Just as Harry Potter was beginning to think that he was about to fall into a deep sleep, he was harshly woken up again, rubbing the top of his head in pain as it bounced off of the adjacent window. As he looked behind him, he could see his friend Ron Weasley rock back and forth as the vehicle drove over a particularly rough patch of road, his mouth hanging wide open as he was jerked from side to side. His other best friend Hermione Granger shot him a dreary look of frustration after Ron’s hand whacked her in the side of the head for what had to be the hundredth time since the beginning of their trip. The only thing she could do was fold her arms and try to keep her distance from the loudly snoring Ron.
Looking out of his window, water droplets beading down the outside of the pane, Harry began to have a whole new dislike for automobiles and in this case, large vans in particular. Having been woken up at no later than three o’clock this morning, Harry was looking forward to catching up on his much needed sleep but he, along with Hermione, was finding that the simple act of falling asleep was much harder to do in their present conditions. He found a very small solace in the fact that Ron had somehow achieved this seemingly insurmountable feet, the only thought that kept him from growing jealous at his friend’s slumber was his mind wondering how he had done it amidst the terrible conditions their van was in. For Harry, the only positive that he could think of was the fact that Ginny – sitting to his immediate left – had now put her head on his shoulder, using it as an impromptu pillow.
His birthday evening that had just concluded mere hours ago seemed like it had come from another lifetime entirely. Truthfully, he had a pleasant evening with the Weasleys and Hermione (who had shown up at the Burrow earlier that day) but felt as if he could not enjoy it to its fullest extent because of the impending wakeup call that he would be receiving early the next morning. After eating far more than he should have and staying up far longer than what was wise, Harry had dragged his feet out of bed and in to the van, his mind thinking of only two things; his nineteenth birthday party the night previously and his longing for sleep.
Since Harry had learned that he was a wizard on his eleventh birthday, it had not been often that he had been transported in the Muggle fashion. He was so used to apparating or using Floo powder by this point that anything other than this seemed foreign to him, even though he had spent the first ten years of his life being driven around by his Uncle Vernon. Glancing at the small, green lighted digital clock on the dashboard, Harry saw that they were coming up on their second full hour in the vehicle. Exhaling deeply at the long journey that was still ahead, Harry resigned himself to look out his window, his head bobbing up and down as the van bumbled down the road. Every once in a while he was able to catch a glimpse of the second van that they were following which contained Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, George and Percy.
They were all travelling in this manner not because they fancied automobiles (though Mr. Weasley was particularly excited at the prospect of riding in one) but because it was a necessity. Normally, when wanting to reach the Ministry of Magic, one would only have to apparate to the old, run-down warehouse that acted as a safe house for all Ministry personnel and then walk a short distance from there to the direct entrance point of the Ministry. However, today was the election that would decide who would be the next Minister of Magic where voters would ultimately have to decide between current Minister and Order of the Phoenix member Kingsley Shackelbolt and his adversary Rufus Fudge – who was the one who had initiated the vote. Every single witch and wizard over the age of seventeen years old that lived in Britain would be appearing at the Ministry on this single day to cast their vote. To help the congestion that this busy day was to bring to the Ministry, Mr. Weasley had volunteered them all to be transported to the Ministry via the Muggle way, much to the chagrin of the Weasley clan. Mr. Weasley had stayed strong in his stance even after objections from Ron, George and even Mrs. Weasley herself, citing the fact that since there was thousands of magic-folk appearing at the Ministry on this day, they should help do their part as Ministry workers to reduce the chance of suspicion amongst the Muggles in the area. Harry was surprised when he heard that the Ministry had regulated the Floo network to a point where designated times had to be taken in order to avoid overcrowdings and congestion. Wanting to arrive at the Ministry at a time that the Weasleys desired and not one that was picked out for them by the Ministry was the final straw in solidifying the minds of those that were previously in opposition with Mr. Weasley. Though he kept this particular thought to himself, Harry could not help but wonder if their current situation of waking up hours before they normally would was that much more of a convenience. Nevertheless, even Harry (who did not desire to travel by automobile either) could not help but agree with Mr. Weasley when he said that election day was one of the riskiest days the Ministry would ever have to face, at least in terms of Muggle suspicion of their kind and in turn, proper precaution had to be taken in order for the day to run smoothly.
