The Sugar Quill
Author: Little Winky  Story: Usurping Fudge  Chapter: Prologue
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CHAPTER ONE

USURPING FUDGE

Prologue

 

Cornelius Fudge’s moods are easier to read than an infant’s book, large letters and all.

 

Persephone watches as he crushes biscuit after biscuit into the elaborately polished table. He is nervous, highly embarrassed, or possibly both. His voice is trembling slightly as he addresses them all and apologises for dragging them to the Ministry at such an early hour.

 

Beside him, a red-haired man is nodding eagerly. “You’re quite forgiven, Minister,” he reassures hurriedly.

 

Persephone recognises him as Percy Weasley: Fudge’s Junior Assistant. Fudge nods and smiles forcibly at him. “Thank you, Weasley,” he replies. Persephone wishes he would hurry up and explain why they’re there.

 

“I trust you are all curious as to why I have gathered you here at,” he emits a weak half-laugh, “half six in the morning.” 

 

Get on with it! Persephone’s brain screams. Her stomach growls for breakfast, but the tea is cold, the crumpets dry, and the biscuits held ransom in front of Fudge.

 

“It appears that our beloved Atrium has been used for a … battlefield,” Fudge says. He pauses, as though waiting for a reaction. Receiving none, he continues.

 

“The fountain of Magical Brethren has been completely destroyed,” he tells them, sombre.

 

Persephone nearly screams in frustration. Beside her, an elderly colleague makes a disinterested noise in his throat.

 

“Devastating, Minister,” Percy Weasley interjects, looking as though his dog has just kicked the bucket in a particularly gruesome way.

 

“Put a sock in it, Weasley,” someone calls. “It wasn’t that important.”

 

Weasley colours. Fudge speaks up again.

 

“Yes, quite right, Scroggs,” he says, and nods at the speaker. “It can be easily fixed.”

 

Someone emits an angry tsk. “If you’ve brought us in here just to tell us that–”

 

“No!” Fudge interrupts quickly. “No – no, there is one other item that needs discussing.”     

 

He is stalling now. Persephone knows this. Everyone at the table knows it too. Fudge mumbles an incoherent string of words that make no sense to anyone sitting before him -- except perhaps for Percy Weasley, who is used to Fudge-speak.

 

“You’ll have to say that again, Minister,” Scroggs calls. “Some of us are hard of hearing.”

 

“Dumbledore was right,” Fudge mumbles again. “You-Know-Who is–” He stops.

 

“Back,” a voice from the far end of the table supplies for him.

 

Twelve heads turn towards Fudge.

 

“Yes, thank you, Shacklebolt, that’s–” He falters again. “Precisely what I was going to say.”

 

Fudge exhales a long breath and collapses into his chair, looking as though he has just run a very long distance. Persephone wonders briefly what he will do now. He is in an extremely dire situation. Being forced to eat one’s words is horrific enough on its own; to do it in public is unbearable.

 

He recovers, sits up in his chair, clears his throat and addresses them all once more.

 

“I trust most of you know what position this puts the Ministry in,” he says.

 

“Puts you in, you mean,” Scroggs interrupts again.

 

Fudge chooses to pretend that Scroggs has not spoken. “We will, of course, be administrating full apologies to those who need them, and I shall be addressing the public later this afternoon. Questions?”

 

No one moves.

 

“Right. Weasley?”

 

Percy sits up straight and looks eagerly up at the Minister. Persephone resists the urge to roll her eyes.  

 

“Clear up this mess.” He gestures vaguely to the biscuit crumbs. “Then find me the fastest post owl we have. The rest of you: it’s business as usual.”

 

Fudge jams his bowler onto his head in what he hopes is a business-like manner. It isn’t, and Persephone suppresses a snort as he sweeps from the room with a dignified flourish.

 

* * *

 

Silence rings in his ears; the Atrium is empty.

