Chapter 14 : A Worrying Sign
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As it turned out, however, the Irish celebrations were the least of the Ministry’s worries that evening.
Cornelius Fudge was woken sometime after 2 in the morning by one of the Ministry wizards.
“What’s happened?” he asked, more in resignation than surprise. Like everybody else, he had been expecting there to be some problems that evening and naturally, nobody seemed to be able to deal with a situation without his input. As Romilda had said, it was the problem of being indispensable.
It did irritate him slightly though. Why couldn’t they just deal with the situation themselves? He wasn’t expecting it to be anything too serious, until he was informed of what the problem actually was.
“There’s a group of wizards…”
“Drunk, I expect,” Cornelius interrupted wearily.
“I expect so, but it’s more serious than that. They’re masked- like…like…well, it’s almost like You-Know-Who’s supporters when he was at the height of his power.”
The mention of You-Know-Who incensed Cornelius. He was gone! It was ridiculous to think that he could have any involvement.
“I don’t,” the wizard replied, to Cornelius’ angry declaration that it was crazy to believe You-Know-Who was involved. “I’m just saying it’s a pretty frightening sight. And they are levitating Muggles?”
“What?” Cornelius almost roared. “Why didn’t you tell me this immediately?”
“You-you didn’t give me much chance, sir,” he replied nervously.
Cornelius ignored that comment.
“What Muggles?” he demanded.
“The campsite manager and his family.”
“Well, get out there, and put a stop to it!! I’ll contact the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Ensure that those involved are punished severely.”
“But they’re masked, sir. We don’t know who they are.”
“Well, find out,” Cornelius demanded. “How incompetent are you all? Stop this mayhem. Find out who the culprits are and have them arrested. It’s very simply.”
Panic was making the Minister more unreasonable than he would usually be. Echoing in his mind were possible headlines from the Daily Prophet. And it wasn’t only the Daily Prophet; wasn’t even just the British press. The World Cup was international news! If this wasn’t sorted out quickly and hushed up if at all possible, the British Ministry would be the laughing stock of the entire wizarding world. It certainly wouldn’t help Cornelius’ position for that to happen.
As soon as the bearer of the bad news left, Cornelius began magically contacting every single wizard who could be of use in such a situation. He also contacted the Ministry wizards on duty, insisting that they give him a detailed account of exactly what had happened first thing in the morning.
When he finally headed down to campsite himself, the situation had been largely rectified. The family were back on ground level and were having their memories modified while the culprits had disappeared.
Cornelius was disgusted by the latter event, and even more disgusted by the fact that none of the Ministry wizards appeared to be around to account for that particular oversight.
He glanced around quickly, trying to find anybody who might be able to explain to him exactly where they had all disappeared to. None of the more important Ministry employee appeared to be in sight and the more junior employees were busy trying to persuade everybody to return to their camps and that the danger really was over.
Eventually he caught sight of the long haired boy who had been with Arthur Weasley in the top box. One of his sons, he assumed. Both his father and brother worked for the Ministry. Hopefully, he would have some idea what had happened.
“Where is everybody?” he asked loudly, trying to be heard above the chaos.
The boy looked at him in surprise. It was understandable really, as the campsite was crowded with panic-stricken people.
“You know what I mean,” Cornelius continued impatiently. “Where are the people who should be here? The Ministry? Where is your dad?”
“They’ve gone into the woods, sir. It looked as if it was coming from there.”
“What looked as if it was coming from there?”
“The Dark Mark, of course.” He must have noticed that Cornelius had no idea what he was talking about, because he began to explain. “The Dark Mark appeared in the sky, and all the Death Eaters began to disappear…”
“We don’t know that they are Death Eaters,” Cornelius blustered. “There is no evidence whatsoever of that.”
“Well, whatever they were,” Bill replied, deciding not to argue the point. “Anyway, they left, and we managed to catch the Robertses before they hit the ground, and dad and the other Ministry wizards headed into the woods to see what was happening. They should be back soon enough.”
Sure enough, it wasn’t long after that, that the wizards began to return from the woods.
“I want to know exactly what happened,” Cornelius declared, insisting that Crouch and Diggory give him a full account of what had happened, before they returned to their camps for the night.
Crouch was extremely reluctant to do as the Minister asked, although he did his best to disguise this. Whether his reluctance was simply due to his continuing resentment of Fudge’s appointment as Minister or to the involvement of his own house-elf in the whole farce, Cornelius had no idea.
It was Diggory who informed him of the elf’s involvement.
“Not that I am suggesting that Barty Crouch had anything to do with this,” he continued hastily. “I am well aware of his reputation and the hatred he has for the Dark Arts. I am sure he understands this.”
The last sentence came out sounding more like a challenge than anything else.