To Harry, what was lost in the shuffle amidst the commotion of travel was the election itself. No one in the past day or two seemed to be talking about the very real possibility that Rufus Fudge could be the new Minister for Magic in the coming days. Even the mere thought of this realistic outcome made Harry’s stomach uneasy; he had a strong dislike for Fudge, a dislike that he was positive Fudge reciprocated. The thing that mystified Harry the most about Fudge’s wish to overthrow Kingsley as Minister was the fact that he (and seemingly the wizarding public at large) had no idea what Fudge was up to. What his goals and plans were if he ever became Minister was something Harry could not even begin to speculate on and it was because of these clouded intentions on the part of Rufus Fudge that made Harry want Kingsley to be victorious even more. He was unsure what sort of Ministry Fudge would run if he won the election, but based on the tenure that his uncle Cornelius had as Minister, Harry was not optimistic.
In the past month or so, the campaign of Rufus Fudge had picked up drastically. If there was any criticism of Kingsley and his campaign it was the fact that the level of his intensity did not match the level of Fudge’s. It seemed like everywhere Harry went, from Diagon Alley to the Ministry itself, there were numerous Fudge representatives pleading with passers-by to consider Fudge for Minister, passing out pamphlets that featured the winking face of Rufus Fudge as he looked out in to the distance triumphantly. There was something about Fudge that made him attractive to the average magical being; whether it was the way he flashed his smile after kissing a baby’s forehead at St. Mungo’s or the confidence he walked with on a daily basis, Harry did not know.
Harry’s thoughts were broken by the sound of another loud snore from Ron, a clearly frustrated Hermione whacking him hard on the arm after he had exhaled completely. He opened his eyes slightly; his mouth still agape as he looked around for what had smacked him. After a brief moment of this, he returned to his slumber, letting out another large snore a second later much to Hermione’s dismay.
As she put her hands over her ears, Harry flashed a small grin of his own at the idea that he and his friends would have much more time together this year than the last. Hermione had taken up a job inside the Ministry’s Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures after successfully completing her N.E.W.T. year at Hogwarts. By just having both his best friends in the same place again already ensured that this year would promise to be better than the last, at least in terms of their working lives. It felt like this year was a fresh start for Harry and his friends; it was a time where they could get back to being just that – friends. Coupled with the fact that Mosteban (the head Auror at the Ministry) and Williamson (the head of Harry’s Auror unit) were looking to promote a few Junior Aurors to full time and fully fledged Aurors, Harry was not only looking forward to returning to work as soon as the election was over, but he was counting down the days until he would. As if this excitement was not enough, both he and Ron had both received letters from Williamson and Blackburn (Ron’s head) just a few days prior, requesting that on election day, they arrive at the Ministry extra early for a meeting. Harry, though trying not to get his hopes up too high, could not help but speculate that the promotions being talked about in the Auror Office for the past month so excessively might be coming his and Ron’s way.
At the end of it all, Harry felt awkward with this situation. Humble as he tried to be, Harry knew that what he and Ron had done over the course of their youth was unmatched by perhaps any other witch or wizard in history when they were at Harry and Ron’s age. Still, Harry could not help but maintain his view that neither he nor Ron possessed any sort of special ability that set themselves apart from any other prospective Auror or any witch or wizard for that matter. Though they certainly were well-versed in wand work and had an above average level of magical knowledge at their disposal, Harry knew that there were others out in the world who were in another league from him; after all, he did not have to look far to find at least one of these others in his friend Hermione. However, after talking at length about the situation with Mr. Weasley, Harry had come to one, firm conclusion. Both he and Ron had something that meant more than simple wand work, stealth abilities or a vast array of knowledge; they had the determination, resourcefulness, experience and most importantly that indefinable intangible that set great wizards and witches away from the good ones. Not knowing if this was just the luck that fate had brought him, or some invisible yet untapped potential deep inside of his soul, hazarding a guess, he thought, seemed impractical. This justification helped Harry deal with the understanding that he so desperately sought.
