The Wizarding world now stands in a perilous situation, and as the Minister it is my duty and responsibility to protect—
As the Minister of Magic, I feel it is my duty and responsibility to protect the Wizarding world and keep the public informed. Fear not, for everything is perfectly normal, but—
I’m going to be honest with you, because that is what the public deserves to hear. Last week I met with the leaders of Muggle governments around the world to discuss impending security threats—
Rufus Scrimgeour peered down at the last sentence he had written—the only sentence that had not yet been scratched out. Grumbling in frustration, he roughly crossed it out. The tip of his quill tore a hole, clear through his parchment. He could barely see by the dim gray light of the dawning sunrise that was seeping through his window, but he refused to get up to fix some breakfast until he had written at least the first sentence of his statement.
I’m going to be honest with you, because that is what you, as the public, have been whining and moaning about for the past week—
I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary for the secrecy to be dropped, for the sake of everyone—
I have come to the conclusion that maybe Muggles aren’t so useless after all—
Cursing in aggravation, Scrimgeour crumpled up the parchment into a sad ball and tossed it into the waste bin. This was simply hopeless. It had been difficult enough for him to present the idea to his advisors, who, when push came to shove, were actually a bunch of well-educated, open-minded politicians who were just as desperate for a solution as he. So how was he to convince the ignorant masses of everyday people to do the same, when generations of unfounded bias against Muggles flowed through their very veins?
Scrimgeour snorted at his own thoughts. He couldn’t have thought of this problem before he volunteered himself to issue a statement to the public. No, as usual, at the time he had been too preoccupied with other things to think of the repercussions.
So typical: take care of it now, deal with it later. And now he would really have to deal with it.
Scrimgeour really hated himself sometimes.
He had given up on his unwritten statement for the time being and was heading into the kitchen for a cup of tea when Kingsley came rushing through the door, looking harried. Immediately the Minister snapped to attention, all thoughts of the elusive statement gone.
“What is it?”
Kingsley collapsed onto one of the chairs next to the small kitchen table. He gestured for the Minister to pour him a cup of tea. Too concerned to be miffed about it, Scrimgeour obeyed.
“I’ve been screening ‘calls’ from Muggle governments all night,” he grumbled, sipping his tea absently. He yelped softly and waggled his tongue out of his mouth as he realized that it was still too hot to drink. “The liaisons stormed ExComm’s Floo fireplaces yesterday and demanded that I speak with their leaders through their portable telephones.”
“Yes, yes, ‘calls’ about what?” Scrimgeour said.
“Security issues. I must say, Minister, that we should have seen this coming. Apparently there has been a large hike in Muggle freak accidents and natural disasters and ‘flight delays’—whatever those are—and large lost business transactions in the last week since we met with them. Naturally, now that we’ve told them that some dangerous criminal is after them, they attribute these minor coincidences to him. They perceive him as a villain, only as they know how.”
Scrimgeour groaned. He remembered with a strong sense of irony that he had thought of Wizarding folk as the problematic, ignorant masses a moment ago. But in doing so, he had forgotten about the Muggles.
“So what are they asking of us?” he asked.
“Asking?” Kingsley laughed grimly. “No, they’re demanding. They want another World’s Alliance meeting set up with you at once to discuss additional security measures. They’re saying that if You-Know-Who is an evil crafted from our magic, then we must have the proper equipment to defend against him.”
“There is no way to defend Muggles from You-Know-Who,” Scrimgeour cried. “They’re Muggles! Even those who have magical powers are struggling to suppress his uprising, and they want us to—”
“We have no choice,” Kingsley said shortly. “They are already questioning the motives of the Wizarding world, and quite frankly, we need their help to ensure that the panic that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named causes does not expose us to the Muggle world.” He frowned. “Remember your History of Magic courses, Minister. The last time wizardry was almost discovered by the Muggles, 300 years ago, innocent lives were taken.”
“Kingsley, you know we can’t arm each Muggle with a wand.” The Minister laughed as he imagined the sight.
“I trust that you’ll find an appropriate solution in time for the World’s Alliance meeting, sir,” Kingsley said.
