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Harry Potter and The Twelve Gates by General Schemer
Chapter 16 : Sandy Sparkelyn
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1

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 16. Sandy Sparkelyn

In his mind, Harry went back to the lunch table with Sandy a number of times and wondered if he did right by asking her out? It could possibly cause some issues at work. What the hell, he could always forget the whole thing. But after pondering for an hour, he could see no reason to forget it. Friday after lunch, he would stop by her desk – or maybe just send a note – that would be easier. No , hell no, that's so stupid. He was trying to give himself a chance to fail – he would go by her desk. That way it would be more personal. Who in their right mind would turn away from an opportunity like this. There was no need to feel guilty; he had wanted to go out with Ginny, but now there was no way to do that. Anyway, he might run into another dark wizard, and not be so lucky the next time. If that happened then none of this would matter. Settled – done deal. Time to move on and get back to business. Now, what was the business at hand? He had completely forgotten. It caused him pain to jump back into the situations at hand. There would be a need to stop by and speak with Ms. Rosemarkie as he had no idea what books she required for this class. The second thing was not too bad – he needed to make arrangement to visit Hogsmeade on the morrow. If he did that, he would probably miss his Defense and Dueling class. But it would be terrible to miss the class. What he really wanted was to return Lance the favor and put him on his bum. But Lance might not be there – he might be watching the Carpathia. And Sandy – it would be a shame to miss Sandy if she came back to Dueling practice in her cute dueling kit. So he would go to the class and plan for Hogsmeade on Thursday. That would give him until next week to prepare for Ms. Rosemarkie. He would send Neville an Owl to meet at the Three Broomsticks for Lunch. It would be very interesting to hear from Neville and see how his meetings with Myrtle were coming along. The third order of business should be the easiest of the lot – finding Dedalus Diggle. Dedalus never failed to turn up in the evenings at the Leaky Cauldron, and it should be a snap to find him there today after work.

It turned out to be no snap. Ron had stopped by before leaving, and Harry mentioned his problem to Ron to recruit his help. They both left cheerfully for the Leaky Cauldron expecting to find Dedalus the moment they walked in the door. He wasn't there when they arrived, so they ordered butterbeers and sat back to enjoy the wait and the beers. After an hour or so, Ron had to leave. A few wizards walked in that Harry knew. Michael and Seamus dropped in, and they all swapped tales of the summer and had a few more butterbeers but still no Dedalus. It was very late before Harry called it quits and left for Grimmauld Place. The next morning, he was on his third cup of coffee and still wasn't one hundred percent. It was just minutes before the Defense and Dueling class and he could just make out Lance's voice in the hall. Ron was getting up from his cubicle. No doubt ready for the class. Could he be looking forward to sparing with Sandy again?

"Ready for this class Harry?" Ron asked.

"Yeah, I think so," Harry said finishing a last swig of coffee.

"Morning Mates." Lance said gleefully.

"Morning Lance," Harry and Ron said together.

They all made their way to the practice room together. Other than the brief greeting nothing else was said among them as they entered the room. To Harry's delight Sandy was already there and lining up with Beollan. They took turns initiating an attack and drawing a parry from the opponent followed by a quick riposte. The speed of the tempo was impressive and the actions of both duelers was smooth and efficient. As Harry had guessed the week before, Sandy had been taking it easy with Ron. Ron and Lance were about to take the remaining piste when Beollan called a halt to his and Sandy's bout. They both gave the other a short little bow.

"As we were last week gentlemen. Ron you practice with Sandy, and Lance, come with me," he said as he motioned toward the corner star they used before. Harry and Lance grabbed a protective vest and squirmed into the vests as quickly as possible.

"You too Ron," Beollan said looking at Ron. Sandy was not wearing a protective vest and for that reason Ron appeared reluctant to get one. Harry waited for Lance and Beollan to get into position, and he picked a point on the star roughly between and facing each dueler. Harry didn't have to be told to get into a proper guard position and extended a wand at both Lance and Beollan. They in turn also assumed a guard position.

