The Night of the Purification of Wizarding Britain


Story Summary:
Britain isn't what Harry thought, or Wizarding Europe thinks. He and his friends aren't the figureheads they thought they were. And if they can't discover what's going on tonight, locked inside the Wizarding League's headquarters, they'll see the purification of Wizarding Britain tomorrow morning.

Chapter 01 - What Harry Couldn't Quite Hear

Chapter Summary:
A series of ministry owls, a newly professional Dean Thomas, and an anxious appeal from Hermione—still not quite herself—have finally convinced Harry to play honorary diplomat at a European Wizarding League function. But trouble finds them.
Author's Note:
The remainder of this story takes place in real time. This first chapter brings us to 10 PM on the night of the purification of Wizarding Britain.

When it happened, Harry's ears were still popping from the aeroplane. Otherwise he'd have heard. He and the honorary British delegation had landed in Muggle Bern hours earlier and been whisked by silent cars with opaque windscreens through the center of the city and into a wizarding enclave, and they'd done all the arrival things since then—they'd lugged their trunks up to their rooms, had famous things pointed at by well-meaning hosts, washed up and dressed for the dinner. But Harry had never flown the Muggle way before, and he was still groggy from the flight. In the moment before everything happened he admitted it to Hermione, told her he still felt completely underwater.

She'd said she had a pill for that, somewhere in her ridiculous handbag, but then everything had gotten very loud.


It had taken a while to break Harry's resolve. It had taken a while, and three regal, angry-looking owls attached to gruff letters from Kingsley, and five extemporaneous lectures from Hermione on the Wizarding League's place in the history and stability of Wizarding Europe (in the wake of the final, deadliest Goblin Rebellion, Harry, which was still you understand only a harbinger of what might happen without such a body). It had taken all that before Harry agreed to spend a week back in his old solemn life as part of the honorary delegation. (The theme of the weekend was “Embracing Magical Modernity At History’s End,” with a very long subtitle that seemed to change every time Harry heard it.) Neville and Dean had told him it would be like a vacation, a wild vacation, attached to a few boring speeches, and that he was taking it too seriously. Hermione had told him how seriously he would be taken.

It had only been a year since Hogwarts had fallen down around him, but Harry'd tried to explain to Kingsley, by way of the restless leg of each regal owl, that it already felt much longer. He’d tried to tell Hermione that there was really no offseason as such for seekers in Quidditch's first division. He’d tried to tell Ernie Macmillan that he had no real use for politics, no matter how much weight his name might carry. Finally, though, he'd given the last nonplussed Ministry owl a curt note, and he'd steeled himself for Hermione's extemporaneous hug, and he'd allowed Ernie the smug self-satisfaction of believing he'd convinced the Wizard Who Won to get into politics—to “really do some good in the world,” Ernie had told him, deadly serious.


Harry had never seen anything like the Wizarding League's reception hall. It was severe and Scandinavian-looking on the outside—the International Style, Hermione had called it—and the ceiling high over Harry's head stood in perfect opposition to Hogwarts's dusky charmed sky, a white rectangle funneled toward a vanishing point far behind the big windows that made up the far wall and showed the tops of a copse of trees and the Swiss hills in the distance. "It feels… cold in here," Harry said.

"In this part of Europe, for this kind of building, ornamentation is the unforgivable curse, magic or no magic." Hermione bit her lower lip down into a little frown. "They won't say it to our face, but Wizarding Europe finds our magical community hopelessly provincial."

"I reckon that's their problem, and not ours."

Hermione gave a nearly imperceptible mm-hmm and waved her ridiculous handbag at him. Her face changed, as though she remembered they weren't gossiping alone but in a room filled with a hundred dignitaries. "If we're going to play dress-up," she said, sounding a little nervous, "I suppose we should at least act the part of mature, boring diplomats, right? After you."

She was wearing a sleek, glittering dress, which she fussed with, every so often, in anxious, un-ladylike ways. "You look—fine, natural," Harry said to her, again. "I'm the one in rented Muggle eveningwear."

“I feel as if I'm playing House. United Nations House, I mean. I look—thank you, Harry—with this ridiculous handbag, and—“ reaching her free hand up around her shoulders she took a final inventory of the dress's straps. "Maybe if I filled it out like an adult. Merlin."

