Many, many thanks to ToManyLetters for helping me through my rather severe writer's block by providing some of the questions. Thanks as well to Cassandra's Cross for the last one. Go read their stuff, they're both brilliant writers.
Insert: The Press Conference
Harry and Ginny awoke the following morning around eight to the smell of a full breakfast and the realization that their spring respite had just come to an end. Their new dress robes, which had been dutifully laid out by Kreacher, were donned, and the young couple slowly and sleepily made their way down to the dining room for a full breakfast on which they would rely to get through an even fuller day. After breakfast, they walked over to the fireplace in the sitting room, both looking as if a trip to the gallows would be preferable.
"Gin, you sure you want to come with me? There's bound to be loads of questions about The Boy Who Lived's love-life, and those will certainly increase if he comes with The Girl With The Bat-Bogey Hex in tow."
"Merlin, Harry, we've been through this a dozen times. Yes, I'm coming with you, yes, I know there will be some uncomfortable moments, and no I'm not looking forward to watching someone other than me make you squirm. I will, however, have my wand with me in case someone gets out of line." Harry stifled a small chuckle.
"Fine, fine, of course. I'm just not looking forward to what happens if the same reporters that were at the Burrow get a look at you. Well, here goes."
Harry and Ginny stepped into the fireplace, arm in arm.
"Ministry of Magic VIP. Harry James Potter and Ginevra Molly Weasley. Password: Expelliarmus." Harry tossed the Floo powder, and a burst of ash and smoke heralded his and Ginny's arrival at the Ministry.
"Harry, Ginny! Glad to see my owl about the VIP entrance made it on time. My my, we're all looking sharp today. No business casual dress robes on you two." Kingsley welcomed the pair into the room with a laugh, a firm embrace for Harry, and a kiss on the cheek for Ginny. Harry was, for the moment, a bit more at ease with his surroundings.
"How many do you think we're up against, Kingsley?" he asked his new boss.
"They didn't keep me apprised, Harry. But as it was the Prophet that pressed us for this, I doubt they'd want to lose exclusivity on the story. Then again, one never knows at events like this."
"And if I bollocks the whole thing up?"
"Harry, you saved the whole bloody world not two weeks ago. I think you can bend over, flip up your robes and moon the lot of them, and they'll still sing your praises in their articles. We're only obligated to give them a half-hour, and then we leave the dais. Simple as that."
"Simple as that, eh? And if other reporters are around?"
"When Teen Witch Weekly asks you about your Hungarian Horntail tattoo, simply tell them you don't let anyone other than Miss Weasley have a look at it," Kingsley replied, laughing. " No, don't look at her, lad, it was Molly that passed that bit along. Ginny, you'll be seated on the right of the dais behind some curtains that frame the stage. Harry, you'll have a good view of her out of the corner of your eye. Use that – it's your rock. Stay confident, young man, it's the best way to handle situations like this. Did you prepare any opening remarks?"
"Opening remarks, Kingsley?"
"Thought as much. Here, Harry, my press secretary dashed this up for you yesterday afternoon. We have a good ten minutes before the press conference starts, take the time to review this and make it sound natural as you read it." Kingsley presented Harry with a short – almost terse – opening statement, and Harry did his level best to read it, re-read it and re-re-read it over the next ten minutes. Almost before he knew it, however, Ginny was being shuffled off to her seat, and Harry and Kingsley were led out to the stage to a rousing applause. Unfortunately for both men, Kingsley was closer to the truth with this jest about Witch Weekly than he was with his ideas on the Prophet's exclusivity desires. Harry's breath seized in his chest as he looked out on the standing room only sea of reporters and photographers who had arrived for the event.
A rather self-important looking wizard began the proceedings
"Please rise for Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt and Mr. Harry Potter."
Kingsley's remarks were first:
"Thank you witches and wizards. The Daily Prophet has asked Mr. Potter and I to answer some questions regarding a matter I had hoped to announce Monday. I have asked Mr. Potter to serve the Magical community of the United Kingdom as the head of Auror Training and Development. Mr. Potter has graciously agreed to accept this position, and will begin his duties on Monday. I do not need to enumerate the many good works Mr. Potter has done for his country, and indeed for the Magical world at large. His leadership and training skills were evident in the battle that took place here two years ago. Many of you may recall that it was a group of six fourth and fifth-year Hogwarts students that held off a dozen Death Eaters, so that they might not get their hands on an item Voldemort had asked them to steal. Mr. Potter's training is what allowed these youths to fight so valiantly and courageously, and we believe he will bring that ethic with him to the Auror Corps. And now, before we field any questions, Mr. Potter has prepared a few words of his own."