"Begin," Beollan barked the order to start. Instantly Lance fired a curse toward Harry that he easily parried with Snape's black wand. He was thinking of a counter curse at Lance, but Beollan gave no time as he fired a curse an instant behind Lance's. He had to use the wand in his right hand to parry the curse and immediately moved to place Lance more in line with Beollan. He was completely defensive. Once more Lance fired a curse that Harry parried, but this time Harry was able to get in the counter and cross over the left, parrying Beollan's attack. Rather than to return attention to Lance, he immediately fired through his on blocking spell to attack Beollan. This Beollan didn't expect, and the blocking spell of his parry was not fully formed when Harry hit him in the chest. He wasted no time in lining up on Lance again as Lance was about to attack once more. The black wand formed the blocking parry with little or no assist from Harry. Just as his own parry had diminished enough to counter attack Harry fired two quick attacks in a row. Once again, Lance was fooled by the out of tempo attack and took a direct hit to the chest. A double defeat for Harry. With little time to gloat on his victory, Beollan ordered another round.

"Let's try that again Mr. Potter."

They all three went through the scenario several more times with moderate results. Harry had turned around the circle enough to get a full view of Ron and Sandy practicing their tempo drills. Harry was thinking how great Sandy looked in the rather elasticized and slim fitting trousers. Once again she was wearing the full white silk shirt and the wide red silk sash. Taking in this lovely scene a moment too long, he was caught unaware and hit in the side of the head with a stunning spell. The protective jacket went only to the collar and offered no protection to the head. It felt like he'd been hit by a ball bat. He was laying flat on the floor and trying to shake out the cobwebs.

"You alright mate. You went down like you took a Bludger to the noggin," Lance said with a smile. Instantly Harry felt embarrassment. He struggled to jump up, but couldn't make it without a helping hand from Lance.

"Not so fast Harry. You jump up too quickly and you'll pass out again," Beollan said.

"I passed out?" Harry asked, still trying to shake out the cobwebs.

"That's enough for today," Beollan said with a smile and a chuckle. Harry quickly made his way to the shower and the group broke up practice without further ado. Still, it was damned embarrassing, and he wondered how much of his blunder Sandy took in. He stayed under the hot water long enough to feel normal again before making his way back to the Auror office. Ron's red head was buried in a Muggle studies book. He had remembered to invite Ron to go along with him to Hogsmeade. Ron had been working pretty hard lately and deserved a chance to get out.


"Harry – you okay? Was anything hurt?"

"No, just my pride. Hey, Listen I'm thinking tomorrow is the day we need to check out Hogsmeade. You still able to go?"

"Well sure, if you can get me out of work!"

"I hope Aberforth can help us find Mundungas. Mundungas is bound to know something about all this," he explained.

"Sure, and Hogsmeade should be nice right now. We better take advantage of this weather while we can."

"Good... I'll send a note to Shacklebolt," Harry said nodding. He penned a thorough note to Shacklebolt explaining he and Ron along would be out tomorrow for Hogsmeade. Folding it carefully, he cast a flying spell and gave it a little throw. He remembered Neville. He needed to send him an Owl. Harry penned another note, and explained they would be in the Three Broomsticks tomorrow. It was one thing to drink a beer at the Hogshead, but something else to eat lunch there. This way they would have an excuse to eat somewhere else. He put the note in an envelope and addressed it to Neville Longbottom at Hogwarts Castle. He dropped it in the box outside the door to the Auror office, labeled 'Out Going' post.

Harry stopped by Ms. Rosemarkie's office and got the name of the book he would be reading for her class on Investigative Analysis. Ms. Rosemarkie was just as full of cheer as usual. She was wearing black robes that were a bit shorter and somewhat faded from repeated washings. You could make out the flesh colored hosiery with a seam in the back. The shoes, with a short heel, were the same black lace ups she always wore. The greyish white bun of hair was perched atop her head and appeared too far forward. Se was wearing half-moon shaped glasses and kept peering over the tops as she talked.

"Please read the first chapter before class Thursday Mr. Potter," she said dryly as she scribbled down the book title on a note.

