A/N: Usually I tend to write Drama and Romance, but I wanted to try something a bit more intellectual. This is a political satire, of sorts (but I decided not to have that in the title). Please read and review!
Note: This is AU in that Lucius Malfoy is NOT in Azkaban. The current Ministry has nothing solid to convict him on yet.
Men and women clad ominously in black formal dress robes filed into the meeting room and began to take their seats.
The sole man already seated at the far end of the table was buried in a mass of paper reports. He sat, avidly reading one, and was growing more and more aggravated with every word. He took only vague notice of the new arrivals.
“Where is Potter when you really need him?” growled the Minister of Magic savagely, raking his hands through his dark hair. It had become streaked with grey from stress in only the few short weeks since he had taken office.
“You will rely on a seventeen-year-old boy to save the Wizarding World, sir?”
That snide remark came from the other end of the table in the meeting room, on the Minister Rufus Scrimgeour’s left side. Normally, advisors of that rank were not allowed to speak at all while the Minister held meetings or reviewed his weekly reports. They were only there to take notes.
The reports, which were thick as booklets with unwelcome news, were still scattered in front of Rufus Scrimgeour at the Minister’s end of the table. He looked up and sharply surveyed Lyle Peterson, a young Ministry attorney recently promoted to merit a spot in the Minster’s advisory. The outspoken and insubordinate Peterson had been irritating Scrimgeour as of late, but the Minister was too preoccupied to rebuke him today.
Kingsley Shacklebolt noticed the Minister’s silent glare. “Why not? He has done it countless times before,” Kingsley told Peterson dryly.
Kingsley was seated many chairs above Peterson, at the Minister’s right side. Scrimgeour was grateful for his support, though he often chose not to acknowledge it out loud lest people think Kingsley was the one in power. It was true Kingsley had pull at the Ministry, and perhaps even more than Scrimgeour himself. People trusted Kingsley and valued his opinions. So that was why Scrimgeour kept him around.
“Yes, but—” Peterson began to protest.
“Desperate times call for a dash of humor, Peterson,” Scrimgeour snapped, his temper flaring despite his efforts to control it. “If you do not recognize verbal irony I suggest you take a basic literature course, but please grant me leave to do my job.”
Uneasy murmurs disrupted the heavy silence in the meeting room that followed as the Minister’s advisors looked at each other, some with apprehension and others with impatience. Certainly the news coming in had not been very happy as of late, but they had never seen the Minister so frazzled before. The absence of Scrimgeour’s normally cool manner meant that he was too distraught to continue his charade, his claim that everything was alright with the Wizarding World. This was extraordinarily good news for some of the bigger realists on the Minister’s advisory.
“So, Minister, what have you called us all here for?” Kingsley prodded, trying to remind Scrimgeour that he sat before a great deal of influence, and therefore his behavior had to adjust accordingly. He could not run the risk of appearing unprofessional, particularly before these people.
The men and women who were here at his table were the Heads of the core Ministry departments, the executives of essential Wizarding corporations who funded the Ministry, the magical liaisons of particular world governments, the politically involved of the oldest, most loyal Wizarding families (who also funded the Ministry), and the editor of the Daily Prophet.
As he looked around, the Minister could feel himself breaking into a cold sweat. This was why Scrimgeour usually liked to read his weekly reports alone.
But this week, the news in the reports had been leaked to the press without the Ministry’s consent. In effect, the entire Wizarding World had found out about the disaster before the Minister of Magic had. And now Rufus Scrimgeour had his entire advisory demanding an explanation of how the Ministry could have ever allowed this to happen. They wanted both confirmation and a course of action, which was more than Scrimgeour could give them at the moment.
But this lot, they were like wolves. They could settle for nothing less than what they demanded. Facing them now would be worse than a press conference.
At a nod of encouragement from Kingsley, Scrimgeour swallowed hard and began to speak. “As you all have surely read in the paper this morning” –and he gave a stiff, unhappy nod of acknowledgment to the editor—“there have been several assassination attempts on high Great Britain Parliamentary officials in the last 24 hours. They were discovered and thankfully thwarted by no magical interference.
“It is widely suspected that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is behind these attempts, although I did not authorize the printing of that particular theory as the opinion of the Minister…”—he glared outright at the editor, who shrugged—“In fact, I did not authorize the printing of this story at all,” Scrimgeour stated flatly.
It was a vain attempt to direct the blame for the ensuing chaos elsewhere. Scrimgeour already knew that no matter whose fault it was, the Ministry would take the blunt of the blame.
“However,” he continued seriously, “because these attempts have been on prominent Muggle officials from the House of Lords, including an archbishop, the Wizarding public is demanding that the Ministry act now to prevent further near-disasters. And quite frankly, I agree.”
“The Wizarding World is in chaos over this news,” the Head of Magical Control and Regulation commented.
“Which is why I am often prudent about what the media reveals to the public,” Scrimgeour replied smoothly. The editor of the Daily Prophet twitched slightly, but recovered before anyone could notice.
