Chapter 6 : To Persuade the Minister
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“You know,” Percy Weasley said, stepping into the wand light, “from an outside perspective, what we’re doing seems rather nefarious.” He sniffed towards Flitwick as Hugo ran over to give him a hug. “Oh, yes, hello, Hugo,” he said, patting the boy’s shoulder.
“Hi, Rosie!” Hugo said, launching himself at his sister. She hugged him back, but her eyes were trained on the ghost hovering a bit timidly at Flitwick’s side.
“Then it’s good that none of us is an outsider,” Flitwick said merrily, taking a moment to stare pointedly at Percy. Percy gave a curt nod in response, seeming unhappy at having to admit such a thing--that he was in cahoots with the Hogwarts Headmaster, two of his own very young relatives, the ghost of the boy who’d died in the last tournament, and a complete stranger of a girl with wild hair and glinting glasses.
“What exactly is it that looks so bad, Professor?” the ghost of Cedric Diggory asked, pulling slightly on the sleeve of Flitwick’s robes. The headmaster turned and clapped his hands together, looking apologetic.
“Oh, my boy, I’m very sorry to keep you in the dark for so long,” he said. “I suppose now is as good a time as ever to answer the questions that you have.” Especially seeing as we’re about to stage a heist, in which you are the loot, Flitwick’s ever-present brainpower added. Flitwick nodded, conceding.
“Thank--thank you,” Cedric said, appearing a bit puzzled, but who asked his questions anyway. “What was, firstly, the event that was supposed to happen at Hogwarts?”
Rose and Marjie exchanged looks that Hugo did not understand. The expression on his face must have given away his cluelessness, because Marjie rolled her eyes at him. He didn’t much care. He was pretty sure the event was the--the--Tournament, but he hardly liked to dwell in the past--and he simply remained seated, while Rose and Uncle Percy conjured chairs for themselves and one for Marjie. They all sat down, and it was Flitwick’s turn to do the talking.
“The event that would have taken place at Hogwarts, had not some extemporaneous circumstances arisen, would have been--and I’m sorry, my boy, this is a delicate subject--would have been--ahem--the Triwizard Tournament.”
Everybody gasped, including Flitwick, who had gotten carried away with his own suspense and had nearly surprised himself. Cedric, though, looked the most horrified of the group, and sank down onto the stool Marjorie Barrows had sat behind him for this purpose, she of course understanding that this news would not come lightly to the one of the first martyrs of the Second Wizarding War.
“You mean--but how many--how many years have passed since I--since the last one--?” Cedric asked, continuing the new-found tradition of coming around to the point rather slowly. Flitwick understood, however, and after emitting a small, sad chuckle, he admitted that it was somewhere around thirty years.
Hugo let out a loud gasp. “You’re old!” he said, pointing an accusing finger in Cedric’s direction. The ghost boy didn’t notice, however, because he was holding his face in his hands. He leapt from his stool and began to pace at the front of the small congregation. Hugo sat down at this anticlimactic reaction, but Cedric continued to pace the wooden floorboards, which were all glowing a strange grey in the wand light.
“I’m old,” the ghost boy could be heard, muttering under his breath as he paced, back and forth, back and forth.
Not for nothing had Flitwick been made head of Ravenclaw house--the fact of the matter was, he was pretty sharp in the head, if you catch my meaning. Seeing that the ghost boy was clearly in distress at having learned that quite so many years had passed since he had met his match in the final leg of the tournament, Flitwick decided to go on and answer the questions he’d asked earlier, of which, he believed, there was one left.
“Now, as to your other concerns,” he began kindly, as Cedric sank down to the floor, cross-legged. “Greenland was slated to play an important role in the Triwizard Tournament, because we were hiring out the elk for one of the tasks.” He stopped and wrung his hands together in a show of sudden anguish. “It was rather stupid of me! But I persuaded Mr Percy, here, who was in charge of making peace, that it’d be a splendid way to repair the mistake that the blasted D.O.M. caused when they blew up their rubber duck all over the Greenlandic elk, since the country needed the money and it would have been quite entertaining, allow me to divulge, quite entertaining.” The small man reached up and wiped a tear of mingled mirth and regret from his cheek.
“It’s okay, Headmaster,” Hugo said, leaning over to pat the elderly wizard on the shoulder. “You couldn’t have known that the tournament wasn’t to happen, then,” he added, nodding. Marjie’s eyes flashed warningly, then, but Hugo didn’t understand--it seemed that she couldn’t decide whether or not to flash her eyes at him or ghost Cedric, because she kept glancing between the two of them. It couldn’t have been anything he had said--
“Well, there’s something I’d like to know, if anybody cares,” Uncle Percy spoke up from the corner, sounding irritated. Nobody answered him, so he apparently took that as his queue to launch into an explanation of the thing he was wondering about. “This all seems to have happened rather suddenly--the ghost of Cedric Diggory turning up in the Prefects Bath, where, might I add, I spent many a night as a youth--”
“Gross, Uncle Perce as a youth,” Rose interjected. Uncle Percy continued, reaching his nose into the air as to speak over her.
