Harry had to stifle a laugh as the Minister of Magic’s head and torso disappeared and re-appeared repeatedly while the Minister examined the cloak closely behind his desk. Though Kingsley wasn’t awed by the item – it takes a lot to awe someone who grew up in a place with as much magic and mystery as Kingston, Jamaica and who fought Voldemort and his minions first-hand, he was nonetheless quite impressed by its flawless construction and powers of concealment. What had Kingsley’s mind racing was the confirmation through this item and everything brought to light in Harry’s top-secret debriefing in his office that the Deathly Hallows had a basis in reality. He could still hear his grandmother telling the tale of the Hallows and of the old magic that surrounds us…
“Old magic… its presence never really fades. I was always frustrated at how many previous administrations undervalued the study of its history and relevance in the modern world, almost as if we could afford to streamline it out of our lives with no consequence. I’m grateful to have the authority to rectify that and many other oversights which may well have paved the way to the ascension of Voldemort.”
Harry nodded, knowing through his many conversations with Professor Dumbledore that the ‘old magic’ which Voldemort refused to comprehend or value ultimately contributed to the ruin of the dark wizard. Harry also knew that Kingsley fully intended to include the entire magical world and not just wizards and witches in the Ministry’s efforts to re-build its foundations. (Had there been any doubt, Hermione had erased it in meticulous detail after her debriefing with Shacklebolt, which according to her involved two hours of S.P.E.W. advocacy for every one of her recollections before the minister.)
“We must continue to grow in knowledge and vigilance to ensure we can confront and stop the dangers wrought by the dark forces in this world,” Kingsley continued. “Thankfully, we have a head start against those forces this time and a new generation of battle-tested wizards and witches set to join in the new fight to preserve our way of life.”
Kingsley smiled and leaned forward in his chair. “Harry, I’d like to ask your help in guiding as many as possible of those you know and trust into Ministry service. To that end, I’m offering you the chance to be lead spokesman and recruiter for the Ministry of Magic. Showing your face as a symbol of the new direction of the Ministry will have significant and positive ramifications for the Ministry as we try to re-launch our image in the wizarding community.”
Harry’s heart dropped as the offer left Shacklebolt’s lips. Here we go again…
Harry remembered disturbingly similar offers to be the Ministry’s poster child for peace and security from Fudge and Scrimgeour during the Ministry’s descent from blindness into impotence and corruption after Voldemort’s return. After what seemed like an eon of secret debriefings with Kingsley, Harry had grown to believe in the direction and mission of the new Ministry. During that time, the minister had given weight and importance to everything Harry revealed in a manner that few high-profile wizards had ever done besides Albus Dumbledore. Moreover, Harry had secretly hoped that Kingsley’s suggestion regarding Harry’s future would be a polite request for the hero of the wizarding world to start in the Auror department immediately after a sun-drenched vacation with Ginny at Kingsley’s seaside getaway in the Caribbean …
Kingsley was set to continue his pitch, but Harry felt he had to jump in. “Excuse me, Minister, but I don’t see my future contribution to society as campaigning in front of some giant sign or slogan with my face and name attached, which is then shoved down everyone’s throat as a symbol of security! I can’t be a part of glad-handing politics from the Ministry with nothing but memories behind the message. I need to DO something, not just SAY something, to make people truly safer, and I can’t put my energy behind anything less than that.”
Unexpectedly, Kingsley’s smile broadened. “Spoken like a true Auror!” he laughed. “I did hope that you’d give me more credit in recognizing and supporting your desired career path, if not in the most conventional manner – which seems appropriate in these unconventional times. Now if you would allow me to continue and tell you precisely what I have in mind, you might end up a ‘Shacklebolt Man’ after all, eh?”
Embarrassment ripped through Harry and turned him redder than a sun-burned Weasley. “Absolutely, Minister, I just… I mean, I’m sorry that… Go ahead, please.”
“Thank you, Harry. Taking this position would indeed serve the Ministry well, as you are uniquely qualified to be the chief liaison to the wizards and witches of your generation whom we’d like to join the Ministry and help us achieve our refocused goals. The first phase would take you back to Hogwarts to not only start your recruiting efforts but resume your studies, and your presence would help convince reluctant parents of a return to normalcy and aid the resumption of educational activities at Hogwarts and elsewhere.”
This was music to Harry’s ears. Not only would he be back with Ginny as she entered her final school year, but he’d be working towards his ultimate career objective as well as assisting the efforts to rebuild the first place he had truly called home. Harry almost blurted out his acceptance of the offer on the spot, but he thought better of it given his recent hasty outburst and let the minister continue.
“All that I tell you about your duties from this moment on is to be kept to yourself, even if you choose not to accept our offer. Will you agree to that, Harry?”
“Of course, sir!” I know a thing or two about keeping secrets.
