Arthur looked across the desk at his visitor. He was a good looking man in his mid-thirties with dark hair that was short and neatly groomed. Despite a soft face he still exuded strength, confidence and authority.
Arthur had been surprised this morning when he had received a note from Oliver Grantham requesting an appointment. Arthur had wider responsibilities and much greater authority in Kingsley’s new Ministry of Magic but he still wasn’t used to high flyers like Grantham seeking him out. Grantham was regarded as one of the rising stars of the Wizengamot.
“What can I do for you Mr Grantham?” asked Arthur, after exchanging the usual pleasantries.
“I am hoping to stun two owls with one spell as it were, Mr Weasley. Firstly I like to get to know all senior officials in the Ministry, get their perspective on things. I believe it makes me a more effective member of the Wizengamot.”
“I see,” replied Arthur flatly, “and the second thing?”
“Is, perhaps, of a more personal nature.”
Arthur raised his eye brow.
“I understand Miss Hermione Granger is currently living in your home,” continued Grantham. “I have an offer to make to her. If it is something you believe she may be interested in I would ask you to pass it on.”
“Why not approach Hermione directly?” asked Arthur.
“Even for a Wizengamot member it is not easy to see Miss Granger. I am sure you know this. I also suspect that she has been deluged with owls begging her for interviews or to endorse products from love potions to pumpkin juice. In such circumstances good opportunities can be missed.”
“I will not dispute what you are saying. However I have to tell you I generally dislike people using their influence to gain special advantage.”
“I admire your candour. Let me tell you a little about myself and what I have to offer. You can then decide for yourself if this is an improper use of influence or merely someone trying to set up effective communications,” replied Grantham without any sign of concern.
“During the recent troubles I set up and ran an organisation to help the muggle born to places of safety, mostly in France. We helped over three hundred families. Naturally all this was done in secret. Now I want to run the process in reverse. The aim is to repatriate the muggle born and help them re integrate into wizarding society.”
Arthur felt his jaw dropping and tried to cover his surprise. He was too slow. Grantham smiled.
“I understand your surprise. Smuggling refugees is not the expected behaviour of a conservative lawyer with political ambitions, especially one from an old and traditional family. That expectation certainly helped me to get away with it. I did it because what was happening was very wrong and I was in a position to do something about it.”
“I will admit I am surprised. I still don’t understand what Hermione has to do with this.”
“The problem this last year has been secrecy. Now and into the future it is the opposite. We need visibility. We also need to be able to reassure the muggle born of our good faith. Many have little reason to trust the wizarding world. I believe Miss Granger can help with both problems. I would like to invite her to be the patron of the organisation. That of course is more of a figurehead position. If she would like to take a more active role in the organisation, I’d be happy to discuss that with her too.”
“That is twice today that you have surprised me. I’m surprised you don’t think Hermione is a little young for this role?”
“After what she, your son and Mr Potter have done? No, not at all.”
“Well on that we can agree.” Arthur was quiet for a moment, and then came to a decision. “I will pass on your proposal to Hermione, Mr Grantham. However, she is travelling at the moment and isn’t expected back for at least two weeks. It may be several weeks before you get a response.”
“Then I’ll just have to wait. Thank you for your time, Mr Weasley.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent into Sydney, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position…”
“Thank Merlin!” thought Hermione. She couldn’t take anymore of Ron’s fidgeting. She was tired and irritable herself and for the last two hours he had been like a five year old at the end of a long road trip.
At the start of their journey Ron had been terrified. He was already overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Heathrow and all the procedures from check in to security. When they boarded the plane the reality of sitting in a narrow metal tube with no control over what was happening was just too much for him. He turned so white that his freckles almost jumped off his face. He clenched the armrest so tightly it almost broke. The air hostess didn’t need her training to spot him as a first time flyer. She gave him her usual reassuring message on how safe the plane was, how experienced the captain.
“Yes,” replied Ron, “but how do I get out if things go wrong?”
“Ah,” she smiled “I suggest you watch the safety demonstration very closely.” She then moved off to reassure Harry and Ginny who were almost as nervous as Ron.
Hermione leaned into Ron and whispered to him “are you a wizard or what?”
Ron looked at her blankly.
“You apparate out of here if things go wrong, silly.” Hermione explained.