“Anyways, Diggory shows up, and somehow, Hugo manages to get him into the kitchens, where, may I add, neither of the boys should have been, nobody seems to have any respect for the rules these days--but then, what’s more amazing, and that’s quite a feat, may I--”
“Subtract!” Hugo shouted. Percy plowed on.
“Add, seeing as all of this rule-breaking is quite amazing as it is, is that in a matter of moments, Headmaster Flitwick, here, was able to alert Marjorie to the issue, and then she was able to research the matter and contact Rose, who contacted me, and now we’re all here.”
The conclusion of this speech, which was accompanied by an emphatic gesture of Percy’s wand, which shot out blue sparks from the end in its fervor, had not quite met the reception that Percy had intended it to. While he had made it clear that all of these happenings were very peculiar, not that he was particularly surprised to find Ron’s children mixed up in peculiar happenings, the rest of his audience was simply staring at him as though he had been reporting the weather, which was quite a dull subject in comparison, if he might add.
“Well,” Marjie said, seeming to feel as though she needed to respond in some way, “we all know what a great student I am, and besides, I know the shelves of Dervish and Banges like the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times--’”
Hugo cut her off before she could get too involved with the demonstration of her excellent knowledge. “Yeah, we have magic, Unc,” he said, and Percy’s eyes pressed closed at the sound of the ridiculous title. “We can be fast, with magic.”
“Sure thing,” Flitwick agreed, nodding. “We can be fast. Speaking of which,” he began when something appeared to occur to him, “I need to explain the plan to you.”
“This does not seem like a good idea,” the ghost boy protested as Rose and Marjie forced him through the window with some kind of spell. They stepped through after him, to make sure he didn’t get free once he was inside, and after them followed Hugo, Flitwick, and Percy, bringing up the rear.
The Ministry of Magic was quiet at this time of evening, but the dedicated Minister haunted his office at all hours.
Back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, exact location unknown, Professor Neville Longbottom was stoking a greenhouse fire, his teaching assistant repotting Mandrakes a few tables away. The night had settled into an icy chill, but it wasn’t so cold inside the insulated greenhouse, and add in the fiery belch of the mutant Flitterbloom in the corner, it was almost a nice place to be, even this time of night.
“Professor,” emanated the voice of Scorpius Malfoy at approximately one in the morning, “I think we’ve done enough work for tonight.” He removed his earmuffs and returned them to their rack on a potting bench. Professor Longbottom did the same.
“You’re right, Scorpius,” Neville conceded after a while, looking out over the tables. There were three in this greenhouse, and the one in the middle was lined with neat rows of pots, each with the leafy upper-head of early-adolescent Mandragora poking out over the dark soil. “We’ll be able to begin stewing in about a month, if we’re lucky and there aren’t any mishaps this season.” He sighed, and crossed his arms, trying not to yawn. It was very late, and they’d been out here since nearly eight last evening, pulling up the Mandrakes and repotting them. Neville had been testing productivity of shifted seasons for a sub-department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Regulation and Control of Experimental Seasoning of Magical Plants. It wasn’t regular to plant Mandrakes during the Summer, but that’s what he’d done, and now, nearing Winter, they were on track to where they’d usually have developed during Spring.
He was about to suggest that they head back to Hogsmeade for the night when a Patronus swooped through the ceiling to land near the feet of both Scorpius and Neville. It was a badger, and what’s more, it was speaking.
“Please report to the offices of the Minister for Magic immediately,” it said.
That was Amos Diggory’s Patronus, Neville knew. But what it was doing asking him to the Minister’s office at this time, he had no idea!
“Do you think it means both of us?” Scorpius asked as the Patronus dissolved into the night air.
“Can’t be too sure,” Neville said, sighing and heading for his cloak. “We might as well Apparate.”
“Ah,” Mr Diggory, the Minister for Magic said when there was a knock on his office door. “Show them in!”
“Misters Longbottom and Malfoy, Sir!” a house elf squeaked as she opened the door and revealed Neville and Scorpius to be waiting outside, looking nervous. Their expressions morphed quite quickly, however, when they say who was sitting in the office with the Minister for Magic--none other than Headmaster Flitwick, accompanied by Percy, Rose, and Hugo Weasley, as well as Marjorie Barrows, and a tall, lean, floating burlap sack.
“Come in, come in,” the Minister said to Neville and Scorpius, who, looking stricken, walked in and took their respective seats in the two chairs that had been provided for them. “Thank you, Pippa,” he then said to the elf, who bowed slightly and walked out of the office, closing the door lightly as she left.
“Now, you’re probably wondering why it is that I’ve called you two to my office at--” and here the minister paused to check his pocket watch. “One-thirty in the morning on a school night, no less.”
“Dad?” the sack in the corner asked. Nobody paid it any attention.
“Yes, we are, to be quite--”
But it was at this moment that Hugo Weasley and Filius Flitwick, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, engaged in a gleeful high-five.
