Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

CHAPTER 8: Reactions and Overreactions (pt 1)

The Ministry of Magic
4 August 1993
8:30 a.m.

With a tremendous whoosh, Harry Potter passed through the green flames of the floo at Longbottom Manor and stepped into the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. Lady Augusta followed behind, while Artemus Podmore was waiting on the other side for them both. Once through, Harry paused to look around in wonder. He had never been to the Ministry before, but so far, it lived up to his expectations. The Atrium was a massive cavernous area decorated in an art deco style. Around its perimeter were scores of brightly lit floos from whence scores upon scores of Ministry personnel came and went. Until he saw for himself just how packed the Atrium was even this early in the morning, Harry had never truly appreciated just how many witches and wizards were Ministry employees.

Then, he relaxed his Occlumency and looked again, using senses both more nuanced and more obscure than mere vision.

Suddenly, all around him, Harry could feel an undercurrent of tension and fear. Of the people moving around the Atrium, perhaps one in four had their wands out and gripped tightly in their hands as if expecting an attack at any moment. High on the walls of the four corners of the Atrium, balconies had been hastily constructed for use by auror sniper detachments armed not with wands but with magical battle staves that had previously been mothballed since the end of the Wizarding War. At the far side of the Atrium, just past the garish bit of statuary known as the Fountain of Magical Brethren was the entryway to the Ministry proper which was now guarded by two ten-foot-tall security trolls. The behemoths growled softly at the nervous wizards and witches standing in line for magical identification, as if they were waiting for a chance to smash a Death Eater with the clubs they carried. For just a second, Harry was overcome by a miasma of barely restrained panic before he reasserted his Occlumency shields and dialed down his developing Legilimency senses. Luckily, Mr. X had warned him about the danger of large crowds at this point in his training, and Harry was able to shake off the brief but stifling emotional resonance as his solicitor stepped forward.

"Good morning, Harry. Lady Augusta," Artie said genially.

"That remains to be seen, Solicitor Podmore," Augusta said grimly. "An 'Emergency Session' of the Wizengamot? Those have never ended well in the past, and I fear today's will go no better."

The magical solicitor nodded. "True. However, this does represent an unusual opportunity for Harry here to see the Wizengamot in full session. Usually, that only happens while he's away at Hogwarts. I do wish you'd consented to allow young Neville to come today for the same reason."

"Neville is abroad," Augusta said with a touch of coldness, as if to remind Podmore that he was not her solicitor and had no say in Neville's upbringing. "Given the history between the Longbottoms and Lestranges, that is where he will stay until this situation is resolved or he returns to Hogwarts, whichever comes first."

In fact, immediately after news of the Azkaban jailbreak had made the papers, Augusta owled a letter to Neville in Africa forbidding him to return to Longbottom Manor until further notice, supposedly out of concerns that the Lestranges might still have the means to bypass the Longbottom wards. She also instructed Reginald Longbottom to secure their African farms and keep a low profile until she contacted them again, either when the Lestranges had been recaptured or when it was time for Neville to return to Hogwarts, whichever came first. Of course, if things went according to plan, the Lestranges would never be recaptured by the Ministry or indeed be heard from again. Still, it was the exact same thing she'd have said and done had she not been a part of Regulus's conspiracy, and so it was fully in character for her.

As the trio left the floo, Harry and Artie stopped off at Ministry Munchies for a quick danish and pumpkin juice while Augusta left straight away for the Wizengamot level to change into her official robes.

"So how are you holding up with all this pandemonium?" Artie asked before biting into his breakfast.

Harry shrugged noncommittally. "To be honest," he lied easily, "it hasn't affected me at all. Certainly not like it has Neville or Lady Augusta."

"Hmm, well it's certainly affected your father. My understanding is they kept him in an interrogation room in his pajamas and bathrobe for several hours on Sunday morning after the jailbreak. Him and the Minister too."

"Really?" Harry replied with a trace of a smile. "How ... awful that must have been. But surely no one seriously thought that the Minister and the Chief Auror were really behind it all."

