Chapter 8 : Press Conference
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He was wondering what his sister in law, Melanie, was doing here bustling around the top table where three uncomfortable looking teenagers where trying to shield their eye’s from the continuous flash of camera’s. He knew she had an administrative job in the Auror’s office where the new Minister of Magic used to work. Maybe he had roped her in to help for the day. He would find out in due course.
All the journalists had been given a press release an hour and a half ago, embargoed till the end of the press conference. When they had first received the release the room fell into utter silence as they all begun to read. The silence was soon punctured by the intake of breath and many whispered exclamations of ‘Merlins balls!’, ‘Mein Gott!’ and ‘Sacré Bleu!’ Most people acted in the same way as they finished, they sat back in silence too astounded to say a word. Then they joined in one of the many animated conversations that were building around the room. A consensus soon built among the journalists that the release left out just as much as it included and as a group they became determined to get the rest.
For Grantham It had been an astounding read and frightening too. His respect for the three teenagers had risen considerably. He had found himself regretting that in the future they were likely to find themselves on different sides of many issues. He had regrets too that he would be taking the first subtle steps today to diminish their public credibility.
Now his sister in law was talking, bringing the group to order.
“If I could have your attention, please,” she called out. “Thank you. My name is Melanie Watts and I am the personal private secretary to our new acting Minister of Magic, Mr Kingsley Shacklebolt. He has asked me to conduct today’s Press Conference. It is my great pleasure first of all to introduce to those of you who don’t know them, most of you I think, three young people to whom we all owe a great deal; Mr Ronald Weasley … Miss Hermione Granger…. and Mr Harry Potter.”
As their names were mentioned Ron, Hermione and Harry each nodded to the room and was greeted by a round of applause. Hermione was in the centre with Ron to her right, Harry on her left.
“Harry, Ron and Hermione will each make a brief statement,” continued Melanie, “and then we will open up to questions from the floor. Please wait for me to call you before asking a question. Ron I believe you’re up first.”
“Er …ah…thanks, Melanie.” Ron was blushing, feeling a little overwhelmed by all the strange faces staring at him. He had just about got his thoughts together when he was dazed as a barrage of flashes hit him in the eyes. “That was fun,” he said in a low voice, raising his hand to shield his eyes somewhat belatedly. “Ok thanks for all coming today. Harry, Hermione and I have just come from a briefing with Dumbledore’s Army or the DA that was formed here at Hogwarts two years ago. We’ve been catching up on what they have been doing while we have been off hunting down Voldemort’s horcruxes. They have an astonishing story to tell and we have asked them to come down here to join us today. That’s them lined up against the wall over there. Every one of them fought in the battle. That includes my brothers Fred and George and my little sister Ginny. My brother Fred died in the battle as did three other members of the DA.” Ron’s voice faltered as he spoke about Fred. “I’d particularly like to talk about the DA members who attended Hogwarts this year. They formed the core of the resistance here. They not only did a lot to protect the students from the Death Eaters running Hogwarts, they also contributed a lot to the wider struggle against Voldemort, including foiling a plot to assassinate the High Warranters.” At this, quills flashed across pages, murmurs arose and cameras flashed at both Ron and the DA. “The DA was ably led by Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and my own courageous sister, Ginny. I won’t call her little anymore. I’m not that brave.” This was greeted by light laughter. Ginny looked embarrassed. Ron continued “I’m extraordinarily proud of you Ginny…. Harry, Hermione and I are extraordinarily proud of every member of the DA who was at school this year. They each displayed exceptional courage and determination. They all paid a very heavy price in punishments and beatings for their efforts. We encourage the members of the press to talk to them and to tell their stories. There are many people who played a role in this war and we encourage you to ferret out their stories and tell them to the world. It is important that people know that tyranny and evil can be fought.”
Polite applause followed the conclusion of Ron’s statement. Grantham was intrigued; He found he was very interested in hearing the full story of the DA. He couldn’t help but agree with Ron that there were many stories of resistance out there to be told and it was important for people to know that bad things can be actively resisted. Too many had remained passive during the war and this wasn’t good for wizarding society.
Melanie was on her feet again. Grantham couldn’t wait to find out everything he could from her.
“Miss Hermione Granger will now make a statement….Hermione.”
