Ashling Aquafine hated being late. There were few things in her life that were constant irritants, and her tendency to be late was one of them. She burst through the door of the Daily Prophet and half-ran towards her desk.
“Hey, Ash!” Nearly skidding to a halt, she paused in the doorway of her boss’s office.
“Hello, Fen,” she greeted cautiously, taking a step inside.
“No, no. Come on in and sit down,” he insisted enthusiastically. He was a large man, full of life, who often reminded Ash of Father Christmas in his physical build but was pretty much the saint’s polar opposite in demeanor and philosophy on life. As a result, Fen’s enthusiasm worried Ashling. Cautiously, she took a seat across from the desk and laid her briefcase at her feet. “Ashling Aquafine. You’ve been getting good reviews from your immediate supervisors,” Fen started.
“But that doesn’t mean jack shit. It’s the readers who matter, young woman, and you’ll only really come to realize that once you’ve been in this business as long as I have.”
“Yes, sir, I…”
“The bottom line is this: Someone’s noticed your talent, and you’re about to get a huge break.” Grinning, he clapped his hands together and rubbed them enthusiastically. “This is really going to chap the arse off of some of these geezers who’ve been complaining about hiring younger staff.”
“Big break, Fen?” Ashling leaned forward in her seat.
“Yes, yes. No patience in you young people, I swear. Well, as you know … big anniversary party in the Ministry this weekend.”
“Anniversary?” Ashling couldn’t help feeling a bit stupid, though she reassured herself that politics wasn’t her usual beat.
“Yes, Aquafine. Anniversary. It’s been thirty years since Harry Potter defeated… well, you know.”
Ashling fought hard to contain her sarcasm. She didn’t understand how people of her parents’ generation could be afraid to say a name. A name that hadn’t held any power for years.
“Yes, I knew that. Isn’t he a recluse now?”
Fen nodded. “Well, sort of. He’s not given us an official interview in thirty-three years. But my secretary’s been in contact with his family for several weeks now, trying to get in touch with him. I, of course, wanted an exclusive interview.”
Ashling raised an eyebrow. “An exclusive interview? With Harry Potter? He hasn’t talked to a newspaper since he talked to The Quibbler during his seventh year of school.”
Fen leaned forward and looked her directly in the eye. “Apparently Mr. Potter has been following you for some time, Ash. He appreciates your… point of view. Says he thinks you can think for yourself.”
Ashling found herself unable to speak. “Harry … P…P…P..otter…? He’s… he’s up for the Headmaster position at Hogwarts! He knows more about defense than most experts! He’s… insane. And he’s been following me?”
“Apparently it’s a mutual respect,” a voice said from the doorway.
Fen rose hastily to his feet. “Mr. Weasley, it’s nice to see you!”
The man grinned and ran a hand through his hair before turning to look at Ashling. “He only calls me Mr. Weasley because he has no idea which one I am. Ron, at your service.”
“Close your mouth, Ashling,” Fen whispered furiously from behind her.
“That’s what they tell me, anyway,” he said. “I’m here as legal counsel for the Harry Potter family. Can we have a conference, Ms. Aquafine?”
“Um, yes. Of course. Shall we head to my office?”
An hour and a half later, Ron Weasley left her office, full of coffee and confidence that his friend had made the right choice. Ashling, however, was a mess.
Frazzled, she rose from her desk to look out the window. Harry hadn’t wanted to over-think his decision, so the meeting was tonight, at the Potter family home. For security purposes, Ron would meet her at the Leaky Cauldron and use a Portkey to take them to the right location.
The list of information Ron had given her was pretty inclusive. The folder included facts about Harry’s wife, his children, and his current job. However, there were still a million questions to be asked. And she had less than eight hours to prepare the interview of the century.
Of course, there were countless colleagues with opinions about what she should ask about, what she shouldn’t…
“It’s a political move,” one had said, very condescendingly, to her. “He’s up for the Headmaster’s job, and now he has to talk.”
“He’s just tired of being bothered,” another had pontificated. “If I were constantly hounded by the media, I would be too. He’s just hoping this will shut us up.”
“Or maybe…” Ashling tapped her quill against her parchment pensively. “Maybe it’s just time to talk.”
Everyone had questions they wanted to ask him, she knew, and she wanted to get answers to those – how he’d found the courage to save the world at seventeen, for one – but she also wanted a different kind of interview. It seemed as though the world had forgotten Harry Potter was a person… herself included, she noted.
“So, the question becomes… how do you humanize a legend?”
Hours later, the question hadn’t been answered yet. A knock on the door of her office broke Ashling out of her reverie.
“Hey.” The wizard leaning against the doorjamb was relaxed, confident, and definitely not where he was supposed to be.
“You’ve got the wrong place. The subscription office is downstairs in the west corridor, third door down. They’ve moved the department, but not the sign. Terribly sorry.”
“I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, actually. Are you Ashling Aquafine?”
“Yes, I am. At least, that’s what it says on my byline.”
The wizard grinned and rose to his full 6-foot-6 height. “Great. I’m Gareth Weasley. Do you mind if I walk you down to the Leaky Cauldron?”
