7 April, 1955
Anthony Eden leaned back in his chair. It had been a very long road to this point, with more than a few missteps and deals that he regretted making, and many sacrifices along the way. However, he was finally the Prime Minister of Great Britain, which made all of that worthwhile in his book.
Well, there was one niggling thing. He was, quite probably, going mad.
The reason he had come to this conclusion was quite simple. A portrait on the wall of this office had spoken to him in the first moment that he had been alone here, informing him that some fellow that he had never heard of who bore a title he had never heard of—"Minister of Magic," whatever that meant—was going to come see him tonight, and, as if to add to the insanity, was coming via the fireplace, of all things. This was, he was quite sure, a hallucination caused by nervous strain brought on by the election.
Nevertheless, he had to be certain, and so here he was in his office, staring at the fireplace, well after he should be home eating dinner. He had about come to the conclusion that he had simply been hallucinating when the fire turned green.
He rubbed his eyes for a second, certain that he was simply seeing things, but, when he had removed his hands from his eyes, the fire was still green. He then jumped in his chair as a man stepped out of the fire.
"Ah, the new Prime Minister, I presume. I'm Aberforth Ponsonby, Minister of Magic. What's your name?" he asked brightly, holding out his hand.
"Anthony Eden," Eden heard himself saying as he took this strange man's hand and shook it.
"Well, now that we've been introduced, let me tell you a few things. One, with any luck, you'll never see me again. I'll only see you again in order to introduce my replacement as Minister, or if some disaster occurs in the wizarding world that bleeds over into your world. Two, you are not going mad. Every Prime Minister of Britain since Robert Walpole, and almost every monarch of England since Ethelred the Unready, has known of us. Three, don't bother trying to contact me, or my successor. There's no way for you to do so."
He turned and stepped back towards the fire, and threw some kind of powder into it that turned it green again. "And fourth," he said, looking back over his shoulder at Eden, who stood looking very much like a fish out of water, "Don't bother telling anyone. After all," he smiled wickedly, "who'd believe you if you did?" And with that, he stepped into the fire and vanished, leaving Eden alone in the Prime Minister's office.
9 April, 1955
Dick White wondered why the new Prime Minister had requested to see him so soon as he sat outside his office. He had assumed that there would be a bit more of a settling in period before the new man requested information from the head of the Security Service.
However, such was not to be, and fortunately he had a copy of all the information he believed the Prime Minister would need to know in a single file folder that he kept in his desk, buried between a file concerning a certain Harold Wilson fellow and another file containing a full accounting of all agency petrol expenses.
When the men the Prime Minister had been meeting with left, he immediately asked White to come into the room. Before White could even attempt to pass the folder to him, the Prime Minister spoke.
"Yes, Mr. White, I am well aware that I will need to be informed about the state of Britain's internal security regarding the infiltration of spies, particularly from the Russians. However, that is not why I wanted to see you today."
White was somewhat bewildered at this statement, but was also curious about what the Prime Minister wanted to speak with him about, if not the security of Britain from spies.
"I want the Security Service," Eden continued, "to place cameras in this office. Not only that, I want them constantly going at all times—take whatever measures necessary to do so. I want you to make especially sure that you cover the chimney over there."
White blinked. Eden was usually a very sensible man—why did he want a camera covering the chimney?
"Also," Eden finished, "since you came all this way, hand me that file you've got there. I might as well know who I can trust the secrets of the Realm with and who I can't."
White relaxed slightly. At least the Prime Minister had some ability to keep it together. "Yes, Prime Minister," he said, and leaned forward to give him the file. "Please note that it is considered unadvisable to leave the building with this material. I would stay, but I'm in a bit of a rush. Please burn all of the materiel in there when you're done—it shouldn't be hard, it's carbon paper."
White paused for a minute, thinking rapidly. While he wasn't entirely sure if installing cameras in the Prime Minister's office fell strictly under protecting the Realm from subversion, it wasn't an outright violation of the Maxwell-Fyfe Directive, and it could be useful. "And I will get those cameras that you want into this office forthwith."
Eden sighed. "Thank you, Mr. White. You have no idea how much of a load that takes off my mind."
