Content Harry Potter
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Chapter Ten – Deceptions

“Traitor!” yelled Ginny with fire in her voice. Malfoy continued to smirk, shifting his gaze to her which made Harry clench his wands tighter. August twiddled his own wand, his eyes wary, but he didn’t respond to Ginny’s accusation. Broadmoor limped behind them onto the deck.

“The explosives are set,” said August to Malfoy. “As soon as you give the word, I’ll set them off.”

Malfoy caught Broadmoor’s eye, which was black and blue. “Did your man beat Potter’s clone?”

Broadmoor nodded his head toward the steps leading to the open deck.

There was the sound of someone struggling down the stairs with a heavy burden. One of Broadmoor’s goons was pulling a Stunned Kingsley-as-Harry behind him, and not very carefully – Kingsley’s head made a hollow thud on each step.

“Toss him in the corner, Gordman,” said Broadmoor. “And make sure he doesn’t move while we deal with Potter.”

The man named Gordman complied and levitated Kingsley to the corner of the deck on Harry’s right, his beady eyes watching the drama unfold.

August, Broadmoor, and Malfoy formed a small semi-circle oriented on Harry and Ginny, their wands drawn, but still pointed at the ground. “What do you want, Malfoy?” said Harry slowly, hoping Kingsley wasn’t concussed from his rough treatment.

“Isn’t it obvious?” he replied. “I’m here to reclaim my wand.”

“You never had it in the first place,” said Harry as Ginny shifted behind him, widening her stance just as he’d shown her. “Just because you disarmed Dumbledore doesn’t mean it was ever yours.”

Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. “You took my wand from me in my own house,” he said in a loud, accusatory voice. “That wand is locked up at the Ministry and so I demand that you make it right – with interest.” His cocky smirk was sickening.

“The Ministry had every right to lock up your wand and there’s no way I’m going to give you something that doesn’t belong to you and that you haven’t earned.”

“That’s right,” spat Malfoy. “I haven’t earned it... yet. But it doesn’t matter, does it? The house arrest was a sham,” he said with a smooth smile. “I was having a pint with my friends by the end of the day and that blood traitor Shacklebolt got the sack for it.”

“What?” cried Harry and Ginny together. Malfoy confessing involvement in Kingsley’s removal as Minister had taken them by surprise.

“You heard me, Potter. What’s more, Crackshot’s been my inside man at the Ministry ever since.” He laughed at their shocked faces. “I began running the show right after that pathetic excuse for a trial and I’ve used every resource the Ministry has to catch you and put you in Azkaban in my place.”

“No!” yelled Harry, but he believed every word. It was exactly like Malfoy to manipulate, coerce, and intimidate until he got his way. Something burned in Harry’s mouth. Memories of Narcissa bending low over him, fear etched on her face, the trembling in her voice. “I testified for you! I got you a lighter sentence!”

Malfoy shrugged and the nonchalance galvanized Harry, forcing the anger into resolve. “It really didn’t matter in the end. Pure blood and deep pockets matter more than your brand of morals, Potter.”

“What about your mother?” said Harry, more in a bid to keep Malfoy talking and buy time to think of a way out of this mess than anything else. There were three on Malfoy’s side if Harry didn’t count Gordman, who had been instructed to watch Kingsley. Ginny was powerful, but Harry hesitated to have her take an active role in any wandplay. “She wouldn’t risk you heading to Azkaban. How did you convince her to let you run this charade?”

Draco smirked again and raised his wand. “What mummy doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

“Don’t,” said Ginny, picking up on Harry’s play for distraction. “Don’t do this Draco. You can’t beat Harry and everything will come crashing down on your head again. Can you really afford to risk that?”

A sneer replaced the smirk as Malfoy focused on Ginny. “There is no risk,” he said evenly, but Harry could tell Draco didn’t quite believe it. It was as if he had bluffed so long, he started to believe the lies himself. “I’ve thought through all the possibilities. You’re trapped on this sinking ship, which will explode, taking you with it. The reporters will think it was an accident and report your death and I will have the Deathstick.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. Draco wasn’t going to walk away from this one. “Over my dead body.”

