The Other Minister

chapter one of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Muggle Prime Minister sits alone in his office but is interrupted when Cornelius Fudge arrives – shortly followed by the new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour – to tell him that a new war has broken out against Voldemort.
 

The Muggle Prime Minister Tries to Ignore the Tell-Tale Cough he Hears from Behind Him, by Drew Graham

With a slight shiver, the Prime Minister got up and moved over to the window, looking out at the thin mist that was pressing itself against the glass. It was then, as he stood with his back to the room, that he heard a soft cough behind him.


 

Hem Hem, by haystax45

“To the Prime Minister of Muggles. Urgent we meet. Kindly respond immediately. Sincerely, Fudge.”


 

Rufus Scrimgeour, by VikingCarrot

The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion.


 

by Heather Campbell

“I’d rather not be interrupted,” said Scrimgeour shortly, “or watched,” he added, pointing his wand at the windows, so that the curtains swept across them. “Right, well, I’m a busy man, so let’s get down to business.”


 

The Other Minister, by VikingCarrot

“Well, that’s really all I had to say. I will keep you posted of developments, Prime Minister – or, at least, I shall probably be too busy to come personally, in which case I shall send Fudge here. He has consented to stay on in an advisory capacity.”


 

Flustered Prime Minister, by salamandersoup

The Prime Minister gazed hopelessly at the pair of them for a moment, then the words he had fought to suppress all evening burst from him at last. “But for heaven’s sake – you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out – well – anything!”


 

by Heather Campbell

Fudge… really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”


 

about the chapter

 

It’s sometimes easy to wonder how the wizarding world manages to keep itself a secret. It would be difficult, of course, for a wizard to spread the word to Muggles (or, say, perform magic to get attention), as they would soon be hunted down by the Ministry of Magic. But there are loads of families of Muggle-born wizards, like Hermione’s parents or the Dursleys, who know about the magical world, who aren’t subject to wizarding laws of secrecy, and who could easily just tell the world that wizards exist. But in this chapter Fudge points out the catch, when he asks the Muggle Prime Minister, “are you ever going to tell anybody?” And of course, the Prime Minister realizes that “he would never, as long as he lived, dare mention this encounter to a living soul, for who in the wide world would believe him?” Even if Muggles did try to spread the word around (and there have to have been a few senseless enough to try), they would simply be seen as crazy. It’s a brilliantly self-perpetuating system.
 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

We don’t ever learn what Cornelius Fudge’s background was, but given the way he interacts with the Muggle Prime Minister – making him “feel like an ignorant schoolboy” – it’s hard to imagine he’s anything other than a pureblood. From our perspective it’s easy to see how condescending he’s being in expecting the Prime Minister to know things that he’s never fully explained to him, but Fudge seems to have no ability to put himself in the shoes of a Muggle – and if his parents had been Muggles (or even Muggle-borns), I’d have to imagine he would understand the Prime Minister’s perspective a little bit better.

This also makes sense from the perspective of the prejudice we see throughout the books towards Muggle-borns; they are looked down on quite as much in the wizarding world as other minorities are in the Muggle world, and while it’s possible that a Muggle-born has been chosen as Minister of Magic at some point in time (after all, Margaret Thatcher became the only female Prime Minister in the past few decades, and Barack Obama the only ethnic minority leader of either Britain or the U.S. last year), I imagine it’s still far more likely than not that any given Minister of Magic would be a pure-blood wizard.
 

