Chapter 19 : The Orphan Commission
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‘I’d like to say “Glad to be back” earnestly but I can’t bring myself to say it,’ sighed Hermione.
‘You sure you’re alright to start working again?’ asked Ron for the fifth time that morning. It was Hermione’s first day back at work after the attack on the Ministry and Ron was worried that Hermione was coming back too soon.
‘I’d hardly call it working Ron,’ replied Hermione scornfully. ‘More like sitting there, reading up on past cases and then filing and organizing them alphabetically.’
‘Remember the plan?’ whispered Harry to Hermione and Ron. As he looked up at the long, draping curtains and windows surrounding the circular Atrium, he noticed a large, magical advertisement for the Ministry’s escort service which featured two burly Ministry workers easily dismissing laughing, flaming skulls and other disgusting creatures away from a tiny, smiling witch. The two Ministry personnel were travelling from the curtains beside the large portrait of Fudge and on to the windows of the surrounding offices. Harry noticed that the ground they were walking on was actually the Ministry slogan for the ad campaign.
‘Ron and I will go down first and clear the immediate area,’ recited Hermione in a way reminiscent of the way she studied for exams at Hogwarts. ‘Meanwhile, you’ll find Williamson and bring him down. Now are you sure you don’t want to bring anyone else?’ Harry was shaking his head before Hermione had even finished speaking.
‘No, I want to show Williamson first before anyone else. I don’t want to create a massive crowd if I can help it.’
‘Hermione,’ positioned Ron delicately, ‘do you think it’s a wise idea to not report to your office before you come down with me? They’ll be pretty upset with you, won’t they?’
‘Don’t think that my Department Head Mrs. Harvey could be any more upset with me anyway,’ shrugged Hermione. ‘We had an inspection done by Fudge’s Department Supervisor the other day... you should have seen the look on Harvey’s face when I reminded her that the population of Ramora had been upgraded to “Secure” status from “Endangered” last fall as a result of the Hippocampus’s permanent migration as a result of rising water temperatures in the Indian Ocean. I mean, who doesn’t know that the Hippocampus needs a very particular habitat – including a relatively cool water temperature – to thrive! Honestly!’ Ron merely turned to Harry and shrugged to which Harry could only smile.
‘I didn’t know that the Minister appointed a Department Supervisor,’ asked Harry casually as he tried to change the subject from the now secure Ramora. Hermione’s cheerful expression quickly changed to a wide-eyed, surprised one.
‘I know it publishes rubbish more often than not, but don’t the two of you at least glance at the Prophet?’ Hermione pointed to a salesman who was holding up that morning’s edition of the wizarding newspaper. Harry turned to see the top-most copy of the stack of papers gently begin to hover and make its way over to the most recent paying customer.
‘Usually, I guess,’ managed Ron uninterestingly. ‘Not every day or anything like that...’
‘Then I guess it’ll come as quite the shock when I tell you who has been appointed to that prestigious position, won’t it?’
‘Who is it Hermione?’ asked Ron. Hermione sighed deeply, shaking her head before telling the now standing still Harry and Ron.
‘Dolores Umbridge. Yeah I couldn’t believe it either.’
‘How is that even possible after what she did at the Ministry a couple years back!’ exclaimed Harry in outrage, amazed that he had not heard anything about this sooner.
‘I don’t know all the details but I’ve dug up some information. Fudge apparently pulled some strings at her hearing this past summer and reduced her lifelong ban in service and her severe financial fine at the Ministry to a mere brief suspension – a slap on the wrist,’ said Hermione with disdain. ‘Kingsley never could sentence her to Azkaban when he was Minister because she claimed she had no idea that Voldemort was actually running things at the Ministry. They used Veritaserum and her story somehow checked out – she probably had people on the inside who administered those tests, but we’ll never know that. Still, that didn’t stop Kingsley from punishing her severely for her crimes against Muggles. I’ve heard she was sentenced to working in a Muggle orphanage as a janitor – no magic allowed. Something like a six hundred years of community service. But good old Fudge had that reversed.’
‘How can people put up with that though! She’s evil, that woman!’ cried Ron to which Hermione shrugged.
‘Helps that her job is a position not under scrutiny by the public eye. I bet most people don’t even know she’s back to work in the Ministry!’
Harry opened his mouth to agree with Hermione, but the sound of a high-pitched, strangely familiar voice caught his attention. Quickly scanning the immediate area around him amidst the rapidly moving witches and wizards, Harry finally found the source of the voice. Standing atop a small platform that was barely a foot off the ground stood Luna Lovegood, her long, blond hair barely concealing her homemade radish earrings that Harry knew were a favourite of hers.
‘Luna! What are you doing here?’ asked Harry with a mixture of curiosity and delight. Hermione and Ron followed Harry as he weaved in and out of traffic, making his way over to Luna and the great fountain a moment later.