"No, but it took that long to rule out either a Confundus or the Imperius. Your father will be delivering his report today. Then, we'll see what the Ministry has to say for itself. My concern is that Fudge will be rattled enough and angry enough to propose something truly unwise."

"You don't like Fudge, do you?"

Artie frowned. "Like has nothing to do with it. If the Death Eaters are back, then he's probably the wrong man for the job, but there's not much that can be done about that now. And in his defense, Fudge himself knows perfectly well that he shouldn't have the job and fell into it by accident."

Harry gave him a questioning look, so Artie took another sip of pumpkin juice before relating Fudge's political background.

"In 1990, Millicent Bagnold declined to run for a third term as Minister due to health issues. Albus Dumbledore was asked to stand for the office, but he refused in favor of staying at Hogwarts. That left the way open for Bartemius Crouch Sr. to run virtually unopposed. Fudge at that point was an up-and-coming junior minister with the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. He threw his hat into the ring for Minister of Magic, but everyone understood that he was just trying to build name-recognition for some future office, most likely to get appointed head of the DMAC under a Crouch administration."

"So what happened?" Harry asked.

"The Quibbler, of all things! It had always been an offbeat, satirical publication, but back then it wasn't as, well, patently silly as it is today, and it still regularly published serious pieces along with its customary strangeness. Five weeks before the election, the Quibbler ran an expose about Crouch's son, Barty Jr., a Death Eater who died in Azkaban after receiving a life sentence from a judicial panel headed by his own father. The story painted Junior as a well-liked and genial Ravenclaw who fell in with the wrong crowd because his father neglected his family in favor of his politic ambitions. It also suggested somewhat luridly that Crouch's wife had died of a broken heart after her husband callously ensured the death of her only child. Most of the facts of Junior's case were well-known already, and the whole thing would have blown over had Crouch not completely overreacted. He gave an interview to the Prophet in which he said that when he was Minister, he'd look into having Xeno Lovegood thrown into Azkaban for sedition! That, in turn, led to more stories that cast some of his more ruthless decisions as head of the DMLE during the War in a fairly negative light."

"Such as?" Harry asked.

"Oh, where to begin. You are aware, I suppose, that during the latter days of the War, aurors were authorized under the Death Eater Laws to use Unforgivables?" Harry nodded. "Well, prior to 1990, very few people outside of the DMLE and the Wizengamot understood just how freely those aurors had been permitted to use those forbidden spells. Most common wizards assumed that the law only allowed them to use the Killing Curse in self-defense and had no idea that aurors were also permitted to use the Cruciatus in interrogations and even to use the Imperius on captured suspects for things like leading aurors past the defenses of Death Eater safe havens or even betraying and attacking other Death Eaters. It wasn't exactly classified, but the number of Unforgivables cast by aurors and the situations in which they were cast had mostly gotten swept under the rug. And Barty Sr. personally authored the legislation that allowed aurors to use Unforgivables and then wrote the DMLE guidelines governing how they could be used in the field. It shouldn't surprise you to hear me describe them as lax guidelines."

"But then, the Quibbler pulled that rug away and showed what was hidden underneath."

"Just so. Crouch may have been fervently opposed to the Death Eaters, but he was also ruthless and reactionary. A Muggleborn might have even described him as fascistic. And unfortunately for Crouch, he had made it a point to remind everyone of what sort of Minister he might make at the worst possible moment."

"And so everyone voted for Fudge, instead," Harry said.

"Oh, not everyone. The election of 1990 – a contest between a ruthless and unlikable authoritarian and an amiable dunce – was one of the closest in the history of Wizarding Britain, with unsupported accusations of vote-buying and other improprieties on both sides. I voted for Fudge, but it was a protest vote. I'd honestly expected him to lose. Crouch only conceded when Fudge agreed to appoint him Senior Minister for the Department of International Magical Cooperation and also Britain's chief delegate to the ICW, two titles that gave Crouch international authority that trumped that of the Minister of Magic when dealing with international wizarding affairs."

"Wait, so Fudge just bought off his chief rival? And everyone knows about it?"

