“Miss Granger, not twelve months ago you stood before this Committee and asked us to pass a law abolishing the Werewolf Registry — ”
Approaching hour three of a hearing before the Wizengamot’s Legislative Committee, Hermione showed no sign of discomposure or agitation that I could see, aside from shifting her weight, scratching her left ankle with her right foot before tapping the toe of her shoe against the floor.
“ — and now you propose that the law further involve itself in the lives of werewolves. Forgive my confusion as to whether you want the Ministry to regulate werewolf affairs or not.”
From where I was sat, I couldn’t see Hermione’s face as she addressed the Committee, but rare were the occasions when she’d so much as ducked her head to consult her notes before responding.
“No more than the Ministry regulates the affairs of Muggle-born witches and wizards, which is to say, not at all. Not for simply having the audacity to exist. But I think you’d agree, Mr. Shafiq, that under the Blood Status Act of 1962 — paltry though these provisions may be — all witches and wizards are considered equal under our laws, or at least are supposed to be.”
“With that being the case, I wonder at the need for your current proposal.”
“Putting aside the fact that lycanthropy is not a blood status question…”
The Committee — a subset of the full Wizengamot — was convened for the Second Reading of a bill proposed by Hermione that would make it illegal for anyone to deny werewolves employment or housing. The Second Reading, in the Ministry’s lawmaking process, was meant to be an opportunity for the Committee to enquire publicly into the details of the proposal before taking it under submission and inviting public comment at the next stage.
Officially, this was supposed to be a preliminary information-gathering process; in practice, it appeared much more adversarial. Hermione parried question after question — many of which seemed more like arguments — from nearly every member of the twenty-three-seat Committee. While a couple remained silent throughout the proceeding — and in fact, I couldn’t rule out the possibility that one was napping — and a few made perfunctory inquiries for their notes before sitting back with their arms crossed, the rest of the hearing was dominated by a handful of personalities.
There was Madam Featherwood, whose every question was met with a response by Hermione that the information sought had already been provided in supporting research attached to Hermone’s bill. There was Madam Badali, the Chairwitch, who was fond of asking what sounded like the same question five different ways in the hopes that Hermione’s responses might change. There was Mr. Fawley, whose constant interruptions of Hermione preceded a marked, impatient change in the pitch and tempo of her speech — as it did now, when Mr. Fawley broke through her explanation of the particular hardships encountered by lycanthropes in magical society.
“What I still don’t understand is what good any of this will do when one considers the lack of interest shown by most werewolves in leaving the pack lives they’ve led for hundreds of years.”
As it had half a dozen times before, Hermione’s response came rapid and emphatic on the heels of Mr. Fawley’s enquiry.
“My bill doesn’t concern itself with how witches or wizards should live their lives or with whom. Merely their ability to find employment and a roof over their heads. It’s not for this Committee, or for me, to tell anybody that they ought to leave pack society and integrate themselves into our communities, so long as they have equal opportunities to do so if they choose. Wizards not afflicted with lycanthropy are perfectly capable of making all sorts of choices you may not agree with as well, including whether to live in magical or Muggle society — the point is, they’re given an equal starting point on the pitch, to put it in Quidditch terms.
“And in fact, it is the failure of society to accept those with lycanthropy, that has historically driven so many of them to pack life — for what else is available to them? We cannot blame them for the lives we have driven them to, and this Honorable Committee should ask itself which came first: the dragon or the egg?”
Mr. Fawley stared dispassionately at Hermione during her answer, at the conclusion of which he dropped his eyes to his notes in an apathetic manner without a word of acknowledgement.
No further questions followed, and Madam Badali cleared her throat.
“Well, Miss Granger, have you any closing remarks for this Committee?”
“Yes, Madam Chairwitch. I want to make it very clear that I harbor no illusions that this law would solve every problem when it comes to werewolf relations. No doubt those afflicted with lycanthropy will continue — at least in the foreseeable future — to encounter hatred and social ostracization. It’s an experience I don’t believe anybody here would like to volunteer for. I recognize the limits of the law, and that we can’t command witches and wizards to like werewolves, to befriend them, to take tea with them — but I also recognize, as I think this Honorable Committee does, the potential of the law. We can, at a minimum — and I do mean minimum — demand that with respect to such essentials as employment and housing that these people be treated as equals, because they are.
