A Study in Magic
by Books of Change
Warning/Notes: This is a BBC Sherlock and Harry Potter crossover AU. The HP timeline and BBC Sherlock's timeline has been shifted forwards and backwards to match up. One major BBC Sherlock character's gender has changed for the sake of the plot. The story was planned and written before season 2, but incorporates elements of season 2 as much as possible. Readers beware!
Chapter Seventy Seven: Catastrophe in the Ministry
Arthur Weasley paused for a moment as his tiny office trembled violently. The chorus of screaming and shouting voices reverberating through the floor told him it wasn't an earthquake that shook the Ministry of Magic from its foundations, but several hundred Howlers that exploded simultaneously. Before long Arthur smelled smoke, and as though on cue, he heard a multitude of footsteps hurrying down the halls.
It had become almost like a daily ritual now, Arthur mused. Ever since the Ministry took over the Magical Mobile Network, the service ceased to work. That led the customers to send increasingly vicious curses to lodge their complaints. No one in the Ministry even batted an eye at the incoming Howlers anymore, because they came so frequently at massive volumes (and often sent from disgruntled people within the Ministry).
Dolores Umbridge was the primary recipient of the angry mail, and Fudge a close second. Arthur knew for a fact the latter refused to leave his office since the public started screaming for his resignation for mishandling the MMN acquisition. Umbridge he didn't see, but rumour had it she practically moved residence to St. Mungo's because the enclosed curses often left her grossly transfigured (amphibians were a popular choice; one enterprising soul turned her into a pink toad-slug hybrid, but the form quickly got lost in the avalanche of other curses, said Reggie Cattermole from Magical Maintenance). Even then, the collateral damage was so hefty, the Ministry decided to destroy any and all incoming mail addressed to Madam Umbridge unless it was a Howler, as preemptively destroying Howlers only made things worse.
For the most part, Arthur was more inclined to feel sorry for his Ministry colleagues. Since the shutdown, all hands in the Department of Magical Transportation were working hideous amounts of overtime to correct the problem. Unfortunately, only one person in the world truly understood how the MMN worked and she had gone missing (Arthur knew Ms. Shin could be contacted through a fabulous Muggle communication method called email, but no one asked and, though he knew the thing existed, he didn't know how it worked).
After two weeks of hair-pulling, the Floo Network Authority decided that they should rescue the phones' calling ability at the very least. This meant connecting the phones to the old Floo Network. However, the spell the Floo Network Authority used to connect fireplaces didn't work on mobile phones because the latter weren't fixtures. Someone eventually developed a modified version of the spell, but the magic required a phone to be within line of sight. So the Floo Network Authority sent out notices to the MMN customers—a lengthy and tedious process that required shifting through nine thousand rolls of parchment, according to Madam Edgecombe— that told them where they ought to go to get their phones fixed. Fudge fretted over what the avalanche of angry customers would do, so he ordered fifty members of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and even some Aurors to station on the sites to prevent a stampede or a riot.
A huge crowd showed up to the sites as expected. Only, no one wanted to get their phones fixed. Instead, everyone demanded compensation for the lost service and express their desire to cancel their old MMN service.
While Fudge and Umbridge tore at their hair in bafflement, Arthur knew exactly why this happened. Five days after the shutdown—at which point the idea that service will not resume as usual in any foreseeable future would sink into the customers' heads, as his (brilliant) son Ron rightfully put it—the former and now deemed redundant employees of the Magical Mobile Network sprang into action. In various times, the thousands of dormant phones aired a short ad:
The advertisement opened with a view of a wizarding household listening to Minister Fudge's flustered assurances that the Ministry was addressing the mysterious shutdown of the Magical Mobile Network as quickly as possible. The young ones grumbled how the MMN was now more like the Ministry's Mangled Network as the parents held their unresponsive phones morosely. The next scene showed the parents sending off their children to Hogwarts at platform nine and three quarters. They worried how they were going to communicate as Hogwarts Express chugged away, and mentioned they no longer had an owl.
Then the mother's deactivated phone, which the camera often focused on, suddenly lit up. The parent pair stared at the phone in astonishment before the mother hastily placed the phone to her ear. The voice of the child who grumbled in the previous scene said: Mum?
