You'll never guess what happened today. Walter, old Walter who made Dumbledore look like a teenager, carked it. He's dead. I've told you how he's always in late, especially in winter. The amount of arthritis he has, it's surprising he can get out of bed some days - could. Strange, you'd think I'd be used to death by now.
Anyway, I didn't realise until I went by his place after he didn’t come in for work. There were Healers at the door and someone who must be his grandson from the look of the picture he had stuck up on his desk.
I wonder if they'll reassign me now?
You know, staff hiring practices at the Ministry are particularly poor. Don't give me that look. I am well aware a number of things going on at the Ministry are particularly poor, but this, seriously Pansy. It's been a week. No one's come looking for me to tell me what I'm supposed to do with Walter gone. I mean, sure, it's not like it's hard, you touch the heat panel to make the offices warmer and the cold panel to make them cooler. A trained bloody crup could do it. But still, it's the principle of the thing.
What if I just walked off the job? Does anyone even know Walter was doing the job?
It's the anniversary of mum's passing in a few weeks. I know it's been seven years but it always makes me feel like shit. I wish you could come visit her with me. I miss you.
Well, Pansy, it seems that I have royally fucked things up. I know, I know. I can see you rolling your eyes from here, but I'm not being dramatic this time.
I went to visit mum and now it's literally - I don't even know how to explain this ... I think the entire Ministry is raining because I'm sad.
Yes, well done, laugh it up. Get it out of your system. When you've had enough, I'll go on, shall I?
Harry re-cast the Impervius charm over himself and the various crates and containers scattered around the office which he mostly used as a pre-transport storeroom. He frowned up at the ceiling. It had been raining all day. Inside. Normally rain wouldn't bother him, no matter how strange it was for it to be happening in the Ministry. He spent most of his time outside in all sorts of weather when he was on one of his trips, but he had a family of Puffskeins tucked away in his desk drawer and a nest of Bowtruckles sitting in a crate in the corner. Not to mention the Kelpie that was in the tank, awaiting transport to somewhere less populated by vulnerable Muggles.
He glanced across at the beast, seeing it swimming lazily back and forth in its magically-expanded enclosure. He didn't suppose the Kelpie actually minded the rain, though some of the others would be miserable if it went on much longer. Especially because his charms didn't seem to be holding as well as they should.
Drips, came a hiss from inside his jacket and Harry loosened the neck of his long, black oilskin to peer inside. Shiny, dark eyes looked up at him as Pheo flicked her tongue out, making her displeasure known.
More drips. Close. Charm.
Harry chuckled but buttoned his coat back up, spelling the water out of his hair so it couldn't run down his neck to where she liked to wrap herself.
Better, came a faint hiss and Harry rolled his eyes at her theatrics.
Supposed to be a wild animal. No warm coats outside.
Bite, Pheo hissed at him and Harry barely held back his laugh. At just under two feet long and noodle thin, she was lucky to be able to wrap around his neck, let alone sink her tiny teeth into him, but he liked to let her pretend she was tough. It kept the peace.
Harry glanced out of his magically spelled window. Normally it showed him images of the Scottish Highlands or the lake at Hogwarts. Now it just showed him the rain. Dark, heavy clouds gathered in the sky and rain fell unrelentingly in big, fat drops. He sighed and looked back around his office, wishing it was only raining in his pretend window, but no, it was puddling on the floors. He at least, had drains in the corner. He'd had them put in the last time he had to hose out the office after he'd had a Hippogriff in it for a week, pending trial. He'd refused to let them house the beast in the Auror cells, instead he'd conjured a huge nest for it and had enjoyed talking to it each day as he filled reports and catalogued sightings.
Harry sighed and pulled the collar of his oilskin up tighter as he decided to head up to the Auror level to see if it was raining on Ron as well.
'Bloody hell, Harry,' Ron said, when he saw him. 'You look like a drowned rat. Raining down in Creature Control too then?'
'It's raining everywhere,' Cho said, pulling her scarf up higher around her ears as she hunched over her desk. 'I told you that before.'
Harry looked around, seeing most of the Aurors in various states of misery, hands tucked under arms, bulky coats over the standard-issue robes. Some looked to be having better luck than others with their Impervius charms
Harry cast his again, frowning as the magic flickered, seemingly reluctant to take. He felt the lack of raindrops, but the barrier was nowhere near as strong as he was used to.
'Has anyone been in contact with Magical Maintenance?' Harry asked.
Ron shook his head. 'Too busy.' There was a hint of a smirk on his lips and Harry rolled his eyes. Bloody Maintenance, the paperwork would bog him down for an hour.
'Such a fine example of leadership, Team Leader Weasley.'