The Wizarding World

There’s a quote I always think of when I read this chapter. It’s from Harry’s trip aboard the Knight Bus, when Stan Shunpike tells him that Muggles don’t hear the bus because Muggles “Never notice nuffink, they don’.” The idea that the destruction in the West Country was caused by a hurricane – clearly a story created and perpetuated by the Ministry of Magic’s Office of Misinformation to cover up what really happened – has always particularly fascinated me. Can you imagine how many Memory Charms wizards would have to cast to make this story work? You’d have to get to every meteorologist in the country, and many more across the world as well. You’d also have to have an understanding of Muggle society that is far, far superior to the understanding held by Arthur Weasley’s Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office, just to know what a meteorologist does and how to find them all. And no matter what wizards do, there will always be Muggles who are able to look at what happened and see that the story just doesn’t hold water. But because those Muggles don’t have a better explanation, they will always simply remain mystified. Perhaps the wizarding world is at the heart of most Muggle conspiracy theories! We know crop circles are their fault, after all; why not other things as well?
 

The Final Word

“I have come close to using a chapter very like this in ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ (it was one of the discarded first chapters), ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ and ‘Order of the Phoenix’ but here, finally, it works, so it’s staying. And that’s all I’m going to say, but when you read it, just know that it’s been about thirteen years in the brewing.”–J.K. Rowling, jkrowling.com
 

“[Terrorism has] never consciously [shaped my writing], in the sense that I’ve never thought, “It’s time for a post-9/11 Harry Potter book,” no. But what Voldemort does, in many senses, is terrorism, and that was quite clear in my mind before 9/11 happened…. There are parallels, obviously. I think one of the times I felt the parallels was when I was writing about the arrest of Stan Shunpike, you know? I always planned that these kinds of things would happen, but these have very powerful resonances, given that I believe, and many people believe, that there have been instances of persecution of people who did not deserve to be persecuted, even while we’re attempting to find the people who have committed utter atrocities. These things just happen, it’s human nature. There were some very startling parallels at the time I was writing it.” –J.K. Rowling, July 2005
 


34 Responses to “The Other Minister”

  1. Finally, time for my favorite book! I was fascinated by this chapter, because we are truly given a muggle’s point of view. Just one question though–“We know crop circles are their fault” – what did I miss?

  2. @ Alex: I think they’re referring to something in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, though I can’t remember exactly which beast was responsible for them. Mooncalves?

    Hope that helps! This is my favorite book too!

    Kaylee

  3. Well remembered, Kaylee. Here’s the quote:

    …Mooncalves perform complicated dances on their hind legs in isolated areas in the moonlight. These are believed to be a prelude to mating (and often leave intricate geometric patterns behind in wheat fields, to the great puzzlement of Muggles)….

    It’s from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, under the Mooncalf entry on p28-29.

  4. To repeat what everyone else has said, time to start my favorite book!

  5. After I had read this book the obligatory two times in the first week I started imagining conversations between the Minister of Magic and various heads of state – Nikita Khruschev, Gerald Ford, Queen Elizabeth, and especially George W. Bush.

  6. One thing I love about JK Rowling’s writing? She is always seemingly so conscious about the themes and parallels that the is including in her books and this chapter is a perfect example. Even if everything wasn’t perfectly planned form the beginning, she has the skill and the storytelling acumen to tie everything together so well.

    And while this isn’t my favorite book of the series (that goes to Deathly Hallows, hands down) I’m really looking forward to some of the artwork for this one. Rowling creates some incredible images here, everything from little Tom Riddle in the orphanage to the final battle to the eerie cave scene. Can’t wait!

  7. I can’t believe we’ve reached Half-Blood Prince already! I love Viking-Carrot’s piece with the two Ministers of Magic–love the juxtaposition between those two men (even though they’re wearing the same outfit–GREAT artistic touch!)

  8. I was thinking about one of JKR’s quotes, how she said that she never thought “Time for a post 9/11 Harry Potter book.” And I realized that if this book were set in America, I doubt the Muggles would so readily accept stories of hurricanes and faulty bridgelines. The American Muggles would definitely be on the prowl for terrorists, which in my opinion have shaped the book differently. Just a thought :)

  9. Did everyone picture Tony Blair when reading this chapter? I did. Not sure who J.K.R. meant it to be, if anyone. But I think technically John Major was still PM in reality in the timeline of the stories. And when the PM was going to talk to the “wretched” President of some distant land, I of course thought of Bush, though it could have been any president and Clinton was US president at the time.