Artie shrugged. "That particular form of influence peddling isn't actually illegal under wizarding law. In fact, it's basically a tradition for an incoming Minister to reward whoever finished second with a prominent position of some sort. Usually, it's just a ceremonial one, but Crouch was certainly qualified to be Minister for the DIMC, and it's a position where he couldn't do much harm to Fudge's domestic agenda or personal popularity. But I digress. The end result was that Fudge, basically an okay but inexperienced fellow, unexpectedly landed in the Minister's chair and has been winging it ever since. And worse, though Fudge has never been a blood purist – or if he is, he's hidden it well – his base of support consisted heavily of suspected Death Eaters who were hellbent on keeping Crouch out of the Minster's position. Now to his credit, Fudge has made a point of relying on a diverse group of advisors but especially Albus Dumbledore, and as far as anyone knows, he's never taken any personal bribes."

"Personal bribes?" Harry interrupted. "What other kind is there?"

Artie chuckled. "Usually 'donations' to Fudge's pet causes. Which again is not technically illegal so long as he doesn't personally benefit from those causes. Other than sales taxes levied on wizarding goods and services offered by privately-held companies, nearly all of the government's income is derived from fees that wealthy families pay to maintain their Wizengamot privileges. Since the rich elites are basically paying for the government anyway, it's generally considered acceptable for this or that family to donate large sums of galleons for particular government projects. This family pays for a new wing for St. Mungo's. That family pays for new dragon-hide armor for the auror corps. Etcetera etcetera. And it's only proper, in most people's eyes, for them to get certain special considerations in exchange for their largesse."

"This is probably just because I'm Muggle-raised, but wizarding culture sounds incredibly corrupt."

The older man shrugged. "It's a matter of perspective. The Muggle government taxes everyone and so, in theory at least, has to pay attention to everyone's wants, although it's not a surprise that it pays more attention to wealthier people than the poor. Among wizards, you need galleons to fund government projects, but the wealthy wizards are the only ones who have that much in liquid assets and so bear the brunt of taxation. Most common wizards don't have a lot of currency because they don't need it. With limited exceptions for food and shelter, magic can give you whatever you need to survive. If you know how to apparate, you can transport yourself almost anywhere. If you're good with Transfiguration, you can make most everyday items you need. If you know the Reparo Charm, nearly anything tangible you buy will last a lifetime or longer. In all of Diagon Alley, there are only four stores that sell clothing because only rich wizard-folk – or wizard-folk who want to be perceived as rich – bother to pay for clothing produced by other wizards instead of simply transfigured out of used garments. I believe the comparable Muggle term is post-scarcity society. Most wizard-folk only need galleons in large quantities if they decide to operate a business of some kind, and they usually get the money from investors among the old rich families."

Harry wasn't entirely sure what post-scarcity meant, so he made a mental note to ask Hermione about it later. "So basically, most wizards and witches can take care of their own personal needs without any aid from the government, but for big ... society stuff, I guess, the Ministry provides it and pays for it with taxes mainly paid by the wealthiest families in exchange for 'special favors'?"

"A crude but accurate summation," Artie said. "And if you think Fudge is bad, you'd have hated Millicent Bagnold. She was the one who signed off on dismissing all charges against dozens of marked Death Eaters who claimed with little supporting evidence to have been under the Imperius. She concluded that Sirius Black's confession made convicting most of them an impossibility, so she agreed to dismiss most of the remaining prosecutions if those accused paid out enough galleons to essentially rebuild our whole society after a decade of constant destructive warfare."

Artie glanced at his watch. "But we can continue the history lesson later. We'd best head towards the gallery. There's still a long line at the security check point."

"Will we get there in time?" Harry asked.

"No fears, Harry," Artie said with a slight grimace. "Roll call will probably take a full hour."

