Trading Down

"Master, Kreatcher wasn't expecting you home," The small house elf cackled, dipping a low bow. Harry pushed in, tossing his jacket on the chair. "If Kreatcher had known, Kreatcher would have had dinner ready or turned down your bed."

"Not now, Kreatcher," Harry growled as the house elf attempted to assist Harry in ridding him of other unnecessary garments. Harry was tempted to kick the house elf, but he knew it wasn't Kreatcher's fault that Harry was in such a foul mood.

"Would master like a drink?" Kreatcher asked as he hung Harry's jacket on the coat tree.

"Please," Harry forced as he threw himself on Sirius' old bed. He looked at the picture of Sirius, Remus, Peter, and his dad on the wall. Had his dad been in the same situation with his mum, would James Potter have nearly lost his temper as Harry very nearly did? Harry didn't know. He never got a chance to know his father, and now there was this child out there, Ava, who had lived all these years not knowing him. Kreatcher brought Harry a smoking goblet of something from the store room. Harry had an idea what it was, but didn't care. He knew he would pay for it in the morning, but right then, fire whiskey sounded like a damn good cure to his anger.

Harry was angry, looking a bit rough and slept in, when he arrived at the ministry over an hour late. Kreatcher had just been able to wake him and Harry hadn't even bothered changing or attempting to brush his hair. He ignored the looks as he stormed through the front doors at the ministry, soaking wet from the rain that seemed to follow him from the arrival station to the actual ministry. He had forgotten his badge and he was forced to summon Kreatcher, who so willingly brought it to him.

"Potter, you're late," Shacklebolt said as Harry stormed into the meeting room. A trail of water followed him, followed by the maintenance personnel who were rather disgruntled by the lack of consideration by the young Auror.

"Sorry," Harry grunted as he took his seat beside Ron. Ron gave him a look, and attempted to dry Harry's clothes, only to set them on fire.

"Only you would be able to set wet clothes on fire, Ron," Harry remarked as he put out the fire and simultaneously drying his clothes. Ron grumbled something that sounded rather rude, but it went ignored. Harry hadn't intended on looking for her, but his eyes fell right on Hermione. She was looking a hell of a lot better than he was, her clothes neat, clean, and not smelling now of burnt and damp. She wasn't looking at him, but at her notes. Her quill was the only thing that seemed to move as she scribbled notes. As usual, she had been elected to take the meeting's minutes versus having an unsecured ministry secretary do it.

"As I was saying, there have been a lot of rumors flying around that the Transylvania Vampires are recruiting," Shacklebolt said. "I need my alpha dog team on this, Harry. Do you think you and your team can break away from your other projects for the time being and check into this?"

Harry normally would have looked to Hermione, her judgment was always great about these sorts of things, but she was focused on her notes, and he wasn't going to admit he needed her. He didn't. He was Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, and the Chosen One. He needed no one.

"Yes, sir," Harry replied. Shacklebolt nodded and continued talking. Hermione continued to take notes, but her face was scrunched up a bit in a rather displeased manner. At the end of the meeting, Hermione didn't mingle with the other Aurors but headed straight to the office that she, Harry, and Ron shared. Her desk was always much cleaner than either of Ron's desk or Harry's desk, and today, Harry found that really irked him. Harry and Ron entered the office, and Ron immediately went to his own desk, not wanting to set either of them off in another shouting match.

"So," Harry said as he sat down at his desk with the file Shacklebolt had given him.

"So," Ron repeated. He was looking at Harry, but glanced over at Hermione. She was working silently on something on her desk. Harry was uncertain. Normally, when they were assigned tasks, Hermione took over and organized. He was the muscle of the team but Hermione was by far the brains. He refused to ask her for help though. He was still pissed as hell, and how dare she keep something like that from him, anyway? She was still maintaining her innocents, but the truth was written on that fat little toddlers' face.

