It had been eight days since Harry and Ginny had unintentionally spent the night at Potter Manor. Harry had decided that he rather missed the deep feather bed. The camp cot he had woken in this morning creaked loudly as he twisted beneath his covers and pressed his head to the pillow hoping to capture a few more minutes of sleep. His mind was already clearing and he knew he would be fully awake in a matter of moments so, getting up was the only real alternative.
As he made his way down the hall to the water closet, it hit him; just what he had to do today, and a mild sense of foreboding came over him. Today was the day he was to meet with Minister Scrimgeour. It also happened to be Ginny’s first day of OWL testing so they would be heading off to the Ministry immediately after Breakfast. He would have liked to go with Mr. Weasley and Ginny, but he knew that security would be an issue and Mad-eye Moody would have made some other arrangements.
Upon return to Ron’s room he gave the corner of Ron’s bed a quick kick, at which Ron popped up to a sitting position and muttered “M’up, I’m up,” and promptly fell back against his pillow into a full snore.
Harry dressed quickly and then made sure that Ron truly was awake before heading down to breakfast.
In the kitchen, as had happened every morning since the discovery of the Manor he found both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley seated at the table enjoying a leisurely breakfast, served by Jarvy, who had insisted upon coming to The Burrow every day to see that “Master Harry” was well fed and cared for. At first, there had been a delicate struggle between Mrs. Weasley and Jarvy, as Molly had not wanted to give over meal preparation to the elf. However, eventually, as she realized that she could use the time to help with wedding preparations, and attend Bill, she had relinquished the kitchen, still somewhat reluctantly, to the insistent elf.
Harry had barely tucked into his breakfast when Ron shuffled into the kitchen groggily, followed by a characteristically chipper Hermione, and a frowning Ginny. Hermione was reciting a passage from some textbook, at Ginny, as she had done almost constantly all week in preparation for Ginny’s tests.
“Morning, children,” came Mr. Weasley’s automatic greeting, as they each found their seats around the table. “We’ve about an hour before we have to leave for the Ministry,” Mr. Weasley stated matter-of-factly.
“Oh, my goodness, so soon?” Hermione responded, as she stood back up, nearly in a panic. “I’ll run and get your transfiguration text, Ginny; we’ll just have time to go over your fifth year spells tables one last time.”
“Please, Hermione let’s not,” Ginny said as she gripped her coffee mug tightly. “I’ve had all the study I can take.”
Hermione sat back down reluctantly. “Okay… I guess we’ve done enough preparation,” she said, barely hidden disappointment shown across her face.
In fact, in the past eight days Hermione had had Ginny in a state of almost constant study, so much so that Ginny had not even returned once with Harry to the Manor, when Lupin had come, as promised, to take Harry for exploration visits to his family home.
“Harry,” Mr. Weasley was speaking through his morning paper. “As a security precaution, Moody would like you to floo to Grimmauld Place as soon as you’re ready, and he’ll accompany you to the Ministry for your Meeting with the Minister.”
“Yeah, and I’ll bet you’ll be flooing all over Britain before you land at the Ministry, mate,” Ron added between bites of toast with marmalade.
Harry chuckled at the comment, but the atmosphere at the table remained subdued for the Weasley home. Even the happily offered food from Jarvy, hovering about the kitchen did little to lighten the mood.
After finishing his breakfast, Harry excused himself to return to Ron’s room where he consulted briefly with the Dumbledore card. They had discussed the impending meeting a number of times during the past eight days, and Harry was confident that he knew what he had to do, but Dumbledore’s always-thoughtful reassurance was still a help.
Upon his return from the Manor eight days past, Harry had written a letter to the Minister agreeing to meet with him. Rufus Scrimgeour, he knew would not be put off indefinitely. Now in less than an hour he would be meeting with the Minister.
Harry tucked away the card and base safely in his trunk and headed down the stairs to the sitting room.
Mr. Weasley and Ginny were ready to depart for the Ministry. Bill and Fleur had come down for breakfast now and everyone was wishing Ginny good luck with her exams.
“Harry, you had better get going,” Mr. Weasley called as Harry crossed from the stairs. “If I know Alastor, he’s getting quite anxious by now.”
Harry crossed to the fireplace where everyone was standing, Bill and Fleur moved aside knowingly to clear the path to Ginny. Harry stepped right up to Ginny and took her hands in his. “Good luck with your OWLs Ginny,” Harry smiled at her.
“Good luck with the Minister, Harry,” Ginny smirked back. “Wanna trade?”
“No,” Harry chuckled along with everyone else. “I’ve already done my OWLs,” He said, “I suspect what I have to do this morning is a bit easier.” He grinned looking deep into Ginny’s eyes. Her clear return gaze told him she knew he wanted to kiss her, and if not for her family all around them, would have pulled her into a firm hug. She stood to her tiptoes and pecked him on the cheek.
