Cedar and Elm
Theme: Perspicacity and Presence
July 22nd, 1998
Ron had a lot of things to say to Minister Shacklebolt that morning. Though it was hard to remember what those things were when his security staff was playing cards at their desk in front of his office entrance.
The tall, blonde woman with the thick glasses she kept adjusted laid down a full house with a happy exclamation while Audrey groaned and laid down a terrible hand that made Ron wince.
"Is Kingsley in yet?" Ron asked, surprising the women who both tried to hide their cards, the blonde shoving them down the front of her robes while Audrey jammed them into the drawer of their shared desk.
"It's seven in the morning, you numpty," The blonde woman said as she fixed her glasses the way someone who was not used to wearing them would, like they were an annoyance she had to tolerate. There was a jack of hearts peeking out of her robes. "No one gets here for another half-hour, they gotta get through security."
"Lucia, be nice!" Audrey hissed as she tried to covertly close the desk drawer where she had shoved her cards.
Ron pulled a letter out of his pocket and held it out towards Audrey, who he assumed was the nicer of the two. "I'm pretty sure he's here."
Audrey read it quietly and let the blonde read over her shoulder.
The blonde sighed and pointed at the door. "The door next to the cubicle is the minister's office, can't miss it, it's labeled."
Ron thanked them while Audrey unlocked the door and swung it open with a flick of her wand before returning the letter.
Ron stepped inside and paused to look around as the door closed behind him. It was a large office, tall ceiling with two desks that sat on opposite sides of the room on a wooden floor, both in front of a bookshelves containing various volumes of miscellaneous topics related to government and law among other things. Ron spotted Percy's desk pretty quickly (the nameplate helped) and went to move his basket of quills to the opposite corner, just to make him crazy before finding the door to the Minister's office at the other end of the room. Next to the door was a cubicle where Ron assumed the last of Kingsley's direct staff worked. Not a people person, probably.
The floor creaked and groaned as Ron walked forward intently and swung the door open.
He was eating oatmeal as his desk while reading the paper.
"Good morning, Ron."
He closed his newspaper and put his oatmeal on the corner of the desk, looked over at Ron and motioned for him to sit down.
Ron declined to sit, and noticed that the room smelled of old smoke before doing what he came here to do. He slammed the letter he received that morning onto Kingsley's desk.
"I'm a better duelist than Upton, better at sneaking around then Yates and I have crossed wands with most of the Death Eaters we're still looking for! Why are you trying to put me on a desk job?"
"It's the strategy sector, not a desk job."
"I don't see the difference! I'm still off the field because it says you want to mentor me and you have done nothing but, er, Minister stuff for the last two weeks." Ron paused, "Everyone else left for a field mission to track down Selwyn and Travers this morning and I am the only one who is sitting a desk job!"
Kingsley leaned back and pulled a file out of his desk drawer and motioned for Ron to sit down again before handing Ron the manila folder.
"There is a lot more to mentor assignments then just passing a bunch of tests. I put in place a system of interviews with your professors at school to see clarify who would be a good fit for a particular section." Kingsley reached over and opened the folder that Ron had laid down on the desk. "Professor McGonagall wrote a glowing report of your talents in chess. It was part of the reason I wanted to train you myself and get you into my old section."
Ron finally sat down.
"I worked in strategy and information, it's desk work but I took surveillance and planned missions, scouted locations and lead sensitive field missions. It's making plans that you can change in a hurry, and from what I know of you, I thought it would be something you would enjoy more then the wands akimbo styling of some of the other Aurors."
Well, now Ron felt terrible.
"I can't give you the my full attention, so I am dividing your training with one of the senior strategy Aurors, her name is Dawn Hopper, she's on maternity leave for another month, but she's been doing work from home considering our present circumstances." Kingsley summoned a few books off of the bookshelf behind him and placed them in front of Ron. She'd like to meet you over lunch in a couple of weeks when you have finished these books and a few small things for me."
There was a knock at the door that stole Kingsley's attention.
"Door's open, come on in!"
Audrey stepped into the room as quietly as a ghost. "Minister, the Head of the Magical Transportation wants to speak with you. Something about broomstick regulations."
"Ah, thank you Audrey. If you could give me another few minutes before sending him in I would appreciate it."
Audrey nodded politely before giving Ron a once over and walking quietly out of the room.
"Ron, I want you to read these books and come discuss what you have learned from them with me at the end of the week. Also," Kingsley pulled out a plain leather book from his desk drawer. "I find keeping notes to be something that helps me think. I hope this will help you the same way."
Ron picked the books up off the desk and examined them, the gold written covers and beaten leather bindings. Somehow, this felt different then getting hand-me-down textbooks and robes. It felt deeply personal. The journal for notes was brand new for Merlin's sake!
"Thank you Kingsley. I'll do my best."
