When I see Dad standing in the doorway, I instantly know that this means trouble. Although he has been working in the Minister’s office for years now, ever since the war he can’t really leave his old department: us. Mum always says he should be glad that he has such a high position in the Ministry, but I reckon he misses his plugs and outlets and whatever else we have to deal with. Every time there is something really important, like the hexed bicycle some weeks ago, he brings it to us personally… and then he usually ends up in the back corner of our crammed room, playing with his beloved toasters and heaters and stuff.
When I started in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, Dad was delighted. It was the perfect excuse for him to stop by every day and examine self-boiling pots and all that. He even asked me if I wanted a place of my own in the old shed in our garden where he likes to tinker with Muggle things.
No, don’t be afraid, I’m not that freaky – but I do sometimes bring him some new plugs and wires. Harry and I are planning to take him shopping in a Muggle shopping centre for his next birthday. Bet he’ll love that.
Well, Dad is standing in the door, carrying some large white thing. It looks a bit like a TV – we learnt about those in Muggle Studies N.E.W.T. class. No wonder Dad brought it: we haven’t had a TV in ages. And the more random a Muggle thing is, the better for him. But he’s right for once; TVs are pretty fascinating. I reckon plugs and all that are more interesting for people who want to know how everything works. I just accept that they lead electricity and that’s it. It’s the big stuff that is interesting. You wouldn't believe me if I told you what a Muggle radio looks like on the inside and what they have to go through to make it work!
“Good morning, Ginny.” Dad smiles at me when he enters the room and I hurry over to give him a hug. Ever since I moved in with Harry a few months ago I don’t seen Mum and Dad that often any more and I’m glad to at least meet Dad at work. Behind Dad I can see his personal assistant Daphne, who does not seem to be in the best mood. Not that I mind – Daphne is one of the few Ministry employees I absolutely despise and she is, in my opinion, even more shallow than Lavender Brown, and that’s saying something. I’m always surprised that she’s able to write down what Dad tells her. But then, influential relatives can help a lot.
“Mr Weasley, I don’t see why you couldn’t just levitate them?” Daphne asks in her high-pitched voice, sounding annoyed. I reckon she could have broken one of her fingernails by carrying that – thing. “You know I must finish this report by noon, and there’s the meeting with the Minister to be prepared…”
And she has to write hundreds of messages to her current admirer, polish her nails, check her hairstyle and her make-up, I add silently, but can’t suppress a slight grin.
Ernie, who has noticed Dad and hurries to help him with his TV – it’s so useful to have a former Hufflepuff in the department – grins, too. He has had his own personal experiences with Daphne and knows that there’s not much underneath her blonde curls. Which is why he is now going out with Eloise Midgen, who has grown to look really nice since she left Hogwarts. Puberty is just awful. But I’m getting off topic.
“You know it’s not advisable to levitate charmed items,” Dad addresses his secretary earnestly. “Some charms don’t work well together and you wouldn’t want this to explode right in your face.”
Daphne looks shocked and Ernie snorts. Oh no, now I have to fight this image of Daphne after an explosion, covered in soot, her clothes torn and her hairstyle destroyed. Even Marcus, the third man in our tiny office, looks up from his work. Usually he ignores Dad and Ernie and me, which isn’t good, because Ernie is head of our office and Dad is head of the whole department, and it’s Ernie who gives out bonuses and stuff. Last year, I got three extra days off because of my great diligence and results. But Marcus is a troll in human form anyway, so I prefer him not talking. Someone who still calls Hermione a “Mudblood” shouldn’t be working in the Ministry at all, but the Minister – who is an old friend of Marcus’ dad, by the way – reckons that Marcus will improve when he’s working with Muggles on a daily basis. There’s no way we would let Marcus near an innocent Muggle. He does all the paperwork so Ernie and Stewart – our apprentice – can deal with the Muggles and I try to de-magify the items. It’s like curse-breaking without Goblins and with far funnier stuff – have you ever seen a regurgitating toilet? They’re among my favourites.