    I loved this chapter because it put such a large hole in the wall between the worlds that we had come to accept over the past five books. And it just left me wanting to know more!

  10. Ben: both my roommate and I pictured Tony Blair while reading this chapter. :D

  11. Concerning Fudge’s background there’s a quote from Dumbledore to Fudge in GoF that can give us an idea: “You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood!”
    About this chapter, and we’ll hear about this later, there’s this quote: “I’ve been writing to Dumbledore twice a day for the past fortnight, but he won’t budge. If he’d just been prepared to persuade the boy, I might still be…”. After all that Fudge made Harry suffer during OotP he still had hope that Harry (and Dumbledore) will give him his support to remain in charge as Minister of Magic…

  12. I left part of the text behind, Dumbledore says to Fudge: “You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!”

  13. Natalia, I agree, I love that image!

    Josie, in reference to the first chapter speculation. I think the most popular theory back int he day was that we would FINALLY get a glimpse of the night Voldy attacked. It makes perfect sense – it’s very close to the actual first chapter for book 1, it would fit perfectly in book 3 because it would set up the sirius/peter thing nicely, and it would have worked in book 5 as the end of the first war in a book that begins the second war.
    There were also SO MANY theories runnign rampant about what actually happened that night! Soul bits flying everywhere! Homorphus charms! Apparently half the characters mentioned in the book were there, according to one theory or another, and always one under the Invisibility Cloak – Peter, Sirius, Snape, Dumbledore, Aberforth, Frank Longbottom…anyone you cna think of. I do remember one editorial (I think on Mugglenet) where the theory was that Frank and Snape were brawling in Godric’s Hollow as Lily was fighting off Voldy. I gotta admit, the flashback in DH felt a bit anticlimactic after all that.

  14. this was a great chapter it’s fun reading about the wizarding world from a muggle’s point of view
    sadly this chapter didn’t appear in the movie fudge didn’t even appear in the movie either i wouldn’ve like to see who would play the muggle prime minister

  15. Ben, I always pictured the Muggle Prime Minister as Paul Eddington, known onstage as “Jim Hacker”. Brits are cynical about our politicians, and the fictitious Minister Hacker epitomises all we project onto our real-life PMs. An almost-not-fictitious PM like Jim Hacker seems the ideal character to cast into a story like Harry Potter.

    Alas, Paul Eddington died long before HPB was filmed, but you can visit his performance as Britain’s leader at http://www.sitcom.co.uk/yes_minister/.

    1997 was the general election that brought in the change of government. Many people would have liked to see a fanfiction (but nobody was talented enough to write it) called “Kingsley Shacklebolt and the General Election.”

  16. Michael Sheen could have done it. He is the one who played Tony Blair in “The Queen”. And I have always thought that the man in the portrait would have been the perfect part for Rowan Atkinson, and a way to get one of my favourite actors into the Harry Potter movies. But alas, the movie bridged the gap between the two worlds with that attractive waitress with the afro, not with this chapter. Love over politics. Oh well.

  17. This is absolutely one of my favorite chapters! It´s great to get a recap from a whole other point of view and written with so much humor! I wish there were more pictures about this chapter, for instance how Fudge tells the Minister about the dragons, and Sirius, and Dementors etc… But I fuess the words are imaginative enough in this chapter… After all, it´s a chapter with only one very long conversation…

  18. Hm, so book 4 was not the last book where JKR devoted a chapter to recap what has happened so far. However, this time it’s not from Harry’s POV.

    I like the idea behind this chapter, but as someone who has read all of the previous books several times I feel it’s too long.

    Okay, we do learn some new information. The mentioning of the Bones murder never fails so sadden me.

    The bridge which was blown up in the movie hadn’t actually been built when the events of the book took place.