At that Harry tilted his gaze up over her head, into the middle distance, but she took it for boredom rather than modesty. “If I’ve exhausted Harry Potter’s reserve of polite compliments I’m in real trouble,” she said, and then quickly, before he could respond, “only it’s difficult walking around in evening dress knowing I’m mostly the same species as Fleur.”

Not that either of them had seen the French delegation yet. They’d been watching for them because France was as near as Britain got to having an ally in the Wizarding League—so near that Harry and Hermione, who’d been treated mostly like figureheads, had received what amounted to a briefing about them.

Kingsley had told them about the French—that is, he had told Dean about the French, and Dean had told Hermione that they were brusque and dismissive but willing to listen and worth the trouble, and then Harry that he should stand very quietly with a neutral facial expression, like he did, and fume inwardly when the topic got away from Quidditch.

Harry knew, mostly from Dean on the plane, that Kingsley and Durand, the French ambassador, had been talking for some time, since before the pureblood bailout had become necessary. Durand was old enough to know Grindelwald, and from there to know to know what Voldemort had represented, and so Kingsley had told Dean (who'd told Harry) that Durand was a silly ass and a pompous, bigoted fop, but one they could work with.

Nicolas Deniaud, his deputy, was only old enough to see Voldemort and have no idea why a dark lord, a real dark lord, would respect national borders so slavishly. He was very smart, and not at all silly, and it was Dean's job to keep him away from Durand while Kingsley talked to the pompous bigoted fop they could work with.

Dean who had glided into place beside them, looking like he’d been born in tails. "Who knew it would be so easy to miss dress robes, right? But the two of you shouldn't be having nearly so much trouble as Ernie, and he's already mastered the bow-tie."

"I have, thank you," Ernie said, looking as though he imagined he looked like he'd been born in tails. "Only had to watch Dean do it once."

"It's just odd," Harry said. "Like I'm in a room full of Muggles with magic wands."

"I'm fond of it, personally," Ernie sniffed. "Wizarding Europe proves that we needn't be beholden to tradition to be real wizards. Pureblood, Muggleborn—they hardly know the terms. Now I believe the dinner is about to begin."

He gave a stiff bow and walked in measured strides to their table, where Kingsley and Neville were making small talk. When he was out of earshot Dean turned back to Harry and Hermione. "I can't wait to see him use that line on the French delegation."

"And the Spanish delegation," Harry said. "And the German delegation, and the Bulgarian delegation..."


There was a speech by the General Secretary of the Wizarding League (“Embracing Magical Modernity at History’s End: A Future Beyond States and Status”) that Harry got through only by hyperfocusing on mimicking Ernie’s ram-rod posture, and then a dinner he got through only by focusing on the courses he could recognize. Then, just as Harry was about to ask her if she didn't feel like getting some air, too, there was Ernie asking Hermione what she thought of the speech. There had been lots of moments like that in the last months—Harry and Hermione about to talk, except for everything else that was happening around them. But she had been pleasant, on the aeroplane, and relaxed, and that was new—or else he could no longer read her mind by watching the ways she fidgeted, pushing herself back into her thoughts. That would also be new.

"These people," Ernie said, "they're remarkable! Nearly all of them pureblood and you wouldn't even know it."

Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment. "It all sounded very fine."

"Gram doesn't trust them," Neville said.

"She'll have to," Kingsley said. "If we can't convince the rest of the League that the Death Eaters and their ilk are a problem—that the reconstruction of Wizarding Britain must be a priority—your grandmother won't have many trustworthy Britons left to gossip with."

From across the table Blaise Zabini sniffed.

Neville's hand closed tight around his glass. "Excuse me?"

Harry let his wand-hand slip beneath the tabletop. "Please, Zabini, finish your thought."

Everyone fell silent. Ernie was the only one who seemed unaffected—when the time came to talk to people who could be reasonably expected to talk back his plan had always been to conclude any outstanding speeches and drink, and he put it into action with an admirable attention to detail. A few beats passed and Harry felt, in the quiet, as though the rest of the delegations had begun inching their tables closer to Britain's and tut-tutting in the International Style. This, he supposed, was what they expected from Wizarding Britain.

Hermione put her own hands on the table and attempted, perfunctorily, to clear her throat. "Harry, please—Blaise, if you're going to say something, please just say it. You're a member of the delegation."

