Author's Notes: This is it, my first Harry Potter story now complete! I hope everyone has enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. For someone who enjoys melodramatics as much as me, it is strange but nice to give an honest-to-goodness happy ending once in awhile. Enjoy it, everyone, and please don't forget to review! And wish me luck at finals!
Epilogue: Onward and Upward
"Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."~ Henry Van Dyke
During dinner that evening, Ginny said, "You are going to quit working for the Ministry now, aren't you?"
After toying with his shepherd's pie for a moment, Percy said, "No."
Ron sighed loudly, "Oh, come on! They're a bloody waste of skin!"
Mrs. Weasley started to scold him, but Percy held up a hand to her and narrowed his eyes at his brother. "Don't say that, Ron. You're wrong."
"You've admitted Fudge was barking last year—"
"He means there's more to the Ministry than just Fudge," Harry heard himself say.
Ron looked startled. Mr. Weasley nodded, "I've got no plans to stop working at the Ministry, Ron."
"Well, no, but…I mean, what Dad does…that's not really like the Ministry."
Percy laughed. "There's almost two thousand people working for the Ministry, and only one of them is Minister Fudge. The mistakes of a few don't warrant giving up faith in all of them."
"A few of them also turned out to be Death Eaters," Ron said stubbornly.
"But not all," Hermione agreed. "He has a point. All those people Percy and Harry helped get out were barely older than us. Just normal, working wizards caught in the crossfire."
Percy nodded. "I worked with them for over a month after leaving the Minister's office. They deserve people to have faith in them. They work hard; we all do. Besides," he shook his head, "I'd make a lousy Auror."
"You held your own against that Lestrange bitch," pointed out Hermione, causing Mrs. Weasley to gasp and exclaim, "Hermione!"
"Yes, but my knees were shaking!" This time they all laughed. "No, face it, Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix may be a good idea, but I'm not suited to heroics."
"You'll find, Hermione, that a great many contributions to the war effort will be made in a great many ways, and not all through combat," said Professor Dumbledore, coming down into the kitchen. "As it happens, Percy, I was speaking to Madam Bones at the Ministry this afternoon. She is a bit distressed that the workload in Magical Law Enforcement has increased so swiftly with the start of the war. I suggested that perhaps she should hire more assistants, but I fear young wizards' interest in the Ministry as a career has fallen off. However, I do know she needs all the help she can get during these difficult times. There will be a great variety of important work to be done for those who apply to her office."
Percy had frozen with a fork halfway to his mouth. Mr. Weasley beamed. "Good woman, Madam Bones. Sensible. Always been popular with the newcomers. I interned for her the summer after my sixth year at Hogwarts—haven't left Magical Law Enforcement since."
"What do you think?" Charlie asked Percy.
Percy slowly put his fork down and smiled sheepishly at Professor Dumbledore. "I think after dinner I shall adjourn upstairs to draft a letter of application."
A few weeks later…
"We're not going to see Fudge, are we?" Ron asked as he, Harry, Hermione, and Ginny followed Mr. Weasley from the visitors' entrance to the Ministry building.
"No, he's tied up all afternoon in a security briefing with the Aurors," said Mr. Weasley, grinning broadly. "Someone in the war effort was kind enough to do a little schedule maneuvering."
Harry was keeping his head low behind Ron's back so no one would recognize him. They were coming to have their wand weights recorded again, this time so that any magic they used wouldn't get them an owl for violating the Decree Against Underage Wizardry. Someone at the Ministry had apparently been thinking sensibly for once, and a new measure had been passed that deemed "Persons at High Risk" exempt from the ban. Of course, Harry and his friends had all wound up on the list.
"So where do we do this, the security desk?" Harry asked.
"No, Madam Bones's office," said Mr. Weasley. They took the lift up to Level Two, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and this time went to one of the first doors in the corridor. A brass plaque read,
Main Offices: Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Office of Madam Amelia Bones, Head, Magical Law Enforcement, Suite 2-A
Office of Interdepartmental War Coordination, Suite 2-B
Wizengamot Administration Services, Suite 2-C
Improper Use of Magic Office, Suite 2-D
Auror Headquarters, 2-E
"Hmm, they've been moving things around a bit," said Mr. Weasley. "I knew she planned to give the Aurors a larger office, but Interdepartmental War Coordination's brand new, and they've moved Wizengamot Administration Services over two sections. This way, everyone." He led them through the door.
The section they entered was much quieter than the loud, bustling area full of cubicles where Harry knew Mr. Weasley worked. Most of the doors were half-closed, and although voices could be heard and paper airplane memos still zipped about, it far less chaotic. Harry didn't know whether to be more relaxed or more tense because of it.
Mr. Weasley rapped politely on the first closed door, upon which another brass sign read, Madam Amelia Bones. "Come in," said a deep voice that made Harry tense slightly in memory. He'd heard it almost exactly a year ago, at his hearing. Mr. Weasley opened the door to reveal the most spacious and neat office Harry had seen at the Ministry yet, and a broad but rather short witch sitting behind a large desk. "Ah, Arthur, right on time. Mr. Potter, young Mr. and Miss Weasley, and Miss Granger, all here? Good. Please, be seated, I'm afraid Madam Hopkirk hasn't managed to join us yet." With a frown, she tapped a small buzzer on her desk, and Harry heard it go off in an office adjoining Madam Bones'.
The door of the smaller office opened at once, and familiar red head wearing horn-rimmed glasses popped out. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Weasley, kindly run and tell Madam Hopkirk we need her as witness for the exemptions, if you please," Madam Bones said to Percy, who immediately headed for the door. He nodded quickly at his father while Ron, Ginny, Hermione, and Harry just stared. Apparently, Madam Bones noticed, "What, children, didn't your brother tell you he was my Undersecretary?"
