Chief Warlock Alistair Colquhoun
In conversation with Philomena Pest
We journalists invigorate stories by cementing them into exotic, addictive and hypnotic words, written down with our unanimous quills of palate drenching truths, tasked with one simple mission; to get to the very heart of those tellings that grasp us most! To extrapolate, tear apart and rebuild anything and everything, into a weaving, synchronized and sometimes melodic revelation, on page, for our darling readers!
Notorious! That’s what they call me. As my interviews and articles unhinge the hinged and hinge the unhinged, dismantle the fabric of illusions built up by clever criminals, and crafty cheats, precious politicians and even the deceased! This interview, once again an EXCLUSIVE for Witch Weekly, dives nose first into an area of one wizard’s life, ripping apart the guise of calmness, and proving that underneath even the most tepid of us all there lies a breaking point.
From terrific trials of those sourly judged and condemned to Azkaban, to the resurgence of divisive independence, to freakish accidents and fandangled contraptions, to life in the wet, dreary and rural shivers of Scotland’s Perthshire, we sift through one mans very dark but fascinating life, laced with terrors tucked away behind an austere exterior, and we welcome you back to our tantalizing spread of mouth watering tell-alls.
Let me pour you some tea, darlings! It’s PIPING HOT! As sitting before me, dressed in a refined cashmere three piece suit of what I’d call a seaweed green tartan, a vision of stoicness, a vision of control, a vision of unmovable esteem, is Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot Alistair Colquhoun.
Chief Warlock Colquhoun, darling! How do you take your tea? Or should I say whisky?
A wee dash of milk and nothing else. Whole milk only. Skimmed milk is for prisoners and hypochondriacs and muggle workhouses. Sugar is an unnecessary indulgence but fat is a perfectly natural part of the product. I don’t like to tamper with the natural order. On that note, shall we go with the whisky? It is nearly Christmas and it has been a rough year.
Firstly – are you married?
Certainly. Fiona and I will have been married 34 years this July. It doesn’t do well for a man to remain unmarried and I am not keen on this squalid nonsense that people call “divorce”.
Me neither, darling. And you still find her attractive all these years later?
In every possible way.
What has been the key to your successful marriage?
The recognition that you should not pretend to be what you are not. Partners must accommodate each other in a marriage. You learn not to live for yourself but to see yourself as a single entity. But you can never get to this stage if you are forging your own personality. Honesty sometimes leads to rows, but what of it? Marriage is permission to row; you know that the other person isn’t going anywhere. You recognise that and work through it.
We have two children. A daughter, Siobhan, aged 25 and a son, Archie, aged 19.
We have two dogs. A sheltie and a fox terrier. Damned good company.
Where do you live, darling?
A country house in rural Perthshire. The nearest settlement is the muggle town of Auchterarder but we are quite out in the sticks. We live in our own world down by the lochside.
Cold and wet place, darling!
That is true, but it is bracing and romantic and remarkably peaceful. I cannot imagine why anybody would be so insane as to want to live in London. When you spend your working life in the Ministry, you have to get far away in your own time. Besides, I was raised on the West Coast of Scotland which is considerably colder and wetter.
You became Chief Warlock this year , how IS it going?
Affairs have been challenging, but I’m not the kind to expect anything less. I’ve inherited a respectable court, burning with a no-nonsense desire for justice and effective governance. It is the duty of the Wizengamot not to shy away from any matter which concerns it. Nobody is above the law, even senior Ministry officials. No legislative matter is to be left unaddressed just because it might be awkward or uncomfortable. I have had to deal with many difficult matters already and I am well prepared for more. My approach is a little different from my predecessor, but I am no less unflinching. If there is disorder, I will sooth it. If there is corruption, I will weed it out. If there is injustice, I will crush it under foot.
Colquhoun succeeded the boisterous and hard-as-nails Chief Warlock Bugulartis Warble this year, after first serving as the court’s Magistrate.
What was it like, working with the loud and tough Bug Warble?
[He seems to pause thoughtfully here, with a rummage of his lip] Adventurous. Exhilarating. Very occasionally frustrating, but I’m sure he’ll admit that himself. Warble had inherited a court riddled with corruption by Dorchester. It took a firm had to turn it back in the right direction, and show our citizenry that such a thing could never happen again. I am sure that I would not have accepted my position if it had not been for my predecessor. His good taste in whisky helped as well.
