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Chapter 13 : The World Cup
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As Cornelius had predicted, the Daily Prophet was extremely scathing about the Ministry’s failure to apprehend Sirius Black.
Can the Ministry be trusted to deal with issues of law and order? screamed the front page headline the day after Black’s second escape. Cornelius didn’t even dare to look at the other British papers. If the Daily Prophet, which usually took a pro-Ministry stance could be so critical, he really didn’t want to know what line the others took.
However it was his duty to keep an eye on the international situation, so he reluctantly flicked through some of the foreign papers- only those from English speaking countries, of course.
To his dismay, even these had reported on the crises, taking almost as dim a view of the situation as the Daily Prophet had. Unfortunately, the fact that the World Cup was being held in Britain that summer meant that news relating to Britain, particularly the possibly of an escaped murderer stalking the country was promoted to front-page news internationally. The Irish wizarding paper, Dríocht took an especially dim view of the situation.
With our national team poised to enter the finals of the Quidditch World Cup, the article concluded, many of the wizarding community of Ireland are planning to travel to Britain this summer. However with this crises still unresolved, it is questionable whether or not the British Ministry of Magic will be able to guarantee the safety of these tourists.
Cornelius Fudge tossed the paper down in disgust. It was now almost a year since Black’s escape and nobody'd been seriously injured, never mind killed. Of course, Dríocht neglected to mention that. And most people in Ireland would have long since forgotten about the escape, if they'd ever known about it in the first place. A year agp, British issues wouldn't have been such major issues in Ireland. Apart from those who'd children at Hogwarts- Ireland not having a large enough wizarding community to have its own wizarding school- the rest of the Irish would have had little interest in the escape of a prisoner in Britain.
After the way Dríocht dealt with the issue, Cornelius wasn't surprised to receive a phone-call from the Irish Minister for Magic, Claire O’Donovan, asking what security measures the British Ministry'd put in place for the World Cup final. For Merlin’s sake, they hadn’t even got into the final yet and already they were worrying about the security measures.
“We've no reason to believe that Sirius Black will be anywhere near the World Cup stadium,” he replied shortly.
“But have you any reason to believe he won’t?” she asked sharply.
“So far, he has not been seen within 50 miles of the place where it's to be held. Naturally, security at the matches will be very strict. But really, you have nothing to worry about. I consider it highly unlikely he'd risk appearing anywhere an area where so many wizards and witches are congregated.”
Despite his assurances, Cornelius, like everybody else, breathed a sigh of relief when it appeared as though Black had escaped abroad. Naturally, he should be disappointed. It meant that the Ministry really had failed in its attempt to recapture Black, but with the World Cup looming, they really had enough to worry about without trying to protect the British community from a dangerous criminal. He was out of the way, now. Of course, they'd continue the attempts to recapture him, but it was no longer top priority and they were free to concentrate on ensuring this World Cup was the best ever hosted by any country.
As Minister for Magic, Cornelius had easier access to tickets than most of the rest of the wizarding world. However, apart from Alyssa, there was really nobody he had to obtain tickets for. As Minister, he didn't require a ticket to attend and Jovian had never been interested in sport. He'd other plans for August, he said. Part of that was work, Cornelius knew, but he'd a suspicion that Carla was also involved. Like Jovian, she'd little interest in Quidditch and although she thanked Cornelius when he offered to get her a ticket, she politely declined.
Unlike her brother, Romilda would have loved to attend the World Cup final. She'd played Quidditch herself at Hogwarts and always enjoyed both playing and watching the game. Unfortunately, she was unable to get the week in question off work.
When she returned home for her holidays in early June, she complained loudly about the situation.
“I asked if I could have that fortnight off,” she declared. “It’s unlikely the match would last much longer than that. And do you know what my boss said? He said ‘I would have been more than willing to let you take your holidays that fortnight if you’d only asked me a few week ago. But Deirdre has already asked for that fortnight. You know Ireland are favourites!’ For Merlin’s sake! She doesn’t even know if they're going to get into the final yet. And she hasn’t a hope of getting a ticket. I’ve heard they’re practically unobtainable in Ireland. Sounds like every witch and wizard in the country is coming over here!”
“Well that’s understandable, don’t you think?” Jovian commented calmly. “If England hadn’t made such a show of themselves and were likely to get into the final, we’d want to see it, wouldn’t we?”
“I still don’t see why she needs the time off when she’s not going to get a ticket,” Romilda said stubbornly.
Jovian threw his eyes up to Heaven, but didn’t bother to say anymore. There was little point of trying to argue with Romilda when she got an idea into her head.
Despite her annoyance about not being able to attend the World Cup, Romilda enjoyed her fortnight’s holiday. Cornelius took her to see the stadium where the final would take place and introduced her to Ludo Bagman, the head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.
