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Democracy (Harry Potter post-Hogwarts AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Sep 22, 2018.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: Differences
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Democracy

    Disclaimer:
    I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies.

    Summary:
    AU. Neville Longbottom had good cause to be happy. Voldemort and his Death Eaters had been defeated. His parents had been avenged. He had taken his N.E.W.T.s and was now taking his seat in the Wizengamot. Unfortunately, some of his friends weren’t content with restoring the status quo ante and demanded rather extensive reforms.

    Author’s Note:
    This story is set in an Alternate Universe. The society of Wizarding Britain is different and a number of characters will behave differently as well.

    I’d like to thank fredfred, InquisitorCOC and Brian1972 for beta-reading.

    Cover:

    [​IMG]

    Chapter 1: Differences

    London, Ministry of Magic, August 7th, 1998

    Neville Longbottom couldn’t help but smile widely as he walked through the Atrium of the Ministry, no matter what Gran had told him about keeping a dignified appearance, worthy of his position as the latest member of the Wizengamot. He just felt so proud. After so many years spent worrying whether he’d ever pass his N.E.W.T.s, or if he’d even live to take them, he was finally following his father’s footsteps and taking over the seat of the Longbottoms.

    “Good morning, Mr Longbottom, Augusta. This will be your first day in the Wizengamot, yes?” the Head of the Fawley Family asked, looking at him.

    “Good morning, Madam Fawley.” Neville nodded at the old witch - and fellow member of the Wizengamot - as he stopped in front of the lift. “Indeed.”

    “He’ll take the oath first thing in the session,” his gran said.

    He glanced at her. She was smiling, proudly, and he took a deep breath, pushing out his chest and standing a little straighter. He had fought Death Eaters, like his parents had. Led his friends at the Battle of Hogwarts. And faced the Dark Lord - Voldemort - himself without flinching. But right now, the sight of Gran smiling felt even more impressive. He had proven himself to her.

    “He won’t be the only one,” Madam Fawley said as the lift arrived, “but he’ll be the most famous. A true hero.”

    “Oh, yes. He stood up to the Dark Lord himself,” Gran said as they stepped into the lift. “Spit into his face when he was offered his life if he surrendered. And killed the Dark Lord’s familiar with the Sword of Gryffindor.”

    Neville felt his cheeks grow a little warm. It was all true, but it felt like Gran was bragging. “I wasn’t the only one who fought,” he said. “Everyone in our house fought, and so did many from the other houses.” Well, everyone old enough. And not many Slytherins had fought - against the Death Eaters, at least. Many had fought for them… “And, of course, Harry was the one who killed him.”

    “Yes, the Boy-Who-Lived,” Madam Fawley said. “It’s too bad that he didn’t take his N.E.W.T.s this year, or he’d be joining us as well.”

    “He can hardly be faulted for not being able to study when he spent the last year fighting the Dark Lord,” Gran replied.

    “Well, Mr Longbottom managed both,” Madam Fawley said as the lift arrived on the Wizengamot’s floor.

    “I was at Hogwarts,” Neville pointed out. “Harry was hiding in the countryside, dodging Snatchers and Death Eaters.” Of course, he thought as they stepped out of the cabin and he caught sight of his friends at the door to the Wizengamot Chamber, Hermione had taken her N.E.W.T.s even though she had been with Harry all the way.

    “Good morning, Harry, Ron, Hermione,” he greeted them as he and the two witches approached the door.

    “Neville!” Harry smiled at him before nodding at Gran and Madam Fawley. “Madam Longbottom. Madam.”

    Neville winced slightly at the faux pas. He cut Ron and Hermione off before they could say anything. “Madam Fawley - Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Harry, Ron, Hermione - Madam Fawley.”

    “Good morning, Neville, Madam Fawley, Madam Longbottom,” Ron said, bowing.

    Hermione echoed him, though her bow was far closer to a nod. Well, technically, she was of equal status as a Holder of an Order of Merlin, First Class, who, unlike Harry and Ron, had taken her N.E.W.T.s and so would also be taking a seat on the Wizengamot today.

    Still, Neville noticed Madam Fawley’s subtle frown at the unintended slight and decided to intervene again. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said, smiling, “I need to talk to Gran before the session starts.”

    “Alright,” Harry said while his friends nodded.

    As soon as they stepped inside the chamber and were inside the enchantments that protected the chamber - and prevented eavesdropping - Madam Fawley scoffed. “How rude and arrogant!”

    Neville swallowed his first retort - the three of them had saved everyone from Voldemort, including Madam Fawley! - since he didn’t want to appear rude himself and embarrass his family. He wasn’t a student at Hogwarts any more, but was now an adult - and would soon be a member of the Wizengamot. People expected him to behave accordingly.

    His gran, though, spoke up: “They are heroes, Abigail. Without them, the Dark Lord would have won, and most of us would have been dead.” Neville’s pride in her was slightly diminished when she went on: “They can’t help their lack of breeding - Potter was raised by muggles, the girl is a muggleborn, and Weasley is, well…”

    “...a Weasley,” Madam Fawley said with a chuckle. “Perhaps we were hasty in awarding all of them an Order of Merlin, First Class. Ah, well - at least you have been raised properly for the responsibility of your position and earned your own Order of Merlin.” She smiled at him.

    Neville forced himself to smile back.

    *****​

    “I, Neville Longbottom, swear to uphold the laws and traditions of Britain and fulfil my duties as a member of the Wizengamot. Lumos!” Neville held his wand as the light shone from its tip, and applause filled the chamber as the members of the Wizengamot - his colleagues, now - rose from their seats to welcome him to their ranks. After the customary seven seconds, he ended the spell and lowered his wand. He bowed to the Chief Warlock, Elphias Doge, then stepped down from the pedestal and started to walk towards his seat.

    He could spot Gran, now among the audience high on the balustrade, smiling at him, clapping so hard she must be risking breaking her wrists, and waved at her. The gesture caused more smiles and some chuckling as he climbed the stairs to his row.

    “Great show!” an old wizard - Anton Shafiq - said as he passed him. “Welcome!”

    “You’re a true hero!” Eric Greengrass nodded at him as Neville took his seat next to the man. “My daughters told me all about what you did at the battle.”

    His Slytherin daughters, Neville thought as he returned the smile, whom he hadn’t seen at the battle. “Thank you, but I merely did my duty.” He didn’t need to look at the audience section to know that the Greengrass sisters would be there.

    As the Wizengamot members settled down and the applause ended, the Chief Warlock called on Hermione to step up. Neville thought he heard Greengrass huff, but he couldn’t tell since a low murmur filled the ranks.

    Hermione stepped on to the pedestal and faced Doge.

    “Miss Granger, as a recipient of the Order of Merlin, First Class, who is of age and has passed her N.E.W.T.s, you have earned a seat on the Wizengamot. Will you swear the oath?”

    She nodded and raised her wand “I, Hermione Jean Granger, swear to uphold the laws and traditions of Britain and fulfil my duties as a member of the Wizengamot. Lumos!” Her wand tip, too, lit up, and applause started once more - although Neville couldn’t help feeling that while the audience clapped as enthusiastically as they had for him, his fellow members of the Wizengamot were a little more restrained. And judging by her smile, which looked more polite than proud, so did she.

    Even worse - a number of members started to sit before Hermione had taken her own seat. They weren’t as crass about it as to sit down while she was still walking, but it was a serious slight nonetheless.

    And judging by Hermione’s thin smile and narrowed eyes, she knew that as well. Neville winced again.

    *****​

    The actual session was rather boring, if Neville was honest with himself. No trials, no new laws, just a debate about a proposal of Minister Shacklebolt to grant people with extensive practical experience exemptions from the usual Auror qualifications. Mr Parkinson argued that it wouldn’t do to lower the hiring standards and open the floodgates to unqualified applicants just because of the ‘current circumstances’, but everyone knew Shacklebolt wanted Harry in the Auror Corps yesterday, and this was the way to achieve that, so it passed easily. And everyone also knew that Mr Parkinson had only held on to his seat by the skin of his teeth after his daughter’s actions at Hogwarts. If he had been personally involved with Death Eaters, his seat would have gone to a cadet branch of the Mr Parkinson family - as it had for several others, such as the Rosier and Selwyns. Even so, not many would support Mr Parkinson, no matter his arguments.

    Then there was a debate about a proposal by Greengrass that the proceeds of the auctions of confiscated property should go into the general budget of the Ministry, rather than into a fund for the victims of Voldemort, until the exact amount of gold needed was known, at which point the Ministry would pay that sum into the fund.

    It seemed rather pointless to create a fund if the Ministry was paying the victims anyway, at least that was Neville’s impression, and Greengrass’s argument that starting payouts before the total sum of all claims was known would lead to late claims remaining unfulfilled made sense to him. Although his gran had told him that Greengrass’s real goal was to prevent Abigail Abbott, who was in charge of distributing the money in the fund, from using the gold to benefit her friends. That didn’t sound unreasonable either, but others - presumably Abbott’s friends - disagreed and there was a lively debate with no resolution before lunch.

    “Ah, finally,” Greengrass said with a sigh as Doge rang the bell to end the morning session. He turned to Neville as he rose. “Would you like to eat lunch with me? Since we’ll be neighbours, of a sort,” he joked with a nod at their seats, “it would behove us to have a good relationship.”

    “Ah, I’d love to,” Neville answered automatically - it would be rude to turn down an invitation without a decent reason or excuse - “but I need to talk to a friend for a few minutes first.”

    Greengrass didn’t seem to mind. “Oh, of course. Everyone wants to talk to the hero of the Wizengamot, right? I’ll be waiting with my daughters at the lift for you and Augusta.”

    Oh, yes, his daughters. Neville kept from wincing - he should have realised that they would be present. He couldn’t dwell on that, though - he had to hurry to catch Hermione before she left the chamber. His friend didn’t seem to want to mingle with her colleagues, which wasn’t exactly polite. On the other hand, Harry and Ron were waiting for her at the door.

    He reached them in time - Harry wasn’t getting swamped with people wanting to talk to him, unlike in Diagon Alley. Or after the award ceremony a month ago. Unlike Neville himself - he had to dodge half a dozen members trying to intercept him in the stands. Gran wouldn’t be pleased, but he had to do this. “Hermione,” he blurted out as the three turned to face him - Ron and Harry flanking her, he noticed - “I’m sorry about the faux pas.”

    “Faux pas?” Harry frowned.

    Hermione snorted. “Some of my esteemed colleagues sat before I had taken my seat. Such childish antics are considered a sign of disrespect in this hallowed chamber.”

    Neville pressed his lips together. Hermione wouldn’t make many friends in the Wizengamot if she kept talking like that, no matter the provocation. However, he knew it was pointless to try to tell her that right now.

    “It wasn’t your fault, Neville,” she went on. “It’s just a group of bigots who weren’t as bad as the Death Eaters.”

    “Or thought the Death Eaters were too crude to support,” Ron added with a smirk. That caused all three of them to laugh while Neville frowned. The Death Eaters had been crude, and - despite their claims - hadn’t honoured the traditions of Wizarding Britain. Quite the contrary, actually - they had been radicals ready to tear everything down. But to claim, even jokingly, that their peers in the Wizengamot shared Voldemort’s blood bigotry and didn’t join him merely because of his lack of manners...

    “Want to have lunch with us?” Harry asked. “Since Ron and I will be Aurors soon, it’ll be my treat. We're meeting Ginny and Luna in Diagon Alley.”

    “Ah, I’d love to,” Neville replied, “but I already promised to have lunch with the Greengrasses.”

    “Don’t worry. We’ll have lunch another time, then,” Harry said.

    “Don’t let the Slytherins seduce you!” Ron joked.

    Both were smiling, but Neville knew them well - they were being polite.

    And Hermione’s smile as she wished him a nice lunch was so thin that he almost missed it.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, August 7th, 1998

    “I hope you didn’t find your first session in the Wizengamot too boring,” Mr Greengrass said with a small, polite smile after they had ordered in the ‘Toad Hole’.

    Neville returned the smile in kind. “Not at all. It was quite interesting to follow the debate.”

    “That’s because it’s new. Trust me, in a few months you’ll be sick of the same arguments.” Mr Greengrass nodded at Gran. “Your grandmother can tell you about it.”

    Gran’s smile barely qualified as polite. “It doesn’t matter if it’s boring; a Longbottom will do their duty to the best of their ability.”

    Of course he would. Neville nodded and ignored the sly grin the elder Greengrass daughter sent his way. She wouldn’t be grinning at such feeble jokes if she were in his place, instead of a few decades away from succeeding her father. Or if she had fought at Hogwarts, instead of hiding in the Slytherin dorms. Neville had earned his place on the Wizengamot; he had done his duty. Unlike her.

    Or her sister, who was barely hiding her scowl as she pushed her hors d’oeuvres around on her plate. He wondered why she was so annoyed, but he couldn’t ask - that wasn’t done.

    At least this was merely a friendly meal with a fellow member of the Wizengamot, and not an attempt to trade favours, as Gran had suspected when he told her about the invitation. Or, he added to himself with a shudder, an attempt at matchmaking.

    As if he’d ever get together with either daughter. Not after years with them at Hogwarts.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, August 14th, 1998

    Neville felt a pang of guilt when he saw Hermione enter the chamber. He had meant to call Harry all week, but between all the other invitations, and all the scrolls with proposals and laws he had to read to prepare for this session, he had never found the time to do so. He should have, he knew - they were his best friends. Perhaps he should go over and invite them to lunch today…

    “Good morning, Mr Longbottom.”

    He turned his head, nodding reflexively in response. “Good morning, Mr Greengrass.”

    “That remains to be seen,” the man said as he sat. “We’ve got a lot of tiresome proposals to go through.”

    “Won’t the tiresome proposals fail to go through anyway?” Neville joked.

    Mr Greengrass laughed. “Indeed! I see you’ve already become familiar with how the Wizengamot works.”

    Or didn’t work. Neville nodded at him, then was about to rise and head over to Hermione when Doge rang the bell that called everyone to their seats. He bit his lip for a moment. He could still go to Hermione for a brief chat and return - there would be a few minutes until everyone was seated; he had seen that last week. But that would be rather disrespectful, especially for a new member. And if any of Gran’s old friends, who he knew were watching him, mentioned it to her, she’d be disappointed.

    So he stayed seated, making polite conversation with Mr Greengrass, until the Chief Warlock started the session.

    *****​

    “The chair recognises Miss Hermione Granger.”

    Neville briefly wondered why Hermione was frowning as she rose - Madam Fawley’s proposal to award the licence to grow Shrieking Moss and Wandering Mushrooms to Edna Smith was a sound one; the Smiths had experience in growing fungi. And they were related to the Smiths who had held the licence before the last heir had been murdered by Death Eaters at the Battle of Hogwarts.

    “Thank you, Chief Warlock.” The witch nodded at Doge. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot,” she began - Neville noted with relief that she was using the traditional address correctly - “I have a counter-proposal to that of my esteemed colleague. Instead of awarding the licence, which, despite its name, is actually a monopoly, to a single witch, we should open it to others who wish to enter such a business. Not only will this generate more revenue for the Ministry thanks to the additional fees, but the competition will also result in lower prices for customers. Further...”

    Neville was still blinking in surprise at the ‘counter-proposal’ - why would Hermione propose such a thing? There weren’t enough families with the skills necessary for growing those plants and fungi; he knew that better than anyone else - when the growing murmurs started to drown out Hermione’s voice. And Eleanor Smith raised her wand with a furious expression. Of course, as Head of the Smith Family, she was obliged to defend the interests of the cadet branches - and Hermione had just threatened one of them.

    And Smith wasn’t the only one who seemed outraged at the ‘counter-proposal’ - Neville winced as half a dozen others raised their wands. He shook his head - this wouldn’t be enjoyable for his friend. Not at all.

    But when Smith started her proposal with “Honoured members of the Wizengamot - and Miss Granger...”, he clenched his teeth. This would be even worse than he had expected. Especially since Hermione had the same expression she had worn when confronting Umbridge in their fifth year.

    *****​

    When the session was interrupted for lunch, Neville didn’t bother with all the niceties and all but ran towards Hermione, who was already marching out of the chamber with a scowl worthy of Snape. Neville didn’t let that deter him - she was his friend, and she needed his help. She hadn’t been raised to take a seat in the Wizengamot, and, obviously, books couldn’t replace a proper education from experienced family members, and such things weren’t taught at Hogwarts either. If he had known at school that she would earn an Order of Merlin, First Class, he might have attempted to teach her the fundamentals himself.

    “Hermione!” he called out before she entered the lift.

    She turned, her scowl turning into a guarded expression as she faced him. “Neville.” She nodded at him. Curtly.

    He wasn’t taken aback by the cool reception - she had to be furious at her treatment by the other members of the Wizengamot. He knew her, after all. “I need to talk to you.”

    “Are you going to tell me that you’re sorry for your esteemed colleagues’ conduct?” She asked, and her expression clearly added an unspoken ‘again’.

    He took a deep breath. “It’s more than that. Let’s have lunch together.” He noticed Madam Fawley watching him, but he didn’t care. Gran would understand that he had to help his friend.

    She frowned, then slowly nodded. “I guess we can.” Then she looked at him. “Although I suppose we’ll have to eat in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, unless you’re wearing muggle clothes under your robes.”

    He blinked once more. Why would anyone want to eat in a muggle pub?

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, August 14th, 1998

    ‘Le Canard Vert’ was one of the best and most expensive restaurants in Diagon Alley. Neville hadn’t frequented it often since it was also the favourite restaurant of the Malfoys, but with Lucius in Azkaban, and Draco and Narcissa rarely leaving their manor, there was no danger of encountering any of them. And today’s menu was exquisite, as Aunt Annabelle would say.

    Although Hermione’s still rather cold expression wasn’t exactly what Neville would consider conducive to an enjoyable meal. But he was a Gryffindor, and he knew what he owed his friends. Sometimes you had to do something for their own good, no matter whether they liked it or not. “What were you thinking?” he said, then winced. That could have been worded more diplomatically.

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “What was I thinking? I was thinking that I would exercise my rights as a member of the Wizengamot and voice my opinion - like everyone else.”

    He sighed. “I meant your counter-proposal. Why were you trying to take the licence away from the Smiths?” A few centuries ago, blood feuds had been started over such attempts. The Black had wiped out an entire family, once.

    “I wasn’t trying to take it away from anyone,” she replied in that lecturing tone of hers anyone in their year knew so well. “I proposed granting the licence to more people.”

    He almost sighed again. She didn’t understand. “But that’s not how things work! Not with magical plants! It takes a lot of effort and experience to grow the more finicky or dangerous plants, and why would anyone do that if they couldn’t be sure that they’d be able to sell their produce?”

    “No one would prevent them from selling their produce - unlike now. They would simply have to compete with others for customers.”

    “But they would lower their prices, undercutting each other, until no one would be able to make any profit!” That had happened to two hatters in Diagon Alley a hundred and fifty years ago. They had hated each other, and neither had relented until both had been ruined.

    “Price isn’t everything,” she retorted, shaking her head. “They could compete on quality as well.”

    He clenched his teeth. “They could compete until only one is left - and we would be back where we started, just with a lot of people being ruined for no gain.”

    “That doesn’t happen in the muggle world,” she replied. “Or very, very rarely.”

    “This isn’t the muggle world!” he snapped. “You can’t just assume that what works for muggles works for us. We’re different!”

    “We’re humans,” she retorted, glaring at him. “The economic principles are the same.”

    “No, they’re not!”

    She actually rolled her eyes. “What a sophisticated argument!”

    He bit down on his first response. He wasn’t here to argue with her, he reminded himself - he was here to help her. And even with a privacy spell covering them, he couldn’t lose his temper. That was simply not done. “Look, that’s not how things are done in the Wizengamot. Madam Smith took your proposal as an attack on the livelihood of one of her cadet branches. That’s a serious misunderstanding that you need to fix.”

    “Why should I need to ‘fix’ anything? I stand by my proposal; it would be good for Wizarding Britain if we had fewer monopolies and more people could start their own businesses.” She sniffed. “Did you know that Max Carpenter was the last muggleborn to successfully open a business in Diagon Alley? And he only achieved his success because there was no competition for his speciality coffee shop. And then they took his business and gave it to another pureblood family.”

    “He had no heirs,” Neville replied.

    “No magical heirs, you mean. I’m certain that he had muggle relatives.”

    He closed his eyes for a moment. She knew better than that. “Muggles can’t run a business in Diagon Alley,” he said.

    “They could - if they were allowed to,” she replied. “But they didn’t even get compensation. They were cheated out of their inheritance - something I thought the Old Families took seriously.”

    He knew what she meant. But it wasn’t like that. The magical and muggle world were separated for a reason. A very good reason. If that meant that, sometimes, muggles didn’t inherit gold, then that was a minor price to pay. “Will a bill to rectify that be your next proposal? Your first actual proposal?” He didn’t bother to hide what he thought of that idea.

    She pressed her lips together before answering. “No. My first proposal will actually be a bill to reform the Wizengamot. Instead of having hereditary and appointed seats, I propose to have all seats be held by people who are elected democratically for a set term of four years.”

    This time he couldn’t control himself. “Are you crazy?” he blurted out. She had to be - replace the entire Wizengamot? With people who had no experience? That would doom the country!

    “Crazy? Because I want my country to be a democracy instead of an aristocracy?” She was glaring at him now.

    “There isn’t any wizarding nobility,” he snapped back. Even the Malfoys had had to abandon their muggle titles when the Statute of Secrecy went into effect.

    “The Blacks begged to differ.”

    He scoffed. “No one took them seriously.” Even though few would have dared to tell them that to their faces. He shook his head. “This proposal of yours is crazy, Hermione. The Wizengamot will never go for it.” He didn’t need years of experience to know that - anyone could see it immediately. To abandon your family’s legacy? To deprive your children of their birthright? That was madness.

    “So, you think the muggleborns should be content to let purebloods - a select few purebloods, at that - rule the country?” She actually sneered at him.

    He clenched his teeth. “If you don’t like it, why don’t you leave the country?” he snapped.

    “And go where?” She tilted her head. “To another country ruled by purebloods? Where Dumbledore didn’t spend a few decades improving things for us? Maybe North America, so we can be at war with a dozen enclaves ruled by radical pureblood bigots when we’re not fighting the Native Shamans? Hm?” She shook her head. “We didn’t fight Voldemort just so we’d remain second-class citizens. Or fourth-class citizens. Can’t forget that most purebloods and all half-bloods don’t have a say in who rules them either.”