Hermione was about to speak when, like Ron, she was stunned by all the flashes. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. Regaining her composure she began, “I would like to endorse everything that Ron has just said. We did what we had to do but so many others have also played a major role in this war. Many have lost their lives. We couldn’t have done what we did without the support of many people. We couldn’t have done what we did if other people had not also been fighting this war. I’d like to make a special mention of Ron’s family. Arthur and Molly Weasley and their seven children have been in this fight from the very beginning. Through their membership of the Order of the Phoenix and, for the youngest four members, the DA they each have been centrally involved. They all fought in the battle here. Most have fought in other engagements as well.” Hermione paused and looked at Ron whose eyes were wide with surprise. She smiled before continuing. “Harry and I were both raised by Muggles. We had no idea that the wizarding world even existed till we turned eleven. The Weasley family has been an enormous support to both of us over many years. We are grateful for that and the massive contribution they have made to the war effort.”
Hermione looked around the room. She suddenly appeared nervous and hesitant. She took a deep breath and started again. “It wasn’t just witches and wizards that fought on our side at the battle of Hogwarts. House elves, centaurs and even a giant fought for us. We also received essential help in our task from goblins. As a muggle born I am sure that none of you would be surprised that I found the blood prejudice of the Voldemort’s regime utterly repellent. We as a society need to ask ourselves a lot of deep questions in this area. Too many were happy to go along for the ride. I also believe that we need to address the deep prejudices that so many witches and wizards have against other magical species and the oppressive way we treat them. Until that is addressed we will never have a just society. We have a lot to be ashamed about when it comes to our relationships with other magical species. None of us has a clean slate in this area.”
There was uneasy shuffling around the room. Grantham couldn’t believe his luck. He had identified Granger as the weak link, and here she was shooting herself in the foot. He had planned to use questions on S.P.E.W. to paint Granger and her friends as radicals, perhaps even elf liberationists and marginalise their opinions as those of fringe dwellers. As a muggle born, people would accept her support for the muggle born cause though many would find it self-serving. Harsh criticism of the treatment of other species was another thing altogether. From a pureblood, it might be regarded as eccentric. Many would find it very affronting coming from a muggle born. If Granger persisted down this path she would do enormous damage to her reputation. Grantham would twist the knife later during the press conference.
It was Harry’s turn to talk. He, like Ron and Hermione before him, looked nervous and uncomfortable. “I would like to endorse everything that Ron and Hermione have said. We did not fight this war alone and many people deserve credit. I would like to specifically endorse the things that Hermione has said. This war is won. However if we do not address the prejudices, the indifference to evil, the complacency that allowed Voldemort to come to power we will eventually find ourselves fighting a new war. The next time we may not win. I don’t want to mince words here. You as members of the press have a lot of questions you need to ask yourselves. Too many of you went along for the ride when the Ministry under Fudge continued to deny that Voldemort had returned. You alone can answer whether you had alternatives to cooperating with Voldemort’s regime when he finally took over. I know some of you defied him, at least for a while. All the same the press as a whole failed in its obligation to the community you serve and a terrible price was paid. You must all look at that.” The press corps looked distinctly uncomfortable, unwilling to look Harry in the eye. “You now have to ask yourselves what you are going to do to help prevent the next war, to prevent the next dangerous psychopath rising to power. That is the challenge Ron, Hermione and I lay at your feet. I hope you take it up.”
Harry looked around the room, trying to establish eye contact with the various members of the press. One by one most of them grasped the straw he had thrown them. They looked Harry in the eye and began to think of the future. “Well done,” thought Grantham, “what Granger lost you have regained.”
Harry continued, “Before we start answering questions I would like to tell you a little about Ron and Hermione. Two finer friends a man couldn’t have and they are every bit as responsible for the defeat of Voldemort as I am. I killed Voldemort in the final duel, but that was just the final step in a nine month mission that we undertook together. Actually it goes back longer than that. We three have been fighting Voldemort together since we were in year one here at Hogwarts, since we were 11.”
Grantham raised his eyebrows at this last; perhaps this had something to do with the story about the triple headed dogs. He would find out later.
“Hermione Granger is an extraordinary human being. She is a very powerful witch and is widely regarded as the brightest student to attend Hogwarts in many years. Despite her intellect she was sorted into Gryffindor which tells you a lot about her courage. Her quick thinking and skill has saved Ron and my butts and this mission many times. She is also very compassionate and possessed of a fierce sense of justice.” Harry halted. He was trying to control his emotions. He took a deep breath and resumed, “it makes me very angry that there are witches and wizards, witches and wizards who aren’t worth Hermione’s shoelaces, who think she is not worthy of a full place in wizarding society just because her parents were muggles. Hermione has paid a heavy price for that prejudice as did my mother who was also muggle born. Do not expect any respect or tolerance from me or Ron if you share those prejudices, if you do not actively oppose them.”
