Chapter 3 : The Election
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‘Hurry up now you lot!’ Mrs. Weasley beckoned from a few yards in front of them. Harry did not require a second excuse to speed off in Mrs. Weasley’s direction as a particularly old looking man grasped for his arm.
‘You’re not nervous, are you Ron?’ Harry heard Mr. Weasley say as he caught up to the rest of the Weasleys. Ron shook his head which apparently was not up to the satisfaction of Mr. Weasley. ‘You and Harry have done nothing wrong, I assure you,’ he said, seeing Harry as he caught up to Ron. ‘If they wanted to punish you in any way they would have done so already.’
‘Not really nervous Dad. More anxious then anything,’ Ron replied earnestly.
‘If you two really become full-time Aurors at nineteen, you’ll be the youngest since Barney Richards... although in his day, Auror criteria and regulations were a lot easier to pass through – they’re much more selective nowadays,’ Hermione recited in her characteristic textbook-like fashion.
‘Brilliant. What did this Richards bloke do then in his time as an Auror?’ Ron asked with a fantasy induced grin on his face as the idea of himself as one of the youngest Aurors of all time crept in to his mind.
‘Er… Well… He never made it to his twenty-second birthday, actually,’ Hermione replied tentatively. Ron’s face grew red, his grin extinguished as he shuffled through a few Muggles who were debating a news story in the paper that one of the men held.
Ron did not say a word for the next five minutes or so as they all tried to keep up with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley who were weaving in and around groups of people walking in all different directions. As they got closer and closer to the entrance point of the Ministry, Harry began to notice more witches and wizards amongst them, nearly all of them noticing Harry. He could tell that the crowd was doing their best to suppress their excitement, knowing that if he was anywhere else but a busy Muggle street he would have been bombarded by screaming admirers.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley seemed to be on high alert of the crowd that seemed to grow with each passing step. The entrance to the lavatory in sight, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stopped in their tracks, turning on their heels and looking out behind Harry. To his surprise, a large barrage of witches and wizards were closing in on him, some even having the nerve to pull out their cameras. As the group of columnists and photographers tried to complete the impossible task of jostling for position in a non discreet way, Mr. Weasley whispered in Harry’s ear.
‘Take Ginny, Ron and Hermione down to the lavatories... we’ll hold them off here.’ Harry nodded, looking towards his friends who immediately understood. Out of nowhere, four Ministry of Magic security officials (all dressed in plain black Muggle suits and ties) emerged, standing on either side of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley though standing far apart enough as to not create a scene. Ron raised his eyebrows and shook his head, evidently referring back to the comment that he had made regarding the amount of attention Harry was to receive. The foursome darted in the opposite direction of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, George, Percy and the Ministry officials, quickly descending the steps that led to the lavatory.
‘Just try to blend in,’ Hermione whispered as they stopped in their tracks. The lineup had stretched to the very bottom of the steps as Hermione and Ginny shifted their position in order to join the ladies’ line.
‘Oh, very simple that is,’ Ron exclaimed sarcastically. ‘We’ve only got bloody Harry Potter here with us.’
Ginny made a quick shushing noise that drowned out the end of Ron’s comment, a few wizards turning to look around at them after they had unmistakably heard the mention of Harry’s name. Thankfully, the line had begun to move again and the two wizards were forced to turn around after some forceful prodding from the impatient wizards lined up behind them.
For the next ten minutes only glances were exchanged between the foursome. Finally, after keeping to themselves, they separated in the two opposite directions, Ron and Harry going one way while Hermione and Ginny – with a meek smile and a nod – went off in the other.
‘We’d better try to hurry once we’re in – no lollygagging around. Look,’ whispered Ron who indicated his wristwatch, tapping the face of it twice.
Harry was familiar with the magical watch as it was a near identical replica of the one that he had received on his seventeenth birthday. Currently, Harry’s was safely put away in his seven lock trunk, an item which he had received on his eighteenth birthday from the Weasleys. After observing the time that now read half past seven, Harry knew Ron was right. The butterflies that had temporarily left his stomach were now back in full force.