“You’d better go.” She said. Harry reluctantly released her hands and turned to the fireplace. Harry took a handful of floo powder from the canister Mrs. Weasley was offering and stepped into the grate. Waving a silent goodbye to his surrogate family, he tossed the powder to his feet, spoke “Grimmauld Place” in a strong clear voice, and swirled away in a burst of green flame.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The dingy kitchen at Grimmauld Place had not changed much since he had last seen it. It was a bit cleaner perhaps, but still the same dark cavernous stone room. As he stepped from the grate, Lupin got up from the kitchen table to greet him. “Finally, Harry. You made it. Alastor was starting to worry.” Harry took his outstretched hand and shook it firmly. “Have you had breakfast?”
“Yes, Sir,” Harry muttered.
“Moony.” Lupin corrected. “Harry, call me Moony, or Remus, but not, Sir. Remember you agreed?” Lupin smiled warmly and released Harry’s hand. Harry smiled in return.
There were a number of people in the room, most of whom Harry recognized as members of the order, though there were a few he had never met before. His eyes landed on a woman at the far end of the table, a woman he recognized immediately and was very surprised to see there.
Imani Nowell, the Daily Prophet reporter stood as she noticed Harry’s recognition. She crossed to him and offered her hand. “Very good to see you again Mr. Potter,” she said. Harry shook her hand silently, and looked to Moony questioningly.
“It’s perfectly alright Harry,” Lupin said reassuringly, “Miss Nowell is a member of the Order, one of many new recruits. She has been very valuable at helping us both feed information to and receive information through The Prophet. ”
“You need not worry about my status as a reporter Mr. Potter,” she said, “as with all members of the order I have submitted to certain magical vows of secrecy… Though I still want to collect on your promised interview?”
“Of course,” Harry smiled.
“And you shall, Imani.” The gruff voice of Alastor Moody preceded him through the kitchen door. “In fact, you may get your opportunity yet today after Harry has his meeting with the Minister.” Moody lumbered toward them and placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Well, boy, we’d best be off if we expect to get you to the Ministry in time.”
Harry nodded to Moody, “Good to see you again Miss Nowell, and please call me Harry,” he said as Moody guided him toward the door.
“Good luck,” Lupin said as Harry and Moody disappeared into the hall.
As they headed up the stone steps toward the main hall Harry asked, “Are we going to Apparate to the Ministry? I somehow thought we might just floo there directly?”
“No Harry,” Moody said as he reached the main hall and turned toward the front of the house. “We aren’t traveling by any means any Wizard would expect, wouldn’t be secure to be predictable.” They moved quietly down the hall, past the curtained portrait of Mrs. Black, and right out the front door.
The sun was bright and warm on the front stoop as Harry stood for a moment letting his eyes adjust. Moody, took his elbow and hurried him down the steps and through the front gate. As they moved along the walk, Harry noted, absently, that many of the homes around the little square had undergone considerable repair since his last visit almost two years before. Still, it was clear as they made their way toward the miserable little Under-ground station, that the area was far from the nicest part of London.
The run-down streets were completely deserted, until they neared the station where a few Muggles were coming and going. Harry, assuming they were going by train, as he had done with Mr. Weasley before, turned toward the station, but Moody caught his arm and stopped him at the curb. Moody hailed a cab as though he had done it a hundred times before, and soon they were rattling down the roadway in an old, black, London taxi.
It was a short drive to central London and Harry began to recognize the streets from years before. The taxi rattled down the road with the single pub, and shabby offices, past the still over-flowing dumpster toward the red telephone box that Harry knew was the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Harry reached for the door handle in anticipation, but then turned to Moody in confusion as the taxi passed the lonely disheveled landmark and turned the corner. They passed a stone and wrought iron topped wall and turned again down a narrow road with recessed doorways and sunken windows. They came to a stop finally in front of a long brick wall, which impressed Harry with its marked lack of graffiti.
Moody produced a few Muggle notes from the pocket of his leather coat to pay the fare, and the cab rattled away, leaving them standing on the narrow sidewalk. Harry glanced up and down the road, which was entirely unremarkable. The buildings were tall and close and nothing broke the lines of the walk but an occasional no-parking sign and a dingy forgotten blue police box; toward which Mad-Eye was already moving. Harry followed.
The blue paint on the solitary booth was faded and flaking and the small windows along the top had been broken out. An orange tape was stretched across the door which read “out of service” in large black letters, and a small official looking note had been pasted to the side which said that the box was scheduled for removal, but the portion with the removal date was torn away.
Moody ripped away the tape and pulled the door open, ushering Harry into the small space. The booth was completely empty; everything that once occupied the small space had been removed leaving obvious blank spaces. Questions about what they were doing here were burning in Harry’s mind, but he decided that he wasn’t sure he needed to know the answers.
Moody, turned and tapped the closed door with his wand, muttering a spell beneath his breath which Harry didn’t catch. There was a faint, momentary illumination around the edges of the door and Harry felt a lurch in his stomach, as though he had suddenly dropped several feet and been thrust up again. Moody pressed the door open.
“Hold!” came a loud, shouted command, from outside the police box, startling Harry. The door swung open to reveal a group of alert and anxious looking Wizards, all with their wands out, all pointed at the open door.
Moody stepped forward slowly. “Alastor Moody, former Ministry Auror,” Mad-Eye said, as he moved from the dark Police box into the light of the room. There was a tense few moments as the group stood silent, wands leveled at Mad-Eye.