“What’s this?” Stewart asks curiously. He always asks and thinks things through, a typical Ravenclaw trait. In the “thinking” section especially, the Ministry could definitely use more of his kind.
“This,” Dad puts his TV on my desk, “is a computer.”
Silence falls. Marcus looks clueless, but he always does. Ernie frowns and I can see him searching his brains for this word. I have the slight suspicion that we’ve spoken about this in Muggle Studies shortly before our N.E.W.T.s. Professor Solitus said that computers were among the most difficult Muggle devices but very successful in the Muggle world. But, Solitus wasn’t a great fan of things anyway – he preferred talking about developments and philosophy and stuff, and so we spent the rest of the computer lesson discussing the general development of electric devices and capitalism.
“Wicked,” Stewart says, whistling through his teeth. I’m not certain if he's talking about Daphne’s glittering robes, which have a very deep neck-line, or about the computer. Well, I’m tending more towards the computer, because Stewart hasn’t ever expressed any interest in girls, quite opposite to his interest in Muggle things.
Dad smiles at him and motions at Daphne to put the other thing next to the computer, along with some wires and other stuff. Marcus stares at her and now I’m quite certain that it’s not because of the computer.
“And what is this?” Ernie asks, pointing at the big white box.
“It belongs to the computer, too.” Dad looks proud. “You need both of these to make it work. This” – he points at the TV-thing – “is the monitor. We have to connect it with the other part.”
“Mr Weasley, what about your files and your meeting?” Daphne taps her foot impatiently at the door. She should stop moving like that – it doesn’t look important, it only looks as if she needs to go to the toilet.
“The meeting is at noon, there’s enough time. Just go and prepare my files, extract the most important things.” I admire Dad for staying calm although Daphne behaves like an idiot. Well, since she really is an idiot, I reckon he’s got used to it.
And now we’re on our own, four Muggle enthusiasts and one Death Eater on probation. Marcus was probably too dumb to even serve Voldemort, and that’s saying something, because Crabbe and Goyle could do it. We were always surprised that those two managed to find their way around Hogwarts.
Ernie casts the Electricity Charm, something all of us are enormously proud of. Normally electricity doesn’t work inside the Ministry; there’s too much magic around, and most wizards don’t bother with it anyway. That’s no problem at all for the average wizard, but try checking to see if the toaster still attempts to bite your fingers when you switch it on, when it can’t be switched on. The Ministry never managed to give us electricity though, and our request at the Department for Experimental Charms was anything but high priority. At least until Hermione arrived, the only Muggleborn in ages to join the department. She was the first person there to understand our problem, probably partly because she was looking for a cottage for herself and Ron at the time and wanted electric light. So, we explained what we needed. Hermione did some Arithmancy and spell construction while Ernie and I were having a lot of fun, and barely a week later we had our Electricity Charm. It’s the most useful thing this Ministry has produced in ages.
“What does it do?” Stewart asks suddenly, and we stop fumbling with the wires. It’s great to have someone in the office who actually thinks. Before we had Stewart, Ernie and I used to just cast the Electricity Charm and then see what the fridge or whatever did, if we didn’t know already. We spend less time nursing our burns and bruises now, but somehow it was more fun the other way. But maybe that’s only because I’m a Gryffindor.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Dad answers happily and continues connecting the two parts with different types of wire. “The Muggle was knocked out; he couldn’t tell the Accidental Magical Squad anything. We just have to find out by ourselves.”
Ernie and I pull out our wands simultaneously and Stewart backs away instantly. I know he’s hiding behind Ernie now, since he’s afraid that it’s him who will be knocked out by the computer (although he would never admit that). But I trust Ernie and his Shield Charms – he’s always been perfect at them and we have a kind of a routine. He’s more of a defender, and usually it’s him who saves me while I work on the hexed artefact.