‘But doesn’t Fudge just seem a little... curious to you?’ Harry heard a wizard ahead of him mutter to a counterpart.
‘Not at all. In fact it’s been quite some time that someone has come along in the realm of politics the way he has. He has my vote, that’s for sure,’ the second wizard said. ‘Finally a politician with a sense of purpose – someone with the teeth to do the job. The not so glamorous parts of it.’
Having done it countless times over his past year of working at the Ministry, Harry was able to subconsciously flush himself; his mind was currently elsewhere. The familiar sensation of this experience barely flustered him and only a few seconds later, he appeared in the Atrium of the Ministry. After stepping out of the fireplace, Harry was immediately run in to by a group of wizards, nearly knocking him to the ground. As he took in his surroundings, Harry could not believe how many people were occupying the Atrium of the Ministry, his eyes opened wide in amazement. Though he always thought the Atrium was very large, it seemed minuscule at this moment; witches and wizards alike were crammed in to the space, though where he was, the crowd was much sparser than it was closer to the great golden fountain.
‘Harry! Over here!’ Harry heard someone call from across the room. Though he was finding it hard to hear the voice over the noise of the crowd, Harry realized that the voice did not belong to Ron, but to another friend he knew by the name of Neville Longbottom.
‘Neville?! Where are you?’ Harry called over the crowd that was rushing towards the front of the Atrium. Harry saw a hand shoot up in to the air, Neville emerging from a small grouping of older looking witches and wizards a second later.
‘Mad in here isn’t it? Good to see you Harry!’ Neville said, shaking Harry’s hand enthusiastically. Neville had always been a good and loyal friend.
‘Good to see you too! I’ve never seen so many people in the Ministry at one time before!’ Harry called back. They both had to speak more loudly than usual amidst the commotion of the Atrium. ‘Do I dare ask who you’re voting for?’ Harry asked, looking throughout the crowd for any sighting of Ron, Hermione or Ginny.
‘Fat chance I’ll be voting for Fudge,’ Neville grumbled. ‘All I needed to know was who his uncle was and that sealed my vote right there. Gran’s too.’
‘Hey Harry! Neville!’ Ron called, shuffling through the witches and wizards who were all moving in the opposite direction Ron was. ‘Seen Hermione or Ginny?’ Harry shook his head as Ron shook Neville’s hand, Ron gasping for breath as he came to a standstill beside his fellow former Gryffindors.
‘Anything new Neville? How’s your summer holidays so far?’ Harry asked.
‘Spent a lot of it in contact with Professor Sprout actually. I’ll be back at Hogwarts in September... as her assistant,’ Neville replied, obviously proud at his achievement.
‘That’s terrific Neville – hard to imagine you specializing in any other subject other than Herbology,’ Ron said with a grin and a pat on Neville’s back.
‘Thanks. Every day I get more and more skeptical about which house I really should have been sorted in – I’m surprised I wasn’t a Hufflepuff the way Professor Sprout and I get on.’
‘Let’s not forget who pulled out the sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat now Neville,’ Harry replied which only brought a look of pride on to Neville’s face.
His pride dispersed however after a moment, prompting Harry and Ron’s own smiles to fade. As they moved closer to Neville who undoubtedly wanted to speak, Harry could see the difficulties that Neville was having in voicing whatever it was that he was wishing to say. It took a few attempts, but Neville finally spoke quietly, his eyes fluttering between Harry, Ron, oncoming magic folk who were walking by and a space of wall between his two friends.
‘There is one other thing... well it’s nothing interesting really, but... but it’s important to me...’ Neville said slowly as he began to examine the dark floor.
‘If it’s important to you than it’s important to us,’ encouraged Harry, pausing when Neville did not speak. ‘What is it Neville?’ Harry asked after exchanging an inquisitive glance with Ron that told him that Ron knew nothing of what Neville was hinting at. After a moment of silence, Neville spoke bluntly.
‘My parents... they are, er... they’re back. They are conscious again.’
Neville looked up from the floor, tears already forming in his eyes. Harry could not manage to say any words, only staring back in to Neville’s tearful face. Though a tear began to trickle down Neville’s cheek, Harry could tell that he regretted it as he shook his head in an effort to jar him back to his senses; Harry knew Neville wanted to be brave in front of his friends.
