Harry Potter did his best not to think about the confrontation unfolding at Longbottom Hall. There had been no question that Sirius' approach was the simplest, and probably the one with the greatest chance of success. Snape's agreement was a shock, but merely cemented the decision in everyone's mind.

Who would have expected the prototypical Gryffindor to come up with such a cunning plan?

The risk, of course, was not in recovering Pansy from the Order, but in what happened next - for it was a sure bet that Sirius' bridges would be burned once his involvement came out. Snape was not in danger, as he was far too valuable to the Order, but his presence would still raise questions. Who knows what would have happened if Harry had gone as well?

He did not spend much time thinking about Ambrose Rookwood. From Sirius' description, the boy was still reeling from the death of his father. Of course, his father had died at the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries, and had been slain by Harry's hand. Beyond those facts, Harry knew little of the Rookwood scion, other than that he would be a seventh year Slytherin during the upcoming year - if he returned to Hogwarts at all.

With Ambrose and Pansy both planning to stay with the Greengrasses, Harry did not expect to meet the boy anytime soon. Probably for the best, he thought to himself.

Harry set his quill down and pushed himself away from the desk in the study at Potter Manor. His desk, now, for he refused to view it as his father's. If anything, he thought of it as his grandfather's, owing largely to the portrait that took up one wall.

His eyes focused on the bookshelf across from the desk. It was the one shelf he had cleared off for his own use, the week after the end of term. It was no coincidence that the books and documents he had found there were from James. Now, his books took up half a shelf, alongside a small statue of a knight on horseback and a replica of an old 25-pound howitzer, both gifts from Colonel Ramsay.

"It doesn't matter whether you use old tricks or new tricks," Ramsay had said. "What matters is that you use the tools you have."

11-year old Harry had kept his eyes on the figures, running a thumb over the knight's shield. "And if my tools aren't better than theirs?" he asked, quietly.

"Then it's your job to be smarter, more clever. Trickier." Colonel Ramsay grinned at him. "Who Dares, Wins."

A soft knock at the door brought Harry out of his thoughts. Standing there was a smiling Luna Lovegood.

"Is it ready?" she asked, almost bouncing with excitement.

Harry nodded, and gestured to the letter he had written to the editor of the Daily Prophet. It had two purposes. The first, of course, was to turn the somewhat open secret of James and Lily (and James Junior) into common knowledge as rapidly as possible. There had been no real public fallout for the Potters to deal with, and Harry wanted to change that. Forcing the Headmaster to answer some hard questions at the same time was a welcome bonus.

The second purpose was to put Mister Cuffe on notice. The Quibbler would publish on Thursday with a full interview featuring Lord Harry Potter, color photographs, and an in depth article detailing the return of the Potters - and the fact that they were in hiding.

The fact that it would drive subscribers to the Quibbler bothered Harry not at all.

As far as they could tell, Dumbledore had planned to bring James back to the Wizengamot as Lord Potter, bringing a literal hero to the fold and taking a very public stand against Voldemort. If it had gone as he planned it, neutral families might have seen a strong Potter family and felt safe enough to throw their lot in with the Light.

Now, James and Lily were the ones who broke up a twin bond, left their younger son to be raised (poorly) by muggles, and ran. Lily did not sacrifice herself for her son, even if she intended to. James Potter did not heroically die in defense of his family - did he even fight when the Dark Lord came to call, or did he run?

Harry didn't need to spread lies. The truth was damning enough. Thursday morning, mere hours before the Wizengamot was scheduled to meet again, that truth would be on the front page of every major publication short of Teen Witch Weekly.

Luna had joked that Jamie would probably be the headline when TWW got their hands and quills on him. Harry couldn't honestly disagree. Perhaps Jamie would even go on the "Wizarding Britain's Top Bachelors" list, now that Harry no longer qualified.

The Ravenclaw nodded in approval as she finished the letter. "It's a bit formal, Harry," she remarked.

Harry shrugged. "I was going for 'Lord Potter, Sir', rather than 'That Harry bloke', after all."

"Mmmmmm, I see," she hummed. "I'm not sure about the threat at the end, though."

"I figured it was better than telling him that Sirius and I own the Prophet, now," Harry replied, with a grin.

Her face lit up. "You got it?"

Harry nodded. "Locked down the last 4% last week. You'll never guess who sold."

Luna's eyes grew wide. "You're kidding."

"Nope. Former Professor Umbridge sold her shares for sickles on the galleon." Harry leaned back in his chair. "It's almost like she needed money in a hurry."

