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Chapter 5: The Problem with being Minister
This view of the position, however was quite erroneous, as Cornelius Fudge discovered within days of taking up the position. If something important took place, regardless of what department it concerned, the Minister was expected to be there. Of course, the head of the particular department involved usually went with him and it was often he or she who really dealt with the issue in hand, but the Minister was expected to make an appearance and to say something vaguely relevant, which meant he had to spend a couple of hours reading reports and discussing the issue with the department involved before going to deal with the situation.
When the previous Minister had turned up to deal with issues related to the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, he'd found it a terrible nuisance. It had meant briefing the Minister for maybe an hour or two and then having him hanging around watching everything you did and usually getting in the way as you tried to do your job. He was uneasily aware that that was probably how his underlings viewed his presence at the moment. Possibly even more than he had, as despite the number of reports, drafts and documents he took home every night, studying them until well into the night, he realised that he still wasn’t completely au fait with the work of the various departments.
This, he naturally blamed on the previous Minister. He should have been given more information before he took up the position.
This, however, was something he had never considered before he had been appointed Minister and he very much doubted that any of the heads of the various departments considered it now.
As a result of his heavy workload, it was almost May by the time he managed to make his courtesy visit to Hogwarts. Romilda, he knew, was most dissatisfied with this. For over two weeks prior to his visit, she had been sending him owls, complaining about his non-appearance.
Everybody keeps asking when you are going to come, she wrote on one occasion. How do you think I feel, when I have to keep telling them that I don’t know. It is very embarrassing. They’ll think you can’t be bothered keeping your promises. Some of the Slytherins have started hinting that it would have been better if Lucius Malfoy had been appointed Minister!!!
Naturally, Cornelius Fudge wasn’t particularly concerned about what a bunch of schoolchildren thought, especially as Lucius Malfoy had not even been considered for the position. However, there was the problem of the teachers. Dumbledore, in particular, was a man he didn't want to alienate.
And, on a more personal level, he felt guilty about disappointing his daughter. But she had absolutely no idea of just how snowed under with work he was. He had written back and tried to explain that he was presently working 12 and 13 hour days and that he would visit Hogwarts just as soon as he could get a few moments to do so. He was looking forward to it, he assured her.
This assurance sounded more and more hollow, the longer he put the visit off, he realised, so he eventually decided that the visit to Hogwarts would have to be made a priority. He could put the discussion of Arthur Weasley’s proposed Muggle Protection Act off for a few days he decided. The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office was a small one and it was unlikely that they would kick up too much of a fuss, and it wasn’t as if Arthur Weasley was anybody particularly important. He was from an old wizarding family, all right, Cornelius believed. If his memory served him correctly, he was distantly connected to the Black family, or his wife was. Cornelius wasn’t sure which. Either way, a connection with the Blacks was nothing to be proud of; Dark wizards, every one of them. And anyway, the Weasleys didn’t have anything like the sort of money and influence which the Blacks had had, before their disgrace. No, Cornelius decided, keeping in with Arthur Weasley would really be of very little benefit to him, particularly when compared with getting the support of Dumbledore, probably the most respected of modern wizards.
Naturally, Arthur was disappointed, when Cornelius informed him that he would be unable to discuss the possibility of a Muggle Protection Act the next day, but he took the news philosophically.
“Oh, well,” he replied. “The kids will be pleased anyway. Four of mine are at Hogwarts at the moment, you know, and they've been sending me owls every couple of days asking when you’ll be visiting. Watch out for Fred and George, while you’re there, by the way. They're only in first year, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re innocent children. More trouble than all of the rest put together, they are.” He sounded almost pleased of that.
Actually, when Cornelius thought about it, he could remember Romilda talking about two new Gryffindors who were losing innumerable points for the house.
“Pretty much put paid to our chances of winning the House Cup this year,” she had said. “Looks like it’ll be Slytherin again.”
He thought they were called Fred and George. He hadn’t known they were Arthur’s sons, though.
“In Gryffindor, are they?” he asked.
He wasn’t altogether sure why. Maybe just because it wouldn’t do any harm to appear as interested as possible in Arthur Weasley. After all, he didn’t want the man to think he was just being dismissed in favour of the Hogwarts visit.
“All my kids are in Gryffindor," Arthur replied. "And Bill was, but he’s left now-working for Gringotts.”
It was obvious that Arthur could have launched into long stories about his children. How many did he have anyway? Cornelius wondered. Four at Hogwarts and one finished. That meant at least five anyway.
Still, he didn’t have time to find out.
“I’m in a bit of a rush,” he explained. “I’ll talk to you some other time.”
It didn’t do any harm to appear exceptionally busy anyway. Made it sound as though you were a very important wizard, which of course he was. Nonetheless, he did manage to make time for a visit to Hogwarts, he thought, rather proudly. Romilda should be pleased. She wasn’t!!
“So you finally got around to coming? was her comment, as soon as she got a few moments to talk to him. “What took you so long?”
“Oh, Ro, you have absolutely no idea how busy I am at work! Being Minister of Magic is a very important job, you know.”
“Surely you could take one day out of your busy schedule to come and see us,” she commented.
“Well, I have, haven’t I?” he replied. “Had to put off a meeting with the head of one of my departments in order to come here.” He could see she was wavering a little when he said that. “Unfortunately,” he continued. “I’m not here just to see you. We’d better get to the Great Hall, so I can make my speech to everybody.”