"Ahem," said Ginny. "He, ah, mentioned that he was on your staff, ma'am, but we didn't know…"
Madam Bones eyed the two younger Weasleys through her monocle and chuckled. It sounded rather motherly. "Held out on you, did he? I'm afraid my Department's been hit rather hard recently. Junior Undersecretary nearly lost her brother in an attack two days ago and went on leave, and Senior Undersecretary turned in his notice and ran off to America last week. Population's nervous about working in Law Enforcement these days, aren't many as dedicated as your brother, there. Inexperienced, but hasn't quit. And heaven knows I've had to dump a load of work on him; lad keeps my schedule, 'bout half my correspondence, and until we can get more staff, he's practically running the Interdepartmental War Coordination Office. You should be proud of him, Arthur."
"I am," said Mr. Weasley softly. He sat down on the long, brown leather couch next to Harry and the others. A Ministry elf had just brought them all glasses of water when Percy returned with Mafalda Hopkirk and a tall, skinny wizard Harry didn't recognize.
"At last, Mafalda and—oh, Mr. Henderson too. Excellent, Weasley, you remembered. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Richard Henderson, he'll be weighing your wands. Now we're ready. Got the registry, Mafalda? Right. Mr. Potter, you first, if you please."
Harry handed his wand to Mr. Henderson, who towered over everyone in the room, but was so thin and spindly that in his green robes he resembled a string bean. He carried the wand scale Harry remembered from the security desk, and placed Harry's wand upon it. The strip of paper came off, listing Harry's wand as eleven inches, phoenix-feather core, in use for five years, and that went to Madam Hopkirk to be placed in a thick book she carried. "Sign here, please, Mr. Potter." Harry signed his name next to his wand slip.
"Very well, Mr. Potter," said Madam Bones, standing up. "Now all that remains, is that you give your word before these witnesses that you will not use magic for any reason but self defense. You have been entrusted with this exemption due to extraordinary circumstances, and the Ministry expects that you will not abuse it. Do you understand?"
"Yes," said Harry, feeling a little breathless. Madam Bones smiled and shook his hand, and he noticed for the first time that he was taller than she was. Then he sat down and watched Hermione, Ginny, and Ron all going through the same process.
Behind the desk, Percy was scribbling on a parchment while Madam Bones gave instructions regarding a pile of memos he'd just handed her. "Sorted through these, good, good. I'd half-expected Cornelius to turn up today, where is he?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I scheduled the interdepartmental security briefings with him all afternoon," said Percy. "Did you especially need him for this?"
"No, it'll keep. He's still nagging to give Potter and this lot their awards, did you have any luck talking him out of it?"
Not entirely, but that second list is all the public ceremonies being postponed for the duration of the war," said Percy, sliding another memo in front of her. "For security reasons, the Aurors agreed."
"Ah, excellent," muttered Madam Bones, rifling through the papers again. "What's this? Why wasn't the exoneration of Sirius Black put on the hold list?"
All other activity in the room ceased. Mr. Weasley, who had been chatting with Madam Hopkirk, broke off and gaped. Ginny froze where she had been signing her name on the registry. Harry sat stiffly on the couch. Madam Bones and Percy glanced at them all, then Percy blushed and murmured, "That's not really a public ceremony. Just a few reporters in Mr. Fudge's office to hear his statement that Mr. Black has been cleared of the charges and explaining Peter Pettigrew's involvement. Given its, er, connection to the current war, and the, ah, interests of justice and all, I thought—I mean those of us in War Coordination thought it should go on. It's scheduled for tomorrow."
"Hmm," Madam Bones furrowed her brow as she looked over at Harry through her monocle. "Your Headmaster and my Undersecretary have been rather persistent about this, Mr. Potter. They've led me to understand Sirius Black was your godfather?"
Unable to speak, Harry nodded, looking at his knees. "Very well," said Madam Bones' voice. "In that case, Mr. Weasley, see to it Mr. Potter receives a certified copy of the document clearing Mr. Black's name as soon as it's signed by the Minister."
"Yes, ma'am," said Percy, and Harry heard his robes rustle as he headed for his office.
Harry looked up and swallowed hard. They'd cleared Sirius. They were going to tell the Daily Prophet and give it to Harry in writing. "Thanks," he said softly. Madam Bones nodded, and as he glanced back at Harry from the doorway of his office, Percy winked.
Author's Dedication/Soapbox: I get the distinct impression from the Harry Potter books that The Great Ms. Rowling doesn't think very highly of government. One can't really blame her, I suppose, but I have to say that she, like so many others, labors under the false impression that government is made up of people like Cornelius Fudge. But let me say that (speaking as a gal who has been in Percy's shoes…sort of) all of you who think government is slimy business and that " politics" means "many bloodsucking insects" are dead wrong.
This story is dedicated to all the "General Staff" out there who work on the US Capitol Hill or the British Parliament or any of the other government offices of the world. For a patriotic young person serving one's country, the reality is long hours, low pay, and a LOT of grief from people who think government is eeeevil! But it's not. It's made up primarily of young, dedicated people like you and me (and the Percy in this story.) I can't speak for the British, but in an American government office (like a Congressperson's or Senator's) there are literally at least a dozen staffers for every elected official—usually more. And it can be very rewarding, with lifetime friendships among your fellow staffers, wonderful mentors (I've been serving government on and off for almost three years, and I've met far more Arthur Weasleys than Cornelius Fudges, although both exist), and a real appreciation for all the GOOD that can be done when you choose to do the people's business. So hold your heads up, all of you, and don't let anyone tell you government isn't a job worth doing!