Luna was holding up a fluorescent pink piece of parchment, quickly placing it in to the hands of an unsuspecting passer-by a second later. Harry watched him as he quickly glanced at the parchment, crumpling it up and shaking his head before throwing it in to a trash can that was overflowing with pink.
‘Get your information here in the latest edition of The Quibbler!’ called Luna with her sweet, unique high-pitched tone. ‘Free hand-outs with all you need to know; whose in on it, whose lying and how to know if your gums have been affected! Free sample of preventative dirigible plum antidote for all those already suffering!’
‘Oh bloody hell...’ said Ron under his breath, turning his head away from Luna.
‘Luna? What... What exactly are you doing?’ asked Hermione hesitantly. At first, Luna did not appear to have heard Hermione, but after a moment, she quickly turned to the staring threesome and replied, her expression barely changing.
‘Why hello there!’ she said cheerily. ‘I’m trying to spread the word regarding the Rotfang Conspiracy, of course!’
‘What in the bloody –’
‘The belief that Aurors and other Ministry personnel are trying to take over the Ministry using various tactics, including gum disease,’ read Harry off of one of Luna’s pink pamphlets, interrupting Ron. ‘I remember you telling me about this.’
‘Oh yes, but it’s not a belief Harry,’ replied Luna. ‘It’s a fact.’
Hermione opened her mouth to offer her view on it, but thinking better of it, simply put on a fake smile and nodded to which Luna beamed in reply. Just as quickly however, Luna’s expression turned to one of paradoxical aloof-seriousness; something only Luna Lovegood could pull off.
‘I do hope the two of you are not involved in the Conspiracy,’ she said, indicating Harry and Ron. ‘I have heard that conspirators are branching out in their attempt to bring down the Ministry from within, using many new ghastly tactics.’
‘Such as?’ asked Hermione curiously.
‘Sinus infections of course. I really thought that was common knowledge...’
‘How’d you get this spot anyway Luna,’ pressed Ron which stopped Hermione from arguing against Luna’s outrageous proclamation. ‘I would have thought that Ministry security would have stopped your protest by now.’
‘Oh, that’s unlikely,’ replied Luna who took her wand out from behind her left ear and summoned one of her pamphlets in to the purse of an unsuspecting witch who was walking nearby. ‘I’ve got a permit from Rufus Fudge himself. He’s a big believer in the Conspiracy.’
‘How’d she manage that?’ asked Ron as Luna continued to call out, raising the loudness of her voice using a simple magnifying charm. ‘There’s no way Fudge would believe in this sort of rubbish!’
‘Fudge seems to think we’re all in danger, doesn’t he?’ said Harry quietly, indicating a smaller curtain that was advertising recruitment times for the wizarding army that Fudge had vowed to assemble only weeks ago. Neither Ron nor Hermione spoke as they stared out at the slogan situated beneath the giant Ministry of Magic emblem, which read:
Your Ministry of Magic Army.
Beneath the slogan was a scripture detailing what one would need to bring to enlist, as well as suitable times to do so and the list of requirements and tests that one would be put through before being accepted in to the army. Harry could only shake his head as he saw a small group of young wizards excitingly and proudly looking up at the advertisement, taking a pamphlet and burying their heads in to it.
‘It’s wrong,’ muttered Hermione.
‘Oh I don’t mean to accuse all Aurors,’ chimed in Luna, mistaking Hermione’s accusation. ‘Just certain ones. I’m sure there are many Aurors in your department Harry that do not wish for world domination and the destruction of human gums everywhere. ‘Like father always says – you can’t blame the Umgubular Slashkilter if he’s got a case of the Wrackspurts.’
Harry, Ron and Hermione were all uncomfortably silent for a few moments as Luna continued her protest with a faraway look in her eye. To the thankfulness of Harry, Ron broke the silence.
‘Truer words never spoken! She’s got a way with analogies that one, doesn’t she Harry?’ he said sarcastically, nudging Harry with his shoulder and pointing at Luna. ‘Makes everything so much easier to grasp!’ Luna did not appear to pick up on Ron’s blatant use of sarcasm.
‘Potter! Weasley!’ came the sudden voice of Williamson from somewhere in the crowd. ‘We require you down at Level Two immediately!’
Though Williamson’s appearance in the Atrium caught him off guard, Harry knew that whatever he was calling them for was most likely very important.
‘Bye Luna, nice to see you again,’ rattled off Harry quickly as he made his way over to Williamson.
‘Harry!’ whispered back Luna, Harry half-turning back at his friend. ‘Take this. You never know who can be trusted in that Department of yours...’
Harry looked to see what Luna was holding in her hand and was comically touched that she held a tiny vial of the dirigible plum antidote that apparently cured Auror-inflicted gum disease.