10 January, 1957
Jim Rope yawned. This was one of the most boring assignments he had ever received in his time on the Security Service. It wasn't like he'd been expecting something out of an Ian Fleming novel, but this was a little bit silly. He had spent the last six months staring at television screens showing the entirety of the Prime Minister's office, and while there had been some rather interesting occurrences, they mostly served to point out the stultifying boredom of the rest of the time. Maybe with a new Prime Minister things would be a tad bit more exciting—he hoped so, anyway.
However, this looked like yet another rather boring night, and Rope settled himself in for another uneventful four hours. He started, however, when he saw the new Prime Minister sit up in his chair, and, as his jaw dropped, realized that this was not a normal night in any shape, form or fashion when a man stepped out of the fireplace and extended his hand to shake the Prime Minister's.
He was in a state of shock—such a state of shock, in fact, that he missed the entire conversation the two men had, and almost didn't catch it when the man waved the Prime Minister a cheery goodbye, threw something into the fireplace, then stepped into it and vanished from sight.
He sat there, frozen, for a few minutes. Surely that couldn't have actually happened? Surely a man couldn't have just popped out of a chimney, talked to the Prime Minister, then popped right back into the chimney?
He shook himself, then immediately began to dial headquarters. The Director-General definitely would want to hear about this.
12 January, 1957
Part of Roger Hollis was still in a state of shock. Surely he and the Prime Minister were not about to discuss how to spy upon wizards who appeared to be running around Britain?
But they were, and while he had been somewhat skeptical of Rope's wild tale, he had been convinced after seeing the tape of what had happened in the Prime Minister's office two nights before.
The other part, however, was still the director of the Security Service, and he came to his feet as soon as the secretary told him he could go into the Prime Minister's office.
The Prime Minister looked somewhat harried, Hollis noted. There were several reasons for this that almost anyone could have guessed, the rift between Britain and the United States that had been occasioned by the Suez crisis being the main one. However, Hollis also knew that what he was about to discuss with the Prime Minister was also involved.
"Ah, Mr. Hollis," Macmillan said as he rose and extended his hand. "What is it that you wanted to discuss with me?"
"Well, Prime Minister," Hollis said slowly, "it has to do with the man who came to see you two nights ago."
Macmillan looked rather like a man might upon being told that his wife had found out that he had been found drunk in Soho the week before. "How did you find out about that?"
"Your predecessor, I presume after receiving a similar visit to yours, asked my predecessor to set up hidden cameras in this office. When I took over the Security Service, I continued the practice. This was one of the things I was going to mention to you during my initial briefing," Hollis replied levelly. "However, now that I know why Prime Minister Eden wanted the cameras set up in his office, I have one question for you. Do you want the Security Service to attempt to find these people?"
Macmillan did not answer for a few moments, and Hollis could see the wheels turning in his head. On the one hand, there was the fact that this Ponsonby fellow had told him not to attempt to contact them. On the other hand, there was the fact that these people represented a Possible Threat to the Security of the Realm.
MacMillan nodded to himself. "Mr. Hollis," he said quietly, "I want you to find these people, but understand that I do not want you to take any of your men off the job of finding Russians, is that clear?"
Hollis, feeling somewhat insulted that anyone would question his commitment to ferreting out Soviet spies, nodded. "Would you like to hear the rest of the briefing?"
"Yes, by all means."
19 December, 1959
Jim Rope groused to himself as he stood looking at a space in between a book shop and a record shop as the wind that was funnelled down Charing Cross Road bit at him. Did no one come out this way?
He had been assigned to Operation Merlin on the basis that, by virtue of being the man behind the cameras that night in the Prime Minister's office, he was the one who know the most about how these people operated. Rope had pointed out to the assignment officer that while this was technically true, it was a little bit like assigning a man from the Yorkshire Dales to be a guide to cities because he had been to Scarborough once. He had been rather frostily informed that "Seeing Scarborough once is better than not having seen a city at all" and had been assigned to the operation before he could make up another excuse.
As it turned out, he was the only person assigned to the operation, for two reasons. First, the Security Service had been ordered by the Prime Minister not to take men away from its other departments, and second, he had the suspicion that Hollis thought he could take care of himself due to his time with the Royal Marines in Korea.