“Welcome, Alastor,” Kingsley Shacklebolt’s voice broke the palpable silence. “I’ve been expecting you.” He turned to the room full of Aurors. “Wands down everyone,” he said.
Harry stepped out of the dark box to the curious stares of the Aurors. He glanced back to see the door he had emerged from was a broom cupboard.
“No one has used that emergency entrance in years, Alastor,” Kingsley spoke as he lead them across the lounge into an adjoining room, which Harry recognized as the interior of the Auror’s offices of the Ministry. “Most of this lot, didn’t even know it was there,” he said, motioning back toward the bewildered looking group of young Aurors in the room.
Kingsley led them through the tightly packed maze of cubicles toward the front of the Headquarters where they stopped at a small desk. “We can do your security check here and issue you visitor’s badges.” He motioned to a small desk which sat just inside the main doors. A cleanly shaven neatly dressed young man sat at the desk examining what looked to Harry like a Remembrall, though the smoke inside the glass sphere was a brilliant teal.
There was a broader space between this desk and the first row of cubicles, which formed a short hall toward a set of double doors. Gilded letters on the double doors read, “Head of Auror’s,” and beneath these words was a brass placard with the name Gawain Robards.
“Morning, Hamlish,” Shacklebolt said to the man as they approached. The Auror at the desk quickly set down the small device and retrieved a thin, golden Dark Magic Detector from the top desk drawer. He stood up and stepped to the side of the desk, motioning for Harry to stand on a spot next to him.
“Quite a morning we’re havin’ in’ it?” the younger man said to Shacklebolt. “Morning, Mr. Potter, Mr. Moody,” he added quickly acknowledging, Harry and Mad-Eye. He swept the DMD along Harry, front and back, and then held out his hand. Harry took this to be a request for his wand, recalling the security check from his visit to the Ministry on the morning of his hearing two years before, and handed it over. This was obviously the correct response as the man set it on what looked like a small kitchen scale and a moment later a small slip of paper issued forth from the base of the thing.
“Heard about the to-do this morning, with the raids?” The man continued to try to engage Shacklebolt in conversation as he evaluated Harry’s wand. Kingsley made no response. “The field team reported they broke the wards on a Death Eater hideout, sounds like they may have uncovered some real valuable information.”
The man handed Harry back his wand, and a square silver badge which read “Harry Potter, meeting.” He then motioned Harry back and Moody forward to repeat the process.
“And I heard you had an interesting morning yourself, Kingsley? Can’t wonder what the Minister is thinking having you bring that Muggle into the Ministry?”
Moody snatched his wand and badge from the young man and grumbled audibly. “Hamlish?” he questioned out loud, causing the man to look directly at him. “Your father wouldn’t be Augustus Hamlish?”
The younger man stood a bit straighter and replied, “Yes sir.”
“Humph,” Moody looked him up and down, his magical eye focusing on him as well. “Makes sense, ole’ Gussie always talked too much too.” Moody turned toward the main doors leaving the suddenly silent man in his wake. Kingsley chuckled aloud as he motioned for Harry to follow and pushed through the doors in to the polished hallway outside the Auror offices.
They walked silently till they reached the lifts and then Harry’s curiosity got the better of him. “So… There has been Death Eater activity?”
Kingsley glanced at Moody, and received an almost imperceptible nod, before turning back to Harry. “Yes, Harry, there have not been any deaths or disappearances since… well, since Dumbledore’s murder. But the Death Eaters are definitely still out there and the Aurors are looking for them.”
Harry nodded quietly, as the lift door rattled open and they stepped in. A moment later he spoke again. “And… You brought a Muggle into the Ministry this morning?”
Kingsley chuckled again. “Yes, Harry, I did.” Seeing that this simple response only elicited more questions in Harry, Shacklebolt continued. “I’ve been, well, sort of a liaison to the Muggle Prime Minister for over a year now as the activities of He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named, have been having an effect on the Muggle world. And at the request of the Muggle Minister, we have accepted a kind of observer, a rather interesting Muggle, as a matter-of-fact.” The lift halted with a clank, and they stepped off into another polished hall. “I expect you’ll learn all about it in due course, but right now, I suggest you concentrate on your meeting with Minister Scrimgeour.”
Harry nodded silently. He wanted to ask more questions, but Kingsley was right he needed to remember what he was there for, so he tried to refocus his thoughts as they moved down the sparsely populated hall.
As they turned down a final hallway, Harry could see a very prim; rather severe looking young Witch sitting at a desk. When she noticed them she leaned down briefly and touched something which she appeared to speak into. Two young men in Ministry Security uniforms stood to attention on either side of the hall. The Witch motioned Harry and his escorts forward.
Kingsley stepped up to the broad, thick, oak door of the Minister’s office, just as it opened. Rufus Scrimgeour stood in the doorway waving them inward, and stepping back.
Harry moved forward with determined calm and entered the office. Moody followed him in, but Kingsley remained in the outer office as the Minister quietly shut the door.
Scrimgeour’s office was a formal room befitting his station. The walls were lined with shelves, filled with books and pictures, mementos of accomplishment and objects that Harry recognized as similar to magical devices he had seen in other offices; Dumbledore’s, Snape’s, and the various occupants of the DADA office over the years.