Malfoy chuckled. “That’s the idea.” He nodded once, sharply and Gordman pointed his wand at Kingsley. “Surrender or I’ll kill the Muggle-lover.”

“It doesn’t work that way, Malfoy,” said Harry. “You have to beat me in a duel to get the wand’s allegiance. Voldemort tried it like that and it didn’t work out so well for him in the end.”

The skin between Draco’s brows pinched together. If he hadn’t been in mortal danger, Harry would have laughed at the effort Malfoy made to think the situation through. As it was, Harry was struggling with the urge to tuck Ginny away in a conjured steel box until the coming fight was over. He knew that he’d be in heaps of trouble with his wife if he took away her agency, so he focused on how best to user her skills against their opponents.

Malfoy raised his left hand in the classic dueller’s stance. “So be it,” he said finally and the fight began.

Harry should have known that Malfoy wouldn’t fight fair. As soon as he spoke, both of his goons shot spells at Harry, while Malfoy waited to see if Harry would be disarmed.

Harry deflected the Stunners easily and pulled up a section of wooden decking in front of him with his Holly wand, revealing one of the smaller suites below. As it was levitating, he used the Elder Wand to transfigure it into something that resembled six inch thick steel deck plating from a World War Two battleship. This took him less than a second.

Several spells collided with the impromptu shield, including a flash of sickly green. Holding the steel in midair, Harry nodded at Ginny, who reached for his Invisibility Cloak and disappeared underneath its silky material.

The wizard watching over the still unconscious Kingsley hadn’t moved, but kept his vigilant eyes on the fight. The Polyjuice was wearing off Kingsley, and Harry’s features began to broaden and grow darker, his hair disappearing into the blackening scalp.

Broadmoor and August moved to flank Harry while Draco continued to pound spell after spell into his shield. Still levitating the shield with the Elder Wand, he used his Holly wand to shoot a Stunning Spell at August, who was forced to dive out of the way. The sea-captain fired several hexes from a protected place behind one of the pillars that supported the upper deck. The flashes of magic went wide at first, but Harry was forced to deflect the last one. The captain’s low profile made it difficult for Harry to find his target and holding the plating meant he was unable to dodge.

Broadmoor was able to get off three hexes at Harry which were mysteriously deflected and then realisation dawned on Broadmoor’s face. He Summoned the Invisibility Cloak. It tried to leave Ginny, but didn’t quite make it. Her feet appeared, however and it gave Broadmoor all the advantage he needed.

Harry’s concentration was torn between deflecting the continued assault from August, holding up the shield that kept Malfoy at bay, and sending the occasional hex at Broadmoor to give Ginny a fighting chance. She had learned a lot in the few days he’d been able to train her, but she just wasn’t as aggressive as the burly beater. The only way he was able to pay attention to all three tasks was to drop the floating metal in front of him for a split second and shoot a spell at Broadmoor before grabbing it again with his magic – all while fending off and attacking August. Harry never felt his head more split since the time Voldemort possessed him.

Just as Harry had dropped the shield to beat Broadmoor back again, it was suddenly wrenched from his grip in a crackle of magic that revealed a very angry Malfoy. It sailed over the blonde’s head and crashed down the wooden steps, leaving rough gouges in the polished mahogany. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Ginny dive away from a purple spell shot from Broadmoor.

Free of his shield, Harry was able to duck and roll toward August as another Killing Curse flew from Draco’s wand. It screamed over the grand piano in the front of the dining deck and exploded out the bow of the ship. Harry struck at Malfoy from his crouched position, but his aim was thrown off by a curse from August. It was good enough, however, to cause Malfoy to dive awkwardly out of the way and gave Harry a clear shot at the traitorous captain. August was no match for Harry armed as he was with two wands and August’s shield gave way in an instant. The next second, he was slumped on the floor.

