Wade Winston knew today would be a bad day when he found Rita Skeeter, a
poison-pen journalist at The Daily Prophet, waiting for him at his desk in the Ministry of Magic. Upon seeing him she gave a smile which didn’t reach her eyes. “Mister Winston”, she greeted him.
Wade nodded as he took his seat opposite Rita. He removed his wand and placed it in his drawer but kept his hand near it. An Auror should always be careful.
Rita looked around for someone. She leaned forward and whispered, “My offer still stands. We could have an exclusive interview.”
Wade sighed. He looked at the empty table beside him with the nameplate ‘H. Potter’. Harry had been a hero in his school days when he had saved the world from
“I am not someone who rats out a friend,” Wade replied curtly. Besides, Harry was practically family. Harry had saved his ass so many times. Harry's wife, Ginny, treated him like an elder brother. One of Harry's best friend Hermione ‘Know-it-all’ Granger, an officer of Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, would always bring cakes for both Harry and him. “Besides, Harry has no dirt on him," he said with a smirk.
“Oh, but you do,” she said smugly. “Tell me, did Gringotts send the foreclosure notice on Monday or was it Tuesday?” All the colour drained out of Wade's face. “Yes, Mister Winston, I know all about your debts.”
Wade gripped his wand tightly, his knuckles white. He wanted to wipe off that
smug smile. No way Rita could defend against an Auror. But he controlled his anger. An Auror does not commit a crime. He took a deep breath and replied, “A debt-ridden Auror. What a big scoop?”
She placed a card on the table. In the card, an animated portrait of Rita Skeeter was saying, ‘If you change your mind,’ on loop. “If it’s money you want then I’ll pay you handsomely”, Rita said. “Think about it.” He gestured her to leave. “As I said, I am no rat.”
Wade felt like a rat as he stood before Penny Freyhut, the Muggle moneylender. The man was seven-foot-tall with a tattoo of a dragon on his bald head. He looked more like a mobster with armed Muggle bodyguards standing behind him ready to kill.
Take more debt to pay off debt. It sounded wrong even to him, but there was no other way to save his house from Gringotts. He was stuck in a cycle. A cycle he would never escape.
“How much do you need?” the moneylender-cum-mobster asked. Wade had done the math of converting the Galleons into Muggle money. He told the amount.
The moneylender snorted derisively. “It is a huge sum. What guarantee are you going to keep?”
“My house”, Wade replied. Freeing house from one creditor to owe it to another. A cycle. He would have to convert the Muggle money into Galleons before paying Gringotts.
“If you don’t pay me back then...” Penny left the sentence hanging but Wade
knew what he meant. I’ll borrow money from someone else to pay you, Wade thought. Penny fished out a bag full of Muggle money. Wade was about to take the bag–his freedom from Gringotts–when he heard sirens.
“POLICE!” A voice blared on a speaker from outside the house. “We’ve surrounded you from all sides. It would be better if you just surrender. No foul play.”
Mudbloods. Inefficient. Annoying. Wade’s hand itched with the desire to use his wand and fight his way out. But the cops had confiscated it. ‘Drumsticks,’ the officer had called it. Moron.
Even if he had his wand with him he wouldn’t use magic in front of the Muggles. An Auror does not commit a crime.
He sat on his bunk and closed his eyes, trying to fight the tears. After midnight he would lose his house to Gringotts. He would be homeless.
He had told the officer that he was a government employee (although he hadn’t given her the department's name). She had said that he couldn’t leave until the preliminary investigations were over (where they would verify his statement) or until someone bails him out.
He had no one to bail him out so he would have to spend at least a day in the lockup. He felt something in his pocket. Rita Skeeter's card.
He felt a pang of regret declining her money. He could have saved his house with just a lie about Harry. He blamed himself for not taking tough decisions. Should he contact her again? He brought out the card. The miniature portrait of the journalist smiled. ‘I knew you would change your mind.’
Harry's face came to his mind. His easy smile and carefree attitude. He remembered the time when Ginny had brought a fruit basket for him when he had fallen sick. No one had ever done something for him but the Potters cared for him like a family.
He could find a new house but could he find a new family? The answer was simple. He threw the card in the bin.
He lay down on the bunk-bed and closed his eyes. His thoughts drifted to his mother. The warmness of her embrace, her sweet voice, and her lovely steak soup. He missed her.
A clang brought him back to the present and he got up with a start. The officer
had opened the cell gate. “You are free.”
She gestured him to leave. The cops couldn’t have completed the preliminary investigations so soon. “Who bailed me?” Wade asked as he exited the cell.
The officer replied, “Someone by the name of Potter.”
– Saaransh Mishra