It had not been a good week for Rufus Scrimgeour. It had started out Monday with a row between him and Arthur Weasley, formerly of the Department of Muggle Artifacts, now heading the Recovery of Dangerous Magical Items Department (or whatever that confounded office was called) since the reemergence of Lord Voldemort. Weasley had confronted him, predictably complaining about lack of funds and qualified personnel to carry out his assigned duties and questioning Rufus pointedly about rumored goings-on at Hogwarts, involving House Slytherin in general and the Malfoy family in particular. Rufus had somehow managed to allay Arthur’s concerns, though with vague blandishments which he suspected wouldn’t survive the next attack against wizard or Muggle. Arthur would be back, no doubt. His predecessor, Cornelius Fudge, in reviewing Ministry staff, had dismissed Weasley as a mediocre wizard, a harmless eccentric with a fascination for Muggles and their so-called technology. The focused and determined man with whom he had words that day resembled a “harmless eccentric” the way a house-elf resembles a mountain troll, he thought, and he didn’t need that kind of disruption so early in the week.
If Monday had been bad, Wednesday had been positively disastrous. It was on that day that Minerva McGonagall, Transfiguration Professor and Deputy Headmistress at Hogwarts had arrived at his office with the crushing news of the death of Albus Dumbledore. Scrimgeour had barely known how to react. He like Fudge had run the Ministry of Magic in Dumbledore’s shadow, a state of affairs he resented at least as much as Fudge had if not more. Still, there was no getting around the fact of this irreplaceable loss, nor the interruption of Ministry routine represented by the necessities of gathering most of the higher-ranking ministers for the funeral the next day. That was bother enough, but to endure the cheek from that young upstart Potter was next to intolerable. “Dumbledore’s man, through and through,” eh? Let’s hear the song he sings when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named puts Potter’s knickers in a permanent twist!
Now, though it was late Friday. There had been yet another incident very early that morning, somewhere in Little Whinging. An inter-office memo from Weasley had sailed in before noon, mentioning something about a portkey disguised as a Muggle telephone and a subsequent fracas between his team and a number of Death Eaters, plus something about injuries to two of his people. The Death Eaters had somehow been beaten back and what Muggles were involved already had their memories dealt with. Rufus had skimmed most of the note, groaning to himself when Weasley brought up yet again the issue of funding for his department. “Even a wizard can’t get water from a stone,” he mused discontentedly to himself. Weasley would just have to be content with his portion for now.
Thankfully, that had been the only major disturbance of the day, other than the usual collection of useless meetings and a lunch with Dolores Umbridge, wherein she attempted to lobby Scrimgeour either to reinstall her as Headmistress of Hogwarts or close the place down. “The place needs a firm hand, certainly after Dumbledore. I swear, the children were running that place more than he….” He managed to endure 30 minutes of her non-stop monologue before excusing himself in favor of yet another meeting which didn’t actually start for half an hour … but thankfully, Dolores wasn’t privy to that little tidbit. Now, Weasley and Umbridge and execrable meetings behind him, along with most of the day, Rufus was more than ready to slough off the remainder of the afternoon and go home.
He wasn’t half-way to the door when the sound of his secretary’s voice though it made him stop. “…ibly sorry to hear that, sir. Please go right in.” Rufus groaned and attempted to compose himself for yet another unwanted disturbance, probably Weasley yet again, pleading for Galleons the Ministry didn’t have. His composure was very nearly shattered when a man walked briskly through the door opening, closing it firmly behind him then confronting Scrimgeour. Rather than wizard’s robes, he wore a Muggle’s suit and tie and an expression on his face that told Rufus that his bad week was about to get much worse. But wait a minute! What is a Muggle doing here in the Ministry of Magic? How did he get in, never mind find his way here?
“Excuse me, sir, but only officers of the Ministry….” are allowed here, Rufus had wanted to say before the man reached out with surprising speed, grasped his robes an inch below the neck, shifted him roughly to the right and deposited him in the left of two chairs which Fudge had used for meetings and which Scrimgeour hadn’t gotten to removing. With a frightening deftness, the man then controlled Rufus’s left arm, reaching into his sleeve to remove his wand, placing it on an end-table next to the other chair, which he then occupied. “Mr. Scrimgeour,” he announced with inarguable finality, “you and I need to talk.”
Any semblance of calm or control over the situation Scrimgeour might have had was very nearly out the window at this point, yet he was able to regain sufficient self-control to demand, “And who are you, sir?”
“Simes!” the man barked back at him, “Broderick Randolph Simes, the father of Samantha Kerchel Simes, who is currently in St. Mungo’s Hospital in critical condition from that nearly disastrous brawl in Little Whinging this morning!”