Luna nodded in agreement. "Fleeing the country isn't cheap these days, Lord Potter." With a smile, she handed the parchment back to him. "Send it, it's ready as is."

Harry gave the letter a final read through, before sealing it and taking it to Hedwig.

25 July 1996

Barnabus Cuffe
Editor-in-Chief
The Daily Prophet
Diagon Alley, London

Mister Cuffe,

When last we spoke, the night of the Ministry attack, our impromptu interview covered a great many topics. I will confess that I had not expected you to be as professional as you were during that interview, mostly due to the tone of your publication's articles over the past year.

This led me to withhold certain facts, something you no doubt suspected at the time. In my defense, I was still dealing with the ramifications of what I had learned. Once the news becomes widely known, I expect that most of Wizarding Britain will have the same reaction. I would quote you my initial thoughts on the matter, but they are quite unprintable.

The Quibbler will be publishing the enclosed article on Thursday, July 26th. If the Prophet wishes to report the facts as well, you are welcome to do so, so long as you limit yourself to two quotes from my interview with their lead reporter. (I promised Miss Lovegood an exclusive, you see.)

The article may be summarized thus: James and Lily Potter survived the Godric's Hollow attack, and went into seclusion with their son, James Junior. During this time, they were legally declared dead, and the means by which they hid prevented magic from saying otherwise.

This resulted in the rare circumstance where I, the only living Potter (as far as anyone could tell) was able to take up the Lord's ring, thanks to the Ministry's declaration that I was of-age during the Triwizard Tournament of 1994-95.

These facts are a matter of record, and can be confirmed with the DMLE and the archivists at the Ministry.

For the record, I have had minimal contact with the former Lord and Lady Potter, and have only briefly spoken to my heretofore unknown twin. I suspect, once we are both at Hogwarts, that my brother and I will have more time to get to know each other. As for my parents, I have no official comment at this time, beyond this letter and the contents of the attached article.

I am hopeful that you were sincere when you expressed your desire to improve journalistic standards at the Prophet. As you are no doubt aware, there have been changes to the makeup of the Prophet's ownership in recent months, and those owners - new and old - will likely be watching your coverage of this matter with great interest.

I remain,

Harry James Potter
Lord of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Potter

"Oh yes," he said to himself. "Thursday is going to be busy."

oOoOoOoOo

Thursday morning saw a flurry of activity in the halls of the Wizengamot.

Most members were in the habit of arriving early on meeting days, and today was no exception. Some merely wished to be seen in their robes of office. Others met in their offices, discussing anything from last minute compromises to the latest rumors.

On this day, the early edition of the Prophet was the hot topic of discussion. Its headlines were nothing short of explosive, even by that publication's standards.

POTTER PARENTS SURVIVED IN HIDING WITH SECRET TWIN!

TWIN BOND BROKEN, BOY-WHO-LIVED ABANDONED!

WHAT DID THE HEADMASTER KNOW?

It was typical of members to floo directly to their offices - that was, after all, part of why they had offices to begin with. The Headmaster of Hogwarts was only an ex officio member of the Wizengamot, afforded a seat in an advisory role, and had no office. Thus, Dumbledore could no longer arrive in the Chief Warlock's office as he had become accustomed.

James Potter, meanwhile, could have used the floo to the Potter office, if Harry had not closed it off.

So it was that both men arrived in the Ministry Atrium, and had to walk to the lifts. It was there that the reporters saw them, and they learned that the news was well and truly out.

"Why did you abandon Harry?"

"What made you run away?"

"Why didn't you tell Harry Potter about his parents, Headmaster?"

Both men breathed a sigh of relief when they made it to the lift.

"That could have gone better," said James.

"It doesn't matter," Dumbledore replied. "After today, we'll be in a much better position to shape their coverage." He placed a comforting hand on James' shoulder. "Don't worry, my boy, the truth will get out."

James nodded, saying nothing. He wished he had the Headmaster's confidence. But he would trust that Albus Dumbledore knew what he was doing. He had no other choice, really.

After all, when had Albus Dumbledore led him astray?

oOoOoOoOo

No one would have predicted the group that arrived at the doors to the chamber that morning, five minutes before the start of the session.

Lord Trevor Greengrass was escorting Madam Augusta Longbottom, both wearing their official robes. Augusta remained the Regent Longbottom, though Frank could end that by resuming his seat. For now, she would do her duty, and see what choice her son made.

