As thanks for taking the family to the Quidditch World Cup Final, Bill invited Harry along with the rest of the family for dinner at Shell Cottage. It was two weeks until Harry’s nineteenth birthday, and the training for the Ministry had gotten more and more time consuming as the weeks whittled by. Harry could hardly get a day free, even on the weekends, and so the visit to Shell Cottage was a lucky day off.
At around three in the afternoon, Harry apparated with Ginny from Grimmauld Place to Shell Cottage. He had only ever been here twice before. The first time was when he was escaping from Malfoy Manor, after being captured by snatchers during his hunt for the Horcruxes. Dobby had died saving Harry and his friends and Harry buried Dobby in the back garden. Harry came back once afterwards, about six months after the war, to visit Dobby’s grave. He had not been back since.
Harry apparated to the back garden, overlooking the sea. There he saw Dobby’s grave. The flowers in front of the gravestone were sparkling in the July sunshine. After looking at the tombstone for a few moments, Harry took Ginny by the arm and walked into Shell Cottage.
Shell Cottage had always been a nice, cosy place. Of course, with Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour as its owners, it could only be expected. The lingering smell of delicious Yorkshire Puddings told Harry dinner was already being dished out. He and Ginny made their way into the dining room. Everyone had already arrived.
‘Harry, Ginny.’ Bill greeted them warmly, ‘Thanks for coming!’
‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Bill.’ Harry replied. Harry and Ginny took their seats at the table and Bill served the food. Fleur was usually the one serving food, but she had for some reason decided to sit this one out. She did look a little pale.
‘Smells delicious.’ Harry smiled, and there was a murmur of agreement around the table.
‘Well, I cooked this, so if it’s horrid, don’t blame Fleur!’ Bill joked. He sat down himself after giving out the plates and everyone began to eat their dinner.
‘I have some news about Egypt that you may be interested in, Harry.’ Bill announced some five minutes later.
Bill nodded, ‘Yeah, but it’s not good news I’m afraid. After the rubble of the tomb that imploded had been cleared, a body was found.’
‘Blimey!’ Ron said, ‘A body?’
‘Yeah. It hasn’t been identified. Too much damage.’ Bill replied grimly.
‘That’s terrible.’ Hermione said, ‘Do you think it has anything to do with the researcher who was murdered?’
‘Adam Akil?’ Bill asked, and Hermione nodded, ‘It certainly fits that they would be connected – the tomb that imploded and the home of Akil are not that far dispersed.’
‘How long until the site is deemed safe to explore?’ Asked Harry.
‘Should be no longer than a couple of days now.’ Bill replied.
‘Will you be returning to Egypt then?’ Mrs Weasley asked, almost not wanting to as she had gotten so used to having Bill home. Harry had too, it was nice to see Bill who he hadn’t seen a lot and even Charlie, who had been staying at The Burrow since the Quidditch Cup final and would be staying until the end of July.
‘Well, on that front, I have an announcement to make.’ Bill said, finishing his dinner and flicking his wand so that the plate removed itself from the table. He wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and then announced to the listening table, ‘I won’t be going back to Egypt.’
There were a collection of gasps around the table. Fleur didn’t seem surprised so she obviously knew. Mrs Weasley was first to talk.
‘Why not?’ She asked.
‘Gringotts have decided that they do not want, in their words, one of their ‘best curse breakers’ being killed by an unexpected imploding tomb, and so they have given me a job in London.’
‘That’s fantastic!’ Harry replied enthusiastically.
‘Yeah, now we’ll have you home all the time!’ Ginny beamed.
Ron spoke up, ‘So is that the only reason? I mean, you must be very good if they wanted to keep you that safe.’
‘Well, no.’ Bill replied, ‘There was another reason that helped to say... sweeten the deal.’
Bill looked over at Fleur, who smiled. Bill found this smile infectious and smiled too. The rest of the table looked at them confused.
‘Fleur’s pregnant.’ Bill announced, causing a number of different, but amusing reactions on the table. Hermione and Ginny screeched, and made the most exciting faces they could muster. Apparently, babies are something that women love to get excited over. Mrs Weasley almost fainted in her chair. Mr Weasley looked absolutely pleased and Ron’s jaw was hanging in the air.
