The Sugar Quill
Author: Starsea (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Cat's Paw  Chapter: Default
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It was Christmas Day and most people were at home with their families or friends, opening presents, sipping their wine, their

Cat’s PAW

 

It was Christmas Day and most people were at home with their families or friends, opening presents, sipping their wine, whiskey or champagne, enjoying the holiday, the break from their jobs and the suffocating worry that something might happen to their loved ones.

 

Rufus Scrimgeour was not on holiday.  When you were the Minister for Magic, you didn’t have holidays. You were always on the job. It followed you everywhere. And that was why he was in his office right now, signing the last of a number of new laws designed to protect his people against the evil which now threatened them.

 

He finished his last signature and allowed himself a moment to breathe. Then he conjured his diary and glanced at what was next.  His eyes brightened. This was going to be an easy task, he was certain. He scribbled a note, folded it into a paper aeroplane and watched it sail out of the door.

 

All that was need was a little persuasion.

 

About two minutes later – Rufus timed it by the clock – there was a sharp rap on the door, smart and short.

 

“Come in,” Rufus said, and smiled as the knocker entered. “Ah… Weasley.”

 

Percy Weasley pushed his glasses up his nose, a nervous habit of wanting to appear as alert and professional as possible. He was dressed in smart black robes, with the Ministry of Magic insignia embroidered on the right of his chest. His shoes were so polished they reflected the candles. Even his flaming red hair was carefully tamed and slicked down. The only sign that things weren’t completely right was his nails: they had been chewed off so that the tips of his fingers were permanently red.

 

“You wanted to see me, Minister?” he enquired, standing up very straight, shoulders pulled back as far as possible, which had the effect of making the Ministry of Magic emblem stand out even more.

 

Rufus nodded. Weasley’s desire to please was sometimes amusing, but at least you always knew that he was listening. “I have a delicate errand to go on, Weasley, I was wondering if you could help me…?”

 

“Of course, Minister,” Weasley said eagerly, his cheeks flushing from white to red. “Anything I can do…”

 

Rufus allowed himself a small smile before continuing. “You will, of course, be aware of the general mood of the public – fear, panic, and so on? Diagon Alley profits have dropped by sixty per cent, and as for Hogsmeade, well…” He shrugged, indicating the economic depression went beyond words.

 

The young man composed his face, looking serious and sad. “Of course, Minister, it’s terrible. You said in your note that you had some idea of how to reassure the public?”

 

Here was the place he had to be careful. Rufus leaned forward, as if he were not quite sure of himself, and picked up a quill. “I was thinking of Harry Potter,” he said. “You’ll have seen what the Prophet’s saying, no doubt? ‘The Chosen One’ and all that.”

 

Weasley frowned. “Yes, sir,” he said cautiously, “but I wasn’t aware there had been any official confirmation of the rumours. I thought…”

 

“Whether the rumours are true or not, most people believe them – they have faith in them. They have faith in Harry Potter. We want them to have faith in us, in the Ministry.” Rufus looked up, watched Weasley nod hastily, and then put his quill down. “Therefore, I’ve decided that it would probably be best if I went and had a… chat with the young man.”

 

“A chat? With Harry Potter?” Percy repeated, looking bewildered.

 

“You were at school with him, weren’t you?”

 

Weasley shifted on his feet. “Yes, sir, we were in the same house, but I don’t really…”

 

“Your youngest brother is best friends with him, isn’t he?” Rufus went on, making sure his voice was perfectly innocent.

 

Percy winced and looked down. “Yes, sir, he is…”

 

“And I believe that Potter usually spends the Christmas holidays with your family?” Rufus said, although it wasn’t really a question, since they both knew the answer.

 

“Yes, sir. But… I should warn you, sir. He isn’t very… talkative. And he doesn’t have the proper respect for authority, either,” Weasley went on anxiously.  “He has this history of answering back, and-”

 

“I don’t see why that would be a problem, we’re only having a chat,” said Rufus easily. “And I’m sure you’d like to see your family, wouldn’t you?”

 

Weasley flushed right up to the tips of his ears and his shoulders stiffened. Rufus fought the urge to get up and put a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. He knew, of course. Everybody in the Ministry knew that Arthur and Percy had fought over what was going on, that Percy had chosen one way and Arthur another. Poor boy. Poor brave, foolish boy. Normally, Rufus wouldn’t get involved, but he’d seen enough family tragedy during the past few weeks to last a lifetime, and it wouldn’t stop. There was a war on, and everyone needed to work together. Personal problems had to be set aside – grudges, rivalries, it didn’t matter. Wounded pride just wasn’t important anymore. The Weasleys would have to reconcile, whether they liked it or not.

 

“I’m aware of the difficulties you’ve had, Weasley, but don’t you think it’s time you overlooked your differences? There is a war on. We need Harry Potter’s support.” Rufus paused to let this sink in, and then played his trump card. “It would mean a great deal to me if you could help.”

 

Weasley looked up. “Would it, sir?” His voice was quiet, no hint of eagerness or greed.

 

Rufus nodded. “Yes, it would.”

 

Weasley looked at the fire. Rufus waited. Any pressure would only be counterproductive. The clock ticked quietly in the background, the fire crackled, and outside the door paper aeroplanes swooped up and down the corridor.

 

Finally, Weasley cleared his throat. “I have been… wanting to see my mother, sir,” he said, with the slightest crack in his voice.

 

“Of course you have,” Rufus said gently. “Christmas is a time for family.”

 

Weasley nodded, more to himself than to Rufus. “I’ll go and get my cloak, sir.”

 

“Thank you,” Rufus said simply. “I will wait for you in the Atrium.” He watched Weasley walk out of the room, then stood up to get his own cloak, which was hanging ready on the coat stand.

 

It hadn’t been that difficult after all.

 

 

Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all assorted characters belong to J.K. Rowling, but sometimes they have a holiday in my brain. I don’t even get any money out of it, they’re really bad tenants.

 

Author’s Notes: If you want to know about the title, look up the phrase in a dictionary, and all will be revealed. To all those who are waiting for the next chapter of Waiting for Wolves (all six of you), it’s coming! J

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