‘Yeah. Thanks Luna,’ replied Harry.
‘Keep an eye out for Ron too. I think he might already have a case of it. But don’t tell him I said that. Wouldn’t want him to worry.’
‘I don’t think worrying would be his first response,’ smiled Harry who nodded to Luna again and set forth in catching up with Ron who was already half way to the lifts.
‘We’ll see you later Hermione,’ said Harry quickly. ‘We’ll have to head down to Level One some other time.
‘Alright, see you,’ sighed Hermione who was not looking too rushed in getting to her Department on time.
Using his ginger-haired friend as a guide amongst the crowded Atrium, Harry was able to dart his way through the Atrium, reaching Ron, Williamson and the lifts only a few seconds after they had gotten there themselves. He was slightly out of breath as the golden gate closed, placing one of his hands on his knee whilst noticing yet another sign for the wizard army commissioned by Fudge hanging on the lift wall as he slouched.
‘We’ve got a visit from... him,’ whispered Williamson after glancing around the lift for any eavesdroppers.
At first, Harry did not know who Williamson was speaking of, but only after a couple seconds of staring in to Williamson’s serious face, Harry knew who was paying them a visit. As if Williamson could somehow read his mind, he nodded slowly at Harry before resuming his straightforward stare towards the front of the lift.
‘We’ve got to be quick,’ said Williamson as the last wizard exited the lift at Level Three. ‘He does not have a lot of time.’
‘Sir,’ posed Ron quietly, ‘how come he has taken so long to communicate with us. I mean... it’s been months since we recruited him.’
‘These things take time, Weasley,’ replied Williamson. ‘We needed to give him enough time to mesh with the Death Eaters – enough time so that we could be absolutely sure that he has been fully integrated in to their society.’
‘Do you have any idea what it’s all about?’ asked Harry referring to their upcoming meeting with Malfoy.
‘None at all. All I know is that he’s risking his life by calling us today. We cannot blow his cover. We must be cautious.’
Williamson was the first to exit the lift, walking with purpose down the long, Level Two corridor that concluded with the Auror Department. However, Harry, Ron and Williamson did not walk ten yards before being stopped dead in their tracks by an overwhelming commotion. To their immediate left – the secondary corridor that led to offices of the Wizengamot – was a multitude of people that seemed to extend from the very back of the corridor to the lifts themselves. It took Harry a few takes to realize that the majority of the crowd was in fact children, ranging from what looked like fifth or sixth years to toddlers.
‘What the ruddy hell...’ said Williamson breathlessly, turning towards the uproar and disorder of the line.
‘IF YOU’VE SIGNED THE NECCESSARY DOCUMENTATION ALREADY, PLEASE FORM A SINGLE, ORDERLY LINE HERE,’ shouted a middle aged witch with short black hair. Her voice barely carried over the crowd, many of the children either crying, screaming, or fighting off other Ministry personnel decked out in their usual royal purple robes.
‘YOU WILL EMBARK ONE BY ONE FROM THIS LINE,’ another Ministry worker carrying a clipboard continued.
He indicated two doors, one on either side of the corridor where a few children were being ushered in by yet another Ministry worker. Harry was shocked to see that these children were grasping back at two adults who had tears streaming down their faces.
‘What is this?’ asked a perplexed Ron who had to raise his voice to be heard by Williamson and Harry.
‘This Weasley,’ began Williamson, ‘this is Fudge’s Orphan Commission.’
From Harry’s position, it appeared that the two adults who were being blocked from the pair of children were some sort of parental figure to them, affirmed by the elder witch’s cry a moment later.
‘But those are our children! They aren’t orphans!’
‘Did you give birth to these children madam?’ the Ministry worker asked harshly.
‘N-No,’ the witch stammered. ‘B-But Roger and I-I here h-have taken c-c-care of them their whole l-life! We adopted them wh-when they w-were only b-babies!’
‘The Ministry will decide which parents are fit to adopt a magical child from here on out. Step aside please or we will be forced to take action!’
Harry could see that there were other situations like this one ongoing, even though most of the children did not seem to be accompanied by any sort of guardian. He felt helpless while standing there beside Ron and Williamson. Strangely enough, he had never envisioned what Fudge’s Orphan Commission would look like when he read of its implementation weeks ago, but even if he had, he never thought it would look something like this.
‘Mad house isn’t this?’ Harry heard one of the Commission workers say to another after guiding a couple of crying toddlers in to one of the rooms. Harry could see that the room featured three fireplaces, an illuminating green flame briefly catching Harry’s eye before the door was closed once again.
‘Yeh. They couldn’t ‘ave done this when we was back in them courtrooms on Level Ten?’ a rather uneducated sounding wizard responded with a wipe of his hairy brow. ‘Would’a saved a lot of this commotion, wouldn’it?’