"I'm just—not surprised to see that the Minister's reliance on scare tactics and bogeymen crosses national boundaries."

"Finally," Dean said. "Money talks."

Kingsley sighed, and that was all of it. He had clashed in this way so frequently since his appointment that his allies pitied him and his opponents had written him off; what was left was ash, and smoke, and the crackling and smoldering of old arguments and rivalries.

Forks scratched tensely over fine china a few minutes longer. Harry was testing his posture again when the party finally broke up, preparing to test Ernie’s plan for surviving this sort of thing, when Ernie—looking more tipsy than drunk—asked him to hold tight for a moment while he got a very important person.


Twenty minutes passed before the important person arrived. Ernie was already locked in conversation with his quarry; he seemed amazed at his own ability to explain complex geopolitical issues to professional diplomats.

Harry stood up. He began to bow then had second thoughts, leaving him bent over at a slight angle, but Ernie’s drinking had made him excellent camouflage for any diplomatic discomfort Harry may have felt. He turned to the table and said, one hand reaching absently for the ambassador's lapel, "For a hero—of course it was a local matter, pr'marily, born of reg-g-gional prejdis—for a hero he's really quite modest, Harry P-Potter. And Her-mynee, here. The Ambassador, Jean Durand.”

Ernie was reaching for the lapel of a man in his early thirties who didn’t seem at all foppish—a dark, thin functionary who smiled at them because it was the thing he was supposed to do, not because their friend was about to tip over and slide down his tux.

“Deputy Deniaud, I think,” Harry said. Deniaud nodded.

Ernie’s eyes widened for a moment, but—already Harry could hear him narrating the story, unaware he and Hermione had been sitting there, the next morning; “I picked up on it in a hurry, of course—kind of smoothed it out, improvised, you see.” Here in the moment he smoothed the deputy’s lapels over, stood up very straight, paused between them for a moment, and walked back to the bar.

“Harry Potter, of course,” Deniaud said. “Ambassador Durand tells me we all owe you a debt.”

“I didn’t realize he was a Quidditch fan,” Harry said. Deniaud didn’t seem to have enough information to put the little joke together, but Hermione laughed, a little aggressively, to suggest Harry’d been right to make it.

“And you,” Deniaud said. “Ms. Hermione Granger, yes?”

“Y-yes,” Hermione said, and began unspooling, a little rapidly, her canned answer: “Harry did most of the work, I was mainly the librarian, if you want to know the truth, but I—“

“Granger the Obliviator—the Lockhart matter, yes?” Deniaud’s narrow face seemed whittled down roughly from a larger, more animated one; it betrayed none of the nuance he’d left out of his perfect, monotonous English. Hermione seemed to move in slow motion, waiting for a little more information.

But Hermione did excellent work; it was what Hermione did. Harry didn’t know what she’d done as an Obliviator—she’d never actually told him she was one, directly—but she would be a good one. And she would impress Deniaud, because Deniaud was an authority figure. “Youngest one in ministry history,” Harry said—he hadn’t heard anything like that, but she usually was. Then he patted her on the back and, after a wide-eyed look he couldn’t place, she began to talk.

“Yes, that was me—with a team, of course. A difficult situation.”

“He wrote… I’m sorry, was supposed to have written The Lich Woman of Lourdes.

“Yes,” Hermione said, what little conviction she had in her voice draining out. “Not a high point in Muggleborn relations, I’m afraid.” Harry watched her turn, very slowly, as though she were trying to leave Deniaud secretly while she spoke. “But we’re excited to learn what we can from our peers on that front. You’ll have to pardon my ignorance on the subject,” she said, the barest glint of the edge she used to have talking to Malfoy tempering her compliment. “I haven’t heard much about French Muggleborn initiatives.”

“It is easy when they are not necessary,” Deniaud said, smiling. “Now Lockhart. You wonder, Mr. Potter, how I know the name, yes?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Harry,” Hermione said, and then, a little louder, “Harry—“

“How I know the name of the book Ms. Granger has tried to erase, and the man.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, suddenly too confused to be angry, “I guess I’ve always taken as read that Gilderoy Lockhart was hard to forget—“

Hermione exhaled loudly and, in a low even voice, now, spun into another explanation, one Harry hadn’t heard before. “We remember what’s useful to us, deputy, with or without magic, and in a situation as complex and horrific as that author’s it is clear to some of us that—“

“I am a deputy, Ms. Granger, and a pragmatist. I do not care what Wizarding Britain does to its citizens, though I am surprised to learn you make exceptions for your Quidditch stars. Unlike,“ and here he tried half-heartedly to put a smile on his grave face, “unlike Ambassador Durand, it is not my concern. I find it interesting mostly as an… a lesson, yes? That you may do what you will inside your borders, and shape your memories to fit them, but here—on the outside—many people have still heard the name, even a name as silly as Gilderoy Lockhart. Please excuse me.”

