The Sugar Quill
Author: Chocoholic (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Social Conscience of Rufus Scrimgeour  Chapter: Default
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The Social Conscience of Rufus Scrimgeour

The first indication that something was amiss was the sign in the lift. Remus Lupin noticed it as he stood next to Nymphadora Tonks, the fingers of his right hand intertwining with those of her left hand, while the Ministry lift creaked upward. The poster was lettered in bright orange and ordered the reader to ‘Reach Out To Those In Need’.

“What’s this about?” he wanted to know.

Tonks gave it only a brief glance. As a Ministry employee, she’d seen the signs all week, and was to the point of scarcely noticing them anymore.

“That? You know. Scrimgeour’s new policy. You’ve seen the articles in the Prophet.”

“Oh, yes. Scrimgeour’s little project.” A smirk spread across Remus’ face. He’d not only seen the articles, he’d read them with great amusement.

According to the papers, it had dawned on the Minister of Magic that the wizarding brotherhood reeked of divisiveness - hardly news to anyone - and that it was no way to fight a war one hoped to win. Scrimgeour’s newly-announced goal was solidarity; he demanded nothing less than an end to the infighting between those with magical powers, with a resultant united front against Voldemort. He had sent emissaries to organized groups and put out a blanket plea to the rest. Remus remembered the words from the Prophet quite clearly.

“I know many of you have suffered great pain at the hands of your fellow witches and wizards. I know you feel disenfranchised, that you’ve lost a sense of belonging. Starting today, that will change. We cannot afford to stand divided against the evil which threatens us. We are all brothers and sisters, made so by the magic that unites us. I give you my word that beginning today, the Ministry of Magic is YOUR ministry - available to ALL magical citizens, regardless of blood status, economic background, or magical disabilities.”

The quote from Scrimgeour’s speech had made Remus laugh aloud when he read it week ago.

“Surely he doesn’t think that asking us all to play together nicely is going to change things, does he?” he’d pointed out to Tonks as the two of them ate dinner at her flat.

“I don’t know if he’s that naive, or if he’s just making the noble effort,” Tonks said, spearing a piece of lettuce on her fork. “Sounds good, anyway. When was the last time the Ministry extended the hand of friendship to the werewolves?”

“I think ‘never’ is a reasonable answer,” Remus said, still staring at the copy of the Prophet which lay on the table.

Now, looking at the bright orange letters of the sign, it was hard to imagine that the wizarding world could be goaded into having a social conscience purely by advertising. Aloud, Remus read, “Reach out to those in need, eh? They do know the first letters of each word spell out ‘rottin’, don’t they?”

Tonks grinned. “No more than they’ve realized that the signs which read ‘Doing Our Part Everyday’ spell ‘dope’. And “Brothers Under The Skin’ spells ‘buts.’”

“Bloody bureaucrats. Is the Ministry plastered with these things?”

“On every floor,” she assured him. “And Kingsley’s heard that they want to start something called ’sensitivity training’ in each department.”

“What’s that supposed to do?”

“Waste a lot of time and energy, near as I can tell. Oh - this is us.” The elevator came to a grinding halt on Level Six and Tonks tugged Remus out by the hand.

But the only sign visible as they stepped off the lift was directional: LICENSES - APPARITION, MARRIAGE, CREATURE CONTAINMENT, WASTE DISPOSAL: ROOM 616. The rush of employees heading for home was not as noticeable here, and the reason was spelled out in the hours posted below the large letters: the License Office was open late on Thursday evenings until eight.

Remus felt a shiver run through Tonks’ body all the way to her fingertips.

“Are you all right?” he asked, frowning.

Tonks gazed up at him in puzzlement for a brief moment, then laughed. “I’m fine. It’s just that I’m so excited. I can’t believe that we’re getting married tomorrow.”

“Oh. Of course.”

She squeezed Lupin’s hand hard. “Don’t worry. I’m not having second thoughts, if that’s what you’re imagining.”

He had been imagining it, but Remus didn’t want to admit that to his fiancee. It had taken a very long time for Dora Tonks to break down the walls of his self-imposed exile, and he couldn’t bear to hear one more harangue about why he was so bloody stubborn.

There was a cluster of adolescents waiting at the Apparition Test Center, but the Marriage License Bureau was empty. Taking a deep breath, Remus approached the person sitting behind the desk. He’d never, in his entire life, imagined taking the step he was taking now.

“Excuse me,” he said. “We would like to apply for a marriage license.”

The woman was young - in her twenties, Remus guessed - and looked bored. Wordlessly, she picked up a piece of parchment and a quill.

“Names?” she demanded.

“Remus Lupin and Nymphador -”

“- full names, please.”

Remus took another deep breath, this one to quash the flare of annoyance at the young woman’s rudeness.

“Remus John Lupin and Nymphador -”

“More slowly, please.”

“Remus - John - Lupin - and - Nymphadora - Delice - Tonks.” Through gritted teeth this time.

The young woman wrote slowly, and Remus decided now that she was probably incapable of working any faster.

“’Nymphadora’?” the woman repeated. The tone of her voice made it clear that it was part question on how to spell it, and part crack about the oddness of the name.

