Harry sat at the kitchen table, picking through a large plate of bacon and eggs prepared by Kreacher. In truth, he wasn’t at all hungry, but Ginny was standing behind him, her arms around his neck, and kept telling him to eat. They would be going to the Ministry of Magic that day, because Harry was applying to an auror training course. They were notoriously difficult to be accepted into, and required an impressive set of NEWTs. Harry, having missed his last year of school, had none. However he had been working diligently the past month or so, with the help of Hermione and Ginny, to try and catch up with the last year. He didn’t want to go back to Hogwarts. He felt that his time there was over, and so he had to apply to the course with an unimpressive set of credentials. He was worried, because even with a set of NEWTs, applicants to the course all have to undergo a rigorous testing process, to determine their aptitude, skills and weaknesses. In Harry’s nervous state, he didn’t even think about the fact that he had defeated the most evil sorcerer the world had ever seen.
Harry and Ginny left the house at 9:30. Harry was glad that she was coming with him, although he thought she must get a bit bored, waiting around for him all day. She insisted however, that it was no trouble, and that she wanted to go around Diagon Alley anyway. They took the underground, as neither of them had yet passed their apparition tests, and arrived at the visitor’s entrance to the ministry at around 10 o’clock. The old phonebox looked the same as ever, and the pair shared a knowing smile when they saw it, both remembering the last time they had been there. Then Harry remembered why. He had accepted Sirius’ death. However at times Harry’s grief and guilt over how he had died crept up on him, and surprised him into feeling their pain. He turned away from Ginny for a second, turning back when he had re-assembled his features into a face which he felt comfortable with her seeing.
“Good luck. I love you. You’ll be brilliant.” She said it with such certainty that he smiled a little, kissed her, and then stepped into the phonebox. He dialed 62442 , and waved to her nervously as the booth whisked him away. She stood there for a minute, smiling to herself, after he had gone, and then headed off in the direction of Diagon Alley.
As Harry stepped into the atrium, he was astounded to see the changes which it had undergone during Kingsley’s time in office since the last time he had been there. The huge statue, demonstrating pureblood superiority, was gone. In its place was a fountain. However, it was not like the Fountain of magical Brethren that had been there in Fudge’s time. It was huge, and seemed to be made out of a dark silver metal, one which did not sparkle excessively, yet drew the eye immediately. The statue in the centre of the fountain was a human figure. It stood tall, and was holding a wand high above its head, pointing to the air. As harry moved around the statue, he saw that it had no face. Just the vague suggestion of a nose and brow on one side. A plaque below it read,
We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. This statue commemorates the many who stood united, and showed nothing but strength, yet died, for a greater future.
Harry turned away from the statue when someone called his name. It was a tall young man, his limbs long and thin, with a clipped mop of brown hair and thick rectangular glasses. He hurried towards Harry, saying, “Mr. Potter! I’m afraid you’re late. Come with me please, and we’ll start your testing straight away.” Harry was whisked away with the man, who carried on talking as they waked towards the elevator and through various corridors. “We’re very glad to have you here, Mr. Potter. I’m Emmery Redwood, by the way. Newly appointed head of the Auror Office - now that Mr. Shacklebolt is the Minister, I mean.” Redwood waffled on until they reached a large oak door. “Here we are”, he said with a smile.
Redwood pushed open the door. They stepped into a large, white room. Six other men we standing inside, apparently waiting for them. Redwood asked them all to sit down on an array of brightly coloured chairs, and took one for himself. He started outlining what would be happening in the day, and Harry zoned in and out of what he was saying, half of his mind occupied with working out what the other men in the room were like.
Redwood first asked everyone to split up into pairs and duel. Because there were seven people trying out for the course, Redwood duelled with each of them in turn as well. Harry was first paired with a rather short man of about 20. His face looked as if all of his features were too high up, making him appear like a child’s drawing. They had been instructed to use only minor spells, as Redwood wanted to gauge their speed and accuracy, rather than the spells they knew.
Harry was pleased to find himself more than equal to the man’s hexes, which he managed to block and counter easily. When Redwood stepped in for his turn at duelling him, however, Harry struggled a great deal more. He may not have looked it, but Redwood was incredibly fast, and had great reflexes. Harry never got hit, however he found himself working hard in order to keep his ground. When they finished, Redwood winked at him. “Nicely done, Mr. Potter. Not many wizards your age could do that.” Harry grinned, then turned away to wipe the sweat off his forehead.
They next moved on to dark magic knowledge. Redwood asked them each questions on how to best defend themselves in different situations with dark wizards. He turned to Harry. “So, Mr. Potter. A dark wizard is approaching you, and has with him seven inferi. What do you do?”
Harry thought for a second, remembering what Dumbledore had done the night he died, protecting harry with a ring of fire. “Well sir,” He said rather cautiously. “I’d use incendio. Inferi are creatures of the dark, and they fear light and heat. The fire that the spell would cause would make them retreat, so that I could duel the wizard without any distraction.” Redwood beamed, and moved onto the next person.
They next practised disguises. Harry tried to remember what Hermione had done to Ron the previous year, and managed to give himself a pretty thick beard, and turn his hair grey. He didn’t dare do anything more though. He didn’t want to accidentally hex his own nose off like poor Eloise Midgen.
The only thing left to do was strength of mind testing. They were asked to try to repel the imperius curse, and then to close their minds to legilimency. Harry was confident at his ability to ward off the imperius curse, he had done it in his fourth year at Hogwarts, however he had never been adept at occlumency, and was worried that he might let himself down. “Ok then, Mr. Potter! Your turn!” Redwood had become more and more enthusiastic as the day had progressed, and seemed to really enjoy working out each wizard’s abilities. “If you’re ready?” Harry nodded. “Right then! On the count of three. One, two, three, imperio!”
Harry felt his mind enter a calm and serene state. It was so relaxing, so peaceful. Through the trance, he heard a kind voice in his ear. ‘Shoot out red sparks. Just raise your wand, and give me some red sparks.’ this seemed a good enough idea to Harry, so he reached into his pocket to get his wand. He held it out, and then thought, ‘why am I shooting out sparks? It seems awfully stupid…’ The voice in his head answered him. ‘Because I want you to. Do it.’ Harry put his wand back in his pocket. ‘No thanks.’ The voice in his head chuckled, and with a supreme effort, Harry pulled his mind out of the dream, and opened his eyes to a very pleased looking Redwood. “Well done Potter! Now, are you ready to try some occlumency?” Harry’s mouth went rather dry. Snape had never really been a very good teacher, and he had accepted long ago that occlumency was not something at which he was at all skilled. He nodded, though.
Again, Redwood counted down from three. Harry thought of nothing but clearing his mind. He tried to revert back to that calm which he had felt under the imperius curse, that serenity and lack of thought. As Harry heard the word, ‘legilimens’, he tried to concentrate only on the darkness inside his head. Not what he saw, nothing. But he knew it hadn’t worked. Flashes of memories kept rushing through his mind: Walking around the lake with Ginny, playing wizard’s chess with Ron, lying on the ground of the Forbidden Forest, Narcissa Malfoy’s hair sweeping over him. The images kept flying at him, and he scrunched up his eyes in concentration. No. he told himself. No. Stop. Harry tried to find the part of his mind that wasn’t his own. It was a niggling little chip in the back of his brain. He concentrated all his effort into pushing it out. The images grew paler. He pushed against it still harder, until the memories that he saw were little more than a shadow. He opened his eyes. The entire room was staring at him. Redwood was panting, and gave Harry a huge grin.