When Deniaud was gone Harry turned to find that Hermione was edging away from him, too.

“I can’t say much about it,” she said. “Talking too much about memory charms is exactly what—you know.”

“What happened to the ‘author,’” he said.

“That’s right.”

“Do you… do you like the work you do?”

Hermione’s color rose as though she’d been slapped. “Merlin, Harry, we really don’t talk. Jesus.” Then she smiled, like it was a joke.

“But do you?”

“I’ve concluded that… that it’s necessary.”

“Can I get you anything to drink?” Harry asked her.

She said no, he couldn’t.


Ambassador Durand ejected clouds of functionaries and diplomats and undersecretaries behind him as a kind of camouflaging mechanism, but it didn’t work; provided he stayed out of swarming range Harry could follow the trail of suits with his eye to the most extravagant suit and the most impressively curled white hair and the oldest man hidden inside all of it. Durand had been General Secretary of the Wizarding League in the sixties, when, he remembered Hermione saying, Britain made its last sustained effort to involve itself in League efforts.

Now he was the grand old man of the Wizarding League. “If you’re an eighteen-year-old future diplomat in Europe you have pictures of Durand on your wall, looking very serious with his hair slicked like—“ and here Dean paused for a moment to look at Harry, and then to finish his drink. “Like James Bond. Feels good to make that reference surrounded by wizards and witches.” And then a third pause to wave for another. “Sean Connery James Bond. Only the sex of it is the idea that you can start or end a war whenever you want, which I guess does it for them.”

Harry was content to let Dean talk, and he did—about Durand, and about Zabini, and about Kingsley. Harry spent a few words to direct him to Nicolas Deniaud, who Dean said was a “genuine sonofabitch,” and also a “real pillock,” and furthermore a self-satisfied, frustratingly competent little swot.

At this Harry felt he could spare one more word: “Ernie.”

“Well, but competent,” Dean said, “very good at his job if you catch me in a better mood. Couldn’t imagine being mad at Ernie if I wanted something from him—easy enough to just go take it.

“Deniaud will make you beg.”

“Durand too,” Harry said. Durand’s hangers-on had parted so that from their tall stools he and Dean could see Kingsley and the ambassador leaning across a far-off table, finishing a conversation that didn’t seem to have pleased either one of them.

Kingsley hadn't changed at all, but simply being the Minister of Magic had turned his skills into flaws and oddities. As an Auror he had been powerful, he'd been invisible, he'd blended into the scenery until he heard his cue; as a politician he was slippery and reactive and a bully. But nothing had changed, really. (It hadn't worked as well for Harry--he'd slipped into a different role and the press had simply changed the role for his benefit, so that being a seeker and a pitchman was as heroic as fighting a war.)

It helped Harry understand why Britain's Ernie Macmillans were so keen to recruit him—politicians in peacetime, even in an imagined peacetime, couldn't act like the resistance had. They couldn't skulk around waiting for the chance to talk to Durand; if they wanted to skulk, they had to do it like Durand, hiding in plain sight inside an anonymous entourage. What made them a successful resistance made them a lousy government. And all the charismatic, the outgoing, the gladhanding members of the Order of the Phoenix had been murdered twenty years ago.

“Looks like a bad one for our boys,” Dean said, following Harry’s eyes. “Durand doesn’t look that considerate unless he’s already helped himself to everything he wanted.” Kingsley had one hand wrapped around the edge of the table, his arm cocked like he was about to flip it sideways. “And Kingsley only tries looking calm when there’s no chance he pulls it off.”

“You sound resigned to it,” Harry said. Five more words.

