Harry Potter was having the worst day since, well, he could not exactly remember since when. It might even be his worst day since the end of the war. Really, it was just one of those days he should have taken the day off and let someone else take care of all the mess. Unfortunately, he had not taken the day off and here he was, in his own office at the Aurors’ Headquarters, giving the three latest recruits to his team as icy a stare as he could manage. Taken into account just how wrong things had gone this day, that was pretty scaring.
He was tempted to let his head rest in his hands and block out the rest of the world, but that would certainly undermine his authority. Instead he opted on studying all three of them with as stern a look as he could manage, letting them sweat for a little longer.
Well, not all of them were sweating. Julius Burke, although all people with any knowledge of Muggle history preferred to call him Julius Caesar because of his bossy behaviour, was a tall, pure-blood young man who often gave the impression of not being scared of anything or anyone. This resulted in a certain measure of arrogance, of which he was giving an excellent demonstration just now. He met Harry’s gaze with nonchalance, almost as if he was challenging him to react. Typical Slytherin arrogance, Harry could not help but think. He tried not to let the house rivalries of his school time cloud his judgement, but just looking at Julius made that very hard. He was everything Slytherin stood for: sly, cunning, self-confident and, last but not least, acting like he owned the place.
Standing on the other end of the row stood his Gryffindor recruit and Julius’s sworn rival: Robert West. He was indeed the complete opposite of Julius: half-blood, reckless and very short-tempered. He had done nothing but pointing his finger at Julius since they had entered this office a quarter of an hour ago. It was as predictable as it was annoying.
The only one not to open their mouth was the only female recruit to the team: a recently graduated Ravenclaw girl by the name of Amy Hamilton, strategically positioned between the two biggest trouble-makers Harry had encountered in a long time. She reminded Harry of Hermione a lot, not in looks, but in intelligence. The Muggle-born was the only one to admit that they had made a mistake, making her Harry’s favourite recruit since that moment.
He shook his head in annoyance. ‘Does any of you wish to tell me what happened today?’ he asked, giving each of them a stern look. Amy met it with shame, Robert with defiance and Julius with indifference.
‘I told you before, sir,’ Robert began. ‘It wasn’t my fault, or Amy’s,’ he added as an afterthought. Again, it was all very predictable. ‘We did as you instructed us. It was him,’ a finger was accusingly pointed in Julius’s direction, ‘that came out too early, even though I told him…’
‘Do I have to listen to this nonsense, sir?’ Julius drawled, the respectful sir just added a second too late. ‘We all know I did as I was instructed. After all, I wasn’t the one to giggle,’ the word was uttered as if it was some kind of contagious disease, ‘just as the suspect entered the building.’
‘You rotten liar!’ Robert exploded. ‘That is not what happened and you know it.’
Harry was severely tempted to roll his eyes at them, but decided just in time that that wasn’t going to solve anything. Sometimes these two did remind him of Draco Malfoy and himself when they were still in school, always blaming the other, always proving they were better than the other. At any other time this might have been amusing, just not now, with a criminal on the loose that they could have captured had all of them done as they were told. If only they were at Hogwarts. At least he could have deducted points and given them all a detention. Alas, that wasn’t an option now.
So instead he turned to Amy, who was studying the carpet with a devotion not often seen, her cheeks flushed bright crimson in embarrassment. Like it was somehow her fault that her fellow-recruits had trouble behaving like nineteen year olds instead of nine year olds. ‘Miss Hamilton, would you like to give me a report of the day?’ he asked.
‘But…’ both males started to protest.
‘Do I need to use Silencio on you or will you shut your mouths without help?’ His patience was wearing very thin indeed and it seeped through in his voice, effectively shutting them up. ‘Miss Hamilton?’
‘We went to the suspect’s house as instructed, sir,’ she reported, her voice steady and calm even though she still looked positively embarrassed. ‘We searched it and found the Dark objects. As per your instructions we left them untouched. The suspect arrived home just as we were finishing our search of the kitchen, so we hid away to prevent him from noticing us. Julius hid in the cupboard under the stairs and Robert and I hid behind the couch in the living room.’
Harry nodded to signal that he understood her. So far, so good. Now was the point in the tale he wanted to hear, the point where it all had gone belly-up. Amy was known as a truthful girl, but she was also known as the girl who had a huge crush on one Robert West. For such a bright girl she absolutely lacked a taste for men. He was curious to see what would win out in the end. ‘What happened then?’ he urged when she fell silent, her gaze firmly locked on the coffee stain in the carpet again.
‘Well, sir…’ She hesitated for a moment and then straightened her back, took a deep breath and continued: ‘Apparently Julius’s idea of a joke was to put some itching powder in Robert’s clothes, so he started to giggle when the suspect was just putting the Dark objects into some kind of bag, alerting him to our presence.’
‘Was not!’ Robert protested and Harry corrected himself. This wasn’t nine year old behaviour, it was that of a four year old. Give him another minute and he’ll be wailing like a baby, he thought sarcastically.