"Darling, I can hear you," said the mother, tearing up. "But how…?"
"The original MMN maker opened a new telephone service called Zing!" said the child brightly. "And Mum, you won't believe this, but it's even better than the old MMN! It's only two Galleons a month and you don't have to use Floo powder at all!"
"Did you have to buy a new phone?" asked the father.
"No! We can keep the old phone! The switchover only took ten minutes! Isn't that amazing?!"
"Why wait?" said a disembodied voice as the mother and father joyfully spoke to their children. "Respond now and get a service even better than the one you used to enjoy … no Floo, no hassle, and no Ministry meddling. If you are not satisfied, you may call us at any time and cancel. You will get your money back … guaranteed."
Ron told Arthur almost fifty percent of the old MMN customers signed up for the new Zing service on the first day of the ad's airing. More customers flooded in as the word got out. By mid-May, Zing ® had (re)covered all of the old domestic users of the MMN and then some.
"I reckon things turned out for the better," Ron remarked. "The transition only took two weeks. We haven't got back all the international customers, of course, but it's only a matter of time."
This didn't mean things were all rosy at the home front. The Ministry was deeply in the red because of the MMN acquisition, but had nothing to show for it due to the massive cancelations. There were also rumors Fudge took out many private loans to finance the purchase and the lenders were absolutely irate because the promised investment returns had gone up in smoke. Then there was poor Percy, who probably under the Minister's orders, kept trying to get Arthur and Ron to help.
"Father, as Ministry employees we are both obligated to find a solution," Percy argued. "If you could just…"
"Percy, even if I knew how to fix the network, it's too late. Pretty much all of the customers are gone, and they aren't likely to come back," Arthur sighed.
Percy pounded a fist angrily on Arthur's desk.
"That's why we need to find Ms. Shin at once! The sale was done in bad faith, I just know it! It's obvious Ms. Shin took advantage of the Ministry to generate even greater profit!"
"You know Jeremy Shin was practically chasing Madam Umbridge down to convince her to agree to a transition process," said Arthur sternly. "Don't you think it would've made all the difference?"
"Perhaps, but just as possibly, the transition may have been a means to milk more money from the Ministry," Percy blustered as his ears turned pink. "Anyway, all this is water under the bridge. Right now we need to think how the Ministry can recuperate the losses. If we don't, the Ministry will have to scale down and maybe even issue layoffs … this can mean your job may become redundant, Father!"
Arthur already had a strong inkling of this, but he wasn't worried. He might have been in the past, but now with Ron earning more in a month than Arthur did in an entire year, and Ron faithfully supporting the family, Arthur had no reason to be concerned. He would miss the Muggle artefacts, of course, but he had Lestrade and Sherlock to fill the gap. But he still winced as he thought about his Ministry colleagues and what massive job cuts would mean for them.
"See?" pressed Percy, mistaking the reason behind Arthur's wince. "You need to help, Father, this is very important! First and foremost we need to locate Ms. Shin so she can face charges—"
"What do you mean?" said Arthur sharply. "Are you saying the Wizengamot already decided Ms. Shin is criminally liable?"
Percy's face turned red as he looked away.
"She'll have a fair trial. It's not a given that she'll face jail time, and even then, it'll probably be just a few—"
"Percy!" Arthur roared, his temper finally getting the better of him. "Look at me in the eye and tell me the Ministry won't send Ms. Shin to Azkaban before the trial! Then look at me in the eye and tell me you can guarantee she'll live to see the trial!"
Percy wouldn't look up, but he looked stricken.
"Can you really live with that in your conscience?!" Arthur shouted.
Arthur didn't see Percy after this exchange. He had a feeling Percy was avoiding him.
Days passed. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Lestrade reported that Fudge stopped entertaining the idea of arresting Jacqueline. Arthur didn't know what led to this unusually wise decision. In his more hopeful moments, Arthur wondered if Percy convinced Fudge. Usually, though, Arthur thought Shin June Hu's decision to stop using his height-reduction spell must have had something to do with it. He certainly looked more terrifying at six feet plus than he did at five feet five.
More days passed. As the month of May drew to a close, those belonging to the Department of Magical Transportation found their overtime hours dwindle to nothing. From the looks of it, apparently the Ministry had decided the MMN was a lost cause.