“I ask this Honorable Committee to consider the research I’ve attached to my proposal, in particular the findings of Professor Lilliput which debunk those of Warlock Fitzgriffin from 1813. And I’ll reserve any additional comment for the Third Reading.”
“Very well.” The Chairwitch checked her watch. “Seeing as it’s already half eleven, we’ll adjourn now for the midday hour and take up the next matter after lunch.” She directed her next comments to a young wizard with a short ponytail seated in the first row directly behind Hermione. “Mr. Choi, we’ll begin the reading of your bill at half past one.”
Mr. Choi looked less than pleased at finding his business bumped past lunch in the wake of Hermione’s debate, but he nodded and stood with everyone else as the Council filed out of the chamber. When the door had thudded shut behind the last Councilmember, Mr. Choi looked at Hermione, who was securing her notes in a file.
“Thanks for that, Hermione,” he said dryly.
She looked up, her face impassive and her voice light. “I did tell you there wasn’t a chance they’d get to yours before noon.”
“Gonna propose a bill that you don’t get to take the morning sessions anymore.”
She rolled her eyes with a long-suffering sigh, but she was also smiling a bit. “Have a good lunch, David.”
“Well, what did you think?” she asked me once the few other spectators had cleared the chamber and we’d begun making our way to the lifts.
I had quite a lot of thoughts but decided to start with, “I hadn’t expected it to take that long at this stage.”
She let out a huff. “It usually doesn’t, or shouldn’t. But for this particular bill I expected it. It’s controversial, it makes them nervous. They treated this more like a Third Reading before the full Wizangamot. Only thing missing was the public comment.
“I wouldn’t expect yours to be anywhere near this prolonged or complicated,” she added as we joined a small group waiting for the lifts. “Not at the Second Reading, anyway. Also, I’ve got a history with them now, and they always try to convolute the issue with my other bills. Yours should be much cleaner.”
Our conversation lapsed until we’d exited the lift again for Hermione’s office.
“How on earth do you manage not to get flustered? All those people. Talking at you. Interrupting you.”
A cynical hmmph escaped her and she gave me a knowing look, adding, “He never does that to Choi.”
Then after a little shake of her head she continued fairly, “But, at any rate, you can only answer one question at a time, can’t you? It’s no different really, to having only one person ask the questions. And it’s just a matter of being prepared — knowing your research, your proposal, working out ahead of time what they’re likely to ask you.”
“It seems a few of them are fond of asking questions that haven’t anything to do with anything,” I pointed out.
She sighed. “That’s entirely true. My suggestion, have someone else read it over and tell you what questions they have. In your own office but also — honestly, sometimes I have Ron interrogate me about some of my bills, encourage him to be as difficult as possible, even. He sees things in a different way, and sometimes he comes up with issues I hadn’t considered. Even if it’s just traditionalist nonsense that wouldn’t have crossed my mind.”
She shrugged as if to herself. “And sometimes he’s just flat-out obstinate. But so’s the Wizengamot.”
I chuckled. “And it doesn’t bother you, him debating your work?”
Hermione flashed me a wry look as we entered her office. “When he’s wrong, it does.”
Three interdepartmental memos were waiting for her, fluttering around the airspace above her desk apparently playing some sort of game with one another. They delivered themselves onto the desk in front of Hermione as she plopped unceremoniously into her chair and I took the one across from her.
“A lot of their questions invariably have to do with why it’s necessary — why they should be expending the time and ink when things work so much better as they are now. You’ve just got to explain to them why it’s not good enough now.
“For example — ” She picked up the draft of my proposal I’d given her the day before for her review and suggestions, brandishing it demonstratively. “They’ll ask you, what’s the point of forcing Ollivander to tell you whether they get their components from the Forbidden Forest or not? How will that help in the slightest?”
“It wouldn’t just be that,” I explained. “As far as we know, wandmakers track details such as the precise unicorn that gave hair for wands, which wands, and when. Even if a pattern were still difficult to pin down, we should have a much more specific idea of which wands have been compromised.”
“Exactly.” She delivered this with a bright smile as though that were that.
It seemed it could hardly be that simple, though.