Rufus Scrimgeour moved toward a wall where several glasses and bottles rested on a low shelf. “May I offer you something?” he said, “a butter-beer perhaps, Mr. Potter or, pumpkin juice?” The Minister proceeded to pour a generous amount of an amber liquid into two glasses, from a stoppered crystal decanter. Then he grabbed a bottle from a lower shelf, opened it, and with his wand sent the bottle floating toward Harry, the second glass toward Moody.
Something about the Minister seemed different to Harry. He was an imposing figure, dressed in his black robes, his mane of tawny, graying hair hardly tamed about his face, fierceness in his eyes. But, he seemed tired in his movements, and this cordial manner, offering drinks, it somehow felt like a different Minister than Harry had encountered before.
Harry looked at Moody who was holding his glass up at arms length, examining it. Moody brought the glass to his lips and sipped at it. He smiled then, and took a larger draught. Harry sniffed at the bottle in his hand, and detecting nothing but the smooth scent of butter-beer, took a deep swig as he stepped to the chair to which the Minister was motioning.
Scrimgeour moved around his desk, exhaling deeply. He took a slow draw from his drink and sat in his deep leather chair. He eyed Harry for a moment before setting his glass down and leaning forward. “Harry,” he began, “May I call you Harry?” Harry nodded. “Harry, we two have gotten off on the wrong foot, I believe.” Harry set his bottle up on the edge of the desk. “The fact is, like it or not, the Wizarding world believes you to be the chosen one.” Harry nodded again. “They therefore are looking to you for some form of guidance. Guidance I suspect you are feeling somewhat unprepared to offer.” It hadn’t really been a question, and Harry was not inclined to respond, as the Minister paused. “I on the other hand,” Scrimgeour continued, “am in the position to offer guidance and leadership to Wizarding Britain. My biggest problem however, to state it matter-of-factly, Harry, is you.”
Harry was slightly taken aback, but made no expression; he leaned back in his chair. There was a quiet disapproving “harrumph” from Alastor Moody, standing behind him. Harry waited a moment to see if there was comment to come from Mad-eye, but when a moment had passed, he looked directly to the Minister, reached for his butter-beer, and said, “How so Minister?”
Rufus Scrimgeour leaned back, steepled his fingers and looked assessingly at Harry. “Because dear boy, you assume that I am merely another Fudge.” There was a long pause as Scrimgeour drew in his breath. “I can assure you that I am not. I have never doubted your story, nor as head of the Aurors, did I ever doubt that He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named would one day return.” There was another pause, as the Minister seemed to be considering how much to say. “And, now that I am in a position to help the Wizarding world combat this dreadful evil, I find myself surrounded by an ineffectual, woefully compounded bureaucracy, and mistrusted by the very person all of Wizarding Britain is looking to, to save them.” The Minister took up his glass again and drained the remaining amber liquid. He set the glass down on the desk with a thud. “The truth is Harry; we are at war. Even though, so far only small skirmishes have been fought, it would be folly to think that larger scale battles can be entirely avoided. I want you to help me win this war. I don’t pretend to fully understand your role in all this, but only a fool could look at the events that have surrounded your life and think that it is all merely coincidence.”
Moody shifted his weight, making a soft, but somehow menacing “thud” with his prosthetic leg. The Minister glanced at him momentarily, but only cocked an eyebrow slightly before returning to Harry determinedly. ”I understand that the Ministry, under Cornelius Fudge, gave you plenty of reason to mistrust it, and as Dumbledore declined to work with me, you have persistently done the same. But I am here to tell you boy. The time has come to wake up and realize that ‘Chosen One’ or not, you have a role to play and you cannot do it all by yourself.”
Harry stared at the edge of the Minister’s desk, memories of his previous meetings with the Minister swirling through his mind as he listened to the Minister’s words. There was a hint of frustration, and perhaps even anger beneath. “Dumbledore’s man,” Harry said in what he thought was not much more than a whisper.
“Yes, exactly, Dumbledore’s man,” the Minister said, exasperated. “So you have said.” There was another long pause, before the Minister spoke again. “Harry, I am not asking you to tell me any of Dumbledore’s secrets, frankly, I don’t much care what he was up to, beyond it’s bearing on defeating the Dark Lord. But I must insist that you wake up and accept that we have a common enemy, Merlin, boy, the war is here, and we are ill prepared."
Harry looked at the Minister wanting to hate and distrust the man, but despite his emotions he could see that before him was a man of conviction. Scrimgeour wanted to fight this war, and he wanted to win it. Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair, part of him knew that whatever his part finally was, he would have to do it alone, but the Minister was correct that they did have a common enemy. This war was much larger than Harry avenging his parent’s murders; he knew that in his heart, even if it was that anger that still drove him forward. Harry was still unsure and so he grasped at his only arguments. “How can I trust a Ministry that imprisons Stanley Shunpike, and employs a woman like Dolores Umbridge?” Harry rubbed the scars on his right hand at the distasteful memory of the unpleasant woman.
The Minister leaned forward and fixed an irritated gaze upon Harry. His voice was hard and flat as he spoke again. ”Everyone tells me you are a smart boy, inclined to mischief, but intelligent and resourceful. I am afraid all I am seeing right now is a child, and I am gravely disappointed.”