    As many others here, I, too, am excited that we’re starting HBP. I can’t decide between this one and PoA as my favorite HP book.

  19. The Half-Blood Prince is here!
    I was about 10 or so when this book came out and really could care less about politics, so I didn’t have much of an appreciation for this chapter then. I was trying to figure out what a Prime Minister was. (I’m a dumb American, ok?)
    Kim, the movies don’t really go with the time frame of the books. The kids all dress in modern clothes and everything, rather than what they’d wear in the 90’s. I’m sure you’ve noticed this, though.

  20. @Kim

    The movies were never in tally with the official timeline.

    You remember the PS movie. As Harry was delivered to the Dursleys, we could see a Opel (Vauxhall) Vectra A, which was not aviable before 1988. At the zoo-scene, as Harry was nearly 11, the Dursleys had a Vectra B, which was not aviable before 1995.

  21. I always love seeing stuff about the Muggle world in HP. What I am very sorry for is that we never got a look at a Muggle Studies class. OK, all the readers know everything already, but what sort of lessons are taught, and why? The few tidbits we got in book 3 don’t cut it. Whatever it is, the curriculum clearly isn’t good enough to have made Mr. Weasley the expert he really ought to be if he’s so interested in Muggles.

    I always tended to think of Tony Blair in this scene too.

  22. I really like this chapter. It explains the relation between Muggles and Wizards and it is something that needed to be explained.

    The Bones death is always sad. It also shows that the war has really started.

    I picture Tony Blair as well. Although I believe it wouldn’t have been him story wise.

    Let Book 6 commence!

  23. In 1987 TV weatherman Michael Fish was informed that there were rumours a hurricane would be hitting Britain. Live on TV, he said that it wouldn’t be. It did. The MoM might not have needed to get every meteorologist in the country, as it would have been accepted that in Britain, there is a history of weather people failing to predict hurricanes. The weather guys who didn’t predict a hurricane in the West Country would have been mystified, but not likely by enough to go digging and uncover the magical world. All they would have had to get were eyewitnesses. The question arises: what were giants doing in the West Country anyway? What would Voldemort have wanted in the West Country that he got giants to wreak havoc there? The West Country is a fairly magical place – perhaps he got them to kill a few important witchards?

  24. Reading the comments about the Muggle PM got my brain on a sidetrack thinking about interactions between the PM’s and Ministers of Magic in the past. Did the Minister of Magic at the time ever visit Margaret Thatcher? Love to see her reaction to a wizard popping into her office. Or Churchhill. No wonder heads of state seem to age so rapidly while in office.

  25. Speaking of PM and Minister of Magic, can you imagine what it was like for Neville Chamberlain in office? Hitler on the rise and Grindelwald terrorising Europe at the same time? No wonder the guy was eager to cave into appeasement with Hitler, lesser of two evils and all that.

  26. With the idea of Hitler, you have to wonder how the wizards reacted with the muggle war, as that one was big enough and destructive enough to have probably affected some of them. Though maybe it’s easy to make wizarding houses bomb proof. I also can’t help but wonder if there was tension between British wizards and German ones (or between any of the axis or allied powers during WWII or if muggle politics never really effected wizarding.
    Also for that matter how does magic use change from country to country, I find it hard to believe Japan or China would have the same magic methods or spells. I can maybe believe the romance languages due to the latin base and maybe maybe German due to English German ties but outside of that wouldn’t the different countries have different spell words due to the different language?

  27. On the Ministers: I realize that JKR didn’t really apply a timeline (in the books at least) until DH, but with the timeline we end up with (HBP is ’96-’97) it shows that Harry’s Britain is not ours.

    “”…And I must say, you’re taking it a lot better than your predecessor. *He* tried to throw me out the window, thought I was a hoax planned by the opposition.””

    John Major was PM from 1990-1997. His predecessor was Thatcher, *her*self. Of course, for the time the books were written, it would make the current Tony Blair and the “*He*” from the quote John Major.

