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The Homecoming Committee
See Inside 
February 11th, 1889 — Dept of Mysteries

Ernest had never been much for politics; he considered it a stupid man's game, and left it to those who had ambition but no real talent for affecting change in the world. He also didn't have any sense of altruism or community duty that would force him into the fray despite his distaste for it, like someone apparently had. Urquart had always been something of an idealist, though, and it had never gotten in the way of his work when he'd been at the Department of Mysteries previously.

It had, however, gotten in the way of what had once been quite a sturdy friendship. The two had remained civil during Urquart's election (an easy feat, since Ernest had no interested in discussing the man's politics), but Ernest had felt it best to distance himself from the man publicly. His positions were not ones that meshed well with the Mulciber family as a whole, and Ernest was conscious of his reputation if for no other reason than he wanted to avoid being lectured on the subject by either his wife or his mother. Distance had, in turn, turned to stony silence when Urquart's daughter had been outed as a werewolf. It wasn't anything personal, of course, and Ernest felt that went without saying. Someone from his social circle simply couldn't be friends with the father of an acknowledged monster.

Privately, though, he had considered all of it — from the man's foray into politics down to the unfortunate situation with his daughter — a waste. Urquart, unlike most politicians, wasn't stupid, and he had the potential to be doing important things in the Department of Mysteries, which he would now never step foot in again.

Or so he'd thought. Apparently more or less hand-picking your successor as Minister of Magic had its perks, and one of them was being able to glide back in to positions you'd left ages ago. Ernest didn't mind much; he'd worked under Urquart before in the department, and he had no desire to fill the recently vacated job of Mrs. Lestrange. There was already far too much paperwork involved in his work for his tastes.

He was waiting for his new boss on Monday morning, his first day back to work. He'd shooed all of the Unspeakables off to their various tasks, so that they wouldn't be able to just stand around and gawk while waiting, and then had taken up a position leaning against the secretary's desk, sipping a cup of coffee.

"Welcome back," he greeted with a dry smile when the man appeared. "Do you think you'll need a tour?"

@Balthazar Urquart, open to Unspeakables

Balthazar Urquart was hit by a wave of familiarity as he stepped into the Department of Mysteries for the first time since he left it five years prior. While he knew the inner workings of the department were ever-changing, the physical shell that housed them was, reassuringly, ever the same, filling the new department head with both a sense of déjà vu and a feeling of homecoming. He had spent more than a decade here, before everything had changed, and while part of him worried that moving backwards could do more harm than good, he was, by and large, eager to return to the work he had loved before life had become…tarnished by the swinging of the pendulum.

The first face to greet him was not the present secretary, as Balt had expected (who was pointedly not looking in his direction but instead busying herself with a sheaf of papers on her desk), but his replacement. Well, the man who currently held his old job—Balt knew Mulciber had not been a direct appointment.

“I doubt it—Mrs. Lestrange never took me as the sort to redecorate,” he returned, “though if you would rather walk than sit, I’d appreciate being brought up to speed while I get the lay of the land again.”

It had taken a second pregnancy and an even more liberal shift in the Ministry to pry Belphoebe Lestrange from the Department of Mysteries, a vacancy that Balt was privately very glad for. Still, he had to wonder if Mulciber begrudged him the promotion that, traditionally, would have gone to the sitting Assistant Head. True, the Ernest Mulciber he had known had always been more for practice than paperwork, but men were fickle creatures, prone to changing as time wore on.

Rune is a wizard!
Ernest shrugged loosely in response to Urquart's comment about redecorating. There had certainly been changes in the department since the other man had last left it, but he wasn't sure how many of them really had anything to do with Mrs. Lestrange. While she had technically made the hiring decisions, Ernest had been responsible for conducting interviews and pruning out the weaker candidates, which made the final appointment more of a formality than anything else. Not to mention that some of the starker changes (the addition, for instance, of several women into the department since 1884), had occurred before Mrs. Lestrange had assumed the position of head.* Some of the departments more notable events from the past few years, from an outside perspective — most notably the whole time loop issue in 1886 that he had accidentally caused — also had little or nothing to do with the now absent former head.

