Chapter 3 : Chapter 3
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Amy Hamilton was more than a little nervous about doing this, not in the last place because she was positive she would get suspended the moment her boss found out what she and her fellow recruits were doing this very minute. She kept moving, fidgeting and hoping that no one would suddenly come in to reprimand her about eavesdropping on her own boss.
The young recruit loved her new job. She had wanted to get in here since she was in second year of Hogwarts and to be accepted was a dream come true. To be kicked out of here in disgrace would be a nightmare and she was quite determined for it to never come to that. And thanks to the boys getting kicked out was not such a strange notion anymore. Quite the contrary, it had become a rather terrifying, but far too realistic prospect.
Were Julius to be sacked, she could not care less. She had never liked the pure-blood Slytherin. He was far too arrogant and full of himself to be friends with. He in turn had always looked at her with disdain because she was Muggle-born. She’d have thought that people in this day and age would be over such ridiculous prejudices, but it would seem that she had been mistaken.
Of course Robert had always stood up for her, ever since he had first caught a group of Slytherins bullying her in first year. She supposed that was why she liked him so much. He could be childish and behaved like an idiot on more than one occasion, but when it came down to it, he really had the potential to be a knight in shining armour.
‘We should not be doing this,’ she said again as the men – for once in complete agreement – were busy to untangle the Extendable Ears they were planning to use to listen in to the boss’s meeting with Ronald Weasley. Robert thought they might be discussing their punishment and therefore it would be well worth the risk to listen in.
The Auror Headquarter was all but abandoned and the chance of anyone catching them doing this was small indeed, Amy would admit. The three of them had only been asked to stay behind to be informed of the consequences of their actions. Originally they would have heard this morning, but Mr Potter had claimed to need to go to an urgent meeting and they were left waiting. The young Ravenclaw had used the day to finish some reports and to help fix a colleague’s desk that had taken up the habit of eating its owner’s parchments. She was suspended, as were her fellow recruits, until further notion and she needed to have something to keep her occupied. And maybe helping out would make the boss look on her kinder. And one thing was for sure: he would not do so if he found her listening to a conversation not meant for her ears.
‘No need for you to be here, Hamilton,’ Julius snapped. ‘Just go and run off to your desk if you’re too cowardly.’
She glowered at him. Julius Burke may be a good deal taller than she was, and combined with his broad shoulders be an impressive and intimidating person, but she was not about to go and run away from bullies. If Amy had one weakness it was being unable to run away from a challenge, no matter what was the nature of it. And this was a challenge if ever she heard one. ‘Is that a way of telling me that you are too cowardly to go through with it?’
Robert had clearly been about to go ahead and rip his rival’s head off for insulting Amy, but the anger turned to a pleased smirk as he heard that she was more than able to stand her ground. But really, he should not have been that surprised. After all, she would never have made it here had she not been capable of holding her own.
‘She’s got you there, Burke,’ the Gryffindor commented. He had always liked to tease the Slytherin as much as he could, leaving no opportunity pass to place some snide remark or hex him if he thought he could get away with it.
‘Shut up, West,’ Julius growled. ‘Do something useful and help me untangle these blasted Ears or we’ll never get to hear a thing. Wouldn’t be the first time you messed up an operation.’
Robert’s face started to closely resemble an overripe tomato. It was only a matter of seconds before he exploded and Amy was sure would find herself right in the middle of a duel in Muggle style. And she was not about to watch as these two made matters even worse than they already were.
‘Let me,’ she offered, holding out her hands with an exasperated sigh. ‘Or we’ll never be done before Christmas.’ It would not be unwelcome if this dragged on until the meeting in the office over there was finished, but Amy found herself liking the idea of her fellow recruits getting themselves caught up in a fight even less. And maybe my luck holds and Mr Potter has been clever enough to put an Imperturbable Charm on the door of his office. That would lessen the chance of getting caught. After all, with nothing to listen to, this adventure would soon be over.
Julius gave her a disdainful look. ‘You?’