Ron just reached for a memo template and his compendium of Forms For Every Occasion: A Ministry Guide. He handed both to Harry. Harry grunted slightly under the weight of the tome, then dropped into a seat at Ron's desk. He put his chunky black boots up on the edge as he flicked through until he found what he needed. He began scribbling.
TO: C Baggins, Head of Magical Maintenance
FROM: H Potter, Senior Handler, Beast Division RE: Raining in the Ministry
Dear Mr Baggins,
Please forward the appropriate request form for Reporting Atmospheric Temperature. The whole Ministry seems to be raining. I'm sure you've noticed? It's been happening since -
Harry looked up, cocking his head at Cho. 'What time did the rain start? I was out in the field until after lunch'
'Ten,' she said in her soft voice. 'It started at about ten this morning.'
- ten o'clock this morning.
He tapped the memo with his wand so that it folded into a plane, marked itself as 'General' and shot into the air. Harry thumped the compendium back onto Ron's desk and decided that since he was here, he may as well have his afternoon tea break. He liked spending time at Ron's desk. People didn't bother him here.
It was half-an-hour and two more ineffective Impervius charms later before a soggy-looking plane thumped onto Ron's desk. This one was more like a carrier plane, and Harry unfolded it to see a sheaf of papers, marked RAT at the top. He flicked through what was easily fifteen pages and sighed again, holding them up at Ron.
'You happy?' he asked, shaking them.
'Incredibly,' Ron said, as he rubbed his hands together. 'My fingers are wrinkling. You think I'll catch a cold? Mum always says not to go out in the rain.'
The tip of Ron's nose was red and his hair was plastered to his head in soggy clumps. He looked miserable as he sniffed wetly.
Harry rolled his eyes at Ron's show of misery and looked down at what he'd been given. On top of the papers was a note from Baggins.
Please fill out sections 2, 3, 5, 7-12 and 14. Please do not expect a swift response. We have had requests from every level except 9.
With Compliments from Magical Maintenance. Your Ministry Experience is Important to Us.
Harry snorted. Figured the Unspeakables would have their own weather system in place. He screwed the note up and threw it in the bin, then got to work on the form.
TO: C Baggins, Head of Magical Maintenance
FROM: H Potter, Senior Handler, Beast Division RE: Raining in the Ministry
Dear Mr Baggins,
It has been two days since I sent the appropriate RAT regarding the weather on levels 2 and 4. I understand you have a backlog to work through, but it is pouring. I think a lake is forming in the cafeteria. Shield charms are only mildly effective.
I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but what the fuck?
TO: H Granger, Something Unspeakable
FROM: H Potter, Senior Handler, Beast Division RE: What’s the secret?
Ron tells me you don't have a monsoon on your level. What's the secret? I have vulnerable creatures to look after. Pheo keeps threatening to go for the jugular. Help, please!
Harry was relieved to see Hermione sitting at his desk when he got back from a meeting with Jefferson - she wasn't particularly concerned about the rain. Apparently, the Head of the Beast, Being, and Spirit Division had bigger concerns than some wet Puffskeins and Bowtruckles, which, to be fair, she probably did. Hermione had her hand in the box of Puffskeins and was talking quietly to them. Harry was interested to note even her Impervius didn't seemed to be holding as well as it should.
She looked up when she saw him, and then indicated the water running off the edges of his desk and pooling on the ground.
'I thought Ron was exaggerating,' she said, with a frown. 'How long's it been this bad?'
'Since it started two days ago,' Harry said, sitting opposite her. 'I can't decide if it's getting heavier or if everything is so waterlogged now that the siphoning charms aren't working anymore. Your level is fine?'
Hermione nodded. 'Yes, but that's not surprising. Level nine is cut off from most of the main Ministry support systems. Too many things that are too delicate for the likes of this to be happening,' she said, waving her hand at the rain with a sniff.
'So do you have any idea why it's happening?' Harry asked.
She shrugged as though the answer was obvious. 'Something's clearly gone wrong with the weather charms. I had lunch with Jennifer from the Portkey office today and she was saying they've had rain the past few days as well. It doesn't seem to be localised,' she mused, looking around again.
Harry sat back in his chair with a huff of frustration. 'I've already reported it to Magical Maintenance. Twice. And by the sounds of it, so has every other level. What the bloody hell are they doing about it? It's literally their job to maintain magical things.'
Hermione nodded her agreement. 'I imagine the system is just a scaled up version of the spells used to heat and cool magical homes. I wouldn't think it would be too difficult to fix.'
A particularly heavy dump of rain fell on them and Harry pulled his collar up irritably. 'Right. You're right. This is ridiculous. I'm going to see them.'
He was surprised to see Hermione stand to follow him.
'Slow day in the office?' Harry asked, knowing she wouldn't tell him anything. She never did.
Hermione just smiled and gestured to him to lead the way.