“Harry,” Dean said. “Harry,” again—then a pause while he seemed to tone down what was going to be a lecture. “I believe very strongly in the idea of what we’re doing, same as I ever did. I want to do everything I can to make it work. But there’s nothing on the table here I feel like giving everything for. Spend another five hours trying to bail your chasers out or grab the Snitch and take a gentleman’s loss. Not worth—I’ve been drinking and you know full well I’m trying not to say dying for.”

“Yes,” Harry said. From where they sat Kingsley seemed pitiable, all twisted up like he was, but small—small and mute and unimportant compared to drinking and letting Dean talk.

“I watched Zabini put him up a tree and keep him there for months,” Dean said. “Watching the Distinguished Ambassador box his ears is a pleasure, relatively speaking. It’s nice watching it with a civilian, as well, if I’m honest.”

It was nice watching it with Dean—that was the strange thing, the thing Harry’s subconscious must have been keeping him from thinking about each time he’d come up with a new reason to reject Kingsley’s invitation. None of it mattered, so long as they were alive and accounted for and there was someplace to sit and talk about the slow apocalypse.

There was Dean. There was Kingsley. Ernie was trailing in the wake, looking for the real Durand, and Neville was drinking toasts with countries Harry couldn’t identify at a glance. Hermione was—he wasn’t sure where—but after that he’d have accounted for everyone in the room whose existence mattered, and that would be that. He nodded to Dean, who nodded back. Then he slipped off the stool and walked, slowly, until he’d judged he had been in a position to see every part of the great ballroom over and around strangers’ heads.

And once he saw Hermione he realized he could have guessed where she’d been, if he’d wanted to—having been dressed down by one authority figure, and with nowhere to hide, she’d escalated her case and found a higher authority. He’d only wanted to see her—to complete his inventory and go to bed—but then he’d seen the man she was talking with.

General Secretary Goddard looked exactly like Deniaud and completely different—like one of those masks whose expressions change depending on how the light hits it. He was older, and somehow even slimmer, but his hatchet face was animated with pleasant concern; he’d already drawn Hermione out of herself and back into a lecture.

They were across the hall from Harry. Standing against a wall he’d finally seen them over the heads of seated dignitaries—Hermione making sharp, self-conscious gestures, Goddard nodding and with one hand around a drink—but while he walked toward them they came in and out of view, obscured by passing groups.

Harry wove and ducked his way across the center of the hall until he could hear Hermione’s voice. She was giving a variation on a speech Harry recognized from their first couple of months outside Hogwarts, when she was traveling to any dinner club, fraternal organization, or church group who would have her say a few words as a brilliant hero with an unlimited future. (One night that October, hearing Ron’s side of a furious and sad phone call after back-to-back-to-back speeches on the road, Harry had asked her in all innocence why she was doing them. She’d turned her head to one side, made a low, impressed-sounding whistle, left the pub where they were talking, and canceled every last one she had scheduled, and then she’d never spoken to anyone about them again.)

Harry hadn’t heard her stump speech since then—he hadn’t even heard first-hand about her abrupt retirement—and soon after they began to see less and less of each other. But now she was performing again and Goddard at least gave the impression of being taken with the force of her argument. She was giving the “hybrid vigor” speech, about Muggleborn wizards and pureblood wizards competing and cooperating to build a society stronger than either could manage alone, and leavening it with Wizarding League comparisons Harry was sure she’d at least like to believe.

“… And reintegrating Britain inside Wizarding Europe,” she was saying when he could hear her again. “I have to say I’m excited about that same kind of hybridity. Sir.”

“We’ve always been results-oriented,” Goddard said. “The Wizarding League was founded on an idea, and an image of a certain kind of unity in Wizarding Europe, and we have a mandate to move toward it. Of course we’re pleased to see a Britain that is willing to move with us.”

Hermione frowned at this—her thinking frown—and Harry picked up his pace and moved to interrupt. Before the war she would frown and think as long as it took and reemerge with her answer, supremely confident, but the postwar Hermione who had hidden behind speeches as long as she could would frown and then start, as though she’d been jolted awake by an intruder, and begin to ramble, the thinking half-done.

Harry allowed himself to be introduced to Goddard, and listened to Hermione’s half-thought and anxious complaints about Goddard’s listening while they walked, and then, when they were finally lost among Eastern European delegates with forceful voices, whispered directions until she saw Kingsley and Durand huddled in conversation.

“We should show Dean,” she said, in command of her voice again. She’d taken his arm and was just leaning against him to get a clear view of the hall where they spoke.

