Characters: Kingsley, OMC, OFC, Severus, Filius, Minerva, and Pomona
Word Count: 1913
Summary: Kingsley's approval of a Ministry programme is met with disapproval by a team of disgruntled staffers.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: Thank you, arynwy, for beta'ing. bethbethbeth prompted me with Snape, Filius Flitwick, Minerva McGonagall, and Pomona Sprout: Veritaserum and misapodysis. "Sharing Feelings" in a Ministry mandated team building workshop.
Kingsley's day had got off to a howlingly bad start, and it was only growing worse as Auror Richards attempted to explain matters.
"I don't understand, Richards. What is this?"
"It's like Devil's Snare, Minister Shacklebolt, but it's, er, entirely too friendly, if you see what I mean."
"No, I have no idea what you mean," Kingsley said, brushing the twining tendril of the vine from his arm and handing the plant back to Richards. "The Howlers I've received this morning haven't been particularly coherent. What the hell's going on?"
In response, Richards passed Kingsley a copy of the morning edition of the Prophet. The headline was: "LUCIUS MALFOY CAUGHT IN COMPROMISING POSITION WITH SHRUBBERY."
"Shouldn't that be 'in the shrubbery'?"
"Keep reading, sir. . . . We were able to hush up the other incidents, but—"
"Banks!" Kingsley called to his assistant.
"Bring me whatever form it is that I need to sign to stop plants being posted via Owl Mail!"
Later that morning, Owl Mail became a problem for Kingsley when several letters on his desk Transfigured themselves into Snitches and began chasing him about his office. It took him several minutes to achieve the door once he realised that he required assistance subduing them.
"Banks!" he shouted, throwing himself against the door and managing to close it before too many Snitches escaped. "Fuck! Ow! Damn it!"
"Oh, dear," Banks said calmly, rising from his desk and beginning to pluck the Snitches, which weren't pelting him, from the air. "That's a new form of complaint, isn't it? I did say that I'd be happy to sort the post, sir."
Kingsley glared at Banks. He'd been pleased to have such an unflappable assistant, but he would have preferred a bit more animation from the man under the circumstances.
"Perhaps you'll allow me to tidy up while you attend the DMLE's status meeting?"
"I have a meeting with the DMLE?"
"You may still have. It started five minutes ago. I would have mentioned it, but you did insist that you weren't to be disturbed after the fire-call with Mrs Malfoy."
There had been so many meetings that Kingsley had taken to using a Quick-Quotes Quill, which he'd set to working behind him on a table so as not to distract any attendees. Today, however, that courtesy didn't appear to be working if the sniggering was any indication.
"Is there a problem, Ridley?"
"Just admiring your, er, quill, sir."
"Perhaps you'd be good enough to concentrate on the situation at hand?"
Everyone at the table burst out laughing, and someone said, "Think you probably'd need two hands for that."
Fuck, Kingsley thought, turning around to see just why a quill taking notes was so funny.
There was no quill; where he'd left his was an animated . . . device better suited to pleasing a witch than the potted plant on which it was going to work. It stopped uprooting the plant when Kingsley looked at it, shivered, and then sent forth a great many tiny, aggressive Snitches.
Banks closed the door of the little cage he'd conjured after thrusting the last of the Snitches into it. "That isn't all of them, sir, but I didn't have the heart to collect the ones the Aurors are chasing. They're having too much fun."
Kingsley rubbed a hand over his face. "Who is responsible for this?"
"I'm sure I don't know, sir. Shall I ring for tea?"
Kingsley, now sitting at Banks' desk and glaring murderously at him, sighed. "You've nothing to do with the Snitches?"
"Certainly not, sir."
"Tea, then," Kingsley said, hoping that he hadn't offended Banks too deeply.
"Gah! What the hell? Banks!"
Banks emerged from Kingsley's office with a second cage of Snitches and blinked. "Is there a problem with the tea, sir?"
"It tastes like shit!"
"Oh, dear. Well, I'll just ring for a fresh—"
"No, Banks. Literally, it tastes like faeces."
Banks set the cage down and lifted the lid of the teapot. "It smells fine to me, sir. Perhaps a coffee would suit your moo—your palate better this afternoon?"
"There's nothing wrong with my palate. Go down to the canteen and find out who sent this tea. Someone's deliberately interfered with it."
A knock sounded on the door before Banks' assistant, who Kingsley had always thought had a bit of leprechaun or goblin blood in her given how short she was, popped her head into the room. "Er, Mr Banks?"
"There's a journalist in the Atrium who'd like to see the Minister. She's not on the Visitors List, though."
"Who is it?" demanded Kingsley.
"Rita Skeeter, Minister, and she's very interested in the impromptu Quidditch ma—"
"Send her away, Agnes," Banks replied, as Kingsley said, "I'll see her."
Banks waited for Agnes to leave before raising an eyebrow at him.
"I have to explain about the Snitches, don't I?"
"Can you, sir?" asked Banks.
"Oh, and sir?" Agnes asked Banks, who'd popped back in before Kingsley could respond.
"There's a messenger in the Atrium with a delivery for the Minister, some sort of lovely vine."
"Send it back to whomever it came from—and track it!" Kingsley demanded.
Banks merely stared at him.
"How clever of you to have arranged it," Skeeter said, of the impromptu interdepartmental Quidditch matches being played throughout the Ministry.
"Thank you, Ms Skeeter. After recent events, I felt that an exercise in team building would be just the thing to help people feel more comfortable."
Skeeter sipped her coffee, smiled, and then asked, "Have you instituted other, similar programmes?"