"What sort of speed were you looking for?" he asked, shifting his weight off of the desk and nodding vaguely towards the entryway to the rest of the department. "Current assignments, notable achievements, or the — personnel issues?" The last, his tone made clear, was merely a polite way of saying the department gossip. While he wasn't much interested in those sorts of things in general, how people were getting along within the department and what personal events in their life were effecting their performance had, unfortunately, become part of his job since being promoted to assistant head. It was, feasibly, something Urquart might be expected to be caught up on.

"You know," he said speculatively, "This might be the first time our department has been without a Lestrange in... generations, I suppose. The nephew decided he was too important for us last summer, during the middle of the fog ordeal," Ernest explained with a dismissive shrug.

*note idk when Belphoebe was supposed to take the position and it's not part of the history lists and I sure as heck don't care enough to comb through archives for that info SO making shit up

Privately, Balthazar was glad to hear it. While the wizard bore Lucius Lestrange a grudging respect and bore Mrs. Belphoebe Lestrange no ill-will, young Tiberius Lestrange had always had something of the wolf in him—speaking, of course, metaphorically, not literally as was the case with his own daughter. Such a hunger could be dangerous, with all the secrets the Department of Mysteries had to offer.

"Let us begin with an overview of added or relocated personnel," Balt answered practically, "as I have little desire to gather the whole department for my return."

While he was happy enough to be back in the Ministry of Magic, the wizard was still rather shy about being placed front and center for much of anything. The Prophet's article on his appointment had been a shock only in that it had not led to some intrepid reporter camping out in his back garden.

Rune is a wizard!
"Scamander'll be new since you left," Ernest mused. He hadn't actually put together a list or anything, so he was just going through the department roster in his head and piecing together what Urquart would been to be caught up on. He was almost certainly going to forget someone, but hopefully his Unspeakables were too sensible to have their feelings hurt. "She's young, but she does good work. She has a brother working... somewhere in the Ministry," he concluded vaguely. Ernest did not tend to pay much attention to the other Ministry departments, so he knew nothing beyond that. He recognized the other heads and assistants, from occasionally being forced into meetings with them and having to endure their commentary on varieties of subjects, and he knew the former Unspeakables who had gone on to other positions, such as the older Lestrange son. Otherwise, he would be hard pressed to pick a coworker out of a line-up. Urquart would presumably know better than Ernest, anyway. It wasn't as though he'd really been that far away for the past five years.

"Fraser is the other new girl. Seems keen, but easily distracted. We had someone come and go in the hall of prophecy — funny story, that, actually," he continued with a sly grin; he enjoyed department mishaps more than was necessarily appropriate, given his position as assistant head. "A prophecy rolled through about him, and he just went mad over it. Vablatsky told him not to look, but..." Ernest let the sentence hang, finishing it instead with a little tsk tsk noise. "Had to be obliviated and reassigned. Works in — Education, now, I think."
[-] The following 1 user Likes Ernest Mulciber's post:
   Balthazar Urquart

Privately, Balthazar was rather pleased to hear that more than one of the new additions was female—the Ministry of Magic had always been an old boy's club, and while they were certainly more progressive than their counterparts in muggle government, there was still quite a gap—in both numbers and perception—to be overcome. It was a gap Balthazar hoped his own daughters would overcome some day, if they were so inclined.

"Everyone thinks that they know best," he sighed at the tale from the Hall of Prophecy. "We really must screen that branch a bit better. And how have you fared, Mr. Mulciber?" the wizard inquired. The other man was a constant, it seemed, for every changing of the guard.

