Title: Made of Common Clay
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: Minor mentions of Ron/Hermione, Molly/Arthur, Neville/Hannah, Luna/Rolf, and past Harry/Ginny; otherwise, this fic is gen and will remain so.
Content Notes: Angst, violence, torture, politics, present tense, cynical Harry
Rating: R (for violence)
Summary: Harry has reached a very bitter and jaded thirty. His efforts to reform the Ministry haven't lessened the corruption or pure-blood bigotry one bit. That's when he finds out that he's apparently a part of a pure-blood nobility he's never heard of before; he's Lord Potter and Lord Black. Unfortunately, that revelation's come too late for him to be a reformer. All Harry wants to do is tear the system down and salt the earth. And with a double Lordship, he just might have the power to do that.
Author's Notes: This fic is partially a parody of some of the tropes common in Lord Potter/Lord Black fics. The title and chapter titles come from one of Oscar Wilde's poems: "Sweet I blame you not for mine the fault was, had I not been made of common clay/I had climbed the higher heights unclimbed yet, seen the fuller air, the larger day." I don't yet know how long this fic will be, but it will get pretty dark.
Made of Common Clay
Chapter One—Mine the Fault Was
Harry sighs and signs yet another report. It's all he can do, he thinks. Sign the reports, bring the petitions in front of the Wizengamot, try to ensure criminals get fair trials not based on their blood…
He tries. But Lucius Malfoy is in power as if he's never had a Dark Mark on his arm. Muggleborn students at Hogwarts still get the insult "Mudblood" flung at them; Harry knows that Neville is trying to stop that, but he's not having any more success than Harry is. Hermione reached a certain level in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and then they made it clear she would never ascend any higher. Because she has "dirty" blood and "unimportant" concerns.
The quill breaks in Harry's clenching fingers.
Harry looks down at the blot of ink on the report, and shakes his head. He charms it away with a sweep of his wand, and glances at the clock on his wall, an ornamented golden hourglass that flips itself over when the sand is finished pouring. The numbers on it change each time it flips, too, to let Harry know which hour and minute it currently is. Luna gave it to him, in days when things felt better.
He supposes he could go home. On the other hand, why not stay here and finish the reports? He has no one waiting for him at home. Ginny get fed up of Harry "spending more time on his job than on her" and "yelling about politics all the time."
Harry has just got a new quill out when someone knocks on the door. He glances up with a frown. Almost everyone who has any business contacting him at this time of night would either Floo him or send him a Patronus. "Come in," he calls.
The door opens, and two members of the Wizengamot march in. Harry feels his frown deepen. The nearest one is Catullus Selwyn, who mostly sits up in the highest galleries like a vulture looking down over its kill. Harry doesn't think he remembers him saying one word. His eyes are dark blue and even now look straight ahead, past Harry.
The other Wizengamot member is Melinda Honeywell, who is probably older than Dumbledore. She leans heavily on a cane as she makes her way into the room, and sits down with a sigh and a shake of her long white hair on the only other chair in the office. Harry expects Selwyn to conjure one, but he just stands there and stares past Harry at the wall.
If he thinks it's interesting, Harry decides with a shrug, and turns to face Honeywell. "What can I do for you, Madam Honeywell?"
She beams at him and holds out a thick golden ring encrusted with emeralds. Harry takes it with a caution innate in every Auror by now, given how often they encounter cursed objects. The emeralds come together in a complicated design on top of the ring, forming what he thinks is a lion rampant. He's never been that great with coats of arms.
"This is yours," Madam Honeywell says. "It's your birthday tonight."
"I—of course it is," Harry says. He honestly forgot. It was another frustrating day at trial with a pure-blood who he knows will receive only a slap on the wrist because of who his grandfather fucked. He ignores Selwyn's stiffening. "Did someone ask you to deliver this gift to me, Madam Honeywell?" It doesn't seem likely, but, well, more likely than all the other scenarios he can dream up.
"Oh, no," she says, her eyes widening as if he's made an obscene suggestion. "This is your Lordship ring. As of tonight, you're thirty years old, and you become Lord Potter. I'm properly Lady Honeywell, you know, it's just that we don't use our titles in the Wizengamot courtroom or when talking among commoners. It's right that someone who's already a member of the Sun Chamber deliver your ring to you."
Harry says, "What."
Honeywell stirs for a moment and glances at Selwyn. Selwyn continues to find the wall entrancing.
She sighs and turns back to Harry. "Of course you won't have heard of it. That's one of our methods of keeping it a secret, you see, restricted to those who need to know. Usually that's only the Lords or Ladies and their immediate heirs. You would have known most of the time, since you would have been raised to be Lord Potter, but…" She bit her lip. "Unfortunate circumstances kept your father from you."
