Disclaimer: Not the Rowling.
WARNING: Spamfic, sorta.
“Hello.” : voice.
“Hello.” : voice over phone, radio, TV...
‹Hello.› : thought.
Hello. : print.
B O T T O M S
MINISTRY TO BE CLEANSED!
BOY-WHO-WON CHAMPIONS INVESTIGATIONS
Harry Potter, the Defeater of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Missed, today spoke out against the ‘rampant corruption and inefficiency’ entrenched in the Ministry of Magic. Addressing the crowd in Diagon...
Claude Mondragon dropped his copy of the Daily Prophet into his desk drawer, looking forward to reading the article in full over his lunch break. ‹Now,› he thought to himself as he flicked through his ‘in’-tray, ‹where had I got to... ah yes.›
He pulled out a bundle of parchment titled ‘Spot-check Assay Reports: Spring 1998’, and a second one from the previous spring, and began the meticulous cross-referencing process that had earned him his last promotion.
“You there! Er... Mondragon!”
Claude’s analysis of the changes in quality of flagwort imports was rudely interrupted by a large, brash wizard pushing his way into his small office. He looked up to see his new department head — Cutweller, was it? — standing with hands on hips before him.
“Just doin’ the rounds, don’t y’know; seein’ who’s who in m’new department. Seen you before, haven’t I? Hufflepuff, few years below me? Played on your house team?”
“That’s right sir, class of 1979. I got on the team as a beater in your last year, I believe?”
“Yes, yes. Good show. So, what d’you do around here?”
Claude sighed inside. He was a pure-blood, but he’d spent several summers with his muggleborn classmates, and had picked up some of their memes. Cutweller reminded him of the sort of army officer who’d cheerfully order his men ‘over the top’, right into the teeth of enemy fire. His only saving grace was that he’d be right there beside them, service revolver in hand.
“Well sir, my section is responsible for inspecting the quality of imported goods, to make sure they conform to the standards—”
“What?” interrupted Cutweller. “Cauldron-bottom thickness and whatnot?”
“Well, yes sir, and the potency and purity of potion ingredients, and—”
“Yes, yes. We’ve no time for such Puffer weaselling now. Too many snakes being rooted out; Ministry’s desperately short-handed as it is. Your section’s being transferred to Dark Artefact Control. Can’t have the rot setting in again.”
“Certainly sir, but—”
“Where’s your pluck man? Get your team out there searching for some real threats to society!”
A year passed. Magical Britain began the slow climb back to health, helped in no small part by the efforts of Claude Mondragon and his team, who managed to thwart no fewer than three ex-Death Eater retaliatory strikes — by careful tracking of statistical anomalies in purchase patterns. Claude found that the skills he’d developed working in Standards had transferred rather well to his new role, and was rather enjoying himself — much to Department Head Cutweller’s chagrin, as he had been expecting moonlit rooftop chases, daring dawn raids, and other heroic stuff.
However, while from the Gryffindor point of view the country was being made safe, no-one was measuring any cauldron bottoms.
Harold Crocker fancied himself to be a good businessman, so when the sales rep from the continental supplier approached him with a new, cheaper line of general-purpose pewter cauldrons, he jumped at the chance.
“Bit light, aren’t they?” he said to the rep.
“New alloy,” the salesman replied quickly. “’s a bit stronger than the old one.”
“Hmmm...” said Harold, rubbing his chin. “Not sure my customers will go for that...”
“Tell you what, I’ll knock another ten Knuts off per Galleon. How does that sound?”
‹Nearly four Sickles in the Galleon cheaper... I can pass two of that on to the customers, they’ll snap them up no mistake.› Harold nodded. “All right, we’ll see how they sell. Give me... twenty for now?”
Daisy Chandler also fancied herself to be something of a businesswoman, but she was rather worried she wouldn’t be one for much longer. Both of her main suppliers had turned out to be rather dark, and had been swept up in the cleansing. She had other sources, but they were smaller growers who specialised in the less-common ingredients, and were consequently more expensive. Combined with a slight... ‘recession’ was the Muggle term, across the wizarding world, she was starting to plan for the day when her apothecary would be forced to close down.
Then Heaven sent an angel, in the (rather dishy) form of a continental importer.
“Well, I must say I’m rather impressed by your catalogue, Mr Boticario. And you have all the Ministry import approval, I see...”
“Indeed, Madame Chandler. It was very refreshing to do business with your Ministry without having to jump through all the usual hoops.”
“And your prices are very competitive. Yes, I think we’ll be doing a lot of business in future.”
Boticario gave her a dazzling smile. “I’m glad to hear that, Madame. Please, take your time to fill out an order form. I must tour the other magical establishments, to see if they would be interested in our supplies, but I will be back in London tomorrow, and will collect your form then.”
“Thank you, Mr Boticario. May I suggest that you try St. Mungo’s? They normally only buy direct from the growers, but I’ve heard that they’re having trouble getting some orders filled recently.”
“Why thank you Madame. I’ll make sure to drop in there before I leave for Hogsmeade.”
Daisy smiled. With the new lower prices this supplier was charging, her customers would soon be back.
The warning signs were there, if people had been paying attention. But Claude Mondragon and his kind were busy dealing with ‘real’ threats, so no-one noticed that Hogwarts potion classes had slightly more split cauldrons than usual, or that the St. Mungo’s brewers had a 2% increase in rejected potion batches. So it took a grand, Gryffindorish spectacle to bring the problem to the attention of the wizarding world. A chain of events that would take days of research to reconstruct:
- A slightly-higher-than-acceptable roughness in a bronze cauldron’s inside, causing a precursor compound to be improperly emulsified.
- A pewter cauldron with a slightly-thinner-than-acceptable bottom, causing uneven heating through the mixture.
- A supposedly medical grade batch of milkweed, with trace contaminants from three other products, including erumpent fluid.
- A highly exothermic reaction...
“We interrupt this recital of Celestina Warbeck’s Greatest Hits with shocking news. Just ten minutes ago, a massive explosion ripped through St. Mungo’s hospital, shattering windows throughout the area. Aurors are already on the scene of what may be a retaliatory strike by Death Eaters against our peaceful society...”
Quality control and standards enforcement: not just a cheap joke.
But then, wizards are stupid...
(with apologies to LineApe for nicking his tagline...)
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