Last Updated: 2019-01-21 (Added story by Tangerine-Alert)
Today, I’m rounding up the Harry Potter fics which I think do the best job of making Wizarding politics and/or governance a major focus of the story.
…and when I say a “major focus”, I don’t mean “very important to the plot” or “Harry Potter uses some tricks to win emancipation” or some other recurring trope. I mean stories where the politics, nature, or history of wizarding governance are a significant portion of what the story is “about” rather than just being a well-developed means to an end.
Bear in mind that I don’t actively seek out these sorts of fics, so I welcome suggestions for stories I might have missed. Also, I’m not particularly pleased with how this post came out, stylistically, but I don’t want to give this the whole “essay that you’re being marked on” treatment, so please excuse any writing that doesn’t flow as naturally as usual.
That said, let’s get to it…
- Long Live The Queen by offsides
- Length: 174,577 words
- Have you ever wanted to read a “Harry Potter lays the legal smackdown on the wizarding government” fic that was actually good? If so, this is the fic for you.
- The story begins when on the train ride home after Voldemort’s return, Harry’s frustration with the ministry is draws an off-handed “There’s not a lot you can do about it mate, not unless someone dies and makes you King,” from Ron, which prompts Harry and Hermione to realize that there might actually be an authority higher than the corrupt wizarding government to appeal to.
- Realizing that it might be possible to get Sirius a royal pardon that must be obeyed by the wizarding government, they try to acquire the Ministry of Magic’s founding documents and make a rewarding discovery: The Ministry of Magic is magically bound to obey British law at the time of its founding, including the Magna Carta and the Habeas Corpus act.
- Given that the slight change in events allowed Harry to get advance warning of his upcoming trial, it’s very clear that the only reason the wizarding government isn’t in danger of corrective actions for “gross violations” up to and including complete dissolution of the Ministry of Magic is that the Crown has been unaware of the violations.
- What follows is a completed story broken into two acts:
- Act 1 has Harry and Hermione seeking a solution to the problem the Ministry presents, making an appeal to Queen Elizabeth, and making plans for how to deal with things.
- Act 2 follows the aftermath of the Ministry of Magic being dissolved by order of Queen Elizabeth, and the resulting reconstruction of the institutions of wizarding society.
- I don’t want to spoil too much, but I’ll end by saying that I like how this story develops Percy Weasley’s character, I like one of the little touches involving Professor McGonagall, and I like how much effort offsides put into researching the British government and building a reasonable-seeming view of how much Queen Elizabeth knows about her more secretive subjects.
- As a final note, I enjoyed this story enough that I’ve re-read it.
- The Queen Who Fell To Earth by Bobmin356
- Length: 302,411 words
Crossover: Dragonriders of Pern
Status: Complete, with two sequels of similar length
- When a suicidal Harry Potter enters the first Triwizard task, intending to let the horntail kill him, he instead becomes the first human to impress a dragon hatchling since a gravid, suicidal Pernese queen accidentally set the record for time-jumping uncounted millennia ago …in doing so, burning away Voldemort’s shade and touching off a psychic chain-reaction, sparking a resurgence of draconic sapience across the world.
- The story then follows Harry and company as the narrative divides its “Harry finding a place to belong” theme between growing into being the leader of a new political faction (as the dragons will accept none other) and working to develop an analogue to the Pernese system of weyrs which is appropriate to the changed setting.
- This series is an interesting case because of how it combines wizarding and mundane politics and how the non-magical politicians are used to add a thread of “believable non-drama” to the political interactions which makes it feel more like reality. (Contrary to what soap operas would have you believe, everything doesn’t have to be drama and intrigue all the time. Sometimes, trying to honestly earn the loyalty of a potential political ally makes for a good story too.)
- As is sadly the case with many stories, the author is in a rush to set up for the story, so the first chapter is unarguably contrived. However, if you can overlook that, this is one of only three cases I can remember where a story or series over half a million words long was something I ended up coming back to re-read.
- If you can accept the initial contrivances, the series has a feel to it that I can’t remember seeing anywhere else in the world of Harry Potter fanfiction, the tone is an interesting mix of Harry Potter, Pern, and generic “contemporary” elements, and I enjoy reading about the world that Bobmin356 has built.
- Give it two or three chapters and see what you think.