9:00 a.m.
An opulent London high-rise apartment overlooking the Thames

Blaise Zabini had only just risen from his bed when he heard the soft pop that marked the arrival of his temporary "house guest." He frowned at the clock. The thought of being up this early during his summer vacation was appalling, but Harry had asked for his help, help that Blaise had reassured the other boy that only he was capable of giving. Indeed, Blaise was quite certain he knew exactly what Harry Potter needed in this instance even if the other boy did not. And so the boy pulled on his robe over his pajamas and sauntered into the living room where the Countess's "British" house elf, Domo, was standing guard over the new arrival. From Harry's description, the twitchy terrified elf who Domo regarded so suspiciously could only be ...

"Dobby, I presume," Blaise inquired.

The poor creature practically jumped at being addressed by a wizard. "Y-y-yess, I's is being D-D-D-D-Dobby, sir," he said in a cringing tone before handing a letter of introduction over to Domo who snatched it up, checked it for baleful magic, and then handed it to Blaise. The boy reviewed the note which, as expected, was a letter from Harry confirming that this was his elf Dobby and that he was placing Dobby into his care for a few days for "training." Oh, and that Harry would be very, very cross if any harm came to Dobby or if he were mistreated any more than he already had been at Malfoy Manor back before Draco stopped being a git. Blaise snorted softly and pocketed the letter.

"Do you understand why you are here, Dobby?" he asked.

Dobby nodded violently. "Because ... because ... DOBBY IS A WORTHLESS STUPID HORRIBLE EXCUSE FOR AN ELF!" And with that, Dobby began to wail and weep piteously. Next to him, Domo said nothing but rolled his eyes to register his disdain for the display.

"Zip it!" Blaise said forcefully, and instantly, Dobby gained a measure of control over himself, though he did make a point of blowing his nose on the hem of his dingy tea towel tunic.

"You are here," the boy continued, "to learn how to be a proper servant for Harry Potter. Do you want to be a house elf worthy of Harry Potter?"

"Oh yes!" Dobby said excitedly. "Master Harry Potter is the greatest most wonderful wizard in all the world! Dobby would do anything ...!"

"Zip! It!" Blaise snapped again. "Harry Potter has sent you to me because he trusts my judgment about what is needed to make you a proper servant for him. And believe me when I tell you that only the best, most perfect servant is what Harry Potter needs right now. Nothing less will do. Are you willing to trust me as your master does and follow my instructions regarding how to serve him better?"

Dobby swallowed deeply. "Dobby will follow Master Harry's friend's wisdom."

"Good." Blaise turned to the other elf. "Domo, you may return to your duties. I will take breakfast at 9:30 out on the balcony. Fruit Loops with whole milk and a carafe of fresh orange juice, if you please."

"At once, Master Blaise," Domo said with approval for Blaise's menu choice. Then, he glanced over to Dobby and lifted his chin haughtily before disappearing with a pop.

"Right. Come over here, Dobby." Blaise led the elf over to the other side of the room, where sat many strange and arcane objects the likes of which Dobby had never seen before.

"This ... is technology, Dobby. Specifically, a big screen TV and a VCR. Think of it as Muggle magic. It is not compatible with your magic, so you must not touch any of this yourself, or you might damage it. But on this screen will be projected moving pictures that will tell stories to show you how best to serve Harry Potter. When one story is finished, come and find me, and I will swap out the videotape for another. Do you understand?"

Dobby nodded affirmatively. Although he knew nothing of TVs or VCRs, the basic instructions so far were within his grasp. Blaise then removed a videotape from a plastic case and inserted it into the VCR before holding the tape case so that Dobby could see its front cover.

"Do you see these two Muggles, Dobby? Good. Now, as you watch the show, I want you to pay particular attention to these two people. And I want you to imagine that this thin man is Harry Potter, and that this larger man who is his servant is you. Try to imagine responding to your master as this servant does to his. Do you understand?"

The house elf furrowed his brow. "Dobby thinks so. Dobby will do his best."

"Good. Now, sit comfortably and watch the whole program." With that, Blaise pressed the play button and then returned to his room to shower and get dressed, while Dobby sat on the floor and watched the television screen in wonderment as a jaunty fiddle and bass tune began to play and words appeared as if by magic.




