Chapter 1 : The Deal
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A/N: The purpose of this challenge is to choose two characters, a place, and an object from a pre-determined list, and write a story focusing heavily on these elements.
Well... I tried.
And obviously, anything you recognize is not mine.
Cornelius Fudge paced rapidly across the floor – although there wasn’t exactly much room for the action. His patience was wearing thin: this was the absolute last place he wanted to be.
Who arranges a meeting in a cramped loo on a ship anyway?
But this wasn’t just some ordinary meeting. No, if it were that, the meeting would have taken place in Cornelius’s plush and well-furnished office.
This meeting was confidential, a strict secret.
Cornelius stole a glance at his gold timepiece. It was 9:07. Where was Rufus? He was supposed to have been here by now, with the goods in tow.
Cornelius fiddled with the button on his robes nervously. Had Rufus been playing him all this time? Was he going to instead reveal the contents of the envelope to the Prophet and slander Cornelius’s reputation?
It was what Cornelius had originally expected when Rufus informed him that he possessed the envelope. But instead, Rufus had used it to force Fudge to do his bidding.
Sometimes he found himself pondering, was all this really worth it for a measly envelope?
But that was the essential problem. It wasn’t just a measly envelope. The contents could decide the fate of his career in a heartbeat.
The fact that he, the Minister of Magic, was not in possession of the envelope would put his career into deep jeopardy.
Cornelius had fought too hard to reclaim his position as Minister to lose it all again because Rufus had slandered him.
A loud *pop* resounded, and Cornelius’s head whipped in the direction of the noise. Standing in front of him was none other than Rufus Scrimgeour, the ex-Minister who was supposedly dead.
But Rufus wasn’t dead. No, he was far from it.
On that fateful night where he was “murdered,” he had convinced He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to spare him if he gave He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named complete and total control of the Ministry.
That was only the start of Rufus’s manipulation skills.
For the past three months, Cornelius had been under Rufus’s thumb, completely at his mercy, doing whatever Rufus so desired, only so Cornelius could get the envelope he so desperately needed.
Inside that envelope was the will of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The one that he, under Rufus’s discretion, had told the wizarding world that he had possession of.
“Have you – ,” Cornelius stuttered, wringing his hands in nervousness, “have you brought it?”
Rufus cracked a grim, taunting smile. “I’m a man of my word, Cornelius.”
He reached into the pocket of his robes, and his hand emerged only seconds later, holding the thin, crested envelope between his long, spindly fingers.
Suddenly, the two were tossed violently in the air as the boat crashed into a wave. Both men ended up on the floor – Rufus clutching at the corner of the sink, and Cornelius desperately holding on to the doorknob.
The violence of the wave subsided, leaving the two men to brush themselves off and attempt to regain the atmosphere of dignity, despite the fact that both of them had been thrown to the floor in a cramped loo.
Once again, Cornelius found himself questioning the location of their meeting. But, he presumed, when one is supposed to be dead, one must be as secretive as he can.
He looked over at Rufus, whose arms were hanging limply by his side, empty of any object.
“Where’s the will?” Cornelius questioned, concerned.
Rufus looked down at his hands, looking suddenly surprised. But as quickly as the emotion had come, it faded into a mask of complacency.
“Why would you expect me to care?” Rufus replied confidently. “It’s no longer my business; you’ve done what was needed.”
Cornelius stifled the urge to snort after that comment. What he needed him to do? He highly doubted proposing the construction of a monument dedicated to the supposedly dead Minister, among many other things, was something that should have been deemed “necessary.”
Still, his heart pounded violently at the mysterious disappearance of the envelope. He examined the area frantically, seeking out the reflective surface of the golden seal. Meanwhile, Rufus stood by, watching calmly as Cornelius fretted over the future of his career.
“I believe it would be wise of you to check some of the furnishings in this room,” Rufus commented, and Cornelius snapped his head up to lock eyes with the man, who was smirking slightly.
“Furnishing?” Fudge asked, trying to hide his obvious confusion. “This is a ship’s loo, there’s not much furnishing, except…” His voice trailed off, as he made the connection.
Could it be? Could the envelope, the one that decided the fate of his whole career, be sitting in the toilet of a ship’s loo?
Dreading the answer, Cornelius glanced at the nasty toilet, whose sides were adorned with mold and chipping paint. Sure enough, a white envelope with a golden seal was sitting on top of the water.
