Harry wasn’t taking in a single word Ginny was saying. He was sitting at the Burrow dinner table just as he had exactly two weeks before when he had shattered the glass in his clenched hand. He was totally lost; lost in Ginny.
He was vaguely aware that Ginny was babbling excitedly about the Granger’s home. They had spent the day there yesterday with Ron and Hermione repairing the damage and preparing the home for the Grangers’ return tomorrow. He wasn’t listening to Ginny, though. He was drinking her in. He was drinking in her laughter, her smiling eyes, her gorgeous flowing red hair, her sweet face, her lithe body and her warm, happy voice.
Ginny had been with him through his nightmares, his moodiness, his fears and fits of temper. She had stayed up with him at night when he couldn’t sleep, woke him from his nightmares, watched over him during the day. She had cajoled and then bludgeoned him into accepting help. And he had got better, much better. He hadn’t had a nightmare in a week and though he still found himself going over the horrors of the past it was less frequent and had less power.
Into the space left by his passing nightmares and ebbing fears, flowed Ginny. He had felt his love for her swell and he was, for the first time in a long time, truly happy. For Ginny too, there had been relief at first, giving way to happiness. They had talked and talked. They had said more to each other, shared more and more deeply during the last week than they had in all the time since the battle.
They hadn’t just talked of course. They had spent much time in each other’s arms in the private places of the Burrow. With the unerring perception of the mother of seven children Molly had insisted Ginny return to her own bedroom at night. “You are looking far too happy Ginny. Oh, and Harry dear, please don’t start feigning nightmares!” Harry blushed. Doing just that had crossed his mind. Molly’s admonition hadn’t stopped Ginny sneaking into Harry’s bedroom on several nights. Harry felt no inclination to object.
Tomorrow he was starting with the Aurors, beginning with a ten day initial training camp. He found himself looking forward to it without apprehension.
The previous week, Harry had had another session with Healer Stephen Keyworth. They had talked about different ways that Harry could think about his experiences and deal with his overwhelming sense of responsibility, guilt and helplessness. He suggested as one exercise that Harry try to describe the perfect person to do the jobs Harry had had to do. What skills would they need, what experience and knowledge and all the other attributes they would require to do the best possible job. The next step was to find someone who matched the description.
Keyworth had also shared some of his own experiences.
“You’ve probably heard of the Crifflesling disaster.” Harry nodded. “I was a trainee healer at the time. Some irate former employee has set fiendfyre loose in the Crifflesling office building. Well I don’t have to tell you about fiendfyre. It raced through the building at blinding speed. Thirty people never made it out. Most apparated out just in time, though not before receiving critical burns. People apparated to the first place they thought of. We had victims who were far too injured to be moved spread across the entire country. Medical resources were spread way beyond breaking point.”
“I was sent to a small village in the North. Three people had arrived there in a very bad condition. I panicked, I felt totally inadequate. I desperately called for help but the answer came back in no uncertain terms. There is no help, do what you can. And so I did, I applied what I did know to the situation, ignoring out of necessity the things I didn’t know. I saved two of them.”
Harry looked only vaguely impressed, as if he was thinking “so what, do you want a medal?”
“The reason I’m telling you this is not to impress you, and certainly not to teach you anything about taking on responsibility. I have never known anyone less likely to walk away from responsibility than you, no matter what the cost. No, I want to share with you what happened to me next in the hope it might be of help.”
Harry was looking at him curiously now, wondering what was coming.
“The thing is Harry, I made a mistake, a big one and this killed the third victim. I don’t know if he would have survived otherwise, but I do know that what I did killed him. I made the wrong treatment choice. To say I felt bad about it would be a great understatement. I went through something a bit like what you’ve been going through.”
An old German Healer took me aside. “Did you think you vere going to be ze first Healer in history never to make a mistake?”
“Well, no.” I replied, wondering whether I really did think that I could go through my whole career never making a mistake.
