Chapter 7: Troubled Times
|Chapter 6||Chapter Index||Chapter 8|
Back on the main trail, they continued walking toward the waterfall. Soon the sights and sounds of rushing water greeted them. The area was lush with vegetation and people of all ages were there. They leisurely strolled around the area taking in the sights and watching the people. They overheard a family discussing lunch plans as they walked past. Not too long after, the four of them began making their way along a muggle foot track that led out of the forest.
When they reached the end of the track, Ron took a quick glance at his map and then said in a whispered voice, "There's a magical tavern this way."
After a short walk up a secluded path, which led them through a muggle-repelling charm, Tethys Tavern came into view. Going inside, Ron and Hermione made their way toward the seating area to find a table. Harry and Ginny went to get them all sandwiches and iced tea. Rejoining Ron and Hermione at a corner table, they ate lunch and quietly discussed what they had seen in the meadow.
While they ate, Harry periodically scanned the room. His attention lingered at a table on the far side. Two heavyset men seated there were repeatedly looking toward him while they talked. The expression on the faces of the two men grew steadily more hostile. After a time, the two men stood. They each wore shabby clothing and their hair was unkempt. Short scraggly beards framed their stern unpleasant expressions. With some difficulty, they began weaving their way through the maze of tables toward where the four of them were sitting.
"Could be trouble," said Harry to the others in a low voice. Wands quickly slipped partway down from under their sleeves and into their hands but remained hidden and out of sight. When the men were a few table distances away, Harry and Ron, with wands concealed, stood and faced them. The two men abruptly stopped and stared at them with scorn and malice.
Ginny's eyes narrowed and the hostile expression on her face sent a threatening and unmistakable warning. She started to stand.
Hermione put her hand on Ginny. Leaning close, Hermione said in a whisper, "Stay seated and cover Harry. Be ready to cast a shield charm around him if those men try anything. I'll cover Ron. Keep your wand out of sight."
Ginny nodded. Two firmly held wands were now at the ready under the table.
One of the men pointed his finger at Harry. "I know who you are and ya ain't welcome in these parts. You and your lot clear out before they ave ta carry you out."
The room became quiet and the eyes of the witches and wizards present in the room focused unblinking toward them.
"We'll be finishing our lunch first," said Harry coolly.
"Think you're strong enough to take us on do yah? We'll mop the floor with yah."
"We've taken on far worse than you," said Harry dryly. "Listen, he's gone for good. You don't have to be afraid of him anymore."
"I ain't fraid o nothin' and he wasn't callin' all the shots anywayz." His crooked and yellow teeth showed as he grinned savagely. "Azkaban, right under their noses."
The other man grabbed him by the arm and said, "Shut up Joey. You're talkin' too much."
"Geroff." He wrenched his arm free and staggered on the spot. "This stupid lot don't know nothin."
Harry felt an uneasy pang in his stomach at these words. He thought, "Giving orders from Azkaban? Who? How? Make him say more."
"You're misinformed," said Harry forcefully. "Death eaters, and those who were in league with them, escaped Azkaban last year. Everyone knows that."
Joey started to take a step toward Harry. Ginny's wand took careful aim. Harry stepped toward him and he abruptly stopped.
Grinning again, Joey said, "They ain't callin' it solitary for nothin'." He let out a savage laugh. "And that chair's what got him in there!" He cackled again.
Presently, a very large and burley barkeep disgustedly threw a hand towel down onto the bar and walked over to them. He stood in front of the two men pointing his finger at them. "I've told you before that I don't want any trouble from you. You've been drinking all morning and you're not getting another drop from me today. You and Tony clear out or I'm callin' the jacks."
The barkeep began ushering them toward the door. "Keep your <colorful metaphor> hands off me. We're leaving this damned place and you'd better watch your step. I know people who can make this place a big hole and rubble just like that damn Ministry's gonna be. I said LEGGO!"
A frown began to form on Harry's face as he watched the barkeep push Joey and Tony out the door and slam it shut behind them. His mind was racing as he pieced together and carefully weighed what he had heard.
The barkeep returned to Harry. "Sorry about that, those two are nothing but trouble."
"Who are they?"