“But isn’t it entirely different once you’re before the Wizengamot? Intimidating?”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well…” Her brow creased as she pondered for a second. “You’ve explained your bill to me, yes?”
“And if Percy asked you to tell him what it’s about, you’d be able to?”
“He has done, and yes.”
“And has he had any questions about it or talked it over with you?”
“And has he seen your draft, and given any critique?”
“He did have a chance to look at it, and he was very complimentary, but he’s been so busy and he said you’d be able to give me much better feedback anyway — ”
She waved this away. “Well, alright, but if he had asked you about it — say he asked you to explain, oh, I don’t know, why it’s insufficient to trust the wandmakers on an honor system, to trace the affected wands themselves and trust that they’ll set it right if we order them to do so. Would you be able to tell him why that’s not a good enough solution? Or me, for that matter? Or your boss?”
She splayed her hands with a satisfied look. “So why should it be any different just because the person asking the questions is wearing purple robes?”
Percy had quite enough to be getting on with at the moment. He was handling his boss’s role on top of his own usual duties, and when I’d asked him once whether it would be possible for him to delegate some of those responsibilities to someone else in his office he’d looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head.
While he remained perfectly put together at work, he wasn’t sleeping nearly enough, and even his appetite had diminished, and I’d have suspected him of being worried if not for the fact that he really wasn’t one for fretting. But if he was, he didn’t say.
He’d told me before that the official reason given to him by the Powers That Be for denying his request to transfer to another Department that year, was that his talents were most needed in his current assignment — and skeptical though he’d sounded, I suspected it was true. If someone like Lionel had been in Percy’s position, that office might have fallen to pieces when Mr. Blakely went out.
I found him lost in thought in an otherwise empty Improper Use of Magic Office when I went to say goodbye after work that day, already well past quitting time for any of our colleagues.
“Blakely’s got Council hearings on the schedule for next week,” he explained when I asked him whether he intended to stay much later.
The Council of Magical Law was yet another subset of the Wizengamot charged with hearing certain violations of law, an inferior court of sorts.
“Really? I thought you only ever held hearings up here?”
The cases handled by the Improper Use Office were typically infractions warranting only administrative sanctions, and the bulk of them seemed to be unauthorized underage magic. Percy had told me that these matters were typically decided by a small tribunal comprised of the Head of Department or their representative, one member of the Council, and a delegate appointed by the Minister’s Office. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement Hearing Chambers bore little resemblance to any type of courtroom I was aware of, appearing more as an over-important conference room.
Percy rubbed at his eyes under his glasses. “Usually, yes, but now and again we have to escalate to the Council.”
“For criminal proceedings?”
“Very occasionally, but more often contempt. Take this one, for example.” He tapped one finger on a parchment next to where I perched on the edge of his desk. “He’s been sanctioned eight times — never paid a Knut, by the way — and we had to have him personally ordered by the Council to cease his activities. Blakely did, anyway; I wasn’t there. The short version of this story is: He didn’t stop. So now he’s being brought up for contempt.”
“Eight times? What’s he been doing?”
“He’s had a longstanding feud with his neighbor. A lot of petty Muggle baiting.”
“Lord,” I scoffed. “It’s not my dad, by chance, is it?”
Percy raised an interested eyebrow. “Not unless your dad’s changed his name and moved to Cumbria.”
“Good. Forget I said anything.”
He gave me a wan smile. “This particular one’s been a thorn in our side for two years. You wouldn’t believe how long the case was kicked back and forth down the corridor when we first got it. Aurors didn’t want it, he’s definitely not Dark; but whenever someone’s messing with Muggles you have to alert them at least. Magical Criminal Investigations didn’t want it, he’s not dangerous or serious — they didn’t think so, anyway, but we did at first, until we realized that everything he was doing constituted petty offenses. He goes right up to the line where it would otherwise cross into something more serious, like he knows the loopholes.
“This whole process is the reason Investigations don’t want it, by the way — a lot of work for very little payoff; there’s not much we can do to him but order him to pay a fine and then essentially watch as he incinerates the orders and keeps doing it. Until now, when we’ll ask the Council to hold him in contempt.
“Anyway,” he concluded with a dismissive shake of his head, “I’ve never actually done one of these; it’s always the Head of Office.”