The words stung Harry; he felt his cheeks flush as though he had been slapped, and he looked down from the minister’s steady stare. Moody leaned forward as though he might say something but stopped as the Minister held up a hand.
Still watching Harry closely, the Minister persisted his voice rising steadily. “What matter are these small things in the face of the true conflict before us?” Harry fought back his reacting temper and looked up into the Minister’s eyes, as Scrimgeour raised an accusing finger. “I tell you, Harry, once, and only once, Imperiused or not, there was good reason for Stanley Shunpike’s arrest. And, Dolores Umbridge, while a wholly unpleasant and over zealous woman, stood a Ministry inquiry and came through acquitted. You may not agree, or feel that justice has been done, but right now we have far more important concerns, and I cannot afford to waste time on these issues, or indulge your boyish concerns. So, let me ask you Harry, is this all about you, or do you understand the real threat that we face?” Blast it boy, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may have something against you personally, but he is a very real threat to the whole of the Wizarding world beyond you, and beyond Britain.”
Harry realized that he was gripping the arms of the chair and had begun to breathe faster as the Minister’s voice became impassioned and angry. He didn’t much like being talked to in this way, but he couldn’t deny the point the Minister was making. Dumbledore had warned him that the meeting might go this very way, and still Harry was fighting to remain calm against his pounding heart. He forced himself to release the chair’s arms and took a deep breath, closing his eyes momentarily and exhaling slowly, the meditative action calming him considerably.
“Yes,” Harry said finally, his voice was calm and steady. “This fight may be personal to me, but I do understand what’s at stake.” He paused the span of another long breath, “and I will help you, as long as you are really going to fight this war.”
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Almost two hours later Harry and Moody left the Minister’s office with what Harry believed was a good understanding of the Minister’s plans, and a very good start at cooperation. The discussion had been lively at times with Moody finally joining in the talk of forming a Wizarding Army, and actually training a force to stand against the Dark Lord. Harry knew it was a new and potentially dangerous venture, but it had been exactly what he wanted, and what he had discussed with Dumbledore. The Minister, had readily accepted Harry’s suggestions, and agreed that he would not be put on display. Harry had finally reluctantly accepted an honorary position as special advisor to the Minister, and agreed that the appointment would be publicly announced through the Daily Prophet.
“You know, I still don’t trust him,” Moody grumbled, as they turned down another corridor and approached the lift that would take them to the Ministry’s main atrium.
“Neither do I… completely,” Harry reassured Moody. “But better to work with the Ministry, than continue to work against them. We’ll just have to be very careful, is all.”
“On that point, I completely agree.” Moody growled.
The lift clanked and rumbled toward its destination, a small number of paper airplanes hovering over their heads. A slight surge of residual adrenaline ran through Harry and he shuddered a little.
“Glad to have that behind you?” Moody asked his voice uncharacteristically calm. “Do you think the Minister was a bit hard on you?”
Harry looked up at Mad-Eye, standing next to him in the lift, his magical eye slowly spinning away, as though looking through the back of his head. “I am not sure he likes me much. What did you think?”
The magical eye swung around and fixed itself, so that both Moody’s eyes were clearly focused on Harry. “Do you like him?” Mad-Eye didn’t pause long enough for Harry to form his answer. “Rufus Scrimgeour is a good man. I have not agreed with him very much in our careers as Aurors, but he is smart, and he is genuinely frightened by what he sees coming. He didn’t get to be Head of Aurors, and now Minister for Magic by depending on others to make decisions, and under normal circumstances he would never seek the help of an underage Wizard.”
“That’s how he sees me then?” Harry asked clearly disappointed.
Moody chuckled kindly. “Harry, that is what you are.”
“But I’ll be seventeen in less than a month” Harry protested.
“Seventeen is just a number, boy, there is nothing magical about it. Rufus Scrimgeour was telling you it’s time to grow up, and I would have to say, this is one time that I agree with him.”
Harry felt his temper starting to rise. He didn’t like being told he was still a child. Hadn’t he faced more in the last six years than many Wizards face in a lifetime? Hadn’t he been forced to take care of himself almost his entire life? He wasn’t sure how to react. “Everyone treats me as a child.” Harry said with resentment.
“Some do,” Moody agreed gruffly. “But the thing is, Harry, the war is bigger than you and Voldemort.”
The lift lurched to a halt and the doors squeaked open. Harry was glad of the interruption, not wanting to pursue a topic to which he sensed the answer was not going to come through conversation.
What stood in the hall, at first glance, appeared to be a stack of filing boxes with thin legs. “Make room.” A rather familiar voice commanded as the stack pushed forward into the lift and turned. “Filing” the voice commanded the lift. The boxes slowly settled to the floor revealing the identity of the person behind them.
Percy Weasley did a double take as he suddenly found himself alone in the lift with Harry Potter, and Alastor Moody. He flushed and stammered a little, “Harry Potter… I never expected to see you here?”
Harry, locked a cold gaze upon the wayward Weasley and spoke flatly . “Percy.” Moody nodded slightly, his magical eye roving over Percy and his boxes.