Minister Alyssa Merriweather. Dramatic pause. What are your thoughts on her?
A very accomplished young witch. You can’t help but admire somebody who at the age of only 26 gave up her career in order to pursue a difficult public office after her predecessor had just been assassinated. Her political situation has hardly been forgiving either. Two major international events, two senior aurors imprisoned for serious offences, the Hogwarts Headmaster’s death in office, continued murmurings of dark activity, rampant monetary inflation – to hold the Ministership at this time takes character.
She is an attractive woman, isn’t she darling?
One might very well say that. I think a woman ought to be able to hold her own in political office without men commenting on her appearance.
You presided over the very messy Goblin-Gretreat debacle. Was it entirely legal?
It was a political matter, not a legal one. Sometimes we have to adapt procedures to match political realities. That procedure led to a decision and the law should respect it. The duty of the law is to ensure that political decisions are limited by the bounds of order and justice.
Go on darling… were you for or against the Goblin Independence?
I am for the law. If people vote for it, the law must be for it. If people vote against it, the law must be against it. I think that’s clear enough.
During the debates, sources tell me that Headmaster Golovin of Durmstrang Academy was among those fiercely advocating against it. Should outsiders have an opinion on matters of British concern?
Headmaster Golovin was entitled to his views. As for the second part, no part of the Magical world is an Island, not even Britain. Unlike our muggle counterparts, we have to hold the exercise of our sovereignty with an eye to the Wizarding community worldwide. We are answerable to the International Confederation for the safety and secrecy of our world. It is therefore advisable to seek outside expertise and advice when appropriate, particularly from such a prominent figure. His loss will hit the International Community hard, I’m certain.
This year you oversaw an unprecedented trial in which Zenith DePalo, a previous Head Auror, was accused of murdering another auror. Juicy darling! Tell me about that.
[He glares coldly over his whisky in perfectly stern composure] That is correct. He was accused of murdering one of his colleagues during the response to the situation in the Dark Forest, which of course led to the destruction of the village of Hogsmeade. To my mind, we treated it as a case like any other. Witnesses were presented. We gave the accused time to establish a defense. None was forthcoming. He was found guilty. That is all to it. As I have said, none are above the law. Murder is murder is murder. [He sips his whisky]
He was sentenced, under your ruling, to pitiful community service in Gringotts of all places. Sod Azkaban, darling! What was the rationale behind that sentence?
Pitiful community service? Have you visited the deeper vaults of Gringotts much, Philomena? It is surely no less a prison than if it were built to serve as one. The sentence for murder is life imprisonment. This sentence was delivered. It was only the location which was different from, well, the usual. But it is no less a punishment on those grounds. It is true that DePalo provides services within Gringott’s, by why should he not? If we can alter the location of the sentence in order to make the prisoner useful to society, surely there is an advantage in doing so?
This is not an isolated case, is it darling, [I pull out a parchment] Three other cases were reported from various departments at different times. Is the Ministry riddled with corruption?
[He stares imperiously, unnerved.] They are quite different cases. Two very minor complaints, which required no criminal action. No party named in them should be subjected to any harassment over unsubstantiated speculation. As for the further criminal case, this was dealt with openly and swiftly. If anything, the fact that the Ministry treats crimes by its own employees just as seriously shows the *lack* of corruption – the fearless and impartial application of the rule of law to everybody. Absolutely everybody.
In fact, the additional cases were allegedly reported from the Aurors Office, Department of Magical Education and the Ministers Support Staff Office, with the former case involving now-incarcerated Auror Anya Peyroux, and the latter cases pointing towards Head Examiner Arklin Owsley and Senior Assistant Michel St. Jours, after their separate media scandals.
Boiled never baked. The tatties should have a healthy amount of butter. The whisky sauce should not be laced with too much mustard. Details are important. I am a lawyer after all.
Do you dress yourself?
Dress myself? Certainly. I have my two hands do I not? Are there people out there who do not dress themselves? Some people rely far too much on their house elves. But, thank you.
Britain is facing an economic financial crisis. Shocking! What can we do to fix it?
Economic crises often follow political instability. It is unfortunate but predictable. The surest way to fix it is to put an end to the political crisis by negotiating a goblin settlement as soon as possible. This will restore confidence in Gringotts Bank and allow the economy to continue without such uncertainty. I can aid in developing a legal settlement, but the rest is unfortunately the job of politicians.