Tonks stepped forward, wearing the look she usually reserved for suspects she’d hauled into the building on suspicion of using heinous Dark Magic. “Nymphadora,” she said sweetly, then spelled it, spitting each letter out like a bullet. “And if you have any further difficulties with my name, you can contact my supervisor on Level Two. You know... Auror Headquarters?”

The young woman paled. “Yes, ma’am. Birthdates?”

“March 10, 1960,” Remus told her.

“August 6, 1973,” Tonks muttered.

“Place of residence?”

The questions went on and on until finally - eventually - the woman reached the one Remus knew to be inevitable.

“Do either of you have any magical disabilities?”

He took another deep breath. “I am a werewolf,” he said softly, and waited. Waited for the look of revulsion. Waited for the woman to step back, to put just a bit more space between them. Waited for the lofty, condescending tone of voice.

And waited.

“Really!” The woman eyes widened. “Sir, you should have said so earlier - we could have expedited this process if I’d known! Please, won’t the two of you take a seat in the chairs over there?” She waved toward a handful of worn, stuffed chairs outside someone’s office, twenty feet away.

Remus stared at her. “Is there a problem -” he began, but the woman had already jumped up from behind the desk, her face bright with excitement.

“No, not in the least! Please, take your seats and I’ll inform Mr. Leftley that you’re here!”

“Uh -” Blankly, Remus watched as the woman scurried toward the office. “What do you suppose?” he asked Tonks, completely mystified.

“Dunno.” The Auror wrinkled her nose, scratching her brilliant pink hair with one hand. “I’ll tell you what, though: if we were anywhere other than the Ministry of Magic, I’d be thinking about looking for cover.”

The two of them wandered over to the chairs, but had barely sat down when the office door opened and the woman walked out with a man who was, apparently, Mr. Leftley. He was young, possibly a few years older than the woman from the desk, with longish blond hair and hawk-like blue eyes.

“Mr. Lupin, Miss Tonks? Derek Leftley.” He reached for first Remus’ hand, then Tonks’ hand, and shook them vigorously. “May I be the first to offer my congratulations on your forthcoming nuptials?”

“Thank you,” Tonks managed, biting back half a dozen smart answers that were begging to be spoken aloud.

“When is the big day?”

“Tomorrow,” Remus said.

“How wonderful!” Leftley clapped his hands as if he couldn’t be more pleased. “The weather should be quite accommodating, I believe.”

“You’re right. Mr. Leftley, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand -”

“Please, come into my office!” he urged, then turned back to the woman as Remus and Tonks entered the room ahead of him. “Thank you, Miss Tuthill.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Leftley.”

Leftley closed the office door, then waved towards the chairs in front of his desk. “Have a seat, won’t you?”

Remus exchanged another glance with Tonks, then they both sat gingerly on the edge of the chairs. Leftley noticed their hesitation.

“You needn’t look so frightened, I’m not going to bite,” he chuckled. His smile vanished immediately and was replaced by an expression of horror. “Please forgive me! I’m terribly sorry to be so insensitive!”

“Excuse me?” Tonks asked, bewildered.

Leftley looked appalled. “When I said I wasn’t going to - to bite you,” he murmured.

There was a moment of silence, then Remus felt his jaw drop. “You mean, because I’m a werewolf, -”

“Of course, sir,” Leftley went on in a still-hushed voice. “I can’t believe I made such a faux-pas. You’re in a protected class now, of course, and -”

“I’m in a what?” Remus blurted, his jaw threatening to plunge once more.

“In a protected class.” Leftley said eagerly. He rifled through a few papers on his desk before coming up with an official Ministry memo. “This memo came down yesterday. As a werewolf, you are a member of Class One, which is comprised of Previously Persecuted Persons, and as such are entitled to additional assistance.”

He passed the parchment across the desk to Remus, who took it at once. Tonks moved her chair closer, then tilted her head sideways to get a better view, and the two of them pored over it. The memo was, as Leftley indicated, dated yesterday, signed by Scrimgeour, and listed a variety of magical misfits who had just become instantly socially acceptable. Eventually, Remus’ brain caught up with the final part of Leftley’s statement.

“Excuse me, but you said something about additional assistance?”

“Yes, sir.”

Leftley looked so happy, so eager to please, that Remus began to wonder if he was in the midst of some bizarre dream. He shook his head as if to dispel the cobwebs. “I’m sorry, Mr. Leftley, but you’ve caught me completely unawares. Was I to be notified of this somehow?”

“Oh, yes sir. A letter should have been delivered to your home today. Or possibly tomorrow, as it’s been difficult for the owls to contact everyone by now.”

“Well, we have been busy moving your things to my flat,” Tonks pointed out. “You probably missed the message in all the coming and going.”

She had a point. Remus glanced at the memo once more, then back to Leftley. “Do you mean to say that werewolves are no longer denied wizarding rights?”

“That’s correct, sir.” Leftley beamed. “It’s Minister Scrimgeour’s vision for the future: solidarity between all wizarding citizens.”

It was too good to be true, Remus thought. Too artificial, too forced.