Something hot sizzled over Harry’s head, sending his hair standing on end and he instinctually rolled to his right again. When he popped up he was facing the opposite direction, watching Broadmoor pummel Ginny’s shield. It finally gave way and Broadmoor reached his arm up opening his mouth to scream a spell.

AVADA In the time it took him to raise his wand and say the first word of the spell, Ginny’s wand wrenched skyward and with it, Broadmoor’s leg. It only took her a second to disarm and stun him.

Harry didn’t have time to celebrate Ginny’s escape from death because Draco was back on his feet, slinging green light at him, his eyes wild. “Die Potter!”

Refusing to dive around the exploding and burning deck of the ship lest one of his spells go astray and strike Ginny or Kingsley, Harry began a new tactic. With both wands, he pulled the piano from under the smoking hole that used to be the bow of the ship and hurled it at Malfoy. It exploded in another flash of green, but the momentum of the heavy instrument urged some of the pieces on toward Malfoy, who was forced to dive out of the way again. Harry took his chance and began to magically assault Malfoy with tables, chairs, vases, and anything else that would distract him.

Malfoy shot down a table with a vicious stab of his wand, but was hit in the shoulder by a metal chair. He staggered, but was able to banish another table and explode a heavy oak-framed painting.

Seeing that Malfoy was now on the defensive, Harry decided to press his advantage. He bit his lip and tensed his muscles, calling upon his magic as he stretched his arms wide. Every loose object in the room rose on his command and when Malfoy’s eyes widened, Harry flung his arms down, pointing them at Malfoy’s heart. The blonde shrieked and a thousand bits of metal, wood, and glass converged on him until he was completely buried in rubble.

Shaken and exhausted, Harry sank to his knees. Ginny scrambled to her feet and breathing deeply, made her way to Harry. “I’m okay,” he said even as his head swam. “Ron,” he called to the man who was watching over Kingsley, “Ennervate him and let’s get out of here.”

Ron removed the Transfigurations Harry put on him to disguise his face and revived Kingsley. “Blimey, Harry. You don’t know how hard it was for me to not curse Broadmoor. And Malfoy!”

Harry nodded, letting Ginny pull him to his feet. “That’s one of the reasons I had you promise to wait. If we’d been captured, we would have needed someone on the inside.”

Kingsley shook his head clear from his post-stun fog. “That and you were making sure I didn’t get pegged with a stray curse.” He walked slowly toward Harry and looked around at the ruined interior of the boat. He let out a low whistle. “I guess things didn’t exactly go according to plan.”

“Malfoy showed up,” Ginny explained and pointed to the giant pile of rubbish.

Kingsley growled. “That little ferret!” Ron and Harry exchanged a grin. “He’s supposed to be on house arrest.” He pointed to the pile with his wand and cleared it off, revealing an unconscious Malfoy. “You’ve just earned a one-way ticket to Azkaban,” said Kingsley with a sad shake of his head. “Some people never learn.”

“He seemed to think our esteemed Minister is in his pocket,” said Ron.

Kingsley’s eyebrows rose. “Is that so?”

Ron nodded. “I’ll go give the all clear to Hermione and she can help us get back to shore.”

He hadn’t taken two steps when Harry saw a movement out of the corner of his eye. August was awake and was reaching for his wand. Ginny was still supporting Harry and so he couldn’t bring his wand to bear fast enough. Instead of sending a hex at him, however, August caught his cousin’s eye and twisted his wand hard. Kingsley mouthed the word ‘No’. There was a hissing sound from deep within the bowels of the ship and Harry’s stomach clenched with dread.

He didn’t even think about it, his hands just moved of their own accord. Kingsley, Ron, Ginny, and even Malfoy and August were Summoned simultaneously, rushing toward a point in the middle of the deck. As soon as they collided together, Harry brought his wands up. The floor curled up around them and connected in a solid seam, then turned into a shiny silver metal ball. Harry pointed his wand at his feet and began to run for the stairs, a Banishing Hex on his lips. He reached the steps and when the sky opened above him, he shouted, “Depulso!” Then the world exploded.

