The Heir of the Founders, the Heir of Merlin, needs to set the future straight -- by going back to 1971. In this chapter, New Year's and Valentine's Day.
Mrs. Black ignored the elf and turned on her two sons. "We are leaving. Regulus, go take your bath, then you go, Sirius. You are to go to your rooms immediately after bathing, and are not to leave until morning. Kreacher, lock them in."
Regulus and Sirius wrinkled their noses, knowing this meant using the chamber pots if they had to. Both knew better than to argue, however.
"Come!" Orion Black was an overly-proud, powerful, and rather bigoted man. Still, while a bully towards most, his wife dominated him nearly as easily as he did any employee. Therefore, when told to get moving by his wife Walburga, he moved.
"What is your problem?" Mary Potter asked her husband.
Harold gave a jerk, which showed that he had indeed been off in his own little world. "Hey?"
"I asked what your problem was."
Harold sighed. "It looks so beautiful, doesn't it?" he asked, gesturing at the decorated atrium. The upper-level employees of the Ministry, plus spouses and a few of their older relations were there, as was the cream of wizarding Britain and Ireland, ambassadors of other Ministries, and several score other VIPs.
"It does," Mary agreed, curious.
"Yet I don't think any of this is real." He sighed. "Just think of what Harry has told us of his time line. Bigots, incompetents, cowards, and victims. That's what we have here. Decadent and lazy, that's what we are. Scum like Tom Riddle and his followers are a sign of just how low our culture has sunk."
"You may be right," Mary had to agree. "Look, there's Orion and Walburga Black, studiously avoiding that gaggle of Malfoys. Butter wouldn't melt in any of their mouths, and yet every one of them should have at least had larger fines levied."
"And here comes dear Gaius," Harold agreed as the elderly head of the Malfoy clan approached.
"Ah, Harold," he said. "I was hoping to see you here. I had thought perhaps you were out of the country."
"No," Harold said, "merely somewhat . . . unavailable." Between the loss of Malfoy Manor and the high fines the Ministry had levied against them for financially supporting Riddle, the family had suffered greatly in terms of their wealth in ready treasure, just as losing Lucius, the rising star of the family, had thrown the internal workings of the family into disorder. Harold had been approached to provide a low-interest, unsecured loan, and having refused it three times, was not about to discuss the matter again. Gaius, realizing that, merely bowed and made his way to other possible financial backers.
"The loan?" Mary asked.
"No doubt," Harold agreed. "His normal backers were also fined, and if anything, I'm trying to make him sell out some of his resources at bargain prices. I have everyone I can think of aboard, and we'll split his assets, once he sells -- at a low price."
"And to think, that was before we talked with Harry."
Harold merely smiled. "I've always known who our enemies are, I just haven't known what to do about them." His face darkened. Mary understood what he was thinking. The Dark side of the wizarding world needed to be broken.
Sunday, January 2, 1972
While James and Sirius huddled in the far corner of the compartment, comparing their Christmases, Ellen and Lily each thanked Harry for their Christmas presents with a kiss to his cheek.
"I do wish I had given you something better," Lily fretted. She had given him a hand-made card, which Professor McGonagall had helped her enchant with her voice, saying 'Happy Christmas, Harry' and then singing 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', and promising him any Muggle candy he might like.
"Trust me when I say I really will treasure it the rest of my life," Harry said sincerely. Lily would always be two people to Harry, the lively girl sitting on one side of him and his mother. The card with her voice singing to him would forever represent the mother, more than the girl. Harry held up the large Mars bar he had asked for, "This, however, I will only treasure until tonight."
You don't think we'll have a feast?" Ellen asked. She was by nature far too nice to be jealous, otherwise she might have felt a twinge. She also knew that Lily, for all her gifts, still didn't realize that Harry was of the highest nobility, and that you either accepted their gifts and friendship, or did not. You certainly did not worry about the cost of their gifts.