“I am sure all of you will agree that swift action must be taken,” the Minister continued. “We must decide whether the secrecy of the Wizarding World is really still important when the safety of all humanity begins to be jeopardized.”
The liaison from France had begun to look increasingly alarmed as an idea occurred to her. “What exactly are you suggesting, Minister?”
But before Scrimgeour could answer, Lucius Malfoy spoke up from his seat, second from the head of the table. Originally it had made Scrimgeour disconcerted to place him so near to the top, but there was no choice; Lucius would have settled for nothing less. He could be quite convincing when he wished to be. Quite frankly, the Minister was terrified of the man.
And the seating order was only a formality, anyway; it had nothing to do with who was in power here, as the Minister, at the head of the table, knew all too well.
Now Lucius was smiling icily. “But how can we be so sure that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is in fact behind these attempts?” he asked smoothly. “Wouldn’t jumping to conclusions and pointing fingers only hinder our priority of protecting the Muggle world? This attack bears no similarity to his other recent ones. After all, I am not so sure that poisons, slipped into the drink, are quite his style.”
Scrimgeour froze. Lucius made a convincing point. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was more disposed to storm into the bathroom of a Parliamentary official’s suite and Avada Kedavra him while he was relaxing in a bubble bath. It was more creative, and more satisfying, that way.
But poisons were definitely a possibility, no matter how dull. Who, in fact, was a most famous Potions master, and just as conveniently at the Dark Lord’s disposal?
And everyone in the room also knew of the Malfoy family’s loyalties. Lucius Malfoy could have very well been the one to propose such a plan as poisoning to the Dark Lord, despite his innocent act here.
It would not do for Scrimgeour to mention these coincidences now, of course. Instead, Scrimgeour turned back to the French delegate to address her previous question. “It matters not. We cannot afford to tarry any longer while the Muggle world is facing the same danger as the Wizarding World, and they are even more ill-prepared to defend themselves than we are. There is only one choice,” the Minister said again, bracing himself for their reaction. The grimace grew on his face as he forced the fateful statement from between his clenched teeth:
“In order to protect all Muggle high government officials, here in London and everywhere else in the world, we must inform the Muggle political world of the Dark Lord’s rising and the consequence it means for them.”
There was a moment of heavy silence in the meeting room as the meaning of the Minister’s words sunk in fully.
Then, immediately after, it was followed by an uproar. All factions of the meeting were fighting to protect their own interests, and the frantic shouts that bounced off the walls of the small room merged into a spectacular roar until Scrimgeour could hear nothing comprehensible. He didn’t even try to explain himself, but stood and began to back away from the onslaught in fear. Every witch and wizard in the room looked eager to leap up and personally claw the Minister’s eyes out. Only the decorum of the meeting kept them from rising, but it did not hinder their violent protests a bit.
“That is an outrageous idea!” Peterson exclaimed, slamming his hand on the table. “The secrecy you throw away like so much rubbish is the very thing that has kept magical folk surviving for centuries! You are asking for us all to go on a suicide mission, Minister!”
“What a headline that would make,” the editor murmured to herself.
“It will cause more instability in the Wizarding World than is present already,” added a corporate executive more calmly. “My father does not give the Ministry monetary grants in order for you to knock the economy around like a toy, Minister,” he warned.
Scrimgeour rubbed the back of his neck agitatedly.
“The economy?” the Head of Magical Law Enforcement burst out indignantly. “You think that all this will only affect the economy? What about the safety of our own people? We have been trying to control You-Know-Who’s damage for months! Can’t you imagine how much of a hassle these Muggle governments will cause for us? And meanwhile, You-Know-Who will be free to wreak as much havoc as he’d like—”
“I beg to differ that informing the Muggle governments would cause a ‘hassle’,” the liaison from China interrupted coldly. The room quieted a little. “Muggle leaders are not stupid, Minister. They will keep quiet in order to save their own skins, even in…unfamiliar situations such as this one. After all,” he addressed the other liaisons, “none of your leaders could have provided representatives to this Ministry unless they had a slight idea of the existence of magic already.”
“They think I am their representative for British bratwurst manufacturing,” the Italian delegate muttered. “Bratwursts do not get the attention they deserve, I assure you.”
As the men and women laughed grimly and the rest of the representatives chimed in, Scrimgeour felt an alarming squirm in his stomach. He caught the attention of the Chinese liaison. “So the Chinese know of us?” he asked in a low voice, hoping in vain not to attract attention. Two seats down, Lucius Malfoy pretended to be listening to the Italian, a hint of a smirk beginning to creep onto his lips. His Lord probably could not make much use of this information right now, but it was still amusing to see the Minister so uncomfortable.
“No, but I cannot help but suspect that they suspect,” the Chinese man said cautiously. “They know I am a representative of a low-profile British organization unknown to the British crown.” He paused and chuckled bitterly. “Oh, to find out exactly what the organization does, they never really bothered. As long as they know China has an inside man in case this organization gains power, you see, I was never that important.”
Scrimgeour smiled warmly. “Well, I’m sure you realize that if you approve of what I’m proposing, you will soon become very important to the Chinese government.”
