Aghhh it's Round 7 of QLFC and my first week of real teaching and aghhh what's happening! I totally spaced out this round and messed up the bonus points for my team, but I hope y'all like this little ficlet. More GD coming early tomorrow before I go away for the weekend with my students!
This round I had to write a story about the conflict within wizarding society, between those who want to study Muggle technology in order to understand it better and those who think it's a bunch of garbage. Most of you know how much I love the bond between Mr. Weasley and Hermione, so we have a little of that, plus a little healing of a serious divide in the wizarding world.
18 September 1999
Hermione followed Mr. Weasley through the long corridors of the Ministry, trying to keep track of all the turns they were making to find his office. He had a larger office than the tiny one Harry had once described to her. He had managed to reclaim both this office and his Head of Department status after the war had ended—partly because of Kingsley's intervention and partly because so many of the Death Eaters had assets seized by the Ministry that there was no shortage of Dark objects to be sifted through.
Hermione was not officially beginning a job at the Ministry; she was simply seeing how she liked it there. Mr. Weasley had insisted for years, on too many occasions, at too many family gatherings in the Burrow, that Hermione plan a week to 'shadow' him on the job. He had been thrilled when, upon her graduation from Hogwarts almost three months ago, Hermione had announced her intention to begin a career in activism not only on behalf of Muggles, but for lesser magical beings. And so, she had finally accepted Mr. Weasley's invitation—even if she dreaded the idea of joining the Ministry of Magic, no matter who was in charge.
It didn't help that most of her memories of the Ministry of Magic involved either the night she'd been cursed by Antonin Dolohov, or the eyewitness interviews she, Harry, all of the Weasleys, and most of her friends from Hogwarts had given to the Auror office about the very worst night of their lives—the battle at Hogwarts.
"Watch your step there, Hermione," said Mr. Weasley, catching her elbow and stopping her from walking straight into a wall. She'd been so distracted looking back over her shoulder at a flock of passing memos that she hadn't seen him turn. Mr. Weasley stopped, his hand on her arm, and smiled down at her kindly through his horn-rimmed glasses. "We'll be just in here, all right?
"I thought you had been promoted, that you didn't work with the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office anymore?" Hermione whispered, as they sidled towards a door that was slightly ajar.
"Well, officially, that was part of the promotion," he explained, "but Perkins retired last year, and someone had to absorb the workload…" He carefully pushed the door open.
A small handful of witches and wizards were gathered around a long conference table. Hermione did not immediately recognize any of them, although she could tell that most of them were quite bored. One witch was twirling her quill over her fingers, and one of the wizards at the far corner of the room was actually asleep.
"Morning, Weasley," said the wizard at the head of the table, giving Mr. Weasley a nod.
"Hobbs," replied Mr. Weasley, gesturing to Hermione that she should sit down beside him. He leaned over as they got settled and whispered in her ear, "The Committee for Muggle Legislation and Liaisons."
Hermione nodded once and scribbled this down, although there was a sense of foreboding in her stomach. The balding wizard at the head of the table was speaking once more, his eyes sliding over a bit of parchment in front of him.
"…sort of a moot point," said the wizard. "Anyone got ideas? No? Well, we'll table it—"
"Sorry?" Hermione asked, interrupting him, and the other members of the committee looked around. "Any ideas about what, exactly?"
The man leading the meeting frowned at her, and then beck down at his parchment as though he was unsure what he'd been asking about. "Oh—the Wizengamot has pushed back the date for consideration of the Muggle Protection Act again," he said. "We're trying to lobby for it."
Hermione couldn't help it; she looked skeptically around the people gathered; if she had to guess, only one or two looked truly enthusiastic enough to lobby for anything, let alone on behalf of Muggles. She felt a little bubble of irritation rising in her chest. Wasn't this exactly why she'd convinced herself the Ministry was not the place she should be? Wasn't this what she'd been talking about with Ron all summer?
Subtly, without drawing attention from Mr. Weasley, Hermione flipped to a page in her notepad and put a tiny 'x' in the 'con' column of the list she was working on.
The entire day went on like this. Mr. Weasley had no fewer than three meetings that morning, and a few chance encounters in the corridors, where he ran into members of the new cursebreaking staff who grumbled about their workload and exchanged mutinous looks when the idea of setting up pre-emptive charmwork to prevent Muggle-baiting came up. Hermione kept quiet, trailing along behind Mr. Weasley all day, until he brought her to a door off the beaten path, near the room where they had begun the day.
"Are you all right?" he asked her kindly.
Hermione nodded, hugging her notepad and quill to her chest. "It's just—a little overwhelming," she said, and she tried to smile back.
"Oh, I understand," said Mr. Weasley, laying his hand on the doorknob. "But we're here now, and we'll have my office to ourselves for a bit. Then you can tell me exactly which other departments you'd like to see…"
He ushered her inside. It was a small room, but nicely appointed with in-built mahogany shelves and a matching desk. On these were many Muggle objects—everything from children's toys to calculators to batteries and claw hammers—and a modest array of family photographs jumbled in among them. Hermione saw one of her personal favorites, a snapshot of Ron and Ginny holding hands in the garden of the Burrow when Ron was about three, as well as the color version of the family photo from Egypt that had been in the Daily Prophet. She had just picked up a Gyro Wheel when Mr. Weasley cleared his throat. Hermione turned around and smiled at him.