‘That’s... That’s amazing Neville... I’m just... so happy for you. How did this – how did it happen?’ Harry stammered, Ron nodding in agreement. Though he knew he was overjoyed for Neville, the shock of the news seemed to have temporarily stopped his brain from working. Neville had one of the most proud and happiest looks on his face that Harry had ever seen on anyone, ever as he spoke again.
‘Only two days ago... at St. Mungo’s. Mum woke up first. She just... woke up. Healers can’t explain it. And as if he could... sense her presence or whatever you want to call it... my Dad woke up as well... just a couple hours later. Their memories are a little foggy – probably never be the same again... but they know me... they know me again.’
Though Neville only spoke in a low tone, Harry’s focus on his friend had blocked out all of the Atrium’s commotion, making Neville’s speech seem magnified. He could not think of a better person for something like this to happen to. Neville’s parents had been in the Order before they were tortured and driven to a state of madness, ultimately left comatose by the now deceased Bellatrix Lestrange along with Rabastan and Rodolphous. Now years later, they had reawakened, leaving Neville in a very obvious state of jubilation. Though he hated to selfishly think like this in wake of Neville’s much deserving second chance, Harry could only think of his own parents and how he would never experience what Neville was feeling right now.
‘They’d love for you to come visit sometime, Harry,’ Neville continued, shedding away his tears fully now. ‘They don’t know much about your defeat... well your defeats of Voldemort yet... haven’t really gotten around to saying much about it... but even still, they’d love to meet you and Ron as well – you two are the sons of my parents’ friends after all.’
‘We’d love to Neville – anytime, we promise,’ Ron said to the approval of Harry.
‘Just give us the word... I’m sure Hermione and Ginny would love to come as well,’ Harry said smiling, giving Neville a small hug, clapping him on his back. Words could not describe how happy he was for his friend as Ron followed.
‘Thanks. Well, I should be getting back to Gran – should be almost time to start the voting soon. I’ll catch you guys later.’ Neville gave them a little wave as he started off in to the packed crowd of the Atrium.
‘Well, you don’t see that every day. Good for Neville,’ Ron said cheerfully, resuming the search for Hermione and Ginny that Harry had already started.
‘I still don’t see them anywhere...’ he said absent-mindedly, noticing that five separate lines were now beginning to form near the fountain of the Atrium.
‘We should probably just move forward. Dad told me earlier to meet near the lifts if we ever got separated.’
Nodding his head in agreement, he followed Ron through the crowd. It took more than double the time that it normally would to reach the lifts but Harry was relieved when he saw the Weasleys, Hermione and Ginny waiting for them on the outskirts of the Atrium.
‘Been wondering where you two were!’ Hermione called out to them as they got closer. Your line must have been moving a lot slower than ours.’
‘We ran in to Neville on the way. I don’t suppose you heard what happened to his parents?’ Harry asked. He and Ron quickly recited what Neville had told them much to the glee of the entire Weasley clan.
‘Oh, we should pay Frank and Alice a visit. After all these years... so many memories...’ Mrs. Weasley said as she pulled out a handkerchief to dab at her eyes, Mr. Weasley holding her tight as his eyes glistened.
‘The chances of that actually happening are astronomical,’ Hermione stated after the initial shock and happiness had worn off. ‘He really is truly lucky. We all are.’
Mr. Weasley had explained to them that there was nothing left to do but wait for the election process to start. Having not normally undergone these circumstances when a new Minister was to take office, Mr. Weasley could not provide all of the answers in regards to this new procedure. However, before he could get in to what he did know, an extremely loud and booming voice rang through the Atrium, almost instantly quieting the rowdy crowd. It seemed to be coming from the fountain itself, Harry and the rest of them moving closer in order to see.