    “I didn’t fight Voldemort to see my country torn down by ill-thought-out proposals,” Neville snarled.

    For a moment, both of them glared at each other. Then Neville took a shuddering breath and regained control of his temper. “I’m sorry.”

    She nodded, her lips forming a thin line in her face, as she stood. “I have to cut this short. I have to read a few files before the session resumes.”

    He nodded, accepting the lie. As he had been taught to. And he couldn’t help wondering why his meals with the Greengrasses had been so much less stressful than a meal with one of his best friends.

    *****​

    Kent, Longbottom Manor, August 14th, 1998

    “Gran?” There she was. Neville smiled as he entered the living room and found his grandmother sitting on the sofa reading. He needed to talk to her.

    “Hello, Neville.” She smiled at him. “How was the session?”

    He sat in his favourite chair and closed his eyes for a moment. “It could have gone better. Not because of anything I did, mind you.” He smiled thinly at her.

    “I’ve heard about Miss Granger’s faux pas.”

    He snorted. “Trust me, compared to the actual proposal she is writing, that was nothing.”

    “Oh?” She put the book down and stared at him. “I take it that your attempt to educate her on how the Wizengamot works wasn’t successful.”

    He chuckled; of course, she would have known what he had been doing. Or rather, trying to do. “No, it wasn’t.” He shook his head. “I knew she was stubborn, but not that she was this... obstinate. Gran, she wants to propose that the Wizengamot seats should be elected seats. Elected by the people,” he clarified - after all, the Minister was elected by the Wizengamot.

    Neville could count on the fingers of one hand how often his gran had been openly shocked; this was one of those times. She stared at him, then slowly shook her head. “Is she mad?”

    “That was my reaction,” Neville replied. For a moment, both shared a smile. Then he sighed. “I tried to tell her that it wouldn’t work, but she wouldn’t listen. She knows better than everyone else, of course,” he added with some bitterness - he remembered her paralysing him back in their first year.

    “Well, she’s about to learn how wrong she is if she goes through with that farce.” Gran sighed. “She’ll ruin what’s left of her reputation. To think a recipient of the Order of Merlin, First Class, would act in such a manner!”

    “I’ll have to talk to Harry and Ron. They might be able to stop her from doing it.”

    Gran frowned. “You seem to be quite involved in this matter.”

    He knew what she meant - if others thought he supported Hermione’s mad plans… He shook his head slightly. “She’s one of my best friends. And a hero. I can’t let her do this to herself.”

    She sighed. “Just be careful not to get dragged into a fight you cannot win.”

    He met her eyes. “If she actually files her proposal I’ll be the first to oppose it.” Of course, he hoped that she would see reason.

    Gran smiled at him.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, August 15th, 1998

    Neville was relieved when he saw that Harry and Ron were alone when they arrived in the Leaky Cauldron. If Hermione had joined them, it would have been awkward. More awkward, at least. “Harry! Ron!” He smiled at them. He had to start on friendly terms. “New look?” he nodded at their red robes.

    Ron grinned. “Hi, Neville. Yes - we took the oath yesterday. You’re looking at the latest two British Aurors!”

    “Technically, we’re trainee Aurors,” Harry said as he sat down. “But Kingsley said that was just a formality. We’ll be promoted to regular Aurors in no time.”

    “It’s not as if they have many Aurors left,” Ron added. “Dawlish is the Head Auror - and the most experienced one left.”

    Neville noticed that Harry was frowning. “Is there a problem with him?”

    His friend shrugged. “He’s experienced, but I don’t remember him standing up to Umbridge.”

    “Well, Umbridge is in Azkaban,” Neville said. As were all the supporters of Voldemort’s regime. Well, all the important ones.

    That made Harry grin. “Couldn’t happen to a more deserving witch.”

    “Or toad,” Ron added with a broad smile. “Anyway - Dawlish’s trying to get a few retired Aurors to return, but until he manages that, it’s us and a bunch of rookies.”

    “Aren’t you the rookies?” Neville asked. They had joined yesterday, after all.

    “Well, technically, we are,” Harry replied. He must like that word, Neville thought. “But you should have seen our first training session. A few of them tried to impress us.”

    “Harry!” Ron shook his head and turned to Neville. “They tried to take us down a notch in our first training session. But they failed, utterly. Harry didn’t even notice what they were doing before he’d stunned half of them by reflex. Hell, the DA could have taken all of them in our fifth year.” He chuckled. “Dawlish’s already ordered Harry to teach them how to cast a Patronus Charm.”

    “So,” Neville said, blinking, “instead of getting trained, you’ll be training them?” That didn’t sound like things were going well in the DMLE. And he hadn’t heard about this in the Wizengamot.

    “Pretty much, yeah,” Ron said. “But don’t worry - we’ll get them into shape soon enough. Well, Harry will.”

    Harry snorted. “You’ll be helping me. Either as my assistant or as my training dummy.”

    Both laughed at that, and Neville joined in. They were in a good mood, which was exactly what he wanted. He waited until Tom had brought their order - some stew that would have been vanished with extreme prejudice at Le Canard Vert, but which was edible enough - before he cast a privacy spell and cleared his throat. “There’s something I need to talk to you two about, something important.”

    He saw them glance at each other, and their smiles vanish, and winced.

    Harry sighed. “We thought it would be that.”

    “Well, Hermione thought so,” Ron said.

    Neville had a sinking feeling in his stomach that had nothing to do with the quality of the stew. “I see.”

    “Yeah,” Harry went on. “You invited us here to get us to ‘talk sense’ into her, didn’t you?”

    Neville didn’t like how Harry worded that, but he nodded. He had to do this. For Hermione’s own good. “Yes. She’s about to make a terrible mistake, and she didn’t listen to me.”

    “And you think she’ll listen to us?” Ron chuckled. “You do know her, don’t you?”

    Neville bit down on his urge to snap at Ron. This was important.

    But before he could tell Ron that, Harry spoke up. “Neville, we know what she’s doing.”

    “What?”

    “Yes.” Ron nodded. “She told us everything. Have to fill the dinner time at Grimmauld Place somehow, you know.”

    Ron’s jokes weren’t getting any better, Neville found. He shook his head. “But it’s crazy! She’ll be ostracised by the entire Wizengamot!”

    “She was already ostracised by them,” Harry said. “Before she even took the oath.”

    “That’s not true! A few might have been less than welcoming, but…” Neville started.

    Harry cut him off. “And even if that weren’t the case, it wouldn’t change anything. You know her. Do you think she’ll play the nice mudblood, so grateful to be allowed into the hallowed chamber of the Wizengamot that she’ll keep quiet and vote as she should?”

    “Do you think you can talk to me without parroting her?” Neville spat.

    Ron laughed at that. “He got you, mate.” Then he looked at Neville. “But seriously, she won’t stop. And we won’t stop her.”

    “Why not?” Neville almost yelled. “Your father and brother are in the Ministry! You know what will happen when she files that proposal!”

    Ron shrugged. “I know what would have happened in the past. But things changed.”

    “And things will change some more,” Harry added. “It won’t be the same as it was before Voldemort. It can’t be.”

    Neville almost gasped when he realised that his friends wouldn’t stop Hermione - they were actually supporting her.

    *****​

    Kent, Longbottom Manor, August 16th, 1998

    “Good afternoon, Hermione. Welcome to my home.” Neville bowed as custom dictated as soon as his guest had cleaned the soot from her trip through the Floo Network. It would, after all, have been rude to acknowledge her before she had restored her appearance.

    Hermione, though, merely nodded, instead of accepting his hospitality. “Hello, Neville.”

    Neville couldn’t tell if she was doing it deliberately or simply didn’t know any better. Hogwarts was rather informal - which wasn’t a bad thing, especially for a school, of course; Neville had enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere himself - so teaching proper manners was left to the families of the students. But this wasn’t about her manners. Or only peripherally. He smiled. “I’m glad you accepted my invitation.”

    “Of course I did.” Her smile showed a little more amusement than warmth, in his opinion. “Despite your unfortunately discriminatory views, I still count you as a friend.”

    ‘Still’? That wasn’t a good sign. But he couldn’t help replying: “How generous of you.”

    “Indeed. And, of course, I’m curious what you plan to say to me now that your attempt to recruit Harry and Ron has failed.” She looked around. “It looks similar to the entrance hall of Malfoy Manor.”

    “You’ve been to Malfoy Manor?” The Malfoys had all but retreated from polite society!

    “During the war,” she said with a thin smile. “And not of my free will.”

    Oh, of course. Their capture. He had heard the story - or parts of it; none of the trio had talked much about that part of their fight. “I’m sorry.”

    She shrugged. “We won. There, at Gringotts and at Hogwarts.” She was smiling again, but not in a very friendly manner, as far as he could tell. This might be even more difficult than he had expected.

    He took refuge in politeness. “Shall we retire to the drawing room?”

    “We shall, I think.” She looked amused now.

    Long practice and a thorough education by his family kept him smiling as he led her through the manor to the drawing room, where Dolly would have prepared the tea already. The house-elf had orders to make herself scarce before they arrived - Neville knew Hermione’s view on elves, and another discussion of S.P.E.W. wouldn’t be conducive to his goals.

    He opened the door - as expected, the tea was ready. “Please have a seat,” he said, gesturing towards the closest armchair.

    “Thank you.” She sat, then smiled at the plate on the low table. “And please thank your slave for preparing this.”

    He clenched his teeth. Telling her that Dolly wasn’t a slave wouldn’t help; she simply didn’t understand that elves loved belonging to a family. They weren’t humans. “I shall,” he said as he sat down himself.

    “You know,” he said after serving her, “you can disagree about politics without being rude.”

    “Of course. That’s the basis of civilised discourse.”

    He decided to take a page out of her book. “So why aren’t you doing it?”

    “Did I offend you?” she asked instead of answering.

    “No,” he lied. “I was talking about your proposal in the Wizengamot.”

    “I’m not aware of any rule I might break with my proposal.”

    He sighed. She simply didn’t want to understand. “It’s not the rules, it’s the customs. There are ways to do things, and things that aren’t done. You might not be aware of them, given that…”

    “...given that I’m a mudblood?” She tilted her head.

    He hissed through clenched teeth. “See, that’s not something you can say.” Not in polite society.

    “It was said very often by a lot of people, especially during the war. Not all of them were Death Eaters. Not even the majority, I’d say.” She sniffed. “I should know - I observed a number of them.”

    “And the war’s over,” he retorted. “It’s time to leave that behind. Only Death Eaters would use that word any more.”

    “In public. In private?” She scoffed. “How many of your, I mean, our esteemed colleagues use that word when talking about me in private?”

    Probably more than he would like to admit - Mr Greengrass had been quite frank about the views of some of their peers, even though they hadn’t followed Voldemort. “And they won’t ever stop if you keep offending them,” he said. “Is that what you want? Make everyone hate you and hate the muggleborns by proxy? You represent them. You are the first muggleborn in the Wizengamot in decades. Whatever you do, however you act, will reflect on all of them.”

    “Do you think I should play the good mudblood? Eager to please, be oh so grateful for the honour bestowed upon me? For the chance to learn from my betters?” She wasn’t smiling at all any more. She was glaring at him as she scoffed.

    He pressed his lips together. Her wording was extremely biased, but telling her that, yes, damn it, she should adapt wouldn’t go over well. “I don’t think you should antagonise the entire Wizengamot. You won’t ever achieve anything like that - they will vote against your proposals out of spite.”

    “No wonder they are ruling the country if they are blessed with such maturity and wisdom.” She sneered before taking a sip of her tea.

    “And how mature and wise of you, to waste your opportunity on grandstanding and empty gestures!” he snapped before he managed to control himself. “Sorry.” He took a deep breath. “Don’t you want to actually change things?”

    “Of course I do.” She looked at him as if this wasn’t in doubt.

    “Then you need to make friends among our colleagues instead of enemies. You’re a hero, and if you acted less like a…”

    “Like a mudblood?”

    He ignored her jibe. “...less like you had no idea about manners and customs, you would be able to find allies.” It would be easy as well - some people would vote for her proposals just to spite a rival. He leaned forward. “Start slowly. Get to know everyone, get to know how things are done, ask for small changes at first. You can’t just push everyone around and expect them to change at once. They’re not students, and you’re not a prefect.” Or a teacher.

    “Do you think I’m Dumbledore?”

    “What?” Of course not!

    “Dumbledore did what you just proposed. He asked for small changes. Easy changes. Small steps towards a better future.” She smiled, and, for a moment, Neville dared hope that he had gotten through to her. Then she scowled. “And he barely achieved anything. What progress he made in fighting prejudice and discrimination against muggleborns was wiped away in a week once Voldemort took power.”

    “That’s because no one could stop him,” Neville retorted. “He would have wiped away any amount of progress.” And he had wiped away centuries of tradition as well - or had tried to do so, at least.

    “Perhaps. But people might not have been so quick to turn against the muggleborns if Dumbledore had had more success.” She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter anyway - I’m not Dumbledore. And I’m not going to follow his example.”

    Neville managed to restrain from snorting at the arrogance she was displaying. Even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t have been able to do so - she wasn’t nearly as powerful or respected as the Headmaster had been.

    “But more importantly, the muggleborns won’t accept it.” She smiled, but without any warmth. “You said I was representing every muggleborn.”

    He nodded.

    “You’re wrong. A single witch is not enough to do that. Not nearly enough. Even after Voldemort’s attempted genocide, we still represent a fifth of Wizarding Britain’s population. And as you said - there’s only one muggleborn in the Wizengamot. That simply won’t do.”

    “If more muggleborns earned it, there would be more muggleborns in the Wizengamot.” It wasn’t his fault that there hadn’t been more muggleborns who had earned an Order of Merlin, First Class.

    “Why do muggleborns - and half-bloods, and most purebloods, too - need to earn a seat by saving the country if everyone else in the Wizengamot only had to be born to the right parents?” She scoffed again. “How can you think that that is fair?”

    “I earned my seat as well!” he snapped. He had faced Voldemort and had almost died for it. She wasn’t the only hero here in the room.

    “But if you had hidden for the entire war, you’d still be a member of the Wizengamot. Like your colleagues.”

    “My entire family fought Voldemort! My parents paid with their minds for fighting him. Gran was almost killed.” He almost snarled.

    “And how many of our esteemed colleagues did the same? How many of them earned their seats? How many of them would be in the Wizengamot if they were muggleborns?”

    “Their ancestors earned their seats,” he replied.

    She sniffed. “I doubt that that is true for every seat. But why should having a heroic ancestor qualify anyone for a seat in the Wizengamot? Given how often you intermarry and how many cadet branches of the families there are, I would think that almost everyone but a muggleborn had an ancestor who was a member of the Wizengamot.”

    But not everyone was born to and raised in the main family, educated so they’d be ready for their duty. But that wouldn’t convince her. “How is this different from leaving the fortune you earned to your children? Would you be in favour of someone taking your gold away and leaving your children destitute because they didn’t earn it? Legacies are to be treasured.” If he thought about how his parents had suffered...

    She chuckled. “Removing inheritances would be a very interesting experiment. In theory, you learn everything to lead a good life at Hogwarts - no one who passed their N.E.W.T.s would ever go hungry or homeless.” She shook her head. “But it’s a moot point anyway, since my future children won’t be able to inherit my seat, will they? Because I’m not part of an Old Family. What would I need to do to earn that right?”

    Marry into an Old Family, of course! That was how it was done for a witch of her exceptional talent, though it was admittedly rare. And if she married Ron, then her half-blood children would certainly be able to marry up if they were similarly talented. But she wouldn’t want to hear that. And, judging by her expression as she put her cup down and stood, she already knew the answer anyway.

    “Thank you for the tea, Neville. It was delicious. My compliments to your slave. Unfortunately, it’s rather late, and I have to finish my first proposal for the Wizengamot.”

    Neville managed to go through the proper forms and didn’t curse until she had left through the Floo connection.

    He shook his head. Gran had been right. The stupid witch simply wouldn’t listen! And she had talked down to him as if he were stupid and ignorant!

    He clenched his teeth. He wasn’t either - he’d show her that. “Dolly!”

    The house-elf appeared from behind the curtain that had been hiding her. “Yes, Master?”

    “Please tell Gran that I’m going out.”

    He would beat Hermione with her own weapons, and for that he needed to buy muggle books.

    *****​
     
  2. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    This looks good. He certainly changed a hell of a lot over the summer.
     
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  3. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    He didn't actually change. From his point of view, Wizarding Britain fought two wars against Voldemort. In the second, the government was toppled, but once Voldemort was defeated, the government was restored. He didn't fight to change the country - he fought to defeat Voldemort and restore his country. And he certainly isn't a bigot just because he wants things to go back to how they were - things were fine, before Voldemort, weren't they? It's not as if purebloods can vote either, anyway.
     
  4. Pyeknu

    Pyeknu Cross-Dimensional Magical Sith GIrl

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    Are you going to be keying the Royal Family into this by any chance?
     
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  5. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    No. In my stories, Wizarding Britain usually is a separate country, not beholden to muggles of any kind. Wizards and witches will decide their future themselves.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: New Allies
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 2: New Allies

    London, Ministry of Magic, August 21st, 1998

    “...and times have changed. The war shook up the entire country. Voldemort managed to take over the Ministry and control the Wizengamot in less than a week. He perverted the laws and traditions of our country without anyone able to stop him until Harry Potter faced him at Hogwarts - after he, Ron Weasley and myself had managed to render Voldemort mortal.”

    He had done his part too, Neville thought as he watched Hermione deliver her speech, then felt petty for it. But also disappointed. He did destroy the last Horcrux, after all.

    “But Voldemort didn’t just show how weak the Ministry and the Wizengamot were without Dumbledore’s protection - the ease with which the Ministry fell in line with the Death Eaters’ goals, and the sheer number of people who worked to hunt down muggleborns and anyone who disagreed with Voldemort’s stated goals, has robbed the Ministry and the Wizengamot of their legitimacy. If one wizard can corrupt the country’s institutions so easily, despite all their traditions and customs, why should the people put their trust in those institutions?”

    At that point, the constant murmuring which had accompanied Hermione’s speech grew louder. But Neville could see that she wasn’t impressed.

    “Moreover, the Ministry, for all that it was corrupted by Voldemort, didn’t fall apart even though the Wizengamot, which was still nominally the highest authority in the country, was functionally defunct during the Death Eater regime, as most members either collaborated and rubber-stamped whatever proposals were put before them - when Voldemort bothered to consult them at all - or else went into hiding until the war was over and the Ministry had been retaken.”

    That caused even louder outrage. Hermione’s sneer didn’t help, of course. Neville lost every doubt he had harboured about his planned course of action.

    “The only way for the people to regain their trust in this institution is to reform it from the ground up. The Wizengamot needs to regain the trust of the people to lead the country. And the only way to do so now is to legitimise this assembly through a democratic election.”

    Neville winced when the comments and yells grew so loud that even Hermione’s amplified voice couldn’t be heard until the Chief Warlock managed to calm tempers down. And he winced as well when he heard more than one member ask their peers what a democratic election was.

    Hermione continued, seemingly unfazed, as soon as the noise dimmed somewhat. “Only with a mandate from the majority of the people - purebloods, half-bloods and muggleborns - can the trust needed to guide and lead this country be restored. The old order has proven itself wanting. When the country needed leadership most, it failed. The country wasn’t saved by the Wizengamot. It wasn’t saved by the Old Families. It was saved by the common people banding together. By students raising their wands. Purebloods, half-bloods and muggleborns fought and defeated Voldemort’s forces - and only one of those now among us, other than myself, fought with the people while a number of former members of the Wizengamot fought against them. That, more than anything else, demonstrates that change, drastic change, is needed. The people saved this country, and they have earned the right to have a say in who governs them. And only a democratically elected Wizengamot will give them that.”

    She sat down, head held high, as dozens of members raised their wands, eager to condemn Hermione’s proposal. Though there was even faint applause from the audience - barely audible over all the outrage voiced by the members.

    Neville, though, didn’t raise his wand - he stood up instead. It was against all custom, but he had to do this - Doge would never pick him to speak first, and he had to speak first. He cast an Amplifying Charm and started speaking.

    “I beg my esteemed colleagues’ pardon, but as the only member other than herself who has, according to my esteemed colleague Madam Granger, fought against Voldemort, I will refute her claims.” He ignored the murmurs that this caused and went on: “She said that Voldemort wasn’t defeated by the members of the Wizengamot. I cannot deny the truth of this claim.”

    He had to raise his voice as the murmurs rose in volume even more - almost as loud as during Hermione’s speech. “However, I do vehemently deny that the ability to fight is, in any shape or form, a measure of how well a wizard or witch can lead and guide a country. In fact, if it were so, we should all be following Voldemort’s orders - he was, after all, the most powerful fighter we know. But I think it is obvious that the ability to fight does not legitimise someone’s rule.” He suppressed a smile as the murmurs died down - and changed into approving comments.

    “We do not duel to decide who will lead the country, and we shouldn’t. It takes different skills and talents to lead than to fight. Indeed, the last war was a dark time for our country. Many died fighting the Death Eaters - every one of us has lost family, friends or acquaintances. But the Death Eaters didn’t just kill wizards and witches in the war - they tried to destroy our traditions, customs and laws. Madam Granger said that the Wizengamot failed the country and that the common people saved it. I say that that is not the case. Just as those who raised their wands to fight the Death Eaters didn’t do so at once, but bided their time and gathered their forces until the time came to do battle, so did the members of this body hide and preserve our traditions until the time was right to restore them.”

    He smiled at the “Hear, hear” he heard from several of his colleagues.

    “Yes, without the people who fought - myself among them - that would have been fruitless. But what if it hadn’t been done? What kind of victory would it have been if we had defeated the Death Eaters, only to stand in the ashes and ruins of our country? What hollow victory would it have been if we had lost our legacies, our traditions, our history? What dark times would we have faced if we had to rebuild the entire country, all its laws and customs, instead?”

    He shook his head.

    “The Wizengamot hasn’t failed the people. We have preserved our laws, customs and traditions. We have restored the country Voldemort tried to destroy. We have undone all his attempts to ruin us. That isn’t a failure - that is a victory.”

