Inspected by No. 13
A Bureaucrat is Born
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter and would not particularly care to… but I suspect you knew that.
Harry sat in the tent waiting his turn to face the dragon. He held the animated miniature in his hand and wondered if he was going to get away with what he had planned.
The original plan had been to summon his broom and use the maneuverability that would offer to retrieve the egg and make his escape. Hermione was sure it was his best chance. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Harry had happened upon a book of Dragon lore by the current lead handler of Charlie Weasley's Dragon Reserve the night before after Hermione had gone to bed. According to the book, flying a broom anywhere near a dragon was a recipe for suicide.
His plan in tatters Harry had spent the night trying to think of something, anything he could do that would not end in his death. It was not until 4 am he returned to the book of Dragon lore and found an odd passage.
Was this a joke? He wondered as he re-read the passage for the fifth time.
Joke or not, it appeared to be his best chance of survival. Harry extinguished his wand, rose from his bed and padded to his trunk; to search for the souvenirs the elder Weasleys had brought him after that trip to visit Charlie.
Finding what he was looking for, Harry returned to his bed and spend the next three hours trying to make sure his new plan couldn't come back to bite him.
A magical contract had gotten him into this mess, he reasoned. Maybe a magical contract could get him out. Or several.
"Mr. Potter," the Ministry man at the entry to the tent said rousing Harry from his reflections. "It's your turn."
"Thank you," Harry said as he stood up and straightened his robes. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a large golden badge and placed it over his left breast. Picking up a clipboard, he nodded to the Ministry man and exited the tent to the arena, ignoring the man's protests that the only thing he was allowed to bring with him was his wand.
- 13 -
Charlie Weasley waited with his fellow handlers. He couldn't believe that the youngest of the competitors had drawn the Horntail. He felt nothing but sympathy for the kid, that particular dragon could be a cast iron bitch when she set her mind to it.
Her mood wasn't the best, it had taken him… Charlie Weasley, the god of the Dragon Handlers, 15 minutes to get her into position.
When Harry entered the arena, Charlie's jaw dropped.
What the hell had possessed Harry Potter to have him do that ?
- 13 -
The dragon bellowed her rage at the wizards cowering behind their magical barriers, she inspected her clutch, noting the extra addition, but disregarding it as inconsequential. She stomped around only to be interrupted by one of the small human's clearing its tiny throat.
She swiveled her long neck to face the wizard, and when she saw him, her blood ran cold.
"Ministry inspection," the Wizard said in clipped tones, the light glinting off his badge that proclaimed him to be from the Department of Magical Inspections: Inspector 13. The Wizard raised his clipboard and clicked his retractable quill. "Let's get started, shall we?"
The dragon sat her hindquarters onto the ground with an earthshaking thud.
"Eyes please," the wizard said.
Instantly, the dragon lowered her head to easy viewing level for the tiny wizard.
"Very nice," he said reaching out to touch her horns. "Eyes clear, scales shiny, horns appropriately sharp. Tail please."
The dragon wheeled on the spot, presenting her tail and hindquarters for inspection.
"Again, very nice," the wizard continued. "Hindquarters clean and scale coverage proper, tail… hmm," the wizard made a note on his clipboard. "Foreign material ground into the horns of the tail. Down check."
The dragon whimpered, and her head drooped.
"That will be quite enough of that," the wizard snapped. "This sort of condition may be adequate at your reserve, but I think you'll find we have stricter standards in Britain. Continuing on, rear talons."
Rotating her hindquarters so that she was half lying on the floor of the arena, she presented her rear feet.
"Adequate," the wizard snapped. "Fore talons,"
Rising back into the traditional sitting position of inspection, she rotated her forelegs so that her razor sharp talons pointed upward.
"Really?" The wizard asked, pointing disgustedly at the cracked nail on her right second toe. "This is the way you present yourself when you are representing Britain? Do you want to a downgraded to large salamander? Alternatively, perhaps your goal is a reclassification all the way down to 'large fire breathing lizard'? The ministry will not stand for this. If a downgrade is your goal, I can take care of it right now. You can start work Monday as the heating element for the Ministry's boiler room."
The dragon whimpered miserably, pleading with the wizard for mercy with her eyes. The human's only response was to shake his head in a manner suggesting extreme fatigue, before moving to her clutch.
"Egg inspection," the tiny human announced as he began looking over the eggs, before his brow furrowed and he reached into the clutch, pulling out the golden egg. "And what do you call this? Does your reserve allow this sort of counter regulation, unnecessary frivolousness?"
Again, the dragon whimpered in misery, trying to think how to relay to the wizard that the golden egg was part of the Tournament and not her idea.