In a low voice he said, "Joey and Tony Fillingham. From the bits and pieces I've heard, the Ministry of Magic in England tried them years ago for using magic on muggles. They were found guilty and after some time in Azkaban, they came to Australia. I think they're both members of a local gang now that has connections in England. That's all I know. You and your friends enjoy lunch and watch out for yourselves." With that, the barkeep turned and walked away.
Harry and Ron started to turn back toward their table when a raised voice said, "Those two do not speak for all of us." Harry caught sight of an elderly man standing with his drink raised toward him. Slowly, most of the people in the room stood and held their drinks aloft.
"Thank you for your support," said Harry in a raised voice. "May we all live in peace."
"Hear, hear," were the resounding replies.
Those who had stood reseated themselves now immersed in conversation. Harry and Ron sat down at the table with Hermione and Ginny. Harry leaned toward them and said in a low voice, "We have to get word back to the Aurors right away. The Ministry of Magic might be in danger."
"You thinking a bomb or something?" said Ron in a whisper.
"Yeah," nodded Harry grimly.
"It's morning there and people will be starting to arrive for work," whispered Ginny with an expression of dread.
Ron said in a low voice, "Maybe we should follow those two blokes and see if we can get more information out of them."
"That would be very risky legally," whispered Hermione. "We're not citizens of this country. Besides, if our suspicions are correct, we have no time to lose. Let's get back to the house."
They quickly made their way out of the pub. Once outside, Harry and Ginny joined hands. Ron and Hermione did the same. There were two pops as they disapparated an instant later.
The silence of the Granger living room was punctuated by the sound of their arrival a moment later. Harry reached into his pocket and quickly withdrew the badge Kingsley had given him. Holding it in the palm of his open hand, the fingers of his other hand simultaneously touched the five points of the star. Bluish colored smoke began to rise from the Auror emblem engraved in the center of the badge. A small fuzzy bluish orb formed in the air a few inches above the badge. A thin violet colored tendril of misty lightning connected the orb to the badge.
The orb flickered with white light as a voice said, "Hello Mister Potter. This is Auror Sanders. Are you and your friends okay?"
"Yes, we're fine and call me Harry. Listen, we just had a run-in with two men in a pub. One of them was really drunk and let information slip about a possible plot against the Ministry."
"Did you get the names of the men? Can you describe them?"
"Joey and Tony Fillingham, Joey did all the talking. They looked to be in their forties, stocky, with scraggly beards, and dressed in dirty clothes."
"They also needed a bath," said Ron with a wave of his hand as if clearing the air.
Harry said, "The barkeep heard they had been previously tried in England, served time in Azkaban, and then came to Australia."
The orb flickered, "What did the two men say?"
"Joey implied there is someone in Azkaban solitary confinement giving orders to people on the outside. As the barkeep was throwing them out of the pub, Joey threatened him saying to watch his step or the pub would be a big hole and rubble like the Ministry."
"Do you consider this information credible?"
In an exasperated tone, Harry said, "Yes, of course. I wouldn't have called you otherwise. This is wasting time."
"Let me ask you the question differently. In your judgment, do you think Joey gave you factual and reliable information?"
There was a pause. Harry glanced at the others who were looking back at him with unsure expressions on their faces. Thoughts of other serious decisions raced through his head. Rarely did he have all the information he needed to know for sure. But when lives were in jeopardy, the answer had always been clear.
"Very good," the Auror replied. "What is your assessment?"
"I think there could be a bomb hidden in the Ministry somewhere. Joey also mentioned the courtroom interrogation chair in passing. Maybe the bomb is there or the chair is how it will be set off. Is there a bomb squad that can check?"
"We can call in a secret muggle team if we don't find anything with a magical sweep of the area. We'll get on it right away Harry. Your information corroborates with other intelligence we have collected. There is a trial scheduled to begin in a few hours. Kingsley and the entire Wizengamot will be present."
"Don't let anyone sit in the interrogation chair," said Harry. "Search everyone as they enter the courtroom for muggle electronic devices."
"Okay Harry. I'll check back with you later."
The orb quietly popped like a balloon and the blue smoke dissolved into the air. They all looked at each other with grave expressions on their faces.
"He said the information corroborates with other intelligence," said Hermione. "I wonder what it could be?"