However, there was one small detail that hampered Harry’s fantasy about becoming a full time Auror. The fact that they had directly disobeyed Gawain Robards’ – an Auror who also was a part of the Order of the Phoenix – and Williamson’s orders and were then subsequently reprimanded for it did not bode well in Harry’s mind. Still, their actions during the Battle at Riddle House, careless as they may have been, at the very least showed Mosteban what they were capable of; it was with Mosteban himself that they had defeated Gideon Grindelwald, a feat that was nothing short of amazing. Resigned to whatever his fate may bring him, Harry tried not to think about the idea of becoming an Auror after only one year which, he was told, was something that very few Junior Aurors actually end up achieving. Instead, the images of the Battle at Riddle House and what he had learned during and after it made up the majority of daydreams Harry would subconsciously conjure up in his mind.
Guilt and regret still coursed through his body every time Harry thought of Gideon Grindelwald. Still not knowing the real story behind his true intensions, Harry had helped in bringing him down that fateful night, Grindelwald collapsing and dying on the battlefield before he could even think twice about what he was doing. Even though he did not know the information about Gideon’s true intensions at that time, Harry still felt a considerable hole left in his mind regarding the younger Grindelwald. The only thing that mattered to Harry was the fact that he now knew that Grindelwald – like himself – had been trying to eliminate the Death Eaters once and for all. Harry was still kicking himself for helping in the disposal of an innocent man though Hermione had kept telling him that there was nothing else he could have done and that it was not his fault. Now that Grindelwald and his Apollyon Society seemed to be dead and gone forever, Harry could not help but think that he had missed a great opportunity to form an alliance with the ones whose goals were the same as his own.
Rain continued to pound the roof of the slowly moving van. The first cracks of dawn were making themselves known on the distant horizon, Harry yawning loudly, knowing that the chances of him falling back to sleep now were slim to none. In an attempt to try and rid his mind of its tiredness, he pulled out a tiny action figure that Ron had bought last year at the Quidditch World Cup. Taking out his wand, he muttered, ‘Wingardium Leviosa’, twirling the slowly fading action figure in the air. There was barely any magic left inside the tiny Chaser, but every now and then, it would revert back to its energetic self, giving the effect of someone who was drifting in and out of drunkenness. His fun did not last long however; during one of these frequent outbursts of magic, the figure wildly sped off on its broom, smacking against the window hard. For a moment, the figure laid spread eagled out on the pane of the window before slowly falling down to the ground with a soft thump. Harry tossed the figure back inside his bag, seeing Ginny stir as a single ray of light came in through his window that found itself directly over one of Ginny’s eyes. She shifted to the other side, placing her head on a pillow she had wisely brought from her bed at the Burrow.
As he watched Ginny resettle herself in her seat, the van making a left turn that made Ron’s head fall hard on Hermione’s shoulder, Harry remembered that even though he would see much more of Hermione in the workplace this year, the same could not be said of Ginny. He was proud of the fact that she had been given a tryout by the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team, but he knew that if he she did in fact make the final cut that she would be on the road for much of the year. Knowing the importance and popularity of professional Quidditch, Harry could only imagine how much work she would have to put in, leaving little time for anything else. Knowing this unfortunate truth may lay just ahead, Harry vowed to spend as much quality time with Ginny as possible before her final tryout with the Harpies in a week’s time.
From behind him, Harry heard a seat buckle unclip, Hermione making her way past Harry and in to the row of seating directly in front of him. She did not bother to sit upright in the vacant seats; instead, she turned fully around and faced Harry, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand as her head poked up over the back of the seat. He figured that she had also been reduced to a point of no hope in regards to falling back asleep, proven to Harry in the expression of frustration she wore on her overtired face. His suspicion was confirmed a second later.
‘No use of trying to sleep now,’ she said lazily, eying the peacefully sleeping Ron who suddenly snorted mid snore, catching himself and drifting back off to sleep immediately after. Hermione contorted her face in to a disgusted look. ‘Now see that’s… that’s just inhuman.’ She placed her head on her folded arms, staring off in to the window that Harry had been looking through for over an hour now.