- Sympathetic Properties by Mr Norrell
- Length: 493,451 words
- The plot to this story begins when, at the beginning of Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter is a bit more sympathetic to Dobby’s plight, and tries to find a way to buy him from whoever his current family is. (Thus, the title.) That leads to a letter inquiring about one who might be able to deal on his behalf, which, in turn, touches off an informal sting operation, resulting in an audit of Harry’s account manager after he tries to give Harry the brush-off.
- Harry is quickly introduced to Lester Lichfield, his family’s old bailiff, and the politics and intrigue ensue. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that it results in some very tense relations between the Goblins and the Ministry of Magic, and the uncommonly early-in-the-plot (but satisfyingly in-depth) investigation and political neutering of a manipulative Dumbledore so that the political scheming of multiple people can serve collectively as the antagonist, rather than any one person. (Something we see far too little of in fanfiction. The real world is complicated!)
- As a character, Lichfield deserves a shout-out, because I enjoy scenes which show what he’s up to and that’s not an easy accomplishment for an original character. I also enjoy seeing the actual details of how Gringotts employees are exploiting loopholes in the laws/bylaws/etc. to accomplish goals. That kind of effort on the part of an author is always fun and Mr Norrell is particularly focused on world-building here.
- That said, the story also features a Harry-Hermione pairing touched off by Dobby not provoking the Dursleys, which gives Harry a proper opportunity to read his letters. To his surprise, in one of Hermione’s, she admits she’d like to get to know him better. (A twist elegantly reconciled with canon via her response to his brief apology for not getting their letters, where she has clearly lost her nerve.)
- While the story isn’t especially focused on humour, it does incorporate the occasional bit, with one of the more quotable examples being Harry’s opinion that his hand-me-downs from Dudley make him look “like a deflated rhinoceros”.
- This story is also noteworthy in that Mr Norrell is intentionally aiming to avoid the existing “Harry goes to Gringotts and everything becomes better” tropes. If you want an exploration of goblin society and Gringotts company politics, intrigue both within Gringotts and between Gringotts and the Ministry, as well as world-building for the greater environment of European wizarding politics, this is the story for you.
- However, as a final caution, keep in mind that this is a bit of a slow-burning fic at times and the chapters can get pretty long. If you find yourself putting it down, try coming back later and reading a little more. Just because you’re not riveted from start to finish, doesn’t automatically mean the fic isn’t for you.
- Dodging Prison and Stealing Witches: Revenge is Best Served Raw by LeadVonE
- Length: 480,646 words
Status: Incomplete (active as of 2018-07-15)
NOTE: I didn’t have time to re-read this to ensure the perfect accuracy of my impressions.
- At its most basic, this is a do-over fic set in a “Harry is not the boy who lived” setting. However, it does two things that are much more interesting and unusual:First, the plot begins in a timeline where Harry’s famous brother already got a do-over and still failed. Not only will Dumbledore be meddling to keep things on the track he believes is right, Harry’s do-over will be complicated by his brother thinking this is his do-over, jumping to conclusions about Harry, and generally getting very concerned by Harry not behaving as expected. However, most of the story’s focus is elsewhere, which brings us to the reason it earned a place on this list:
- Second, when Harry is granted a do-over, Fate tells him about the lordships he can claim in order to gain influence and, with the help of an aging potion, a mask, and magic’s ability to anonymously confirm his credentials, he becomes the mysterious Lord Slytherin… and it is the political manoeuvring surrounding Lord Slytherin which takes up the lion’s share of the story’s focus.
- As an example, the most recent few chapters, as of this writing, focus on a well-intentioned muggle-protection bill and the political manoeuvring surrounding it. For example, Arthur Weasley gets tricked into proposing amendments with terrible non-obvious implications for an important supporter. Later, The Minister’s Humble Hag (and isn’t that a clever title in the vein of “Party Whip” or “Lord Privy Seal”), acting in his duty to preserve the stability of magical British society, reaches across the aisle to Lucius Malfoy in the hope that the Dark can craft a competing bill which will prove more appealing to Lord Slytherin and his Grey faction. If that level of attention to political detail doesn’t earn it a place on this list, I don’t know what does.
- UPDATE: A recent anonymous reviewer on the fic also pointed out something I neglected to mention. The story is a noteworthy example of taking a ton of bad Harry Potter fanfic tropes and using them in a way that actually works. Most memorably, the reviewer likened his relationship to the “harem” he picked up to that of a CEO and his board of directors.)