The Wizengamot Chambers
9:45 a.m.

After a long wait in the newly-installed security line, Harry and Artie were finally allowed in, and Artie led the boy down into the bowels of the Ministry of Magic to the lowest level where the Wizengamot had already begun its Emergency Session.

"How can the Ministry possibly maintain a ten-story structure underneath Whitehall without Muggles having any idea?" Harry asked. "We're not that far from the Thames. Why doesn't this place flood? Or at least feel ... damp?"

"Magic?" Artie replied with a wink.

"You know, Artie, after a while it gets old hearing 'magic' offered as an answer to every serious question."

"Fair enough, Harry. How about 'ancient powerful centuries-year-old magic using master-level spatial expansion and Notice-Me-Not Charms backed by the combined magical power of all the ancient oaths sworn by the original Wizengamot families.' Oh, and master-level water-proofing Charms as well, I suppose."

"See? Was that so hard?" Harry said with a smile.

"Excruciating," Artie replied drily.

Though innocuously labeled simply as "Courtroom 10," the Wizengamot Chamber was roughly the size of the Hogwarts great hall but circular in shape. The public viewing gallery where Harry and Artie entered consisted of a single large balcony blocked off by various charms, wards, and spells to prevent observers from interfering in any way with Wizengamot proceedings. Even sounds were blocked, so observers could talk freely without being heard by those below. The viewing gallery overlooked an open area called the Well, which presently housed several tables set up for use by Chief Auror Potter, DMLE Director Bones, and Minister Fudge, along with their various adjutants. Immediately, Harry noticed that while most of those officials seemed tense but otherwise comfortable in their surroundings, one of the Minister's assistants seemed a bit out of place, and she continually looked around the chamber as if she could not quite believe where she had found herself. The woman appeared middle-aged, short, and a bit stoutish, and Harry immediately decided that she bore an unfortunate resemblance to a giant toad. Then, he chastised himself. "Appearance is no guarantee of character or competence," as Salazar Slytherin himself had noted in his memoirs, and Harry decided that it was unSlytherin of himself to judge the toad-woman on that basis. For all he knew, she might be a very nice lady.

Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore sat behind an enormous judge's bench situated on a high platform that loomed over the Well opposite the viewing gallery. Harry was strangely pleased to see that his Headmaster had eschewed the plum-colored robes worn by the rest of the Wizengamot in favor of the eccentric garb he wore everyday at school. Today's robes were particularly bold and featured an eclectic mixture of chartreuse and ultramarine. Directly beneath the Chief Warlock's desk but on the same general level were seats for a court reporter (who also acted as a sort of bailiff) and a records keeper. In front of them but on a lower level was a row of desks allocated to half-dozen or so Ministry officials who held Wizengamot votes by virtue of office. Harry was startled to see Ludo Bagman sitting in that section looking simultaneously confused and bored, but then he remembered that the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports was, inexplicably, among the offices with an ex officio Wizengamot seat. There was a dour and serious man sitting next to him who seemed visibly annoyed at the seating arrangements to judge by the look of disdain he had for Bagman, and Artie soon identified the older man as the very same Bartemius Crouch Sr. that they'd been discussing earlier.

Behind Dumbledore stood a set of double doors from which the Wizengamot members had emerged. Surrounding the Well of the chamber on either side of the Chief Warlock and the Ministry seats were three levels of box seating arranged in concentric arcs. The bottom row was for Order of Merlin recipients. To his surprise, Harry noticed an unusually grim Arthur Weasley in that section, wearing official plum robes far nicer than anything he'd ever seen the man wearing before. The middle row was for the Noble Houses and the top row for Ancient and Noble Houses. Immediately, Harry noticed that there were quite a few empty boxes, especially on the middle tier, and he asked his solicitor about them.

"The Wizarding War hit the Noble Houses particularly hard," Artie said. "Of the fourteen Noble families that have gone extinct as of 1981, only two have been replaced in the years since. Plus, there's House Greengrass which has been elevated to Ancient and Noble status and has left an open spot on the Noble row as a result."

