Chapter 2 : A Slight Problem
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It would not be the first time Percy Weasley had been catapulted into an elephantine mess by a smaller man. In this case, smaller specifically referred to the number of said smaller man’s inseam, and perhaps the number of hours of any intellectual exercise. While it takes guts to be the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, it does not, apparently, take active application of mental faculties.
So Percy found himself sighing at the end of a very long day. Beginning with a jammed alarm clock that never went off, whinging babies, and a harried goodbye to his tired wife, he had arrived at work only to be poo-pooed on by the very prominent and highly-regarded Minister for Magic in the most irritating manner. He had recovered from the slight shock of being told point-blank that there was not to be a reinstatement of the Tri-Wizard Tournament this next year at Hogwarts, only to reel back into unhappiness as Flitwick came to him with a confession.
“Yes?” Percy had said impatiently, tapping his quill against a new sheet of parchment. He had noticed that in his sudden fit of laughter the Minister had spilled ink over Percy’s freshly-drawn peace treaty with Greenland; this was a very irksome thing, seeing as it had cost him more than a few Galleons to hire out elk-translators to get the job finished. And now, when it again looked like square one, Filius Flitwick appearing at the threshold to his office was not a reassuring sight; particularly offensive on the reassurance front was his look of abject humiliation. It was the look of one coming clean, and Percy Weasley did not like to see this on a day so full of upheaval.
“Well, Mr Weasley, it’s just that I thought I ought to inform you. With regards to the turn in the Tri-Wizard Tournament plans--”
Here Percy sighed deeply.
“--I only thought I should let you know that--well, you see, it’s just that--simply put, the Tri-Wizard Tournament absolutely must go on.”
Percy sighed again. He had deflated into a slip of a man, flopped over in his chair and slumped over his desk. “Tell me, if you must, exactly why the tournament must go on?” Percy said, arching an eyebrow, attempting, though not vehemently, to catch a hold of his temper, which was edging on a disastrous flare. “Because otherwise you are perfectly aware that I cannot help you.”
“It happened without warning, Sir,” Flitwick said, wringing his hands. Percy was wondering how he appeared to the congregation at Hogwarts; it was true that, back in his day, when Flitwick had been a mere Charms professor and Head of Ravenclaw house (which was quite remarkable when one thought about it), it had not been difficult to take his position of allocated authority very seriously, because it was only a small bit of power. But now, this man oversaw the entire functioning of Hogwarts school and that he could still be reduced to tatters at the thought of reporting an incident? One that didn’t even sound particularly alarming? He couldn’t possibly be, in the least bit, threatening to the body of students. It was a wonder the school kept running anyways.
Flitwick gave the carpet rug by his feet a little kick before he continued, his voice shaking, “Rose Weasley has been allotted information regarding the running of the Tri-Wizard tournament and she published an article on it only this morning in the Daily Prophet.” His voice was speedy, as if speaking quickly would assuage the inevitable damage the information would cause. Percy’s heart felt faint and he cursed the day his idiot brother had ever allowed his daughter into the inner cogs and wheels of that devilish publication, but he simply gave a small, short gasp, and was silent for a moment.
“Surely that’s not too much of an issue, Flitwick,” he said, his voice short and terse. “Have her submit an--error--what are those called?”
“I believe the term you’re looking for is errata.”
“Yes, yes, errata. Very helpful, thanks. Have her submit an errata.”
“I’ve only just come out of the fireplace,” Flitwick confessed, looking nervous. “I had suggested to her to do just as you say--very clever of you, Sir, to think so quickly on your feet--”
“--Please get on with this, Flitwick.” Percy mopped his brow.
“Well, it’s just that Rose Weasley told me--”
“You needn’t refer to her by her surname, Flitwick, she’s my niece--and the surname doesn’t do much in terms of identification these days anyway. Go on, go on.”
“Yes, well, Rose informed me that since her release of the article Greenland had been attempting to contact the Prophet with regards to letting out some of their elk for the tasks. You understand how precarious our relations are at the moment, and it seems that upsetting things further might put off more of these peace talks, which you’ve quite excellently managed, by the way, really quite impressive--”
“Yes, yes, thank you,” Percy said, again wiping his brow. “We can let out the elk to another venue; they’re interested in the money, not the tournament. It’d be easy to find someone to hire them around the holidays, anyway, what with all that sleigh bell and reindeer nonsense.”
“Actually, elk and reindeer are quite different species, Sir--”
“Close enough!” Percy exclaimed, rising quickly to his feet. “We can find a way out of this, Flitwick. It doesn’t look like Mr Diggory is going to budge on this topic. You saw him.” Percy shuddered at the memory--he could still see the small flecks of spittle peppering the air before the Minister’s mouth, and he wasn’t sure that he was going to be able to forget them anytime soon. He was quickly regretting that he had ever had anything to do with the Tri-Wizard Tournament, at the rate that these things were going.
“It’s not all, Sir,” Flitwick cringed, for the first time in all this conversation looking extremely apologetic. Percy felt a flood of adrenaline rush to his chest; there were nice kinds of adrenaline that could run to one’s chest in similar situations, but this was not one of those kinds.
Percy regretted having to ask before he did, but he opened his mouth and a brief “what is it?” escaped. It sounded very much like the air going out of a balloon.
“It’s only that--you understand that at this point yesterday I was very sure we were going to host the tournament--I may have told the students.”
“What?!” Percy fell back into his chair, bringing his hands to his face. “No, no, no. This is not good! How could you tell them before we finalised plans? Don’t you remember how secretive we were about it last time?”
“Of course, dear boy,” Flitwick said with a spark of resilience about his eyes. “And look at how well it turned out!" There was blatant sarcasm in this tone. "This is my school now, Percy, and whether or not that is agreeable to you is none of my concern. What is my concern is, of course,” he said, this newly-revived vigor rapidly becoming replaced with the mild manner of a child who knows he has done something wrong, “how the students are going to take it.”
Percy groaned and rubbed at his temples. “What a mess,” he muttered to himself, resting his elbows on his knees. “What a mess.”
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