‘Fudge’s orders though,’ the first worker responded, opening the door for a few older boys without even looking at them. ‘After the hearing passing the Commission, he wanted all of them to sign the necessary forms that will document that they were read the Commission and had agreed to it. Plus, then they could leave the Ministry and head to the approved location by using these offices here.’
‘Come on. We’ve got to go,’ said Williamson softly while looking down at his feet.
Even though their Unit Head had just given them an order, for whatever reason, neither Harry nor Ron could move; it was as if their feet had been permanently stuck to the spot of marble floor they were standing on. Williamson did not move either, their eyes transfixed on the slowly dwindling number of orphans that were being guided in to the offices where they were to be transported.
‘Come along now you!’ came the voice of a purple-clad Commission worker, snapping Harry out of his own thoughts. ‘Be a good lad now!’
Most of the children had been ushered in to the offices with only a few groups of huddled together adults consoling each other occupying the now almost empty corridor. The Ministry workers were each rounding up the last of the children, one of which was causing considerable trouble for his respective Commission worker. The boy could have barely been ten, short with wavy black hair. He had a rather large nose and he looked like he had not taken care of his physical appearance whatsoever, evidenced by the fact that no parental figure was attempting to stop the Commission worker from forcing him in to one of the offices. The boy was writhing and kicking the worker with everything he had yet he had an expressionless face. His deep brown eyes were focused on the worker, kicking him hard in the shin as he reached out aggressively.
‘OI!’ the worker yelped, relinquishing his hold of the boy and grasping his knee. ‘Would
someone grab him?!’
‘I got ‘em!’ the uneducated sounding Commission worker stated loudly. The parents and remaining children were now watching the events with interest.
The Commission worker clumsily lunged at the young boy who dodged the worker with surprising agility and quickness. He then quickly retrieved a wand from inside his cloak pocket, pointing it squarely at the man’s forehead with the same expressionless face he had worn throughout the ordeal.
‘I thought we confiscated all of their wands!’ the first Commission worker said with wide-eyed surprise as he fumbled in his pocket for his own wand.
‘Stupefy!’ the young boy cried, sending the wizard crashing through the open office door. ‘Expelliarmus!’ The wand from the second worker flew in to the wall behind him as he turned around to pick it up, the young boy shot another stunning spell at him knocking him too through the same office door.
‘You there! Grab him!’ the short haired witch yelled at Harry, Ron and Williamson from down the hall.
Harry turned to both Ron and Williamson who looked back at him with trepidation. The young boy sprinted down the hall towards them, Harry having to duck out of the way of the short haired witch’s stunning spell which the young boy barely dodged.
‘GET HIM!’ the witch cried again, joined by two of her fellow Commission workers.
Harry could not bear to move a muscle, the young boy giving him a brief glance of recognition as he ran past them towards the lifts. The trio of Commission workers rounded the corner as well, the witch eyeing Harry, Ron and Williamson angrily.
‘Stupefy!’ one of the Commission workers yelled.
‘Protego!’ the boy countered, wrenching open the golden gate of the lift.
However, before the boy could close the gate and punch his desired button, the dark haired witch shot two successive stunning spells, each connecting with the boy’s lower back, sending him face first in to the lift wall. Harry heard an uncomfortable snapping sound and knew instantly that the boy’s nose and perhaps jaw was broken.
‘Nice shot Agatha!’ one of the Commission workers complimented, stowing his own wand and bending down to pick up the stirring boy.
‘Yeah, no thanks to these three,’ Agatha replied, giving a brief look to Harry, Ron and Williamson.
‘What’s his name?’
‘Let’s see here...’ replied Agatha, picking up her fallen clipboard from around the corner. ‘Tobias Turnbull, aged eleven.’
‘Eleven? Bloody hell...’ whispered one of the Commission workers who Tobias had previously stunned as he made his way out of the office rubbing his forehead gently.
‘Up you get Tobias,’ said one of the Commission workers aggressively. Harry saw that Tobias’ face was bleeding so much that his face was a vibrant scarlet.
‘Wait,’ said Harry as the Commission worker who was dragging a dazed Tobias behind him began to turn the corner. Harry retrieved his own wand and pointed it directly at Tobias’ face. ‘Episkey,’ he said, hearing the familiar readjusting snap of Tobias bone structure revert to its normal position.
Tobias winced in pain for a moment, the Commission workers eyeing Harry with disgust before continuing to drag Tobias in to the office. The Commission workers continued to round up the remaining children who had signed all the necessary documents, using a much more strong approach in the process. Harry swore that he saw Tobias look up at him before his bloody face disappeared behind the door of the office.
‘We’ve got to go,’ reminded Williamson hurriedly. ‘We’re going to miss Malfoy.’