“And vhat do you think vould have happened if you veren’t there, vhat do you think vould have happened if you didn’t act?”
“Two of them would have died.”
“And here is the important question. Vhat have you learnt?”
“Well in cases where the burn ext ---“
“No, No, No I do not mean the medicine; you must always keep learning more of that. No, vhat did you learn?”
I stood looking at him puzzled.
“Come back to me tomorrow and give me your answer, I vill be vaiting!”
I saw him the next day. “Vell?” he said impatiently.
“There’s a quote at the front of our emergency healing textbook from Gunhilda of Gorsemoor. I had always thought it odd. This last day, though, my mind kept going back to it. ‘The best tool I have to use today is what I am today; not what I might become; not what I think I should be but what I am today. I must keep on sharpening that tool but it will always be inadequate.’ This is what I have learnt.”
“Good, very good. Now go heal.”
Keyworth watched Harry, gauging his response. “I have never forgotten that lesson. I still make mistakes and I have to keep on sharpening the tool. I have come to accept that the tool I am will always be imperfect and that the price of doing any good at all is to get some things wrong. That’s something I want you to think about, Harry.”
Harry had had several conversations like that. One was with Arthur. He told Harry about the time when a gang were smuggling in charmed ovens that were being sold to unsuspecting muggles as automatic cookers. They did a great job too. Unfortunately, they had a tendency to explode if you tried to cook coq-au-vin. Arthur was head of the investigation. He felt out of his depth but it was his task. One person was killed and two were blinded before he solved the case. As a result of the experience Arthur totally re organised his department but he had still had a hard time coming to terms with it and he shared that with Harry.
Harry discussed both these conversations with Ginny.
“I suppose it all makes sense,” he said. “Anyway, the good thing is I don’t have to worry about taking on any responsibility for others myself. I’ve done my bit. Let someone else have the worry.”
If Ginny was concerned at this response, she didn’t say anything. She was happy enough that his nightmares were diminishing and he was less and less frequently seized with reliving the trauma he had been through.
Kingsley had visited. He was at pains to stress to Harry that he would not have to lead a team or take responsibility for others until he said he was ready. He was clearly distressed by the role he had played in bringing on Harry’s crisis. He was apologetic.
“I was far too busy thinking of the needs of the job and spent far too little time thinking of the needs of people in the team. That’s poor leadership. I should have stopped to consider what you’ve been through before asking more of you.”
“It’s OK Kingsley,” replied Harry.
“Oh, by the way, thanks for sending me those wand holsters. They’re amazing. They went through our evaluations with flying colours.”
“Cool, aren’t they,” said Ginny.
Kingsley chuckled. “You should have seen the fights in the Auror’s department to see who was going to get those first three. We’ve ordered fifty more from Australia.”
Later, Harry talked to Ron and Hermione. They tried to answer Keyworth’s question about the perfect person to do the job Harry had done. They had taken it seriously at first.
“It’d be a good start if they had some of Dumbledore’s intelligence, power and knowledge,” began Harry.
“He’d need to be reasonably young and fit too,” said Ron.
“And she’d definitely need Snape’s occlumency and legilmency abilities,” added Hermione.
They grinned at each other, realising what an unlikely combination this was. Ron summed up.
“So we’re after a 25 year old ‘half-blood princess’, hopefully without the bad breath and greasy hair, and with the knowledge and powers of a 115 year old mega wizard. I think I saw a couple of people like that in the typing pool last time I was in the ministry.”
They were quiet for a while.
“You know what I really think,” said Ron, “I think you need a stubborn curly haired specky git with a saviour complex and a psychopath sharing his head and who has two dumbass friends who are just crazy enough and care about him enough to follow him into hell.”
“That just about sums it up,” agreed Hermione.
“Yeah,” said Harry slowly, smiling warmly at his two friends, “yeah, did you see any one like that in the typing pool?”