Daniel Greengrass, the Heir Greengrass, was walking with his daughter, Daphne, and her housemate, Pansy Parkinson. Pansy was the Heiress Parkinson, and intended to use her family's charter and the magic of the Wizengamot to claim the Ladyship today. After hearing her story, and meeting her, the Greengrasses could not help but hope for her success.

At the back of the group was Lord Sirius Black and Lord Harry Potter. Both men seemed to expect trouble, though no one was brave enough to start any. Even the one reporter they saw from the Prophet kept his silence as they passed - a promising sign, to Harry's mind.

The group arrived at the main doors to the chamber, and found a nervous-looking Neville Longbottom waiting for them. Unlike Pansy, Neville did not plan to take his family's seat. Given the circumstances, however, no one had been comfortable with allowing Pansy to wait alone. Once she was safely on the floor of the Wizengamot, and on her way to the Parkinson seat, he would go up to the Longbottom box and sit with Augusta.

If his father showed up to try and take back his seat, then Neville would sit with Sirius in the Potter box - which would send a message all its own. He had not seen his father arrive, however, and had begun to wonder whether Lord Longbottom would be in attendance.

The Greengrasses went into the chamber, along with Augusta, Harry, and Sirius. Neville and Pansy waited patiently for the start of the meeting. Pansy was obviously working to keep herself calm, so Neville kept his own silence as he watched the witches and wizards making their way toward the meeting.

At five minutes to the hour, Frank Longbottom arrived, wearing the purple robes of a Wizengamot Member. Neville sighed to himself, wondering why he had expected anything less from the man.

When Frank drew close to his son, Neville nodded in deference to his titular Head of House. The nod was respectful, but only just - Colonel Ramsay would have been proud.

"Lord Longbottom," Neville said. Pansy offered a curtsey, but said nothing.

Frank Longbottom kept himself from scowling at the unexpected sight. "Neville," he said formally. His eyes turned to Pansy, and he frowned at her. "I did not know our Houses were feuding, Miss Parkinson, or else I would have taken more offense at your abrupt rejection of our hospitality."

Pansy met his eyes with her own, while keeping her face a perfectly Slytherin mask of indifference. "I am mindful of your family's history, Lord Longbottom, and preferred the hospitality of your Heir over that of your allies."

Frank bristled at the implication that his allies were a danger to her, for she could only be referring to the Order.

"The Light seeks peace and safety for all, Miss Parkinson," he said reverently, as if reciting scripture.

Neville scoffed. "Pansy knows the tale of Ellis Watley, sir. As do I." He shook his head, sadly. "Watley was a death eater, marked and all, who got cold feet after taking the mark. It seemed that he favored You-Know-Who's message, but not his methods. So he surrendered to the Order, hoping for sanctuary in exchange for whatever secrets he could reveal."

"I was not involved," Frank began, but Neville kept right on talking, ignoring his father.

"Three days later, Watley was found on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, beaten nearly to death and completely obliviated. He spent six months in the Thickey ward, drinking his food through a straw, before he - mercifully - died." Neville's voice was cold as he finished the tale. He inclined his head toward Pansy. "Now comes the Heiress Parkinson, who seeks sanctuary and is told that the price for that sanctuary is her family's vote in the Wizengamot."

"That's not what she was told," said Frank.

Neville stepped forward, looking his father in the eye. Frank noticed, not for the first time, that Neville stood a head taller than he did.

"How can you possibly expect me to believe a word that comes out of your mouth, sir?" Neville asked, seething. "You had living people polyjuiced as you and your wife, all so that the public - and your mother and son - would think you crippled." He shook his head again, with a sigh. "Fifteen years."

Frank opened his mouth to reply, but before he could speak, Neville raised a finger and pointed it at his father.

"If you mention the greater good to me, Lord Longbottom, I swear I'll shove your foot so far up your arse that you'll have to blink to lace your fucking boots." A chime sounded from the doorway, indicating that members should take their seats.

Weakly, Frank gestured toward the chamber. "You should go sit down, son."

Neville let some of the anger burn away, as he looked at his father. With another sigh, he turned his back on the man, and stepped to his place at Pansy's side.

"No, sir," Neville said. His voice was quiet, but firm.

oOoOoOoOo

The sharp crack of the Chief Warlock's gavel was still echoing in the Wizengamot chambers when Minister Fudge raised a point of order. Ogden did not even have a chance to recognize him before Fudge was barking orders.

His first was to clear the floor. With the Minister's eyes on the witch and wizard waiting by the entrance, it was obvious that he did not wish to have new members seated.