The minister for Magic removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose gingerly. “Seeing as we have little sense of propriety, I’ll cut to the chase. These two,” he said, gesturing to Flitwick and Hugo, “say that you’re both the reason they barged in here with a floating sack.”
“What?” Scorpius asked, looking a bit dim. “Oh, hello, Rose,” he said, noticing her properly for the first time. “I like that hat on you, it’s a nice colou--”
“Now is not the time to be speaking of the colour of hats!” The minister said, beginning to become truly annoyed.
“Dad?” the sack asked again.
“Now is the time to explain why it is you’ve sent this motley crew to see me at such an hour!”
“But, Minister, I’m sure there’s some kind of misunderstanding,” Professor Neville smiled, speaking through his teeth. He turned to glare at Hugo out of the corner of his eye, but the boy looked particularly joyous, grinning like a fool in the presence of one of the most influential wizards in the world. “You see, with all due respect, Sir, Scorpius--that is, er, Mr Malfoy--and I have nothing to do with this congregation in your office.”
“Well,” the Minister said after a moment of utter silence on behalf of the offending party. “Well, is that so?” He gazed into the face of the young Weasley boy in particular, who looked far too skinny for his own good. You can never trust the skinny ones.
“Yes, actually,” the young Weasley said, looking particularly unconcerned about it. Mr Diggory felt like holding his face in his hands. “We--I just thought it’d be nice to have their company.” At this he shared a look with Flitwick, who grew quickly solemn once more as he noticed the Minister watching him.
“Dad?” the floating sack asked once more.
The Minister sighed. “Is this true? It isn’t really their fault?” he asked, pointing to Neville and Scorpius.
“No,” Hugo responded. “But now that they’re here, they might as well stay, right? I can’t have any kind of adventure without them!”
Neville rolled his eyes. He should have known that Hugo had something to do with this, it wasn’t a normal person’s style! It reeked of Hugo’s lack of concern for social stigma.
“What we wanted to talk to you about, Minister,” Marjorie Barrows spoke up from the back of the group. Neville started as he realized what her presence here actually meant. Not that it was as if Marjie wasn’t open-minded enough to bend a rule now and again, but she was here, with Hugo Weasley and his Uncle, for Merlin’s sake, in front of the Minister for Magic at--he glanced at his wrist watch--almost two in the morning! On a school night, no less! And he had no idea what they were after, which was the scariest part.
“What we wanted to talk to you about is reinstatement of the TriWizard Tournament,” Marjie said. Neville sighed deeply and struggled against the desire to hold his face in his hands. Scorpius had started violently, threatening to tumble out of his chair. Percy Weasley held him up gingerly, eyeing the mooncalf dung caked to his shoulder.
“Dad?” the sack asked once more. This time, the Minister could not help but notice.
“If you don’t mind, while I attempt to understand that you’re proposing the tournament to me again, could you please help that sack find his father?”
“Oh, but we have,” Rose said, using her wand to cut through the burlap and reveal the ghost of the Minister’s son.
“But--but--but--but--” the Minister seemed incapable of sounding more than a single word. The group before him understood the shock he must have had, so remained silent, although Neville and Scorpius couldn’t help but feel shocked themselves--Scorpius, because they’d been keeping a ghost in a burlap sack for almost twenty minutes, and Neville, because he understood exactly how bizarre this situation was. He couldn’t say that he quite understood their plan--was it to soften the Minister up and then bully him into allowing the Tournament to take place? Neville didn’t think it was the best idea to remind the minister that his son had died in the Tournament, as that was, doubtless, what showing him the ghost of his son would do, after all--but to his surprise, Cedric Diggory appeared to have a speech ready.
“You see, father, I know it’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen each other, and I can’t tell you exactly why I’ve come back to the earth out of the afterlife, but I need to tell you that the Tournament is an international event, meant to secure and strengthen bonds between the three major schools of Magic of Western Europe. While it is exceedingly dangerous, the Headmasters of the participating schools understand the risks involved and will be able to exercise judgement in the execution of the tasks, and will have the necessary safety teams available for backup should disaster strike.” He cleared his throat, here, and continued. “With these things in mind, it seems my solemn duty to beg you to allow the Tournament to take place after all. Had You-Know-Who not infiltrated Hogwarts for the sole purpose of regaining a body at the end of the Tournament when I participated, I would never had met such an untimely end for my earthly body, but as you can see, I am still, in a way, alive and well. Think of how proud you and Mum were of me, before I went and got killed by a couple bad guys. This is a different world now,” he prodded, when the Minister’s mouth only flapped open and closed without a word. “And I imagine that you’re quite a changed man, and I say, it’s a bit of a surprise to see that you’ve become Minister while I’ve been gone, but it’s awful good to see you.”
“But--but--but--” said the Minister.
a/n: thank you, as ever, to my faithful crew of raverpuffins, for encouraging me with this fic!
the line "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" is something you doubtless recognize, but credit is due to my friend Charles Dickens, in his lovely novel A Tale of Two Cities.
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