“I am deeply privileged to be able to call Ron Weasley my friend. He has been my strongest support for many years. There is no wizard I would rather face danger with than Ron. He is fiercely protective of all those he cares about and brings his considerable strength, power and cunning to the task. His sense of humour and irreverence has kept our spirits up in the darkest times. Hermione and I, well, we can both get over focused on a task. It is Ron who can drag us back and give us much needed perspective. Ron too has saved my life during this mission as he has Hermione’s.”
“Neither Ron or Hermione needed to take on this mission. They would have been far safer if they had stayed at home or fled the country. The both knew that the likeliest outcome of this mission was that one or all three of us would end up dead. They came anyway. I could not have done this without them and I will be eternally grateful to them. …Ok that is all I wanted to say.”
“OK time for questions,” said Melanie, “yes you there, with the pink cravat.”
“Douglas Douglas, Glasgow Gleaner. I believe I speak for everyone here when I say we all owe you three a great debt of gratitude. In my 23 years as a journalist I have rarely come across a more amazing story.” This was met with a wave of applause. “My question is for Mr Potter. You now possess the Elder Wand, reputed to be the most powerful in the world. What do you intend to do with it?”
Harry reached into his leg pocket and withdrew the wand. “This is the Elder Wand.” There was sudden quiet, even an element of fear in the room. “I don’t want it…. It is my intention to hand it over to the Minister of Magic for the purpose of investigations into the crimes committed by Voldemort. When that is complete I intend to destroy it in public. I do not want to spend the next seventy years of my life looking over my shoulder for the next hot shot wizard who wants to kill me to take possession of it. This wand has a history of betraying its owners to their death.” Ron and Hermione were both looking at Harry with surprise. There were gasps around the room.
“Surely you can’t destroy such an important historical artefact?” continued Douglas Douglas, sounding a little outraged.
“I can and I will. I don’t want it and I don’t want to give it to anyone else even if that is possible. That sort of power corrupts and I don’t want that for myself or anyone else. More often than not this wand ends up in the hands of very dark wizards. It was from Grindelwald that Voldemort learnt the location of the Elder Wand. It was Grindelwald himself who owned the wand during his reign of terror. Time to call an end to it.” Harry finished emphatically.
“Mitch Wildes Salem Howler. Harry, Voldemort thought you were dead. He marched back to the castle with what he clearly thought was your dead body. There is nothing in the Press release that explains how that came about. Would you like to enlighten us?”
“I’m sorry Mitch, but I have been asked not to talk about that just now. It would jeopardize an ongoing operation. In the not too distant future I should be able to give you a full explanation of what happened.” Harry looked distinctly uncomfortable as he said this.
Melanie next called a young witch in the third row.
“Paula Prescott from the Sydney Morning Soothsayer. The press release lists six horcruxes with the first being destroyed by you Harry when, if my calculations are correct, you were still only in second year. Could you tell us about this?”
Harry demurred to Hermione who succinctly told the story of the diary and the Chamber of Secrets. When she had finished Harry added, “That was the second time we three had combined to thwart Voldemort’s return to full physical form.”
No one said anything for some time. They were all too busy reassessing the three teenagers sitting in front of them. It was hard enough to believe what they had done as 17 year olds, but this as 12 year olds? Eventually someone spoke, “can you verify that story?”
“Well,” replied Ron, “you can ask Professor McGonagall or any of the other teachers who were here at the time. If Gilderoy Lockhart ever regains his memories you can ask him too. As for the Acromantulas, you’ll have to take our word.”
Hands shot up all over the room with journalists eager to ask follow up questions. Melanie called on Rita Skeeter.
“Rita Skeeter, author and senior correspondent for the Daily Prophet, but of course you know that.”
Grantham watched with curiosity as Granger took out a glass jar, placed it in front of Potter and snapped closed the lid. He was surprised when Skeeters voice failed when she next tried to speak, only able to emit a high pitched squeak. The three teenagers all smirked. Very curious! At last Rita found her voice and her venom.
“It seems to me that Dumbledore left you three woefully underprepared for the mission he gave you. Did you ever think that Dumbledore had left you in the lurch and that he either didn’t know what he was doing or was playing you for a fool?”