Snapping at him would not do her any favours now, she had to firmly remind herself. ‘No, Merlin,’ she retorted. ‘Now, give here.’
Really, were these two even wizards? Why do by hand what you could do by magic? One wave of her wand and the strings untangled themselves. Amy, being the child of Muggles with not one drop of magical blood in their veins, had grown up without magic and she had found she loved doing things by magic she had previously been forced to do by hand. This was just one of those things. And the dumbfounded expression on the guys’ faces did make this well worth the trouble.
She shrugged. ‘Well, we do have magic at our disposal, do we not?’
Julius muttered something that sounded like ‘know-it-all,’ but Robert threw her a grin that made her blush bright red. ‘You’re a genius, Amy. Why didn’t I think of that myself?’
‘Because your skull is as thick as the walls of Hogwarts,’ Julius sneered.
Amy’s fists clenched in frustration. Honestly, could these two not act their age? Had they gotten stuck in puberty and not grown up at all? ‘Were we not going to use these Extendable Ears?’ she asked. ‘At this rate it will be Christmas before we get to listen to what they’re saying.’
That was a clear wake-up call for both of them. With a last glare at the other – their way of trying to not look like a loser – they each took an Ear and they set to work. It made Amy feel like a true spy to listen in to meetings not meant for her ears. She could not truly banish the feeling of excitement, even as she could not banish the feeling of dread either. She didn’t need reminding that eavesdropping on her boss meant discharge.
For a moment she feared – and hoped – that the door had truly been Imperturbed, but then she could hear Ronald Weasley, another Auror and close friend of the boss, speaking so loud he could have been standing next to her for all she knew. ‘So, it didn’t go too bad then?’ he asked.
The boss sighed and Amy could picture him leaning back in his chair. ‘It could have been worse,’ he admitted. ‘At least they agreed to the plan. They weren’t cheering about it, but they agreed. But at a cost.’
Amy found herself rather confused. What plan? And who were they? Really, this could not be about their punishment at all. This was quite possibly Auror business and that meant she had absolutely no right to listen in, not that she had that anyway. She should be going, running back to her desk as Julius had suggested. This was just not the moral thing to be doing.
But she found herself incapable of running away. She blamed the curiosity for grounding her in place, making her want to know what was going on. There was no reasonable explanation for her behaviour otherwise.
‘What’d they want?’ Auror Weasley asked. ‘Not too much?’
Mr Potter snorted. ‘Just every single file we have on every single Death Eater and Muggle terrorist involved, those captured and those still at large.’
‘Bloody hell!’ was the reaction to that. ‘Kingsley can’t be considering to give it to them, can he?’
This did explain something. There was only one operation Amy was aware of that dealt with both renegade Death Eaters and Muggle terrorists. It would seem that Mr Potter and the Minister had called in the help of the mysterious they, who were as of yet unidentified. That was the trouble with eavesdropping on other people’s private conversations: they were unlikely to elaborate on things that were already obvious to them, if not to the eavesdroppers. That sort of thing only happened in very bad Muggle movies and books and unfortunately not in real life. But whoever they were, they were apparently about to help out and if she had interpreted right, they would be an unlikely group to go to for help. Well, she was an Auror in training, suspended or not, and she was quite skilled at putting two and two together.
‘He thinks it might prove useful to let them look at it,’ Mr Potter replied. ‘To look at it with a fresh perspective, he called it, I think.’ He sighed. ‘And their boss did seem rather determined to catch the terrorists, I’ll give him that. Wasn’t too pleased with our not telling them so far either.’
‘I’d bet. So, what’s he like? I mean, he’s a Muggle and all, but do you think he could be useful?’ Auror Weasley sounded a bit sceptical. He didn’t hate Muggles, as so many other wizards did, but he would be right in thinking that Muggles would be next to no use in trying to catch wizards, and Death Eaters at that. Even Amy, being Muggle-born, would have to admit that.
