Chapter 102: Incom-never mind
Cornelius Fudge had been getting increasingly worried for several years now. If asked in anything resembling an official capacity, he would have explained that his concern was because the aurors-nominally a peacekeeping body-were becoming more and more militarized. And violent. Mustn't forget that. Had anyone asked in a more private manner, it would have been because there had been a drop in his bribe money; while families still paid handsomely for certain privileges, there were fewer opportunities for it. Everyone was keeping to strictly-legal loopholes and that meant that it was more a matter of expedition fees than looking-the-other-way fees, which were usually much larger. Amelia Bones had gotten out of control with investigations and the aurors were no longer accepting 'a consideration' to leave things be.
Actually, come to think of it, he was a bit worried about the aurors after all. They were a body of increasingly-well-trained personnel with a decidedly violent streak and were apparently fanatic in their loyalty to their Hogwarts professor. That wasn't good. Not at all.
And if he hadn't been worried about it beforehand, he certainly was by the time the syrup had finished dripping into his ear.
X X X
The flames in Dumbledore's fireplace blazed green. That wasn't too odd, he had visitors and desperate pleas for help all the time. What was odd was that it was Lucius Malfoy.
"Dumbledore!" the man seemed desperately grateful that he'd found the aged wizard. "You've got to help me!"
Putting on his most genial expression of elderly imbecility, Dumbledore looked confused. "Is something the matter, Lucius?"
"Please! He's going to bring it down around our ears!"
Still apparently lost in the maze of history, Dumbledore couldn't help but be curious. "Who is going to bring what down our ears, my boy?"
"Fudge!" Malfoy snapped, sounding truly furious. "He's gone mad. The whole government is going to burn if we don't do something about it!"
"Would you care to elaborate?"
"He's decided to appoint a defense professor, Dumbledore! And not let Professor Potter teach!"
Dumbledore paled, his vacuous mask shattering. "He's going to WHAT?" He waved his wand, allowing Malfoy to enter his office and the man sank into a chair like a puppet with cut strings.
"Apparently I haven't been paying him enough attention. Some absolute moron has gotten it into his head that Professor Potter is building an army to take over the Ministry."
Dumbledore winced. "You know, I'm not entirely sure he's wrong . . ."
"Do you think that will make a difference to Professor Potter?"
Another wince. "No. Alright. We can fix this. Just give him some money and he'll shut up like normal."
"Don't you think I've tried that?" Malfoy pulled a flask from his pocket and took a long pull of whatever spirit he'd brought along. "But the idea's fixed in his idiotic little head. If he's got good reason to be worried, that'd be why it's so hard to convince him that he's not in danger."
"I mean, I don't think Professor Potter has the slightest design on the office or the government." Dumbledore then added quietly, "except maybe subverting it."
"Nothing. So the problem is that somehow Fudge has finally noticed that there are three years' of auror trainees and inductees who are trained to be near-murderous in their pursuit of justice?"
"I never said he was quick on the uptake, Headmaster."
"Right. Well, he now has his law-enforcement body, which is supposed to, among other things, protect him, rapidly filling with devotees of Professor Potter. To say nothing of the glut of hit wizards displacing veterans on six continents."
"You're not making this seem any less of a problem."
"I'm more musing that he's already too late. And Amelia Bones will want his head when she finds out about this, too."
"How about I put the cherry on this steaming pile of horror?" Malfoy's expression was one of sick joy. "He's selected as the new instructor the Undersecretary."
"Merlin's pendulous scrotum!" Dumbledore ejaculated. "The government will burn around our ears!"
"While I fully grasp the problem," Dumbledore continued, sounding calmer. "I am not sure what you want to do about it, short of going in with wands blazing. And I suspect the new crop of aurors will be lethally displeased with such an action."
"Which is why I came to you," Malfoy explained. "We have enough votes to get him out today if we work . . . work . . ." he seemed to be having some trouble finishing his sentence.
"Work together?" Dumbledore had learned over the years to take his petty enjoyment where he could. Seeing Malfoy's flinch at the words was just the sort of joy that one had to savor in a world of politics. And since he was about to embark on another such foray, it was only appropriate he have a memory to warm his heart.
"Yes." Malfoy's gritted teeth were like a balm for the soul of an old man. "I can have the vote scheduled for two hours for now. Less if we don't mind cutting a few technical corners. Nothing actually illegal, but perhaps not the done thing."
"Professor Potter's classes do tend to leave out the more political aspects. Perhaps I should see about having someone address that deficiency."
"Are you sure you want that?"
Dumbledore paused and considered it. "Maybe not. Alright then. Who do we put into power?"
"Well, I'd normally prefer someone easily bribed, but that's been less and less useful for a few years now. I'd settle for someone who'll at least not empty my coffers."
"We could always go with Madam Bones."
"You haven't been visited by her new crop of aurors. They are not friendly. I don't think I can describe for you how much it would be unwise to have her in charge of the government with her current mindset."
"The innocent have nothing to fear."
"I haven't done anything criminal." Malfoy paused. "Recently. And I get harassed at least once a month. It's rather annoying."
"I don't know that you qualify as 'innocent,' though."
"Regardless, there's no way my votes would go for her."
"Well, I think I'll stick with Remus Lupin, then."
"A werewolf." Malfoy was clearly nonplussed. "How on earth do you think that will sell?"
"Well, he's not going to be big on violence or anything. He's big on peace and letting others live."
"And creatures' rights," Malfoy muttered.
