Raising Teddy

Chapter 9

The first day Harry was required to report to the Auror’s Office was one of the most nerve-wracking days of his seventeen years. He woke up early, feeling queasy and locked himself in the bathroom on the second floor of Grimmauld place for at least fifteen minutes before Kreacher threaten to get Ron and Hermione if he didn’t respond immediately. Harry told Kreacher he was fine, but his knuckles were white as he gripped the edge of the sink and stared at himself in the looking glass. His eyes were drawn to the thin lightning bolt scar on his forehead. His scar hadn’t hurt him ever since Tom Riddle’s death, not that he had expected it to. But in an odd sort of way he kind of missed the pain that had come with his scar, the same way one misses a friend whom they barely even had. When he was on the run, the pain meant information and information was a comfort to him, information meant he was that much closer to fining and destroying every last Horcrux.

But Harry didn’t need information on Horcruxes or on Voldemort’s whereabouts and now the scar was just a scar and a constant reminder of the sacrifice his parents made.

Harry felt much better now, still slightly sick but he reasoned that was something that could be fixed with a couple of bites of toast. So he unlocked the door and walked into the kitchen where Kreacher had already begun feeding Teddy.

“Master Harry’s breakfast.” He said in his creaking voice nodding to a plate of toast and a cup of coffee that he had set on the table. Harry ate only three bites of his toast, although Kreacher had all but begged him to eat more, and downed the contents of his cup in a hurry. He thanked Kreacher for his breakfast and promised he would be home that evening and informed Kreacher that he might be bringing guests home and left the kitchen. He snuck past the portrait of Mrs. Black who, in all the time Teddy and Harry had been staying in Grimmauld Place, had not seen it fit to utter a single sound from beneath her black curtains. He made it as far as the door before deciding he was a safe distance away from the portrait to risk Apperation. Harry closed his eyes as he apperated, trying to ignore the fact that he felt like he was being forced into a very tight rubber tube.

Harry was in Whitehall outside of a set of doors. He had entered the Ministry this way once before, the same time he had infiltrated the Ministry of Magic with Hermione and Ron. He was about to lean over and ask a brunette, middle aged witch for a coin embossed with M.O.M. when he heard his name and turned around. Ron was walking toward him, several inches taller than nearly everyone around them. He reached Harry and pressed a small golden coin into his hand.

“I got it off Dad.” Ron said as the two of them walked into the door labeled ‘Gentlemen’. “He offered to let me Floo in with him, but I told him you probably hadn’t hooked Grimmauld Place up to the network yet so it’d be best if I met up with you.”

“Thanks.” Harry said as the got in line behind two other wizards. “I was starting to feel like a git.”

“I reckon you’ll always feel like a git.” Ron grinned. “See you on the other side.” Harry nodded at Ron and inserted the Ministry coin into the slot on the edge of the door. It opened with a small pop. Harry stepped inside the stall and closed the door. Feeling foolish, but not as foolish as he had the first time he did this, Harry clambered into the toilet and flushed himself down. He immerged in the Atrium in a blaze of green flames. He quickly stepped out of the fireplace and waited for Ron to appear next to them. Harry ignored the stares and whispers the two of them received as they made their way to the lifts.

“Everyone’s staring at you.” Ron said in a low voice.

“It’s not just me.” Harry said as the lift began to move. “They’re staring at you too.” It was true. Ron was almost as famous as Harry now. Harry got the feeling that Ron rather enjoyed the stares by the way he stood up a bit straighter and puffed out his chest when they got off the lift on level two. Ron led the way to the Auror’s office, his head held high and his chest puffed out. Harry had been there once before, the only other time he had seen Kingsley in a Ministry setting.

The Auror’s Department was comprised of one large room with open cubicles for each Auror to work at. There were already several older wizards sitting at their desks, their cubicle walls plastered with posters of witches and wizards suspected of conspiring with Lord Voldemort during the Second Wizarding War. One witch had a picture of two young children alongside a poster of Thorfinn Rowle, a brooding stocky blond man. The sight of the two pictures together tied Harry’s stomach into an uncomfortable knot.