Frank Longbottom silenced the room when he stepped forward and reclaimed his seat. Ogden recognized the Regent Longbottom, as tradition required - usually, to allow the Regent to welcome their Lord or Lady back to the chamber, or to congratulate them on their coming of age, or what have you.

Augusta, instead, asked if her son was completely recovered from his recent convalescence. Murmurs came from the membership at her cold tone, for only a few knew that she had not been staying at Longbottom Hall. This was not the grand welcome they had expected.

Frank's tone was equally cold when he responded that he would do his duty. Augusta nodded at that, disappointment in her eyes, before walking to the Greengrass box. Taking her seat next to Daniel and Trevor Greengrass, she signaled her disapproval for all to see. It was a seething Frank Longbottom who made his way to the Longbottom seat.

Pansy Parkinson stepped forward next, not wanting to give Fudge a chance to speak. She raised the Heiress ring, and claimed her Ladyship by right of betrayal. As the murmurs grew louder, the Heiress ring glowed green and fell from her hand. In its place was a golden ring with green jewels, signifying her as the Lady Parkinson.

While Fudge sputtered, Ogden looked to Percy Weasley, who consulted the official records and confirmed that Pansy was indeed the Lady of her House. Ogden welcomed her, and ordered her to take her seat.

"The Parkinson seat is already assigned!" snapped Fudge. "John Parkinson holds the seat."

"Not by my order, Minister," Pansy replied, politely. "My uncle brought death eaters through our wards, and watched as they brutally executed my father, the late Lord Parkinson. He is a liar, a coward, and a betrayer, and will not sit my family's seat as long as I am alive." She raised her hand, showing the glowing Lady's ring. "I name him Oathbreaker, and call for judgment."

John Parkinson, former Regent Parkinson by Ministerial dispensation, fell to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut, with only a slight tremor to speak of the pain he was experiencing. Pansy politely waited for the aurors to levitate the unconscious man away before taking her seat. She ignored the glares of her uncle's allies as she did so.

oOoOoOoOo

James Potter shuddered as he watched Pansy Parkinson's uncle fall. That could easily have been me, he realized. Harry had started the process of calling for judgment, but ended it before it progressed. Perhaps his uncertainty had stayed his hand?

Here, Parkinson did not hesitate for a single instant. Her stroke was swift and brutal, and it chilled him. Of course, it was also a signal to her uncle's allies, the death eaters - several of whom were giving the girl angry looks as she walked to her seat.

He glanced across the chamber, his eyes falling on his other son, Harry. The boy was leaning over to talk to Susan Bones, the girl who should have been Jamie's betrothed.

James sighed, but said nothing. After today's meeting, Dumbledore would be Chief Warlock. Perhaps then they could find a way to restore the Lordship to its proper place. Until then, his only option was to wait.

For now.

oOoOoOoOo

James Potter was not the only one to notice Harry's presence. Before the Chief Warlock could restore order and proceed with the agenda, Fudge was shouting again.

"What is he doing here?" he sputtered, pointing angrily at the Bones seat.

Harry looked around, before giving Fudge an incredulous look.

"Sitting, Minister," he replied.

"You have no place here, Potter!" Fudge declared. "Aurors?"

Harry rose at that, and - after a nod from Susan - stepped forward to the desk.

"I hold the Potter Lordship, Minister, as you well know. I have every right to be present during meetings of the Wizengamot." He gestured to Sirius. "Lord Black serves ably as my proxy, which allows me to enjoy the company of my betrothed, the Heiress Bones."

"You are just a boy, Potter," Fudge ground out, barely controlling his anger. "And a killer. I've seen your handiwork with my own eyes, and yet you dare to show your face in the Ministry?"

"If you refer to the attack on Bones Manor last weekend, then you'll find that I was acting within the bounds of Law and Custom in repelling an attack on my betrothed and her family, Minister," Harry said, steel in his tone. "As the attackers were all sworn to the Dark Lord, with whom I have a well known dispute, my actions are legal two ways. Three, if you consider a brazen attack on a high government official to be terrorism, which I do."

Cornelius Fudge slammed a fist onto his desk, startling his aides. "I am the Minister of Magic, boy! I decide what the law says, not you!"

"The Wizengamot may disagree with you, sir," Harry said, gesturing to the membership. He tilted his head, frowning up at the Minister. "Don't you take an oath of office? Doesn't it say something about upholding the law?"

Fudge glared back at Harry, but was interrupted before he could respond.

"The Minister of Magic swears to protect Wizarding Britain and the Statute of Secrecy, Lord Potter," said an irritated Lord Ogden. "Nothing more. Though, that is broad enough to cover most circumstances, I should think."