‘Right,’ nodded Ron.
Harry followed Williamson and Ron back down the main corridor of Level Two towards the Auror Department, reminded of the real purpose why they were down here. Still, he could not help but think of what he had just witnessed. Judging by the expressions on both Williamson’s and Ron’s faces, they were thinking along the same lines.
‘How can Fudge do something like that?’ asked Ron as they entered the Auror Department and began descending the steps.
‘We are not here to question the Minister of Magic, Weasley,’ retorted Williamson who made his way to his desk.
‘But sir, you must think that this Orphan Commission is wrong at least,’ stated Harry. ‘How can the people allow Fudge to do this!’
‘Fudge wouldn’t do it if it outraged the public,’ said Williamson as he reached his desk, wheeling around to face Harry and Ron. ‘He’s clever enough to have the people believe that it is necessary.’
Williamson spun back around, opening the top drawer of his desk and rummaging through it as he looked for something.
‘He really thinks that orphans are a danger to society,’ said Ron to Harry strongly, followed by a rather nasty curse word which articulated to Harry exactly what Ron thought of their Minister. Harry could not help but nod in agreement.
‘Since you’re not blasting us for speaking of the Minister and the Orphan Commission in that way,’ said Harry with a half-smile towards Williamson, ‘does that mean you agree with us, sir?’ Williamson surveyed Harry for a moment after he had retrieved a small hand mirror from his top drawer. Then, through a half-smile of his own, Williamson replied.
‘I can’t lie to you Potter...’ Harry and Ron gave a small chuckle.
‘You two ready?’ asked Williamson, reverting back to his serious demeanor quickly.
‘Ready,’ Harry and Ron both said together.
Williamson indicated the mirror that was glowing a faint blue.
‘We’re travelling by portkey in here?’ asked Ron.
‘Mosteban has temporarily lifted the enchantments – don’t tell anybody he had done so,’ said Williamson in a rush, using his wand to conjure four grey curtains around his cubicle so that no one would see them vanish. ‘We must be quick – time is of the essence.’
All at once, Harry, Ron and Williamson placed their hands on the mirror. In seconds, Harry found himself to be somewhere completely different, the wind giving him his first indication of how cold it was in the surrounding area. Upon opening his eyes, he saw that he was standing on a hill top, a multitude of evergreen trees providing enough shield to make the spot secluded.
‘I thought you’d forgotten about me,’ came the sly voice of Draco Malfoy.
Harry turned to see the tall, blond young man who had become his nemesis over his school years. It still seemed odd that Malfoy was now working with him and the Aurors instead of against him.
‘What have you got for us Malfoy?’ asked Williamson urgently.
‘Their location... three nights from now,’ whispered Draco so silently that his voice was barely audible over the cold gusts of wind that rustled the evergreen trees.
‘Is that so?’ asked Williamson who seemed to be taken aback by Draco’s important piece of information. ‘You’re absolutely positive you know where.’
‘Of course I am! Would I have prompted your presence here if I wasn’t?’ spat Draco in retort, taking a few steps towards Williamson, the slush beneath his feet spraying up slightly as he walked.
‘We’re just making sure you’re not the lying little git you’ve always been Malfoy, is all,’ chided Ron.
‘That’s enough, Weasley!’ said Williamson loudly before Malfoy could open his mouth. Instead, Malfoy only glared at Ron who stared right back at the former Slytherin.
‘Now... can you give me what you had promised?’ asked Malfoy regaining his composure.
‘Afraid not,’ answered Williamson shortly. ‘And I believe it’s safe to say you won’t get it any time soon.’
‘And why not?’ replied Malfoy, closing his eyes for a moment, clearly not happy by Williamson’s answer.
‘Well, assuming our little operation goes smoothly three nights from now, the odds of us capturing every Death Eater would be unlikely, however desirable it would be. You must continue with your deception.’
Williamson began to walk away towards the hand mirror that sat beneath one of the closest evergreens. Harry stared in to Malfoy’s fuming face that was getting redder by the second. After opening and closing his mouth three times, Malfoy finally found the words he was looking for.
‘Months I’ve spent with these ruddy Death Eaters, trying to get them to bloody trust me! And that’s all the encouragement you can give me?’ Williamson continued to walk away, Harry and Ron not daring to move as they watched the face of Malfoy that was twisting with anger. ‘I can lie to you, you know! What if the information I just gave you will lead you right in to a trap! You know that if you don’t honor my agreement and treat me with some dignity and respect, then I can put you in some real hot water!’
Williamson turned around, staring right back at Malfoy who did not waver in his stance as he breathed in and out heavily, his chest rising and falling and his glaring eyes focused on Williamson.
