"But for heaven's sake - you're wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out - well - anything!"
-- the Muggle Prime Minister
The Muggle Prime Minister recounts his encounters with Cornelius Fudge. Fudge visits him again with Scrimgeour, and we learn that Scrimgeour is the new Minister for Magic. We also hear of the wizarding world’s open war with Voldemort – dozens of Muggles have been killed along with Amelia Bones and Emmeline Vance, the Dementors and giants have joined Voldemort, and the Ministry is struggling to fight.
Calendar and Dates
The entire chapter takes place in one evening, though we aren't given much indication of when this evening might be, or how it relates to the dates of the following chapters. All we do know is that it's at the end of a 'long week' for Fudge and the Prime Minister, that it happens sometime while Harry is at Privet Drive (so late June or early July), and that it's been three days since Scrimgeour has become the new Minister for Magic.
Interesting facts and notes
We, as readers, learn some new information about the wizarding world. Firstly, the Minister for Magic contacts each Prime Minister of Britain to explain the wizarding world to him/her and to warn him/her of any trouble that may involve muggles. We also find out that the Ministry of Magic will provide extra protection to Prime Minister of the day, if they feel there is a threat towards him/her.
Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July....
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.
Readers also find out that Dementors cause mist and fog when they breed.
the froglike little man wearing a long silver wig who was depicted in a small, dirty oil painting in the far corner of the room.
He was thinner, balder, and grayer, and his face had a crumpled look. The Prime Minister had seen that kind of look in politicians before, and it never boded well.
Politics, it seems, is not an easy business in either world.
not to mention the ruckus in the West Country..."
The Death Eaters use giants to cause damage and destruction to the land and muggles' villages.
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."
The real-life Prime Minister in 1996 was John Major, and the one before him Margaret Thatcher, nicknamed "the Iron Lady" for her no-nonsense disposition. Although Rowling is careful to make her Prime Ministers non-descript, British readers might perhaps enjoy this allusion to Thatcher being the one to throw Fudge out of the window. --KT
When several carpenters, a builder or two, an art historian, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had all tried unsuccessfully to pry it from the wall, the Prime Minister had abandoned the attempt
If someone from this removal party looked into the portrait or its removal further, or if anyone else working in the Minister's office saw or talked about it, this could have been a possible breach of the statute of secrecy. (How long has this picture been here? What is it made of? How and why is it stuck to the wall?) Did an Obliviator perhaps get dispatched to the office and these contractors? --KT
If you ask me, he's not dangerous unless he's got support, so it's Black we ought to be worrying about.
Fudge is wrong on both accounts. Voldemort is certainly more powerful with allies, but he can certainly hold his own, and Sirius Black was in fact not a Death Eater.
it’s down in the rule book that we have to notify you if we're bringing highly dangerous creatures into the country."
What rule book is he referring to? Is there a guidebook of sorts for Ministers on how to relate to their Muggle counterparts? What other regulations are there?
Turns out we were--er--mistaken about Black. He was innocent after all....Murdered, as a matter of fact. On Ministry of Magic premises. There's going to be an inquiry, actually..."
This is the first and only time this inquiry is mentioned. Did it actually happen? What were the results? We know that the Ministry has not made any statement--now or at any time in the future--clearing Black of all charges. --KT
"..I would have put all my efforts into catching the blackmailer before he committed any such atrocity!"
"Do you really think I wasn't already making every effort?" demanded Fudge heatedly.
Actually, Fudge, you ignored repeated warnings from both Dumbledore and Harry and had the Daily Prophet falsely reassure the public there was nothing wrong. Voldemort may have "eluded capture for almost three decades," but one of those years was spent doing nothing to find him. Voldemort has had since last June to do whatever he wanted. Blame can very squarely be put on your shoulders.--KT
It was infuriating to discover the reason for all these terrible disasters and not to be able to tell the public, almost worse than it being the government's fault after all.
What difficult secrets the Prime Minister now has to keep.
The whole Wizarding community has been screaming for my resignation for a fortnight. I've never known them so united in my whole term of office!"
Did Fudge refuse to resign for two weeks? Was he hoping that either their anger would blow over or that his Ministry could easily regain the upper hand against the Death Eaters? Rowling has given us insight into how Ministers are chosen, but other than having "regular elections at a maximum interval of seven years," there seems to be no method for keeping the Minister accountable or removing him in special circumstances such as these.
We also have not been shown what one of these elections look like. Do they have campaigns and debates like those in the Muggle world? Does the current Minister make a recommendation for his replacement? Who is allowed to vote and run for the office? Is Minister of Magic the only office up for public vote? --KT
If he'd just been prepared to persuade the boy, I might still be... Well, maybe Scrimgeour will have more success."
Fudge is desperate and/or foolish if he thought Dumbledore and Harry, after all he had put them through, could--or would want to--help him stay in office and avoid the consequences.
There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime Minister thought he understood why the Wizarding community preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.
It makes sense for us readers too.
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."
What would he be able to contribute? He's already proven inept in the face of crisis. Perhaps this is mere Scrimgeour code for "errand boy/messenger?"
Exceptional character moments
Cornelius Fudge admitted that he was sacked after all of the errors of judgement he made as Minister of Magic.
The idea of invisible creatures swooping through the towns and countryside, spreading despair and hopelessness in his voters, made him feel quite faint.
"My dear Prime Minister, you can't honestly think I'm still Minister for Magic after all this? I was sacked three days ago! The whole Wizarding community has been screaming for my resignation for a fortnight. I've never known them so united in my whole term of office!"
"The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister."