny would have been, if she’d gone left according to plan. But when she came up again the quaffle was in her hands and all further talk of sonar scans or training left Harry’s brain.
Harry and everyone else in the stands cheered. Teddy shrieked wildly with the rest of them, causing Harry to smile. He really did love this game, and according to Andromeda the little boy seemed to be trying to play it in the house, on his own tiny broom. The one Harry had given him for his birthday the previous year.
Ginny’s teammate grabbed the quaffle on a pass, threw it on and it swooped through a hoop for a goal. The crowd went wild. Soon the ball was captured by the other team and before they could reclaim it again, the opponent scored. The game was tied.
“Come on Ginny!” Ron shouted from Harry’s side.
“Come on Honey! We know you can do it!” Mr. Weasley cried in is own form of a cheer.
“Gin Gee!” Teddy cried.
Harry grinned. Everyone was cheering on his own personal favorite team member. He was so busy watching her, marking with his eyes her every move that he nearly missed it when Teddy suddenly pointed up into the air and shouted,
“That’s the snitch Teddy. Oh they caught it!”
It had been an exciting game, despite the fact that the other team won.
Harry and the others made their way down from the stands towards the locker rooms, eager to greet the players. Those fans without security access started to drift towards the exits and those with the correct clearance waited patiently for the team. A few minutes later the players emerged en mass from the locker room, ready to meet and greet their most loyal fans and family members.
“Great play Ginny,” Harry praised as he greeted her with a one armed hug.
“Thanks Harry,” she said hugging him in return.
“Great game Honey,” Mr. Weasley said waiting for his turn to hug her daughter.
“Thanks Dad, but we lost,” Ginny said with a grimace.
“Yeah but that wasn’t because of you,” Ron pointed out. “It was the snitch that won the game.”
Ginny chanced a quick glance around, wrinkled her nose and muttered. “Our seeker is rubbish.”
“Nah, she isn’t,” Harry told her. “I was tracking her as well. The other teams’ seeker was just closer when the snitch appeared and got there first.”
Ginny smiled. “So are you coming with us?”
“Yes, I just have to take Teddy home first,” Harry assured her.
“We’ll see you tomorrow then Harry,” Ron said. “We’re meeting in the square in front of your house about noon?”
“You can come through the floo,” Harry invited. “See you in a bit Ginny.”
He leaned in to kiss her before trotting slightly ahead of them to the gate with Teddy in his arms so he could apparate to Godric’s Hollow to take his godson home. Less than fifteen minutes later Harry was back, walking to the local pub where he would join Ginny and her teammates for a post game gathering. It couldn’t correctly be called a celebration considering they hadn’t won, but it had been a very close game right up until the end. They had all played well, despite the fact that it was the capture of the snitch that had ultimately decided the game.
“Hi Harry!” Ginny exclaimed, her hair streaming behind her as she ran to embrace him as soon as she saw him walk in. “I didn’t really think you would come,” she grinned grasping his hand.
“Why not?” Harry asked above the noise.
Ginny shrugged. “You never have before.”
“I was working nights after your games in the fall, I couldn’t. I’m off this weekend, so of course I would come.”
Ginny beamed at him. “Thank you,” she mouthed.
“You’re welcome,” he mouthed back as he captured her mouth in a kiss.
Whistles and wolf calls erupted from her teammates and Ginny blushed bright red as they pulled apart and she turned to face them.
“Harry, I’d like you to meet the Harpies. Team, this is my fiancé, Harry Potter,” Ginny announced.
“Harry Potter,” someone repeated.
“Did she say Harry Potter?” someone else asked.
“The Harry Potter?” came from Ginny’s other side.
“And before any of the rest of you ask, yes, the Harry Potter.”
Ginny glowed with pride as the girls crowded around her, anxious to meet the mysterious boyfriend she’d told them all about, who had turned out to be not only her fiancé, but a celebrity as well. Harry met all of them, trying to memorize their names. He’d known the names before because he’d seen them play in the fall, Ginny had told him about them and he’d read them in the programs, but he found that trying to connect the names and the faces to the personalities that went with them in an over crowded and noisy pub was easier said than done. By the end of the evening although he’d been introduced to all of them more or less, he’d only truly become familiar with two; a woman named Celia, Ginny identified as a friend, and another teammate named Bernie who tried to get friendly with him. Most of the girls Harry discovered had boyfriends of their own some of which were in attendance, but only a few seemed to be married. For the time being at least, the two of them fit right in.
