Author's Note: The cover art is a selection of a piece by mushroomtale, who is awesome! Check out her tumblr at mushroomtale-fanart dot tumblr dot com!

The minute I Apparate into the main foyer of the Ministry of Magic, I am assaulted at all sides by paparazzi. Visits with the Minister of Magic are a matter of public record, which means that any time I visit Shacklebolt, every major news organization knows about it two weeks in advance.

There are a lot of shitty things about my life, but generally speaking, paparazzi are the shittiest. I rank them among the top reasons I became a hermit following the dissolution of my marriage, followed closely by the actual dissolution of my marriage.

Some might say that paparazzi will never be as bad as a messy, painful divorce. To those people I say: shut the fuck up about what you don't understand.

I grimace and push my way through a sea of bursting flashpots and shouted questions. It's a deafening mess, and though I try not to pay any attention, one reporter manages to shout more loudly than the others—

"Mr. Potter, are you still planning not to attend the Moot?"

Not this shit again.

"No comment." I give one journalist – well, "journalist" – what is perhaps an unnecessarily hard shove to the shoulder to get past her. I know just where Shacklebolt's office is, of course, and the faster I can get there, the better.

Thankfully, the Minister's Wing is strictly warded, and the moment I pass through the sheer film of magic, all of the shouting abruptly stops, and it's the best part of my day thus far.

I consider, as I walk, how dreadfully fucked up it is that the highlight of my afternoon is not hearing reporters shout questions at me.

Then again, most of my life lately has been pretty fucked up, so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised.

The aurors guarding his office don't stop me, which leaves me free to fling open the doors and stride right up to his desk.

"Can we make it fast?"

Shacklebolt looks up at me. He doesn't seem alarmed, either by the sudden clatter or my entrance. In fact, he looks more exasperated than anything else.

"Good to see you in the land of the living, Harry."

"I don't want to be here," I remind him.

"I got that from your last few owls." He pulls off his thin golden spectacles and sets them down neatly on his desk. "Close the door."

I close the door. When I turn back, Shacklebolt has risen from his desk and is moving around to the other side of it. He leans against the handsome mahogany and regards me in silence.

I'm really not in the mood for banter – granted, I never really am these days – so rather than give him the chance, I cut in again:

"So? Are we going to talk or am I here to admire the décor?" I gesture with one arm around his office, which is admittedly quite classy. It's all scarlet and bronze, just like the office of the most powerful man in Wizarding Britain should be. Still, I hate it on principle.

Shacklebolt sighs. "Are you going to the Moot?"

I am overcome with the desire to beat my head into the wall. "God's sake, Shacklebolt, not you, too, with this shit."

"There's a reason everyone's bringing it up," he reminds me.

"I have exactly zero interest in a bunch of self-important pureblood snobs trying to run the world," I say.

"You're oversimplifying it."

"I'm not going. I fought a war to put an end to petty, purist shit like that, Shacklebolt. So did you!"

"It's not—" He stops suddenly, sighs, and rubs the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, like he's dealing with a petulant child – a reaction that only makes me feel even more petulant. "Harry, it's not petty, purist shit. The Moot is the most important legislative meeting in the country."

"Attended exclusively by rich, pureblood aristocrats," I return.

"Attended by heirs of noble families," Shacklebolt insists.

"And you don't find it a little suspicious that all the noble families in attendance are rich, pureblood aristocrats?"

"And you," he says. "You're the last scion of House Black – you have to start acting like it!"

"I am not going to play their game, Shacklebolt!" I say, a bit louder than is probably polite. "You shouldn't, either! Is this why I'm here? Did you call me out here to try and bully me into this ridiculous Moot?"

Shacklebolt sets his face and drums his fingers on the edge of the desk. He doesn't respond immediately, but when he does, it's with resoluteness.

"Yes," he said. "That's why you're here. If you're not going to do right by your inheritance, Harry, I'm not going to support it. I'm telling Wanda to stop managing your accounts."