"If not, it will be close," Harry agreed. "Still, if Remus has eaten through all the chocolate I gave him, he might be craving more and this wouldn't be safe for long."
"Harry," Lily said seriously, "I won't ask how you got the gifts to me, or even how your knew about that doll my sister gave me, so I'll just say thank you again. It really scared her, and she was actually, well, not nice but at least she stopped being so obviously mean."
"What happened?" Ellen asked. She snorted in laughter when Lily told her. Ellen had never heard a kind word about Petunia Evans, and while Lily's parents wrote her once a week, there had never been a direct word from Petunia, just news about what she was doing.
"Lily," Ellen said to her best friend that night, "can we talk?"
"Sure," Lily said, sitting on her bed.
Ellen sat near the foot of the bed, drew the curtains, and put up a weak silencing ward, which was the best she could accomplish. Lily looked at her friend, puzzled. "We need to talk about Harry, and the world of magic."
"What about them?" Lily asked.
"Except for growing up knowing about magic, and seeing my father do magic on occasion, my life wasn't all that much different than yours," Ellen said. "We both grew up in solid middle-class parts of the outer London suburbs. Even our parents are similar -- your father is a research chemist at a drug company, my father is a potions researcher associated with St. Mungo's, and both of our mothers are gardening nuts."
"True," Lily agreed.
"The difference is, you really have no idea how the magical world works, and our place in it, and you won't learn here at Hogwarts."
"Do you have any idea how the wizarding government works in Britain?" Ellen asked.
"Not really, other than there's a Ministry," Lily said. "Won't Professor Binns get around to explaining that at some point?"
"Apparently not," Ellen said. "You need a crash course."
"And this has to do with Harry?"
"Harry and James both," Ellen said. Seeing Lily wrinkle her very cute nose, Ellen said, "Harry is our close friend, but if anyone has a crush on you, it's James, or maybe Remus, not Harry. Now, listen up."
"The Ministry runs what government we have and was set up in more-or-less its current form in 1662. The European Ministries were set up hundreds of years ago and formalized, and almost fossilized, across Europe in the early 1700s. Still, the basic form of our Ministry was started in the late 800s. That's when the heads of eighty-four powerful English magical families came to together to form the Wizengamot. They put up some of the money for the founding of Hogwarts, and the heads of another sixty or so magical families from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland supplied the rest. They agreed to form a new Wizengamot, including all of their family heads, in 924, Some other families grew powerful while some magical families went extinct. Membership was redefined twice more, in the early 1200s and in 1662, but not since."
"So, there are fifty members of the Wizengamot, and any new member is elected by the others." That made Lily blink. "Fifteen of the members have to be drawn from the remaining eighty or so heads of the original Founding Noble or Most Noble Families, either term is used, and fifteen of the others have to be drawn from them or from the heads of the other Noble families. Right now, the other fifteen 'elected' members are also all members of those families. The remaining five are the Minister, the Head of the MLES, and three other high Ministry officials, all named by the Minister. Any member, even the Minister, can be dismissed by a vote of thirty of the members to do so. The only other way to get rid of the Minister is for the Queen to do it."
"Queen Elizabeth knows about us?"
Ellen nodded. "The Minister is technically the Royal Wizard."
"So Harry's grandfather was on this Wizengamot?"
"He was, but he was even before he became head of the MLES," Ellen said. "The Potters are one of the Founding Noble Families, as are the Dumbledores and the Longbottoms. Well, actually, Gryffindor was, and the Potters are currently the oldest surviving branch of the House of Gryffindor. The Blacks are a Noble family."
"So Harry was right when he said he and those two clowns would be considered nobility."
"Yes, but it's actually worse than that," Ellen said. "I rooted around the used bookstores in Diagon Alley, and discovered some interesting things in some old pamphlets and genealogy journals."
"Such as, as best I can tell, there has apparently never been a Wizengamot member of any of the thirty noble seats who was not at least considered a Full-blood, married to someone considered at least a Full-blood."
