A birthday visit from the Minister

Rufus Scrimgeour arrives at the Burrow to go through Dumbledore's will

Extract from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

“To Harry James Potter,” he read, and Harry’s insides contracted with a sudden excitement, “I leave the Snitch he caught in his first Quidditch match at Hogwarts, as a reminder of the rewards of perseverance and skill.”

As Scrimgeour pulled out the tiny, walnut-sized golden ball, its silver wings fluttered rather feebly and Harry could not help feeling a definite sense of anticlimax.

‘Why did Dumbledore leave you this Snitch?’ asked Scrimgeour.

‘No idea,’ said Harry. ‘For the reasons you just read out, I suppose ... to remind me what you can get if you ... persevere and whatever it was.’

‘You think this a mere symbolic keepsake, then?’

‘I suppose so,’ said Harry. ‘What else could it be?’

‘I’m asking the questions,’ said Scrimgeour, shifting his chair a little closer to the sofa. Dusk was really falling outside, now; the marquee beyond the windows towered ghostly white over the hedge.

‘I notice that your birthday cake is in the shape of a Snitch,’ Scrimgeour said to Harry. ‘Why is that?’

Hermione laughed derisively.

‘Oh, it can’t be a reference to the fact Harry’s a great Seeker, that’s way too obvious,’ she said. ‘There must be a secret message from Dumbledore hidden in the icing!’

‘I don’t think there’s anything hidden in the icing,’ said Scrimgeour, ‘but a Snitch would be a very good hiding place for a small object. You know why, I’m sure?’

Harry shrugged. Hermione, however, answered: Harry thought that answering questions correctly was such a deeply ingrained habit she could not suppress the urge.

‘Because Snitches have flesh memories,’ she said.

‘What?’ said Harry and Ron together; both considered Hermione’s Quidditch knowledge negligible.

‘Correct,’ said Scrimgeour. ‘A Snitch is not touched by bare skin before it is released, not even by the maker, who wears gloves. It carries an enchantment by which it can identify the first human to lay hands upon it, in case of a disputed capture. This Snitch,’ he held up the tiny golden ball, ‘will remember your touch, Potter. It occurs to me that Dumbledore, who had prodigious magical skill, whatever his other faults, might have enchanted this Snitch so that it will open only for you.’

Harry’s heart was beating rather fast. He was sure that Scrimgeour was right. How could he avoid taking the Snitch with his bare hand in front of the Minister?

‘You don’t say anything,’ said Scrimgeour. ‘Perhaps you already know what the Snitch contains?’

‘No,’ said Harry, still wondering how he could appear to touch the Snitch without really doing so. If only he knew Legilimency, really knew it, and could read Hermione’s mind; he could practically hear her brain whirring beside him.

‘Take it,’ said Scrimgeour quietly.

Harry met the Minister’s yellow eyes and knew he had no option but to obey. He held out his hand and Scrimgeour leaned forwards again and placed the Snitch, slowly and deliberately, into Harry’s palm.

Nothing happened. As Harry’s fingers closed around the Snitch, its tired wings fluttered and were still. Scrimgeour, Ron and Hermione continued to gaze avidly at the now partially concealed ball, as if still hoping it might transform in some way.

‘That was dramatic,’ said Harry coolly. Both Ron and Hermione laughed.

‘That’s all, then, is it?’ asked Hermione, making to prise herself off the sofa.

‘Not quite,’ said Scrimgeour, who looked bad-tempered now. ‘Dumbledore left you a second bequest, Potter.’

‘What is it?’ asked Harry, excitement rekindling.

Scrimgeour did not bother to read from the will this time.

‘The sword of Godric Gryffindor,’ he said.

Hermione and Ron both stiffened. Harry looked around for a sign of the ruby-encrusted hilt, but Scrimgeour did not pull the sword from the leather pouch which, in any case, looked much too small to contain it.

‘So where is it?’ Harry asked suspiciously.

‘Unfortunately,’ said Scrimgeour, ‘that sword was not Dumbledore’s to give away. The sword of Godric Gryffindor is an important historical artefact, and as such, belongs –’

‘It belongs to Harry!’ said Hermione hotly. ‘It chose him, he was the one who found it, it came to him out of the Sorting Hat –’

‘According to reliable historical sources, the sword may present itself to any worthy Gryffindor,’ said Scrimgeour. ‘That does not make it the exclusive property of Mr Potter, whatever Dumbledore may have decided.’ Scrimgeour scratched his badly shaven cheek, scrutinising Harry. ‘Why do you think –?’

‘Dumbledore wanted to give me the sword?’ said Harry, struggling to keep his temper. ‘Maybe he thought it would look nice on my wall.’

‘This is not a joke, Potter!’ growled Scrimgeour. ‘Was it because Dumbledore believed that only the sword of Godric Gryffindor could defeat the Heir of Slytherin? Did he wish to give you that sword, Potter, because he believed, as do many, that you are the one destined to destroy He Who Must Not Be Named?’

‘Interesting theory,’ said Harry. ‘Has anyone ever tried sticking a sword in Voldemort? Maybe the Ministry should put some people on to that, instead of wasting their time stripping down Deluminators, or covering up breakouts from Azkaban. So is this what you’ve been doing, Minister, shut up in your office, trying to break open a Snitch? People are dying, I was nearly one of them, Voldemort chased me across three counties, he killed Mad-Eye Moody, but there’s been no word about any of that from the Ministry, has there? And you still expect us to cooperate with you!’

‘You go too far!’ shouted Scrimgeour, standing up; Harry jumped to his feet too. Scrimgeour limped towards Harry and jabbed him hard in the chest with the point of his wand: it singed a hole in Harry’s T-shirt like a lit cigarette.

‘Oi!’ said Ron, jumping up and raising his own wand, but Harry said, ‘No! D’you want to give him an excuse to arrest us?’

‘Remembered you’re not at school, have you?’ said Scrimgeour, breathing hard into Harry’s face. ‘Remembered that I am not Dumbledore, who forgave your insolence and insubordination? You may wear that scar like a crown, Potter, but it is not up to a seventeen-year-old boy to tell me how to do my job! It’s time you learned some respect!’

‘It’s time you earned it,’ said Harry.

The floor trembled; there was a sound of running footsteps, then the door to the sitting room burst open and Mr and Mrs Weasley ran in.

‘We, we thought we heard’ began Mr Weasley, looking thoroughly alarmed at the sight of Harry and the Minister virtually nose to nose.

‘raised voices,’ panted Mrs Weasley.

Scrimgeour took a couple of steps back from Harry, glancing at the hole he had made in Harry’s T-shirt. He seemed to regret his loss of temper.

‘It, it was nothing,’ he growled. ‘I ... regret your attitude,’ he said, looking Harry full in the face once more. ‘You seem to think that the Ministry does not desire what you what Dumbledore desired. We ought to be working together.’

‘I don’t like your methods, Minister,’ said Harry. ‘Remember?’

For the second time, he raised his right fist, and displayed to Scrimgeour the scars that still showed white on the back of it, spelling I must not tell lies. Scrimgeour’s expression hardened. He turned away without another word and limped from the room. Mrs Weasley hurried after him; Harry heard her stop at the back door. After a minute or so, she called, ‘He’s gone!’

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By J.K. Rowling