A/N: Lots of fun mixing real and imagined history here. Not quite as much fun as the Dementor Horde's history was, but close.
The Fudge family had once been the main suppliers of Honeydukes. Their chocolate products had become synonymous with a popular confectionery in the Muggle world, after a Squib attending Vassar College had shared the recipe with her schoolmate, Emelyn Hartridge. But their fortune had dwindled over the years as other families began manufacturing sweets at lower cost, culminating in the removal of the last Fudge sweet from Honeydukes stores in 1969, when the scion of the House of Fudge, Cornelius, was 5 years old.
By the time Cornelius Fudge attended Hogwarts, the Fudges had completely fallen from grace - not quite as badly as the Gaunts, but the family name certainly held no respect without the gold they were used to accumulating from their products. So while previous Fudges were well-liked in Hogwarts, Cornelius had no such respect or popularity. As a Hufflepuff, a House known for its purported worthlessness, his station was lowered further in the social ranks.
Not that Hufflepuffs were worthless, of course, but the other students either bullied them or treated them with a sort of thoughtless condescension that was equally rude. And when Cornelius Fudge announced his intention to one day become the Minister of Magic, the response from the other students was that of disbelief. The name-calling had begun soon after.
"Who'd want Pudgy Fudgey as Minister?" students would laugh.
He watched Dolores Umbridge as she was mercilessly teased by the more popular students. He knew that they were alike, two students on the bottom of the social ladder. He also knew that in order for her to be worth anything, she needed a backer, a Pureblood of a family old enough to have weight.
He wasn't arrogant enough to believe in Pureblood supremacy, of course. He knew that Dolores was much more clever than he; he'd watched her read books thicker than his arm before. But the system was in place, and if it made him necessary to her success, he had no complaints.
"Can I sit here?" he asked her.
She looked at him, suspicion evident in her eyes. It was warranted; he'd often see random passers-by insult her for no apparent reason.
Eventually, she nodded, and went back to reading a particularly thick volume on 13th century Wizengamot rulings.
"I…I've heard what the others call you," Fudge said. "I want to let you know that you're not alone."
Dolores glanced up at him again. "What?" she asked, irritation seeping into her tone.
Now that he had her attention, he became bolder. "They call me Fudgey," he said.
"And what is your name?" she asked.
"Cornelius Fudge," he replied. "I'm a fifth-year."
"And why are you talking to me?"
"You're smart." Fudge gestured to the book she still had in her hands. "Really smart. But you don't have the political connections to get into the Ministry; your father worked for the Werewolf Registry, right? I'm higher up. You help me rise up through the Ministry, and I'll see to it that you rise up along with me."
She thought for a moment. "Fine," she said, and that was that.
When he first met Lucius Malfoy, he didn't know what to expect. The Malfoy scion had a reputation as cruel, vicious, and cunning. It was also said that Lucius knew his friends, and rewarded them well. With a political alliance with the Malfoys and the scheming done by Dolores, his rise through the Ministry ranks would be nearly assured.
"Mr. Malfoy," he began. "My name is Cornelius Fudge."
Lucius looked at him with slate-grey eyes. "Ah, Mr. Fudge," he said. "A pleasure."
"Quite," Cornelius beamed. "Would you mind if I were to be blunt?"
The smile on those thin lips told Cornelius everything he needed to know.
"I have political aspirations," Fudge began. "And I believe that you could help me rise through the Ministerial ranks...in exchange for some favors, of course."
"Of course," Lucius said. "I could. But tell me, why should I not simply take the position of Minister myself?"
Fudge took a deep breath. This was the gamble he'd prepared to make, why he felt he could rely on the help of the Malfoys - and all the myriad alliances of the well-connected family. "Because your leanings are well-known," he replied. "Those like Dumbledore would never support you. But I'm a neutral. Both sides know that I can be influenced...and as long as they think they can influence me, they'll support me, both Dark and Light."
Lucius smiled that thin smirk again. "Well said. I will aid you, in return for...an available ear."
"Very good," said Cornelius, exhaling in relief. "If you could go see Dolores Umbridge at some point in the future, I believe the two of you would get along famously."
In 1990, Cornelius Fudge took office. He raised his wand.
"I, Cornelius Oswald Fudge, swear to uphold the laws of Magical Britain, and to use my best judgement in exercising power relating thereto. So mote it be."
It was a simple oath, one that had been reduced through the years - Ministers of Magic would often die after changing their political views during their stay in office, for example - but with it, he began his six year reign over Magical Britain.
"You're sure that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned?" he asked Harry Potter. They sat in an unused classroom, once Harry had been released from the Hospital Wing.
"Oh, yes," the boy replied calmly. "I swore an oath to that effect, after all, and have suffered no ill effects."
"Yes, quite," Fudge said nervously. He remembered the years during You-Know-Who's reign of terror quite well. No political office was safe: either you were assassinated by Death Eaters, or you were sacked for not succeeding in an impossible war. If such a period were to resume, his position as Minister would be quite tenuous.
