HARRY POTTER AND THE NECKLACE OF MENAT
Streaming through large windows as if daylight could reach a structure so deep beneath London's underground, rays of light crept in slanted beams along the deserted Atrium of the Ministry of Magic, delineating its form. A lone set of footsteps echoed in the cavernous hall as twenty-three year old Auror Harry Potter strode purposefully towards the lifts that would take him up to the Minister's office for their regular weekend meeting.
A slight movement where the Fountain of Magical Brethren had once stood made him glance towards the area. Gone was the grotesque abomination the Voldemort regime had installed in its place; rather, an elaborate moving silver structure now served to welcome the people walking through these halls. The sculpture was stretching and shaking itself awake, making a tinkling sound as it did. From a distance it looked like a glistening metallic tree, but up close, one could see that the entire structure was bedecked with thousands upon thousands of small varied jewels, jewels representing the lives — both magic and Muggle — that were lost in the last war.
As always, whenever Harry passed by the sculpture, he was reminded of the night he sneaked in his godson Teddy Lupin to see the silver tree. They had been to the Burrow earlier that day with Andromeda and Hermione for Christmas lunch. Naturally, all the Weasleys were there, including Bill and his family. Teddy had his Grandma and he had Harry, but it was the first time he'd noticed the interaction between Victoire and her maman Fleur: Fleur wiping her daughter's face clean, Fleur hoisting her daughter up against her waist so they could wash Victoire's hands under the tap, Fleur kneeling down to look at Victoire's bruised finger and kiss the hurt away, Fleur bending down to kiss her daughter's head as she passed by the children while they played on the floor of the Burrow's sitting room.
Upon returning to the Tonks' home, Teddy headed straight to the bookshelf in the living room where they kept the family photo albums. Then he and Harry looked over the moving pictures of Remus and Tonks anew. Teddy had stared for a long time at his mother's heart-shaped face as if it was the first time he was seeing the pictures and from time to time would point to Tonks' face in the pictures and turn his head towards Harry and say Mama? Mama? Later that evening, when Teddy showed no signs of settling down for the night, Harry decided to bring him to the Ministry.
As it was the holidays, Harry had found the tree standing still and silent. But with a slight wave of his hand, Harry had treated his then three year old godson to something no one had ever seen before. The tree began to whir and gyrate, virtually performing a ballet, its thousand variegated jewels capturing and reflecting light from the blazing torches on the Atrium's walls and the lighted windows overhead. As it did, it made a musical symphony as if a million bells were ringing. Teddy Lupin was completely mesmerized, and only occasionally turned his face up to Harry as if to confirm that what they were seeing was real. They both gazed at the silver tree for a long time that night, seated on a chair conjured by Harry - Teddy strangely quiet - until finally, the boy fell asleep in his godfather's arms.
By all rights the Ministry should have been empty this early Saturday morning, except, of course, for a few key offices, yet already a gaggle of witches stood hanging back by the lifts, hoping to catch Harry's eye. But for all the notice Harry was giving them, they might as well have been Disillusioned. Besides, Harry was not so egotistical as to assume that the women were there because of him.
As it were, he was completely oblivious to how much his appearance was driving the women around him crazy. Since Harry's job would sometimes take him to the Muggle world, he found it best to just wear Muggle clothing, often all in black, but with dragon-hide boots, so as to save him the trouble of transfiguring his clothes. The trench coat was rather convenient in hiding his phoenix-wand and was a good compromise to wizarding robes.
Much speculation had been made about Harry's preferred get-up. People say that the reason Harry wore black all the time was because he was still mourning the losses of the last war. But the real reason could not have been more mundane: it was a style he had adopted out of practicality and necessity. Given the nature of his job, it was near impossible to keep his clothes clean by the end of the day. He just didn't want to give Kreacher, his aging house-elf, any more work than he had to.
But the younger generation of witches and wizards, enamored still of the Harry Potter mystique, quickly adopted the fashion and was soon on its way to supplanting the traditional robes worn in the wizarding world. Even most of his colleagues at the Auror Division had quickly adopted the look as well.
After the war, the newly installed government of Kingsley Shacklebolt had been hard put to set things to order. There were innocent prisoners to be released, missing people to be found, captured Death Eaters to be sorted, not to mention the numerous Voldemortian laws and policies to be repealed. Reliable Ministry employees had to put in double hours in desperate attempts to wield the workload into manageability. Yet still, there had been a lot left to do. Then Kingsley had asked Harry to come in to help suss out the real from the Imperiused Death Eaters. From there it had been but a short step and a skip in Harry joining the Auror Department.
But the work ethic that both Kingsley and Harry had adherred to out of necessity in those early days evolved to become a routine. And, if the Ministry's head honcho and the country's - no, the world's - top Auror and the savior of the wizarding world were both working on Saturdays, then, by Merlin, the rest of the Ministry employees would report for work on Saturdays as well. Of course it was inevitable that this level of enthusiasm would wane over the years and now, only the Ministry Department Heads, the relevant support staff, and some Ministry employees (mainly single witches) still kept up with Harry's six-day working week.