"Oh, I won't be able to make it tomorrow... Ministry business in Hogsmeade," Harry said apologetically.

"Well... then have the first two chapters read by Tuesday," she said, in a manner that seemed to perfectly exemplify her scalding personality.

"Thank you," he said before spinning out of her office.

He stopped by the Ministry library and found the book. A couple of hours later a note from Shacklebolt arrived. He was okay with the plan for Hogsmeade. He had managed to get most of the first chapter read when the end of a perfectly lousy day finally arrived. Hopefully the next couple of days would be better.

Returning from the canteen Thursday morning, Harry was sipping coffee as he entered the Auror office. The doorway to Hermione's office seemed vacate this morning as neither Lance or Ron were standing in it. There was a small envelope on his desk and opening it, he read it quickly.


Glad you're coming to Hogsmeade. Been meaning to send you a note

for a little while now.

Got some news from Myrtle.

See you at lunch at the Three Broomsticks.


"Uhmmm," he muttered to himself wondering.

"Morning Mate."

"Morning Ron. You need coffee or anything before we shove off?"

"Give me a minute Harry," Ron says rushing out the door. Harry smiled to himself as he knew Ron would stop and talk to Hermione. He didn't expect anything different, he just wanted Ron to know he's eager to get an early start. After a period of time roughly equal to ten minutes, Ron comes through the doorway to the Auror office delicately holding a paper cup of coffee from the canteen.

"Hurry with that, and we'll leave Ron," Harry says with a smile. After a few more minutes, Ron is standing by Harry's cubicle and announcing his readiness.

"Alright – Harry I'm ready!"

They go to the little alley behind the Ministry building and disapparate, first Ron, then Harry, to the entrance of Hogsmeade. Some of the shops are open for business and Harry and Ron stroll along High Street admiring the quaintness of the village.

"Feels strange," Ron mutters.

"What feels strange?"

"It feels strange – being back here as Aurors," Ron explains.

"Oh... yeah, I guess you're right. It was a great treat when we were third years," said Harry.

"Did you post Ginny we were coming?" Ron asked as they passed the Three Broomsticks.

"Didn't tell her. School is off limits for me. Not sure why but I thought it probably included Ginny as well," Harry said as Ron shook his head with a bewildered expression.

"We'll meet up with Neville for lunch," Harry said glancing toward the inn. They walked on and were very close to Hogs Head Inn. The sign for the inn was in bad need of re-painting and was hanging on a wooden bracket over the door on rusty chains that left streaks of brown running down the peeled and cracked sign. You could barely make it out, but it didn't matter. Everyone knew the Hogs Head Inn, and if they didn't know it already, they didn't matter. Neither Harry or Ron was too eager to enter, and finally Ron grabbed the door and pulled it open for Harry. The light inside got very dim when the door shut on its own behind them. The windows were still so dirty the light could barely get in. The smell of goats was clearly about the place. Everything looked just like it had when they used it for the very first meeting of Dumbledore's Army. They walked up to the bar and looked around for any clue of Aberforth. There was a goat bell on a coiled spring on the bar, and Ron gave it a tug. The bell clattered a few times, and a rustling from a room behind the bar turned out to be Aberforth scuffling around the corner.

"Ahh, it's you Harry Potter."

"Hello Aberforth," Ron and Harry said together.

"You two do me an honor. So what's the occasion?"

"A couple of butterbeers and we'll talk," Harry said. It was too early for butterbeer, but Harry felt it was the best way to get any proper time from Aberforth. Aberforth reached under the counter and took out two amber and dusty bottles.

"Here you go gents," he said opening the bottles and sliding them along the bar toward Harry and Ron.

"What's this business you mentioned?" Harry slid a couple of sickles across the bar to Aberforth. He immediately slid them back.

"No charge to you Harry Potter."

"We need to get in touch with Mundungas. We were hoping you might know something about him," Harry asked taking a swig of the butterbeer.

"Why would two young men like yourselves be looking for Mundungas Fletcher? Why, you ought to be out chasing women." Ron and Harry grinned at this comment.