"I have no idea what this Lordship business is," Harry says.
It's pleasantly, for him, but Honeywell still flinches. As if that's some signal he's been waiting for, Selwyn stirs and leans forwards. Harry's wand leaps out of his sleeve in an instant, pointing at him.
Selwyn finally deigns to look at him. Harry smiles. He doesn't think they're shocked just because he's pulled his wand on a member of the Wizengamot. It would have been the speed. Harry's been faster than most Aurors for years.
"I have another ring for you," Selwyn says.
"The ring of Lord Black." Selwyn looks as though he wants to make Harry pay for the cost of so many words.
"Take it out, then." Harry makes a little swirling gesture with his wand. "This is getting interesting."
Honeywell is either going to die of shock or apoplexy, Harry isn't sure which. But he doesn't need to look at her after her strangled gasp. His attention is all on Selwyn as he drops the second ring on the desk. Harry looks this one over instead of picking it up. It's a platinum band, or at least it sure looks like one, with small onyxes placed evenly along it. The crest on top is the Black one, which he knows well from the times that he's gone to Grimmauld Place to stare at the Black tapestry when he really wants to hate himself.
"Your godfather made you his heir."
"I think I figured that part out when they gave me his houses and his money." Harry ignores Honeywell's faint moan and leans back. "All right. So you keep this a secret. That explains why I never heard of it before. But explain what it does. What do Lords and Ladies actually rule?" He knows that while Honeywell is modestly wealthy, her family has almost no property.
"Nothing so vulgar as places," Honeywell says, drawing herself up. Selwyn has gone back to trying to convince the wall that they're made for each other. "Blood, Mr. Potter. Lord Potter, I'm sorry. We are the ancient families first found worthy of wielding magic and ruling over the Muggles. We were nobility at a time when the Muggle and magical worlds were joined. But the titles were only the outward recognition of a true, inner nobility that all our ancestors carried within them. The honor, the integrity, the honesty, the power, the strength, the—"
"And now you rule—in secret?" Harry interrupts, because he'll run out of nighttime before she runs out of virtues. "What's this Sun Chamber's relationship to the Wizengamot?"
Honeywell blinks, thrown. "We advise them, of course. Some of the matters they deal with, like the ordinary criminal trials, are too small for us. But when there's a trial involving someone of noble blood…of course we tell them what we would like to happen."
Harry can feel his heartbeat pounding in his ears, roaring like an awakening dragon. It hasn't been just bribes and nepotism that got so many pure-blood criminals off, the way he assumed. It was the recommendation of a bunch of pure-bloods who think that having rings and names makes them more important than anyone else.
"And what about when the trial involves someone Muggleborn?"
"The Sun Chamber has no reason to become involved. Muggleborns aren't of the blood." Honeywell looks at him as if he's a bit slow.
On the contrary. Harry has never felt quicker in his life, as understanding takes wing in his head and flies through his skull. "Is there anyone who refuses to take up their position in the Sun Chamber?"
"Of course not. How would their families stand the shame of it?" Honeywell looks back and forth nervously between him and the rings. "You're not going to refuse, are you, Lord Potter? You can't. Think of the pride that your father and godfather would have had if they'd been able to take their places! You have to do it for them."
Harry gives her a smile that makes her clutch her cane. "Only thinking," he says cheerfully. "Are you sure you want me? My mother was a Muggleborn. I'm hardly of the right blood, either."
"Your father was Lord-in-waiting when he married your mother, since his father had given up the title some time before that." Honeywell looks uncomfortable again. "He had the right to do whatever he wished."
"But I'm a half-blood."
"But the only representative left of two most ancient and noble bloodlines," says Honeywell earnestly. "And you were the choice of the Lord Black and the Lord Potter. The only heir designated by either of them. A Lord's or Lady's will and actions are sacred."
Harry smiles down at the rings. He sees Honeywell relax a little in her chair. Selwyn is still staring at the wall, and so Harry discounts him.
He wonders if Honeywell can't fully see his smile or doesn't understand the meaning behind it. That's the only reason he can think of for why she would relax that way.
"What happens in the Sun Chamber?" he asks casually. "Do you debate and vote the way you do in the Wizengamot?"
"Oh, yes," Honeywell says eagerly. "But, of course, we're smaller, since not everyone on the Wizengamot has as pure bloodlines as we do. And we don't get distracted by issues that don't matter to us."
Which would be things like justice and mercy and house-elves. Harry reaches out and picks up the Black ring, turning it around. He can't imagine Sirius wearing it. "Why do you call me by Lord Potter only, if I have two titles?"