Baggins was sitting at his desk with a stack of boxes beside him on the floor, and another teetering over him. He looked like one wrong move would have him buried. Harry cleared his throat from the doorway and Baggins started, looking up with a squint as he adjusted his glasses. His eyebrows pulled in disapprovingly as he saw Harry and Hermione standing in the doorway of his cluttered workshop.
'Mr Potter, Unspeakable Granger. This is very irregular.'
'It's raining, Mr Baggins,' Harry said, stepping forward. 'In my office.'
'Yes,' Baggins said, waving at him in a distracted manner. 'I'm aware. It's all in hand, I assure you.' He finished with the sheaf of papers in front of him and picked the whole stack up, dumping them in a box on the floor before pulling another bundle towards himself.
Harry looked around. 'Why is it not raining in your office?' he asked suspiciously.
'Controlled environment,' Baggins said, a hint of smugness in his voice. 'Need to be able to bring delicate items here. For maintenance.'
Harry raised an eyebrow, but Hermione put a hand on his arm. Around his neck he felt Pheo twist against his skin, sensing his irritation. He forced himself to take a deep breath. He knew he needed to keep his cool when he was in the office. He couldn't afford for Jefferson to reprimand him about it again. She'd taken a Chinese Fireball case off him last time she'd decided he was being too antisocial at work.
'Right,' he said. 'Well you carry on with whatever important task you're doing then, won't you, Mr Baggins.'
Baggins cleared his throat and frowned at Harry as if unsure whether he'd just been insulted or complimented. Harry barely refrained from rolling his eyes as he turned away from the man.
'What now?' Harry asked Hermione, but she was already leading them towards the lifts.
They stopped on level one and Harry didn't quite believe she was doing it until Hermione led them up to Shacklebolt's door. His secretary, Lee, looked like he wanted to object, but maybe something in Hermione's face stopped him. Harry wondered, again, just how high up in the Unspeakables Hermione was. She wouldn't even tell him who her boss was.
Shacklebolt was actually at his desk when they walked in, which was unusual. He looked up from the letter he was writing and smiled broadly.
Harry was not, at this point, surprised to see the Minister's office was dry. No one whose office had been raining for the past two days could have that broad a smile. Harry felt like the rain had seeped into his bones. He'd given up earlier that day on trying to hold the charms. Pheo had had many things to say about that, but, to Harry's distinct lack of surprise, had decided not to move from her traditional posture around his neck.
'Harry, Hermione,' Shacklebolt said. 'Take a seat.' He eyed the both of them. 'I think I can guess what you're here about.'
Harry wondered if it was the fact that he was leaving a distinct pool on the Minister's floor that had tipped him off.
'Thank you for seeing us, Minister,' Hermione said, as though they hadn't barged straight in. 'Apologies for jumping up the chain, but Magical Maintenance wasn't able to give us an update and we thought a Ministry-wide memo might be warranted at this point?'
Shacklebolt linked his fingers on the table in front of him. 'Indeed. If I had progress to report, I would have already done so.' He looked at the two of them seriously for a moment. 'Between these four walls, we're not sure how to fix the weather. Investigations into the source of the problem have uncovered that our former PRAT -' at this Harry let out a disbelieving snort.
'Personnel for Regulation of Atmospheric Temperature,' Shacklebolt explained with a small smile. 'Our former PRAT, Walter Jorkins, passed away approximately one month ago.'
'So the weather went haywire a few days ago because no one's looking after it?' Harry asked, not sure what the problem was. They just needed to put another PRAT onto the spell, surely.
'If it were that easy, it would have happened soon after his demise,' Shacklebolt said. 'We believe someone has tampered with the spell. However, the only people who had access to the Atmospheric Settlement Site were the PRAT and his assistant, as well as Magical Maintenance. And Baggins has assured me he'd never been up there in his life before yesterday.'
Harry shrugged, still not seeing the problem. 'So find the assistant, ask them what they did to mess the weather up, and fix it.'
Shacklebolt paused before answering. 'That's where we come to the crux of the issue,' he said.
'Oh no,' Hermione said, looking at the Minister with a growing look of horror. 'The Archives?' Harry turned her, not following the leap of understanding she had clearly made.
Shacklebolt nodded, face grave. 'At least one-third flooded, including personnel records for the past three hundred years. It's somewhat of a disaster. If there is a new PRAT, we have no idea who they are and, unless they come back to the Atmospheric Settlement Site, no way of locating them.'
Harry ignored Hermione's small whimper of devastation next to him as she undoubtedly contemplated the loss of knowledge. His mind was racing ahead. 'Do you think it's malicious?' Harry asked. 'Can you just do a call out, asking for the new PRAT to come forward so you can figure it out?'