"It's part of our job now. We have to," Harry said.

"Oh, you're working for the Ministry then."

"Yes, we're Aurors now, but we're just looking to talk to Mundungas," Harry says and then turns up the dusty bottle.

"Yeah, we're not looking for him personally," Ron pipes in.

"Unless, he's more involved than we think," Harry says with a smile.

"Involved in what, Potter?" Aberforth asked sternly. At this point Harry realizes Aberforth is asking all the questions. This is not how a law enforcement interview should be handled. Nevertheless, Aberforth is a friend, so Harry won't go for the hard questioning. It wouldn't work with Aberforth anyway.

"Oh, come on. We all know stuff has been disappearing from the magical communities during the war. Break-ins and all that. Someone must be behind it. We're just hoping Mundungas can give us a clue," Harry said patiently.

"I wondered when the Ministry would address that bit of business," He said nodding. "Well, the short answer is – I don't know. After the war, Mundungas has been laying low," Aberforth says shaking his head.

"You haven't seen him at all then?" Harry asks with disappointment clearly evident in his expression.

"Not in several months. Sure, Mundungas was a part of the Order, but he's too dodgy to be on one side or the other. You won't see too much of him until the new Ministry has drawn up the rules. He doesn't want to be caught on the wrong side of the line, you know."

"No I guess he wouldn't," Harry said reflectively. "But you did see him a few months ago?"

"Oh yeah, he came in alright. Wanted to sell some things. Stuff he thought I might use for the kitchen. I didn't need anything he had."

"He didn't leave any clues at all then?" Ron asked. Aberforth scratched his head through the scraggly grey and white hair.

"He did mention some bloke at Borgin and Burkes. Leachy Morris, I think he said his name was. You two need another butterbeer?"

"Ah, no. That's enough for me," Harry said waving his hand a few inches over the bar. "You'll let us know if you catch wind of him?" he added.

"I'll send an Owl, Potter. Ministry of Magic, right?"

"That'll be fine. Thanks for the help."

Ron and Harry hurried to the door. They had forgotten what fresh air smelled like until they were several steps outside.

"Leachy Morris? Do you think he's worth checking out?" Ron asked.

"I think we're going around in circles," Harry replied.

Harry and Ron spent the rest of the morning looking about the shops in Hogsmeade. It was entertaining, but sadly a bit nostalgic. Nothing could compare to experiencing Hogsmeade on your first third year outing. Still it was nice to see it all again.

"Did you find Dedalus at the Leaky Cauldron?" Ron asked as if suddenly remembering.

"Oddly no. He's there almost every time you go, and when you need him you can't find him."

"Yeah, that is odd."

"Well, it's time for lunch. What do you say we head to the Three Broomsticks?"

"Yeah I'm starved."

Madam Rosmerta greeted them both as they entered. The air was much fresher than what they experienced in the Hogs Head Inn. The light was still a bit dim as usual, but the eyes adjusted very quickly. Being a few minutes early, they decided to indulge in another butterbeer before Neville arrived.

"Another tough day at work, eh Harry?" Ron said, making light of their easy assignment.

"Oh yeah. Hermione would throw a fit if she could see us," Harry said and Ron chuckled.

"Yeah, she's been working too hard on this Gringotts investigation."

"Is she making any progress?" Harry asked after a swig of butterbeer.

"She's been quiet about it lately. Hmm, this is definitely better butterbeer," Ron said and Harry nodded. The lunch crowd had not arrived in full force, when the door opened and Neville paused in the entry waiting for his eyes to adjust. Ron waved a hand and Neville quickly spotted them.

"Ron, Harry good to see you," Neville said with a big smile.

"Good to see you Neville," Ron and Harry answered together. "Care for a butterbeer Neville?"

"Sure, why not," Neville answered quickly and Ron motioned for Madam Rosmerta.

"How's life at the castle?" Harry asked.

"Boring actually. Should pick up when term begins."

"Are things getting cleaned up and rearranged? I think Ginny mentioned that."

"You'd be surprised how far things have come along. There's still some work left though – just millions of books to re-shelve."