‘Yes, you were,’ Julius argued, shooting him a death glare. ‘Face it, West, it’s your fault he got away.’
Should he just send them to the corner as a punishment, treat them as if they truly were kids that had been naughty? The prospect was tempting to say at least, although he doubted it would have any effect on their current behaviour. But then, at this point he was at a loss as to what would have a lasting effect. He had tried it all already.
‘Liar!’ Robert snarled. ‘You know it isn’t. If you hadn’t…’
Whatever it was he wanted to say was silenced by Harry’s spell. He had pulled out his wand and silencioed the hot-headed Gryffindor. He repeated the spell on Julius just for good measure. This nonsense had to stop now. Maybe it annoyed him all the more because he had once been exactly like Robert. For him it had taken an entire war to change his deep-rooted views of Slytherins. Hopefully it didn’t take that much for these two. And to think that they were to be colleagues. They already gave him headaches.
‘Miss Hamilton?’ he asked, as polite as he could manage. None of this was probably her fault and it was his duty to treat her accordingly.
‘The suspect was alarmed and was deciding what to do when Julius came out of the cupboard, sir,’ she went on. ‘He told him to drop his wand and surrender, so then Robert and I came out of hiding, too. The suspect panicked, disarmed Julius and stupefied Robert before Apparating away, with his bag and Julius’s wand, sir.’
‘Is that right, Mr Burke?’ Harry demanded. ‘You let him get away with your wand?’ Honestly, you’d almost say they had learned nothing by now. How on earth could anyone in his senses, especially an aspiring Auror, not be prepared for such an obvious and simple spell?
‘It wasn’t like that, sir,’ Julius argued, for the first time sounding a bit alarmed. About time too. ‘I was trying to save the situation we were only in because West couldn’t stop himself from giggling like a little girl.’
Harry’s patience had finally run out. He had learned to control his temper in the years since the war and these days he seldom exploded like he used to do in school, but Julius was trying very hard to tempt him into a full-blown anger attack. ‘Enough!’ he bellowed. ‘I expect a full report on today’s events on my desk by tomorrow morning in which each of you will explain to me what you yourself, not the others, did wrong. And Mr Burke, I suggest you go down to Ollivander’s this instant to buy yourself a new wand. Do I make myself clear?’
To his satisfaction the Slytherin staggered a few steps back, some shock visible on his face. ‘Yes, sir,’ he replied.
‘Very well. You are dismissed for the day. You’ll report at this office at nine am tomorrow to hear the consequences of your actions.’
Amy paled visibly and even the two males seemed uncomfortable. Harry guessed that was a good thing. Maybe it would make them cooperate for once. Merlin knew that he needed it. They left his office so fast as if they had encountered a Blast-Ended Skrewt in it, the door slamming behind them.
Harry sighed and leaned back in his luxury chair. It was almost a miracle that he even held this position. He was the youngest Head of the Auror Department ever and he knew it was a privilege. But he could really do without all this mess with the youngest recruits.
Oh, they were talented, all of them, extremely so even. Amy’s Charms and Transfiguration were unlike anything he had even seen before. She might put even Hermione to shame with them. She had come out of Hogwarts with nothing but Outstanding on all her NEWTs and the praise of all her teachers. Julius was an excellent dueller with a knack for everything to do with Defence Against the Dark Arts, just like Robert. Their scores were great and Harry had no choice but to accept them when they applied for a position with his team. Their magical skills were top of the bill and that was what he needed here.
No, that was not the problem. The problem was that, like so many other wizards, they underestimated the importance of other skills, such as how to behave like adults for example. In that respect the Muggles were definitely far more advanced. Harry, having spent his youth in the Muggle world, had never heard of a Muggle making such a mess of an operation. As far as he knew they may not have magic, but they had other skills to make up for what they lacked. It were these skills that allowed them to keep their country safe from all the dangers that plagued the Muggles of Britain these days. It were also skills that his recruits, with the possible exception of Amy Hamilton, lacked. If only there was a way to teach them, Harry thought wishfully.
Suddenly it all connected. He shouldn’t be here in his office moaning about the hopelessness of it all, not when there really was a way to teach his recruits everything they needed to know and he would be a fool not to use it. So he stood up and made his way to Kingsley’s office. It was time to make use of one of his most valuable contacts.
Kingsley was dictating a report to his quill when Harry knocked on his door, but he abandoned it as soon as he caught sight of the Head of the Auror Department in his office.
‘Harry, good to see you,’ he said, smiling. ‘No, you stupid quill, I don’t want you to write that down!’
Harry’s gaze wandered to the quill in question that kept scribbling away. ‘What kind of quill is that, Kingsley?’ Even from where he stood he could see the quill wrote down his question in a neat writing.
‘Birthday present from George Weasley,’ the Minister of Magic answered absent-mindedly. He was too preoccupied with trying to get his quill to stop writing down every word they were saying to notice Harry’s smirk. ‘All Quotes Quill, he called it. He swore it would be ideal to write reports of anything I might want, but now I can’t seem to get it to stop. Finite!’