"So," he said, tilting back in his chair and folding his hands across his middle. "You and I both know that you've got your own plan for what you'd like to do with your career, and I'm not here to talk you out of it. Or bore you out of it by dragging you along to meetings."
"Oh, Mr. Weasley—"
"I tried to tell Molly that myself, but she really did want us to try this," he chuckled, holding up a hand. "So, here we are. And I know that Hermione Granger is never unprepared, even for a situation she doesn't want to be a part of, so tell me. What would you like to see this week?"
Hermione gave an awkward sort of laugh, and sat down in one of the chairs opposite Mr. Weasley's desk, regarding her notepad first, and then his expectant smile. "There… is no real plan," she confessed.
Mr. Weasley didn't say anything. Hermione swallowed.
"I've got all these great ideas, but… somehow I can't come up with a plan. All I know is that becoming an underling in a Ministry office..." she shook her head. "And it's not that I'm opposed to working my way up, or anything, I just—every time I imagine it, I—I don't know…"
Mr. Weasley frowned. "You've a slightly delicate history with the Ministry," he said slowly.
Hermione nodded. "I suppose that's it. And…"
"Perhaps today was not a best-foot-forward day for my fellow department members," said Mr. Weasley thoughtfully.
The expression with which he now regarded her suddenly illuminated all of the anxieties and emotions that had been hanging over Hermione in a painful, confusing cloud since graduation. She felt her eyes smart.
"I'm being silly," she told her knees quietly.
"You're not," Mr. Weasley answered. When she had taken a moment to breathe and recover, she met his eyes again.
"I just don't know that—that any fight I could put up, for what I believe in… that it would mean anything here," she said. "Even now, even after all that we went through, blood status still carries so much weight, and Muggles…" she gave a hollow laugh.
Mr. Weasley nodded slowly. "I think," he said, "that perhaps you ought to come to one more meeting. I think we've got the time. Come along, dear," he said, getting to his feet.
This time, Mr. Weasley did not lead her through the warren of hallways; they went straight to the lift area and got on, going all the way to the top floor of the Ministry. When they emerged, a small stream of wizards and witches was trickling towards an open door at the far end of the corridor ahead.
"Ah, good," said Mr. Weasley, gesturing for Hermione to follow him. She did, and realized with a shock as they entered the room that it was an enormous meeting room with many chairs gathered around the table in the center.
"Arthur!" boomed a familiar voice. "And Hermione! I hoped you'd both make it up here…"
"Hello, Minister," said Mr. Weasley, shaking Kingsley's hand enthusiastically as they clapped each other on the shoulder. Kingsley shook Hermione's hand, and then gave her a one-armed hug.
"Good to see you," he murmured, and she smiled up at him. "What have you got for us today?" he asked of Arthur.
"A crash course in Muggle appliances and tools," said Mr. Weasley, holding up a sheaf of parchment. "Hermione is going to help me."
Hermione stared between them. "I'm—what? What is this?"
Kingsley smiled and said, "Hermione, you would not believe the number of witches and wizards who still have no appreciation for how different the Muggle experience is from our own. After all we've been through!"
Mr. Weasley smiled at Hermione. "One of Kingsley's first acts as Minister was to set up monthly training courses on sensitivity and awareness of the Muggle experience. By the way, Hermione may have some new names who could use a mandatory summons to next month's," he added, grinning at Kingsley, who smiled knowingly.
"It's been the most beneficial recovery plan I can come up with for changing attitudes," he said. He gestured around the room. "They might have a good chuckle when Arthur brings out a—what was it?"
"A blender," said Mr. Weasley. He looked at Hermione. "Disaster. I should've asked you how to use it properly. No lid, and I'd been tinkering with it…" he shook his head as he unpacked a toaster and a food processor from a box on the table that Hermione had not noticed.
"Anyway. They might have a laugh, they might come to their first session thinking this is all a waste of time, but in the end, they learn something new about the Muggle experience. The talk Arthur gave on entertainment still has people visiting movie theaters, including me and Hestia," said Kingsley. "And this way," he added, lowering his voice slightly and giving her a wink, "one of my favorite heads of department can keep tinkering with in his shed without putting himself under arrest. Hermione?"
For Hermione was holding her hand over her mouth as she looked around the room. Eager faces of high-ranking Ministry officials were all looking anticipatorily at the appliances Mr. Weasley was laying out on the table. "This is wonderful, Minister," she said softly.
Kingsley gave a deep laugh and patted her back again. Then he turned to Arthur and said, "The floor is yours, Mr. Weasley."
"Thank you, Minister," he said, nodding graciously. He caught Hermione's eyes. "Want to help?" he asked her. "You'll know more about some of these than I do."
Hermione looked at the objects on the table, and then at Mr. Weasley, and nodded. He clapped his hands together once, grinning, and called, "All right, everyone, all right! We're going to get started! Welcome to Muggle Rubbish With Mr. Weasley!"
There was an appreciative laugh, and, very carefully, Hermione put a large 'X' in the 'pro' column of her list.