September 29th, 2004
Dedicated to the lovely narcissam, in response to her challenge.
The Committee for the Control of Magical Literature met once a week, every week, and had for nearly two hundred years. The meeting invariably took place in a square, tidy little room tucked away in a corner of the third level of the Ministry, and nearly always on Fridays at noon. Recently the committee head had taken to tea breaks at noon, so now they met at three.
"Session number nine thousand two hundred and four of the Committee for the Control of Magical Literature will come to order," said Emmaline Vance. She held her saucer delicately in one hand, and a faint strawberry scent wafted up to her nose. She sniffed, gently.
The three other members looked up and over at her. "Lost your gavel, have you?" said Brutus Bagnold, snidely. Brutus was a cousin to the Minister and also a two-knut poet who'd wrangled himself a position on the committee but had always resented not getting more. He had a habit of quoting himself.
"The gavel is being repaired," said Emmaline, calmly, although she felt her face heating slightly. The last session had gotten a bit out of hand.
"I'd hardly consider it vital to our functioning," Anecitus Mulciber put in. It was he who'd caused all the fuss at the last meeting, and it seemed likely that he'd try to do so again.
Well, Emmaline wouldn't stand for that. "It isn't," she agreed, though her fingers itched for it. "Now, let us pick up from where we left off last time. Which book were we considering?"
"That poetry anthology by Carew," said Brutus immediately and passionately, despite the fact that they hadn't so much as mentioned it before. "We can't approve it. We can't degrade the literary community with such tripe, such pure nifflershit."
"Language, Brutus," said Emmaline.
"The fact remains - "
"I do believe we were discussing something entirely different," said Mulciber, smoothly. He reached into his robes and brought out a dark, slender volume, laid it on the table.
"He's right," piped up Karen Shaw. A popular novelist, she was probably the most qualified person there, but she spoke the least. "Mister Mulciber brought a new book to our attention. What was it, Anecitus?" she asked shyly. "'On Muggles'? By - a man by the name of Voldemort, was it?"
"Lord Voldemort," corrected Mulciber. Then he shrugged gracefully. "That's what the author calls himself, anyway."
Brutus waved a hand dismissively. "Another study of Muggles. Probably says the same things as Wigworthy's, and we passed that just last month. Let's just send it through and get on to more important things."
"If you'd taken the time to read the book," said Mulciber, "you'd find it's not quite so simple as all that. Is it, Emmaline?"
She sat stiffly in her chair. "It is not in the best interests of the wizarding community to allow such demagoguery on its bookshelves," she replied.
Mulciber raised an eyebrow. "Demagoguery, is it?" He flipped the book open, stopping at a random page and pressing a well-manicured fingernail onto it. He began to read. "According to a report by Sinistra's Studies and Statistics, a little more than a sixth of the witches and wizards entering the magical community via Hogwarts each year are Muggleborns with no known ties to any established wizarding family. In contrast, only one in twenty-five are pureblooded wizards from families outside England. Perhaps by encouraging our international friends to visit, we could supplement or even replace the need for fresh faces and families from the Muggle world." He looked up at Emmaline. "That doesn't sound like demagoguery. That sounds like simple fact and analysis."
"But what he's suggesting!" she replied, with some passion. "You do realize that was advocating a ban on Muggleborns?"
"For the good of the community," said Mulciber. "And why do you propose to ban his book? For the good of the community." He leaned back in his chair. Smiled.
"Of course she wants what's best for the community," piped up Brutus, rolling his eyes. "That's what we all want. But I fail to see how all this scientific mumbo-jumbo can have much effect at all. No one cares about studies! They care about novels, poetry, plays. That's what gets to their hearts. And their hearts are what we have to protect."
Karen looked up from folded hands, addressing Brutus. "You'd be surprised how political a novel can be," she said. Then she looked at Mulciber. "Your Lord Voldemort would have done better to write a stirring romance than a policy paper."
He did not answer her. He never answered, except to object on principle to answering a Muggleborn. Karen took this in stride, and returned to half-heartedly scribbling passages from her next novel on the piece of parchment in front of her.
Emmaline saw this, and with some venom asked, "Well, Anecitus? Have you a single good reason why we should allow such a thing to befoul our bookstores?"