    Neville, just as Hermione before him, had to wait until the Chief Warlock restored order before he could continue. He glanced at Hermione. She was sitting there expressionless. But she had brought this upon herself. If she had listened… He scoffed.

    “So, the argument that the Wizengamot has failed and that the people have earned the right to elect a new Wizengamot is wrong. Everyone, the Wizengamot and the common people, as Madam Granger calls them, did their part in the war - just as should happen in peace as well.”

    He took a deep breath.

    “And the Wizengamot has been doing its part for centuries. Even if it had failed, which it hasn’t, a single failure would be no reason to replace it - just imagine how often the Ministry would have to replace its employees if they followed that example. But enough of this. Let us now take a look at the manner that Madam Granger thinks should be used to select the members of the Wizengamot. A democratic election.”

    He withstood the urge to scoff.

    “It is a muggle invention. Everyone of age gets to vote for the person they think should represent them in ‘Parliament’ - the muggle Wizengamot. Those with the most votes form the parliament.”

    He shook his head. “Everyone, no matter their experience, wisdom or intelligence, has the same vote. The village fool’s opinion counts for as much as that of the wisest sage. Does this sound like a good idea?”

    He shook his head as his colleagues voiced their disapproval.

    “And anyone can get elected - no matter how inexperienced or stupid they are. Do we want to choose teachers who have no experience? Who have no idea about their subject? Do we want to hire Healers at St Mungo’s who do not know anything about Healing? Then why would anyone think that it is a good idea to choose people to rule us who not only have no experience of doing so, but who were also never taught anything about ruling?”

    He saw Hermione press her lips together as laughter filled the chamber.

    “Almost everyone here has been taught by their family about the duties of a member of the Wizengamot. We do not stumble into this ignorant of our customs and traditions. We enter it prepared and educated. Not all of us might have a lot of experience - yet - but we could and can rely on the experience of those who taught us.”

    He made a point of looking up at Gran, who was smiling at him from the audience.

    “And when we do not know something, we have been taught to research it. I have researched the muggle views of democracy since the muggles are the ones who invented it. And I was shocked by how little they think of it. ‘The rule of the mob’ was among the kindest descriptions I found. Time and again, the muggles voted for the worst kind of men to rule and lead them and ruined their countries as a result. The greatest muggle leader in history said that it was ‘the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried’. And there are dozens of examples where it has failed and was replaced by another form of government.”

    He looked straight at Hermione.

    “Our system has worked for centuries, and Madam Granger wants to replace it with a system that not even muggles consider a good idea? We’re wizards, not muggles. They might not know a better way, but we do. I call on my esteemed colleagues to dismiss this proposal, and beg, once more, their pardon for speaking out of turn.”

    Judging by the loud applause that rose as Neville sat down, his peers had already forgiven his breach of the Wizengamot’s etiquette.

    “Great speech!” Mr Greengrass told him, beaming at him. “You certainly taught her!”

    “Thank you.” He had, hadn’t he?

    Hermione raised her wand to defend her proposal, but she had to wait until a dozen members had taken their turn. And all of them condemned her proposal, often referring to Neville’s speech. Anyone with any amount of sense would have realised that she was beaten, but Hermione was Hermione. She raised her chin when it was finally her turn again and spoke.

    “My esteemed colleague Mr Longbottom claimed that democracy was the worst form of government and that the muggles don’t know of a better one. What he failed to mention - or was ignorant of - is that muggles know about hereditary rulership. And they have discarded it for democracy.”

    “We’re wizards, not muggles!” Mr Rosier yelled.

    Hermione ignored him, staring at Neville. He met her eyes. They had done so a few decades ago - after centuries of hereditary rule. And muggle Britain still had a hereditary ruler.

    “If democracy is so bad, then why do we, the members of the Wizengamot, democratically elect the Minister for Magic? Shouldn’t that become a hereditary position as well, where the new Minister is taught by their family and predecessors how to hold the office?”

    She shook her head, her bushy hair obscuring her face for a moment.

    “I don’t think so - since that would mean the Wizengamot would lose their power over the Minister. My esteemed colleague Mr Longbottom talked a lot about how wise and educated the members of the Wizengamot are - and yet, where was their wisdom when Dumbledore warned of Voldemort’s return? Where was their wisdom when Harry Potter, who, by that point, had already defeated Voldemort several times, was called delusional for supporting Dumbledore? Where was it when the Ministry launched its smear campaign against them? Where were their experience and wisdom when Minister Scrimgeour threw innocents into prison so he could be seen to be ‘doing something’?”

    She scoffed.

    “This isn’t about wisdom and experience, this is about power. You think you deserve the power to rule our country just because you were born to the right parents. And you think that anyone who was born to the wrong parents doesn’t deserve that power.”

    Her lips twisted into a sneer aimed at Neville.

    “We all know who else thought that being born to the right or wrong parents determined a wizard or witch’s worth - until he was defeated by the Boy-Who-Lived.”

    She sat down, head held high, as the members of the Wizengamot loudly voiced their outrage at the comparison.

    And Neville shook his head. She hadn’t learned anything at all since her ridiculous campaign to free the house-elves.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, August 22nd, 1998

    “You gave such a great speech! You absolutely taught her! Did you see her face when you took her arguments apart? Oh, I loved that!”

    Neville had no doubt that Daphne loved seeing Hermione ‘taught’. Especially after years of being outperformed by her. But the adoring flattery was getting a little too much. It was one thing to be praised by experienced colleagues in the Wizengamot - people who had known and respected Gran for years - but by a witch your own age, who was sitting a little too close to you at the table? Especially since it was only her, him and her father at a large table? She was so close, he had a little trouble cutting his excellent filets de perche meunière - a speciality of ‘Le Canard Vert’ - without pushing his elbow into her side. Though she might not mind, given how she was fawning over him.

    He shrugged. “Anyone who did the research could have done it.”

    “But no one else did,” Mr Greengrass said. “I dare say that the majority of our colleagues hadn’t even read her proposal in advance.”

    Neville thought the same. Otherwise, they would have been outraged even before Hermione had started her speech. “I wouldn’t presume to think my colleagues were neglecting their duties,” he said.

    Mr Greengrass laughed again. “In any case, you’ve made your mark. I don’t think any new member has made a better impression in the Wizengamot since Dumbledore. And everyone will know it.”

    Neville winced. “The Daily Prophet exaggerated things.” As it usually did.

    “Only a little,” Daphne said. “They printed your speech verbatim!”

    “They also printed Hermione’s speech,” Neville pointed out.

    He noticed Daphne frowning before she sniffed. “Only to contrast it with yours and show everyone how embarrassingly she’s acting.”

    “Indeed. There’s been talk about possibly retracting her Order of Merlin due to her absolutely disgraceful behaviour in the Wizengamot,” Mr Greengrass said.

    Neville gasped. “What?”

    Daphne smiled, then looked confused. “Wouldn’t that stop the problems she’s causing?”

    Neville shook his head. “What do you think Harry will do if that happens? At the very least, he’ll denounce the Wizengamot. He might even return his own Order of Merlin. Ron, too.”

    Daphne still looked confused, but Mr Greengrass seemed to have realised the danger that might create. “Are you certain that Potter will side with her?”

    Neville nodded. “He knew about her proposal in advance.”

    That made Mr Greengrass wince. “I see. Losing the support of the Boy-Who-Lived would be bad enough at this point. Earning his enmity?” He shook his head. “I will have to talk to a few of our colleagues.”

    “I don’t understand. So Potter might quit the Ministry in protest - but the Dark Lord’s dead and the Death Eaters are in Azkaban. What’s the problem?”

    Apparently, Daphne hadn’t been as thoroughly prepared as her father’s eventual successor as she should have been.

    Neville used the opportunity to eat his meal as Daphne leaned towards her father, who explained to her just how badly the Ministry was in need of skilled Aurors, and how many of them might quit if Harry did.

    *****​

    “Have a good afternoon, Miss Greengrass, Mr Greengrass,” Neville said as they reached the Leaky Cauldron. “I have to make a few purchases in Diagon Alley.” And he had to pay a visit to Cousin Edward, whose shop had been damaged in the war and who had recently rebuilt it with some help from Neville’s family.

    “To you as well,” Mr Greengrass replied.

    “Oh, what a coincidence - I had planned to a little shopping myself,” Daphne said with a wide smile. “But father has urgent business.” Like keeping his colleagues from ousting Hermione and angering Harry.

    Neville forced himself to smile. Anything other than offering to accompany her would be a faux pas - or a slight. And he had been raised better than that. Even if he would have liked to do his shopping by himself.

    A few minutes later, they were walking down Diagon Alley, towards Flourish and Blotts - Neville needed more books to study. Just in case. He was about to ask what kind of shopping Daphne planned to do when he noticed a group of wizards and witches glaring at him. And muttering.

    He frowned - they didn’t look like the usual relatives of Death Eater sympathisers that harboured a grudge over their relatives’ imprisonment. Or deaths. In fact, they looked more like half-bloods or muggleborns, with their mix of muggle clothes and robes.

    He surreptitiously drew his wand as he and Daphne were about to pass them - just in case. But when he heard what they were saying, he almost hexed them.

    “Look at the traitor!”

    “Strutting around with a Slytherin!”

    “No wonder he betrayed us.”

    “He’s a disgrace to Gryffindor!”

    “Bloody parasite.”

    If not for Daphne on his arm, he would have confronted them. How dare they say such things about him! But he couldn’t risk Daphne getting hurt in his company. And the way she was clinging to his left arm, obviously nervous, would make it a tad hard to defend himself as well.

    Fortunately, none of them raised their wands at him, and they reached the bookshop without trouble.

    But the clerk there, who had been so helpful when Neville had purchased the books for his research, sniffed and pointedly looked away when he saw them enter, then took his time folding up the Daily Prophet he had been reading before greeting them. Rather curtly, too.

    Neville didn’t understand - until he realised that the man had been reading the article covering his speech in the Wizengamot.

    “Is something wrong?” Daphne asked, looking around nervously. She must have realised how tense he was.

    “You might say that,” he replied. “It appears that we might have slightly misjudged the impact of the Daily Prophet’s coverage.”

    And he was certain that Hermione hadn’t.

    *****​

    Kent, Greengrass Manor, August 23rd, 1998

    Being a member of the Wizengamot changed your life, Neville thought as he snatched another drink from one of the trays the Greengrasses’ house-elf was carrying. Before he had taken his seat, he would have joined Zacharias, Ernie and the Greengrass sisters over by the fountain in the garden. Instead, he was on his way to his peers, who had gathered at the gazebo in the centre. He didn’t mind, of course - nor that Daphne wouldn’t be joining him; for all that she was attractive, the witch could be rather clingy.

    He nodded at Mr Greengrass’s assembled guests. “Good afternoon, Madam Smith. Mr Macmillan. Madam Fawley. Mr Rosier.”

    They returned the greeting and made polite chit-chat until Mr Greengrass joined them once he had finished welcoming the other guests.

    “I presume everyone is aware of what is happening in our country,” Neville’s host said.

    Madam Smith scowled. “Riff-raff stirring up trouble! Accosting their betters in plain daylight! Even the denizens of Knockturn Alley wouldn’t dare.”

    Neville wondered privately if the tale of his encounter with the muggleborns hadn’t grown a little too much in the telling - Daphne had already made it sound as if he had saved her life and virtue when she had informed her father, though Neville had corrected that. And from what he had heard about Knockturn Alley, the criminals and creatures haunting the shadows there would do far more than insult you.

    But the others nodded in agreement. “If a wizard or witch of good breeding cannot walk down Diagon Alley without risking life and limb…” Mr Rosier shook his head. “The Aurors need to do something about this!”

    Mr Greengrass sighed. “Unfortunately, both the Auror Corps and the Hit-Wizards are currently very much understrength, as the Minister told me when I requested more patrols in the Alley.”

    “So we hire more!” Mr Macmillan blurted out. “That can’t be too expensive - they only need to be able to cast a Shield Charm and a Stunner to deal with the rabble! Isn’t that why we passed Shacklebolt’s proposal to grant experienced people exemptions from the usual standards?”

    Neville cleared his throat. “I am afraid that this might not be that easy,” he said. “The Department of Magical Law Enforcement has been doing all they can to recruit people, but without much success.” He hesitated a moment, then decided that his peers needed to know. “And, personally, I have some doubts with regards to the loyalty of our current Aurors.”

    “What?” Everyone but Mr Greengrass seemed to say the same thing as they stared at him.

    He winced. “Harry Potter and Ron Weasley were the most prominent new Aurors that took advantage of the exemptions granted to veterans of the war, but they weren’t the only ones - a number of other former students followed their example.”

    Mr Macmillan pressed his lips together. He understood what Neville meant. “Shacklebolt didn’t say anything about that.”

    Neville inclined his head. “While I would not dare to call the character of my two fellow Gryffindors into question, I do not think that they would be overly eager to attack muggleborns unless those muggleborns raised their wands first. And neither, I think, would their friends.”

    “This is what happens when you recruit too many muggleborns!” Mr Rosier snapped.

    “I don’t think that they did, actually,” Neville corrected him. “I haven’t seen many of my former classmates in the Ministry.” Which, in hindsight, was a little worrying.

    “I can’t believe it!” Madam Smith shook her head. “Will it take the death of a good witch or wizard before the Aurors and Hit-Wizards who are supposed to protect us will act?”

    “Things aren’t that bad,” Mr Greengrass said. He was smiling, but Neville clearly heard the ‘yet’ their host hadn’t said.

    “We should have never awarded the Order of Merlin to that muggleborn!” Mr Rosier said with a scowl. “It’s all her fault!”

    It wasn’t, Neville knew. But Hermione certainly had contributed to their current troubles. Quite considerably.

    “Are you certain that we can’t retract the Order?” Madam Smith asked.

    Mr Greengrass nodded. “Unfortunately, her support among the Aurors is far too great to risk such a measure. For now, at least.”

    Neville nodded. If Hermione continued her current course, she would alienate so many people that she would lose her Order of Merlin. He could only hope that when that happened, her arrogance, ignorance and rudeness would have eroded her support in the Auror Corps.

    He stayed listening for a few more minutes to the older people complaining before excusing himself to chat with his former classmates.

    He ignored Mr Greengrass’s knowing smile - Daphne had probably embellished more than just the tale of their encounter with the muggleborn ruffians. But it would be rude to point that out.

    He wished Hannah Abbott were here. But she was from a cadet branch of the Abbott family and wouldn’t be invited to such a gathering. On the other hand, he could be certain that none of the guests sympathised with Hermione and her plans.

    Neville really wasn’t in the mood for another debate.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, September 6th, 1998

    Wearing muggle clothes felt wrong - they were far more constricting than was comfortable; far tighter, too - but Neville didn’t want to risk wearing his usual tailored robes. Not when he was visiting a ‘Rally for Democracy’, as Hermione called her gathering in one of the wider parts of Diagon Alley. Or a rabble-rousing that frightened decent folks away from the Alley, as most of his peers referred to it.

    Few wore robes here, and most of those who did were witches, he noticed as he joined the crowd - in the back, of course. While he didn’t think Hermione would try to hurt him should she recognise him, he wasn’t entirely certain that she would make a great effort to stop others from hurting him.

    Of course, he had taken steps to prevent people from recognising him by using a hair-styling charm and a Beard-Growing Potion. And wearing the uncomfortable muggle clothes. The beard made him appear older as well, but not too old - just enough that neither his former classmates nor the older Gryffindor students would find it amiss that they didn’t recognise him. Every witch and wizard in Britain might attend Hogwarts, but that didn’t mean that everyone knew everyone, of course - most stuck to their years and houses.

    Something else Hermione lacked, he knew - she had never made contacts among the other years and houses. Apart from the DA, of course. Whose members probably didn’t count him among their ranks any more.

    He scoffed at the thought. A friendship wrought in war, so callously discarded because people lusted for power. He had fought, bled and almost died at the side of the wizards and witches greeting Hermione as she stepped on to the conjured stage in the corner.

    “Good afternoon, everyone!”

    Hermione waved as her amplified voice filled the Alley - and probably the houses next to the crowd. “I’m glad to see so many people gathered here. So many people who haven’t forgotten what we fought for. So many willing to continue our struggle until we have finally earned what should have been ours from the beginning: equal rights for everyone!”

    Applause and cheering greeted her words, and Neville almost flinched at the volume. These people had no restraint. And they looked far too belligerent in his opinion. Hermione launched into a speech he had heard several times before. The same arguments he had refuted already, the same claims the Wizengamot had rejected - just like her speeches in the Wizengamot, it was always the same drivel. At least she was consistent - she talked to the people gathered here as if she were in the Wizengamot…

    He blinked. How had he missed this? She wasn’t addressing the Wizengamot with her proposals and speeches in the Chamber - the real audience for her speeches were these people here! And, he saw, as he looked at the wizards and witches surrounding him, they were hanging on her lips.

    “The Wizengamot claims that we are too stupid to have a say in how our country is run. That we are too ignorant to make decisions about our own future. That only those born in manors and raised by slaves waiting on them hand and foot are fit to rule Wizarding Britain. In their eyes, all we are good for is to do as we are told - and to die for them when their corruption and ineptitude results in a dark wizard launching a coup!”

    Boos and hisses filled the area as she paused for a moment - not unlike in the Wizengamot, Neville noticed. But unlike there, the people here condemned the Wizengamot, not Hermione.

    “But we aren’t ignorant or stupid! We aren’t the ones raised in manors, far removed from the daily lives of the people. We aren’t the ones who mindlessly parrot lies while they fill their days with petty plots and their coffers with stolen gold! We know better!”

    The cheering grew louder. Neville flinched and rubbed his ear when the wizard next to him whistled particularly loudly. Not that the lout even noticed his distress.

    “We know that every wizard and witch has the same inalienable rights! We know that every wizard or witch is equal before the law! We know our rights, and we will fight for them! One wand, one vote!”

    “One wand, one vote! One wand, one vote! One wand, one vote!” the crowd shouted and yelled.

    “Democracy now!” a witch yelled to Neville’s right.

    Once more, the crowd took up the cry. “Democracy now! Democracy now! Democracy now!”

    It took a while for the excitement to die down so Hermione could continue. And the crowd was still worked up.

    “We will be heard! We might be ignored in the Wizengamot, but they can’t ignore us in the streets! We won’t let them silence us! We won’t let them ignore us! We’ll show them our numbers and our strength! We’ll light the way to democracy! Lumos!”

    The tip of Hermione’s wand glowed brightly as she raised it in the air. And all around Neville, wizards and witches followed her example.

    “Lumos!”

    “Lumos!”

    “Lumos! Lumos! Lumos!”

    The Wand-Lighting Charm was a First Year spell - easy to learn, simple to cast. It was one of the first spells you learned at Hogwarts and completely harmless. And yet, as he saw dozens of wands raised and lit, Neville shuddered.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, September 14th, 1998

    “Something has to be done about this outrage! You can’t walk down Diagon Alley without some ruffians waving their glowing wands at you!” Mr Rosier looked very upset as he gestured with his own wand. “We cannot let the riff-raff rule the street and intimidate good citizens everywhere! The Aurors need to stop them!”

    He had a point, Neville thought. The week since that rally he had observed had been disturbing - far too many wizards and witches had taken up lighting their wands as they walked around. A sign of solidarity, he had heard it called.

    “Are you afraid of a humble Wand-Lighting Charm?” Hermione’s voice dripped with scorn. “It must be very nice to have lived such a sheltered life that you feel intimidated by such a harmless spell! Or can’t you stand the thought that there are many wizards and witches who don’t think they should bow and scrape as you pass them, grateful for your wise guidance?”

    “Madam Granger, you’re speaking out of turn,” Elphias Doge admonished her.

    “I’m sorry, Chief Warlock.” Hermione bowed her head towards the old wizard.

    He nodded at her - with a smile, Neville noted. “Please don’t do it again.”

    Neville pressed his lips together. The Chief Warlock was responsible for upholding order in the Chamber, and, by all accounts, he was just doing that - admonishing Hermione for breaking the Wizengamot’s etiquette. But the way he smiled at her, and never did anything other than admonish her, no matter how often she broke the rules…

    Neville shook his head. Doge was the oldest serving member of the Wizengamot. He had been one of Dumbledore’s oldest and closest friends. To see him treating Hermione like that, and neglecting his duties - in spirit, if not according to the rules - was disturbing. What would Dumbledore think about this, were he still alive?

    Mr Rosier scowled even more. “I propose ordering the DMLE to send Aurors to patrol Diagon Alley and arrest everyone who casts spells to upset the public!” He huffed as he sat down.

    Neville raised his wand, and he wasn’t the only one. Doge, though, chose Hermione to speak. It wasn’t wrong - by custom, the Chief Warlock would try to alternate between opposing views so there would be a debate, not an echo chamber - but to do so right after she had spoken out of turn? It wasn’t as if Hermione rarely got to speak; quite the contrary!

    And there she went again. Neville rolled his eyes as she sneered at Rosier.

    “Those people aren’t doing anything wrong! They are merely voicing their opinion and showing their solidarity with the plight of the disenfranchised - in a completely harmless way. It is quite telling that you feel threatened by such a peaceful form of protest. Telling, but not surprising, seeing as you have already shown that you have great difficulty in tolerating differing opinions, even when they are those of a fellow member of the Wizengamot. I propose we reject this proposal, lest the Wizengamot loses even its last shred of legitimacy and is exposed as an assembly of brutal tyrants in the vein of Voldemort himself!”

    Neville jumped to his feet, waving his wand. How dare she compare them to Voldemort! He had fought and bled in the Battle of Hogwarts! He had faced Voldemort himself! He clenched his teeth, glaring at the witch as, all around him, others expressed their outrage.

    It took Doge a few minutes to calm the assembly down enough so people could be heard. And then he didn’t give the floor to a member of the Wizengamot, but to the Minister himself - not an extraordinary event, but still not overly common.

    Shacklebolt looked quite impressive, clad in blue robes - the latest fashion, Neville thought; he had seen similar robes when Daphne had dragged him into Madam Malkin’s - as he stood. And he looked outraged as well.

    For a moment, Neville hoped that Shacklebolt would slap down Hermione and remind her to behave as befitted her position. It would be a breach of etiquette, but Neville didn’t think any of his peers would mind.