He felt his back straighten from the shockwave and barely registered the heat of the explosion before something thick and icy compressed his chest and face. He wanted to gasp from the shock of it, but knew that would be the end. Instead, he kicked hard and his head broke the surface of the strangely calm water around the burning boat. He shoved his wands in his pockets, and with every ounce of energy he had, he pulled a piece of wood from the debris of the Swan under his arms and floated. In the last of the light spilling over the western horizon, Harry was able to pick out the figure of a bushy-haired girl diving from the deck of the Rejoice into the heaving seas before his world went black.

*

One moment, Ginny was supporting Harry, who obviously had spent a lot of magic on the duel with Malfoy, Broadmoor, and August; the next moment, she was being wrenched from him and smashed together with everyone else in the room. Her head swam from the impact of all the bodies and before she could do or say anything, the floor was curving skyward and the light disappeared. A second later, there was a thunderous GONG and she was thrown into the side of the metal sphere.

When Ginny opened her eyes, there was light again – and noise, but something was wrong about it all. Kingsley and Ron were hovering over her and something icy was lapping at her side. She groaned.

“Get up, Ginny,” said Ron. “We can’t carry everyone.”

It took her a second to understand what he meant. The icy liquid was seawater that had leaked into the sphere. The light was coming from a gaping hole in the side, where something heavy had ripped into it and where water was starting to pour in. Because it was round, the sphere was rolling with the waves and the hole dipped and bobbed into the water. It was only a matter of time before the hole didn’t bob back above the water line and the sphere would fill with water.

Malfoy and August were still unconscious at the bottom of the orb.

“We’ll have to swim for it,” said Kingsley. “Bubblehead Charms.”

“Wait,” screeched Ginny, her eyes darting from face to face. “Where’s Harry?”

“He was outside the sphere when the ship exploded,” said Ron in a high-pitched voice.

Ginny paled.

“We need to get out of here,” said Kingsley firmly. “Now.” He pointed his wand at his head and a large, clear bubble appeared. He grabbed Malfoy’s arm and put a bubble on him as well. Then, with Malfoy in tow, he leapt through the hole, which dipped into the sea, flooding their feet with more freezing water before it lurched skyward again.

“Come on,” said Ron. “I’ll take August. You go first.”

She nodded mutely and pointed her wand at her head, dimly amazed that she still held it after the explosion. Ron placed a bubble on himself and then his prisoner. Ginny waited for the hole to bob back level so she could jump out. As she move her feet, the sphere rolled quickly and the hole sank into the water. She dove where she thought the hole was in the rush of frigid water, but was shot back into the sphere. Soaking wet and shivering, she focused on the gurgling water, almost losing her footing on the slippery metal as she waited for the hole to right itself. The water was rising fast.

“It’s too strong,” she yelled through her bubble and Ron nodded in reply. He pointed his wand at the wall where he thought the horizon was and blasted another hole. This was the wrong thing to do, as the air now had a place to escape, causing a geyser of water to further flood the sphere.

“GO!” he yelled, and Ginny didn’t hesitate. She dove out the newley-formed jagged opening and involuntarily gasped as her body hit the water. She surfaced immediately and turned to make sure Ron made it.

The sphere was sinking rapidly and the new break was almost level with the waves.

“Come on Ron,” said Ginny softly as she tread water, her muscles aching in the cold.

Kingsley gave a cry from behind her and she wrenched her eyes across the waves. Malfoy was loose and Kingsley was giving chase. The blonde shot a spell at the older man and resumed swimming toward the nearest boat. Then a heart-wrenchingly familiar black blob of hair caught Ginny’s eye. She was torn. Ron was still in the sphere, which was now slipping beneath the waves, but Harry.... He was too far away. Then she heard Hermione cry and saw her dive from the deck of the Rejoice. Hermione would have to take care of Harry, because she was closer to Ron and he was in peril.