- Harry’s Loophole by ThinkingSpeck
- Length: 60,394
- For the most part, this is a typical “Harry Potter decides not to play along with being shoved into the Triwizard Tournament” fic. However, it becomes noteworthy when Crouch and Voldemort decide that, if Harry won’t cooperate, they’ll kidnap him early.
- The politics come in after Voldemort is successfully killed, and the Death Eaters are captured. The perspective ThinkingSpeck assigns to Harry left me wondering why I can’t remember any other fics going in this direction.
- I may not have studied political science, but I keep up on things enough that I recognize the influence of things like Mahatma Gandhi’s “an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s desire to save racists from themselves in the philosophy underpinning what Harry accomplishes.
- Aside from the politics, what makes this story noteworthy for me is the various situations where ThinkingSpeck takes something that authors typically assign a ton of significance and build-up to, and unapologetically gets it out of the way quickly so the story can stay focused on what matters. (eg. Decapitating the newly resurrected Voldemort in the graveyard by catching him by surprise) That “make an unexpected thing work by acting as if it’s no big deal” technique is a skill many authors lack.
- Now, for the story’s main flaw. It went on too long in an unusual way.
- A story’s arc is defined by its driving conflict, and Harry resolved the driving conflict quite solidly in the third-last chapter. If anything, what follows should be an epilogue, not two more chapters of normal writing which give plenty of time for the triumphant ending note to fade… and an epilogue isn’t even really necessary here.
- That said, a short epilogue could still work. It’s just that the last two chapters aren’t what’s needed.
- The purpose of an epilogue is to ensure the readers are satisfied by letting them share in any bits of resolution which don’t come immediately after resolving the arc’s conflict… typically, letting them experience the reward the protagonist got for resolving the conflict when it doesn’t come as part of the final pre-epilogue chapter. (Not two whole chapters written in typical form.)
- Basically, an epilogue is a vignette from after the “happily ever after” has begun.
All in all, I think the best solution for the overall quality of the story would have been to omit the last two chapters… which brings me to Gringotts. The second issue.
I’m not opposed to Goblins being friendly characters (see, for example, Effects and Side-Effects) but it needs to be justifiable. In this story, the block of scenes when Harry goes to Gringotts do have room for the Goblins to be receptive. Harry approaches them in a respectful manner, establishes himself as his own man, politically, and it’s established beforehand that they share his desire to eliminate horcruxes. The problem is that the goblin leader is a little too willing to welcome Harry as an ally and share apparently privileged information with a guy he’s only just met before asking him to keep it secret.
If the last two chapters were removed, that would become even more obvious as something that should be reworked… but, again, it can work. It just needs tweaking. (eg. All the key exposition details result from Harry seeing things on the path to the ritual chamber used for cleansing the horcruxes. It’s just the manner in which Harry’s questions are answered that needs to be tweaked.)
- All in all, if you’re in the mood for an alt-Triwizard fic and want a novel approach to defeating Voldemort and company, give this a whirl. 4.3 out of 5.
- The Lawyers Against the Cup by Tangerine-Alert
- Length: 39,247
- Not really a politics fic in the traditional sense, but this alt-Triwizard fic has a unique and interesting feel to it.
- The basic premise is that, instead of exploiting the loophole in the Triwizard Tournament in the usual way (compete, but gain concessions like legal adulthood), Harry researches Wizarding law and discovers that there *is* an avenue available to dispute the contract if he seeks sanctuary with a wizarding law firm.
- Since the story is primarily about the journey, I think it’s reasonable to explain what makes this special by spoiling the final chapter or two to give a sense of how the story approached things.
- Several years after his graduation, Harry has found peace, living in New Zealand, when a settlement agreement is finally reached. As a result of a political manoeuvring with Lucius Malfoy, he has given Draco a second chance in the wake of Voldemort being taken care of by those acting on Harry’s behalf, and, having both grown up, they are friends of a sort.
- In exchange for a large cash settlement, Harry continues to be barred from entering Hogwarts grounds until the day Dumbledore dies, and the suit is dismissed without prejudice, but Harry negotiates with the Hogwarts staff to give a talk in Hogsmeade about what options you have when you feel like you’re backed into a corner.
- A little dry at times, but a story I’m glad to have read. 4 out of 5.