Those in the Ministry took this as an ominous sign. And sure enough, everyone received an interdepartmental memo from Minister Fudge, which said he had an important announcement…
Unlike the Ministry, Hogwarts more or less return to normal by the end of May. Students, teachers, headmasters and headmistress alike were poring over their phones and watching the enchanted televised news once more.
Ron Weasley was among those students enjoying the atmosphere of restoration. It certainly helped that he wasn't working for the Magical Mobile Network anymore. He never realised how much time he spent at the MMN until he no longer had to. Even now it felt almost indulgent to spend his evenings doing nothing but homework.
There was only one sliver of cloud covering the general sunniness of his mood.
"An egg," Ron grumbled light-heartedly. "Of all the things she could've used for the packaging, she uses an Easter Egg."
To his left, one of his fellow Gryffindors let out an excited noise as a small, brightly-coloured egg popped out of the Floo chute of his phone. He eagerly cracked the egg open, and a cloud of lilac-coloured smoke soon engulfed the egg, followed by a localized explosion. When the smoke cleared, the egg was gone, and several vials of Weather In A Bottle and large bag of Canary Creams were on the table instead.
"I think it's more interesting than a regular brown box," said Hermione, in a teasingly scolding tone.
"But boxes have that unwrapping a present feeling," said Ron.
"So does Easter eggs," said Hermione. "Especially when your mother makes them; tell her I say thank you for the egg and toffee, by the way."
Ron was making a vague accenting noise when a lone barn owl swooped down towards Ron and dropped a letter on his plate.
"Gee, who uses owls in this day and age?" said Harry sarcastically.
"Must be someone from the Ministry," said Neville as Ron picked up the envelope, which had a wax seal that bore the Ministry of Magic's logo: a large M that an upright wand in the middle.
Ron tore open the envelope and read the letter. It was from Dolores Umbridge, writing in behalf of the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. She proposed a meeting on the 27th and said it was to his best interest that he agreed.
Hermione, Harry and Neville read the letter over Ron's shoulder.
"Why do you think she wants to see you?" said Neville.
"Probably wants you to fix the network, somehow," said Hermione, sniffing. "I'm surprised she's actually asking, rather than take you to court."
Ron certainly didn't think Umbridge would take the route he thought she was taking. In any case, Umbridge must think he was a blithering idiot or a coward to think she could order him around.
"I sort of wish I can tell her she can go to hell," said Ron regretfully as Hermione wrote a terse note of agreement and sent it off.
Ron, Hermione Harry and Neville went over to the Hufflepuff table and had a brief discussion with Julia about the meeting. In the end they decided only Ron and Hermione should attend.
"It'll give her a false sense of security," said Hermione. "We want her to act as stupid as possible. She might put up her guard if Harry or Julia is there."
Ron received a follow-up letter from Umbridge on the twenty sixth. It stated she was going to accompany the new head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, who was going to explain the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament to the champions at nine o' clock in the evening at the Quidditch field, so she expected Ron to be there as well.
Ron goggled for a brief moment after he finished reading Umbridge's letter. He had been so caught up in the Magical Mobile Network drama, he completely forgot about the Triwizard Tournament.
"I'll film it," said Harry, who looked as taken aback as Ron. "You don't have to be there."
At half past eight on the twenty-seventh, Harry, Ron and Hermione left the Gryffindor Tower and went downstairs. As they crossed the entrance hall, Cedric came up from the Hufflepuff common room.
"What d'you reckon it's going to be?" he asked as they went together down the stone steps, out into the cloudy night. "Fleur keeps going on about underground tunnels; she reckons we've got to find treasure."
"That wouldn't be too bad," said Ron, thinking that if he was a champion, he would simply ask Hagrid for a niffler to do the job for him.
The four of them walked down the dark lawn to the Quidditch stadium, turned through a gap in the stands, and walked out onto the field.
"What've they done to it?" Cedric said indignantly, stopping dead.
The Quidditch field was no longer smooth and flat. It looked as though somebody had been building long, low walls all over it that twisted and crisscrossed in every direction.
"They're hedges!" said Harry, bending to examine the nearest one.
"Hello there!" called a familiar voice.