‘We must be at least half way there by now… aren’t we?’ Harry asked.
‘Yeah… no more than an hour or so,’ she replied somewhat distantly, not moving her head off of her folded arms.
The two of them both stared out of the window for what felt like hours, neither of them bothering to ruin the silence which they both craved as Ron’s frequent snores had done enough damage already. As the sun began to peak over the horizon, Hermione yawned loudly, lifting her head off of the back of the seat. Harry heard a crinkle of paper as he saw Hermione searching for something on the floor in front of her. A second later and Harry saw that she was holding a copy of yesterday’s edition of the Daily Prophet, Hermione quickly flipping through the pages as she opened her eyes wide in order to adjust them to the print.
‘I meant to show you this…’ she said faintly, not wanting to disturb the sleeping Ginny who had not moved since retracting her head off of Harry’s shoulder. Finally she came to the page that she wished to show Harry, offering the paper to Harry after pointing out the desired article. Fetching his glasses from his right front pocket of his jeans, Harry took the paper in his hands, examining the headline that Hermione had indicated.
AZKABAN UNDER CONTROL; STOLEN PROPERTY RESURFACES
An intriguing follow-up on the story first reported last June has surfaced. It appears as if the stolen caravan full of Azkaban property has been found, the Prophet reports this morning. The mysterious news of the stolen caravan first broke after a massive explosion killed two Azkaban officials who were on their way to the Azkaban burial ground in order to dispose of recently deceased inmates and criminals in the care of the Ministry.
Though Azkaban officials have refused to point out where the caravan was finally discovered after it had been blown off course, officials have been pleased to tell us that after careful examination, nothing – bodies or otherwise – had been stolen or misplaced. Though the culprits who planted the explosion are still yet to be apprehended, Ministry and Azkaban officials alike are pleased with the recovery of the stolen caravan. More on the apprehension of the ones responsible will be made available when further evidence arises.
For a final rundown of the two candidates and any other information you need regarding tomorrow’s election, turn to pages 3, 5-9, 11-13, 15, 17, 19-20, 22-29, 34, 36-38
‘Nice to see they have the election covered…’ Harry said sarcastically, drearily handing back the edition of the Prophet to Hermione.
‘Just never seems like we can have… two weeks straight without something going wrong or something mysterious happen,’ Hermione replied as she set down the newspaper beside her.
‘Of course not, Hermione… that wouldn’t be normal now would it?’ Harry said jokingly, closing his eyes as the sun blinded him for a moment as the van rounded a corner, Hermione smiling and nodding her head in agreement.
‘I wonder if the day will ever come when we are not surprised any more by this stuff,’ Hermione said.
‘We’re probably almost at that point. We’ve seen everything short of a break-in to Azkaban,’ Harry chuckled.
What Hermione had stated rang true with Harry; it was not as if he had become emotionless with things that he had read about in the Prophet, but he was at a point where at nineteen he had already felt like he had seen it all. Now that he considered this thought in more detail, it dawned on him how terrible that actually was. After a moment or two of neither of them speaking, Hermione glanced towards Harry who was surprised to see that her eyes were beginning to glisten.
‘You’re going to miss her… aren’t you Harry?’ she said quietly, wiping both corners of her eyes after she had spoken.
Not being able to look away from his friend’s prying stare, Harry knew that she had thought about it at great length – it was what Hermione did in situations such as these. Like the countless others she had studied previously, Hermione had read him like a book. It had even gotten to a point where Harry was surprised that it had taken her this long to understand his view point on Ginny, but cut her some slack; after all, the atmosphere inside the Burrow during the days leading up to the election had been extremely hectic. Harry opened his mouth to respond to Hermione, but found no words that could explain to her how he was feeling. He escaped Hermione’s stare quickly after finding nothing to say; he knew that if he showed a great deal of emotion that it would only make Hermione burst out in to a fit of tears which was something Harry did not want, especially since he was surrounded by Ginny, Ron and the Ministry driver a few rows of seating in front of him. After trying to contain his true feelings on the subject he turned back to Hermione who broke the silence.
