The first thing Madam Flint did upon taking her husband's seat in the Wizengamot was to enjoy a moment of private gloating. Hermione was entirely aware she was only a proxy but the robes gave her a heady sense of power. The headpiece was uncomfortable but it was no more clownish than a woollen periwig or stereotypical pointy hat.

Gloating done, Madam Flint graciously and soberly accepted the formal welcome from the Chief Warlock. That droned on for a while, allowing her to scan the chamber and gauge who was in attendance. This was an ordinary sitting, meaning not all Members were present. That was good. She hoped to sneak through some motions to get the appeal process moving.

Movement was clearly an unfamiliar concept in the Wizengamot.

By the time she had been in the Chamber for six hours, Hermione would have settled for sneaking in a pillow. The chairs were so old and so inured to magic they refused to accept a Cushioning charm. No wonder the Members looked austere. Years of doing this and they were probably numb from the buttocks down.

Hermione made a note to warn all the new Seat candidates to bring something comfortable to sit upon or the committee risked losing their volunteers. A strong chemical stimulant would also be useful as various witches and wizards mumbled through readings, blathered on about clauses and sub-clauses or just nattered quietly amongst themselves. Parliamentary Question Time was a laugh riot compared to this.

But when she nominated her own bill and had it go through its first reading with barely a raised eyebrow eight minutes before tea break, Hermione knew she could do this. She crab-walked out of the chamber trying to surreptitiously rub some feeling back into her rump before joining the Strategy Committee.

"Was it read?" Leota asked anxiously, oblivious to the ink on her face from endless revisions. The committee had not been idle while their sitting Member sat.

"Yes, with nary a twitch. All that legalese slid through nicely." Hermione accepted a cup of lukewarm coffee from Theo. "Second reading is next session. I was surprised it was so soon."

"They're jamming through all they can before the recess at the vernal equinox." The advocate smiled tightly, prepared to forgo sleep to get as much of the paperwork they needed lodged on the nod in the doldrums of the short spring sitting.

"Then I'll attend every session." She made a face. "We need someone who knows the minutiae of Wizengamot protocol. If we can sit in relays, we can keep our voting numbers high without having everyone camped out at the Ministry."

They might not be actually living at the Wizengamot Chambers but it did not take long for it to feel like they were squatting there. The Flint Rooms, all the ancestral seats had offices for the sitting Members, became their headquarters once twenty years of dust had been banished.

Hermione lay on her stomach on a green suede chaise longue with her feet on the armrest. After a double-sitting, that was the only comfortable position she could find. A stack of books rested on the floor as she reviewed Leota's briefing on the procedure to counter an unofficial query on a pending second reading before an informal hearing.

"Or you could challenge a hundred and three year old wizard to a duel to stop him being such a pedant." Alun sat with his bare feet propped up waiting for the swelling to abate. He had disturbed the nest of something in one of the Archives and whatever it was had bitten him several times, through his shoes. Fortunately the fleeting creature had not been unduly poisonous. His toes were the size of bratwurst however.

"No duels. We've already headed off a two century old feud no one knew about until the ancestral curse triggered." Theo staggered in under the weight of a document box that refused to be levitated. A great deal of the impedimenta of the Wizengamot was resistant to magic, ostensibly to prevent tampering. Mostly it just caused incipient back strain.

"That did verify both candidates were blood relations to the families in question." Hermione rolled a scroll across the floor to Alun, who leant over and picked it up. Neither of them was going to move any more than they must. "Who has the 1385 Charter of Burgage and Privilege?"

"If it is the one that snarls, I put a brick on it." Leota indicated a low table laden with documents under impromptu paperweights. Medieval anti-forgery curses took on semi-sentience after long disuse. Some of them were quite defensive.

"It's the one with the little seal feet." Hermione flicked her wand at the pinned parchments, riffling through them to see if one had a fringe of wax embossed ribbons. "I think it might have wandered off, damn it."

"I have the bloody thing." Marcus announced as he strode into the Rooms bearing bags of take-away. "It tried to get past me in the hall." He had a fat scroll tucked under one arm, its ribbons thrashing like tentacles. "They were out of duck so I got combination egg noodle."

The wizard dispersed the Chinese food then sat down on the chaise after shifting Hermione's feet from the arm. He began to massage her legs, which, in addition to paying for things and going on food runs, was his contribution to the appeal. They had yet to find a way around the horrendously uncomfortable wooden chairs. Courtesy of a 1561 edict banning 'all thrownes, highe settles and ye chaises of courting' all Members had the same egalitarian seating.

"Combination of what?" Leota was still dubious about Muggle fast food but as house elves were banned from the Wizengamot Chambers by a complicated mesh of wand-related ordinances, and as she was no cook she ate the strange meals.

"I did not ask." He rubbed his fingers over Hermione's toe socks, sending little star bursts of pain down her calves. "I spoke to my father. He could not help much. Did say to wear the Flint ring."

"Will doing that magically make the seat less of a torture device?" Hermione dug into her fried rice still lying on her stomach. After nearly fifteen hours in session, she had barely been able to walk out of the Chamber. But she had gone to every sitting and stayed the entire duration. They had got four new Seats opened to candidates as well as furthering the contested reading of the Nuptial Clause.

"It might." Marcus shrugged, flexing her ankle to loosen the cramped tendons.

"I expect it is a lingering curse against Muggle-borns." She shifted, trying to stretch against the knots. "I am the only one currently sitting. I think I will casually mention that to the Prophet. It gives us another angle to attack the legislation. It was definitely not passed by the people it apparently benefits most."

"You haven't done too badly." Theodore remarked, waving his chopsticks at Marcus. The Slytherin grapevine had informed him of the reconciliation between Hermione and Weaselby. He did not want that d├ętente jeopardising their efforts to overturn the law.

"Paper marriage, Theo. We're just friends." Marcus ran his hands familiarly over Hermione's legs with every sign of equanimity. His wife had told him she was talking again with the ginger and that she hoped the wretch would court her in the autumn. He would deal with that when it came time.

"I've met a lot of people I never would have known or worked with, since the legislation." Hermione looked pointedly at the pure-bloods in the room. "I'd like to think we are all friends."

"Point taken." Leota resolved to have a quiet word with Theo. His defence of his fellow Slytherin's interests was loyal but premature. "Have you had a chance to speak to Potter about standing for his family seat? No problem of lineage there."

"I asked Neville and Hannah to broach it." Hermione sighed. Ginny was still guarding Harry as though she expected him to be abducted. "I'm sure he'll do it but making it a decision between me and his wife won't help. The sooner Ginny gets on a Quidditch team, the better. She might let Harry out of the house unguarded then."