The Snitch of Secrets Three

The Fountain of Magical Brethren

The party of students that arrived at the ministry with Dorea and Charlus were welcomed by the minister himself. "Ah here they are – the young people who keep making a habit of rescuing Hogwarts – come in, come in…"

Joshua Alcaraz led them out of Charlus' office and into the main auror department. "How about a little tour to start you all off – I'm sure for some of you this will be your first time at the ministry. Am I right?"

"Yes sir," several of them squeaked.

"Well as you probably already know, I am the Minister for Magic and I welcome you to the Ministry. Please follow me," Joshua began leading the group of students and the aurors that surrounded them towards a door, "this is the auror office – Charlus' domain. The auror office falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement – the largest department at the ministry of magic and many believe it to be the most important… however, I refuse to comment on that as it would cause no end of problems…" Joshua Alcaraz chuckled to himself.

"We are on the second level," he led them through a set of double doors and along a passage, "through here is the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office… it's quite a small office – only two employees…" He continued to lead them through the corridor, pointing as they went; "Improper Use of Magic Office… this is the department that deals with underage sorcery and international confederation of wizards statute of secrecy business… Can any of you tell me what the decrees prohibit?" Alcaraz questioned.

Lily raised her hand. Alcaraz laughed, "My dear, this isn't school. Please… you don't need my permission to speak."

"Very well Minister… The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery prohibits an underage wizard or witch from performing magic outside of the confines of Hogwarts… and the International Confederation of Wizards Statute of Secrecy prohibits prohibits wizards and witches from performing magic in the presence of Muggles or in a Muggle-inhabited area."

"Very good Miss Evans," Joshua nodded. "Right you are."

Sirius whispered in James' ear, "Bloody show off!"

James laughed gently.

"Moving on… Then we have the Wizengamot Administration Services… merely a clerical department… keeps the court registers and court diaries and the likes… The wizengamot itself is the judicial and legislative branch of the ministry. They make laws and make up – excuse the muggle term – the jury for any trials… the whole Wizengamot isn't usually present unless it is the worst of offenses… some of the trials take place in the dungeons on the lower levels… There are also some smaller courtrooms – less terrifying – on this level…"

"You've also got the Department of Intoxicating Substances… this is the department that makes regulations on the consumption of alcoholic beverages."

"So this is the department we should blame for the serious lack of firewhiskey at this shindig?" Sirius joked.

Alcaraz smiled, chuckling gently, "Indeed Mr Black… Magical Law Enforcement Patrol or Squad (it has many names…) is tasked with general law enforcement. Bob Ogden is the head of this department, although there is talk of his retirement. He has long deserved his retirement in Spain. He's been planning it for years… longer than I've been in the ministry and that's saying something. Although I'm not sure what."

"Hit Wizards… highly trained wizards tasked with arresting dangerous criminals." He noticed several of the students suddenly grow excited, "Easier to enter than the auror department but still a challenge. Entry requirements include five O.W.L.s including Defence Against the Dark Arts, not to mention the N.E.W.T. requirements. It is a very dangerous job – members of this department have a personal bed reserved at St Mungo's at all times in case the worst happens…"

Joshua Alcaraz continued to lead them through the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, "Ministry of Magic Witch Watchers… a very special ministry force that searches for fugitive criminals. They work undercover so to speak… Administrative Registration Department – monitors the wizarding population and the like… Animagus Registry… As you know all Animagi are required to submit themselves once they acquire the ability to turn into an animal, failure to do so results in imprisonment…" he paused for effect, "In Azkaban."

"Finally the Investigation Department… a subdivision of the Auror Office – centred on investigating and tracking down dark wizards. Currently, this part of the ministry is very busy as we are currently searching for a particular dark wizard."

"Voldemort?" several of the students whispered occidentally, forgetting that his name had yet to become public knowledge.

"Indeed. I see you are all very much so in the know," Joshua laughed. "Charlus is responsible for this subdivision as it falls under the jurisdiction of the Auror Headquarters… but on a day to day running basis it is Thomas Brant who runs this part of the department."

"This entire department is led by Mr Barty Crouch who is also the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot at present." Barty Crouch stepped forward slightly and nodded gruffly to the youngsters. "Well… there are the other departments but I fear they might not interest you all quite as much… how about an overview… On level one you have Minister for Magic and Support Staff – quite a nice department if I don't say so myself – very nicely furnished… Level Two as you know is the Department of Magical Law Enforcement… Level three – Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes… Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures – level four… The Department of International Magical Cooperation is on the fifth floor… Sixth floor – Department of Magical Transportation… Department of Magical Games and Sport is one the seventh floor. What I will show you is our beautiful Atrium." He led them into a lift. They had to take several lifts as there were too many of them. The group re-emerged when they reached the Atrium. It was a beautiful large room that resembled something of a lobby but also a reception to welcome visitors. It was a very long hall with a highly polished dark wood floor. On glancing at the ceiling Lily noticed that it was a peacock blue with golden symbols that kept moving like a notice board. There were a large number of fireplaces and half way down the Atrium was a large fountain. "Ah… the Fountain of Magical Brethren – beautiful isn't it? A wizard, a witch, a centaur, goblin and a house-elf. The greatest and the least all equal."

James heard his statement and barely stifled a laugh. He'd completely contradicted himself.

"Sir… Minister… how is that possible? Surely merely the use of words like greatest and least completely undermines the use of the word equal. We cannot, surely and I mean no disrespect, but we cannot call house-elves our equals, or even centaurs or goblins for that matter, not when we refuse to treat them as such. They are not our equals; at least not in the thinking of Wizards and Witches. Although in reality rather than perception I could not say but I would hazard a guess they are our equals and perhaps in some areas our superiors."

"Very good Miss Evans… in a nutshell you hit on the biggest problem the magical world will ever face. We wizards and witches have a habit of seeing ourselves above the company. It's a shame… for it does not do us justice nor anyone else… but may I suggest that it is human nature, human pride so to speak, to see oneself as the superior to all else. That is the reason that none of the magical religions are flourishing any more. It is impossible almost for us to perceive the possibility that there could be anyone greater or equal to ourselves…" He ended on a happy laughing note. "Such a shame – but what will you do? We cannot change human nature. We can only strive to improve ourselves and perhaps in turn influence our friends."

Lily nodded in understanding.

"Minister," James suddenly spoke up, "I agree that it is a beautiful fountain but I also question its accuracy. I have never witnessed a goblin or a centaur (perhaps a house-elf but not the others) look at a wizard with such love, adoration, approbation and esteem. I hate to say it but I think this fountain merely tells us that we wizards are arrogant enough to believe that the beings we squash will always love us regardless."

"My my James what a thought! We don't squash them!" Alcaraz replied.

"We don't allow them to use wands, we limit their magic, we don't acknowledge them as our equal – that is in some respects squashing them."

"Perhaps. Perhaps you are right. But I would hate to see a day when our alliances are broken," Joshua smiled sadly causing James to agree wholeheartedly. "We are on level eight – to level nine I believe… quickly, quickly, – I think you will like this one." They all rushed once more into the lifts.

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