"Any ideas?" Harry asked hopefully. Ron looked a little constipated as he racked his brains for a shred of a decent idea. Hermione continued to work on the neat little files on her desk, not even acknowledging Harry.

"Nothing, mate," Ron said as he shook his head. "Not a damn thing in there."

Harry could tell that Ron was trying to be funny, but things were too tense in their office for anything to be funny. Harry made a kind of grimaced face and flipped through the file. The basic information was in there, but there was absolutely nothing that seemed to help Harry out. Shacklebolt walked into the office with Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley.

"Harry, a word please?" Shacklebolt said. Harry was thankful for the interruption and he placed the file on his desk. He rose and joined Shacklebolt at the door, catching the pile on his desk consume the file out of the corner of his eye. He thought to himself that he might want to think about removing a few layers, soon.

"What can I do for you, minister?" Harry asked as he took a seat inside Shacklebolt's plush, private office. He glanced at Ginny and Draco who were standing outside of the office, not looking at each other, not saying a word.

"I need to replace one of your team members for this project," Shacklebolt said as he flipped through the ever increasing stack of papers on his desk. Even Shacklebolt's desk was cluttered. Hermione's desk seemed indecent in its spotless, orderly ways.

"Hermione," Harry answered. Harry would show her. She had to be in everything, know everything. He was certain the thought that he was out doing something great without her would show her. You don't hide Harry Potter's child from him and lie about it.

"You didn't even hear what the task would be," Shacklebolt said rather alarmed at the swiftness of Harry's response.

"I can spare her," Harry assured Shacklebolt. Kingsley Shacklebolt raised his eyebrows but nodded once.

"All right, if you think you can spare her," Shacklebolt said. "Ginny will be joining you then, taking her place."

Ginny seemed to have been summoned and joined Harry and Shacklebolt in the office. Together, the three headed back to the Aurors' Alpha office. Hermione wasn't even there.

"Where is Hermione?" Harry asked Ron, trying not to sound too demanding. Ron glanced at Ginny and shrugged.

"She said she was taking an early lunch," Ron said. Harry rolled his eyes.

"Figures," Harry said unsympathetically.

"Well, when she gets back in, please send her to my office," Shacklebolt said. Harry nodded and pointed Ginny toward Hermione's desk. Ginny took it without word or question. Harry searched his desk to find the file.

"Ron, have you seen the file?" Harry asked. Ron shook his head quickly.

"No," Ron said. He was fighting with something that had taken up residence in his desk drawer, apparently it and Ron wanting the same old sandwich.

"Damn," Harry growled. Today was just not his day. Harry spent the next thirty minutes digging through papers and posts, looking for the file that Shacklebolt had given him. He was starting to panic, thinking how disappointed Shacklebolt would be if he was unable to even keep-up with a simple folder.

"Still haven't found it?" Ron asked as he nursed a bit finger. The creature that was living in his drawer had not only won the sandwich, he had decided that Ron's finger would make a delicious treat.

"Obviously not," Harry snapped. Ron scowled at him but didn't say anything. Ron could tell that Harry was in one of his moods. It made him a bit unbearable.

"What is she doing at my desk?" Hermione demanded as she stood in the door way of their office.

"You are off the case," Harry said coldly, tossing the words over his shoulder. He barely glanced at her, turning instead to his desk. He took his shoe off and started beating something that looked like a giant slug that had taken up residence behind a stack of old journals Harry had been meaning to read.

"You took me off the case?" Hermione asked. Ron looked up at her, her anger evident on her face.

"Yes," Harry snapped. "As the leader, I have to select a trust worthy team."

"Some leader," Hermione puffed as she walked to her desk. Ginny smiled smugly up at Hermione, almost as if taunting her. Hermione rolled her eyes and flung her desk drawer open, smacking Ginny in the knee.

"What the hell, Granger?" Ginny snapped as she stood and drew her wand. Hermione looked at her with a mirrored rage.

"You replace me with this?" Hermione directed at Harry. "An intern?"

"That's my sister," Ron retorted.