Ron's brother Bill was waving at them from middle of the field. Behind him, Ron could see a powerfully-built witch who had ash-blond dreadlocks standing between Krum and Fleur. He assumed the witch was the new head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.
"What're you doing here?" said Ron as he, Cedric, Hermione and Harry climbed over the last hedge.
"I'm representing Gringotts," said Bill, looking a bit wry. "They want someone to complain to about the MMN debacle. Since the Ministry is out, that leaves you."
"It's not my fault the Ministry's defaulting on their private loans," Ron retorted.
"I know," said Bill. "And the goblins know that too. They actually respect you a lot for playing dirty so well."
"I didn't play dirty!" Ron protested.
"That's enough Mr. Weasley!" barked the witch. "The champions need informing!"
Cedric joined the other champions, while Ron, Bill and his friends hung back. Fleur Delacour, Ron noticed, was eyeing Bill with great interest. Apparently she had no objection whatsoever to long hair or earrings with fangs on them.
"I'm Gwendolyn Morgan, the new head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports," said the witch. "As you can see, we're modifying the field for the third task. Don't worry," she added sharply, after spotting the less than-happy expression on Cedric's face, "you'll have your Quidditch field back to normal once the task is over! Now, I imagine you can guess what we're making here?"
No one spoke for a moment. Then –
"Maze," grunted Krum.
"Correct," said Morgan. "A maze. The third task's very straightforward. The Triwizard Cup will be placed in the center of the maze. The first champion to touch it will receive full marks."
"We seemply 'ave to get through the maze?" said Fleur.
"There will be obstacles," said Morgan. "Hagrid is providing a number of creatures … then there will be spells that must be broken. You know the drill. Now, the champion who is leading on points will get a head start into the maze." She nodded at Cedric. "Then Mr. Krum will enter, and then Miss Delacour. But you'll all have a fighting chance, depending how well you get past the obstacles. It shouldn't be too bad."
Ron, who knew only too well the kind of creatures that Hagrid was likely to provide for an event like this, thought the task was going to be as bad as it could get.
The champions nodded politely. Then everyone began to wend their way out of the growing maze. Ron was going to follow, but then Morgan tapped him on the shoulder.
"You're Ronald Weasley?"
"Uh, yeah," Ron said, slightly surprised.
"Madam Umbridge will arrive in a minute," said Morgan, giving Ron a sceptical look. "Wait here."
"Okay," said Ron.
Bill grinned slightly.
"I'll wait with you," he said. "I want to have a word with her, too."
Gwendolyn Morgan let out a snort and then went away.
Ron, Hermione and Bill waited in the middle of the field. Ron was thinking it was bad choice for a place to hold a private meeting, when there was small pop, and a squat little witch holding a tea kettle appeared out of thin air.
Ron couldn't help but let out a gasp of horror when his eyes landed on the witch, who turned out to be Umbridge. Though essentially recognisable, much of her appearance had changed and for the worse. Her hair was burnt down almost to the scalp and sported several bald patches. Several slimy and grotesque-looking tentacles were protruding out her skull, where patches were. The pink cardigan and matching robes hid most her body, but her exposed face sported skin that looked extremely flabby, like she'd gained tremendous amounts of weight in a short period of time and then lost much of it just as quickly. It also had a distinct greenish-brown shade and a shiny, yet porous texture, like that of warty toad.
"Good Evening, Mr.—" Umbridge began, her voice a raspy croak, and not her usual high-pitch tone.
Umbridge cleared her throat ("herm, herm") before continuing:
"Mr. Ronald Weasley, I've been meaning to see you for some time," said Umbridge. She still sounded raspy, but her pitch was higher.
"Really," said Ron skeptically. "That's funny, because the last time I tried to talk to you, you said no."
"Ah, well, the Ministry was busy at the time," said Umbridge evasively. "It still is, as a matter of fact. I assume your father has told you?"
Ron shrugged. Umbridge looked like she wanted him to say something or else slap him, but Ron didn't oblige. So she went on:
"Yes, we have been very busy … I have to admit we are teensy bit over our heads. A bit of help would not go amiss."
She was getting close to the point, Ron thought, as Hermione unnecessarily stepped on his foot to shush him. At length, Umbridge made an explosive sound through her wide nostrils.
"Can you help us, Mr. Weasley?" she burst out.