It was generally agreed his speech was one of the most boring ever to take place at Hogwarts. From the students' point of view, the only good part was seeing the look on his face when Fred and George managed to sneak Percy's pet rat onto his plate.
After speeches and a banquet, he retired to Dumbledore’s office, in order to talk privately with him.
“I must apologise for that unfortunate interruption.” Dumbledore smiled. Despite his apology, Cornelius couldn't shake the feeling he'd been almost as amused by the prank as his students.. Nonetheless, he continued, “I can assure you that Minerva is doing her best to find out who the culprits are. We strongly suspect they will be found in her house.”
“I quite understand,” Cornelius replied stiffly. “I am afraid I owe you an apology too. I intended this visit to take place a lot sooner, but I’m afraid I really did have an awful lot of work on.” For some reason, possibly in order to make Dumbledore appreciate the amount of work which had prevented him from paying a visit to the school sooner, or possibly because he genuinely respected Dumbledore’s views, Cornelius found himself telling the headmaster about some of the difficulties he was facing as Minister of Magic. “And of course everybody thinks I should have all the answers off the top of my head. I’m the Minister, so that means I should know absolutely everything. They’re expecting the impossible.”
“Talk to them,” Dumbledore suggested calmly.
“Arrange a meeting with the heads of the various departments. Explain to them exactly what information the previous Minister left you and ask them if there is anything else you should know.”
“But….. but that would take ages. The best part of a day, probably,” Cornelius argued.
“It would probably take less time than trying to discuss the problems with the head of each department separately or trawling through a load of unnecessary information in the documents, looking for the two or three relevant sentences.” This was said with a grin. How did Dumbledore know that that was exactly what he had spent the last few nights doing?
“It’s worth a try, I suppose,” he replied reluctantly. “Any other nuggets of advice?” The latter sentence was said with a touch of irony. He didn’t want Dumbledore to believe he really needed any advice, but on the other hand, he was anxious to find out what the man had to say.
“Well, I can’t really tell you that, unless you let me know exactly what problems the Ministry is facing, can I?” Dumbledore invited him to continue.
Somehow, Cornelius found himself letting him know about the impression he had received that Crouch was jealous of him and the tension between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley with regard to the proposed Muggle Protection Act.
“I should give that Act my full support,” Dumbledore advised. “A word of advice, Cornelius, don’t get to close to Lucius Malfoy. I don’t believe the man is to be trusted. I’m sure you know of the rumours that were circulating not so very long ago.”
“Lucius was cleared of all charges,” Cornelius defended him. “There is absolutely no reason to suspect him of anything at all now. And he is an important contributor to the Ministry.”
“Very well,” Dumbledore replied. “I shan’t argue with you. I just wanted you to know that there are quite a few in the wizarding world who doubt Lucius’ innocence, and that it wouldn’t do any harm to be extremely wary when dealing with him.”
Despite his inexplicable prejudice against Lucius Malfoy, the majority of the advice Dumbledore gave him that day was extremely helpful.
As he was about to leave, Dumbledore invited him to “send me an owl anytime you think I can be of any help, Cornelius.” It was an invitation which Cornelius certainly intended to accept.
With the help of regular owls from Dumbledore, Cornelius’ job did become significantly easier. However, he still found that he had far less time to spend with his family than he had had as head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Neither Alyssa nor Jovian was too concerned about that. Alyssa, of course, was proud of this evidence of the importance of her husband’s job and the weight of the responsibilities he carried, while Jovian was far too involved in his studies to become a Healer. After this year, he had one more to go before qualifying and he assured his parents that the closer to qualification you got, the more important your studies became. Therefore, it was really a matter of unimportance to him whether or not his father was at home.
Romilda, when she came home from Hogwarts for the summer, was another story. Unlike her mother and brother, she appeared to take it almost as a personal insult that her father was rarely at home.
“I am only home for 6 weeks, Dad,” she complained. “Surely you could make an effort to be around for that short time. At this rate, I’ll be back at school and I’ll hardly have seen you.”
“I’m sorry, love, but you know how much work I have to do.”
“I know it seems to prevent you from spending any time at all with us,” she replied tartly.
“Look, I’ve two weeks off coming up, and I’ll be able to spend them entirely with you.”
In order to spend as much time as possible with his daughter, he'd arranged to take the last two weeks of the school holidays off, which he hoped would satisfy her and allow him to spend as much time in her company. She was possibly his favourite child, although he would never have admitted it.
It might have satisfied her, if a major crisis hadn't taken place in those two weeks, obliging him to go into work on three or four of his “days off.”
She was raging.
“You promised we’d spend this entire two weeks as a family,” she yelled at him. “You never keep promises anymore. I’m fed up with you.”
Cornelius wasn’t too happy either and was quite critical of the poor unfortunate Ministry employees who had made the mistake which necessitated his losing part of his holidays. They were called to his office and threatened with the loss of their jobs if they ever did anything so foolish again. Even after the problem had been satisfactorily solved, his holiday was ruined. Romilda was in a mood, and barely spoke to him for the remainder of the holidays. Five days later, she returned to school, without have spent more than a couple of days in the company of her father and without forgiving him for ruining her holiday, as she saw it.