“We have magical alarm systems that could help,” Scrimgeour mused aloud. “Certainly it would help us track You-Know-Who’s movement, especially if he really is targeting the Muggles. But 120 countries times 1,000 alarm systems…” Scrimgeour balked. He looked at Kingsley in distress. “There’s no way we can get enough for them all!”
Kingsley sipped his tea more carefully. “We can arrange that later, Minister. Meanwhile, I’ve got a Vidiportal arranged to the Wizengamot meeting room in five hours. The Muggles have already flown in throughout the night and are ready. I have told them that you are away on business, by the way.”
“Five hours?” Scrimgeour cursed colorfully. “Why didn’t you come here sooner?”
“I thought you needed your sleep, Minister,” Kingsley said honestly. “Besides, I also didn’t want to bother you if you were still working on your statement.”
Scrimgeour thought back to the crumpled piece of parchment and winced. “Any good news?” he asked, sounding hopeful.
Kingsley laughed dryly again. “You’ve been away for less than 72 hours, and already the political commentators are forming conspiracy theories. Here is today’s issue of the Prophet. Look at the column on page 8 next to the Quidditch standings. Somehow they got wind of your absence.” Kingsley frowned, wondering how the news could have been leaked out of the Ministry into the public so quickly. “The extremists are jumping to crazy conclusions, as usual. They say you want to rule the Wizarding world from afar, out of reach from the people with whom you’d normally share power. The public protests grow worse by the day, too, and now they complain not only about the unreliable news but also the Renegade Minister.” He sighed. “Needless to say, your Bureau of Advisors is not happy about these new developments.”
“I have a name now? I’m going to go down in history as the Renegade Minister of Magic?” Scrimgeour said in despair.
“Don’t worry, the dependability of the Wizarding world’s political commentary has declined as of late,” Kingsley said in a comforting voice. “They’re all just rooting around for someone to harp on.”
“Well, we couldn’t have expected anything less, I guess,” Scrimgeour commented with resignation. He patted Kingsley on the shoulder. “If you’d like to sleep here and get some rest, there is a spare cot in the bedroom,” he said kindly. “As long as someone will activate the portal there at the correct time, I will take care of the Muggles.”
Kingsley finished his tea and started to rise. “Oh, one more thing,” he said.
“There was nothing in Malfoy’s office.”
There was clamor in the meeting room of the World’s Alliance once more.
“When I join an alliance on the behalf of my country, I expect that—”
“You’ve told us about the criminal mastermind Lord Voldemort and the crimes he has committed, but never have you—”
“—need stronger defenses—”
“—don’t have a clear understanding of exactly how—”
“—what use is warning when—?”
“Quiet, please!” Scrimgeour commanded from his seat at his desk in his undisclosed location. The Vidiportal opening swirled a translucent and slightly nauseating green color through the open air in front of him. He could clearly see the faces of the Muggle leaders in the images projected from the portal, as if they were sitting right in front of him. From the other end of the portal, which was set up above the central podium in the giant meeting hall, the leaders could undoubtedly see his face as well.
He looked through the portal to his personal clerk who sat at a table directly below him, taking notes with a Quick-Quotes Quill. “Has the translation spell activated?” he hissed as the Muggles began to quiet down.
The clerk nodded, and nervously Scrimgeour cleared his throat and returned his gaze to the crowd.
“I have been told that you have called this conference to discuss further security measures for your countries against You-Know-Who,” Scrimgeour said, trying his best to look authoritative despite the fact that he had spent the last five hours hurriedly hashing out plans of further protection to appease the Muggles.
Before the leaders could all burst into protest again, Scrimgeour held his hand up for silence. “Let me assure you that while I deeply sympathize with the difficulties that you have encountered over the last week, these minor occurrences were simply coincidental. Accidental. Interfering with the routines of daily Muggle life does not hold enough satisfaction for You-Know-Who.”
“How do you even know what gives him satisfaction?” a king asked. “Your government doesn’t even associate with him, does it?”
“His previous patterns of behavior indicate that he prefers crimes that cause others direct pain and chaos. One of his personal favorites is the Cruciatus Curse, or the spell that causes torture of unimaginable pain.”
“That was the one with all the screaming, right?” someone asked quietly.