"So how's McGonagall? She taking things in stride?" Harry asked.

"She's good – doing real well," Neville replied quickly. Madam Rosmerta brought over sandwiches and another round of butterbeers. They all chatted and joked about the castle and incidents of years gone by. As lunch was nearly finished, Harry knew he had to bring up the subject of Myrtle.

"So Neville, how's Myrtle? You did get her to talk – right?"

"Oh yeah... finally," Neville said after washing a bite of sandwich with butterbeer. "Harry, I must have taken a dozen bubble baths before she finally popped out of the toilet."

Harry wondered if Myrtle had been the shy one, or if it had been Neville. The butterbeer was making him a little more brazen in his choice of words.

"Well now... if you drop the towel as soon as you get there, Myrtle won't be long in showing up," Harry said as he and Ron chuckled and Neville blushed.

"Yeah, I finally figured that out."

"It's the only thrill a female ghost gets, huh," said Ron, still chuckling.

"Perverse she is," added Neville. "She did ask about you Harry."

"Did she?" Harry said still laughing.

"She wanted to know where you went. I told her you went to work for the Ministry," Neville said with a serious tone. "A couple of weeks later she comes back to tell me she has a message for you. She says it's a personal message to you Harry," Neville said looking straight at Harry.

"Well, I'm not supposed to go back. Unless, it's cleared with McGonagall and official business," Harry replied.

"Oh, I see."

"I don't know how we could get it cleared if we don't know anything about it Neville. See if you can find out some more."

"Sure Harry, I'll do that."

After one more tour of Hogsmeade with Neville, Harry and Ron said farewell and disapparated to the Burrow. They discussed the trip and considered going to Borgin and Burkes, but decided against it. The Ministry already had it under surveillance, so there was no point going near it. They continued to chat about things until well into the evening. Molly fixed a quick meal and insisted Harry stay. Not long after dinner Harry made his way back to Grimmauld Place. Tomorrow should be a big day, he thought, so he turned in early.

Getting in early the next day, Harry could see Hermione's office light was already on. He went to the canteen for coffee and stopped by her door and poked his head in.

"Good morning."

"Oh Harry, good morning."

"You're in early these days," Harry said playfully.

"Well, I'm here only half a day, so I've got to make the most of it."

"How's the investigation going – anything new?" Harry asked as he looking over the tops of his glasses.

"I may be on to something Harry," she said cautiously.

"Can you say?"

"Give me a couple of days. How did the trip to Hogsmeade go for you two – enjoy the weather?" she said with mock concern.

"It went okay. Dropped in on Aberforth at the Hogs Head Inn."

"Was he as cheery as ever?" Hermione asked raising an eyebrow.

"Wasn't too bad. He hadn't seen Mundungas in some time but, did mention a friend of Mundungas who works at Borgin and Burkes – Leachy Morris, I think he called him."

Hermione quickly scribbled down the name.

"We don't want to forget that Harry," she said with an efficient look on her face.

"Do you know if Lance turned up anything with the Carpathia?" Harry asked.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders, "Don't know yet. They've not reported in."

"Well, good luck today," Harry said as turned back toward the Auror office. He dug out the book on Investigative Analysis and did his best to finish the first chapter before the Dueling and Defense class began. Ron reminded him of the time as he walked by Harry's cubicle. Harry was completely aware of the time, not being able to concentrate on the chapter he was reading. He jumped up to join Ron. It appeared Ron was enjoying his practice with Sandy. Lance was still out, so the practice today would be Ron and Sandy, with Harry going solo with Beollan. They would be using two wands and both found a position on the circle before Beollan gave his customary wave to erase the painted guide on the floor. The practice was quick and intense. Neither dueler was able to gain a noticeable advantage over the other. They continued like this, going around the circle pattern, time after time. As the hour drew near Ron and Sandy quit their own practice and watched Harry and Beollan go at it for the last five minutes. Finally when a moments break in the action presented itself, Beollan called a halt. With a huge smile, he rushed over to Harry for a warm handshake.

"Good practice today Harry."

"Thank you sir," Harry said with a slight bow.