In the meantime, Dad has finished connecting the computer and presses the “on” button, his face beaming all over. Ernie wears his look of absolute concentration, which makes him look like he’s trying to lay a Quaffle-sized egg, and I know that he’s preparing to defend us against the vicious computer at any minute. Surprisingly, nothing happens at all. Dad doesn’t get knocked out, his hair doesn’t turn blue, he still has all of his fingers – it’s amazing. Even Stewart moves to the front row again when several lights start blinking and a picture appears on the monitor. It looks very much like a TV, if you ask me, except that a TV is way more entertaining. Hermione has taken me along to her parents once and they have a big one where you can choose from any kind of film, but this one here only has white letters on a black background. And it doesn’t do anything interesting. Boring, if you ask me – I would have thought a computer is way cooler.
Dad smiles at the computer as happily as if it were his first grand-daughter. He longs for one, but even despite the Veela blood, Fleur and Bill have only managed to produce sons yet. The rest of us aren't too crazy about having children, although I suspect that Ron and Hermione won’t wait too long now – she’s knitting again. Stewart watches the letters as if they are more interesting than a good Quidditch match. Finally it gets interesting: the screen turns green, and a lot of symbols appear, along with an arrow.
“And now?” I ask curiously. Dad shrugs and tries out several buttons at the monitor, all of which have no effect whatsoever. Even Stewart looks helpless, a first for him, I assume. And Ernie – wait, where has Ernie gone? Has the computer knocked him out?
Ah, no, there he is, at our bookcase. How could I have forgotten the Encyclopaedia of Muggle Items? Until now this series has never failed to help us, and assuming from Ernie’s look, he has just found some valuable information.
“Computer.” He clears his throat, sounding a bit like Professor Umbridge. “A Muggle item used instead of a typewriter. The normal computer consists of a monitor, a processor, a keyboard and a mouse.” He stops, frowning. “A mouse?”
Well, it sounds a bit suspicious. Muggles don’t use real mice, do they? But I don’t know anyone I can check this with and Muggles sometimes do quite mad things.
“There are still some things left here.” Stewart is rummaging through the mess on my desk. I just hope that he avoids the finger-breaking gripper – I haven’t found a counter charm to this one yet. “We did computers in Muggle Studies; Professor Solitus used to say they were a revolutionary medium.” He pulls something out from under a mass of wires. It looks like a white plate, except that there are small buttons with numbers, letters and other signs on them. I reckon that this is the keyboard. The Encyclopaedia is right – it does look like a part of a typewriter.
Delightedly, Dad and Ernie jump at the keyboard and fumble with different wires to connect it to the rest of the computer. It’s the first time since Stewart has come on board that Ernie has forgotten about the Shield Charm, and his face really shines with enthusiasm. As soon as Dad has connected the last wire, he starts pressing all kinds of buttons and I step closer, excited to see what will happen.
Unfortunately, Stewart decides to look up at exactly this moment. “Are you mad?” he barks, sounding a bit like Mum when she’s annoyed. “Pay attention!” I love this boy, but sometimes he’s a real kill-joy. What is worse, he really is sensible, although I would never admit that aloud. “Hey, Ernie, here’s the mouse!” He lets something soar through the room with a small movement of his wand – this boy is a god at nonverbal spells – and it meets Ernie’s shoulder with a soft “clunk”.
Dad clicks his tongue disapprovingly, though it’s more because of the precious mouse than Ernie’s shoulder. By the way, the mouse doesn’t look like a mouse at all, more like a stone. It has a wire, too – modern Muggles are crazy about wires. What do they do when their electricity fails them? I have a vague feeling we did this in Muggle Studies at some point, and I’m positive Stewart could tell me, but somehow it has escaped my mind. Well, it’s none of my business anyway, we’re not responsible for all the Muggle electricity and luckily we have wands. And an electricity spell, thanks to Hermione.