‘I mean… it doesn’t even seem fair doesn’t it? You two haven’t had any sort of time together since the sixth year… and you can hardly count that!’
‘Well, we will have some more time this year… I mean, I know we will both be busy and all but… we’ll make it work somehow…’ Harry trailed off, feeling his eyes sting.
Hermione let out a small exhale, Harry seeing that a tiny tear was slowly falling down her cheek. She shook her head slightly as she looked up at the roof of the van as a way to hide her tears from Harry. Harry appreciated her bravery immensely, knowing that she wanted to stay strong for him.
‘She’s considering not accepting the Harpies offer you know… that is if she ends up making the team,’ Hermione said, her voice one of a much higher pitch than her usual speech.
‘She knows that you would never let her though.’
‘She might be surprised then,’ Harry said jokingly.
After she collected herself, she turned back to Harry, cocking her head to one side as she examined him.
‘I wish I could tell you now. I really wish I could. But I promised not to unless Ginny was there as well,’ Hermione said quickly, trying to avoid Harry’s eyes as she spat out her sentence all in one breath..
‘Wh-What do you mean? Tell me what?’ Harry asked inquisitively, lowering his voice after he realized he had spoken a bit too loudly in his excitement and curiosity.
‘Oh, nothing… You’ll find out soon enough,’ Hermione whispered back as she winked at Harry.
Accepting that Hermione was not going to tell him what she was concealing after a few more minutes of prodding, Harry’s mind briefly wandered away from the topic of Ginny. He was grateful that there was something else to occupy his mind as the trip to the Ministry continued; if he had to think about being away from Ginny for another minute he was sure his head was going to explode.
‘I wonder how many times you’ll be peppered with questions about who you are currently dating,’ Hermione said in an obvious attempt to shift away from the rather somber topic of the previous conversation. ‘If I had to guess it’ll be at least three times.’
‘You’re mad… It’ll be at least half a dozen times. Remember when Ron and I took you to the Ministry for your debriefing last month? I’m surprised I got out of there alive…’ Harry responded through the giggles of Hermione, Ron beginning to stir in his seat.
It was true that Harry was finding it more difficult than ever to visit the places he wanted without being hounded by a barrage of eager reporters. Now that a year had passed since Lord Voldemort’s defeat, it seemed to Harry that everyone had put the horrors of the past years behind them. Over the past few months it appeared that the obsession with Harry had hit an all time high; wherever he went, whoever he saw and whatever he said were things that the general public wanted to know. If it was not for the upcoming election, Harry thought it was entirely possible that he would have graced the front page of the Daily Prophet on a more regular basis.
Though the Prophet had always been focused on delivering the news of the day (or rather their own diluted and biased version of it) they had recently been focused on keeping the public up to date on celebrities and the gossip around them, similar to what the popular tabloid magazine The Stool Pigeon presented in its contents. However, with Rita Skeeter’s launch of her own new magazine entitled Rita Skeeter’s “Clean Skeet”, competition for reporting daily gossip had hit an all time high. Harry, fresh off of his defeat of Lord Voldemort, was now the main target of all of these magazines’ attention. This new emphasis on Harry and other celebrities like him served as an indicator to Harry that he was living in a much more peaceful time, at least on the somewhat misguided surface. The fact that Harry was now being featured more prominently in the pages of the Prophet told Harry that the amount of noteworthy news had greatly declined since the downfall of Lord Voldemort; now, there barely seemed like enough news to fill the Prophet’s pages. Though Harry was upset about how he was being presented in these stories at first, after he had learned that nobody of great importance put any stock in to what these magazines reported, he was beginning to have fun with the outlandish remarks they were making about him, such as the one he read last week that claimed he had adopted a Burmese boy named Joseph and had quit his job at the Aurors in order to become a single father.
‘Ten times… and that’s with the election going on too… those prats can’t seem to get enough of you…’ the voice of Ron grumbled from the back seat of the car, Harry and Hermione both laughing at Ron’s interjection. Ron had apparently been listening in on the last part of their conversation.