“Where do we go?” Harry whispered to Ron.

“We wait.” Ron shrugged. “I haven’t really spent much time here.” Harry and Ron stood silently at the entrance to the Auror’s bullpen waiting for someone to say something to them.

“You’re here too?” asked a familiar voice. Both Ron and Harry turned to find Neville Longbottom looked wide-eyed at the cubicles.

“You’re becoming an Auror?” Ron asked, not bothering to hide the surprise in his voice. Neville had struggled with magic during their first few years at Hogwarts, and he was particularly dreadful at potions; although whether that was due to his lack of magical prowess or his fear of their former Potions master Severus Snape was anyone’s guess. Harry and Ron had assumed that Neville would go into something to do with Herbology as it had always been his favorite subject at Hogwarts and the only one at which he had excelled.

“Gran wanted me to.” Neville said sheepishly. Neville’s grandmother had a nasty habit of being incredibly controlling when it came to her grandson. “Besides, Kingsley offered and I thought it’d make my mum and dad proud…” Neville parents had both been Aurors and had been tortured into insanity by a Death Eater named Bellatrix Lestrange when Neville was a baby.

“I’m sure you’ll be great Neville.” Harry said clapping a hand on Neville’s shoulder. “I think you’ll do really well.” Ron pulled a face at Harry behind Neville’s back. The three former Gryffindor’s waited for about five more minutes before a tall, stocky tan man with a scowling face and cropped blond hair approached them.

“I’m Leon Williamson.” He said looking down at them with hard, narrowed, brown eyes. He stared a Neville with absolutely no interest before turning his attention to Ron, who he displayed a mild interest in. Harry could only tell because he raised his eyes brows slightly when his eyes settled on Ron’s bright red hair. Finally, he looked at Harry. He seemed almost amused by Harry’s presence. The corners of his mouth twitched upward as if he were about to smile. “I’m head of the Auror Department.”

Williamson didn’t wait for them to introduce themselves. News of the Battle of Hogwarts and the final fall of Lord Voldemort had spread quickly and there was no doubt in Harry mind that Williamson knew who each and every one of them was. He led them past the other Aurors and to three empty cubicles in the back of the office.

“The three of you will work back here.” His voice was gravelly and deep. It reminded Harry of Kingsley. “Proudfoot,” He motioned to the witch with the poster of Thorfinn Rowle in her cubicle. “Is to be your immediate supervisor. You report to her.” Williamson walked away. Harry thought he heard Ron mutter something that sounded an awful lot like ‘tosser.’ Ron was about to say more when Proudfoot approached the three of them. She was a bit older than Harry, Ron and Neville, but she had a round face with calculating gray eyes, framed by her wavy brown hair.

“Ivana Proudfoot.” She said, sticking her hand out for each of them to shake in turn. They did so as she continued to speak. “I know who all of you are, of course.” She eyes lingered on Harry’s forehead. “Have any of you finished Hogwarts?”

“No.” they said together. Ivana narrowed her eyes but nodded.

“But you’ve fought You-Know-Who?” She asked an edge of curiosity in her voice.

“Yes.” They said. Ivana nodded again.

“Well, if you’ve got past him then you should do just fine.” She handed them each a thick purple folder. “These are dossiers on your targets.”

“Sorry,” Neville said. “Targets?”

“The wizards you’ll be hunting down.” Ivana clarified. “The Ministry is in shambles. Half the employees were working for You-Know-Who, Half of them weren’t. The Minister is having a hard time figuring out which is which.”

“So some of these people,” Ron said. “They worked at the Ministry?”

Ivana nodded. “We’ve made it easy for you. These are all verified supports, directly or indirectly, of You-Know-Who. They’ll be on the run, most likely. Some of them may turn themselves in. I, for one, wouldn’t count too much on that.” Harry and Ron exchanged a look “Get started then.”

Harry opened his folder and was confronted with a very familiar face. A toad like woman was looking up at with a wide, smug grin. A pink bow was atop her curly hair. Harry wanted to laugh and vomit at the same time.