“Oh,” said Ron checking to make sure his wand was in easy reach. He relaxed a little. When the plane hurtled down the runway and the acceleration pushed him back into the chair his mood changed completely. He was exhilarated. From the “wows’ from the row behind him it was clear that Ginny and Harry were also excited. The broom rider in all three had been activated. As he watched the land fall away from them it was clear to Ron that they were soon flying higher and far faster than he had ever flown before. The continual roar of the engines communicated their raw power to him. He loved it. He was fascinated by the landscape they were overflying and gave Hermione an excited if somewhat inaccurate running commentary of what he could see and where they were. Hermione listened with apparent interest, happy that Ron had got over his nerves.
After he got tired of the scenery, Ron started to explore his immediate environment. The magazines in the seat pocket interested him far less than the barf bag which he thought was hilarious. He turned his attention to the buttons in his armrest and tried each in turn several times. Hermione told him to stop it as she had to cancel the hostess call button for the third time.
When the drinks trolley came around he was surprised when they didn’t have any pumpkin juice.
“It doesn’t have to be chilled,” he replied.
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t carry er pumpkin juice on this flight,” she replied. As a hostess on an international airline she was used to unusual requests.
“Could I have a butter beer then?”
“We have Guiness, that’s fairly bitter. Would you like that, sir?”
“Not ‘bitter’, ‘butter’, ‘butter beer’”
“Er, no sir but I have Foster’s lager, and I could give you some butter to put in it,” She suggested uncertainly. They were both beginning to wonder what planet the other came from.
“He means ‘Ginger Beer’, we’ll have two ginger beers please,” intervened Hermione.
A few moments later Hermione almost lost control when she heard Ginny say, “could I have a pumpkin juice please?”
The arrival of dinner proved an ordeal. Hermione got tired of being hit in the face by Ron’s elbow as he struggled to manage in the confined space. She hit him over the head with a rolled up magazine. “Would you stop it,” she commanded, “keep to your own space.”
“How am I supposed to eat in such a narrow space,” replied an exasperated Ron, “and how am I supposed to manage all these bits and pieces on this little tray?”
“Everyone else can do it, Ron.”
What he actually managed to do was to spill his orange juice over Hermione and drop his cutlery on the floor. He used his wand surreptitiously to clean up the orange juice and summon his fallen utensils.
“When is seconds coming around?” asked Ron, “I’m starved.”
“They don’t give seconds to people who spill things, Ron.”
After they watched a movie they all tried to sleep but none really succeeded. By the time they reached Singapore, fourteen hours after leaving Heathrow, they had all had it. They still had a two hour wait at Singapore then an eight hour flight to Sydney to go.
Now as they approached Sydney, Hermione thought back to the meeting they had had with Kingsley nearly a week ago. She had accompanied Ron when he had gone in to discuss the offer to become an auror. Kingsley had done his best to convince Ron to sign up sooner rather than later but had reluctantly agreed to a six month deferral. They had then explained the situation with Hermione’s parents and asked his help in setting up international portkeys so they could travel to Australia.
Kingsley had known that Hermione’s parents were in Australia but not the circumstances.
“Hermione, you should have told me sooner. You must be so worried. Let me contact the Australian ministry and well get things going. As for portkeys though, I’m afraid that’s out of the question.”
Hermione looked disappointed. “Why?”
“It’s too far. The human body can only take apparition or portkey travel of about 3000 miles per day. Even under the best of circumstances it would take 4 days to get to Sydney. In practice more like a week. Muggle transport will get you there in a little over a day.”
Hermione looked a little embarrassed; she should have known that.
“You mean aerioplanes?” asked Ron going green.
“They’re perfectly safe, Ron. However, Kingsley, we don’t have passports.”
“Leave that to me Hermione.” Kingsley reassured her.
Three days later Hermione had gotten a note from Kingsley saying her parents had been located. They were safe and were living and working in Sydney. She had nearly collapsed at the Weasley breakfast table and sobbed with relief. All she could do was pass the note to Ron who had read it to the table. He then gave her a big hug. Harry soon joined in the hug, adding “Everything is going to be just fine, Hermione.” This time she believed him.