‘What?’ Mrs Weasley said.
‘We’re having a baby, Mum’ Bill repeated.
‘I’m going to be a grandmother?’ Mrs Weasley asked, shell-shocked.
‘Yeah.’ Bill said, smiling. Mrs Weasley burst out into tears and Mr Weasley gave her a handkerchief. Bill looked worried, ‘I thought you’d be happy, Mum?’
Mrs Weasley looked up, ‘Oh, I am! I’m going to be a grandmother! It’s so beautiful!’ And she continued to bawl into her handkerchief. Bill breathed a sigh of relief as the rest of the table congratulated him and Fleur.
‘’M gonna be Uncle Ron.’ Ron said, in between mouthfuls, ‘How cool is that?’
After dinner, when Mrs Weasley had finally stopped crying, Bill cleaned up all the plates with a wave of his wand and opened up a bottle of Firewhisky to celebrate. The day ended up being a happy occasion, and a nice needed break for Harry, because the next day he was back in training with Ron and would be for two weeks solid.
‘Alright, mate?’ Ron asked, as Harry walked in to the department the next day. It was a hot July Friday, with not a cloud in the sky.
‘Fine, Ron.’ Harry replied. He looked around the room to discover that today they had a full class. Ron and Harry were standing near the door, Roger Davies was duelling with Cormac McLaggen and Alicia Spinnet was practicing her Corpeal Patronus with Auror Richard Williamson. Alicia’s Patronus took the form of an Eagle.
In the corner of the room observing the training was John Dawlish. He saw Harry enter the room and waved. Harry waved back and then continued his discussion with Ron.
‘What have you been up to?’ Harry asked, seeing as he was almost fifteen minutes late.
‘Not much.’ Ron said, ‘Just brushing up on our duelling skills. Apparently, Dawlish has some big news and wanted to wait til everyone was here.’
Ron was right, as moments later, Dawlish rounded everyone up to the centre of the room.
‘Alright, since the beginning of your Auror Training, you have all been taught the following: Producing a Corpeal Patronus, Mastery of duelling (including non-verbal spells and wandless magic), Mastery of the Broomstick, Duelling in a team, using Magic Tracing spells, Mastery of Potion making and finally, Mastery of transfiguration.’ Dawlish said, taking a breath, ‘Which means there are only three more areas to complete.’
Dawlish continued, ‘Those three areas are: Withstanding the Unforgivable Spells, Survival Training and Finding the Traitor.’
Everyone listened intently, extremely interested in the rest of the training. Dawlish signalled for some people to enter the room and two Auror’s entered the room.
‘I would like to introduce you all to three people who will help you complete the training.’ Dawlish said, ‘They are Gowain Robards, Head Auror, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister for Magic and Ex-Auror and myself, John Dawlish.’
Harry was of course familiar with all three Aurors. He had only met Robards twice; the man was not very pleasant to talk to and did not involve himself with the trainees whenever possible.
‘Each of us will be your tutors in the remaining three areas you need to be taught in.’ Dawlish explained. ‘Mr Shacklebolt will be helping you Withstand Unforgivable Curses – would you care to explain, Minister?’
Kingsley nodded, ‘When dealing with dark wizards and witches, it is probable you will get hit with an Unforgivable Curse. Now, obviously, there is no known defence against the Avada Kedavra, apart from in a very special case.’
Harry met his eye momentarily, and Kingsley continued, ‘But the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse can be withstood and even defended against if you have the sufficient training. I will be teaching you that.’
‘Thank you, Minister.’ Dawlish said, ‘And your Survival Training will be tutored by Gowain Robards.’
‘Thank you, John.’ Robards interjected, his voice stern, ‘You will set out for a week with nothing but the clothes you wear and your wand. I will set you a task and you must achieve that task. You will find your own food, and your own accommodation. You will be partnered with someone else in the group. Since there are only five of you, Alicia Spinnet will spend half the week with one group, and half a week with the other.’ Robards explained, ‘This training however, will not take place until August.’
‘And finally,’ Dawlish rounded off, ‘I will be teaching you how to find a traitor. Someone in the group will act as the traitor and you will all investigate to find out who it is.’