Harry nodded in deference to the Chief Warlock. "One would hope." He then gave a pointed look to Director Bones, who was already rising to her feet.

"Since we're discussing the Statute of Secrecy, I raise a Point of Privilege as Director of the DMLE." Amelia looked to Ogden, and waited.

Ogden sighed, knowing the agenda was already in tatters. "Proceed, Director."

Amelia nodded in thanks, and then turned to Fudge. "Minister Fudge, did you intend to breach the statute and declare war on the muggles?"

Fudge sputtered, and then did what he did best - he stalled. "I have no idea what you mean."

"Oh, then someone else ordered two teams of obliviators to the Headquarters of the muggle military? To obliviate a squib and one of the seventeen muggle officials who are allowed to know about magic? Does that jog your memory, Minister Fudge?" Amelia's tone grew angrier as she spoke, and louder as well - for the murmuring among the membership grew with each accusation.

Fudge desperately tried to turn it against her. "You had a muggle in your home during the attack!" He shouted.

Amelia nodded. "Yes, and he is my contact with their armed forces. He helps us find out about death eater attacks on the muggles that don't get caught by the aurors. Rather important, wouldn't you say?"

"He's a muggle!" Fudge spat, as if that explained everything.

"The first team you sent wandered around an army base, and got arrested for trying to enter a secured area. The second team confunded seven muggles just to get into the office where their targets were - and then revealed themselves to two trained soldiers, who promptly beat them senseless." Amelia folded her arms across her chest, glaring at the Minister through her monocle. "We've already got terrorists causing all sorts of trouble, and you go behind my back to obliviate two muggle officials? If either of them lost their memories, it would be noticed!"

Fudge scoffed. "I don't understand why you're so upset about it, they're just muggles."

"One is a squib," said Sirius Black, as he rose to his feet. "Is it the policy of this administration to obliviate squibs?"

"I'm keeping our people safe!" Fudge shouted. He did not hear the growing rumble of discussion among the members, all of whom were unnerved by his display.

"Is that what you call it?" asked Sirius. "I might call it something much less polite," he quipped, earning a few chuckles from the members. "But none of that matters, when we warned you a month ago. We warned you, and still you continue to fail at even the most basic of your duties."

"What do you know about it, Black?" Fudge snarled.

Sirius gave the Minister a predatory grin. "I know that your failure to act is part of why House Potter was forced to declare a Blood Feud. Any of us should be able to rely on the Ministry, but when it came down to it, you were more worried about your image than the threat. Instead of investigating, and learning that Lord Potter was telling the truth, you spent a year slandering him, impugning his honour and attempting to get him expelled from Hogwarts." He pointed at Fudge, who had somehow grown even angrier. "Even now, you sell seats in this body, hoping to curry favor any way you can. Lady Parkinson had to call on her family magic to fix your mistake, for Merlin's sake."

"Lord Black," Ogden cut in. He viewed himself as a neutral arbiter, but even he could see where this was going. "Do you have a motion?"

Sirius nodded. "I move that the office of Minister of Magic be declared vacant, owing to gross negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of Cornelius Fudge, in seventy-two particulars."

Ogden's eyes grew wide. "Seventy-two?"

Sirius held up the list. "I apologize, My Lord, for our incomplete records. We only went back two years, you see."

A thud drew all eyes to the dais, where Percy Weasley was scrambling from his seat. Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic for Wizarding Britain, had fainted dead away.

Dedalus Diggle asked for a recess, while the Minister received medical care, but Ogden would have none of it. He called the question, and a majority voted in favor. With that, Cornelius Fudge was sacked.

The members were given thirty minutes to caucus. Officially, this was to allow alliances and factions to confer and figure out who they wanted to nominate to replace Fudge. In practice, it ended up being a time for most members to figure out just what the hell had happened.

oOoOoOoOo

Frank Longbottom made his way over to the Headmaster, who was already speaking with James and Dedalus in hushed tones.

"Not exactly what I expected, Albus," Frank remarked.

"No, not at all," the Headmaster agreed.

James looked across the chamber, where Sirius Black was talking to an older witch with silver hair. The two were smiling and nodding, as if agreeing on something. Sirius, wearing his purple robes of office, looked every bit the pureblooded lord he had sworn never to become.

The sight had James seething.

"James, lad," began Diggle, noticing the look on James' face. "Plenty of time for that later, once we've settled things down here."

James did not turn to the older man as he spoke. "I know, Dedalus. But part of me wants to walk up there and ask him what he thinks he's doing."