    But then the Minister started to speak. “I am appalled at this proposal! To try to order the Aurors to arrest people for casting a Wand-Lighting Charm? Did the Wizengamot outlaw a first year charm and forgot to file the bill?” He shook his head. “As long as I am Minister for Magic, no Ministry employees will use force against a peaceful protest! And if a protest should turn violent, we will investigate thoroughly to ensure it wasn’t caused by agents provocateurs - we all are familiar with how people were forced to commit crimes under Voldemort.”

    Neville gasped. First Doge, and now Shacklebolt? The two highest offices in Wizarding Britain, held by supporters of Hermione? How could this be? What was going on? He looked to his left at Mr Greengrass.

    The wizard looked as shocked as Neville felt. “Can we do something about this?” Neville asked in a whisper. They could vote the Minister out of office, couldn’t they? It wasn’t actually done, of course - the Minister usually stepped down when he lost the trust of the Wizengamot without suffering the embarrassment of being voted out of office.

    Mr Greengrass shook his head. “We can’t. He’s too popular in the Ministry.”

    “And a friend of Harry’s,” Neville added. And, apparently, of Hermione.

    “Yes. I should have realised that when he pushed for the exemption to recruit Potter. And now we’re stuck with him.” Mr Greengrass muttered something under his breath Neville didn’t catch. But he had a good idea what it was - he would have said the same if Gran hadn’t taught him better.

    *****​

    Neville rolled his eyes as Hermione rose to speak in support of her latest proposal. Which was, basically, the same proposal she had filed every damn week since her first one. And which she always supported with the same stupid arguments.

    “Everyone is equal… Everyone deserves a say in how their country is run… The old system failed… The system isn’t working… The Wizengamot has lost the trust of the people… The Wizengamot lacks any accountability and therefore is too easy to corrupt”...? Neville hadn’t heard that last argument before. But he could deal with it.

    He went over his notes, adding a few lines, as Hermione wound through the same convoluted speech that seemed to grow longer with every passing week, and by the time she had finally finished, he was ready to refute her arguments. If they could be called such.

    It was late in the afternoon; Doge had at least shown enough presence of mind to schedule Hermione’s proposals at the end of a session so they could pass bills that were actually important before she wasted their time. Neville raised his wand, and, as usual, Doge granted him the floor.

    “My esteemed colleague Madam Granger has spoken at length in support of her proposal, with which we are now all intimately familiar. I don’t see the need to once again refute, in detail, her claims that the Wizengamot has lost the trust of the people and that the only way to regain their trust, and the legitimacy needed to govern our country, are general elections. We all know that that isn’t true and that there are better ways to choose our leaders than the muggle ways; we’re wizards, not muggles. What those unfortunate enough to lack magic have to do to rule themselves in an efficient manner doesn’t matter to us. I already covered all this last week.” And the weeks before that.

    He ignored Hermione’s snort.

    “However, she has now claimed that the Wizengamot lacks accountability and therefore is easy to corrupt. That is an absurd claim, born out of either ignorance or malice. We, the members of this assembly, are doing our duty in the knowledge that we are held accountable by our peers, by our families and by our personal honour. It might not be apparent to someone who wasn’t raised like we were, but these things - duty and honour - matter. Numerous times in the past, members who failed in either regard, or in both, have resigned when faced with the disapproval of their peers.”

    He glanced at Hermione. She smirked at him - she clearly understood what he was hinting at. He scoffed.

    “The system is working and has been working for centuries. Muggles might need the threat of not being re-elected to fulfil their duties, but we aren’t muggles. We were raised differently.”

    “Hear, hear!” Greengrass said next to him. He wasn’t the only one.

    “However, contrary to Madam Granger’s claims, the muggle democracy would, if installed in our country, be far more susceptible to corruption. That is not only proven by countless examples of new democracies in the muggle world succumbing to it, but is also readily apparent as soon as you consider the situation. When you are only accountable to your voters, you only need to care about them. They will not care what you do to others as long as they aren’t negatively affected. Given the right circumstances, a democracy can easily turn into the tyranny of the majority, where minorities are neglected and exploited without any way to redress their situation. When the people who make the laws of a country only answer to their voters, no law is safe from being altered according to the whim of the mob. Whereas in our system, our peers keep an eye out for proposals that are harmful to the people or obvious attempts to manipulate the law for selfish gains, that is impossible in a democracy since the only legitimacy people have to care about is the approval of the voters. And I think we all know how easily the public can be manipulated; the previous administration demonstrated that on numerous occasions.”

    Two could liken their opponent to Voldemort.

    “This fundamental flaw is further exaggerated by the fact that not only are votes and voters easily manipulated by magic, unlike this assembly, which is protected by the strongest wards outside of Hogwarts, but also that most wizards and witches lack the education needed to understand politics.”

    He ignored the commotion in the audience; the guards on duty would keep visitors from disrupting the session.

    “We aren’t muggles. We are wizards and witches. What the muggles study is merely one subject at Hogwarts; the vast majority of our time at school is taken up by the privilege of learning and mastering magic. As anyone who has attended Hogwarts, especially for their seventh year, knows, few have the time to waste on subjects that will not benefit them. When a single mistake made while casting a spell can see you crushed under a buffalo, you cannot afford that luxury.”

    He shook his head gravely.

    “Politics, even if it were a subject at Hogwarts, is useless for the majority of the students. Even if we had a democracy, only a tiny minority - those elected - would be able to use their knowledge of politics. Everyone else would have wasted their time at Hogwarts to learn something that would not benefit them in their life at all. And those who haven’t studied politics - an entirely sensible decision for most wizards and witches - would be easily led astray by the empty promises of demagogues.”

    Hermione was glaring at him; he must have touched a sore spot with his choice of muggle words. Smiling, Neville went on.

    “That’s not the only reason, though, why democracy is unsuitable for our country. No, the sheer difference in scale is another. Wizarding Britain is small, far smaller than muggle Britain. Personal relations have far more weight in our society than among the anonymous masses of muggle Britain. Uneducated people would vote out of spite instead of after rationally considering what would be in their best interests. Just imagine how fractured our society would be if people continued house feuds for decades after they left Hogwarts!”

    He shook his head and sighed.

    “That is no basis for a stable government. We’re not muggles, we’re wizards. We’re different. What might work for muggles won’t work for us.”

    He nodded at Doge as he sat down, then smiled at Hermione, who was already rising from her seat. She looked livid, too. Good.

    “My esteemed colleague Mr Longbottom has spoken at great length about the supposed differences between muggles and wizards and witches. That he should labour so earnestly, yet so fruitlessly, is unsurprising given his complete lack of any meaningful experience with actual muggles. As a muggleborn, I have lived in both worlds for years, and, therefore, I am far better qualified to compare muggles and wizards and witches than someone so ignorant that he thinks Muggle Studies covers what muggles study in school.”

    She scoffed.

    “In my considerable experience - something I share with every other muggleborn - wizards and muggles are very much alike in their desires and habits. Whether you have magic or not doesn’t change that you care about your family and friends and want the best for your children. And magic doesn’t keep those who have power without accountability from being easily led astray by greed and bribes and petty plots. Mr Longbottom mentioned ‘countless examples’ of new muggle democracies ‘succumbing to corruption’. He would be well-advised to look closer to his home for a well-known example of a corrupt system. Those of us who haven’t forgotten our struggles against the Death Eaters remember very well just how much Malfoy’s gold influenced Minister Fudge during his term.”

    Neville clenched his teeth at the low blow.

    “But he is also wrong about school and education. The average wizard or witch can easily afford to get a solid grounding in politics during their time at Hogwarts - students are forced to learn Astronomy, after all, which has no practical use at all outside a limited field of academics, as well as Potions, even though few will ever brew any but the simplest potions after leaving school. If seven years at Hogwarts aren’t enough for someone to learn what they need to be a full member of society, able to perform the duties of a member of this assembly, then you should focus on fixing the education provided, not on preventing muggleborns from having equal rights.”

    “You are criticising Hogwarts? How dare you!”

    “Mr Macmillan, you are out of order.”

    “Out of order? She is out of order! She is besmirching the legacy of Albus Dumbledore himself!”

    “Madam Smith, you are out of order.”

    “Hogwarts has been the best magical school in the entire world since its founding! To claim otherwise is showing an appalling lack of both respect and knowledge!”

    “Madam Fawley, you are out of order.”

    As things degenerated further, Neville couldn’t tell whether or not Hermione had planned to cause such a ruckus. But either way, she had lowered his peers’ opinions of her even further - something Neville wouldn’t have thought possible.

    *****​
     
    Corvus 501, space turtle, Ame and 9 others like this.
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: Rifts
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 3: Rifts

    Kent, Longbottom Manor, September 16th, 1998

    “Hannah! Susan! Welcome to my home!” Neville smiled widely at the two witches as he bowed. He hadn’t seen either of them since they all had taken their N.E.W.T.s.

    “Thank you for your hospitality,” Susan answered, bowing in return.

    “Thank you for your hospitality.” Hannah followed her friend’s example.

    Neville blinked, briefly. It was the correct response, as custom dictated. And yet, it felt a little… standoffish. But then, he hadn’t seen them in months, and he was now a member of the Wizengamot - and a rather prominent one, at that.

    “Come, let’s join the others in the garden.” He didn’t offer either his arm - he couldn’t escort both of them together, and he would have had to offer his arm to Susan since she was a member of an Old Family, if not the heir, and Hannah wasn’t. And he’d have preferred to escort Hannah.

    “Who did you invite?” Hannah asked as he led them through the hallway to the garden.

    “Just a few of our friends from Hogwarts,” he answered. “Ernie and Zacharias. Blaise. Daphne and Tracey.”

    “Hufflepuffs and Slytherins. You’re the only Gryffindor,” Susan said.

    He shrugged. “It happened that way.” She would know why none of his Gryffindor year mates had been invited, but she was too well-brought-up to mention it.

    “Well, I like it - I haven’t seen Ernie or Zacharias in months,” Hannah declared with a smile that lit her face up.

    Neville felt a little torn at hearing that - he really did want Hannah to enjoy the afternoon in his home. On the other hand, he didn’t want her to enjoy herself too much with either boy. He hadn’t seen her for months either!

    “And three Slytherins?” Susan grinned. “I guess it’s true that in the Wizengamot, your house doesn’t count any more.”

    He nodded as he opened the door to the garden for them with a flick of his wand. “Well, it would be hardly conducive to good government if we continued childish feuds in the Wizengamot. The country comes first, after all.”

    The two witches looked at each other, then giggled.

    He frowned. “Is something the matter?”

    “No, no - you just sounded like my great-uncle,” Susan said.

    Hannah nodded. “Exactly like him. Do you speak with him in the Wizengamot very often?”

    He didn’t want to sound like an old wizard. Not at all. Even though it was nice to see Hannah laugh. He shook his head. “Only occasionally.” A greeting in passing, mostly - Eduard Bones wasn’t exactly an influential member of the Wizengamot, and apparently, he held a grudge against the families of Death Eaters, no matter how far removed, for the death of his niece.

    “Ah!” Hannah nodded, then grinned impishly. “So it must be the office that changed you.”

    He frowned. “Changed me?” He hadn’t changed. He had merely grown up some more.

    Hannah was about to answer - she opened her mouth - but Ernie’s loud “Susan! Hannah!” interrupted her, followed by Zacharias’s enthusiastic - and far too personal - greeting of the two witches. And before Neville realised it, the four former Hufflepuffs were chatting animatedly about others from their house and their lives since Hogwarts. Mostly among themselves.

    “It seems you can take the Hufflepuff out of Hogwarts, but you can’t take the Hufflepuff out of the witch and wizard.”

    Neville turned and smiled, if a little weakly, at Daphne. “So it seems.”

    She smiled at him and hooked her arm in his. “Well, in that case, let me offer you the company of the Slytherins. We wouldn’t want you to feel left out, would we?”

    Neville let her lead him to the table where Blaise and Tracey were sitting and watching the proceedings with matching smirks. Daphne was correct - he didn’t want to feel left out. Even if he did.

    But he was the host, and it simply wouldn’t do to ruin his guests’ moods just because the gathering wasn’t proceeding entirely as he had hoped and expected. “I hope the tea is to your taste,” he said as he took his seat next to Daphne.

    Blaise nodded in that nonchalant manner of his. “Passable, I guess.” His grin meant that Neville couldn’t take offence and had to assume he was joking - whether or not his guest was actually joking.

    “It’s good,” Tracey said. “Ceylon’s Best Fairy Selection, my favourite.”

    “She’s a tea enthusiast,” Daphne said. As closely as she was sitting to him - and leaning towards him - he would have heard her clearly even if she had whispered it.

    “I’m not some barbarian Butterbeer drinker,” Tracey shot back. She was joking - after serving as their escort for a few trips through Diagon Alley, Neville was quite familiar with the antics of the two witches.

    “Heathen!” Daphne sniffed, then both witches giggled. In a similar manner, actually, to how Susan and Hannah - who were still chatting with their Hufflepuff friends - had behaved earlier.

    Although Daphne and Tracey weren’t laughing at him, he noticed.

    “So, what news is there from our hero of the Wizengamot?” Blaise was smirking again. “According to the Prophet, you single-handedly taught Granger her place when she called on her rabble to storm the Ministry.”

    Neville blinked. “Sorry?” Blaise had to be joking. There had been nothing of that sort - he had been watching out for that, actually, after his visit to her rally. He reached over and grabbed the Prophet.

    “It’s true,” Tracey said. “I read the article this morning.”

    “I haven’t had time to read the newspaper today,” Neville said as he opened the newspaper. Between studying the latest muggle books from Flourish and Blotts and preparing for receiving his guests, he hadn’t found the time.

    But Blaise was correct, he realised as he stared at the headline.

    Granger Tells Muggleborns To Storm The Ministry. Threatens Violence.

    He quickly skimmed the article then shook his head. “That didn’t happen. She didn’t say that. Nothing even close to that.”

    “Well, she certainly means it,” Blaise said with a shrug that made him look more French than Italian, in Neville’s opinion.

    “But this is bad.” Neville clenched his teeth. “Very bad.”

    “Why? It’s the Prophet,” Tracey said. “They’re known to exaggerate things a little.”

    “This is more than a little exaggerated,” he told her. “This is accusing her of treason.”

    “I don’t think that the Aurors will arrest her,” Daphne said. “Can you see Potter and Weasley arresting her?” She laughed.

    “It’s not that,” Neville said. “If people think they are being lied to on the orders of the Wizengamot, they will stop trusting us.”

    Everyone knew that the Daily Prophet answered to the Ministry and printed what it wanted to see printed. But if the Wizengamot got the blame for this…

    Blaise still didn’t understand the issue. “Well, what can Granger do about it? It’s not as if the Prophet would print a rebuttal for her.”

    “No, not the Prophet,” Neville said. He looked at Daphne. She understood.

    “But there’s another newspaper in Britain,” she said, wincing.

    *****​

    Devon, Ottery St Catchpole, September 17th, 1998

    The Lovegoods’ home had been destroyed during the war, but Neville had assumed that they would have rebuilt it since the Battle of Hogwarts. But when he arrived, the ruins looked unchanged - stones and broken beams littered the landscape around the remains of the walls of the ground floor.

    Although he couldn’t see any trace of furniture as he looked around. Had the Lovegoods moved? But he had called Luna through the Floo Network… Perhaps he should use the Floo Network to travel as well?

    “There you are!”

    He turned around and blinked. Luna was waving at him from a hole in the ground, holding up a trapdoor with one hand. “Come in!”

    He stepped closer and saw that she was standing on stairs leading downwards. It seemed as if she and her father had moved underground. Slightly bemused, he followed her down and soon found himself in a round room full of the kind of knick-knacks he’d expect in Luna’s home.

    She stood in the centre of the room and spread her arms with a beaming smile. “Welcome to the Eagle’s Nest! You’re the seventeenth visitor! That’s a lucky number!”

    “Eagle’s Nest?” Didn’t eagles roost on mountain tops?

    She nodded several times. “Indeed! We wanted our home to match the Weasleys’!”

    How would that work?

    He might have asked the question aloud since she explained. “The Weasley’s home is called The Burrow even though it reaches into the sky instead of into the earth. So Daddy and I did the opposite - we dug down and named it the Eagle’s Nest. We were both in Ravenclaw, you know.”

    “Were?” Now that he thought about it - wasn’t she supposed to be at Hogwarts?

    “Well, technically, I still am in Ravenclaw, I guess. But since Daddy needs my help to rebuild our home and livelihood, and since Hogwarts was also damaged in the war, Headmistress McGonagall lets me leave the school whenever I want.” With a pout, she added: “But we’re nearly done - all that’s left are the habitats for the animals - and then I guess I’ll have to move back into Ravenclaw Tower.”

    “Ah.” That explained it. As much as Luna could explain anything. But he hadn’t come to talk about this. He cleared his throat. “I actually wanted to talk to you about The Quibbler.” Well, he had wanted to talk to her father, but Luna was the more sensible of the two, according to Harry. He pressed his lips together. He didn’t want to think about the last time he had spoken to Harry.

    “Oh, I understand!” She whirled round and opened a large chest, then stuck her head and upper body into it. “It’s right there… I think… yes… no… almost… Alphonse, don’t eat that, it’s not good for you...There!”

    With a wide smile, she stood and handed him a sheet of parchment. “Just fill out the subscription form, pay one Galleon and you will receive every issue of The Quibbler starting now! It’s a steal at those rates!”

    Once more, he blinked, taken by surprise. That wasn’t what he had meant. Although… having a subscription to The Quibbler would be useful, in case Hermione started doing what he thought she would be doing. “Thank you.” He quickly filled out the form and handed it back to her with a Galleon.

    “You won’t regret it!”

    “I know.” He hoped. “But I wanted to talk to you about something else.”

    “Oh? Oh! You’ve seen a Snorkack on your secret missions for the Wizengamot! I knew it!”

    His smile felt more than a little strained. “Unfortunately, no, I haven’t seen a Snorkack.”

    “Ah. But you didn’t deny that you are doing secret missions for the Wizengamot!”

    “I’m not doing any such missions.”

    “I know that you have to say that.” She was winking at him.

    “No, I wanted to talk to you about a recent article in the Daily Prophet.”

    “But we’re The Quibbler. The Daily Prophet is in Diagon Alley. See?” She held up an issue of her magazine. “The Quibbler.”

    “I know. It’s about The Quibbler. And The Prophet,” he quickly added before she could misunderstand him again. “I was wondering if you had talked to Hermione lately.”

    She frowned at him. “A good journalist never reveals her sources! Unless it’s an interview.”

    He couldn’t resist. “I know that you have to say that.” To his disappointment, she simply nodded at that. “But let’s assume you’ve been made aware that the Prophet has been slightly less than precise in their reporting from the Wizengamot.”

    “You mean the Prophet’s been lying through their teeth.”

    He sighed. “Yes.”

    “That’s not exactly newsworthy, is it?”

    He smiled “I would agree. However, you might also be aware of the current political situation.”

    “I think everyone is aware of the falling out between you and Hermione.” She shook her head. “Friendships breaking is one of the saddest things you can experience.”

    “Well, it wasn’t my fault,” he said. “She decided to make a mockery of the Wizengamot.”

    “I don’t think she did that. She’s just stating her opinion. As are you.”

    So Hermione had been talking to Luna. He smiled. “I understand.”

    “You do?”

    He nodded. “Yes.” He’d be ready for her move.

    “That’s good. Because I was afraid that you were still suffering from Nargles. They confuse your mind, you see?” She smiled at him, though she looked more sad than happy.

    “Trust me, I see more clearly than ever.” He nodded at her before leaving her home.

    And ignored what might have been a sob behind him. He knew his duty, and the country came first. Before friends and even before family.

    *****​

    Kent, Greengrass Manor, September 27th, 1998

    After half a dozen visits in the last few weeks, Neville knew his way around Greengrass Manor. Mr Greengrass still welcomed him in the entrance hall, as was proper etiquette, but Neville usually made his way to the drawing room or the garden, depending on the weather, by himself. Unless Daphne happened to go in the same direction, which was often the case. Like today.

    And he had to admit that it was nice to chat with her - unlike most of his friends and acquaintances, she didn’t talk about politics all the time.

    “Did you hear? Hannah Abbott and Zacharias Smith are going out with each other!”

    Well, sometimes talking about politics was nice as well. “Yes, Ernie told me,” he replied.

    “Ah!” Daphne nodded. “I heard it from Blaise, who had heard it from his mother, who had heard it from Madam Smith herself. Apparently, she’s not sure whether she should approve. I think they make a sweet couple, and it isn’t as if she’s a half-blood or muggleborn. And since she’s not closely related to the main line, there won’t be any trouble with her family anyway.”

    There wouldn’t have been any such troubles either if Hannah were dating him. He nodded anyway - such matters had to be kept in mind when courting someone. “How’s Astoria doing at Hogwarts?” he asked.

    Daphne sighed. “Oh, you know - it’s her sixth year. That means she’s no longer studying for her O.W.L.s but not yet revising for her N.E.W.T.s. So she’s busy doing nothing with her friends.”

    Neville remembered his own sixth year. Which had been Daphne’s as well. It hadn’t been as terrible as Harry’s, but the threat of Voldemort, whose return had finally been proven, had hung over them the entire year. “Well, good for her,” he said. “She’ll be fretting about her N.E.W.T.s soon enough.”

    Daphne nodded. “Oh, she will.” They reached the door to the garden. “So, enjoy your politics,” she said with a smile. “And if you get too bored or frustrated, come see me - I’ve got a few new seeds from the New World you might be interested in.”

    “Ah! I think I’ll do so,” he said, his mood brightening.

    She beamed at him, then squeezed his arm, briefly, before walking away. He watched her go - she moved with the grace of a witch raised in an Old Family - before he entered the garden. And returned to politics.

    *****​

    Madam Smith, Mr Macmillan and Madam Fawley were already present, sipping tea. A few more members of the Wizengamot would be joining them, or so Neville had been told. All in all, about a third of the Wizengamot would be gathering here.

    He greeted his peers and took his usual seat, where his favourite tea was already waiting under a charm.

    Mr Macmillan took up from where he had apparently been interrupted by Neville’s arrival. “It’s scandalous! We can’t even trust each other. Shacklebolt will betray us if we try to replace the Minister.”