His initial reaction was to deny, insist that the story was the deranged rambling of an attention-seeking child. But Harry Potter was not lying; he'd even sworn an oath, something most wizards rarely did due to the gravity of the consequences of breaking a magically binding oath. Most wizards would not risk dying because they accidentally misspoke when swearing an oath.
"Well...we should work together," he finally said. "Strength through unity, and all that." The Triwizard Tournament was meant to be a political affair, not something as important to his future as the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He wished Dolores had come as well, so she could take care of the scheming. She was much better at the political manoeuvring than he was.
"No, I think not," Harry smiled, and Fudge did a double-take.
"What?" the Minister asked.
"I really don't think I want to work with you," he said. "In fact, I think that you really ought to resign."
"Why?" asked Fudge, bewildered. He didn't think he'd done anything to warrant this antagonism, had he?
"You're a good peace-time Minister," Potter said calmly. "But we need new leadership during what will soon be a time of chaos."
"Turning power over to someone else weakens the Ministry as a whole," Cornelius protested.
Potter smirked. "The real question here," he said, ignoring the Minister's last comment, "is whether you resign gracefully, or you are forcibly removed from office after the Boy-Who-Lived launches a public smear attack against you. After all, I have quite a bit of sway with the general public."
Fudge wasn't sure whether it was the threat, or simply that it had sunk in that Harry Potter was practically ordering him to resign, but he left his genial countenance behind when he shot to his feet. The bumbling mask he'd used to persuade Lucius Malfoy that he was simply a pawn fell away, and his face was stony.
"I am the Minister of Magic," he said. "I have worked my entire life to reach this station. It is mine, and you will not take it from me."
Potter smirked at him, as though he'd just won something Cornelius hadn't even known was being fought over. "Do you really think you can defeat Albus Dumbledore in the political arena?" he asked, and paused for a second. "We'll see," the boy finally said, and left the room.
He entered Dolores Umbridge's office with a sigh.
"What can I do for you, Cornelius?" she asked.
He flopped down on one of her chairs.
"Albus Dumbledore," Fudge sighed.
He knew Dolores hated the Hogwarts Headmaster. He didn't care why, the only thing that mattered was that she would be extraordinarily vicious in her attack.
"What is the issue now?" she asked.
"This whole He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named business," Fudge expanded. He held back some information - both in order to test her abilities and reinforce his image as a bumbling pawn. "He's trying to incite a panic, I swear. It's taking all of my effort just to keep the people from rioting, and he wants to prepare them for war or some such nonsense."
"Maybe that's what he's going for," Umbridge said slowly. "He was offered the job of Minister years ago…you only got it because he refused the appointment."
Cornelius flushed in embarrassment, but he continued her train of thought. "And now that You-Know-Who's back, he wants the job?"
"He might feel he's the only one with the ability to fight the Dark Lord," Umbridge said thoughtfully.
"Then we'll need to neutralize him," Fudge said, glad that they were on the same page. "My only worry is about Harry Potter. He's linked so closely with Dumbledore…"
"Never mind him, Cornelius," Umbridge said sweetly. "I've got a plan to deal with that problem."
The trial of Dolores Umbridge took place after the Hogwarts school year had ended. A complaint by Neville Longbottom (who wasn't intimidating on his own, but whose grandmother had been said tointimidate He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself) led to an investigation, which revealed that Umbridge had cast the Cruciatus curse.
He wondered at her lack of subtlety. Dolores was usually very good at finding legal loopholes for her more ruthless plots. To use one of the Unforgiveable curses was oddly outside of her modus operandi.
He began to put the pieces together when he saw Lucius Malfoy speaking to her before the trial. However, it was beyond his power to cease the proceedings, and he could do nothing but watch as Dolores Umbridge began her testimony. Besides, he thought, they had each other's backs. They'd done everything together since Hogwarts. This had been their dream, there was no way that Umbridge would throw it away.
"Minister Fudge ordered me to 'neutralize' both Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter," she said. "He's known me since I was in Hogwarts...and he had the power to replace me very easily, I was afraid..."
She continued, spinning half-truths in such a way that the veritaserum did not react but that painted Fudge in the worst light and Umbridge as an unwilling participant - a victim, even.
When the vote came, he watched with a sinking sensation as Lucius Malfoy and the collection of families that had always voted with him proclaimed Umbridge's innocence. He waited. He knew what was coming.
"Minister Fudge, we hereby call for your resignation," said Lucius Malfoy with that same thin smirk.
Fudge was not surprised at the nodding heads. For the first time since his election, both the Dark and Light factions agreed on something. He bowed, accepting defeat.
He stepped from his chair, passing by Dumbledore on his way. "Congratulations, Dumbledore," he said. "You won."
"My dear Cornelius," the aging wizard shook his head, "there was never any contest."
A/N: Pow! For once, a Fudge that is neither incompetent nor evil (really, I see Fudge as a character who just wants everything to stay the same, a truly neutral guy). And yeah, we finally see just how Dolores gets off scot-free. I'm not revealing details about the Cruciatus showdown yet, so the lack of information regarding Harry's Unforgiveable is intentional. And, yeah, Fudge thinks Dumbledore is the puppetmaster behind Harry, even to the end.
Next chapter might be a visit to an old POV or a new one, not sure yet. See you then!