Harry pulled out the paper handed to him earlier and began to read:
"Thank you, Minister. It is a great honor to be asked to serve the Magical people of the United Kingdom in an official capacity, and I appreciate the opportunity presented me by Minister Shacklebolt, as well as his faith and trust in my abilities. It has long been a dream of mine to serve as an Auror, and I pledge to you today that the new Auror Corps, as part of the New Ministry, will be the best-trained and best-prepared group of witches and wizards this community has ever seen. The training they will undergo will be arduous, but will ensure that those wishing to take up the mantle of Dark Magic and Blood Purity will be met with swift justice. I look forward to serving you, the Magical people of the United Kingdom, as well as the Ministry. Thank you."
And nearly at once, forty-five hands shot into the air to ask questions of the two men. The self-important wizard, whom Harry guessed must be the emcee, pointed at one witch, and the press conference was on.
"From the Daily Prophet. Minister, while we appreciate all that Harry has done in the war against He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the lad is only seventeen years old. How do you expect grown witches and wizards to listen to a schoolboy?"
Kingsley's response was direct, and his eyes narrowed to a frightening glare, "Would you take this 'lad' on in a duel, Miss? I certainly wouldn't. His remarkable fighting skills aside, my Aurors are professionals, and will respect Mr. Potter because he has been placed in a position of authority. Next question, please."
"Also the Daily Prophet. Mr. Potter, what changes will you be making to the Auror training program?"
"We have a tremendous need for competent Aurors at present, and we don't have three years to wait for them to complete the current curriculum. I will be using many of the techniques I developed in training Dumbledore's Army to bring new recruits up to speed as quickly as possible." Harry took a deep breath after delivering this answer. It was a question he had anticipated, and therefore he had an answer at the ready. 'Not so bad after all,' he thought.
"Also the Daily Prophet. Harry, will you be again asking your schoolmates to join you in rounding up the remaining Death Eaters?"
Harry noticeably bristled at this. His answer was terse: "I don't recall ever asking anyone to fight alongside me, not even Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger."
The reporter continued: "But surely a group of teenag-" Harry interrupted, his voice elevated:
"I am going to say this once more and once more only. I have never, ever asked anyone to risk his or her life in battle. To suggest otherwise is unfair not only to me, but to the memories of those who've died in the war. Everyone who has fought Tom Riddle and his band of murderers has done so of their own free will, because they believed it the right thing to do. I will answer no more questions of this nature. Next, please."
"Don MacNamee, New York Spirit page six reporter. Harry, just how close are you and Hermione? And if it's not her, is there a different special someone in your life?"
Harry let go a long, frustrated sigh. "Right. Sorry Don, but this was sorted out in the British press years ago." There was general laughter from the assembled. "Hermione Granger and I are the best of friends, and have been since first year. She and Ron Weasley are the two best friends a bloke could ask for. Hermione's like a sister to me, but we are not, and have never been romantically involved. As for your other question, well, you did travel an awfully long way to ask me about my love life, didn't you? (further laughter) So I'd better send you back with something. Yes, I'm seeing someone. We've been seeing each other for a little over a year. Yes, it's serious. And no, I'm not going to tell you lot who she is."
"Daily Prophet. Harry, when are you going to tell us what happened while the three of you were on the run?"
"I believe Miss Weasley answered that question quite succinctly the last time you stuck a quick-quotes quill in my face. It had something to do with bats, if I recall." Harry saw the faces of most of the Daily Prophet contingency blanch. "Ah, I see many of you recall.
"Jim Turner, Wizarding Press International. Harry, do you feel as though you've avenged your parents' deaths by killing Voldemort?"
"Next question." was Harry's only reply. This caused quite a murmur in the press corps, and the scratching of quills on parchment became noticeably louder.
"Current Events Weekly. Minister, what are your plans with regard to changes in the Ministry?"