It takes me a minute to remember what the fuck he's talking about. Wanda, my mind eventually recalls, is an accountant that Shacklebolt had hired for me to manage the Black estate. After the war, he'd been eager to foist her off on me "until I could manage them myself" – a day that had never come. But at this point—

"Fine," I say. "Fine. I'll manage them myself."

"Good luck with that." His voice is clipped, impatient. He moves back around the desk. "Maybe when you see the consequences of it, you'll realize why exactly we need the Moot."

"It's a fucking Gringotts account, Shacklebolt! How hard can it possibly be?"

Pretty fucking hard, as it turns out.

"House Black owns an orphanage?"

I hear a soft, hollow pop from behind – Ginny opening up another bottle of wine, no doubt – though by the next sound, not without sending the cork flying across the room.

"Shit," she says.

"Aren't orphanages supposed to be run by the state?"

"I hate the cork charm. Where the hell is Kreacher? Isn't he supposed to be doing this?"

"They don't just own it, they operate it," I say, flipping over the expense report. "Christ, how much of wizarding society do stodgy old pureblood families actually own?"

"There are no clean wine glasses."

She appears at my side and sets down a coffee mug in front of me, on top of the pile of papers. It's full of cheap red wine and has "WHO FARTED?" written on it in big block letters. I move it off the papers.

"How can one Gringotts account be so damn convoluted?"

Ginny sits down across from me. Her hair is tangled and her lipstick is smudged. She's gorgeous and disheveled and when I look at her I am reminded of the beautiful family we nearly started, of the perfect marriage we almost had. Looking at her brings the most intense emotional pain I have ever known.

But I keep her around anyway, because I hate myself, and also her a little bit. I'm banking on the fact that she feels the same way when she looks at me. Misery loves company.

"It's fucked up," I tell her.

"Sorry," she says, "wasn't listening." She takes a sip of her own wine-filled mug ("I HATE MONDAYS!").

Two years ago, when we were married, I would have been pissed off about that. These days I just move on.

"The account," I say. "Apparently Sirius left me a whole lot more than Grimmauld Place by naming he is heir."

She lowers the mug. The rim is stained fire engine red. "Well," she says, "House Black was a Consul family, wasn't it?"

"It's eight a.m."


"It's eight a.m. You shouldn't be drinking."

"Yes, well, I shouldn't be a lesbian, according to Ron, and yet I was having sex with a woman not three hours ago."

It's always nice to be reminded of the fact that your ex-wife is sleeping with other people. And by nice, I mean soul-crushing.

"House Black was a Consul family, so they own most of London," she continues. "You should get someone to manage it."

"Shacklebolt took her off it," I answer, suddenly starting to regret storming out of the conversation like I had.

"Find someone else. That reminds me, I need you as a plus-one."


"Going to a thing," she replies. "Correspondent's dinner for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Hobnobbing, elbow rubbing, that sort of thing."

"That sounds awful," I said. "Also, no."

"Not asking, love. You're going."

"Why don't you bring whatever woman whose panties you're in?" If my tone is a little bit cruel, I blame it entirely on the fact that she completely broke my heart eight months ago.

She snorts. "Lavinia isn't really the take-her-out-in-public type."

"I'm not going."

"Yes, you are." She knocks the mug back and finishes off what must be a quarter of a bottle of wine in one long, horrifyingly impressive pull. "You're going for the same reason I'm sitting at this table."

I move my mug of wine away from her, just in case she tries to take it. She definitely does not need any more. "And what reason is that?"

"Because you are utterly incapable of saying no to me."

I could never accuse her of not knowing me.

"Wear something sexy," she says.

"I don't own anything sexy."

"Then at least wear something not awkward and frumpy."

"No promises."

"I'm going to bed."

She rises to her feet, straightening out the short blue dress. It is at that moment and with the context clues that I realize— "You haven't actually been to sleep yet."

"I have nineteen years of heterosexual behavior to catch up on; there's no time for sleep!"

She staggers out the door of the kitchen. I watch her leave, hating her with such incredible intensity that I shock myself. I would ask myself at what point my life became this fucked up, but I already know.

"It's Friday at seven!" she shouts from the hallway. "And seriously, wear something sexy!"