Diggle shrugged. "He thinks he's playing the great game. But that's all he's doing, playacting the role of a Lord."

Frank nodded. "We're here trying to do what needs to be done, and he's glad handing neutrals who wouldn't get off the fence if their lives depended on it."

"Boys," said Albus, drawing their attention back to the matter at hand.

They spent a few minutes discussing their options for Minister. Once they had a consensus, Frank and Diggle went to their allies, and began spreading the word.

oOoOoOoOo

Lady Pansy Parkinson did not leave her box during the caucus, as she did not trust her uncle's erstwhile allies not to try something.

It was a curious thing, though. As she sat, observing the members and making a note of who spoke with who, she kept catching glances from some of the less dark members. Despite this being her first meeting, she knew the makeup of the Wizengamot, and how it was not split into light and dark, as many thought.

Rather, the chamber was divided into multiple factions of varying size. Most could be categorized as light or dark, but there were always minor divisions. Some families, for example, would vote with the lighter families on creature regulations, but would favor the position of the dark families on taxation or trade.

Just as importantly, there were dark families that leaned more toward neutral positions, just as there were a few light families that did the same. In muggle politics, those families would have been known as "persuadables".

It was a surprise to Pansy, then, that several of the dark families seemed to be looking to her for direction. A few death eater families, of course, but also a group of four almost-neutral members as well. The fear in their eyes was what told her what was happening - her uncle had apparently made arrangements with those families, somehow. They were looking to him for guidance as to how to vote.

Alas, her uncle was not there. She would have to think about how to handle them, once this meeting ended.

Harry Potter's voice broke her reverie. She turned and saw him approaching her box.

"You could write a book, I think," he said with a smile. "How to create an alliance without really trying."

Pansy rolled her eyes. "Does this amuse you, Lord Potter?"

Harry stood in the aisle, and bowed. "One finds amusement in the simplest of things, Lady Parkinson," he replied. "My congratulations on your Ladyship."

She nodded in acknowledgement. "Thank you." Then her eyes narrowed. "Is this where you ask for payment?"

He frowned at that. "Payment for what?"

"My fortuitous rescue, of course."

Harry paled. "...Pansy, I didn't get Sirius and the Professor to help you to curry favor. I did it because I disagreed with what Dumbledore was doing. End of story."

Pansy huffed. "That's not how these things work, Potter." She scowled at him. "I'll make it easy for you, then. Who do you want me to vote for as Minister?"

Harry chuckled, in spite of himself. "Pansy, I don't give two knuts who you vote for. Hell, I don't even know who will be running."

"But you have a guess."

Harry grinned. "Several. But you should vote as you see fit."

Her scowl deepened. "The death eaters will put a candidate forward, you know this. What if I vote for him?"

Harry leaned forward, still grinning. "Then I'll learn that you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were." He stood up, and bowed in her direction. "Enjoy the rest of the meeting, Lady Parkinson." And on that note, he walked away.

oOoOoOoOo

Once the Wizengamot reconvened, the floor was opened for nominations.

The first to stand was Elphias Doge, who nominated Amelia Bones. He touted her long service to the Ministry, and her uncompromising standards as Director of Magical Law Enforcement. Her enlistment of the ICW's assistance in managing the threats to Wizarding Britain told him that she would do whatever it took to get the job done, and that that was what they needed as Minister.

Amelia accepted the nomination, while stating that she had not sought it out and would not campaign for the job. She trusted the members of the Wizengamot to make the right choice.

Harry Potter saw the Headmaster nodding in approval at the performance. No one missed the fact that one of his longtime allies had made the speech in Amelia's favor. It was obvious who the light's chosen candidate would be.

Lord Rosier stood next, and nominated Lord Frederick Hightower. Rosier spoke of Hightower's long history as a supporter of the Ministry, support that existed even before his beloved wife was slain by death eaters during the first war. His eldest son, an auror, had learned his love for law and order at his father's knee. He had no ties to the Headmaster or to the death eaters, and thus could be trusted to ease tensions and bring the current conflict to a swift end.

What he did not mention, of course, was that both Hightower and his son would be marked, if they could get away with it. Their role was to support the Dark Lord from the shadows, while maintaining as clean a public image as they could. Several of the death eaters' safe houses were on Hightower estates, and his public mourning of his wife's fate ignored that she had died from a stray curse - not from his death eater comrades.

The man was clean as a whistle, as far as anyone really knew. Rosier's nomination was all the signal the families loyal to the Dark Lord needed - he was their candidate.