“I did,” Harry said.

“Oh,” she said, “yes.”

“But I wanted you to—“

Harry felt her shove off against him and walk in the direction of the huddle; he followed after.

Pause. Pause. And then, tossing sentences over her shoulder: “You wonder too, right? What we gain from propping our government up compared to one of the garden-variety Bad Purebloods would do?”

It seemed like a rhetorical question so he nodded, still a step behind her.

“And why—being a Muggleborn is certainly less remarked-upon, here,” Hermione said, “but not less alienating.” Finally she turned to face Harry. “Am I just losing it? Was I expecting something completely ridiculous, after everything?”

“No,” Harry said. “And maybe.”

But when she turned again Kingsley was gone and Durand had directed his coma of functionaries into a different orbit. She stood in the middle of the room, for a moment, looking like she was going to cry, and then she began to walk again, and Harry followed her gratefully out to the balcony, beyond the wide windows at the far wall.

"I felt like I was cooking in there," Hermione said, when they got outside. It was dark on the balcony save for three massive, unadorned columns, which rose thirty feet into the night to meet the roof and glowed a pristine white by some indeterminate combination of moonlight and enchantments. There were stars out like Harry hadn't seen in six months of hazy London evenings, after practices and during matches, and it was just cold enough that he felt the heat rising up from under his stiff collar and radiating off his cheeks.

"Whatever the conference's findings on British Muggleborn reconciliation are, I think they'd better enact them quickly, before Dean’s brought up under the old statutes for murdering Zabini.”


Harry had been trying for something light but Hermione turned away, out toward the evergreens that just reached up to brush against the balcony. It occurred to him, finally, that she'd gotten more anxious, somehow, in the months they'd been apart; he realized she'd stopped holding eye contact. "Did I—"

"You don't hate me for nagging you about coming—"

"No, of course not. I might hate Kingsley for nagging Zabini about coming, but a view like this is worth leaving London for, on occasion. And I haven't had a real day off since I signed, if you want to know the truth."


They turned away from the luminous columns toward the party inside. "Can't say much for all this, though. This feels like the wrong path, somehow, not that I know what the right path would be."

"I'm not a eurosceptic, exactly, but—you're right, I think. I don't like seeing Kingsley this way. He's acting powerless, whether he's powerless or not."

"Budget deficits on one side and these—these people on the other," Harry said. “And here Zabini isn’t the only one who thinks he’s an out-of-touch… er, witch-hunter, I guess it still is. A hundred Zabinis to put up with, all of them richer and less interested in our little problems.”

“Different all over again,” Hermione said.

"Exactly. Took me years, but I’d finally got used to the way society worked—to the purebloods and half-bloods and the, the mudbloods. Now Ernie's happy to tell me that that's only important in Britain—that we spent our whole lives fighting those problems while they solved them over tea at one of these things a hundred years ago.”

"Harry, don't—"

It was as though she could see him thinking about Remus, and Sirius, and Fred, and he exhaled before he went on. "It was worth it, Hermione, you've told me enough times by now. It's not that. But what's Britain worth if that's what it cost to get some backwater out of the dark ages? Part of me wishes I were Zabini, and none of this mattered anyway compared to galleons and ancestry."

Hermione took two halting steps forward and patted him lightly on the shoulder. When the words came it was all at once: “I can assure you that—that no part of anybody else at our table wishes you were Zabini." They stood there. Then she smiled, and then she giggled, and before Harry could turn on her she said, "Ernie might be right about your future in politics, you know." Harry tried to shrug off her hand and turned around, his eyes wide. "It was a lovely speech! Honest, I know, and lovely. But it was."

Harry pantomimed a noose tightening around his neck. "You're going to make me resign right over the edge of this balcony, Hermione."

From the edge of the ballroom, backlit by a more raucous party than Harry remembered leaving, Neville began clapping slowly. “It really was’nspiring, Harry."

Harry turned as if summoned. "Oh—you too?"

"Swore up'n'down I'd keep an eye on you," Neville said in a half-yell, sounding suddenly very drunk. "Up'n down'I did on Ginny’s honor. 'Swhat I'm doing."

Hermione took her hand from Harry's shoulder and, with her eyes down, said, "Honestly, Neville—I don't know what you're—" much too quietly for Neville to hear.