"Not bad Potter," Sandy said with a smirk of a grin and immediately headed out of the room. Ron nodded and left as well. Harry felt some questions for Beollan were in order.

"Sir, I've got a question," he asked.

"Sure, what is it Harry."

"Well, I've seen a major duel between strong wizards. Dumbledore and Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic a few years ago."

"That duel was well documented Harry,. I've read about it of course," Beollan said with a nod.

"Well sir, the puzzling part about it – they didn't go at it like we do here?"

"No they didn't. It was a bit old school really. Years ago, wizards made up their on rules, based on what they did best. Dumbledore had devoted his life to good magic and he did it like no other. Of course Voldemort was equally driven on the other side of that equation. But, back to dueling. You can't easily teach those methods. Not just any wizard could learn to do what they did. What we teach here can be learned and practiced. The action is very fast – attack and counter attack. You simply don't give your opponent time to conjure a fiery dragon. Does that make sense?"

"Yes sir. That makes good sense," Harry said with an expression of relief.

"Of course, if you get a step behind your opponent, you might see something like that. We will study special attacks and counter measures a little later in your development," Beollan added before entering his office.

"That sounds good. Thank you sir."

Harry hit the shower and grabbed a late lunch alone in the canteen. Only one big item was left on his agenda for the week. He was to stop by Sandy's desk. The butterflies were beginning to twirl around in his stomach. What if she said no? Would she be kind about it or callused and insensitive. If she said no, then he would be angry and have to avoid her. But, he didn't want to avoid her. He liked being around her. Who the hell wouldn't? It was almost three o'clock. Deciding to take his chances now, he made his way to her desk while rehearsing what he wanted to say in his head. As he passed under the gilded archway he could see her desk and the vacant chair behind it. The thought quickly flashed in his mind and it left him gutted – She had left early for the weekend. His mood immediately sank to the floor. He was beginning to feel like a fool. Shaking his head with his chin almost touching his chest, he started back toward the Auror office. As he began to turn the corner under the archway he heard a little click in the direction of Kingsley's office door, and paused to listen. He could make out voices, faintly at first, and then grow louder.

"Yes sir, I'll get these copied," Sandy said as she hurried toward her desk with a notebook and quill in hand. "Oh, Harry... I'll be back shortly."

"Sure," Harry said as he nervously shoved his hands in his pocket. He paced around the room taking in pictures and photographs without really looking. In what felt like an hour, which was actually five minutes by his wristwatch, Sandy came bustling back in the room with her royal blue robes flowing behind her. She looked his way and raised an index finger as if to plead for one more minute. Harry nodded. In what seemed like another hour, which was actually three minutes this time, Sandy left Kingsley's office toward her own desk at a leisurely pace.

"What's going on Harry?" she asked. Harry was troubled by the question. 'What's going on?'. Had she totally forgotten he was to drop by today. Would she then apologize and say 'Oh I'm sorry Harry, I've made other plans.' It was time to find out.

"Just thought I'd check with you. You know we had talked about going for a beer today?" Harry said nervously and braced himself for the rejection.

"Oh yeah, that's right. Hey I could definitely go for a beer. What a week! Come by and get me at five. Okay?" she said with a smile and headed back toward Kingsley's office with a different notebook.

"See you at five!" Harry barely had time to say before she disappeared into Kingsley's office.

For the remainder of the afternoon, Harry just floated along as if filled with helium. He could barely feel his feet touching the floor. The two hours of the day that were left, seemed to drag forever. Ron had cut out early and, no doubt, was looking to catch up with Hermione somewhere. At five minutes until five o'clock, Harry made his way back to Sandy's desk where she was still copying documents and filing papers. She noticed him immediately as he walked under the archway.

"We'll be out in a minute Harry," she said. He took a seat and glanced through a copy of Witch Weekly. Sandy got up and walked toward a cupboard in the hallway to Kingsley's office. She had stowed her robes in the cupboard and came back out wearing a simple light blue, knee length, shirt dress, and dark blue ballet flats. There nothing extravagant about what she was wearing. The frock was loose and airy, a baggy waistline that was perfect for the persistent summer-like conditions. It was a modest outfit that did little to emphasize her natural beauty. As a new force of habit, Harry checked both wand pockets before they passed under the archway to leave.