"So why haven't they filled those seats yet?" Harry asked.

"Because they can't come to a consensus on who should have them. Think about it. With all those seats empty, the families who are still represented have more power because they control a greater percentage of the votes that can actually be cast. Filing those empty seats would dilute their power, even more so if they are filed with new families allied with their enemies."

Harry nodded and looked around the visitor's gallery, the large balcony overlooking the well of the chamber across from the Chief Warlock's seat. During this particular session, the visitor's gallery was open only to members of the press, certain non-voting government officials, and family members and agents of seat holders. So Harry was not terribly surprised to see Draco Malfoy ("Or now Drake, maybe?" he wondered) sitting off to once side watching the proceedings. He was rather surprised to see who Malfoy was sitting with – their Muggleborn classmate Justin Finch-Fletchley!

After a few seconds of consultation, Artie left to speak to some colleagues while Harry made his way to his fellow students, both of whom greeted him warmly.

"Before we go any further, are we using 'Draco' or 'Drake' now?" Harry asked.

"Well, we're observing Wizengamot proceedings, so I think Draco would be best in here. My father's still not completely adjusted to my proposed name change."

"Fair enough. Also, Justin, please don't take this the wrong way, but ... how did you get in the door?"

Justin smiled. "Draco's father did a thing."

Harry crooked an eyebrow and then turned to Draco. "You've been teaching him how to speak Slytherin."

"We had a busy summer. He taught me to play cricket. I taught him how to be evasive."

Harry chuckled as he sat down next to his two friends. "So what have I missed?"

"Not much," Justin said. "The roll call is taking forever. We're only up to the M's."

"Speaking of which ..." Draco said.

Below them, the elderly court reporter called out in a thin reedy voice. "The Wizengamot calls Malfoy. Who stands?"

From a box on the top row, Lucius Malfoy stood and answered. "Lucius Lord Malfoy speaks for the Malfoy Seat. Twenty-seven votes."

Justin whistled softly. "Twenty-seven votes. That's the most anyone's had so far by a long shot. No wonder everyone at school looks at you funny, Draco!"

"Hmm," said Harry. "Obviously, I slept through History of Magic on the day that Binns actually explained how our government works. Why does your father have twenty-seven votes, Draco?"

"Binns never covered this, Harry, because it falls under the heading of useful information. Ancient and Noble Houses get ten votes. Noble Houses get five. Then there is a pool of reserved votes that go to Order of Merlin holders and certain lucky Ministry officials. In addition to my family's ten votes, Father still holds fealty from the Crabbes, Goyles, and Parkinsons, so that's four from each of them out of the five to which each of those Noble families is entitled. By an amusing technicality, he also holds proxy for the Lestrange Noble seat – at least until all of those nutters finally die off – which is another five. Ten plus five plus three fours equals twenty-seven. QED."

Harry nodded. Naturally, he was aware in general of how Wizengamot votes were allocated. He simply had wondered where the extra five votes from the Lestranges had come from. In fact, his worn copy of Hutchinson's Commentary had explained the Wizengamot's history in depth. The original Ancient and Noble Houses were descended from the seventeen powerful Roman families who relocated to the British Isles shortly before Rome's fall, and those families spent the next few centuries either warring with one another, interbreeding with one another, or both, until they finally settled their differences and formed the Wizards Council, the de facto magical government of the British Isles from roughly the 7th century until the Norman Conquest. During that time, only the Hogwarts Founders presented any challenge to their informal rule, though it was indeed a powerful challenge that eventually led to a peace treaty between Hogwarts and the Wizards Council that had held thus far for nearly ten centuries. In fact, the heavy losses suffered by the Wizards Council in their futile attempts to conquer Hogwarts left them open to what came next.