Gritting her teeth, she dove under the waves and swam as fast as her jeans and t-shirt would allow. The sphere was dark in the green water, but she could see well enough. “Reducto!” she yelled, jabbing her wand forward and the top half of the sphere blew off.

She waited a beat and then exhaled as a murky shock of red hair pulled clear of the falling metal ball. Ron was still struggling to pull August back to the surface, who was now awake, his eyes wide and white in the dark water. The captain pointed his wand at Ron, who was looking skyward, oblivious. Ginny shouted, but he couldn’t hear through the twenty feet of water.

Her wand was up in an instant and she said the first spell on her lips, the same spell she’d just used. “Reducto!” As soon as the blast of red left her wand and shimmered through the water, she cringed. It hit August in the arm, severing it completely off from his body and out of Ron’s grip. August’s face froze in pain and he sank deeper. Ron broke the surface and Ginny swam towards him.

Ron conjured a large oak table and heaved himself on top. Ginny reached the table, its legs submerged and scrambled on.

Ron cancelled their bubbles. “What happened to August?”

Ginny squeezed her eyes shut. “He was about to hex you!” she shouted. “I couldn’t let him... I didn’t think...” She collapsed on the table in a heap, her arms wrapped around her middle to control the sobs that threatened to break through her clenched lips. All her mind could see was the shock on August’s face as he floated down into the black heart of the ocean.

Warm hands held Ginny’s shoulders. “It wasn’t your fault,” said Ron soothingly. “You couldn’t have known. It wasn’t your fault.”

“But I said the hex. The wrong hex,” she said quietly – it hurt to speak. “I – I killed him.”

Ron didn’t say anything else. She heard him conjure something and then the staccato of rhythmic splashing and Ron’s muted grunts as he paddled them toward the Rejoice.

*

Muffled voices woke Harry the next day. His eyes were slow to open and when they did, he cringed against the bright white light. The clean smell of hospital linens and a sickeningly-familiar antiseptic scent assaulted his nose. Together with the sharp echo of heels on stone, he knew precisely where he was.

“Awake, are we?” said the clipped voice of Madam Pomfrey.

Harry grunted in response, shifting his weight so he could prop himself on the headboard of his bead. Aiden was there, eyeing his master carefully from his cage by Harry’s headboard. That answered the question on how Harry wound up in the Hogwarts hospital.

The matron ran her wand across his body and murmured to herself. “Almost fully mended.”

“Does that mean I can go?” he asked automatically. He still felt like he’d been run over by a pack of rampaging hippogriffs, but experience taught him to beg for the earliest possible release.

She eyed him appraisingly. “I think not. You’d be better off with a couple of meals in you before you’re ready to take on the world again.” She smirked at him. “But I think a visitor or two wouldn’t be out of the question.”

She walked away and there was a long, laboured squeak as a heavy door was slowly opened. “He’s over there,” said Madam Pomfrey. “Not too long, mind you, he still needs his rest.”

There was an echo of several shuffling feet across the hospital and a pair of bright, brown eyes peeked around the corner of his privacy screen. Harry smiled automatically, a swell of affection inflating his chest. “Hi,” he said and she launched herself at him.

Her arms wrapped around his neck and her hair cascaded around his shoulders. Despite the oppressive cleanness of the Hospital Wing, he felt home. He pushed his arms around her back and pulled her onto the bed next to him. Ron, Hermione, and Kingsley hovered at the foot of his bed, smiles in their eyes and on their faces. Ginny’s shoulders were shaking.

“Ginny?” he asked tenderly. “What’s the matter? I’m fine. Madam Pomfrey said I could go after a couple of meals.”

She shook her head against his shoulder and sniffed into his pillow. His questioning glance at Ron was met with an unspoken ‘wait’. He nodded as she continued to silently cry.

