Rufus Scrimgeour reflects on his conversation with Harry, and receives an unexpected visitor with an unwarranted demand. Character-centic one-shot.
A/N: Watch out for Half Blood Prince spoilers. Much thanks to my wonderful beta, Sonya from Fiction Alley! I wrote this because I hadn't seen any Scrimgeour-centric fics (though there might be some), and I thought he's be an interesting character to explore. PLEASE review if you read it, I'm really curious to hear what people think of my take on the character.
"Anything I can do for you, sir?" Percy Weasley asked, brisk but unenthusiastic. Bits of parsley still flecked his hair.
"No. Go home," Rufus Scrimgeour said, his tone harsher than he intended. Percy curled back his lip and sniffed, clearly resentful. Scrimgeour didn't blame him. After being forced to confront a family he still disdained, he was being berated for doing his job. Some thanks. Scrimgeour sighed, his face softening into a smile. "Have yourself a nice Christmas, Weasley. I'll take care of myself."
Percy inclined his head.
"Thank you, sir," he muttered as he turned and walked out the door, letting it close loudly behind him.
Scrimgeour's mouth formed a hard line. Percy's Christmas was already ruined, and it was his fault. He should give the boy an extra bonus this year.
Sighing again, Scrimgeour pushed Percy out of his mind and turned his thoughts to more pressing issues. The night had not gone well. Really, he told himself, it could not have gone much worse. He had expected Harry to be resistant, but his utter refusal left little room for doubt. The Boy Who Lived was not going to help.
The final strands of their conversation played through Scrimgeour's head like the taunts of cruel children.
'Dumbledore's man through and through, aren't you, Potter?'
'Yeah, I am.'
Scrimgeour growled softly. It wasn't as if he was trying to make Harry any less of Dumbledore's man. Hardly. He was barely asking anything at all. But no, no, no. Dumbledore said no, so of course Harry said no. Scrimgeour stamped his foot. It wasn't fair!
Granted, he hadn't played his cards right. Rubbing his temples, Scrimgeour began to pace across his office. Maybe if he hadn't gotten angry. That hadn't been the plan, after all. But the boy had brought up Stan Shunpike, which was a variable he hadn't counted on-though perhaps he should have. Weren't half the letters cluttering his desk from Dumbledore, pleading Stan's case?
'Dumbledore's a lot older than sixteen, and he doesn't think Stan should be in Azkaban either.'
Well, of course not! No one thought Stan deserved to be in Azkaban. But neither Harry nor his precious Dumbledore understood the importance of public relations. If the people had no confidence in their government, nothing important could get done, and then where would they be? What was one man's sacrifice, if it meant the Wizarding World stayed stable? And it wasn't even much of a sacrifice, really. Devoid of Dementors, Azkaban had lost its horror. And Scrimgeour made sure that Stan had everything he could want. Last time he had checked on the boy, Stan was reclined in a sofa, cheerfully humming along to Celestina Warbeck and browsing the day's paper. It was hardly prison at all, not that the papers reported /that/. Maybe, however, he should have told Harry.
...Dumbledore's man through and through.
Maybe he should have explained that if Harry started showing support, the Ministry could stop imprisoning innocents. Certainly The Boy Who lived, "The Chosen One," was enough to keep up moral. Yes, that was what he should have done. Scrimgeour briefly toyed with the idea of getting in contact with Harry again, to lay the situation out more clearly. And he would love to have a chance to tell the boy that he had been doing all he could to make Fudge take the threat of Voldemort seriously. There was no reason the sins of the prior Minister should be visited upon the current one. But he had explained that to Dumbledore already, to no effect. And clearly Harry was doing nothing without Dumbledore's blessing.
"Damn Dumbledore!" Scrimgeour exclaimed at the empty room. There was no reason that man had to keep sneaking off. Scrimgeour knew about his precious Order and had done nothing to interfere. He didn't feel the need to pull rank with Dumbledore; he was perfectly willing to work hand and hand with the older wizard, an equal partnership. He would have been content with even a little cooperation. And what did he get? Nothing.
Dumbledore's man, Dumbledore's man, Dumbledore's man.
Reaching the large mahogany desk occupying the left half of the room for what must have been the tenth time, Scrimgeour stopped. He was pacing. /Pacing/. When he first imagined himself Minister of Magic at thirteen, embracing that goal, shaping his life around it, he swore he was not going to be an insignificant Minister. He was going to be strong-take every problem and solve it. Stand firm against all opposition; win the hearts of the people. And he wasn't going to /pace/. His mother paced when she was flustered and upset. It was a sign of weakness, and he refused to be weak.
And yet here he was. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
"Damn him, damn him!" Scrimgeour shouted at unsympathetic upholstery. "I hate Albus Dumbledore!"
"Now, that's not very nice." Scrimgeour started, and then turned, staring at the portrait hanging above his desk. A froglike face framed in a silver wig stared down at him down disapprovingly.
"I didn't-I didn't call you," Scrimgeour stuttered in surprise, his concentration broken completely. This man was not supposed to be here. "You're supposed to stay with the muggle-"
"Yes, yes," the man in the painting said, "I know. That is why I am here. The muggle."
"There were more attacks on muggles today," the man said. Scrimgeour relaxed.
"Well, yes. I know that. Very unfortunate, I was thinking of-"
"The Prime Minister demands an audience with you."
Scrimgeour froze, gapping blankly at the portrait. The words filtered into his mind and settled there, a foreboding weight that made it impossible to think. He couldn't have heard correctly.
"I...don't understand," he finally managed. The man's frown deepened.
"It's very clear," he snipped. "The Prime Minister of the Muggles demands a meeting. With you. Tonight. He says if you can drop in anytime, there's no reason he shouldn't be able to meet with you when he wants to. He offered to come to your office, but that seemed unduly complicated."
"He would like to have a few words about the attacks," the portrait added helpfully, "since he's most unpleased."
"I...he..." Scrimgeour collapsed against his desk, deflated. This couldn't be happening. Not to him. Not tonight. As far as he knew no Minister of Magic had ever been called upon by a Muggle Minister. It wasn't done. It wasn't proper. It wasn't how the system worked. The Minister of Magic just didn't answer to the Muggle Minister.
When he was thirteen, he had envisioned himself as a Minister who would be glorious and pioneering. However, this was definitely not the new territory he had meant to conquer. He groaned. He was doing the best he could, in face of a terrifying era, after all, and look where it got him.
It just wasn't fair.