“Yes, it was,” Scrimgeour said grimly. “So comparatively, I doubt he would find enjoyment in switching ‘airplane’ flight schedules around. More likely that it was just human error.” He chuckled wearily. “When us magical folk talk about flight schedules, we’re talking about owls,” he quipped.
The Muggles stared at him, unable to decide whether to smile or frown at the joke. It was just another reminder to them of how different these two worlds were, and how ignorant they had been in being kept in the dark for so long.
Finally a leader in the back spoke. “So you’re saying that he prefers to use magical weapons?”
“Yes, but nearly the only necessary magical weapon is the wand.”
“There must be a form of defensive magic that can protect us from these harmful magical spells as well, right?”
“Well, yes and no,” Scrimgeour replied, looking slightly ill at ease. “The Unforgivables, which are the Imperius, Cruciatus, and Killing Curses, are unstoppable if there is enough willpower behind the casting of the spell. Normally the use of one would send the perpetrator immediately to prison. However, You-Know-Who and his followers use these curses without restraint. Some of them are behind bars, but others have yet to be apprehended.
“Aside from these Unforgiveable Curses, there are ways to counter-attack other spells. However, to perform those requires that you not only possess a wand, but also an aptitude for magic.”
“So we can all perform magic?” a young prince asked hopefully.
“Unfortunately not,” Scrimgeour said. “That would make my job much easier. I have decided that the wisest and most effective method for our situation would be to employ the use of magical alarm systems. They are manufactured right in London by the Wizarding corporation Erickson & Co., or ErickCorp. If you would like to use these alarms, I will be ordering them and distributing them to you all as I see fit.”
“What do you mean, ‘as you see fit’?” cried a terrified-looking Prime Minister. “Why do some countries deserve more protection than other?” She was met with calls of assent from different sides of the room.
Scrimgeour sighed and repressed the urge to roll his eyes. “I am trying to distribute them as evenly as possible,” he explained, “by gross population. If your country does not have as many Muggles—I mean, people—living there as your neighboring country, I must give you fewer alarms. Does that sound reasonably fair to everyone?”
This time, the Muggles nodded. “So how exactly do these alarms work, then?”
“They are packaged as a set of small stones that cover a given area, roughly a square kilometer at most, in a magically-sensitive net,” Scrimgeour explained. “If you place the stones around the perimeter of a building, for example, that building will be protected once you activate the alarm. Along with the pouch of stones and the activator, there is a tracer. The tracer monitors all magical activity that occurs within your net-covered area, and gives information about the nature of the spell as well as whether or not it was completed successfully. All of your tracers will be handled by the Ministry. Therefore, we will find out immediately if there is destructive magical activity where there should be none.”
“But wait,” another leader interjected, “how is that useful at all? The alarm will only inform the tracer after the spell has been cast. By the time you find out, Lord Voldemort could have killed someone already.”
“That’s right,” a queen agreed. “Are there any magical nets that dampen the effects of magic, or prohibit the use of magic at all?”
Scrimgeour shook his head. “We don’t manufacture that sort of product in the Wizarding world. What use is there for it? The use of magic is essential in our daily lives. There is no situation in which prohibiting the use of it would benefit us.
“Besides, these alarm systems are useful because they let us at the Ministry know so that we can dispatch Aurors—magical police—there to take care of the problem. It is possible that one or two spells may be cast before we can act, but isn’t that better than a massacre?”
The Muggles were silent for a moment as they thought.
“As of now, I have rationed out roughly one alarm system per every 500,000 people in each country. Now that does not mean that you are to waste this valuable resource on individual citizens. You-Know-Who will not want to hurt a small number of Muggles—people—while running a high risk of getting caught.” Scrimgeour leaned his elbows on the top of his desk, moving closer toward the opening of the portal. “Because orders are limited, please carefully consider alarms in places such as national government offices, intelligence agencies, economic centers, and high-security prisons. Once I give them to you, they are your responsibility. The Ministry holds responsibility only for the tracers.”
He looked around at everyone in the conference hall. “Does everyone understand? Are there no further questions or objections?”