“I need to speak with the Headmistress for a tick,” said Kingsley in his low, deep voice and he disappeared behind the screen. Ron and Hermione took the seats on the other side of Harry’s bed while Ginny’s breathing evened out.

She pulled away, sitting in the space Harry made for her on the bed. She sniffed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m sorry,” she said with a watery smile. “I hate crying. It gives me an awful headache.”

Harry didn’t know what to say, so he was glad when she continued. “Captain August is dead,” she said.

“Oh,” replied Harry. “But that’s not a huge loss is it? He was a traitor after all.”

Ginny grimaced. “Kingsley thinks he was under the Imperius Curse,” she explained, her eyes dropped to her fidgeting hands. “I killed him.”

Whatever Harry was expecting her to say, that wasn’t it. “You... you killed him?”

She nodded and Harry looked to Ron and Hermione for confirmation. Both heads nodded slightly, their faces blank. Harry knew from their expressions that they’d already talked to Ginny about this. He turned back to Ginny. “How?”

Ginny pulled a tissue from the box on the table next to Harry’s head. “Ron was pulling him out of the water and he woke up. He was pointing his wand at Ron and Ron didn’t know – he didn’t see and I yelled, but the water was in the way, and then, and then... I...” Her eyes found Harry’s again and he saw the terror in them despite the fact that the danger had passed. Something else terrified her and he was beginning to understand what it was. “I sent a Blasting Hex at him, Harry. I didn’t even think about what hex it was, I just... did it.”

Harry closed his mouth and regarded her for a second. Her eyes fell to her hands again, where she was picking apart the tissue. Harry swallowed. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Ginny.” She looked up at him for a second and gave a single hollow laugh. “I mean it,” he said, using his finger to force her chin up. He looked into her eyes and willed her to believe him. “August died because he was under the influence of an evil wizard. You wouldn’t have killed him if he wasn’t threatening your brother and Ron probably would be the one dead if you hadn’t acted the way you did.”

Ginny looked at him as if she was struggling to believe him. “Ginny,” he said more softly. “If you had done nothing, and August would have hurt or killed Ron, how would you feel right now?”

Her eyes tensed. “Awful,” she whispered. “I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.”

Harry nodded. She understood, but he knew she needed to hear one more thing. “When Voldemort killed Cedric, I blamed myself for the entire summer. When I found out I had to kill Voldemort or be killed, I couldn’t stand the thought of being a murderer.” He took her hand. “Now, Voldemort is gone by his own choosing, even if it was caused by me. It was him or me. With August, it was him or Ron, and I won’t ever fault you for protecting your family.”

She smiled again, this one reached her eyes and she collapsed against him. “Thank you,” she whispered and shuddered in relief.

He held her close and kissed her crown. “You’re still my Ginny.”

She laughed and when she sat back up, all traces of guilt were wiped away.

“Told you,” said Hermione, a grin on her face as well.

“There’s more to the story,” said Ron. “After Ginny and I started toward the Rejoice, Kingsley and Malfoy began to fight in the water.”

“Oh no,” said Harry and then he relaxed a little. Kingsley was obviously all right as he’d just been in front of Harry. “What happened?”

“Well, Hermione was carrying you onto the ship...”

“Thanks,” said Harry. “I owe you for that.”

“More than one,” said Hermione with a smirk. “And I’ll expect payment soon.”

Harry and Ginny laughed.

“As I was saying,” said Ron with exaggerated irritation. “While she was lugging your sorry carcass into the Rejoice, Kingsley was duelling with Malfoy.”

“There was flotsam everywhere,” interjected Hermione.

“Yeah, loads and loads of it floating everywhere,” confirmed Ron. “Well, Malfoy starts shooting flame spells at Kingsley, who just levitated water to quench it. I mean... How thick can you get? Shooting flames at someone in the middle of the ocean?”

Ginny and Harry shared a smirk.

“Get the point, Ron,” goaded Hermione. “Or I can tell the story.”