"So he'll rock a few boats. Maybe shake up the ministry so there are more competent employees and fewer legacy appointments? It's that or I just lock down the wards and wait for the rubble to stop bouncing, Lucius."
He'd always considered himself a good judge of character (with one glaring exception that haunted him) and Malfoy was nearly certain that Albus Dumbledore was bluffing. The man was a do-gooder by nature. But there was always the chance. And Malfoy Manor was sturdy, but not as sturdy as Hogwarts and for all that Dumbledore held a post in the magical government and had another half-dozen important titles and positions, he was not as integrally tied to the system as the Malfoy family. Their wealth was in investments more than it was in liquid assets and that meant that if the whole thing collapsed, the family would lose heavily at best.
For that matter, he'd made his niche in the world and if he'd had to adjust to be less criminal and more a broker of favors and sometimes things which he was legally considered ignorant of . . . well, that was just the world changing and any decent manipulator didn't try to alter the path of the flood.
And so, despite a dislike of werewolves that bordered on pathological (which was only sensible after spending years in the company of monsters like Fenrir Greyback and another decade working with the especially unsavory elements of Knockturn), Malfoy nodded. "I'll go marshall the troops, get the no-confidence vote rolling, sell my people, and draft his acceptance speech." When Dumbledore opened his mouth, Malfoy interrupted. "Do you want to write it? Because I know that he won't know how to even start." The mouth closed. "Right. All you have to do is rally your people and convince the werewolf that he should take up the post of Minister."
Dumbledore scowled. He wasn't entirely sure that he hadn't been stuck with the harder tasks.
X X X
It was to the surprise of both of them that Malfoy and Dumbledore met in the Chief Warlock's office after the vote for a glass of something absurdly expensive that was like pouring velvet down their throats. But they both could enjoy how things had gone earlier. The look on Fudge's face when he realized what the session was for had almost been worth the years of his idiocy and general blithering. The two of them toasted to the expression when the vote had come in and the buffoon had been tossed on his ear from the Minister's chair by a near-unanimous wave of lit wands. And even Malfoy had to admit to having a perverse pleasure watching his fellow dark wizards back a known werewolf to be the new Minister. If he also enjoyed the look of defeat from Amelia Bones at the same time, well that wasn't exactly a secret.
That wasn't to say that things had been smooth. The two of them were also drinking to not think about the chaos that was almost certainly coming down the way. They had a Minister with no political background and a solid mandate which had not been clearly directed at anything other than not being Cornelius Fudge. Who know what madness they had unleashed. But they could be fairly certain it wouldn't be quite as bad as if Professor Potter had found out that he was banned from teaching. That would have been a nightmare.
Malfoy did take an extra sip to remember the speech he'd written for the werewolf. He hadn't agreed with more than one word in ten, but it had been beautifully written nevertheless. A perfect storm of talk about the need for preserving valued traditions and expanding horizons to allow for growth with the best and brightest. He'd touched on the "importance of the wider magical community and the contributions they could offer us." What a load of tripe. He'd made sure to draft up a schedule of meetings for the Minister's first week, too. He didn't think he could prevent the drastic changes he saw coming to their world, but he hoped he could make sure he knew who was in on the ground floor. And, for that matter, that they weren't too out there. He'd rather a goblin who was merely untrustworthy to one who was actively traitorous. Or planning the next war. To say nothing of picking out a hag who stuck to natural cadavers instead of creating them herself. If he could have, he'd have had Madam Bones replaced, but there was no way that such a widely popular Director was going to be removed by a new Minister, no matter how solid the vote had been. Not unless there had been some scandal, which Malfoy had avoided manufacturing out of fear for his life.
"All in all, a successful day," Dumbledore stated. "Not the easiest and that speech was a truly beautiful load of dragon dung."
"It was, wasn't it?" Malfoy smiled beatifically. "I just asked myself: 'what would Dumbledore say?'"
"Thank you." The reply was drier. The Headmaster knocked back the remainder of his drink and began to pour himself another. "I decided to make sure this mess never happens again. I don't care how much he complains, he's going to be a full staff member starting this year." Privately, Dumbledore was only mildly concerned about the alleged curse. While something like thirty or forty years of bad luck with Defense instructors might seem like a pattern, he always chose to see it as a truly disastrous series of unfortunate events. And while Professor Potter was the prophecy child and therefore important to keep alive in order to kill Voldemort whenever the monster finally returned from the half-dead state he'd been in when he escaped Quirrel two years prior . . . well, so far there didn't seem to be a chance anything existed which could kill Professor Potter.
"I wish I could say I'm surprised," Malfoy replied. He wasn't thrilled, but it wasn't a shock. "Though Lupin . . ."
"Minister Lupin is a good man who was thoroughly traumatized by his time teaching Professor Potter's students after they'd had only a few months of the young man. I'm fairly certain if I left the matter open, we'd be calling for another no confidence vote come morning."
Malfoy scowled, his buzz vanishing. "You utter bastard."
So I sat down and typed out this chapter pretty much in one go. Enjoy the quick update.
(A/N 2 John)
We'd had this twist planned for a while. I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to use it, but I decided to do so. I'm rather glad, as it allowed me to have it turn out that Dumbledore just used the excuse to get a werewolf into the Minister's office.
(A/N 3 John)
In fairness, I hadn't really thought about it until the last minute. It made me smile. With luck, it'll make Spoon smile. If it does, I've succeeded.
(A/N 4 John)
Though I actually enjoy causing you lot to smile as well. It's satisfying. And I do so look forward to going back and annotating this unwieldy thing when I'm done with it. There are so many references . . .