"This would be you third down check, and would automatically trigger your downgrade to salamander, is that what you want?"
Yet another whimper was the Dragon's only response.
"Fine, I'm in the mood for mercy today. This," the wizard said, holding up the egg, "is confiscated."
The small wizard spun on his heel and stalked away. The dragon collapsed to the ground in utter relief.
- 13 -
Harry entered the medical tent for the required post task evaluation to find all three of the other champions staring at him in open-mouthed amazement.
"Witches and Wizards, Harry Potter completed his task… somehow…" Ludo Bagman's voice rang out throughout the arena "in two minute and forty nine seconds, beating his closest competitor by more than ten minutes." A short pause followed before Bagman continued. "There has been a challenge to his completion of the task. Please stand by for the official rulings of the Judges."
Fleur sat on one of the beds, her left side smeared in Madam Pomfrey's best burn salve. "What did you do?"
"What I had to do to survive," Harry explained without explaining.
"Harry," Cedric began before Professor McGonagall stuck her head into the medical tent interrupted him.
"Potter," she said, "you are to report to the Judges Stand, now."
Harry nodded. He had been expecting this.
- 13 -
"Harry!" the Headmaster greeted the fourth year as he arrived at the reviewing stands.
"One moment, Headmaster. I have some Ministry business to get out of the way first." Harry turned to Barty Crouch Senior and presented his clipboard and retractable quill. "The report of my inspection of the Dragon, Mr. Crouch, as the senior Ministry Representative here, could you acknowledge my inspection report? If you would, sign here, here, and here, and initial here."
With the practiced ease of a senior bureaucrat, Crouch did as he was asked.
"Now then, Harry…" Dumbledore began again.
"One more moment, Headmaster, I need to deliver my reports to all of the heads of the participating schools, as I'm sure you're all aware, the job isn't done until the paperwork is finished."
Harry presented his clipboard with a new form on top to Karkaroff, "Headmaster, your copy of my report, would you sign for receipt? Right here sir."
Karkaroff eyed the boy suspiciously. The child may be a cheat, but he certainly understood the ways of governments. He scribbled his name in the appropriate place and taking his copy returned the clipboard to Potter.
"Thank you sir, Madame Maxime? Sign here please?"
The half giant followed the example of her colleague from Durmstrang. This was patently odd, but her dealings with bureaucracies had her signing the form on autopilot.
"Thank you, Headmistress," Harry said as he handed the huge woman a copy of his report and moved on to Dumbledore. "And you Headmaster?"
Dumbledore also signed without reading his acknowledgement, accepted the report and returned Harry's clipboard to him.
"Are we ready to proceed now, Harry?"
"Of course, Headmaster," the boy said respectfully.
"Unfortunately Harry, we are going to have to disqualify your method of retrieving the golden egg."
"But, why sir?" Harry asked innocence thick in his voice.
"The rules clearly say that you were only allowed to enter the arena with your wand, Mr. Potter," Madam Maxime explained.
Harry's brow furrowed. "We were supposed to be naked?"
"Of course not boy," Crouch snapped.
"Oh, that's a relief," Harry smiled. "I mean, sure, Fleur could have pulled it off, but I don't think I would have liked being compared to Cedric and Viktor."
Dumbledore choked at Harry's response, before recovering. "Your badge of office, Harry, and your clipboard, those are the prohibited items that are disqualifying you."
"But, I got dispensation to use them as part of a magical contract," Harry complained.
"And who granted this imagined dispensation, boy?" Karkaroff sneered.
"Well, you all did, just now," Harry explained. "Didn't you read what you were signing?"
As one, the four adults raised the forms they had signed and began to read. Not only had they retroactively agreed that Potter had blanket permission to use his badge, forms and clipboard, and any other tools he might choose to use now or in the future, but they had agreed to grade him fairly based solely upon his technique and times throughout the tournament.
In short, the four Judges had agreed to award the boy a perfect score for the first task, at very least.
"You little bastard," Karkaroff snarled.
"Potter," Crouch snarled. "You will release us from this contract, and you will do it now."
"Sure thing, Mr. Crouch," Harry agreed, "I'd love to. Just as soon as you release me from having to participate in this Tournament."
"Harry," Dumbledore said sadly, "we cannot do that."
"That's too bad," Harry agreed, "because I've entered into another magical contract, with parties that asked not to be named, not to release you from yours, until such time as you release me from mine."
The looks on the faces of the assembled adults gave Harry an almost uncontrollable urge to limbo. He was not sure what that was all about.
- 13 -
Harry arrived in the common room to find a party going on. That figured. Yesterday they were all saying he was a cheat, now he was a hero for some reason.