“There is another reason we are handling your upcoming presence in the public eye a particular way. No amount of speeches after a conflict as great as the one waged between nothing less than the forces of good and evil will be sufficient to inspire the level of vigilance and pro-activity needed in the wizarding world to further eradicate the remnants of the dark forces. Not even words of inspiration from Harry Potter -- at the height of the public’s respect and admiration for you and your valiant deeds -- are going to be able to keep a war-weary populace in battle mode after the fall of Voldemort. I won’t lie to you, Harry; the Ministry of Magic’s ability to hunt down his lieutenants and others who are rumored to remain loyal to the cause is limited, and will be further compromised if they see a chance to destabilize the Ministry as they have before. While the Ministry is on the frontlines of the fight, we’re still essentially a law enforcement unit, not an army. Therefore, we need to keep the dark forces, well, in the dark about our plans to combat and defeat them.
“What we need is for supporters of the dark forces to make enough mistakes that they reveal themselves and their plans to us, and nothing will lead to that quicker than overconfidence and arrogance. We learned from the last war that enough of Voldemort’s core supporters successfully hid themselves for years but were at the ready the moment they saw a chance to reunite their forces. I don’t want the supporters of the dark forces to suspect the methods we will be employing to bring about the desolation of their schemes to regroup and reform as a coordinated entity. What better way to hide our plans than to continue for the sake of public consumption the same “peace and security” party lines that served the previous administrations – with more than enough honest calls for rebuilding and public service to go along with that – while the dark side feels no undue fear of being specially targeted and hunted like never before? If we pretend to ‘call off the dogs’ now that victory is seen as complete, we might see the foxes peeking out their heads before they see us. This is why we are choosing to let the world believe that you consider the enemy vanquished and are preparing to fade away from life in the battlefield and return to the life of a Hogwarts student, leaving the past behind and working for a better tomorrow. Say, that will work nicely… ‘Working For a Better Tomorrow.’”
Kingsley’s quill rose and scribbled the slogan, which exploded from the parchment in bold, shining letters and sparkled like one of Fred and George’s fireworks displays. “C’mon Harry, that will look great with your face next to it!” Both men shared a welcome laugh, especially Harry, as the picture was finally becoming clear to him.
“So if I have this straight, sir, I’ll not only be promoting and recruiting for the Ministry but training as an Auror as well?”
“Precisely,” Kingsley answered, “though as far as I’m concerned, you are an Auror the moment you accept my proposal. Professor McGonagall and I have agreed that you will train by studying for your N.E.W.T.s at Hogwarts, as well as undertaking special training here with me and select Ministry personnel on an ongoing basis. Be aware that some of your work with the Ministry could involve actual pursuits of and confrontations with the supporters of the dark forces as soon as tomorrow if we see a chance to apprehend any of them. That being said, welcome aboard!” The two shook hands and exchanged one ‘thank you’ after another. Harry was thrilled beyond words to be welcomed into his chosen career like this by someone in whom he had complete confidence. However, there was one important item that Harry was determined to take care of after all of the debriefings and discussions had ceased, and this was the time.
“Er… Minister, there is a condition I must add to any agreement. I think it fits in well with your plans to showcase a return to normalcy, and it could give me access to locations and important people that may be closed off even to Ministry personnel. It’s a career option in that unconventional mode you talked about earlier, but we have no deal without it.”
Kingsley’s expression fell slightly, but he maintained his composure as he asked Harry to elaborate. “Well, sir,” Harry continued, “you may know that I’ve been informed that I could sign a contract with a professional Quidditch team at any date I choose and can practically name my salary. I’d thought about delaying my Auror training and accepting the offer immediately, but now I think that joining the team after leaving Hogwarts could further the image that I’d moved on with life along with everyone else.”
Kingsley gazed thoughtfully at the copy of the Daily Prophet on his desk, envisioning headlines of ‘Potter Wins!’ above the fold that this time didn’t give the underworld reason to run for the hills. “You know, that just might work, Harry… I’d read the report of the open-ended offer when it was published and thought we might have a fight on our hands for your services, but I’m gratified that you seem to have found a way to use your other special skills to support our great cause.”
“Thank you, sir,” Harry replied, with noticeable relief on his face. “I assure you that my first duty will be to fight the dark forces with all that I can offer.” Harry’s statement was truthful, but it didn’t change the fact that Harry meant it when he said there would be no deal without his playing professional Quidditch in the near future. Everyone else had an agenda when it came to Harry’s professional services, so it was only fair for Harry to have one himself. However, Harry would be working diligently so that neither Kingsley nor any other Ministry of Magic official would know his true reason for insisting on the special condition, and it wasn’t for the love of the game, the money or -- least of all -- the fame. He smiled because some would think he was just playing the hero again when all was said and done, but he knew it was as simple as helping a friend to whom he owed his life.
Harry prepared to leave the office again by Floo Powder, as this transport mode was secure and prevented anyone from seeing him go in and out of the office. Right before he said “The Burrow,” Harry saw bursting across Kingsley’s fireplace in flaming orange and black letters: “GO CHUDLEY CANNONS – WORKING FOR A BETTER TOMORROW!!!”