‘That’s true... we don’t know that we can trust you Malfoy. But if you ever... ever want to see your family –’
‘You don’t need to threaten him Williamson,’ interrupted Harry. Malfoy looked at Harry, his eyebrows crossed and a look of disbelief in his eyes, a look that Williamson now shared. ‘He won’t lie to us.’
‘And who do you think you are to say that Potter?’ retorted Malfoy. ‘You might think you know me, but you don’t! YOU DON’T!’
‘You wouldn’t put yourself through months of agonizing pain as you try to make the Death Eaters trust you if you were just going to lie to us,’ stated Harry calmly, seemingly catching Malfoy off guard. ‘And... you wouldn’t lie to us because you know that would take any chance away of being with your family again. You’re not one of them – the Death Eaters. You never have been. You want to see them dissolved as much as we do – maybe even more so after you have seen what they’ve done to you and your family. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trust you Malfoy. Probably never will. But I know the position you are in. I know that feeling; that need to be with your family. And that... that I can trust.’
No one spoke for what felt like minutes. Williamson glanced at Draco and Harry as they were locked in stare, Malfoy’s disposition softening from anger to reluctant acceptance. Malfoy began to stare at the wet ground, the wind whistling through the trees and making his eyes sting.
‘Here...’ Malfoy said painstakingly, extending his arm to Williamson and handing him a small piece of parchment. ‘Those are all the details of their location. They are going to meet at nightfall – they’ll be watching the air so be careful.’
‘Very well. Good work Mr. Malfoy,’ said Williamson after perusing the piece of parchment that Malfoy had given him. ‘Now what are you going to do after the attack, providing we don’t snag all the Death Eaters.’
‘No idea,’ sighed Malfoy. For a split second, Harry almost felt sorry for Malfoy. ‘It’s not like they have a stash of Veritaserum or something. I’ll be fine.’
‘Good. I apologize in advance for any curse that may be sent in your direction. Since you’ll obviously be there, it would seem odd if all of the Aurors somehow avoided hitting you with a curse; that would arouse some suspicion, no doubt. I’ll make sure that the curses that hit you won’t be lethal ones.’
‘I’m overjoyed,’ replied Malfoy sarcastically.
With that, he turned and disapparated with a small crack, the noise swallowed up by the howling wind.
‘Basing a whole operation on what Draco Malfoy has to say? Never thought I’d see the day,’ said Ron as he made his way back to the mirror.
‘We’re not Weasley,’ replied Williamson. ‘We’re basing it on what he has to say.’
Williamson pointed at Harry who nodded proudly before touching the glowing mirror, excited at the prospect at administering a severe blow to the Death Eaters’ numbers.
The very next day, Harry told Williamson of what he had found behind the portrait on the Minister’s corridor. However, since he had walked to Williamson’s cubicle with a head full of steam due to his excitement, Harry had failed in making sure that no one was close enough to listen in. He kicked himself later for not checking the surrounding area as Mosteban – who had been standing behind the cubicle beside Williamson – had heard Harry’s discovery, demanding that he too be taken to what Harry had found.
It was not long before seemingly half the Auror Department had made their way down to the empty portrait frame. The immediate area around the portrait was sealed off as many suspecting Ministry workers attempted to poke their heads through the crowd of Aurors and Magical Law Enforcement personnel to see why the crowd had gathered. It was Mosteban who pulled back the empty frame that was loose on its hinges in the resulting blast by Rabastan Lestrange. As he slowly pulled back the squeaky hinges of the broken frame and the adjoining metal backing that housed the now destroyed portrait, many of the Aurors gasped in amazement to see the small, round hole staring back at them.
‘It definitely was a portkey,’ sighed Richter, nodding as he held up a tiny stone that had been placed on the small pedestal.
Many Aurors were trying to block off the many Ministry workers that were curiously trying to peer over the array of Law Enforcement personnel that were examining the stone held in Richter’s hand.
‘He must have disabled this one once he had arrived at his destination,’ growled Gawain Robards, eyeing the stone with a look of utmost dislike. ‘This also explains that there may have been more than one breaking in to the Ministry.
‘Agreed. They had multiple portkeys here in case one of them was unable to leave at the same time as another,’ said a short, middle-aged Auror named Herbert that Harry had spoken to before.
‘Damn it, how could we have missed it!’ exclaimed Gawain, pounding his fist on the wall beside the opened portrait frame.
Harry was thinking the same thing as he watched the Quidditch game from his excellent seats that Ginny had arranged for them. Though Ron was still following the action with great pleasure, Harry – never thinking he would ever have thought such a thing – was desperately hoping that the match would end. Holyhead was getting thumped by the Wigtown Wanderers by a score of three hundred and sixty to eighty. If it wasn’t for the sheer incompetence of both Krazinski (the Wanderer Seeker) and Wellington (the aging, former all-star Seeker of Holyhead) then the match would have probably ended an hour and a half ago.