Is some of the Wizengamot legislation you have presided over to blame?
The situation is the situation. Some might argue that this ‘referendum’ might not have been the best way to go about things. Others argue differently. As to why Goblinkind saw the need to have this discussion at all, that would be a rather long-winded historical discussion. I try to deal primarily with the present.
Every hard working witch or wizard deserves a holiday now and then. I like to party it out in Madrid myself. Where do you like to go?
My daughter lives in Nova Scotia and we try to visit at least once a year. It doesn’t feel too different from home, but it is still a holiday. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time at my club. I can always be sure of some peace, a good dram, and some intelligent company.
Tell us about that scar on your left eye. Scathing!
Youthful adventure and academic impetuousness. This was given to me when I was an apprentice potioneer under Adalbert K. Crackenthorpe. The name rings caterwauling charms throughout the potions world. His methods were eccentric but insightful. I have corrected it using my own ingenuity. It is the price of research. Some people rank safely far too highly and forget that a life worth living does involve a certain element of calculated risk.
Do you often like to take ‘calculated risks’, darling?
When it comes to law, it is important to be rigorous and detailed. Sometimes that involves creative judgement but I wouldn’t call it risk. Therefore, I have to compensate with risks in other spheres. Perhaps agreeing to this interview was a calculated risk? [He sips his whisky]
How much do you earn a year?
Enough to keep me independent. That’s the real value of money isn’t it? [He glances up and down Pest’s extravagant clothes] And rather less than you earn yourself, I perceive.
You’re a proud recipient of the Order of Merlin – tell us how you felt the day you received this rarest of awards.
It felt as though I had truly been of service. The recognition was not necessary to know that my work had been of value, but it was humbling to know that my fellow citizens thought the same.
I am due one myself, darling, don’t you think?
Perhaps we should return to the question on the Goblin vote? That one was easier to answer politely.
The Wizengamot is renowned for its unfair nepotism, and frank love for those of a higher blood status. Is this how you came to power? Through such ways?
[He seems to visibly stiffen here] I have made it plain that I do not hold with those attitudes. The court could have more diversity of background and experience, but it is far from self-selecting. We now have considerably more younger members, and the weight of some of the older so-called ‘pure-blood’ families has waned over the years. It is true to say I am not exactly underprivileged but it is a low standard of journalism to make insinuations of that sort. My appointment was on merit and experience and that can be clearly demonstrated.
Historically, the Wizengamot has often been composed of personally selected jurors, either via the Chief Warlock or the Minister for Magic themself, with Pure-blooded families, the affluent, famous or otherwise powerful sorts taking seats, alongside those brought in the normal way, through hard work and qualification. For the sake of full clarification, Chief Warlock Alistair Colquhoun is himself Pure-blooded.
What are your thoughts on Azkaban Prison today, compared with, say, twenty years ago.
It is a far more appropriate place without its cruel and unusual defenses. Legally, the presence of dementors was a disgrace. The Wizengamot delivered sentences of imprisonment, not of enforced madness and emotional torture. I am certain that this was not the original intention in having them there, but it became the reality, and the Ministry decided that it suited them to keep it as such without asking the obvious ethical questions.
Should dementors be called in again? After all, darling, if the infamous Judy Dorchester escaped, who is to say it won’t happen again?
Prisoners escaped even with the presence of dementors. In fact, the most disastrous mass breakouts from Azkaban were not prevented by them. These incidents are unfortunate, but I see no justification for inflicting suffering on the orderly prisoners for the sake of the occasional escapee. In any case, this is a question for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
If you were to stand trial, what would it be for and why?
Probably a libel against your newspaper at this stage, but it is very unlikely. Let me give you some advice Philomena. If you say that I am corrupt in office, that would be a libel. If you say that I am unfaithful to my wife, that would be a libel. However, if you say that I am an irritable old Nazzle Mumph, that is merely vulgar abuse. Take care to restrict your harsher words only to vulgar abuse and no action for libel can come against you. If I were to stand trial, it would be because I had broken this rule and said something regrettable.
Do you think you could wrangle yourself out of a harsh sentence, darling?
Most definitely. It would be a sight to behold, the defense triumph of the century.