"Many a book has passed this committee by without that - "
"Many a book are less dangerous than this!" When he made to protest, she pulled out her wand, and summoned the book to her. She opened it to a page and began to read: "Long, thin tubes that spit out life-ending 'bullets' without so much as an incantation to warn you. Massive 'bombs' that cause even more massive explosions. We can no longer stand idly by while such weapons are massed against us - we must create and use weapons of our own."
Karen had paled - even Brutus was listening. But Emmaline only shook her head. "That's inciting violence, Anecitus. We can't allow that."
"Were you listening as you spoke?" Mulciber demanded. "Do you not believe it's true?" He looked across the table at Karen. "Tell her, Mudblood! Tell her what he writes is true."
"Aw, leave her alone - " began Brutus.
"Language, Anecitus!" cried Emmaline.
"We do - they do have guns... " Karen began haltingly.
"See?" interrupted Emmaline. "We already know about guns. You can transfigure them as easily as you can a bow and arrow - it's no threat to us."
Karen looked as if she were about to interject, then fell silent. Mulciber spoke in her place. "You damn fool woman. Their powers rise far beyond that - "
"I'm not an expert on weapons," said Emmaline. "Neither are you. It's not our responsibility to be. We just need to make judgements about what books are propper to release and I must maintain that this book is not one of them."
"I agree," said Brutus, immediately. It was usually in his best interest to agree with Emmeline.
"And I do not," said Mulciber, his voice cold, hard, angry. "Perhaps you are insensitive to the danger, Emmaline, but not everyone need be." He summoned the book back, jerking it out of her grasp, and made as if to read it, but his eyes remained on hers and it was clear he was reciting from memory. "The Muggles are beasts. They lived down in the dirt with the animals long after magic raised us up. I repeat, they are beasts - and as such, know no mercy. Were they to discover our existence, they would rally against us, overwhelm us with their numbers, tear us apart with their sharpened claws. We cannot let them. We must crush them before they know they can crush us."
He put the book down on the table, hard, and the pages rustled. Karen's eyes were brimming with tears. "Not a word of that is true," she said. Then she wiped a hand across her face, and added, "But I think people ought to be able to read it, if they want to." She looked at Mulciber, defiantly. "Muggles also have a thing we call freedom of speech."
"That is two against two," said Mucliber, triumphantly, otherwise taking no notice of her.
Emmaline looked at Karen pityingly, and Mulciber with intense hatred. "I am the head of this committee. And I say it will not be passed."
He glared back at her, for a moment speechless. Then: "You haven't won."
"Furthermore, I shall instruct my peers at the Daily Prophet that they aren't to print this dangerous rhetoric, either. Anyone caught with it in their position shall be fined. Anyone caught distributing it shall be imprisoned for a month. Accio!," she said, and when the book was in her hand she dropped it to the table and added, almost casually, "Incensio!"
They were silent as it burned, the flame flickering and the pages twisting and stretching as if to avoid it. When the last words had been reduced to ash, Brutus spoke up hesitantly.
"Now, as I was saying about Carew..."
Mulciber stood up.
"Oh, stop your theatrics, Anecitus," said Emmeline, annoyed. "It's just a book."
"And you are just a witch," he replied. He looked as though he would say more - he certainly seemed to want to - but in the end he just turned and walked out, robes flowing and door banging behind him.
"He's not coming back, is he?" asked Brutus, bewildered.
Karen looked both relieved and worried. "I don't think so."
"Never you mind," Emmaline assured them. She brushed the ashes off the table with the end of her wand, and turned to them. "He's of no consequence. Let us continue, shall we? Brutus, you were saying...?"
|Date:||September 30th, 2004 04:00 pm (UTC)|| |
Ouch. Tough ending and idea there. I think you handled it wonderfully though. You're left wondering which solution will cause more trouble, since everyone knows that banned books are the ones people try to read simply because they are banned. Nice characterization as well. Cheers:)
|Date:||September 30th, 2004 04:13 pm (UTC)|| |
Yeah, in my mind On Muggles gets passed around the Slytherin common room from prefect to firstie.
You thought the characterization was all right? It was such a short fic that all I really could do was make them mouthpieces for a specific position. Although Brutus was actually a brief RPG puppet of mine, from Civilitas.
|Date:||September 30th, 2004 04:18 pm (UTC)|| |
You did a good job of portraying each person as an individual in such a short amount of space. I've recced this on ficrecs
|Date:||September 30th, 2004 09:58 pm (UTC)|| |