Neville went on, completely unfazed. “Tol’ me last month she's worried about"—and here he made a wildly exaggerated hourglass shape with his hands—"up on the mountains and on—in town, you know. Alpine vixens, she called 'em. 'Scontinental women for you, she said, not to be trusted. Anyway, Ernie's looking f'two of you. Wants to show you off to Am-m-bassador Durand. Char-r-ming fellow, the ambassador."

"Thank you, Neville!" Harry yelled after him.

Hermione had composed herself during Neville's evocative gesturing. "Well—we mustn't keep the ambassador waiting. I suspect Ernie might have the right one, this time.“

"Neville clearly didn't wait, if it’s any consolation." They laughed and then it was quiet again.

"You don't mind that I and the Weasleys are still—“

Hermione shook her head until he stopped talking. "They're your family, Harry, of course not. And Gin. God, I’d be terrible if I did."

"Good. When everything happened to them I didn't want to, but then, you—“

"I wouldn't make you choose, Harry. Not that I could, even, but I—I wouldn't make you.”

They didn't talk for a while.

"I'm cold," Hermione said.

"Sure," Harry said. "Yeah. Let's go in and see what Ernie's amazed about now."


From the moment they had arrived there'd been something not right about everything Harry had seen. But he couldn't piece it together. He couldn't begin to articulate it to Neville, let alone Kingsley; his head was still swimming from the flight. He’d agreed to act as a figurehead, and nobody cared who he was; he’d wanted to lose himself on vacation, and he was stuck in sober conversations with French delegates; he’d hoped to be friendly with Hermione again and every light, fun conversation they had seemed to tap a new vein of discomfort and concealment.

He wanted to get drunk. He had anonymity, and an open bar, and nobody sober to talk to, and no press skulking in alleyways, and he wanted to drink until he couldn’t tell what was airsickness and what was regular, healthy forgetting-sickness.

But now he and Hermione were having a light and fun conversation about his swimming head. And so all he said to Hermione when she asked if he was okay was: "To be honest, you still sound completely underwater to me. The Quidditch tabloids would ruin me if they knew about this, I imagine. 'The Boy Who Lived With Sensitive Ears.'" His head was throbbing between his sensitive ears, but he knew how Hermione would react to that.

"You can count on my discretion, of course," Hermione said, tipping an invisible hat.

"You see, Hermione? Why, even Ernie here sounds completely underwater to me."

"Oh—I have a pill for that!" Against Harry's protestations she began digging around in her ridiculous handbag. "It's—I always used to get that, and I'd cry and sulk the first night of all our holidays. Not that you're sulking, I mean—"

Harry grinned at Hermione, watched her simultaneously overreact and realize she was overreacting like she always had. Then it got very loud, and all at once the small noises the professional seeker should have caught, the little shifts in mood and tone that should have set him on edge, fell into place behind the present moment.

Someone was coming in over the lovely balcony.

Someone was crashing through the severe doors.

The Death Eaters appeared at either end of the party, and as tables crashed to the ground and screams echoed in the sterile white room and whole delegations pushed toward and through the double doors to all the suites Harry knew what was wrong. Kingsley had vanished, the ambassador was calling out to his countrymen in martial French, and in the moment before Harry thought he might finally understand what was happening Ernie Macmillan and Neville Longbottom fell dead beside him.


The hall was filled with smoke, and then screaming, and then the sound of spells, spells cast in strangled shouts. The clatter of the big round tables, turned over and rolling.

The Death Eaters had come up over the balcony and through the big double doors at the other end. They’d fired wildly, toward the British delegation and elsewhere, and before anyone had understood what was happening Neville and Ernie lay dead on the floor.

Harry thought he had seen some others fall in his peripheral vision. That’s the last thing he remembers thinking when he’s thinking again, in the middle of the hall. The tables all seem turned to face him, in a loose, expectant circle. He’s breathing heavily, and until the world snaps back into place around him that’s all he can hear. But now he can hear the crying, and the chatter, and the After Them! from the general secretary’s honor guard.

In front of him lies a Death Eater cut to ribbons, bleeding from ragged wounds. Sectumsempra. From over the tables delegations who had only heard his name before this afternoon are staring at the body, and the destruction, and then back at the wizard in the middle of it, finally.

Harry Potter, the professional Quidditch player and regional hero; the honorary delegate.