In 1066 A.D., William the Conquerer came a-calling, and in the wake of his successful invasion of Britain, another twenty-nine Norman, Breton, and French wizarding families relocated to William's new kingdom and immediately challenged the power of the Wizards Council. The conflict between the powerful and entrenched Roman families and the younger and more numerous invader families continued for decades, long after the Normans themselves had subjugated Britain. Finally, one member of the Wizards Council whose original family name was now lost broke his family's alliance with the other Ancient families and ultimately engineered a peace treaty between the warring magical factions. The result was the Wizengamot, a new magical government in which all of the families held power jointly but with the member families of the old Wizards Council granted additional voting privileges due to seniority. The "betrayer" family was allowed to hold its Ancient and Noble status, but in a final show of petulance, the other Wizards Council members cursed that family's line so that its true name would be lost forever and it would only be known as "House Bad-Faith" – or "House Malfoy" in the language of the Norman conquerors.

As he mentally reviewed that ancient history, Harry was only peripherally aware of the pronouncements from Houses MacMillan and Marchbanks (five votes each) and the lack of one from House MacKinnon (the court reporter called the name three times as a formality, but everyone knew the MacKinnon line had been extinct and unreplaced since 1980). But his head jerked up instantly when House Nott was called upon. Tiberius Nott stood for his House. "Ten votes." Then, Lord Nott turned his head in the direction of Lucius Malfoy and sneered. Harry said nothing, though his eyes narrowed. He wondered if Draco knew that within a few months, the votes of Crabbe, Goyle, and Parkinson would likely shift from Lucius's control to that of Tiberius. Lord Parkinson himself stood next and claimed ownership of the one vote he had left (the other four still proxied out to Lucius). The names Peverell and Prince were both called out, again as a formality as they too were extinct, though Harry noticed that Justin stiffened slightly when House Prince was called. Finally, it was House Potter's turn.

"Peter Pettigrew, Esquire, Seneschal and Proxy for House Potter, speaks for the Potter Seat. Twenty-three votes." Justin looked at Harry in surprise, and he gave the other boys a summarized account.

"The Potters are Ancient and Noble and so start with ten votes. James, Lily, and Jim each held an Order of Merlin, which is another three votes. And then, it gets weird because somehow James holds the proxy for House Black which gives him another ten votes."

James had explained it all to his Heir the previous Christmas. Apparently, Sirius Black, the secret Death Eater who betrayed the Potters to Voldemort, had for some odd reason also provided James Potter with a power of attorney letter granting him complete control over Sirius's legal affairs in the event of the latter's 'incapacity.' When Arcturus Black died in 1991, Sirius Black automagically became the new Head of House Black even though he was incarcerated in Azkaban at the time. The Ministry investigated Black's affairs, found the power of attorney, and appointed James Potter as Regent for House Black until Sirius Black's eventual death, at which point either the Black seat would go to his heir if a suitable one could be found or the Black line itself would be deemed extinguished. Harry still found it amazing that James could be so certain that Sirius had betrayed him despite apparently entrusting him with the heart and soul of his family's political power.

"Is there a Black Heir?" Draco asked. "Mother said that if I had gone with her instead of Father, there was a good chance I'd become the next Lord Black, but that's out of the picture so long as I remain a Malfoy."

Harry shrugged. "I think it depends on if Sirius Black prepared a will or not. If there's no will, House Black will probably go extinct because there are no males to carry the family name."

"Unless, of course," Harry thought to himself, "Regulus can get past the hurdle of being both a suspected Death Eater and also legally dead."

"If he did leave a will," the boy continued, "well, he's still my Godfather, and I do have Black lineage from Dorea Black-Potter. It's possible that I could be the next Lord Black if he filled out the right paperwork and I was willing to give up my Potter Heir status."

Draco made a face. "It's a good thing I don't hate you nearly as much as I used to." Harry laughed.

"So I guess this makes the Malfoys and Potters far and away the most powerful families in the Wizengamot?" Justin asked.

Draco shook his head with a rueful expression. "Unfortunately no," he said as he pointed back to the court reporter.

"The Wizengamot calls Selwyn," said the elderly wizard. "Who stands?"

From a box on the top row two spots over from Lucius, an attractive and relatively young-looking witch stood to address the Chief Warlock. "Cassilda Selwyn, Seneschal for the Ancient and Noble House of Selwyn, speaks for the Selwyn Seat," she said in gentle dulcet tones. "Thirty-two votes."