 

With practised precision he picks his way over the destruction. He has discarded his robe and now moves weightless across the room. Weak morning light shines through the windows, and he is careful to stick to the shadows.

 

He knows he is safe; he knows he won’t be spotted. He slips down the corridors, footsteps noiseless and muffled by socks. He reaches the door he is searching for. He runs a gloved finger delicately over the golden embossed knob.

 

The office is unlocked, and he slides inside without hassle. He begins his search, taking care to replace anything touched or moved. He prides himself on his excellence and skill.

 

He spots it. Half-concealed beneath a heavy tome. His heart leaps in anticipation as he glides across the polished wood floor. He places a shaking hand on top of the file. The end is in sight; he is almost home.

 

Noise echoes through the silent room. His gaze snaps towards the door; his breath catches in his throat. Ever so slowly, the knob begins to turn …   

 

* * *

 

Summer dawned on the residents of London faster than many of them would have liked. The arrival of June brought with it escalating temperatures that resulted in broken air conditioners, parched lawns, and the re-instating of the hosepipe ban.

 

One man, however, is not feeling the brunt of the heat, and is currently humming pleasantly along to the music filtering around his office. Albus Dumbledore taps his quill lightly to the beat of the tinkling music and gazes aimlessly around his office.

 

A copy of the Daily Prophet lies on top of the clutter of parchment currently littering his desk; Dumbledore’s name is adorning the front-page headline. The Prophet amuses Dumbledore to no end, and he allows himself a chuckle every time he reads it.

 

It seems to him as though the winds of fate have changed. No longer is he considered a barmy old fool; at least, no longer is he publicised as one. Seemingly, their attitude towards him has changed, and he is still unsure as to whether it is for better or for worse.   

 

He considers the article before him for a moment. It would certainly be sending old Cornelius Fudge into a dither, he thinks to himself, and smiles. He ponders his options. He could make a statement, an acceptance to Fudge’s pitiful apology, but after that?

 

Dumbledore scratches his beard thoughtfully.

 

Wizarding Britain as Dumbledore knows it is in trouble, on the fringes of yet another war. Dumbledore can still recall the days when Grindelwald was at his height, and the rise of Voldemort is at the forefront of his mind as well.

 

Dumbledore lets out a weary sigh, his earlier cheerful mood diminished.

 

He wonders, idly, what it would be like to sit by and watch others deal with Voldemort. He dismisses the thought immediately; Fudge would have a field day and Britain would be destroyed within the hour.

 

Fudge. That, Dumbledore thinks, is where they went wrong. A circus baboon would do a better job at governing than Fudge.

 

Fudge.

 

Dumbledore pauses a moment to nod his head to the contagious beat flowing through his office. He pulls a sweet from one of the many hidden pockets in his robes, pops it in his mouth and savours the tangy taste on his tongue.

 

He has a plan in mind, and has been crafting it carefully over the course of the past week. There is only a slight chance of obtaining success should he precede with it, but it is a chance he is willing to take.

 

Determined, he takes a quill and begins to write …

 

* * *

 

The window was not an optional escape route to be considered. He barely breathes as he attempts to make himself as light as is humanly possible. The door creaks as it opens and he is sure he can make it before it closes again.

 

A dozen hopeful prayers run through his mind as he waits, flattened between the wall and the open door. Slowly, he sticks out his foot and hooks a toe around the door, stopping it in its path.

 

He keeps a careful watch on the office’s occupant as he bustles around room. He prays for a miracle, anything to distract the man so he can escape. He is without his prize, but knows it is best to get out unseen.

 

He curses the old man’s spontaneity. He has been watching his every move for the past week and knows that he has never arrived for work before nine. Yet today, the day he chose to execute his plan, the old man changes his schedule.

 

His time is running low, and the enchanted light streaming through the office window is becoming lighter. With one swift, hasty move, he launches himself in front of the door, allowing it to snap closed soundlessly behind him.

 

“Tomorrow,” he mutters.