Harry was brought back to the present just as Ginny finished her description of the Grangers’ home. A very handsome white owl flew in and delivered a formal looking letter to Hermione. The ivory envelope was made with a richly textured substantive paper. Hermione read the enclosed letter, written in a neat elegant hand.
“Who’s it from?” asked Ron.
“Oliver Grantham,” replied Hermione. Ron scowled.
“He’s inviting me to a fund-raiser for his Muggle Born Repatriation Foundation. He has included an invitation for Harry as well. He has also asked if I would like to speak.” She handed the letter to Ron.
Ron’s scowl deepened as read the letter. “He signs off ‘your friend, Oliver.’ Who does he think he’s kidding, smarmy bastard.”
“Just because we don’t agree with his politics doesn’t mean he isn’t a good man, Ron. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends,” replied Hermione with annoyance.
“You’re not thinking of going, are you?” asked an incredulous Ron.
“We’re both going Ron, as I hope will Harry and Ginny. I intend to speak too. It’s a good cause and that’s what I will say.”
“Bloody hell, Hermione, he’s using you.”
“Well, we can use each other then. Are you going to come or are you going to sulk?”
“Alright Hermione, alright, I’ll come, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“I’ll consider myself warned then,” said Hermione with disdain. “Will you come, Harry, Ginny?”
“I guess,” replied Harry without much enthusiasm. “I suppose I ought to meet this guy anyway.”
Ron then picked up the invitations that had been included.
“Great; ‘Miss Hermione Granger and partner’. That’s us Ginny. We’re just ‘and partners’ now.”
“He knows we are together, Ron. It’s been front page news. He would have invited you directly otherwise.”
“Maybe he wants you out of the way, Ron. Maybe he has designs on Hermione.”
“Very funny, Harry. As I understand it, he is a happily married man with three young children.”
“Sure done our homework on him, haven’t we,” said Ron sarcastically. Hermione didn’t bother to reply.
At this very moment, Oliver Grantham was hosting a meeting in his London home. Present was the same group he had called together during the vote to fill the vacancy on the High Warranters.
Representing the Guilds faction were Hypon Gallant and Paula Pestle. Gallant was one of the most respected healers of the age and a fierce protector of the entitlements and preserves of healers. Paula Pestle was a potioner. Many who met her only saw a short mousy brunette and dismissed her as a non-entity. They missed her penetrating eyes and sharp intellect. She had fought her way to the top of the Potioners’ Guild and was a force to be reckoned with.
Mercuto Blake had a sharp thin face, with eyes that looked as if they were measuring everything in the room. Perhaps they were; he was a man who missed very little. He and Adam Mallot were representing the Merchants faction. Mallot had a ruddy complexion that hinted at too many nights spent in a tavern chasing deals.
Rounding off the group was Paul Steelman, a fellow traditionalist. The people Grantham had gathered together were not the formal leaders of their factions but they were the most influential. They had the power to make things happen. Making things happen was what Grantham very much wanted. He wanted to forge the formal alliance between the three factions that he had first proposed nearly a week ago.
The six people were seated on leather lounges in Grantham’s well-appointed study. There was a faint scent of wood polish and leather. Shelves crammed with books of all shapes, sizes and colours filled an entire wall. Two other walls were panelled with a light wood. Each held an oversized historical painting. One was of the signing of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in 1689. The other depicted the Battle of Hogsmeade Hill, the final battle in the 1612 goblin rebellion. Large glass doors on the final wall gave a view onto a formal garden.
Grantham offered them refreshments which they declined.
“I guess you brought us here to gloat, Grantham,” suggested Hypon Gallant.
“I’m not the sort of person to gloat.”
“Hah. You should,” replied Mercuto Blake. “We laughed at you last Monday when you said PLEJ was a threat. Then, they only had four members in the Wizengamot. As of today they have ten.”
“I only count nine,” said Gallant.