"I don't care!" Hermione yelled at him. She was shaking with anger and rage. She bounded on Harry. "Is this about that garbage you were spewing last night?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Harry snapped at her. "I just can't have someone I don't trust on my team."

"So you kick me off the team while I am at lunch?" Hermione shouted at him. She was so angry, though unlike Ginny, she had not drawn her wand, at least not yet.

"Speaking of lunches, you are only allotted a thirty minute break and you have been gone for longer than that," Harry said snidely. "Shacklebolt wants to see you in his office." Hermione was enraged.

"The lifts are down and I had to take the stairs, all thirty-three flights from the café to this department. I am late? This coming from the wizard who can't even make it to work on time," Hermione said. She opened her bag and started thumbing through the files and papers contained in it. She handed the missing file to Harry, shoving it rather roughly into his hands. "Shacklebolt made a huge mistake making you the leader, and Harry Potter; I hope I am there when you fall!"

"You stole my file!" Harry accused. "First you steal my kid, then this file. Is there anything you haven't stolen from me, Granger?"

"Oh," Hermione said with a sarcastic look on her face. She had finally drawn her wand "Oh, I steal from you? Ok, how about this? Notikius Destructikus. Figure this out for yourself. You aren't riding my coat tails any longer. Sink or swim, I don't care. Personally, I hope you drown."

Hermione turn around abrupt and left the office, taking the air out of the room with her. Harry's face dropped as the tiny notes that Hermione had written all over the file slowly faded. She had taken the file, but only to help him. He sank into his desk chair as two rather angry looking Weasleys looked at him.

"Whatever you did, you better put it right," Ginny said to him. "Hermione and I haven't been friends in a long time, but you screwed us real good with this."

Harry looked at the file sitting in his lap and thumbed through it. He ran his fingers over the page, thinking. Realization swept over him like a lead balloon, whether she had lied to him or not, Hermione never did anything unless it was for a good reason. He really had screwed them. With Hermione, his job was a breeze. Now that he had kicked her off the team, traded one of the brightest Aurors for an intern, he wasn't sure this was a job that he could do on his own.

"I have to go talk to her," Harry said as he jumped up. File still in his hand, he ran out of his office and went to the lifts. He pressed the button a half a dozen times before another witch kindly informed him the lifts had broken down and that the ministry didn't know when they would be back on line. Harry headed to the stair well and ran the stairs two at a time.

"Shacklebolt, please," Harry panted to the Kingsley's secretary.

"I'm sorry, Harry, but Mr. Shacklebolt is in a meeting," The witch said as she continued to file her nails. Harry pushed through the door and into Shacklebolt's office, startling him and the ancient wizard he was speaking with in hushed tones.

"Harry, what is the meaning of this?" Shacklebolt snapped rather angrily. He wasn't used to people bursting into his office unannounced and this was the fifth time today.

"It's Hermione," Harry panted with a cramp in his side. He hadn't been quite that active since Quidditch, and he certainly was feeling it about this moment.

"Oh, well, I have already dealt with that issue, Harry," Shacklebolt said as he round his desk and guided Harry out of his office.

"You have?" Harry asked.

"Yes," Shacklebolt said. "She has been reassigned."

"What? Why?" Harry demanded. Shacklebolt raised an eye brow at him. This insubordination seemed to be spreading among his Aurors like a wildfire. At the next Aurors meeting, he really was going to have to bring it up and put an end to it.

"Harry, she demanded to be reassigned," Shacklebolt said as he nudged Harry the rest of the way out of his office. "Now, if you don't mind, I am going to return to Lord Von Dilworth while I still have his undivided attention. Miss Franks, if you will please no more interruptions."

"Yes Mr. Shacklebolt," The witch replied as Shacklebolt slammed his office door. Harry glanced at the door. He had been kicked out! Not only was he kicked out of Shacklebolt's office rather unceremoniusly, he had lost Hermione and had no idea how to get her back.