‘Welcome to the Ministry of Magic,’ the male voice said. Harry was unable to recognize whose voice was speaking, inching closer through the crowd to gain a better look. There were many Ministry officials all dressed in bright purple robes, many of whom were stationed at the front of the five lines that were now clearly produced throughout the Atrium. ‘The voting will commence shortly. We apologize in advance for having to conduct the election in such a convoluted manner but with your respectful participation, we predict the day’s events will run smoothly. On behalf of the Ministry of Magic, it is my duty to divulge to you that because of this election’s uniqueness, it was ultimately decided upon to conduct the voting in the flesh. Therefore, confusion at this time would be kept at a minimum.’
Leaning forward now, he could see the eyes of everyone in the Atrium looking directly up at the fountain, apparently listening to the speaker. However, as Harry glanced to the same location, he could see no wizard standing there. After looking harder at where everyone else was staring, he was shocked at his discovery that the golden wizard statue of the fountain itself had suddenly become life like, its mouth opening in line with the words being spoken. Though it still retained its stiff, metal looking demeanor, the voice was anything but; it seemed human.
‘Now, it is our privilege to open the first ever election for Minister of Magic,’ the fountain wizard stated. ‘Good luck to both our candidates Mr. Kingsley Shackelbolt and Mr. Rufus Archibald Fudge. Voting will cease at noon today. Thank-you.’
As the fountain wizard’s speech concluded, two massive curtains fell from behind the fountain; one had the smiling face of Rufus Fudge imprinted on it, whereas the one on the right featured the depiction of Kingsley Shackelbolt. Above their moving faces was a faint golden ‘M’ – the symbol for the Ministry – and beneath each of them were two bright golden zeros. The moment the curtains had dropped, five separate booths appeared from the ground, each booth shielded with its own purple curtain. The election had officially begun.
Harry had not even noticed the five wand makers who stood beside the Ministry officials at the end of each line. As he observed the first voters that walked up to the booth, he saw them present their wand to the wand maker. In Harry’s estimation, this was in order to verify that their wand did in fact belong to them, the voters doing this after they had given their Ministry of Magic identification card to the Ministry official for clearance. A hovering clipboard contained about as many pages as there was in some of the biggest books he had ever seen Hermione browse through. As the Ministry official allowed the voter to pass through – handing them a small card with the faces of Kingsley and Fudge on it – a quill checked their name off of the clipboard’s extraordinarily long list, the pages fluttering as the clipboard found the correct name.
‘Well, we might as well get in line then,’ George said from behind Harry.
Mr. Weasley gave a short nod of approval, ushering Mrs. Weasley and the rest to get in line. His attention turned to Harry and Ron who now appeared by Harry’s side. The noise of the crowd slowly reverted back to its pre-speech noise level.
‘You two better get down to the Auror Office though. I’ll meet you back in the Atrium – we’ll be here all day, of course. Just hope Kingsley can pull it off...’
‘Don’t you need to vote Dad?’ Ron asked his father who was staring up at the curtains which were already showing that Kingsley was in the lead. A bright golden seven sat underneath a smiling Kingsley. Fudge’s face was one of pouting as a golden five sat underneath.
‘Well of course... but I was given this special card, see?’ Mr. Weasley said smiling as he took out a small piece of paper out of his front pocket. ‘I can cut straight to the front of the line whenever I want! You two best be off now.’
‘Good luck you two!’ Ginny called as she was swept away in to the crowd, Harry offering a weak smile back in return.
Harry and Ron set off in the opposite direction of the Atrium, heading towards the lifts and away from the noise of the crowd all at once. Neither of them said anything as they opened the golden gate of the lift and slammed it shut behind them. Every which direction Harry looked he saw the smiling face of Rufus Fudge, his campaign posters covering almost every square inch of the lift’s interior. Nowhere to be seen was any glimpse of Kingsley. ‘Perhaps Kingsley’s posters were all covered’ Harry thought as the lift clamored downward. He knew Ron was feeling the same way as he was, a nervous excitement pounding through their veins at the idea of becoming an Auror. Harry tried to calm himself down by thinking of the election, not wanting himself to get his hopes up too high. They were all alone in the lift as it began to descend downwards, not seeing a single witch or wizard on the next three floors down as they stopped at each one briefly.
‘Level Two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement,’ the cool female voice said.