So, that brought on the question of why in Merlin’s name the Minister had thought it a good idea to bring in Muggles after the Manchester debacle, as the operation was now widely knows thanks to Rita Skeeter, even if it had started out under a different name. How could Muggles be in any way useful? Amy could not honestly answer that question.
‘Harry Pearce?’ Mr Potter asked. After a curt silence in which Auror Weasley quite possibly nodded, he continued: ‘Reminds me a bit of a bull dog, the way he behaves. He knew he was being wronged and he used it, so I’d say he’s clever as well. And well-informed. He knows a lot about us. I think Kingsley said he was actively involved in the war.’
‘A Muggle involved in our war?’ The tone was a bit incredulous. ‘Isn’t that a violation of the Statute of Secrecy?’
‘Officially, yes,’ Harry Potter said. ‘Unofficially I think it’s conveniently overlooked because it’s good to have a contact like him. And he does run the Muggle secret service. If anyone knows how to keep secrets…’
The Muggle secret service? Were they involving MI-5 in this? Well, she supposed it would make sense for them to do so, since quite a few of the suspects were originally Muggle terrorists wanted by the Muggle authorities for various acts of terrorism. She had read that while going over the reports only a few hours ago. Maybe that idea wasn’t too bad after all.
She risked a quick glance at her fellow recruits. Robert mostly seemed confused. He had obviously not yet connected the dots like Amy had. The same could not be said for Julius. He had that dismissive scowl on his face again, telling everyone with eyes to see that he wholly disapproved of what was going on here. Now that was not a big surprise. Julius’s family had not been actively involved with Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the last war, but they had not been exactly opposing his regime either. The Burkes did not like Muggles and would like nothing better than not having to deal with them ever again.
She was not really listening to the boss’s conversation anymore until Robert urgently tapped her shoulder, making her realise that the conversation inside had ended and that Auror Weasley was likely to emerge from said office any moment now. The guys had already pulled back their own Extendable Ears and Amy quickly followed their example, stuffing the forbidden object in the pocket of her robes. It would not do to be seen carrying that around in this place, not if she wanted to remain employed here.
She quickly turned to a sheaf of parchment that was lying on a desk behind her and pretended to be studying it. Robert was doing something similar while Julius had perched himself on a desk, reading a book on Charms with every appearance of boredom. It would seem that was his default setting.
The door opened and Auror Weasley came out. There was an amused smile on his face as he caught sight of the three of them, giving Amy the impression that he might know exactly what they had just done – not a feeling Amy particularly liked. But he didn’t say anything about it, even if her suspicions were true. He just waved them into the office before he walked away.
The mystery of the conversation she had heard had temporarily made the nerves subside, but they came back in full force now that she realised she was about to hear if she was allowed to remain here as an aspiring Auror. Her stomach was doing strange things and she felt like throwing up, but that would surely ruin any chance she still had, so she told herself not to be such a baby and get on with it.
Amy was the last to enter, so she closed the door and then positioned herself between Robert and Julius, the way she had done the previous day. It was just a precaution, because she did not really think they would forget themselves and get into a fight right under their boss’s nose, but she would not exactly put it past them either. After all, these were the guys that had messed up an entire operation because of a silly prank involving itching powder. It would be just like them to do such a stupid thing again.
Harry Potter was seated behind his desk, studying the three of them intently from behind his spectacles. He wasn’t speaking yet and the silence dragged on so long Amy started feeling more uncomfortable by the second. This could not possibly bode well.
In the end she decided to end it herself. ‘You wanted to see us, sir?’ She kept her eyes firmly on the coffee cup on the desk. She didn’t dare meet her boss’s eyes right now. Amy wasn’t sure she wanted to see what he thought right now.
‘I did.’ The tone was so neutral that it could mean anything really. There was no way she could make anything of it. ‘I will start with the good news first: none of you will get the sack for this unfortunate incident.’
The sigh of relief that escaped her was one that she could not for the life of her bite back, even if she had wanted to. She was not getting sacked, she would be allowed to stay! The nerves that seemed to have taken up residence in her stomach, making her feel nauseous, disappeared right away, leaving only relief. ‘Thank you, sir.’ The words may be cold and formal in and out of itself, but Amy meant them from the bottom of her heart and she hoped she managed to convey that gratitude well enough.