Theoretically, Ludo had ultimate responsibility for organising the World Cup, but hecould be surprisingly relaxed about important issues, so Cornelius felt that the responsibility for this, like everything else it seemed, rested on his own shoulders.
Ludo appeared more interested in making bets as to who was likely to win than he was in the actual organisation. When Cornelius had confronted him with this, he had simply smiled.
“Not at all. Not at all. Everything’s under control. You wouldn’t like to bet on France’s chance of getting to the semi-finals yourself, would you?” That was when Cornelius decided to give up.
Unlike her father, however, Romilda was not in the least adverse to a bet.
“5 Galleons on Ireland being defeated in the semi-final,” she declared when Ludo asked if she would like a bet.
“Not a hope,” he laughed. “They’re playing Russia in the semi. Shocking team. How they ever got into the semis, I don’t know. Ireland will walk it. Hmm, you should get good odds on that. Let me work it out a moment!”
“You shouldn’t bet against Ludo, you know,” Cornelius cautioned her afterwards. “He played Quidditch for England. There’s nothing he doesn’t know about the game.”
“It’s only 5 Galleons, Dad,” Romilda replied. “If I lose, no big deal. And if I win, I stand to make quite a profit!”
“Just be careful. Nice fellow, Ludo, but no sense of responsibility. I’ve had to take care of the security for this thing myself. And I shouldn’t have to do that, you know. But Ludo never thinks about security. If I left it up to him, every Muggle in the country would know about us.”
Romilda laughed. “Ludo’s cool,” she replied. “Not like some of the crowd you work with.”
“Your mum can’t stand him,” Cornelius told her. “Thinks he isn’t quite suitable as a head of department. Like I said, though, there is nobody in England that knows more about Quidditch than he does. And he’s practically the only person involved in organising this I’ve never heard complain about all the extra work it’s causing.”
“I wouldn’t either,” Romilda declared. “However much work it causes, it’s worth it to bring the World Cup to Britain.”
She wouldn’t say that if she'd the actual responsibility of organising it, Cornelius decided, over the next couple of weeks as the work and problems mounted up. Romilda was always complaining anyway, and if she had to deal with the difficulties caused by the World Cup, she would certainly have something to complain about.
Still, she was right in a way. At least there was some recompense for the work he was now doing. Bringing the World Cup to Britain was quite a coup and as Minister, he had to claim some of the credit.
As the World Cup drew nearer, the Ministry had to direct even more attention towards anti-Muggle security. They already had the Muggle-repelling charms and all in place of course, so now the greatest problem was ensuring that the spectators complied with regulations.
Some of the witches and wizards who were from entirely magical families had no idea how Muggles dressed or behaved, so the Daily Prophet carried articles on How to dress like a Muggle; Camping-Muggle style; and How to Behave in the presence of Muggles.
Dríocht carried similar articles, as did many of the European and American wizarding papers.
Like the majority of those attending the World Cup, Cornelius and Alyssa were careful to dress in Muggle styles before leaving for the final. Cornelius was wearing a Muggle suit, of the type worn by Muggle Ministers. The Muggle Prime Minister had worn something similar, Cornelius thought, when he had visited him last year. Alyssa bought a number of Muggle society magazines and eventually decided on a twin set and pearls.
“All the best Muggles wear them,” she declared. Alyssa had no more interest in Quidditch than Jovian had. She merely wanted to be seen entering the top box and to associate with all the most important people in the wizarding world.
Speaking of which, Cornelius reminded himself he'd promised top box seats to Lucius, Narcissa and their son; what was his name? Draco? The family had made a substantial contribution to St. Mungo’s Hospital and he felt it was a good idea to reward them, so to speak. They were certainly a family whose support the Ministry could use.
Naturally, Cornelius was obliged to be at the stadium before it was necessary for Alyssa to be there. She and Jovian were still asleep when he left in the early hours of the morning. Because of the need to stagger arrivals, some of those arriving by portkeys would be there by 4 or 5 in the morning and it was important that he also be there then.
Not that there was much for him to do for the first couple of hours. The Irish and Bulgarian ministers would be arriving about 10 or 11, but until then all he had to do was ensure that everything was running smoothly. And broadly speaking, it was. Naturally, there were a few hiccoughs here and there, but there were people designated to deal with every problem and Cornelius didn’t really see any need for him to deal with the situations personally.
The wizards’ attempts to dress like Muggles and create Muggle style camps were the biggest problems. Ludo Bagman himself had arrived dressed in the robes of the Wimbourne Wasps- his own old Quidditch team.
Despite all Cornelius’ cajoling, Ludo firmly refused to don anything more suitable and eventually the Minister simply decided to give up. Sometimes you just had to let Ludo do things his own way. He never listened to reason anyway.