 

* * *

William stretches his legs out beneath his minute desk, and throws his quill unceremoniously onto the shiny, polished surface. He rubs his forehead wearily, and glances grimly at the empty coffee mug perched on top of a ridiculously high stack of parchment.

 

He smells her before he sees her. Blinking profusely, he lifts his head and encounters an eyeful of her over-sized bosom. To William, she appears rather hazy, her rounded features smudged as though she were an ink drawing that had been dragged through a mud puddle.

 

A cloud of perfume surrounds her, he realises, as his nostrils catch another whiff of the disastrous scent. She leers at him in her superior manner, and he swallows back his lunch that is threatening to rise.

 

“The report,” she snaps, extending a podgy hand towards him, her nose wrinkling as she surveys his appearance.

 

William supposes he must be quite a sight. He has been working for the better part of a week on that report, most of it being completed in a flurry that morning. He subconsciously removes a quill from where it has stuck to the elbow of his robe as he hands the report to his Head of Department.

 

“Dismal,” she sniffs. “I expected better.”

 

“Me too,” William agrees. “The deadline you gave me was rather ridiculous, and I feel I rushed it.”

 

She narrows her eyes at him. “I shall be reporting your cheek to the Minister,” she threatens.

 

William doesn’t see the point in this, but allows the woman her sick satisfaction, and looks scared.

 

“I should make you repeat this, Mr DuPont,” she says, her fingers toying with the edge of the parchment, longing to rip it down the centre, “but I haven’t the time.”

 

William blinks. She has caught him off guard. “I – What?”

 

“Copy every page of the file Robinson sent last week and get it to me before five,” she continues, ignoring the perplexed look on William’s face. She turns and heads in the direction of her office, crumpling William’s report and throwing it in the bin as she passes.

 

William stares after her, mouth opening and closing at random intervals. He wonders briefly who or what is impersonating her, and why they have chosen now, instead of three months ago when she convinced Fudge to dock his pay by two percent, to do it.

 

William yawns and stretches again. So much for an afternoon nap, he thinks bitterly.

 

* * *

 

“You’re absurd.”

 

Persephone’s blunt statement has minimal effect on Dumbledore, and his reply is a simple, amused chuckle. Persephone’s letter lies open, untouched in her lap. Its content is by far the most ludicrous piece of writing she has ever laid eyes on.

 

“You do realise I would lose my job if I went through with this.”

 

“You fail to see, Ms Pellyn,” he replies, “that a woman of your experience would have no trouble finding work outside of the Ministry.”

 

His words do nothing to sway her.

 

“You can’t honestly expect me to believe that,” she states.

 

“Ms Pellyn, you are young,” he says plainly. “You cannot begin to understand what is taking place as we speak. Lord Voldemort–”

 

Persephone shuts her eyes at Dumbledore’s calm use of the name, and interrupts.

 

“Begging your pardon, but I am fully aware of the situation. I just don’t understand what this would do to help matters.”

 

She opens her eyes and regards the man in front of her. She knows she should trust him, knows he would never lead her wrong, yet she is still apprehensive.

 

“You must understand that what you are proposing, well, it’s preposterous. The odds are against us, and I haven’t the faintest idea why you would choose me of all people to do this for you.”

 

She pauses from her rant as he raises a hand.

 

“I have complete faith in your abilities, Ms Pellyn,” he says. “You have done wonders with the Muggle government, and have by far proven yourself. You are a born communicator, and I know you can sway the public.”

 

“I still don’t understand,” Persephone argues. “You want me to run for Minister?”

 

He chuckles once more. “No, no,” he says.

 

“But then – who?”

 

The door behind her crashes open with a bang, and a rather dishevelled young man stumbles through.

 

“Professor Dumbledore, sir.” He addresses him coolly. “So sorry, dozed off.”

 

Dumbledore smiles.

 

“Ms Pellyn,” he announces, “I give you William DuPont: Britain’s next Minister for Magic.”

 

//
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