Her fellow recruits mumbled their thanks as well, even though Julius did it with that air of boredom, as if he had expected nothing else. In Amy’s opinion that made him rather arrogant. There had been every chance of all three of them getting sacked and he was standing here as bold as brass, like that had never been an option at all.
Mr Potter raised his hand. ‘There are conditions,’ he told them. Amy did not like that word at all. ‘All three of you have the magical skills needed to become Aurors. You are however severely lacking in other skills that are essential to any Auror.’
Amy looked down in shame. She knew that he was speaking the truth, no matter how much she disliked that notion. The point was that Auror training did focus mostly on the magical skills one needed. Amy had learned more spells and magical tricks than she could have imagined even existed since she first started here, but there had not been many other skills she had learned so far. At first she had dismissed the idea, telling herself that this would be something they would learn later. Maybe they would want to make sure they could handle the magic before they moved on to other skills.
Later she learned that this was just another prime example of wizardry arrogance. They valued their magic above all else and apparently did not think that any other skills were worth the time it took them to learn, because their magic could usually deal with these things faster and more efficiently than the Muggle ways ever could. It frustrated the Muggle-born witch to absolutely no end, but there was nothing she could do to change it.
‘And to that end you will temporary join the ranks of Section D of MI-5 as of tomorrow,’ Harry Potter went on when no reply of the recruits seemed to be forthcoming. ‘They have agreed to take you under their wing to teach you the Muggle way of spying.’
There was a short silence, but then Julius exploded. ‘You cannot be serious, sir!’ He was bristling with rage, hardly surprising since he didn’t seem to be thinking much of Muggles at all. This must be something of a nightmare for him, Amy supposed, but she could not care less.
Her thoughts were running wild. She would readily admit that this was the last thing she’d expected, but after the initial shock, she could hardly stop herself from smiling. This was not a punishment, but rather an answer to her prayers. She’d been dying to learn things like that and now she was being offered the chance. Or well, this wasn’t really an offer, it was a punishment, but to Amy it felt like an opportunity to learn things and she was a true Ravenclaw in that respect: she always wanted to know more.
‘It is either this or be forced to leave headquarters,’ Mr Potter said sternly, making it quite clear that they did not have a choice in this.
Now that made him back down rather quickly. ‘For how long will this be?’ he demanded, but it was a defeat all the same.
‘Until you have acquired enough skills to come back here,’ the boss pointed out. ‘It will largely depend on your own efforts, Mr Burke.’
Julius looked like he had been forced to eat dung, but he gave a curt nod in acknowledgement, sending glowers at the carpet.
‘What will we be expected to do there, sir?’ Amy asked. She recalled overhearing Auror Weasley and the boss about asking MI-5 to help on the Manchester debacle and she could not escape the notion that this somehow had something to do with that as well.
And the answer confirmed that theory for her. ‘You will help the officers of MI-5 in finding and catching the Muggle terrorists involved with the Manchester debacle, Miss Hamilton. The Minister has decided that you will be liaison officers. Trying to catch the renegade suspects will be a joined operation and the three of you will be necessary to keep the channels of communication between the Ministry and MI-5 open. I do therefore expect you to take this as serious as you can.’ He sent all three of them as stern a look as he could manage.
Amy nodded fervently. The guys did so too, albeit a little less enthusiastic. Robert, although his mother was a Muggle herself, preferred the magical community over the Muggle one and he visibly took this as the punishment it was. Julius reacted in a similar fashion, although even less enthusiastic than his rival. They were only prepared to put up with this because they would lose the job otherwise.
‘We understand, sir,’ Robert said, his face predicting storm for the next few weeks. ‘Are we dismissed now?’
Harry Potter looked very amused. ‘Not quite,’ he said. ‘There’s one more thing you should know. When you join Section D, there will be no wands allowed.’
The silence that followed that announcement was deafening.
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