“Are they particularly difficult?”
“Shouldn’t be.” His face did not manage to look as unconcerned as his voice sounded, and he leant back in his chair with his arms crossed, but he did not elaborate.
Then after a few seconds’ quiet his eyes fell on a copy of the Prophet at the corner of his desk, and he shifted topics.
“It was a good article, I was surprised. Didn’t know where they’d come down on the issue.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, the article they did about the wands.”
“Oh, I hadn’t realized they’d done one already.” I flipped through the pages until I found it. “I haven’t had a chance to look at the paper today, actually.”
“It was quite an extensive statement by Dibble,” he said as I perused the article. “I assumed it must have been prepared by you.”
“No…” I replied vaguely, trailing off as I continued reading, until finally I added, “Madeleine handled the press enquiry; good thing, too, I certainly don’t want to talk to any reporters. And it only makes sense, considering she’s taken on a larger role ever since we took official action.”
I could actually feel the look he was giving me without raising my own eyes from the paper. “Yes, I know, you have opinions about her.”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
Folding up the Prophet once again, I swatted him lightly on the head with it. “She’s been in the office longer than I have, and Demetrius had promised her to be able to assist with the next major case. Which is this. And like I said, I don’t want to deal with the press anyway, and it’s allowed me more time to explore the legislative possibilities.”
“Dibble finally taken to the idea, then?”
“No, I still haven’t talked to him about it. He’s quite harassed as it is by the whole thing, I really wanted to have everything in perfect order before I go there. Hermione’s looking over my completed draft now.”
"Sounds like it should be soon, then?"
"Think so, though I talked with Madeleine today, and you know, up until now she hasn't seemed to think much of pursuing legal change, but she told me she's done some more thinking and believes it might be a good idea with a few tweaks. Thinks there may be a better way to frame it so it's more likely to pass." I ran my finger along the folded edge of the newspaper, pondering. "So I suppose after I get Hermione's comments, we'll talk about it a bit or -- I don't know, maybe presenting Demetrius with two options will encourage him to actually go with one."
Percy eyed me over the top rim of his glasses. “Is there any point in asking whether you’ve placed a security charm on your work?"
“What on earth for? It's not exactly state secrets, is it? And it's not a competition. Besides, what would happen if I were — I don’t know, hit by a bus one day — ”
“Don’t say that.”
“ — and then nobody could get access to what I was working on? Assuming anybody found it the slightest bit important.”
“You mean if Dibble were to go looking for the thing he apparently didn’t know existed in first place because you haven’t told about it yet?”
I swatted him again. “Don’t be smart. Or paranoid.”
Whatever retort he had was overtaken by a yawn.
“Are you sure you have to stay?”
He nodded mulishly.
“Well, then.” I straightened out a bend in his collar. “I should leave you to it so you’re not here until midnight. See you tomorrow?”
He looked regretful. “You can still go to mine if you like? I just hate to keep you waiting, is all.”
“No, it’s a good chance for me to see my sister anyway. I think she’s off today. I’ve hardly seen her the last few times I’ve been home — she’s either at work or shut up in her room sleeping.”
“All right.” He reached out for my hand. “Tomorrow, then.”
“Tomorrow.” I gave his hand a little squeeze. “And by the way, you do know what tomorrow is, don’t you?”
“Bonnie’s birthday.” Secretary to Percy’s boss — or, at present, Percy.
He blinked. “Oh. She didn’t mention.”
“Shall I take that to mean you haven’t got her anything, then?”
I derived a good deal of enjoyment from the look of abject confusion on his face.
“You should always give your secretaries gifts, you know. They’re got very underappreciated jobs.”
“She’s not my secretary, she’s Marv’s, and she’s made that very clear to me.” His tone was glib and his eyes darted to his watch. “Anyway, bit late for this information.”
“Hmm. It might be. Luckily for you, I’m prepared.” With that, I summoned from my own office, tucked under my desk, a potted snapdragon, the same type I’d once given to Violet.
“Bonnie’s mentioned wanting some of these ever since I gave some to Violet,” I explained, offering him the plant, which he accepted with a slightly dazed look. “Watch your fingers.”