Rune is a wizard!
Ernest might have pointed out that the Hall of Prophecy was no more treacherous for new Unspeakables than any other department, but he suspected the other man knew. He couldn't have forgotten the explosion that had claimed the lives of many of the upstairs employees as it had seen the Ministry collapse from the bottom up, nor the accidental time loop they'd plunged Britain into (though that hadn't exactly been the fault of a new Unspeakable...) Was having someone accidentally see their own future in a Prophecy worse than having someone make an ill-advised attempt at time travel after a year in the department, or start selling black market love potions, or meddling in memories to create a false past for one of their friends? The whole Department was essentially a collection of disasters waiting to happen. It was nearly miraculous that there had only been a handful of such disasters that had 'leaked' outside the Department during Ernest's career.

Pointing any of those things out, however, could only lead to further regulation in the Department, which was something no one wanted. No one, that was, who put a much larger emphasis on the exciting possibilities of new research and discovery over the protection of human life.

"Oh, you know me," he said, addressing the question he'd been asked instead. "Quite content as long as I can fiddle around with the clocks. Unfortunately I've found myself mired in paperwork more often than I might like," he said with a shrug. That was, actually, his prime motivation in trying to ensure the Department didn't blow anything up or kill anyone — it involved a lot of paperwork when they did, which took up far too much of his time. "And pulled away for meetings. Mrs. Lestrange liked to delegate those sorts of things so that she could hide away in her office — I hope you'll be more inclined to go to them," he added, glancing over at his new boss. "You ought to be quite comfortable in Ministry-wide meetings by this point, I would think."

"Yes, well..." Balthazar answered after clearing his throat uncomfortably. True, he was accustomed to such meetings—or had been, at least—but that had been before. The Department of Mysteries was all but an island. He could handle an island. But the politics? Just because the wizard had been ready for one did not mean he was ready for the other!

"I will, of course, need some time to transition back into the post," he offered diplomatically, "so I do hope you will indulge me at least for a time. But no, Mulciber, I shan't shunt my duties onto you—not in the grand scheme of things, at any rate. You'll be back with your cogs and your gears before you know it."

Perhaps 'before you know it' was a bit optimistic, but optimism was necessary if Balt was to keep placing one foot in front of the other.

Rune is a wizard!
Ernest hadn't really considered how awkward it would be for Urquart to go sit in at meetings he had once run; he was thinking only of his own distaste for those sorts of things when he'd spoken. He supposed in retrospect that he ought to have considered it, but didn't the fact that Urquart was back to work mean that he was over it? He could very well have just continued sitting at home, doing whatever he'd been doing after he ceded the Ministry seat, and yet here he was.

Although, it occurred to Ernest, if Urquart had stayed at home, it likely would have been Ernest himself rising to the position of Department Head. There were no other likely candidates. What a headache that would have been — meetings and paperwork and staffing concerns, and hardly any time at all for his own research projects any more. So, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't much of a strain if Urquart wanted to keep sending him to those awful meetings for a while. It was better than the alternative of wearing the title of Head himself.

"Mm," he mumbled agreeably enough. "Glad to have you back, old fellow."
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   Balthazar Urquart

"And I to be back," he answered, surprised at how honest the words felt. Regardless of all that had happened, the Department of Mysteries had been a home to him for many years. He could almost—almost—pretend that it was its own beast rather than a part of the wider Ministry of Magic family. It was that which had propelled him forward.

"Now—how goes your own research?"

Rune is a wizard!
"Hit a bit of a road block on the stability front," he confessed cheerfully. Ernest enjoyed talking about work, even when he was talking about setbacks or challenges his research had faced. "We've gotten an astral projection as far back as 1600, now, but it's not much good if it can't be sustained more than a minute. Not enough time to get anywhere worth seeing. And — well, I mean, we think it's around 1600, but it's hard to be sure with all the interference," he continued. "And the projection can't interact with anything, so it's still a far cry from real time travel. We've gone back to the drawing board for a moment. Have a nice lead on incorporating elements from a disassembled pensieve to make the viewing experience smoother, but it'll likely be another month or more before we're ready to resume testing."