Upon hearing this pathetic sales pitch, it took Lucius Malfoy all of his willpower not to snort. But as the information traveled down the table, for the Chinese delegate and many others from different countries, the bargain sounded appealing.
“Well?” Scrimgeour asked of Kingsley Shacklebolt, prying him away from several protesting businessmen. The situation, though not spiraling out of control yet (as he had feared), was far beyond one man’s ability to handle. He gave Kingsley the most desperate, appealing look he could muster.
In front of the advisory, Kingsley knew the Minister should show no outward sign of weakness or incompetence. “You should ask Lucius before you come to me,” Kingsley said simply, but Scrimgeour did not miss the grave look that accompanied the seemingly casual statement. Kingsley turned back to pacify the Heads of the Ministry’s departments while Scrimgeour approached Lucius Malfoy.
“Well, Mr. Malfoy, what is your stand on my proposal?”
Lucius looked up, as if just noticing the Minister by his side. “You value my opinion?” he asked dryly. His eyes pierced into Scrimgeour’s. “You of all people know never to take things at face value.”
Scrimgeour kept his carefully composed expression, but inside he felt like crying with frustration. Lucius Malfoy always saw right through him, no matter how he set up his story. It was like all those twists and turns, carefully spun lies and half-truths all fell away as soon as Lucius turned those grey eyes on him. The Malfoy name, of course, was connected with the Dark Lord. It wasn’t so much a connection as a connotation now. Lucius would expect the Minister to keep an eye on him, but because the Minister was asking his opinion now, he knew that the Minister was asking, rather, what the Dark Lord would do with this new development.
He would never be fooled by such a scheme, Scrimgeour realized belatedly.
It took close to no time for Lucius to decide that it was a win-win outcome this time. Let the Minister think too little, and assume that it was what the Dark Lord wanted. Or let him think too much, and think and think until he really wasn’t sure at all if it was what the Dark Lord did or didn’t want. In reality, even Lucius himself did not know what the Dark Lord wanted, but he did know that confusing the Minister was a plus.
“I will back your decision if the others will pass the proposal,” he told the Minister simply.
Scrimgeour smiled nervously, the sweat trickling down his neck as he loosened his tie. “Thank you, Mr. Malfoy.”
He looked around the room to scope out the situation once more. It wasn’t as dire as it had been, judging from the decrease in advisors fighting for a chance to speak with him, and the increase in advisors now seated contentedly and talking quietly amongst themselves at the table.
The liaisons were definitely in, judging by the amount of satisfied talk he saw from them. And why wouldn’t they be satisfied? They would gain power and influence, both in the Ministry and in their home governments. If the conflicts in the Wizarding World started seeping into the ones of everyday humans, they very well might find themselves commanding an entire embassy or organization. No doubt they were already scheming to grab as much power as possible when the opportunity arose.
And Lucius Malfoy was appeased, for now. But pacifying the press, the Ministry departments, and the corporations were another dilemma altogether. The feat was quite a great one, as the three parties had three different grievances:
The businessmen were concerned about the instability in society and economy that the announcement would cause. This was only because of the effect on their own corporations, of course, but the Ministry could not afford to lose the funding that came from that end.
The Heads of the Ministry departments considered themselves to, collectively, virtually run all aspects of the Wizarding World. And on a level, that was true. If the Wizarding World was turned on its ear, the Ministry departments would have turmoil and a certain degree of revolution on their hands. But Scrimgeour could not afford to have all of his departments’ Heads resign together like they had been threatening to earlier.
The Daily Prophet had not a particular grievance with the proposal, for it would make for a huge story. But if the Ministry had no leverage to keep the media under its influence, the results would be disastrous. Just the thought of it made Scrimgeour break again into a cold sweat.
Kingsley Shacklebolt sat nearby, negotiating with these three parties. From what Scrimgeour could hear, Kingsley would “convince the Minister to overlook the Daily Prophet’s recent offense and infringement” on the matter of the Parliamentary official attempted homicide, if the editor agreed not to print a word about the proposal in the paper. This, in turn, would keep this new information from the general public, therefore keeping the economy stable and the Wizarding World ignorant, which was what both the businessmen and Ministry bureaucrats needed.
In fact, Kingsley was saying, to take it one step further, nobody outside of this room was to know about the new order of things at all. Aside from government leaders and whoever they chose to take care of it, it really wasn’t necessary. And in the case of a breach of privacy…then they would know exactly who had the information.
He left it off there. Scrimgeour was truly impressed at how subtly menacing Kingsley could appear when he set his mind to it.
So everyone had been convinced in one fell swoop. Things really wouldn’t change for the Wizarding World if the secrecy was abandoned, Scrimgeour tried to convince himself. The foreign governments wouldn’t be a hassle if the liaisons took care of them, which they would be more than happy to do.
And for the moment, Lucius Malfoy was keeping quiet.
It was all the Minister could hope for.
A/N: Alright. Writing this story is incredibly challenging, so I appreicate any feedback, constructive criticism, or comments! Thanks in advance!