Harry saw Augusta Longbottom looking intently at Sirius, who nodded reluctantly. As Sirius stood to be recognized, Augusta leaned over and whispered something to Trevor Greengrass. The older man gaped at her in shock. Whatever they had planned, it was a surprise to him as well.

Sirius spoke of a skilled businessman, a loving father, and a man of character and honour. This man was, at his heart, a man of peace - but he would do anything to protect his daughters. As Minister, he would not restrict himself to the old ways, or follow the Fudge administration's lead simply because that's how things had always been done. If the members gave him their trust, and empowered him to act, he would see a swift end to the war, because no one would be safe as long as a coward like Voldemort was allowed to run free.

"It is my pleasure to nominate Daniel Greengrass as Minister of Magic," Sirius finished.

The man in question was shocked, but recovered quickly. Like Amelia and Lord Hightower, he accepted the nomination, pledging to work with the membership to enact their will.

Hightower seemed unhappy that he had a third opponent, but suspected that Greengrass would draw more votes from Director Bones than from his own support. Amelia nodded to the Heir Greengrass, in congratulations.

"You know she really doesn't want the job, right?" whispered Susan Bones.

Harry chuckled. "Yeah, but she'd be brilliant at it." He placed his hand on hers, and leaned closer. "Besides, if she declined the nomination, Dumbledore would just find someone else."

"I see," Susan replied. "And Hightower?"

"You met his son the other night, when Shack stunned his arse for not revealing his forearms," Harry said. "I'm told that the father is cut from the same cloth."

Before she could respond, Ogden banged his gavel, having received no further nominations.

"There being only three candidates, we will proceed to the vote. Members, signal your choices by placing your wand at the appropriate rune on your desk." His deep voice commanded the attention of the crowded chamber.

Susan eyed her boyfriend as he watched the members voting. She was surprised he had not publicly signaled support for any of the candidates, even if it was only to boost her aunt's fortunes. He hated public speaking, of course, but he had come today for a reason, hadn't he?

Harry saw the question in her eyes, even before she brought herself to ask. "We're at war, Susan, you know that. War is merely politics by other means. This," he gestured at the membership, "is the politics. My job is the other means."

"True," she admitted. "For now."

He smiled at her, squeezing her hand. "For now."

oOoOoOoOo

"When I woke up this morning, I never in my wildest dreams expected to be standing here before you. And yet, here I am." Daniel Greengrass, newly elected Minister of Magic, turned to the Chief Warlock. "Lord Ogden, if you would."

As the Chief Warlock administered the oath, James noticed the Headmaster straightening his robes. "I guess you're up next?" he asked.

Dumbledore nodded. "It's too late in the day to tackle the original agenda. And Lord Ogden was only willing to take up the gavel for a year. He steps down, and I graciously step forward to offer my experience in the current crisis. With a new minister, we need an experienced hand to guide the man."

"So we do," James agreed.

When Minister Greengrass finished his speech, the Chief Warlock stood. Ogden looked around the room, waiting for the applause to die naturally. Then he spoke.

"Wizarding Britain is at a crossroads." Ogden's voice was calm and sure, and had the sound of a younger man. He was not much younger than the Headmaster, but he seemed ready to take on the challenges before the Wizengamot. Indeed, as he spoke, it sounded like he was eager for the fight.

"A year ago, I took up the gavel, after you lot dragged me to the podium!" Scattered chuckles lightened the mood, as all remembered how much work it had taken to persuade Ogden to step up in the first place. "I said then that I would only remain in this office for a year, while we recovered from the embarrassment of the World Cup, the Triwizard Tournament, and the scattered attacks that followed."

Ogden sighed. "We do not need an inexperienced Chief Warlock to stand next to - you'll forgive me, Minister - an inexperienced executive. We need stability, something we've lacked these past few years. We need a calm voice, speaking with wisdom, listening with an open mind, if we are to see our people through this crisis safely."

"For those reasons, and others, I offer my renewed commitment to executing the duties of Chief Warlock for the duration." He had more to say, but was interrupted by several voices shouting for a vote confirming his choice.

The vote passed by acclamation, and was followed by thunderous applause - led by Minister Greengrass, who shook Ogden's hand and thanked him for staying on.

Dumbledore had risen to his feet as Ogden concluded, certain that the man's speech was a retirement speech. His call for experience seemed tailor made to suggest that the Headmaster resume his post as Chief Warlock. Dumbledore had attended the meeting expecting exactly that result, in fact.