He pulled his right hand out of harm’s way just in the nick of time as one of the blooms nipped at him. “You just had this sitting around? For… emergency birthdays?”
“They’re usually not emergencies, they’re on the same day every year, you see.”
The satiric look he threw me was immensely gratifying.
“Anyway, no, I was going to give it to her. But now you are.”
“But… then, what about you?”
I shrugged. “Not to worry, I’ll bake something.” Then I laughed, unsure whether the eyebrow he raised at me was suspicious or impressed. “Trust me on this.”
The plant was still in his hands, and I took it and placed it on his desk before leaning forward to press a kiss to his forehead. “All right, now I’m really off.” I put my hand on his cheek until he looked me in the eye. “Please don’t stay too late. And sleep, yes?”
He nodded, almost convincingly.
“All right. See you tomorrow.” I stood, smoothing my skirt, and headed for the door, pausing briefly to add, “And seriously, watch your fingers. That one’s particularly feisty, I don’t know what Dad did to it.”
“I’m sure we’ll get on famously,” was his dry response, sending me chuckling towards the lifts.
Once home, I found Vivian in a pensive state in the kitchen, apparently doing nothing and looking at nothing in particular as she slouched against the worktop.
“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately upon seeing her there.
“What?” Her voice was thick and her demeanor vague. “Nothing.”
I eyed her in disbelief. Her eyes were red, the circles there prominent; her limp hair was its natural brown, without a trace of color; and she was engulfed in an oversized jumper.
“Come on,” I protested.
“I’m just tired, is all. Been busy. Picking up double shifts.”
“You look like you’ve been working every shift. Have you been…” I peered more closely at her. “Have you been crying?”
“No!” she insisted crossly. “I’m just… puffy.”
She sniffled, and I glared until she let out an exasperated sigh and began to stalk off towards her room without further explanation.
“Wait!” I said. “What were you doing just skulking about in the kitchen, staring at the wall?”
“What?” She turned. “Oh. Oh, yeah, I was going to make tea. Forgot.”
She drifted back towards me but I cut her off and reached for the kettle myself. “Well, I’ll do it; sit down, won’t you?”
“Audrey,” she said irritably. Vivian was much better at mothering than she was at being mothered, but this was rare form even for her. “I don’t need you to — Ah-choo!”
“A-ha. You’re getting sick,” I accused.
“I’m not getting sick, I can’t get sick right now.”
“Well, maybe you need to. Maybe you’ll actually sleep. And you can glare at me all you want, I’m making you tea and then you’re going to lie down. You’re not working tomorrow, are you?”
She picked sullenly at a loose thread on her sleeve. “No, but I’m on Floo.”
We passed a minute in silence as the kettle boiled and I watered my roses, which were particularly lush lately and showing off in a cheeky shade of peach — and when Vivi still showed no inclination to chat, I turned to the refrigerator to locate some butter for baking, finding it at last behind a few of Michael’s high protein drinks and bottles of a dark ale that Vivi had never drunk before she’d started dating him.
A thought struck me when I handed Vivi her tea, and I offered hopefully, “Want to set up on the sofa? Watch a movie?”
There was the briefest pause before she shook her head. “Nah. I should just go to bed.” Then after a quick “Thanks; night,” she disappeared into her room, the door clicking shut behind her.
Many thinks to my friend and fellow writer cassielassie, who drunkenly role-played a Ministry of Magic legal argument with me in a google doc back when I still wasn't sure how extensive Hermione's scene with the Wizengamot was going to be in this chapter. Cassie ended up using some of what we created as inspiration for a Dramione fic because she hates me or something -- but it's cute and fluffy and you should go check it out: it's called The One With Technical Difficulties, and I'm not sure whether she's posted it on these archives but it's on AO3 for sure.
We don't know much about the Ministry's legislative process, except that we're never told they have any kind of parliament, and I don't even know whether they have elections, considering I think the Minister is appointed, not elected. Anyway, I decided to make the Wizengamot their legislative body, which on the one hand seems problematic because the Wizengamot is also their judiciary -- but on the other hand, this seems par for the course for the way the MoM does things. I borrowed loosely -- and I do mean loosely -- from some aspects of the legislative process of Parliament to create the MoM's system here.
Track This Story: Feed
Write a Review
JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION
Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.Register Today!