It was beginning to get dark.
The last rays of the sun were creeping in through the Victorian windows, but Britain's new Prime Minister made no move to turn on the lights, preferring to stay sitting comfortably in his black leather chair, waiting at his desk.
Waiting. They were late.
The Minister looked around his new office for the hundredth time that day, and poured himself some more brandy from the crystal decanter. The room was not satisfactory. He would have to get it redecorated. A nice cream for the walls, black carpet, bottle green furniture, dark woods, no glass. The Minister could not abide by glass furniture. For now though, he would have to put up with this rather uninspired faded white and blue. What had Major been thinking?
He pushed back the sleeve of his expensive looking suit to reveal a gold watch. They were late. He had been planning this moment for over 40 years and they had the gall to be late!
No matter. They would soon learn that it did not pay to cross him, just like that young upstart Blair did. The Minister had to admit, the youngster had balls, to try to stand against him, but in the end his courage did him no good. He had won the general election in the largest landslide in history.
As if it could have been any other way – he had a way with people, they loved him: his charm, his handsome old-fashioned good looks, the way that he made them believe that if only they put their trust in this man, everything would be all right. Blair hadn't stood a chance. And neither would they.
His patience running out, the Minister downed his brandy and spoke out to the apparently empty room, his voice echoing in the shadows,
"You may tell Fudge that I shall see him now."
A small crash, as if it were muffled by padding, emanated from the portrait above the fireplace, and the Minister watched, unsurprised, as a toad-like figure picked itself up off the floor of the painting and scuttled out of the frame. Not a moment later the figure was back, rather redundantly announcing in a reedy voice,
"Minister of Magic, requesting meeting with Prime Minister of the Muggles."
The words were hardly out of its mouth before the fireplace burst into green flame, illuminating the room a rather ominous shade of green, and a man stepped out of the fireplace, brushing soot off his shoulders. The newcomer was singularly unspectacular. He had thinning, greying hair, a waistline that had seen better days, and had a flustered look about him as if he had been caught at something he shouldn't have been doing.
Which wasn't so far from the truth.
"Ah, Prime Minister!" cried Fudge jovially, attempting a strained smile, "wonderful, as always, to meet my Muggle counterpart!"
The Prime Minister raised an eyebrow at the display of exuberance. What had happened to the dignity of wizards? Fudge seemed to be derailed by his indifference, for though he opened his mouth to deliver what was to be no doubt another excellent oration, the words died on his lips. The man sagged – a phenomenon which paid no favour to his figure – and let out a sigh before promptly sitting himself down, uninvited, into one of the chairs on the other side of the desk.
"I take it that you know of us then, Prime Minister?" he asked. The Minister heard the sound of defeat in his voice. How pathetic. Yet, convenient too. Plan B would not be needed.
"Evidently," he replied.
Fudge nodded with a far-away look in his eyes, his expression forlorn, but at a small cough from the portrait above the fireplace, pulled himself together.
"Yes, well, regardless, the formalities must be observed," said Fudge, standing up from his chair and walking over to the desk so that he was almost leaning on it. "It is my duty, as Minister for Magic, to inform you of the existence of a segment of the population of the United Kingdom known as the wizarding community. An example is usually required to convince…" – Fudge reached into his heavy red robes to pull out a wand – "the whiskey into a hamster, perhaps?"
"I assure you, Cornelius, such a demonstration is entirely unnecessary," said the Prime Minister, and then he himself reached into the inside pocket of his suit to pull out a wand of his own, the pale wood gleaming. With a casual twirl which betrayed great skill, the crystal container shimmered and seemed to turn into a molten silvery fluid before, in the blink of an eye, the liquid silver transformed into a long dagger in the Roman style, complete with wooden hilt and red pommel. "And it was brandy, by the by."
Fudge was speechless, his eyes not leaving the dagger, lying on the blue leather that topped the desk.
"You're a – a…"
"Wizard, yes," the Minister replied to the unvoiced question, and then anticipated the next, "you will find that there are no rules against it."
The time was now. This was it. His victory. He stood up, and began to pace behind his desk.
"Now," he said, and his voice was noticeably different: colder, more commanding, clear that it was he who was in control of the situation, "It is my duty to inform you that you have, in fact, not been doing yours."
He continued to pace. Fudge was still looking at the dagger, but his eyes were closed. No matter.
"The British Ministry of Magic, it appears, has been remiss in it's obligations for the last three centuries or so. You have forgotten, it seems, that the Ministry of Magic is but one od many departments under the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom."
With each sentence his voice grew louder. Not shouting, but there was force behind it, and anger. Or at least, that was the desired effect. The Minister was very good at speaking. At some point Fudge had sat back down.
"You have not been attending my cabinet. You have not been lending aid in time of war. You have not been sharing full information. You have been passing laws without the consent of the Prime Minister. For all this, and much more, the Ministry of Magic shall answer."
The Minister gave Fudge what he considered a shrewd look.
"By all rights I should have you removed from your position, Fudge," he said, before his voice softened, "but I feel that you wish to serve your country, do you not?"
Fudge finally looked up and into the Minister's face, seeing a lifeline. A way out of this mess. He nodded. The Minister smiled but there was no humour behind it.
"Good," he said, and took his seat once more, "you shall assist me in any way I deem necessary. I shall no doubt have need of the Ministry's resources soon enough. This rebellion ends tonight."
Fudge continued to sit in silence.
The Minister looked up, as if surprised to see Fudge still there.
"Don't let me detain you, Cornelius."
The dismissal was clear and Fudge stood up shakily.
"Yes, Minister Riddle."
As Fudge walked over to the fireplace, he completely missed the Minister's eyes flash red.
Credit goes to Pratchet for the "Don't let me detain you" line.