"Ancient and Noble, plus four cadet lines," Draco said to the other two boys with a disdainful sniff. "The Carrows, Warringtons, Travers and Yaxleys are all families that started as offshoots of the Selwyn line before getting elevated to Noble status, but they've all still sworn fealty to the Selwyns, so that's sixteen votes controlled by the main family. On top of that, they have five Order of Merlin holders plus a Ministry-seat holder from among their five families."

Harry turned his attention to Cassilda Selwyn, who spoke for her family but did not claim the title of Lady Selwyn. Although he had only be peripherally aware of the Selwyns for the past two years, he had not realized just how much power over the Wizengamot the family possessed. He decided now that the Selwyn family deserved more of his attention. In particular, who was the current Lord or Lady Selwyn, and why weren't they on hand to claim the family seat personally?

As the roll call proceeded, Wizengamot pages moved among the various seat holders carrying private messages back and forth. Among them was a single piece of folded stationary delivered to Antonius Warrington. The outside of the stationary bore the Selwyn crest: a white shield with Slytherin-green trim and charged with a red rose whose thorns dripped blood. Beneath the shield was the Selwyn family motto:

"Oderint Dum Metuant."

"Let them hate so long as they fear."

As casually as possible, Antonius looked around the Wizengamot chamber. Cassilda Selwyn was not looking in his direction. Instead, she seemed focused on reviewing paperwork while completely ignoring both his presence and the pomp and circumstance of the proceedings. With a grimace, he opened up the note carefully, almost as if he were afraid of getting bitten by the paper.

"Beloved Cousin Antonius,

Grandfather has taken an interest in these proceedings as well as other recent family matters.
He desires a meeting of the five families tomorrow evening.
Dinner will begin promptly at eight o'clock followed by a gathering in the ballroom.

Of particular interest to our paterfamilias is your son, young Cassius.
Grandfather has some
questions for him regarding the events which
led to the expulsion of our dear cousin, Miranda Bonnevie, from Hogwarts.

I so look forward to dining with you and your family.

Until then, I remain
Your Devoted Cousin Cassilda."

Antonius Warrington stared at the seemingly innocuous note for a long time. So long, in fact, that the court reporter had to call out the name Warrington twice before he finally noticed and rose from his seat.

"/cough/ Antonius Lord Warrington speaks for the Warrington Seat. One vote."

Warrington sat back down stiffly. Then, he blushed slightly in embarrassment as he noticed Corban Yaxley smirking at his discomfort while holding up similar note he had just received himself. Seconds later, Yaxley rose and addressed the court reporter.

"Corban Lord Yaxley speaks for the Yaxley Seat. One vote."

The roll call having been completed, the court reporter turned towards Dumbledore.

"Chief Warlock, 255 votes have been cast to open this Emergency Session of the Wizengamot. The quorum of 220 votes has been met."

"So noted," Dumbledore said. Then, he pulled out his wand and touched it to a small globe on his desk which lit up in response. "As Chief Warlock, I hereby call this Emergency Session to order."

And so, with the preliminaries out of the way, the Wizengamot's business began in earnest.

"Reactions and Overreactions (pt 2)" will be posted sometime during the first week of June. As noted last time, I'll be doing some shorter chapters for a while in hopes I can get my schedule back on track. I'd have made my deadline of the 15th had I not completely forgotten when Mother's Day fell.

AN 1: I seriously considered calling this chapter "Harry Potter and the Dump of Information," so apologies to anyone put off by its oppressive talkiness. Then again, after "Azkaban," perhaps we all need a breather.

AN 2: The part of Cassilda Selwyn will be played by Jenna Coleman. Young, radiantly-beautiful, but kinda scary once you see behind the mask.

AN 3: "On a Pale Horse" by Hyliian has updated for the first time in about a year, I think. Probably not for everyone, but if you like a creepy take on God-Harry plus an evil Dumbledore getting his comeuppance, you might enjoy.