“I hate to be the one to tell you this, Hypon, but you’ll find that you have just lost Jenny Peabody. She has defected to PLEJ. They now have more members than you.”
Both Gallant and Pestle turned pale.
Steelman picked up the thread. “I would add the Minister of Magic is a member in all but name, and they now have a seat on the High Warranters so they are bound to pick up even more members. That was an extraordinary coup. I didn’t think old Doge had it in him.”
“I’m not sure it was Doge’s doing,” said Grantham. “Unfortunately, unlike every other faction, they don’t leak. Their internal goings on are opaque.”
“Gemalla Wenglespon has been spitting chips all week,” laughed Adam Mallot. “She still can’t believe she got outmanoeuvred by an ‘old man and a bunch of kids’ as she puts it. You can be sure she has crossed Rufus Lazarre off her Christmas list.”
Paula Pestle spoke for the first time. She was dismissive. “I still think you’re overstating the problem, Grantham. They’ll pick up a few more seats when the expelled members get replaced; they’ll end up with 14 tops out a total of eighty in the Wizengamot. They can’t force the sort of change they’re talking about, like all this democracy nonsense.”
“No, they can’t, if we are united. That’s what I am trying to achieve. But Paula, never underestimate the power of an idea with good, honourable people behind it. It can be enormously attractive, especially after the turmoil we have just been through. The defections speak loudly to that. If an old reprobate like Rufus Lazarre can see his redemption in PLEJ you are dealing with a phenomenon that cannot be ignored.”
“You sound like you admire them,’ replied Mercuto Blake frowning.
“Oh, I do – as individuals. I just believe that many of their ideas are naïve and dangerous. They have to be opposed.”
“Huh, you’re not wrong there!” Mallot agreed.
“The thing is they are also trying to do what we should have been doing all along – providing good government. They are leading the charge against corruption, incompetence and complacency. That makes them very attractive. If we are to put ourselves forward as a credible alternative, we must do the same.”
They all stared at Grantham with stunned looks.
Hypon Gallant broke the silence. “As I said on Monday, that's no small vision you are selling, Grantham. Not only do you want to form an unlikely alliance, now you want us to push the reforms that Shacklebolt is introducing. Opposing those reforms was why I thought we were getting together in the first place.”
“No, controlling the reform agenda is why we need to get together. Do not think you can oppose reform, Hypon. You will get run over if you try. What we have to do is make sure the good isn’t thrown out with the bad.”
“You’re going to have to explain that a bit more, Grantham. Surely you are not going to support the democracy reforms PLEJ wants.”
“Of course not Paula, we have a meritocracy and it works well in principle. The best and brightest get appointed to the Wizengamot. I don’t want to change the principle. I want to make it work properly in practice. That will take a commitment from all of us. Your Guilds, for example, get six guaranteed seats that you can fill as you see fit. Do you appoint the most capable people or do put in hacks as part of some factional deal. The High Warranters appoint 75% of the members of the Wizengamot. They normally choose from candidates put forward by the factions. Are we all putting forward the best possible candidates? I don’t think so. The Wizengamot has become a cesspool of patronage and corruption. So has the ministry. If we don’t clean it up, it will be done for us and we’ll get cleaned up with it.”
For the next half hour he explained his ideas in detail with great passion. Despite their natural scepticism, after all they regarded themselves as hard headed realists, they found themselves been caught up in his vision.
“We will need to have Shacklebolt dismissed and get our own person appointed as Minister of Magic,” said Paula.
“Yes, that will be crucial,” replied Grantham. “We need to find the right candidate. Personally, I would suggest Hypon here. However, I am sure you will all need to give this much thought.”
Hypon Gallant sighed. “I thank you for the vote of confidence, Oliver, however I am pretty sure that our merchant friends would find that unacceptable. I’m right, aren’t I, Mercuto?”
“I’m afraid so, Hypon.”
Gallant continued. “Frankly, there’s only one person who I think could pull this off and keep these three factions together. That’s you Oliver.”
