Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Author’s Note: Hello and welcome to the first installment of “Madam Minister”. I was first inspired to write this fic after reading about Artemisia Lufkin, the first female Minister of Magic from 1798-1811. Being an absolute nut for anything related to the 18th century and naturally curious about a woman named for absinthe, I just had to indulge in this bit of fiction. Unfortunately, Rowling tells us very little about Artemisia, except for her birth and death dates. Therefore, since I have no canon to adhere to, I’ve constructed my own.
And finally, as a warning, this prologue is exceptionally bleak, but the following story will certainly not be. Don’t let Artemisia’s initial angst frighten you away! ^_^ I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.
Artemisia Lufkin sat with her back to her study door and wept. Fleetingly, she wondered if the servants could hear her, could trace her wails through the halls and out onto the slumbering grounds. But did it matter so much? Soon all of London would know why she wept, nay all of England.
It was over. In one minute. In one tempting flash of eternity. It was all over.
Her ministry, the first of its kind, had only lasted two years and Artemisia had no one to blame but herself.
That was the worst of it, sitting there in her ancestral family home, wallowing in sin.
It was her fault.
She wished she could blame her enemies in government. She wished she could blame chance, fate, or even God.
Yet there was nothing for denial.
Unsteadily, she raised herself to her bare feet and felt the stifling folds of her dressing gown slither down her legs. The night was wretched, muggy. A late thunderstorm had left the air charged, not cleansed, and even now the evening sky was thick with moody clouds.
Artemisia crossed to her desk and reached for a decanter of brandy. There was an empty glass left to the side, still sticky with the libation. She usually limited herself after partaking of wine during dinner, but what for it? Yes, she was due to sit for the Wizengamot tomorrow. And yes, she should be sober.
However, it seemed torturous to face the imminent onslaught of reproach, both public and private, without fortification.
She tried to pour the brandy into the glass, sloshing a few dark drops onto her papers instead.
Letters to the junior ministers. A half-written speech. A note to Henry.
In a fit of self-loathing, she drove these and the decanter onto the floor with one sweep of her arm. The glass shattered. A house elf came running.
She sent him away with a curse.
Wasted adrenaline thickened her veins. Artemisia forced herself to sit on the chaise by the window and watch the garden below. The constant, undulating movement of the summer breeze through the shrubbery lulled her into a state of feasible consciousness.
She had to be reasonable about this. There were things to take into account. The collapse of a ministry was no simple thing. Grogan Stump might be named as her successor, but he was young yet, impressionable and not likely to be popular with the Pureblood faction.
And then there was the war with France.
Artemisia flushed and flung the rest of the brandy out the open window. So this was the result of selfishness and insecurity and downright stupidity.
How could she bear to be alone with herself?
She tried to think beyond her life as Minister of Magic. What would happen after she resigned? She had no children to take comfort in, no husband, and no spinster sister. And after the news broke, who would dare associate with her?
Already she could picture the crude caricatures in the newspapers. The pamphlets passed around and sniggered over. The rebuttals. The condemnations. The damnations.
What was left? After twenty-five years of politics, she was forsaken.
And forever stained.
There seemed no point in carrying on.
Smiling grimly, Artemisia lifted her hand and traced the length of her throat, wondering if age had already set into her skin. She was forty-six and her life was over.
The tears came swiftly. She rubbed at them with a sweaty palm. A jagged cloud passed over the moon and allowed a single beam of light to fall over the garden.
Strange, it all looked so cold to her now. The Italian statuary. The neat paths and trim flower beds.
Had she ever truly been happy here?
The great emptiness of the house was smothering and she realized she would give anything not to be alone.
Well, perhaps she had given everything already.
The note to Henry fluttered by the foot of the desk, held to the floor by a great splotch of brandy.
Henry. Would he wonder what had become of her? There was no fooling a man like Henry, even if he was a Muggle. Of course, the Obliviators would be sent in to destroy any memory he had of their time together. Her political supporters would try to sweep things under the rug, keep it from the press and the populace.
It was unseemly, after all, for the Minister of Magic to be an adulteress…and keep a Muggle lover.
In the end, it had come down to lust. To her unbridled vices. To the distractions she had been able to hide as a young woman, but no more.
Her meteoric rise was at its zenith and would end in disgrace.
Artemisia grimaced, thinking of the mess she had made.
Outside the window, the solitary moonbeam fell away and left the garden to deceptive shadows. She shut her eyes for an instant and tried to remember what it had been like to be young.
They had called her the great reformer, and true to her reputation she had washed the filth from the gutters of government and purified the corrupt.
But she was one of them.
She pushed herself to a stand and approached the open window, anticipation stirring within her as the fitful wind swept through the house.
Suddenly everything seemed clear, a rare moment of complete understanding. Beyond the grounds of the estate, she could see the gentle lights flickering in the village, the fires guarding farmhouse hearths, the perfect steeple of the town church.
The air was tremulous. Artemisia realized then that her life had just been one grand exercise in abandonment, a great folly leading up to a terrible end.
It hadn’t begun that way. She could still recall her blessed youth, spending a year in France, reading Rousseau. Daring, yes, daring to dream of a new age.
And the fault was hers.
There was only one last thing she had to amend now.
Artemisia withdrew her wand from inside her dressing gown and pressed it to her temple.
Author’s Note: Thank you so much for taking the time to read. If you would be so kind, please leave a review. I’d love to hear from you.
In chapter one, we’ll travel back in time to the very being of Artemisia’s career and her first position with the Ministry that almost never happened. The next installment will be posted on Thursday the 19th. I hope you have a great weekend!