“Keep your knickers on,” replied Ron. “I’m getting there. Like I said, Malfoy’s shooting flames at Kingsley, who isn’t even being touched by them when Malfoy goes bonkers. He’s cussin’ up a storm and then he lets out this huge wall of flame, just like Crabbe did in the Room of Requirement.”

“Fiendfyre, Ron,” supplied Hermione.

“Yeah. Anyway, this wall of fire comes shooting at Kingsley, who just ducks underwater, but like with Crabbe, the fire is totally out of control. Hermione blasted it away from the Rejoice, but not before it caught every bit of debris floating in the water on fire.”

He paused, as if he was thinking back on what happened. “We don’t really know what happened, but there must have been something explosive left over from what August rigged on the Swan. There was another explosion. It knocked Ginny and I back into the water and Kingsley was already under, so he wasn’t hurt.”

There was another pause and he traded a look with Ginny and Hermione. “He didn’t make it,” said Hermione quietly. “Malfoy’s dead.”

Harry felt his mouth fall open. “Malfoy? He died?”

“They found his body a few minutes later.”

Harry didn’t know what to think. He certainly didn’t hold any good feelings in his heart for the slimy Slytherin, but deep down, Harry thought Malfoy might have come out of it all right in the end. If only he hadn’t been involved with the Elder Wand. It seemed that even in trying to get rid of the wand; even when it wasn’t being used directly, it still had the power to kill.

“What about the reporters?” asked Harry quickly, fighting away the swirl of depression that their conversation had brought around them. “Did they buy our deception?”

Ron’s large answering smile was all Harry needed to put his mind at ease. He plopped a copy of the morning’s Daily Prophet. “Hook, line, and sinker,” said Ron.

The title read, “Harry Potter Loses Elder Wand to Unknown Wizard in Fierce Duel.”

Harry scanned the article. “Gordman Skullduggery? What kind of name is that?”

Ginny stifled a giggle and Hermione gave her fiancé a whack on the shoulder. “What?” asked Ron. “That’s a perfectly good name that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, so when more of these idiots go looking to take the wand from someone, that someone will be permanently missing.” He caught Harry’s eye. “You’re off the hook, mate. Free as an owl, so to speak.”

Footsteps marked the approach of Kingsley again. “Do you have a moment, Harry?” he asked when he poked his bald head around the partition.

“Sure,” he said, not feeling remotely tired any more. The weight of the Elder Wand was finally off him. It felt like he could breathe again after months of suffocating underneath its burden.

“First of all, congratulations on a successful operation.” His eyes were twinkling. “I hope this means that you’re still considering full time service in my department.”

Harry looked to Ginny, who was smiling. “It’s up to you, Harry,” she said. “I’ll support you no matter what you choose to do.” She kissed the tip of his nose.

“Yeah, all right,” he said to Kingsley at length. “I’ll help however I can.”

Kingsley nodded his head and grinned. “That’s my boy. Now... as relieved as we all are that Malfoy is out of the picture, we have to focus on the rest of the mess he left behind.”

“Crackshot,” said Hermione with a snarl.

“Exactly,” confirmed Kingsley. “He’s still the rightful Minister and has a lot of support from the, shall we say... more wealthy and less morally gifted segment of our society.”

“You mean he takes bribes and is shoving his own personal agenda down our throats?” asked Harry, a distinct distaste for corrupt politicians edging into his tone.

“That’s one way of putting it,” said Kingsley. “We need to be careful about exposing him. It would do no good to march into the Prophet and tell them he’s been paid off by a dead Malfoy. We have to be deliberate.”

Harry nodded. “It sounds like you already have a plan.”

Kingsley smiled. “Don’t I always?”

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Author Notes:

This is the end of "Part I", though the story will continue with chapter 11 (hopefully next week).  Thank you to everyone that reviewed the last chapter!  Let me know how you think I did with this chapter and how I handled the Elder Wand plot line.

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