Kingsley relaxed. Banks had removed the troublesome, enchanted post from his office and hidden the Snitches behind his own desk, the coffee seemed untainted, and Skeeter, content to ask easy questions. Finally, he thought, saying, "As a matter of fact," he said, glancing down at the notes with which Banks had efficiently provided him, "I recently approved a measure put forth by the Board of Governors to improve the morale of Hogwarts' senior staff."
"How interesting," Skeeter said.
She sounded bored, which was good; it meant that Kingsley might actually be able to get back to work sooner rather than later. And find out who's sending those over-friendly vines.
"Is that what all that fighting was about in the canteen?"
"Well, it seemed as though some of your employees had just come from some sort of seminar—something to do with 'Sharing Feelings'?—and a man called Henderson was upset with one called Williams about his attention to another, female staffer. In fact, it seems as though a great many people, at least the ones that I observed on my way here from the canteen, are engaged in a variety of spirited 'sharings' of feeling. Would you know anything about that?"
"No," Kingsley replied, although he'd experienced that strangest compulsion to answer in the affirmative before repressing it. He suspected that he was only able to do so because the suspicions as to the responsible parties was just that, a suspicion. But I'd best get rid of Skeeter before she asks me anything important. "I'm pleased to have spent this time with you, Ms Skeeter, but I really must be getting back to work. You understand."
"Of course, I do. You'll be wanting to repress any unseemly displays so that when my article runs, no one will verify the arguments." Skeeter clapped a hand to her mouth. "Minister, I—"
"Please, Ms Skeeter, don't concern yourself about your frankness. All things being equal, I appreciate a direct approach, and I'll look forward to our next interview."
Skeeter appeared grateful for his understanding and left without another word, which left Kingsley to consider the perfectly dreadful day that he'd been having.
Over-friendly plants, marauding Snitches, a transforming quill, the tea, the coffee—I wonder . . . . "Banks!"
"Sir?" Banks asked, appearing in his door.
"Ask me a personal question."
"Pardon me, sir?"
"Ask, Banks. It's important."
"Er, yes, sir. Er, how did you and Minister Wellington spend last evening, sir?"
Kingsley felt himself answer before he could stop himself. "Shagging in the Ministry's Remembrance Garden."
"I say! That is, very good, sir."
"It was, she . . . she—"
"How many Snitches were in your office earlier, sir?" Banks interrupted.
"I have no idea," replied Kingsley, gratefully. "Damn it! There's Veritaserum in this coffee!"
"Is there, indeed, sir?" Banks asked, his eyes widening as he withdrew his wand and tested the urn. "Oh, dear. You're correct. This is most irregular, sir."
It's more than that, Kingsley thought, Summoning the caged Snitches and casting Finites while Banks looked on in astonishment. Each unspelled Snitch Transfigured itself back into a letter. Each letter read, "Our team disapproves of the Sharing Feelings Programme."
Banks, taking one of the letters, remarked, "It would appear, sir, that someone is coordinating a rather effective protest against the Department of Efficiency and Morale's new initiative."
"Consider the protest registered, and cancel it!"
"Will you be notifying Minister Wellington about the change, sir?"
Kingsley sighed. "I don't suppose that you could manage to arrange reservations for two at the Gryphon's Foote?"
"Oh, absolutely, sir!" Banks replied, the relief evident on his face. "The house manager is a close friend of mine."
"Excellent," Kingsley said, wondering if he and Phoebe would still be friends after he told her about the end of her pet programme. "Then I'll tell her tonight, and thank you, Banks. It's good to have you heading up my team."
The previous Monday . . .
"'—agree with us that strengthening the bonds of your trust and friendship will be highly advantageous to your maintaining effective professional relationships in the challenging days to come. The use of Veritaserum during this process, while encouraged, is optional'," said Severus, crumpling the Ministry letter he'd been reading to Hogwarts' other Heads of House.
Minerva cleared her throat. "They can't be serious."
"Of course not," asserted Pomona. "It's their idea of a little joke."
"Well I, for one, find nothing funny about it."
"Agreed," Severus said to Filius, before swallowing against the lingering pain in his throat and absentmindedly reaching up to touch it.
"But the Board's approved the 'Sharing Feelings' programme."
"Are you suggesting, Minerva," Severus replied, "that we simply acquiesce to participate in a series of semi-public, recorded discussions about, say, the origin of my misapodysis, your gambling habit, Filius' predilection for leprechauns of height, and Pomona's 'special relationship' with Slick Vine?"
"Damn it, Severus!" Pomona shouted. "I've told you until I was blue that I was just steadying the vine between my thighs so that I could prune it!"
"Lock the greenhouse door the next time you feel the urge to 'prune' something."
"Enough, both of you," Minerva told Severus and Pomona. "As far as I'm concerned, this Ministry seminar business is rubbish. All anyone need know about us is that we're competent to fulfill our duties, but I do think," she continued, smiling quite the most evil-looking smile that Severus had ever seen from her, "that we should find an appropriate way to share our thanks with Governor Malfoy for his concern about our morale."
Severus smirked. "We wouldn't want him to believe us ungrateful."
"Or to think he can come 'round meddling whenever it suits him," added Pomona.
"It isn't only Malfoy," said Filius. "I've a . . . friend at the Ministry who'll gladly assist us in expressing our gratitude to everyone involved in this ridiculous scheme."
"To hell with gratitude!" exclaimed Pomona. "If the Board wants to promote 'teamwork', then I say we demonstrate some!"