Cornelius fought the urge to cry out in anguish, and instead opted to deal with the problem as effectively as possible. Wincing in disgust, he reached his fingers into the water, latching on to the envelope that held the key to his career. After all, claiming that he had possession of this artifact was what gave him his position.
He pulled the letter out of the toilet, watching as it dropped its excess water back into the bowl, taking some of the carefully scrawled black ink with it.
“You do realize a Summoning Charm would have worked just as effectively?” Rufus questioned, his voice sounding smug with amusement.
Cornelius felt rather ridiculous, so he decided to attempt to rationalize his actions. “Well, I didn’t want to risk the Charm causing even more damage to the paper, now did I?”
He fished his wand out of his pocket, muttered a Drying Spell, and watched as the letter lost its soaked appearance, although the ink was still smudged profusely.
Just fantastic. What good was the last will of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named if it was illegible?
Cornelius looked up from the faded letter to Rufus, who was wearing a smirk for what seemed like the trillionth time that evening. He looked far too pleased to have simply watched the past few moments.
“You intentionally sabotaged this exchange, didn’t you?” Cornelius asked, fighting off the rage that was threatening to seep into his forcibly calm voice.
“I fulfilled my end of the bargain, actually,” Rufus replied haughtily. “I was, however, expecting that the letter would somehow end up ruined. It seems as though my prediction was correct.”
Cornelius’s blood boiled. After all of the legislation Rufus had forced Cornelius to introduce, all of the changes he had to make to the infrastructure of the Ministry, the object of this deal was ruined by some rotting toilet water.
“So that was why you planned to meet here?” Cornelius questioned, unable to keep his anger under control any more. “You chose the most likely place for the letter to somehow be destroyed, and planned to meet here?”
“Possibly,” Rufus said, looking nonchalantly at his fingernails.
Rufus’s calmness only intensified Cornelius’s rage. “So this wasn’t a precaution to remain hidden, but another one of your ploys? I though you were finished with playing games, Rufus.”
“Oh, I’m never done with playing games, Cornelius,” Rufus shot back. “In fact, I’m about to go to the Ministry and reveal you for what you truly are – a fraud.”
Cornelius took a deep breath. “Why did you wait until now? Why not expose me when I first claimed that I had the possession of the will – under your control, yes – but nonetheless, you could have called me out then, and made this whole process so much simpler.”
A flash of amusement ran across Rufus’s features. “As a child, I always played with my food before I ate it. It seems the desire to lead things on has only grown with age.”
Cornelius felt the anger rise in his chest again. So he wasn’t doing this as a part of a deal, but rather as a source of entertainment for Rufus? He felt utterly ridiculous for having been baited along.
Why hadn’t he realized that Rufus wasn’t to be trusted? It wasn’t like the fact was a cryptic one, as Rufus had never been the dependable type.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some sabotage to perform,” Rufus commented, flattening out the front of his robes. “I trust you won’t disturb me.”
“You’re not getting away with this, Rufus. I’ll make sure of it,” Cornelius growled back, incensed by Rufus’s nerve.
“Oh, are we trying to make this difficult? I was hoping to avoid this, but it looks like I don’t have a choice,” Rufus added offhandedly, while Cornelius desperately tried to piece together his words.
Rufus pulled his wand from his pocket, and before Cornelius could react, Rufus pointed his wand at the floor around Cornelius.
In an instant, the delicate wood of the ship’s loo was alight with fire. But as Cornelius watched the flames flicker across the wood, he realized that this fire was not just fire. It was Fiendfyre, burning hot and nearly impossible to extinguish.
“I hope you like it hot,” Rufus said, tucking his wand away. “I didn’t want to leave behind evidence anyway.”
With a crack, Rufus disappeared, leaving Cornelius alone in the burning loo.
Cornelius realized this was his end. The fire surrounded him, lapping closer and closer to his feet with every passing second. Apparition was impossible in temperatures like these.
In desperation, he tore open the will, hoping it might possess at least some useful information. He pulled the singular page out of the envelope, unfolding it frantically. Although the black ink bled down the page, the words were still clear.
I will never die.
But He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was wrong. He wasn’t immortal.
And neither was Cornelius.
DURMSTRANG SHIP MYSTERIOUSLY BURNS DOWN
FUDGE EXPOSED, SCRIMGEOUR REINSTATED
Rufus glanced over the headlines, and smiled briefly.
All was exactly how he wanted it.
A/N: What on Earth did you just read? I don't really know either.
I'd love to hear what you thought of it though!
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