“I agree,” said Mallot. The others nodded.
Grantham burst out laughing. He was genuinely surprised.
“Are you all mad? I’m only 36. I am an ambitious man, but I’m under no illusion that I have either the stature or the experience to take on the job of Minister of Magic.”
“I beg to differ,” said Paula. “You have already demonstrated the energy, understanding and I might add the integrity that would stand you in good stead. If you can pull this alliance together then you are definitely the man for the job.”
“I have a young family and I’m still trying to build my legal practice. I’m not ready to go into full time politics. It’s not yet my time.”
“The times call forth the wizard,” continued Paula. “Please think about it. We will consider other candidates also, but think hard.”
“Well then,” asked Gallant, “when should we make our move against Shacklebolt?”
“I suggest we bring forth a no confidence motion towards the end of August,” replied Mercuto Blake. “The War Investigations Commission is putting out its interim report on the 1st of August, in about four weeks’ time. No matter how Shacklebolt responds, he will annoy a lot of people. He will be at his most vulnerable.”
“Excellent,” said Grantham, “That gives us just about the right amount of time to get everything in place. We have a lot of work to do to get this alliance into reality, a lot of people to bring along. You four will have to find a way for the Guild and the Merchants to put aside your traditional differences and come up with a compromise on market reform you can both live with. I will do whatever I can to assist.” Pestle and Mallot looked sceptical. Gallant and Blake sighed, resigning themselves to long hours of difficult negotiations.
“I would like to ask one more thing; we try and keep this as secret as possible. I am aware we will not be able to hide the fact a move is afoot. However, I would prefer it if our opponents didn’t get to read all the details in the Daily Prophet.”
Grantham took up his wand. A cabinet door opened and a silver tray with six cut glass tumblers rose in the air. When each person present had a glass of fire whiskey in their hands he proposed a toast.
“The alliance!” they echoed.
When they had all left Grantham was joined in the study by his wife Vanessa. She was an attractive, shapely woman in her early thirties. She had wavy, jet black, shoulder length hair and deep soulful eyes you could get lost in.
She gave her husband an affectionate kiss. He handed her a fire whiskey and refilled his own glass.
She sat down beside him and snuggled in. “How did it go?”
“Very well, I think. The alliance should go ahead. Lots of things could still go wrong though.”
“I’m sure it will be fine.”
He took a deep breath. “They want to make me Minister of Magic.”
Vanessa sat bolt upright almost spilling her whiskey. She stared at Oliver.
“It’s ridiculous!” he said.
“I don’t think so, Oliver. A surprise, yes, but in no way ridiculous.”
“I’m too young.”
“Harry Potter and his friends have demonstrated quite convincingly that being too young is no barrier to doing great things. They’re only half your age.”
“Minister of Magic is a very different kind of job.”
She put down her whiskey, took his hands in hers and looked up into his eyes. “Honey, I fell in love with you on those long summer nights when we sat out on my father’s porch and you would talk for hours about your vision for the future, about how much better things could be, about how fragile our world was and how it needed protection. I fell in love with your passion, your goodness and yes your intelligence. Of course, those good looks didn’t hurt either.” She tickled him teasingly. “Oliver, you still have all that. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see in the job.”
“It would mean a big adjustment on your part. Between the kids and your job as a healer you are already stretched. You’d have to cut back a little on both of those. My income would be cut too. Minister of Magic isn’t a well-paid job.”
“Oliver, we have never been about the money. If you choose to do this you have my full support. If you decide not to do it, that’s OK. I trust your judgement. Just don’t say no because of me or because you don’t think you’re ready. No one is ever ready for that job.”
Oliver Grantham leaned back into the lounge and sipped his whiskey. He began to imagine a future that just that morning had been unimaginable.
Again, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Thanks to those who have posted reviews. If you liked this chapter, hated it, disagreed or agreed with it please let me know. I would really appreciate your view. Thanks!
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