"Now, I have another favor to ask before you go," Kingsley stood up and adjusted his collar so he looked more ministerial and put a fatherly hand on Ron's shoulder. "I've received interesting reports about some things going on in the Ministry. If you find out anything, I would like to know about it."
"What kind of things?"
Kingsley's brow furrowed, "Some people will never recover from what they have gone through. There are groups rising to power over how Muggle-borns are treated within the magical world. Which is something I hope to begin the process of fixing. I think there are outside forces at work within the Ministry, and I want you to follow up on anything you find suspicious while you are studying."
Ron caught his meaning quickly. "Yes, sir."
"Good, now I think we both have other things to be doing. I'll send you another owl when I'm free to meet with you again."
"Thank you Kingsley," Ron said as he nodded his head while Kingsley escorted him out of his office and sent Ron on his way. Kingsley greeted the Head of Magical Transportation and ushered him into his office.
Ron was still shocked and surprised by his good fortune; so much so that he could not even notice and enjoy his brother's neurotic moment of realizing the stuff on his desk had been moved. He did not notice the security witches had gone back to playing cards, nor did he remember entering the lift.
It was weird to feel like Harry.
Now he just needed someplace quiet to read. Not a problem he was accustomed to having.
Ron was the funny sidekick, used to being overshadowed in every aspect of his life practically since he was born. His older brothers had already accomplished everything he could have done; Ginny was special for being the first Weasley daughter in seven generations. In some respects, he knew that he could have stepped out and done more, but the comments of being just like Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred and George would have been too much. Ron wanted his own niche and perhaps being an Auror was going to be the way he did that on his own terms.
Ron stepped into the lift and stepped off on a random floor for a quick look around to look for a place to study the books Kingsley had given him. He did not have to walk to far before he found a sign over a door that read Records Office.
The records office was the office that Reeve had mentioned being assigned to during the war. Ron figured it would be quiet and when he stepped inside he was pleased to realize that it was, the only noise he heard was the scratching of quills on paper and someone sneezing loudly in the back. There had to be a free table somewhere.
He peered down the rows of files of old court cases until he saw an empty table at the back. He made a beeline for it and set his books down quietly and sat down, opening his journal to take notes on the strike patterns used in river areas. There was also a through section on known tracking spells and their limits. Tracking spells are difficult to master and hard to maintain for extended periods of time. An essential, but rarely used part of an Auror's arsenal for their difficulty.
Ron wrote down the spells and the page number that explained how to do them so he could go home and practice them or try them in the practice room later. There were small notes written my Kingsley in the margins, paper due Monday, finals approaching.
Kingsley as an Auror Trainee probably spent much more time in the library then most of the other trainees, Ron decided.
Ron grinned at the thought and checked his pocket watch. He had been here for an hour, he decided to take a short break and stretched his arms up to get some feeling back in his body, wincing at the cracking noise from his shoulders. Ron tilted his head to get the feeling back into the rest of his upper body and yawned and looked around to see if there was anyone around.
There was no one in sight.
Except for that girl Audrey from the Minister's office.
She worked security, why was she looking in the records department? Kingsley had security to escort him around the Ministry and to his meetings, odd to see one of his primary escorts away from their charge.
Audrey was hunched in such a way that she was obviously trying not to attract attention while she ran her finger over the labels for each file. Her demeanor growing slightly more agitated the longer she looked at the very edge of the aisle opposite of Ron.
"Psst! Ron!" The voice was quiet and came from the aisle behind his table causing Ron to jump and turn around to find the source.
"Reeve? I thought you were on the raid?"
"We were checking out another location, I think the other team had more luck considering just my squad is back." He looked around, "Why are you here?"
Reeve took a seat in the empty chair next to Ron and put his head down on the table. "That mission was ridiculously short." Reeve heaved a sigh and looked up and noticed Audrey flipping casually through files, seeming to grow more discontent with what she was finding before putting them back on the shelf.
"Now, I wonder what she's looking for?" Reeve whispered.
That got Ron's attention, "I couldn't tell how anything was sorted when I came down here, how did you know that."
"I'd go read shelves when I was staffed down here. Still come down here sometimes. Now the unsorted files are the ones that are mostly backlog cases that have not been taken to the courts yet or sorted if charges were not pressed and they just want the record. I'm surprised a security guard can get down here to look a those, she must have high clearance."
"She's one of the Minister's guards, saw her up there this morning."
"That would explain it and I can't say I'm too am surprised. Like I said before, she's more ambitious then she would ever let on. Top grades, overqualified for security if you ask me, should be an assistant in one on the big departments. It's too odd, I think she's planning something."
Ron had a passing thought that she could be involved in one of the radical postwar groups that were forming.
"Do you know where she was during the war?"
Reeve shrugged, "She's Muggle-born, could have been anywhere. Muggle-borns for Reformation probably would reach out to her, the other groups are apparently less interested in strictly Muggle-born issues."
