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Hogwarts Department of Human Resources

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            It took a lot to shock the new Prime Minister—a bombing in central London by a deranged “brony,” the American president draining seven bottles of highly expensive scotch over the course of a two-night trip, the experience of seeing Jar Jar Binks for the first time—but this certainly qualified as “a lot.”  She had dismissed the cryptic ramblings and warning of her predecessor as the result of too much cheap wine in too short a period of time, a final desperate effort to maintain some sort of relevancy in her life as he left office.  Certainly, his time in office had been defined by strange occurrences.  The collapse of the Brockdale Bridge was a minor tragedy on its own right, but hardly something for which he could have been blamed for.  But then there had been the deaths.  The disappearances.  Mass hallucinations, bizarre injuries, brutal assaults.  Even the weather, rarely on the best of terms with her country, seemed to turn harder against their fair island.  A wave of crime and misery for which no expert was able to provide an explanation.

            The previous Prime Minister had seemed genuinely scared when he called it supernatural.  But she knew better than to believe him.  After all, this was the same man who tried to blame his clinical depression on dementia—or was it dementor? —when she really knew that he had stopped taking his medication at some point, having found full pill bottles in the Prime Minister’s office on more than one occasion during their meetings.  Still, she tried to keep an open mind, and even allowed herself to go down the research rabbit hole on more than one occasion, reading about the history of magic in England.  She spent days on Wikipedia alone, keeping up with the edits and cross checking their references in libraries.  She came away with the understanding that the witch hunts were horribly cruel and pointless, causing only the suffering and murder of innocent women.  After all, if magic existed, surely, she would have known about it by now?  Surely, there would have been proof.  With the advent of the internet and phones with built-in cameras, nothing remained invisible for long.

            Which is why it was so shocking when the painting in her office coughed.

            She had noticed the ugly little thing, fitted between several much nicer pieces, on her first visit to 1 Downing Street all those years ago and thought it strange then.  Seeing it in her predecessor’s office made even less sense as the man had a fine taste in artwork, but she had dismissed it as some whim of the queen’s and left it at that.  Her first evening after the inauguration, she had tried to remove it from the wall, but the little man in the purple coat and white powder wig stuck fast to the fall, despite her best efforts.  She may have been slacking on her exercise as of late, what with the campaign and building a new government, but she was certainly no weak armed waif.  Even the queen, during their meeting to form government, had commented on how healthy she looked.  Of course, just about everyone looked healthy to that dinosaur, God bless the queen. 

            She heard the phlegmatic cough while working late in the office, long after the majority of her staff had gone home.  Her predecessor had left a right mess for her and her cabinet, and it was proving more difficult than she thought to sort it out.  By the end, it seemed, the street of the position has just been too much.  At the first cough, she worried about the stress of the job as well.  Her therapist had mentioned something about auditory hallucinations, but she had never experience them before.  Then, the second cough came, slightly louder than the first.  Looking up from her desk, hand tangled in her hair and pen held between her teen, the toadlike little man in the painting seemed to stare at her.  She narrowed her eyes, thinking back.  She had never paid too much attention to it, but hadn’t the main in the painting been closing his eyes before?  As she watched and pondered, the main in the painting moved.  Seeing that he finally had her attention, he nodded.

            “To the Prime Minister of Muggles,” the little froglike man said.  “The Minister for Magic requests a meeting for the purposes of introduction.”  She had heard that tone before, largely from older, male politicians and political donors.  The tone that invited no conversation or disagreement.

            So, she responded as she always had.  “He—or is it she?” she interrupted herself.

            “He,” the painting sneered.

            She grinned back at the painting.  “As he calls himself Minister but is not a part of any ministry that I am aware of, he is welcome to make an appointment through the proper channels.”  Her mouth would not stop moving, the words pouring out, even as a chill and cold sweat broke out upon her skin.  Maybe she really had lost her mind.  For goodness’ sake, she was talking to a painting!  But her persisted in engaging the hallucination.  “But I must warn your minister that my schedule is quite busy and he may not find an opening for some time.”

            The painting seemingly could not decide if it more shocked than angry, and she watched the little man’s face contort into a gruesome, toothy smile that somehow conveyed both emotions.  Like many men, he seemed to have difficult not getting what he wanted from a woman.  “The Minister of Magic will arrive shortly,” the painting finally pushed out.  “Please do ensure that your office is presentable.”