"So where to Harry?" she asked.

"I don't know for sure. Where could we go on a Friday, that's not crowded?"

"Hmm, that could be challenging. Let's just walk for a while, if you don't mind," she said in a reassuring voice. They exited the Ministry building and Sandy instinctively followed her feet. They had walked about a block and a half in silence.

"Okay, I thought of a little place down here on the right. Nothing special, but should be fairly decent for a Friday," she said.

"Sure," Harry replied in a carefree tone. They entered the bar, which had a small street front that opened up once inside, to a narrow and large room that was somewhat dim. There was a hostess on duty that seated them at a small table in the back that was several steps up to a small balcony. It was a perfect seat. Even with her simple frock, Sandy drew glances from several of the male patrons. They both ordered a house ale and glanced at the menu for sandwiches. After a couple swigs of the house ale Harry could feel all stress of the week ebbing away, and he began to feel very comfortable with Sandy.

"Glad this week is over," Harry finally managed.

"Oh yeah, me too," Sandy said after a long drink of the house ale. "End of month can be hectic with Kingsley."

"Is he easy to get along with?"

"He's not too bad. He has enough of his own problems right now – with the state of things, I mean."

"Oh yeah, I see. So how long have you been at the Ministry? You start right after school?"

"Almost. I started about a year after. Worked with Fudge before he retired. Worked with Scrimgeour until he was killed – then got the hell out," she said with a laugh.

"Yeah, that would have been a good time," Harry said. "So how did you get involved in this business?"

Sandy looked away at first, as if distracted or troubled by the question. With a show of concentration and small laugh, she began to answer.

"Hard to say exactly. Well, a few things I know for sure. I lost a friend. He was training for a position similar to your own. It just wasn't called by the same title in those days. It kind of woke me up – from my schoolgirl life you know. So I joined Ministry to fight crime." she said with a smile and raising her palms upward.

"He was a good friend?"

"Very much," she said quickly and reached for the beer.
"Was that during the first war with Voldemort?"

"No sometime after."

"So you were trained for an Auror position but..."

"So why am I a receptionist – is that your question?"

"In part – yes."

"I was trained just like you, but it was felt I should stay out of non-magical environments," she said, Harry returned her a puzzled look. "If I break into verse in front of Muggles – well , it wouldn't go over too well. So, I just decided to do what I do. However, I have had some Auror assignments. When someone with my talents is called for," she explained.

"Sure – that makes sense."

"Did you ever find us a Quidditch pitch?" she said quickly changing the subject. "I'd like to go flying again before the weather goes bad," she quickly added.

For a moment their eyes met. There was a small candelabra in the corner of the room, and Harry could see the candle light flicker in Sandy's eyes. It was mesmerizing and he was fighting the temptation to stare. He became lost in the sea green eyes and began to witness a battle taking place between the long pikes of two opposing armies. Stabbing and parrying the shafts fought it out silently. Finally the long red pikes were defeated; not even a gallant effort from the honor of the right could save the ends of the fringe forelocks from the terrible eyelashes.

"Harry?" she asked and canted her head as trying to penetrate the trance. The house ale wasn't helping his concentration. He could see she was making the rules, and the rules stated he better find a Quidditch Pitch, if he wanted to go out with her again.

"I have thought about that," he said, jerking his head back. "We could possibly fly at the pitch they used for the world cup. It's being shared by the schools and some professional teams, but I don't think it's being used right now," Harry said with encouragement.

"Wouldn't we need permission for that," she asked with a doubtful expression.

"I'll see what I can do. I'll talk to Kingsley about it."

"That sounds great," Sandy said with a laugh and shaking her head.

"If I can get permission to fly there, would you be game for next Saturday?"

Sandy smiled with lips held tightly and paused for a moment to brush her fringe away with her right hand before looking up.

"Sure, we'll give it a go!"

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