A rich mossy green. Definitely not purple.
Any hobbies? I am a ferocious Samba addict myself, darling! It keeps my legs slender and my heart pumping. What about you?
Well, I think I am far too middle-aged for that sort of thing, but perhaps it would keep me more youthful? The thrill of potions research never leaves you. I maintain a small laboratory at home and I am normally working on something. Naturally, this takes a more leisurely pace compared to when it was my career. I am a bibliophile and enthusiastic book collector. Writing to potential suppliers and travelling to find rare items keeps my weekends well occupied. My wife and son are keen lovers of the opera and the symphony. I sometimes join them but being in muggle environments takes some … preparation [He points to his eyeglass]
Tell us about your eyeglass, that I suspect is custom made.
Custom made by these very hands, in one of my more ingenious moments. You see, the magical potency of the experimental brew which marked my face has never worn off my eye. This lense is designed to adjust to its … movements. Without it, I would never be able to focus predictably on anything, as my eyesight shifts constantly. If I look into a river on a winter morning, I see fire and ice dancing through streams of malice. If I look into a criminal’s eyes, more or less the same. What you see when you look back at me is your own concern … but sometimes it proves an advantage to look somewhat unnerving in my profession. [I notice here that a rather striking stripe of green flashes across his pupil, as his eyeglass appears to click a quarter-way clockwise.]
Really… tell me more about this dangerous, reckless and disastrous potion.
[He laughs for the first time] Oh, many even harmless potions can be reckless and disastrous when they are not brewed properly. In the act of experimental potioneering, there is always an element of uncertainty. Again, calculated risk. If you insist on knowing, I had hoped that its properties would have an antidote effect … to a particularly dark form of magic. Precisely what, I am not going to tell you. In any case, it didn’t work. That’s part of experimentation.
A harmless potion that was… thrown at you? During a fight, perhaps? A venomous, frightening battle to the death? You can tell me, darling!
Oh, now, just because Witch Weekly attracts angry responses to your articles, it doesn’t mean all of us have a habit of attracting animosity. I enjoy an honourable dual as much as the next man, but I settle differences with reason and discussion. At least, as far as possible.
Christmas is around the corner. Are you a festive man yourself?
I am more puritanical, I’m afraid. I find it difficult to be away from my desk for such an extended time, although I try not to impose that attitude on my colleagues. I won’t say that I don’t appreciate the winter moments. To sit at home in the company of family, a crackling fire, a rare firewhisky in hand. I don’t deny that it’s pleasant.
How will you be spending it this year?
My son was married earlier this year, so they will be hosting Christmas this year. We will be travelling to Wester Ross to spend it in their new home. Blessed family isolation.
On behalf of the Wizengamot, what would you like to say to all the devoted Witch Weekly readers:
Discerning truth from falsehood is more difficult than you think. Most people like a convenient untruth. Most people don’t like to be told they are wrong. Are you those people, readers?
Lastly, darling! What is one thing we don’t know about you?
I have rather an adventurous side, although it appears only from time to time. Sometimes, I consider taking myself away to pursue certain things I neglected in my youth. I imagine that my retirement will be rather less comfortable than the bourgeois, office-bound career I have found myself in at present. Oh, but don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. Not for a very long time.
And there it is, darlings! Another sensational interview, clawing its way ferociously out of the ground, to flower and flounder onto a page of exquisite reading. Did you get your fill? Of course you did, darlings, because it was I who fed you!
From the sickeningly sweet details of Colquhoun’s life in the rainy, plaidy, short-bready north, to the bitingly bitter tidbits about his awfully scary eye, the eye glass, the stern posture, cold and careful approach to his work, and his fastidious, studious and eximious style of serving justice, you’ve had it all! Well, most of it anyway, darlings, who knows what more there is to learn? Does his indifference to Goblin matters suggest a disregard for our cash handling fellows, for example? Are his compliments towards the Minister a frantic matter of heart over mind, and is a tinge of temptation there? And what about his peculiar story regarding that terrible potion incident; did his answer miss out key, and perhaps darker parts of what happened? This is a wizard, who on the surface seems resilient, well put together, and as grounded as they come. And he probably is! Until he’s not, darlings. But if one thing is for certain – you’ll hear it from me first.
A very festive, Merry Christmas to you all! *smoky laugh*