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Chapter 4: Possible Allies
On the 7th of April, just over two weeks after he had been offered the position, Cornelius Fudge was officially appointed Minister of Magic.
The Ministry made quite a big deal of the appointment. Invitations were issued both to important members of the British wizarding communities and to the heads of a number of foreign Ministers of Magic. Classes were cancelled at Hogwarts and Cornelius Fudge promised to make an official visit to the school as soon as possible after his appointment. If he could fit it in, he intended to make the visit within a week of taking up his new position.
After the official ceremony, a banquet took place in order to celebrate the appointment. Cornelius Fudge enjoyed this, possibly even more than the ceremony itself. It was fantastic to get a chance to meet the leaders of foreign magical communities and to speak on equal terms with such important people. These were faces which he had previously seen in newspaper, and they were now here for no other reason than to speak to him.
Cornelius Fudge was very much the man of the moment. The foreign ministers were mostly anxious to establish good terms with him in order to ease any future issues of international concern which might arise.
Ever since the time of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the issue of International Magical Cooperation had become a serious concern. Of course there were always issues where it was necessary to establish international standards, but there had been a time when such situations had not been as great a concern as they now were.
Although, the Dark Lord’s crimes had largely taken place in Britain, it had been well-known that he was recruiting support throughout the world, and there was little doubt that had he succeeded in establishing control in Britain, he would have moved to take control in other areas.
It had not taken the Aurors long to realise the difficulty in following a trail which led through a number of countries and involved criminals of a variety of nationalities. This became even more difficult when countries which had no magical law treaties or whose leaders were on bad terms with one another were involved.
The Dark Lord, had of course, been defeated, but the lesson had been learned. It was important to ensure a good relationship with people of influence throughout the magical world. For that reasons Minister of Magic appointments were now of international interest, and the Ministries of various countries tried to maintain as much contact with one another as was humanly (or magically) possible.
Despite Cornelius Fudge’s many years of service to the Ministry, he was largely unknown outside Britain, and therefore his appointment raised a certain amount of concern in the larger magical world. All of the foreign ministers were anxious to speak to him and to find out what his views were; if he could be trusted; if he would make a good ally on matters of international magical cooperation.
And Cornelius revelled in such great attention. He was well aware that within a short while, the great fuss surrounding him would die down, but he would remain as the single most important figure in the wizarding community of Great Britain. That was the most important thing, but the excitement of having the eyes of the entire wizarding world on him for a few short hours was the icing on the cake.
In a way, he wished Alyssa could be there. And, if possible, his children. He would like them to see him as the centre of attention at such a high profile event. However, it had been made quite clear to him that the ceremony and the banquet that followed were not celebrations in the normal sense of the word. They were part of his work. The primary aims of the exercise were to introduce him to people who could be useful in his subsequent career and to create as much positive publicity as possible. It was not family entertainment.
Alyssa had been much aggrieved when he had had to tell her that it would not be possible for her to attend events. She had dearly wanted a chance to show off as the wife of the incoming minister and had imagined herself hobnobbing gracefully with the spouses of some of the best known people in the wizarding world or walking through the Ministry building on her husband’s arm, seeing and being seen. It was a great disappointment to her that she would not have the opportunity of doing so.
“But you’ll be Minister,” she had argued forcefully. “Surely it’ll be up to you to decide who should and should not attend.”
“It’s not the way it’s done, I’m afraid,” Cornelius had replied, apologetically. “You know I’d love to have you come.”
Too true. It would be one of the greatest moments of his life to have his entire family witness what he expected to be some of the proudest moments of his life.
Nonetheless, he tried to explain to Alyssa, “none of the foreigners attending will have guests with them. And it’s not expected that those of us representing our Ministry will either. The only people who will arrive as couples are those who are invited to represent our more prominent families.”
Like the Malfoys, who came over to greet Cornelius almost as soon as the banquet began. Lucius Malfoy was a prominent member of the Ministry himself, and if it hadn’t been for the, totally unfounded, Cornelius knew, allegations of involvement with the Death Eaters which had once been levelled against him, it would have been quite possible that he would have been considered for Minister himself.
If Alyssa knew that he had been permitted to bring Narcissa, she would have been even more difficult to pacify than she had proved to be. As it was, he had managed to convince her that spouses really were not encouraged, but if she knew Narcissa had attended……
Of course, the Malfoys were a particular case, but Alyssa would never have accepted that. She would have maintained that as wife of the Minister, she was surely to be considered before the wives of other Ministry employees.
There might have been a time when Cornelius Fudge himself would have protested the special treatment which the Malfoys regularly received. When he had first entered the Ministry, he might have considered it to be unfair, even unnecessary, but he now knew the importance of keeping the family onside. They were major contributors to just about every one of the Ministry’s campaigns and Mr. Malfoy was on a number of Boards, including the Board of Governors of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. It was worth keeping them sweet, if it ensure they maintained their strong support (particularly their financial support) for the Ministry.
For all of these reasons, Cornelius was more than willing to take a little time to greet the Malfoys, compliment Narcissa on her dress sense and general beauty and ensure Lucius of his importance to the Ministry and how he, Cornelius depended on him, even if it did give him a few minutes less to spend with other political leaders.
At the end of the day, Cornelius felt that he had achieved all he had set out to. He thought that he had made a reasonably good impression on the visiting ministers and impressed upon them his keenness to establish good relations with their countries. He had also managed to avoid alienating potential allies at home, such as the Malfoys. When one was appointed to a position of importance, there was always a danger of making enemies among those who might otherwise have been considered for the same positions, and he hoped that he had avoided that pitfall.
Over the next couple of days, Cornelius was forced to reverse that opinion slightly. He wasn’t sure, but he felt that there was a distinct possibility that Barty Crouch did not like him. It was a situation that he should really have foreseen. Everybody knew how ambitious Crouch was, and of course, he had had good reason to assume that he was likely to become Minister one day. Now, Fudge had been appointed over him. It certainly wasn’t a situation that made for good working relations.
The possible antipathy of Barty Crouch was only one of the issues relating to Ministry personnel which he had to negotiate during his first week as Minister. Prior to his appointment, Cornelius would have said that he knew most people working in the Ministry, particularly those in the more senior positions, rather well. However, now that he was Minister for Magic, he found that he had to get to know them in a whole new way. Previously, he had known them as colleagues and while he had held opinions on the ability of some of them, it had not concerned him greatly.
He now needed to know exactly who could be depended on to do their work efficiently and who needed a watchful eye kept upon them. He needed to know the exact nature of the work each was involved in and what their particular concerns were, what laws they were anxious to draft and which they wanted to avoid at all costs.
Arthur Weasley, he learned, was particularly interested in establishing good relations with the non-magical community and was just about to bring in a new Muggle Protection Act, in the hopes of preventing Muggles ending up with bewitched items which could turn out to be extremely dangerous for them.
Arthur Weasley was not a wizard which Cornelius had had much to do with the past. The man had struck him as rather boring and unambitious, and he had made no real effort to get to know him. Now, however, he had to take an interest in what he was doing, regardless of how boring it was.
Ludo Bagman, on the other hand, had always appeared to him to be a good wizard to be with. He had played Quidditch for his country and had, therefore, been a bit of a mini-celebrity prior to his appointment as head of Magical Games and Sports. He also knew how to have a good time, and was always invited along for nights out.
As an employee, however, he left a lot to be desired. He paid little attention to security, particularly when discussing his beloved sports, and was always the last in, in the mornings and the first to leave in the evenings.
Cornelius couldn’t believe the amount there was to find out about the Ministry employees alone. And that was before he even considered the actual workload of his new position.