Taking another long sip of coffee, Ernest continued brightly, "I took some time off earlier this year for a side project, and I imagine you'll appreciate it. Merriweather turned seventeen this spring, did you know?" He did not pause for a response; he would have been very surprised indeed if Urquart had remembered the age of his son when Ernest himself might well have forgotten it, had not his wife reminded him early and often about the significance of the upcoming birthday. "So of course, I got him a pocket watch, but... well, I couldn't just give him an ordinary watch, could I, with a job like mine?" Not that Merriweather would have been offended if he had gotten an ordinary watch. It wasn't as though he, or anyone in the Mulciber household, knew what Ernest actually did at the Ministry. "So I spent some time tinkering with it. It's got a little chamber in the back that you can put something in — took the idea from some totem magic from across the pond. Then hands on the face for past and future that count down minutes, like a stopwatch. So he might be able to tear off a piece of his potions essay and have the watch tell him how much longer he'll spend writing it," he explained. "Or shove in a piece of someone's hair and see how long it'll be until he sees them again. Fun concept, don't you think?" he said enthusiastically. "It would need some sort of snappy name, though, if I were to make them for the Ministry, and I've always been rubbish at that sort of thing."

Balt could feel a twinge of jealousy within him—faint, but certainly there. While time had never been his own wheelhouse, as an unspeakable, he had long valued a good puckersnatch. In the time since his departure from the Minsitry of Magic, though, it seemed as though he had only had bad ones. How he yearned for a good riddle to solve, a good story to tell—now that he was back among those to which he could divulge such stories, at least.

"My, you have been busy!" the wizard exclaimed. The concept was, frankly, impressive—and one with broad application and minimal apparent likelihood to kill anyone if it got out into the general public. This, he thought wryly, was something of a rarity in their line of work.

"Counter-Down?" Balt suggested lamely before chuckling at himself. "I've always been more for the research than the creative end of things. Whatever you call it, you might become a rich man indeed if you can get Experimental Charms to sign off on it."

Not that Mulciber needed the money. His was similar indeed to the life Balt would have had, had he done as his father wished rather than as his heart dictated.

Rune is a wizard!
There had been a time in Ernest's life when money had mattered quite a bit to him. As a second son, he hadn't been raised with the promise of much of anything he didn't earn for himself. The threat of losing out on the inheritance he'd only recently been promised after his older brother's demise had been the leverage that had seen him wed Rufina, when he would have much preferred to have remained single a good deal longer. Those days, however, were behind him; the Mulciber household was unlikely to go bankrupt during the remainder of his lifetime, and he wasn't sentimental enough to care about leaving a fortune to Merriweather. Or the other boy. (This was actually the first time Ernest had considered it; would they be expected to care for the Wilde boy once he was legally an adult? Ought he to have some sort of minimal inheritance? Presumably he had gotten something from his actual parents; Ernest ought to look into that).

"Bah, paperwork," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand at the comment regarding Experimental Charms. "They're in love with the stuff, and I can't stand it. Maybe if Merriweather uses it a while and there aren't any bugs to work out," he said with a passive shrug. But probably not. Probably, he would eventually forget about it and certainly never get around to having it officially approved by anyone.
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   Balthazar Urquart

interesting gift, nonetheless,"
he said, sharing Mulciber's disdain for the paperwork so prevalent in other departments. It had been one of the worst of his responsibilities as Minister of Magic, though fortunately his secretary had had a good hand for forging signatures. The Department of Mysteries, though, was different—paper trails were seen as a hindrance, rather than a boon.

"I shouldn't keep you any longer—no doubt you have tasks you'd rather be doing," Balt added, only half-joking.

Rune is a wizard!
"I certainly have other things I should be doing," he admitted reluctantly. Honestly, he had been hoping to put off starting his morning stack of paperwork for as long as possible, but recognized the delay could not last much longer. There was only so much that Urquart actually needed to be apprised of, and to be frank Ernest probably didn't even remember half of the noteworthy things that had happened in his absence, anyway.

"Well, if you run into any difficulty adjusting, you know where to find me," Ernest said as he departed.

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