Shacklebolt spread his hands. 'I'm sending a Ministry-wide memo today, but at this point, your guess is as good as mine as to whether someone's done this on purpose.'
Harry was just about done with the rain. Three days of feeling soggy, with Pheo keeping up a constant litany of complaints, was enough to do his head in. Normally he would have escaped the Ministry for a week, headed to Hogwarts to meet with the Centaurs or further up into the Highlands to catalogue Unicorn herds - anything so he didn't feel like the walls were closing in on him. But it was mid-year report time, and at mid-year report time, he had to do the last six months worth of reporting, which he'd shoved into a drawer and ignored. Not that constant rain was particularly conducive to filling out reports. Harry had tried to explain that to Jefferson, but she was adamant.
'If I let you leave, I'll never see those damned reports again, Potter. You think I haven't learned over the past eight years of this?'
Jefferson might be small but she had a no-nonsense tone that quelled most beasts and which Harry had to actively work to ignore. Paperwork wasn't worth the fight. He saved the fight up for when he wanted to bring in a Chimaera for rehoming, or get onto the team transporting a Sphinx back to Egypt.
Pheo didn't like the reports any better than he did.
Paper is boring. Cold. Wet here. Go hunt. Drips again. Charm, Green Eyes.
Harry tried to tune her out and focus on what he was doing, but it didn't help that he agreed with most of her words.
He distracted himself by thinking about the weather issue. He had been mulling over Shacklebolt's words from the day before almost constantly. The rain showed no sign of letting up, which meant whoever the Minister had picked to investigate what was happening showed no sign of being competent. Harry scratched a quick memo off to Hermione on his lunch break, tapping it with his wand so that it formed into a boat. He stuck it on the river that was now flowing down the corridor and into the lifts. Her response came back quickly.
TO: H Potter, Senior Handler, Beast Division
FROM: H Granger, Something Unspeakable RE: Do we have to do it ourselves?
I asked around and apparently the Atmospheric Settlement Site - no, we will not be calling it the ASS - is above the Muggle building that sits on the Minister's offices. It's a little rooftop setup. I think they have a few Aurors on it, but if we take Ron, we should be able to have a poke around. He's out on patrol today. How does tomorrow morning sound?
Harry's boots squelched as he left the lifts. He didn't know if he was imagining it, but it seemed like he was wetter than the others around him. The longer this damned weather issue went on, the more it seemed to be focussing on him, as though the very point of it was to make his life miserable.
Cold, came a hiss from his shirt and Harry sighed, ready for the constant stream of the day to continue. Slimy drips. Hungry. Too many drips. Find cover. Now!
He stopped his walk, looking down at his chest. Every now and again Pheo got just a little bit too big for her boots and he had to remind her that while they were friends, if she wanted to spend all day using him as a human heater, she had to put up with all the things that came along with it. He refused to be bossed around for the rest of his days by a 40cm long green snake.
Are you too cold? he hissed back down at her, as he began to unbutton his coat.
Pheo stuck her head up, bobbing it slightly as a drop hit her.
Very cold. Seek cover now, Green Eyes. Too wet here.
Harry shrugged out of his oilskin, letting it fall to the ground, wincing as the steady stream of fat, heavy raindrops immediately drenched through the long sleeved v-neck he wore. Pheo tried to burrow back under his shirt but Harry hissed at her.
No, little one. This is the rain. This is the rain I've had to put up with all day, to keep you warm. If you are too cold, you can stay at home tomorrow. Sleep under your light and grow fat eating crickets like little snakes do.
At those words he reached down to the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head, shaking his wet hair out of his eyes as the raindrops hit his bare chest and dripped their path down. Harry ignored how uncomfortable it was to have people's eyes on him, as he stood in the middle of the Ministry Atrium clad just in cargo pants and heavy black boots. He looked down at Pheo, curled around his neck, head drooping as she looked up at him.
Is this what you prefer, little one? The way it feels when I am not caring for you?
Yessss, Pheo hissed in contentment. She slithered so she was stretched out across his shoulders and down his arm. Harry looked at her, nonplussed by her strange reaction, and it was then that he realised the rain had stopped. He looked up at the ceiling to see bright sun rays beaming down at him. In fact, the room was very quickly becoming steamy, as the temperature increased rapidly.
There were cries of amazement as people looked around, seeking the source of the change. Harry did the same. A swirl of black cloth caught his eye as someone disappeared into the Floo. He frowned. Strange. Everyone else was rooted to the spot, absorbing the heat and laughing at the way their clothes had begun to steam.
Within a minute, the heat had become oppressive, and Harry was almost glad to have already taken off his heavy coat. People across the Atrium were stripping off jackets and cloaks, opening robes or dissolving their umbrella charms.
Harry cast one last glance at the ceiling and then bent to collect his clothes as he moved towards the Floo.