            “If he thinks he can just walk into the Prime Minister’s office unannounced, he is either brave or a buffoon,” she called back as the man in the painting moved towards the edge of frame and, while her mouth ran ahead of her brain, walked away, leaving an empty frame where once a painted man stood.  As her mouth hung open, but before her mind could fully process the phenomenon in front of her, the fireplace sprang to life.  She jumped up from her chair, scatting paper and pens in her wake, as green fire erupted from the woodless space.  There had been no need for a fire of late.  She made to find a fire alarm, or call for help, but her voice caught as a figure began to form in the fire.  Shapeless at first, but quickly becoming more humanoid, like an image loading in.  Before her eyes, a man strode out from the flames.  Tall, with black skin, a strong frame, and a bright smile that touched the eyes.  The man wore brilliant blue agbada and a matching fila hat, both with shining gold embroidery.  The man had the kind of attitude and demeanor which always threatened to relax her, but which she knew to be front hiding a sharp mind and keen intellect.

            “Good evening,” she said, his rumbling voice filling the room with his good mood.  “Pardon the interruption into your office.  I am…”

            “Kingsley Shacklebolt,” she interrupted.  The man’s face had seemed familiar, although it had taken her a moment to place it.  “I remember you.  You were briefly a bodyguard for my predecessor, if I’m not mistaken.”  She strode forward and held out her hand to shake.  “What on earth are you doing in my fireplace?”

            Kingsley let out a low chuckle and took her hand in his strong grip.  “I must say, Prime Minister Whittaker, you are certainly taking this better than I could have hope.”  He let her hand go and took a step back, gesturing to the bar cart against one wall.  She inclined her head and motioned to the decanter and he stepped forward.  “Your predecessor nearly had a heart attack the first time I visited.  One would think he would have been used to it by then, eh?”  As he spoke, Kingsley poured two glasses of the whiskey she liked, handing a glass to her, which she gratefully accepted, her hand only shaking slightly.  “He and Fudge met more than most ministers, from what I understand.  You might want to take a sip of that and sit down, Prime Minister,” she said, and she realized she had been staring at him, not moving.

            She sipped the whiskey, feeling its burning warmth gliding down her throat and setting fire to her belly.  Her stomach was empty, so she would have to take it slow, but she appreciated the liquor nonetheless.  “A lot of things are suddenly making a lot of sense,” she said, moving back to her desk and falling into her chair.  “I thought the man stark raving man, but…” her voice trailed off as Kingsley chuckled and sat down on the other side of the desk.

            “We have a lot to talk about,” he began.  “But I supposed I should begin by saying that I am a wizard.  Yes, wizards are real, as is magic.  Spellcasting, flying on brooms, dragons, and more.”  With each word, she leaned farther and farther over the desk, enraptured, the initial shock gone.  He must have seen it in her eyes.  “There is an entire community of magical folk, and I come here tonight as you counterpart.  The Minister for Magic.  An interesting title, is it not?” he asked as she drank more from her glass.  “Both imperious and unassuming at the same time.  Much like the magical world itself.”

            “Prove it,” she blurted.  “You say you’re magic, but I might just be dreaming.  Or hallucinating.  So, prove it.  Show me magic.”

            “Are you sure?” Kingsley asked.  For the first time since walking into her office, his smile threatened to fade.  “We normally have strict rules about showing magic to muggles.  That is, non-magical folk.  Such as yourself.  For a mind that has not been constantly exposed to magic, it can prove harmful.”

            Now it was Prime Minister Whittaker’s turn to smile.  “You underestimate me.  You’ve already stepped out of my fire place and I had a conversation with a painting.  I’d be a fool to not accept what’s in front of me.”  She emptied her glass, placing it on the desk.  “So, show me something magical.”

            With a grin and a glint in his eyes,” Kingsley reached into a hidden pocket and pulled out a wand, a beautiful slender piece of shining wood with an intricate handle and flicked it towards the empty glass.  “Wingardium Leviosa,” he said, with clear enunciation.  With a lift of his wrist, the wand flicked upwards, and the empty glass rose into the air of its own accord.  As she watched, enamored, the glass floated over to hang in the air in front of Kingsley.  Angling the tip of wand towards the rim, he said, “Aquamenti,” and she watched as crystal clear water poured from the wand, splashing into the glass.  The water slowed to a trickle as the glass filled, then stopped.  With a push of the wand, Kingsley sent the glass floating back to her, straight into her waiting hand.  “Drink up,” Kingsley said as she took a sip of the cold, spring water.  “I have a feeling you have many questions.”