    Madam Smith scoffed. “Of course he’ll oppose that - the Minister’s his nephew! Any one of us would do the same in his place. Not that we can replace the Minister without losing half the Ministry.”

    “And don’t get me started on Elphias! He dotes on that witch as if she were his granddaughter!” Mr Macmillan huffed. He didn’t have to name names - everyone in the Wizengamot knew who ‘that witch’ was. “We should vote him out of office; he doesn’t have any relatives in high positions!”

    “That would be a scandal,” Madam Fawley said. “And exactly what Elphias wants. They are waiting for us to turn on each other so we look weak and divided. If we get rid of Shacklebolt and Doge, we’ll look like we’re trying to get rid of anyone who doesn’t agree with us.”

    “If only we could,” Mr Macmillan exclaimed. He leaned forward. “I’ve made some inquiries. Not all of the Aurors and Hit-Wizards are in Potter’s thrall. There are a dozen who will do their duty if they are called upon,” he said, nodding several times and glancing round.

    “Your son among them, I suppose?”

    Neville hid his frown with his cup. Ernie was a good lad, but his spellwork wasn’t up to snuff. He had done decently in the DA but hadn’t kept up in the subsequent years. If the others were of similar skill, they wouldn’t last long against either muggleborns or Harry’s Aurors. Probably wouldn’t last long against just Harry and Ron.

    Not that such a confrontation would be anything but a catastrophe anyway, no matter the outcome. They had just finished a bloody civil war, and Britain wouldn’t survive another. He cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t advise to pursue that course of action,” he said.

    Before he could elaborate, Mr Rosier and Mr Selwyn arrived, followed by Mr Greengrass and Madam Avery.

    “What course of action?” Mr Selwyn asked once everyone was seated.

    “We were exploring the possibility of sending loyal Aurors and Hit-Wizards against certain threats to the country,” Madam Smith explained.

    Mr Selwyn snorted and shook his head. “My cousin said most of them wouldn’t last in a fight against Potter or his friends. And the rest would flee before that.” And since his cousin was commanding the Hit-Wizards, he would know.

    Neville cleared his throat. “Even if they could hold their own, we cannot afford another war.”

    “A war?” Madam Avery said. “Surely you exaggerate!”

    Madam Fawley snorted. “Have you read the latest issue of The Quibbler?”

    “I don’t read the writings of a demented madman,” Madam Avery replied.

    “You should. They denounce the Prophet as the lying voice of the Wizengamot and draw parallels to the unfortunate time when the Prophet was under the control of the traitors.” Madam Fawley shook her head. “It’s not a big step from that to liken us to the traitors.”

    “But a war would ruin the entire country!” Mr Macmillan said, aghast.

    “Exactly,” Neville said. “If the muggleborns think that we’re turning into blood purists, they’ll start a war.”

    “But that’s madness!”

    Neville suppressed a sigh. “I know them, probably better than anyone else here. I’ve stood with them when Voldemort attacked Hogwarts. They could have fled, but didn’t. Even though they were risking their deaths and the destruction of Hogwarts, they choose to fight.”

    “Because you and Potter and the teachers led them!”

    “That was a factor, but many had gathered there to fight without knowing about Harry’s plans.” Neville shook his head. “If they feel they have nothing to lose, they’ll start a war, even if it kills all of us.”

    “But they have something to lose! Their livelihoods. And, in a war, their lives!” Macmillan was still shaking his head in apparent disbelief. It was clear why he hadn’t been sorted into Gryffindor. But then, none of the Wizengamot members present, except Neville, had fought in the war.

    “That might not be enough to stay their wands,” Mr Greengrass said. “We might consider throwing them a bone.”

    “What? Give in to threats? Never!” Mr Rosier said. “We won’t bow to the pressure of the rabble in the street!”

    “Don’t be a fool, Alois!” Madam Smith snapped. “Have you been in Diagon Alley since your first encounter with the muggleborn protesters? I have! And let me tell you, you can’t take a step without seeing a lit wand or three!”

    “I heard half the first years at Hogwarts could cast the Wand-Lighting Charm before their first Charms lesson,” Madam Fawley said.

    “Half the class? That can’t be!” Mr Macmillan shook his head. “There can’t be that many muggleborns!”

    “They weren’t muggleborns,” Madam Fawley corrected him, “but half-bloods and purebloods.”

    “Isn’t that a good thing?” Mr Rosier asked. “To see them outperforming the muggleborns?”

    Madam Smith sighed. “They were taught that spell for a reason, Alois.”

    Mr Rosier gaped. “But… that makes no sense. They aren’t muggleborns!”

    Mr Greengrass chuckled. “Neither are the Weasleys, yet they openly support the protests. Their shop even has specials on fireworks that spell out their demands in the sky.” He shook his head. “That’s why I say we should consider granting them something. Placate them. Long enough that we can rebuild the Ministry and straighten out the problems with loyalty.”

    Madam Smith nodded. “Maybe follow that witch’s proposal about licences? Open a few of those that were held by families without heirs to the public. That’s what she asked for.”

    “It might be enough,” Madam Fawley agreed. “At the very least, it’ll gain us some time.”

    Neville didn’t think so - he knew Hermione. But the proposal might give her and her supporters enough rope to hang themselves. And so he nodded. “We might also consider sealing up the Dementors.”

    “But wouldn’t that help the traitors in Azkaban?” Mr Rosier asked. “Surely the muggleborns would take offence at that!”

    Neville shook his head. “Actually, no. They really loathe the Dementors. Especially those who were imprisoned in Azkaban during the war.”

    Mr Selwyn frowned. “But we would need even more guards for the prison if we get rid of the Dementors. And we don’t have enough guards as it is.”

    “We could hire muggleborns and send them to Azkaban. As guards I mean,” Mr Macmillan said, chuckling at his joke.

    Neville didn’t laugh. More muggleborns trained to fight wasn’t a good idea, in his opinion. There were already too many of them.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, September 28th, 1998

    “...and therefore I propose to open these three licences for the growing and selling of magical fungi to the public.”

    Neville kept an eye on Hermione as Mr Greengrass spoke. She didn’t seem at all surprised. Had she known about it in advance? Had someone told her? Or had she expected it? Mr Greengrass hadn’t filed a proposal; there hadn’t been enough time for that, so he had added a rider to a filed proposal by Mr Rosier, which meant Hermione couldn’t have read about it.

    He shook his head. He wouldn’t be able to solve this now.

    Hermione didn’t ask for the floor after Mr Greengrass had finished his speech. That could mean that she supported it, and was waiting for someone to oppose it before voicing her opinion. But she hadn’t cared about Wizengamot etiquette before, and Neville doubted that she was starting now.

    But there didn’t seem to be anyone willing to oppose Mr Greengrass’s proposal - or other members were too surprised to say so; they hadn’t been able to talk to everyone beforehand. So Neville raised his wand.

    Doge nodded at him. “The chair recognises the honourable Mr Longbottom.”

    He stood and cleared his throat. “While I do not think Shrieking Moss and Weaving Grass require special consideration - anyone with an O.W.L. in Herbology would be able to handle them - I think that the licence to grow Snarewood shouldn’t be opened to the public. It’s a relative of Devil’s Snare, and while not as dangerous or quick, it’s not at all harmless.”

    Hermione didn’t speak in opposition to him either. She didn’t even vote when the proposal came up.

    It was both disappointing and unnerving.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, October 6th, 1998

    “Thank you for coming, Mr Longbottom. Usually, this would be handled by a Ministry employee, but…” The Auror - Rosier, a distant relative of the Wizengamot member - trailed off and shrugged. “We’re short on experts, and you’re known as a prodigy.”

    Neville nodded. “I’m aware of the current situation in the Ministry.” They had Herbology specialists, but none of them had any training for cases like this one.

    Neville took care to keep from grimacing as he studied the room behind the shop. “It looks like the Snarewood had a growth spurt - they do that during the full moon.” The wooden branches covered an entire wall of the room. And half the floor. And what was left of the shop’s owner, Adrien Selwyn.

    Neville used his wand to lift a limb branch. “And it reached the pot with the Jumping Grass. Which quickly started to cover the branches.” The plant could grow on any tree it touched, like ivy. Just faster. And then it would try to ‘jump’ to break off a branch and travel to a good rooting spot with it, using it as fertiliser.

    But Snarewood’s branches wouldn’t break - they bent. “He must have heard the banging of the branches and rushed into the room. Got too close to the main trunk, and got ensnared. Then he panicked and tried to cut the branches, instead of waiting them out or apparating. That triggered the acidic sap.”

    The Auror’s face turned green.

    “You can imagine the rest,” Neville said. “The plant shouldn’t have been placed near Jump Grass. And it should have been covered up during the full moon.” The fool probably thought he could use the growth spurt.

    “Yes, sir.”

    “I warned them,” Neville said - to no one in particular. He had known this would happen, sooner or later. He hadn’t expected it to happen in an established pureblood shop whose owner should have known better than to cultivate plants he didn’t know enough to handle, but it didn’t matter in the end. Someone had died because Neville hadn’t pushed enough to stop the proposal.

    He clenched his teeth and made his way to the Ministry. He had a proposal to write. And lives to save.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, October 12th, 1998

    “...and the tragedy that occurred in Selwyn’s Superb Shrubs illustrates the need to restrict such licences and permits to experts who have the experience and skill to handle such dangerous plants. Unless we revoke the licences currently granted, more people will die. Snarewood is an extremely temperamental plant that few are ready to handle. Therefore I propose to revoke said licences and hope everyone among us will remember that there are good reasons we restricted the handling of magical plants to chosen families in the past. Mindlessly copying muggles will only lead to ruin; Wizarding Britain isn’t muggle Britain, and we aren’t muggles.”

    Neville nodded curtly and sat down.

    “I’m sorry about this,” Mr Greengrass told him. “I didn’t expect this would happen. Selwyn was an experienced Herbologist, from what I had heard.”

    “He was,” Neville said. “But he had no experience with Snarewood. And he should have known better than to take in a plant under those circumstances - much less plant it next to others.”

    This time, Hermione rose. Neville closed his eyes and clenched his teeth.

    “My esteemed colleague Mr Longbottom is correct inasmuch as this was a tragedy that could have been averted. However, he is incorrect in blaming it on the fact that the licence to grow and sell Snarewood was opened to the public. It’s not the fact that anyone could apply for a licence that is to blame for this, but that everyone who applied was granted a licence without anyone bothering to check whether or not they had the necessary qualifications to handle the plant.”

    She sniffed.

    “I am utterly disgusted that, without bothering to properly examine the circumstances that led to this tragedy, my esteemed colleague would nevertheless try to use this tragic event in a blatant attempt to protect discriminatory monopolies. Disgusted, but not surprised. I propose to add a stipulation that only those who have demonstrated the skills needed to handle the plants - by achieving a N.E.W.T. in Herbology - be granted a licence.”

    Neville shot up from his seat. “Selwyn had a N.E.W.T. in Herbology! It wasn’t enough! And further, muggles have monopolies too - especially on dangerous substances!” Like alcohol in some countries.

    “Muggles have laws about restrictive trade practices which prevent unscrupulous people from creating and abusing monopolies for profit,” she retorted. “And if having a N.E.W.T. in Herbology is not enough to handle all plants safely, then maybe we should examine the subjects taught at Hogwarts. A student who has taken their N.E.W.T.s shouldn’t have to rely on family lore to enter a business. It’s already bad enough that they usually have to rely on family connections.”

    Neville stood again, not caring about the example he set. “Families worked hard for decades to develop the skills and lore to handle such things. Depriving them of the fruits of their labour is no better than stealing the gold from their vaults!”

    “They can be compensated. Letting individual families hoard crucial knowledge means we allow a few families to hold the country hostage. That is not a wise policy. And should a dark wizard eradicate a family, said crucial knowledge would be entirely lost.” Hermione shook her head. “No, to repeal Mr Greengrass’s proposal in its entirety would be foolish. I, therefore, propose to amend it.”

    She sniffed once more in his direction and sat. Neville glared at her. Others spoke - usually briefly and without saying much of substance.

    When the votes were tallied, Neville’s proposal passed, as expected. But it passed with fewer votes than he had expected. He hoped that the members opposing him - Shacklebolt among them - were merely confused about him wanting to repeal Mr Greengrass’s proposal; their good relationship was no secret.

    Because if those votes were instead meant to support Hermione, then things were worse than he had expected.

    *****​

    As Neville left the Chamber - after accepting Mr Greengrass’s invitation to dinner at the manor - he noticed Hermione sitting on a bench near the lift. She was smirking, or so it seemed, as the other members gave her a wide berth on their way out.

    Was she waiting for someone? Perhaps some of her supporters in the Ministry? Maybe even someone Neville didn’t yet know? He narrowed his eyes, then walked over to her.

    “Hermione.” He nodded curtly at her. It wasn’t the proper greeting, but she could hardly be called a proper member of the Wizengamot, given the way she scorned all their traditions and customs. And, since he was a fellow Gryffindor in her year, it wasn’t impolite either. Not much, at least. It wasn’t as if they were close friends any more - you couldn’t be friends with someone who tried to destroy your family’s legacy and future.

    “Neville.” She barely moved her head and didn’t stand up.

    He waited a moment, but she didn’t say anything else. So be it. He frowned. “I told you opening the licences would lead to accidents.”

    She cocked her head. “I didn’t support Greengrass’s proposal, as you might recall.”

    “You wanted a blanket removal of the limits to licences!” he retorted. “If you had had your way, many more people would have been hurt or died!” He wasn’t going to let her weasel out of this.

    “What I asked for was to break up the monopolies. Remove the strangleholds of individual families on the economy. I didn’t propose to let anyone, no questions asked, acquire licences to handle dangerous plants and animals,” she shot back, narrowing her eyes.

    “You didn’t specify that in your proposal. You didn’t cover that at all.” He glared at her.

    “I didn’t bother since the proposal would never have passed anyway.” She scoffed. “As was shown by your subsequent distribution of other licences. But in a working parliament, there would have been a real debate and follow-up changes.”

    “A real parliament would tolerate proposals which the author knows won’t be anything but wasted time?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

    “My proposal wouldn’t have been wasted in a real parliament!”

    “This is the Wizengamot, not a muggle parliament. We have different rules and standards. As long as you won’t accept that, you’ll continue to waste your and our time.” He took a breath, then continued, cutting off whatever she was about to say. “But I’ve read up on muggle parliaments. They have rules as well. And if you break them, you suffer the consequences. Same as here.”

    “Hardly the same,” she snarled. “But you wouldn’t know that, having read a few muggle newspapers.”

    “I’ve read books!” he snapped.

    “The wrong kind, then - or you wouldn’t try to exploit this tragedy to support your continuing attempts to oppress muggleborns - and half-bloods and purebloods.” She sniffed. “How noble!”

    He clenched his teeth and swallowed his first thought. He wouldn’t lose his temper. “As if you’re not doing the same. You didn’t vote for the proposal because it came from Mr Greengrass. So you could blame him for any trouble that resulted from it.”

    “I didn’t vote for it since it was a transparent ploy to throw me a bone so I’d roll over and play nice,” she spat. “Do you think I am stupid? Why yes, you do. Unless a witch or wizard was raised in an Old Family, you think they are too stupid to know anything about politics.”

    “Well, you’re not doing much to dissuade anyone from that opinion. But I don’t think you are stupid - just too arrogant and self-righteous to actually achieve anything at all.” He shook his head. “Which, in a way, is stupid, now that I think of it.”

    She chuckled, but it sounded forced to him. “That’s rich coming from a wizard who doesn’t even notice how he is alienating every friend he had in his attempts to suck up to his fellow Wizengamot members. Or their daughters.”

    “Personal attacks? Don’t even muggles frown on those?” He sneered at her. “In any case, this tragedy perfectly illustrates that without the proper education, you shouldn’t be trusted with potentially dangerous powers.”

    “And here comes the propaganda!” She rose as the lift opened and started walking towards it. He spotted Harry and Ron inside the cabin. “The fact that so many traitors were found in your Wizengamot perfectly illustrates that you can’t be trusted with any power,” she tossed over her shoulder before joining her friends in the lift.

    Her friends. Not his. Not any more. Not if they supported her.

    *****​
     
    Corvus 501, space turtle, Ame and 7 others like this.
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Revelations
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 4: Revelations

    London, Diagon Alley, October 13th, 1998

    Neville smiled as he opened the door to Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour for Daphne. It was a beautiful day, just perfect for a stroll down Diagon Alley - and he had very fond memories of the Parlour. When he had been a child, every visit to Diagon Alley had ended here.

    “It’s been ages since I’ve visited,” Daphne said, looking around. “But it hasn’t changed.”

    “It has, actually. We spent a lot of time restoring the Parlour.”

    Neville turned to look at the waitress who had addressed them. That wasn’t how you greeted customers - Mr Fortescue had always been the very soul of hospitality.

    “Restoring it?” Daphne asked.

    The thin smile on the waitress’s face twisted into a hint of a sneer. “After my father was murdered, the Parlour was confiscated by the Ministry and handed over to the pureblood Fortescues. My family just got it back.”

    Oh. Neville remembered reading about that in one of the early bills he had supported - the restoration of confiscated muggleborn property to their owners. Or their heirs, in too many cases. He hadn’t known Florean Fortescue had been a muggleborn, though, and not a distant relative of the Fortescue family.

    Daphne, apparently, hadn’t made the connection. “The pureblood Fortescues?”

    “My father was a muggleborn,” the waitress - or rather, the new owner - said. “We’re not related to the pureblood Fortescues.” Her expression and tone turned ‘pureblood’ into an insult.

    Daphne noticed that and frowned. “Did you know that it was Neville and my father who returned the business to you?”

    The waitress, who still hadn’t introduced herself, snorted. “Do you expect us to be grateful for restoring our property to us? It won’t bring my father back.” She shook her head. “And you haven’t actually done anything for us.”

    Neville bristled. “I fought Voldemort!” He had risked his life in the war - and so had his gran.

    She snorted again. “You and many others. And it was Harry Potter who defeated him. And who are you fighting now?”

    Neville hissed at the insult, then pressed his lips together. “I think we shall take our business elsewhere.”

    “Yes.” Daphne nodded stiffly.

    “Have a nice day.” The witch beamed a fake smile at them as they left.

    “The nerve of that witch!” Daphne complained as soon as they were in the street. “How dare she talk to you that way!”

    Neville nodded. No manners at all. No class. And she was wrong.

    He wasn’t fighting Harry. This wasn’t a war. This was simply politics.

    But he couldn’t help adding, in his thoughts: For now.

    *****​

    Kent, Longbottom Manor, October 13th, 1998

    “How was your day, Neville?” Gran asked once Blinky had served the hors d’oeuvres.

    “It was nice,” Neville answered. And, but for the encounter in that shop, it had been. That he hadn’t had to face Hermione in a Wizengamot Session or read one of her annoyingly repetitive proposals had helped a lot, of course.

    Gran smiled. “Daphne is a nice girl, isn’t she?”

    Neville slightly raised his eyebrows. So it was ‘Daphne’ now - no longer ‘Miss Greengrass’. He nodded. “She is nice, yes.”

    “And always composed and polite.”

    He nodded again. Unlike other witches, she wouldn’t neglect her guests or her host at an outing.

    “You’ve been spending a lot of time with her.”

    He had, hadn’t he? “Yes. I’m working closely with her father.”

    “You weren’t working with her father in Diagon Alley, though. And it wasn’t her father who visited us twice last week.”

    He snorted. “No, Gran.”

    She nodded, a faint smile on her lips. “Should I make inquiries?”

    He drew a deep breath. “We haven’t actually discussed that.” He almost added ‘yet’ without thinking.

    She nodded again, and her smile didn’t vanish, to his slight confusion. “Perhaps you should.”

    He pondered that for a moment. Should he? He liked spending time with Daphne. She was beautiful and witty, always poised and elegant - but not pushy or arrogant, like Parkinson - and her jokes weren’t as barbed as Tracey’s or as nasty as Blaise’s. Of course, that was a low bar - Tracey had a very sharp tongue, and, if they hadn’t been outlawed, Blaise probably would have fought a dozen duels since Hogwarts. And if people weren’t afraid of his mother’s vengeance.

    He nodded. “Perhaps I should.”

    Gran’s smile was as wide as it had been when he had taken his oath in the Wizengamot.

    *****​

    “Did you know that Anais’s grand-niece was caught listening to Potterwatch?” Gran mentioned as pudding was served. “She told me today.”

    “No, I didn’t.” Gran hadn’t mentioned many of her friends’ grand-nieces and granddaughters since Daphne’s visits had grown more frequent.“I didn’t even know that Potterwatch was still being broadcast.” And he certainly didn’t remember Lee getting a licence for his program.

    “Well, if they ever stopped, they’ve certainly resumed. And according to Anne, all of her friends are listening to it - because of the music.” Gran wrinkled her nose. “Muggle music.”

    “I didn’t know that they banned that at Hogwarts,” Neville said.

    “They haven’t. But Alois’s grandson is a prefect and reported them to their parents.”

    “Ah.” So little Bernie had become the new Gryffindor prefect. And, apparently, a telltale. But that was none of Neville’s business. However, Potterwatch broadcasting again was a concern. Neville didn’t think Lee, if it was him behind this, would stick to muggle music.

    *****​

    Lee didn’t, as Neville found out an hour later, after he had finally found the right channel on the wireless.

    “Alright, everyone! That was ‘Girlfriend’ by Billie - the hot pick for the new number one single in this week’s charts!”

    Neville didn’t understand what Astronomy had to do with music. It probably wasn’t important anyway. But what came next, though, was.

    “And now, for a change, politics! My old Potterwatch partner has graciously agreed to give me an interview! Here’s a warm welcome for Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt!”

    Neville gasped. The Minister himself, giving an interview to a - probably - unlicenced wireless channel?

    “Thank you, Lee.”

    That was definitely Shacklebolt’s voice.

    “So, Kingsley - or do you prefer ‘Minister’ these days?”

    “Kingsley is fine. I get called ‘Minister’ all day.”

    “The perils of politics, I dare say. That you skipped a promising career as a wireless announcer to become Minister for Magic still boggles my mind.”

    Neville pressed his lips together as the two men laughed at Lee’s weak joke about one of the highest offices in Britain - and, arguably, the most powerful.

    “Speaking of politics - and everyone is speaking of politics these days - you’d have to be living under a rock to miss that there’s a big political struggle going on in the Wizengamot at the moment.”