“So what are we going to do on my next day off?” Ginny asked as Harry walked with her back to the dorms. “Please promise me you won’t have to work again.”
“I hope I won’t. Andromeda would kill me,” Harry said.
“It’s Teddy’s birthday in a couple of weeks, remember? He’s turning two. “
“Amazing isn’t it?” Harry answered. “Andromeda needs me to watch him Sunday morning while she’s doing some shopping, then again the next Saturday while she’s getting things ready. His party’s the day after. Molly and Fleur offered to help, which will leave Bill and I watching the kids. But before that, I need to figure out what to get him. Any ideas?”
“No. It’s going to be quite hard for you to top last years present to him,” Ginny remarked.
“Yeah, he really likes that broom,” Harry agreed.
Ginny grinned. “You’ll figure out something Harry, I know you will,” she told him as she reached up to kiss his cheek. “And having something to think about besides the Death Eaters and training would probably be good for you.”
“Probably,” Harry agreed. “So you want to come shopping with me, Saturday next?”
Ginny grinned. “On my day off? Absolutely,” Ginny agreed.
Harry grinned too as he pulled her into a more proper kiss. “Good luck with your games this week Ginny. I’ll come if I can.”
“Not if you’re working in Italy all week,” Ginny admonished. “Don’t do that to yourself again, okay?”
“But Ginny, I’ll be spending a lot of those evenings here.”
“So, you have to get up extra early the next day to go back. You know how late those games can run.”
“But I could come, for a while anyway,” Harry assured her.
“Harry, please…?” she pressed. “I’d rather you promise to take care of yourself than to promise you’ll come to Tuesday’s game.”
Harry gave her a crooked smile. “Yeah okay. You’re right. Thanks for understanding Ginny.”
Ginny smiled happily at him. “Thanks for listening Harry.”
“It’s getting better, isn’t it?” Harry asked.
Ginny’s only response was to kiss him. “See you on Saturday!” she called as she hurried back up the path.
Late the next morning, just before noon, Ron stepped from the floo into Harry’s kitchen, greeting him with a friendly,“You ready Harry?”.
“Yeah, just a sec,” Harry commented as he grabbed a bag of sandwiches Hermys had prepared. “Where’s Hermione? Isn’t she coming?”
“She sent me on ahead. She’ll be here in a bit,” Ron explained. “Are those sandwiches?” he asked eyeing the bag.
“Yeah they are. We’re starting so late I thought it’d be supper time before we’re done. This should help if we get hungry.”
Ron grinned just as Hermione too stepped through the fire.
“Are they here yet?” Hermione asked without preamble.
“The muggles, who’d ya think?” Ron asked just as a knock sounded at the front door.
“That’s probably them now,” Harry answered.
With the bag of sandwiches clutched in one hand he headed up the stairs with Ron and Hermione right behind him.
“What’cha got there Harry?” Dudley asked as Harry opened the door. Rupert stood waiting directly behind him on the front walk.
“Sandwiches!” Ron supplied from behind him.
“Cool! I’m always starved by the time we finish,” Dudley remarked.
“Exactly the reason I brought them along,” Harry remarked. “Are we ready?”
Everyone nodded and the sound of three soft pops of apparition followed as Harry took Dudley, Hermione took Rupert and Ron went on his own, appearing moments later on the hillside beside the enormous cut stones on the Isle of Mann. They made their way to the Digg Hut where Esme met them and the usual preparations were made. Hermione settled herself to watch the monitor with Harry while the other three went in.
“You don’t really have to be here Harry,” Hermione commented as the dots of the sensors moved along the now well defined path.
“I know. Kingsley keeps telling me that. I think that’s why he sent me abroad actually,” Harry commented. “But I don’t really feel like I know what’s going on if I’m not here.”