“Mr. Leftley, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t jump up and down with joy. Just because Rufus Scrimgeour has a vision, it doesn’t mean that anyone else agrees with him. Do you honestly expect public opinion to change overnight?”

Leftley folded his hands on the desk and regarded Remus and Tonks with a grave expression on his face.

“He is not alone in his vision, Mr. Lupin,” he said solemnly. “Many, many people believe as he does.”

It crossed Remus’ mind to ask whether those people had spent the last few decades living on another planet, but he pushed the thought aside.

“That’s nice to hear, but what does this have to do with being issued a marriage license? Miss Tonks and I would like to be on our way. We have other -”

“Of course. I didn’t mean to delay you, but you are the first person to take advantage of Minister Scrimgeour’s new policy of reaching out to those in need.”

“Rottin,” Tonks muttered under her breath, and beside her, Remus smothered a grin.

“And what, exactly, do I get by being your first customer?”

Leftley beamed. He reached under his desk and pulled out a large purple bag.

“I think you’ll find, Mr. Lupin, that we are serious about assisting you,” he said, upending the bag so that its contents spilled all over the desk. There were various colored bits of parchment, a few small boxes, and gaudy flowered bottle. Leftley picked up a small parchment. “For instance, here is a coupon for free ice cream for a month at the newly reopened Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.”

Tonks turned her head away. Remus was certain that she was laughing, which made it much harder for him to keep a straight face. He nodded. “I see,” he murmured.

“All of these are tokens for services and benefits throughout wizarding Britain,” Leftley went on, plucking another parchment from the desk. “For example, this guarantees that if you open a new account at Gringott’s, there will be no service fee assessed for the first year. Another provides for free alterations on any item of clothing you purchase at Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. There are coupons for a free night’s stay at various wizarding inns across Britain - all meals included, of course. And, if you own an owl, you may bring it to Eeylops for a free talon trim every six months.”

“What’s in the bottle?” Remus asked, eyeing the bright red and yellow floral jar.

“Ah!” Leftley pounced on the bottle at once. “Bouncing Bubble for the Bath, sir. Just a sample, of course, but plenty for you and your bride to share.” He finished with a wink.

Out of the corner of his eye, Remus saw Tonks turn farther away from him until she was completely facing the far wall. From the way her shoulders were shaking, he could only conclude that she was either having a fit or convulsed with laughter. Had Tonks’ foot been in striking distance, he would have stomped on it heavily.

Leftley, meanwhile, was waiting for some response praising the Ministry, Rufus Scrimgeour, and himself in particular. Remus was sorely tempted to tell him what he could do with his purple bags and his Bouncing Bubbles.

“Tell me, Mr. Leftley, does your little bag there contain any helps for job-hunting? Those of us who have been unemployable - thanks to the Ministry - would really like some advice now that we’re such desirable citizens. Or possibly, some tips on how to meet the neighbors during the full moon?”

Leftley’s lofty expression deflated a bit. “The Minister intends to address those issues, sir. This is a massive undertaking, as I’m sure you can imagine. Mr. Scrimgeour has several pieces of legislation that he is working on even as we speak.”

Remus privately thought that Scrimgeour was probably already home, enjoying a stiff before-dinner drink, but he didn‘t say so. “I see. Well, this is all very - er - encouraging, Mr. Leftley, but I‘ll withhold my approval until I’m convinced that the government is sincere.”

“We are, as the signs say, brothers under the skin, Mr. Lupin. This administration intends to rectify a good many injustices.” Leftley’s chin proudly tilted back up a bit. “Now, if you’ll allow me a moment to repack your gift bag, Miss Tuthill should have your license ready to issue.”

It took another five minutes for Miss Tuthill to issue the parchment that licensed the marriage of Remus Lupin to Nymphadora Tonks. Finally, the lift doors closed and the elevator began to move downwards, and Tonks dissolved into gales of laughter. Remus, clutching his purple gift bag, simply crossed his arms and sagged backwards against the walls of the lift.

“Free ice cream,” he muttered. “Can you believe it?”

“Not to mention the free talon trim,” Tonks said, giggling. “Are they mental?”

“Of course they are. They’re politicians.”

“Can I see the license?”

Remus pulled it from his jacket pocket and handed it to her. “Make sure everything’s correct on there, would you? I’d hate to have to pay Mr. Leftley another visit.”

Tonks studied the document. “Yeah, everything’s right. They even spelled my name correctly, which is saying something.”

By the time they reached the Atrium level, the crowds of homebound wizards had thinned dramatically. Remus and Tonks crossed towards one of the many gilded fireplaces, their footsteps echoing through the largely empty space.

“What next?” Tonks asked. “Molly’s not expecting us until much later.”

Remus shrugged, then grinned broadly. “How about a free ice cream sundae on the Ministry of Magic? To celebrate our marriage tomorrow?”

Tonks laughed and slipped her arm through Remus’. “You’re on. We can raise our spoons in honor of Rufus Scrimgeour, bless his deluded little heart. Are we talking chocolate, Mr. Lupin?”

“Of course, chocolate.” Remus winked at her. “What else is there?”

//
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