    “Well, I would say there’s a livelier debate than usual in the Wizengamot,” the Minister answered.

    “Your talent for understatement does you proud, Kingsley.” Lee laughed, followed by Shacklebolt. “Others have described it as a vicious battle of wits with our dear Hermione holding her own against the entire Wizengamot. Not that that would surprise anyone who knows her, of course. Although it’s surprising, isn’t it, that the Wizengamot hasn’t thrown in the towel, given the average intellect and age of their members?”

    “I wouldn’t presume to comment on that,” Shacklebolt said. It would have been the correct answer but for the chuckling.

    Neville clenched his teeth again. A Minister should show more respect to the Wizengamot - they had elected him, after all!

    “But would you presume to comment on the subject of the struggle? What’s your take on democracy?”

    “Well,” Shacklebolt started to say, “not many may know this, but one of the assignments I had as an Auror was to guard the muggle Prime Minister. I spent months at his side, in the heart of the muggle government.”

    “Which, as everyone who passed Muggle Studies knows, is a democracy,” Lee cut in.

    “Correct. So, I am more than passingly familiar with the system. And while I would not presume to tell the Wizengamot how to vote, I do not think that democracy would ruin our country.”

    “There you have it, folks - straight from the mouth of our Minister for Magic - and former co-host of Potterwatch, as well as a war hero. A war hero who hasn’t switched sides, unlike others, I might add.”

    Neville almost hexed his wireless receiver. He hadn’t switched sides! He was still fighting for what was right and what was best for the country!

    *****​

    Kent, Greengrass Manor, October 14th, 1998

    “...and they made it sound as if I had switched sides to Voldemort’s followers!” Neville clenched his teeth. Just thinking about that unfair attack on him on Potterwatch made him want to curse something. Or someone.

    Daphne scoffed. “That’s…” She shook her head. “That’s so unfair. Just because you don’t follow Granger’s orders like everyone else, they’ve stooped that low.”

    “I fought together with those people!” Neville said. “Lee, Shacklebolt, Harry, Ron, Hermione - we were all at Hogwarts at the final battle.” He snorted. “How long until they claim I was fighting for Voldemort?”

    “That wouldn’t surprise me,” Daphne said. “On the other hand, it’s a good sign if they need to lie about you - it means they don’t think they can beat you fairly.”

    “But it’s an effective lie. People will believe I betrayed them - people like Fortescue’s daughter.” Neville sighed as he sat down on the chair next to Daphne’s desk. He wasn’t the one trying to tear down the very country they fought for. That had been Voldemort - and now Hermione and her friends. All he was doing was trying to preserve his country.

    “That witch seemed to hate you already.” Daphne sat on her bed, facing him. “Muggleborns will believe everything Granger says since she’s one of them.”

    “Well, she might have listened to more Potterwatch broadcasts.” Neville didn’t know how long those had been going on for already. “But she’s Fortescue’s daughter - she’s a half-blood, not a muggleborn.”

    “Well, if he married another muggleborn, she would be more of a muggleborn than a half-blood,” Daphne said. “No proper magical upbringing.”

    Neville frowned. “The Weasleys are purebloods and still support Hermione.”

    “I don’t think they had a proper magical upbringing,” Daphne said, chuckling. Neville didn’t laugh. It wasn’t the fault of the Weasleys that they were poor. Daphne went on: “But they know that if Granger manages to replace the Wizengamot, they’ll rise in status. She’s with their youngest son - she’ll be family.”

    “Unless Ron gets tired of her ordering him around,” Neville muttered. This time, he laughed when Daphne giggled.

    “She was a terror as a prefect, or so Parkinson told us.” Daphne shook her head. “But that happens when people who aren’t prepared for it suddenly get power over others.”

    Neville could only agree with that. “That’s why we have to stop her - she has no idea about governing a magical country.” And he would bet that she didn’t know much about governing a muggle country either.

    *****​

    Mr Rosier was, again, loudly complaining about something, Neville noted when he entered the drawing room in Greengrass Manor. He was among the last to arrive - his talk with Daphne had taken longer than he had expected, and he had lost track of time. And Madam Greengrass hadn’t checked up on them until the gathering had been about to start.

    Neville greeted everyone - and ignored Mr Greengrass’s smirk - before he took his usual seat and leaned over to Madam Fawley, raising an eyebrow and nodding in Mr Rosier’s direction. He noticed that Mr Macmillan hadn’t arrived yet.

    “He’s complaining about the lack of international support,” she whispered - not particularly quietly.

    “Damn right, I am!” Mr Rosier blurted out. “We’re facing a coup here, and no one cares!”

    “No one cared when Voldemort took over the country,” Neville pointed out.

    “No one knew that it was him for quite some time,” Mr Rosier retorted. “He had the Minister under the Imperius Curse.”

    “And no one asked for help,” Mr Greengrass added. “Which, unless I’m greatly mistaken, hasn’t happened now, either.”

    “I think we would have been notified about such a proposal,” Madam Smith said.

    “I’m considering it,” Mr Rosier said. “A formal request for support to the ICW!”

    “The ICW only cares about threats to the Statute of Secrecy.” Madam Fawley scoffed. “And we don’t face such a threat.”

    “Well, we could be facing one soon!” Mr Rosier snapped. “We can’t trust the muggleborns to keep the secret from their families without enough wands to keep them in line!”

    “Calling for help from the ICW because we can’t handle our duty to protect and uphold the Statute would be a worse loss of face than Fudge’s blunder,” Madam Fawley retorted. “That witch would have a great time portraying us as inept and unable to fulfil our duties.”

    “And without an ICW sanctioned intervention, no government would meddle anyway,” Mr Greengrass said. “Imagine the precedent it would set - other countries would fear such an intervention every time they have an internal disagreement.”

    Neville nodded.

    “Scandinavia would be even worse than it already is,” Mr Selwyn added. “All the clans would try to drag other countries into their feuds, just as they try to recruit our werewolves.”

    “They can have all our werewolves!” Mr Rosier spat. “Good riddance! But we could use a few more wands.”

    Did the man actually think they could afford a war? Or win it? Neville clenched his teeth.

    “Well, according to what I heard from my sources...” Mr Selwyn said.

    Madam Fawley interrupted him. “Your family in Prussia, you mean.”

    Mr Selwyn rolled his eyes as he continued: “...from my sources, most of the other countries think we deserve our current troubles. If we hadn’t granted so many rights to muggleborns, they wouldn’t expect even more rights now.”

    Madam Smith scoffed. “That was Dumbledore’s doing. I would have liked to see any of those countries refuse him in our place!”

    That caused a round of chuckles and laughter - though most of it seemed bereft of humour. Neville shook his head. “In any case, as I’ve said before, we cannot afford another war, even if we could win it.” Which they couldn’t - anyone with a contact in the Ministry could tell that there were too many unreliable Aurors and Hit-Wizards. First among them, of course, Harry and Ron.

    “Bloody traitors!” Rosier mumbled.

    For a moment, Neville thought he had heard ‘blood traitors’. He cleared his throat. “No, we need to offer the muggleborns more concessions. It won’t turn many of them to our side, but it should placate them and buy us more time.”

    “Or,” Mr Greengrass said, “we could shore up more support from the purebloods and proper half-bloods.”

    Neville looked at him and blinked. “And how would we do that?” The Wizengamot had restored the status quo ante, hadn’t they? That should have covered the purebloods and the half-bloods who had established themselves in Wizarding Britain.

    Mr Greengrass inclined his head. “We need to have more people invested in our government. If granting concessions to the muggleborns won’t really help us, and I believe Mr Longbottom when he says it won’t, then granting concessions or favours to purebloods and half-bloods might be more successful. We could lower the taxes on land and businesses, for example.”

    “That would certainly almost exclusively benefit purebloods and established half-bloods,” Madam Smith said.

    “And us,” Madam Fawley added. “Which means it’s a proposal that’ll be passed easily.”

    Neville bit his lip. He couldn’t say why - the reasoning was sound - but he thought that this was a bad idea.

    But he didn’t have a better one.

    It wasn’t until everyone was getting ready to leave - although Neville was staying for dinner - that he noticed that Mr Macmillan hadn’t shown up at all.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, October 19th, 1998

    “...and, therefore, I propose to reduce the tax on lands and businesses by ten per cent. After the recent crisis, the hard-working people of Britain need not be burdened with more taxes while rebuilding our country.” Mr Greengrass smiled as applause started, but Neville noticed Hermione raising her wand already.

    He sighed as Doge called her up.

    She was smiling thinly when she rose and nodded at Doge. “Thank you, sir.” She lost her smile as she turned to glare at Neville - no, at Mr Greengrass, this time. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot, I am appalled!” She took a deep breath as Neville wondered, once more, how much scorn she could voice while technically adhering to the forms of the Wizengamot. “Appalled and disgusted at this blatant attempt to pauper the government while filling the coffers of the honoured members of the Wizengamot! Anyone who has studied the proposal knows that the only ones who would significantly benefit from this are the rich - those who own multiple businesses and lands. The Old Families, in short. They are the ones who pay the majority of the taxes - not the wizards and witches renting a shop in Diagon Alley. And, coincidentally, most of those lands and businesses were not affected by the war, and aren’t in any need of rebuilding. However, the Ministry is.”

    She scoffed again.

    “This proposal would deny the Ministry the means needed to rebuild what was destroyed or lost in the war - and, moreover, at a critical juncture, when many are still struggling with the war’s effects. St Mungo’s is still dealing with a flood of curse victims from the last battles. If you want to help those trying to rebuild their lives, grant them help - don’t deprive the Ministry of the gold needed to help its citizens!” She sat with a huff.

    Neville raised his wand, and - as usual - was picked by Doge. He nodded at the Chief Warlock, then spoke: “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! My esteemed colleague fails to realise that help to rebuild what destruction the war has wrought doesn’t have to come from the Ministry. That is understandable, of course, given her origins. But those among us who were raised in an Old Family know our duty - if a relative suffers a calamity, we will help them. The gold saved by the proposed tax reductions will go to those among our extended families and friends who need it. The Ministry will be able to focus its still significant means on those people who lack such help. Overall, I would estimate that this will actually save the Ministry more through the consequent lowered expenditure that it will lose in revenue.” And fewer people would have to beg the Ministry for help. Family should take care of each other, as was proper. “I, therefore, propose we accept this proposal.”

    Neville’s smile at the approval from his peers slipped when he saw who was speaking after him.

    “The Chair recognises the Minister for Magic.”

    Shacklebolt rose. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! I beg to differ with Mr Longbottom’s estimate that this proposal will save the Ministry money. While it might be true that the Ministry’s expenses for rebuilding may be reduced, we cannot say this with any certainty since we lack hard numbers. However, we can say with certainty that in the long run, it will drastically cut into the Ministry’s budget long after the rebuilding is completed. I, therefore, oppose this proposal.”

    That was a good point, Neville had to admit. However, as Madam Smith was quick to point out in her rebuttal, if the Ministry truly had a need for more gold at a later date, its budget could be discussed then - and that happened every year anyway.

    Macmillan - apparently no longer sick or busy - rose to speak.

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! While my own family would certainly profit from this proposal, I cannot, in good conscience, support it. My esteemed colleague, Madam Granger, and the Minister have clearly laid out the reasons why this proposal should be rejected. It is laudable to wish to support those of us who are still suffering from the effects of the war, but a blanket reduction in taxes is not the right way to achieve that. Too many who do not need help will benefit from this, while those in dire straits would need more than a paltry reduction in taxes. I, therefore, oppose this proposal.”

    Neville clenched his teeth as he glared at Mr Macmillan. So that was why the man hadn’t joined them for the gathering at Greengrass Manor - he had switched sides!

    And, worse - if Macmillan could do such a thing, then who else might do it?

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, October 20th, 1998

    “...and I heard from Hannah, who heard it from Zacharias, who’s best friends with Ernie Macmillan, that his father switched sides after a visit from Percy Weasley.” Daphne sounded incredulous as she turned her head to look at Neville while hanging on his arm. “And it didn’t even help them - Daddy’s proposal passed.”

    Neville nodded. He wasn’t certain how much longer Zacharias would be friends with Ernie, of course. Madam Smith would be furious at Mr Macmillan’s betrayal. Unless... No. She was a tough witch. She wouldn’t follow Mr Macmillan’s example. She couldn’t.

    He kept an eye out for muggleborns waving glowing wands at them - there always seemed to be at least a few of them in Diagon Alley no matter what time you visited - as he answered Daphne. “Percy shouldn’t be underestimated,” he told her. “He’s quite ambitious. He made a big blunder when he started out at the Ministry and broke with his family, but they made up, and he recovered.”

    If that even had been a real break-up - Neville wouldn’t put it past Dumbledore to have used such a ploy to place a spy in a hostile Ministry. If the Headmaster hadn’t even told Harry the truth about his connection to Voldemort, then he wouldn’t have blinked at keeping that a secret from the rest of the Weasleys. Not that Neville was likely to ever hear the truth of the story, given his current differences with the Weasleys. And with Harry. And with Hermione.

    He clenched his teeth. She had burned that bridge in the Wizengamot with her insults and arrogance.

    “Ah.” Daphne nodded. “Still, he must have promised Mr Macmillan something to switch sides. And it can’t be a seat in their parliament even if they win since all members will be elected.”

    Neville chuckled without any trace of humour. “They can endorse him, which will likely get him elected. That’s how muggles handle things.”

    The witch blinked. “So, they can hand seats to each other anyway? Reward each other? Granger didn’t say anything about that.”

    “Well, it wouldn’t fit her propaganda,” Neville replied. “Although I guess all the muggleborns know that already.”

    “Well, we can be glad she didn’t announce that - I gather a number of your colleagues would consider switching sides if they could keep their seats,” Daphne said.

    “She can’t let too many keep their seats. Not after her relentless denouncing of all of us as oppressive bigots.” Neville scoffed. But Daphne had a point - if Hermione and her supporters, especially the Weasleys, were now talking to selected members of the Wizengamot, things would get difficult in short order. More difficult. Ron’s father was widely seen as an eccentric - and that was being polite - but he had risen through the ranks in in the Ministry, despite his poverty and lack of ties to an Old Family. And he had been an important member of Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix. It would not pay to underestimate him.

    A few minutes and a brief visit to Eric Greengrass’s ‘Curse-Breaking and Warding’ shop later - which had been restored thanks to Daphne’s father - they were about to head to ‘Le Canard Vert’ for some desserts that didn’t come with scorn and hostility when they suddenly heard loud yelling. Neville had drawn his wand and taken a step in front of Daphne before he realised this wasn’t another bunch of aggressive muggleborns. Two shopkeepers were facing each other, wands drawn.

    “You stupid sell-out!”

    “What? I’m not the one fomenting unrest and supporting those muggleborns!”

    “My mum’s a muggleborn - same as yours!”

    “My mum’s not the same as yours! She doesn’t go out and bother peaceful people!”

    “I bet that’s because she’s ashamed of her son selling out to the purebloods!”

    “Ooh, you! Furnunculus!”

    “Ah! Take that! Saberas!”

    Neville felt almost embarrassed at the display. Two grown men, jinxing each other in the street - and with spells students at Hogwarts outgrew in their fifth year, at the latest. Fortunately, one of them being unable to see because of the boils covering his face, and the other too busy scratching himself everywhere made it easy for the Auror patrol headed their way to arrest them both.

    Still, the incident had been quite different from casting a Wand-Lighting Charm in protest. If things grew worse and people started using curses instead of jinxes…

    Neville shook his head. This could turn very bad very quickly.

    *****​

    Argyll and Bute, Macmillan Manor, October 22nd, 1998

    Neville hadn’t been to Macmillan Manor before - or, rather, he didn’t remember his last visit; Gran had told him that his parents had taken him there when he had been a few months old, to meet Ernie.

    “Neville! Welcome to my home!” Mr Macmillan smiled - his manners hadn’t suffered despite his defection.

    “Thank you for your hospitality.” Neville nodded, not quite bowing. They weren’t exactly friends - hadn’t been friends even before this recent development.

    “Please join me in the living room.”

    “Thank you.”

    Two minutes and many tapestries but few paintings later, they were sitting in old, comfortable leather armchairs, next to a bar stocked with lots of whiskeys - including muggle brands. Or at least, brands Neville wasn’t familiar with but thought he remembered Seamus and Dean mentioning once. Or Harry.

    He pressed his lips together at the stray thought.

    If Mr Macmillan had noticed his slight lapse, he didn’t show any reaction as he handed Neville a glass of ‘the finest whisky in my cellar’. “I think I know why you’re visiting me. You’re not the first to want to persuade me to rethink my recent change of allegiance.”

    Neville shook his head, causing Mr Macmillan’s eyebrows to rise in surprise. “I’m not here to try to convince you to return into the fold. I’m merely here because I would like to know why you’ve changed your allegiance.”

    “Ah!” Mr Macmillan nodded. “I should have expected that - it was your doing, after all, which prompted it. After a fashion.”

    “Sorry?” Neville cocked his head, unable to hide his own surprise. He had driven Mr Macmillan into the arms of Hermione and her supporters? How?

    “Indeed.” The old wizard nodded. “I wanted to follow your example, you know. Learn more about our opponents. So I read up on muggles and democracy.” He snorted as he shook his head. “And it didn’t take me long to realise that I would rather not end up like the French nobles.”

    Neville blinked. What had the Duc’s Court to… ah. “The muggle nobles.”

    “Yes. The French Revolution… a ghastly affair.” Once more Mr Macmillan shook his head before taking a sip of his whisky. “So much violence, so much hatred and so many deaths. And so many parallels to our own situation.”

    “It’s not really comparable,” Neville said. They weren’t French, after all. “We don’t have a king, everyone pays taxes - actually, everyone who owns land or a business does - and the situation for the muggleborns has been improving steadily since Dumbledore became Chief Warlock.” He had studied the history of democracy as well, after all.

    “Steadily improving, but for the recent war and assorted unpleasantness, you mean.”

    Neville frowned. He was certain that Hermione wouldn’t appreciate such a flippant way of talking about Voldemort’s reign of terror. “Yes,” he said. He took a sip from his own glass and nodded. It was a good blend.

    “But the muggleborns are out there, protesting - and they are getting louder and more daring. Just like in France.” Mr Macmillan sighed. “And I know - thanks to you, and Ernie - that we don’t have the numbers to win, or even survive, should things get out of hand. There are too many muggleborns and half-bloods.”

    “Not all the half-bloods are supporting Hermione,” Neville retorted. They didn’t have a majority.

    “Every half-blood has a muggleborn or muggle parent. If things come down to blood and nothing else, they won’t die for purebloods. Not even all purebloods would.”

    Neville sighed. “So, you changed sides because you’re afraid of Hermione and her friends?” He stared at his host.

    Mr Macmillan didn’t grow angry, though - he laughed. “I’m no Gryffindor! But it’s more than that. I’m acting in the best interest of my family.”

    Neville knew which family he meant. “You hope you can keep your seat.”

    The other wizard inclined his head. “I think as a vocal supporter of Miss Granger’s plans, I have a good chance of being elected, once it comes to that. They will have more voters, after all.”

    And Mr Macmillan would have his extended family voting for him as well, Neville knew.

    “But even if I lose the seat, I will get to keep my family’s fortune - and I will not alienate the majority of my businesses’ customers.”

    Neville frowned. “I haven’t heard anything about a boycott.”

    “Neither have I, but I would be a fool if I didn’t take it into account.” Mr Macmillan spread his hands. “Numbers don’t lie.”

    And neither did they fight for what was right. Neville sighed. “But was it necessary to… surprise us like this? You didn’t show up when we were expecting you, and you didn’t call us, either.”

    Mr Macmillan looked slightly embarrassed. “I didn’t want to appear as if I were spying on you.” He grinned - a little forced, Neville thought. “But I also didn’t want to give the Greengrass Circle advance warning of my plans.”

    ‘Greengrass Circle’? Neville frowned. They were meeting at Greengrass Manor, but that made it sound as if Mr Greengrass led the group when, in reality, they had no set leader, and Neville did as much for them as Mr Greengrass. Or even more.

    “After seeing for weeks what you did to Miss Granger, I didn’t intend to give you time to prepare.” Mr Macmillan laughed, briefly. “You’re very impressive, Mr Longbottom, if you’re engaged in a matter.”

    Neville smiled, though he didn’t feel like it. This flattery was useless; Mr Macmillan had changed sides, and no amount of polite compliments would change that - or prevent the consequences it would have. “Did you consider the effect your decision would have on your son?”

    “Effect?”

    “He’s friends with Zacharias Smith and his fiancée,” Neville pointed out.

    “Ah.” Mr Macmillan chuckled. “I don’t think that it will be a problem.”

    Did that mean he expected Madam Smith to join him? Or had he spoken with her about this already? Or was he bluffing, trying to rattle Neville? “I see,” Neville said, nodding. He didn’t - but two could play this game.

    Even though he knew that once the news spread - and Neville didn’t doubt that Ernie, and probably Zacharias as well, were busy telling their friends what had happened and explaining why Ernie’s father had done this - there would be more of Neville’s peers thinking about following Mr Macmillan’s example.

    And with every member who changed sides, the pressure on the remaining members to also do so would rise.

    The ‘Greengrass Circle’ would have to do something about this. If they could.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, October 23rd, 1998

    “There haven’t been any muggleborns around today,” Daphne remarked as they walked through Diagon Alley.

    Neville frowned at her. “Did you have to say that?”

    “Why?” She looked puzzled. “You don’t think…”

    “Lumos!”

    “Lumos!”

    “Lumos!”

    Neville felt her jerk and tug on his arm as three muggleborns - or half-bloods - waved their glowing wands at them from a side-alley. He ignored them and turned to her. “You had to say it, hm?”

    Daphne pouted, which made her look very cute. “It doesn’t work that way; we learned that in Divination.”

    “Apparently, no one told them,” Neville replied with a faint grin.

    She huffed. “Anyway, with the daily harassment over, let’s go and check Flourish and Blotts.”

    “Do you want another book on muggles? I could loan you one.” He had a growing muggle library, and Daphne had voiced her interest in learning more after he had informed her and her father about his meeting with Mr Macmillan.

    “I like to mark my study books,” she said.