Harry slid open the golden gate after the lift came to a halt, he and Ron looking out in to the long hallway to see that no one was currently inhabiting it. The only noise that they heard was the whispers of the portraits that called Level Two of the Ministry their home. At the same time, Harry and Ron stepped forward in to the slightly eerie, empty corridor, unknowing of their fate that would meet them once they reached the end of it.
Neither of them uttered a word as they walked down the hallway arriving at the big double black doors that served as the entrance to the Auror Office a moment later. Giving each other a slight nod, they each pushed open one door and walked in to the Auror Office and quickly descended the small staircase that led in to the main foyer.
‘Was wondering when you two would get here,’ a voice who Harry knew to be Williamson’s called out to him. He saw his tall, lanky Head Auror step out of a row of cubicles as he strode towards them, putting a hand through his thinning dark hair. ‘If you would both follow me...’
Harry and Ron both followed closely behind Williamson, not wanting to lose him in the predictably busy Auror department. He could feel the eyes of the occasional Auror inquisitively glancing at them as they passed; Harry tried his best to avoid their curious stares. Having grown accustomed to the Auror Office’s sheer size and level of activity over the past year, he paid little attention to the rows and rows of pensieves on the far side of the Office or the dozen or so fireplaces that Aurors occasionally appeared out of; Harry’s eyes focused only up ahead on Williamson and where he was taking them. Leaving the large square of cubicles situated in the middle of the foyer and past the long row of cubicles that belonged to the Head Aurors, Harry and Ron were led down one of the many long hallways that led off of the Auror Office. Though Harry had been down many of these in his year of being a Junior Auror (including the small hospital wing, simulation area and interrogation room) he had never been down this particular one. He found it to be decorated very nicely; the shiny marble floor echoing every step taken, the walls adorned with portraits of wizards and witches with small golden nameplates underneath them and at the end of the hallway, a single black door with silver trimmings.
As Williamson reached the end of the corridor lighted by a dozen or so floating candles, he reached in to his cloak and pulled out his wand. Watching Williamson closely, they saw him take his wand and place it in the spot where a keyhole was normally placed. This keyhole however, looked different due to the fact that it was perfectly round; the perfect size for a wand to be placed. Williamson slid his own wand entirely in to the keyhole. After a moment of waiting, the door began to glow a faint gold, the light vanishing as soon as it had come. Harry heard a rapid clicking noise as if the door was unlocking and no less than a few seconds later, the door was opened by Williamson.
‘Wait here,’ he said strongly, closing the door behind him.
It was only then that Harry noticed the two chairs sitting on either side of the corridor. Both he and Ron silently took their seats, not uttering a word for what felt like an eternity. Harry looked down the corridor at the Auror Office from whence they had came, seeing the occasional Auror pass by. He could feel the tension in the air, uncertain of his fate beyond the office door. To preoccupy himself, he took to looking at the portraits along the walls of the corridor, quickly realizing that they were none other than the past Chief Aurors. He read the nameplate of the portrait closest to him on the right hand side; ‘Stiggy Wilson’, it read.
‘I never understand why we always have to wait,’ Ron said quietly, his voice barely over a whisper. ‘They tell us to get here for a certain time and then we wait. It’s maddening...’
Harry agreed with Ron’s statement but knew in the back of his mind that this was yet another way that they were being tested. Patience was always something valued by the Aurors, as was a steady and clear mind. Sure enough, it was over an hour later when Williamson finally emerged from the office once more, the door magically holding itself open as they both followed the Auror inside.
‘Unfortunately, Mosteban is out on business,’ Williamson said, walking around the outside of the largest desk that Harry had ever seen. ‘Shut the door if you will Weasley.’
As Ron turned to shut the door, Harry stole a few seconds of inquiry in to what had to be the office of the Chief Auror Mosteban himself. The room’s metallic grey walls reflected the lamp and dimly lit candle in the room brilliantly. Around the outsides of the office stood bookshelves adorned with many little trinkets Harry had not seen before. A foe glass stood on the right side of the room, a small desk sitting in front of it that had countless wands piled upon it. On the opposite side of the room was a stone fireplace, the insignia of the Ministry of Magic carved on to the top of the mantelpiece. After glancing around the room, Harry came to the conclusion that there was not one picture or portrait anywhere in the office.