‘Holyhead’s just getting outclassed today – plain and simple,’ sighed Ron, leaning back in his seat as Wigtown added another goal to their total. ‘All Wigtown’s got is their Chasers! After their front trio they are severely outclassed by nearly every other team – Holyhead should have won this one with ease. Oi! There’s another missed Bludger from Cole! And she never misses those! Unbelievable!’
While Harry was disappointed that Holyhead was en route to lose yet another game – Ron noting that a loss today would surely put them out of contention for the League Championship – it was not of a most pressing matter to him. Amidst Ron’s jeering and frequent calls of “Put in Weasley!”, Harry eyed his flaming-haired girlfriend who was sitting on the Holyhead bench. Even from this distance, Harry could see the figure of Davis sitting beside her, occasionally rising from his seat to communicate with either the Head Coach or the Keeper Glynnis. He felt his skin grow hot as he watched Ginny below him, ignoring Ron’s comments about the match at hand. Harry was jarred out of his stare by Ron who shook him forcibly.
‘What?’ asked Harry blinkingly as he snapped out of his gaping transfixion.
‘I said,’ said Ron impatiently for what was apparently the third time, ‘that the match is over. Let’s go.’
Harry had been so focuses on Ginny that he had not even realized that Krazinski had caught the Snitch, sealing a dominating five hundred and fifty to ninety win for the Wanderers. Breaking out of his virtual daydream, Harry looked around to see that the entire stadium was beginning to file out from their seats.
‘We’d better go quick – it’s a bloody nightmare leaving Holyhead Gardens after a match – though many have probably already left early after today’s performance,’ sighed Ron, referencing the fact that the stadium was concealed in a mountain and that protocol for apparating from the stadium was done in small groups in order to lessen suspicion of any wandering Muggle. He motioned for Harry to get going as he stood up out of his seat.
‘W-Wait. You go along Ron,’ said Harry quickly, coming back to reality as if he had just woken up out of a long, deep sleep. ‘I wanted to see Ginny before I left. I’ll meet you back at the house for dinner.’
‘You sure mate? The press here is going to jump at the chance to talk to –’
‘I’ve got it covered,’ interjected Harry with a half-smile, pointing to his bag and revealing a corner of his father’s Invisibility Cloak. Ron smiled, clapping Harry on the back as he walked past him towards the corridor and the lifts.
‘See you later,’ he called over his shoulder as he disappeared in to the crowd of disappointed Holyhead supporters.
Harry quickly made his way to the lavatories, finding an empty cubicle and silently slipping on the Invisibility Cloak. Though Harry had not lied to Ron, he did not exactly tell him the entire truth either; though escaping the onslaught of the relentless press was partially the reason for Harry’s wish of deception, the main, larger reason was because there was something that his curious mind continually worried him about. Already, he could imagine the perfect smiling teeth staring back at him, the image annoying him greatly.
Staying to the perimeter of the crowded corridor of the stadium, Harry was able to bypass a large majority of the crowd quite quickly. The demoralized crowd was mostly quiet, only talking quietly to the person next to them about their team’s loss. He even heard a pair of wizards not much older than himself calling for Ginny to start the next game at Seeker, coming up with other various quick-fixes for their team which included paying off the referee, making up fantastical transfers with other teams and poisoning the opposing team’s drinking water with the Draught of Living Death before a match.
Having been there once before, it did not take Harry long to reach the visitor’s lounge where family members and friends could meet the Holyhead players after the match. He tore down the long, green-carpeted corridor, not even bothering to glance at the portraits and paintings of famous Harpies players that characterized the walls of the long corridor. He slid in through the ajar door emblazoned by a large Harpies’ logo, glancing around to see that only ten or so witches and wizards were occupying the comfortable green couches.
‘I’ve just got to talk to the media and then we’ll be on our way,’ Harry heard the famous Gweong Jones say to what Harry perceived as her husband, Jones pecking him on the cheek and heading down the hallway towards the conference room which Harry had passed on his way down.
Harry hoped he was not too late to see Ginny, his heart pounding as his mind battled with itself over the ethics of his trickery. To take his mind off it, he glanced towards the couches and saw a young girl looking through a magazine. She was answering a series of questions, checking off certain boxes every few moments. Circling behind her, Harry read the title of the article she
was participating in:
WHICH MEMBER OF THE “WEIRD SISTERS” ARE YOU?
Harry had no time to chuckle to himself. Just as he finished reading the title, Ginny, an impeccably dressed Davis and another woman who Harry did not recognize burst through the door that led to the Harpies’ dressing room. They were talking quietly to each other, Ginny bidding her fellow teammate goodbye as she made her way over to the teenage girl who set down her magazine and smiled at her apparent older sister.