The Headmaster didn't even notice when Ogden gavelled the meeting closed. He shook himself loose, however, when the Chief Warlock walked past the Headmaster's seat.

Ogden nodded politely to the Headmaster, who offered his hand in congratulations.

"I had expected you to retire, Tiberius," said Dumbledore.

Ogden shrugged. "I almost did." His features hardened as he leaned forward, lowering his voice for Dumbledore's ears alone. "And then I saw the headlines this morning."

Dumbledore paled. "Surely you would get the whole story first, old friend?"

Ogden gestured toward James. "The appearance of deceit can be as bad as the fact of it, Albus. I'm disappointed." Then he saw Frank Longbottom walking up, and nodded to him. To Dumbledore, he continued. "Your secrets have secrets of their own, and we both know it. That's not what we need right now." He placed a hand on Dumbledore's shoulder. "I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm really not. Take care of yourself, Headmaster."

When Ogden had moved on, James scowled. "What the hell just happened?"

"We had a plan," snapped Frank. "But then Fudge talked his way out of his job. And then after that, we lost the Minister's seat, followed by the Chief Warlock's seat that we expected the Headmaster to get back." He shook his head. "Every single moment of this meeting went against us."

"I don't know about that," came the voice from behind them.

The three turned, and saw Harry Potter walking up, with Susan Bones on his arm.

James was once again seething in anger. "What did you do?"

Harry shook his head. "Absolutely nothing, Mister Potter. I answered the former Minister's questions, as is proper, but that is all."

"And Sirius?" Frank asked, with a scowl. "Even after he enters my home under false pretenses, you still involve him here?"

"Oh, not at all, sir," replied Harry. "Sirius would have gone up against Fudge regardless of what I said. Madam Bones' own ire with the man was just a bonus."

"But, why?" asked James. "What do you get out of it?"

Harry scowled. "Sirius spoke against Fudge because it was the right thing to do. Not because he benefited politically from it, but because he wanted to support his godson." His eyes never left his father's as he continued. "But I suppose that's not anything you'd know about, is it?"

James surged forward, only to be stopped by Frank.

"There was more to this meeting than you know, my boy," said the Headmaster.

Harry shrugged. "That may be. It's not my place to tell the Wizengamot how to conduct its business. Nor is it yours, sir."

"How little you know," said Dumbledore, sadly.

"Headmaster, you did not utter a single word today, and yet a corrupt Minister of Magic was removed from office, a marked death eater was removed from the seat he illegally held, and the majority of the membership elected a Minister who makes the defeat of the Dark Lord his priority." He gestured expansively at the emptying chamber.

"Quite honestly," Harry continued, speaking to the Headmaster but with his eyes on his father. "We did just fine without you." He bowed politely to the three, and then took Susan's arm. The couple had crossed the room, and was speaking to Madam Bones, before Dumbledore spoke again.


A/N: The title of this chapter comes from The Prime Minister's Questions, where the UK Prime Minister makes him or herself available to the House of Commons for questions. Here, it is the Minister who asks the questions, and increasingly digs himself a hole. Cornelius Fudge is not one for subtlety, as we well know, often trying to be too clever for his own good. It also strikes me how easy it would've been to catch him with an imperius - would anyone have noticed? A small part of me regrets writing Umbridge out of the story on page one, but would she really have contributed anything here?

We've hinted at Ellis Watley before, but now we get the story behind his cautionary tale. Did the Order disappear him, or try to? We don't know. Maybe he never made it to the Order, or death eaters caught him first. Maybe Moody got a little carried away. From the outside, it looks pretty bad for the Order. Anyone thinking about betraying the Dark Lord would think twice, if that's what they expect from the good guys.

(If you remember an Evan Watson, his name was changed to Ellis Watley here and in two previous chapters. It was pointed out to me that killing someone named Evan Watson might suggest a bias against Harry/Hermione stories, for which both names show up frequently as aliases. As that was not at all my intent, I figured it'd be better to be safe.)

There are so many stories where Harry orchestrates some grand coup at the Wizengamot, leveraging his seven lordships or what have you to earn a majority and unseat his enemies, et cetera. That's not how this Harry rolls, as he explains to Susan. If he had not been at the meeting, events would have proceeded... actually, about the same. Amelia would've called him out for attacking the Colonel, and then Sirius would've moved no confidence, and Bob's your uncle. But I found it much more interesting than a single line of "Oh yeah, and they finally sacked Fudge." Why? What was the last straw?

This also let us tie up some loose ends, and hint at some others.

Next Chapter: School Shopping! (Finally)

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