As Ron shut the door completely, he refocused his attention on the main focal point of the room in the form of the large desk. On it were seemingly thousands of newspaper clippings in English and a variety of different languages. Opened and unopened letters were organized on one of the other sides of the desk, Harry not believing his eyes when he saw the name ‘Dumbledore’ printed on one of these letters.
‘Even with our Head’s absence I assure you he approves of what follows,’ Williamson
declared which tore Harry’s curious eyes away from his former Headmaster’s name.
Williamson was now seated at the large chair on the other side of the desk while Harry and Ron were still standing stock still, the nervous anxiety that filled their minds for weeks returning as fresh as ever.
‘I suppose there is no further need for delay...’ Williamson began slowly, looking up at the two nineteen year olds in front of him, folding his hands on the desk. ‘Let me begin by saying that you two have made quite the... impact... since you arrived here last year.’ Harry was unsure whether or not Williamson’s statement was a good assessment or a bad one. ‘Coming in as Junior Aurors, it was hard for Mosteban, myself, or anyone else for that matter to not expect above average things from you two, judging by what you both have encountered and overcome over the past year and beyond. Needless to say, expectations were quite high, there is no denying that.’
Harry wished that Williamson would get to the point; the elongated exercise was something Harry was not patient for at this particular moment. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ron look at his feet, a bead of sweat hitting the hard floor after dripping from his nose. Williamson ran a hand through his thinning black hair as he observed the two boys for a moment before continuing.
‘And then... just a couple of months ago... you two have the... the nerve... the audacity... to directly contradict strict orders from your superiors.’ Harry’s heart sank, looking a very serious Williamson directly in the eyes, unable to tear away from his penetrating stare. ‘I do not know whether you two believe you are still back at Hogwarts where breaking the rules merely earns you an hour or two of picking up Blast-Ended Skrewt droppings, but I assure you, it does not work like that here!’
Williamson’s voice shook the room; it was not as if Williamson was screaming or even speaking loudly, but Harry could only describe Williamson’s voice as forceful. He could almost feel Ron tremble beside him. Harry wanted to open his mouth to speak, but Williamson pressed on the moment he felt the urge to.
‘This is... Potter... Weasley… the real world. No matter how impressive the things you have accomplished in the past are, I implore you, undermining the rules and wishes of your superiors will not be condoned here.’ Williamson paused as he looked at both Harry and Ron – this was the farthest thing that Harry had imagined in his mind occurring on this day. His heart was pounding as Williamson began again. ‘Therefore... it has been agreed upon by Mosteban, Blackburn and myself, that you both –’
‘But sir, we really –’ Ron pleaded but he was overridden by Williamson.
‘ – be named full-time Aurors immediately.’
Harry did not react for a few moments; it was as if Williamson had whisked away all of the oxygen out of the room momentarily. Williamson had the faintest of smiles on his face as Harry and Ron finally understood what he had just said, looking at each other in an excitement reminiscent of when they had both entered Hogwarts as eleven year olds.
‘Yes, you both will more than likely create a few headaches along the way for myself and others as you have throughout your entire youth thus far, but it is clear that you two are the best choices to become Aurors. Though your knack for trouble, attitudes and general conduct has been debated upon by your peers since you two began your schooling as I’m sure you are well aware of, what has never been debated upon are the intangible factors that you two undoubtedly possess that make you both terrific and powerful wizards. You both are our unanimous choices for full-time Auror membership.’
Harry could not believe what Williamson was saying even though he had run through this scenario in his mind as a possibility a thousand times over the past weeks. Contrarily, what Williamson said next was something that had never even entered Harry’s brain.
‘And since you two have worked so well together in the past, Blackburn and I have come to the agreement that you should be placed within my unit. Welcome to the Aurors.’
‘Thank you sir... we won’t let you down,’ Harry managed, already in wonder of how things will change now that he had become a true Auror.
‘I’m sure you both won’t. Take some time off to prepare yourselves – I promise that when you return you will both be in for a lot of tough work. A new training regiment will be given to you and you will be debriefed at that time about your new position. While Mosteban is away and the election wraps up it will be too difficult to start such measures right now.’
