It was nearing midnight and the President was sitting alone in his office, reviewing a long memo about CIA agent Valerie Plame that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind. He was waiting for a call from former Secretary of State Colin Powell about the memo and between wondering when the wretched man would telephone and trying to suppress unpleasant memories of what had been a very long, tiring, and difficult week, what with the White House being implicated in a government leak of a covert agent's name, the rising death toll in Iraq, and the U.S.' failure, after four years, to catch Osama bin Laden, whose group, Al-Qaeda was responsible for the London bombings, there was not much space in his head for anything else.
The more he attempted to focus on the page before him, the more clearly the President could see the gloating face of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson had appeared on the news not only to enumerate the President's lie that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Niger, but also to explain why the President had misled the American people to embark on a deadly and unwinnable war in Iraq.
He turned over the second page of the memo, saw how much longer it went on, and gave it up as a bad job. Suddenly, he heard a soft cough behind him. It was coming from the froglike little man wearing a long silver wig who was depicted in a small, dirty oil painting in the far corner of the room. Suddenly, bright green flames burst into life beneath his marble mantelpiece. A portly man appeared, spinning as fast as a top.
"Ah, Mr. President," said Minister of Magic Karl Rove. "Good to see you again."
"How can I help you today?" the President said.
"Hard to know where to begin. What a week."
"Had a bad one, too, have you?" asked the President.
"I've been having the same week you have, Mr. President. The grand jury investigation, the damned press, Congress. I'm just exhausted."
"You, I mean, some of your people were involved in the leak, were they?"
Rove fixed the President with a rather stern look. "Of course they were. Surely you've realized what's going on?"
"I ..." hesitated the President.
It was precisely this sort of behavior that made him dislike Rove's visits so much. Although he was the architect of the President's political success, he did not appreciate being made to feel like an ignorant schoolboy.
As the conversation continued, the President thought that the strain of stealing the 2000 election had caused him to go mad. He remained speechless throughout Rove's explanation that there were CIA agents still living in secret all over the world and his reassurances that he was not to bother his head about them. Rove insisted he didn't leak the identity of She-Who-Cannot-Be-Named, that he had only insinuated it to the Sultan of Spin Robert Novak, and that he chatted with Time's Matthew Cooper wearing an Invisibility Cloak and was on double, superduper, deep background.
"At one point, I refused to say a certain name aloud and wrote it instead on a piece of parchment, which I magically sent through cyberspace," Rove said.
Whatever the press and the opposition might say, the President was not a foolish man. He knew Rove had grave news.
"Mr. President, I am very sorry to have to tell you that the Muggles' Robert Novak is back, and he's testifying before the grand jury."
"The Office of Misinformation has been working around the clock. We've had teams of Obliviators trying to modify the memories of Novak and the other Muggles who saw what really happened. We've got most of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures running around Washington, tracking them down. And if that wasn't enough, we've got dementors swarming all over the place attacking people on the right."
"Now see here, Rove, you've got to do something; it's your responsiblity as Minister of Magic."
"Remember Mr. President, you sacked me as Minister of Magic three days ago. The whole wizarding community has been screaming for my resignation for a fortnight. I've never known them to be so united in a whole term of office. Scott McClellan is the new Minister of Magic."
The flames in the fireplace turned emerald green again and revealed a second spinning wizard. There was an immediate impression of ineptness. The President wasn't sure why McClellan should lead in these dangerous times.
"The Minister of Magic reveals nothing, not even to the President," said McClellan, poking his wand back inside his jacket. "We find it the best way to maintain secrecy."
Then McClellan turned the President's teacup into a gerbil.
McClellan moved toward the fireplace. "I will keep you posted of the developments Mr. President. Or I'll send Rove here. He has consented to stay on in an advisory capacity. Just keep your mouth shut."
"But for heaven's sake," said the President. "You wizards can do magic. Surely you can sort out, well anything."
McClellan turned slowly and exchanged an incredulous look with Rove who said, "The trouble is the other side can do magic, too, Mr. President."
And with that the two wizards stepped one after the other into the bright green fire and vanished. •