With the arrival of the Bulgarian and Irish Ministers, Cornelius’ task became a lot more specific. He greeted Claire O’Donovan warmly. As the leader of the nearest magical community, the two ministers had been in regular contact. The Bulgarian Minister, he knew nothing about. Even the man’s name was a mystery. Oblonsk, Oblanesk, something like that.
The difficulties involved in communicating with the man increased when it became evident that he didn’t speak any English. Cornelius did his best to communicate what he wanted to say with the use of sign language, which was embarrassing to say the least. Claire O’Donovan was almost openly laughing at his attempts.
The man he needed was Barty Crouch. Surely, Bulgarian was included somewhere in the few hundred languages Barty spoke. But as luck would have it, he was nowhere to be seen. The chances of finding him among the hundred thousand people who had turned up for the World Cup final seemed very slim indeed.
So Cornelius had little choice but to continue with the sign language, as he introduced the two ministers to the more important people in British wizarding society. Eventually, the three of them headed for the top box.
Arthur Weasley was already there with a group of children and young adults. His family, Cornelius assumed. He recognised one or two of the group. Harry Potter was with him, and those two other children who'd been with Harry, when they'd been attacked by Black a couple of months back. So he'd been right. The boy had been Arthur’s son. And the girl. Was she Arthur’s daughter? He was pretty sure he'd a daughter or two among his large crowd of sons.
However, Arthur introduced her as simply another friend of Ron’s. His girlfriend, Cornelius wondered idly. Or Harry’s maybe. Were those children old enough to be dating? They were about 2nd or 3rd year at Hogwarts, he thought, so they’d be around the age of thirteen.
One of the older boys seemed highly impressed to see the Minister. Even more impressed than Cornelius believe most people to be. He'd a vague idea this boy was working for the one of the Ministry Departments. The Department of International Magical Co-operation, he thought. He must ask Barty sometime.
It was Harry Potter that he was most pleased to see, however. It was nice to be able to introduce a hero of the wizarding world to these foreigners. Particularly after Claire'd been so critical of Britain’s security. It was a British wizard who had saved the world from Voldemort. See what she thought of that!
Trying to explain the situation to the Bulgarian Minister was easier said than done, though, seeing as the man hadn’t a clue what he was saying. Eventually he saw the boy’s scar though, and appeared to be quite impressed. That was good, Cornelius thought. Let everybody see just how impressive British witches and wizards were.
At that moment, Lucius, Narcissa and Draco arrived. Despite his respect for the family, there was something about the son Cornelius just couldn’t take to. He'd a vague feeling that the boy didn’t have the respect and admiration he should for the Minister of Magic. Still, he was probably imagining it. Why wouldn’t the boy respect him? Wasn’t it every wizarding child’s dream to be Minister of Magic someday? Of course the boy admired him for achieving it. At least that was what he tried to convince himself.
Quickly, he introduced the Ministers to them.
“And allow me to introduce Mr. Oblansk- Obalonsk- Mr.- well, he’s the Bulgarian Minister for Magic, and he can’t understand a word I’m saying anyway, so never mind.”
Once everybody'd been introduced, it was almost time for the match to begin. Ludo Bagman was commentating. From conversations he'd had with the man, Cornelius suspected this was what he had been most looking forward to. And he did it extremely well. As an ex-Quidditch player himself, he knew all the tactics and exactly what was and was not likely to be successful. And as an Englishman, he was, at least theoretically, neutral with regard to which team won.
Knowing how much betting the man'd done, Cornelius doubted he was really neutral. Ludo was bound to have put serious money on the outcome of this match and was probably hoping for a victory for one team or the other. Fortunately, however, this didn't appear to bias his commentating.
The match ended far more quickly than anybody could have predicted and with a much closer score. Ireland scored 170 points and Bulgaria scored 160.
“Vell, ve fought bravely,” the Bulgarian Minister commented sadly.
Cornelius looked around in outrage. The man could speak English. And he'd been miming all morning. It couldn’t be much more embarrassing.
“Vell, it vos very funny,” the man defended himself.
He'd been laughing at him all along, Cornelius realised. And the Irish Minister knew. He was sure she did. The pair of them had been having a great laugh at his expense.
Not that he'd much time to think about it at that moment, as the Bulgarian team were filing up to shake hands, firstly with their own Minister and then with him. As soon as they filed out, the Irish team did likewise, naturally shaking hands with the Irish Minister rather than the Bulgarian.
The show was over, but the work wasn’t. In a way, the most difficult was yet to come, as there was a major danger that the Irish celebrations would attract Muggle attention.
Claire O’Donovan, naturally agreed to keep an eye on things, but Cornelius got the impression she wasn’t too concerned. Her country'd just won the World Cup and she appeared to consider it just and right they should enjoy their celebrations. Cornelius wasn’t disputing that, of course, so long as it didn’t interfere with anti-Muggle security.
He had a feeling it would be up to him to ensure that wouldn’t happen, despite Claire’s assurances.
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