"Because Lord Potter is the most senior one, since you're your father's heir by blood and your godfather's heir by action and a distant blood connection." Honeywell beams at him, which is foolish of her. "Someone who's talking to you will usually use Lord Potter. But, of course, when you want to cast a vote as Lord Black in the Sun Chamber, all you need to do is make sure that we're aware of that."
Harry looks up sharply. "I have two votes?"
"You are the Lord of two families. Of course you do."
Harry keeps a calm face while cackling so hard internally that they would probably run if they could hear it. "Thank you for telling me."
"You're welcome. Is there anything else I can tell you, Lord Potter?" Honeywell manages to make that word all kinds of strange and insinuating. "I do want to stress that you shouldn't mention your title outside the Sun Chamber, unless talking to someone else who's a Lord or Lady. The commoners wouldn't understand."
Harry nods casually. "And when do we meet?"
"On days sacred to the sun, of course! Sunday each week, and always on the solstices and equinoxes if they're not Sundays as well, and on days of solar eclipse, when we come together to help ground the nation."
How is that possible if no one knows about you? But that's not the kind of question that Harry can ask Honeywell. Instead, he tips his head to the side and asks, "What will people think when they see me wearing these rings?"
"They will only see ordinary jewelry. The rings have a modified avoidance charm for everyone who's not a member of the Sun Chamber, and they won't take much of an interest in them anyway. The rabble never does."
Harry pulls his lips back from his teeth. They're welcome to consider it a smile, if they want. "Thank you for telling me."
"You're welcome." Honeywell stands and glances at Selwyn, who gathers himself and pivots to face the door on his invisible wheels. "Now, please owl me if you have any questions. I'm your sponsor in the Sun Chamber. The one who will guide your first steps and let you know if you overstep the bounds." She smiles mistily at Harry. "It's so exciting having a Lord Potter and a Lord Black back in the Sun Chamber. It's been so long."
And the one you get will be nothing like you expect. But Harry stands up and performs a bow of the sort that will serve as a cloak until he can make them see the truth. "Thank you, Lady Honeywell."
"Such a polite young man," Honeywell is saying to Selwyn as they leave. "Nothing at all like they said he was…"
Harry waits until the door thumps shut, and even then he casts a spell that will tell him if they're lingering in the corridor. Finally he collapses back on his desk and laughs until he feels like a howling werewolf.
They're buying it. They think that I'm going to be their tame Lord Potter and Lord Black and Lord Fuck-Everyone-I-Care-About.
Harry snaps to his feet and puts the Potter ring on his left hand and the Black one on his right one. Then he strides over to his fireplace. He knows someone else that he bets is dealing with this same situation right now, even if it would have started yesterday. Harry hopes that he'll be eager to talk.
Sure enough, the minute he calls out the address for Neville and Hannah's house—Flytrap's Rest—Neville's face is in the flames. He waves his hand around in dismay, too fast for Harry to see what the ring on his finger looks like. "Harry! I just got told yesterday that I'm Lord Longbottom! Did you get one, too?"
"Yes." Harry says. His voice calms Neville down. "They told me that I'm Lords Potter and Black, because of Sirius making me his heir in his will. They told me a lot of nonsense about what I'm allowed to do." He pauses. "And some not-so-nonsense about how the Sun Chamber interferes in the political process."
Neville shakes his head. "They didn't emphasize that so much, but then, I'm not an Auror," he says slowly. "They talked more about how much I can coddle pure-blood students in my Herbology classes."
"I'm not surprised." Harry folds his hands behind his head. "Listen, Neville. You've never heard of them before?"
"Of course not! I would have told you."
Harry nods, not so much reassured of Neville's trust—he knows he has that—as of the essential sanity of the world. "Well. There was a lot of nonsense about blood, too. But they told me that a Lord's actions are sacred." He drops his feet to the floor as he leans forwards. "And, Neville, they settle things by vote. Guess how many votes I have?"
"Two?" Neville whispers. He sounds a little awed.
Harry smiles at him.
"Do they know what they're getting?"
"Of course not. They think that I'm going to be grateful for it, because Sirius and my father would totally have become Lords just after their model if they'd been free or alive. They don't even mind that I'm a half-blood. Even though blood is all that matters."
"But a Lord's actions also matter."
"Exactly," Harry says, and he almost croons the word.
Neville grins at him. "Suddenly this whole Lordship thing is looking a lot better. Want to come over and have a drink? Hannah says she could use some help in calming me down," he adds, with a check over his shoulder.
"Sure, let me sign one more thing," Harry says, and spins around and signs his name one more time on the last report. Then he adds a little more Floo powder to the fire to move through, all the while grinning.
Tomorrow, he'll talk willingly to Rita Skeeter.