    About the different countries/cultures having different magic: I agree that one would think the non-Germanic (like the Asiatic) languages would have to be fundamentally different in their incantations, if not in the magic itself.

  28. all this international talk about wizards makes me wonder where the us wizarding school would be located, anybody have any ideas? maybe one for each region because the states are so big?

  29. I love this chapter, it’s very amusing and says a lot about the relationship between the Muggle and Wizarding worlds. I really like how the two men are in the same boat, yet so very different from eachother. Besides, you can really relate to the Muggle prime minister and his reactions. It makes you think about your current leader being in touch with your country’s equivalent of MoM. And that is really funny.

  30. n8, there may well be more than one wizarding school in the US. Britain and France each has about 1% of the world’s people, and each has one wizarding school. The US and Canada have something like 6% of the world’s people, so there could be as many as five schools in the US plus one more in Canada.

    Hogwarts nestles in the Grampian Mountains, where hardly anyone lives. I imagine the American schools would be hidden away in thinly-populated locations such as the Arizona Desert, the Rocky Mountains, the Kansas Prairies… You tell us. Where do you think they are?

  31. Just thought I’d throw this up out there – there has been a muggle-born MOM, He was Nobby Leach, began his term in 1962 and was forced to leave his post prematurely in 1968 due to a plot which is believed to have involved Abraxas Malfoy (Lucius’ dad) although nothing was proven.
    Also, as for the views on muggle borns and muggles in the ministry, I’m uncertain what they were in later years, but certainly in 1954-1956 many of Mcgonagall’s coworkers had an antimuggle bias (I’m working on material released on pottermore here) Certainly there were many pro-pure blood laws by the time of the second wizarding war (the events of books 4-7) as shacklebolt eradicated them in his time as minister. These were probably the doing of malfoy and co. at least to prevent them from being erased. Other laws which were directly damaging against muggles have also been attempted to pass, as early as about fifty or so years before the events of the books.
    Nobby Leach also had trouble during his term, as several older members of the wizengamot reportedly walked out upon his appointment, and there were pure blood riots during the squib rights marches at this time (this is most likely what caused him to leave office)
    This snobbery can be related to the percieved inferiority of non humans, laws over which persisted until Shacklebolt’s movements of equality during his term. The lack of lawyers and jurys also indicates potential (which was probably realised if harry’s trial in ootp is anything to go by) for corruption. Bribery and blackmail was also evident in buckbeak’s trial and dumbledore’s removal from hogwarts, perpetrated by malfoy again.

    Wow, that was a lot for what was gonna be a short comment on nobby leach.

  32. I love this chapter so much. Oh, politicians! It also made me forgive Fudge a bit, he does seem almost competent and empathetic in this chapter. He just needed to see reason. Personally, I like Scrimgeour even less.

    Imagine if Fudge actually mistook Margaret Thatcher for a “he!” Based on the fact that she was quick to throw him out the window… Maybe he didn’t take enough time with her to make quite sure… :)

  33. Wasn’t there a mention of a Salem Witches’ Institute in Goblet of Fire? I think their banner was described as “star-spangled”, which is often used to describe the American flag. If that’s the case, it’d probably be the oldest American school for magic, given that Massachusetts Bay Colony was one of the oldest settlements.

    Given Brits and Yanks special relationship, I wonder if Bill Clinton (who would have been U.S. President at the time of the event) was informed of Voldemort’s return.

    I always wondered in an alternate reality where Voldemort succeeded in the Battle of Hogwarts and overwhelmed Britain, how the U.S. military would have performed against Voldemort’s dark wizard army. They definitely would have responded had the mass attack on Muggles began, and at that point using their own wizards wouldn’t be enough…

    Would we have seen BBC coverage of American relief efforts, F-18’s vs. dementors over the skies of London? LOL

  34. I’ve always thought the Native American tribes would have magic schools. Perhaps in the ancient unused pueblos?

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