"What kind of help do you want?" asked Ron. "I can't fix the thing for you."
"Yes, I know that!" snapped Umbridge, her voice rising to a shriek. "I also know the Ministry far beyond the point of recovery! But even if you don't know how to fix it yourself, you surely know people who can! Don't you?!"
"Yeah, sure," said Ron.
Umbridge seemed to collapse a little at that.
"That's all the Ministry needs!" she cried. "Please take over the Magical Mobile Network! We believe you are the only person who can rescue it from ruin!"
Ron stared at her.
"You want me to buy it," he said.
"Yes," said Umbridge eagerly. "The Ministry, of course, knows we are in no position to ask you buy it back at its original price. We would be quite content for half or even forty—"
"No deal," Ron interrupted. "Three million Galleons is way too expensive for an underwater company that's got no equity or tangibles."
Umbridge shot an ugly look of hatred at Ron before composing herself.
"Well, we can certainly negotiate," said Umbridge stiffly. "What is your offer?"
Ron dreamed of this moment. It felt just as good as his fantasies when he declared:
Umbridge looked gratifyingly aghast. Ron savored the look.
"Zero, Mr. Weasley?" she stammered. "Are you telling me you consider the company you poured so much of your blood, sweat and tears to build up is now worth nothing to you?"
"Yes," said Ron. "Whatever it was worth before, it's worth nothing now. Actually, it's worth less than nothing: no income, but a lot of expenses. Even if that wasn't a problem, the company's reputation is shot. Do you know what people call it these days? The Ministry's Mangled Network. No matter how I look at it, it's a poison asset."
Ron stood back and crossed his arms.
"The Ministry ought to pay me to take over the thing," he said. "But my brother works for you lot, so I won't. Anyway: zero. Take it or leave it."
For a while Umbridge just stared at Ron, breathing deeply and a bit erratically, like a steam engine going overdrive. Before long, she exploded:
"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" she screamed. "THIS NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED! YOU KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, DIDN'T YOU?!"
Ron shrugged again.
"DON'T YOU DARE SHRUG AT ME, YOU LITTLE BEAST!" Umbridge shrieked. "I'M STILL THE HIGH INQUISITOR OF HOGWARTS! LET'S SEE IF YOU'LL FEEL SO SMUG WHEN I—"
Bill whipped out his wand before Ron could move.
"I'd be careful, ma'am," he said calmly. "Ron's my brother and I won't hesitate to defend him. Just so you know, I'm a senior curse breaker at Gringotts."
Umbridge stared at Bill's wand and thought better of it.
"I'll take you to court!" shouted Umbridge furiously. "The Wizengamot will never acquit you!"
"By all means take us to court," said Hermione, looking contemptuously at Umbridge. "The case against us will never stand. We have the documents you yourself signed for the acquisition. By signing it, you put yourself—and as the representative, the entire Ministry of Magic—under a binding magical contract that absolved us from any and all obligation to MMN in exchange for our rights to it."
Umbridge let out a pathetic mewling noise.
"It's all on you, now," said Hermione relentlessly. "Just the way you wanted. But I suppose it really is too much for you. Well, if you want help, then I suggest that you go and hire a Muggle who can do it for you. They'll probably do a much better job. Let's go Ron."
"Yeah," said Ron.
Then turning their backs on Umbridge, Ron and Hermione strode back towards the castle.
Final Notes: …and I'm still not done with Umbridge. Nuh-uh.
Sorry for the delay, dear readers. Besides Christmas, the New Years, the overwhelming pain of crafting an ad (see above), I had difficulty accessing my FFNET account (either I couldn't log in or the publish function didn't work … ugh!).
Gwendolyn Morgan played Quidditch for the Holyhead Harpies and was the team Captain in 1953, according to Quidditch Through the Ages.
I had to think how many people the Ministry of Magic employs for this chapter. The Ministry spared 500 workers for an entire year for the Quidditch World cup and could still function. It also has a ten story building they fill with workers, presumably. I roughly estimated the number of persons to be around 800-1000 … 900 being my best guess.
I bought a bicycle. If I stop updating this story for months on end without finishing, it probably means I got killed riding it. I'm trying to come up with a Disaster Recovery Plan, but so far nothing. Oh well.