Harry appeared angry, but he quickly reined it in. He took his time before responding. “I went into this mission with a child’s understanding of Professor Dumbledore and came out with a man’s. I hate to admit it but your book, even though you misinterpret most of the facts you had, played a part in that re-evaluation. I had to come to terms with the fact that even great and good men have flaws. And yes there were definitely times when we felt abandoned and questioned why Dumbledore hadn’t given us more information. We often felt out of our depth, felt as if we were floundering. We kept on going, though. Dumbledore in his wisdom knew that some knowledge has to be earned before you can use its power and that we three had to develop greater strength before we could successfully complete our mission. He set us on a course where we could earn that knowledge and build that strength. I do sometimes feel just a little manipulated by Dumbledore but, as I say, I now have a man’s understanding of him. Let there be no mistake, without Dumbledore, his brilliance and compassion, Voldemort would still be in power. It was he who worked out what Voldemort had done to secure his power and who worked out how to defeat him. In some ways, we three were just his instrument.”
Many questions followed going into the detail of the mission. The trio answered as succinctly as they could. Melanie then called on a beefy looking man sitting in the front row.
“Aneurin Laugharne, the Welsh Dragon. It says in the press release that when you were held at Malfoy Manor, Miss Granger was ‘intensively interrogated’. Is that a euphemism for something far worse?”
Both Ron and Hermione turned pale. Ron took hold of Hermione’s hand in a way that suggested both comfort and support. It was clear they didn’t want to discuss this in front of strangers. Harry looked at his two friends with understanding and answered for them. “Yes it is. Anyone who knows anything about Bellatrix Lestrange will know precisely what ‘intensively interrogated’ means. That was a traumatic experience for all three of us and I hope you will understand we do not wish to discuss this at this time. I hope you can respect that.”
Melanie noticed that Luna, who standing along the side with the DA, had her hand in the air. She had on a big yellow hat that looked like an oversized top hat. A large card was stuck in the brim that read Press. Melanie smiled and called on Luna.
“Luna Lovegood, the Quibbler. I have two questions really,” said Luna in her dreamlike voice. “Firstly, did you come across any strange or rare creatures on your travels? Secondly what do you plan to do in the future?”
The three visibly relaxed when they heard Luna’s questions. They had clearly been afraid of something she might have asked. Potter answered with a broad smile.
“I’m sorry Luna; we didn’t come across anything particularly exotic, unless you include the half blind dragon we found in Gringott’s basement.” Chuckles filled the room. Harry continued, “I regret to say we didn’t come across a Crumple-Horned Snorkack though of course it would be strange to find one in Britain. As for your second question, I don’t think we’ve had enough time to think about that yet Luna.”
Ron added “We are just beginning to come to terms with the fact that we actually now have a future. For so long now we haven’t been able to think of anything beyond just finishing the mission. Surviving it seemed so unlikely at times.” This sent chills through the room.
“Cantilena Misslethorpe, Witch Weekly. Mr Potter…. Harry, it has been widely reported in the past that you and Miss Granger were in a romantic relationship. However, Miss Granger and Mr Weasley have been seen arm in arm since the battle and I quote an eye witness ‘they only have eyes for one another’. Has there been tension between yourself and Mr Weasley during this mission on account of Miss Granger and how did you cope with this.”
Ron and Hermione turned various shades of red. Harry looked very annoyed. “That question is out of order,” Harry blurted, “….but I will answer it anyway …. Despite reports to the contrary,” he glared straight at Skeeter as he said this, “there has never been a romantic relationship between me and Hermione. She is, along with Ron, my closest friend. We have been through so much together and I love her deeply, but as a man loves his sister. As for Ron and Hermione, that is not for me to say. What I will say is that during the last nine months they put any relationship they might have on hold for the sake of the mission. It is one more sacrifice that these two have made.”
Cantilena pressed on. Addressing Ron and Hermione she said, “Is it true? Are you two in a relationship?” By now both Ron and Hermione were as red as beetroots. Eventually Ron just shrugged, reached for Hermione’s hand, and said simply, “Yes.” He then turned towards her.
Hermione turned to Ron and smiled, nervously at first. She added to Ron’s statement, “Yes it’s true.” Seemingly oblivious to everyone else, their smiles broadened and they leaned in and kissed each other, highlighted by a wave of flashes. They quickly broke apart and turned back to face the press, still slightly red and looking a little sheepish.
Well, thought Grantham, smiling to himself, I bet a photo of that kiss will be on the front page of every wizarding newspaper around the world tomorrow.
“Giovanni Veronese Venetia Civetta. I would like to ask about a report you three spent several weeks in a Veela colony in Italy. Is this true and where in Italy is this colony?”