Though he was taking what was being written about him in stride, what bothered him was the way they had reported his final defeat of Lord Voldemort for two very different reasons. The first was that he did not think the subject of Lord Voldemort was one that they should inaccurately report. Being a touchy subject and something that deserved the utmost seriousness and authenticity, Harry knew that virtually every family had been affected in some way by the wrath of Voldemort and his Death Eaters and thought it wrong to speak of this very real subject imprecisely.
The second reason was much more troubling to Harry than the first. Put simply, Harry felt like the story of Lord Voldemort was not over. The articles continually reminded him about what he had experienced just a few months ago. Hearing the Death Eaters and the portrait of Voldemort vow that the Dark Lord would return once again made it impossible for Harry to have proper peace of mind. The man who had taken so much from him in the past did not deserve another chance at life and hearing the confidence that the Death Eaters spoke of his return only infuriated Harry. Though he still was unconvinced as to how Voldemort could ever return from the dead, he thought it wise – as Dumbledore’s portrait had told him – to not put anything past the Death Eaters. The day that Harry could rest free of anxiety was the day that the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort were a thing of the past.
This was the reason why Harry was beginning to feel butterflies in his stomach as the van continued to inch closer to its destination; the prospect of becoming a full time Auror meant that he had more direct control in to the operations of the Aurors as a whole. Having a greater input in to the plans of the Aurors was something that he desperately wanted. Even though he respected every Auror who he met, he still felt that his presence in the Aurors could really help based on the fact that over the past few years, he had spent more time chasing, learning about or dueling Death Eaters than any other Auror in the entire office. The last thing that Harry wanted was for Lord Voldemort to implausibly return or the Death Eaters to rise in power while he was still an Auror. Preventing this was something that he felt was required of him; the idea of not fulfilling this self-imposed duty made him feel as if he was letting down his parents, Sirius, Dumbledore, Lupin, Fred, Tonks, Dobby and everyone else who had sacrificed their lives for him.
He had been seeing Voldemort in his mind more and more since last summer; the visions of the plain white room he had periodically experienced since Voldemort’s downfall had indeed become less frequent but in turn, they had become much more potent. They had gotten to a point where Harry had felt that he himself was inside the vision and it was only a few months ago that he had discovered that one of the two mysterious figures he saw in each vision was Lord Voldemort himself. Still nowhere closer to deciphering the meaning of these visions, why he was having them, or who the second figure in the vision was, Harry was beginning to grow scared at what this meant for him. Though Hermione had plausibly speculated that it may be in connection with Harry’s status as “Master of Death”, Harry was ultimately not convinced, at least until he had concrete proof on hand that confirmed Hermione’s suspicions.
Harry was thankful that he would not have to dwell on these disturbing thoughts for any longer. Hardly noticing where the van had travelled to over the past hour, he was surprised when Hermione pointed out of the window, indicating that they were within mere minutes of arriving at the Ministry. Peering out of his own window, Harry could already see flocks of wizards and witches make their way down the busy London streets; he had become quite good at spotting magic-folk in the presence of Muggles. Some were incredibly obvious to point out while others blended in with the rest of the Muggles so fluently that it was not until they were almost out of eyesight that Harry realized that there was something unusual about them.
Almost directly after Ginny had finally woken up, the van had come to an abrupt stop, indicating to them that they had arrived at their destination. The sliding door of the van opened as a smiling Mr. and Mrs. Weasley greeted them.
‘Let’s hurry up now you four,’ Mrs. Weasley said excitingly, ‘we don’t want to be lined up forever!’
As Harry stepped out on to the pavement after making sure he had all of his things with him he stretched his legs and arms over his head as he let out a concise yawn, the butterflies in his stomach resurfacing almost instantly. Ron, undoubtedly feeling the same way that Harry was, seemed to recognize this.
‘Don’t worry mate – there’s no way Mosteban can overlook us now matter how much he wants to,’ he said through a yawn.
Joining an obviously very tired and weary Percy and George, Harry, Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys started off in the direction of the lavatory. As the vans drove off in the opposite direction, Harry felt something in his hand, realizing that Ginny had taken his in hers. Thinking that there was no better way to enter the Ministry, Harry felt a noticeable happiness with every step he took as he followed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley who beckoned for them to keep up with their pace.
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