The Minister attempted to be dismissive. “I know all about that matter. The Death Eaters were stopped, though we had two minor casualties….”
Broderick cut him off. “‘Minor’? Would you call repeated use of Crucio on both victims, plus Sectumsempra ‘minor?’ I’ve had to send an owl to Hogwarts to get Madame Pomfrey’s help; the staff at St. Mungo’s was next to clueless about the second spell, and my daughter’s lost at least three pints of blood because of it, on top of the nerve damage she’s suffered!”
Scrimgeour’s cage was now thoroughly rattled at the mention of an Unforgivable Curse, plus a spell he had never heard of before, though it sounded dangerous enough. “How do you know about those spells?”
“I make it my business to know what my daughter is about,” Simes growled back. “There isn’t a book she’d bought from Flourish & Blotts during her studies at Hogwarts that I haven’t read myself while she was home over the summer, as well as every copy of the Daily Prophet I can get my hands on. She and I talk several times a week, so I am more than well aware of what is currently going on with Voldemort and the Death Eaters … and the generally miserable job you’re doing in prosecuting the war against them.”
Scrimgeour attempted to shake off his knee-jerk reaction to Simes’s naked use of the Dark Lord’s name and attempted to regain the upper hand of this conversation. “The matter regarding He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his followers is very well in hand by this ministry and we hardly need the counsel of an inexperienced Muggle to conduct our business!”
“‘Inexperienced?!’” Simes snapped. “I fought in the Gulf, you damnable fool; don’t you dare talk to me about experience! Meantime, I’ve had an earful from Sam about your ‘management’ of this crisis. How do you justify detaining someone like Stan Shunpike when you have Death Eaters running around?!”
Rufus was so startled at the Muggle’s mention of Stan Shunpike that he was unable to formulate an answer before the man answered for him. “You don’t, plain and simple. It’s bad enough that Arthur Weasley’s department is suffering for lack of a proper budget while you’re out chasing Cornish pixies, but believe me, mister, when my daughter’s well-being is threatened because of someone else’s bald stupidity, I will have no tolerance for that! Now what are you prepared to do about it?”
The Minister suppressed a startled reaction at being invited to participate in the conversation. “Well … we could transfer some funds from the Department of Dragon Studies … and I might be able to move an Auror or two to Weasley’s office on a part-time basis to assist….”
“Amazing,” Simes commented, his voice saturated with contempt. “Now that you actually have to be bothered with thinking about the matter, some answers actually do reveal themselves, eh?”
Simes rose abruptly, taking Scrimgeour’s wand and stepped to the door, then turned back to his reluctant host. “I’ll drop this [he indicated the wand] at the receptionist’s desk. May I strongly suggest that you rethink not just Arthur Weasley’s needs, but your entire ministry’s approach toward Voldemort and his Death Eaters as though you were serious about the matter. Everything I’ve seen and heard to this date tells me that you are not, and you had better hope to heaven that your slacker’s attitude hasn’t cost my daughter more than it already has.”
The Muggle was about to exit Scrimgeour’s office when the Minister managed to voice a question. “O-one matter, sir,” Rufus stuttered out. “H-h-how did you manage to get in here?”
His guest actually chuckled at that, then reached into his jacket pocket, withdrawing a small parcel. “A Persuasion Pouch. Handy little gadget, I must say. Found the formula in Sam’s copy of Advanced Potions. Worked beautifully, too; the receptionist out front and your secretary both were more than happy to help me find you.” Simes noted the incredulous look on Scrimgeour’s face and commented, “Don’t look so surprised. Granted, it took two tries before I got the Pouch right, but even a Muggle can manage some potions … though being a research chemist helps!” His smile abruptly dropped. “Don’t make it necessary for me to use it again,” he finished coldly and in an instant, Rufus was alone in the room.
The Minister of Magic stared at the door for a full 30 seconds before standing. Starting to move to his desk, he realized that recovering his wand from the receptionist witch should be his first priority. Rufus exited his office.
His secretary looked up as he appeared at the door. “Will that be all for today, Minister?”
Rufus Scrimgeour stopped for moment. No, that would not be all. “Actually, Miss Crellister, would you please see if Arthur Weasley has a few minutes available today?” She noted her boss’s request as he thought further. “In addition, I want you to arrange an all-department-heads meeting for no later than Wednesday of next week.
“Is there a topic for the meeting?”
Rufus paused a second and thought before answering: “A Wake-Up Call.” He watched as Miss Crellister puzzled at this briefly before noting it as well, then headed to the entranceway as she began to prepare a series of inter-office paper airplanes. Rubbing his chin, he repeated grimly to himself, “Definitely a wake-up call….”