“Why, are you planning on visiting it?” chipped in Ron occasioning much laughter.
Harry answered the question. “Like many reports in the Prophet, this story has no basis in fact. We never even left Britain. Nor did I recruit any vampires. the Prophet really does need to have a good hard look at itself. The story about the Veelas gave us all a great laugh, although it did get me in trouble with my girlfriend.” Harry appeared to regret this last the moment he had said it.
Cantilena Misslethorpe from Witch Weekly jumped straight back in. “And who is that girlfriend, Harry. Would I be correct in saying that it is Miss Ginny Weasley, Ron’s baby sister?”
It was Harry and Ginny’s turn to go red in the face. “I’d be careful who I called a baby if I were you. Ginny led the resistance here at Hogwarts last year. She is no longer a child. More important she has a very powerful bat bogey hex so be warned. But yes, Ginny is my girlfriend. I am a very lucky man.”
Ginny looked both pleased and embarrassed. She was soon dazzled by flashlight.
“Charlie Chivers, Daily Prophet. I have been hearing some strange stories that in your first year here you three prevented the Dark Lord from returning in full bodily form, fighting giant triple headed dogs and life size magical chess pieces along the way. I have to say I gave no credence to the story but after everything else I have heard today I have begun to wonder. In the interest of accurate reporting at the Prophet could you confirm or deny this story?”
“Well, it was only one dog called Fluffy,” said Ron. Everyone collapsed in laughter. When things quieted down Ron continued. “Mind you Fluffy did have three heads each about a meter high each full of very sharp teeth.” He then handed over to Hermione who told the story giving special emphasis to Ron’s chess game and self-sacrifice. Harry chipped in, giving the details of Hermione’s contribution that she had been too modest to mention.
Grantham was flabbergasted. Who are these kids? Every time he thought he had their measure he learned something new that absolutely astounded him. He had put Charlie Chivers up to asking the question expecting one more legend about the trio to be punctured, but the truth was even more amazing than the legend. Well in for a Knut in for a Sickle. He raised his hand.
Melanie said “we have time for one more question. Oliver.”
“Oliver Grantham, Magical Law Gazette. My question is to Miss Granger. I understand that in your fourth year at Hogwarts you founded an organisation called S.P.E.W. or the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. I am told that Mr Potter was secretary and Mr Weasley was treasurer. Apparently Neville Longbottom was also a member. Can you tell me what the purpose of the organisation was and where you intend to go from here?”
Hermione looked stunned and then studied him very carefully, weighing up her answer. Grantham began to worry that he had shown his hand too soon. Too late to worry now.
‘My, we have done our research haven’t we? I believe you have ferreted out the only four people in the world to ever join S.P.E.W. Ron, Harry and Neville only joined because they were my friends and, I think more importantly, because they thought I would stop pestering them if they did. I’m told I can be very insistent.” Everyone laughed. “Much to my annoyance, none of them actually did anything as members.”
“I started S.P.E.W. after I witnessed some very cruel and devastating treatment of a house elf when I was at the last Quidditch World Cup. S.P.E.W was the response of a 14 year old girl to that cruelty. I will admit I had a very naive view of house elves at that time. The only house elf I knew was Dobby, a free elf who I now understand was a very unusual elf. Dobby died just three weeks ago, rescuing us of his own free will from the horror at Malfoy Manor. He will always have a special place in our hearts. The issue of house elves is complex, but I believe that not a few suffer injustice and cruelty. It is my intention to do my small bit in the future to help alleviate that.”
Grantham felt chastened. His attack, if it hadn’t actually backfired, had at least fallen flat. Her response was a tour de force. It struck just the right emotional tone; it came across as balanced but didn’t retreat from a principled stand. The contrast with her opening statement couldn’t have been starker. The girl learnt very quickly, she really must be as bright as they say. He just hoped that Granger didn’t realise that the question actually was an attack. He was not ready yet to come out in the open as an enemy. He was even beginning to wonder whether he even really wanted to be the enemy of these three remarkable people. There were certainly some issues on which they could be allies.
Reeling from all he had learnt to day and feeling uncharacteristically uncertain about his next steps, Grantham sat quietly as the press conference wound up.
Melanie quickly hustled Harry, Ron and Hermione out of the room by, accompanied by Ginny, George and loud applause from the assembled press. Arthur, Molly and Percy, who had been sitting at the rear of the room, joined them.
Most of the DA remained behind and were soon swamped by the press.
Grantham quietly left the room knowing that today something had changed. He just wasn’t sure what.
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