As a result, he had spent the next year and a half trying to find these elusive wizards on his own. There had been many tantalizing leads—people who had total blanks in their memory regarding certain days, old murders that were utterly inexplicable, and, at one point, he had received notice from an old friend on the Bristol police force of a tea set that moved about on its own. By the time he got there, however, the tea set was gone, his old friend the constable couldn't remember having placed the phone call, and while the old woman who'd called the constable remembered calling him, she was sure that she had called him due to some boys throwing a rock through her window, and couldn't remember anything peculiar about the tea set she had just sold.
This had not deterred him, but had only redoubled his resolve to find these people. Who knew what things these wizards had done to people who now couldn't remember a thing? It wasn't the sort of thing that was supposed to happen in Britain.
It had been pure luck that he'd been walking down this road three months ago when he saw someone walk into the apparently nonexistent space between the book shop and record shop that he was now gazing at so intently. Being a careful man, he had not only written down the location he was going to watch, but why he was going to watch it. He had also elected to not simply stand outside—after all, if they'd escaped detection for this long, they were bound to notice a man staring at the wall between two shops. Therefore, he simply walked by here every few hours, first in one direction, then in another.
This was the hundredth time—he'd counted—that he'd come by here, and there were times when he wondered if he hadn't been seeing things that day. However, he had seen people going into the nonexistent space between the shops, so at least he knew he wasn't barking up the wrong tree. There was the possibility that he was barking mad, but after that film, he wasn't sure what the line was between madness and sanity.
That still left him outside in London in the week before Christmas with the wind going through him like he wasn't there.
When a man did step out of the nonexistent space, Rope almost missed him. He saw the man turn his head, this way and that, and then turn to walk off down the street. Rope quickly followed the man's thatch of red hair down the street, trying to act as much like he wasn't following the man as possible while keeping him in sight at all times.
Rope got lucky. He caught up with his quarry just as he turned into an alleyway, at which point he pulled out the cosh that he kept on his person at all times these days and applied it as lightly as possible to the man's head. He fell like a stone.
At this point, Rope remembered that he had no arrest authority whatsoever and briefly cursed his forgetfulness. He took a brief moment to call down a curse or two on David Maxwell-Fyfe, popped his head out of the alley, and Lady Luck, as if to apologize for what she'd been doing to him these long months, smiled on him again.
"Robert Graves, where've you been?"
"Jim! I never expected to find you in an alley on Charing Cross Road. What brings you here?"
"Business, Robert. Like what we did back in Korea. Can't say anything more."
"You wouldn't be telling me that unless you needed me. You always were closed-mouthed. What d'you need?"
"I need you to arrest someone."
"This fellow behind me."
Graves looked around Rope, then looked back at him. "Did you hit him with Old Reliable?"
Rope nodded. Graves sighed. "I really hope you got the right man, Jim."
He walked over to the man, knelt, handcuffed him and pulled him to his feet, speaking to him as he did so. "Sir, you are under arrest for…for…" He glared at Rope, who quickly said, "suspicion of being a spy for a foreign power."
"Yes. That," Graves finished. He looked over at Rope. "Where do you want me to take him?"
"Nowhere yet," Rope replied as he walked over to them. "Not until I check him for something."
The man was dazed enough that he made no protest as Rope frisked him, but he had recovered enough that Rope felt him tense as he put his hand on what felt like a wooden stick on the inside of his coat.
"And what might this be, sir?" Rope asked quietly as he pulled the stick out from his coat and noted its symmetry and polished appearance. He saw the man's eyes widen, and Rope decided to hazard a guess. "A wand, perhaps?"
The man immediately tried to jump at him, but Graves held him back. Rope did not smile as he inserted the wand into his own coat. "Sir, I do not want to harm you, and I do not intend to. I simply want to ask you a few questions, and then let you be about…whatever business you were attending to."
The man glared at him, then nodded slowly.
Rope nodded to Graves, who nudged their prisoner into moving along, and they began to walk out of the alleyway. Just before they reached the exit, Rope turned to look back at the red-haired man.
"What is your name, sir?"
The man glared at him briefly, then shrugged. "There's no harm in telling you, I suppose. My name is Septimus. Septimus Weasley."