"HARRY!" a shout echoed throughout the common room, even drowning out the music. Harry found himself wrapped in a hug lifted off his feet and spun around the room. Who the hell?
"Oh, Harry," the hugger said as Harry was returned to his feet. His eyes widened in surprise. Percy?
"I was at your task as Mr. Crouch's assistant, and I have to tell you, I have never been so proud. You dealt with that Dragon in exactly the correct way," Percy babbled. "I never dreamed that any Gryffindor would ever show such a flare for the important things in life. You have to help me with my research on cauldron bottoms!"
"Uh, Percy," Ron said appearing at his older brother's side. "Harry's needed up in our dorm."
"Business," Fred explained when he appeared to Harry's left.
"Triwizard business," George emphasized from Harry's right.
Not waiting for Percy to answer, the twins picked Harry up by the arms and hurried up the stairs to the 4th year dorm, following Ron.
"What the hell?" Harry asked as the twins allowed his feet to touch the floor again, just inside his Dorm.
"Harry," George began.
"What have you done?" Fred finished.
"What?" Harry responded. "I did what I had to do."
"Harry," Hermione broke in, alerting him to her presence, "Why didn't you summon your broom?"
"After you went to bed, I was skimming through that book of Dragon Lore Mr. and Mrs. Weasley got me after they visited Charlie," Harry said, not understanding the concern everyone was showing. "It said that even thinking about flying around a dragon was suicide. Then I found a passage about how Dragons are trained to react to their inspections."
"Oh, Merlin," Fred said sitting on Ron's bed.
"Yeah," Harry continued, "So I dug out that souvenir inspector's badge and clipboard that your folks got me with the book and decided to bluff my way through. I figured why not? I never really thought it would work, but it was the best option I had."
"Harry," Fred said shaking his head. "That badge and clipboard aren't souvenirs…"
"Well, they were given to you as a souvenir," George interjected.
"Right," Fred agreed, "but the badge and clipboard are real . I thought Dad explained that."
"I don't understand."
"Ok, look," George said, "the badge and clipboard belonged to a real Ministry Inspector, who died when he downgraded a dragon to 'large fire-breathing lizard' and the dragon reacted badly. That's why the clipboard had the forms you needed. It's charmed to produce the required forms on demand. And the Badge is charmed to always allow you to spout the bureaucratic jibber-jabber needed to do the job."
"After the old Inspector 13 died," Fred explained, "no one wanted the badge; everyone thought it was cursed because he was the 12th Inspector 13 to die during an inspection. Since no one wanted it, and the bloody things are indestructible,"
"That one made its way through the digestive tract of a 'Large Fire-Breathing Lizard'," Ron supplied helpfully.
"Yeah," George nodded. "Indestructible, as soon as you put the badge on and used it in an inspection, you became Inspector 13."
"The 13th Inspector 13," Hermione pointed out.
"So, you may be cursed," Ron suggested, "and you may be doomed, not that being doomed is all that unusual for you, but, and this is important, you're being paid."
"Oh, bloody hell!" Harry said, looking to the ceiling.
"So, we need to know," George said.
"What was that form you got us to sign this morning?" Fred asked.
"Oh, nothing important," Harry sighed. "Just a magical contract between us that doesn't allow me to release any of the judges from any magical contracts we may at any point in the future enter into with each other, until such time as they release me from the magical contract that enforces my participation in the Triwizard Tournament."
He paged through the forms on his clipboard. "Evidently that's Ministry Form 792-B," he sighed. "You said I was getting paid?"
"Oh, yeah," Ron agreed. "A really good salary too, like twice what Dad gets as a department head."
"That doesn't make any sense," Hermione said. "If the pay is that high, why isn't Mr. Weasley an inspector?"
"Well, it's complicated," Ron said.
"No, it isn't," Fred disagreed.
"No one likes the Inspectors," George explained. "The whole Department of Magical Inspections is reviled by all right thinking people. The only department more hated is the Department of Magical Audits."
"Brr." Ron said, physically shaking at the mention of the name. "Auditors, the You Know Whos of the Ministry."
"Oh Bloody Hell!" Harry exclaimed as he fell back on his bed.
"Language Harry," Hermione admonished. "It's not that bad, at least you've got a career."
- 13 -
AN: My diseased mind being what it is has been playing with a Harry Potter/Futurama crossover wherein Hermes Conrad saves the day via a combination of Bureaucracy and the magic of Limbo. After four years, it was going nowhere so I recycled the idea into a stand-alone HP story.
But where my original idea had a magical briefcase, a comment on Caer Azkaban by the inimitable Rorschach's Blott about wanting to see a story where Harry uses a Clipboard for invisibility because as anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment knows, people with clipboards are usually quite invisible… except inspectors. That birthed this.