Hermione’s thoughts jumped back into the present as she felt the planes landing gear snap into place. She watched out the window as the plane got lower and lower. They were flying over a bay. Just as it seemed they were about to ditch into the water a runway emerged and, thud, they were down and being thrown forward in their seats by the fierce deceleration. Hermione felt Ron’s hand reach for hers.
“Excited, love?” he asked.
“A little. A little nervous too.”
“It will be fine, Hermione.” He leant over and gave her a kiss. “Welcome to Australia.”
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were all relieved to be leaving the plane. They were very tired but also excited about the adventure they were about to have. As they entered the terminal they were surprised to be approached by a young man in his mid-twenties wearing a smart navy blue muggle suit and a warm smile. He was just a little shorter than Ron which made him much taller than the other three. He had longish though neat wavy brown hair and a face that, while not plump, gave a hint of someone who enjoyed the good life.
“Harry Potter, welcome to Australia,” he said with warmth and enthusiasm. He gave Harry a firm double handed handshake.
“And you must be Ron Weasley… Hermione Granger… and Ginny Weasley, welcome to you all.” He continued shaking each of their hands. “My name is George Lonnergan. The Australian Minister of Magic has asked me to welcome you on his behalf and help you get settled into your hotel.”
“Nice to meet you George,” replied a wary Harry.
“If you’d like to follow me we can circumvent all that immigration and customs rigmarole and get you quickly to your hotel,” George continued. “Here, let me take those for you.” He took Ginny and Hermione’s hand luggage and headed off down a long corridor.
Harry didn’t budge. The other three quickly stopped moving also. Realising they weren’t following him, George turned back.
“I am sorry, George,” said Harry checking that his wand could be quickly reached. “I have no way of knowing who you are, and therefore no reason to go with you.”
George smiled. “Ah yes, Minister Shacklebolt advised you would require an ID check. He asked me to pass on this message as my bona fides. He said he was very pleased to escort Miss Granger from 4 Privet Drive when she wasn’t quite herself and that as for Ron he still thinks six months is too long and hopes he will reconsider.”
“Cheeky bugger,” said Ron, “but that’s definitely Kingsley.”
“I understand your caution. Is there anything else you would like to ask me?”
“No. please lead on,” replied Harry.
George led off as before this time followed by four weary travellers. Not far along he ushered his charges through a door marked ‘No Entrance’ and then another that required a security card to enter. After walking along what looked like a service corridor for some distance, they descended some stairs and found themselves on the tarmac where a black limousine was waiting. They all climbed into the back to find the already spacious car interior had been magically extended, so they were in effect in a small and very comfortable lounge room.”
As the car sped off George offered them all a chilled pumpkin juice. “I bet Qantas didn’t offer you that on the flight.”
“Not wrong there,” replied Ron.
George laughed. “We Aussies can’t understand the passion you English wizards have for the stuff. None of us would touch it. Same goes for butter beer. We all prefer the real thing. Still you’ll find your hotel room fully stocked with it.”
“That’s good to know,” said Ginny, trying to stifle a yawn.
“I should tell you I have taken the liberty of cancelling your hotel reservations,” confessed George in a casual tone.
“Pardon?” said Harry feeling a little disoriented and a little annoyed at this announcement. He had booked them all into a business hotel in North Sydney that seemed of a good standard and was close to where Hermione’s parents were living.
“The Australian Ministry of Magic would like to extend its hospitality to you. We have made arrangements for you to stay in a slightly better hotel in the Rocks area of Sydney at our expense. It is the least we can do to show our gratitude for what you have done.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Why should the Australian Ministry feel so much gratitude for what we did in Britain? I can’t see how it affected you all the way out here,” replied Harry.
“Do you really not understand how long a shadow Lord Voldemort cast around the globe?” George looked genuinely surprised. “It’s not just the large numbers of refugees we have been receiving here in Australia from Britain and even Europe, including, I might add, Hermione’s parents. There are many of us who believe we were headed towards a global war between wizards. You didn’t think the rest of the world was going to stand by as Voldermort expanded his control into Europe and beyond?” George looked at each of them before continuing with great sincerity, “The gratitude is very real, very profound. We would feel very upset if you felt unable to accept this small measure of our thanks.”
All four were gobsmacked. It was Hermione who spoke. “We appreciate your kindness in this and also your assistance with locating my parents.”
“It truly is a pleasure.”