    He almost said ‘I’m not Hermione: I won’t kill you for writing in a book’ but managed to control himself. Given recent developments and concerns, that would have been in very poor taste. And he didn’t like thinking about his former friend when he was trying to relax with Daphne. So he nodded. “Let’s go, then.”

    They were halfway to the shop when they heard yelling.

    Neville frowned - what was going on? There weren’t any muggleborn rallies scheduled. He would know - he kept an eye on them.

    Daphne must have thought the same thing since she tugged on his arm. “Let’s see what’s going on!”

    Neville wasn’t certain whether that was a good idea, but… it was the middle of the day, in Diagon Alley. And he was confident he could handle trouble. He had faced Voldemort, after all.

    So they went further down the Alley until they turned the corner in the southern third and faced a small crowd of wizards and witches - all of them wearing proper robes. And there was one wizard standing on a small pedestal - an upturned chest, Neville noticed - addressing the crowd. “Will we stay our wands and do nothing while those people who know nothing about magic and our country try to ruin it?”

    “No!” the crowd yelled.

    “Will we stand aside and let them harass us when we’re shopping?”

    “No!” The yells grew louder. And - was that a ‘mudblood’ Neville had heard?

    “Let’s take back our Alley!” the wizard yelled.

    “Yes!”

    “Let’s drive them out!”

    “Hex the mudbloods!”

    “Down with the mudbloods!”

    The crowd turned, people drawing wands - and came straight towards them. Neville froze for a moment. They were almost two dozen. If they had some skill at Defence…

    But they cheered when they saw him and Daphne.

    “Longbottom!”

    “Greengrass!”

    “Give the mudbloods hell!”

    “Our hero!”

    “You tell ’em!”

    Neville wanted to hex the lot. Mudbloods? His parents had lost their minds fighting Death Eaters! He wasn’t opposing Hermione so the blood bigots could crawl out from where they had been hiding!

    But they were smiling at him - and they had their wands drawn. If he told them off, this could turn ugly - and he had Daphne with him. But if he didn’t do anything, they would storm the Alley. And he hadn’t seen an Auror patrol around.

    He cast a quick Amplifying Charm. “Stop!”

    The closest wizards and witches flinched. The rabble-rouser blinked. “What?”

    Neville pressed his lips together for a moment. He hated this, but he didn’t see a better option. He couldn’t curse a group who hadn’t done anything. Yet. “They are waiting for you!” he said. “If you start attacking muggleborns, they’ll be ready.”

    “We can take mudbloods!” the heckler yelled.

    “You can’t take Aurors,” Neville yelled back. “And you certainly can’t take The-Boy-Who-Lived. Or his friends. If you start trouble, they’ll finish you. Like they finished Voldemort.”

    They looked stunned for a moment. Lips moving without anyone saying anything. A few cringed at hearing the name.

    “But we can’t let them destroy our country!” one witch yelled. It sounded as if she were crying.

    “We won’t let them destroy our country,” Neville replied. “Trust us!”

    He felt sick even as he made the crowd back down. He didn’t want to help bigots. But he couldn’t let them start a fight. Harry and the other Aurors would be on them quickly - and things would escalate. In the Wizengamot, and on the streets.

    And, worst of all, he felt as if he were lying to them. He didn’t think he would be able to save the country. Not any more.

    *****​
     
  9. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    Yeah, that Neville hasn't turned on them the moment they started saying Mudblood is a scathing indictment. You can be damned sure that this got seen, and will be reported on Potterwatch.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: Culmination & Epilogue
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 5: Culmination

    Kent, Greengrass Manor, October 24th, 1998

    “Hello, Neville.” Daphne smiled at Neville as soon as he had cleaned the soot from the fireplace off his robes.

    “Hello, Daphne.” Neville nodded at her, and she surprised him by hugging him. That was a little more familiar than he had expected, despite casual greetings having replaced the standard forms some time ago.

    “I heard what they said on the wireless last night,” she whispered close to his ear.

    The wireless… Ah. He tensed. Potterwatch. Lee - or Hermione, or whoever had given him his information - had crossed another line. ‘Longbottom leads a blood purist mob.’ Neville hadn’t led or ordered around those bigots! He had only talked to them to avoid a bloody riot! She hugged him a little harder, and he forced himself to relax. “They’ve already made me out as a bigot; this is not much worse.” Even if it hurt much more.

    Daphne released him and nodded. Her smile looked a little brittle, though. Not that he could fault her, given the situation in which they found themselves. He patted her shoulder. “The others haven’t yet arrived?”

    She shook her head, her smile growing more genuine. “No, you’re the first.” Of course he was - the meeting wasn’t supposed to begin for another hour. But that was how things were done. “I’ll keep you company until the other guests arrive.”

    “Thank you.”

    *****​

    As usual, his time with Daphne was far too short. It felt as if he had barely sat down with her before the other members of the ‘Greengrass Circle’, as it was indeed known, Neville had found out, started to arrive. They usually met on Sundays, but given the recent developments, Neville had pushed for a meeting on Saturday - they needed to act before things spiralled out of control.

    And since he had called for the meeting, he couldn’t spend a little more time with Daphne until most of the rest had arrived. That would have been a faux pas. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for everyone to gather - they must have heard about the purist mob as well. And no one was conspicuously absent.

    Though, as Neville quickly found out, not all of them seemed to understand the ramifications of what had happened.

    “Finally! Proper wizards and witches are finally voicing their disgust at the way the muggleborns and that witch are behaving towards us!” Mr Rosier was beaming. “This will change things! No longer will the streets belong to the rabble!”

    Thanks to Gran’s lessons,Neville managed to refrain from calling the man a bloody fool. Instead, he cleared his throat. “I don’t think that this development will benefit us. Quite the contrary, actually.”

    “Sorry?” Mr Rosier frowned at him. “We’ve been lamenting the fact that the rabble has more wands than we do, and you think people taking to the streets to support us is a bad thing?”

    “I do.” Neville shook his head. “You haven’t seen these people. I have. They are a mob - no discipline, and I wager they have less training than a seventh year. If you pitted them against the same number from my fifth year Defence study group, I’d bet on the study group.” The Defence Association would wipe the floor with the bigots.

    “Dumbledore’s Army is an exception,” Madam Smith pointed out.

    He nodded at her. “It is indeed - but that exception overwhelmingly supports our opponents. If people come to blows, who do you think will prevail, those who stood and fought Voldemort’s Death Eaters, or a bunch of drunk bigots causing trouble in the Alley?”

    “Not to mention that the Aurors would quickly put an end to any rioting mob,” Mr Greengrass added. “At least if the mob were targeting muggleborns.”

    Neville sighed. “And that’s the real danger we face: Those people are blood bigots. They might not have supported Voldemort, but I doubt that the muggleborns will care about that if they see a mob calling them mudbloods while attacking their shops.”

    Mr Rosier blinked. “The muggleborns will think they are Death Eater remnants!”

    “And will treat them accordingly,” Neville confirmed. His former friends wouldn’t show any mercy. To be fair, he wouldn’t, either, if someone attacked him or his family while screaming Voldemort’s propaganda.

    “And they will blame us for their actions as well.” Mr Greengrass looked grim.

    “But we haven’t had anything to do with them, have we?” Mr Rosier asked.

    “Not to my knowledge,” Mr Greengrass replied. “But how would we prove it?”

    “If Harry and the rest of the Aurors arrested us, an interrogation with Veritaserum would prove our innocence,” Neville said. It would be very unpleasant and humiliating but might save their lives - if they were arrested and not simply killed outright.

    “‘If’.” Madam Smith scoffed.

    No one had to point out that the Wizengamot would be finished anyway, should that happen, no matter whether they were proven innocent or not afterwards.

    “Which means we need to distance ourselves from this… rabble,” Madam Fawley said. “Which will be a little difficult, after the rumours concerning your involvement.” She looked at Neville.

    He sighed. “I told them to go home, but you know what Potterwatch made of it.”

    “We still have to do our best,” Mr Greengrass said, patting him on the shoulder.

    Of course they had to - anything less would shame them and their families. Neville wouldn’t do that to Gran, or to the memory of his parents.

    “But that doesn’t solve our lack of wands,” Mr Rosier said after a moment. “We should look into hiring mercenaries. They have experience and no ties to the muggleborns.”

    “And no ties to us, either, other than our gold.” Madam Smith scoffed. “They’ll run at the first sign of trouble.”

    Madam Fawley agreed. “Remember Minister Minchum? He tried to hire mercenaries to fight the Death Eaters. Biggest waste of gold in his term of office. The scum melted away as soon as they saw a black robe. Fortunately, Millicent replaced the fool.”

    Madam Smith chuckled. “I heard the sight of a group of Hogwarts students in the evening in Hogsmeade once sent three mercenaries flying.”

    Mr Rosier wasn’t giving up on his idea, though. Neville saw him clenching his teeth. “So, what about training our own Defence Association? If fifth years can do it in a few scattered lessons, we can do it much faster! Gather proper purebloods, teach them how to fight, and the muggleborns will lose their advantage! Mr Longbottom could easily train them, I wager!”

    Neville went rigid. Train their own army? It was possible, he thought, but…

    Mr Greengrass spoke up before Neville could. “While that seems like a possible solution to the current imbalance of power, I fear the possible consequences of such an action would be too dangerous.”

    “Sorry?” Mr Rosier repeated himself.

    “If this gets out then the muggleborns will think we are preparing a coup,” Madam Smith replied.

    They would be preparing a coup, Neville realised. That was what Mr Rosier was pushing for, whether he realised it or not. He shook his head. “Even if we could keep such training secret, which I doubt, it would lead to war sooner or later. And Britain can’t survive another war.” Too many had died already, too much had been destroyed. Including families and friendships. “The country would tear itself apart.”

    “We can’t survive if we can’t stop that witch!” Mr Rosier spat in response. “If we don’t do anything, she’ll win. Bernie was the first but more will follow his example and change sides, unless we give them reasons to think that we’ll win in the end!”

    Neville glanced at Madam Smith, remembering Mr Macmillan’s words, and bit his lower lip before he forced himself to stop. Mr Rosier wasn’t wrong, but suspecting treason everywhere wouldn’t help anyone.

    Mr Selwyn cleared his throat. “I’ve looked into the matter. That witch keeps harping about representation. We could appoint a few more muggleborns to the Wizengamot. If we had four or five, that would match the percentage of muggleborns in the population.”

    “That would give them what they want!” Mr Rosier blurted out. “They’d win!”

    “It might placate them,” Madam Fawley said. “It would be a compromise. And we’d still outnumber them.”

    “And it might split that witch’s support base. If we offer this to them, a number might reconsider their willingness to go to war for her demands,” Madam Smith said. She didn’t sound like she was considering switching sides - but then, neither had Mr Macmillan.

    And she could be correct, Neville thought. People were sick of the war. A compromise might see them through this crisis. Gain them enough time to regain control of the Ministry. Or at least wrest it away from Hermione’s allies.

    “Provided we can find trustworthy muggleborns,” Madam Fawley said, “who won’t join in with that witch’s demands as soon as they have taken their seats.”

    That was a problem. And, given his own experiences, Neville was certain that any muggleborn member of the Wizengamot would be denounced as a traitor by Potterwatch if they didn’t join Hermione. Maybe even if they did, he thought with a sneer.

    “And what will we do if the half-bloods will demand seats of their own?” Mr Greengrass asked. “If they get a proportional number of seats as well, they’ll outnumber us.”

    Neville drew a hissing breath as others cursed or gasped. Mr Greengrass was right - Hermione and her friends would certainly support the demands of the half-bloods. Once the floodgates were opened just a little, they would soon be swept open all the way.

    “But we have to do something!” Mr Rosier repeated himself.

    Neville agreed with him - but he couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t hasten their defeat.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, October 26th, 1998

    Neville glanced again at the Daily Prophet on his desk in the Wizengamot Chamber.

    Wizengamot Denounces Bigoted Mob.

    Well, he could only hope it would help. At least the Prophet’s editor had been very understanding and had taken care to correctly portray what had happened in the Alley between Neville and the bigots. Whether Hermione and her supporters would believe it, and whether they would acknowledge it even if they believed it, was another matter. The Daily Prophet’s unfortunately well-deserved reputation for taking liberties with the truth wouldn’t help there, of course. The Wizarding Wireless was broadcasting a similar message - but they weren’t held in higher esteem than the Prophet.

    He glanced at Hermione’s seat. She hadn’t arrived yet, which was a little unusual. And worrying. If she wasn’t here, where would she be? What would keep her from going through her notes a few dozen times to make sure that everything was perfect?

    There she was - standing in the door, talking with Harry and Ron. And she looked mad. Not annoyed or cynical, or arrogantly condescending. Angry. He glanced at Mr Rosier, but the wizard didn’t seem to be more nervous than usual or expecting anything. Mr Selwyn, though, looked a little concerned. More than a little. What could have happened?

    He blinked. Shacklebolt was also talking to Hermione. And he looked angry as well. What was going on?

    Neville pointed this and Mr Selwyn out to Mr Greengrass. “Should we ask him if he knows what’s going on?”

    The other wizard shook his head. “That might be premature, I think.”

    Neville nodded. A breach of etiquette. But it meant they would have to wait for more information. Neville hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be too bad.

    They didn’t have to wait very long. Not long at all, as it turned out - Doge called on the Minister first, which was unusual, though not breaking any rules.

    Shacklebolt rose, and his voice did carry a hint of anger as he addressed the Chamber. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! I have asked the Chief Warlock to make a statement because a matter of importance that touches upon the Wizengamot’s jurisdiction has come up.” He frowned. “Yesterday, Albert and Elizabeth Wilson were arrested for violating the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. Both are adults, having taken their N.E.W.T.s fifteen and fourteen years ago, respectively.”

    That caused a few, short-lived, laughs.

    “The reason given for their arrest was that their daughter, Bethany, who had just celebrated her eleventh birthday last week, had been casting the Wand-Lighting Charm with her newly bought wand - in Diagon Alley.” Shacklebolt frowned. “As you can surmise, both myself and John Dawlish were rather surprised at such an event - even more so when we found out that the arresting Aurors had already filed a trial in front of the Wizengamot for next week.”

    Which meant that they couldn’t squash it in-house any more, Neville knew. It was now under the purview of the Wizengamot. He frowned. “One Knut says it was Mr Selwyn’s son who made the arrest,” he said under his breath.

    Mr Greengrass snorted but did not disagree.

    Shacklebolt went on: “I ask that the Wizengamot refuse to hold this trial and hand the case back to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Cases concerning improper use of magic by underage wizards and witches are not a matter for the Wizengamot.”

    And Mr Selwyn was raising his wand. Merlin’s beard, what had they been thinking?

    “The Chair recognises Mr Selwyn.”

    Mr Selwyn raised his chin as he started to speak. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot. Minister Shacklebolt. While it is true that the improper use of magic by a child isn’t a matter for the Wizengamot, deliberate endangerment of the International Statute of Secrecy is.”

    That caused a lot of murmurs, and Mr Selwyn had to wait a moment before he could continue. Neville closed his eyes. That bloody idiot!

    “Those two people - muggleborns, I have to add - did teach their daughter, who will not be entering Hogwarts for another ten months, a spell and let her cast it in public. Even encouraged her, according to what I have heard. That wasn’t a mistake, or an enthusiastic youth trying out their wand - they, adults, deliberately flouted the law! How can we expect their daughter to respect the law - and protect the Statute of Secrecy - if she is used to casting spells in public? Should we wait until she does so in front of muggles?”

    He shook his head.

    “This is a serious crime, threatening the foundation of our entire world, and deserves a trial in front of the Wizengamot!”

    Neville groaned as Hermione raised her wand. Mr Selwyn was an ally, but right now, Neville dearly wished he weren’t.

    “The Chair recognises Madam Granger.”

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot. Minister. I am shocked and appalled at this crass abuse of authority - and the blatant disrespect shown to our laws and regulations - by the arresting Aurors! We all know that children regularly get taught spells before they enter Hogwarts, even if it’s usually put down to ‘prodigies picking it up from observing their parents’, or whatever flimsy excuse they use, if they bother at all. To condemn two people for doing what every pureblood does merely because they are muggleborns is hypocrisy of the worst kind.”

    She sneered at Mr Selwyn.

    “It is telling that your son didn’t even inform his superiors about the arrest and case, but went around them and filed for a trial without permission! No one would do that if they thought they had a real case! And they haven’t - this happened in Diagon Alley, where no muggles are found - none that wouldn’t already know about magic. The Statute was never endangered; to claim so is absurd - and maliciously so. This is a case of juvenile magic, the purview of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, not the Wizengamot.”

    Hermione scoffed once more.

    “There was another case in recent memory where a supposed violation of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery was put before the Wizengamot: When Minister Fudge tried to abuse his power to silence Harry Potter after the Boy-Who-Lived had defended himself against an assassination attempt! We all know how that travesty of justice ended! Are we really trying to follow Fudge’s example? Will we see Malfoy gracing us with his presence again? Bending the law to protect the guilty and persecute the innocent, paid for by gold stained with blood? You might as well don the white masks and black robes if you think this is right and just!”

    Neville hissed through clenched teeth. After this, anyone who defended the law - and his ally - would be tarred as a blood bigot at best, a Death Eater at worst. He shouldn’t do it - this had been a political ploy by Mr Selwyn, and a stupid one. He shouldn’t sacrifice his own reputation and defend what couldn’t be called anything other than a travesty of justice, given the circumstances.

    He shouldn’t do it. But he had to. Someone had to defend the law. And he had the best reputation among his allies. Even Potterwatch would hesitate to call him a Death Eater. And if he did nothing, then he’d still suffer for this - everyone knew Mr Selwyn was a member of the ‘Greengrass Circle’.

    He raised his wand, ignoring Mr Greengrass’s groan.

    “The Chair recognises Mr Longbottom.”

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! Madam Granger and Minister Shacklebolt have voiced their anger at the fact that a young Auror bypassed the normal procedure of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I completely understand that the Minister and the Head of the Department are annoyed, or even angry, at this apparent defiance of their authority. And I also understand that my esteemed colleague would wish to exploit this for her own political aims.”

    Hermione glared at him, he noticed with a faint smile, as applause rose in the Chamber.

    “But we should not see malice in place of inexperience. As all of us know, the current Auror Corps is a pale shadow of its predecessor, with most experienced Aurors either having been killed, corrupted or taken other posts in the Ministry. Can we truly blame a young, inexperienced and naive Auror for being a little hasty when enforcing the law? For, possibly, being a little too eager to make his name and solve an important case?”

    He ignored Mr Selwyn’s grimace as well as Hermione’s scoffing.

    “But, on the other hand, I do think the Minister and Madam Granger were a tad too hasty to dismiss the case. If there is the possibility, even though it may be remote, that a serious crime was committed, then a case should be brought before the Wizengamot. Madam Granger rightfully pointed out how Minister Fudge tried to abuse his power - leaving major cases to be dismissed by officials who might have ulterior or questionable motives, especially if it involved such serious accusations as endangering the Statute of Secrecy, would open the door for abuses Minister Fudge only dreamt of.”

    More approval was voiced by his peers.

    “Especially in these often turbulent times, where Ministry departments have to be rebuilt from the ground up, the Wizengamot’s function as a stabilising influence, as a check for the often rash actions of young Ministry employees, is needed more than ever. The wisdom accumulated over decades of dedicated, honourable service should not be discounted so easily, least of all for short-sighted goals.”

    He ignored Shacklebolt’s glare as well.

    “Because, without knowing the details of the case, I do not think that it should be dismissed so hastily. There is a difference between teaching a child at home a few spells, in response to their attempt to imitate their parents, and letting them cast spells in public as a political statement. Children should be treasured, not exploited for their parents’ protests!”

    More applause made him pause for a moment before he could finish.

    “Therefore I propose that we see this case, and I trust that my esteemed colleagues, whose opinions and views often differ greatly, but all of whom form part of this Chamber, the highest authority in Wizarding Britain, will decide in a responsible and even manner how it should be judged.”

    He sat, nodding to the Chief Warlock as more of his peers raised their wands. Mr Greengrass was smiling widely and congratulating him for ‘another great speech’ - but, Neville noticed, Hermione was smiling as well. It was a faint smile, and she was glaring at him, but he couldn’t help wondering how she would respond.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, October 31st, 1998

    “Freedom for the Wilsons!”

    “Down with the Death Eaters!”

    “Democracy Now!”

    “Democracy Now!”

    “Democracy Now!”

    Neville hadn’t seen so many drawn wands in one location since the Battle of Hogwarts. The stream of wizards and witches passing in front of the windows of ‘Le Canard Vert’ went on for minutes. He shook his head, lips pressed together. They were protesting the upcoming trial against the Wilsons even though they hadn’t even been convicted of anything yet - and, after studying the evidence, Neville doubted that much would come of it. A mere fine for breaking the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery seemed most appropriate; he hadn’t found anything that would prove that they had, deliberately or not, endangered the Statute of Secrecy. After all, the Statute had been fine for two hundred years before the decree had been passed.

    “Down with the traitor!”

    He hissed at that yell. He wasn’t a traitor! He wasn’t the one trying to replace the Wizengamot against all the laws. But the muggleborns and half-bloods out there waving their lit wands around had been listening to Potterwatch last night, where that despicable insult had been coined. And where two stupid parents about to be fined had been turned into martyrs facing Azkaban or the Veil.

    He felt Daphne’s hand on his and looked at her. She patted it and smiled at him. “They are ignorant barbarians using lies and slander because they haven’t anything else they can use against you.”

    He smiled back, but he could tell that she was rattled; she was repeatedly brushing a lock of her hair back behind her ear without realising it. The sheer size of the protesting mob outside - fortunately, the restaurant had privacy charms on the windows, so he hadn’t been recognised - was impressive, he had to admit. “I know,” he said, trying to sound confident. But he knew that Daphne was wrong - the muggleborns and, he was forced to admit, the half-bloods, had more than lies and slander to use against him and his peers.

    They had numbers and anger.

    Neville and his allies only had the law and tradition on their side. Without wands to enforce the law, it wouldn’t be of any use - the mob outside certainly didn’t seem to respect the law at all. And they definitely didn’t care for tradition.

    He took another bite from his dish once the last of the mob had passed, but it tasted like ashes. He could still hear their yells. And he could almost feel the tension. There were Aurors outside - but would they step in if the mob went out of control, or join it?