‘We shall begin with Withstanding the Unforgivable Curses.’ Kinglsey chimed in, ‘This training should take a month or so.’
‘A month, sir?’ McLaggen asked.
‘A month.’ Kingsley confirmed, ‘The Cruciatus Curse is no easy curse to withstand and fighting the Imperius Curse can take a lot of work – sometimes it is even impossible to fight it.’
‘Very well.’ Dawlish said, ‘Any more questions?’
No-one asked a question and so Dawlish clapped his hands together, ‘Right then, I have some work to do – Gowain, may I have a word? I’ll leave you to it Minister.’
Dawlish and Robards left the room leaving Kingsley with the trainees. Kingsley drew his wand and signalled for everyone else to do the same, and they did.
‘Alright,’ Kingsley’s deep voice spoke, ‘I will be sending a Cruciatus Curse at you, one at a time. As you know, for me to do any real damage, I would have to feel anger towards you. I have no animosity towards any of you, so this will not be a full blast, but the pain will still be excruciating. Who would like to go first?’
‘Sir.’ Harry said, ‘I have a question... I thought these curses were illegal to use, sir.’
‘They are. But we have special permission, granted by the Wizengamot, to use them during Auror training.’ Kingsley explained, ‘There is a level of danger involved but you were all aware of this when you signed up and I am sorry to say there is no other way of doing this. You couldn’t possibly fight dark wizards and witches without so much as experiencing the curses.’
‘Well, I’ve taken a lot of these spells before, maybe I should go first?’ Harry said.
Kingsley nodded, ‘As you wish.’
Harry stood in front of Kingsley, and the other trainees moved out of the way. Then, without any emotion or effort, to try and make it as safe as possible, Kingsley muttered, ‘Crucio.’
Harry was hit by the spell and the pain soared through his body like a hot knife. Harry fell to his knees, breathing heavily but within seconds, the pain had gone.
‘Are you OK, Harry?’ Kingsley asked. Harry could tell he’d felt guilty about what he had done. Kingsley helped Harry to his feet.
‘I’m fine. That hurts, but it doesn’t even compare to a full blast of the curse.’ Harry said.
‘Unfortunately, the only time you will ever experience the full blast is during a real battle. It is simply far too dangerous to cast it on you.’ Kingsley explained.
The rest of the class took their turns in being hit with the Crucio curse. Kingsley tried his utter best to make the spell as weak as possible. Everyone fell to their knees, and start breathing heavily, but no-one had screamed out in pain. After everyone had taken the curse, Kingsley retreated his wand.
‘I don’t want to overdo it.’ Kingsley explained, ‘I think we shall leave it at that today. It would be dangerous to try and push you passed your limits.’
Later in the evening, Harry met Ginny outside of the Ministry building and apparated home. When they sat down, Harry explained what he had been through in today’s training and what was coming up.
‘As much as I hate to say it Harry, Kingsley is right.’ Ginny grimaced, ‘If people want to be Auror’s they need this training.’
‘I know.’ Harry said, ‘I understand his point – it just seems barbaric.’
‘Don’t know if you noticed Harry, but dark wizards and witches ARE barbaric.’ Ginny said, seriously. Harry nodded in agreement. He kissed her on the cheek.
‘So, shall we get the MES out?’ Harry asked, ‘Watch another film?’
Ginny grinned, ‘I’d love to, Mr Potter.’
Harry pulled out the little device and after searching for the film he wanted (Karate Kid) he sat back and snuggled in with Ginny to watch the film.
The next two weeks of training were tough. They spent the weeks alternating between withstanding the Cruciatus curse and trying to fight the Imperius Curse. In the first two weeks, there was not much success. The Imperius Curse was yet to be prevented as Kingsley was much too powerful for any of the trainees and the Cruciatus Curse was still as difficult as ever to withstand.
Harry was actually relieved after another hard day at work to realise that it was actually his nineteenth birthday. When he had woken up for work, Ginny had already left, and throughout the day, no-one had mentioned anything to him. He was too busy withstanding curses to even realise it was his birthday but it finally dawned on him when he arrived home at Grimmauld Place in the evening to find a huge surprise party prepared just for him.
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