Several leaders opened their mouths to speak, but thought better of it when Scrimgeour all but glared outright at them. This distraction had come at a terrible time, when every minute of his attention needed to be focused on writing his statement. He would need to take care of this immediately.
“Good,” Scrimgeour said. “We are adjourned.”
As he began to cast the spells that would close the portal, Kingsley re-entered the room, a great deal calmer after his nap than he had been that morning.
“How did it go?” he asked the Minister, who scrubbed his eyes tiredly.
“Wonderful. It is all decided. We will allot them all one magical alarm for every 500,000 inhabitants, and keep the tracers at the Ministry.”
Kingsley frowned. “And where will Regulation and Control—or even the whole Department of Law Enforcement, for that matter—find enough people to monitor all of those tracers?” he asked.
Scrimgeour sighed gustily. “It won’t be too difficult, just shuffle people around and transfer them from other departments, hire new workers, you know, the usual. Meanwhile, the most important thing is to order those alarms.”
“I’m on it,” Kingsley announced cheerfully, turning around to head back out the door. “You only have two days left, so don’t forget to keep working on that statement!”
“I will!” Scrimgeour exclaimed at Kingsley’s retreating back, throwing his hands in the air. “I WILL!”
“Mister Erickson, sir, do you have a moment?” Matthias Erickson’s secretary stuck her head into his office. Boxes were strewn all around the room, and drawers hung half-open and nearly-empty off of his desk. The young executive had been packing.
Erickson raised an eyebrow. “Haven’t you ever heard of knocking, Shirley?” he snapped. “I really do not have a moment to spare, but since you have already entered I had might as well listen to you, so please, do continue.”
Shirley the secretary recoiled slightly at the panicked venom in her boss’s voice. Matthias Erickson had always been a generally good-natured and fair man, but as of late he had been ill-disposed and short-tempered. He rarely ever came to the office anymore, but every time he was in he seemed to get more and more stressed. Shirley was about to suggest taking a vacation, but Erickson glared at her so she decided against it.
“I’ve just received an inter-department memo for you,” she told him.
Erickson glanced around the room and absently picked up a few things and moved them around before answering. “Uh…Is it important? I’m busy here,” he said quickly. He met Shirley’s eyes and held them, trying to prevent her from looking around at the state of the room too closely.
“Yes, or I wouldn’t have bothered you about it, sir. You know about the company policy, that an order larger than a hundred alarms to anyone other than our normal distributors must be authorized by you.”
Now Erickson stopped fiddling with the things on his desk. “An order larger than a hundred?” he asked curiously. “How many?”
Shirley cleared her throat and shuffled her feet. “Ten thousand,” she said quietly.
“Ten thousand? An order for ten thousand?!” Erickson’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Racing around his desk, he ran to the doorway in which she stood and held his hand out for the memo. “Let me see that. It must be a mistake.”
“No, no mistake,” Shirley said as she handed the memo over.
Impatiently he snatched it out of her hand. “So who placed this order for ten thousand alarms?” he mused to himself softly as he unfolded the memo.
By order of the Ministry of Magic…
Erickson gasped and his heart began to pound. Abandoning the memo to Shirley, he cast about the messy room for an empty piece of parchment, his brain racing.
“Sir? What’s wrong?”
Erickson glanced up in aggravation. “Nothing, absolutely nothing. I approve the filling of that order. You are dismissed, Shirley. I need to send an urgent private Owl.”
“But wait, sir, just one more thing,” Shirley said, just now examining the rumpled room uncertainly. “Are you planning on moving offices again? I don’t think we’ve discussed this with any of the other departments, and perhaps I could give some assistance to you…”
“I’m fine!” Erickson snapped, finally securing a piece of paper and a quill. He didn’t deign to look at his secretary again, but his tone was thunderous and Shirley left his office quickly, frowning in confusion.
I have news. I have just received an order request from the Ministry for ten thousand alarms. Your guess is as good as mine for where they will use them. I have been preparing for this moment and am ready to move as soon as I am needed. I hope to be of use to our Lord soon. It is beginning.
A/N: Well, I hope this didn't disappoint. Did I explain the magical alarms well enough? Please review! Your opinions mean a lot to me.
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Two Shots In the Dark: Straight into the Hands of the Enemy
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