Wary, Ashling took a step back. “Well, you do have the red hair.”
“There’s always Polyjuice Potion,” the man said, and then laughed. “I guess that didn’t help my cause any. Listen, my dad said that after the talk he gave you about security, you probably wouldn’t be very apt to trust me, so he told me to mention that he told a story about Muggle jet-skiing.”
Luckily, the story had been an amusing one, so Ash remembered it. “Oh, okay. Well, I suppose I trust you then.”
“That’s good. We’ve heard that some people have gotten wind of the interview. We don’t want you attacked or followed on your way to the pub.”
“All right.” Ash picked up her briefcase and pulled on her cloak. As they were walking out the door, she noticed the strange looks her coworkers were giving her. “Do you get that often?”
“The people staring? Yeah. It happens sometimes when they know who I am… or who my dad is. Annoying, really.”
“Yes, it would be,” Ashling agreed.
After a few minutes of silent walking, they reached the Leaky Cauldron. “All right. Dad will walk up and meet us. Don’t try to approach him. He’ll come get us when Uncle Harry’s got the house secure. In the meantime, want a beer?”
“Yeah, sure. Sounds great. It’s a bit chilly right now.”
“So, are you nervous?”
“Pardon me?” Ash blinked at him and tried to look offended.
“Oh, come on. I saw how you were in your office. He’s just a man, really. A talented, brilliant and odd man, but a man.”
“That’s what I want to show people, but I don’t know which questions to ask to get the information I need to convey that.”
“I’ve got every faith in you. And so does Uncle Harry, which is, after all, what matters the most in this situation. Ah, thank you, love,” he said to the barmaid, who handed him two beers. “Would you put it on my tab, please?”
Beaming, the waitress nodded and hurried off.
After a brief conversation, Gareth inclined his head. “Here comes Dad.” Approaching the table, Ron nodded at his son, and Gareth rose, escorting Ash outside without exchanging many words with his father.
“Wait. Are you coming with me?” Ash asked both men. “I know it’s stupid, but… I hate Portkeys.”
Gareth nodded. “So does Uncle Harry. You’re in luck, though. I have some stuff to drop off there, and I hear Aunt Ginny made fresh gingerbread, so I’ll make the sacrifice and go.”
At precisely 4:30, they placed their hands on a small mug and were whisked away to a house somewhere in the English countryside.
Harry Potter stood in his kitchen, tea mug in hand, watching fat snowflakes drift to the ground in his backyard.
“Are you nervous?” The soft voice of his wife caused him to turn and smile, as it often did.
“Have I mentioned lately how much I hate the media?”
“Not in the last couple of minutes,” Ginny teased. “You know, you don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do. I’ve read some of these textbooks they’re coming out with now…. It’s about time someone realized what really happened out there. If I were half the wizard they write me up as… I’d have a cure for lycanthropy right now.”
“You are a good wizard though, Harry.”
Harry nodded distractedly. “I’m all right. But I’m no Dumbledore.”
“Harry, you don’t have to take that position if you don’t want to. You’ve done enough work for one lifetime. We don’t need the money, that’s for sure.” Ginny wrapped her arms around his waist and lifted her face for a kiss. Harry happily obliged her. “Well, there’s always time to talk about that later.”
“What if she wants to talk to you?” Harry asked.
“I told Ron I would, as long as she stays away from asking me the really intimate questions. Thank Merlin for my brother being a barrister. He’s made this whole thing almost bearable, hasn’t he?”
“Yes, yes he has,” Harry said, looping his arms around Ginny’s waist and pulling her with him in a gentle swaying motion. “Thirty years. I can’t believe I’m almost fifty.”
“Oh, shush. You’ve got three years to go yet.”
“When you’re having fun,” Ginny retorted. “Besides, I still think you’re pretty sexy for a fifty-year-old.”
“Hey. I’ve got three years yet!”
Ginny laughed. “I just can’t win with you, can I?”
Harry chuckled and leaned in to kiss her nose. “Nope, you can’t. Hey… we’re alone. Doesn’t this make you glad the kids are all gone?”
Ginny shook her head. “We’re alone, but you’ve got that young reporter coming over. I’m going to go brush my hair so I can handle meeting her. And you are going to put on a different shirt?”
“This is the first time you’ve talked to anyone from the Prophet in thirty-three years. You should at least look like you’re doing decently, otherwise she’ll write that you’re living in poverty, and we’ll have to send donations back to people with embarrassed-sounding letters.”
“Oh, I doubt it’s…” At the look on his wife’s face, Harry relented, went to the bedroom, and changed his shirt.
“Don’t be nervous,” Gareth whispered in Ashling’s ear right before she raised the knocker. “Just be yourself… and don’t try to put anything past Uncle Harry. If there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s people trying to be sneaky.”
“Right. Got it.” Confidently, she raised the knocker and produced two quick raps on the door.
