Inbreeding and war do not aid intelligence.
Harry led the way into the planning room, holding the door so Hermione could bring in the tea tray. "So what did you have to discuss with me?" Harry scanned the group, awkwardly perched on the barstools that surrounded their planning table, looking for hidden hands and sure enough three of the younger men's hands were not visible.
"Mr. Potter, another school year approaches, and another class of wizards are about to join those without a school." Harry had heard the same tripe from this paper pusher before, though he couldn't remember his name. The mousy brown hair was the only thing that kept Harry from dubbing him Percy Jr.
"What's your name again?"
Predictably enough the mousy haired man drew up like Percy in a snit. "I am Lloyd Ellsworth Holly, the Undersecretary of Education."
Harry looked at Hermione, "There's a Secretary of Education now?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, "Yes, Harry, remember that woman with the pink hat that had the charmed canary?"
"Her? I thought she was collecting for a Humane Society... Makes more sense I guess, I thought that hat would be a bit cruel to wear around stray pets. And taunting cats like that, wouldn't end well at all.."
Hermione coughed to hide a laugh, and that was as far as Harry would fun with the paper pushers. "Sorry, there's been a regular parade of people through here daily. Could you please re-introduce yourselves for me? Hermione will just tease me horribly about my poor memory later."
Harry gestured to the first person in the semicircle around the table, an older woman with touches of gray in her hair and a bit too much mascara, wearing a far too dressy silk brown skirt suit, with an green blouse that seemed to be aimed at enhancing her eyes of the same shade, but made her skin look a bit jaundice.
"I am Patricia Price, Mr. Potter. I chair the committee on muggleborn entry rites."
Harry summoned a Polaroid camera Hermione had modified and took her picture, then labeled it. "Candid shots always look the best."
Hermione sighed, and pulled out a drawer on the table, pulling the five pictures off the top. Mrs. Patricia Welles Price, sans overdone makeup, was on the top. Harry flipped the one he'd just taken to Mrs. Price. "Oops. At least you get a picture as a souvenir to my weakness with names." And then turned over the picture, to add her title, and the date. The next picture was of Holly, and Harry was glad they'd at least changed seating order between visits. Holly's title was on the picture, so he just added the date to the back, and saw that the man was wearing the same pinstriped suit, though with a white ruffled shirt this time. At least Mrs. Price had more than one muggle outfit.
The sound of a throat being cleared made Harry raise his eyes to the woman sitting next to Mrs. Price. "I'm Constance Freiburn, Ms. Hopkirk's replacement." Harry quickly shuffled to her Polaroid and saw it already had Improper Use of Magic Office on it.
"Perhaps, a show of hands of who hasn't met Harry yet?" Hermione joked. No hands went up, and Harry was about to apologize when he caught the scowl on Hermione's face. "Jeffery.. Michael.. Explain.. Now..."
Michael jerked in his seat, showing his red hands, "Work detail."
Jeffery and the rest of the Ministry crew were glaring at Michael. Harry broke out laughing, until Hermione turned her glare on him.
"Ok, what do any of you know about Electromagnetic Theory?" Harry asked, and was unsurprised to see no hands raised.
"Who here has any practice converting a muggle home into a Wizarding home?" Freiburn and Prince raised their hands. "And not for a muggleborn child." Their hands went down.
Harry sighed. "Who here are Ministry toad.."
Hermione elbowed Harry in the ribs. "While the Ministry's experts have little experience in the muggle world, all the Unspeakables are dead, and they were the only group authorized to adapt and adjust muggle artifacts."
Freiburn had puffed up in protest to Harry's implication, "Undoing accidental magic from muggleborns and wizards alike has given me vast experience in untangling unpredictable magic." Harry could tell she wanted to call him a boy or some other derogatory term, especially when she paused and bit her lip bloody. "All of us here have been on the accidental magic deployment teams, outside of Gringotts employees, we are the best equipped to deal with this situation."
"From the Ministry."
Harry turned to Hermione, "I know the Americans sent people.. They are staying in Hogsmede. Heck their engineers built a hotel/conference center there. Why aren't they here?"
Hermione frowned, the center of her forehead wrinkling as it always did when she missed an obvious question.
The sound of a throat clearing drew their eyes back to Undersecretary Holly. "Americans do not understand the differences between our countries. They wish to waste Ministry galleons.."
Harry interrupted, "There are no Ministry galleons here."
Holly continued over Harry, "The hours of manpower needed are wasteful. Britain needs to move on, and there is not enough time to complete a study of the problem here, let alone rebuild before September first."
Glassware began to twitch in the room, and for once it wasn't Harry who had his fists clenched in rage. As Hermione's hair began to rise from the energy she was putting out, Harry placed a calming hand on her shoulder. "I find your position, Mr. Holly, quite sad. And can only marvel at the intelligence of whomever decided to let the Corp of Engineers take over reconstruction of the Ministry and send you to us. However, we are too busy to be your minders any longer."
"I've never been so insulted."
Harry ignored the response and addressed the others, "For those of you who have something that might help, I suggest an alternate forum. I would like any suggestions in writing via Private Owl. Please do not bother with Ministry reports, only your ideas."
Hermione had regained her calm by this point, "The last two days, while flattering, haven't been fruitful. And I believe Harry's suggestion is the best path forward. I look forward to your Owls. I would recommend flooing out as soon as possible, as the fluctuations are likely to have afterschocks at about 10 PM. "
Harry and Hermione went back into their private rooms, making the door transparent from their side after closing it.
The Ministry employees filed out, only Holly looking peeved, the rest resigned, as if they knew it was a failed approach in the first place. And sure enough, the younger men with red hands, tried to grab a souvenir or two.
Harry groaned, "If we didn't have the gate spells, I think the Ministry would have cost us a lot of galleons by now."
Hermione didn't comment, instead just flopping on the sofa.
Harry sat on the armchair across from her, and waited.
"This is what brain drain does."
Harry just nodded.
"This is what inbreeding does."
Harry nodded again.
"Augh!" Hermione muffled her scream into a pillow. Then she set it back down, neatly in the corner, sat up, and straightened her clothing. "So why didn't you warn me?"
Harry sighed, and raked his hand through his hair, "I have to tell you how I risked my life today."
Hermione's eyes widened, but the scowl, and the crinkle between her eyes, left.
Harry wondered, if to Hermione, risking his life meant things getting back to normal.