While Dad is connecting the mouse – I’m relieved it’s not a real mouse, not even a stuffed one – to the computer, Ernie continues to give advice from the Encyclopaedia. According to him, the arrow moves when the mouse is moved. Wicked. I can’t wait to try it myself and when Dad has finished I make certain that I’m the first in line. He and Ernie already had their fun and Stewart prefers to stay at the back until we’ve made sure everything is safe anyway. But he too must be amazed because he hasn’t said anything about security issues for the last few minutes. The Encyclopaedia was right – the small arrow moves when I move the mouse on my desk. It’s incredible what Muggles come up with.
After everyone, well, bar Marcus, has had his turn with the mouse, it’s my go again. The Encyclopaedia says that the mouse has two buttons, and so I press the right one. A small sign appears but everything’s quite cryptic and I don’t really understand any of the words. Apart from “new,” but when I move the arrow to “new,” a second sign opens and I don’t get what “file” means. There isn’t enough space for a file in this computer! Just to keep it running, the box, whatever its Muggle name is, must be crammed. When I press the left mouse button, nothing happens at all. This computer thing is a bit disappointing, I have to admit. That hexed radio was way more interesting, but then I was allowed to have a look at its insides. Maybe it would get more exciting if we screwed the box open? There must be loads of interesting stuff inside it, Dad would vote for taking it apart, too, I’m certain. He would feel as if Christmas and his birthday had come early.
“What about these pictures?” Dad asks curiously, pointing at one of the miniature pictures on the monitor, before I can suggest taking the computer apart. “Just try it with one of these.”
Ernie is nodding vigorously and even Stewart seems to have forgotten about security – he’s staring at the monitor, his eyes gleaming with joy. And I would love to find out what I’m able to do with this thing, which is why I make the arrow go to the most colourful picture I can find and press the left mouse button. Nothing happens, and so I press it again. And again. And again.
It’s so silent I can hear Ernie breath in my ear.
And then the computer starts playing music, and the four of us somehow manage to cut a caper simultaneously. Pictures like from a film appear on the screen, the mouse is gone and it’s really, really loud. I would love to put a Silencing Charm on the computer but, like Dad said, charms on an already charmed item can have unpleasant effects. This was the first thing I learnt here, when I wanted to summon a hexed book from the shelf. It came zooming at me with an enormous speed, soared right through my hands and smacked into Ernie’s head. Luckily, Ernie’s only one year ahead of me, so he could remember making the same mistake and only laughed at my shocked face. Hermione, of course, constructed our Electricity Charm in a special way so it could work well with all charmed items. Don’t ask me how she did it, but the girl’s a bloody genius when it comes to charms.
Suddenly I feel myself brushed aside brutally. “Hey!” I protest, but don’t get any further. It would have been no use anyway because Marcus never listens to us, even if it’s for his own good.
“Can’t you admire this stupid Muggle thing in silence?” he shouts. If he were a dragon, he would be spitting fire now. But he’s only a troll, and so he starts hammering with his fist on the keyboard as if the poor thing were responsible that he landed in our office. We’re not happy about that, either, but we’re not damaging anything!
Stewart takes a loud breath and I know that he’ll say something about security now – though I would never, ever warn Marcus Flint not to touch a hexed computer, we’re better off without him – but before he can utter a single word, the computer gives a loud puff. The four of us step back immediately, but Marcus – due to his lack of intelligence and experience with charmed items – hammers on.
A wink later, he slams to the floor with a loud “clunk.” Everything’s jiggling. I reckon it’s similar to when Ron and Harry knocked out that troll in their first year.
Well, it looks as if we’ll be short one member of our department soon. Although Marcus will recover – there’s hardly anything St. Mungo’s can’t sort out – I would bet my boyfriend that he’ll never step into this office again.
I love computers.
A/N: Hugs and thanks to my truly amazing betas, harry_ginnyphile and Evelyn. I can't imagine how awful my stories were if you weren't there to help. Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter. That distinction belongs to the amazing JKR.
Beta Note: Your stories couldn’t be awful if you tried, Mira... it is a pleasure betaing them for you!