There was an awkward silence as the lift resumed its journey. After a few moments Percy swallowed audibly and spoke again. “Harry,” his voice seemed determined, but it was clearly difficult for him. “I feel, I owe you an apology. I doubted you, and time has proven you correct. So, may I say that I am sorry?” Moody chuckled a little on the opposite side of Harry, but Percy didn’t appear to notice.
Harry could hardly believe what he was hearing, he felt his temper rising with irritation and as it seemed he had been doing all morning, he forced himself to be calm. Percy looked almost frightened. Harry could tell it had taken a lot for him to say that, but it felt so out of place and misguided. The lift lurched again and the doors opened slowly. Percy flicked his wand, making the boxes float back up and out the doors into the hallway. Percy followed them, but turned to face Harry and said, “I just wanted you to know that I know I was wrong, and I believe in you now.”
The calm that Harry was concentrating on snapped. He thrust out a hand to stop the lift doors closing. “Percy, you career obsessed prat, I don’t care what you think of me.” Harry’s voice was rising in both pitch and volume. Percy‘s face flushed from ear to ear. “You wouldn’t believe me when Fudge was against me, but now you do, how very convenient for you.” Harry’s voice dripped with angry sarcasm. He stepped forward but felt Moody’s hand on his shoulder, holding him back. “How could you turn your back on your family for the sake of your career? When you quit being a git and patch things up with your Dad, and Mum, then you can apologize to me, and not before!” There was a loud crash, as Percy’s levitation charm failed and the file boxes tumbled to the ground tearing apart, their contents spilling to the floor in a flood of sheaved parchments in all directions. Percy just stared at Harry his face deep crimson as if he had just been slapped. The doors of the lift trundled shut.
Harry stepped back as Moody removed the hand from his shoulder. “Feel better?” Moody chuckled.
“Brilliant,” Harry smiled.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Once again the lift doors squeaked and rattled open as the lift reached the Ministry Atrium. Harry and Moody stepped off the lift and walked past the main gates into the expansive hall. A large group of former Hogwarts fifth years was crowding around a snack trolley. Among the bobbing heads in the crowd Harry easily identified a specific red-head that could only be Ginny, right next to an unmistakable blonde that had to be Luna Lovegood.
There was a murmur through the crowd of students as Harry and Moody were recognized, and several of the students turned to greet them.
“What are you doing here?” seemed to be the common question as Harry turned from one face to another smiling. He looked to Moody for some indication of how to respond, but received only a raised brow above Alastor’s natural eye.
“I’ve been to a meeting with the Minister of Magic,” Harry responded finally. This news was greeted with a number of “ooo’s” and “ah’s” from the younger students
“But I would much rather hear how your OWL testing is going?” Harry asked in an effort to divert the student’s attention. This brought on a flood of simultaneous responses of which Harry could not decipher much more than the typical mixed feelings he’d experienced regarding his own testing.
Just then a skinny, long legged Wizard appeared from one of the gilded fireplaces. He was carrying a large hourglass and announced loudly that there were only twenty minutes remaining before the next round of testing would begin. Harry took the opportunity to suggest that the students had better get their treats before the testing resumed. To his relief this effectively broke up the group of students as they returned to the treat trolley or broke into smaller groups to compare notes.
Mad-Eye tapped Harry on the shoulder, “we should be going now. We have other things to do today.” Ginny and Luna were making their way toward him through the rest of the fifth years. They approached quickly, Luna practically skipping.
“Just a few minutes to visit,” Harry asked. “Alone?” Moody looked at the girls approaching and chuckled gruffly. “What can happen here in the Ministry?” Harry finished.
“Very well,” Mad-Eye grumbled finally, “But just a few, I’ll just have a quick visit with Eric.” He motioned toward the Security desk, before he stepped away.
“Hello Harry,” Luna said with a bright, wide smile, as the two girls arrived in front of Harry. Ginny stood next to him and slipped her hand silently into his.
“Are you here for something to do with Hogwarts, Harry?” Luna asked.
“No,” Harry replied, “well at least not directly.” He looked at the girls quizzically.
Ginny chimed in then. “They told us before the first testing session, that the Governors are meeting this morning to decide about keeping the school open. McGonagall is here at the Ministry with a bunch of the professors.”
“I’m sure that Hogwarts will remain open.” Harry said with confidence. “How else would kids learn about being Witches and Wizards?”
“Lots of families keep their children at home, Harry.” Luna said, though she seemed to be looking at a particular set of symbols moving across the peacock blue ceiling. “My father wanted to teach me at home, except that he travels so much for the Quibbler.”
Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand a little, but covered her giggle with a smile. Harry imagined for a moment what sorts of things Luna’s father would have taught her at home. She seemed to already have an extensive knowledge of things the rest of the Wizarding world knew nothing about. He too, suppressed a chuckle.
“So how are your tests going, Luna?” Harry finally asked.
“Very well, thank you Harry,” Luna replied airily, as she pulled at her Butterbeer cork necklace. “I expect my charms score will be acceptable, but Ginny’s will be much better, I’m certain.”
“How can you say that Luna, you were way across the hall from me during the practical portion?” Ginny protested.
Luna rolled her eyes and smiled. “Oh, I just sometimes know things like that.”