Ron looked down at his spell notes in his book as Reeve got to his feet with a yawn as the clock chimed the hour and Audrey left the office.
"I'll look into it, if nothing else it's something to do and might lead us to something bigger down the road." Reeve grinned, "Besides, you don't want to push parchment for the Ministry do you?"
"Not really," Ron said quickly.
"I'll keep you informed then. I'll see you in Lowell's class after lunch."
"I'll be there," Ron sighed as Reeve disappeared in the stacks like a ghost and left Ron alone with his books and his thoughts.
He still had four hours until lunch.
Ron groaned as he set his lunch down at a table in the dining room and dropped his books on detecting and planning strike raids on the table next to his two bowls of pudding. He was relieved to find out the Ministry did have a dining room and it would save him from roast beef sandwiches from his mother for a few sickles.
He had a small table in the back behind a half wall that his him from view if he bent over his books, there was a larger table next to him on the other side of the small wall with a booth seat like the one he was sitting in, but he did not think anyone would come sit there until more staff came down for lunch.
Ron was wrong a lot.
He made his peace with that long ago.
After about ten minutes of silence there was a sudden clamoring of voices and dishes as Ron started shoveling his pudding into his mouth.
"Lucia, you need to be nicer to people, you don't make friends by calling people dimwits." The woman had very relaxed, kind of raspy voice.
"Tell Felix to take back what he said about the Derbyshire Ducks!"
"You won the bet, you fool, what's it matter what I said afterwards?" It was a man's voice this time. "Am I right, Piper? Percy, Audrey, what do you two think?"
Percy had friends?
There was a brief second of silence from the group before the last two voices spoke in unison. "We don't care!"
Ron heard them all slide into their seats, he leaned down a little closer to his pudding to he could eat and stay out of sight. He looked at the empty seats across from him, wishing Harry or Hermione were there to talk with. He finished his pudding quickly and pulled over one of his strategy books and settled in to look at the diagrams while listening to the conversation next to him.
"Get your head out the book, Aud, you've read it three times!"
"Put your glasses on, Lucia, it's a different book."
"Perce, where is your crossword?"
"It was a reprint from last week, didn't see the point in doing it again if I remember the answers."
Of course he remembered the answers.
Ron turned his attention to his own books and felt his mind begin to wander. Hermione's bushy hair as she hunched over a book while she sucked on a sugar quill to help think her way through a particular passage; Harry pulling out a fake wand to mock sword fight with Ron from the other side of the table in a brief break from studying. He wondered what Harry was doing right now. Probably something heroic. Ron knew what Hermione was doing, from the conversation they had early that morning through Harry's old two-way mirrors, she was helping her parents pack their bags to come home.
Hell, Neville would have been good company right now, but he was with his mentor on the same mission Harry was.
He opened the blank journal that Kinsley gave him and drew a series of terrible looking stick figures of his friends before tearing it out and stuffing it in his bag. Merlin forbid anyone saw that.
"Are any of you free tonight?" The woman called Piper asked, "I'm hoping to have a game night or something this week if you all want to come."
"We would love to! Right, Audie?"
"Don't call me Audie, Lucy."
Lucia made a disgusted noise that made Ron work to repress a chuckle.
Audrey spoke again, quiet but polite and firm, "I'll have to check my schedule, but I should be free for the rest of the week."
"I'm in too," Felix chimed in, "I can teach you all Luck of Merlin."
"What's that, Felix?" Percy asked.
"Card game, you'll like it. If you can stop reading Audrey's book over her shoulder for a few minutes."
"I'll have take a rain check too," Percy replied, "The Minister has some meetings I may have to take notes for."
"All work and no play makes Percy a dull boy," Piper's teasing tone was playful and edged with laughter. "I'll plan around everyone's schedule, how does that sound?"
"Do what you like, Piper." There was a creaking and squeaking noise; "I need to go take care of some interdepartmental filing for the Minister. I'll see you all tomorrow."
There were commutative noises of agreement and a few attempts at conversation to get him to stay a few more minutes while Ron pushed his plate to the side and decided to head to the Auror Office to see who was back from the raid besides Reeve.
When Percy finally managed to get away from his talkative friends Ron began to pack up his books. Ron was relieved when Percy left, the wounds of separation were healing but it was hard to acknowledge how little they really knew each other.
"His butt's nice, Aud, but close your mouth."
Ron was leaving now.
It did not feel fast enough.
A/N: That one friend, we all have one.
I am going to try and finish this story by the end of the month. I've been pulling extra hours at work with my coworker out on medical leave and I've been looking to move and find a new job because I am sick to death of hotel work (meaning laundry, I also do the front desk and breakfast occasionally). Also, I am applying for an online Master's program because it is cheap and gives me more freedom.