"So, either Harry or James, which ever is the older, will be the Head of the family some day," Ellen said. "If it's Harry, if he were to marry either of us, he could never be a Noble member of the Wizengamot, and neither could his son or his grandson."
"James is older by twelve minutes," Lily said drily, "and I don't think either of us needs to think about marrying Harry for at least a few more years, and I at least doubt I would ever marry James Potter."
"Lily, there are slightly fewer witches than there are wizards, no one knows why," Ellen said, "plus some wizards maintain an old tradition of having a bondmate and one or two consorts. You'll also notice that about two thirds of any given year will be married within four years of leaving Hogwarts. And while the custom isn't as wide-spread as it used to be, I'd bet at least a third of us will be in pre-arrangements for marriage by the time we start Seventh year. It's never too soon to think of these things."
Lily shook her head. "This world is as crazy as the Muggle one, just in different ways."
It took Lily several days to get Harry alone to talk to him. "What's wrong?" he asked her.
"Ellen had a talk with me a few days ago," she answered. "It bothered me in lots of ways."
"Tell me about it," Harry suggested, and so Lily did. "Which parts are bothering you?" Harry then asked.
"Well, is the Wizengamot really that narrow?"
Harry nodded. "It serves the needs and interests of a few groups within about a seventh of the population, and those who aspire to get into it, or back into it. As for the Potters, we are more often on it than off it. James will be rich enough that he could marry you and still be eligible if you aren't radically-inclined politically, and if your son wouldn't be easy to get on, your grandson would be. Ellen doesn't know how well these issues are ignored when it suits the interests of those in power."
"James will be rich? Not you and James?"
"James doesn't realize it yet, but almost all the property and the Family Trust are entailed. Once I turn seventeen, I'll be able to claim twenty-six thousand Galleons a year, but that will be most of what I get."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"That James will be one of the five or ten richest wizards in Europe, while I will merely have a guaranteed income greater than ninety-five percent of the magical world? No, not really." Harry put his hand on Lily's shoulder. "Despite what Ellen thinks, we are too young to worry about these things. You will always be my friend. James will always be a bit smitten by you. Remus will always make puppydog eyes at you and Ellen because you are both kind to him, and he seems to have led a very lonely life. James will always be a bit of a prat, but he's really not that bad a person."
Lily smiled bravely. "And was it true what she said about multiple marriages?"
"Yes," Harry answered. "There are actually a few sub-cultures within magical Europe. Some people live in communities that are technically mixed, but where almost everyone is either magical, a Squib, or is related to them. Some are so poor they basically survive only by their magic, by scavenging, and because they pay almost no taxes. There are also some families that hold themselves aloof from both magical and Muggle culture for the most part. This last group is the one who most commonly practice multiple marriages. In all of them, their magical women tend to marry out, while the first and third groups tend to marry non- magical women. Granted, the first group tend to marry Squibs or children of Squibs. The third group often take incredibly beautiful Muggle women as second and even third wives." Harry shrugged. "The multiple marriages are also more common in the rest of Europe than here."
Lily nodded. "Thanks for explaining some of this," she said. She wondered, not for the first time, if her future really laid in the magical world.
The wizarding world was astounded to learn in late January that there had been a prison break, the first in the history of Azkaban. Most of the imprisoned Death Eaters had been freed, although three had been killed while trying to escape. All were on the run, including Voldemort.
In reaction, over the next six weeks a group of the more progressive Pure-Bloods, led by Harold Potter, put severe economic and peer pressure on the Wizengamot. From mid-March through early May, the Minister, the Head of the MLES, the other three Ministry members, and nine other members of the Wizengamot were replaced. The Head of the MLES and the Chief Auror, Alastor Moody, exchanged jobs (much to the dismay of Barty Crouch, who had been angling for the position).