The door opened to reveal a pretty older woman with streaks of gray in her red hair and brilliant brown eyes. “Hullo. You must be Ms. Aquafine. I’m Ginny Potter. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Yes, I am. And it’s wonderful to meet you too. I know this sounds stupid, but we read a lot about you in class. It’s amazing, what you’ve been able to achieve in Patronus research.”
“Thank you. That’s an area both Harry and I are particularly interested in. Won’t you come in?”
Ashling stepped inside the door and immediately noticed that, although large, the house wasn’t ostentatious or showy, like so many old wizarding manors she’d visited. This house felt as though people lived in it. Immediately, she pulled out her quill and scribbled some notes.
“You don’t use a Quick-Quotes Quill, Ms. Aquafine? Gareth, the gingerbread is in the kitchen.”
“Oh, no. Hate the blasted things,” Ash muttered as Gareth disappeared with a wave, intent on homemade gingerbread. “And please, call me Ashling, though most people shorten it to Ash.”
“You know, it sounds like we’re going to get along just fine, Ashling. You really must have done your research.”
“Well, you didn’t bring a Quick-Quotes Quill. Or a photographer. Harry hates Quick-Quotes Quills. It’s all Rita Skeeter’s fault, you know. He had an awful experience with her in his fourth year of school.”
“I’ve heard of her. Bit of a sensationalist, or so I’ve heard.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Ginny quipped, and led her down a corridor. “Harry’s office is this way. He’s working on something for the Minister, so it might take a minute.”
A short time later, Ginny paused at a door, knocked, and pushed it open. “Here you go. Harry, Ashling Aquafine is here.”
“Good,” Harry said, and rose to his feet. “Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Aquafine. I read your piece on the recent Dragon-hide Cauldron scandal and I was very pleased that the Prophet has accidentally hired someone with sense for once.”
“Thank you, sir. I, of course, am a great admirer of your work, as well.”
“Mmm. Good. Mutual admiration society meeting time can now come to a close. And please, none of this ‘sir’ nonsense. Just Harry will do. Especially if we’re going to have this conversation.”
“Shall we get started?”
“Oh, I believe now is a better time than most,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair and preparing to talk.
Middle-Aged Potter Reflects On Youth, Voldemort and The Future
By Ashling Aquafine
“I’m not seventeen anymore, that’s for sure,” Harry Potter confessed in his most recent interview on Sunday afternoon. “I’ve got joints that don’t work as well as they used to and physical aches and pains that bother me every once and a while, but I’m still able to get up in the morning and I think that’s a pretty good thing.’
Potter agreed to an interview in light of the Ministry’s decision to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the defeat of the dark wizard Voldemort, whose reign of terror blackened the 1970s and late ‘90s. “I think it’s a good idea to celebrate it, but also to remember what that time was like,” Potter commented. “You couldn’t walk outside; you couldn’t trust your neighbors’ and non-humans like werewolves and centaurs took a load of prejudice; our government was corrupted; people were unable to speak their minds freely…. All in all, a bad situation.”
When asked about his decision to seek the Horcruxes, six items containing the pieces of Voldemort’s soul, on his own, Potter took a bit of time to consider the question. “It was both the best and worst decision of my life. I lost friends, good people I’ll never see again. Neville Longbottom deserved to live a good life, and he never got that opportunity because he helped me. It may not have been the most responsible way to handle the situation at hand, but I was seventeen and it was the only way I knew how.”
On the subject of The-Boy-Who-Lived, Potter’s infamous nickname in his youth, Potter only laughed. “That was very confusing for me. It created a lot of drama.”
Ginevra “Ginny” Potter, Harry’s wife of twenty-seven years, had only one thing to say about her husband. “He’s a very talented wizard with a lot of his life ahead of him. It was amazing what he was able to do thirty years ago, and it’s amazing what he can do today.”
Potter admits that “Without [Ginny] I probably would have given up after defeating Voldemort. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I’d never really had any goals for myself.”
As for the future, Potter is adamant that he will not run for office. “Politics is a game I’ve never had much patience for,” he says. As for that Hogwarts job? “I’m taking it into consideration. I’m not sure if I’m ready for that just yet. I do miss teaching, however.”
Potter’s glad that the 30th anniversary is here. “Now it feels far enough away that I can breathe, but it’s still close enough that it remains in people’s memories.”
Harry and Ginny Potter live outside of Ottery St. Catchpole. They have two children, both of whom are doing research in Egypt for the Ministry of Magic.
Sighing, Ashling leaned back to survey her work. “It’s not bad. It needs something else.”
“It needs a sentence about how you met the most devastatingly handsome man you’ve ever seen because of this interview,” Gareth suggested from the doorway.
“No, no,” Ashling protested, although she accepted his kiss gratefully. “What else do you think?”
Gareth hummed for a moment . “Go back to that paragraph about anniversaries. Didn’t Uncle Harry give you another quote?”
Ashling nodded. “Oh, I’d forgotten about that one.” She paused and, deleting the information about the Potters’ residence and children, added, “Potter’s final thought for the evening was this. ‘I just hope we never have to celebrate another anniversary like this. I hope we’ve wiped out hate, although I’m not sure you can.’”
“That’s a good thought,” Gareth muttered into Ashling hair.