“Really, Luna, I didn’t know you were a seer?” Ginny teased.
“Well,” Luna began, drawing the word out as though she was unsure of what to follow it with. “I know Divination is not the most popular of magical arts, but It does sort of run in my family. So, I come by it honestly.”
“Was your mother a seer?” Harry asked.
“No,” Luna focused on Harry, “It comes from the Lovegood side of my family. My father says that the Lovegood line only produces a daughter every few generations, and a Lovegood daughter usually possesses some sort of magical perception.”
Harry imagined this was probably something Luna’s father had told her just to make her feel special, and it seemed a rather harmless thing to him, in fact it seemed nice that he would want her to feel special.
“When was the last Lovegood daughter before you Luna?” Ginny asked.
“Oh, according to my father, his father had a sister.”
“Whatever became of her?” Harry asked. He knew he hadn’t done well in History of magic, but if there had been a famous seer named, Lovegood, he felt sure he would have remembered.
“All my father has ever told me is that my Great Aunt Philomena married a man named Deyton, for some reason he can never remember a surname. Then, one day they just disappeared. He suspects that they moved to America, or that they were abducted by the Glanconer during a trip to Ireland.”
Ginny, shot Harry a look of surprise, and squeezed his hand, upon which he realized that his mouth was hanging open, and he shut it. He was a bit in shock, realizing suddenly that he might be in some way related to the Lovegood’s. He was beginning to form a response when activity near the lifts attracted his attention.
Multiple lifts had arrived all at once and several people in formal looking, white robes were disembarking. Each of the robes appeared to be lined and piped with different colors. Harry realized that these must be the council of Governors for Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall was stepping off one of the lifts with Professors, Sprout, Slughorn, Sinistra, and Flitwick. The group of professors and Governors moved through the gates in to the main atrium and gathered near the gold fountain. Many of the students had seen them and were gathering around. Luna, without a word, had begun walking toward the crowd, and Harry followed anxiously with Ginny, the matter of Luna’s ancestry, momentarily forgotten.
One of the Governors stepped forward, making motions with his outspread hands to quiet the questions of the surrounding students and gathering parents. He was a rather tall, stout, blonde, Wizard, with a full beard and round face, which gave him a jovial appearance. As he spoke it was clear that he was originally from Scotland.
“I’m certain you’re all very concerned about the fate of Hogwarts School.” The man’s voice was crisp and measured. “The council has concluded its deliberations and I’m pleased to announce that the school will indeed remain open. Further, it is my privilege to introduce the newly appointed Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall.” The man stepped back motioning Professor McGonagall forward.
Minerva paused, capturing a breath, and looked across the crowd of students, parents and other curious onlookers. “I am quite pleased that so many students are present for this, rather impromptu announcement. It is my great honor to accept the post of Headmistress, of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Much work must be done to prepare for the fall term, as I will need to fill a number of positions.” She paused again and took another deep breath before continuing. “I have been given the Ministries firmest assurances that all possible precautions will be taken to provide in Hogwarts a safe and secure living and learning environment. It is my fervent hope, that despite the recent tragedy, parents will send their children to Hogwarts without fear or reservation.”
Harry, was trying to listen, but was distracted, as Luna asked Ginny a question. “Who is that man standing next to Professor Slughorn?” Luna said simply with an inquisitive lilt.
“I don’t know,” Ginny replied simply. “Harry,” she tugged at his wrist to get his attention. “Have you any idea who that man is?”
Harry looked beyond Professor McGonagall. There was indeed another man with them, someone Harry had never seen before. The man was not wearing Wizarding robes and so looking a bit out of place. The man looked to be of a good height, but not so tall as to stand out, Harry estimated about 183 centimeters (6 feet). He was wearing a Muggle style tweed sport coat over a dark button down dress shirt, with a knit tie, and pleated corduroy slacks. He was quite slender. His hair was cut short and must have once been completely black, but now appeared graying, particularly at the temples. Looking closely, Harry thought his eyes were a dull blue, or blue-grey, and he had a vertical scar along his right cheek. He seemed a pleasant enough man though there was something cruel about his mouth. Harry found himself wondering if this was the Muggle that Kingsley had escorted to the Ministry that morning. Harry, leaned a little toward Ginny, and whispered. “I have never seen him before, but I have a suspicion that he is a Muggle. I’ll tell you everything later.” Ginny turned to look at Harry, her eyes wide with questions.
Professor McGonagall was continuing to speak. “I can announce at this time that I have asked Professor Pomona Sprout to serve as my Deputy Headmistress.” Professor Sprout, stepped forward, blushing and smiling, then quickly stepped back. McGonagall hesitated momentarily. “And, Mr. Sean Fleming of Glencoe will be joining our staff as the new Muggle Studies Professor.” The mystery man, Mr. Fleming, stepped forward and bowed slightly then stepped back. “Other appointments will be announced through the Daily Prophet, as positions are filled…”
Without warning, a loud claxon sounded and the atrium ceiling transitioned from its normal blue to red. The crowd was momentarily still as they looked to the changing ceiling in shock. Several of the fireplaces blazed bright green and Aurors stepped from the flames. Panic swept the crowd and people surged toward the fireplaces. Others moved toward the lifts, but were stopped as several wrought golden grilles exploded forward and cloaked figures surged out of the lifts. Spells began to fly as the dark figures seemed intent on opening a path through the gates to the Fireplaces. Several students were stunned in the first volley of spells.