Five of the six members who were replaced were from the hard-core Purist faction, which had numbered a solid dozen. Gaius Malfoy had been the first of all the changes; his obvious ties with Voldemort, and the loss of much of his liquid assets, had helped there. The loss of his great-grandson, whom he had been grooming for his position as head of the Malfoy family, had taken most of the fight out of the elderly Malfoy.
The one member dismissed not directly connected with Voldemort was also one of the most corrupt members of the Wizengamot. He decided that the political winds were changing, and so he retired out of the country without a fight. Harold Potter was named to Malfoy's seat, and he orchestrated the other changes. By June, 1972, Voldemort would find that the climate of Britain was much more hostile than it had been before the attack in May, 1971.
Monday, February 14, 1972
Lily Evans angrily stalked back towards the common room. A contrite (at least for him) James Potter was dogging her footsteps. "Honestly, Evans! It was a mistake! I didn't mean for that to happen!"
Lily halted and turned on James, glaring. James pulled up short. He had given Lily a large chocolate heart, which might have earned him a few points. Unfortunately, he had also thought it would be funny to make the heart beat. He had over-powered the spell, and once activated by Lily opening the package, it had exploded a few seconds later. Lily was still covered in chocolate goo. "Your problem, James Potter, is that you never know when to quit. You have so many ideas bubbling in what passes for your brain that you never actually think out the consequences of any of them. Now, I accept your apology, but if I see you before dinner tonight, I'll show you a new hex I learned. It's called the 'testicle-knot'."
James wasn't sure if she meant 'knot' or 'not', and really did not want to learn which she meant. "I'm sorry. I'll do better next year!" he said before fleeing.
Lily snorted in disgust and stalked off to get cleaned up.
"So, other than the exploding heart, did you have a nice Valentine's Day?" Ellen asked that night.
"Except for that, I suppose so," Lily answered, still a bit cranky. "And you?"
"I doubt I got as many cards as you," Ellen teased.
"I got four," Lily said drily. "Assuming I would want to call the card reciting off-color limericks from Black as anything more than an annoyance."
"Did you even get to read Potter's before the heart exploded?"
Lily shook her head. "It glopped all over the insides of the card. Not that I care what either of those two apes say."
"How about Remus and Harry?" Ellen asked.
"They both made me nice cards," Lily allowed. "Still, be honest, can you imagine Remus sharing chocolate with anyone?"
Ellen giggled at that, and said, "If he does, it will likely be the same as a marriage proposal."
Lily laughed at that. "And no, Harry didn't exactly give me chocolate." Seeing Ellen's confused expression, Lily dug under her pillows and showed her trophy.
A large jar of Nutella.
"Harry gave you that?" Ellen asked, still confused.
"Potter was teasing him about that Mars bar again, saying how superior magical candies are," Lily explained. "I told Harry how much I miss Nutella." Lily frowned. "What I don't understand is why, if Harry can get me Nutella, he doesn't get himself some Mars bars."
"Harry is odd that way," Ellen agreed. "If he needs something, like those astronomy magazines, he finds a way to get them. If a friend of his needs something or even wants something, he gets it for them. But if he just wants something, he doesn't bother."
"True," Lily agreed. "What did you get?"
"Cards from Remus and Harry, and sweets from Harry," Ellen admitted.
"A chocolate heart like Potter gave you, except mine didn't explode . . . at least not yet, and some little cinnamon hearts." Ellen shook her head. "I had told Harry about liking those last November, when I was telling him about my trip two years ago to New York."
"Harry might be giving us both sweets we crave, but you're the one he's giving hearts to," Lily said. "So, maybe you can stop worrying about me stealing his heart when get older."
Ellen, with a birthday in late-September, was one of the oldest students in their class, while Lily, born in August, was the youngest. Ellen's nature was also more romantic than Lily's, so she would be about two years ahead of Lily in her interest in boys. At this point, Lily's outlook on life was still fairly androgynous, for which Ellen was grateful.