Chapter 1 – The Other Minister
I’ve decided to start including the chapter titles in these, which I hadn’t done before, just because some of them are either very funny or very poignant. Or both, as the case may be.
Also, welcome to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince everyone! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for five books now!
This book opens not with Harry, but with the Muggle Prime Minister in a chapter that I actually find quite interesting. You always assumed that the Ministry of Magic had to have some sort of contact with the Muggle authorities and/or government, but here we actually get a chance to see it in action.
The Prime Minister, who we never learn his name, is in his office late at night waiting for a call from another country. He’s had a rough week. His political opponents are pointing out all these horrible things that have been happening all over the country, things like a large bridge that collapsed, two very nasty murders, freakish weather, and one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, acting bizarre and leaving to spend time with his family.
“A grim mood has gripped the country,” the opponent had concluded, barely concealing his own broad grin.
And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; people really did seem more miserable than usual. Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July . . . It wasn’t right, it wasn’t normal . . .
He’s right. This isn’t normal. Not at all. He stands up to stretch and look out the window when he hears a cough behind him. He knows this cough. He’s heard it before and it never is good news. In the far corner of the room is a painting of an ugly little man in an old-fashioned silver wig. This man starts to speak, telling the Prime Minister that Fudge has requested to meet with him and that it’s urgent. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to meet right now and tries to use an upcoming telephone call as an excuse, but the painting tells him that the call will be rearranged, that the President calling will forget and instead call him the next night. Finally, the Prime Minister decides to just get it over with and says he will meet.
Fudge steps out of the fireplace using the Floo Network, which is apparently connected to the Prime Minister’s office. He looks terrible and says that he has had a bad week, mentioning all this issues the Prime Minister had been worrying about: the bridge, the murders, the weird weather. Fudge cops an attitude and says that surely the Prime Minister realized that magic was involved, didn’t he? This is why the Prime Minister doesn’t like Fudge — his arrogant air of superiority.
He remembers the first time he met Fudge, right after he took office. He was standing there, so happy to finally have achieved such a triumph, when he heard the portrait cough. Fudge had appeared in the fireplace and explained everything about the Ministry of Magic and all the ways that they ensure that the non-magical community doesn’t hear about them. He also tells the Prime Minister that it is very unlikely that he will see him much. When the Prime Minister seems skeptical, Fudge turns his teacup into a gerbil.
“But,” said the Prime Minister breathlessly, watching his teacup chewing on the corner of his next speech, “but why — why has nobody told me –?”
“The Minister of Magic only reveals him or herself to the Muggle Prime Minister of the day,” said Fudge, poking his wand back inside his jacket. “We find it the best way to maintain secrecy.”
“But then,” bleated the Prime Minister, “why hasn’t a former Prime Minister warned me –?”
At this, Fudge had actually laughed.
“My dear Prime Minister, are you ever going to tell anybody?”
That’s a fair point. The Prime Minister tries to make himself forget about Fudge’s appearance. He gives the gerbil to his niece and tries to have the portrait removed from his office. Yeah, that doesn’t work – the portrait is permanently affixed to the wall. Numerous people try to get rid of it, including carpenters and an art historian, so the Prime Minister just tries to ignore its presence as much as possible.
Despite Fudge’s assurances that he wouldn’t be around much, he showed up three years ago to warn the Prime Minister about Sirius’s escape, which if we remember, was actually mentioned back in Prisoner of Azkaban. The Daily Prophet quotes Fudge as saying that he got a lot of heat from the magical population for alerting the Muggle authorites, but that Sirius Black was a threat to everyone and they needed to be warned. Fudge also used that time to explain to the Prime Minister all about Voldemort and Harry Potter and the whole story.
The next year, Fudge appears again to tell the Prime Minister about the problems at the Quidditch World Cup, but that the situation was handled. Oh and also they are importing three foreign dragons and a sphinx. Two years after THAT, Fudge comes back to tell him about the mass breakout at Azkaban.
So much for hardly ever seeing him.
Back in the present day, Fudge tells him that the issues the Prime Minister is dealing with are also related to the magical world.
“We have the same concerns,” Fudge interrupted. “The Brockdale Bridge didn’t wear out. That wasn’t really a hurricane. Those murders were not the work of Muggles. And Herbert Chorley’s family would be safer without him. We are currently making arrangements to have him transferred to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. The move should be effected tonight.”
Fudge also has to admit that Voldemort is indeed back and that his followers are behind all these problems. Voldemort had threatened Fudge with a mass Muggle killing unless he stepped aside, which obviously Fudge didn’t do, so Death Eaters destroyed the bridge. The Prime Minister is furious that this problem was actually Fudge’s fault, but then concedes that he wouldn’t have stood down due to blackmail like that. Every Auror is working to find Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but this is also one of the most powerful wizards of all time. He’s not going to be easy to catch.
Also, those freak hurricanes? Not weather. Death Eater attacks, possibly aided by giants.
One of the murders? Amelia Bones, from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and one of the witches who stood up for Harry at his trial last year. She’s dead now. The other murder was Emmeline Vance, one of the members of the Order.
The unseasonable chilly mist? Dementors, now completely outside Ministry control. Creating feelings of hopelessness and unhappiness all over the country. The mist means that they’re breeding. I so don’t want to know how they do that.
The Prime Minister is horrified and demands that Fudge do something. He’s the Minister of Magic after all! This is his responsibility! Here’s the thing though. Fudge isn’t the Minister anymore. The wizarding world is not happy at all about being intentionally misled about Voldemort’s return and all the fallout that happened after. They screamed for him to resign. The new minister, Rufus Scrimgeour, arrives shortly to introduce himself.
The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime Minister thought he understood why the Wizarding community preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.
After a brief introduction, Scrimgeour says they need to talk about the Prime Minister’s security, starting with the new secretary outside. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to get rid of his new secretary, as he’s so efficient he does twice the work of everyone else. That’s because the new secretary is a wizard, and not just any wizard — Kingsley Shacklebolt! He has been put there for the Prime Minister’s protection.
The next item of business is the Junior Minister, Herbert Chorley, who apparently just randomly started behaving like a duck in public. This was due to a badly performed Imperius Curse. Someone tried to use him to get to the Prime Minister, but it “addled his brains” instead. He is being examined by Healers and has tried to strangle several of them. Clearly he is dangerous at the moment, but will be treated at St. Mungo’s. They don’t know if he will recover or not.
Scrimgeour gets up to leave and says that he will keep the Prime Minister posted, or at least send Fudge, who is acting as an advisor. At this point, it has all been too much for the Prime Minister. He catches them both before they disappear into the Floo.
“But for heaven’s sake — you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out — well — anything!”
Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”
That’s it for Chapter 1. See you next time for Chapter 2!