    He put the silverware down and sighed. “There’s a rally scheduled for this evening.”

    Daphne nodded. “That broadcast mentioned it. You’re not planning to go there, are you?” She added, her eyes wide. “You heard them - if they recognise you, they’ll attack you!”

    This time, he patted her hand reassuringly. “No, I won’t go.” He saw her relax and felt even worse about what he was about to do. “But I need to meet with them this afternoon, before things grow even worse.” He didn’t have to say who ‘they’ were.

    He didn’t have a choice. A protest rally, on Halloween? After the protests all week? And after everything that had happened on that date in the last few years? He knew Hermione scoffed at Divination, but this was asking for a bloody riot. Or a bloody revolution.

    He had to stop this.

    *****​

    London, No 12 Grimmauld Place, October 31st 1998

    “Hello, Neville.” Harry nodded at Neville with a polite smile. Nothing more. But at least he didn’t call him ‘traitor’. He was wearing muggle clothes, of course. “The others are in the living room.”

    “Harry.” Neville nodded at him. He didn’t expect the proper forms, but this was colder than he had expected. Though not as bad as he had feared.

    Hermione and Ron were sitting on the sofa when Harry and Neville entered the living room. Ginny was also present, curled up in a large armchair. She should have been at Hogwarts - Halloween wasn’t a Hogsmeade weekend, last Neville knew. Another rule flouted. Then he remembered what today’s date meant for Harry and felt ashamed. Of course, Ginny would want to be with him, today of all days.

    “Neville.” Hermione’s head twitched slightly in what generous people might have called a hint of a nod. Ron nodded, at least. And Ginny glared at him. And that after all they had gone through last year.

    “Hermione. Ron. Ginny.”

    Harry gestured at a free chair in between the sofa and the large armchair, then sat down next to Ginny, in the same chair. That explained the size.

    Neville pressed his lips together and took his seat. Harry and Ginny to his left, Hermione and Ron to his right. Not that he would stand a chance anyway if it came to a fight. And he had come to talk.

    “You wanted to talk,” Hermione said. “You said it was important.” Her tone and expression clearly showed that she doubted his claim.

    Neville swallowed his anger - he was no liar who bent the truth when it was convenient to do so! “Yes. Things cannot continue.”

    “Things?” Hermione raised her eyebrows.

    Neville clenched his teeth. “This whole... conflict.” He forced himself to calm down. He had prepared his speech and couldn’t afford to lose his temper and start to snap at her.

    “You mean, our just demands for a proper democratic system.” She smiled, but it was more as if she were baring her teeth at him. Ron chuckled. Neither Harry nor Ginny said anything.

    “Call it what you want, but if things don’t change we’ll have a war on our hands!” Neville replied.

    Hermione inclined her head. “I agree.”

    For a moment, he thought she had acknowledged the danger. Then he realised what she meant. “Merlin’s beard! Have you lost your mind? The country won’t survive another war!”

    “I’m aware of that.” She shook her head with that condescending smile of hers. Then she leaned forward. “But why should we care? It isn’t our country, is it?”

    He blinked, his lips moving before he snapped his mouth shut. What was she saying? “Of course it’s your country!” he blurted out. “You’re a British witch! All of you are!” She had gone to Hogwarts! Ron’s father and brother worked in the Ministry!

    She scoffed in return. “No, Neville. I’m a British muggleborn witch. That’s a significant difference. It’s not our country - it’s yours. The Old Families. Everyone else doesn’t matter - or so you thought. But we won’t be second-class citizens in a country for which we fought and bled.”

    He shook his head. “That’s not true! You’re equal to anyone else!” Bloody hell, she was even a member of the Wizengamot!

    “Apart from the Old Families,” Ron said. “No matter what we do - and we did pretty much everything possible, earned the highest Order of Merlin saving the country - we won’t, ever, be considered equal to them. And we have to work twice as hard if we want to succeed without an Old Family pulling strings for us - unlike their relatives.”

    Harry spoke up for the first time. “Even our seats in the Wizengamot, should we claim them, are second-class seats. Limited to our lifetimes, while yours is hereditary. Your children will be considered better than ours,” he added as he wrapped an arm around Ginny’s shoulders. “They’ll be members of the Wizengamot.”

    “Just for being born. No matter how stupid or intelligent they may be - they’ll be ruling us,” Hermione spat. “By virtue of their birth. All wizards are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

    “And that’s enough of a reason to start a war where who knows how many people will die?” Neville snapped. “Didn’t you have your fill of death and blood in the last war? Haven’t you seen enough of our friends die?”

    He snapped back as Ron jumped up and drew his wand. “Why you…”

    For a moment, Neville stared at the glowing tip of the wand, cursing himself for not being prepared. And for losing his temper.

    “Ron!” Hermione snapped.

    Ron took a deep breath, then sat down next to her. She put her hand on his thigh. A glance told Neville that Harry was now holding Ginny’s wand. To see them react like this - lose their temper - both scared and comforted him. They were only human as well.

    Which made the whole situation even more dangerous.

    “To answer your question, Neville,” Hermione spat, “we have had our fill of death and blood. But that is why we won’t back down. We’ve lost too much, too many, to stop and accept that we should be considered inferior just because we were born to the wrong people.”

    “We fought the bloody war to stomp this nonsense out,” Ron growled.

    Hermione smiled. “And let me ask you a question: How many people will you sacrifice just so you can keep lording it over us? How many people will you let die so you and the other Old Families can keep their power?”

    “What’s left of it, anyway,” Harry said. “I doubt that even a third of the Aurors will risk their lives for the Wizengamot if it comes to war.”

    “And those who do aren’t exactly the most talented Aurors,” Ron added with a smirk.

    Neville was aware of that. Well aware. Adam Selwyn’s stunt had demonstrated that quite clearly. And his friends - or former friends, probably - had clearly shown that they were willing to go to war to achieve their political goals. A war they would also, in all likelihood, win. But he wasn’t like them. He still had a conscience. He knew what he had to do.

    He took another deep breath to calm himself. A little. “What about a compromise?” he asked. “Split the seats. Some are elected. Some stay hereditary and appointed. Like the muggle Parliament.”

    “The Parliament is divided into two houses,” Hermione corrected him.

    He managed not to roll his eyes. “You know what I mean. Split the power. Like the muggles do.” She was considering it, he knew. Or she would have rejected his proposal already.

    “No.”

    Neville stared at Harry. What?

    “No.” Harry shook his head. “The time for compromises is over. We want full equality, without any privileges kept for a tiny minority. My mum was a muggleborn, and her sacrifice saved the country exactly seventeen years ago. I won’t accept a country where she would still be worth less than someone who did nothing, but was born to the right parents. That’s what we fought against: the idea that your blood determined your worth. The same idea you’re so desperately defending.” He sneered at Neville. “The only reason you’re offering a compromise now is that you and your peers are afraid of a war. Otherwise, you’d still cling to your power. Go tell your peers that the only ‘compromise’ we’ll accept is true equality. No more hereditary seats. No more privileges for a tiny, entitled minority. Enough!”

    Neville swallowed. He hadn’t expected Harry to act like this…

    “He’s right,” Hermione said. Ron nodded.

    “Of course he is!” Ginny cut in, leaning against Harry.

    Hermione snorted, then addressed Neville: “You’ve tried everything you could think of to stop us. You failed. All you have left now is the choice between going to war or accepting that you lost and letting us reform Wizarding Britain into a democracy.”

    “You’d actually go to war over this,” Neville said. He shook his head.

    “Yes, we would.” Hermione scoffed. “You know what Fudge did. To Harry. To Hagrid. To Sirius. No one stopped him. And no one has changed the system since Voldemort’s defeat. We’re just one bad choice away from another Fudge. One bad choice made by the same people who elected Fudge in the first place.” She pressed her lips together for a moment. “Yes, we’ll go to war if that’s what it takes to ensure it won’t ever happen again.”

    Neville closed his eyes and struggled with his temper. He couldn’t lose control. Not now. “I see,” he managed to say. “I’ll speak to my peers.”

    “You do that. But don’t take too much time. The people on the streets are growing impatient.”

    “Egged on by Potterwatch,” Neville spat as he stood. He knew what they were doing.

    “Instead of lied to by the Daily Prophet,” Harry snapped.

    “On the orders of the Wizengamot, this time!” Ginny added with bared teeth.

    Neville realised that he had misjudged the situation. Hermione wasn’t dragging Harry and Ron along, like she had been during that S.P.E.W. farce. Harry and Ron - and Ginny - were not even merely supporting her - they might actually be more radical than Hermione.

    And who knew how many others felt the same? How many purebloods who, like the Weasleys, were not closely related to Old Families and didn’t owe them any loyalty, would follow Harry? How many were waiting for the Old Families to fall? Or, even more concerning, how many actual members of Old Families might betray their Head of Family to replace them? What was Doge and Shacklebolt’s role, anyway?

    *****​

    Kent, Greengrass Manor, November 1st, 1998

    Neville took a deep breath and glanced at Mr Greengrass. The other wizard was the only one who knew what he was about to do - Neville had told him and Daphne after leaving Grimmauld Place. They deserved to know. Especially Daphne.

    “...and I say we need to make an example out of the Wilsons. Show that we’ll bring the full force of the law to bear against anyone who breaks it. If we let that slide, they’ll do worse next time,” Mr Rosier argued.

    It was as good as any opening. Neville cleared his throat. “If we do that, we’ll start a war. A war we’ll lose.”

    “What?” Mr Rosier wasn’t the only one who said it, but he was the loudest. The others showed more self-control. “Sorry?”

    “If we sentence the Wilsons, there’ll be war,” Neville repeated himself.

    “How do you know that?” Madam Smith asked.

    “I’ve seen the protests, and I talked to Harry and his friends yesterday,” Neville explained. “The muggleborns and the half-bloods are riled up - they see our actions as repeating what Minister Fudge did. Or the Death Eaters.”

    “What?”

    “How dare they!”

    He cleared his throat again. He had to keep talking. Lay it out - everything. “That’s how they see this: the law being bent to punish innocent muggleborns.”

    “Innocent?” Mr Rosier scoffed. “They admitted their crime!”

    “A crime of which most of our families are guilty,” Neville snapped. Not his - he hadn’t managed to learn a spell before Hogwarts. Not with his father’s wand. But that didn’t matter. “And they know that.”

    “It’s still the law. And they openly flouted it!” Madam Fawley said.

    “The law doesn’t matter to them.” Neville shook his head. “It has been bent and broken for Malfoy and his ilk for years.”

    “That’s why we need to enforce it again! Strictly!” Mr Selwyn cut in.

    There were too many people talking, discussing this. Neville ground his teeth. “And by doing so against a muggleborn couple, we’ll turn them into martyrs.” He leaned forward. “I’ve seen the protests - they are waiting for an excuse. Waiting for a spark. Sentencing the Wilsons will be that spark. And the Boy-Who-Lived won’t lift a finger to stop them.”

    “What?”

    “He’s an Auror!”

    Neville scoffed. “When I spoke with him and his friends, he told me that he’s willing to go to war if that’s what it takes to change the Wizengamot. I proposed a compromise - split the seats into hereditary and appointed, and elected ones. The muggles did that.”

    “Sorry?”

    He shook his head and ignored their reactions. “He flatly rejected it. Hermione might have gone for it, if only as a step towards her goals. Harry? He said he won’t tolerate a system where his mother would have had fewer rights than someone born to the right family. He thinks that the Old Families are acting like Death Eaters - judging people by their blood.” Neville sighed. It was unfair and exaggerated, but not entirely baseless, he had to admit, if only to himself.

    “The Boy-Who-Lived is willing to go to war against us?” Madam Smith asked. It was more that Harry wouldn’t prevent a war, but the outcome would be the same, so Neville nodded.

    “Too many will follow him,” Madam Fawley said. “It’s that witch’s fault!”

    And many Wizengamot members would join him, Neville knew. Out of fear, or because they revered Harry. Or because of Doge and Shacklebolt, who certainly had their own plans. “That doesn’t matter any more. What matters is that we are about to lose everything if we continue what we’ve been doing. If there’s a war, we won’t merely lose our seats but also our homes, our fortunes, even our lives. We can’t win this. Not the war, and not the political struggle.”

    “But we can’t simply give up!” Mr Rosier all but yelled. “We can’t let them win!” He was quite worked up for a man who had hid - probably out of country - during the last war.

    “They have already won,” Neville said. “The only question now is whether we will start a war and be destroyed, or do what we can to ensure that we only lose the Wizengamot, and nothing else.” Like their lives.

    “But if they take over the Wizengamot, they’ll destroy us!” Mr Selwyn said.

    “If they want to destroy us, we can’t stop them anyway,” Mr Greengrass said. “But I think we can preserve our families, our fortunes and our legacies.”

    “And living under a muggleborn regime?” Mr Rosier spat.

    “It wouldn’t be one,” Neville pointed out. “Half-bloods are the majority.”

    Mr Rosier grumbled something everyone pretended not to have heard.

    “Mr Greengrass is correct. We need to accept the reforms that are proposed and adapt to them.” Neville stood. “We’ll still have our legacies. Our families. Our homes. Our fortunes. Everything that matters.” He hesitated a moment. But the dice were cast. “And we’ll be able to preserve or regain at least some influence in matters thanks to that. That’s how it works for muggles.”

    Mr Selwyn shook his head. “It won’t work. Shacklebolt’s been cracking down on bribes. Two of my distant relatives have been fired already just for looking out for their families’ interests.”

    “I wasn’t talking about bribery,” Neville said through clenched teeth. Sometimes he wondered… He cut off that thought. “But thanks to our fortune, our family ties” - he couldn’t help smiling at Mr Greengrass as he said that - “and our experience and knowledge, we’ll be able to influence people. Malfoy didn’t just bribe people - he also donated a lot to charity, or appeared to do so. If we gain the trust of the people, they’ll vote for us.”

    “Ah!” Madam Smith nodded. “It’ll be costly, though.”

    Neville shrugged. It was still less costly than a war. Far less, in so many ways.

    “Others are already preparing for this,” Mr Greengrass pointed out. “Like Macmillan.”

    “And more whose change in allegiance we don’t yet know,” Madam Fawley added. “They could rejoin us, though, if we adapt quickly enough.”

    Probably - Neville had read about examples of such. But he doubted that it would be easy. Harry had a lot of gold as well - the remains of his godfather’s fortune.

    “I still don’t like it!” Mr Rosier snapped.

    “No one among us likes it,” Mr Greengrass replied. “But it’s the best option we have left.”

    And the only one that might let them win in the long run.

    Neville still loathed it. To bend to threats, to bow to pressure like this was wrong. Harry and his friends were trampling all over law and custom. It wasn’t as bad as Voldemort’s coup, but it wasn’t that much better in principle. Might making right.

    But they had no choice. And Neville had more to care about now than just himself and Gran. He glanced at Mr Greengrass. He would have to officially talk to him, and to Daphne, of course, but they had an understanding already.

    No, he had too much to lose, now, to sacrifice himself in a hopeless gesture of defiance. A family. A future. Love.

    And for that, for all of that, he’d swallow this bitter potion.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, November 2nd, 1998

    “...and, therefore, I resubmit my proposal for democratic reform of the Wizengamot,” Hermione finished her speech and sat down. Neville didn’t look at her. He didn’t want to see her gloating.

    “The Chair recognises Mr Longbottom.”

    Neville steeled himself and stood. He didn’t want to do this. But he had to. It was his idea. His duty to see it through and lead the way. As he had been taught, he’d take responsibility.

    “Thank you. Honoured members of the Wizengamot! You all know my opinion of Madam Granger’s proposal. I’ve laid out why I think it is a bad idea and why adopting such reforms will harm our country.”

    He took a deep breath.

    “And yet, I stand here, now, to urge you to accept it.”

    Murmurs filled the Chamber from those members who hadn’t been informed in advance. He had expected that.

    “Not because I have suddenly reversed my opinion, but because failing to accept this proposal will destroy our country.”

    He ignored the ruckus that his words caused and pushed on.

    “Wizarding Britain teeters on the brink of a civil war. Tempers are running high. Radicalised people are gathering in mobs, ready to go and attack those with differing viewpoints. If we do not stop this, we’ll soon have fighting in the streets and widespread destruction that will dwarf the atrocities of the war against Voldemort.”

    “And you would surrender to the pressure of the rabble?”

    He clenched his teeth as he turned to face Mr Parkinson. “I would bow to the inevitable to avoid the destruction of our country! To avoid a bloody civil war which will see every one of us dead or driven into exile! I have watched the rallies and seen the protests. And I have fought against Voldemort, and know what we are facing. The Ministry is torn. The half-bloods and muggleborns are riled up and demand reforms. Further, a lot of the people in the streets fought in the last war and haven’t forgotten their training or experiences. If war breaks out, there will be massacres everywhere. Instead of a small group of fanatics led by Voldemort, mobs will roam the streets and turn their wands on anyone they consider an enemy.”

    He raised his chin, still not looking at Hermione.

    “I cannot deny that we, the traditional leaders of our country, have lost the trust of a large part, perhaps even the majority, of the people. As much as it hurts me to admit it, we have lost the power to steer the country safely through this crisis. Too many people are willing to raise their wands against the government if their demands aren’t met. And too few people would be willing to uphold the law, especially when faced with their kin. A war would be a catastrophe from which we would not recover.

    “Whether we try to fight it or accept it - we cannot hope to preserve our traditions and customs. In such a situation, the only moral course of action is to give in instead of risking war. When we cannot win, our sole concern has to be to minimise the loss of life and property. And for that, as much as I loathe having to say so, accepting Madam Granger’s proposal is necessary.”

    He nodded at the Chief Warlock and sat down, staring straight ahead as Mr Greengrass clasped his shoulder in support and the Chamber was filled with yells and raised wands.

    The proposal would pass, Neville knew. Between Hermione’s allies and the votes from the Greengrass Circle, as well as from those members who took their cues from them, they had a majority.

    The proposal would pass and the Wizengamot as they knew it would be gone. Replaced with a muggle institution. But, at least, they would live to see it happen, and wouldn’t be driven out of their homes or killed.

    Neville still loathed it.

    *****​

    Epilogue:

    London, Diagon Alley, March 2nd, 1999

    “What a beautiful day!”

    Neville nodded in agreement. Daphne was correct. Blue sky, warm - for March - and no wind. The perfect day to enjoy a stroll through Diagon Alley. And he needed a relaxing afternoon, after a week of campaigning and a pointless session in the Wizengamot. It wasn’t as if any decisions of note would be made until the elections in a week’s time finally formed the ‘New Wizengamot’, so the Ministry pretty much had the run of the country. Which meant Hermione and Shacklebolt were deciding things. And as expected, the other nations didn’t care at all about the coup - or pretended not to care, as they had when Voldemort had controlled the Ministry. Fools.

    He pushed the thought away. He wanted to relax, not dwell on the end of the Wizengamot and the death of traditions that had lasted for centuries.

    At least the situation was not entirely hopeless. The election campaign was doing well, as far as he could tell. As well as could reasonably be expected, anyway, especially after Rosier had been caught trying to buy votes and then had compounded his mistake by trying to bribe the members of the electoral commission investigating the matter.

    And while Neville’s family business hadn’t been hurt much by Shacklebolt and Hermione’s business reforms - part of Hermione’s election promise of “ending the stranglehold the Old Families” supposedly had on the country’s economy - other families hadn’t been as fortunate and had seen key employees - sometimes even relatives - leave to start their own businesses. With knowledge learned from their old employers. They would be supporting Hermione, of course. And Neville didn’t doubt that Harry was using the Black fortune to help with that as well - like he had funded the Weasleys business.

    He snorted. There was no point worrying about that. Not today, at least. He would do nothing but enjoy a beautiful afternoon with his beautiful fiancée!

    Of course, just as they approached Flourish and Blotts, who should step out of the shop? Hermione, with Ron at her side.

    Neville schooled his features and nodded at them. “Hermione. Ron.”

    “Neville. Miss Greengrass.” Hermione’s smile was barely polite. Ron merely nodded, as if he hadn’t been taught any manners. Well, he had always been biased against Slytherins. Or their friends. “You know, you can buy muggle books far cheaper in muggle bookshops,” Hermione said as she stepped to the side.

    “I prefer to support traditional wizarding businesses,” Neville replied.

    “Subsidising your potential voters? I understand.” Her faint smile took on a condescending air that rankled Neville.

    “Not everyone has the opportunity to abuse Ministerial decrees for that,” he retorted.

    “It’s no surprise that you would consider providing equal opportunities for everyone a bad thing.” Hermione sneered. “Fortunately, the days of the Old Families dominating the field of business are over.”

    He scoffed, ignoring how Daphne subtly squeezed his arm. “You think you’ve won, don’t you? But you haven’t. You’ve got the advantage right now, I’ll admit. But that won’t last. I’ve studied things. Among the muggles, things always change, sooner or later.” He bared his teeth at her. “We might be a minority right now, but the common people are always complaining and never satisfied. The same people cheering you on right now will turn against you when you cannot fulfil their ever-growing expectations any more. And when they do, they’ll remember who opposed you from the start when they go to vote.” He laughed. “We’ll beat you with your own weapons. One day, sooner than you might think, we’ll have the majority in the ‘New Wizengamot’.”

    But she wasn’t growing angry, as he had hoped - she was smiling sweetly at him. “Why, Neville, I’m so happy to hear you say that!”

    What? He glared at her as he ground his teeth. She was mocking him.

    “To know that you, who had opposed my proposal so fanatically and for so long, are now running your own election campaign, striving to persuade others to trust you to represent them. And doing everything you can so that one day, you’ll get a majority in the Wizengamot and can implement your vision for Wizarding Britain - with the support of the majority of the population.”

    He balled his fist so he wouldn’t draw his wand and curse her as the Knut dropped. At that moment, he hated her and everything she stood for.

    “Why, Neville, you’ve finally embraced democracy!”

    *****​
     
  11. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat The Dawn Will Cum

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    Beautiful line to end it on.
     
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  12. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    I had that line in my head (or rather, a very similar one) before I started writing the story :).
     
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  13. Pyeknu

    Pyeknu Cross-Dimensional Magical Sith GIrl

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    Yeah, that would take Neville by surprise, wouldn’t it?
     
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  14. Cassius

    Cassius Getting out there.

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    Great story!
     
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