"Thank you for the question, sir. I was afraid the entire half-hour was going to be taken up by questions about a seventeen-year-old's love life. I'm going to be frank – the ministry is in a right bind. So many of our best officials were killed during the war that it's going to be a massive effort to replace them. And Minister Thicknesse did such a thorough job of placing people loyal to Voldemort in positions of authority that the first thing I had to do upon taking this position was to sack half the ministry. Percy Weasley has been in charge of reviewing all personnel decisions made in the past year, and contacting former Ministry employees to offer them their old jobs. Progress is being made, although it's slow going. In addition to this, there is a war on still. As long as there are Death Eaters outside of custody, the war continues. And to those who remain, I advise them to turn themselves in, rather than wait for the Ministry to find them.
"Some changes you, the press, will note concern the transparency of my office. While some matters are of a classified nature, I will be as honest and open with you as I can be. You also will not be dictated to regarding editorial decisions. The press, in a word, is now free. I hope that answers your question."
"Paris-Mage. Monsieur Potter, the people of the France are thanking you for all you have done against this terrible person. My question is, what are you knowing about an Order of the Phoenix?"
"Thank you for that lovely message, and to the French people for their good wishes. As to the Order of the Phoenix, they were a very brave group of witches and wizards who fought in the war. More than that, I cannot say."
"WizardWeek: Minister, when are we going to have a proper memorial for those who died at Hogwarts?"
"Headmistress McGonagall and I are finalizing details on that now. Many families, however, have yet to have a chance to bury their dead, and we are certainly going to wait until that is accomplished before going ahead with any public ceremony."
"Quibbler. Harry, you've given so much of your life to the wizarding community. What can we, in return, give to you?"
"A bit of space as I Floo into the Leaky Cauldron would be nice, for starters. Seriously though, I don't need anything. I have a good job, a family that's taken me in and loved me the way my own couldn't, wonderful friends – such as your boss's daughter – and a beautiful witch at my side who's pretty handy with a wand herself, mind. What I've never had, though, is normalcy. It's not that I don't appreciate the thanks and the well wishes – I really do. I'd just like to be able to walk into a pub with my mates and not be mobbed. Now that I don't have to worry about some bloody prophecy between me and Riddle, it'd be nice just to have a bit of a normal life."
The emcee wizard announced that there would be one more question. A rather strident voice emerged from the crowd, quite out of the blue.
"Harry, is it true that you've shacked-up with your lady-love, and that she's still underage?" A gasp was heard from the press corps, which quickly settled into fervent murmuring.
"Why don't you first tell us all why you've never bothered to register as an animagus, Skeeter," Harry answered, with a smug smirk on his face, "and write your next article on how it is that Azkaban manages to keep your beetle form locked up?" With that, Harry and Kingsley proceeded backstage, where Ginny was waiting for them.
"Harry, you were brilliant out there! You looked as though you've been doing this your whole life. And I love how you nailed Skeeter on that last question! Maybe politics is your calling, who knows?" And Ginny placed a rather wet kiss on Harry's cheek while attempting to squeeze the air out of him.
"Ginny, if I may have a word in private with Harry, please." Kingsley did not look quite as pleased as Miss Weasley. "I'll have him back to you in just a bit, promise." He was able to spare her a smile as he whisked Harry to his office.
"Kingsley, what is it? I thought I handled things quite well out there."
"Harry, remember how I told you that you could moon the press corps and they'd still sing your praises?" Harry nodded, slowly. "What you did was worse. Much worse. None of us likes Skeeter. But she is a reporter, and you are a ministry official. What you just did is to threaten a reporter with prison because you didn't like the question she asked."
"But I didn't. At least, that wasn't my intent!" Harry pleaded.
"I know that, Harry," replied his boss. "But a room full of reporters doesn't. The good news is that they're used to such treatment from Scrimgeour and Fudge's time. The bad news is that I've spent the past week bending over backwards for those vultures to try and earn their trust, and you've single-handedly cost me that week's work, if not more. Harry, I know this was your first press conference, and aside from that miscue, you acquitted yourself as a Gryffindor should. But when dealing with the press, you must consider each word you say very, very carefully. Take a lesson from this experience, Potter. If you get skewered in the papers tomorrow, it means that my work hasn't been in vain. If you get lauded as the Boy Who Lived, it means we're going to have some repair work to do. Got that?"
"Good. Now I'm not going to be on the receiving end of a Ginny Weasley special, so let's get you back to that pretty witch of yours, alright?"
More Author's Note:
By the way, in the last chapter I named Harry's new owl "Hansel". Who can guess why? First person to do so gets, um, something, I guess. I hope you enjoyed the insert. If you did, or even if you didn't, go ahead and let me know through a review.