Harry spun around trying to take in the whole picture. A couple of Aurors, as well as the Hogwarts professors, were directing the panicking crowd to evacuate through the fireplaces, the rest were moving forward to engage the cloaked figures. Harry caught a glimpse of Mr. Fleming from the corner of his eye standing still, apparently calm, watching the scene with a look of fascination.
Ginny clung to Harry’s arm tugging him, but he was not moving away. Luna too, was standing still watching with a sort of amazement.
Moody and Kingsley appeared at their side. With a broad flourish Moody, wand in hand deflected a stray spell and growled “Stupefy” causing a stream of pale light to erupt from his wand and drop one of the dozen or so cloaked figures. Harry, Ginny and Luna, each drew their wands.
“Are those Death Eaters?” Harry yelled to Kingsley, over the din of the fight and the panicking crowd. The Aurors had formed a line between the cloaked figures and the fire places, and the volley of spells was flashing every which way.
“Yes, Harry,” Kingsley managed to come closer. “We received information this morning naming several possible Ministry officials from various offices.” Kingsley ducked as a stream of green light flew over his head. “Somehow they knew we were going to raid offices… this is not an attack, it is an attempt to escape!”
The Auror’s were managing to hold the Death Eaters near the golden gates, but casualties were mounting on both sides. A half dozen of the Death eaters lay sprawled across the dark floor, and as many or more Auror’s had been struck with various curses.
One of the cloaked figures seemed to be directing the others leveling his wand at the line of Aurors and screaming out the most forbidden curse. The words rang through the hall “Avada Kedavra” and time seemed to slow as Harry watched the stream of sickening green light erupt from the wand tip and move through the air to strike a Witch in the line of Aurors. The Witch was tall and slender and wore an eye patch over her left eye. Harry, felt he had seen her before. In the moment the curse struck she was engulfed by the green light, she screamed, her body contorted horribly, and she crumpled to the floor.
Ginny was pulling at him, but Harry felt no fear, in fact a great swell of anger was building in him. The Aurors seemed to be reacting the same way as a uniform volley of spells assaulted the Death Eater’s shield charms in a spectacular explosive display of light. The Death Eaters staggered from the shear force of the assault. Their shields dropped and before the charms could be re-cast four of the dark cloaked figures were hit and collapsed to the ground leaving only the leader remaining.
Harry leveled his wand, at the man, but was momentarily distracted as he became aware of Sean Fleming stepping up next to him on his left. The remaining Aurors, including Moody, were advancing on the man. Harry heard a yelled incantation that sounded like a variation on the blasting spell. A solid wave of force suddenly moved outward in all directions from where the man was standing. In that moment Harry yelled “Protego” setting his shield, and heard Kingsley doing the same.
Moody, who was closest, was knocked back, and flew over Harry’s head as the force threw him away. The whole line of Aurors was knocked back and many of the evacuating crowd crumpled beneath the wave of blunt force. Harry’s shield charm held protecting himself, Mr. Fleming, and the two girls.
The man’s hood fell back revealing his face, a portrait of anger and panic. He turned and focused on the first standing target he could see, Harry. Harry’s eyes met his and there was recognition as the man’s expression changed suddenly to fear.
“Yaxley!” Kingsley Shaklebolt yelled. Harry turned at the sound of the voice, but Sean Fleming was standing between him and Kingsley. The man called Yaxley turned as well and yelled “stupefy.” Kingsley fell to the floor unconscious. Harry instinctively moved toward Fleming, who was pulling something from within his jacket. Harry leveled his wand at Yaxley who’s eyes were turning back to find the next target. Harry began to speak his spell when a deafening sharp “bang” split the air, filling the Ministry atrium.
Harry watched as something struck Yaxley in the chest causing him to drop his wand and stagger backward, falling to the floor.
Harry looked to the source of the sound which seemed to have come from Mr. Fleming’s outstretched arm. Harry had seen guns on Muggle television and so that was all he could think of as Sean Fleming smoothly tucked something small and black back beneath his coat.
A murmur was running through the crowd as the realization hit that the conflict was over, and all of the Death Eaters had fallen.
Harry turned fully to face Mr. Fleming, his wand arm fallen to his side.
Sean Fleming looked over at Harry, as he calmly straightened his jacket and tie. Then, with a slight, rather friendly smile, he winked.
NOTE: I am so glad that people are enjoying this story, and the many comments and reviews have been a great shot-in-the-arm, as far as the writing is concerned. However, I am forced to announce that there will be a longer than usual wait for the next chapter. Some of you may know that earlier this year I co-authored a book that was published this past August. During the month of October, I have commitments related to marketing of that book, so I do not anticipate much writing time. Plus, I have a new project for publication in the works. I will continue with the next chapter as quickly as possible, I just want to let everyone know that it will be a little longer this time.
Also: I could use a couple of new Beta readers on the next chapter and going forward, so if anyone is interested, or if you want to know about my published book, please contact me through my “Meet the Author” page in the forums.
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