"Maybe they know about the bloke in Azkaban," said Ron. "Maybe they're using him to track down others."
"I'm worried about Dad," said Ginny now with a helpless expression on her face. "Is there a way we can contact him? To tell him to stay home from work?"
"Not by any of the normal magical means I'm aware of," said Hermione. "We're too far away. If only he had one of these badges or a muggle telephone."
"Even if we could, that wouldn't stop Dad from going in to help," said Ron. They all nodded in agreement.
"Nothing we can do now but wait," said Harry in a powerless tone of voice. He took Ginny's hand and they sat down on the couch. Ron and Hermione did the same on the other couch.
The afternoon past slowly as they talked and speculated about what might be happening at the Ministry. They also prepared the evening meal, which helped subdue worrying thoughts. Dan and Emma arrived home in the late afternoon and were pleasantly surprised to find supper waiting for them. During the meal, they told Dan and Emma about what had happened at the tavern. After supper, they quickly and magically tidied up the kitchen and then sat around the kitchen table talking. The anxiety level in the room rose steadily as the evening wore on.
"You'd think we'd have heard something by now," said Ron. "Maybe we should call them."
"If something important is happening," said Hermione, "it won't help if we interrupt them. Besides, we're only to use the badges if we need help or have information to report."
In a tentative tone of voice Ginny said, "Harry, can we change our travel arrangements and leave for the Burrow tonight?"
Harry saw a deeply worried expression on her face. It reminded him of the same expression he had seen on Molly's face in the days before they left to hunt Horcruxes. It gave him an empty feeling to see her that way. He was about to respond to her when the badge on the table in front of him started vibrating and jumping about. He quickly picked it up and placed it in the palm in his hand. Smoke rose into the air above the badge and the fuzzy blue orb formed.
"Harry, this is Auror Sanders. Are you there?"
"We're here," said Harry. "Is everything okay at the Ministry?"
The orb flickered, "Yes Harry. Thanks to your vigilance and timely information, we were able to thwart a potential attack. Your suspicions were correct and we found a device. It has been neutralized and no longer poses a threat."
Everyone at the table let out a sigh of relief and then a cheer.
"That is very good news to hear," said Harry smiling.
The orb flickered, "It is very important that you not speak of this incident to anyone. Harry, when will you be returning? I need to meet with you as soon as practical to get additional information for my report."
"We could meet tomorrow afternoon at the Burrow."
"Okay Harry. I will see you tomorrow afternoon. Thank you again for your help."
"Thank you Auror Sanders. All of us here will sleep better knowing everything's okay."
The blue orb quietly popped and dissolved into the air.
The next morning after breakfast, Harry and Ginny collected up their belongings and readied themselves for travel back to England. Dan, Emma, Ron, and Hermione sat at the kitchen table talking. There was an open magical map on the table in front of Ron. Dan was also looking at it. They all stood as Harry and Ginny entered the room to say their goodbyes.
Turning to Dan and Emma, Harry said, "Thank you so very much for everything. We really enjoyed our stay with you and seeing a bit of Australia."
"Our pleasure," said Dan shaking Harry's hand. "It was nice getting reacquainted. We hope to see you again once we are back in England. Emma and I sincerely hope that you will be able to live a peaceful life."
Ginny moved and gave Dan and Emma each a quick hug. Then she said, "Thank you so much. We had a wonderful time being here with you."
"You are both welcome in our home any time," said Emma. "Don't be shy."
"Thank you," said Harry. Turning to Ron and Hermione he said, "We'll see you two back in England."
Hermione moved to Ginny and hugged her saying, "Thanks for coming along to help." She stepped back and winked. "We'll have so much to talk about when I get back."
"Yes we will," said Ginny with a wink.
Hermione turned and looked at Harry. Their eyes connected and Harry saw deep gratitude in them. She moved forward and hugged him firmly. She quietly said, "Thank you for helping me get my parents back. You're a dear, dear friend."
"You're most welcome. Promise me you'll ask if there is anything else I can do to help."
"I promise." She released him and stepped back.
"Have a good trip back," said Ron giving Harry a quick hug. Turning to Ginny, he hugged her and said, "Tell Mum not to worry. We'll be back in a week or two."