Conversation lapsed for a little while. As they got closer to the hotel, George spoke again. “It’s about 9:00 am. May I suggest that once you settle into your rooms you take a three hour nap. Set an alarm and get up. You will very much not want to do it, but get up anyway. Have lunch, go for a walk and explore the area. Go to bed at the normal time. Again your body won’t want to do it, but do it anyway. We Australians have a lot of experience dealing with jet lag and this is the way to do it. Otherwise you will be out of sorts for days and days.”
“OK we’ll do what you suggest,” said Hermione. “Tomorrow I want to go and see my parents.”
“Ah, there’s a little problem with that…Oh no, there’s nothing wrong, Hermione,” he quickly added as he saw the look of distress spread across her face. “They’ve gone to Perth for a dental conference. They should be back in two days’ time on Wednesday.”
“Maybe we should go straight to Perth,” suggested Ron.
“Well you can if you really want to spend another five hours on a plane,” replied George. “Mind, by the time you got there it would almost be time to turn around and come back again. I suggest you take a couple of days to relax and adjust to the new time zone. Then you’ll be fresh when Hermione’s parents return.”
“I guess that’s best,” conceded Hermione reluctantly, much to the relief of the other three.
Their limousine soon turned into a driveway. As they exited the car George said something to the porter who took all their hand luggage. Harry noticed the name on the hotel, The Sydney Park Hyatt, but it meant nothing to him. There was nothing special about the street. It looked downright plain. As he entered the lobby he did a double take, as did his companions. He was in a most elegant room with granite columns, a beautiful timber parquet floor and exquisite oriental carpets. The area was tastefully furnished with comfortable looking lounges in subtle tones. The far wall was entirely glass and framed a magnificent view of the Sydney Opera House.
In a half dream state they were shown to an antique desk.
George said “I have to leave you now. Call me if you need anything.” He handed each of them his business card that simply said ‘George Lonnergan – catalyst’ and gave his mobile phone number. “I’ll meet you all tomorrow morning here at 10:00am and take you on a tour. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Veronique here. You’ll take special care of them, won’t you Veronique?” he added.
“As always Mr Lonnergan.”
“Good.” He turned on his heels and left before the four travellers had a chance to say anything.
Veronique, who wore a badge saying ‘Guest Relations Manager’ signalled for them to be seated and quickly took them through registration. “Let me show you to your rooms. You’ll be staying in the ‘Sydney’ suite which I hope you’ll find adequate.” She escorted them to the fourth floor and to a room with large double doors.
If the four had been impressed with the lobby that was nothing as to what they experienced now. They entered into the most beautifully furnished lounge room they had ever seen. It was about twice the size of the combined lounge/kitchen area of the Burrow. There were also three oversized bedrooms each elegantly furnished in a different style, each with their own exquisite bathroom. There was even a large dining room with a gorgeous French polished table with seating for twelve.
The rooms themselves each had wonderful views. Most opened onto a large patio where the view was nothing less than breathtaking. It afforded a wide panorama taking in the Harbour Bridge, Sydney’s magnificent harbour, the Opera house and the city centre.
Veronique showed them the features of the suite and advised them a butler was on 24 hour call should they need anything. She then left.
“Wow,” exclaimed Ron “I had no idea that muggle hotels were so magnificent. I thought they’d all be like the shoebox we stayed at in Egypt.”
“Shoebox is the norm,” replied Hermione who was still reeling. “This is just beyond…” She was lost for words. When she recovered the gift of speech, she added, “This is possibly the best hotel suite in Sydney. It must be costing someone a fortune. They are either very grateful as George says or they very much want something from us.”
“Maybe both,” replied Harry.
“Who cares,” added Ginny. I’m having a shower then going to bed.
“Good idea!” agreed Ron and both he and Hermione moved to their bedroom.
“You know there are two bed’s in your room, Harry,” said Ginny suggestively when they were alone.
“We both gave your parents our word that we would sleep in separate rooms. That was the condition on which they allowed you to come with us. I have no intention of breaking my word.”
“I know, I know, noble Harry and all that. I’m going to have a shower.” Ginny stormed off in a huff.
“Besides,” Harry thought to himself, “we’d only need one bed if you moved into my room.” He headed off for a shower.
Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please review if you can – thanks.