When Harry arrived at Kingsley's office, the room was already full of people, mainly Department Heads from the Ministry, including Harry's immediate superior, Dick Pendrill, the post-war Head of Auror. Harry nodded his greeting to the men and headed straight to his appointed seat near Kingsley's desk.
Harry was not late for the meeting, of course; rather, these Ministry officials chose to be early. These meetings were the offshoot of all-nighters Harry and Kingsley used to pull after the war discussing problems and issues at hand, all-nighters that eventually morphed into these regular Saturday morning powwows attended by other Department Heads.
"Harry," opened Kingsley, "we were just talking about you."
Harry thought he knew what it was about. Yesterday had been the last day of The International Confederation of Wizards caucus in Denmark and the issues discussed relevant to England ran more or less along the same lines, but Harry waited for Kingsley to continue.
"As you might have heard, the Greek government has formally requested your assistance in a problem they're currently having with a Teumessian fox," Kingsley said in his low, authoritarian voice.
Harry wrinkled his forehead, struggling to remember what he knew of the creature from Hagrid's class. "The giant fox?" Harry asked in surprise. "But I thought it had already been caught and turned to stone?"
"And been cast into the heavens," an elderly wizard who sat nearest the door put in.
Bits of what he knew about the creature bubbled to the surface of Harry's mind. How could he not remember the Teumessian fox? The moment Hagrid had mentioned the creature in his class, Harry and Ron exchanged amused glances thinking the same thing: it would be another one of those creatures they knew Hagrid would love to keep as a pet - until they got to the part of what the animal fed on: children. Destined to never be caught, if it were true that it was roaming the Greek countryside again, then the Greeks truly were in trouble.
"The Greek Ministry of Magic have already removed the Muggles from the area by making it appear that a dormant volcano is acting up again and would soon erupt," continued Kingsley. "But many more remain. And the Greek wizards have no other place to go, as the rest of the country is already overflowing with Muggles, not to mention the tourists who regularly visit their lands. So you see Harry the enormous dilemma the Greek wizards are currently in right now."
"But why is it plaguing Greece now?," Harry furrowed his forehead. "Wasn't it Di-we* who helped the ancient Greeks get rid of the animal? He was supposed to be one of the most powerful wizards of all time. How could his spell been broken?"
"I'm afraid we don't have the answer to that question."
"If I may, Minister," interjected Charles Wickham, current head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. "but a month ago the Muggles have discovered an anomalous cold spot in the Eridanus constellation which, as we all know, is in very close proximity to the Lepus constellation where the Teumessian fox had been banished. There is thus an international consensus that it must have been the cause of the return of the blighted creature."
"A cold spot?" Kingsley turned to him, raising an eyebrow.
"The Muggles call it a Supervoid, a vast expanse of the universe a billion light years in diameter. It was supposed to be completely devoid of stars, or even dark matter. The Muggles could not account for it based on their standard cosmology." Wickham smiled wryly. "But then again, neither would they be able to account for magic, if they knew it exists."
"But, is it a cause of concern for us?"
Wickham adopted a more serious expression. "We do not know, Minister. But we may already be suffering from an effect of it. Or at least the Greeks are."
Kingsley leaned back on his chair and looked out the window, contemplating. After a while, he turned back to the others. "I'll set the Unspeakables to work on it."
"And the request of the Greek government, Minister?" another head, from the Department of the International Magical Cooperation, piped up.
Kingsley looked expectantly back at Harry.
"But what can I do?" said Harry. "Wouldn't it be better if we send Hagrid to them instead? Looks to me like it's more his area of expertise than mine."
The other men chuckled while Kingsley bent his head down to hide a grin. Dick Pendrill waited for the laughter to die down before he spoke up.
"We may have difficulty sending Potter over there, Minister. We've already loaned two of our top Aurors to the International Aurors Office just to appease other countries' demands that we send Harry to them."
The air thickened with resentment. It had been a thorn on the British Wizarding's side that other nations kept demanding for Britain to send Harry to deal with their own domestic problems. They were rather begrudging of Harry and didn't want to share him with the rest of the Wizarding world. There was no chance in hell that Wizarding Britain would let go of their beloved hero.
Kingsley turned to Harry once again. "Are you working on a new case right now, Harry?"
"No, we've wrapped up the case of that Armenian wizard kidnapping Muggle women." Believing it would increase his magic, the suspect had skinned alive and ate at least seventeen women before he was apprehended. There was no need to mention that it was Harry who solved the case entirely on his own and succeeded in bringing the suspect down as the latter viciously cast the darkest of curses against Harry and his team when they came to arrest him.
Kingsley carefully considered Harry's face which gave nothing away. The minister inwardly sighed, knowing that the decision was being laid upon his feet. "It's up to you, Harry. It has to be your choice."
Harry thought for a moment. He had no idea how to deal with the beast but the fact that it was feeding on children acutely preyed on his mind. Neither could it be denied that Harry had performed feats of magic no one ever thought possible. If anyone could help the Greeks, it would be Harry.
"I'll think about it," Harry finally said. And the group went on to discuss other issues.
*Zeus to Muggles