Williamson nodded his head and flicked his wand which opened the office door signaling for Harry and Ron to leave. As the two boys turned, Williamson called back to them before they had exited Mosteban’s office.
‘The decision had been made for some time now, but I am curious,’ he said with a playful tone in his voice, one that Harry had never heard Williamson speak in before, ‘what did you two think your chances were?’ Harry looked to Ron before speaking to his Head Auror.
‘To be honest sir... we didn’t know what to think,’ Harry replied quite simply.
‘We really didn’t expect anything,’ Ron added. Williamson only shook his head and smiled before answering.
‘Now, how would it look on us if the ones who defeated Lord Voldemort were not allowed to be dark wizard catchers?’
Five minutes later, Harry and Ron were clamoring in to the lift once again. The excitement that had filled both Harry and Ron to the brim had come out in full force the moment they had left the Auror Office. Ron was so busy talking of their increased salaries that neither he nor Harry had noticed that he had punched floors five, six and seven on the panel inside the lift and not the button that would take them to the Atrium of the Ministry.
‘Five hundred galleons per week! Blimey, I don’t even think I’ve seen that much gold before,’ Ron exclaimed excitedly, finally jamming the button that would lead them to the Atrium. The cool female voice of the lifts had a touch of frustration in its voice when she urged the boys to make up their minds, something which went unnoticed by Harry and Ron.
‘I wonder what our new training regiment is going to be... probably going to be very rigorous,’ Harry pointed out, gladly welcoming the new challenge.
‘Nothing we can’t get through mate! Putting us together? Brilliant move on their part! Most likely be a little while before we set out on any case with the Aurors though – at least until we’ve trained up a little.’
Harry agreed with Ron’s assessment, the lift stopping at each individual floor. Neither of them noticed that the slightly annoyed female voice did not even bother to stop at the floor preceding the Atrium since the floors were as empty as they were when Harry and Ron had first entered the lift.
Harry and Ron’s glee was put on hold the moment they returned to the Atrium. A distant noise could be heard from inside the Atrium itself. After exchanging quizzical glances, the two new Aurors sifted through groups of witches and wizards in order to see what was going on.
‘This place is a mad house!’ Ron called back to Harry.
‘Hopefully the lines move fast – I don’t want the election to end before we put in our votes for Kingsley. You’ve got your identification card on you right?’ Harry asked Ron who began to rummage in his pocket in order to find his Ministry card.
‘Dad’s got it. Might be difficult to find him in this mess.’
‘What is that noise?’ Harry asked again as they slowly began to make their way in to the Atrium.
It was not much longer until they found a small clearing by one of the fireplaces where they were able to see a band playing at the base of the fountain, a rather large contingent of the audience clapping vivaciously and enthusiastically. Harry noticed that the lines for each voting station had dispersed somewhat and replacing the long organized lines was an unorganized smattering of witches and wizards, many of whom were jumping up and down or dancing together. On the stage (in front of the band that was playing their upbeat tune) stood none other than Rufus Fudge.
‘Harry... look,’ Ron whispered to Harry indicating the curtains hanging high above the Atrium.
What Harry saw extinguished the good mood he was in. The curtain that featured Kingsley’s face had changed. In it, Kingsley was holding his head in his hands, the purple colour of the curtain now dark and dreary and torn apart. Fudge’s curtain featured silent fireworks adorned with Fudge’s smiling face looking triumphantly in to the distance, a rippling wind passing through his hair. Though the golden numbers below the faces were increasing every now and then, Harry noticed a large banner over top both of the curtains which read ‘Rufus Fudge wins majority’. The election had been decided.
As Harry returned his glance to the stage, he saw an emerald green robed Rufus Fudge shaking hands with his admirers, a contingent of his campaign managers standing triumphantly behind him. His and Ron’s votes would mean nothing now. For the briefest of seconds, Harry’s eyes locked with Fudge’s from across the Atrium, a seething distaste coursing through Harry. Fudge’s smile faded only for a second before tearing his stare away from Harry and returning to his voters. It was in that fleeting moment that Harry realized that the Ministry was about to change forever.
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