“Umbridge.” He whispered to Ron. “I’ve got Umbridge.” Ron scowled at him.

“Should be easy enough for you.” Ron said moodily. “Just tell her if she doesn’t come in you’ll send a centaur after her.”

“Who’d you have?” Harry asked peering over the cubicle wall, trying to get a look at Ron’s folder. He shut it quickly before Harry got a chance to see what it said.

“C’mon.” Harry said. “Tell me.”

“Some bloke named Jugson.” Ron said. “I’ve never even heard of him.”

“That’s probably good then.” Harry said. “Means he’s not too powerful. Voldemort mustn’t have trusted him much. Lower level.” This seemed to cheer Ron up a bit and he turned to the cubicle where Neville was sitting silently.

“Who’d you get Neville?” Ron asked cheerfully. Neville didn’t move his chair or say a word. Harry and Ron exchanged a worried look.

“Neville?” Harry asked. Neville mumbled something that neither Ron nor Harry could make out. “Sorry, what?”

“Rodolphus.” Neville said after a long silence. Harry and Ron exchanged another glance; neither of them knew who Neville was talking about.

“Who?” Ron asked.

“Lestrange. Rodolphus Lestrange.” Neville’s voice was strangled. Harry understood immediately. Rodolphus Lestrange was one of the Death Eaters who had tortured Neville’s parents into insanity; forcing his grandmother to raise him. They never knew their son.

“Well…that’s good then isn’t it?” Ron asked. “I mean, you’ll get your revenge?” Neville didn’t respond.

Harry’s first day as an Auror was not quite what he had expected. There was an awful lot of research to been done about each of their intended targets. Harry nearly lost his lunch when he was forced to read an old journal of Dolores Umbridge’s that was recovered from her office when she held a job in the Ministry. Ron wasn’t having much more luck. There was very little record of Jugson after his life at Hogwarts.

“It’s like he just vanished after school.” Ron said grumpily, throwing a sheaf of papers onto his desk. “There’s no record of him anywhere.”

Neville was working harder than Harry and Ron combined. He barely looked up from the papers scattered in front of them. Harry and Ron had offered to buy him lunch but he simply waved them off muttering to himself.

“He’s going to work himself to death.” Ron had said as they passed his desk. Harry understood Neville’s determination to see that Rodolphus was captured. He had felt the same way about Voldemort. Rodolphus was the man who stole Neville’s family from him. Harry understood the need to see that he was brought to justice. So he left Neville work, he tried to bother him as little as possible. It was nearly seven o’clock at night before Harry had said anything to Neville since noon.

“Neville.” Harry said tentatively. Neville didn’t turn around. “Hey. Nev?” Neville’s head jerked up. His eyes were slightly red and a little bit puffy. He had been crying.

“Ron’s coming round mine.” Harry said. “Want to join us? We could invite Hermione or Luna if you’d like.” Harry bit his lip. Neville seemed so distant, it took him ages to respond but when he finally did he looked at Harry with a sad sort of smile and he said,

“Yeah. Yeah I’d like that.”

“I’ll have Ron send word.” Harry said. Then he added, “Is it alright if Ginny comes too?”

Neville laughed. “It’s your house Harry.” Harry returned the laugh with a smile and waited for Neville to clean up his desk before the two off them walked to the lifts.

“Is your house set up to the Floo?” Neville asked conversationally.

“No I don’t think so.” Harry said. Neville frowned.

“It should be. Mine is. My gran told me the Ministry sets it up the day you start.”

“Well we should be all set then.” Harry said stepping out of the lift and into the Atrium. Neville led him to the row of fireplaces against the wall.

“Can’t hurt to try.” Neville said handing Harry a handful of gritty green powder. “After you.”

Harry stepped into the roomy fireplace, tucked his glasses into his robes and threw the powder at the ground.

“Number 12, Grimmauld Place.” He said clearly and loudly. He hadn’t forgotten the first time he traveled by Floo powder. Neville gave him a thumbs up; he had heard the address. Harry nodded goodbye and tucked his elbows in, close to his sides, as the Atrium spun out of his view.

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