The quill ignored him. Harry would have lied had he said he was surprised. If George was the one to have given the Minister this object… ‘Well, it is an All Quotes Quill, sir,’ he remarked, trying not to laugh. ‘Maybe you should just wait till it reaches the end of the parchment.’
Kingsley finally looked up. ‘Or I should just snap it,’ he commented dryly. ‘I should have known better than to accept something coming from that shop of his by now. Sit down, Harry. Can I offer you something to drink? You might need it after today.’
He grimaced. ‘That obvious?’
Kingsley pointed out a note on his desk. ‘Trouble with your new recruits, I heard.’
Harry sighed. ‘News travels fast around here. I take it you have heard it all, then?’
The Minister nodded, his calm expression calming Harry himself a bit too. He had no idea how the older man did it, especially with all that responsibility resting on his shoulders, but Harry was grateful for it. ‘One of your recruits started laughing in the middle of an operation, wasn’t it?’
‘Giggling, actually,’ Harry corrected. ‘And only because his rival had put itching powder in his robes. They’re hopeless. I’d have them kicked out if their scores had not been so high. They have promise, all of them. They just lack discipline and common sense.’ To his amusement he saw that the quill was still writing down each and every word they spoke.
‘Are you sure, Harry?’ Kingsley asked. ‘If they are as incapable as you would have me believe, wouldn’t it be better to search for other recruits?’
He had considered that at least twice a day for the last four months, and he had come to the same conclusion each and every time. ‘No. There are no other recruits I would like on the team. Either their NEWT scores are not high enough or their intake tests are too low. And they have the potential, I know they have.’ If only they started using it for their job instead of childish pranks. ‘And I can’t afford not to take any new recruits. We’re already four men down after the Manchester debacle.’
Kingsley grimaced. The Manchester debacle had been a rather painful and embarrassing affair, so naturally Rita Skeeter had written about it for weeks on end. Somehow some Death Eaters that had escaped justice for years had allied themselves with a group of dangerous Muggle terrorists. The group had blown up entire streets in several important cities before the Aurors had finally tracked them down. It had come to a showdown in the centre of Manchester, with Aurors and Death Eaters fighting for dear life. In the end the Death Eaters and their Muggle accomplices had been captured, but the damage was great. Two Aurors had died and two others had been carried off to St. Mungo’s, from which they had yet to be discharged. Countless buildings had been damaged, but the worst thing was the number of Muggles that had witnessed the fight. The Ministry had had a lot of work tracking them and wiping their memories.
‘I see,’ Kingsley nodded. ‘But what is it you need me for?’
Tea and sympathy to start with. ‘I think you can help,’ he replied, thinking carefully how he would phrase his idea. It was unconventional, but then, so were most of his plans. But this one was a bit more unconventional than anything he had come up with before.
‘Anything, Harry. As long as it is within my powers of course.’ The quill wrote down everything he said.
Don’t be too quick to promise me anything. ‘Oh, I think it is within your powers, sir,’ Harry replied. He knew he didn’t have to address the Minister like that, but a bit of respect never hurt anyone and he was about to ask a huge favour. ‘You told me once that you have a contact within the Muggle security service, didn’t you?’
Kingsley clearly failed to see what Harry was trying to say. ‘Yes, I do,’ he nodded, confusion written all over his face. ‘Why do you ask?’
Harry took a deep breath and then explained his idea to the Minister.
‘Merlin’s beard,’ Kingsley exclaimed when he was finished, falling back in his seat. ‘That would be very unusual.’
There was of course no denying that. ‘It might also be very useful,’ he argued. ‘The Muggles do have skills that we obviously don’t possess. And if you say that their people know about us already, then what have we got to lose?’
‘The Statute of Secrecy, for example,’ the Minister pointed out.
Screw the Statute. ‘The Statute is going to violated more if one of those three makes a mistake again. Next time it might not be just a suspect getting away.’
‘I can try to get into contact with Albus’s old contact,’ Kingsley replied hesitantly. ‘He’s a reasonable man as far as I know.’
Harry knew he had won the fight and tried not to smile. ‘I’d be grateful,’ he said, very truthfully. He knew nothing was certain yet, but at least he had gotten Kingsley to agree to his plans and that had to count for something. and honestly, he wouldn’t know what to do if this plan failed. He had the feeling he had tried it all by now and none of it had worked. ‘Could you let me know as soon as you hear from your contact?’
Kingsley nodded. ‘Immediately, Harry.’
‘Thanks, Kingsley. I owe you.’
The Minister huffed. ‘You can start repaying me by making this worthless quill stop writing!’
‘I’m afraid that’s beyond my power, sir,’ Harry replied with a smirk. ‘That’s a Weasley product. I’m done trying to stop those. Not even an Auror can stand against its many pranks.’ He closed the door behind him before the ex-Auror had the chance to react.