"I will." She grinned. "But Mum will still worry." Ron smiled and nodded.
With a look of realization Ginny said, "Say, this is going to be your first trip by muggle air transport."
"Yeah," said Ron enthusiastically. "I'm looking forward to it, can't be too much different than riding on a broom."
Smiling, Dan, Emma, Ron, and Hermione moved back behind the kitchen table. Ron touched a spot on the map with his wand and a floating image of the Melbourne Magical Transport Office appeared. Harry and Ginny took each other's hand.
"Bye everybody," said Ginny as she waved happily.
Harry looked at Ginny and she nodded. He turned and looked at the floating image for a brief moment. Then, with a gentle whoosh and a pop, they disapparated.
"What a marvelous way to travel," said Dan in amazement. "What does it feel like?"
"Like being squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste," said Hermione. "And it makes you sick in the stomach until you get used to it." She glanced briefly at Ron. "You can also splinch yourself."
"Splinch?" said Emma.
"Yeah," said Ron with a grim expression. "Leave part of your body behind. It can happen if you don't do the spell right."
Dan and Emma's eyes grew very large for a moment as mental images formed. After a glance at Emma, Dan said, "Maybe we'll just leave that form of travel to you two. We'll use the non-magical ways instead."
"I whole heartedly agree," said Emma with a frightful expression.
Ron and Hermione grinned. Then Hermione said, "So, how can we help you get ready for the trip back to England?"
In a flash of green light, Harry and Ginny wearily stepped into the kitchen of the Burrow. It was well past midnight and the Burrow was dimly lit and quiet. They made their way into the parlor and sat in the loveseat in front of the fireplace.
"How are you feeling?" asked Harry. "Any ill effects from the travel?"
"No, just tired. We should drink the travel potion so we can get ourselves back on England time. I don't think I'll be able to sleep just yet."
Harry reached into his mokeskin pouch and withdrew two small vials. He unstoppered them and handed one to Ginny. After drinking the potion, they snuggled comfortably together and gazed at the glowing embers in the fireplace.
"Did you enjoy the trip?" asked Harry.
"Yes, very much. I had a wonderful time helping Hermione and being with you. Australia is a very interesting country and I want to visit it again sometime. Did you have a good time?"
"Yeah, it was great and I feel really good for Hermione. She has her parents back and I've never seen her happier. Ron is getting on really well with them too. I think they noticed that Ron and Hermione fancy each other."
"I think they noticed us too." She gave Harry a squeeze. "Hermione has really great parents. They were shocked when they heard what happened last year. I don't think there are many parents, muggle or wizard, who would be so understanding."
"Your mum and dad are fantastic too. I wasn't too sure they'd let you come along with us."
"I was fairly certain they'd let me go. They trust all of us to know and do the right thing." She smiled. "Besides, after all that's happened, what's a little trip half-way 'round the world?"
Harry smiled and gave her a squeeze.
They were quiet. After a short while, she yawned. "I think the potion is working, I'm getting sleepy."
There was no response. She turned to see Harry asleep. She nudged him gently. "C'mon, you need to sleep in Ron's room."
Harry opened his eyes and nodded sleepily. They stood and he followed as they quietly ascended the stairs. At the door to her room, she stopped and turned to face him with a sleepy smile.
"Pleasant dreams." He moved close and kissed her.
"Goodnight Harry, see you in the morning."
She turned and after entering her room, closed the door. He quietly climbed the remaining stairs to Ron's room, placed his glasses and wand on the night table, and lie down on the cot. He was asleep almost instantly.
|Chapter 6||Chapter Index||Chapter 8|
This is an original fan fiction story based on the seven book series 'Harry Potter' written by J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter, the characters, names and related characters are trademarks of Warner Bros., Inc. Harry Potter publishing rights © J.K.R. This is an unofficial, not for profit site and is in no way connected with J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Publishing or Warner Bros., Inc. This site is not endorsed by any of these aforementioned parties. Rights to characters and their images is neither claimed nor implied. This fan fiction story is owned by the author and subject to copyright law under transformative use.
Copyright © 2015-2016 Don Buczynski
San Diego, California
Last Updated: 9/27/17