“I can assure you that the elf has been properly punished,” Barty replied pompously. “Not that she had anything to do with the conjuring of the Dark Mark, of course, but she did behave in an extremely irresponsible manner. She should not have been in the woods in the first place. She had no permission to be there. And to pick up a wizard’s wand! But as I have already mentioned, I have dealt with the situation. There really is no need for Ministry involvement.”
“I am sure you have dealt with the situation adequately,” Cornelius said, dismissing the irrelevant question of house-elves. “Now can we please return to the issue in hand. This is quite a serious situation for the Ministry. Nobody except ourselves knows about the elf being there, I assume.”
“I am sure they don’t,” Crouch replied.
“Nor do they need to. Has anybody spoken to the press?”
“I’ve no idea,” Crouch replied.
“Eh, I’m not sure. I…em…think Arthur Weasley might have said something.”
“You don’t know,” Cornelius exploded. “You were both on the spot and it didn’t occur to either of you to think of how this would look in the world media. Yes, that’s right, the world media. This will be reported in just about every paper in the world, you know. Well, let’s just hope Arthur has been a little more sensible about this than either of you appear to have been.”
Crouch looked as though he would like to murder Arthur Weasley for having been the one to think of giving a statement.
Not that it made much difference, Cornelius realised in the morning. The reporter had pretty much ignored what Arthur had said and written the story she wanted to write anyway, implying that his words of reassurance were some sort of cover-up attempt.
Dark Mark, she had written, alleging that nobody had been hurt, but
refusing to give any more information. Whether this statement will
be enough to quash the rumours that several bodies were removed
from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen.
Cornelius looked to see who had written the article. Rita Skeeter. One of the few Daily Prophet reporters who didn’t appear to support the Ministry. Could Arthur not have found somebody else to give his statement to? He couldn’t really find too much fault with Arthur, however, as he appeared to be the only Ministry wizard who had, at least, tried to quash those rumours.
Unfortunately, people appeared to pay little attention to whatever reassurances the Ministry might offer. For the following couple of weeks, howlers arrived in their hundreds from both British and foreign wizards, criticising the lack of security at the World Cup. The implication of these appeared to be that the Ministry really could have prevented such a situation from occurring if only they’d tried a little harder.
Naturally, all of this meant a whole lot of extra work for the Ministry. Arthur Weasley was one of those who worked long hours helping to sort out the situation which had developed.
Ludo Bagman, on the other hand, managed to avoid doing any extra work at all, despite the fact that the Quidditch World Cup had been primarily the responsibility of his department.
The Department of Magical Sports and Games, along with the Department for International Magical Co-operation were currently involved in trying to set up a Triwizard Tournament to take place at Hogwarts school, and whenever Ludo was asked to deal with any of the paperwork which had been generated by the World Cup debacle, he found something that had to be arranged urgently.
“I thought they’d already signed,” Cornelius commented suspiciously, when Ludo explained that he really had to get the safety regulations sent to Drumstrang as the staff there were unlikely to allow their students enter if it were likely to endanger their lives.
“Well, they have, but you see, well, I want to ensure they don’t pull out. Until the names come out of the Goblet of Fire, you see…”
But Fudge wasn’t interested. He was sure that the Triwizard Tournament was a perfectly worthy and valuable project, but he didn’t see how it excused Ludo from all other work. After all, Barty’s department were also involved in the arrangements and Barty still managed to have time to deal with the problem of shallow-bottomed cauldrons or whatever it was he has meeting his French counterpart about. And he was liaising with Arthur’s department about some issue to do with the ban on flying carpets.
Crouch, however, despite his obvious resentment of Cornelius, was dedicated to his work, whereas Ludo…well, Ludo was dedicated when it suited him. He had worked hard on the World Cup; nobody could deny that, and Cornelius was sure that he would work equally hard on setting up the Triwizard Tournament. Issues like paperwork, on the other hand, or those related to Anti-Muggle security didn’t particularly interest him, so he just didn’t bother with them.
Despite the help of Arthur and some of the other employees of the Ministry, the incident generated a good deal of extra work for Cornelius. Therefore he decided it was time he took on an extra member of staff.
His choice was Doloras Umbridge, who he appointed as Undersecretary to the Minister. It was one of his better ideas, he congratulated himself shortly after her appointment, as it quickly became obvious to him that she was dedicated to her job and to him personally.
He had no worries about leaving things in her capable hands when he had to apparate to Ireland in order to try to explain to Claire O’Donovan exactly what had gone wrong with their security.
It was a job which he would have been delighted to avoid, like Ludo avoided anything he didn't want to do, but of course, as Minister, he didn't have that option.
She was extremely unimpressed with the situation and managed to imply, without actually saying so, that if Ireland had been hosting the Cup, such an event would never have been allowed to take place.
Eventually, however, the excitement began to die down, and the Ministry was able to get back to its normal workload.
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