‘That’s a tough one, that is,’ Harry heard Davis say as he and Ginny continued to walk towards the exit.
‘Eight in a row Davis,’ sighed Ginny deeply. ‘Some changes are going to have to be made.’
‘I know, I know,’ replied Davis with his hands raised. ‘I keep telling Smitty to put you in, but he’s hesitant. I suspect he’s going to give that option a long, hard look after today’s match, I tell you that much.’
‘Thanks Davis,’ half-smiled Ginny. ‘I just want our team to have success and –’
‘But you would like to play,’ teased Davis, poking fun at her politically correctness. ‘Isn’t that so?’
‘Yeah, it’s so!’ Ginny rolled her eyes as she replied, only speaking after a moment of hesitation to try and not give Davis the satisfaction of speaking the truth. ‘Anyway, I’ve got to be going. I don’t want to be late for dinner tonight.’
Ginny gave Davis a small smile and wave and continued on her way to the door where Harry was now standing. At the same time, Davis’ smile vanished as she strode past him, his arm raised as if he was trying to beckon her towards him.
Ginny stopped walking at the sound of Davis’ voice. She glanced over her shoulder to look back at him, but he had been so quick that as she did so, she was pulled back forward by her shoulders, Davis already in front of her. Harry watched Ginny’s shocked face, blinking in a flurry as she faced him once again. Davis’ back was to Harry, Ginny’s face visible over Davis’ left shoulder. Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw that the teenage witch and the woman who Ginny had walked out of the dressing room with were preparing to leave.
‘What is it?’ asked Ginny perplexed.
Davis seemed to sigh deeply, Ginny eyeing him curiously as he paused for a few moments.
‘I’ve got to ask you something and I’m a little nervous about doing so,’ began Davis quietly and deeply, his hand stroking the back of his perfectly symmetrical, gelled hair as he spoke. ‘So I hope you spare me if I seem... awkward, or something.’
‘What are you talking about Davis?’ asked Ginny. This time, Davis did not hesitate as he had before.
‘Are you happy?’
The simplicity yet – ironically – the complexity of his question appeared to take Ginny off guard, as it did Harry. He did not even look at the teenage witch and her elder sister as he made room for them to pass through the door. Harry was so perplexed by Davis’ question that he did not notice that the Invisibility Cloak began to slip off his shoulder as he brushed by Ginny’s teammate.
‘Well – well of course I’m not happy,’ managed Ginny tentatively. ‘We just lost our eighth straight! I’m not going to be especially cheerful when –’
‘I’m not talking about that,’ interrupted Davis, inching closer to Ginny. Harry’s heart seemed to jump in to his throat as he did this. ‘I’m talking about you. The real you. Are you happy?’
‘Davis, I’m... I’m not quite sure what you –’
‘I’m asking because I care about you. A lot. Are you happy? With your life. With Quidditch. With your family. With your friends. With your... boyfriend?’
Ginny opened her mouth as if she was going to speak but she could not manage a single word. Her eyes appeared glossy as she struggled with her speech. With each passing second that she was silent for, apparently unable to answer the question, Harry’s heart began to hurt more and more as if it was being squeezed tighter and tighter. He was unable to move as his eyes scanned Ginny’s beautiful, tearful face, Harry wishing and hoping that he could find a trace in it that would answer Davis’ question with a simple “Yes.”
Then, Ginny’s mouth opened wide, her eyebrows narrowing over her eyes and her arm extending forward, pointing towards something behind Davis. It took Harry a second or two to realize that she was pointing at him, Ginny positioning herself better and squinting her eyes to get a better look. Harry was horrified as he looked down, seeing that part of his shoulder and neck had been exposed, the Invisibility Cloak slowly slipping off it.
‘Wh-What is it?’ asked Davis as he placed both of his hands on either of Ginny’s shoulders.
Harry quickly covered up his shoulder with the Cloak, silently walking towards the couches as Ginny continued to stare at the space where Harry had been. She shook off Davis’ hands and walked up to it, shaking her head a moment later.
‘S-Sorry. Thought I saw something. Er, Davis, I’m going to be late,’ said Ginny, suddenly regaining her composure, although Harry saw that when she spoke, she did not look at Davis in the eye. ‘I’m just fine, I promise you. Talk to Coach about any of the changes and let’s get this team back on the right foot.’
She departed without another word. Harry heard her quick, muffled footsteps as she walked down the corridor. He was relieved that she appeared to have not seen him, Harry looking to Davis who finally tore his stare away from the door Ginny had just passed through. The shock of his momentarily revealed shoulder having worn off, the terrible feeling began to resume its stranglehold upon Harry’s insides, Harry angrily kicking the door open a moment later, not caring for the shocked expression of Davis as the door swung open with a bang.
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