“But you learn so much when you go abroad,” Hermione reminded him. “Hasn’t nearly every one of your new insights into this case come from something you learned while in training somewhere else?”
Harry stared at her. “I’m sure that’s just coincidence Hermione.”
“Really? Was it coincidence that when you went to France that the muggles first started showing up there? Then when you went to Persia, you learned enough about Laura’s scar to be able to use it as a guide. Then when you went to Bulgaria…”
“We learned ways of identifying types of dark magic,” Harry recalled. “I’m not sure that one has helped me much.”
“But going to Egypt certainly did,” Hermione reminded him. “That’s how we finally figured out about the stones and the glass, it made you realize that it was a construction site you were looking for, and all of that.”
“Yeah I suppose,” Harry agreed.
“And I heard what you were telling Ron at the quidditch match yesterday. Learning to understand and identify all those historical charms and spells and things has got to help in a place like this. Walking into a place this old without that sort of knowledge could be a disaster. But instead you’re being prepared. You’re learning things. I think it’s brilliant.”
Harry couldn’t help but smile when Hermione looked at him so enviously.
“History of Magic always was your favorite subject wasn’t it?” he teased.
“I wouldn’t say it was my favorite,” Hermione objected. “I quite liked Ancient Runes and Astronomy as well.”
“Are you going to school?” Esme asked as she listened curiously to the two friends talk.
“Harry’s attending a special Auror training program in Italy at the moment,” Hermione answered for him.
“Hermione!” Harry warned.
“What? Surely there is no harm in Esme knowing that you are continuing your education. I think it’s something to be proud of Harry. I really do.”
Esme nodded thoughtfully. “You are studying magic in Italy? How odd.”
“Really?” Harry answered despite himself. He really hadn’t intended on saying anything about it in the presence of a muggle, but Esme’s comment surprised him. “How so?”
“Well, one usually goes to Italy to study art or history or even archeology in the form of ancient Roman architecture or culture, but magic? It’s not a place one associates with magic,” she explained.
“Oh well…I suppose it is a form of ancient architecture I’m studying. Lots of it has to do with how ancient structures were built at various points in time, methods for supporting them and that sort of thing,” Harry explained cautiously.
Esme seemed to consider that when suddenly her eyes widened. “Is that how they built all those ancient domes in Rome?” she asked excitedly.
“How do you mean?” Hermione asked warily.
“There are these domes all over what used to be ancient Rome that look like they shouldn’t be able to hold themselves up, but they do. Modern science and engineers say that such structures should be impossible to build, and even if you managed it, they shouldn’t stand for more than a few years. But most of them have been standing for hundreds of years. In fact the most puzzling among them…the Pantheon…it’s been there for thousands of years. I thought it was the most magical place I’d ever been to in the world when I was there,” she said dreamily.
“So you’ve been there?” Harry asked.
“Oh yes. Dad took me during my gap year, the year before the war. I really did enjoy that trip,” Esme explained.
Harry nodded with a contemplative expression but he didn’t say anything more as long as Esme was in the room.
“Have you been there Harry?” Hermione asked when the muggle girl stepped into the tiny kitchen for a coke.
“Yeah, last week. It never occurred to me that the Pantheon itself was a case in point,” he answered.
“How do you mean?’
“Well like Esme says, everything about it says that it shouldn’t stand up, but it does. Sort of like the Burrow but on a much grander, much older scale,” Harry explained.
“You mean that it’s held up by magic,” Hermione realized. “But Harry, that building is part of the muggle world. It’s famous like Esme says, and muggles have known about it for thousands of years.”
“But apparently it’s part of our world as well,” Harry told her quietly.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah I am.”
“How sure?” Hermione asked
“Very sure Hermione. The entrance to their Ministry of Magic is in the Pantheon,” Harry said in a low voice.
“You’re kidding,” Hermione gasped.
But Harry never had the opportunity to answer as Esme came back in handing them each a can.
“How are they doing?” she asked stepping around Harry to gaze at the monitor.
“Good,” Harry said. “It looks like they’re moving the sensor now,” Harry answered and the three of them focused on the screen.